Category Archives: book reviews

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur by Doug Holder

portPortrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur

Boston 1974-1983

By Doug Holder

Big Table Publishing Company

Boston, MA

ISBN: 978-0-9908413-6-4

17 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Doug Holder hears voices. Lots of them! He channels these voices through his maturely manufactured, yet wholly internalized, persona, a replica of his younger, offbeat self. Holder’s persona specializes in self-deprecation, perceptiveness, and smart-alecky truth-telling. Consider the catch word of his title – poseur. Make sure you give it the appropriate French pronunciation with an elitist air, and see how it colors everything that comes after. The inset photo of Holder on the cover of this chapbook only adds to the effect. Tellingly, the specter of life’s brutality always seems to hover in and over the fabric of each of these funky prose poems, teasing out some pretty unusual insights.

Reading through this sixteen part poetic memoir the cadence carries you forward down alleys, past vacant lots, into a psychiatric ward, and out into the mystery of Boston’s Chinatown. The pull of the words and phrasing reminds me a lot of Allen Ginsberg’s poetry—specifically Kaddish. Unlike Ginsberg, however, Holder does not constantly engage. He keeps a bit of distance between himself and his objects of interest until he doesn’t. Then he zeros in with a vengeance, albeit a funny vengeance.

Holder’s persona, just out of college, comes alive at 271 Newbury Street in a piece entitled Newbury Street. The poet initially gives the reader a grand tour of the vicinity and a mini job history before dropping names of famous acquaintances – an interesting narrative in itself, but Holder is just setting his audience up. The poet springs his trap,

… I had the same Chinese

laundry as talk radio host David Brudnoy (the Chinese man always

used to yell at me Why you lose ticket?) Brudnoy, his pockmarked and

intelligent face, with an ironic smile. I worked as a clerk at the corner of

Newbury and Beacon Street, Sunny Corner Farms. Members of the

Cars used to come in regularly—Rick so sky high, fingering a

Twinkie… also Gila Radner—a frenzy of frenzied hair, Howard

Zinn, tall, a radical patrician, and Barney Frank—rumpled and in a

rush—all on the night shift. And beers after work at Frankenstein’s. My

boss, a fat Irishman, called me a dirty kike regularly after he had a few…

nice to me the next day…

“Nice,” a civilized and suburban word fits so snugly in that last sentence.

In the same poem humor and irony help maintain distance and narrative speed, but does not negate a strong sense of tragedy and waste pulsing through the page. Everywhere food and rodents seem to share the down-but-not-quite-out-background of this artist-in-training. Holder concludes his Newbury Street narrative with a wink,

… Those nights writing in my

furnished room, the clank, clank of the radiator—thinking I was a

Beat poet or something. The mice scurried by—my father told me,

over the phone: Get the hell out of there! My mother joined in, That’s the

lifestyle they lead, Larry. Hordes of us made the pilgrimage to be with

the rodents and roaches… all-night poker games with the service

bartender who worked at the Hilton… the dishwashers from his shift,

Latinos with flashy gold-filling smiles. Bartending was not his life he

told us—he was going back to U/Mass Boston—for the past 5 years he

told us.

Innocence gets its due in Holder’s piece entitled, Combat Zone, Greyhound Bus Station, Boston Public Library. The poet gives his reader an affecting reaction after the real world sneers at him. Here’s the gist of it,

…I weaved my way to the carnality of the Combat Zone—

down LaGrange Street. First stopping by Hand the Hatter, an

avuncular old man—some fish—some fish out of order—water—in the

midst of this—presiding over blocked, buffed, and august fedoras—the

kind my father wore—his heels pounding the floors in Penn. Station.

And the whore in the bar said: Give this kid a glass of milk.And all my

street-wise posturing melted with these succinct words—not a

boilermaker but a milk boy.

Holder’s persona seeks to confirm his romantic notions of the artist’s world by escaping to filmdom in a meditation he calls Harvard Square Cinema. This is probably my favorite piece in the collection. Stream of consciousness rushes through this set of memories from Brando’s Last Tango in Paris, setting up the way the world should work, to Frank Cardullo, who owned and held court at the Wursthaus eatery, delivering corny puns filled with dead-end wisdom, to an insane Harvard University exile, who counsels his fellow comrades, presumably directing their financially naïve futures. Holder’s persona here introduces a couple of his old pals,

…The Harvard refugees at the au Bon pain.

Expelled from the academy—for some reason or another. Gravitated

like moths around the light of Harvard Yard. Sat with my friend

Byron, trust-fund man, graduate of the wards of McLean—he

dabbled in Native American crafts—liked to ogle the young girls

passing by, called the old ladies trouts. George—a scavenger of scraps

of newspapers, and gossip of the street—full of news of the supposed

scandals at Harvard—joined us, and let us in on the insane, inside

dope.

Most modern practitioners of “beat” style and themes are pale imitations of the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, John Weiners, et al. Holder delivers more. He brings with him his own value added innovations to the genre, most singularly his humor.

In the very last line of his very last piece in this collection, Holder stands on a rain-slicked street in Chinatown waiting for a dramatic introduction in Twilight Zone fashion. I hope this signals that another installment of these “poseur” poems will follow in short order. Very short order.
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To order go to  http://lulu.com/ibbetsonpress

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Dennis DalyDennis Daly lives in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Joanne. They have four adult children. He is a graduate of Boston College and has an MA in English Literature from Northeastern University. Daly worked at General Electric for ten years. He edited and publishedThe Union Activist newsletter and the North Shore Union Leader, a labor newspaper. He also was the managing editor of the Electrical Union News, the official news organ of Local 201 IUE. He also was a regular contributor to The Salem News., He was elected to a leadership position of the 9000 member IUE union. Later he worked as a Department Head in the City Of Salem. He has been published in many poetry journals and magazines and nominated for Pushcart prizes in 2013 and 2014. He is included in a chapbook, published by Northeastern University Press, with two other poets, Robert deYoung and Patrick Duddy. . His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012.

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*first published at The Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene

 

 

 

 

Sum and Substance by K Pankajam

sumAuthorspress, New Delhi, 2014

ISBN 978-81-7273-962-1

Review by Shernaz Wadia 

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This is a collection of poems written in forthright, simple language. The poems have an undercurrent of morality but Pankajam does not write like a preacher or someone who believes her destiny is to change the world. It remains for the reader to glean the pearls from between her words and lines. She writes quietly, reflectively, spraying quotidian subjects – Bus Journey, A Surprise Visit, Signboards, My City Seldom Sleeps, Rain Skills, Before The Ink Dries – with freshness and vibrancy.
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Resolutions will immediately resonate with the habitual resolution makers. Many will ‘rewind’ with the poet and ‘think of the debt I could not pay, the promises I could not fulfill’  She takes us relentlessly through each month of the year to finally wind up where we started, with “a fresh list for yet another year”.
She finds Faith everywhere from a plain sheet of paper to everything in nature. It is ‘in our expectation of a daybreak after pitch-dark nights, while our existence next moment/seems beyond prediction.’  
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She writes lucidly about the Indian customs, rituals and ethos she is a part of. (The Pipal Tree, Vishukkani, Hopefully…, Gruhapravesham) Nor does she shy away from what might be termed ‘superstition’. In Stains (Pg. 33) she visits childhood memories of her grandfather’s quirks.  Language of Childhood bemoans the loss of innocence and voices the universal desire for a return to it while Second Childhood compassionately revives the memory of an uncle who had slipped into dementia.
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 When the world is tooting gender equality and women of substance are feted, her women-centric poems stop us in our tracks and compel us to take a look at a different reality. ‘Morning Blues, Yielding… ‘You Are (Not) a Working Woman’, is the dismal tale of every homemaker, whose relentless toil is taken for granted even though she works herself to the bones. 
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Inching slowly, she saunters towards the bed
And slithers into the waiting arms. He murmurs:
“Thank God you are not a working woman!”
Her day continues…
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‘Solitude’s Whimper’ is one poem that shatters our complacency. It shames us out of our apathy as we stare with a dumb ache and with “the walls bleed silently”
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If a philosophical vein peeps through poems like The Journey, A Little Secret, The Ultimatum…, the poet’s humour drips from poems like ‘A Surprise Visit to a Bachelor’s House’.  I couldn’t help but smile at ‘A Momentary Impulse’ a poem most will be able to relate to
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No sindhoor on the parting line/a milky path to the kingdom of love/that kindles his passion to leap a bit.
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In ‘An Orchestra’ she becomes ‘a song in the concert’. In Muse-Inspired she says,
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Salty breeze from Bay of Bengal….give rebirth to my sunken moods/ raises my spirit to its meridian splendour/and soaks my soul in the pavilion of passions.
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Some subjects have been written about endlessly, but they don’t lose their poignancy. Life Is a Circle is a heart-wrenching letter from a parent in an old age home which concludes with the lines
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I taught you all about life
maybe not about relationships
and I write to say:
Don’t tell your son I am here.
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Another evergreen subject for poets is Mother. Pankajam’s ode to her’s is ‘You Visit Me in My Sleep’.
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In my sugared memories of the past,
your face blooms like a lotus that meditates
unfolds at sunrise, upright,
with flawless beauty and virgin purity.
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In Sum and Substance Pankajam serves us a varied fare which is appetising, appealing and satiating. There is a sprinkling of nature poems, love poems, poems that throw a search light not only on society but on her inner realm. We are carried along on her words as she questions, wonders, dreams, empathises, hopes and muses.

 

 

Shernaz-Wadia3– Shernaz Wadia, a retired teacher, lives in Pune, India. A free-lance writer, her articles, short stories and poems have been published in many online journals and literary magazines like Muse India, Boloji, Kritya and The Enchanting Verses etc. Her poems have been anthologised in Poets International, Roots and Wings and Caring Moments. Shernaz is in the process of publishing her poems in a book titled Whispers of the Soul.. She has also co-authored a book of poems titled “Tapestry”, with Israeli poetess Avril Meallem. It is an innovative form of collaborative poetry writing developed by the two of them.

Even in Quiet Places By William Stafford

Even in quiet PlacesPublisher: Confluence Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1881090167
ISBN-13: 978-1881090168
 
Review by S. M. Page
 
William Stafford’s Even in Quiet Places is outstanding poetry.  Stafford is one of the greats who controls form and line using lyrical conversational meter.  The book is divided into four sections.  The first three were published as chapbooks and the last a garnering of poems Stafford wrote as a project for U.S. Forest Service (several being put on signs and posted along wilderness trails in the Cascade Mountains—that alone is a monumental achievement).  I read the book four times, three as it is ordered by editor and son Kim Stafford, and once in the chronological order the sections were originally written.   I like my last reading best, as it gives me better sense of Stafford’s final years in regards to his style, theoretical, and spiritual growth.  His poems topic nature, environmental destruction, and human to human apathy; even more so, how short human life and consciousness are compared to the Earth’s:
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This From Lookout Point
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The cast here, in order of disappearance, were
dinosaurs, saber tooths, many birds, pioneers,
Shoshones, Wolverines, Wolves, Grizzlies,
For some reason they don’t come around much anymore.
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Also certain people have gone away—saints,
explorers.  They didn’t want to disturb the air.
All those tracks in river and sand—gone.
And their fires, the charcoal—all washed away.
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So sometimes I choose a cloud and let it
cross the sky floating me off there too.
Or a bird unravels its song and carries me
as it flies deeper and deeper into the woods.
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Such times, laments are not necessary.  You could
wait here all winter and the mountains would
just stand there.  They wouldn’t say anything.  Why
should they care?  Someday everything will be goon.
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Hey, let’s hurry down and forget this.
It gets cold here.
 
 
 
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S. M. Page at a lookout point S. M. Page is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions.  He holds degrees from Palomar College, Columbia University, and Bennington College.  He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize for Poetry.  He loves to teach, spend time with his family, and wander through the woods communing with nature. 

Mundane, My Muse by Sunil Sharma

mundanemymusePublisher:            Authorspress

Binding:                Paperback

ISBN-13:               9788172738457

ISBN-10:               8172738455

Publisher Date: 2014

 

Review by P C K PREM

               Mundane life has charm and massive ennui too; and a man ought to find meaning even in tedium, and it is precisely what the poet confirms. Sunil’s lyrics speak emotively of routine incidents he gathers. He notices everything, collects tiny facets, deliberates in lonely hours and thereafter, gives expression. Mundane, My Muse carries a different pattern if one compares it to his earlier poetic endeavours.
                Life, a disturbed collection of experience and impressions, survives in fragmented times without cohesive objective. A City Collage offers glances of bigness in horrible globalized urban living, torments.
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In these breaking globalised urban realties,
Turning the glittering cities into ghettoes of mind
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A stressful knowledge appearing soothing visits in A February Afternoon. It is difficult to quantify tenderly multipart joys and sufferings, for human nature and humdrums permit not to understand life’s zeitgeist though man moves in radiant perceptible treats, market-psyche suggests.
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I cruise through this shadowy
Horizontal painting…
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Ugly display of urbanity and insensitive contempt in bargaining comforts signal cacophony, and give glimpses in A Supermarket in Mumbai Suburb.  Without obvious gratitude, a man realizes in dazzle of modernity a tragic irony, lives in illusory love that remains unfulfilled, and forgets anguish in vicarious joys with intrinsic guilt.  In highly mechanized system, he seeks joys in superficial gratification and absent present.
                Strangely, he is conscious of the agonies of not only city but also looks beyond and therefore, wants the rulers (like other poets) to look beyond metropolis, and asks to abandon political acrobats, and thinks of despair of the poor living in hunger and scarcity. Somewhere, he halts, looks around and finds desolation man has brought in nature, nature that constructs aesthetic prototypes of continuity. A question perturbs why man strips nature of its divine adornment. Human nature wants joys, looks at poverty and scarcity, feels anguished, watches a miserable being and expresses pity but finds no reasonable passage, and therefore, it turns into aching encumbrances. A disheartening passivity haunts certain poems and the bard juxtaposes nature and man’s tiny caustic acts to evaluate empathies absent.
                Humanism wakes up and the awful wordy supremacy is noticeable as the lyricist issues a subtle warning in Bring your Words. If he speaks of bristly tribulations of metro life, he touches human relationship gently and wants lasting proximity and warmth and perhaps, the poet tells man of life-giving human bonds even in grudging truths life offers. Relations provide flashes of enduring joys and memories warm. Relations if separated make life barren and animalize it. He pays tribute to daughters, when he says, ‘Little Goddesses /Need to be fiercely /Protected and guarded /By all of us!’
Elsewhere, he observes –
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Fathers are the guys, who impart real lessons of life,
They look tough but often cry, hiding hot tears…
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                Perhaps, the poet talks of a perennial truth despite apparent dichotomy in feelings, thoughts and the spirit of age, an age grappling for a solid fulcrum. Insensitivity in relations stays on as even mothers fall victims to false and rudimentary contemporary value system where man loses warmth. Even mothers suffer, and inhuman treatment reveals hypocritical approach.
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And thus cleverly enslaved Mother
An old rheumatic woman,
To the small smelly kitchen
For the remaining of her sad lonely life.
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Plight of workers and apathetic cities haunt lyrics frequently. He cannot escape comparison between a life of affluence and scarceness, and invokes sympathies of ostensibly powerful people. Women from the elite strata live a highly rich life (?) while a poor woman is archetype of sufferings.
              He talks of miseries of workers at construction sites as hopes linger on for filling bellies with the residue of what they earn. Growth and democracy are irrelevant when sufferings assault. (Excluded Ones). Living away from homeland, goads to ventilate woes saturating mindset of people, who stay away and settle down elsewhere to earn living. Immigrants fail in locating solid relations even though they sell perspiration and time.
              Tormenting loneliness amidst crowd makes life complex.   He laments at the scornful attitude of artists towards art and life, a naked semblance Lonely. Life is destined to trouble man in visible delight but sickening effects of metros distort and rip apart bonds, and drive man to Silky shadows
              A young couple keeps searching love and  understanding in ‘surging crowds’ and pays a long agonized tribute to Love/Living in Indian Metro for man fails to recognize, ‘The contemporary idiom/Of urban/Love and romance’ because rainbow-like dreams of emerging middle class become history unrealized. A middle class life in undefined feelings of miserly and rich life with giggles and groans, is a fact as it hugs and kisses love coldly in an abandoned but swarming metro. Freshness in life of a modern man is a mirage, and a contemptuous scenario scares.
           Even in freshness of experiences, one confronts monotony and witnesses end of a dream life in metros.  One notices festive life but feels aghast at the miseries workers and women face in deplorable living conditions. He feels for the downtrodden and laments that freedom did not bring happy change in the life of fellow Indians, notwithstanding awesome growth and material progress. Gaps in living appear glaring and defeat claims of happiness and here ‘stark contrast’ delineates a depressing picture.
           Man is responsible for many miseries on earth, for not for a while he restrains greed and exploitation and often invites fury of nature bringing horrific cataclysm. If natural upheavals make life appalling and frightening, man is the offender, for he fails to contain nature’s ferocity despite solemn assertions.
          Sunil analyzes insightfully daily experiences about animate and inanimate objects he observes, finds logic and faint unanimity in personal and social regions without philosophizing, and still demonstrates genuine anxiety about life and existence.
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You can find the book here: http://www.uread.com/book/mundane-my-muse-poems-sunil/9788172738457

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pckP C K Prem (p c katoch of Malkher-Garh Palampur, a former civil servant and Member PSC, Himachal), an author of more than forty-five books in English and Hindi, post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh, has  nine volumes of poetry besides books on criticism.  Katoch Prem is a poet, novelist, short story writer and critic in English from Himachal Pradesh, India.

The Longest Pleasure by Vinita Agrawal

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Review by g emil reutter 

Vinita Agrawal is a poet of honest observation who is an imagist at heart. The poem, Wrought By The   Storm is about having tea with her father, the death of her mother is central as in this excerpt:.

The storm struck our prayer bell

Shook the Gods at the altar

Caused the fan to whir anti-clockwise

Jerked wildly in our pulse beats

Skewed our outer expressions of calm

Flickered like fear in our eyes.

She captures in stark images those left behind in economic prosperity and social reform in the poem, Pedder Road Flyover:

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Here they lived – under the canopy of opulence

on a road named after Mr. W.G. Pedder,

a British Municipal Commissioner of 1879 Bombay.

Politicians changed the name to Dr. G. Deshmukh Marg after a social reformer.

But somehow the families here still picked garbage,

waded around in stench, did death’s work,

stayed alive only because cholera was dead.

If you ventured out at the devil’s hour,

you’d have heard them groan into the darkness

as at last, traffic dimmed around three in the morning.

A few hours of oblivion must have felt good

with loyal street dogs curled up warmly by their sides.

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In the poem, Jovan Musk and Tiananmen Square, Agrawal writes of being there during the uprising. Of

…The screams of raw blood flooding a public street

Unaware, that on its silver jubilee, I’d be reminded with deadly hurt

Of what it was like to live in oppressions long shadow

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Azadirachta Indica is a poem about the shade of a Magosa. How they populate most courtyards in India of her walk with a doctor and the dangers of the Magosa and then:

Watch, he said, and picked up a golden yellow seed

popped it between his thumb and forefinger until oil oozed out.

He poured it on a worm down below, stunning it.

It retreated hastily. Didn’t stand a chance.

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Later, I dipped my sins in it,

hoping it would cauterize tissues of guilt

sterilize thorny voices in my head

that accused me of being unclean.

 

From the poem, Time Lag

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Despite loess caressing the roots

and the damp, earthy aroma of trees,

a brokenness clings to the winds;

fresh as a pistil that has just lost its flower.

Despite the wet tissues made of air and rain,

the tree branches look fractured

their leaves pale like pinched skin.

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Vinita Agrawal is a well-traveled poet who takes in all that she observes. Her honest and passionate images cause a stirring of thought and a desire of action. She is an urban poet who writes of the stark realities of the world and of her own pulse beats and broken drift wood of the heart.

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You can pre order the book here: https://finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?cPath=4&products_id=2423

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IMG_1360-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. You can find him here: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

 

 

 

 

Immigrant Model by Mihaela Moscaliuc

imm modelSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 112 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963345

ISBN-13: 978-0822963349

 

Review by Dennis Daly

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Like mythological werewolves rising from musty crypts, these passionate poetic lines of Mihaela Moscaliuc’s Immigrant Model prowl over page warmth feeding from the flesh of grim fables and drinking the metallic blood of modern mechanistic life.

Moscaliuc mixes unfortunate history, the unhappiness of others, and bleak folklore in her labyrinthine journey into the heart of gothic darkness. Along the way her persona develops a survivor’s surreal logic of alternating stoicism and fear, tempered by acute powers of observation. The poet’s major pieces are cosmopolitan in nature, set in Madagascar, Romania, Spain, the Ukraine, America, and even Ireland.

The first poem after the introductory piece Moscaliuc entitles Self-Portrait with Monk. She describes a monk festooned in garlic and pushing a wheelbarrow. Then the poet invokes that strange novel of murder and mysterious mayhem, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, for atmospheric effect. The narrative quickens, alters its flight, and changes into something wicked or wonderful that comes our way. The poet describes her ownership of the action as follows,.

He cooks and feeds and scrubs but never eats, my monk,

spends lunch elbow-deep in suds or scratching the bellies of cats.

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No wonder he’s so famished by the time Cassiopeia arrives.

Then black chiffon and ivory flesh stream upward,

shape-shifting in flight: raven, whiskered bat, pricolici, varcolaci.

At dawn, he lands between two rose bushes, soot in his mouth,

weeping who knows why, my celestial monk,

torn cassock glistening with spent saliva, rapture in upturned eyes.

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In Turning the Bones, Moscaliuc uses straightforward narrative to relate a seemingly ghastly ritual practiced by villagers in Madagascar in which the shrouded bones of relatives are temporarily disinterred and danced with. The occasion calls for good food, local brews, and colorful dress. Carthusian monks would understand this ceremony of remembering death and examining mortality. Here is the heart of the poem,

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… bundles heaved up

onto woven straw mats, names coursing the cheering crowd.

Perfumed and swathed in new damask, bodies are invited to dance.

In this hummock of tall grass, in the eye of the Indian Ocean,

the living and the dead reclaim themselves, flowery skirts

flapping against the bouquet of bones, bones reshuffling

as they warm to the tunes of trumpets and clarinets.

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The lengthy poem Ana to Manole reinterprets a chilling Romanian folktale that certainly rings true in the art world of today. Eyes wide open, the artist—here a mason—sacrifices his family to the needs of his patron, his ego, and his audience. He walls his pregnant wife up, betrays her for the ephemeral, only to be destroyed himself, turned into a cheap tourist destination. The poet describes Manole’s fate through the eyes of Ana,

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You raised the wall till it cinctured me whole,

silt shored against carcass, and for the glory of what?

A toe ring in the god’s trinket box, this masterpiece

you then bragged you could outshine.

I say it was the jaded gods having fun.

To think you could win their grace

with gilded turrets, dream yourself

a welder of shadows.

You fashioned the voice out of fear

you’ll stay a mason, master bricklayer

instead of Creator, so here we are:

you, water fountain fed pennies by tourists

too sated to invent their own myths

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For harrowing detail and lyrical fury very few poems can touch Moscaliuc’s sectional poem entitled Radioactive Wolves: A Retelling.  Divided into two major parts the poem first relates the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986 and its aftermath and then tells a fictional tale based on real events that occurred at an infamous Romanian orphanage. Both sections deconstruct misery into detail packed with dread, often lyrical. Consider this comment from the Chernobyl section on government helpfulness,

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All books disappeared, all important ones,

on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on X-rays.

The medical bulletins too, vanished.

Those who could took potassium iodine.

For that, you really needed to know someone.

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A sign we could follow, live by:

as long as there were sparrows and pigeons in town

we could nest there.

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My favorite poem in this haunting collection, Memoir, combines righteous anger with passionate celebration. Nothing surreal here, the nerve endings are too raw. Moscaliuc portrays the despicable and wealth-besotted dictators of Romania, Elana and Nicolae Ceausecu,  after twenty–five years of terrorizing their people, denying the obvious. Dragged before a firing squad of machine gunners they collected their well-deserved rewards. And, yes, Elana, did indeed actively participate in the countless atrocities. Both the abbreviated show trial and the execution were filmed. The piece ends in catharsis and relief,

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You may have understood the story of the firing squad,

how, fearing clones, we measured and re-measured the corpses,

shot and reshot them. We each craved a bit of dried blood,

a frayed cuticle, an eyebrow stump, a finger

on the trigger, so we replayed the execution all through Christmas,

kissed our informers, broke bread with strangers,

stopped stoning strays, begged Gypsies for forgiveness.

We loved as only people who cannot get enough of death love,

we loved unconditionally for one long day that Christmas of 1989.

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Immigrant Model, the final and title poem in this collection works wonderfully. The poet infuses her protagonist with mystery and sensuousness. Models, at least the very best of them, channel natural processes in ways unknown even to them. They connect with an artistic perception and stoke it further. Add in the immigrant’s complex and sometimes fluctuating identity and an interesting, often darker, dynamic occurs. Model perceives her artistic interpreters and then seeks to judge them in these lines,

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… as students sketch, she re-roots:

the desiccated belly of her Moldavian village creek

toothed with rocks, eyed with shriveled minnows,

but she can still feel their eye, the hammock of her body

swayed by the screech of charcoals’ smooth incisions.

Tonight she steals in to see herself in various stages

of completion, looks for the hand knowing enough, kind enough

to release her…

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Bats flitting in from the night sky, Moscaliuc’s poems may startle. Mornings after, one remembers only their magic.

You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Immigrant-Model-Pitt-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963345

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Dennis Daly

Dennis Daly

-Dennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel was recently released by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion. http://dennisfdaly.blogspot.com/

The Secret Games of Words by Karen Stefano

Secret games of wordPaperback: 126 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 24, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 150254413X

ISBN-13: 978-1502544131

Review by Robert Hambling Davis

I met Karen Stefano at the 2008 Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, where we were in the same critique group with nine other fiction writers. For her critique, Karen chose a story she calls “Undone” in her debut collection, The Secret Games of Words, which was published by 1 Glimpse Press in March 2015. “Undone” might have had another title when I first read it, but I remember being impressed with the format of the story, in which the attorney narrator, who works in the L.A. Public Defender’s Office, has to answer a personality inventory as part of her mental health evaluation, after a courtroom hearing which could result in her being committed to a California psychiatric hospital for a year. She must answer true or false to each of the nineteen questions on the inventory, which she does. She then justifies each answer for the reader, and these justifications are the meat of this tragicomedy about a woman who is coming undone in her love life and her professional life, and whose terminally ill father wants her to kill him.

The title story of The Secret Games of Words is written in the form of an email from the narrator, missusjack1, to her husband, JackLabRat, after he’s dumped her for his lab assistant. On a downward spiral, the narrator has been fired from her job as the mayor’s communications director, for making a typo in a press release, omitting the “f” in “Shifts,” so that the printed headline reads: “City Council Shits on Mayor’s New Policy.” She blames the typo on her stress over her dying father (a recurrent theme in Stefano’s stories), and as she drinks vodka to dull her pain, she entertains the following thought, which begins her “Period of Decline”:

“I realized then how consonants change lives. A shift turns to shit, friends turn to fiends, Native Americans with their proud heritage become naïve Americans, an epidemic. My mind flew in an endless loop, listing all the better mistakes I could have made.”

Later, when her husband comes home for the last time (he’s already shacking up with his assistant), the narrator tries to talk to him about the secret games of words, calling them “little pranksters wreaking havoc in our lives.” Then, attempting to make a joke over her misfortune, she tells him: “You got laid. I got laid off. One’s good, the other’s bad. Get it?” In the course of the story she loses her job, her husband, and her father, but the way Stefano has missusjack1 tell the story makes it comical, and this is a trait of most of the stories in this first yet accomplished collection: the main characters are haunted by bad luck, often forced into high-catastrophe-living mode, on the brink of madness, yet at the same time they have the ability to laugh at themselves. They don’t laugh at themselves, though. They’re in too much pain. Yet the way they tell their stories tells the reader that they are still able to see life as a comedy.

You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Games-Words-Stories/dp/150254413X/ref=la_B00U4YT9MW_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431957697&sr=1-1

rhdavis-1-Robert Hambling Davis is a fiction editor of The Fox Chase Review. He has been published in The Sun, Antietam Review, Memoir (and), Philadelphia Stories, Santa Monica Review, and elsewhere. He’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and received three Delaware Division of the Arts grants, two for fiction and one for creative nonfiction. He was a fiction semifinalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest in 2002 and 2012, and a creative nonfiction winner in 2013. Robert helps direct the Delaware Literary Connection, a nonprofit serving writers in Delaware and surrounding areas. He is a member of the Delaware Artist Roster, and has given writing workshops and readings in the Mid-Atlantic.