Category Archives: book reviews

After the Gazebo by Jen Knox

after_the_gazeboPaperback: 185 pages

Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First edition (May 31, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1495106128

ISBN-13: 978-1495106125

Review by g emil reutter

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There are many sides to life, Jen Knox, an observer, brings to our attention the stories of people we may not normally see. There is the lady on the bus who speaks to everyone on her way to visit her recovering daughter, not sure if the clean and drug free daughter will be there or the other daughter. Her nervousness results in speaking to people on the bus. She gets to know the regulars, speaks to new folks if they like it or not. She brings gifts to those she gets to know on the regular route of this bus. The character knows people who takes buses don’t have cars. The tension builds in the story, as in all stories in this collection, with an unpredictable conclusion. She writes of the perfect couple with the perfect small wedding with just a hint that something isn’t right. There is the wandering daughter who has left home many times only to return but never when she says she will arrive. Her mother makes excuses, her ill father knows why.

Knox is a master at character development in these very short stories, she brings us into their lives, we get to know them and then just as quickly she throws us out as we look for more. There is an electricity that flows through this collection, not a sedentary moment.

After the Gazebo is a collection of stories of people you may be familiar with in your own lives. Many of whom you don’t pay attention even though they live right in front of you, neighbors, may be in your family, or those you see every day on the way to work.  Knox writes of them, sometimes gentle, sometimes brutal, always in a forthright manner. After the Gazebo is a must read.

You can check out the book here:  http://www.amazon.com/After-Gazebo-Jen-Knox/dp/1495106128/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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g emil reutter '15-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

A Door Somewhere by Jaydeep Sarangi

a doorPaperback: 69 pages

Publisher: Cyberwit.net (April 19, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 8182534909

ISBN-13: 978-8182534902

Review by P C K Prem
 
 Jaydeep Sarangi with four volumes of poems is widely anthologized in different continents. Latest collection of poems ‘A Door-somewhere’ was released at Rzeszow University, Poland when he visited the country as a visiting Professor in 2014. Fifth collection of verses The Wall and Other Poems is likely to be released in Norwich, UK in June 2015.
            Jaydeep Sarangi is perceptive and each moment makes an impression upon his gentle heart. As a man of emotions and delicate poetic thoughts, he tries to reach out to relations with warmness.  In prayers, he strengthens relations. A mother is a deity for the poet, for she acts as a refuge. Nostalgically, he goes back to ma so that she listens to what innocent breathings tell. Innocuously, he takes everyone to the lap of mother to seek relief when one fails to get succor outside, for the world looks callous and apathetic. Images continue to assault incessantly and the poet struggles hard to dispel darkness, ambiguities create.  In a single moment, he travels a long distance in experiences, thoughts and emotions. 
At times, innocent hearts carry a man to a land of mystery, and teach  lessons of life when a man is a simple visitor and looks out for a little divine and everything that takes place around puts a question mark, for in imagery you unearth many meanings and yet you understand nothing. Unlocking of past is a puzzling suggestion because it carries to eerie happenings where fairies, ghosts and strangers scare but excite.
            Experiences appear awe-inspiring as one remembers magnificent days as life moves and hints at a strange merger of ancient times with contemporary ordeals life faces and here, life seems hectic, and rotates around ‘tube and tyre’ 17, a monotonous innuendo to a dreamy sequence. 
Poet’s obsession with relations (?) extends to philosophic borders when he deliberates upon the land of birth. Everything gets life and confronts a sensitive heart and then, suddenly he connects heart and intellect to modern agony where –
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A roti for the hungry
A stick for an old man
In an alien shore
Ushering green plague
For the survival
Words written with embossed paper. 18
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The thought reemerges in “Mystery of the Land” and gets identity personified, for going back to past and land of birth grants peace, a truth many would accept and to this extent, the poet speaks for men, who love and value land, its people and relations.
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You illumine
My inroads
With blazing light from all sides.  23
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  A man gets relief, safe haven, light and wisdom as darkness diffuses and liquefies. Social realities disturb as insightful intellect tries to find solutions, which prove mirages –a genuine obstruction elite face, and at another moment, a door symbolically takes him to fresh vistas of fulfillment and delight that continue to linger on a stage of fantasy. Possibly, door signals openness, a life of anticipation and joy, of probable hurdles leading to ultimate enchantment though transitory but the poet refuses to confess. Door enshrines mysteries. One lives, for one believes life beyond death. Life is relaxed if a man lives in thoughts of gratifying indefinite. Man must open doors to knowledge and joy, and possible indeterminable salvation (?) if he seeks meaning. Surprisingly, the poet turns to the hard life some people live.
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I have seen the tears of the oppressed.
I know my weaknesses.
I don’t know his tomorrow, behind the door
Can’t predict anything beyond now
Of a tree of forbidden fruits… 25
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 The thought evokes finer sensibilities again in “Hunger” with a poignant message.  He eulogizes important people but one hardly notices 21, and like any other poet, he speaks for humanity as age knocks down body and intellect.  Life turns frenzied with chaotic undertones as one arranges inner formation in a disturbed contemporary living while making genuine efforts to find truth of self-image. (31)
In the reckless current chase, man is insensitive and crude, he points out, “Blood is sold at low price, all can buy it. /May be with a discount /One bottle free, if you buy one.” (41) It is philosophic and yet simple thoughts make life consequential. One looks beyond horizons of imaginings and illusions, returns to everyday surroundings, and picks up themes emerging out of ‘the living and the dead’, for in each, one finds relationship, and it is poetic strength beyond evaluation.  He observes-
I have written over generations
I save my ancestors as you save your missing links.
 When the crows fly over, your brother listen… 35
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 Life is enjoyable if one tries to find approbation even in indistinguishable relations, “Life’s acts are shadows of the past /Shadows are residue /Of light and lighted trajectory.” (39)
In life, words transform to images and fantasize living, and a man reflects over the impossibilities. He knows variations in little shades life offers because meaning in confusing situations has a different objective. In images, he tries to find undertones of mystery life contains but he understands life is not a dream but reality and to anchor it strongly, struggle must continue, for it sustains life.
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Causing oppression to the powerless,
But will turn again to re-establish
A just society
With a different key 47
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Sarangi plays with words even if the words create intended gaps in understanding the true import, and so connects incoherent tiny incident of life with images and still does not run away from bonds he wants to continue, “I waited till I could meet someone near the doorway /Of my dream /Wet trees looked at me in amazement.”  Personal agonies and wounds are much taller than one can imagine and here, the lyricist appears pathetic without knowing it. (48)
Poet’s lyrical journey to past and present and again to past, remains paranormal, and human ties carry the burden of delicate little thoughts and emotions tentative. He thinks of mother, land and a few relations when questions of earning livelihood engage. He wants to express, collects words but fumbles for a fulcrum, “She allows me to see the world /Through fissures in the dreamy wall /A matchless majesty fills my heart. / I demand to speak with God /I have business with him,” for he has yet to find answers to mystic questions about life that haunt and finally, when he returns, even the ancient path he left long ago, assists him in finding destination unspecified. He is hopeful, for ‘Each time I read history / I find a door somewhere’ and adds, “It’s a door between the self and the world, /Despair dances in Hope.” and that offers definite meaning to life.
A Door Somewhere offers enjoyable lines, for living in a world of fresh and exciting images is an experience. Transmitting sensory experiences in fine and definite word-pictures is an art and in this little lyrical book of images, one moves from nowhere to somewhere with a certain purpose where one finds life challenging, worth living and meaningful. 
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pck -An author of more than forty-five books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch) a post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh   has  nine volumes of poetry besides books on criticism in Hindi and English.  Katoch Prem is a poet, novelist, short story writer and critic in English from Himachal Pradesh, India

Winter Stars by Larry Levis

winter stars 2Series: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 104 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (March 31, 1985)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822953684

ISBN-13: 978-0822953685

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Reviewed by Stephen (S. M.) Page.

When I wake I sip coffee and I am suddenly inspired to add a few more pages to my current poetry project, the verse play (or play-poem, a term I coined, I think).  Then I take a shower and decide I need to get out the house.  I have been inside for almost 48 hours.  I check the weather channel on the net and see that it is 97 degrees outside–with humidity.  I dress accordingly.  I put on a short sleeve linen shirt, linen shorts, leather sandals, a cotton baseball cap.  In the elevator I feel a trickle of sweat run down by belly from my chest.  The street smells of melting tar and car exhaust.  Buses rev their engines and taxis honk.  Angry drivers yell and swear at each other.  I walk quickly as I can to the Village Recoleta Cinemas, an air-conditioned, five-floor twenty-theater complex with seven restaurants, two cafés, a bookstore, a music store, and an ice-cream parlor on the middle floor.  Village Recoleta has the cleanest, coolest, best-view-seating theaters in the city.  Besides that, it’s the only cinema house that has numbered seats, so I can buy my ticket early and stroll in at the last minute and my seat will be open.  There’s no mad rush to get a good seat.  The movie I bought a ticket for does not start for one hour and fifteen minutes, so I take the elevator to the third floor, get in line at the MacDonald’s stand, order a MacNifica combo and leisurely eat it while seated in a chair by the window.  I watch the people walk by on the street.  I check the girls out in their summer dresses and sandaled feet.  I pick out a couple of people going by and watch them, note their dress, their walking style, their idiosyncrasies, and I try to imagine what they are thinking, what their speech mannerisms are, what their lifestyle is, where they are going.  Then I go to the Coffee Store (which is a chain store but has some of the best tasting coffee in the city) and order a cortado—that’s a small coffee cut with milk (Coffees in Argentina are smaller and more concentrated than in the United States.  No tall lattes here, and especially no non-fat cinnamon mocha Frappuccinoes.  The cups are espresso size and approximately the same strength. A customer has the choices of coffee, coffee with milk, and cappuccino.  Argentines are proud of their coffee and their cafés, but a connoisseur needs to shop around because some cafés have great coffee but bad ambience, and some have great ambience but bad coffee—really bad.  Some cafés are good for reading and writing; some are good for watching people.  After seven years here I am pretty much set in the places I like to frequent, but I always keep my eyes open.  Whenever I am about the city and I see a café that I have never been too, I usually stop in and give it a try.  It’s kind of an adventure for me).  After my coffee I stroll into the music store and after a little browsing, I find a CD I never heard before, ‘Jerry Mulligan with Strings.’  I wander to the concession stand and order a large bag of popcorn and a bottle of mineral water, then I casually ride the escalator up to room 16 on the top floor.  I hand my ticket to the ticket taker, enter the dark theater and take my seat just as the Spiderman 3 trailer is ending.  The movie I watch is ‘Hollywoodland,’ which is not especially great.  What weakens the movie are stock characters and clichéd dialogue.  It doesn’t matter that much to me, if I see a good movie I see a good movie (like Erice’s ‘Spirit of the Beehive’) and I feel enlightened, lucky.  I used to be a real movie snob, watching only art films, Sundance-type films, foreign films.  I’ve walked out of theatres in the middle of a movie about a thousand times the last decade or so, whenever a main character became stock, the language clichéd, the actions unbelievable.  Sometime last year I changed.  If I see a not-so-good movie, well: so what.  It’s the action of going to the cinema that I like, the experience, the visceral, sitting in my favorite seat in the sixth row of the middle section along the aisle, munching popcorn and watching the characters move on the big screen above me.  Monday is my movie day.  I usually find an excuse to slip away from home on Monday and see a movie alone.  I often go to the matinees because they are cheaper and there is hardly anyone in the theaters.  Anyway, after the movie I return home and eat dinner, then I unwrap Larry Levis’ Winter Stars, which just arrived that afternoon by DHL courier (it cost me 43 bucks, 12.95 for the book and the rest for shipping, so it better be good Timothy Liu).  It’s not at all good: it’s outstanding.  I especially like the first two poems, ‘The Poet at Seventeen’ and ‘Adolescence’.  The poems are devastatingly surprising, the language fresh, the imagery sharp.  In ‘Poet at 17’ Levis captures well the energetic recklessness and immortal feeling of youth, and juxtaposes it in perfect contrast to the fearful stasis of adulthood.  I notice by the second poem the idiosyncratic use of & for and.  I didn’t notice it at first, so he employs it naturally and stamps himself into the poems.  In all of the poems, Levis has a way of writing about himself but connecting to the reader.  He is an extremely gifted poet.   By the time I get to the end of the book I am exhausted and I fall asleep.

You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Stars-Poetry-Larry-Levis/dp/0822953684/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Stephen (S. M.) Page in a cafe writing ready to go see a movie– Stephen (S.M.) Page is from the Motor City. He is part Shawnee and part Apache.  He loves to take long walks, watch movies, read, and write.

 

 

Love Highway by Stephanie Dickinson

lovehighwayPaperback: 230 pages

Publisher: Spuyten Duyvil Publishing (September 5, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1941550169

ISBN-13: 978-1941550168

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Review by Lillian Ann Slugocki

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This is Feminist Noir

Love Highway by Stephanie Dickinson is a duet for two voices. It is a Rashomon-like narrative; two voices, two points of view, one story. A girl, Nylah, disappears after a night of clubbing in Manhattan. She is found in a trash heap, in New Jersey, strangled. A slight wisp of a girl, and a true story.  The first voice we hear is hers –the girl who is dead.  We walk with her on the last night of her life. The second voice we hear is Trinity, the girl who was there, who saw the whole story unfold, right before her eyes, and did nothing to stop it.

Dickinson has mastered the art of character; each voice is chillingly authentic. I recognized my 18 year old self, and the stupid choices I made. Hitchhiking on a highway at four in the morning comes to mind. A  miracle I made it home alive, and inevitable that Nylah does not. Interspersed in her narrative is a back story, a love story– one that reveals her naivete and her innocence, her privileged background which is a counterpoint or perhaps counter weight to the second voice– Trinity, a prostitute, paralyzed by love, bound to her pimp.

Dickinson is at her best when the story turns on the tiniest of details– how something smells, how something feels, what is sounds like, what it tastes like. I will forever see the overturned carton of Chinese noodles on the floor of the Weehawken Motel, and I will always know how hot it was the day the pimp and prostitute hauled her body to a dumpster in an abandoned lot. I will always know the color of the sky, and the weight of the gym bag that cradled her body, and the geography of the empty Manhattan apartment where Trinity hid out after the murder, the shower she took hoping to wash away the stain of her life.

Pacing and dramatic tension work best in the second half of the book. Without knowing this was based on a true story, I still understood Nylah wasn’t going to get out of this alive.  I knew that a girl walking alone on the West Side Highway, in a white mini-skirt, would come to no good. However, the fate of  Trinity was always in question. Her pimp could kill her, too.  Her foster parents could rescue her. Or, she could jump on a Greyhound bus and disappear. I wanted to see what happened to her. The epilogue is especially graceful  as Dickinson circles back to Nylah in the morgue; confused, but not especially afraid of the cold room and the smell of formaldehyde.

The book is dark, but this is redeemed by the humanity, and again, the authenticity of each voice. We might be frustrated and even angry by Nylah’s choice to strike off on her own at the impound lot, or Epiphany’s stubborn refusal to leave her boyfriend/pimp, but we do understand them. They are human, they are flawed, they are real to us, and Dickison renders each of them with language and imagery that is both lyrical and damned:

“When they reached Cooper Union the club girls were clustered in bunches. The fish girls in their slippery hair and mini skirts stood smoking cigarettes, their shoulders draped by fringed shawls. Like silken fins. Silken was the word for them.”

This was not an easy book to read, I had to put it down several times; especially when Nylah’s narrative takes us to the trash heap where her body comes to rest, or when Trinity smokes crack to ease the horror show of the hotel room, just as the sun is coming up. But Love Highway grabbed me, hooked me, and wouldn’t let go.  As a woman and as a writer, I recognize the need to tell these stories. I am happy that, in the hands of Stephanie Dickinson, they are authentic, even though as a reader, I am uneasy, discomfitted. This is not happily ever after. This is feminist noir, a real cold light shining on a real, cold story.

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You can find the book here:  http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/love-highway.html

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Lillian Ann SlugockiLillian Ann Slugocki  has been published by Seal Press, Cleis Press, Heinemann Press, Newtown Press, Spuyten Duyvil Press, as well as Bloom/The Millions, Salon, Beatrice, THE FEM Literary Magazine, HerKind/Vida, Deep Water Literary Journal, The Nervous Breakdown,  The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, Blue Fifth Review, and Non Binary Review. Her novella How to Travel with Your Demons will be published by Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2015. She has an MA from NYU in literary theory, and has produced and written for Off-Broadway and National Public Radio. Follow her on twitter https://twitter.com/laslugocki

The Butterfly’s Choice by Joanna Kurowska

butterfly Publisher: Broadstone Books
PubDate: 3/15/2015
ISBN: 9781937968151
Binding: Paperback
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Review by Sunil Sharma
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The Butterfly’s Choice is a thrilling voyage across shifting sands of time. In this third book of her poetry, you become aware of the power of an international language harnessed creatively by a bilingual user and its dexterous employment in the hands of an accomplished writer. Here, the reader keeps on moving in different realms and contexts, guided by a medley of strange metaphors, images; twists and turns of a language mastered.
The poem,  On Talking,  leaves an immediate impact through the pithiness and implied message of creating values and meanings through human interactions by cutting down on the inanities of daily conversations in deadening societies by using words that are sincere and heart-felt:
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Each person has one word to carve
but we don’t know it until
it’s almost too late
 
Until, too weak to say anything,
we see only dust
in a mirror
 
Then, knowing we have talked
too much, we hold
our breaths
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The words and their implications need to be sensitively recovered in a consumerist age where language has lost its basic authenticity and got debased by the adspeak and overall duplicity involved in the public discourse. Dust in a mirror is a sensory image that conveys a lot—the inability to see fully and correctly the reflected self. Only distortions or the phantoms stare back at the hapless viewer! Such verbal shifts in emphasis, tones and articulation; quick movements in tenor, from one to another idea; such fast intellectual and imagist diversions constitute the core of her poetry. In the poem Vibrations, the same theme gets echoed but slightly differently:
 
Vibrations
 
Shards of words bounce
against my skin; some,
like seed, penetrate me
entering my bloodstream.
Long before my brain can
grasp the meaning, it crawls
up my veins and tells me
exactly who I am.
If I could trace that first word
like Helen Keller’s water.
Was mine, too, soft—or cold?
…..
The grappling with words, textuality, surfaces, linguistic resources and their varied functions in social and interpersonal communication contexts fascinate and engage the poet’s attention. She seems to be exploring the formalistic features of poetic artifacts and poses the question: Is her style/language mellow or harsh on the auditory faculty? In fact, it is a universal probe by every creative mind: Does the style imitate the artist? Is there proper balance between thought/idea and its verbal expression? The potential of words to create or destroy meaning/s is stated in the poem cited above. The most interesting observation comes in a mini poem that deals with the primary role of language as a communicative medium and rendering reality in a new manner, especially for a bilingual artist, experiencing objects differently due to the acquisition of the changed langue-position in the Saussarian sense of the term:
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Coming Here
 
Coming here was a plunge in language
Words join houses and streets into a city
Like a film, they cover hands and faces
Fleeting dreams, they spawn the reality
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History and memory get intertwined in the following poem that alters POV:
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An Inkling
For Stephan A. Hoeller
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A western autumn in Eastern Europe;
the sky’s deep blue, white knit-clouds;
a narrow street—maybe a back alley;
some grass, concrete, a garbage can.
The wind carries an ochre-colored leaf;
it whirls between the walls that separate
our compartments filled with dust.
The air is a mask. I have to stop.
……
 
Tackling her relocation in America, Joanna writes about existence becoming as some kind of a riddle and thus speaks for every re-located person:
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On Familiarity—A Riddle
 
In foreign lands, we grow nearer to our friends
who begin to see we are not so very different
but the strangers grow uncomfortable when we
open our mouths and speak in accented tones
 
At home, we grow more distant from our kin
who perceive us increasingly strange and aloof
but the strangers feel comfortable since we
know how to greet the day in familiar tones
 
The whole book of poems is a collage of memories, experiences, past and present, of old streets and parental home left behind and current one found, and commentary on things philosophical or mundane, with an Alice-like tribute to a pet cat. In My Grandfather’s Suitcase or A House That Says Nothing, the personal histories intersect with national histories and references are made to the Nazi occupation and then fading away of the living into the dead and finally the eloquence of silence with its implied threat of erasure and amnesia. The poet is concerned with capturing such critical junctures, thresholds, intersections where individual and collective meet and collide and wish to record such individual encounters with history through acts of literary commemoration. In brief, The Butterfly’s Choice is a delicate tapestry of emotions, moods and contexts caught in broad and/or minimalist verbal strokes, thus creating a deeply enriching and satisfying totality. For Joanna, butterfly represents both profound beauty and fragility—and life-force and vitality. The lines describing the winged and tiny, pretty creature are equally valid for people as well:
 
Knowledge about ways of being eaten
is implied—if not conceived—
in a butterfly’s design,
time of death depending on which part a beak
captures first—a wing or a leg,
the head or the trunk.
…….
Does the butterfly have a choice? a life
yielding half-beauty to the world it fans
with a half-wing?
Death, life, satiation, hunger—for an insect
things can only be black or white,
even in shades
(A Butterfly Caught In The Frame Of A Harley Motorcycle)
 
It is book that lingers on, post-reading, like some beautiful sunset recalled on solitary evenings in a cramped Mumbai home…
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s-sharmaMumbai-based, Sunil Sharma, a college principal, is also widely-published Indian critic, poet, literary interviewer, editor, translator, essayist and fiction writerHe has already published three collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction, one novel and co-edited six books so far. His six short stories and the novel Minotaur were recently prescribed for the undergraduate classes under the Post-colonial Studies, Clayton University, Georgia, USA. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. Recently his poems were published in the UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree.
 
He edits online journal Episteme:

News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousnes

news ofPaperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Counterpoint; First Trade Paper Edition edition (August 29, 1995)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0871563681

ISBN-13: 978-0871563682

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Review by: Robert Hambling Davis  .

News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness is an anthology of poems that support the premise that human consciousness is only one of the many forms of consciousness operating in the universe. The National Book Award winning poet Robert Bly selects and introduces the poems in this anthology, which offers a historical perspective that moves from an 18th century preoccupation with the human self in a time of alienation from the natural world, toward poems that celebrate the consciousness of non-human life species and even so-called inanimate objects. Hence the title, “news of the universe.” Bly contends that the poetry that matters the most today, or at least in 1980 when the anthology was published, illuminates the fact that we, as homo sapiens, must find our place in the world by acknowledging that we are but one of thousands of species, yet we have the power to destroy all species, including ourselves. Most of the poets in News of the Universe are western poets, including Milton, Blake, Whitman, Wordsworth, Keats, and Yeats, but Bly also includes poems by Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, and other eastern poets of a mystical bent.
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I bought this anthology soon after Sierra Books published it in paperback. I keep my copy on my nightstand, and like to read a few poems before turning out the light and falling asleep. The book helps me to remember my place in the world, by making me try to see it from an imaginary perspective: that of a bee, a horse, a rock, or a cloud, as I view the world around me each day, the world I don’t want to take for granted. To write this recommendation, I went through my copy of the book again, trying to find a short poem that best summarizes the gist of the collection, and chose this verse from Rilke’s Book of the Hours:
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    I live my life in growing orbits,
    which move out over the things of the world.
    Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
    but that will be my attempt.
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    I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
    and I have been circling for a thousand years.
    And I still don’t know if I am a falcon, .
    Or a storm, or a great song.
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rhdavis-1Robert 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.

Solitude and other poems by Rajender Krishan

solitudePaperback: 164 pages

Publisher: Cyberwit.net (July 5, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 8182534143

ISBN-13: 978-8182534148

 

            Review by P C K Prem                                

A journey into the ‘inner world’ works as a tranquilizer to a disturbed man the poet avers. Rajender Krishan, a product of Delhi University, a marketing professional since 1968, solemnized inter-religious marriage and is now, settled in New York, USA.    Before migrating to USA in 1989, he worked in poultry farming, advertising, and eventually entered sales and marketing.  Since 1989, he is engaged in work relating to antique reproductions and consultancy in Real Estate. Settled in USA, an admirer of Kabir, a great Hindu mystic, he believes in the freedom of expression.   Poetry, photography and visual art are passions. Unpredictable destiny of man and society, and its predicament worries him. He inspires writers through famous website Boloji.com, a notable endeavour.

A maiden poetic venture ‘Solitude and other poems’ a collection of more than fifty poems, he communicates experiences with intensity, notices every incident, watches man’s movements closely and gives aesthetically pithy and perceptive lyrical treatment.  RK’s curiosity in mysticism and philosophy amazes as he looks beyond worldly limits. Understanding of mysterious power determines human life and destiny he believes in a straight and forthright manner.

He believes in the indestructible inner self –soul/ Atma and realizes that ‘the ethereal/apparently caged/ behind the skin’ is eternally free.  A thought of oneness with the world grants freedom when one abandons incarcerated existence. Eagerness to probe the mystery of life continues even in routine acts, ‘That’s why /on a chosen path the lines on the soles/keep treading and digging /the labyrinth of life /-Maya-/in quest of Nirvana (salvation) 12  Wholesomeness in acts grants freedom minus sufferings.

              Inner self is a mirror giving true image of the central man and reflects individual interior and exterior, ‘with a motley/ of pretenses and beliefs/ wearing different hats… cannot conceal /reality from /the mirror’s revelation (Mirror 42) The nature in fury, thoughtfully offers glimpses world’s origin and the ultimate end.  The principle of creation and devastation with inkling of lethal inundation in ‘Deluge’ as if sage Markandeya witnessing the spectacle of devastation is quite apparent. Anarchic life after the great creation, preservation and the ultimate dissolution is the eternal divine plan of the Lord a man should understand. Deluge’ and ‘Realization’ 14 unfold a cosmic plan.  Solitude is transitory and ethereal but saves a man from a distressing existence and he says –

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…cannot let go

this singularity of life

where I experience

the essence of freedom…

of you perpetual presence. 4

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             Invisible power is the fountainhead of energy outside worldly subjugation without dogmas and thus, anarchic living no longer disturbs, as identity is integral.      Unhealthy, sordid and detrimental living conditions make peace illusive.

Without ever thinking salvation beyond bondages, a man lives within the limits of self-dictated rules of life. What a tragedy and contradiction!  Despite chaotic living conditions, man can live a better life if he understands the message of nature.

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If a man comprehends ‘self’, he knows God’s (divine) plan. Living in silent areas of existence, bestows serenity.  He is conscious of life’s rationale and transience but forgets the eternal truth of life and death.  Past does not enlighten but distracts growth.   A wanderer’s life infuses meaning, for it is away from the feelings of ‘dead yesterday’ and ‘unknown tomorrow’ and tries to ‘Look beyond /the dichotomy of life.’ 40

A man should comprehend the celestial design and utilize inherent energies realistically without gridlock. Nature reveals ancient wisdom.   Man must understand the intrinsic energies, listen to inner voice, know the ambiguity of inscrutable existence, choose the right path, pursue a principled life, live in harmony and it will lead to a wisdom phenomenon and so he tells,’…awaken and arise/ Listen to your inner voice.’ To know self –who am I, ‘A naked Self /clothed by masks /of thoughts, relationships /…the dual of opposite/what really I am?’ 27 is an eternal question and a journey perturbing a man and answer leads to freedom ushering in renaissance.

Cleanliness, truth, dignity, right attitude bereft of hate and greed give purpose if a man follows teachings of virtuous saints like Buddha, Christ and Kabira, and wise people.  A man goes beyond confusion of ‘this or that’ with the power of ‘self preserving silent prayer’ as quietness of the imploring words soothes, creates understanding and infuses resolution and faith.

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Knowledge of social realities and system grants identity and existence to man and he moves towards a collectively predestined objective.   Questions on destiny and life, creation, annihilation appear disquieting and efforts to get out of ephemeral joys and sorrows fail, for man’s choice is incorrect.   Man suffers from ‘great insecurity, permanent crisis and the absence of any kind of status quo’ says M. Sturmer, ‘We do not know where we are going. We only know that history has brought us to this point…if humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present. If we try to build the third millennium on that basis, we shall fail. And the price of failure, that is to say, the alternative to a changed society, is darkness.” (Age of Extremes 585, London: Abacus, 2002)

The poet shows awareness of the social deadlock where man has uncertain joys and sufferings abundant. Embedded in the eternal plan, hunger, material hunger and greed are born of desires unlimited but the man fails to satisfy the inner man.

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Hunger departs
with the sensory cessation
the Sovereign
leaves the corpse
moves into a new abode

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Hunger is the cause of human activities, joys and sufferings insatiable, for the mortal frame does not recognize satisfaction. It refuses to accept truth of hunger and the singularity leads to sufferings where conflicts govern.  The poet is disturbed at the multifaceted hunger a man nurses, for it is the origin of unethical life and living rejecting a virtuous and principled life.  Mother earth is immaculate in its movement, and moves in a fixed free pattern but man refuses to recognize the phenomenal truth of freedom and loves to work under restrictions. He loves living in ‘society/hoodwinked/ and disillusioned’ discarding ‘universal freedom’. 94

Man philosophizes on life but fails to restrain feelings and thoughts, prefers ubiquitous, disgusting and appalling social system. Russell said long back, ‘The modern-minded man, although he believes profoundly in the wisdom of his period, must be presumed to be very modest about his personal powers. His highest hope is to think first what is about to be thought, to say what is about to be said and to feel what is about to be felt; he has no wish to think better thoughts than his neighbours…’ (In Unpopular Essays 66 London: Unwin Books, 1968)

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‘Politics’ enters human relations and hurts warmth, gives birth to distrust and lies. Politics and lies in relations sow seeds of dishonesty. A modern man manipulates relations and consequently, it results in hatred, loss of confidence and faith. Relationships also suffer in an appalling and rash materialistic contemporary structure and credo of earning and amassing.  A tragic and biting ‘Irony’ it is where parents are apathetic.  Parents are the elders who should guide and teach youngsters the art of life or else –

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…parental neglect

Mutates the toddler

Into a disgruntled person

Discarded to live a life

Stuck in the grooves of

Coercive and manipulative societies 102

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A lackadaisical attitude of parents destroys children’s future.  Elders must offer quality life to children.  He feels upset, for the American society has little hopes to offer to future children. Apathy of parents and American society shocks bringing psychosomatic disorder in the children.

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… dead children

Leave behind

Devastated parents; grieving

How to console them?

The surviving children

Still in their formative years

Are they doomed to swallow

the venom of traumatic afflictions? 112

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A deplorable and perilous living pattern is also entering Indian society, and he   cautions against the lethal ambush.

Questions of life and death perturb, and the poet falls into metaphysical ponderings. The self-righteous thought of merger of ‘self’ and ‘the inner self’, the image of the Supreme Lord assures as he finds deliverance and harmony in solitude, and discovers fresh meaning. He is sincere and frank, and anxieties about existence seem strongly genuine. In an unobtrusive way, he establishes a mute relationship with every lover of verses, and it speaks of bona fide elegiac power and still stays away from moralistic perspectives.

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You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Solitude-Rajender-Krishan/dp/8182534143

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pckAn author of more than forty-five books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch) a post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh   has brought out nine volumes of poetry besides books on criticism in Hindi and English.  Katoch Prem is a poet, novelist, short story writer and critic in English from Himachal Pradesh, India