Tag Archives: poetry book review

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.

 

 

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.

****

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Gold Cell By Sharon Olds

The Gold Cell coverSeries: Knopf Poetry Series (Book 25)

Paperback: 112 pages

Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (February 12, 1987)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0394747704

ISBN-13: 978-0394747705

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Reviewed by SM Page

Last week I picked up Olds book, The Gold Cell. Jeez. I was devastated. Her writing is riveting, dense, stark, brave. With titles like, “The Abandoned Newborn,” “The Pope’s Penis,” and “Outside the Operating Room of the Sex-Change Doctor,” she tackles topics not normally taken on by other writers–and if they are, not tackled as well. Her poems are snapshots come to life, with vivid scenes like this:

..

The young man and I face each other.

His feet are huge, in black sneakers

laced with white in a complex pattern like a

set of intentional scars. We are stuck on

opposite sides of the car, a couple of

molecules stuck in a rod of light

rapidly moving through the darkness. He has

or my white eye imagines he has the

casual cold look of a mugger.

The collection is nicely organized, starting with the narrator’s childhood and passing through her adolescence into adulthood. She observes her parents aging and watches her children grow. She is graphic and real, and withholds no feelings or character description even if it is taboo. When Olds covers topics written by a million other poets—first kiss, first love, first sex, alcoholic father, anorexic mother, and abandonment—She handles them deftly and newly. Most writers can only dream of being the same caliber as Olds.

 

Check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Gold-Cell-Knopf-Poetry-Series/dp/0394747704

S. M. Page foto (1) SM Page is from Michigan. He has Shawnee-Chickasaw genes from one side of his family tree, and Apache-Mexican from the other side.  He is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions. He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College. His critical essays have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald and the Fox Chase Review. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He loves his wife, family, friends, travel, and adventure.

 

 

Asking My Liver for Forgiveness by Rob Cook

liverPaperback: 70 pages

Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First edition (September 1, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 098970517X

ISBN-13: 978-0989705172

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Review by Dennis Daly 

 One part obsession, one part surreal, one part experimental, Rob cook’s new collection of poems, Asking My Liver For Forgiveness, delivers a consummate parable of medical terror. According to the book’s Afterword Cook contracted an obscure liver disease back in 2010 which in turn triggered the ravages of cirrhosis. Until an official diagnosis surfaced in early 2014 the poet and his world spiraled into a maelstrom of unpredictable physical pain, emotional ennui, and psychological denial. Through it all he kept writing.
 
Cook’s poems themselves leak pus, blood, and sweat off the page and into a syringe-fired dreamscape of alternating hopelessness and healing. At the same time the patient’s offending liver becomes independent, animal-like, and even sentient. Poetic order imposes itself on the havoc and illogic in a calming, almost climatic, way.
 
Early in the collection the poet objectifies his body parts in an effort to understand the disease darkening his consciousness. In the poem entitled Your Body That Led This Far Cook asks some pertinent questions,
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Is your sugar flu at least one moment’s
true loneliness? Is your liver a frightened
animal huddled near your tummy
that reads the notes inside the harsh breads
and chilis you send it? Does your heart
already know the direction of your grave?
How do you know which kidney
Can be trusted? Which arm?
Which leg? Which eye?
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Courting sleep at the Marion Hotel in his poem entitled Blackness Over Motel Country, the poet concocts a nightmare conversation with the dreamed up visage of a hospital nurse who once tended him. The coordinates of terror reduce “the best possible sleep” to a blend of anxious confession and jaundiced lunacy. Cook explains,
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“I got sick without once leaving my childhood,” I tell her.
 .
“The pine needles will not hurt you from there,”
the woman says through her conduit of ash tray static.
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It is not my own voice, the despair of the television
that doesn’t end. “I am always watching from
the livers that came before you,” she says
when the sleep creatures pass like a blur of doctors
and their searchlights of mist. Maybe she discusses
my elevated comet count with the man selling
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the letters left in the vacancy sign …
War metaphors monopolize commiserations on diseases. Cook’s immune system turned on its own vital organ, the liver, considering it an alien force bent on mischief. Brigades of soldiers were sent to destroy the offending party. The poet employs this battlefield metaphor in order to comprehend his internal chaos. He uses his title poem, Asking My Liver For Forgiveness, to reconcile with his former ally. Cook explains,
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… it’s taken
how many years  to remember you
slogging without faces
through my liver’s venereal swamps?
 .
To walk with precision
through my liver that cannot be
comforted from the snake-hard cold,
 .
its dark churches where monsters pray,
 .
the ones I let in who will never stop
stalking us, my friend, my liver,
my friend.
 ..
I will always be sorry—for both of us—
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The poem Cryptogenic Cirrhosis chronicles a very bad diagnosis. Cook’s persona spelunks his way through gothic caves of anxiety and medical unease. Facing the unknown of one’s mortality forces the artistic mind to focus and refocus its imaginative powers on the minutia of whatever is at hand, presumable scientific certitude (or not). The wording evokes a strange and soaring elegance. Cook opens his poem with dissolution,
not one doctor could diagnose
each day i wanted  
a different angel to die,
so they pillaged
all the terrors in my body,
which was a virus now,
though not yet pain.
“you have cryptogenic cirrhosis” –
meaning the hypothetical afterlife
will become, in the days of
the impending panic transplant,
more than just a child who nourishes a distant cancer.
 .
Still, one can feel dollars
Of damnation denominations
Pasted to the kidneys’ Egyptian ceilings
 .
End of days bring panic, religious fervor, and great expectations. Cook’s poem entitled 11:59 chronicles all three using a mixed combination of Christian and medical imagery. The result both impresses and scares the hell out of you. Here’s the heart of the piece,
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It is time to track god, digging
with his enormous cross in the wrong
direction, toward the thousand basements
of the last crucifix company between
jerusalem and the day after.
It is time for everyone to stay silent.
It is time to hear where the trees and the water
have stopped praying for us.
It is time for a hospital
without the cruel voices that arrive
from the center of the evening pills.
It is time for a breakfast without scalpels,
a nurse without tourniquets that monitor the liver’s fear,
a doctor without the elimination of names.
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Notice the repetition of the phrase “It is time.” Cook seems to work himself up to a crescendo of control and hope that greatly tones down the panic and pessimism created by earlier pieces.
 
Exceptional artistry originates from diverse experiences, many of them disconcerting and even degrading. One’s flesh follows its own genetic and environmental script in spite of our better, often antiseptic, angels. Wherever Cook may be on mortality’s time span, his poetic work inexorably advances before him with its surgical candor and its strange, unblinking imagery. If you harbor even a modicum of belief in the curative power of words, read this marvelous poet.

 

You can buy the book here: http://www.amazon.com/asking-liver-forgiveness-Rob-Cook/dp/098970517X

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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/

 

Mechanisms of Desire by Rob Harle


HARLE 2 COVERMechanisms of Desire
by Rob Harle

Publishers: Spinning Spider Publications

PO Box 20182, Nimbin 2480, Australia

Year: 2012

Language: English, Pages 82

ISBN: 978 –0–646–57481-3

 

Review by  P C K Prem                                     

Rob Harle, an Austrian poet, artist and reviewer underlines anguish, traumatic pleasures of contemporary life born of longing and faith. Man’s destiny is an expansion of technology, its convolution and cerebral outlook, and mark of archaeology as an advent of digital techniques resolve man’s growth. “Mechanisms of Desire” is philosophic in essence.  Highly mechanized world does not instil hopes, for a programmed structure, and its movement in absolute stillness turns dreary. In nerve shattering routine, an individual barely feels relaxed. Upsets and tediousness, weariness and consequent blackout of thoughts assume deadly proportion disallowing time for joy.

An instinctive wish for joy abundant in man is alive but worldly encrustations hardly permit man to run wild, for a life of ennui in contemporary psychic scenario censures and disturbs. To ‘satisfy my primal desire for adventure / for life remains alive,’ for it signals extreme pressure to run away from the current boredom and go wild as words like ‘a shiny, red apple’ create stunning and graphic sensuous images in “Primal Desire.”   Harle reminds man of the original sin –Adam and Eve.   

A hunt in spiritual marketplace tortures since modern inner malady inflicts wounds invisible in “The Long Search”. A man goes back to gods, deities and gurus as if it were a forced flight from doomed living to clandestine and makeshift asylums but phony gurus assault as ‘the exponential abstractionists’ threaten. 

 preaching with uncontrollable passion

gathering blind sheep around him

flogging them with raging lies

 …              …

as they sat in the warm dust,

riddled with fear.           

    In vacillating faith, life appears a journey in a long dark tunnel, and search for survival and revelation distresses. Futility and immorality injure psyche of a modern man as a world of Cyborg machine, technology overwhelm, and if a man operates in a certain region, it is a dead mechanism, for ‘white laboratories’ and ‘contemplation’ speak enough.

 Hideous manifestations emerge

oozing from milky white laboratories,

a new concept for contemplation,

 …    …

Immortality

files in the cold steel fractured face of humanity.

                        (False Narratives)

Man understands innovative dimensions of morality the modern lords of society profess. Material growth and glossy lifestyles bring no joy as glitzy attributes characterize life and still man lives fetidly and refuses to look beyond fabricated glare. A saga of repulsive living in the contemporary scenario –

creates individuals by design

renewed with each flip over. (SuperGloss) 

 Unethical living disheartens and therefore, a poetic frustration and philosophic anguish fails to bring innovation as ‘Maggot-ridden fat of the long-dead body of god /oozed over me, stinking of stupidity.’ Poet regrets pretence and priestly demeanour of people in authority and thus, crucifies humanity.

The priests sodomize their young charges

forcing fear into their lives,

violating them again and again

until fear is all that’s left in once trusting hearts.

Nevertheless, life moves on with plenty of sodomy and solemnizing.

                                (The Scourge)

              Here, ‘the priest’ is a metaphor for the elite, the sophisticated, the educated and the ruler of contemporary life, for each one enjoys infringement of private areas of a person  and so sex and sleaze continue to guide the arbiters of society -a massive system.   ‘The Solar Oracle’ is a gloomy scenario modern gadgets create. Certain outrageous lines stun as lethal metaphors shatter faith.  

global voyeurism opens windows

change gender, trans-gender

cut – filter – distort – recompose

as virtual orgasm penetrates the digital twilight.

An apparently entertaining life in reality suffocates and destroys with classic impurity of soul and body. ‘The Dark Night of the Troll’ tells of perfunctory rascality, for ‘Hiding in seedy back-street alleys / intractable vagrants’ makes life of dwellers miserable and excruciating.  

We must have happy subservient trolls

we must help these tormented wretches,

help them emerge from their Dark Night.

   ‘AI and Joan’ forlornly derides acumen of a man as ‘Homo Electronicus’ reorganize contemporary life otherwise  ‘… the impression of an age’ would  emphasize continual ‘changing, turning, calculating’ for simulated astuteness works wonders while life in a society remains a crushing burden and nobody anticipates a ethical formation sans human beings. Defeat, collapse and delusion haunt modern transcript of man and creates a tedium and archetypal dullness. In “Time To Leave” lethal thoughts in devastating words restructure the entire edifice of thought sequence and so a hypocritical approach to life of ennui lengthens out infinitely while sanity and wisdom become irrelevant driving man to suicidal precipice. The thoughts that clones masturbate without ever ‘achieving orgasm’ speak of incapacity ‘in social intercourse,’ despite perception of ‘cultural theory.’  Insensitivity of man remains a frightening characteristic and he is least worried to guard man from imminent disintegration but relishes in killing finer instincts.

…revealing the wisdom inherent before the staining

before the dangerous assault of mind

before the destruction of creativity.

             In a disastrous cycle, fraudulence ridicules linguistic niceties a modern man often enjoys, who loves to live in vague connectivity and links, and howls about the framing of a new charter and guidelines but is conscious of annihilation.  Ultimately, nature as physician tells man to search meaning even in social despair and distortion as sickening spread of supermarkets squeezes human warmth in a grisly hurry but man wishes living in neurotic lifestyle and illusion and therefore, the search for green pasture proves futile. A contemporary man is stuck up in muck of frightening apathy and sham. In utter anarchy, inertia and perceptible stupor life is vile –

drugged, strapped down, electrocuted

incessant blurred nightmare.

today i realised i was still alive. (“Diary Entry”)

     Life appears mordant, diseased and onerous agony of hope amidst moral mayhem but man envisages a better life.  Art, dance, music, painting and sculpture demonstrate phony incline to social realities, and man in ignorance, struggles to forget anguish of living while avoiding straight encounter with finesse of arty aesthetics.   Man lives in a highly mechanized and computerised world and feels proud but inwardly a sad man, he does not know about tomorrow and so lives in tragedy.  “The Transfiguration Of Calliope” paints a dismal picture of life present and future and then, man runs back to past to re-energize present perhaps.  Realities of supermarket in “Paracetamol” prove nauseating, leading to a shocking finale when a man moves ‘to reach for the toilet paper/ and Paracetamol.’ No therapy or reprieve cleans an indistinct life in a mechanized version.

   A widely travelled artist/poet, Harle encounters scenes of mechanical comforts at Airports and aircrafts and finds people of arrogance and plastic smiles throwing bright glances with a frustrating towing. Ennui in expertise documents modern culture, and society cherishes chilling experiences.   A culture of fast food and artificial smiles chases in “Fat Duck Road” signals no acquittal since synthetic outlook determines life sans warmth.

  “A New Hymn” and “Kafka’s Prophecy” speak of modern intensity of agony, affluence, knowledge and misfortunes.  A man travels from one hugely dark area of knowledge and physical joy to death, light and joy leading to melancholy and desolation notwithstanding positive results of demoniac machines, for he rejoices in synthetic desires of material without faith. “Twitter –Twatter,” strengthens callousness in reiterating the terrible influence of contemporary mindset, technological progress and cold-hearted –

Surveillance, paranoia, cameras, Google Earth
spy force in disguise.

data base explosion, exploitation
profile
stop, buy, consume, be silent

  Supermarkets talk of challenging phenomenon of selling goods irrespective of the consequences and therefore, a man celebrates repulsive flaunting of retail mechanism signifying a terrific onslaught of science and technology.

I am so happy to be a marketing pawn,

even though the radical deconstruction of capitalism is nigh.  (“Retail Therapy”)

   Age of computers, electronic gadgets and science opens new vistas, and stir human beings to amass more amidst overwhelming inventions in science. Peace and exclusive space for lonely moments prove a mirage underlining man’s aspirations and ensuing disgust.  

the dark black-hole of our bio-quantum computer

is a mysterious worm-hole for neuroscientists

which reveals emptiness.

Squaring the measure of emptiness…

(“Sound and Fury”)

              A man discreetly enhances the enormity of calamity but fails to visualize.  A man keeps hopes and aspirations integral, lies embedded in time wishing to reconstruct dissolution as others make a choice and so, “Being” generates an artificial imprint. “Unfolding” is emblematic of detachment, a revelation of eternity if one comprehends the inscrutable scheme of nature, seasonal changes and perfection in cyclic movement, irrespective of hazards.  If “The Old Man and The Vineyard” speaks of surface shine, a subtle requiem also tortures, for past gives relief from a harrowing present.  

When a man forgets past, he is condemned, for ‘ignorance of the past is also a major cause of the troublesome human condition’ observe Leslie Stevenson and David Haberman in Ten Theories of Human Nature (Oxford University Press, 2004). One recalls words of Confucius when he says that ‘it is unfamiliarity with the Way of the sages.’ Going back is a faint possibility.  “Rainforest Diary” reinforces a link between nature and man as living appears appalling. Tweeting and fluttering of birds no longer delight a man. Guarding environment from pollution brings no definite transformation, ‘investments to neutralise smears of smog /and the hardness of concrete life, /images for vicarious indulgence.’

   Philosophic and yet realistic without tantrums of intellectual strings, in “White Birds,” the movement of birds in search of safe location with the change in season alerts and warns man as nature performs well in the cosmic plan of creation.   

Irony discomfits in “Becoming,” a philosophic journey to the mystery and ‘absurdity of time’ and life and then, a ‘moving downward into a rainbow vortex/ explodes into pure light/and reaches the end of eternity.’ Harle scrutinizes thoughts from various angles that elude definiteness and justify analogous thoughts in lyrics.  Philosophic thought inGrowing Old (Time)” carries rational strain, and symbolically when the river meets the sea, egos die out.  If life is in motions, it has purpose, as stagnation is death and here, the poet reminds of Indian philosopher Dr S. Radhakrishnan.  

 Old human vessels sail slowly,

sometimes silently,

egos are the only terminal events in history

and dissolve when the river becomes the sea.

  Happy future appears phony and chases man even as he listens to raucous cheers in a computerized life. The word ‘troll’ in many lyrics looks as if  stacking bare necessities for transitory pleasures driving life like a trolley to gloom, cynicism and negativity as it throws side glances with a counterfeit smile.  Modern centres of joys and pleasure are in fact, “Places of Hell” one realizes. “Bags checked on Exit!” & “Security cameras in Operation!” express doubts and suspicions as market-fluctuations determine awareness. Many lyrics overtly reveal class struggle, a subtle transition from feudalistic thought pattern to industrial misery and capitalistic trends. Ultra-sophisticated markets and commercial swiftness scarcely permit man to live in grace.

I ponder the complexity of the future of evil,
having no part in its creation

with nerve cells of revelation.

                    (“X21 Reflects”)

 Now disturbed, uncertain and ostensibly confident intellect governs, directs, and makes life miserable amidst happiness.  In “Transition”, machines determine dirty, mucky and gloomy flow of life as baptising with doable piety continues.

 the shaman vanishes

into the musty dirt

of the lamp-black tunnel,

 …     …

in the collective post human transition. 

            In modern mechanism of restraint and control, freedom and liberty of man suffocates and virtually ends up in shackles of mortifying purported rulers of destiny of humankind.  A rebellious spirit surfaces and it refuses to obey any command of social, political, religious or philosophical authority, for it distrusts and rejects man’s independent identity.  Man-dictated dictums or diktats with strings of self-interests and perpetuation are unacceptable to a reasonable man.

 My right to life and love and death,

is carved in burning stone,

religious mythological falsity is no judge,

yet daily the puny God impostors

bring down their judgements,

acting as supreme false magistrates         (“The Bell Tolls”)

 Harle highlights a common human failing. A man knows he destroys nature, brings pollution, acts dishonestly, relishes corrupt practices, loves modern gadgets and behaves disingenuously but still talks against such human shortcomings. An offensive and unenviable situation it is and Peter Stoterdijk, a German philosopher terms it as ‘cynical reason’ or what he calls ‘enlightened false consciousness.’ Perhaps, a modern man is victim of this irreversible location and even if a man is positive, he fails.

He is aware of social and political realities and believes that art has a purpose in life. Enquiries into fresh areas of ethics and environment throw light on modern life. Impact of hypocritical lifestyle creates spectral existential situations.  Philosophical backdrop and construction exhibit unease of post modernistic cultural and literary trends.   Rob appears skeptical but is conscious of the social realities and truths where quixotic thoughts prove futile.  He is deeply experiential, and pragmatic aspects with a leaning towards structuring temperament, varied intellectual variations, and experiences with a tendency to contextualize originate. Evolution of life is multifaceted and therefore, interlinking of desires automatically constructs a mystifying framework where the formation confuses, for material concerns over weigh human element

pckAn author of more than forty books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch)   post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 1970, taught in different colleges before shifting to civil services and then served as a Member, Himachal Public Service Commission.  With three books on criticism in English, seven novels and two collections of short fiction, he has brought out nine volumes of poetry.  Katoch Prem (a winner of several awards) is a poet, novelist, short storywriter and critic in English from Himachal, India