Tag Archives: poetry book review

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 –

.

…cannot let go

this singularity of life

where I experience

the essence of freedom…

of you perpetual presence. 4

.

             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.

****

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.

.

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

.

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)

****

‘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 –

.

…parental neglect

Mutates the toddler

Into a disgruntled person

Discarded to live a life

Stuck in the grooves of

Coercive and manipulative societies 102

.

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.

.

… 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

.

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,
 .
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?
 .
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,
 .
“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.
 .
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
 .
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,
 .
… 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—
 .
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,
 .
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.
 .
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

                                                            

 

catalog of unabashed gratitude by ross gay

catalog of unabashedSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 112 pages

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

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963310

ISBN-13: 978-0822963318

 

Review by g emil reutter 

Born in Youngstown Ohio, raised in Levittown Pennsylvania. College in the foothills of the Poconos, and City of Yonkers, suburban Westchester County New York and Temple University in Philadelphia. Ross Gay writes of where he has come from, his working class roots and his travels through this life of his. He is a poet on the run, always moving forward. His poetry consists of beautiful metaphors and startling images. Such is the case with this excerpt from to the fig tree at 9th and Christian

.

I was without a

sack so my meager

plunder would have to

suffice and an old woman

whom gravity

was pulling into

the earth loosed one

from a low slung

branch and it’s eye

wept like hers

which she dabbed

with a kerchief as she

cleaved the fig with

what remained of her

teeth

.

Gay writes of his father in the poem burial. Wanting to coax him back to life he takes, the jar which has become my father’s house, empties it into two fresh plum tree holes, …splaying wide their roots, casting the gray dust of my old man evenly throughout the hole… His father now will live through the plum trees bearing tender fruit.

 

In the poem feet, there is the girl, Tina, and her gaudy, cement maker, Levittown accent. And this beautiful line in the opening stanza of c’mon

.

My Mother is not the wings,

nor the bird, but the moon

across the laced hands

of the nest.

.

Ross Gay is a fresh voice in American poetry. His poems are fast paced, carefully crafted with great attention to detail of those he writes about and the images that surround him.

You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Catalog-Unabashed-Gratitude-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963310

 

Poets @ Pennypack II 004-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

Do Not Rise by Beth Bachmann

do not riseSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 72 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 19, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963280

ISBN-13: 978-0822963288

Review by g emil reutter

 Some folks are comfortable with war as a basic function of humanity. There has never been a time when a war wasn’t going on somewhere. In fact when people are not engaged in war they normally turn on each other fighting over property, sex, love, glory, and greed. Humanity masks our jungle with the cover of civility. How civil? It may depend on what each individual considers civil.

Beth Bachmann is not comfortable with war. This collection is an honest reflection of the effects of war without any hyperbole. Bachmann reveals a beautiful compassion in these poems. There is no doubt in these poems that there is a cleansing coupled with the disturbance of war. Bachmann throughout this collection utilizes line breaks and pauses to breathe life into each of these poems.

Bachmann is very adept at utilizing language yet it is in the basic realism of her poems she draws the reader in:

.

meal 

Who belongs to this dead? Its leg

Is confused with another leg. Toss it

In the pile for sorting. Something’s missing.

Don’t let the dog walk off with my bones. Who

put out the red bowl of water? I need that

fire. The wood for gripping. The twisting

bandages. Barber, there are rabbits in my tulips.

Hand me the bag of human hair. Keep the teeth.

In this heat, too much blood burns.

Bachmann conveys the violence and survival of war in this poem that says so much in just a few words. In war too much blood burns, there is a sorting of body parts when collected. It is just a brutal fact. Pick up a copy of Do Not Rise, you may not be comfortable with it, but comfort is not what this book is about.

You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Not-Rise-Pitt-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963280

g emil reutter 2-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

HOUR OF ANTIPATH Y by Dr D C Chambial

cover Hour of AntipathyPoetcrit Publications, September 2014

Maranada -176 102,

Himachal, India

ISBN; 978 -81 -87656 -07 -4

Review by P C K Prem  

C. Chambial, the most prominent voices in Indian English Poetry is genuine, innovative and powerful.  With nine powerful collections of poetry, he also edits Poetcrit, a journal devoted to poetry. His latest collection of verses, Hour of Antipathy signals a potent return of a poet of images and philosophic thoughts after a gap of two years, and offers moments of stimulating pleasure and fulfillment. Chambial’s poetry has subtle surge and warmth, and its pithiness and nimbleness in flow of images with rainbow like haziness and beauty amidst silent grey clouds stuns and mystifies. Love of man and humanity is a subject very dear to the heart of poet. Whenever, he feels upset with the wayward conduct of men, he forgets identity in the lap of nature. He loves its swift breeze, icy chillness, snow-clad mountains and tall deodar and pine trees. Just imagine when he asks mouse to keep quiet, he takes out a pen, scribbles a few lines, twists lips, smoothens wrinkles of a seemingly matured face and ushers out, climbs down and goes to the little garden and talks to plants. If nothing else happens, he shuffles pages of many books nonchalantly and sits quietly to start anew.

It gives a strong kick to understand the beauty of Chambial’s latest tiny verses. Not a poet of long lyrics, he does believe in legendary romances, or romance with nature like Wordsworth, Keats or Shelley but loves to create images and interprets life. He infuses a sense of serenity when one imagines a little hut like temple with a red piece of cloth tied to a bamboo on a hilltop.

In a vaguely different refrain, the poet celebrates beauty, charm and magic of nature in rhythmical flowing tuneful lines –

Soft breeze pregnant with heavenly fragrance,

The yellow fields spread to horizon for…

Summer comes tickling with its heat and drought,

Winter sits deep on senses; chill and snow

Spring many a hope in heart with spring’s glow

 (The Sun 45-46)

If nature is unsympathetic, it also proves beneficial to humankind, for it has lessons to teach. If nature is blissful, forgiving, generous and benevolent, compassionate and life giving, again it conveys a message of goodwill and tolerance, humanism and harmony. Without wanting, a seeker gets divine blessings and the poet is quite positive and optimistic. An allegory startles as he tells the tale of a mad man, who shouted, ran hurriedly, entered the little hut like temple, and after bowing before the statue, sat quietly and after moments in deep silence, emerged as a real human being. Ironically, he tells that a man engaged in routine affairs rarely behaves like a human being.  Images of hilltop and a man running to find solace, speak of the eternal cravings for peace and harmony even if no god exists.

Nature’s fury presents a grand sight. Rising smoke astonishes people watching intently the splendorous nature. Heavy rains turn into a huge bang.  An earthquake causes another stunning manifestation, and a breathtaking canyon takes birth. Man is helpless before the marvelous charisma nature performs.  ‘An Escapade’ is a painting in words where the spirit of youthfulness and vivacity, careless courage and scary guts determine the movement of young minds. In ‘Wingless’ and ‘Beauties of this World’, the poet again takes us to the charm and magic of nature –

Sit, meditate upon

this LILA in awful wonder

 as ‘Sweet songs

stir the chords

of heart and mind.           

Poet loves to enjoy a few moments in the garden. ‘Soft’ is meaningful. If the soil is soft, plants grow and roots go deep, a natural phenomenon. Soft voice and words make deep impression –

Soft is what one need:

Soft sentiments, soft moments…

To avoid hurts and bruises

For copious growth

Of stout relations and roots. 

(Radishes and Turnips 15)

A wholesome outlook towards life and its complexities stuns. Life is simple why make it complicated the poet says after immense experimenting with impassive and astounding images. In nature, he enjoys glimpses of eternity: ‘Full of fun/I longed /For shower…Sun and shower /In chase since /Eternity.’ (Chase 17)

Man is often a harbinger of disturbance and panic within and without. Strange and calculated acts of man instill fears even in birds. ‘Where is gone the Song’ 14 is a sad lyric as nature faces the onslaught of modern culture of innate yearning. Poet feels loss of sanctity and godly smile of cowherds and shepherds. Feelings of love and warmth appear frozen, and nature is hurt. Such a mental state indicates impending dreariness as warmth evaporates like ‘Water in tea-pan.’

Everything looks indistinct. Even in unqualified fright, people enjoy an ostensibly little victory as tricksters and swindlers drive away the fruit of truth and honesty in a web of bewilderment and ambiguity (Panic 19).  He speaks of vague fears while treading quite familiar paths and roads, nevertheless feelings of presence of a hidden enemy and betrayal haunt. Man inflicts persistent wounds, and injures nature to satisfy greedy instinct. If man fails to correct erroneous ways of life, he would encounter deserts, waterless future and sky disfigured and so, shall be deprived of the natural blessings and when he goes through ‘Shades of Solitude’ it offers an entirely different experience of silent and solemn hope

At times, man sits alone and thinks of flaws and imperfections, for guilt of sins committed surfaces. If he rationalizes, sins overweight efforts. Even if a man apologizes for the negative drifts, it is again a basis for a ‘stinking sod /for the surviving soul’ –

Sometimes, somehow even angels

mislay their sanity

to enter the devils’ dungeon.

 (Remorse 33)

Man spurns truth and wants to adopt ways of a coarse and uncivilized world. Poet is deeply conscious of the prevalent corruption, greed, dishonesty, political iniquity, inequality and economic exploitation and fall in ethical values. Living among the corrupt, the violent and the hidden terrorists, the sophisticated without resentment and resistance, makes life difficult. ‘We are Living’ 43, is a scathing denunciation of double standards a contemporary man –

We’re living in a land

that abounds in

wolves, hyenas, and jackals…

when morals, ethics and virtues…

love and compassion banished,

jealousy and hatred rule the roost.  

Talks of wrongdoings and felonious acts of times appear brutally right and a man laments loss of truth and righteousness. He condemns rulers and bureaucrats for the unethical and dangerous conspiracy –

 If hopes were horses, everyone would ride.

What queer times!

Masters have to beg for bread!

Yet they say: hail democracy!

 (Masters …Beggars 50)

Poet is aware of corruption, immorality and violence prevalent in the society. In “My Country is great’, he is dryly eulogistic. He feels intensely agitated when sleaze, greed, loot and corruption in private and public life bring miseries and dishonour. He looks at rulers, the rich and the powerful with anger.  He cannot do anything, for whistleblowers face elimination. He is conscious of frauds and scandals besmearing the faces of the influential people, who eat everything from sand, coal, fodder, coffins to guns and choppers.  He understands the gap between the rich and the poor, and knows the questionable conduct of the rich.

With coal their faces all black to pate,

Rolling in the mire of fraud, who guess?

My country is indisputably great!

The wealth, they keep away from the State

To show the sheep, nothing do they possess.

 (My Country is Great! 61)

Untruths, lies, and unconstructive qualities never make a good world, and so a strain of penitence visits man: ‘Man prefer matter; Platonic love spurn. /Changed values; human behaviour distorted /…Man rebelled, strayed away for doing damage.’ He sums up destructive attitude of a modern man, who makes social life disturbing.  Poet exhibits anxiety about the man’s fate in present-day scenario and touches not only the material proclivities of an unscrupulous man but also demonstrates man’s deterioration in general conduct and reprehensible fall in ethical quality of life and thus, makes irreparable dents in life of meaning and purpose. He exploits man, nature and unsympathetically misuses natural resources. Mammon worship is the theme of life one infers as poet leads us through a flow of images.

Man has meddles not with morals only,

Dug deep into the bowls of Earth as well;

Has made vulnerable Earth, life, a hell,

In his blind quest for Mammon selfishly.

(Man for Mammon 37)      

He is worried about the deliverance of man if he continues to roll in the quagmire of sickening wealth and power and therefore, theory of karma of Gita comes alive in his mind.  He is aware of the rash and reckless life where none waits for the right moment, and each one wishes to excel.  He wants peace, but remains worried and so jumps beyond capabilities, and stress fills life.  He lives in illusions, and hopes prove meaningless.

****            

The poet recalls life, he enjoyed in the salubrious beauty of nature and rural surroundings. Serene living it was that provided nectar like taste of contentment and delight abundant. He still boasts of life of values and ethics, and sits cozily witnessing the pleasure of city life without a touch of its anxieties. Now, everything looks like a fantasy, a dream of life past bereft of hope of revival. It is difficult to link thoughts to better life. What remains of a philosophy of man when he finds –

The rainbow is lost

in the cacophony

of debates futile;

man has grown fangs to bite man;

love is lost in the human heart,

sits like a vulture on the carcass

digging tones of his own demise.

(There was a Man 59)

A thought of disillusionment overwhelms when not very contented and expectant today, presents a dismal picture of future ahead.

If one side of the hill appears dried out and barren, memories continue to go back and tell tales of charm and magic, for tales bubble within young hearts longing for the divine and so try to reach the pinnacle of glory. Curiosity forces an inquisitor to go beyond the reach of eyes. Man’s intrusiveness visualizes it when he hears that everything merges into ‘one integrated whole.’ All animate and inanimate beings move towards the destination ‘A Harmonious whole’ that is not culpable and innocent, for when a man goes beyond, he is one with the eternal and forgets feelings of ‘all the warmth and all the chill.’ At this moment, ‘self’ realizes the ultimate reality.

Deathless is the light

That shines beyond the end

Where all the tides

Of all the oceans rest and cease…

 (Beyond the Yonder Hill 42)           

Poet is disgusted and disillusioned at the massive and thoughtless destruction man causes to nature and so, he wants to escape inherent torture.  In ‘Live with  Winning Thunder’ 51, he talks of affectionate parents, who take care, rear up and make childhood and adolescence lively and meaningful and make it a point that children grow healthy in life with an objective –

 God’s been so kind to grant this far last.

Let’s save with sense we’ve got what

True, ‘Life is a nine day’s wonder’,

Live it, live with winning thunder.   

If thoughts of perseverance and endurance remain alive, life gets meaning. One need not think much but should think of a myna. After satisfying its hunger, it perches on a dry tap and waits for a drop of water. It tries many a time and when satisfied, flies away silently. It does not complain, laments not, and no cribbing ever disturbs but sincere efforts continue to guide the bird. It conveys a great lesson to man, and the poet also appears to tell philosophically the secret of a happy and contended life. After the bird satisfies its thirst, it –

…flies away, unlike human beings:

greedily helpless, helplessly greedy

by their nature; care little for those

who fail to get a day’s square meal.

will man ever learn to live

like these creatures of nature

who do not boast of Man’s slyness?

 (Will Man ever learn to live…66)

Contentment and lack of hunger for more teach lessons of life, and encourage man to think in right perspective. Selfishness and ulterior motives do not permit man to live a life of grace and honesty. ‘True Happiness,’ 64, 65, ‘We Frolic & Frisk with the Waves,’ 67 and ‘Tsunami Memorial, Andamans’ 68, 69 are beautiful lyrics that sing hymns in glory of the island, nature and man. He philosophically remarks that life is a mine of tranquility, pleasure and enjoyment on Earth, only if a man has time ‘to look around and care.’   Dancing, frisking and frolicking of waves around convey an eternal message that hard work gives inner and outer pleasure. On the other hand, he laments over the immense tragedy Tsunami brought. Standing before the memorial, he thinks agonizingly of the destruction and huge natural disaster brought to man. When calamity and death visit and disturb man, he looks up for help, and offers prayers. To this extent, the poet thinks on existential self and reality.

External reality appears chaotic, disturbing and unsystematically arcane and he tries to elucidate with images but cannot justify adequately. An inner struggle continues and in intensity of creative upsurge, he feels free and sincerely gives expression to experiences with the help of images again. One observes consistent efforts where the poet tries to find fusion between the subjective and objective and as a formalist, wishes to go beyond the normal range and import of words and images, he uses and at this stage, he beautifies the text and the art of poetry.

****                                    

pckA trilingual 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 English in colleges of Punjab and Himachal before shifting to civil services and then served as Member, Himachal Public Service Commission.  With three books on criticism in English, seven novels and two collection of short fiction, he has brought out nine volumes of poetry. A bureaucrat turned academician, Katoch Prem (a winner of several awards) is a poet, novelist, short storywriter and critic in English from Himachal, India

                                                             ****

 

 

Pomegranate, Sister of the Heart by Carlos Reyes

pom

 

Paperback: 76 pages

Publisher: Lost Horse Press; 1 edition (March 23, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0983997527

ISBN-13: 978-0983997528

.

Review by g emil reutter

.

 Fifthlogic
                           Air
is the key to water
.
Wind is the voice
           of the earth
.
                   Pomegranate
is the sister of the heart
.
In this collection of poems, Carlos Reyes writes of a garden, a shack in a field, of viewing the northern lights and of Knowing:
.
1.
We know
that the Pacific lies
some seventy-five miles away
.
where the sun beds down,
so we can quit the fields, eat supper
go to sleep long before
we want to
.
We know sunset—especially
those red, smoke filled
summer sunsets—
.
Metaphor for the end
of our world
.
As children we fall
into its nightmares, burn
in its flames
.
We beg another chance
and once again become godly
then stir again
.
Reyes is a master at imagery and metaphor. His poems are carefully crafted such as The Clear Cut:
.
Like the mound of Venus
                                shaved
                      for childbirth
.
                                    only this time
there will be a genesis of mutants
                               millions of young
.
         whose future we can foretell:
                      how long they will live
       and the exact day they will die
 .
He writes of poverty, of the violence of war, of the sea and of darkness. An excerpt from Confronting Darkness:
.
The sun had hours
since buried itself
.
What I confronted
was the darkness,
.
afraid as
the blackness began
.
to take me, cover me,
a damp blanket—scarce
.
comfort—from the north
west wind, the wood
.
pile shrinking in the shadows
by the door
.
In poem after poem, Reyes stimulates the reader with images and metaphor presented in crafted poems that appear simple on the page, yet bring us into the world of those unnoticed yet regarded highly by this thoughtful poet. Reyes has paid careful attention to the world he came from and the world he lives in. He is real and surreal, his poems beat with the pulse of his heart.
 .
.

You can read the poetry of Carlos Reyes in The Fox Chase Review at this link: http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/CarlosReyes.html

.

15648469158_fde0487b43_o-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

Lucky Bones by Peter Meinke

lucky bonesSeries: Pitt Poetry Series Paperback: 96 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (August 6, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963108

ISBN-13: 978-0822963103

Review by Dennis Daly

Passion trumps this frivolous world of detail—Belgian chocolates, Coppertone lotion, dry martinis, bright ribbons, doubles tennis, and, heaven help us, sonnets. Peter Meinke in his new collection of poems, Lucky Bones, quantifies the passionate nature of interior intensity and hell-bent fervor by poking fun at himself and humorously (or not) eviscerating a chosen set of targets inhabiting this vale of tears that we call life. Many of his poetic commentaries Meinke delivers in formalist verse with a cunning dry wit that both elucidates and cautions.
 
The poet begins ominously with his first sectional poem entitled Drive-By Shootings. Here he sets up his backdrop and shades it with bitters. Meinke says,
 
        …People pedal on bikes drop
  Some money in the hole stick in their arms get a shot and wobble away
     Sometimes getting hit by cars the same needle all afternoon
             That’s the kind of world we live in
 
Civilization masks bloody-mindedness and boiling lust. Meinke’s piece Cassandra in the Library alludes to ancient Troy while the poet simultaneously conjures up modern academia and contemporary office life. Here’s the unpleasant heart of the poem,
 
            Poetry no wisdom withstands the test
               of blood: when mind and body clash
         the mind’s the one whose opposition’s rash
 
                        Killing liquid work’s dust
         Our craving for passion quenched by a crimson lust
 
           What can an office offer but a cursed
                 routine an inane trivial bore?
           A water cooler doesn’t slake the thirst
              of blood that rages for a taste of war
       a horde of disappointed men have dreams
    fired by bursting flares and female screams
 
The rhymes lighten the content thereby creating an odd but interesting counterpoint. I very much like this poem.
 
Skewing the Roman Catholic papacy can get old quickly and is not my cup of tea. However when a bit of compressed wit like the poem Habemus Papum nudges me I can’t resist. Habemus Papum, as announced by a cardinal from St. Peter’s Basilica after a papal election concludes, means “we have a pope.” Meinke appears to have tired of Vatican officialdom and its moribund language. He celebrates/laments in this part of the piece,
 
                        O goodum! Habemus papum
                             who’ll soon intone
                               the usual crapum
 
                        and the poor poor will weepum
 
Athletes and poets have a lot in common up to and including their need to be loved and appreciated in their own time. Unfortunately, the gods of sport and art operate on a different timeframe. In Meinke’s title poem, Lucky Bones, a tennis player of 78 years makes a great shot during a doubles game. He looks to his wife for approval as he had done as a younger man. But time has passed. Meinke concludes with pathos,
 
…his wife
 
who used to toss car keys
that flashed through light
 
like lucky bones crying Hey
         big fella think fast!
 
 And he thinks That’s
just past in my head
 
     like a re-eyed crow 
and he’s thinking Christ he
 
could still catch them if she
   were still there to throw
 
Armed with talent enough to cause the doubling up in laughter of bards and bad reviewers everywhere, Meinke takes on the sonnet in his piece Front-Rhymed Easter Anti-Sonnet. His faux attack doesn’t miss a beat. Bucking revered tradition he even removes the end rhyme scheme and transplants it at the line beginnings. The untraditional cur! Consider these pretty funny lines,
 
    … Bad enough you have to use
  words without sinking the buggers in fourteen
  lines O Shakespeare Milton what made you
  choose the? O Formalist can’t you read the
signs? O Meinke why are you writing another?
            Who’s sick of sonnets?  Iamb  Iamb 
 
For Emily Dickinson it’s all about repressed sex and mannered poetry in Meinke’s excellent parody of that poet entitled Emily Dickinson Thinks about Buying a Ribbon. There’s something about Dickinson that invites quality parody. I’m thinking of X.J. Kennedy’s Emily Dickinson in Southern California. In Meinke’s poem Dickinson debates the color of her prospective ribbon almost to the point of indecency which, of course, is the point in this astonishingly deep piece,
 
I would like to get red—
Vermillion
       But father would disapprove
 
  A serious Blue—then—worn loose
  Like a Lover’s knot
        A decent one could strangle
 
  With it—I’d have wine
       Not the barrell’d rum of Father’s
  Then—let him come—
 
Meinke takes great pleasure in self-deprecation. He gets away with it because he is that good. His poem On Completing My PHD reads like an ongoing gag, but carries with in some quite serious undertones and unasked questions. The poet concludes by rattling off his educational symptoms,
 
And I who’ve developed
  a twitch a tic a cough
 can’t tell if I am finished
    or only finished off
 
    I learned Byron had a clubfoot
      Nietzsche’s health was drastic
         Poe was a dipsomaniac
        And I’m already spastic
 
 I learned that Shakespeare really lived
        so scholars have decided
   Though quite a few have studied me
       they’re not as sure that I did
 
The poet again summons up academia in a villanelle entitled The Old Professor. Keeping their eyes on Professor Warren’s nicotine-stained teeth as he enlightens his students on New England’s luminaries can prove a didactically sound methodology. Meinke explains,
 
                                                            … Transfixed we
                        watched you grind your nubby teeth to stumps
 
                         waiting for you to spur us through our jumps
                               from Cotton Mather up through Emily
                                    Is every pilgrim happy on the bus?
 
                            We never were sure when you were serious
                                chaining your Camels unpuritanically
                        grinding your browning teeth to nubby stumps
 
                           and tossing questions far from the syllabus:
                            Would you rather live on Broad or Beacon Street?
                                    Are Smith and Bradford riding the same bus?
 
Peter Menke has been writing good, sometimes great poems for a long time. Whatever he has for breakfast I want to try. This poet’s in top form.
 .
.

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/

Golden Cacti by Sunil Sharma

 
1 (1)Paperback: 90 pages
Publisher: Authors Press (January 4, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9381030235
ISBN-13: 978-9381030233
 
Reviewed by P C K PREM
 
 
In Golden Cacti, a collection of beautiful verses, Sunil Sharma opens up heart of urban life, its dry joys and its continuous struggles for survival, difficulties and sufferings, dreariness and consequent agonies that linger on even when a man stops looking at life as it was. Vivid images, natural metaphors and striking portrayal of feelings and thoughts inspire, excite and question the man trying to find meaning in disturbed times.  Poet in Sunil strikes an optimistic note and finds every moment and every creation superb, a gift of god. Surprisingly, he goes back to past to find roots and looks out for a man of his roots and origin.
He is critical of alien’s domination and language, and does not want that anything should change to please a usurper, a ruler of unethical outlook. When the poet goes to a few lands across the globe, nostalgic memories of colonial life ancestors lived disturb him.  It was not a single impact on the life of natives but it encompassed the country’s culture and heritage and made visible dents. A tenderhearted poet feels emotively about the days, and experiences agonies as a man of history. None can ever stop a man from going to his roots and land. Again, in ‘Let Us Recall’ 26, the poet goes to past to ‘revive lapsed days and lost glories’. Nature of man to find comforts in seemingly happy past is a habit as anxieties and pains of present choke him.
             A Marxist thought emerges in ‘Lunch’ 15, when he talks of a poor hard working stonebreaker, who just manages to fill her belly and keeps a dry chapatti with pickle for her frail husband. He paints a pathetic picture of workers, who live in miseries while the rich always crave for variety in food every time.  Ironical urban sensibility loves to lament on the plight of the poor and miserable but does nothing worthwhile and definite, for it is living in obesity and opulence. Instantly, the poet creates a sad, melancholic and cheerless picture in ‘Urban Existence’ 17, where pigeons perch still on a wire, unhappily reflect on the mental condition of a lonely housewife it appears. Yes, loneliness corrodes finer instincts of urbanites despite glamour and riches. 
                                                   
Inner unexpressed anguish is equally disturbing in ‘The Three Urban Scenes’ 46, where the poet speaks with a restrained voice about a tiny bulbul on a power pole, a vagabond with a plastic bag containing dirty rags and an old man waiting for a warm call from a son living in a distant land. The three living beings have particular areas of pain, hope and hope amidst possible disappointment.
On the other hand, feelings of a displaced person earning livelihood or trying to settle down elsewhere invite compassion, for he lives like a timid pigeon in urban setting. It is painful when one does not live in usual locale. (Migrant Woes 27)  Poet speaks of a truth everyone would accept without apparent nod. A man may live a happy and rich life elsewhere, but at moments of anguish born of nostalgia, he goes back to feel the smell of his land and home where ancestors lived.
            The poet looks into the nature of animate and inanimate, and frames images to define life’s issues. If ‘The strange Walls’ refuse feelings of communion and humanity, ‘Under the Cherry Tree’ and ‘Beauty’ speak of a rich and blessed life. If in ‘Poet Rejected’ and ‘Redundancies’ he talks of the poet, poetry and inherent pangs, in ‘Poetry Calling’ 37, the poet underscores what poetry does for man and humanity.
 
Poets
Should become
Heralds of harmony and solidarity,
Resisting forces of hate
And mongers of war
Through a
Kinetic art
           
Poetry brings only peace, compassion, harmony and happiness to humankind. In a similar way, through ‘The Flower Sermon’ 41, the poet conveys another positive message and tells that ‘Each one of us, /If we try, /Can become a Buddha,’ and live at peace. Poet is tender and soft at heart and speaks eloquently about the wretched and contemptible condition of man. Life in urban areas despite seeming joys and comforts does not offer an encouraging testimony of happiness because a man suffocates and aspires for clean air and open space for stretching arms and legs.
In manmade sky-touching structures, if he brags of attainments, he also feels restricted, and so inhales polluted air and survives smilingly, and hopes for a free life where even relations feel the pressure of loneliness in awful living conditions. Neither a man in a towering building living in a specified area of an apartment is happy within, nor does he enjoy life in a slum because certain scarcities in life give constant troubles. Such thoughts form the outline of many lyrics.  Amidst, inner turmoil and outer glitter, a man aspires for happiness and peace.
                                       
            Wide spread violence tortures. The poet appears quite upset. Acts of man endanger humanity notwithstanding his determined struggle for bringing peace and harmony. He looks around and feels tormented within as terrorism and mindless killing of innocent people all over the world destabilize everyone. Racial and ethnic hate disturb noble creations on earth. Distortion and unjust ways in societies do not provide comforts to man. It is not only hatred and terror-filled inclinations of man that bring disharmony in life of a man, but social evils also bring anguish and disturbance.
Man ought to work for peace of man and society, and if he does not, he brings acrimony, violence and war. He rightly observes –
 
Let us unite, then
And make it
The latest credo
for the new century
of hope and belief
And trash the forces
Of scepticism,
Cynicism
And disbelief
Via this simple anthem
Of love and faith.’
(For Peace, Let Us All Stand 70).
 
He repeats intensity of anxiety for peace in another powerful poem ‘Let Peace Prevail –Lines from a Graffiti Artist’s Work on the Wall’ 71. He looks like a high priest of peace, who oversees violence everywhere in the world and asks man to live in peace, not a very tall demand. Sunil loves to reflect on private matters and in the process, he adds authenticity to the verse and indirectly, establishes poetic relationship with the reader. In personal poems, he speaks for many. A woman plays many roles in life, and with a few exceptions, she carries the family and societal obligation in a dignified manner as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. After marriage, she looks after two families with entirely different setups and habits. However, the change is wonderful. After she comes back from maternal home, she –
 
Instantly morphed into a homemaker, a teacher
Journalist, mom and wife.
The different personas …
(Transformations 74)
           
One finds the poet at ease and quite comfortable, for truth moves the pen so effortlessly. Again, the poet’s emotionality becomes obvious in ‘A Grass Widower/Lover Writes’ where he talks of momentary separation, starlit nights, bangles, silver anklets, lingering laughter, and scented presence in summer nights, perfume, smiles sweet and angelic, and fragrant Raatrani flowers when he thinks  lovingly of his wife Sangeeta. He is passionately true when he says –
 
 You are,
Therefore,
The smiling Muse
To my poet within,
Dearest Sangeeta,
And
The best-ever Valentine.
And this –
 An ode dictated by Cupid,
On this sleepless night.’
            (Ibid. 90)
 
Sure, a reader ought to value a husband’s sentimental love for a wife.
At another level, the poet sensitively talks of an Indian, a victim of apartheid and opens a poignant page from the history of South Africa. He reveals many truths and facts in simple words –
 
When the prison officers become prisoners
And the political prisoners
Are treated as new leaders,
And
A just society
Finally
Comes out fine.
 (Tempering of the Steel 82)
           
His lyrics are engaging. He is a passionate advocate of peace and harmony. Human relationships form the basis of his philosophy. Man lives in illusions and rarely admits, for a subtle fantasy determines the march of man the poet asserts. Urban living fires ambitions but the efforts remain incommensurate and therefore, consequent failures paint a dismal picture. Urban in theme, the poetry attracts and disturbs. At times, he relates experiences to history and co-relates everything to personal life. He is best when he speaks about the truth of experiences. He does not permit experience to distort truth or at times, he cannot visualize a situation where truth appears fragmentary but then, he is forced to live within the parameters of language to give shape and structure to truth, experiences and facts but he does it with conviction.   He is authentic, compelling and forceful and never for a moment forgets that he has an objective to attain as a poet of man and humanity. 
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pckpremA trilingual 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 English in various colleges of Punjab and Himachal before shifting to civil services and then, served as Member, HP Public Service Commission. He has brought out nine volumes of poetry besides books on criticism in Hindi and English.  Katoch Prem (a winner of several awards) is a poet, novelist, short story writer and critic in English from Himachal Pradesh.