····moon—even the scent of the lilac
····lightning—the days will soon grow
I’m not the only poet or writer contributing to this blog. The others are my readers and I wanted to mention them and their writing.
Marv inspired this post, so to him the first mention. Marv Volta’s It’s Free is what it says: free. You can download it here. The poetry is heavily influenced by the rhythm of hip hop, as I judge it, and offers some of the most creative rhyming out there. Be warned though, Volta’s poetry isn’t for the faint of heart. The imagery and subject matter are on the violent side. Expect abusive language and extreme sexual violence.
They buried my corpse in the garden. I saw them,
And hated with certainty, vowing to saw them.
The afterlife marathon beatings continued
(A death god can damage the spectrally sinewed
With leg locks). In time, though, I finally hardened
My spirit by fighting with Ankou, who pardoned
My losses when petty amusement transmuted
To favor–the mettle could not be disputed.
The psychopomp gave me a decade of training
In Limbo to better my vengeful erasing.
If lessons begin with a Reaper who hits you,
You’ll work on your flying, and meta jiu-jitsu.
Volta’s I Should Be Different can be purchased at Amazon. A while back I coined the term “Trophy Rhyme” to describe a kind of rhyme that can be (or is) in itself the reason for the poem. It’s a kind of showmanship you’ll find in in Volta’s poetry and put to good effect (which, in other hands, it sometimes isn’t). Add a strong metrical drive and Volta puts to paper what you might expect to hear at a poetry jam or from a street rapper.
As with It’s Free, however, this is poetry without a filter—either in subject matter or language. Don’t read it to relax.
I leave it to him to identify himself by any other name. Woodpecker’s book, Barking at Bears, is subtitled “Letters and Poems from the Downeast Maine Woods”. The book opens with a military helicopter and a drug bust. WP and his cat barely stifle a yawn as an armed DEA agent scrambles over the deck. For the record, I’m on Woodpecker’s side. Consider that the government’s puerile obsession with marijuana includes a ban on hemp crops. Despite the fact that Hemp has almost zero THC, it’s still classified as a Schedule I drug – the same as heroin and LSD. Why? For the sole reason that it looks like Marijuana. It’s pure jack-assery if you ask me. You’d have better luck getting high off poppy seeds than hemp. Hemp was a primary crop of the country’s founders, used for making clothes and, most importantly, hempen rope for the US Navy. Writes Woodpecker:
There’s one good thing about getting busted:
It proides a theme for winter writing.
Even though the subject leaves one digusted.
Repression always foments requiting.
To see an armed thug, young and most frightful,
Climbing up to the deck with pistol drawn,
The cat in my lap found it delightful.
For myself, I had to stifle a yawn.
Why be surprised—the chopper overhead!
Conquest abroad brings repression at home.
Fascism’s declared the Bill of Rights dead,
Bush’s return to imperial Rome.
····There are many who will bow to terror
····In my case they’ll find they made an error.
What follows is a year of sonnets, haiku, friendships, anger, politics, joy and just plain life.
Guinness Stout in one hand.
Snow shovel in the other;
The crunch of ice boots.
You will also learn, among other skills, how to avoid a speeding ticket. If you’re a Vet, find your VA card before finding your license. And if you go twenty miles over the speed limit in Maine, you can be handcuffed and hauled off. Woodpecker never tells us whether he fixed his speedometer.
Hendrik D. Gideonse
Is a builder like me. He discovered his “passion and penchant for building” while in his fifties. I discovered it on the roof of my grandmother’s new porch when eleven years old. I remember Paul Ditto could drive a nail in four strikes. It took me twenty, but I still recall how much I loved standing on the rafters. Framing a building is still something I never get tired of.
The only reason I know of Gideonse’s passion for building is because he introduces each of his poems with a snippet of biographical information. I like that. You’ll also find lots of color, humor, nature and honesty. The poems are mostly free verse, but for the occasional exception. His first poem, distinguished by being “the only one I can recite from memory”, is one of them:
My turtle’s means of motion
Aren’t fit for the ocean
But rather the role
Of life in a bowl.
The astute observer may notice a striking resemblance between the cover of Hendrik Gideonse’s book and The Woodpecker’s.
Richard L. Rose
Rose himself describes some of the recurrent themes that preoccupy him as “the transience of our lives and habitat and an insistence that we find effective ways to attend to this fact.”
Marking Time is a lovely little book of poems accompanied by color photographs. One of my favorite poems:
A wringer washer in the corner,
the tub beside it
she carried weekly to the wash house,
she washed now only once a week.
The children gone, she stacked the saucers
she used to keep us
from spilling milky coffee
made sweeter than her Cajun drip.
Awake, she rose as if she had him
to do for, and he
would come to sit beside her,
and she would smell his shaving soap.
FRAMESHIFTS is a tour de force of narratives, interwoven plots and poetry. Rose himself describes it this way:
“It is literary fiction made of multiple genres united by theme and character. At first glance, it appears to be a story collection, beginning with a mystery; but look at the back and you’ll find a philosophical poem. Between the covers are mysteries, suspense stories, literary fiction, science fiction, love stories, fictional memoires and letters, adeventure stories, dramatic dialogues, and a section of poetic narrative made of dozens of forms—sestinas, sonnets, terza rima, droeg-kvaet, prose poems, ballads. One may read the stories and poems in any sequence, but as one reads the stories in a given sequence, a novel emerges.”
True to his word, you will find a wide variety of genres tried and explored:
The time required to amend
elapses before we intend,
and the clattering scratch,
and rasps at the latch—
these surely—these impend?
Presuming to intervene,
one might inquire of a machine;
if escape wears the latch,
if ratchet wheel catch,
one imposes a thought in, between.
Loose coils that winding deserved
a thought has often preserved.
For a pawl is of tin
and old fittings wear thin
but thoughts last if ever they’ve served.
From later in FRAMESHIFTS you will find passages like this:
The storm that fattened on our pains,
dividing us from homes, friends, and wives—
and dwindled as we emptied—again arrives:
not as char-black coil or driving rains
hungry for shell-houses and propping-up gains,
but as whispers like a low draft creeping
by an old dog, who sniffs and growls while sleeping.
That’s good stuff and the last lines are worthy of Frost—a beautiful example of metaphor and simile.
I’ve reviewed Jeffrey Winke’s haiku a couple years ago. He easily remains one of my favorite writers of erotic haiku:
Erotic haiku don’t get better than that. No anthology of erotic haiku, now or in the future, can justify itself without the inclusion of a few of his haiku. But he also writes classically:
trying to picture
what’s not there
from his heavy glove
You can find these and other haiku in what’s not there.
Gail White’s Sonnets in a Hostile World is a collection, a sonnet sequence, of 22 sonnets. What I like most about her sonnets is their wry and shrewd wit.
In a tiny cottage called the Laurel Tree,
my neighbor lived alone. Nobody came
to see her and she had no family,
so week by week her life was much the same:
She went to church and said the rosary,
took in the mail for neighbors out of town,
adopted cats, caught news on BBC,
and at a roll-top desk she wrote things down—
things no one ever saw, although we guessed
a novel, memoirs, poetry, and more—
but we saw nothing, though we did our best.
And when she died alone, at eighty-four,
with no companion but a big gray cat,
we pitied her. We were such fools as that.
I don’t know Jenepher and she’s never commented here, but I include her because I found her little chapbook at a local library book sale and bought it because it’s one of the most beautifully bound and typeset chapbooks I’ve come across. Jenepher’s poetry might remind one of Mary Oliver, but unlike Oliver, Jenepher is unafraid of the occasional rhyme. Her poetry never betrays the sense that she’s gone looking for them, but they show up, almost incidentally, and her poetry is all the more memorable because of it:
Protecting Crowdom was their gig
Or ganging up and feeling big?
How well we emulate
The Mighty Crow.
Neal Whitman wrote me way back in 2011, never suspecting what a fickle and undependable correspondent I am. So, five years later, a little about his book: Blyth’s Spirit. Way before I started my year of haiku, Neal had already published his collection of haiku/haibun. The book also includes photographs by his wife Elaine Whitman. They’re primarily of national park signs, but why not? I kind of like them. They accompany Neal’s haiku and prose.
“What do you do?
“I’m a poet!”
You know the look that gets. I do explain that I used to be a teacher.
“That’s what I did to make a living. Today poetry is how I live. I read it. Write it. Every day.”
You know the next question,
“Well, hae you been published?”
“You bet,” I tell ’em, “in journals.”
Then they want to know if I get paid.
“Yes, with a free copy of the journal.”
What I do not volunteer is that some publishers expect you to
buy a copy. One more quetsion,
‘So, why do you do it?”
silence in blue hills
speaks to me in secret ways
like fish in the sea
At the time of publishing Blyth’s Spirit, Whitman was a member of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Haiku Poets of Northern California, and the Haiku Society of America. Northern California sounds like a great place to live. Visited there once, and always liked it.
Jenny Land is a local poet who also produced a beautiful little chapbook with block prints by Matt Brown, an acquaintance of my wife who, as you know, also produces block prints. Jenny Land writes poetry steeped in the landscape of New England.
Trail Break at the Last Sure Water
After swimming I can feel
The river stream from my skin
Into the sponge of the forest floor.
Four delicate toes reaching
Out from under a rotten log
Towards my sprawled hand.
Blinking eyes appear, then a neck,
Slender ribs beneath thin flesh
And then the tail—
I am still.
The eft clambers out. thirsting
Towards the small sound of water
Dripping down to the forest,
Fingers and moss
From the roots of my river-wet hair.
Valerie Jupe was a visitor at my blog who shared that she had written a book of poetry despite all odds. I decided to review her book, just because I wish someone had done the same for me when I was starting out.
Robert Bates Graber
Robert Graber is another poet who dared to defy the odds and self-published his own book of poetry: Plutonic Sonnets. This is a collection of 164 sonnets, all written with a wry sense of humor. I reviewed Robert’s book way back in 2009.
Susanne Dubroff is local poet who I first met in Boston at the Harvard Bookstore. This was years and years ago, before I had started my blog. Her book was in the used book section and she, feeling a little sad about that, inspired me to buy it there and then. Besides being a poet, she’s also an unrivaled translator of Rene Char. If you’d like to try some of Susanne Dubroff’s poetry, then I’d recommend “The One Remaining Star”.
There are mornings when I think of you
so steadily, what good is it to write?
Trust in its ragged wisps, too close to the abyss,
we circle like the beasts accused of soullessness
and I’m afraid. Cryptic and ravenous, our gift,
our gift. We are the secretaries
of the heart, the one remaining star.
If I’ve overlooked anyone, it wasn’t deliberate. Let me know and I’ll add you to the post.