Publications by Friends & Readers

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 Volta

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.

I Should Be DifferentThey 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.

The Woodpecker

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 WoodpeckerDowneast 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:

Barking at Bears (Front)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.

WP

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.

Stone WhispererThe 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:

Symmetry

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

Marking TimeRose is the author of Marking Time: A Memoir and the three part novel FRAMESHIFTS.

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:

Edna

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:

Warnings

FrameShiftsSome events we elect to ignore—
such as growling under the floor—
but the cautious scratch
that scrapes at the latch
may signify something in store.

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.

jeffrey winke

I’ve reviewed Jeffrey Winke’s haiku a couple years ago. He easily remains one of my favorite writers of erotic haiku:

whats not therestill
swiveling her hips…
pushing a stroller

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:

vacant lot
trying to picture
what’s not there

steam
from his heavy glove
winter cafe

You can find these and other haiku in what’s not there.

Gail White

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,
Sonnets in a Hostile Worldmy 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.

Jenepher Lingelbach

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:

Words Like LeavesThe mighty Crow

Crows, raucous crows,
tormenting hawk or owl,
Flinging threats and screaming “Foul” —
Like bullies on a playground.

Protecting Crowdom was their gig
Or ganging up and feeling big?
How well we emulate
The Mighty Crow.

Neal Whitman

Neal Whitman wrote me way back in 2011, never suspecting what a fickle and undependable correspondent I am. So, five years later, a little NealandElaineWhitmanabout 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.
Blyth's Spirit“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

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.

Finding EarthWhile the pool carries away
Last minute’s reflection, I catch
A glimpse of an orange foot,

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

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

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”.

The One Remaining StarThe 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.

& Others

If I’ve overlooked anyone, it wasn’t deliberate. Let me know and I’ll add you to the post.

Plutonic Sonnets by Robert Bates Graber

A Sense of Humor

How refreshing to read a book by a poet with a sense of humor. I used to have a subscription to Poets & Writer’s Magazine and for twelve issues, for one full year, there was not one smile on the cover of its magazine. Plutonic SonnetsEvery featured poet gazed from its covers with the heart-broken burden of their own genius – a gaze that only poets are capable of – a gaze of  über-narcissism that would embarrass Narcissus himself.

I let the subscription expire.

For all the usefulness in the publication, I just could not handle one more angst-ridden cover.

You won’t find [G]reat poetry in Graber’s Plutonic Sonnets, but you will find poetry that is great fun to read and endlessly inventive. Don’t pick up Graber’s book if you’re in the mood for a Keatsian sonnet. Stick it in you backpack or oversized coat pocket. Wait until that moment when the thumb twiddling begins, then dig out Graber’s book and read one sonnet.

You might open the book to sonnet CXIII (Roman numerals are de rigueur):

Why do these eyes see anything save you,
And why is not your voice all I can hear?
Is touching you not all these hands should do,
This nose but draw your scents when you are near?
These lips of mine, that yet need common fare:
Can thus they use most of their pow’r to taste,
When they have savored lips beyond compare?
Why go these senses to such senseless waste?
Did I commit some heinous sin or crime
In this life, or in some life long before,
For which my senses now are serving time
To even up some hidden cosmic score?
Then comes redemption most magnificent:
Those sweet sensations for which they are meant!

The heinous sins and crimes of this sonnet are almost too numerous to detail. First, all but two of the lines are end-stopped (though this is surprisingly superior to many more serious and modern sonnets). Second,  what modern poet would dare apostrophize a word like pow’r, especially for the sake of meter? – how quaint and 19th Century. Third, what modern poet would ever indulge in such archaic diction as: Why go these senses to such senseless waste? Fourth, what modern poet would succumb to such a grandiose (almost Miltonic) inversion as Then comes redemption most magnificent.

Robert Bates Graber would.

Graber makes no effort to hide his influences. From the opening sonnet, we know exactly what he’s been reading:

Bright Gem of the Aegean! Who will dare
To ope’ the treasure thou hast giv’n our kind,
To take its measure, so beyond compare,,
And tell what thou hast meant for human mind?

Graber never wholly leaves behind these 19th Century (and earlier) roots. And he’s not embarrassed by it.

And yet, despite his flagrant disregard for contemporary sensibilities (let alone Ezra Pound), there’s something engaging about his flagrancy. If I were the betting kind, I would bet that Graber is perfectly aware of his poetry’s obsolescences. He revels in it. And that carefree sensibility, to me, makes his poetry refreshingly engaging. Sonnet CXIII is a perfect Shakespearean Sonnet. But not content to simply imitate Shakespeare’s rhyme scheme, he imitates Shakespeare’s sensibility and wordplay – scents (with its pun on cents and common fare), senses and senseless – very Shakespearean. Is it a Masterpiece? No. Is it fun to read? Yes. A poet without pretension and with a sense of humor, I love it.

hydraDONE TO DEATH

Can we please have just one more poem about Greek myths?

There are some modern poets who continue to draw “inspiration” from the Greek Myths, as though the 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th and 15th centuries never happened. They do, honestly, think they have something new and original to add, but Greek Mythology is truly the Hydra of modern poetry. All the pathos and vigor has long since been drained out of them. Allusions, let alone whole poems devoted to the myths,  are as appealing, to me, as stale lettuce.

With that in mind, what a pleasure to read Graber’s Greek Mythology.  He treats it with a tongue in cheek irreverence I can respect.

But now I fear some readers there must be
Whose criticism I cannot avoid;
For, knowing something of mythology,
They have been growing more and more annoyed.

Not me. In Sonnet CVIII, he ruins a perfectly good rape of Proserpina, turning it into a sweet consummation:

The couple were transported to a room,
A quiet chamber very near the top;
And there their love did sweetly consummate,
And afterward, a pomegranate ate.

Why would Graber sully Pluto’s reputation with the imputation of love? He answers that in CIX.

I know old masters model it their way:
A grabbing god, a goddess terrified…
To all of which I have but this to say:
All are agreed that Cupid’s aim was true;
And rape’s a thing true love could never do.

And so Graber goes on his merry, end-stopped way – a narrative poem in linked sonnets! Over a course of several, he shamelessly rewrites the myth of Proserpina and Pluto.  He’s not a poet for elaborate imagery or, really, imagery of any kind. Don’t come to his poetry expecting to be swept away by imagery, rhetorical complexity, or a melodiousness of line. If he does need to stretch a little, he unapologetically borrows or paraphrases (in this case from Shakespeare): “I love you,” Pluto murmured, “and my love/Is past all reason, and is past all rhyme;/’Tis such as dreams and myths are fashioned of…” But that’s not what Graber’s poetry is about. If anything, Graber’s poems could be characterized as little essays that just happen to be in Sonnet form – meter and all.  Each one, like the Shakespearean Sonnets on which they’re based, are little arguments, sometimes conflicting, sometime with a twist, that find resolution in swift epigrammatic coupleta – a neat, rhetorical summing up.

Read Graber’s poetry for the almost Elizabethan joy he takes in the working out of ideas and narratives. That said, at times, Graber’s casual (but usually controlled) tongue-in-cheek tone veers dangerously close to self-parody and outright mediocrity.

“…And though my heart no longer lies below,
There’s this to think of, should we elsewhere roam:
Up here I don’t amount to anything;
Down there we’d share a throne, for I am King!”

The last two lines have none of the ring or pithiness of Milton’s: “It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.” They sound altogether too quickly written. Even a little reflection and editing might have tightened them up. As it is, they typify a devil-may-care casualness that is sometimes carried too far by Graber. Even in humor, there’s a balance to be struck. And, to be fair, Graber does make fewer mistakes, like these, as the book progresses.

The Science

Robert Bates Graber

This, in my opinion, is the most enjoyable aspect of the book and the facet that most distinguishes and recommends it. Any reader who is a lover of science (and I am one of them) will enjoy Graber’s scientific sonneteering.  My wife, who has taught the whole gamut of mathematics in high school, couldn’t help but crack a smile at some of Graber’s antics.

(To Isaac Newton)

A pebble: it is difficult to name
An object more conveniently discrete;
Yet “calculus” (or ‘pebble’) somehow came
To name the branch of math with which we treat
All nature’s deepest continuities…

Or if you favor cosmology:

If a mere golf ball represents the Sun
At Yankee Stadium’s home plate, we know
A trip to Neptune would take a home run;
And the next star would be in Chicago!
Such is the size and emptiness of space.
In search of something solid, shall we turn
To matter? Well, supposing we replace
Our Sun with golf-ball nucleus, we learn
That centered, its electrons, far afield,
Would haunt the stadium’s remote recesses….

Or if you favor Astronomy, Graber dedicates several sonnets to the Herschels and one sonnet-sized biography of John Flamsteed (Sonnet XLII):

They say your brewer father could not see
Just what on Earth your hobby could be for;
Yet in your youth your king called you to be
His Astronomical Observator.
And Tycho, whom you called “the noble Dane,”
Inspired you to chart the stars that clad
The night…

You can actually learn interesting facts and anecdotes about the various sciences and scientists you never knew. Addressing Dmitri Mendeleev (Sonnet LX), he informs us:

You wowed the world when you predicted three
New elements with your “periodic table.”
And though it sounds like something of a spoof,
You are the reason vodka’s 80 proof.

It’s too hard not to forgive a poet for his numerous excesses and stylistic frivolity when he is so engagingly self-effacing and humorous. The audience for this book of poetry will be the one who enjoys Graber’s playful references to Greek Mythology, his irreverent odes to the foibles of great scientists, and an ability to sum up scientific grandiosity within the space of a sonnet. Each sonnet is a teaspoon of sugar for the knowledgeable grown-up.

About Robert Graber

Because nothing is private on the Internet, I stumbled on this little piece of autobiography.

“I was born in 1950 in Lansing, Michigan, and grew up in northern Indiana. My father was a physician (obstetrics/gynecology), my mother a schoolteacher. We were Mennonites. Though we were not among the highly culturally-conservative ones, I was impressed by the church’s claims to ultimate significance and by the church/”world” dichotomy. Within months after leaving home at age 19, however, I became a devout agnostic. I was attracted to anthropology by the popular books by Desmond Morris and Robert Ardrey. I got my bachelor’s at Indiana University in 1973, my masters (’76) and doctorate (’79) at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Victor Barnouw, who had been a student of Ruth Benedict, was my adviser. My dissertation was a comparative study of the schisms that have made Mennonites such a culturally variable group of sects. I published several papers in psychoanalytic anthropology, but have grown more and more preoccupied with quantitative theorizing about cultural evolution. My book in press is *A Scientific Model of Social and Cultural Evolution* (Thomas Jefferson University Press 1994) and I am writing an introduction to general anthropology for Harcourt Brace. I have a wonderful wife and two great daughters 13 and 11. I play classical guitar, golf, and chess (in order of declining proficiency), and drive a red ’72 Mustang (fastback) which still looks good if you don’t look too closely. I taught for two years at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS, before coming to Northeast Missouri State. I enjoy teaching anthropology as an integrative, “eye-opening” experience for students.”

In the meantime, Graber is an emeritus professor of anthropology at Truman State University, lives with his wife, Rose, in Kirksville, Missouri. He has published four other books besides Plutonic Sonnets (the book for which, he tells me, he is most passionate). Though the back matter of Plutonic Sonnets doesn’t name them, here are links to his other books, for those who might be interseted.

Valuing Useless Knowledge

  • “Robert Graber explores the historical, philosophical, and sociological origins and nature of liberal arts and sciences education and draws on anthropology to show us how much to value such ‘useless knowledge’.” • His book recieved 3 Five Star reviews at Amazon.

Plunging to Leviathan

  • “Making it fun (and even exciting), Robert Graber pursues here a very serious issue the coming of a world state and gives opposing sides of this debate fair and frequent airings. With his accustomed mathematical skill and ingenuity, he makes a case for the future unification of the world without the necessity of global war. Even the skeptics, and I’m one, hope he s right.” Robert Carneiro, American Museum of Natural History

A Scientific Model of Social and Cultural Evolution

  • This book, for which I couldn’t find a cover, is reviewed at Dannyreviews.com.

Meeting Anthropology Phase to Phase

  • “In Meeting Anthropology, the major phases through which our species has passed provide the structure for a truly coherent encounter with general anthropology — biological, archaeological, cultural, and linguistic.”