Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who is Gary Gildner?

On the clevelandpoetics listserv, George Bilgere posted a comment about tonight's reading with poet Gary Gildner at JCU, and he talked him up pretty big, even mentioning that Gildner's poem "First Practice" is in about 100 anthologies. I was deeply embarrassed to admit to myself that I had not heard of the poet or the poem. Maybe I shouldn't have let my last subscription to American Poetry Review run out; and maybe I should get a little more current on the well-known poets of today, rather that let d.a. levy control my reading habits; and maybe I should buy a few more anthologies, hell, there's about a gazillion of them each year. I don't know. But in any case, I did a bit of digging and Gildner's pedigree is undeniable. He was born in West Branch, Mich., and received his B.A. and M.A. in English at Michigan State in 1960 and 1961 respectively. He is an award-winning writer whose work is known throughout the world. He is best known for his eight books of poetry, including Letters from Vicksburg (1977), Blue Like the Heavens (1984), Clackama: Poems (1991), and The Bunker in Parsley Fields (1997), which won the 1996 Iowa Poetry Prize. He has also written two novels, a collection of short stories, and a memoir, The Warsaw Sparks (1990), which he wrote while he was a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Warsaw and coach of the city's baseball team. His latest book, My Grandfather's Book is available from MSU Press. He has received the National Magazine Award for Fiction, a Pushcart Prize, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams and Theodore Roethke poetry prizes, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently Mr. Gildner lives with his family in Idaho. I checked out his poems online, and he really is very good. I want to make a suggestion to our readers, and to those who contribute to this blog. Let's start recommending some current poets. Tell us a bit about him or her, and post a poem for us to read. Ultimately, we will all be enriched by discovering the work of someone new.

He'll read at John Carroll today, Tuesday Sept. 30, at 7pm in Rodman Hall, room A. Ask the guard at the parking kiosk how to find the room if you haven't been there. The event is free.

New book on peace from Bottom Dog Press

New book by Bottom Dog Press....to be out in early December

I know I'm getting a little ahead of myself here as editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press, but with all the bad news going around lately, it's good to know some relief is on the way. Phil Metres has joined Ann and me as editors of this fine collection of poems that bring us together to envision a way of peace. If we lose the ability to imagine peace for us and our children, we are lost. This book says no. Poets have always brought us sanity and hope...they are the namers and sayers of courage and beauty.

Phil has an excellent introduction....Relief is on the way.

Come Together: Imagine Peace
Edited by Ann Smith, Larry Smith, and Philip Metres
With an Introduction by Philip Metres

“Peace poetry is larger than a moral injunction against war; it is an articulation of the expanse, the horizon where we are one. To adapt a line by the Sufi poet Rumi: beyond the realm of good and evil, there is a field.” -from the Introduction by Philip Metres

Precedents: Sappho, Whitman, Dickinson, Cavafy, Millay, Patchen, Rexroth, Shapiro, Lowell, Creeley, Rukeyser, Ginsberg, Levertov, Lorde, Stafford, Jordan, Amichai, Darwish;
Contemporaries: Ali, Bass, Berry, Bauer, Bly, Bodhrán, Bradley, Brazaitis, Bright, Bryner, Budbill, Cervine, Charara, Cording, Cone, Crooker, Daniels, di Prima, Davis, Dougherty, Ellis, Espada, Estes, Ferlinghetti, Forché, Frost, Gibson, Gundy, Gilberg, Habra, Hague, Hamill, Harter, Hassler, Haven, Heyen, Hirshfield, Hughes, Joudah, Jenson, Karmin, Kendig, Kornunhakaa, Kovacik, Kryss, Krysl, LaFemina, Landis, Leslie, Lifshin, Loden, Lovin, Lucas, McCallum, McGuane, Machan, McQuaid, Meek, Miltner, Montgomery, Norman, Nye, Pankey, Pendarvis, Pinsky, Porterfield, Prevost, Ragain, Rosen, Rashid, Rich, Roffman, Rosen, Ross, Rusk, Salinger, Sanders, Seltzer, Schneider, Shabtai, Shannon, Sheffield, Shipley, Shomer, Silano, Sklar, Smith, Snyder, Spahr, Sydlik, Szymborska, Trommer, Twichell, Volkmer, Walker, Waters, Weems, Wilson, Zale ...


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Osama Bin Laureat

John Lundberg is a Washington DC area academic poet who has a regular gig over at the left wing blog Huffington Post. He writes:

The pending publication of Osama Bin Laden's poetry in the academic journal Language and Communication next month is sparking some debate. While the poems could provide insight into Bin Laden's psyche, many people wonder why the heck you would give the guy another forum.

The poetry is being translated by Professor Flagg Miller who teaches Arabic poetry at the University of California at Davis. Miller is working from recordings discovered at an Al Qaeda compound in Kandahar in 2001 which include Bin Laden reciting his poetry at weddings, ceremonies, and various Al Qaeda recruiting events. The FBI spent years translating and screening the poems for hidden messages to Bin Laden's followers. Now that the poems are apparently clear, Miller aims to publish a book about them.

Judging by Miller's descriptions, Bin Laden's poetry is what you'd expect it to be. He paints himself as a sort of warrior poet and aims to incite violent religious fundamentalism by blending religious imagery--much of it taken directly from the Quran--with imagery of war and heroism. Miller calls Bin Laden an "entertainer with an agenda" and describes a typical tactic:

"He told gory tales of dead mujaheddin from the villages where he was speaking, which was often the first time their families had learned of their fates. He mixed this news up with radical theology and his own verse based on the traditions of hamasa - a warlike poetic tradition from Oman calculated to capture the interest of young men."

Elsewhere, he gets to the heart of it:

"The violence and barbarism of war can sicken anybody and poetry is a way to frame that violence in higher ethics."

It's a strong argument, I think, for not publishing the poetry.

According to Miller, Bin Laden actually has some poetical talent. In a recent interview with The Times of London, Miller said: "Bin Laden is a skilled poet with clever rhymes and meters, which was one reason why many people taped him and passed recordings around, like pop songs." Bin Laden may, in fact, have "clever rhymes and meters"--I really don't know--but I'm guessing his poetry's popularity has more to do with his legions of fanatical radical Islamic followers. I doubt listeners were charmed by what Miller calls Bin Laden's "distinctive monotone."

Another Arabic scholar interviewed by The Times, who has read the poems and wished to remain anonymous, disagreed with Bin Laden's ability, saying of the poems:

"They seem adolescent and brutal, like a video--nasty, composed with minimal skill to win over the susceptible mind of the young and bloodthirsty male...Whatever else Bin Laden is, he is now exposed as a disgrace to two millennia of Arabic culture."

Miller's playing up Bin Laden's skill might have something to do with his being in the process of writing--and thus to some degree pitching--a book on the subject. Even if the Bin Laden poems were radical Islam's answer to Walt Whitman, I'd prefer it if his work ended up lost in a government warehouse somewhere. It's currently headed to Yale University to be digitized.

So - whatchya think?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

The author shall remain anonymous (unless they chose to divulge themselves in the comments.)

Those commenting are also welcome to remain anonymous if they wish.

Incendiary comments will be removed.

If you would like your piece thrown to the wolves send it to salinger@ameritech.net with "Workshop the hell out of this poem" as the subject line.

Our pile is currently empty - so please send in a piece you'd like to see featured.

Girl on a Road
Inspired by the song from Ferron

It’s hard to start the conversation
when you are trying to win it.
No flowers to pick when lies are little.
I never believed you anyway.

With my suitcase at my feet, I’ve decided
which fork to eat with and what to put on it.
I walk in the grass in-between.

I always believed lies,
waited for them to blossom
after watering them with wishes.
Hopes dead in my fists.

My blue eyes shine marble tears
One day you will follow me to Rome
and we will finish the walk together.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NEO Poet Field Guide

Full name: Milenko (Miles) Budimir
Age: A spry 37
Habitat: the suburban stillness of Parma
Range: The Lit Café (in lovely Tremont), deep Cleveland Poetry Hour (Borders, Strongsville), Insights Coffeehouse (Brunswick), Mac’s Backs, Brandt Gallery w/ Russ Vidrick, and any place that will have me
Diet: Poets: David Lehman (deal with it, Claire!), Charles Simic, John Brehm, Nin Andrews, Philip Levine, Bruce Weigl, Dane Zajc, Frank O’Hara, Basho, among many others; Others: Emil Cioran, F. Dostoevsky, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Arthur Schopenhauer, Bill Bryson, Pico Iyer, Anne Fadiman, Noam Chomsky, Hunter Thompson, Alain de Botton, Barbara Holland, etc…
Distinguishing Markings: Rustbelt Romance (2006, deep Cleveland Press), Missing Albertly (2008, Green Panda Press), and scattered poems here and there…
Predators: Fear, provincialism, credit card debt
Prey: The vast variety of alcoholic beverages, the ever-elusive enlightenment, life

“Dog Days”

you are strange this day,
this night,
this long, dark night
of your insomniac soul,

heat lightning and
firework bursts
across your roiling skies

your boiling river,
spicy as jambalaya,
sweaty as a cayenne pepper punch,

and you, City, in one of your moods,
creeping sluggishness of jobless morning
descending on verdant veranda walkabouts,

murder in your streets,
on your sidewalks,
behind factoried ruins and in the weeds,

you, City, groaning, on your haunches,
like an ol’ junkyard dog,
guarding our burning hearts.

or “Weeds”
They always appear
where it seems impossible
they should ever grow,
let alone survive

between cracks
of unyielding concrete;

but nothing is so hard
that time and a little effort
can’t break down
into smaller pieces

of a dream,

where even in the
thick heat of summer,
a hopeful weed goes
right on living,

oblivious to
the odds
stacked against it.

Contact: budimir@hotmail.com (or www.mileswriter.com)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Review: The Flayed Man and Other Poems by Phillip A. Ellis

In his newest book, The Flayed Man and Other Poems, available on Gothic Press, Philip A. Ellis seems to be of two write from two distinct voices.
The first, more dominant voice, prefers longer, formal lines, favoring iambic pentameter, as well a formal poetry in general. Many of the poems in this book are sonnets, with the the center piece being "Deep In the Darkness," a seven part sonnet crown. Among the other more formal poems are ballads ("Deep In The Midnight" and "The Assignation") as well as poems of rhymed quatrains and sestets.

This voice has clearly gone to school on 18th century literature. As the name of the press implies, these poems are inspired by Gothic literature, perhaps even pre-Romantic Graveyard Poets. The themes and tropes are similar: the supernatural, ghosts, graveyards, the afterlife, curses, devils, demons, madness, darkness, etc. The inquisitive reader should not cast the book off, though, as simply genre poetry. Though formal, and oft adjective heavy, the poems of this voice are well written. They are not intended to scare or induce fear, but haunt the reader.

The other voice in this book is much more modern. Its poems are less formal, its lines shorter, and images more crisp. It is less interested in classical tropes and presents more image centered pieces, such as the titular "The Flayed Man," "Sleep's Moth," and my personal favorite of the collection, "Cherry Blossom Girl":

Cherry Blossom Girl
How I remember
the cherry blossoms as they fell
over her upturned face,
eyes closed,
her crimson lipstick
almost as deep in hue
as the thick carpet of her blood.

The Flayed Man and Other Poems is a genre collection, but one that is well crafted. For fans of Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Percy, and other poetry of the 18th and early 19th century, this collection is a must. For the rest, the chill of autumn is nearly upon us and winter sure to follow. This is the perfect book to read by candlelight on some long, cold evening and invite a wayward ghost inside to warm himself by your dreams.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gettin On

was thinking on poets who either revise, destroy or write off their early work as sophomoric, or immature. for example one ElLay poet i know was invited to collect his work of thirty-five yrs, and went back to homogenize the punctuation and line break formats of the collection. another poet, Hart Crane, left in his will the instruction to disclude early works from print. a poet i admire Charles Potts declares in a preface to a reprint of some early work, of course these poems were written young, and so cannot be taken seriously.....

other poets i know, who exist in piles around the house, have taken whole piles of poems and recycled or shredded the paper.

meanwhile there are poets like Rimbaud, La Forgue, Levy, etc. who wrote while quite young and even expired early. does the fact that their poems were written before the age of thirty make them immature or somehow less effective? should we discard the work of ourselves or other poets created before hemmeroids?

i think it unwise to discount early works.

to change works, or "update" them to an artists current style (to me) somehow threatens the integrity of the poems as they were written and edited in the first place. besides, isnt it fascinating to read the work of a poet one admires in the stages of unfurling?

i mean, wouldnt seeing the earlies and having read the currents make some deeper impression of who the poet is as artist, and individual?

by the way, Crane's instructions were not followed. the "collected works of Hart Crane" i have come across all include the early works, prefaced by a statement of the artist's (ungranted) wishes. but so many literary figures were postumously disrespected in this manner.....

so, do you keep your early work? have you restructured it? do you intend to publish it, even if ancient? are you embarrassed by it? i'm a dyin' ta know.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Other Stuff

Right now I'm feeling overwhelmed by so many things going wrong in this country: lost homes, high price of damn near everything gas, food, milk, eating out, entertainment, etc. etc. etc. I could use a good laugh. Anybody out there got some humor to share? Joke, funny poem, overheard humorous remark? Haiku?

Hit me up and let's share. Funniest thing I've heard recently is Palin for V.P.

Peace, Mary

Open Thread

What's on your mind?

Have at it - anything goes. What's been eating at you - what have you noticed - where have you been - what have you seen?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chief Wahoo blow-up!

Terry Provost, a person I respect and admire, posted the below on the clevelandpoetics listserv in response to Ray McNiece's video clip on SportsChannel (check out a few entries down.) Many people have strong opinions on this. How would you answer the questions that Terry poses at the end of his comments?

"For my part, when I see Chief Wahoo, I do not just see a racist caricature and a malignant celebration of a history of US genocide against native Americans, but, since he is overwhelmingly displayed as a head detached from a body, I see a decapitated racist caricature.

There is nothing I can do to separate that image from the team it represents, at least in my perception.

Anything that promotes that team, endorses an attitude of racism, and a gleeful indifference to genocide.

I therefore cannot join the celebration of any commercial however well done, by anyone, especially anyone who I would consider a part of my community (and yes I do consider Ray to be a good guy, and a member of my community.)

In fact, the better the ad, the worse, a la Leni Riefenstahl (did she really only die in 2003?)

In fact, according to the historian John Toland, Hitler based his ideas for the Holocaust on the American extermination of the native population (how Riefenstahl can you get?)

I've always thought that one of the best things about this list serve is people¢s readiness to celebrate the success of others. Whereas, yes, I can see a Debbie Downer aspect to saying what I have, I can also see a real problem with boosterism.

To maybe make this non-personal I suggest the following 3 questions:

1. Is Chief Wahoo a racist caricature?

2. Is it possible to separate Chief Wahoo from the Cleveland Indians?

3. What is the right attitude that a poet, artist, or any sentient human being should have towards the Wahoo/Indians complex?

I expect it makes sense to continue this conversation, if at all, at the clevelandpoetics blog rather than the list serve. But since the congratulations went out on the list serve, it seems appropriate that the demurral should as well."

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

The author shall remain anonymous (unless they chose to divulge themselves in the comments.)

Those commenting are also welcome to remain anonymous if they wish.

Incendiary comments will be removed.

If you would like your piece thrown to the wolves send it to salinger@ameritech.net with "Workshop the hell out of this poem" as the subject line.

Our pile is currently empty - so please send in a piece you'd like to see featured.


He is black ice,
a dark poison smear.

Her car hits him,
and dances the road
in frantic circles.

Why would a woman drive
to her death
on night's concrete?
Why would she slow down
to listen to the wild growl
of winter wind,
and be made foolish
by its whisper?

How could she do it,
knowing one slip
on that raw skin of glass
could rip her heart,
drain her blood,
and bring out her sad ghost?

She is so bare of color
that she is but a shadow,
squirming for air.

All the salt of God and oceans
will not melt her free.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

NEO Poet Field Guide

Full name: Mary A. Turzillo

Age: Old enough to drink Guinness and Ruffino Chianti. Young enough to give you trouble.

Habitat: Berea

Range: Deep Cleveland, Mac's Backs, Confluence, Marcon (yes, they have poetry programming), many science fiction conventions, Insights, The Lit Cafe, events at the Lit, used to go to Marcus Bales readings at 324.

Diet: Our house is stacked two feet deep on all surfaces with reading materials. I won't even bother to mention Cleveland greats I like. Right now I'm reading Peter Hoeg and Wendy Cope. My favorite poet-of-the-moment is Wanda Coleman. We just saw Iron Man and liked it. I want Heroes to come back. My favorite magazine oh dear is it Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, or Science News? No: Analog! My favorite dead musician is Warren Zevon and I'm really angry that he's dead.

Distinguishing Markings:
An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl (serialized in Analog)
Your Cat & Other Space Aliens (vanZeno 2007)
Dragon Soup (collaboration with Marge Simon, vanZeno 2008)
Ewaipanoma (Sam's Dot 2008) (Elizabethan-age lesbians find happiness with beings from the stars)
Galileo's Blindness (Bacchae Press 1994)
Lots of poems on the web in Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, New Verse News, etc.
Lots of poems in periodicals in Asimov's, Star*Line, ArtCrimes, Tributaries, etc.
Lots of short stories in SF Age, F&SF, Analog, etc. including Nebula winner "Mars Is no Place for Children" (1999) in SF Age.

Predators: Gods and angels and the magnetic gaze of calico kittens. Kisune Inari with her sweet wicked smile.

Prey: sashimi at Daishin or Shuhei or Ohashi or Big Eye. Aladdin's houmus. South Beach dessert with toasted pecans. Chocolate volcano from that hotel in Paris. A kaiseki meal we ate, slowly and with wonder, at the top of the Postal Tower in Kyoto. Rocamador cheese. Stolen blackberries from behind the Nature Center.


Vicious Trees

Not the kind that wave menacing branches
in Walpurgis Night winds,

nor the type that worm their roots
into your drainage system, flooding your house,

these trees anaesthetize you with their blossom's fragrance
then grow fast enough to wrap twigs around your neck
so in the morning your wife finds your corpse yoked and strangled

or they prick you with paralyzing sap
and grow thorns (overnight)
into your legs, arms, trunk, even eyes,

trees that moan, take pity, take pity,
then turn into dryads and quicken your daughter,
making her mother to chairs, tables, oak benches,

or they whisper, just whisper,
how you should leave the forest to them,
to them and the dark moon and sky,
how you should die, just die.

(appeared on Goblin Fruit, 2007)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blind Review Friday

Blind Review Friday.

The author shall remain anonymous (unless they chose to divulge themselves in the comments.)

Those commenting are also welcome to remain anonymous if they wish.

Incendiary comments will be removed.

If you would like your piece thrown to the wolves send it to salinger@ameritech.net with "Workshop the hell out of this poem" as the subject line.

Our pile is currently empty - so please send in a piece you'd like to see featured.

Reading Li Po

In morning fog I finger stones like words,
place them in my pocket to begin my own poem.
Silver trees press inward toward my chair.
The sky drains to surround me.
The stones remind me of Li Po’s mountains.
I sit with him, waiting to vanish.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Writers and Their Friends

Anyone who missed The Lit's "Writers & Their Friends: A Literary Showcase" last Saturday missed a lot. The event, which moved from the Cleveland Playhouse where it was held in previous years to the ritz and glitz of The Ohio Theatre, demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Cleveland's literary community cleans up pretty well. Beginning at 7:00 pm with a book fair and cocktails in the lobby of the theatre, the event got off to a nice start.

From my biased perspective as a bookseller, I always look forward to Writers & Their Friends, because it brings out a crowd that that looks at our books with fresh eyes, and that's always good. So score one for drinks and poetry.

The Show portion of the event -- written with high style by Katie Daley, produced and directed in perfect harmony by Christopher Johnston, and emceed in wild reverence by Ray McNiece -- came off very well. The segment opened with a performance by Q-Nice ChiefRocka that got the house pumpin', then 10 local actors threw their talents into reading the work of the evening's honorees: Cinda Williams Chima, Shurice Gross and Paula McLain in the fiction category; Kazim Ali, Michael Dumanis, Ted Lardner and Philip Metres in the poetry category; and David Giffels, James Renner and Frank Vazzano in the nonfiction category.

The work of these fine writers was read with authority, tenderness and expression. So score one for representing their words in fine fashion. After another performance by Q-Nice, there was a book signing, more drinks and more bookselling in the theatre lobby. Score one for a brilliant night. Were you there? What did you think of the event? How did it compare to previous events? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Monday, September 8, 2008

NEO Poet Field Guide

Full name: Susan Grimm

Age: 56

Habitat: Lakewood, Ohio

Range: Cleveland State University, my front porch, water (chlorinated or lake)

Diet: Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Levine, Sylvia Plath, Shelley, Pablo Neruda, Jorie Graham, D.A. Powell, Theodore Roethke, too many others.

Distinguishing Markings: Lake Erie Blue (2004), Almost Home (1997), Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems--editor (2007)

Predators: I don't think anything's hunting me down. Time? Inertia?

Prey: Readers?



Sea weed, flexible walleye bones, empty
shells, draggled gull feathers. Rain falls
like the color of the sun, accumulates.

Two-legged, stripped down to essentials (but
not too far), we wade into the water, reverse
ice to the drink, the waves trying to wear us

down, longing to serve us up like pips
on this margin of melted beach. The wind whistles
through our teeth, the sand grinds them down.

In the honeypot of the sun, headache-y, blasted
with thirst, we should be learning about excess,
the salt coming up to crust us as if each beach

were the ocean. We genuflect with our beads
of sweat to the salt whisper and the shelving
tongue that made us, here at the crux—the sun

like a peach above our glowing convoluted heads,
bodies of water swaying, our feet momentarily
stilled in the scratchy reactive electric fuzz.

Contact: sjgrimm@gmail.com

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sporty Spec a review

I really enjoy poetry anthologies; for me, an anthology is a like a brew pub sampler.

Some pieces will be weak, some will be tart, some will be down right bad, and some will be excellent. However, for the money, you usually get a great deal, and get to try a little bit of everything. So it is with Sporty Spec, recently published by Raven Electrick Ink. Now, speculative writing concerning sports (or sports writing of a speculative nature) could be cheesy, if not downright silly and demeaning to both genres of writing. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the pieces in this anthology worked.

Some pieces that stood out, for me:
  • "The Sport of Kings" is a flash fiction piece which pits a real horse and rider combination against mechanized, robotic horses. Author Paul Abbamondi opens up the question of the real advances made by technology, and what happens to the authentic or natural when competing against the mechanized or virtual.
  • C. A. Gardener enters a game of chess with Oberon in her poem "Riding to Faery," and redefines the game using pagan archetypes.
  • "Running for Life" by Brenta Blevins features a dark cross country coach, an even darker,
    mythic woods, and a young girl who discovers the real reason people run.
  • Deborah P. Kolodji writes a tanka that approaches ice moon Europa from the
    view of an ice skater.
  • Samantha Henderson's "The Tithing Hunt" is a dark lyric, which starts out with a deceptively simply rhyme scheme, imitating an English folk song. However, like many folk songs and rhymes, once the listener reaches the end, things aren't as pleasant as one expects.
  • Local poet Michael Ceraolo celebrates man's imagination by pitting it against machines in his poem "Games People Play."
  • Camille Alexa teeters into magical realism with her short fiction piece "Night Vaulting," which concerns the dreams of a young paraplegic.

However, my favorite piece in the whole anthology would have to be "Organic Geometry" by Andrew C. Ferguson, which uses cricket and a cricket player to analyze and question the destructive drive of humanity.

The pace of this anthology works well. Each piece is short, so a reader has time to nibble, taking a few minutes at a time to read each one and savor it. The range of this anthology is also impressive, spanning from the eerie and dark to the fun and silly, and touching every base in between.

However, the work rarely gets tired or forced, which is impressive, considering the obscurity of the anthology's topic. Karen A. Romanko did a great job putting together this anthology, and it would make a terrific read for anyone interested in speculative literature, sports literature, or good writing in general. Rumor has it that she is putting together another speculative anthology focused on film and cinema; based on the superb job done with this anthology, I am eager to see what she comes up with next.

Joshua Gage

Friday, September 5, 2008

Songwriters & poets

Anyone who has listened to any amount of altrock over the past decade has certainly heard a tune or two by Our Lady Peace. The Canadian band, perhaps best known for the song "Superman's Dead," among others, is fronted by Raine Maida (left), who as it turns out, professes his love for poetry. So much so, in fact, that he has morphed some of his work into a new solo album called "The Hunter's Lullaby."

Yeah, it's almost cliche for a songwriter to boast his poetry roots, and frankly, after Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Jim Carroll, and Henry Rollins, not to mention the entire genre of rap, who can compete on the same level? But for the sake of argument, who in your experience writes great songs and great poetry? Can you name a song that is really, truly great poetry? For starters, I'll throw out Medicine Hat by Son Volt. I'll be very interested to hear what you come up with.

Blind Review Friday

Time for another edition of Blind Review Friday.

The author shall remain anonymous (unless they chose to divulge themselves in the comments.)

Those commenting are also welcome to remain anonymous if they wish.

Incendiary comments will be removed

If you would like your piece thrown to the wolves send it to salinger@ameritech.net with "Workshop the hell out of this poem" as the subject line.
Our pile is currently empty - so please send in a piece you'd like to see featured.

When You Die

Do you get all the answers from questions you learned

Or do get all the questions from the answers your endured

Do you get all of your toys back from the boy down the street

Do you get all the hugs you missed at family retreats?

Is it still a disappointment after you find out there are no

spaceships hovering, just bright shadows in the sky?

When you are in line to get your first meal

Do you get a white gown that matches God's?

Do you get a white watch to keep track of time

When Gods out of the office, would he put you in his place?

Can you let your hair grow as long as you want

now that you don't have to white collar it to work?

Do your friends close the gaps with replacements of you

or move on with life with holes at their feet?

I wonder, if strawberries taste like filet minon

if you want them to-

Or if you blink a wish and a vegan meal pops up at your table.

Do all the I'm sorry's become mute and grey

turned into flower blossoms on top of your grave.

Do all the happy times stay catalogued in your rolodex?

And you can pull the old ones and play them again?

Soft worn paper and never get dementia again.

Do all of the times you paid forward

come back to you like an investment with a 4% growth?

Will all the ice cream you ate on the earth

instead of your hips go to your groin?

Will your kids forgive you for the pain in their legs

and all the illegal drugs that you smoked with your friends?

Will all the drinks you drank when you were drunk

be your morning coffee when you wake up?

Will all the skirts you wore to flirt with the boys

be made into curtains for your long windows?

Will all the books in your wooden study

be mine to read over for your memory?

Will all the hairs that went down the drain

be made into dolls for little angel babies?

Will all the eyelashes that fell on your cheek

fall into wish bowls for good girls to treat

themselves with mommy's high heels and necklaces?

Will all the kisses from your lips

be carried off into butterfly displays?

Will all my heartache from never one touch

be veiled with wings from all angels above?

Will all the dimes that fell out of your pocket

Melt into the ground for the sun to start over?

Will all the mornings blend into one sunny day

and start over a new life with one long evening?

Will all iambic pentameters be read by preschoolers

Who will learn to write sestinas by kindergarten?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Other Stuff

Does anybody have Kelly stories to share? Thought it would be good to gather them and give them to her as a going-away-but-not-gone gift from our community. So, if you have one do post-it to this blog by no later than Friday, September 12th.

Peace, Mary

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone

Cleveland is a place for artists of all mediums. Most hone our craft with limited resources, take pride in our work, enjoy each opportunity to share what we do with an audience and even make a few bucks on occasion.

The long conversation that comes up for me at times like this though is the one that goes you catch hell tryin’ to make a livin’ here, but you learn everything you need to know if you’re paying attention to be even more successful elsewhere. I’m both happy and sad to share that Kelly Harris, award winning poet, performer, consummate volunteer, poetry workshop facilitator, and Cave Canem Fellow is getting married to what I already know is a wonderful man because she picked him, and moving to New Orleans—one of my favorite places to be in the world.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Kelly for about ten years and remember being struck by her good vibe, and tight, funk-driven, proud-to-be-Black and Christian driven poetry, her way of always being inclusive, and welcoming, her way of selflessly serving our community.

A native Clevelander, Kelly has stayed busy in other ways too—a member of our winning National Slam team, completing her MFA from Lesley University, 2007 Akron Art Museum’s New Words Winner, and honored as an emerging voice by Writers and Their Friends, are among a host of other things I could mention that this young, African American woman has accomplished.

When asked she always gives her mentor, Mwatabu Okantah credit for inspiring her to perform her work. We are blessed that he did—Kelly truly knows how to bring words to life. Kelly says that her “great-grandmother whom [she] never met dreamed to be a poet. I am living her dream.” Yes you are Kelly, yes you are. I’ll miss you, but know that this is not goodbye. I plan to visit you and your new family in New Orleans, and I’m certain I speak for many of us when I ask you to make certain to keep in touch—let us know how you are, and share details about the wonderful work I know you’ll continue to do.


Mary Weems

Here is the text of Kelly's farewell posted at our sister list serve:

Dear Cleveland Poetics,

I will be leaving Cleveland for love and relocating near the New Orleans area this fall. My fiancé works for the media there. He’s also freelanced for Time, Essence and most recently, the Boston Globe. Who knows where life will eventually take us! Certainly New Orleans and the surrounding areas have challenges, but there are some wonderful opportunities awaiting me/us.

Most importantly I will finally have time to be write, complete Cave Canem, and do some volunteering for worthy organizations. Also there is a great community of writers there.

It has been my pleasure to work with some many of you whether it was for a slam, community project or serving as a board member for the Lit. Thank you all for your mentoring and support of me as a poet.

I’d also like to thank so many of you for your support during my mother’s bout with cancer. She is doing very well now.

In the future my husband and I will be offering a small poetry award to female poet in Cleveland. It will be administered by the Lit.

I am sure I will see many of you either at Writers & Friends, the Anisfield Book Awards or at my reading at Mac’s on September 10th.

Cleveland will always be home.

Kelly A. Harris, MFA

P.S. I've been in two great publications recently:
www.pluckonline.com or ww.pms-journal.org (shameless plug for cool poetry and publications)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Book Review: In The Yaddith Time by Ann K. Schwader

In The Yaddith Time by Ann K. Schwader is a thirty-six sonnet sequence inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's "Fungi from Yuggoth". It is set in the shared universe of the Lovecraft Mythos, and reads very much like a narrative tale focused around the crew of a spaceship which lands on Mars and discovers crystals in a hidden cave which wake the Mi-go, a lost, elder race who have the power to make men mad. The entire crew is lost to the Mi-go, with the exception of the young, female narrator. However, the last line of the sequence, "The destiny of Man is to give way," leads the reader to believe that all hope is lost for humanity, that all will be lured by the knowledge that the Mi-go promise.

What makes this book so intriguing is the way Schwader is able to tell her tale in a minimal fashion, but without losing anything important. These sonnets carry a plot through them, but each could easily stand alone as individual pieces as well. A favorite is "A Dream of Home":

I walked on Earth our mother, sweetly green
as legend paints her, clean in sea & sky,
with birdsong in the branches like a cry
of paradise regained...until that scene
dream-shifted into chaos. Sudden night
spread shadowwings in one vast inky smear,
erasing daylight as a shriek of fear
arose from every throat: the stars turn right!

Mild seas brewed tempests then, & skies split wide,
revealing such uncleanness writhing in
upon our luckless planet from Outside
that men ran mad. Half leaping from my skin
with terror I awoke--to find our crew
all shared my nightmare, screaming it was true.

This sonnet, along with others in the book, is gorgeously illustrated by Steve Lines, whose illustrations help the reader in visualizing the elements of the Lovecraft Mythos.

That, of course, is the problem with this book, and any book in a shared universe--readers must be familiar with said universe to trully understand the poems. As Richard L. Tierney writes in his introduction to this volume, "only those of us dark acolytes who are steeped in Lovecraftian lore will 'get it' when we read this dark epic." While I understand this sentiment, and felt alienated at times myself, as I am not as familiar with Lovecraft's work or the Lovecraft Mythos, I think it it workable. First off, Schwader's poetry is so multifaceted and multilayered that, while a non-Lovecraftian based reader may not get every intricate detail and allusion, they can still read the book, understand the plot and the tone, and come away with something; however, for readers who want to get more out of the book, there are many resources in print and on the web which they can use to steep themselves in this universe and glean more from Schwader's poems.

With In The Yaddith Time, Ann K. Schwader has written a very solid response to Lovecraft's own sonnet cycle, "Fungi from Yuggoth." This is a really fun read which teeters between science fiction and horror, but also keeps alive a shared universe from one of the great masters of horror. That being said, upon rereading, one could argue that In The Yaddith Time is equally a cautionary tale, exploring mankind's thirst for knowledge and its apparent parallel, self-destruction.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I can't define it - but I know it when I see it.

Okay - dig this.

I stumbled across this site called Wordle. Turns loads of words into "word clouds". This one is comprised of all the comments from the Blind Review Friday posting with the Piercy poem.

Instant poetry.

The Poetry of a Political Speech

Why is a good speech like a poem? John Lundberg, a writing and teaching fellow at Stanford University makes a great analysis in this essay on Barack Obama's acceptance speech.

The Poetry of Political Speech. He cites the rhythm of language and one of my favorite books, Mary Oliver's The Poetry Handbook. In that book (which as a lyrical poet, I LOVE to cite) she builds the argument that free verse evolved out of rhythm, rhyme and other classic conventions and without knowledge of the rhythm of language, a poet cannot successfully compose free verse.

Lundberg then notes the poetical use of refrain, of the ability to build momentum in Obama's speech.

But Lundberg also writes that he'd listened to Obama's acceptance speech and heard him quote the Bible, but no poets. The fact is, Obama referenced Langston Hughes, but he did it without saying his name -- just as he spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. without naming him. In so doing, Lundberg missed the most poetical part of the speech -- the subtle ability to say without saying.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau