Archive for December, 2012


Stan Rubin’s Five Colors (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.


Stan Rubin – Five Colors“If colors could speak, words would be insolent,” writes Stan Rubin in Five Colors (Custom Words, 2004). The words in this collection are anything but insolent, & for certain, no syllables are wasted, but the quote, in a way, parallels a conflict in Rubin’s poems — trying to resolve the conflicts between poetic logic & logic, or trying to find a bridge between the two. One would think more poets today would have these conflicts of thinking logically in the apparent delivery of the universe & thinking through the poetic logic of the way the universe feels to be delivered; nonetheless, in Rubin’s poems, the conflict often presents itself, either intentionally or unintentionally. Consider “The Concept of Memory”:

   Suppose you once climbed a hillside
   which you thought was a mountain
   (time t-1) and you did it alone,
   so that, (further supposition) nobody
   knows, no one was there
   to tell that you did it. Let us suppose
   that now you know it was only a hill,
   a high loaf at the top of a street,
   across the sometimes flooded creek
   where a boy alone played windy games,
   then let us consider
   the time between t-1 and now,
   the time we call present,
   as if it were a gift from someone.
   so that you are not part of his game
   though you can smell the mud on his shoes,
   hear the stained laces click together,
   as he hauls himself up that hillside
   toward the distant pagoda 
   he has never reached,
   hand over hand,
   alone in the wet leaves
   after a rain that is still starting
   to end?
                                          (ll 1-14, 25-34)

The other poems are not nearly as deliberate as this, but in this poem, it is fascinating to watch the juggling between the need for mathematical explication & the experiential.

Let’s also consider the less deliberate poems that resolve around the logic conflict, which are more typical of the poems in Five Colors. At the end of “At the U.S. Space and Rocket Museum,” we arrive at a good sense of this:

                 The measure of distance
   the hand of a child. The map of love
   an internal sky. Here in the shadow
   of the predator’s wing, while the camera

   makes its chemical memory, and you stand
   still aiming at me – my love, my stranger — 
   I am as distant from myself as a newsreel.
   I cannot forgive my own heart’s wars.
                                            (ll 9-16)

or the beginning of “Rivers”: “The old part of the brain – the one / that writes backward when you try / to write forward – that part is at it again.” And more specifically the end of “Partial List of the Saved”:

   A partial list of the dead
   is a schedule of forgetting.

   It is what memory is,
   a map of absence

   Remember this:
   It is what love always becomes.

These poems just mentioned also share a similar delivery method – the poems individually accumulate to conclusion or epiphany & resonate. Not all of the poems in the collection do this, but the book as a whole also acts in this manner.

The poems in Stan Sanvel Rubin’s Five Colors tend to be lyrical or meditative (& I can’t help but sense the influence of Oppen on them), & the poems quite often create velocity & acceleration through the repetition of a word or phrase, not dissimilar to a blues musician. These poems are solid, fresh, & many present new approaches to writing poems. //




Rubin, Stan Sanvel. Five Colors. Cincinnati: Custom Words, 2004.//


Natasha Sajé’s Bend (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.


Natasha Sajé's – BendA certain poet lamenting about his newest collection of poems – it not having enough good poems – shared his uncertainty about the book with Ezra Pound. Pound, trying to put the new collection of poems & the poet into perspective, commented something like, “If you are lucky enough to have one or two good poems in a book, then you have a good book.” Sajé’s book has more than a couple of good poems, & one great poem – thus a great book, if we extend Pound’s line of thinking.

“I See” is a poem I keep returning to. It is an intelligent poem that “bends” Gertrude Stein’s “A rose is a rose is a rose.” But the poem itself is not heavy-intellectual, like Stein can be; it’s the reverberations that create this intelligent poem – & so far the reverberations have sustained themselves for over a year with the reader. This poem, among others, shows how the lens of language can “bend” perception, can bend what isn’t into what is, so as to realize “then what can’t be mistaken / for something that it’s not?” This poem also succeeds because the poem makes us experience what the speaker experienced & in the same manner, & I suspect in the same amount of time. The experience traveled to the page & all the way over to this reader, which is what a great poem does. I’d love to quote more of the poem, but the experience needs to be had in full.

Nonetheless, Natasha Sajé’s Bend (Tupelo Press, 2004) is filled with more intriguing stories/experiences that bend unexpectedly, more lyrics that twist freshness from the mundane or anticipated, & more dialogues between language & perception, but all the while the poems stay clear & inviting. The language is always fresh, always moving, & always bending.//




Sajé, Natasha. Bend. Dorset, VT: Tupelo Press, 2004.//


Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Major Poems and Selected Prose (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.


Algernon Charles Swinburne – Major Poems and Selected ProsePraise be given to McGann & Sligh for at last providing a good selection from one of my all-time favorite poets, Algernon Charles Swinburne. This is easily the best selected Swinburne in a long time. It even has the complete Atalanta in Calydon (a rarity) & thus contains my favorite poem, a chorus containing many of Swinburne’s theme’s & that begins:

   Before the beginning of the years
      There came to the making of man
   Time, with a gift of tears; 
      Grief, with a glass that ran;
   Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
      Summer, with flowers that fell;
   Remembrance fallen from heaven,
      And madness risen from hell;
   Strength without hands to smite;
      Love that endures for a breath:
   Night, the shadow of light,
      And life, the shadow of death.

That poem has stuck with me for years, in part because of the strong, heavy meter. Yes, if you want to learn just about everything there is to know about meter, then read Swinburne. The most important aspects he will teach you is how to negotiate rhythm, syntax, & the imagination to create sheer music. Yes, Swinburne is one of the great musical poets in the English language – he can stand side-by-side with Milton. If one can’t find the meaning of one of Swinburne’s poems from the language, then you only need listen & you will hear the meaning arise from the music. (“It don’t mean a thing / if it ain’t got that swing” aptly applies to Swinburne.)

Swinburne can also translate from other languages, including Anglicizing foreign meters, such as Sapphics. Swinburne is a poetic descendent of Sappho (sometimes I think he has direct connection to her) & a descendent of William Blake, though less religious.

But this book is well put together. It starts with a hell of an introduction by Jerome McGann. He informs us of Swinburne’s influence on the moderns. (Ezra Pound loved Swinburne –his poetry & “theory and practice of poetic translation.”) The introduction also has a close study of Swinburne’s life, poetry, & poetics –there’s a lot to be learned from this introduction. Oh, & most important for many of us, there is a fine notes section at the back. It not only provides footnotes to certain allusions & the such, but it also provides little histories about the poems, like whether the story is a real translation or something Swinburne made up that seems like it came from Greek mythology, or elsewhere.

This Major Poems and Selected Prose also contains important prose – Swinburne was as good a reader/critic as Samuel Taylor Coleridge & Pound – & he wrote on Baudelaire, Byron, Arnold, Blake, the music of poetry, & more.

Swinburne is one of the great musical pagans, & much thanks to McCann & Sligh for bringing him back to our times & in such a good way.//




Swinburne, Algernon Charles. Major Poems and Selected Prose. Eds. Jerome McGann and Charles L. Sligh. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.//


Eleanor Rand Wilner’s The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.


Eleanor Rand Wilner – The Girl with Bees in Her HairWhat brought me to this book initially was I had heard Wilner is one of the few poets, & oh, how I wish there were more, who incorporate science into poems. I was not disappointed. The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (Copper Canyon Press, 2004) opens with a terrifically beautiful poem “Everything is Starting,” & the following sections & poems sustain the magnificence. Here are some of the lines from “Everything is Starting” that stirred me so much:

                   light-years away, beyond the veils
   of the Milky Way, out at the red edge
   of creation, where everything is
   always starting: [. . .
   . . .
   . . .] when all that is the matter,
   or all that matter is, is drawn into
   one place, as if into a single thought,
   and (unimaginable) ignites,
   shattering the ageless night in which
   the cosmos only dreamed,
   and in the oldest memory
                                         (of which I think
   we have a share)
   it was an endlessly unfolding flower
   of fire – the rose of light that Dante
   saw, its afterimage in the soul.
   And from that flower, the seeds
   of all the galaxies were
   sown. . .
               now, in our own, the snow recedes,
   the buds will shatter the end
   of every twig – as everything is
   starting up again –
                                  (ll 31-34, 37-55)

And there are other poems with science.

After reading this book, I met another poet who said: “Wilner may be one of our greatest poets of myth, perhaps the best since Yeats.” I don’t know if this is true, as I can think of many worthy poets of myth, but in this collection we do find poems of myth, including “What Narcissus Gave the Lake,” which inventively turns the Narcissus myth upside-down, for “The lake sees through Narcissus” & the lake discovers “what multitudes it can contain.” Narcissus gave “to the lake, in the contemplation of / that beautiful and beauty-blinded face.”

Overall, The Girl with Bees in Her Hair, with its 5 sections, is filled with smooth, flowing narratives with brief moments of lyrical epiphanies (either direct or indirect), curious revisionings of myth, a strong displeasure for war, & much beauty – real, stunning, interrupted, uncontrived beauty.//




Wilner, Eleanor Rand. The Girl with Bees in Her Hair. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2004.//


In Pursuit of the Juiciest Wine: Day 125 – Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon Valley Central Chile 2011

Has it come to this already? Boxed wine? It has. But I didn’t take this route blindly. I’ve been casually looking into it for a year or so. It seems there are some good boxed wines out there, like Wine Cube and Black Box Paso Robles. The wine stores didn’t have either of those, but they did have Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon Valley Central Chile 2011.

Even if this turns out to be an 87-point wine, it will be a good investment. If it’s below 87 points, then I only lost a few bucks and I have something to cook with. So it’s a good gamble.

Double Stage Corkscrew with stages

The best and only corkscrew anyone needs – the server’s corkscrew or the double stage corkscrew. It’s perfect and easy.

Already I miss the adventure of the bottle, though. The whole ritual of peeling off the foil or capsule, inserting the corkscrew into the cork at a slight angle, denting the top of the cork, twisting, pulling up with the first stage, pulling up more with the second stage, slowly stopping before the pop of the cork, the slow pull so as to not spill wine, the clutching of the cork, and the unwinding of the corkscrew. Then the examination of the color on the cork, which doesn’t really mean anything, except cabs tend to leave darker colors, and it’s always fun when it’s really dark and inky and I try to stamp the backside of my hand with it as if I’m about to enter a bar. And then the slow accumulation of corks. There are about 10 years of corks at my sister’s house. There might even be enough for her to build an additional room to her house.

And then there’s the pour. The slight-angled pour and the arc into the side of the glass, and if I’m lucky, I catch a whiff of its nose. In the least, I can see its color and vibrancy.

And I’ll miss the joy of the watching the level of wine decrease in the bottle. But I won’t miss the guilt at the end of the night or the next morning when I realize I drank a whole bottle of wine while I was carrying on with the things I was doing. So boxed wine is guilt-free wine. However,  how will I be able to tell how much wine I’ve had? This could be dangerous.

Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2011So here it goes. I’m going to give this wine very deliberate attention.

I pushed in the half-moon of cardboard cutout, pulled back the rectangular cardboard cutout, pulled out the tab, turn it bit so it will pour down, secured the pourer into place, and poured. I did not smell anything. It poured straight like an old man drooling.

But it had color. And the color looks good. It doesn’t look thin and cheap. It’s dark purple and kind of inky and 90% opaque.

The nose has melons and lots of alcohol, but it’s not hot with alcohol, but it is dominant. It smells musky in its deep recesses and a bit moldy like a British cheese.

I just had a taste. It’s not bad. I’ve certainly had worse bottles of cab. However, there’s not much flavor. It tastes like wine, but I’m not really picking up any notes. It’s mellow.

The finish has some flavor.

It’s not that it lacks flavor. It has flavor, but it’s nondescript.

It certainly needs some food. This would be a good wine for a barbeque, especially if something is cooked and marinated in barbeque sauce. The closest thing I have is natural smoked Gouda I picked up at the Whole Foods in New Orleans two days ago.The cheese actually complemented the nose. They had a little spinning dance together, and then embraced. And it did help the wine along. It brought out a hint of plummy cherry, but, very mild.

I think I can honestly give this wine 87 points. I know what other 87s taste like, and this comparable, and perhaps better because it’s half the price.

It’s not hard to drink at all, but I could get bored of it very easily. It does get better with more air time.//


In Pursuit of the Juiciest Wine: Day 124 – McWilliam’s Hanwood Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

McWilliam's Hanwood Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2007It’s the first day of December, which means my birthday is nearby and, most importantly, my first semester in the Creative Writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi is coming to a close. And it was a very trying semester indeed. So relief is on the way. . . . Well, some. I still have to layout and edit the next issue of Redactions, a chapbook for the winner of the Palettes & Quills biennial chapbook contest, and do some prep work for ENG102, which I’ll teach next semester. But, you know what? For one fraking month I won’t have to use a fraking alarm clock!

I do have two papers that are due soon, too, but one paper just needs to be proofread and the other 80% complete, so it’s time to pre-celebrate with McWilliam’s Hanwood Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. I hope it’s good.

It’s color is a deep inky black/purple. It’s 100% opaque. The meniscus is underdeveloped.

The nose is filled with cassis, sour cherries, plums, and vanilla.

Already, I’m thinking a steak would go well with this wine. A steak cooked on the grill and that’s slightly charred on the outside but medium rare on the inside.

It essentially tastes dark. It’s just a big dark taste. Nothing is coming through. It’s a black hole of flavor. No. It’s a flavor singularity.

Wine Black Hole Singularity

The finish is dry and sticky. It’s presence remains on the tongue for some time in a chalky manner.

This wine wasn’t worthy enough of a pre-celebration, but I’m glad I got to make the “Black Hole of Flavor” picture.

87 points.//

The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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December 2012


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