Archive for February, 2013

17
Feb
13

Lucille Lang Day’s The Curvature of Blue (2009)

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 12, which was published circa November 2009.

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Lucille Lang Day – The Curvature of BlueThe following interview may or may not have occurred with Lucille Lang Day on Tuesday, May 12. I was inspired to interview her after reading her most recent collection of poems, The Curvature of Blue (Cervena Barva Press). I was especially drawn to her book because of the cosmological poems. They are some of the finest ones written. And if you enjoy science, cosmology, physics, color, love, death, and poetry, you’ll enjoy this book.

Tom Holmes: I’m here with Lucille Lang Day, a poet I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Since I and others may be new to you, I first want to know if you could briefly describe yourself to me and the readers?

Lucille Lang Day: I will defer to the book and let it speak for itself.

TH: Okay. So, The Curvature of Blue, could you describe yourself?

The Curvature of Blue: “There’s no one quite / like me” (p 13).

TH: I’m sure that is true, but could you be a bit more specific, please?

TCOB: “I am one / with bees and ants creating // their chambers” (p 24).

TH: Okay, and what can the reader expect from you?

TCOB: The reader will “hear cinnabar / olive, raw umber, magenta, / violet and chartreuse / mingling in counterpoint” (p 19).

TH: That’s fine. I noticed the patience of your poems. They seem at ease. Would you agree? How would describe the momentum?

TCOB: Yes. It’s like when “Rain sifts down like fine flour” (p 8).

TH: I also noticed an evolution as the book moved forward. It’s almost sequential . . .

TCOB: Oh, I couldn’t disagree more.
“Moments are shuffled and reshuffled
to give the illusion of time and history.
Everything happens at once and forever” (p 34).

TH: So, you are atemporal. That’s a very interesting way to create. Could you describe your creative process?

TCOB: Well, it’s a bit like
“The one sperm that enters,
cells cleaving to form
a hollow ball, bouncing
down the oviduct, the infolding
and implanting in the muscular
wall of my uterus, the welldeveloped
tail, pharyngeal gills
just like those of a fish
forming before finger buds,
heart and brain, the long
months of turning and turning
like a vase on a potter’s wheel,
the finished child sliding,
wet and shining,
into her father’s palms.” (p 14)

TH: Awesome. Now, is that what it’s like when you actually write the poem, too?

TCOB: No, when I write, it’s more like there is something
“stirring inside me, walking
the long corridors of my brain,
searching for something
irretrievable, precious, still there.” (p 38)

TH: So, why do you write?

TCOB: “To waken the angels” (p 54).

TH: That reminds me, death seems important to you. How would you describe death?

TCOB: “When the end draws near,
light descends, thunder roars,
and all of heaven enters
the body through a slender
glass column. The brain lights
up as galaxies spin, planets
of every imaginable color
turn in their orbits, and
billions of moons, stony
or gaseous, glow inside
the cerebrum. In that
instant you finally know
the meaning of it all.
Then one by one the stars
blink out, constellations
disappear, and you
are a barren cave.” (p 55)

TH: I like that. It seems we only have time for two more questions. The penultimate question, what caused the curvature of blue?

TCOB: “[. . .] the moon
circling earth, dragging
the oceans like flowing
blue gowns; the human
heart pumping blood
through a network of rivers” (p 68).

TH: Nice. And one last question. Do you have any advice for the young writers?

TCOB: “To be an artist, you must be crazy” (p 28).

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Day, Lucille Lang. The Curvature of Blue. West Somerville, MA: Cervena Barva Press, 2009.//

16
Feb
13

Nathan Graziano’s After the Honeymoon (2009)

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 12, which was published circa November 2009.

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Nathan Graziano – After the HoneymoonWho doesn’t like Nathan Graziano? Raise your hand. You! You who raised your hand go read After the Honeymoon (sunnyoutside press). He’ll swoon you like you’re in Niagara Falls.

Graziano writes in the language of today, even though he has no cell phone or a Facebook account. His tone is contemporary, too, with a seriousness of actuality mixed with ironies he “never intended” (p 35).

This is certainly true in the alcoholism poem, “Cracker and Me,” where he gets into the depths of their aging through drinking. He witnesses the shift from wild writers to suburban parents. And at the end, after the sudden realization of the alcoholism sickness merging with the old-age sickness that he writes:

   [...] the only thing we have to say is:
   Can
   someone
   pour me

   a drink?
                          (p 38-9)

You would think those closing four lines would undermine everything that was written before, right? In this case, no. This is the seriousness mixed with ironies. This is the unintended irony when he utters the phrase of a young binge drinker, as if the older person is saying, “I can still do this.” But look at spacing and pacing of the line. They are short and slow. It creates an inner desperation he needs to connect to youth, to connect to writing, even though it is really complacency (another contemporary emotion) of what he is and where he is headed.

Yes, the title of the book is appropriate, as it is well After the Honeymoon, but for the reader it is an enduring experience through, poetry, prose poems, and emotions.//

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Graziano, Nathan. After the Honeymoon. Buffalo, NY: sunnyoutside press, 2009.//

15
Feb
13

William Heyen’s A Poetics of Hiroshima (2008)

William Heyen – A Poetics of HiroshimaOver 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 12, which was published circa November 2009.

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I know William Heyen, so you might think I might be biased in this review. However, I am well versed in Heyen. I’ve about three feet of Heyen’s books. Of those three feet, this A Poetics of Hiroshima (Etruscan Press) is his strongest book, yet. Enough said.//

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Heyen, William. A Poetics of Hiroshima. Wilkes-Barre, PA: Etruscan Press, 2008.//

14
Feb
13

Jesse Lee Kercheval’s Cinema Muto (2009)

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 12, which was published circa November 2009.

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Jesse Lee Kercheval – Cinema MutoGod is so silent up there. I wonder if God can hear me down here? I wonder what God thinks and sees. Jesse Lee Kercheval has these questions, too, in Cinema Muto (Southern Illinois University Press). The poems in this collection are about silent movies, of course, but really they are a way for Kercheval to push her imagination to understand God and life and even reincarnation. Yes, “The Acting Career of Charles H. West Considered as Bad Karma” (p 67) is the best (if such a thing exists) reincarnation poem I have ever read, even if it is a prose poem. This poem is concrete in reality, it’s as if Kercheval were the God in charge of reincarnation. The metaphor is ridiculously brilliant — why hasn’t anyone written this poem or had this idea before? An actor, as he is used in the poem, is the perfect metaphor for reincarnation, because the actor is continually reincarnated in each new role and movie. After reading this poem you will intellectually and within your bones understand and feel the what and how of reincarnation. Here’s the first section of the prose poem:

where is it where is it where is it written that reincarnation is a good thing? what if what it what if reincarnation is like the film career of the actor Charlie West? the failure or the weakling in nearly three dozen Griffith films /1909-1912/ each film a new incarnation at the rate of three a month O the cruelty of casting! to be born the jealous miner who almost shoots his brother in His Mother’s Scarf only to die & be reborn the “evil companion” in The Crooked Road who persuades the young husband to choose a life of crime – never never never once a rebirth as the hero who save Blanche Sweet / Lillian Gish from the brustish invading Yankees in the nick of time

Cinema Muto also has fears of death, which not only come across in the poems but in how the book ends. The book is like a good piece of classical music that doesn’t want to end because it wants to keep living and exploring. So each of the last six poems of Cinema Muto are attempts at ending, or closing, the book. After each of those poems, I felt the book could be at its end, but luckily there were more poems. Kercheval could not fail to find the right poem to end the book, except for the silence that fell after the last line of Cinema Muto.//

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Kercheval, Jesse Lee. Cinema Muto. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2009.//

09
Feb
13

Helena Mesa’s Horse Dance Underwater (2009)

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 12, which was published circa November 2009.

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Helena Mesa's – Horse Dance UnderwaterHelena Mesa’s collection of poems Horse Dance Underwater (Cleveland State University Press) fulfills one of Philip Whalen’s and my requirements for poetry – poetry is a graph of the mind moving. I know I keep returning to that idea, but it’s a good one. It’s an idea that doesn’t waver and continually proves itself. So with that requirement, Mesa’s poetry proves itself, too. But with Mesa, when she’s moving full force, there’s more. The sound is moving, as well. Specifically, the harmonies. It’s the opposite of Linda Bierds but just as strong. With Bierds, the sounds lead the images and ideas, but with Mesa, the sounds keep up with the images in motion. For example:

   [. . .] Soon, morning hours
   scar our postures with thoughts
   of how we’re still awake, how
   raw words could change a war.
   Our chants hoarsen and against
   a ceiba some stretch, their candles
   cupped close to their chests.

I think this is Mesa’s first book. Whether it is or not, it’s a damned fine book. The language is hard and strong, and the poems create meanings. What else could you want?//

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Mesa, Helena. Horse Dance Underwater. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland State University Press, 2009.//

08
Feb
13

David Moody’s Ezra Pound: Poet: A Portrait of the Man & His Work: Volume I: The Young Genius 1885-1920 (2007)

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 12, which was published circa November 2009.

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David Moody's – Ezra Pound PoetDavid Moody’s Ezra Pound: Poet: A Portrait of the Man & His Work: Volume I: The Young Genius 1885-1920 (Oxford University Press) is a long title for a book about the early years of Ezra Pound’s life, but the book is fantastic and it has so much detail. I don’t know how this was all accumulated, but it’s very insightful.

This might be my favorite Pound bio yet, though Humphrey Carpenter’s bio is wonderful, too. Halfway through Moody’s book, I was thinking, “I can’t wait for volume II.” If you want to know more about a young Pound, read Moody’s biography.//

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Moody, David A. Ezra Pound: Poet: A Portrait of the Man & His Work: Volume I: The Young Genius 1885-1920. NY: Oxford University Press, 2007.//

07
Feb
13

Jason Shinder’s Stupid Hope (2009)

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 12, which was published circa November 2009.

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Jason Shinder's – Stupid HopeTwo reviews of Jason Shinder’s Stupid Hope (Graywolf Press) follow.

Review one: written in a coffee shop.

Jason Shinder has passed away and so has the hope of more beautiful poems like the ones in Stupid Hope. Yes, these poems are beautiful, like Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” Both have extraordinary melancholy and despair amid layers of pleasure, and this is what happens with strong poems.

Stupid Hope is two stories of sickness unto death. One story is about the author’s mother, and the second is about the author. Both have brutal honesties, such as in “The Good Son”:

   If God had come to me and said,
   if you are willing to forget your self

   you will find the cure for heart attacks and compose
   the greatest symphonies,

   I wouldn’t have been sure of my answer.
   Because there wouldn’t have been enough
   attention to my suffering. And that’s unforgivable

Later in the poem the mother dies

   after months in a hospital room full of silence
   that lodged itself like a stone in her throat

   And she thought I was wonderful

   and would do anything for her.

The author is not heartless, as you will see when you read this book. He is just bluntly honest. (Also notice the craft of the last two lines. Prior to this, the poem was in couplets. Then in the last two lines the couplets break to emphasize the distance.)

Also, at times, Shinder makes images that parallel the disturbing feeling of joy in your own suffering:

   wanting to be worth the horror
   he lavishes

   wanting to be good enough
   to join his suffering
   with a little of my own.

Review two: from my post on Graywolf ’s Facebook page.

[. . .] And for you poets, it seems to be written under the emotional, empathetic, and sentimental shadow of Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” and “To Aunt Rose.” The poetry is not like Ginsberg’s, but it is sincere like those two poems and like Ginsberg . . . and then some.//

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Shinder, Jason. Stupid Hope. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2009.//




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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