Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

27
Jan
17

On Bonnie Bolling’s The Red Hijab

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.

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bonnie-bolling-the-red-hijabBonnie Bolling’s The Red Hijab (BkMk Press, 2016, and winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry) is set in Bahrain, a kingdom of more than 30 islands in the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. According to H. L. Hix’s “Foreword,” “Of what happens in the Middle East, most North Americans receive little word except from what news media present. Consequently, the readily available image of the Middle East is biased toward conflict and violence” (7). Bolling, who lived there for several years, provides a unique view of Bahraini culture, an insider’s view, a journalistic view but with empathy.

The first image of empathy occurs in the opening poem, “The Red Hijab.” After describing an ancient area in the Persian Gulf (perhaps Diraz) with an “abandoned double-wide” trailer, a “tangle of razor wire,” stray cats, dirty windows, and a man “wrapped in a potato sack” picking through the trash, a woman appears walking in the rain with a laundry basket and an umbrella. Images like this of people trying to go about their daily business and tasks occur throughout the book, but here, in the poem “The Red Hijab,” a housemaid wears a “red hijab.” It immediately, at least for me, conjures images of the girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List. In that movie, the girl in the red coat enables Schindler to fully understand that the Holocaust is happening around him, and she inspires him to do everything he can to stop it and to save as many Jews as possible. Bolling, who I assume is the speaker in these poems, however, does not act as a savior. She also does not try to simplify or generalize the Bahraini culture, as western news media might. Bolling’s observation of this housemaid allows us to see a side of life we may not hear about in North American media. In effect, Bolling becomes something like a journalistic embed, who “stand[s] on the corner, leaning next to the sign / that says in three languages: no uncovered women allowed / adjusting and re-adjusting my black hijab, me [a white, female, United States citizen] / on this narrow, broken footpath keeping my silence and distance” (“In Diraz” 7). The woman wearing the red hijab is the reader’s entrance point into the book and Bahrain.

As part of her journalistic acclimation, Bolling uses cultural signifiers, such as Bahraini foods and words like hijab, azan (a call to prayer five times a day by the muezzin), muezzin (the crier who calls for azan from a high part of a mosque at stated hours), Shahada (the Islamic profession of faith), Shamaal (a northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf, which is often strong during the day but weaker in the night), among others, as points of cultural exchange, or at least points of cultural encounter. The encounter for the reader is the disorientation he/she feels when experiencing the unfamiliar and looking for a translation (as I did above with Dictionary.com). This defamiliarization helps the reader shake off the stereotypes of those who live in the Middle East. The speaker must have experienced something like this, too, but now these signifiers are familiar to her. With all this said, one may wonder if Bolling is just wearing a comfortable mask – trying to act like Bahraini while holding on to the security of her white, American privilege. In part I, this may seem the case, but later we realize, part I was just a tour inside the walls of Diraz, and an intimate tour as we sometimes feel the “Oh, we want it all, don’t we?” (“Above the Azan” 28) judgmental disdain some Bahraini have of American tourists.

Perhaps the thematic thesis of part II is best stated in “Gathering Plumeria,” the last poem of section I, when the speaker says, “I am taking / it all in, every side because stories / from the heart don’t lie” (32). By taking the reader behind the walls, deeper into the community where she lives, Bolling introduces us to a few of its citizens and tries to get inside their hearts, such as a woman at home, a young man who will suicide-bomb a coffee shop, “young boys wearing black” harassing an older man because they are bored, and a family whose father’s tongue was cut our and the people who cut it, among others. In “Stars, Moon Rooster” (37), one of the poems I return to most, Bolling, referring to herself in the third person, walks at night and looks into a “house with linoleum,” where she sees a woman and imagines what the woman is feeling and thinking. Using the same third-person “she” to describe herself, Bolling shifts into the woman thinking about hope and how a new born baby is “the embodiment of hope,” until the baby is “thrust / into the arms of another,” and how over the years of life hope “doesn’t matter so much.” Eventually, the wind wakes her from trance, and she returns to her own night journey.

One might consider this presumptuous to assume what someone else is thinking. Perhaps they would be correct. However, she lived in the community for quite some time and observed and listened to the people. She was a poetic embed, unlike the disembodied “they” providing commentary and generalizations. Frequent phrases in section II are “they say,” “they are saying,” “someone says,” and other variations, and this “they” often makes statements about the Bahraini. Because we don’t know who the “they” is, the statements become almost Orwellian. For instance, in “A Silencing” (49-50), the poem opens with an active voice describing the speaker cooking a meal, then there is the volta “Deep in the village / the blind rooster’s / crowing.” This volta hinges on the apostrophe in “rooster’s.” Do we read “rooster’s” as subject and verb, “rooster is,” or as possessive, “the crowing of the rooster”? Perhaps both as the poem then segues into “This village / is said to be ancient.” This sentence is in the passive voice, as we don’t know the subject, or who is doing the saying. It’s just stated, and the reader wonders if that voice is the same as the next sentence’s voice, “Been the same for centuries, / they say, except for air conditioning.” The community’s character, personality, and culture are anonymously inscribed. This unknown speaks for its citizens. Even the local news realizes that “Someone from outside is fooling them / into going up against each other,” where the “someone” is the unknown voice and the “other”s are at times the young and the old. That “someone” is so strong, it can command young people to cut out the tongues of old people:

     Then, they were on him.
     Do it, someone said, do it now.
     So they did it with scissors.
     They cut-out his tongue –

In essence, the unknown “they” and “someone” are performing a type of erasure on its citizens by telling them what they are and not allowing the citizens to have an ability speak back, while at the same time also erasing their religion, as evidenced by cutting out the tongue of a man who memorized the Qu’ran.

What Bolling does in section II’s other poems and throughout the book’s poems is to give voice to the people who have been erased or overwritten. Through her journalistic end-paused and end-stopped lines (there is very little enjambment in these poems), and her movements between physical and psychological realism, she allows us to read below this anonymously created palimpsest to reveal more than “conflict and violence” and to show how

                       so many stories separate us.
     So many nations.
                       We search our tongues,
     desperate for a phrase, some scrap
                       of language or utterance
     that will allow our worlds
                       to come together for a moment (“Only Bread, Only Water” 51-3),

Perhaps this is why we hear a rooster announcing morning so often in The Red Hijab. It’s a language we all understand, as well as the food and love that persist throughout this collection of poems.//

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Bolling, Bonnie. The Red Hijab. Kansas City, MO: BkMk Press, 2016.

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25
Mar
16

Palettes & Quills 5th Biennial Poetry Chapbook Contest

I am not a reader for this contest, but I do help to promote it, and I do the layout and design of the winning chapbook, such as Michael Meyerhofer’s Pure Elysium (2010), Meg Cowen’s If Tigers Do Not Come (2012), and  Carine Topal’s Tattooed (2014).

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Palettes & Quills

5th Biennial Poetry Chapbook Competition

With Judge Alan Britt

Open to All Writers

palettesandquills.simplesite.com

Palettes & Quills Logo

 

Prize: A $200 cash award plus 50 copies of the published book. Additional copies will be available at an author’s discount. All finalists will receive one free copy of the published book. All contest entrants will be offered a special discount on the purchase price of the published book. Deadline: September 1, 2016. Manuscripts postmarked after September 1 will not be read.

 

A complete submission should include:

  • Manuscript between 14-48 pages. Poems must be typed on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper and bound with a spring clip. Use a standard 12 pt. font, such as Garamond, Arial, or New Times Roman. Manuscripts should be in English and contain no illustrations. Please do not submit your only copy. Manuscripts will not be returned.
  • A cover sheet with the contest name (The Palettes & Quills 5th Biennial Chapbook Contest), your name, address, telephone, email, and the title of your manuscript.
  • You must also include a statement that all poems are your own original work.
  • A title page with just the title of the manuscript. Your manuscript’s first page should be the title page but without your name. Your name should not appear any place in the manuscript. The next page of the manuscript should be a complete table of contents.
  • An acknowledgements page. Poems included in your manuscript may be previously published, but the book as a whole may not. Please include an acknowledgements page listing specific publications.
  • A complete Table of Contents.

 

Two Submission Options:

  • Mailed Submissions: Mail your entry to Donna M. Marbach, Palettes & Quills Chapbook Contest, 1935 Penfield Road, Penfield, NY 14526-1434. Include a $20 check or money order made payable in U.S. dollar and made out to: Palettes & Quills. You may also pay for your mailed copy online at http://palettesandquills.simplesite.com/ (In header, click More, then click Reading Fees). Please include receipt number in cover letter. An email will be sent to you upon reception of manuscript. If you do not have email and want confirmation of receipt, please include a self-addressed stamped postcard. (International submissions must include an IRC.)
  • Online submissions: Email entry to: palettesnquills@gmail.com. Subject line: “Chapbook Contest. [Last Name].” Include two attachments as Word docs or PDFs: Attachment one: cover sheet, acknowledgements, and statement of originality. Attachment two: your manuscript. Online entry fees is $25. You may pay online at: http://palettesandquills.simplesite.com/ (In header, click More, then click Reading Fees), or you can mail your entry fee to the above address by sending a check or money order made out to Palettes & Quills.
  • All payments are non-refundable.
  • We prefer hard copy submissions, but accept emailed submissions.

 

Manuscripts by multiple authors will not be accepted. Translations will not be accepted.

Simultaneous submissions are accepted. If your manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere, you must immediately notify Palettes & Quills. Multiple submissions are accepted but must be submitted individually.

Winners will be announced on the Palettes & Quills website in December 2016.

 

Alan_BrittFinal judge is Alan Britt. Britt teaches poetry/creative writing at Towson University. His recent books include Parabola Dreams (2013), Alone with the Terrible Universe (2011), Hurricane (2010), Greatest Hits (2010), Vegetable Love (2009), Vermilion (2006), Infinite Days (2003), Amnesia Tango (1998), and Bodies of Lightning (1995). He also served as editor at Black Moon.

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To download the guidelines as a PDF, click here.

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09
Nov
15

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

Source:

This comic version of Prufrock by Julian Peters is terrific, and can be a helpful teaching aid, too.   The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

10
Feb
15

Walt Whitman’s Em Dashes in the Talbot Wilson Notebook – Early Notation for the Long Line

I was going through Walt Whitman’s Notebook LC #80 at the online Library of Congress (also known as the Talbot Wilson notebook, which is from somewhere between 1847 to 1853 or 1854 (and probably closer to the latter dates (the first version of Leaves of Grass appears in 1855)), and I noticed somethings in two note pages. Below are the pages, transcription, and the poem I think they turned into. Below that are some early thoughts on what I noticed.

The soul or spirit

Image 28. The soul or spirit.

     The soul or spirit
     transmutes itself into all
     matter – into rocks, and
     can [illegible] live the life of a
     rock – into the sea,
     and can feel itself the sea –
     into the oak, or other
     tree – into an animal,
     and feel itself a horse,
     a fish, or a bird –
     into the earth – into the
     motions of the suns and
     stars –
          A man only is interested
     in any thing when he identifies
     himself with it – he must
     himself be whirling and speeding
     through space like the planet
Mercury he must be driven like a cloud

Image 29. Mercury – he must be.

     Mercury – he must be
     driving like a cloud –
     he must shine like
     the sun – he must
     be orbic and balanced
     in the air like this
     earth – he must crawl
     like the pismire – he
     must
      – he would be growing
     fragrantly in the air, like
     a the locust blossoms –
     he would rumble and
     crash like the thunder
     in the sky – he would
     spring like a cat on his
     prey – he would splash
     like a whale in the

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We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d (in “Children of Adam” section, poem 9. 1892 edition.)

We two, how long we were fool’d,
Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes,
We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return,
We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark,
We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks,
We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side,
We browse, we are two among the wild herds spontaneous as any,
We are two fishes swimming in the sea together,
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes mornings and evenings,
We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals,
We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and look down,
We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance ourselves orbic and stellar, we are as two comets,
We prowl fang’d and four-footed in the woods, we spring on prey,
We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead,
We are seas mingling, we are two of those cheerful waves rolling over each other and interwetting each other,
We are what the atmosphere is, transparent, receptive, pervious, impervious,
We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each product and influence of the globe,
We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we two,
We have voided all but freedom and all but our own joy.

[My bold]

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On Early Versions of “We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d”

One of the first two things I notice in images 28 and 29 occur simultaneously. I notice the em dashes and I notice the anaphora of “he must” and then “he would.” I was wondering how Whitman would score his long lines in these small notebooks. Looking at image 29 from Notebook LC #80, the em dash appears to indicate the end of the line. Perhaps the title was originally “Mercury.” When I look at image 28, I see em dashes again, and again more anaphora, and this time with “into.” I scan through more of these images in Notebook LC #80, but the frequency of em dashes is less (see below for more detail). Sometimes they appear at the end and sometimes in the middle of the poem, as if to mark the end of the line, or the end of something. In “We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d” (the ninth poem in the “Children of Adam” section from the 1892 edition of Leaves of Grass) the anaphora continues but with “We” and usually with “We are.” The one interruption occurs in line two, where the transmutation from fools to people absorbed in nature begins.

In “The soul or spirit” (image 28) there are some links to the poem “We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d.” There are some word choices like “transmutes” / “transmuted” / “We become” and “rocks” / “rocks” and “oak” / “oaks” and “fish” / “fishes,” etc. More important is the idea between these two poems. “The soul or spirit” section is like notes to a larger poem. In the longer poem, “We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d,” Whitman extends this idea of transformation into more living items. He adds more animals and “other tree” becomes, perhaps, “locust blossoms,” which also occurs in the “Mercury” poem (image 29). Or maybe “other tree” becomes “plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark.” There are also “beasts, vegetable, minerals” and “hawks,” and there’s even an ant – “pismire.” Nonetheless, more and more. Expansion!

And instead of “into the earth” (line 11 in “The soul or spirit”), it becomes “We are bedded to the ground” in the poem “We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d.” And now these em dashes seem to be indicating more than a line break. They seem to be place holders or fill-in-the-blanks-later notations. These are expansion marks. They expand out. He is expansive.

More of this occurs at the end of “The soul or spirit” and the “Mercury” poems. Instead of “he must himself be whirling and speeding / through space like a planet,” it transforms into “we are two comets.” In chapter one of Collage of Myself, Matt Miller notes how Whitman often changes “he” in the note books to “I” in the poems. The “I,” of course, is the all-inclusive and universal “I.” But here the “he” becomes “we,” which is also inclusive, but more intimate. Walt and I are flying through space on a comet.

In the “Mercury” poem

     he must be
     driving like a cloud –
     he must shine like
     the sun – he must
     be orbic and balanced
     in the air like this
     earth

becomes “We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance ourselves orbic and stellar.” Here, Whitman condenses 25 words and 28 syllables into 14 words and 25 syllables, while keeping the essence of the original, but while being more inclusive with the “we” instead of the “he.” Contract and expand.

The sentiment of “A man only is interested / in any thing when he identifies / himself with it – he must himself be whirling . . .” at the end of “The soul or spirit” becomes “we swiftly escape as Nature escapes” in “We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d.” The idea that seemingly wanted to come out in the notebooks is made more clear here. The he must not identify with things (as in the “The soul or spirit”), but instead he must be or “become” (as in “We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d”). He must become a “we” and “nature.” This is how to void everything but “freedom” and “joy.”

What I see then is how Whitman expands and contracts, moves from third person “he” to an inclusive “we” (which parallels the all-inclusive “I”), the continued use of anaphora, and the notation of em dash as line break marker and as placeholder for lists to be inserted. Maybe this is where Whitman first starts thinking about the expansive long line, especially when considering the brief cluster of pages 19-21 and 28-33 that implement the em dash as line break/expansion notation. Also, see below for more places where the em dash is used, especially with the use of four-dot ellipses acting in a similar manner as the em dash.

Of course, more exploration should certainly be made into this em dash issue, but here it is begun.

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Pages/images with em dashes that may be acting as line break and/or expansion notation include 19 (has anaphoric lines with “It is”), 20, 21, 26, 28 (see above), 29 (see above), 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 37, 54 (em dashes and four-dot ellipsis), 108, 111 (anaphoric lines with “they are” but these lines also have hanging indents with more anaphora but with “If”), 67, 112, 113 (has one em dash and two four-dot ellipses and anaphoric lines with “it”), 114 (uses one four-dot ellipsis and two em dashes but no anaphoric lines),  115 (have five four-dot ellipses and anaphoric lines with “it is” and “I”  and there are three em dashes with anaphoric lines with “There”), 116 (anaphoric lines with “if”), 117, 118 (anaphora with “a” and struck through “a state), and 119 (anaphora with “can”). Images with an em dash at the end of the page are 42, 46, and 65.    //

21
Jan
15

Jack Myers’ “What Comes Naturally?”

This poems just my mind spinning. When I read it for this first about eleven years ago, it did the same thing. This poem feels universal to me, if that’s possible.

   What Comes Naturally?

   I’ve never found anything easy.
   Even doing nothing tears me up.
   And just getting drunk disgusts me,
   so I drink again to forget.
   
   But I love the way the cool moon twirls
   in the exotic blackness of space –
   O tiny happiness of stars, I want a woman
   to make love to, even an imaginary woman,
   from whom my mind doesn’t veer away.

   I feel like a vestigial piece of heart
   that’s broken off and goes wandering the streets
   without pleasure. In this town the women and cops
   all laugh, which is why I don’t breathe when I’m near them.
   That’s another way I’ve discovered to stop thought.
   
   I don’t know what’s wrong with me,
   why things aren’t easy. I wake up thinking
   this could be a great day and the other half
   of me thinks No, this is a great day.
   But the rest of me knows it won’t be easy.


Myers, Jack. “What Comes Naturally?” I’m Amazed that You’re Still Singing. Berkeley: L’Epervier Press, 1981. Print.

This poem comes from a terrific collection of poem, which I think you can order here: http://sagehillpoetry.com/lepervier-press/.

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22
Nov
14

Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose 2014 Pushcart Nominations

Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose has made its nominations for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. The nominees this year are all poems. In the order of appearance in issue 18 are:

  1. Andrea Spofford’s “Tundra.” Page 8.
  2. Mary Stone Dockery’s “The Idea of Brad.” Page 23.
  3. Paul Allen’s “For the Spoken-Word Poet-Friend Who Drove up to Baton Rouge to Tell His Girlfriend to Get Lost and After 36 Hours of Both Crying, She Didn’t Get Lost, and He Was Glad.” Page 29.
  4. Robert Gibbons’s “Experience & Art.” Page 54.
  5. Ed Schelb’s “Portrait of Five Composers.” Pages 56-59.
  6. David Lloyd’s “What Remains.” Pages 70-71.

To read these poems, stories, and more, order a copy of issue 18 from here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/redactionspoetry.

You can also read the Pushcart Prize nominated poems here: http://www.redactions.com/pushcart-poems.asp.

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28
Oct
14

F*ck This! I Quit…Kind Of: On Poetry, Contests, and Opportunity Cost by Les Kay

Concerned about poetry contests and their costs and other things, then read this article by Les Kay.

Then go here to find presses with open readings for full-length poetry manuscripts: http://bit.ly/OpenReadings

The Sundress Blog

Last December, I received an urgent text from my father: CALL ME. My father, like most fathers, normally reserves the use of brief text messages in ALL CAPS for important news or emergencies. Since he’s retired now, well into his 70s, and his wife has been diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer—a cancer that should have been caught much earlier and should have been curable with simple resection—I assumed the worse, something health-related and horrific.

When I phoned, my father told me about an advertisement he’d seen for a poetry contest, a Christian poetry contest with a small fee and cash prizes. Instead of counting my inevitable winnings, I imagine my brow furrowed as if I’d just heard the compensation package for an adjunct teaching position. I thought immediately of Poetry.com and similar scams, suspecting that if I were to enter such a contest, the only plausible response would be solicitation…

View original post 2,304 more words




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

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

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

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After Malagueña

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