Posts Tagged ‘Deerbrook Editions


On Stuart Kestenbaum’s Only Now

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

Stuart Kestenbaum – Only Now Many of the poems in Stuart Kestenbaum’s Only Now (Deerbrook Editions, 2014) feel like poems Gregory Orr would write if he wrote narrative poems (some of the meditative and lyrical poems also feel like Gregory Orr poems), a number of the poems have the mythical feel of a Merwin myth-like poem, and some have the intimacy of a Jack Gilbert poem. These styles, among others, are what one would need to successfully write a carpe diem book of poems, and neo-romantic book of poems, at that.

I don’t normally like drawing comparisons to other writers when a reviewing a book of poems, but this time it seems like a good idea to present a feel for the book. In addition, while the opening poem, “Prayer While Downshifting,” is a fine poem, it is acting more as a deliberate lense for the book. By placing this poem at the opening, Kestenbaum is attempting to focus the reader’s mood or reading in a deliberate direction. However, this poem would be better off if it appeared further on in the book, as it needs to built in to or up to. As an opening poem, it’s too heavy handed in its allegory and symbol building, and I want everyone who gets to this book to know that what follows the opening poem is very moving – emotionally and intellectually. In addition, I think (and wonder) if it is better for an author to let the reader discover meanings on their own instead of directing them down a certain path. Or better still, for the author and reader to discover together. More inclusiveness. More of a we-book, where meanings have “to happen because we’ve / made a framework for it. It’s the framework that gives the meaning” (“Big World”). Further, “because meaning is a wild animal that surprises you” (“Prayer for Real”), the reader will want to experience the surprise of discovering meaning, which is what this book does. It surprises. It’s inclusive. It’s a book for author and reader, for you and me, for we.

Maybe it would be better if the book opened with the second poem, “Rocky Coast,” which begins 350 million years in the past, and then in two words, flashes forward 350 million years to today. (Has there ever been a lengthier flash forward?) And this flash forward takes us into an everyday we are familiar with – it takes us into Dunkin’ Donuts. It delivers us into fantasies of hope, revenge, and escape while the “fallen world” is everywhere outside the Dunkin’ Donuts. The next poem, “Getting There,” turns inward even more. It balances the safety of Dunkin’ Donuts with the neo-romantic notion that “deep inside us” are the answers to:

     Where is the place we are always asking about.
     It’s the country we remember in our dreams.
     Where is where we’ll find what we need to know

     whatever that is, whatever we thought it was
     going to be.

Notice how these are shared questions (we all have them), but it’s the turning inward where we find our own answers and meanings. The slow accumulation of poems in Only Now is like a manual of examples and experiences we are all aware of, and the poems about them are in Only Now for us to meditate on, to turn inward on, to equip us with living in the only now we have, and to help us prepare for our eventual demise.

For instance, the conclusion of “Crows”:

         before we began to speak we could feel the world
     inside our bodies and it moved us as we moved with it.
     Perhaps this is our mother tongue, the language of our cells,
     the diction of our hearts and lungs. There, don’t say
     anything for a while, don’t even think in words,
     think in whatever is beyond the thought of words,
     the nameless world that you try so hard to forget
     by naming everything. Take away the caws from the sky,
     take away the rumble from the ice and while you’re at it
     take away the hiss of today’s headlines, like air leaking
     out of the world. See what’s left after that and listen to it.

Again, there is the turning inward for answers, meanings, and, perhaps more importantly, the turning to pure experience – the experience of events before the interference of language. In this wordless realm, we might even get closer to how a god lives and experiences time and the world, as we eventually will. In “Wild God,” we experience god in the Garden of Eden “when the earth was new and animals hadn’t been named yet.” We see god creating and rearranging the earth and then relaxing and admiring his work. Similar to “Rocky Coast,” there is a lengthy flash forward, but this time the experience is not imagistic – like being in a Dunkin’ Donuts – it’s in the experience of time as a god experiences time. When I read this poem the first time, I felt a shift in time, but I wasn’t sure how it happened. It was seamless and flowed naturally. After I paid closer attention to the tenses in the poem, I saw how in half a line the tense shifted from past to present, and the poem moved from millions of years ago to today almost instantaneously, in the blink of a god’s eye. Kestenbaum used syntax and not words to approximate the experience of time for a god. He didn’t explain or even show. He made an experience and made it feel real. In addition, this instantaneous passage of time also seems to suggest that the past resides in the present, or that the distance between past and present is not so far apart, such as for the 93-year old Dora on her deathbed in “The Passage,” who is dying in the present but living in the memories of her past.

Overall, Only Now creates the feeling that living and dying is a juggling act:

     Whether we spend our time
     fearing death or not, listening
     for its footsteps or plugging

     our ears, we all end up
     where we began, just dust
     combined with the weight
     of what we carried in the world. (“Scattered”)

It’s a juggling act of living in the now and with the past that made us into who we are now, while at the same time preparing for death, or even avoiding thinking about death like “young minds [who] can’t imagine not existing anymore” (“Back Then”). Stuart Kestenbaum through tight, interlocking poems gives experiences for how to live “As if the Tree of Life / is inside us” (“Breath”) within the precious time we have in our Only Now that is our only life. This is a book of poems I can’t recommend enough for the collective that is we.//




Kestenbaum, Stuart. Only Now. Cumberland: Deerbrook Editions, 2014.//


Presses with Open Readings for Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts

In the past, I have created such lists as all the Small, Independent, and University Press Poetry Book Publishers (which was up-to-date as of 3-6-10 with 687 presses) and all the Journals with “Review” in Their Title, Who Accept Poetry, and Who Have a Website (which was up-to-date as of 2-29-12 with 344 journals.) The first lists I made were Poetry Book Contests with Spring & Summer DeadlinesPoetry Book Contests with Fall & Winter Deadlines (scroll down), and Poetry Chapbook Contests (scroll down).

Now, it’s time to start a new list, and I’ll keep it here and I’ll update it as I can. Currently, these are the only ones I remember or that other kind people have reminded me of. The list will grow, and if you know of any open readings, please note them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. I’m trying to limit this list to free readings, but I’ve listed a few that charge a reading fee.

Press with Open Reading for Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts

All the Time Open Readings (last checked and updated 7-16-17)

January Open Readings
February Open Readings
March Open Readings
April Open Readings (last checked and updated 4-2-18)
May Open Readings
June Open Readings (last checked and updated 6-5-18)
July Open Readings (last checked and updated 7-16-17)
August Open Reading (last checked and updated 8-1-17)
September Open Readings (Last checked 9-1-17)
  • Arktoi Books (lesbian poets) (At the moment, Arktoi is not accepting submissions.)
  • Bat Cat Press (“We welcome the submission of complete manuscripts throughout the year. We read in the fall (September-December) and typically send out accept/decline letters in December and January.”)
  • Cherry Castle Publishing (“Our submission period is currently closed.”)
  • McSweeney’s Books (“The McSweeney’s Poetry Series is taking a temporary hiatus from accepting submissions. We hope to open things up again before too long.”) Checked 9-1-17.
  • Sidebrow Books (Through October 31, 2017. “In lieu of a reading fee, we are asking each of you to kindly support our press and authors by buying the book of your choice from our catalog in conjunction with this reading period.”)
  • Tarpaulin Sky Press (“Will we open for unsolicited submissions again, anytime soon? Most likely. But we’re not sure when.”)
  • University of Pittsburgh Press (Pitt Poetry Series. For poets who have previously published a poetry book.)
  • Willow Books (2017. $25.)
October Open Readings (Last updated 10-2-18)
November Open Readings (Last updated 11-14-18)
  • Arktori Books (Lesbian poets. At the moment, Arktoi is not accepting submissions. Check back for changes.”)
  • Bat Cat Press (“We welcome the submission of complete manuscripts throughout the year. We read in the fall (September-December) and typically send out accept/decline letters in December and January.”)
  • Black Lawrence Press
  • Mason Jar Press ($4 submission fee. Presently no calls.)
  • McSweeney’s Books (“The McSweeney’s Poetry Series is taking a temporary hiatus from accepting submissions. We hope to open things up again before too long.”) Checked 6-1-17.
  • Tavern Books: The Wrolstad Contemporary Series ($15 reading fee. “The Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series is only open to female poets aged 40 years or younger. Entrants must be US citizens.”)
  • Unicorn Press (April 1 – June 30 and October 1-December 31.)
  • WordTech Communications (Includes the following imprints Cherry Grove Collections, CW Books, David Robert Books, Turning Point, Word Press, and WordTech Editions.)
December Open Readings
  • Bat Cat Press (“We welcome the submission of complete manuscripts throughout the year. We read in the fall (September-December) and typically send out accept/decline letters in December and January.”)
  • Brick Road Poetry Press (75-100 pages. December 1 – January 15.)
  • Future Poem Books (December 1 through January 15.)
  • H_NGM_N BKS (with $10 reading fee)
  • Mason Jar Press ($4 submission fee)
  • Tavern Books: The Wrolstad Contemporary Series ($25 reading fee. “The Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series is only open to female poets aged 40 years or younger. Entrants must be US citizens.”)
  • Tinderbox Editions (December 1-7 fee-free open reading period. December 8 – January 30 $22 donation period.)
  • Unicorn Press (April 1 – June 30 and October 1-December 31.)
  • WordTech Communications (Includes the following imprints Cherry Grove Collections, CW Books, David Robert Books, Turning Point, Word Press, and WordTech Editions. Closes December 15.)


More to come. 
Ultimate update: 4-29-30: Added Skull + Wind Press to Open All the Time Readings
Penultimate update: 4-4-19: Added Pandhandler Books to February, March, and April.
Antepenultimate update: 1-19-19: Added Galileo Books to January, February, and March
Preantepenultimate update: 11-20-18: Added SurVision Books to January


157 presses that print paperback and/or hardcover poetry books.//

Djelloul Marbrook’s Brushstrokes and glances

A version of this may appear in Redactions: Poetry & Poetics issue 14.

Giorgio Morandi Still Life with Bread and Fruit 1919The other day I was in an art gallery where I was going to host True and Untrue Stories – a reading with Anne Panning and Sarah Cedeno. While I was waiting for the readers and audience to arrive, a man came into the gallery with a bag of freshly baked, homemade loaves of bread. He told me the story of how over the last 30 years he had given away over 16,000 loaves of bread that he had made, and I was the 16,001st person to receive a loaf. This is an incredible, sustained act of generosity. The next morning I enjoyed the cinnamon swirl loaf of bread he gave me. It was delicious toasted and needed no butter.

Brushstrokes and glancesDjelloul Marbrook’s Brushstrokes and glances (Deerbrook Editions, 2010) is like that man with his bag of freshly made bread. And each poem in the collection is like each loaf of bread – a gift.

In fact, Brushstrokes and glances is like an art museum, especially in the first half of the book, “A jar of marsala.” Each poem in the first half is about a specific piece of art or artist and his mother, who was also an artist. I would like to see each of these poems in the museum hanging next to the artwork it is referencing. The poems, while ekphrastic poems, aren’t explications of the artwork, fortunately, but rather the poem is the artwork’s dance partner.


What Cézanne leaves unsaid
gives his colors voice –
you cannot spell this danse
of reticence and sense
with the letter c because
it shuts a door in English
the French would leave ajar.

The poems tend to be much more visual than this, but this shows Marbrook’s wit, which often comes through.

BasquiatThe poems in the first part are a reflection or a response to the artwork, or sometimes the artwork is just a trigger for the poem. Sometimes I become so involved in the poem, especially the longer poems like “Basquiat” and “Manhattan reef,” that I enter a type of dream world where there is no text and only images. In fact, while reading, my girlfriend asked me a question. I was so far gone in the book that I responded to her, “What reality am I in?” I was gone in a good way. In fact, that experience was exactly what his poem “Picasso’s bull” asks for.

Picasso’s bull
(Museum of Modern Art, Christmas 2005)

We need a museum to show us
we can unbind our captive lives
as Pablo makes a bull’s cock a loop,

the unbroken line of a steady hand
whispering to the self-important din,
Must your lives be knots and daubs?

Picasso's Bull

The second half of the book, “Accordion of worlds,” is a bit different. The tone and style of the poems are similar enough to the poems in “A jar of marsala,” but the direction of the poems’ perceptions are outward instead of inward to an artwork or an artist. Sometimes the poem even looks outward to time, like this gem:

Among broken statues

When the future started I must have missed it.
Just as well, it has never been as urgent
as the past, which I have no desire to undo
but a grand compulsion to understand.

I know the point at which the future starts.
I drown it every moment of the day
in the torrent of my intuitions, drown it
with ritual satisfaction, perhaps even glee.

I have no business venturing into it
and I can tell it doesn’t particularly want me.
Why would it, half-baked and ignorant
as I am? I leave it to the criminally insane.

The first stanza’s idea turned everything around for me. I thought the future was filled with urgency, but Marbrook is right. It’s the past that’s urgent. The past that’s always slipping away and that we look back on trying to quickly understand what the hell just happened, and often we are quickly trying to undo it. We are trying to quickly repair the broken statues. Plus, it’s only the criminally insane who are plotting, tapping their fingers, mulling, and trying to gain some control over something, and they can’t wait for that moment to arrive. Only they impose an urgency, like a usurer waiting for the next uptick in a stock price or an interest rate (the usurer part is mine and not Marbrook’s).

The Frick

The Frick

Back to the second half of the book, which also takes on a new trajectory – Marbrook being freer. He’s not confined to the artwork anymore. The artwork was a tether on Marbrook’s imagination, though a very long tether, indeed. But in the second-half poems, the poems in “”Accordion of worlds,” his wandering abilities fully emerge. I think these lines from “By the pool of The Frick” best explain:

the finest of our imaginings
is that what we imagine is possible.

Manhattan ReefThe poems in the first half, “A jar of marsala,” are Marbrook’s responses to others imaginings. The poems in the second half, “Accordion of worlds,” are his own imaginings. And now, all of the sudden, I fully comprehend his long poem “Manhattan reef.” It begins with a museum curator speaking, which is like Marbrook’s poems in “A jar of marsala.” ShabtisThis speaker speaks for about a page, and then the critic has a turn for another page. I feel like the critic, and maybe you as a reader will, too. The third speaker is the paintings, and this is like Marbrook’s poems in “Accordion of worlds.” Finally, the last speaker in “Manhattan reef” is mortality. Mortality is the segue from the first section’s poems to the second section’s poems. And mortality underscores every word in this collection, and in the second half there may be a double underscore with the extra underscore coming from his deceased mother.

In this collection, you will learn to “see between a blink and a sob,” between artist and art, and between Brushstrokes and glances.






And now a word about the book. This book is well put together. It feels good in the hands. I like its heft and texture. I like the how the typeface for the poems’ titles are Futura, a sans-serif typeface, and how the typeface for the poems is Fairfield (or a reasonable facsimile), a serif typeface. I think that little design lends to the dichotomy of the book. I would say the Futura relates to the poems in the first section, sans Marbrook (more about the paintings and less of him), and the Fairfield relates to the poems of the second section with Marbrook actively involved. The layout of the pages is also classic in style: “The ideal of the combined inner margins or gutters equal to the outer margin for instance is similar to the head margin being half of the foot margin.” That’s from the publisher’s blog entry about layout and design, which you can read here: Notes on book design, sacred geometry; good sources.

This is a good book inside and out.






Just for fun, here are some links to some other artists and artwork mentioned in the first section, “A jar of marsala.”

“We are all Van Gogh” (page 8):

“Earthworks magus (Robert Smithson, 1938-1973)” (page 9):

“Garden in Sochi, 1943” (page 10):

“Giorgio Morandi (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)” (page 11):{5D5AFA86-A086-4E14-A54B-E0FD91607074}

“A government like Caravaggio” (page 12):

“Jeanne Hébuterne” (page 13):,16,AR.html

“Adeline Compton” (page 14):

“Artemisia Cavelli” (pages 15-16):[tt_news]=221&tx_ttnews[backPid]=517&cHash=8d36c08416

“Goya in iPodia” (pages 17-18):

“Underside of leaves” (page 19):

“Cézanne” (page 20):

“Basquiat” (pages 21-23):

“Georges Seurat (Studies for A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte)” (page 24):

“Francisco de Zurbarán (The Metropolitan Museum, 2008)” (page 25)

“Lucian Freud and my mother (Etchings, Museum of Modern Art, February 2008)” (page 26):

“Pallas Athena” (page 30):

“I saw Mona Lisa once” (page 32):

“Picasso’s bull” (page 33):

“Pierre Bonnard’s late interiors” (page 34):

“Manhattan reef” (pages 35-40):

“Never is (Han van Meegeren, 1889-1947, art forger)” (page 41):


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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