Posts Tagged ‘lyrical poems

09
Jan
13

Melissa Kwasny’s Thistle (2006)

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 6/7, which was published circa mid-2006.

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Melissa Kwasny's – ThistleMelissa Kwasny’s Thistle (Lost Horse Press) opens with the Emily Dickinson quote, “The career of flowers differs from ours only in audibleness.” The quote provides a good frame for this collection of poems, for in Thistle, Kwasny is trying to hear the flowers, plants, & herbs by visually observing them, &, at times, by making associations to them through her own life. That is, she is projecting her emotions & life onto the personality of the vegetation & hoping that by comparison & by talking to the plant, she will acquire a metaphysical hearing or a hearing of the plant through meditation.

   The listening I do in winter is simple.
   I watch you like a stranger. I watch me.
                                              (“Cattails”)

These poems, at times, almost seem like they are a session of psychological therapy, where the plants acts as a psychologist, but that is only something I think about in reflection of the book.

While Kwasny often hears the plants through projection (& sometimes through smell, “a fume to force the bud of my heart”), the reader will hear each plant’s voice talk through the lyrical poems’ tones & rhythms. Each poem is for one specific plant, herb, or flower, & each poem has musical subtleties that reflect the plant’s voice, & Thistle is a bouquet of plants speaking poems.//

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Kwasny, Melissa. Thistle. Sandpoint, ID: Lost Horse Press, 2006.//

02
Jan
13

Christopher Howell Light’s Ladder (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.

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Christopher Howell's – Light's LadderChristopher Howell is probably the most gifted poet in America who, unfortunately, is not receiving the proper attention he deserves. He tends to write magnificent lyrical poems, but Light’s Ladder (University of Washington Press) is filled with narrative poems, & they are tremendous. Two of the poems in the collection—“A Party on the Way to Rome” & “He Writes to the Soul” — won Pushcart Prizes, but I think there should have been more winners, such as: “King of Butterflies,” which is a wonderful journey into an imaginary, historical moment but with a tone of believability as if the actions occurred in a physical reality; & “Sometimes at the Braille Calliope,” which begins:

   Sometimes, when I wake at the braille calliope,
   all my fingers stranger than the moon,
   I try to halt the dream that woke me, leaving,
   just to ask if it knows how long I waited,
   watching it sleep inside my sleep, to take hold
   its hand and quit my grieving.

Many of Howell’s poems work in the soft-surreal, in absurd moments, or with the tone of absurdity such as “History,” which is one of the poems that is pushed forward by tight harmonies & the narrative. “History” begins:

   At Agincourt King Henry said, “First
   bastard who runs gets his jewels
   on a plate,” or words to that effect.

A few lines later we encounter “several men” who “farted,” & even this is successful. The poem continues to dance between, or weave, the surreally hilarious & the sincerely serious. The voice is somber, but it is the tone that creates much of the effects. In fact, Howell’s might just be a master with tone, as his voice rarely wavers from the somber. The somberness allows for both the serious & playful, or the tender as in “Story Time,” & there is always the masterful poetry.//

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Howell, Christopher. Light’s Ladder. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004.//

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For another post about a Chirstopher Howell poem, see https://thelinebreak.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/on-christopher-howells-listen-line-breaks-and-harmonies/.

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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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