On November 15th, North of Oxford will present the poetry of:
Kristina Krumova, Seneca Basoalto, Ian C. Smith and Michael Smith
On November 15th, North of Oxford will present the poetry of:
Kristina Krumova, Seneca Basoalto, Ian C. Smith and Michael Smith
By Lynette Esposito
Rustin Larson’s poetry volume, Pavement, is more than slim with only 14 poems but it is also more than powerful. When I read the last poem on page 33, I wanted more; it can’t be over already. I was left on the pavement struggling, visualizing and wishing I was not stuck in “nowhere.” Larson’s tight focus, innovative literary technique, and clearly defined imagery lead the reader down his many forms of pavement.
Larson provides a tight focus on the image of pavement in each of his fourteen poems as well as entitling this tome Pavement. Each poem is entitled Pavement with a number after it going from Pavement 1 to Pavement 14. This almost over focus works well here as the starkness of the multiple references and suggestions are revealed. In Pavement 1, the narrator observes a man in a bathrobe smelling of urine coming into the health shop
where he has gone for a cup of barley soup. The poetic lines are unevenly set up in length and indention which I like in the flow of this one-stanza poem. The suggestion of a health shop where one can pay to be healthy but turns someone obviously unhealthy and desperate out to the pavement serves as irony at its best especially when the clerk goes to wash her hands after touching his bathrobe.
In creating his poems, Larson uses standard literary techniques and images in innovative ways. Diane Frank, author of Canon for Bears and Ponderosa Pines comments …
Pavement breaks into new territory. Larson, for example, says in Pavement 5, The Pallbearer has a rat’s tongue. So many suggestions of what this means almost assail the reader’s imagination and visualizations of funerals he/she has attended. Just like Larson says in Pavement 4, Things we play with at home and mentions matches. The settings of funerals and home are places the reader has been and felt secure in but the images take the readers out of that “comfort” zone. While Larson uses standard stanza formats, he fiddles successfully with line length and spacing to allow his meaning and images to form a visual of stepping and sidestepping on the underlying pavement.
Another example of Larson’s use of innovative imaging is In Pavement 13. Larson says Part of you drinks sunlight. This is a life story of a Norfolk Pine with a dream and hope about life. The metaphor extends beyond the seedling to anyone who has wanted to amount to something with the exception of being an overworked accountant.
All I can say is I loved this book and I am thirsty after reading it. I want more.
Rustin Larson is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in writing. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review and others. He is the author of Wine-Dark House (Blue-Light Press 2009) and Crazy Star (selected for the Loess Hills Book Poetry Series in 2005. He has also won many prizes for his work.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Pavement-Rustin-Larson/dp/1421837781
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University. Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences. She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.
By Charles Rammelkamp
The title poem of Charles Harper Webb’s new collection is an apt metaphor for his poetic vision. “When I lean to my right, left arm stretched / over my head…” the poems begins: all sorts of fresh angles and relationships appear. “All cars / in the condo parking lot incline.” What else? “All waves / tilt as they roar toward shore….” Charles Harper Webb looks at the world from a unique perspective, reminding us of Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” With refreshing, original metaphors and vivid language, Webb tilts our vision as well. And his poems are often just so funny!
Take the poem, “Rain Stick,” sprung from the contemplation of one of those long hollow tubes filled with pebbles or beans, pins arranged in the inside of the tube so that when you upend it, it sounds like rain, and “you feel released,
And you thought it was just a stocking stuffer or a tchotchke! So many of the poems in Sidebend World – and throughout Webb ‘s work generally – spring from these casual observations of mundane objects we might normally overlook – “Dominion of Blue” about the Galapagan booby made famous by Charles Darwin; “Box of Butterflies” with its curious observations (“Monarch: orange and black Majesty to which I bowed, seeing you / flap, frantic, on my killing jar’s drenched throne.”); “Bait Ball,” a poem shaped like an ornament on the page, “Not really round, but / suitable for bouncing.” He notes later in the poem: “London, to the / Luftwaffe, was a bait ball.” “The Woman on the Cover of Glamour Magazine” “so full of tigress-in-bed- / and tyrant-in-the-boardroom.”
Of course, “monsters” and “heroes” both get a slightly different look, too, in Webb’s sidebend world. In “Here Be Monsters,” he dismisses Cave Bear, Saber Tooth, Scylla, Charybdis, Dracula. “Now monster means the flippered child, / the protoplasmic blob.” “Monster’s // a murderer with bulging, jailhouse arms. / A job-search agency. An energy drink.” Monster is the disfigured prom queen burned up in an accident with a drunk driver, the one “every boy wanted, just last year / to kiss.” The poem, “You Don’t Want to Meet the Ai-Uru” takes another sideways look at a monster, and “Fear Factor,” a satire on Reality TV, similarly describes a rescue gone wrong, despite the hero’s “class-president grin.”
Which indeed takes us to heroes. In “Meanwhile, back on Mt Olympus…” we get Webb’s amusing take on Achilles and the limping god Hephaestus who makes his shield. In Webb’s sidebend world they seem like ordinary people, if only because he elevates us all to the status of “hero.” “Hero Food” riffs on an instruction from Food Styling for Photographers that is its epigraph. For although we need heroes more than the Greeks did, what we get is “Kenny Carrot leading the Allied Vegetables / against the merciless axis of Tooth Decay,” as Webb’s imagination takes us laughing all the way through a Homeric epic of the staging of a photoshoot for canned corn. (Take “canned corn” in both senses!)
But he can also be empathetic in his sardonic way, displaying a real tenderness for his son. In “Emergency” we see him and his wife overcome with despair as they have visions of the boy’s life “leaking away” to some mysterious disease. “Barred / from the spinal test for meningitis – “Can’t have fathers / passing out!” – I roam the halls, dodging other dads’ dead eyes.” In “Nice Hat” he watches his son trying to master skateboarding, knowing the boy is “too thought-bound ever // to dissolve into pure speed. The jabs of “I might / fall,” “I’ll look bad,” “It’ll hurt,” punch / through his guard, bloodying his nose….” Yet he protects his son from the “mohawked thug” who calls him “Dickweed.” How protective we are when we see our loved ones are so vulnerable!
The best of Webb’s poems are the ones like “A Far Cry from Eli Whitney” and “Down the Bayou” that start us out in one place but by the time they’re over have taken us someplace totally unexpected. ”Hey, The Sopranos / are on TV!” he writes in “Down the Bayou.” “Five minutes in I’m calling guys // “Frankie the Frog” and “Lenny Lasagna,” / swigging vino, yelling “Fugedabout it”…” and only a stanza later, having caught a snatch of “She Loves You” on the stereo, he’s “tromping / through cold Liverpool rain, winking at birds, / all of whom I’ve shagged, and now call Luv.”
Sidebend World is Charles Harper Webb’s twelfth collection of poetry. Any of them will take you inside, outside, sideways down with, as one critic puts it: “compassionate intelligence and an abiding wonder at the beautiful strangeness of the world.” Amen.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and Reviews Editor for Adirondack Review. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist(Apprentice House) and a chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts ( Main Street Rag Press). Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from Future Cycle Press.
By g emil reutter
In this collection of short stories and flash fiction, Flick, displays her unique ability for seamless transition from urban to rural to suburban, often in the same story. Her use of metaphor and stunning imagery draws the reader into each story and unlike many collections of short fiction and flash fiction. This collection is like a fine quilt layered in a complex weave of unpredictable outcomes and character development.
She brings us Lenny the Suit Man who sells to millennials out of van, yet they are fine suits and his customers seek advice from the suit man. Flick tells us of the nickname, Sweetie Pie, in a flash fiction piece about infidelity that a woman bestows on her man when he finds an unknown sock in the his bed.
Flick writes in Birds in Relation to Other Things:
I remain in this small room. Her, it’s always dusty twilight. Our window pane is loose and cracked. It rattles with the breeze.
I talk softly into a coal-black phone after it has run twice. I listen to my voice. Reassuring. Reassuring. I put down the receiver.
You’ve gotten into an old car, a car in which you’re comfortable. You glance in the rearview mirror and drink juice from a bottle.
The birds have come to know me well. They trust me. They perch on my lamp, chair and ashtray. They are small and move quietly around my soiled clothes and hair, my dirty fingernails.
She writes of the polyester and plastic women of Las Vegas. And this from Pittsburgh Women:
When it’s dark, the women walk outside. They hear the clank of machines, the rattle of trains, the breeze tapping its way through every single tree. The women inhale with their hands on hips: they strike wooden matches to hold the flame to the fuses of fireworks, which pop and sizzle as they dart up into the night sky.
The story, Open and Shut, is about a young woman who moves from San Francisco to Nebraska. Flick in this defining story of the collection transitions from the urban to rural, from man to man, hipster to cowboy in such a seamless manner that the story flows like an uninterrupted breeze just above the stormy, gritty realism.
In this relationship driven collection she writes in the story, Snowed In:
So when he calls, leaving a message about forgotten coffee, he is already a thing of the past. The coffee is in the past—our morning, our voices, our life, it is back there in a different time. This time, on the other side, has little room for details.
In the story, Ashes, Flick displays her attention to detail and avoidance of cliché as in this passage from the story:
Up ahead, she sees red-black-and-flannel, someone in jeans walking along. Uncommon this early. Jocelyn has been studying the mosses and has strayed from the trail to climb a large rock with frilly, lacy green lining its top and side. Like carpet. She daydream about moving into the forest. Building a house that has trees soaring up through it and real moss carpet to dig her toes into.
These images as in all of Flick’s stories are fresh and relatable to the reader.
You can find the book here: https://www.autumnhouse.org/books/thank-your-lucky-stars/
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
You can find the book here: https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/what-narcissism-means-me
Stephen Page is the Author of The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, and A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University, and an MFA from Bennington College. He also attended Broward College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He loves his wife, reading, travel, family, and friends.
By g emil reutter
I have known for some time by reading the works of Rob Cook that spirits, visions may haunt him. Or maybe not. Just maybe Cook views life a bit differently than most. Unlike most, his imagination pours forth in imagery and character driven prose that has given birth to his latest effort, The Charnel House on Joyce Kilmer Avenue. It is a slim 44 page offering that at first will leave you with the feeling, what the hell is going on here? Yet as one reads on the creative genius that is Rob Cook spills out upon page after page.
He introduces us to the main character, a college student, the narrator, who enters his new residence with books buried in his knapsack, hears a phone ring the way it is supposed to, hears the television telling stories the way it is trusted to tell those stories and who sees a smile hurry across the ceiling. His roommates come and go and then there are none except for the dead children in the dining room that does not have a table or chairs. In fact, when he is left alone there is no furniture at all. The narrator is mostly surrounded by silence and loneliness, one roommate sits in silence and never speaks. There is the girlfriend who lives in another city yet is never seen or heard. A college professor of self-importance who has lost his chin and a stalker who no one would understand stalking the narrator. Struggling with acne the narrator battles with hard lump surrounded by blackheads, a zit with “monstrous potential”.
There is Carl the roommate with the big boots who clumps up and down the stairs. Who picks the clumps of the narrator’s hair from the shower drain and deposits them by his toothbrush. And then there is this:
The toilet, clear as it was, smelled like the insides of a poet who wasted his life listening for the soundless snowfall of the day’s mail drifting through the door’s one crack of hope.
When asked what he does, the narrator claims to be a failed musician, or a student for he believes if he says he is a poet as a grown man he will not be fondly looked upon. There is Lincoln on the five dollar bill, gaunt and frowning at the narrator before Lincoln turns away.
The last thing Carl says is: Good luck with those friends of yours. There are many in the home without furniture at The Charnel House on Joyce Kilmer Avenue.
You can find the book here: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9780998187273/the-charnel-house-on-joyce-kilmer-avenue.aspx
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
PLEASURES STRANGE AND SIMPLE
By Ray Greenblatt
We find poetry in the damnedest places. Sometimes in a TV ad; perhaps a bit of doggerel, but fresh in its context. Sometimes a phrase leaping from a letter we have written; surprising ourselves with this unconscious creativity. William Sansom (1912-1976) was primarily a fiction writer, penning articles probably for monetary supplement in numerous periodicals. However, this essay form reveals a deep poetic vein in his writing. His novels have fallen out of favor, but this collection of prose should be revisited.
Pleasures Strange and Simple covers a very broad gamut of topics. Sansom writes about: Henri Rousseau (Sansom also was a painter), nudism, restaurants, pets (from a glow-worm to a tarantula), tight-rope walkers, faces, Poe, dancing (Sansom was a jazz pianist), etc. Let us examine some of these twenty-three topics.
FROM ST. PETERSBURG TO COPENHAGEN BY TUNNEL
Sansom explores a London train station, although the title of this essay is cryptic. He explains that Russian horses were trained for the World’s Fair near one of the station tunnels; near another tunnel stood a house owned by the King of Denmark, thus the names for the areas stuck. Here are the tracks: “Iron poles like the standards of ancient battles announce speed limits with mysterious metal numerals. Signals flap like tired high-stepping birds. Disc-signs dot the line like a scarlet fungus growth. Black engines glide like skaters on mysterious errands obliquely over a great iron-meshed rink. On wet days these move through low-pressed clouds of their own smoke and steam with the purposeless going and coming, the sense of haunted quest, of doomed despondent phantoms.” (45)
In that passage alone we can observe so many poetic qualities: varied rhythms (fitting for an oncoming train), series, alliteration, rhyme, and generally quite vivid word usage. Here we are inside a tunnel: “Half-way along the flint-track the rail raises its voice to remark, in dull embery lights, that no one should shunt past that point. At the needle-point ends of the tunnel, light still shows—but dull gold light, or light of fiery red, as the faraway daylight refracts at mid-day a strange sunset of distant smokes and steams.” (43)
In a tunnel recess Sansom watches: “Looking out from them the great iron engine pounding down seems more animated than usual, smoke and fire-glow give it life, it looks a little mad like a monstrous runaway horse or some vast and lively piece of furniture seen by a child in a dream. At a busy time of day a man can be trapped for as long as an hour or more in such safety vents with traffic continually passing and belching the blackening, sickening, throttling smoke.” (44) Again his metaphors are striking and his use of triplets powerful. He can, likewise, relate to a child’s view of the world.
IN THE MIDST OF LIFE
Sansom contends that many people think life a touch boring, but accidents can befall a person at any time to overturn such complacency. He examines some who are already nervous about life: “Those who can never enter a lift unless their hearts, creaking like the tender cables that raise them, drop to their boots.” (58) But what about the following episodes: “Watching the light make a chandelier of sun-flashed icicles along the eaves, rejoicing in this new warmth and the great benison of the thaw. But you might not notice the long, heavy and sharply-pointed bull-icicle hanging like a glass dagger several storeys exactly above your own head.” (59)
We can observe Sansom’s lightness and ironic humor in this essay. Here is another possible mishap concerning a stack of barrels: ”A whisper of a lurch, a shifting creak, the dribble of a roll that informs those packed against it and stacked above. And then, as if a nervous message has shivered through the flanks of the herd, as if an instinctual urge for migration has galvanised the great colloquy—all the huge, heavy, headless mass of wood comes rolling down and onwards with the vertigo of a mighty, lumbering, thundering tidal wave.” (60) His choice of “sound” words (onomatopoeia) add to the emotion.
The tongue-in-cheek humor continues in this essay. First about a moth and a flame: “Its black eyes gazed fervently into the yellow fire above. It stared up at the yellow fire that had already burned off its foremost antennas with black eyes fixed in deep fanatical understanding. Slender whitish legs clasped the black wick, like hands wrung in prayer. And its wings! Its wings flowed downwards like a knight’s mantle, clasped high, spreading bravely over the armour of its body down to the platform of pale candle grease.” (173) A bit gruesome but very minute observation.
Now a beetle: “Beneath lay a rock pool. A new world of water, alien to the beetle, where strange drowned hairs waved, where shells slept, where perhaps the only movement was a slight bubbling of sand as a limpet thrust out its blind, toeless foot and dragged itself one, only one, pace forward. The beetle paused above this new world. Its feelers waved at the gleaming water. It tasted fresh enchantments, it savoured the grand limitless vista of new ground, new life, horizonless possibilities, space.” (175)
Notice the effectiveness of personification where the insect seems to display the sensibilities of a human. Finally a fly in a bathtub: “What a huge world confronted this little black pegasus in motor goggles! What vast tracks of smooth enamel, what complexities of mountain and valley lay bare to its exploring eye. What irregular pipe strata, what phenomena of taps and hooks, what chains and bowls and baskets and pipes, pipes, pipes—each a giant’s causeway for the small inquisitive visitor.” (177) As in a ballad the repetition builds the tension.
TO SOUTHEND ON AN EAGLE
In summer a Londoner takes a boat, the Eagle, down the Thames River for a day at the shore in Southend. “Warehouses and factories slipped backwards by. The sundecks were packed with a perplexity of chairs, now claimed with battling ardour and set out in rows facing the water-view.” (180) “Slipped backwards by” is unique phrasing that catches the ear as well as eye.
As time went on: “To the wide open sunlight that on this day shone hot through thin-veiled cloud, putting a curious grey sparkle on the water, grey-gilding everything, giving an air of misted dream to what on that broad river was in reality a strange industrial water-idyll.” (181)
At Southend entertainment of all sorts awaits: “The gentle Ferris Wheel, distorting mirrors and dark places wild with winds and skeletons. Or a deckchair on the beach. Or the beach without a deckchair. Or a stalk round the stalls and stands and the sea-food sellers’ and the ice-creameries and those most magical booths that sell vast globes of electric pink sugar floss.” (184) Again the use of “and” stresses the plethora of delights.
THROUGH A GLASS LIGHTLY
Sansom recalls the mood glass set for him at an early age: “Grey light, grey and bright but never precisely clear, never exactly alive—as though the finest pale veil has been drawn across the eyes, as though indeed one is for a moment standing within the dead time of the past itself. And this becomes doubly mysterious—for this light was itself the past’s own light, our present illusion was then its actuality, this is no dust of bones; what is was.” (51)
Glass conditioned the light in London: “In such avenues of dolorous bluish glass it seemed to rain the whole year round. In the sunniest days an underwater gloom persisted. Leaving the front-door one stood for a moment startled—questioning the polished mosaic path for a bloom of moisture, the laurels for a slow dripping, the cast-iron tracery above for a glimpse of dark rainclouds in a sky that proved itself to be blue, almost, as the jealous panes that guarded it.” (53)
Many glass conservatories were erected: “Then bellying, jellying from back or side came the Conservatory. A soundless, breathless wilderness of pots and palms and wicker chairs. Sometimes a tinted frieze decorated the upper windows—red or yellow or purple as the hind-window of a tram. Sometimes the ironwork curled in a tasteful floral design from each supporting pillar.” (54)
Arcades soon appeared: “Arcades are one of the thoroughly useful things that also give pleasure. But why pleasure? It is very mysterious. Is it the sense that this is private property, a sense of pleasant intrusion? Or is it an animal, or even a womby, instinct for enclosure—the more exquisite for a kind of daylight filtering through, the hunter’s day and the safety of the lair at one and the same time?” (56) Not only does Sansom philosophize but he also shares English cultural history.
MY FIRST FIRE – FROM A FIREMAN’S JOURNAL
William Sansom became a fireman in London during World War Two; thus, he gives more space to these adventures in this collection of essays. Their firehouse is so proud to get a new fire engine: “So on that afternoon instantly all such men raced for their scrim and brasso, and then for an hour the great lady could hardly be seen for the massing of elbows—boney elbows, dimpled elbows, elbows high and short fat elbows, greased elbows all pistoning up and down like the limbs of worker-ants pushing and tugging at an enormous and bemused queen.” (187)
He gets inside the engine: “At any hour of the day you could—if you dared—raise her bonnet and see the bristles of your beard in the gleaming copper engine pipes. That petrol-engine became a masterpiece of artisan artcraft—gay as a Birmingham barge. Its bulk was blackleaded to a pewter brilliance, its little pipes of copper and brass polished until they ran like sparks. Its fan was lacquered scarlet, and everywhere there had been painted little bands of garden-roller green.” (187)
This is how a fire looks: “The coppery-red reflection of fire in the sky and on every building everywhere. This colour has the same enervating constancy as the smell of a fire. This too is solid, unwavering. After several hours it nauseates the eyes. It is live colour, the colour of a living element, it cannot grow dim and neutral with familiarity. It glares and sickens all the time. Every window, every brick, every tile, every block of stone, reflects this vivid colour force. There is just the coppery-red and the black shadows and no other colour.” (191)
In the previous paragraph he had hinted at the odor of fire: “A hundred other stores and factories each cook the firemen their own sweet dishes . . . a sugar factory—acres of boiling sweet molasses . . . a paint factory—and the poisonous fumes of blistered chemicals . . . a rubber depository . . . a toffee warehouse.” (193)
The look of a burning house: “It was a blue, moonlit night and the flames blazed orange. The house stood dark and detached in its own garden of trees and shrubbery walls. It was all dark up to the top two floors and there the bright fire suddenly began. Windows sprang to life. And above, through broken rafters, the flames curled out nakedly into the night. A hail of sparks and small embers eddied round the chimneys and false turrets. The house looked like a miniature castle on fire, a pyrotechnic display piece, the kind of fire you would find drawn in a children’s fairy book.” (193)
He looks for his fellow firemen in the house; when he glances them it resembles a tableau painting: “Then I saw them. The fireglow from the room flickered over their silver buttons and over the water on their faces and helmets and leggings. Their faces were black, like sweeps’ faces, with white eye-rings and pink rings round their mouths. They were all clustered round the nozzle of the hose, leaning forward against the recoil of water pressure, heads bent down to protect their faces from the singeing heat, swaying from side to side as they swept the room with a thundering broom of white water.” (197) A suitable way, I think, to end a discussion by a writer who was also an artist.
Let us hope that William Sansom’s novels will be rediscovered in the near future. During his lifetime he never published even one book of poetry!
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Pleasures-Strange-Simple-Sansom-William/dp/B0000CIGGJ
Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His book reviews have been published by a variety of periodicals: BookMark Quarterly, Joseph Conrad Today, English Journal, the Dylan Thomas Society, and the John Updike Society. His new book of poetry, Nocturne & Aubades, is newly available from Parnilis Press, 2018.