Author: North of Oxford

A journal of book reviews, commentary, essays and poetry.

The Child Who… by Maria Keane

ant trail 2
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The Child Who…
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I am the child who smells earth after rain,
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who watches trails of ants that go nowhere,
who plucks the air just after
the monarch leaves its milkweed.
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Who kneels in moist wells
of fern below
a ceiling of leaves
beneath a bruising sky.
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Tangled in a thin layer of dust
I watch the falcon glide
above the mottled hologram of earth.
I dig small hollows in the shadow of the oak
that cover the limp green garden snake.
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The Child Who…
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I am at the velvet edge of exploration.
I listen to beats beneath the earth
separating groves of blood roses.
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My garden dance
becomes redundant.
I look beyond a patch of grass with stringy roots.
where uncertainties never pierce the spine.
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The sun is winking between the clouds.
I shrug off origami cranes attempting flight.
                                          Thin promises  of paper,  my blueprint.
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keane
Maria Keane, visual artist and published poet, served as Professor of Fine Arts at Wilmington University, New Castle Delaware from 1984-2009.  Her book of poetry, Being There, is being published in October, 2018 by Page Publishing, N.Y.  She was awarded a Professional Fellowship in Works on Paper in 1997.)
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The Teacher by Joan McNerney

quarry
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The Teacher
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Had hoped some would leave,
rise above dirty factory gates
past plumes of smoke spewing
from the cement plant.
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Occasionally when discussing
great American novels, the walls
shook. Ravines were being blasted
for more rocks to crush into powder.
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She wished they would not become
clerks for soul-less chain stores or
cooks in fast food joints where
smells of burning grease lingered.
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What was the use of teaching literature
and poetry to these teens who would
soon grow listless?  Their spirits ground
down like stones in the quarry.
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Vivitar
Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title is Having Lunch With the Sky.

Dry Spell by Ann Christine Tabaka

mud
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Dry Spell
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Fissured mud,
dry, hard, gray.
So many interlacing
fingers reaching out
in every direction,
crumble to the touch.
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Arid summer,
sucking the breath from life.
Languishing thirst.
Wilted flora bow their heads.
Fallen warriors lack resilience
to withstand the furnace blast.
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Parched earth,
crying out for sustenance.
No clouds in sight.
Not a drop of compassion
to be found.
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Cruel season of drought,
unexpected curse.
Farmers pass their hats
and lay low,
hands folded in prayer.
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Rotted fruit.
Tiny shrunken globes of despair.
Shrunken heads
hang limp and forlorn
upon dying hosts.
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Time stands still.
Torrid air strangles all
within its grasp.
I exhale the dragon
from my lungs.
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Scorched clay drifts from my hand,
dispersed into the atmosphere.
Well of hope, dry as dust.
Foreign to some years,
a vengeance in others.
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All promise lost,
walking away
Then…
faces turn upward
in disbelief,
as forgiveness rains from the sky
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ann
Ann Christine Tabaka has been published at:  Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Synchronized Chaos, Pangolin Review, Trigger Fish Critical Review, Foliate Oak Review, Better Than Starbucks!, Mused, The Write Launch, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, and Fourth & Sycamore. She lives with her husband in Delaware, USA.
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2 poems by Len Krisak

shiva
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Mourner’s Candle
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The tall glass cylinder wears David’s star,
The corpse’s body thought of as a wick.
(A flame stands for the soul). Too weak to char
The flesh, this Hebrew fire flaps at Heaven,
Reminding us that shiva translates seven.
As it burns, the days are passing quick.
And yet it seems too little and too late
For what its fire would commemorate.
For one brief week, subsiding inch-by-inch,
The timid blaze is tasteful with respect.
What is it then that makes me want to flinch
Each time I see this flame, to re-direct
My gaze?  These candles make such meager lamps,
Yet by their light, I see the chimneyed camps.
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Grave
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While sparse November leaves leave limbs half-flocked,
Earth eats the burden of her dust—a mouth
In which the urn of ash is pocketed.
So taught, I pocket, too, the folded check
That notes how much half of her life was worth.
(Half his as well—her mate much put-upon.
Six years now that my father has been gone.)
She left a dirt-floor school-house/barefoot south,
Left there a black sheep brother, half redneck.
She’d plotted from the day she’d given birth,
But never planned this gift her going gave:
Ghiberti’s doors and Canaletto’s views
Await the sexton’s shoveling in the grave,
And it only remains to book the cruise.
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Len_Krisak_Picture
Len Krisak has published 9 collections of poetry. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, Raritan, The Southwest Review, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology. He has received the following honors: Richard Wilbur Prize; Robert Frost Prize; Robert Penn Warren Prize; The New England Poetry Club Book Award. Krisak is also a four-time champion on Jeopardy!
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Most Read Poets of 2018 at North of Oxford

The following list consists of the 15 most read poets as of December 2018 determined by readership at North of Oxford.

KristinaK

A Poem by Kristina Krumova

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/a-poem-by-kristina-krumova/

Byron Beynon 2014

3 Poems by Byron Beynon

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/3-poems-by-byron-beynon/

lil

2 Poems by Lilah Clay

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/2-poems-by-lilah-clay/

linda

Voices by Linda Stevenson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/voices-by-linda-stevenson/

New

Uncle by Michael A. Griffith

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/uncle-by-michael-a-griffith/

Byron Beynon 2014

In the Mirror by Byron Beynon

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/in-the-mirror-by-byron-beynon/

charles

Winter Tune-up by Charles Rammelkamp

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/winter-tune-up-by-charles-rammelkamp/

Photo1

Lectures on Poetry by M.V. Montgomery

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/lectures-on-poetry-by-m-v-montgomery/

Writer's Photograph

One day, her hands became birds by Arlyn LaBelle

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/one-day-her-hands-became-birds-by-arlyn-labelle/

jcwportrait_May_13+

Temple of Jupiter by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/temple-of-jupiter-by-jefferey-cyphers-wright/

author pic

Bait by Daniel Casey

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/bait-by-daniel-casey/

ed c

2 Poems by Edward L. Canavan

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/2-poems-by-edward-l-canavan/

John D Robinson

2 Poems by John D Robinson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/2-poems-by-john-d-robinson/

carl

2 Poems by Carl Kaucher

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/2-poems-by-carl-kaucher/

tony w

Leave by Tony Walton

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/leave-by-tony-walton/

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Ghostographs: An Album by Maria Romasco Moore

Ghostographs_Front-Cover_Final_HiRes-730x934

By Charles Rammelkamp

Subtitled An Album, Ghostographs is like the memoir of an alternate universe. In her Author’s Note, Maria Romasco Moore mentions buying a Whitman’s Sampler box full of fading photographs of strangers at an antiques market in Altoona, Pennsylvania, when she was a child and imagining the lives of the people in the snapshots. That’s Ghostographs in a nutshell. The thirty-three short fictions that make up the book are all accompanied by the photographs that inspired them. Yet they all add up to a picture of a small town in post-industrial America, though with certain magical additions.

An example of how Moore’s imagination works is the story, “Aunt Beryl.” First, though, you must realize that there are a handful of aunts, as we learn in the story, “My Great Aunts,” accompanied by a photograph of five middle-aged women surrounding a child. “I had more of them than was strictly necessary,” she writes, displaying her sly sense of humor. “Everybody said so.”

Aunt Beryl is one of these aunts. The photograph that inspires her story shows two small children in the foreground, the black-and-white photograph overexposed as family photos tended to be back in the day, the faces washed out, hard to distinguish. The shadow of a woman in a hat stands before them; the sun behind her, her shadow shows a figure wearing a floppy hat. The story begins, “I’ve met her many times, but I couldn’t tell you what she looks like. I never once got a good look at her face.” She goes on to describe the floppy hat. “In my memories of her, it is the hat that stands out most. I would recognize that hat anywhere.” Indeed, the hat on the shadow figure hangs over each side of the face like forlorn donkey’s ears.

Moore sketches the town with its iconic landmarks – the abyss, a potent metaphor, like Hades in Greek mythology (“We were proud that a town as small as ours had an abyss of its own.”); the river that runs through the town. Back in the day, the river ran milk and people brought their glass bottles there to fill them. Then came the factories, and soon the milk was gone. In its place, molten glass, irregular jeans, clusters of caramel popcorn. And then the factories disappeared, and this indeed is how small-town America has evolved over time. This story is accompanied by a black and white snapshot of what appears to be a family swimming in a river.

“The River” is followed by “My Father,” with a photograph of a man standing in the river. “…my father made his living fishing for phantoms.” He “sold his ghost fish to the butcher, who knew how to prepare them….”
Thus Moore casually sneaks in references to her most potent theme – the haunting of the past that leaks into the present. And isn’t that what “an album” is? Take the photo album off the shelf, blow away the dust, look at the photographs of yourself and your family decades ago! Indeed, this is the secret of the title, Ghostographs – for just as “photography” literally means “writing with light,” these are the stories of ghosts caught by a camera lens.

It’s no surprise, then, that light and shadow, light and darkness are apt metaphors in Ghostographs. In stories like “Different Kinds of Light” and “Light” and “God in the Garden” we learn, via her grandfather, about the many kinds of light. (“Time is a kind of light, my grandpa told me,” she writes in the story, “Time.”) A girl named Tess, whose story is accompanied by an overexposed photograph of a little girl in a white dress, such that the girl glows, luminescent, is so radiant that “Moths migrated from miles around just to throw themselves at her…It hurt our eyes to look straight at her.” Later, Tess loses the light and in the children’s games of hide and seek, she is impossible to locate!

Three of the stories are entitled “Hide and Seek” and this is yet another of the threads Moore weaves through her collection. It’s easy to make the connection between visible and invisible, light and dark, the dichotomy of ghost and person in that pair of words.

Moore introduces a number of memorable characters, in addition to Tess. There is Lewis, a disdainful contemporary who grows in stature and at last becomes unrecognizable. There are the aunts, Edna and Ruth, Beryl and Millie, a woman named Hannah, the postman’s wife, who sends away for a mail-order baby. There is Rhoda, who adopts a baby pig, is rumored to suckle it at her breast. “Lewis saw her holding its front trotters in her hands, trying to teach it to walk on two legs.” (A photograph of a woman cuddling a pig accompanies this story.) There is Mabel, who “slept all summer and only woke up when it snowed.” And there are her father and mother and sister and grandpa.

The final story, “Ghost Town,” is almost elegiac in tone, accompanied by a photograph in which nothing can be clearly distinguished – only ghostly images. It’s about that unnamed hometown, which might be Altoona, Pennsylvania, but could just as easily be Potawatomi Rapids, Michigan, or a thousand others like them. “…they aren’t the people I used to know. The people I used to know are only ghosts.”

Maria Romasco Moore has a vivid and empathetic imagination. Her stories honoring that very real alternate universe are a delight to read.

You can find the book here: https://rosemetalpress.com/books/ghostographs/

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.

 

Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape by John Goode

               beauty

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By Lynette G. Espositio

John Goode’s Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape published by Rain Mountain Press is an image-laden delight of poems that visualize, conceptualize and realize perception from different but common landscapes.

Bill Yarrow, author of Blasphemer and The Vig of Love says “John Goode’s poems are—all things wild and wonderful.”  The reader can see this clearly in his poem When My Father Took His Chainsaw into the Forest on page 30.
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                    the television died. 
                   Cartoons crawled across the carpet
                   and begged for more cereal. 
                   
                   The small angel of my life curled up
                    inside me. 
 
                   The sun dragged a generator across the sky
                   and the grass turned brown.
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The visual is so clear the reader wants to hug the narrator.  The poem continues with this sharp visualization of the setting, tone and timbre to reality-based images that set time and place into emotion.
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                   When my father took his chainsaw into the forest,
                    he cut the opossum
                   out of the encyclopedia 
 
                    He turned comic books
                    into woodchips and stone.
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This clear evaluation of a father by his young son depicted in the images chosen reveals a landscape of detail and emotion.

This continues on through the four parts of the 104 pages of poems followed by an interview with Goode where he discusses motivation and technique.

Goode continues to visualize and conceptualize his poems even in the titles from as simple as Unemployed to Elegy for a Tree in a Poem Written by a Young Woman Sitting at the Bar.  His poems, like his titles, vary in length. Some are one stanza and some are several pages. I find this detail of form gives support to the themes.  Most are free verse/blank verse in narrative form.  In the five stanza poem The Riot of Waitresses, the first lines set a contemporary situation: The girls at work are giving birth to televisions without doctors.  From page 87 to page 94, the narrator discusses the thwarted plans of women with their breasts trapped in their boyfriends’ hands like pigeons. Goode juxtaposes common images with an unorthodox landscape.  Breasts, boyfriends, pigeons…I love it.

The reader begins through the visualization to realize something special is happening.  Goode is able to make a point or points by choosing common understandings that expand out to fresh perceptions on how life works in suggestive images that conjure many interpretations.

The poems are consistently both interesting and surprising.  In A Note From My Boss on page 95, Goode uses the letter format and uses the salutary Dear Jude to make a point.

The first line gives real sarcastic attitude please wipe up the Lysol carcasses.  This memo to the boss ends with authority: Thank-you and no signature.  How impersonal is this as a reference to real life workers and how effective in a poem.  Thank-you, John….Yours Lynette.

Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape is available from www.rainmountainpress.com

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.