Adrian Manning lives and writes in Leicester, England. He is also the editor of Concrete Meat Press. https://adrianmanning.wixsite.com/concretemeatpress
Poetry by Lynette G. Espositio, Lowell Jaeger, Adrian Manning and Suchoon Mo
Byron Beynon is a regular contributor of poetry, essays and reviews to North of Oxford. He lives in West Wales. He has lived in London, Norway, France and Australia. His work has appeared in several publications including Agenda, London Magazine, Plainsongs, Chiron Review, Poetry Wales, Cyphers and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets). Collections include Cuffs (Rack Press), The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions). His selected poems appeared in 2018 (Bilingual: English/Romanian – published by Bibliotecha Universalis/Collectiile/ Revistei “Orizont Literar Contemporan”, translations by Dr Monica Manolachi, University of Bucharest).
At North of Oxford: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/tag/byron-beynon/
Poetry on the Net
Militant Thistles http://militantthistles.moonfruit.com/byron-beynon-poems/4590630827
MockingHeart Review https://mockingheartreview.com/archives/volume-2-issue-2/byron-beynon/
The Galway Review https://thegalwayreview.com/2014/12/05/byron-beynon-six-poems-2/
The London Magazine https://www.thelondonmagazine.org/art-and-poetry-by-byron-beynon/
At Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Byron-Beynon
By Charles Rammelkamp
Philip Elliott’s prizewinning 2018 flash fiction chapbook, Hunger and Hallelujahs, features a junkie mendicant in search of her soul; the sequence ends up in Los Angeles, the city of so many broken dreams. As if picking up where he left off, in his new noir novel, the main character, Eddie Vegas who, as his name suggests, is a small time criminal, is likewise influenced by a hazy idealism that, in his case, leads to his undoing. Criminals need to be ruthless, as Eddie’s buddies, Floyd and Sawyer, remind him, but Eddie is moved by “love” – his love for Dakota, a woman he meets at a strip club. She’s come to LA to find her long-lost sister.
There’s an almost Sophoclean dynamic at work here, too, because halfway through the novel, we learn that Dakota, the object of Eddie’s devotion is the sister of a woman he murdered in cold blood at the start of the story, a witness who had to be removed, simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Remember how Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother but doesn’t realize it? Eddie is no King Oedipus, but when he understands what has happened he, too, realizes his irredeemable mistake with that agony of self-awareness. All he can do is hope Dakota doesn’t find out, but of course she does.
At the novel’s end, when Eddie is in San Quentin serving a thirty-year sentence for his crimes, we find him in the prison theater group playing the role of Casca in Julius Caesar. “…those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me….” In a noir novel featuring unequivocally bad characters all over the place, Eddie’s ambiguity makes this tale more than crime fiction. Of course he’s responsible for all the horrible things he does, but we want to forgive him, if only because his devotion to Dakota seems so pure.
Likewise, where the noir genre never features “good guys” – Nobody Move is full of sketchy, scary, contemptible characters, from Eddie’s small time partners, Floyd and Sawyer, to their sadistic boss, Saul Benedict, the mysterious killer Diego (aka, The Puerto Rican), Gay Larry, a shady porn mogul who owes Saul big time, Mandy and the other “dancers” at The Pink Room strip club, and the over-the-top serial killer Rufus Kane, brother of the original murder victim, Bill Kane, whose death gets the whole drama rolling – this novel features a heroine, Alison Lockley, LAPD detective, a force for justice. If we feel ambivalent about Eddie, there’s no mistaking our positive reactions to Alison. She stands up for women in the face of sexism. But even “justice” has its limits when she puts her job ahead of her son.
The genius of Nobody Move, though, is in its relentless action. If the term “page-turner” ever applied to a novel, this is it. Elliott juggles the different stories focusing on Eddie, Alison, Rufus and other characters to reach a breathtaking climax. Like something out of a Coen Brothers movie, the novel begins with the grisly murders and the slapdash burial of Bill Kane, one of Saul Benedict’s “clients” who is late on a drug-business payment, and Dakota’s sister Kaya White. The bloodbath continues throughout, with a huge shootout during a bank robbery and a bloody car chase that makes the one in Bullitt look like kiddie cars. “Nobody move, nobody get hurt,” Floyd advises the customers in the bank at the start of the robbery, which is where the novel gets its title; it doesn’t work that way, of course. Certainly not as slick as Robert De Niro in Heat, to which Floyd aspires.
One of the potent themes of Nobody Move, indeed, is the movies. This is LA, after all. Indeed, one of the novels epigraphs comes from Quentin Tarantino: I steal from every single movie ever made. From the murders to the car chases to the robberies and more, so many of the scenes feel “cinematic.” When Eddie is the airport stashing a duffel bag full of cash into a locker – also a film noir cliché – he cons a young model who is at LAX to catch a flight to Prague. Eddie lies and says that’s where he is going too. When asked why he is going there, he says he spun the globe and pointed with closed eyes and his finger landed on Prague.
“You Americans,” the girl exclaims, “you are all so dramatic. Everything is like a movie to you.”
“You know,” Eddie replies, “that’s probably the truest statement I’ve ever heard.”
Dakota is similarly a movie buff and has modeled her accent from the voices she’s heard on the big screen.
Elliott places the action in the real world of Donald Trump’s America, in which violence is always bubbling just under the surface all the time. At the makeshift graves in Angeles National Forest where Eddie and his cohorts have dumped the bodies of Bill Kane and Kaya White, Alison speaks with Mike, one of the cops at the scene. “Criminals are getting dumber these days,” Alison notes when he describes the sloppy work Eddie and Floyd and Sawyer did in hiding the bodies.
“Dumber or bolder,” Mike says.
“Both,” Alison says. “Like our dipshit president and his bullshit wall.”
You go, Alison!
You can find the book here: https://intothevoidmagazine.com/product/nobody-move-by-philip-elliott-print/
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by Future Cycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online Time Is on My Side (yes it is) –http://poetscoop.org/manuscrip/Time%20Is%20on%20My%20Side%20FREE.pdf
By Lynette G. Esposito
The poems in The Pink House of Purple Yam Preserves & Other Poems by Aileen I. Cassinetto published by Little Dove Books are skillfully presented in a plain language that suggests complex visuals and contexts.
Included in this collection is a section of unfinished prose and a section of selected essays. Cassinetto brings her amazing control of language to both theses sections..
By Aaron Fischer
Patricia Carragon has done something notable, writing and assembling some 30 pages of haiku about cats (hence, meowku) that are neither cute nor cloying. What they are is smart, funny, and satisfyingly complex — quite an accomplishment in seventeen syllables.
Consider these two meowku that occur early in the book:
In lieu of an annual salary, the railway provided Tama with a year’s worth of cat food and a gold nametag.
A few minutes with Wikipedia reveals another layer of meaning: Tama is often cited as part of a phenomenon known in Japan as nekonomics (literally, “cat economy”), which describes the positive economic impact of having a cat mascot.
We’ve got Tama, Kishigawa, and at least one calico. But what about the goddess?
The answer comes in the next meowku and involves another calico.
According to Wikipedia, maneki-neko (literally, “beckoning cat”) is a common Japanese figurine (typically calico) that’s supposed to bring good luck to its owner. This may sound esoteric, but you’re almost undoubtedly familiar with these beckoning cats if you’ve ever eaten in a Japanese restaurant or shopped in a Japanese market. They’re the cat figurines sitting on their haunches and beckoning with one raised paw. Some maneki-neko are actually battery powered and wave their paw, though it’s not clear if this attracts more luck.
Of course, in our multicultural society, it makes perfect sense that this beckoning cat spreads good fortune in a feline version of Yiddish.
Just to close the loop, by juxtaposing these two meowku on the same page, Carragon allows them to resonate: two calicos celebrating good fortune in three (maybe two-and-half) languages: English, Japanese, and near-Yiddish.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the photographs that accompany these meowku. They have the feeling of snapshots, which seems just right for the feel of this book. Also, we’re spared cuddly closeups. Many of these shots are taken outdoors and feature cats on the sidewalks or brick stairs or checking out the action on the street.
The photographs are particularly apt, since these are decidedly urban cats.
At the risk of making a pun not worthy of this work: I think these meowku are for everyone — regardless of their feelings about felines. They’re sharply observed and reflect city life. And as I hope I’ve demonstrated, at times they’re both complex and rewarding.
You can find the book here: http://www.poetswearprada.com/
Aaron Fischer is an award-winning poet. His chapbook Black Stars of Blood: The Weegee Poems (Main Street Rag Press) was published this past summer.
The poems I will be investigating are: her parents in The Victims; dating in After Making Love in Winter; marriage in The Wedding Vow; her daughter in The Month of June: 13 ½; and finally divorce in Unspeakable.
I – THE VICTIMS
This poem opens with rather prosaic lines explaining how the mother and her children battled against what must have been the abusive treatment perpetrated by the alcoholic father.
We don’t begin to know the essence of the father until we encounter striking imagery. His suits were “those dark carcasses hung in your closet.” “Carcasses” were once living things that the father no longer is figuratively, having lost his living as well as being kicked out of his home.
Likewise, that image is intensified by “the black noses of your shoes with their large pores.” Even the shoes were alive, if leather, especially if they had “noses.” “Their large pores” added a distasteful element to the human comparison that will be touched on later with the use of several other images.
It seems as though the mother, with her own limitations, had to teach the children to hate, because love for parents can be a powerful, instinctive quality without the leaven of reason. So “we pricked with her for your annihilation” employs a strange verb in that context; the children had to be pushed. The excessive word “annihilation” underscores how their hate had reached extremes.
Then the poem serves to view down-and-out street people. They are strongly described in ugly terms: “The white slugs of their bodies gleaming through slits in their suits of compressed silt” and “stained flippers of their hands.” It is as if these people inhabit an aqueous lower world.
The final telling image continues the sea reference: “The underwater fire of their eyes, ships gone down with the lanterns lit.” These people are still alive—“fire of their eyes” and “lanterns lit” and we are led to wonder if the woman who has spoken throughout this poem has come to feel pity for people who have lost everything– including her father.
II – AFTER MAKING LOVE IN WINTER
This is a very sensual, passionate poem. After making love the woman feels “a plate of iron laid down on my nerves” and “our bodies touch like blooms of fire.”
This experience has intensified all of her senses so that she sees “the light from the hall burns in straight lines and casts up narrow beams on the ceiling, a figure throwing up its arms for joy.” “The angle itself is blessed, and the dark globes of the chandeliers.”
A very unique comparison is “the silvery bulbs” cause her to “feel my ovaries deep in my body.” The intensity of this sexual experience reverberates throughout her body to its very core.
For her, intercourse has made her a complete human being; before, she was a child. “Like God putting the finishing touches on, before sending me down to be born.”
And with the line “we have come to the end of questions” the woman and man no longer wonder if they can relate fully; they now feel that they have formed a deep indissoluble union.
III – THE WEDDING VOW
The couple legalizes their relationship in a simple church, not an ornate high church. Although they have already made a laypersons’ pact between them, they desire a religious benediction.
IV – THE MONTH OF JUNE: 13 ½
Years later the couple now has a teenage daughter. They love her very much and applaud each of her growing stages. The poet capsulizes each stage by using school years. Kindergarten is defined as “a strip of thumb-suck blanket.” 1st grade is “a dim cocoon . . . back there somewhere on the path.” 4th grade was a “hard jacket . . . when she had so much pain.” This reference is cleverly slurred over, as many youngsters encounter difficult times for myriad reasons. “Magenta rind of 5th grade” could mean the daughter graduated from one school, shedding one for another.
The parents take joy in their daughter maturing into a feeling, expressive adult; so far they have succeeded in raising their child.
V – UNSPEAKABLE
She tries to show no anger, sometimes employs even humor. “All is courtesy and horror.”
We don’t know the complete story. Is someone to blame? We don’t know his side—except hints of another woman—and never will. In life we often don’t learn all sides of a situation. A poem can explore just so much. The ending is an enigma: “When I say, is this about her, and he says, No, it’s about you, we do not speak of her.”