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Lilith Walks by Susan M. Schultz


By Greg Bem

In Susan M. Schultz’s pandemic volume, we confront one artist’s engagement with and description of daily life. What we do with our time every day is an illuminating question, and Schultz uses the form of the “dog walk” to document and present her own findings.

Each entry in Lilith Walks is approximately a page in length, describing the poet’s walk with her curious and empathetic companion Lilith. The setting spans multiple locations in Hawaii, a landscape Schultz knows well from decades lived there. A zooming in toward the texture of daily life is blushed with natural beauty and a description of the environment through which the walk occurs. In “Chemistry Professor,” the walk begins within a cemetery:

Lilith and I walked farther into the cemetery than new usually do today, past the black tombs with Japanese names on them, around the corner, and up the hill toward a loop built around fountains and a garden (with stones and plaques in it, including some to the still living). (page 76)

A brief read of Schultz’s descriptions comes off as ordinary, even perhaps mundane, but in sum they build an arousing context through which the work becomes more whole, more complete, filled with issues, subtexts, and questions. The environment fills in the periphery, but the pressing themes mostly concern what other dogs and their humans are doing as they are encountered.

These characters show up once, or twice, or many times, and many are not without their own problems. Whether it’s on presidential leadership or on teaching remote or on surviving a pandemic, the conversations are not without tension. The fleeting nature of the “dog walk” amplifies the allegorical qualities behind the encounters and discussions, such as this one from “Lilith and the Cop’s Pug”:

He says there’s no leadership from the top of the police department. No advisories on how to deal with the public. He asks me how on-line education is going. I tell him some of my quiet students have come to the fore on discussion boards; other students have gone missing. Sangha has a missing professor. I tell him I’m worried that the crisis will become an excuse to convert us all to on-line from now on. He nods. Everything’s changing. (page 41)

Schultz’s reflective processes are acute and endearing, and with each piece there’s a sense the poet is sharing with us a secret, an illumination into an otherwise impossible space and interaction. This continues with her writings of observation, which often walk the line between the literal and the absurd, painting an image of the book’s corner of Hawaii as a land of extremes:

On our way back down Kahekili I see a young man in swim trunks ,dancing at the light; his movements awkward, head bobbing up and down. I also see someone with long brown legs carrying a large black plastic bag, a black piece of luggage and an umbrella. (from “Embodiment,” page 25)

The realm of human to human interaction is pervasive in Lilith Walks, but it must be said that dog walks also involve dogs. And so, while Lilith serves her human as a Beatrice-Virgil dualism guiding toward instinct, reason, and a profound sense of life, Lilith also is a dog who has her own world. And what a world it is! Schultz commits vast space and time to describing Lilith’s relationships and behaviors. Interaction leads to description, new layers and complexities evolving with every turn, as seen in “A Death in the Neighborhood”:

Her older dog, Buddy, made her anxious interacting with Lilith (as usual). A smallish brown dog with black snout, Buddy had had a tooth out, and that was after he had eye surgery. Buddy was costing her some money. But Buddy’s eyes looked better, far less bloodshot, and he didn’t seem to be in distress over the missing tooth. My neighbor had her wide-brimmed tan hat on, but didn’t answer directly when I asked how she was. On Sunday, she died. (page 13)

In Lilith Walks, no description lasts long, though, because of the remarkable temporary qualities of the “dog walk.” As a literary form, a dog walk feels like a remarkable hybrid between inspiration and constraint. The “dog walk” is descriptive yet concise. It balances deep engagement with time and place and often relies on a lightheartedness to carry forth the spontaneous flashes of experience. Even the usual and ordinary are elevated because dog walking is often about established routines and norms. In Schultz’s approach, the form is opportunity to document where norms are broken, where the exceptional occurs.

It is important to note that the activity of walking the dog appears to be exquisitely aligned with the pandemic. As we were all figuring out the world and our place in it, we often were doing so outdoors, in the comfort of our shared isolation across outside spaces. Thus, Schultz’s work doubly serves as fantastic pandemic literature. Published in late 2022 alongside a variety of other pandemic collections, Lilith Walks includes writings running from 9/10/17 to 11/12/21, making it exceptionally above and beyond most other pandemic literature and offering insight into what life was like immediately before. It is a fascinating portrait of the artist as a person living their life and continuing to live their life as the world is upended, with the help of a trusty, loveable canine in the lead.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at

Grapefruit Juice: A book of instructions

Grapefruit Juice - Final_0000
A new  experimental work from Greg Bem
I’m pleased to announce an anonymously published new work: Grapefruit Juice: A book of instructions. I have been working on this book for nearly two months, constantly working in the context of Yoko Ono’s monumental Grapefruit as well as the context of the automation of ChatGPT (several releases across January and February). I only just read Yoko Ono’s book for the first and was so inspired that I thought it would be a feat to manually type the book into the AI tool, and then curate the results. The resulting work is far from perfect, but what I believe is in the spirit of a Yoko Ono work.
I have added a Creative Commons license to the work and explain the process at the back of the document. The book has been initially uploaded to here:
Please consider taking a look and sharing with experimental writers and artists you know. As those who have chatted with me recently know, I have many feelings about the prevalence of AI tools across culture, especially within higher ed. This is my attempt to explore a tool over time and space, and normalize its use in my experimental writing practices.
I also recognize the ethical challenges within this work, particularly as a white man working through the ideas and works of an artist of color and of a woman. As such, I am committed to recommending Yoko Ono’s book to everyone I share my project with:
^^ Please buy her book if you don’t already have it

Refugee by Pamela Uschuk


By Greg Bem

Dreams are a way out as much as a way in to the labyrinth.

(“Toward Wings,” page 54)

Refugee, the latest collection by Pamela Uschuk, is a fantastic explorations and reflections that consider the nature of “refugees” and “refuges” through life experiences and circumstances. The poet has crafted a fantastic and large, if not sweeping, world of poems that dive into the core of place and place’s inhabitants. It is a book that is precise; each line feels like an induction of truth, like a piece of process or puzzle, contributing to the overall illumination and the poet’s summation of beauty and catharsis.

The book is divided into several sections, each quizzical and provocative. The opening section, “Skull Song,” is a pensive exploration that brings together thoughts on family, politics, and wildlife under a stark backdrop of oppression. The book’s opening poem, “A History of Morning Clouds and Contrails,” is full of distinct images that draw the reader in while also resounding ominously line to line:

Each morning, ravens carve black questions
that go unanswered by light. Assailed
by headwinds, they sheer, intent on laughter
as they bank nearly upside down to sing.

(page 13)

The juxtapositions found across Uschuk’s book are subtle and rarely glamorous or glamorizing. There is both profundity and grit lingering as subtext. This provocation rises and falls in an established pattern. More than a motif, there is a regulation of both thought and tone throughout the book. Only a few poems later, Uschuk writes in “Bulk”:

I am thinking about bulk, my brother’s six-foot, three-inch
bulk, his large hands stroking the manatee’s face, both
of them weighing less in water than a bale of straw,
squinting at one another, their graceful
balancing, lithe as clouds.

(page 16)

The poet’s magical approach to this collection brings forth exquisite lines that may or may not be sensible, because there is an invitation to the intimate here, the readers as intimates, that poet as establishing trust and invoking privacy of and through memory. But like similar feminist writers, such as Rebecca Solnit and Adrienne Rich, the exquisitely personal is balanced with robust comments on the adversely public. As the book’s title alludes, many of these public illuminations have to do with migration and transition, where the poet focuses intensively on the USA and its borders, and the forever sense of liminality.

Far from the Statue of, ICE confiscates
thousands of toddlers and children wrenched screaming from
the arms of mothers seeking asylum, our history of shame
hooked on the coiled razor-wire laws of inhumanity.

(page 21)

Poems like the one that houses the lines above, “Aggravated Child Theft,” trade subtext for directness, offering steady, concentrated descriptions of the authoritarian approach to the refugees arriving to the country’s southern border. I find these moments to be accelerants to the collection, which pick up the pace and smugly push past the Keatsian ambiguity towards honest, acknowledgeable truth.

Refugee is a dynamic collection, if it hasn’t already come off as such, and one that includes so much it’s impossible to generalize in a single review. The surprises that emerge build upon themselves, revealing, like a card of the sleeve, secret methods and strategies for awe and elevation.

For example, in the second section of the book, “Axis,” which includes poems mostly concerned with the natural world, Uschuk includes a poem on horses filled with energy and a cubist eye for movement: “Give me the huff of a thoroughbred, black / legs pumping through loose sod, hackles / collapsing the far track’s curve, ears / tucked back to her own lunging heartbeat, / dawn fog / smelling of clover and sawdust, the steady chuff / of thunder hooves thudding into earth’s flesh / the sexual joy of speed, flexed shoulders / and thighs gleaming sweat, sweat,” (“Beyond Oxygen,” page 31).

Refugee is not a wholly joyous book. There are moments of pain. There is great sorrow. This is a book that exists in yet another phase of the USA’s failures to its people and tremors of oppression. The poet is not reserved in her explorations of this topography of national sickness. But the poet is also not reserved in being, and being includes being astute, being distinct, and providing the reader with an ongoing invitation to seek and admit depth from the world.

The mountains are burning and we cannot sleep.

(“After the Election, the Super Moon Rises Over the Rincon Mountains,” page 89”)

Refugee is a book that offers succinct stories and mesmerizing images, and it consistently does so from its opening to its close. As such, I find myself grateful for the book as an experience toward poetic enlightenment and the challenge to learn more about myself as a reader and be more aware of the world not so far away.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at



A Summoning by Nicole McCarthy


By Greg Bem

How deep can a poet dive into their own memory? What can selections of memory become when brought together, when affixed, when sharing the same intentional space? Nicole McCarthy, in her debut, cross-genre book, answers this question with prose, journaling, erasure, and generative text. The result is an experimental landscape that explores the psyche. Memories atrophic and recessed form an exquisite topography.

The poet touches upon what is lost, what is found, and what is present. The book is a mélange of possibility; it is a fixation of multiple realities. She grasps trauma, grasps the structural damage of Alzheimer’s, she brings to bear what can be cherished and finds niche intersections with what is necessary.

Memories that haven’t gone through the consolidation process yet are like clay waiting to dry—they’re vulnerable to malleability. (page 21)

As memory is fluidic and staggered, so is the McCarthy’s form. The book opens with paragraph of memory, the summoning process of the poet emerging from the first page. The work immediately becomes a blurry flux of the ecstatic, the pensive, and the sorrowful; tone is temporary and a totality.

Though it’s not ever announced, the book expands page by page by way of experiment and investigation. The poet’s process remains veiled, but McCarthy’s ethereal fragments further open and push through a commitment to exploration. An exploration of personal and shared history. Of family. Of past partners. Of self. But it is more than a mere push, more than force. The poet undergoes a process of submersion. Textual works transform into visual. Visuals splice back to text. Collage appears and disappears.

I was just crumpled bones in a moonlit room. (page 73)

Out of the pages comes consistency. Comes acceleration. Comes phasing forward. Comes being in sync. But occasionally a title appears: Manipulate. Falsify. Manipulate. Falsify. Otherwise, the reader is left submerged alongside the poet, the blur book-length, moment-to-moment, obfuscation adjoined to clarification.

McCarthy raises questions of authenticity and integrity; when we don’t have the whole picture, what does the whole picture we do have mean? How do we reconcile with memories spliced together? To what do we owe their thematic presence, their trends, the string of memories as a story that feels bound but is tenuous, always collapsing and restructuring?

Can I clear the state then? (page 36)

The poet’s prescription is one of endurance until the abstracted emergence arrives: by the book’s end, any sense of conclusion is warped and undesirable. The book as document, as entity, was always conclusive. Our journey through McCarthy’s archival wandering is satisfying because it is a whole, it has been put together, it was, poetically, summoned.

You can find the book here: 

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at




Most Read Reviews @ North of Oxford 2022

Just in time for holiday shopping! Most read reviews as determined by the readership of North of Oxford

cas reports

Casualty Reports by Martha Collins

book cover

All the Songs We Sing – Edited by Lenard D. Moore


A Poetics of the Press: Interviews with Poets, Printers, & Publishers edited by Kyle Schlesinger


Smoking the Bible by Chris Abani

diseno de tapa echavarren paperback

Contra natura by Rodolfo Hinostroza Translated by Anthony Seidman


The Flash Fiction of Lydia Davis


The Upright Dog by Carl Fuerst


Punks: New & Selected Poems by John Keene

World's Lightest Motorcycle

The World’s Lightest Motorcycle by Yi Won, Translated from Korean by E. J. Koh and Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello


getting away with everything by Vincent Cellucci and Christopher Shipman


Along the Way by Scott Pariseau

a feeling

A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin


Poolside at the Dearborn Inn by Cal Freeman


Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me by John Weir


The Bar at Twilight by Frederic Tuten




Ten Most Read Poets @ North of Oxford 2022

Ten most read poets as determined by the readership of North of Oxford for 2022

Manasi Diwakar

How Dreams Grow by Manasi Diwakar


Layers of Blankets by Doug Holder

pv 3

Pandemic of Violence Anthology II – Poets Speak

IMG_5016 (2)

The Ballad of Morbid and Putrid By Sawyer Lovett

Topsy Turvy

Pandemic of Violence Anthology I – Poets Speak


Sisson’s by Eric D. Goodman


High Stakes by Ryan Quinn Flanagan


Two Poems by Susana H. Case


The Game by Matthew Ussia

Kerry bw 03 crop

Two Poems by Kerry Trautman




Tango Below a Narrow Ceiling by Riad Saleh Hussein, Translated by Saleh Razzouk with Philip Terman


By Greg Bem

Riad Seleh Hussein’s work has been a long time coming. Impassioned by political activism and experimental writing, Hussein’s work is not to be missed. Following a short but active youth, the Syrian poet (1954-1982) died due to unknown causes after a brief arrest and despite Arabic publications highlighting his contributions to prose poetry in Syria and the Middle East, English readers only now get a gaze into his world. Tango Below a Narrow Ceiling is a powerful book unlike any other and I hope it find its way into many libraries, personal and beyond.

The poetry here is often compared to prose poetry, but one might find more similarities in English to Amiri Baraka and Ray Bremser, with long, sword-like lines cutting out across the page over, and over, and over. The effect in English is hypnotic and stunning, concussive and paralytic, though Hussein’s work is charged with density and relentless presentation of fantastic lines. But these lines are not without difficulty, because they aren’t afraid of war, they aren’t afraid of hardship, they aren’t afraid of carrying the voice of the people, and the country, of Syria:

O poor knives
O dirty human body
O dogs stuffed with sausages, love and the aroma of mint.
I am Riad Saleh Hussein
My age is twenty-two dry oranges
And hundreds of massacres and coups.
Thousands of times my hands have been terminated
Like two trees of happiness in a desert.

(from The Pure Artist and a Clean Flower, pg. 28)

I am reminded of the prose poetry of Burmese writer Maung Day here. I am also reminded of the Hmong poet Mai Der Vang’s recent book of documentary poetics, Yellow Rain. Concerning the lines or the sum, not all of Hussein’s poems are long, of course. Some of the most spectacular moments in the book occur with short, concise poems that are packed with image, metaphor, and a longing to provide words for impossible situations. At other times, these short poems feel like songs or prayers, exquisite and heavy at once:

Forever we shall lead you into the springs.
Forever we shall dry your blood with our green fingers
And your tears with our dry lips.
Forever we shall pave roads for you
And never let you get lost O Syria
Like a song in a desert.

(from Syria, pg. 21)

Tango Below a Narrow Ceiling is not a long book, but it contains the best picture of Hussein that we have in the English language. Many thanks should be given to translators Saleh Razzouk and Philip Terman for their efforts in bringing forward these poems. The book is divided into three sections and includes a swathing survey of Hussein’s work, opening the door for more translations to come. The collection includes historical information, including an opening essay and a timeline of dates centering the poet’s life. It also includes an homage by Terman, reinforcing the impression and inspiration Hussein’s poetry creates.

The sense of love in Hussein’s poetry is second to none, and this love is clearly integral to the poet. In one of the latter poems of the book, a five part love epic, he closes:

What do we do
if there is only one jubilee for the kiss
and many jubilees for the killing.

What do we do?

(from Jubilee for a Kiss, Jubilee for a Killing, pg. 78)

This is a universal love poetry, one that responds to the cycles of violence faced across the world, time and again. That we can appreciate it is a gift. That it can be present during the many breakdowns facing the West is a gift. This is a poetry that will lead us to new forms of resilience and an ongoing commitment to the poetry of the lyric.

You can get the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at

The Vanguards of Holography by Annie Christain


By Greg Bem

There are so many pockets I can place myself in.

(from “That split off World You Must Destroy and Live in Too,” pg. 60)

Annie Christain’s second book, The Vanguards of Holography, is a mixing and mashing of voice, experience, and identity. These are poems that bear the striking resemblance of 21st century collage, but are lifted and accelerated through the poet’s careful constructions. The barrage effects of lists and refractive imagery is otherwise personal and drawn out. The poet lifts phrases and images as if by machine or performance, and the resulting poetry feels like an assortment of important components to an energizing system of the self.

Every compass points to me; be content with the iron
as we tell you all the things about yourself
you don’t know.

(from “The Vanguards of Holography,” pg. 12)

What is holography? What are holographs? The book is concerned with the blurring of perception, the bands or spectrum of words and worlds. Through nearly every poem, the reader enters a funnel or vortex, and is pulled along through the ecstatic center: Christain’s own experiences heightened by an infinitude of influences and attached ideas.

Like Jack Spicer’s own psychic probing and openness to the chromatic void, Christain’s work contains a world of its own, not exclusively of itself, but alongside itself. Curiously, this poetics connects with other major collage artists and social media poets of this chapter, most notably Kim Vodicka, though Christain’s work strays away from inundations of the Internet’s subdued hyperactive textures.

I see her at the coffee shop,
and my spirit becomes encased in a glass box
with what else exits my body.

(from “Heaven is a Soundstage Built to Make Drugged Soldiers More Fearless,” pg. 2)

In zeroing in on holography, the poet’s work connects more with meaning behind how influences create us, how people create people, how one new glance can completely shake up (and further authenticate) one’s life. This queering of expression directly leads to the queering of the poetry as a text to be read and beautifully challenges how a reading experience should feel, how it should look, how the text should handle or carry poetic truths.

Christain’s approaches break apart standards and otherwise safe, expected engagements and asks us all how we might, as a collective, shift. These shifts are at times subtle but are striking, particularly as a collection. Personally, I felt my own sense of entitlement as a reader of poetry drift away as I listened to the images and felt guidance to move through each.

When someone runs from one of my neurons to the another
pinning down the perimeter of my day,

The same as the murder sites on a map
in a Memphis police station,

I know she’s here.

(from “The Matrix IV,” pg. 72)

The poems have forms that sprawl. They cannot be read only once. Long titles like “We’ll Always Have Terracotta Warriors Ousted in Han Purple, Never Looking Behind” and “Another Boy Who Needs Two Women’s Laps He Can Make Right” describe acute circumstances that form the core or the beginning of each poem; and yet Christain’s poems move in many directions in succession or at once. Each line spins and dances, rotates and flips. Progressing down the page is a radical opportunity for revision and review. Many of the poems follow conventional enjambment and line breaks, but many vibrate with subtle projections.

If you remember your first viewing of a holographic image, you may remember a similar effect as the neck twisted and the eyes searched for movement, evolution, emergence. The poet’s writing achieves a similar awe, and the result is a puzzling and inducing beckoning—to join and to stay with this world, which we never fully know, but expand our knowing of with each intentional bend.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at

Aerial Concave Without Cloud by Sueyeun Juliette Lee


By Greg Bem

the invisible latent image
the nature
the time
the amount of agitation

(page 41)

Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s latest book, Aerial Concave Without Cloud, is a flash of brightness amidst and understanding of brightnesses, a meditation on light while immersed in light. It is a book that was composed while exploring the short and long days in Iceland, Norway, and Wyoming. It is a book that moves forward with Lee’s consistent commitments to a living awareness, and phenomenological and ontological understandings of the self and the systems within and beyond the self.

It is a book of poetry that, when unpacked, feels alive, and dependent upon the infinite number of circumstances provided by the reader and their reading form. And yet it is consequentially personal, a book that reads wholly and wholesomely of being and of being unique and of being alone. Lee’s splicing of study, reflection, and explication cycle into a lively poetics both awake and propulsive.

I began my inquiry into light, simply: can I decipher a similar capacity to translate and speak the light with my living human body?

And by doing so, can I relinquish the intensities of an inherited orphan grief?

(page 77)

Lee’s intentions are provided in small, elusive bits and pieces. The “inquiry into light” is one of both knowledge and experience, often inseparable. The text carries us along, as Lee exhibits situation and the process of revelation. Far from dramatic, these epiphanies lend us the exquisite and mysterious analogous to Lee’s settings. To be dreaming beneath the aurora borealis, to be seeking the textures of light within the arctic: a sense of extremes is muted by a calm determination.

The poet’s abstract work, strongly centered in the early moments of the collection, is heartily energized through its sprawling forms. What I appreciate between the snippets of prose and the small slices of poetry is the robust push and pull of certainty and sequence; Lee’s forms are pleasantly natural, hardly forced or constrained. Other times the narrative takes over, leaving behind form to paint a deep portrait of emotional vulnerability, as seen below:

The high ice cliffs around the village loomed over us, even in this small shelter.

I didn’t know how to proceed.
This isolation. It devours.

(page 99)

Often the artist’s explorations into the world are strongly removed from the resultant output. Lee challenges this norm by bringing the experience of “retreat” and “exploration” into the text directly. Just as the name implies, Aerial Concave Without Cloud is thus a book that extends beyond its core themes, offering a meta navigation of those project experiences.

Lee embeds these engagements fluidly. That the poet’s world was shifted, shaped, scraped, and reassembled by way of these travels. Through extreme climates and environments, Lee finds a new home and structure for her research and her creativity.

When I think of breaks in a chain, my mind can’t also help but turn to wonder at continuities, at streaming extensions that failed to break. My imagination turns to light.

(page 88)

Like her previous work, Lee’s latest collection speaks volumes in its entirety. It is the latest advance through a lifelong personal journey. And while it fits snugly alongside her multimedia and poetry of the past, this book also, by way of its focus on light and immersion, evokes a sense of awakening. And yet despite the epiphanies and the discoveries, and the abstract wonder that binds them together, Aerial Concave Without Cloud is but one additional step forward. It is a liminal work and feels hyper realistic as a result. It invites us to think about Lee’s future, and what body of work we will read our way through next.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at