north of oxford book review

Says the Forest to the Girl by Sally Rosen Kindred

saystheforrest

By Kristina Gibbs

If you want to be transported back into a land of Once Upon a Times where the magical and the mysterious collide, then delving into Sally Rosen Kindred’s work is for you. Only expect a few darker twists.

In Says the Forest to the Girl, Kindred modernizes popular tales—inserting Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and others—while also restoring them back to their original eerie glory. The results are spellbinding.

Just because Kindred focuses on fairy tales doesn’t make her work irrelevant to the hardships of the 21st century, however. In fact, her poem “Sleeping Beauty Makes Dinner” is a rallying cry for feminists everywhere. In this piece, Kindred cleverly depicts Sleeping Beauty being awakened to the reality of stereotypical gender roles that society impresses upon all people: it is the male who provides the substance of the meal, and the woman who prepares it. The inner turmoil that Sleeping Beauty experiences showcases her unhappily ever after:
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           I stir—
or did I ever
wake? Would a princess
be circling this pot,
her hand scarred from sleep’s glass thorns
and feeling the push
of the dark ladle through the broth,
her hair rising to mist in its steam?
I love this heat. Is that right?
It’s all too much like those years
of stained-glass sleep.
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Kindred makes the witty analogy between the confines of Beauty’s glass box to the confines of the role she plays as a wife in the kitchen. By circling the pot, the author emphasizes this mundane cycle of gender stereotypes that Beauty is trapped in.
Kindred reawakens childhood nostalgia inside all adults in Says the Forest to the Girl. She laments over lost dreams and feelings of imprisonment. Kindred seeks to reconcile the inner sprightly child trapped within the adult, and illustrate how adults trapped by life’s demands can shatter mandated adult monotony and dream again. She wrestles with this tension between what is and what once was in her opening poem “Women at the Crows’ Funeral”:
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The crows won’t ask
what kind of daughter you are—
if your grief remembers wings,
if you wear shoes of iron or shoes of wind
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Here the imagery of steel shoes compares to life’s burdens and responsibilities, whereas the “shoes of wind” depict the quick lightheartedness one feels when they dream or have far-fetched hopes. Kindred cleverly uses the shoe motif in fairy tales (like Cinderella’s glass slipper, or hot iron shoes Snow White’s stepmother danced in till she died in the Grimm retelling) to convey this. The narrator mourns with regret, aching for a chance to re-hatch and obtain her happy ending. Kindred interweaves this dichotomy of dreaming verses facing reality throughout the rest of her poems, painting striking images with words to parallel to the bold artwork on her cover. The speckled white forest contrasted with the sharp red background may be gruesome, but it conveys the restlessness and pain of her words held within.
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The chapbook itself is seamless. When the poems transition, each theme bleeds over onto the next page; the poems are distinct in voice and syntax, but they all carry ominous scenes and darker elements of nature. There is intent behind every minute detail from the symbols of black birds to the reintroduction of characters throughout the cohesive work.

Kindred’s work is vividly hypnotic. Her brilliant wordsmithing allows for raw statements and glaring images that strike at your emotions. This piece carries a somber tone, a far cry from well-known Disney remakes. After devouring the delightfully grim Says the Forest to the Girl you’ll be “Ravenous” for more.
You can find a copy of her work at https://porkbellypress.com/poetry/says .

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Kristina Gibbs is an emerging writer from the hills of Tennessee currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and minor in Linguistics. She has previously published an interview in an online publication, Speaking of Marvels. When she is not reading or writing, you may find her clambering over both hiking trails and paint brushes.

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Shame by Iris N. Schwartz

shame

By Charles Rammelkamp

The fifteen stories that make up Iris N. Schwartz’s new collection of stories have a sort of New York Jewish sensibility and magic that make one think of Bernard Malamud. The characters are Malamudian – lonely, neurotic, vaguely troubled, slightly clueless. Take Joseph Fein, a character in the title story. Joseph is 38 and for some reason is in Hudson View Rehabilitation, wearing diapers. It’s apparently a temporary condition. He hopes to return to full continence soon. In the meantime, he needs assistance changing his diapers, and the story goes into great detail as the nurse, a woman named Giselle, maneuvers him around his bed, protecting his modesty as best she can while doing her job, wiping him up, securing him in the diaper. Joseph is plainly mortified and doesn’t get the woman’s name – she’s just a function. But if Joseph is the one who is ashamed in his isolation, we get the sense that Giselle is also alienated. She’s rescued at the end by a cup of coffee.

In some stories dreams and waking consciousness are confused together with an effect like some of Malamud’s stories in The Magic Barrel.  Belle, in “At Liberty,” dreams of her wedding gown, which she has discarded along with the man she married. She’d married Benjy impulsively, almost out of desperation, but it soon became all too clear how limited he was.  Not only was he a boring lover, but Belle “often imagined casting a fishing rod into Benjy’s throat to find and reel in synonyms superior to the words he chose.” Especially the word “nice.” Benjy drives Belle nuts calling everything “nice”: clothing, movies, food, everything.

Belle’s dreams are full of guilt for the wedding dress, which she has tossed into a garbage can in the basement of her apartment building.  She dreams she sees the wedding dress soiled in a nearby vacant lot. She dreams an older woman commands her to rescue and bury the dress. Yet when she wakes up and goes for a walk, she discovers “between every shrub and flowerbed, were sleeves, hems, bodices,” and she is happy, no longer feeling guilt. “Her gown had found a home — ‘a very nice’ home.” Try not to laugh reading that line!

Similarly, in “Fur,” a woman named Dahlia is starved for the affection of a cat; she feels “feline deprived.” She falls asleep and is awakened by the doorbell. When she opens the door, she is greeted by a Maine Coon standing erect on two feet, wearing a blue suit. He asks her if she is ready to go shopping for cats. “Dahlia smiled. ‘Give me ten minutes, please. I’ll need to get dressed and get my coat.’” Which is the dream, which reality?

“Safety First” is another story in which dreams and guilt mix potently. Narrated in the first person by a divorced woman, we learn that the protagonist dreams of her ex-husband trying to kill himself.  “He was gasping, red-faced, kicking his legs over a knocked-over chair.” Again, she dreams of him, picking at a nail on his big toe, blood bubbling from his foot. “By the second dream, I knew I couldn’t save him.”

All of these characters are seemingly stuck in their sense of remorse, their shame. This is true not just of Joseph and Giselle, Dahlia, Belle and the unnamed narrator of “Safety First,” but of the anal hygiene-freak protagonist of “Franklin Is In” and Paula Baumgarten in “Ever After,” the longest story in the collection, which also involves a failed marriage and the sense of regret that inevitably follows.

Two stories, “Nickled-and-Dimed” and “Dime-Store Bandits,” involve a pair of sisters, Imogene and Lenore, girls who have not quite reached puberty yet. In the first, Lenore, the younger sister, swallows a buffalo head nickel and Imogene calls 911. The upshot is that they have to alert their parents, who are out on a date together for the first time in years. In “Dime-Store Bandits,” Imogene watches, fascinated, as her younger sister pilfers candy from a Luncheonette, “nabbing Chunkys and Bazookas by the handful and shoving them into a back pocket.” Imogene, who like all older siblings is something of a cop, reporting bad behavior to their parents, is nevertheless “impressed” by her younger sister’s boldness and decides not to rat Lenore out. “After all, Mother didn’t need to know everything, did she?” Inspired, she goes to Woolworths and shoplifts herself! Childhood is full of stories of guilt and transgression.

A handful of the stories in Shame – “Gifts from God,” “Dogs,” “Yellow,” “Excuses,” “Age” – are micro-fictions that strike with the force of epiphany. Indeed, all of Schwartz’s fictions are succinct and dreamlike, hypnotic and enchanting, with the beguiling charm of Bernard Malamud stories.

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You can find the book here:

http://pwpbooks.blogspot.com/

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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.

 

 

 

The Seas Are Dolphins’ Tears By Djelloul Marbrook.

Book Cover_Seas Are Dolphins Tears_
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Michael T. Young
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The latest collection by poet Djelloul Marbrook, The Seas Are Dolphins’ Tears, follows the arc of a trajectory one can trace back to perhaps his fourth collection, Brash Ice, one following an ever-deepening engagement with the mysteries of spiritual awakening. It is signaled by the opening quote from Ibn al ‘Arabi, a Muslim mystic of the early 13th century. From there we enter a poetry that is spare and startling. No capitalization or punctuation delimits the explorations we set out on. We are instead invited to question everything from grammatical nuance to identity. It is a language that is simultaneously direct and absurd, a kind of magic that reveals truth beyond logic and where paradox jars the senses.
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in the heart of such familiarity
i cannot find my way
one must be one’s own light
in cracks between ordinariness
and exquisite punishments
— “lost in the midst of finding
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Marbrook’s poetry turns inward and walks the path between polarities as the language of ecstatic poetry does. External realities manifest themselves as turmoil in the internal spiritual terrain. Boundaries of self and other breakdown not into illusions but mutually affirming realities, the interdependence of all things. Following Marbrook’s poetry from his first to latest collection, one sees a poet who refuses to divorce physical necessity from spiritual subtlety. Unlike many who assert the dominance of one of these realms over the other, Marbrook remains devoted to the truth of their balance and a poetics that reveals the connection of spirit and body in all its diverse facets.
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I notice that the best of us
counterclockwise bear
sea rains to refresh
the brittleness of drought
that ravages our innards
— “panic”
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As so much of this book does, these lines recall mystical texts, as here, we confront the aridity of the soul or “innards” as St. John the Divine did in Dark Night of the Soul. That “brittleness of drought” is soothed by a return to primal sources, those “sea rains,” for the sea often, in poetic tradition, is an image of creative potential or, in other words, the unconscious. That counterclockwise motion is the return and it echoes in various other contraries of place and time, self and other throughout the collection, for instance, as “’there’ is the most elusive word,” or “he is a woman,” or “we are most of all/what we think we’ve lost.” While this journey leads us to elvish tables and faerie parties, such fantastic encounters do not abandon compassion for our very real fellow living beings. That would not be in keeping with the humanity that pervades Marbrook’s poetry.
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            remember that
tortured beasts
      thrash beneath
            every sorrow
                  & imprisoned thing
— “leviathan”
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Or again,
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if methane did not leak
from political endeavor
if we could die assured
of so much loveliness after us
i could simply shut my mouth
—“words flee”
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Much of Marbrooks’ earlier poetry overtly confronts social issues and artistic needs while allowing spiritual underpinnings to surface within that framework. He has, in this new collection, reversed that order and we now see the worldly problems from a spiritual perspective, a perspective that does not include silence before political folly or ecological disaster. In this sense, these poems partake of the surreal tradition by which given boundaries are tested or broken down and which inherently dissents with established politics and norms. However, the trajectory of Marbrook’s project reaches further back and forward than the present collection, a trajectory that reveals a marvelous balance and beauty in his poetry, a great breadth of poetic vision, something too large for a single collection. Marbrook is a poet of great scope who packs an epic power into poems of incredible lyrical compression. This may be one way of seeing the journey of a spiritual awakening itself, that is as a narrative traveled inside a lyrical moment.
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parts no one has touched
since i was an astonished boy
parts god and women for all their wiles
have not found    they have gone ahead of me
to find you whom i was forced to leave behind.
— “questions the parts”
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Astonishment is a variety of the sublime, that experience of the transcendent often too profound for our crude sensibilities to bear. So, this racing on ahead to find what was left behind is not merely past is prologue, but how that spiritual awakening is a remembrance, the recovery of a fundamental insight as if we all are born with our lips still glistening from the waters of Lethe.
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One may, at times, be baffled by these poems, but that is in the way a Zen koan can be baffling, which is by a language meant to break us free of the torpor of routine logic, that prison nearly invisible to us because its bars are made of our daily thoughts. These poems, however, are written in that language which is a prelude to enlightenment. The Seas Are Dolphins’ Tears makes an incredible addition to the growing oeuvre of this versatile and gifted poet.
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You can find the book here:

 https://www.amazon.com/Seas-Are-Dolphins-Tears/dp/190984960X

 Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was published by Terrapin Books. HIs other collections include The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Award. Young also received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, The Cortland Review, The Los Angeles Review, Shrew, The Smart Set, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Young lives with his wife, children, and cats in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Edju By RW Spryszak

edju

The Surrealism of War, Politics, Religion and Everything Else

By Larissa Shmailo

RW Spryszak;s Edju is a compelling, thought-provoking read, possibly one of the best antiwar novels since Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. Its eponymous unreliable narrator is certainly as odd as Trumbo’s and every bit as opinionated. Edju’s point of view is skewed, we suspect, but the surreal world he encounters is undeniably more so. Populated by fantastic saints, monstrous war machines, and fatalistic animate metaphors of death, the world of Edju threatens us with the core horror of humans systematically killing one another for questionable ideas.

Reading Edju, I saw elements of the original picaresque novel in the adventures of its Quixotic, but always truthful, protagonist. But his story—a hagiography, perhaps, if Edju’s time-warping memory serves— is a continuing exercise in excess, an attempt to trump absurdist and surrealist writing of past several centuries. There are loud shout outs to Gogol’s nose and Kharm’s corpses, and more than a few scenes that are reminiscent of Kafka and even an absurdist Robinson Crusoe.

All of this is done in a slow reveal—we learn the name of the narrator, an old man mocked by children only in the eighth chapter. We assume Edju is mad, hopelessly odd, a compulsive-obsessive religious fanatic, a kook who thinks his dead lover is strangely and selectively alive in a sack. As his Nordic world unfolds in subsequent chapters, we come to believe this limited being is the only sane man on his dystopic nation.

The central conceits of the novel, Edju’s windmills, are surreal metaphors for war and competition in reduction ad absurdem: war machines fueled by human bodies, a Mountain of Flesh all are eager to climb, factions absurdly fighting over table cloths which have become their last banners, a Maze of defense. The path to war is depicted accurately, starting with pamphlets and the rise of fascism and inevitably followed by

Leftist Agrarian Front. Rightist National Unity. Holy Orders of the Fist of God. The Liberal Party. The Conservative Party. Liberal Conservatives and Conservative Liberals. The Armed Hand of the Nation. Nuns. All armed. All vying for power

And:

Évitez les faux, they shouted. Libérez nos bébés, they called. N’accepte pas les substituts. It seemed like a full-scale rebellion was at hand. I had no idea if those phrases were in any way grammatical and correct. But in times of revolution even the commas get misplaced.

Religion fares no better than politics. In nomenclature reminiscent of David Foster Wallace’s Year of the Depends Undergarment, faith in Edju’s universe is represented by Bibliana, saint of headaches and hangovers, Our Lady That Didn’t Tumble, Saint Fomildehyde, and extremely peculiar paths to canonization.

The writing of Edju is synaesthetic and witty, replete with eyepopping detail, zinger similes, and wise one liners:

Death makes everyone an outcast.
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There was a tan gray moon, a pure slice of venom in the blood, floating overhead.

Climbing up the em­bankment was a struggle, but her perfume reached out like a muscular ghost that held me close to its face of vapors. As wrong as elephants.

Left to the devices of nature all things decay. Why is this not the basis of the theory of everything they search for?
The rain fell so hard it opened graves.
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If you are not them, you are the other. It’s in the Constitu­tion now.

Firing a gun is like fucking a ghost.
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RW Spryszak’s unusual hero’s journey belongs on your reading list. Like many fine works that eptly mine and mime our culture, it is novel, in the first meaning of the word.

You can find the book here:

http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/edju.html

Larissa Shmailo is an American poet, novelist, translator, and critic.  Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country, #specialcharacters, I n Paran, the chapbook A Cure for Suicide, and the e-book Fib Sequence;  her latest novel is Patient Women. Shmailo’s work has appeared in Plume, the Brooklyn Rail, Fulcrum, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, the Journal of Poetics Research, Drunken Boat, Barrow Street, and the anthologies Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, Words for the Wedding, Contemporary Russian Poetry, Resist Much/Obey Little: Poems for the Inaugural, Verde que te quiero verde: Poems after Garcia Lorca, and many others. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the world’s first performance piece, Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych. Shmailo also edited the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and has been a translator on the Russian Bible for the American Bible Society. Please see more about Shmailo at her website at www.larissashmailo.com  and Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/  Larissa_Shmailo.

 

 

 

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.

Revealing Self in Pictures and Words by Tom Taylor aka the poet Spiel aka Thoss W. Taylor

Book-Revealing-Self.
By g emil reutter
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“… every Saturday morn, I lay upside down on my self-upholstered wrought iron radio bench to listen to opera from New York City even though I knew that a boy, plus opera, worried my third generation farmer father.” – Tom Taylor
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Tom Taylor is a painter/poet, a child of the 1940s he grew up on a farm, learned at a congregational Sunday school, active 4-H guy and Boy Scout. At an early age he knew he was different. His road would be difficult and different from many he grew up with. He embraced his sexuality at an early age and fought the battle that many fight when afflicted with mental illness. He escaped to Los Angles where he became known as Thoss W. Taylor- Painter. He gave up the L.A. lifestyle and returned to Colorado later in life with his partner.
Taylor’s beautiful images populate this 118 page memoir of his life. Surreal and real he is an exquisite creator as a painter as when one looks upon the images, one feels the artist’s passion, pain and joy. Coupled with the images are the poet’s words, like his paintings are devoid of fiction, excerpts that roll from page to page boldly revealing his life without any pretense.
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He tells us:

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“Gravity wants me back but I’m not ready to eat dirt—just like all the previous
times when I face the door to the end. Though the worldwide rubbish of
deception and discontent mount, there’s too much beauty and revelation in
rare moments of universal connection and clarity that set me up to soldier
on—such positive insight seldom prevails more than two winks and a nod.”
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“I am a rambling maverick man. I’ll be sleeping with new light to maintain my
stance against the knives and when this cloth becomes too-small, my sword is at
my side.”
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This memoir of images and words by a “maverick man” is a must read for all those who have lived a full life, who know the struggles and joys, who take the hard stand to be who they are no matter what the hardship. It is not just a memoir for those who are gay or those who struggle with mental illness but for all who live a full life and overcome the obstacles the brutal reality of life throws at us. I for one am glad that Taylor has avoided gravity and is not ready to eat dirt. This memoir is a gift to all of us and we are better off for Taylor’s continued living, creating words and paintings.
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at:
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