Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, The Philippines. His works have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Dwarf Stars and Best of the Net Awards. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of magazines and anthologies, including North of Oxford, The Cape Rock, Muddy River Poetry Review, Chiron Review, Invisible City, The Lyric, The McNeese Review, and The Anglican Theological Review. His poetry collections include, “Songs from My Mind’s Tree”
By g emil reutter
Canción is the title of Eduardo Halfon’s latest release. Canción is also the kidnapper of his grandfather during the 1960’s and is the centerpiece of the narrator’s quest to find out why. Yet the story opens in Tokyo at a Lebanese Writers Conference. The narrator tells the story of his Lebanese grandfather, who is not Lebanese but Syrian, for Lebanon did not exist yet. Halfon establishes a bond with his Japanese host, whose grandfather survived Hiroshima. Canción weaves a tale of family, of violence, of fear, of travels, of liberation.
The character development is excellent, such as grandfather; Uncle Salomón; and the sleeping and sick, NoNo snoring. Salomón is reading Turkish coffee grounds when the soldiers arrive at their Guatemalan City Mansion to inform the grandfather that they located one of the men who had kidnapped him in 1967. It is here the narrator begins to piece together the long search to his grandfather’s history, coupled with the violent and fearful past of Guatemala, its civil war, and uncertainty. The violence of the Kaibiles is graphically detailed in the slaughter of an entire village, as well as the role of “Beni,” who is an enforcer for his grandfather. Beni, a Kaibile, was at the village slaughter.
The Halfon families shifting geographical locations from Syria to Europe to New York to Guatemala to Israel and to Japan contribute to the shifting of this story in a positive manner. A family with boundaries, yet without boundaries who maintain their faith and wealth.
Along the way we meet a beauty queen, model-handsome ambassador, bartenders, and characters of the night. Then there is Canción, the butcher, who we hear tales about and yet never meet nor does the narrator in his search. In the end he does find out his destiny.
Canción brings us into the violence of 1960’s Guatemala, not only through the violence of rebels and the government, but through the eyes of a family entwined in the midst of it all. It is a story of violence yet in the end it is a story of redemption.
You can find the book here: https://blpress.org/?post_type=product&p=5063
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories and on occasion literary criticism. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
By Greg Bem
stories and forms of classification we didn’t yet realize how urgently we’d need to recover and weave new webs to protect us from subtraction. – (from “Olmedo,” page 19)
In the opening of Maricela Guerrero’s The Dream of Every Cell, before it even really opens, the poet writes: “For the people and communities who care for and defend the forests, jungles, mountains, rivers, glaciers, and oceans subjected to the extractions of empire, with admiration and profound respect” (page 6). This statement profoundly summarizes what is a collection of ecopoetic meditations and love poems to and for the preservation of the environment, our world, our future.
Guerrero’s collection, originally from 1977 in Mexico City, and first published in the Spanish language in 2018, and now here this year, in English, thanks to Robin Myers, feels as much a collection of poetry as it does a document of rebellion, a manifesto, a toolkit on how to think about connectedness and ecology. It is a book about individuals as much as it is about systems. It is a book about personal commitment as much as it is a book about relationships. As Myers concisely describes in the afterword, it is “a compendium of protest and praise” (page 133).
The poet is concerned with the world and anchors this book in a key figure of the poet’s world: a science teacher named Ms. Olmedo, whose teachings are profoundly Zenlike in their simplicity and provocation. Strewn through most of the poems are koan-like insights into how to approach the world, think about the cells of the world, and relate to them. There are poems on trees, on wolves, on biological principles, and investigations into truth.
Counter to preservation is destruction, and counter to the preservationists of this book is empire, is imperialism, is the destroyer. The first quote from Olmedo paints this picture and sets this stage: “All organisms are made of cells, except for viruses” (page 13), and from that flip of the page this book is a scythe cutting open and exposing the raw reality beneath the surface. It is a book that describes movement of life and death, of action and inaction, and of protection.
The language of empire doesn’t care about recognizing that a cell comes from another cell; it only wants to know which cell came first.
(from “The Language of Empire,” page 83)
How empire is found and described ecologically varies from poem to poem. In the prose poem “It’s Raining,” the reader stands face to face with all of Monsanto, greedy with the control of seeds (page 61). In “Data,” precursors to what is widely known as data capitalism is described: “The imperial language of our present day is encoded in statistics, in rivers of data flowing through webs of energy and silicone and salt” proclaims the poet (page 75). Again, this courageous book concerns the specific and the vague, the succinct and the massive.
The Dream of Every Cell is a cunning array of poetic explorations, and it is a book of dreams. It is a book of longing and the imagination. Guerrero writes in a prehistoric passion, thinking of the abstract boundaries that divide utopian paradise, the wastes of today, and somewhere urgently existing in between. I appreciate the poet’s bluntness despite of the poetic imagining. In “Rivers,” Guerrero asks: “Can we imagine a river of wolves lacing through the mesetas and sheltering streams and creeks and communities of life communicating in a language that isn’t the language of empire?” Later, more matter-of-factly, we are graced with a question on healing and treatment: “Are spearmint leaves in tea for stomach pain a form of love?” (from “Mentha Spicata,” page 51). Guerrero isn’t shy to ask us how we reach resolution in our grim world, filled with dynamics of contradiction, where the wisdom and its solutions stare as right in the face.
The book is a stunning 140 pages, and most of it is in prose, and yet it is a bilingual release that pairs the original Spanish next to the emerged English exquisitely. There is something to be said about a movement of language that goes beyond Guerrero’s Mexico into new corners of our webbed, shared existence.
shared breath resounding: breath
a respite millions of light years away:
just imagine that, Ms. Olmedo would say
(from “Introductions,” page 23)
The Dream of Every Cell is a dense collection, filled with questions seeking responses, seeking empathetic connection. It offers to find meaning between the poet and the audience in a way most poetry books avoid; it finds heights that most poetry books never reach. Guerrero’s audience includes you, and her book is one that, with its wolves and streams and breathing, will offer you visions into a more respectful, supportive future.
You can find the book here: https://cardboardhousepress.org/the-dream-of-every-cell-maricela-guerrero
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 www.gregbem.com
The title of The Path to Kindness suggests that kindness is a goal or a destination to reach for an individual’s self-cultivation and for a society’s harmonious environment. Although dictionaries provide descriptions of the word meanings, they don’t offer a sensible opportunity to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the thingness of kindness. Therefore, the core of kindness lies in the act of doing things in kind ways. Also, kindness is not an innate virtue; it is what one learns and possesses; it is part of a person’s life; it is an act flowing like water, as in Lao Tzu’s words from Tao Te Ching: “True goodness is like water.”
This anthology is a gathering of voices worth hearing. Poets share their ideas and stories about kindness with vivid and concrete descriptions. In “Small Kindnesses,” Danusha Laméris tells that kindness can be as small as “when you walk / down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs / to let you by.” It can also be as common as a kind word, a touch, or a smile, which is, however, “a bit of beauty” planted in someone to grow, as expected in Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s “Kindness”:
Truly, small or common things can tell a lot about a person’s personality. On the other hand, Kindness can be a bittersweet ordeal before one knows its true value, as Naomi Shihab Nye says philosophically in her poem “Kindness”: “Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, / you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.” In other words, kindness can be a poignant experience one must gain before celebrating it. And there is no shortcut or expressway to reach it.
However, it is important to realize that kindness, as a human virtue, is an idea in things that can be done in a child’s coming of age. Planting it as a seed in oneself should start early as part of a child’s education. A child who grows up to be a kind person learns to possess this virtue from his parents, so it is a like-father-like-son relay from generation to generation. In “Most Important Word,” Laura Grace Weldon regards love as the first word to learn so the child will be kind to love. She shares her story of teaching her four-year-old son how to write and speak the word love because she believes learning to love is the first step to becoming a kind person. She further describes that love remains the same “first magical word” to learn for her granddaughter who “concentrates, / lines rollicking onto the paper, / tongue curled against her lip.”
Further, to love and be kind should be an inseparable part of a person’s life, and doing kind things does not mean expecting recognition from others. Rather, it is a voluntary way to enrich one’s spiritual life, to keep “a little warmth” within the self, and to give “a little warmth” to faith and time, as related by Ted Kooser in “Filling the Candles”:
When people do kind things without letting others know, the community will shape itself in a better way, and human beings will wear more smiles than concerns.
There are all kinds of poetry anthologies, but The Path to Kindness is a timely pocket anthology with a single, important theme since kindness is needed for an individual, a community, and the country especially when hate crimes and racism have erupted in and smeared the cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and elsewhere, showing the absence of goodness, peace, harmony, and safety in these places dominated by fear, disorder, and murder.
Reading is a beautiful act and can make a person mindful. This anthology gathers different voices about kindness, love, and connection. Of 112 poets, 13 have two poems, 4 have three, and 1 (the editor himself) has four. It would be kind to include more poets if each has just one poem in the book.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Path-Kindness-Poems-Connection-Joy/dp/1635865336
John (Jianqing) Zheng’s publications include A Way of Looking, Conversations with Dana Gioia, and African American Haiku: Cultural Visions. He is the editor of the Journal of Ethnic American Literature. His forthcoming poetry collection is titled The Dog Years of Reeducation from Madville Publishing.
By Byron Beynon
As a child Charlotte Mew’s imagination “thought the stars were God’s angels”. At school she was fortunate to have a teacher who had a heartfelt enthusiasm for books, her name was Lucy Harrison, and Mew became strongly attached to her. One former pupil remembered “just how it felt when Miss Harrison came into the room, bringing with her, as she always did, a serene sense of freshness and space and of august things ….. she had the power not only of imparting knowledge but of communicating atmosphere and beauty, with the result that she made many good lovers of poetry, eager to read and glad to learn by heart. I think that was one of the greatest things she did for us. One learnt how profoundly poetry counts, or should count, in life.”
Mew would develop into a great poet despite having a deep desire for privacy and keeping herself apart from literary groups and cliques. Alida Monro, the wife of Harold Monro who was to publish Mew’s first book of poems The Farmer’s Bride (published 1916, expanded edition 1921) described Mew as “very small, only about four feet ten inches, very slight, with square shoulders and tiny hands and feet.” Monro also described her first meeting with the poet at the poetry bookshop she ran with her husband, she asked, “Are you Charlotte Mew?” and Mew’s reply was “I am sorry to say I am.” Mew saw herself as an outsider. Others like Thomas Hardy thought she was “the greatest poetess” he knew of. Virginia Woolf thought her “the best of poets alive”, Siegfried Sassoon also admired her work and Ezra Pound accepted Mew’s poem “The Fête” for publication in The Egoist (May 1914). Marianne Moore also warned that “If we choose to leave the poems of Charlotte Mew out of our literary heritage, we are leaving out an original”.
Born in London in 1869, the third child of an architect named Frederick Mew and his wife Anna Maria. Her childhood was devastated by the death of three of her siblings and two others fell victim to mental illness and hospitalisation. She and her beloved sister Anne renounced marriage for fear of passing on insanity to their children. Her first publication was a story entitled “Passed” which appeared in the second volume of The Yellow Book. Most of her surviving poetry dates from 1912 and later.
This is the first comprehensive biography of Mew and Julia Copus has been able to draw on a wealth of previously unseen materials, including letters, photographs, medical records, diaries and testaments of friends. Copus has written a fine biography with the understanding of a poet enabling the reader to gain fresh and interesting insights into Mew’s private and public life and work.
You can find the book here: This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew (Faber Poetry)