poems

Last Call – Pandemic of Violence II – Poets Speak

Submissions close on July 30th 

As we hope to emerge from the Covid Pandemic that continues to swirl about us, we are faced with the continuing disregard for human life and dignity in record violence in our cities and towns across the globe. Coupled with sinister wars across the globe; internment camps; forced labor, (slavery), systemic poverty, what was once unspeakable is now considered the norm. We must speak up, this violence is unacceptable and unjustified.

This is our second call for Poets to speak up; call for an end to the violence; restore normalcy; document the atrocities.

Send your submissions to: sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.com Up to four poems in one word doc. include your brief bio in the word doc. and send a photo in jpeg. Submissions are open until July 30th with anticipated publication in October. Please include in the subject line of your email: Pandemic of Violence Submission.

Our previous Pandemic of Violence I – Poets Speak can be read here: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/

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Central Air by George Bilgere

central air

By Lynette G. Esposito

Lynn Powell, author of Season of the Second, comments that Central Air will startle you with its power.  Haunting dispatches from Berlin, droll poems about late fatherhood, cheeky marital love lyrics, searing elegies, and laments for a country ‘growing stranger, less recognizable, more lonely every day….  I found this to be true of George Bilgere’s Central Air in the sixty-nine pages of poetry published by the University of Pittsburg Press in their Pitt Poetry Series.

For example, the poem, Fourth of July on page thirteen, is a one-stanza, twenty-five-line verse thatopens with a visual of the country’s birthday celebration causing the reader not to look up at the fireworks but to look at individuals rushing to the hospital after something went wrong.
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Across the nation the newly nine-
fingered people the eight- and seven- and six-
(but rarely five – five is rare) fingered people are hurrying to the ER.
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Bilgere has them coming from a wide variety of places: from the dark parks, backyard barbecues from the neighbor’s garage as if to metaphorically include everyone.  The wife is white faced, the kids are quiet and the fingers are wrapped because something didn’t go off right. He sets a time and place with clear observation how a celebration can go wrong but this poem is not about just showing what happened.  His last lines clarify the commentary.
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the tiny treacherous bomb
that failed to go off, that refused
to commemorate the birth
of the great republic that stands,
one nation under God, with liberty
and justice, etc.  Then changed
its mind,
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This highly skilled poem presents a picture of celebrants and country that twists itself into a patriotic pretzel with consequences. On page thirty-five, Bilgere reveals his dry sense of humor in his poem Mystery of Jerky. He sets the scene at a gas station in Nebraska and lauds the Plains Indians with cutting the heart out of a buffalo and eating it raw in the belief they would gain the courage and strength from the animal. He is eating jerky and ponders:
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Why I or anyone would eat this is not clear.
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He concludes this four-stanza poem, not of what happened to the Indians, but suggestion of what happened when one eats a tube of jerky in a Nebraskan gas station.
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But as I stand here
in the air-conditioned gas station,
chewing on the tube of what might
once have been meat, I can assure you
that is not what is happening.
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His ability to set time and place and reference an historical event then connect them to a smile is amazing. His last poem reveals a tender awaking.  Ripeness on page sixty-eight and sixty-nine is a one stanza poem of thirty-five lines that uses the power of imagery.  The poem opens with:
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This summer a big hawk,
hulking and sullen has come
to live in our neighborhood
like a god in exile.
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He relates his own life journey to the hawk with his own twists and wrong turns.  He uses natural, pleasant imagery of the pleasure he is feeling sitting in a lawn chair drinking a glass of wine.  He finishes the poem with:
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…It all seems
gathered here in ripeness
of clouds flashing like salmons
streaming down to the west
above the laughter of my boys,
my wife singing.
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It is as if Bilgere has reached a pinnacle and comprehends the value of it, The imagery works well on multi levels.The broad range of subjects and keen observations make this a book well worth reading. 

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The book is available here: https://upittpress.org/books/9780822966890/

 

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.

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Head-On by Rich Youmans

head

By John Zheng 

Rich Youmans’s Head-On is a fine, hand-sewn collection of 13 well-crafted haibun stories, each presenting an exquisite part strung together like sequences.

The title poem is about a couple driving one evening on the back road to the concert, but “the slow procession of cars” ahead of them “stretches through deepening twilight.” Youmans is good at describing the situation they are trapped in and using the couple’s dialogue as different responses to the slow traffic. While the husband mutters “Oh God,” the wife guesses, “Accident, maybe road work” Then the husband sounds a bit anxious, uttering “An hour at least.” Ironically, on the opposite lane, “white headlights rush them from around the bend—prisoners set free, running wild eyed into the night.” The metaphoric comparison enriches the poetic quality of this haibun. Then the haiku following the first paragraph complements the image of “white headlights” and extends what the husband sees in the side view mirror by juxtaposing the fading and flaring taillights with the steady star in the sky:

taillights fade

and flare . . .

            one steady star

The poet is skillful in using the concrete description to suggest the growth of anxiety. As the headlights behind them accumulate, and the situation becomes a stain on the whole wonderful day spent joyfully doing morning chores, watching the Red Sox game, and having a favorite dinner, the husband sounds even more impatient, “This is ridiculous.” Yet, the procession of cars barely crawls, and twilight fades into sparse stars. Forty minutes later, they just round the bend where they notice the accident suggested in the second haiku (“red lights beating / through soft pine—/ his pulse”), followed by a more vivid description of the tragic scene: “a station wagon, its front end nearly gone, its entire windshield burst; glass glitters across the blacktop as if all the stars had dropped. A rear door is open; near it, three white-shirted medics huddle over a sheeted figure.” Yet, the more tragic spot about this head-on is pointed to by the wife—

by the bright flare

a child’s sneaker,

its laces still tied

—which leads to an imagined detail of what has happened to the family in the accident. The couple seems to have a mood switch. The man is no longer concerned about the concert; instead, he keeps his eyes wide open on the road, and even “the insects flicking through the headlight beams” cannot escape his concentration. The wife “no longer hums her favorite Bach. They feel the pain of head-on. There comes a sudden realization of the importance of life, togetherness, and consciousness of each other, as shown in their hand touch.

“Odds” is again a poem about the tragic head-on. The title is proper as it is an odd thing that a small plane made an emergency landing on the highway and hit a minivan. The poem starts and ends with a one-line haiku respectively, each having a star image. In the first one, the star, which means the first morning light, is also the last wish to hold probably for the pilot and the van’s passengers. The second haiku functions like a continuation of the first haibun as if after the concert, while “taking the backroad home,” the man sees a single star that keeps pace or that reminds him to drive carefully. The prose part, however, weaves the persona’s breakfast cooking and his associative thinking of odd things coming to his mind one after another to reveal his psychological activity, thus establishing the conflict between the quiet breakfast time and the more stories of odd deaths flashing back.

The third haibun starts the poem itself with the title, which uses the concluding sentence “you cannot turn.” Since the ending doesn’t have a period, the word “turn” has a double meaning: The driver cannot turn to look at the person who taps on the window at the end of the poem nor can he turn the key in the ignition. Therefore, the ending without a period leaves a question to the reader about what has happened to the driver. In other words, it leaves a space for imagination to fill in, like the technique of empty space used in Chinese painting. Also, this shows how Youmans is good at crafting his title. He must know that a good title not only corresponds to what is presented in prose and haiku but also introduces the reader into the poem with a curious approach.

Stylistically, this poem uses flashbacks to connect the present situation to what happened in the past. The driver, who may be drunken or lost in the painful thought on a rainy night, recalls the woman he fell in love with at first sight when he sees in the rearview mirror “the starblue neon of the bar” where “her moss-green eyes” met his head-on.

Another stylistic technique that distinguishes this poem is that Youmans groups three one-line haiku together to highlight the romance of the two lovers:

      small talk   she turns all the loose change heads up

      shoulder to shoulder   sound of ice settling in her glass

      last call   her perfume and the stars lead you home

Then the vivid description of the time spent together leads to a surprise: another head-on which occurred after a drink one night at the bar: “in a single missed turn, all the lines were crossed and her hand slipped free.” Again, Youmans groups three one-line haiku to highlight the crash:

windshield   through a jagged hole, night rushes in

on your tongue   the taste of iron and her name

after the funeral   all the ceiling cracks lead nowhere

The two kinds of head-on, though the poet does not specify the second, seem to serve as suspense. The romantic head-on keeps the reader interested but leads to an unexpected, tragic head-on. The next characteristic is that Youmans uses no uppercase letters in the title and at the beginning of each sentence. His intention, I guess, is to keep a smooth flow of the story woven with flashbacks.

Also, one prominent characteristic of Head-On is the use of one-line haiku. Out of 38 haiku, 25 are one-liners. Some of Youmans’s haiku serve as both preludes and postludes, as in “Odds” and “Long After Eye Surgery, the Blind Woman Daydreams,” some as interludes, as in “you cannot turn” and “Depth Perception,” and the rest of them as interludes and postludes in the traditional way, as in the other 9 haibun.

Another impressive technique is the memorable, metaphoric comparisons. In “Head-On,” “glass glitters across the blacktop as if all the stars had dropped;” in “you cannot turn,” “her eyelids snapped shut, quick as a lizard’s;” in “Finding Bach in the Pine Barrens,” points of light of the house lamps behind trees are fireflies; and in “Dance with Me,” the “shoulder aches like a bad tooth.”

Youmans is an excellent storyteller. His stories, though short in one or four paragraphs, are full of details, concrete descriptions, vivid visual images, surprises with aha moments, and suggestions. In a word, Head-On deserves a reading head-on.

You can find the book here: https://m.facebook.com/redbirdchapbooks/photos/head-on-haibun-stories-by-rich-youmans-is-now-availablein-these-haibun-stories-r/2085064558254634/

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.

Most Read Poets January to June 2022

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Two Poems by Laura Johanna Braverman

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Pandemic of Violence II – Poets Speak

Call for Submissions

As we hope to emerge from the Covid Pandemic that continues to swirl about us, we are faced with the continuing disregard for human life and dignity in record violence in our cities and towns across the globe. Coupled with sinister wars across the globe; internment camps; forced labor, (slavery), systemic poverty, what was once unspeakable is now considered the norm. We must speak up, this violence is unacceptable and unjustified.

This is our second call for Poets to speak up; call for an end to the violence; restore normalcy; document the atrocities.

Send your submissions to: sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.com Up to four poems in one word doc. include your brief bio in the word doc. and send a photo in jpeg. Submissions are open until July 30th with anticipated publication in October. Please include in the subject line of your email: Pandemic of Violence Submission. 

Our previous Pandemic of Violence I – Poets Speak can be read here: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/

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Lost Autographs by Peter Baroth

lost-autographs-cover-scaled
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By g emil reutter
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Released in 2015 by Moonstone Press, Lost Autographs by Peter Baroth is slated for a second printing. Baroth is known for his irony, hipster meets beat and blunt realism. So seven years after its release why should you pick up a copy? First of all because you didn’t get the first edition. Secondly, Lost Autographs is 94 pages of excellent narrative poetry coupled with amazing character development.
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Baroth a lawyer, artist, poet, musician, became a lawyer following in his Hungarian Grandfather’s foot steps. But tragedy is at the core of the poem, Grandfather:
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Dear Ted by Kim Vodicka

dead ted

By Greg Bem

Following on the heels of her similarly absurdist conceptual books  The Elvis Machine (Clash Books, 2020) and Psychic Privates (White Stag, 2018), Kim Vodicka’s latest collection of poetry is a hyper-focused menagerie of the grotesque and the unsettling. It is a book that examines violence and sexuality directly. It is a book that feels like it belongs in the True Crime section of Barnes and Noble, but could just as easily find a home among the trendiest young poets writing today. Dear Ted is not for everyone.

It is blunt in its descriptions of brutality and sexual extremes, and it is wholly unique in bringing them together through a hardened feminist stance. How far the reader makes it through the realized hell is reflective more on them than on the poet.

Our skeletal structures were too visible
beneath the skin.

Our skin was too tight.

Our bones were too revealing.

Our skulls didn’t smile enough.

(from DSM-69, page 69)

Here the Memphis-based Kim Vodicka writes bitter and witty missives into the void of Ted Bundy. Dear Ted is partially a book of anti-love poems, fueled by a feminist charge to explore and overcome the brutality of Ted Bundy’s serial murders of women. Vodicka brings an everyday approach to describing the murderer, acknowledging Bundy’s appearance of normalcy alongside the reality of his actions.

As described in these short but jabbing poems, the murderer feels like the archetypal foil to the poet, a wretch of masculine violence whose trail has long been forgotten to many. The poet’s mix of sardonic and empathetic responses linger. Vodicka raises questions through her a usual barrage of extremes and extenuations, which find solace and counterpoint through sexual kink and a mild perversion.

What greater torment than happiness?

Or the soothing sounds of a nervous breakdown.

What greater torment than trying too hard to make everyone happy?

Or the soothing sounds of losing to evil.

(from “Courtesy Flush,” page 92)

The book is divided into three “circles” (sections) including Circle of Mania, Circle of Shit, and Circle of Blood. The book opens and closes with additional poems, both titled “How Do You Feel About Love?” which are each sequences of short fragments littered across the pages to form their whole. These clue in the reader, set the stage, and gently open a book that is concertedly powerful and distressing.

Stanzas like “Preciousness howls, / going nuclear” (page 21) in the book’s opening contains multitudes and little does the reader know what awaits them within the trilogy of circles. Similarly, closing lines like Frankenstein’s monster / tossing a little girl into the water, / just like a daisy.” (page 177) summarizes the speaker’s experience exploring relations and commitments with the killer.

Vodicka’s earlier works have been supported by similar feminist initiatives, and in Dear Ted we have a collection that feels complete. But it also feels long. The swelling of emotional difficulty (especially when the poet writes alongside Bundy’s image) is consistent to the point of incessance; and even in some instances the pieces themselves feel tired and repetitive. Still, Vodicka’s design reflects a very particular catharsis and writing through a serial murderer seems to make sense in this book of serialesque letters.

Now, I am a monster too.

A hypothesis proven.

A myth made manifest.

(from “Poetic Justice, “page 160)

If Vodicka’s aim is to overwhelm, to inundate, to bury the reader, she succeeds remarkably. The final section of the book, Circle of Blood, repositions the idea of the murderer, of the owner of violence, onto the speaker. In an act of absolute horror, the poetry describes an inversion that probably will shock and awe almost every reader.

Despite the occasional superfluous language and tones that often work against one another, Circle of Blood forms a stark and depressing yet effective conclusion that breaks the male gaze and the triumph of masculinity in murderer forms. This is poetry that feels unpolished and even sloppy on its surface, yet contains multitudes within. It may be that the reader does not last long enough to witness those multitudes within the book’s near 200 pages.

You can find the book here: https://rlysrslit.bigcartel.com/product/dear-ted-preorder-kim-vodicka

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

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Blue Electrode by Margaret Barbour Gilbert

blue
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Poetry is such a personal thing.  Margaret Barbour Gilbert’s Blue Electrode published by Finishing Line Press Georgetown, Kentucky, takes the reader on Gilbert’s journey of seizure and recovery. Her images reveal truths about the human condition.  In one moment, one is fine and in the next moment, one is on the floor.
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In her poem Aura on page two, she presents in two stanzas a vision of her waking:
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I felt like angels
were holding me up
when I woke this
morning.  I could see the grey sky
through the green trees
of my window pane,
the clear blue day,
the bright black
hair of angels.
It was as if
I were high above
the earth,
suspended,
riding
an angel’s wing
into the mirror
of my life.
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What an interesting way to wake up.  She has strong use of place and time in this poem and the awakening is common to all of us in how the first thing we see affects us.  She uses color effectively.  The poem is lean as if Gilbert took a surgeon’s instrument to it. It is not sentimental but displays observable images of a needed courage and a protection of an angel reflecting her life.
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Her title poem, Blue Electrode on page four, details her experience in having her brain wired to machines to discover why she is seizing.  She talks about a blue scarf she uses to hide the wires. The three stanzas in this poem are numbered as if to indicate stages of the procedure. At the beginning of the poem, she states:
At the moment, I am all wired up and
buckled into a $9,000 belt with tape recorder
–getting a 24-hour recording of my brain.
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Gilbert is again strong on time and situation. In the second stanza she talks of plastic flowers and graves and her mother thinks the words Epilepsy and Woe are synonymous.  While the mother’s visit may have been meant to be soothing, obviously not so much.
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In the third stanza (stage) she wraps a blue scarf around her head so she can go to the grocery without the wires showing or her hair that she relates to medusa snakes.  She describes the scarf as a gift her father wanted to give to her mother.  It has little flowers on it.  She sends the scarf to her mother but the last line makes so much clear to the reader.  She returns it.
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On page twenty-eight she presents her poem, Recovery.
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Long gowns lie in my arms like dead lovers,
corpses that nestle against my shoulder and climb
down my back like vines clinging to a trellis.
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In this poem she turns the gowns into taffeta and gathers them together in her arms.  It is as if she has taken back what she had lost.
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The book is slim—only thirty pages.  But this is powerful in situation and clear-sited images of what it is to suffer from a seizure disease.  It is well worth reading.
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 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.
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