poems

From Our Editors

Recent releases from our editors here at North of Oxford. We thank all for supporting our work.

Hand Held Mirror of the Mind

The Handheld Mirror of the Mind

stale

Stale Bread and Coffee

.

Advertisements

Coming on June 13th

timchristopher_barnes_1cameron-morse

hiramNew.

On June 13th North of Oxford will present the poetry of: Tim Suermondt, Christopher Barnes, Cameron Morse, Hiram Larew and Michael A. Griffith.

North of Oxford is Open for Submissions

North of Oxford wordpress

Poetry Submissions: 

North of Oxford is open to submissions of poetry. Please send no more than five poems in word doc with a short bio, (75-100 words),  and jpeg to sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.comfor consideration of publication. Please note Poetry Submission and your name in the subject line of the email.  Poems will be published the 15th of each month. Our response time should be within two months. We do not accept any previously published poems. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, please give proper notice if accepted elsewhere.  Please wait six months after acceptance or rejection to submit new poems to North of Oxford.

Book Review-Essay- Commentary Submissions:

Submissions of book reviews, essays, and commentary are welcome. Send your submission for consideration of publication in word doc with any images or photographs attached , Include a brief bio. All submissions are to be sent to:  sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.com  Reviewers are responsible for submitting a fully edited review for consideration. Please note in the subject line of the email- submission- your name. Reviews, essays, commentary, interviews will be published the 1st of each month.

For Book Reviewers- Recently Received Books:  ( Updated on a regular basis) https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/recently-received-books/

.

.

Everyone Just Wants to Drum by Kevin Rabas

drum
.
By Charles Rammelkamp
.

In the title piece of his new collection, in a brief section called “Prose Pieces,” Kevin Rabas, chair of the English Department at Emporia State University and poet laureate of Kansas from 2017-2019, tells the story of library night in Mulvane, KS, where he has been invited to participate. He stands by a sandwich board with an arrow pointing to Clowns & Activities and another arrow pointing to Poet Laureate. He stands by the appropriate sign with a table of books and his drums beside him. “I do a jazz poetry bit,” he tells us parenthetically.

Of course, nobody is particularly interested in poetry but makes straight for the face-painting and food trucks. But when Rabas begins with a measured, Brazilian beat” on the drums, a little kid with his mom gets interested, and soon enough Rabas is mobbed by kids wanting a chance at the cymbals, the snare, the tom-tom, “about 50 kids make their way through in an hour,” but of course  nobody sticks around for the poetry, he observes with good humor. “Everyone just wants to drum.”
.
But Rabas makes the point that the music is a form of poetic expression itself, and this theme holds up throughout the collection. Indeed, one whole section (the book is divided into nine sections), “Song Cycle: Poems at the Piano,” a suite of eight poems, was written in collaboration with the pianist Martin Cuellar. Each poem corresponds to a movement in a Tao Lin composition. One especially evocative poem is “Floating Clouds”:
.
Above us, clouds
sag with rain, as if they
carry heavy sacks. They move now
with weight. Then, rain,
and those clouds run,
sleek and thin
on to another pasture, another
town, water
rising and following.
.
Another section of ten poems is entitled “Music,” with titles like “Jazz Standards,” “Know the Notes,” “How composed music hopes” and “Quartet.” The poem “Crazy” is after the Patsy Cline song:
.
I know everyone,
every girl sings
Patsy’s Crazy
at karaoke, but
in this little rusted-
out bar my drink
burns with your voice.
.
Most of the poems in Everyone Just Wants to Drum are short, focused like haiku, more about image and reflection than narrative. Indeed, many have the impact of “Observations,” the title of the final, twelve-poem section. “Hail,” for instance, succinctly shows us a hailstorm:
.
How the hail, pea-sized,
  froghops on the lawn,
bright white, rock-like, misshapen,
  and sounds like bags
of marbles being dropped
  on top the roof
.
The sections entitled “Time Off,” “Words, Language,” and “At the Gym, the Gas Station, the Coffee Shop” are likewise little epiphanies of examination, celebrations of the everyday. What could be more ordinary than a gym, a gas station or a coffee shop, after all? “On the Road,” from “Time Off,” reads:
.
Rain coming, the black cows
lie down in the green and wait
for droplets, for a summer
shower like a lover’s
touch, all hazy
and indigo, late June
in east central Kansas
along the turnpike, driving
the grey ribbon
that never ends.
.
Simple but vivid, Rabas shows you the passing scene in all its modest, quotidian beauty, like something from a Japanese haiku indeed, as you drive along the mind-numbing freeway going from point A to point B. The cows settle in, the soothing, life-giving rain about to begin, the drab hypnotic pavement unspooling ahead.
.
Rabas teaches playwriting at Emporia State as well, and thus another of his short “observations” from the “Words, Language” section paints another powerful, dramatic picture:
.
That white noise murmur
of the house with the lights up
before the show, what
heaven might be like
at first, before we know
the words.
.
A short, five-poem section called “Disquiet” seems to address a time of mental anxiety. But the drum is back in “Mom Brings My Drum to Menninger’s,” an apparent reference to the psychiatric clinic in Houston.
.
How that
garage sale conga
held what I knew
and needed,
when I thumped
my story
across its skin.
.
And the orderlies
said, That’s ok, sonny.
You can play that,
play that again.
.
And thus we come full circle to music and expression and to poetry and the mental and emotional impulses that move and are moved by the words and the music. There’s a quiet wisdom in Kevin Rabas’ work, even a subtle “therapy” at work, as well, as if these are the very things you really need to stay sane in our turbulent world – the poetry, the music. Because face it, everyone just wants to drum.
.
.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by FutureCycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online Time Is on My Side (yes it is) http://poetscoop.org/manuscrip/Time%20Is%20on%20My%20Side%20FREE.pdf
.
.

Witness in the Convex Mirror by Eileen R. Tabios

witness
.
By g emil reutter
.
Eillen Tabios is a prolific poet and editor, with over 50 collections notched on her belt, she continues to inspire with her ability to cast new light into the world of poetry. This past May, TinFish released the collection, Witness in the Convex Mirror. The concept to create poems beginning with the first two lines in each poem from Ashbery’s poem, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.
.
This was no small task. We are fortunate that this project was developed by a poet like Tabios. She is the ultimate crafted poet whose hard work, insight and passion for the written word flows throughout these 135 pages of poetry. She begins the collection with The Song of Space.
.
We set out to accomplish and wanted so desperately
to see come into being our corralled chords
disciplined into the sublime—it is otherwise impossible
to heighten cathedrals into a space where supplicants
will feel their smallness, thus, comprehend they are not
gods.
.
Later in the poem she writes:
.
I opened my eyes to
a rainbow settling itself upon my chest. I looked at this
odd light and whispered, “I’m no pot of gold, dear
Parmigianino”.
.
The images of the heightened cathedral, smallness, comprehending they are not gods and then the fresh image of a rainbow settling itself upon my chest, simply beautiful.
.
In the poem Civilization and Inheritance she tells us, like yellowing leaves on shrubs tentative/ before marauding birds. One’s beak/ flashed open to reveal a dangling worm— / surely imagination need not be radicalized/to fortell the fodder’s fate.
.
In the poem, Integrity, she opens once again with two Ashbery lines and then brings us to unexpected places:
.
The surprise, the tension are in the concept
rather than its realization. In this way, integrity
is possible as, like Picasso, we break into
irreparable fragments the image that assumes
it bespeaks the reality of psychology. To see
that woman sleeping amidst laundry piled up
in the corner of a room, her fingers trapped
in the pose of folding her master’s shirt, must
be to become broken witness—if not, integrity
becomes a dream trapped in a mirror. Only
the broken can muster the ability to howl
.
The use of two of Ashbery’s lines to begin new poems is bold and courageous. Tabios has never been a poet to conform, she shatters the mirror. Its shards of images and words, both beautiful and harsh, of the comfortable and uncomfortable glitter like diamonds spilled out upon the floor. The book is divided into five sections. Abstract Expressions, The Sheriff’s Advice, Cubism of Color, Scars and Excavated Tankas. Each section is an honest reflection of the world we live in.
.
Euphemisms for Mortality
.
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
what it advertises, the gaze bypasses the age
of beams and leaded panes—no one wishes
to look at the old unless they can be elevated
by euphemisms. Say, “antique.” Say, “powerful”
Say, billionaire.” Say, “convex” for widening
the gaze when focus means the revelation of
mortality. You wake up one morning and, unlike
yesterday, the hand is spotted with dark spots,
the jowls hang, the breath catches on the third
step, and the prodigal child is at the door
with hand stretched for any inheritance. From
that point onward, everything you muster on
the piano shall be nostalgic and poignant. For
novels, you return to the Russians—at least
they live again when your trembling fingers
open their books. But you suspect no one will
read you, and you professed your entire life
that you are a poet. Damnation: I am a poet!
.
You can get the book here: Witness in the Convex Mirror
.
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. His most recent collection is Stale Bread and Coffee
.
.

Let’s All Die Happy by Erin Adair-Hodges

lets all

By Lynette G. Esposito

.
Let’s All Die Happy by Erin Adair-Hodges is the winner of the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and well deserved.  The 95-page poetry volume published by University of Pittsburg Press delivers a poetic experience that not only engages the reader as an observer but also involves the reader in the images, in the action and in the message.
.
For example, on page seven, Adair-Hodges uses images to set the tone in the thirty-three-line poem In the Black Forest.
.
                                 Even the birds, stained black by the thumb
                                 of morning.  If not love, then at least a thing
.
                                that is not love’s undoing, that is not
                                a lung with nothing to do.  When I dream
.
                                of loving another man it is only
                                a muscle remembering the joy.
 .
So much is presented in the couplets opening this poem.  Tone is both dark and light, musical and clash, lost and found as one discovers love and its profound effect.  The mixed metaphors twist the black forest with controlling punctuation, with spindles and bobbins and two jobs for one action.  The last words are both mournful and hopeful
: … I changed the locks because I thought there were more keys to come.
.
On page thirty-five, the one-stanza poem, The Trap, opens with There is no greater tragedy than to be young.  Action is suggested through universal but unique images such as:  linoleum of heartbreak, corn dog stands, letters hinged by blades, and lightening bolts angry and bored.  Imagine yourself in high school; your first time having sex, and these images ignite.
.
Each poem suggests cause and effect messages.  In Seeing Ex-Boyfriends on page 88, aging is presented in seeing the past in the present and nostalgia for what was.
.
                                   Sometimes you see the young man you knew
                                   inside the skin of this deflated one.
.
Adair-Hodges again uses couplets without end rhyme to keep the pace of the poem quick.
.
                                    Sometimes, you look good, never better.
                                   Mostly you do not.
.
The language of aging is no longer how great you look but how you look good—a linguistic dodge around the implications that beauty is not for the old.  The poem is not just about what is but the perception of beauty and also about how beauty is defined when one is young– which is both realistic and forgiving.  The images Adair-Hodges uses visualize clearly the situation both then and now.
.
                                   …Sometimes
                                    it is at a  party you did not want to go to,
.
                                   hair unwashed, skirt unpressed, crust of spit-up on your neck.
                                   so that when you see him, though he is fatter and fading,
.
                                  you think of why you stayed those extra months,
                                 the gentleness with which he parted you,
.
The poem is meaningful and astute in its presentation of how people change and stay the same.
.
The poems in Let’s All Die Happy use common language and both traditional and untraditional poetic form successfully.  It is a good read for poetry lovers who like complex thought.
.
Let’s All Die Happy is available at http://wwwupress.pitt.edu/
.
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.
.
.

New Release from Poet Stephen Page

salty

Congratulations to North of Oxford contributor Stephen Page on the release of his new book, The Salty River Bleeds ! 

The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page

Praise for The Salty River Bleeds

The Salty River Bleeds is a juicy tale in verse that draws us into the teeming world of a large Argentinian ranch. This world is populated by herds of horses and cows, nefarious ranch hands, foxes, bees, bats, parrots, carnivorous ants, Andean flamingoes, cattle rustlers, horse thieves, to name but a few of its many denizens. The narrative reveals the complicated web of woes in the life of a land manager, the tyranny of weather patterns, and one man’s battle against the encroachment of pesticides. In this world, nature’s staggering beauty and naked brutality are constantly in evidence. A stallion “learns the phases of grass.” Trucks struggle through “the butter of mud.” Cows can explode with bloat, and rain that the narrator prays will be called down from the sky by the croaking of tree frogs can make or break you. As its title suggests, The Salty River Bleeds is packed with the drama of birth, death and eternal conflict.

–Amy Gerstler, author of Bitter Angel

The Salty River Bleeds is ambitious in its scope and its execution, with a relevance to contemporary environmental issues. Stephen Page deftly combines poetry, prose, and letters…and relies on highly refined, compressed imagistic language and strong character development to tell his tale.

–Jim Daniels, author of Places Everyone

The Salty River Bleeds is a continuation of the story of Jonathan and Teresa that Stephen Page began in A Ranch Bordering the Salty River.  These poems speak of the visceral life of farming on a fictional ranch in Argentina.  Page’s narrative is a journey of perseverance through a physical and psychological wilderness where loveliness and brutality abide together.  Here, the likes of a raw and wet “afterbirth slopped into a steamy pile” leads to the mother straining to “stare at her calf until breath raised its ribs.” Page walks us through vulture-ravaged carcasses into pastures and wood and marsh; walks us into the solace of bees, mockingbirds and “a flock of black ibis” that “lift/and cloud away.” This is poetry told with an unflinching, yet reverent eye.

–Carolyn Welch, author of The Garden of Fragile Beings

The Salty River Bleeds is equal parts parable and fable, examining humankind’s destructive and self-defeating tendencies, particularly with regard to caring for the land human beings and animals rely on. Here where the Salty River bleeds, you will find that Myth swims, Old Man lingers on your peripheral vision only to disappear, and Black Dog follows you into the mythic Wood. On the ranch, you will encounter Tattler, Excuse Maker, and Bad Guy, archetypal figures standing in for all those whose motives are to be questioned. By turns imaginative and inventive, gritty and grisly, gorgeous and ephemeral, this is a book that will linger long after you have finished. There are inherent truths laid bare here that we would all do well to pay heed.

–Cati Porter, author of Seven Floors Up

In Stephen Page’s The Salty River Bleeds, the spiritual journey of Jonathan continues from A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. Looking for a story to explain his life, Jonathan meditates on nature, in particular Wood, a place of testing, a place of mysteries ripe to be discovered, and the people who work his land without reverence.  With an observant eye for detail, Page brings together striking images of the elements of earth and human life that become both obstacles to and medium through which the speaker of these poems understands his world.

–Caroline Malone, author of Dark Roots

Stephen Page’s The Salty River Bleeds is a pastoral and violent account of ranch life. His poetic collection blends agricultural and rustic contention with eco-rural insight and directness. His delivery is candid and un-floral, thus bestowing the music of his perception an energy of seized quotidian acuity. These poems dare the readers to care about the animals, the daily activities of surviving rurally, and the grammar of the land exploited by genetic modified commerce and industrialization. The work invites the geography of natural breeding life to marry the perennial charm of ranch hardship. There, in his work, exists the sensual preservation of humanity, but also diurnal desires. Page’s bucolic poems “may take you to an unlit alley at night” or “sound like buckets of water being poured on the corrugated roof.” Regardless of the rustic tempo his work imbues you, through Page’s percipient, omniscient eyes, we see and hear everything he observes and feels and yearns. Like sheep hides “salted in the transit room” – Page’s work is designed to ambush us, not with the forcefulness or melancholy of existence, but, as seen here, with the authoritative authenticity of his persistent fervor.

–Vi Khi Nao, author of Fish in Exile 

Stephen Page’s The Salty River Bleeds is a collection of connections. Page explores relationships, ethics, and economy through environmental images that ooze the intricacies of farm life. His thoughtful, sensory-rich prose and varied expressions of poetic form delve into the inner workings of losses and discoveries.

–Savannah Slone, Author of Hearing the Underwater 

Stephen Page is a true poetic chronicler of the complex business of ranching, that mythic journey. The Salty River Bleeds is iconic storytelling; a hybrid of poems, letters, and prose. Filled with rich images, “wood walks” and myth finding. “Life takes you into some unplanned territory.” Follow Page and we are “wading into wheat” and “working all week to save the corn.”  The tractor is broken, the fences need mending, but still we are watching and waiting for Old Man walking by the side of the road, the one who never stops. Follow Page into his dreamscape of visceral reality to satisfy a curiosity, an unspoken desire.

–Elaine Fletcher Chapman, author of Hunger for Salt

In The Salty River Bleeds, Stephen Page poetically and unapologetically reveals the real, harsh truths of running a ranch in Argentina. Johnathan’s daily stressors, created by unreliable employees, weather, and Teresa’s greedy son, Damien, find us anxiously watching him “run across pastures with my sword / Raised, looking for someone to decapitate.” Page softens Johnathan’s persona by peppering the pages with love, beauty, mate, and the whimsy of Wood and Myth as “A wooddove pops / its wings as it departs eucalypti mist auraed by / a vanilla sunrise.” The juxtaposition of the hard and the soft leaves us with a longing to know how Jonathan and Teresa’s story ends. The Fauna of this collection proves to be a mesmerizing sequel to the Flora of the initial introduction of Johnathan and Teresa in his earlier collection, A Ranch Bordering the Salty River.

–Laurie Higi, author of The Universe of Little Beaver Lake

The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page

.

.