poems

From “On This World Where the Anglo-Zanzibar War Erupted” by Eileen R. Tabios

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From “ON THIS WORLD WHERE THE ANGLO-ZANZIBAR WAR ERUPTED”
—written partly through reading Semezdin Mehmedinović’s Sarajevo Blues
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Who designed shrapnels
So they can’t be cleaned out of
Flesh? Blocked consciousness
Does not react to war but
Prepares for years of battle
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I forgot the bodies of Kali warriors memorizing halad so that deadly positions surface more quickly and efficiently during hours of battle
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They allow the boy
To cut into the water
Line but the grenade
Gets him after he reaches
The end of such a short street
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I forgot curtains.
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I think solitude
Means the city is alien
We step over shards
Of glass glinting on the streets
People think only of now.
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I forgot the white light, white roses, white silk, white lace and white pearls that adorned my wedding—instead I remember this happy day included the whisper, “Mama, glass is easily broken.”
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Tabios Author PhotoA
Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released over 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her 2018 poetry collections include HIRAETH: Tercets From the Last ArchipelagoMURDER DEATH RESURRECTION: A Poetry Generator; the bilingual edition (English/Spanish) of One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems; and TANKA: Vol. 1. Translated into eight languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 14 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More information is available at http://eileenrtabios.com
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Ornaments by David Daniel

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By Lynette  G. Esposito

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Ornaments, by David Daniel, is a great read for lovers of poetry.  Divided into four parts, the sixty-four page volume of poetry shows insights into conversations with the self and how ones observations affect not only the narrator, but also the space around him and his readers.

Daniel uses common language and images to portray how everyday situations become representative of life’s struggles.  For example, Daniels in his poem The Naturalist says:

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          In nature, what is beautiful is poisonous,

          And if it is beautiful and easy to catch, it is likely deadly:

          This fact supported by naturalists worldwide.

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He then relates this to: prophets are sometimes beautiful and who are often blind and predict deadly futures.   He suggests no one is hurt by poetry.  He juxtaposes the concepts of the natural and unnatural with the effects they produce.  The narrator in this poem speaks of beheading poetry and drinking the poison of the moon. He catches a snake which bites him before it pours itself into its hole. The reader is left at the port of entry where language encounters the surprise of multi snake bites and escapes.

 In his poem The Mouse’s Nest, the narrator complains Madness, you know, creeps in– or you stumble on it.  The narrator’s definition of madness and his technique of using direct address to the reader set an unnerving scene.  The narrator discovers a mouse’s nest in an old trunk by the sea and the logical mind can see reality in an unreality:

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          Just who’s found the nest and when?  “The mirror of nature, you say,

          Just look at yourself.”  And I do.  A storm had washed in

          A wooden chest made to store what you need by the sea.

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The image of the self looking into the sea chest and back at itself over the discovery of a nest with a dead mouse and her babies clinging to her demonstrates how cruel nature can be in preserving evidence of once living creatures.  It feels like madness in the preservation of the dead creature entombed in a place it considered safe.

 The soft cover book released by the University of Pittsburgh Press, offers a clear vision into what poetry is and what it is supposed to be.  This book is well worth reading more than once.

 Daniel is the author of Seven-Star Bird which won the Levis Reading Prize given by Virginia Commonwealth University.  He is the editor of Ploughshares and founded WAMAFEST (The Words and Music Festival) which brings together many celebrated artists such as Bruce Springsteen with Robert Pinsky and Roseanne Cash with C.D. Wright.  Daniel is a member of the Bennington Writers Seminars.  He teaches at Farleigh Dickinson University.  He is a native of Danville, Kentucky and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The book is available from University of Pittsburg Press and in e-book format.

https://www.amazon.com/Ornaments-Pitt-Poetry-David-Daniel/dp/0822965186

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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.  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.

The growth of a poet – John Keats (1795 – 1821): A brief introduction to his life and work

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From Keats House

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by Byron Beynon

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The imperial Tiber flowed through a city haunted by history. A fresh veil of Roman air covered the face of the river which continued to run its antique course. No birds sang in the darkness of the early hours of a February morning; daylight had yet to appear as a small group of silent figures stood outside a house to the right of the Spanish Steps. The only sound was that of the boat-shaped fountain as it bubbled, a cool witness in the eternal city to the final journey of a young man no longer a living citizen of the world.

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The young man who had died of tuberculosis (previously known as consumption) at the age of just twenty-five and whose body was taken to Rome’s protestant cemetery for burial was the poet John Keats, the youngest of the great Romantics and the first of them to die.

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Just three years earlier in 1818 Keats had published (with Taylor and Hessey) his second book of poems entitled Enydmion with its now famous opening ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’.  Robert Gittings saw Enydmion as an exploration into self-knowledge for Keats and which represented an essential stage of his growth to maturity. Andrew Motion (in his biography of Keats) also argued that the poet was promoting beauty not as an escape but as a medicine.

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Keats’ first collection entitled POEMS (published by C. & J. Ollier) had appeared in March 1817. It contained thirty one poems, sonnets and epistles, including the skilful and subtle sonnet ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ and ‘On the Grasshopper and Cricket’ with its confident opening line “The poetry of earth is never dead” but the book made little impression, and was largely ignored by reviewers.

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At this time Keats made several valued friendships among painters, poets and editors such as B. R. Haydon, John Hamilton Reynolds, Shelley and Leigh Hunt. Keats’ first published poem ‘O Solitude!’ appeared in Hunt’s The Examiner in May 1816.

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The poet and novelist Thomas Hardy particularly enjoyed hearing an anecdote told to him by a Mrs Procter who when she was a young woman had been visited by Hunt. He had been accompanied by ‘a youth whom nobody noticed much’ and who remained in the background, Hunt casually introducing him as ‘Mr Keats’. Mrs Procter had during her long life met several writers including Wordsworth, Coleridge, De Quincey, Cooper, Longfellow, Thackeray, Dickens and Charlotte Bronte.

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With the publication of his first book Keats became a dedicated poet. He worked for several months (between April and November 1817) on his second book; the epic, 4,000 lines long, Endymion. It was an important stage in his development, an apprenticeship essential to his growth as a poet and although flawed in parts, the disciplined effort seems to have brought Keats to the verge of his early artistic maturity. During the months he worked on the long poem he stayed on the Isle of Wight and at Margate, Oxford and London. Six months after he began Endymion at Carisbrooke he completed it at Burford Bridge in Surrey on 28 November 1818. A month before completing the poem he had written to his friend Benjamin Bailey about the epic he had nearly completed – ‘it will be a test, a trial of my Powers of Imagination and chiefly of my invention which is a rare thing indeed – by which I must make 4,000 Lines of one bare circumstance and fill them with Poetry’.  Bailey had invited Keats to Oxford where the poet spent most of September at Magdalen Hall and where he wrote the third book of Endymion.

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POEMS largely had been ignored by the critics and the reviewers seemed provoked that Keats dared to publish another volume. They attacked both his personality and work with spite and venom, notably in Blackwood’s magazine and The Quarterly Review. Blackwood’s tore it apart by saying ‘Endymion is not a Greek shepherd, loved by a Grecian goddess; he is merely a young Cockney rhymester, dreaming a phantasic dream at the full of the moon’.  Nevertheless as R. S. White pointed out in his book John Keats – A Literary Life ‘it was clear that Keats had been fully accepted now in a network of writers and artists, consolidating a year in which he had published his first volume of poems and had written his second which already had a publisher’s agreement. As a professional poet, he was on his way, and he no longer considered medicine a serious option except in panicky moments of financial difficulty.’

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Keats had been born in the parish of Moorfields, London on the 31October 1795, the son of Thomas Keats and Frances Jennings. Keats and his younger brothers George (who later emigrated to America) and Tom received a sound and enlightened education at John Clarke’s school at Enfield. His father was the manager of a livery stable who died as a result of an accident when Keats was only nine. His mother remarried and Keats, along with his brothers and sister Fanny, went to live with her parents in Enfield, later moving to Edmonton which were both rural areas at that time. A few years later, in 1810, his mother died of consumption. Her death affected him deeply, and ‘he gave way to such impassioned and prolonged grief … as awakened the liveliest pity and sympathy in all who saw him’.  He was then at the age of fifteen apprenticed to a surgeon, and he later studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital. He passed his medical exams in 1816, however he never practised his profession. He had already begun to write poetry and his public poetry life spanned barely five years but the legacy of those few years is an astonishingly rich one.

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Following publication of Endymion Keats went on a walking tour between June and August with his friend Charles Armitage Brown to the Lake District, Scotland and Ulster. It was during this tour that he wrote several new poems including ‘On Visiting the Tomb of Burns’, ‘To Ailsa Rock’, and ‘On Visiting Staffa’. He also climbed Ben Nevis but unfortunately was forced to break off his tour because of a severe chill and sore throat.  On his return to London he found that his younger brother Tom was seriously ill. He nursed Tom devotedly through the last stages of consumption until Tom’s death at the end of 1818. During these intense years Keats also wrote a series of wonderful letters on poetry, many to his brothers and to his sister, which contain his most influential ideas. After Tom’s death, Keats moved in December 1818 to his friend Charles Brown’s house, Wentworth Place, on the edge of Hampstead Heath.

His neighbour at Wentworth Place was eigtheen-year-old Fanny Brawne, five years younger than the poet. Keats became enthralled by her, expressing his passion in many poems and letters. During 1818 and 1819 Keats entered his ‘Great Years’ when he produced one masterpiece after another including ‘Hyperion’, ‘The Eve of St Agnes’, all his great odes (including ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, ‘Ode on Melancholy’, ‘Ode to Psyche’, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’) and ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, ‘Lamia’ and ‘To Autumn’. All (except the ballad ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’) were published in his third and final book of poems in July 1820 under the title Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes and Other Poems.

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During the winter of 1819 and 1820 Keats was ‘rather unwell’ and in February 1820 began to cough arterial blood. As a medical student he recognised immediately that this was his ‘death warrant’. The blow could not have been crueller because he had recently produced several of his greatest works and had also become engaged to Fanny Brawne. It was among the Brawne family that he spent his last weeks in England. By September 1820 Keats’ condition was desperately serious, and his friends believed that only the southern climate of Europe might cure him. A friend, the young painter Joseph Severn, sailed with him to Italy, first to Naples and then overland to Rome, where the two men took rooms on the Piazza di Spagna, near the Spanish Steps. Keats wrote no more poetry and after terrible suffering he died on the 23 February 1821. Those who attended the funeral at the Protestant Cemetery on the early morning of Monday, 26 February were Joseph Severn, The Rev. Mr Wolff the English chaplain at Rome who also conducted the service, two young English architects Henry Parke and Ambrose Poynter. Also, the artists William Ewing and Richard Westmacott, Dr Clark and Dr Luby.  As the biographer Richard Holmes noted ‘Listening to the plashing Bernini fountain in the piazza below his window, Keats framed his own epitaph “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” His poetry has flowed out to generations of readers ever since’.

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For further reading and sources on John Keats:

John Keats: The Complete Poems edited by John Barnard, Penguin Books 2006

Letters of John Keats: A selection edited by Robert Gittings, Oxford U.P. 1986

John Keats by Robert Gittings, Penguin Books 1979

John Keats by Nicholas Roe Yale, University Press 2012

Keats by Andrew Motion, Faber & Faber 1997

John Keats: A Literary Life by R. S. White. Palgrave/MacMillan 2012

The Romantic Poets and Their Circle by Richard Holmes, NPG Publications 2005

Thomas Hardy: Half A Londoner by Mark Ford, Harvard University Press 2016

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Byron Beynon lives in Wales. His work has appeared in several publications including Poetry Ireland Review, Agenda, Plainsongs, North of Oxford, Poetry Pacific, London Magazine and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets). Collections include Cuffs (Rack Press), Human Shores (Lapwing Publications) and The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions)

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Daphne and her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

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By Lynette Esposito  

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Jane Rosenberg LaForge writes of Daphne and her Discontents
in her 78 page poetry volume published by Ravenna Press.
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LaForge explores the mythology of the minor goddess Daphne changed into a tree by her father so she would be protected from Apollo’s carnal desire. She interprets the perception of protection versus punishment as she exposes her own life through Daphne’s transformation and her own changing life.
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In the poem, Introducing  Daphne. LaForge directly links herself to Daphne.
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                       The myth I have chosen to explain
                       myself rests in oil and marble:
                       One incontrovertible at its final
                        arrival, the other capable of separation
                        into terraces, an archaeological
                        rendering of lime, and flavor.
                       That was me, once, before I changed
                       To outrun my fidelity and desire;…
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She ends the poem with the words, conservator’s suffocating power. She intertwines
the examination of her feminine self and the protection that smothers her.  The tone and images presented in the poem work well with the subject matter.  LaForge has a light but clear touch in revealing her message (s) to the reader.
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All through the book LaForge accomplishes this strong approach.   In Mount Olympus II, she writes: We should have met in air as the tops of trees do.  The image is lovely and presents a clear visual.  It excites the imagination to look up and see the tops of trees moving in the breeze and touching each other like lovers.
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She writes in Pre-Daphne, Before my father turned me into a tree, I was fire and all the atomic numbers…. She suggests that she was not born the way Daphne became. The father changed her into a vehicle that would offer her protection but he basically changed her into an unmovable structure…no longer what she was.  She was “hands” and “feet”
but no more. I like her use of body parts to suggest the whole.
Throughout the book, the presentation of a transforming Daphne is used over and over but always fresh.  In the poem Danger Prone Daphne, LaForge writes,
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                                Daphne will always need
                                Rescuing, by saints, or angels
                                 Or contemporary females of
                                  no consequence, because only
                                 they can acknowledge the expediency
                                in her deliverance…
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She acknowledges at the end of the poem that I am Daphne, and why.
The volume is well focused and presents images that are both fresh and interesting. Her last poem, Post- Daphne, she acknowledges, I did not fit the myth over and over again like a kind of slacker Sisyphus: It is a fitting end poem pulling together the myth of a goddess and a living poet.
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Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s have been published extensively on line and in print.  Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She is a former journalist and college teacher, and lives in New York with her husband and daughter.
 For information on this paperback volume go to ravennapress.com.
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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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Descanso Drive by Charlotte Innes

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By Richard Nester

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Charlotte Innes has dived into the wreck and returned to shore. I would say that she has brought back pearls but that suggests that there are pearls to be found. There aren’t always, a truth she is wise enough to know and delivers with an excellence that wins our attention. This is not to say that she has been unsuccessful, however. In one of the more remarkable poems of the book’s remarkable first section, “Seepage,” what she recovers is a “barnacle peace” a somewhat oxymoronic image that brilliantly sums up the central conundrum of survivorship, that healing requires revisiting. The poem deftly compares family events to natural ones and questions whether disasters in either realm can be overcome by the passage of time. The difficult answer to this question is no. An active agency is required in both cases and even then it may not succeed. In less skillful hands, the poem’s central conceit might have broken into pieces well ahead of this signal insight. But Innes does not fail us.

That she is conscious of these oppositions is clear. Witness the epigraph from Adrienne Rich attached to “My Silence” that holds that both words and silences are equally capable of lying. The poem recalls a sexual assault prevented only the intervention of a stranger, who is described as “tired,” a shadowy savior to say the least. But it does not begin with this recollection. The poem opens instead with a diary entry that startles Innes, not for what it says but for what it doesn’t say.  Innes finds the entry, made when she was a young girl at summer camp, gratifying in that it confirms creative gifts that she is proud of. However, the entry, for all its lyrical notice of the natural world, is false because it is silent about the day’s most crucial event, the violation that threatened her and that she was lucky to escape from, at least physically. Whether we ever fully escape the past is the true subject of the poem.

That the self may never be the permanent or trustworthy mooring that we might wish for is the revelation of “My Silence,” and it is this revelation that guides the book as a whole.  In fact, the self is as likely to hide in the familiar as it is to confront the painful. The book’s opening poem “The Moon in Theresienstadt” enacts this theme by means of a reversal characteristic of Innes, the ordinary becoming unfamiliar and even grotesque as the poet questions it. The poem tells us that “this week” the poet has produced seven poems in what she says is “a feverish rush” and asks, referring to the poems “where do they come from?” The answer that emerges from the juxtaposition of two moons, the one of “May 8” belonging to her ordinary life and the other of an earlier May in 1945 when her grandfather is liberated from the Nazi death camp at Theresienstadt, is that Innes’ poems arise from a compost of human suffering in which good and evil exist in terrible proximity.

She recounts in the opening stanza how the Nazis offer a masque of ordinary life—concerts and recipes and children’s paintings—to mask their crimes from civilized sight—theirs as well as ours. But the terrible always re-emerges. To read, as well as to create, is to participate, whether by choice or not. Her poems are a liberation, like the WWII “Liberation Day” experienced by her grandfather. They free us from what would be a more awful fate even than literal death, the cultural and communal death of not remembering. It is important to note how little Innes editorializes on why the Nazis permit the façade of ordinary life in the camps. My gloss editorializes far more than her poem. She reports instead, dwelling on how it was—not why it was—a stance that allows and encourages the reader’s psychic entry into her created space.

Assaultive change occurs again in “Death of a Carob,” a comic elegy for a beloved carob tree—beloved partly for its familiarity—cut down by the city because it is diseased. The tree is deeply missed but assumes a lyrical second life in the commemoration of its passing as its stump becomes a stage for the incongruous—a plaster bust of Beethoven and later an impromptu “arabesque” by a black-clad dancer. “Did someone pull a string,” she asks, and “flip joy my way,” proof for her that change can call forth joy as well as tragedy.

Innes’ individual lines are often small masterpieces. Consider the opening stanza of “Descanso Drive.” The rhythm of its stately opening sentence is like that of the neighborhood it introduces—easy iambs—that abruptly shift to a succession of trochees perfectly suited to their content “the speed limit’s shifted down from ten to five,” The deceleration is visceral. Moreover, the book’s title poem is elegant in its twists and turns. Like the street it honors, Descanso Drive, its surprises are doled out in carefully measured doses—the house that is often closer than one thinks, the woman and her dog, who seem like fixtures, until they’re suddenly gone. The tone, like the tone of “Kestral,” which immediately precedes it, is quiet, almost elegiac, and yet nothing is quite settled. Change, for better or worse, is always lurking.

Word play is a tool in this endeavor, and it is fully displayed in “Lashes,” another poem from the books consequential first third, where she calls attention to the similarity between “flesh” and “flush.” The poem’s poignant full title comes from another diary enter, this time the entry of a young boy in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. At times she comes dangerously close to mixing her metaphors in the first stanza of “Lashes” where the “mind” becomes “rain water,” the molecules of which turn into “guerillas.” However, these transformations are fine lines we walk with her, in a logic where permanence miraculously mixes with the provisional.

The Spanish poet Garcia Lorca spoke about the inadequacy of metaphor to touch the essence of experience, especially when the experience is laden with pathos. He says in one poem that “the blood ran into the street like . . . blood.” Innes employs Lorca’s understanding of metaphor and his caution many times in the course of Descanso Drive. In fact, one of her more persistent tropes is the undermining of her own tropes. However meticulously crafted her images, however expertly structured, her true subject is always the ineffable and the inarticulate, the tie between figurative and literal, joy and tragedy, the permanent and the provisional. Innes has an astonishing ability to arrest the mind, to not only capture our attention but also put it at rest, so that it willingly contemplates what it might otherwise find insignificant or unpleasant. Descanso Drive is well worth your attention.

 

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Descanso-Drive-Charlotte-Innes/dp/1945752653/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515608028&sr=1-1&keywords=charlotte+innes

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Bio: Richard Nester has published two collections of poetry, Buffalo Laughter and Gunpowder Summers.

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Call for Poetry Submissions

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We are pleased to announce we are bringing in the New Year with an open call for poetry submissions. We are currently caught up with future editions and are looking forward to receiving your best. We carefully read all submissions and strive to provide poets with a timely response. Please read and follow the guidelines when submitting. You can find our guidelines here: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/about/

the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history in berks county – Vol. 3 by Jennifer Hetrick

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By Marian Frances Wolbers

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FootHills Publishing released the third and final volume of the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history in berks county by Jennifer Hetrick this past autumn. Swimming within these tender memory-poems are the jagged edges and startlingly soulful snatches of remembered machine work in the factories and businesses of Berks County decades ago. Faithful to the worker-narrators’ storytelling, Hetrick braids honorable, dignified word-portraits on her lyrical image-loom, whether a worker affixed left-hand side doors on military trucks or spent every day “securing strong stitches” on endless bottoms of belt loops. The detailed troubles and trials of men and women in stanzas that—short or long—perfectly match each person are juxtaposed with unabashed pride in the unique parts each individual played in the workplace, using hands and minds to produce not just hosiery, paint, or smoked meats but the totality of community, economy, opportunity, and familial necessity. Each alliteration, phrasing, and turn of thread in the line displays a range of emotion and circumstance: wry humor (“masking tape, a rare few worked with it as i did”); awareness of war; bodily stresses (“every night, i came home, felt fuzzy / wads of sweater aftermath in the creases of my neck, elbows”); and philosophical recall (“nestled in an italian neighborhood. / we were the only black family there. my neighbors / used to give us tomatoes from their backyards. i didn’t know / prejudice”). Generous and vivid are the pictures of the way things were, as well as the way folks speak and see themselves in their own mind’s eye. This is a gem on multiple levels in its sweet artistry, thoughtful voice, documentation of the past, and revelatory extraordinariness of ordinary men and women.

As a fellow writer and documenter of days, I am very holistically aware of how this work stretched well back across time and place and memory-worlds of these workers. It’s always been my impression that people record every silly little ant that crosses their picnic table at a birthday event, while ending life with virtually NO record of their long, long, much-longer-than-home-life hours spent in life’s labors under the thumb of a supervisor.

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Marian Frances Wolbers is a self-confessed fan of interstices and author of novels (including Rider, St. Martin’s Press), short stories (The Southampton Review, Westview, Remarkable Doorways), drama (Return of the Sun Goddess, Holding the World, American Beauties) and poetry (Juked).