.The surf is certainly up in Ed Meek’s High Tide published by Aubade Publishing. Nina Rubenstein Alonso, Editor of Constellations, a Journal of Poetry and Fiction, comments that “Ed Meek’s poems pull us in with such clarity that you don’t feel the pain at first, almost like a painting you need to study until you see what’s waiting in the shadows, that scarred figure, it’s history.”.High Tide makes the reader feel like he is swimming in the shallows, safe, unaware of the images of sharks like dark gothic beings waiting to prey on your intellect. The poems open on one path, then deliciously lead down another one you did not expect. For example, the first poem in the book on page one, Hamock, details notes that Columbus took..Mayans carved them from the bark of treesColumbus noted in his diary..Meek skillfully uses the title to define “them” and holds a conversational tone all through this twenty-six line, one- stanza poem. Meek details the wonderful leisurely activities of using a hammock through the first fifteen lines of the poem then speaks of A promise I usually fail to keep as the poem reaches a turning point. The tone of the poem becomes more somber and the narrator becomes like a spider in a web suspended above the earth dreaming of things he did not do and the Mayans half asleep before Columbus washes ashore. It is a powerful poem with many suggestions..This highly skilled author shows this strength throughout the book. In the poem on page seventeen, Praise for Ponytailed Girls Who Run, Meek presents a nice setting and visual and makes a subtle comment on what is alive and what is not alive using hair as his metaphor..I love to see them bouncing paston the balls of their feet—hair pulled back to flauntflawless skin, flashingarms from T-shirts, legsin short shorts, multi-colored,incandescent shoes..In this three- stanza, free-verse poem, it is clear the narrator’s admiration has reconstructed a view of beauty. The third stanza turns to the hair..And the hair, lovely,surely not deadbut vibrant with life and lightas it sways and bobslike a rope swings in the wind above the water..Meek has turned the vision of a young girl running into a comment on how life is perceived..While some poems span more than a page, Meek is also able to project deep meaning in very short poems. On page seventy-eight, the three- line, one-stanza poem, The Last Game, demonstrates Meek’s ability to see and translate images into profound interpretation..When you die, you will slideunder the tag at home.dust rising in the air..The assumption that we all die is, of course, clear, but to become dust and rise in the air at home, gives one pause for thought when housekeeping..Hide Tide is a thoughtful book of complex poems that range from the ordinary to extraordinary in both themes and images. It is not a book one would read in a single setting but a little here and a little there allowing time to digest. It was a pleasure to read..High Tide is available from Aubade Publishing at https://aubadepublishing.com/books/high-tide/.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....
By Greg Bem
& then, of course, “the jazz life” joints
we smile after hours on the lower east side
steppin’ & stompin’ & steppin’ & stridin’
where dairy bars hop with hip tales
all the living legends gather
over record dates/historic gigs/dope stories
music intrigue & sudden disappearances
“rough life”/”no breaks” unrecorded
among boppin’ feet/gippin’ hips
- from X-75-VOL. I, HENRY THREADGILL / “SIDE B (AIR SONG/FE FI FO FUM)”, page 31
Newly-released, Thulani Davis’s Nothing But the Music is a collection of poetry that feels at its core musical and alive—living songs on loop in bustling centers of humanity. It is a collection that embodies jazz, embodies soul, embodies funk. It is a poetry of resistance and a poetry of liberation. It is also uniquely its own through love, through description, through tones of spontaneity and concentration.
Strongly a selected, a mix, a range, this collection features works published as early as 1978 and many published closer to now. Its core rings true. It is a jewel of the Black Arts Movement, a collection that sings and roars addressing the significance of presence, of now, of time and space and place, and of performance.
Distinct and vocal, Nothing But the Music features most prominently the music of Davis’s voice. Thulani Davis’s voice resonates that reflects a mix of edgy poetic underground and street-side vernacular. It feels of the clubs and cafes that these poems originally found audience within. It feels of the lives of New York, San Francisco, and DC, and of Gorée Island, Senegal, and Harare, Zimbabwe—places Davis found these poems, created them, and presented them. It is a voice that connects across time, spinning historically forward from the 1970s to the present.
More literally is the book’s connection to music. The “Music” of the book’s title is in reference to the source of these writings. As Davis acknowledges in her book’s opening, “many of the poems here were performed with an umber of musicians in different improvising configurations” (page 1). Indeed, the improvisational subtext feels quite clear from poem to poem, that rambles almost as a score would ramble down a page. Ghostly, the accompanying instruments are absent, but Davis ensures through her own instruments, her language and voice, that the rhythm is percussive, and the poems are in harmony with their origins.
Davis’s work as printed often feels like one of many configurations, alternations, contextualizations. The page poet’s presence is just as improvisational, and as such, the feelings of the reader as the poem is intercepted.
some springs the Mississippi rose up so high
it drowned the sound of singing and escape
church sisters prayed and rinsed
the brown dinge tinting linens
thanked the trees for breeze
and the greenness sticking to the windows
the sound of jazz from back
boarded shanties by railroad tracks
- from C.T.’S VARIATION (page 45)
The verse within Nothing But the Music is incredibly agile, spanning a vast swathe of content and subject matter. As Davis’s friend and poetic collaborator Jessica Hagedorn says in her foreword:
“We were curious and passionate about everything, from Jimi Hendrix to Anna May Wong to Jean-Luc Godard and Tennessee Williams. Thulani turned me on to The Original Last Poets, Bill Gunn’s Ganja and Hess, Archive Shepp & Jeanne Lee’s “Blasé,” Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, Pedro Pietri’s Puerto Rican Obituary, Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping,” and Amiri Barak’s “Beautiful Black Women” (page 6).
These literary interests, alongside the influence of jazz legends like Thelonious Monk, fosters a space of both inquiry (study) and soul (spirituality). They also reflect an active, engaged pursuit to create and to be on the edge of creativity, to know much and go further alongside the bounty of expression that live performance can support. This engagement is reflected in the imperative statements serving as one of a handful of motifs from poem to poem:
this is not about romance & dream
it’s about a terrible command performance of the facts
of time & space & air
- from C.T. AT THE FIVE SPOT (page 22)
Reinforcing the imperatives and necessities of the poems themselves is the stunning introduction from literary critic Tobi Haslett: “Darting through these poems is an answer to a question, posed by multiple and overlapping waves of Black artists: How do you account for the dynamism at the heart of Black expression, and its centrality to the wider culture it’s been forced to resist?” (page 11) . . . “These are backstage poems. By which I mean that they issue from a place of sophisticated doubleness, slung between intimate complication and the blast political life” (page 12).
Haslet’s commentary explores the poetry, and the poetry is the documentation of life and lives within certain positions, within acts of restoration and rebellion. It is also a poetry within the margins that have always existed for Black artists and have existed in particular and ongoing forms over the past 50 years. Documentation is one lens through which this book can be received.
Like the work of Thulani’s husband Joseph Jarman, this book also invites the reader to actively learn as a participant, through a relational agreement, through intimacy, and allowing connection to what experiences and images Davis and her musician and poet peers have felt, have created. These are the gifts that have elevated and served to reposition, to repair, to rebuild. Such a collection is impossible to generalize here. The nuances are too ecstatic and complex. Davis’s work is compelling but not only as an idea of itself, but as an action of being read, being explored, being listened to by the readers who have the opportunity to find it.
You can find the book here: https://blankforms.org/publication/thulani-davis-nothing-but-the-music/
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
By Byron Beynon
What’s the weather like today where you are? Is it raining? How do you feel when you hear the rain? The sun maybe shining, and a gentle breeze massages your face. Giant clouds inhabit the sky above you, faces or objects begin to take shape before your very eyes as your imagination feeds on weather’s images.
Novelists, poets, dramatists, film-makers, artists, musicians, have all been inspired by the kaleidoscope and mysterious moods weather has kindled before and within us. I live in south-west Wales, where most of the weather conditions come from the Atlantic bringing rain. Even the trees, growing in open, exposed places, lean towards the north-east because their sap runs weaker on the windward side.
The poet Ted Hughes in his essay entitled “Wind and Weather” wrote “Have you noticed how your mood depends on the weather? All living things are natural barometers, and change as the weather changes … we experience these changes in our bodily chemistry as changes in our feelings.” He goes on to say that “The great American poetess, Emily Dickinson, has many wonderful poems about various weathers” he chose the poem which begins “There came a wind like a bugle” – as one of her best on weather regarding the landscape coming alive “as if the touch of the wind and the strange light had turned it into a nightmare.”
In this new anthology edited by the poet Alice Oswald and the Penguin Classics editor Paul Keegan, we have a wide and thought-provoking selection of prose and poetry about the weather, reactions both formal and fleeting, actual responses, found in journals and jottings, diaries and letters. Whether it be rain, volcanic ash, nuclear dust, snow, light, fog, hurricanes, flood, dusk and dawn, we find a flow of reactions. We read writers from across the ages, giving their responses and feelings on climate from Ovid to Elizabeth Bishop, Virginia Woolf to Pliny the Younger, Charles Baudelaire to Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens, Dafydd Ap Gwilym to Paul Muldoon and many others.
In the preface we hear of William Hazlit’s essay on “My First Acquaintance with Poets”, he describes his walking holiday along the Bristol Channel with his new friend:”A thunder-storm came on while we were at the inn, and Coleridge was running out bare-headed to enjoy the commotions of the elements….”. Further along we read about Daniel Defoe’s report of the Great Storm of 1703, that “the air was full of Meteors and fiery Vapours”. In his journal for 20th July 1778 the following details are given by Gilbert White “Much thunder. Some people in the village were struck down by the storm, but not hurt. The stroke seemed to them like a violent push or shove. The ground is well-soaked. Wheat much lodged. Frogs migrate from the ponds.”
Open the antholody at any page and you will find something to delight and fascinate. From the fourteenth century, Yoshida Kenko writes in his “Essays in Idleness” – “One morning after a pleasant fall of snow I sent a letter to someone with whom I had business, but failed to mention the snow. The reply was droll: “Do you suppose I can pay any attention to someone so pervserse as to write a letter with no word of inquiry about how I am enjoying the snow? I am most disappointed in you.” Now that the author of that letter is dead, even so trivial an incident sticks in my mind.”
The poet Louis MacNeice creates atmosphere in his 1935 poem “Snow” – the opening begins:
In his journal of 1892 the artist Edvard Munch writes:”I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – I felt a wave of sadness – the sky suddenly turned blood-red. I stopped, leaned against the railing, tired to death – I looked out over the flaming clouds like blood and swords – the blue-black fjord and city – my friends walked on – I stood there trembling with angst – and I felt as though a vast, endless Scream passed through nature.”
Major Tom Looks at Earth from Space
By Stephen Page
A friend of mine had a male neighbor that lived next door to him who had a son in junior high who during last year’s Halloween dressed as a girl. Another friend of mine told me that every time he came home from work, he found his 4-year-old son wearing his mother’s high heels. I told each of my friends the same thing that “This is a normal thing. Your son is just trying on a different persona. Besides. Is it politically correct to try to change him or his behavior to fit your idea about who he should be?”
The narrator in Miriam O’Neal’s The Body Dialogues is having dialogues with herself, trying to find a mental voice that feels comfortable with her body. These conversations become poems. Mx. O’Neal separates the book into three sections in her search for her narrator’s voice.
In section 1, the metaphorical and literal “Birth” represent that painful realization that the baby has when she realizes she is outside the comfort of the womb and inside the outer world. From that moment on, like the baby, it seems the narrator does not feel at ease with her body or her surroundings. Anxiety becomes the theme of the following poems until finally, near the end of the first section, in “Breathe,” the narrator decides she has to accept who she is, and that the only way to do this is to relax.
In the 2nd section of the book, the narrator travels to foreign lands in order to adventure outside the microcosm of her current existence, hoping that this will free herself emotionally. She wants to be less judgmental of herself and accept her body for what it is, a part of herself.
In the 3rd and final section of the book, the narrator is at home again remembering her travels and how she found a different perspective of her body by looking at it from foreign locations. One poem depicts the International Space Station flying overhead and the narrator imagines projecting her being inside one of the astronauts, looking out a window at earth, all the while singing the song “Major Tom.” She begins reading voraciously, ferociously searching for other poets who have searched for and found comfort with their bodies as they are. In this manner, literature becomes one of her guides on her journey.
As a final note, there are not only references to the narrator’s mind observing her body, she is continually comparing herself to people around and trying to decide if she is beautiful or not beautiful. Additionally, there are dialogues that infer gender identification and sexual preference. All of these poems become epiphanies. The narrator is understanding that for many people, mind-body oneness, beauty, and gender behavior are societally taught, not internally programmed. The ways in which we come to terms with ourselves and balance our emotions evolves through living life. Moreover, the ways in which see ourselves physically in comparison to others in the world around us are our subjectively our own interpretations.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Body-Dialogues-Miriam-ONeal/dp/1733768351
Stephen Page is part Apache and part Shawnee. He was born in Detroit. He is the author of four books of poetry, several stories, essays, and literary criticisms. He holds degrees from Columbia University and Bennington College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, a First Place Prize in Poetry from Bravura Magazine, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant.
Latern by Night by Maria Keane http://www.mariakeane.com/.
Conversations by Maria Keane http://www.mariakeane.com/
Hot Sauna by Maria Keane http://www.mariakeane.com/
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