Slap by Rustin Larson


By Lynette G. Esposito

Rustin Larson’s poetry volume Slap offers a wide variety of poetry lengths, forms and images. Published by Alien Buddha Press, it is ninety-two pages of insightful messages in poetic form.

For example, the poem Four Steps on page twenty-four, creates in thirteen stanzas, a situation of how many steps lead away from home when at the train stop and what it represents. Larson turns this image into the constant life journey of taking steps to all the doors that lead to or away from home.
                  Four steps, please. Four steps
                  into the train’s platform
                  in the middle of the night.
                 Four steps before you trip
                 and fall down the basement.
                Four steps into the bower
               of wild roses.  Four steps in fever
               into your mother’s arms
              in the cool kitchen of your childhood.  Four steps
Larson has used the image of four steps and varied situations to portray how close so many things in life are and what a difference this makes.  His exquisite use of the F sound and his skillful use of repetition control the poem to the closing single-line stanza:
              steps from all the doors you called home.
In contrast to this lengthily poem, Larson presents a little humor in his one- stanza, five-line poem Discard on page thirty-two.
                  Although I might be a discard,
                  like the man who believes
                  in extraterrestrials,
                  I say to myself
                 I am not alone.
The brevity of the poem does not reduce its effectiveness.  It takes a twist on the concept of the populace of Earth seeking other intelligent beings in other galaxies and looks clear sightedly at those who are perceived as discards on this planet. I find this poem hilarious. 
When the Shark Bites, is a one stanza poem on page sixty-two that presents a moment-in- time when Larson remembers having burritos with his daughters at Taco Bell in Iowa City and when his one daughter was little, how he put her to sleep with an unusual song. He begins the poem with:
                   Not to disagree with the song’s lyrics
                   but sharks don’t have
                   molars.  They rip and swallow
                   rather than grind and chew.  It’s
                   a fine point, but important I
It is interesting that he begins this poem with facts then throughout the poem remembers wonderful instances with his children.  He brings a time frame in, 1996 and calls it a premium year.  The poem suggests it is about one thing but when Larson calls his daughters my little sweethearts the reader can feel how full Larson’s heart is remembering this time with his daughters. It is a skillful poem with musical references that some of a certain age will appreciate.
Slap is an interesting tome with some poems being stronger than others.  The poems vary widely in subject matter and with interesting twists.  It is well worth a read while sitting in a comfortable chair.
You can find the book here: Slap
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.

Petco Parking Lot by Nancy Byrne Iannucci

Petco Parking Lot
Petco barked when she drove in,
rolled back before she pulled on the brake.
Her hair was a cold gray day.
Her body struggled straight.
Buddy Holly’s Rave On
bounced off her bent back.
Uh oh! Is she coming
to tell me to turn it down?
She stood with a fist in my face,
pumped it in the air,
GREAT SONG! she said.
One of the best.  I said.
A jolt in her crooked step,
kicked off saddle shoes
she wasn’t wearing
to this sock hop
in a Petco parking lot.
Nancy Byrne Iannucci - field photo
Nancy Byrne Iannucci is the author of Temptation of Wood (Nixes Mate Review 2018). Her poems have appeared in several publications, some include Allegro Poetry Magazine, The Mantle, Gargoyle, Clementine Unbound, Bending Genres, 8 Poems, Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist),Red Eft Review and Typehouse Literary Magazine. Nancy is a Long Island, NY native who now resides in Troy, NY where she teaches history at the Emma Willard School. (https://www.instagram.com/

Three Poems by Peycho Kanev

The Sea Inside Me
Its salty tongue gently licks
women’s toes, heels, calves, ankles;
in the shallows under the moon – the slimy moons
of jellyfish,
in the distance dolphins teach small dolphins
how to be themselves and nothing else,
as we failed to do so.
Happy boyish shouts everywhere,
and the metallic screams of seagulls
embroider the ink-blue upholstery of the sky.
The horizon is a knife cutting in half the wet photos
of the memories.
Under the sunrise – sand, shore, a whole world;
and mine, and yours; where you were, where I was.
I died there.
Garbage Song
The music lifted my sheet, and the fingertips
of the sun brought me scraps of the soul
of Sibelius. The next question is: Why do you
love your loneliness so much? I just grinned
to the body lost inside the notes next to me.
Saliva and staves are meant for each other.
And while the sounds choke, we sink back
into sleep. Outside the garbage truck hums.
Inside the room is empty.
This Life
I put my heart into my mother’s coffin
and now it throbs under the ground.
All the letters I sent to my first love
returned unread in my mailbox
and my unborn child, which I wanted
to create on paper, committed suicide
in the first paragraph of my unwritten book.
My cat has rejected her nine lives, my dog
refuses to bark and I look how the sky
shatters slowly in the broken mirror –
I am beautiful at last.
Peycho Kanev is the author of 8 poetry collections and three chapbooks, published in the USA and Europe. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, such as: Rattle, Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Front Porch Review, Hawaii Review, Barrow Street, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast, The Adirondack Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The Cleveland Review and many others. His new chapbook titled Under Half-Empty Heaven was published in 2019 by Grey Book Press.

Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom by Howie Good

Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom
Mother awakened me in the morning. There was now a lake of ash where there had never been one and behind it a pair of wrinkled mountains like a giant’s cracked, dusty boots. Birds on a fence idiotically chanted, “Sh-boom, sh-boom.” I picked up a stone and threw it without taking careful aim. Some people who were passing would later say the expression on my face made everything worse. I hadn’t even realized I was smiling.
Life there felt a lot like life elsewhere – steel bars on windows and suicide nets on roofs. Hatchet-faced men in leather trench coats would grab people right off the street. The last words of a prisoner were eerily prophetic. “Ah,” he said, “the cows. . .” Work parties threw the corpses in ovens or down wells, often slaving at rifle point through the night.
The angels were dry-mouthed and sweaty and feeling like they hadn’t slept for days. A rogue herd of cows in gas masks had stampeded. I stared out at the sign by the church when I should have been watching the road. Love Like Jesus, it said. Nice sentiment, I thought, as the sun sank in a profusion of toxic colors, a ship full of chemicals burning intently at the edge of the world.

Howie Good is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, including most recently Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing).



Thunder, Lightning and Urban Cowboys by g emil reutter

thunder cover

Thunder, Lightning and Urban Cowboys has just been released by Alien Buddha Press. The book is the final volume in a quadrilogy written over 13 years.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HFXSD2F/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1633437563&refinements=p_27%3AG+Emil+Reutter&s=books&sr=1-1&text=G+Emil+Reutter

What others have said about Thunder, Lightning and Urban Cowboys:

In Thunder, Lightning, and Urban Cowboys, wilderness is never far from the urban setting, a wilderness in its own right. The Urban Cowboy is surrounded by nature:  “…a tree of warped candelabra branches…”; “…a conspiracy of sooty ravens…”; “sound of leaves kissed by wind…”  Nature pauses and waits for us to pass through in our moment of struggle and triumph and defeat.  The machinery of the city: “…diesel engine revving and revving, as if a struggle to stay alive…” g. emil reutter takes us from youth when “unbridled hope leaked from our pores…” to the far end of life “… the waiting, the heaviness of what is to come…”

The poet paints a landscape haunted by the tragedies of others and the tragedies of ourselves. Haunted by the fallen gravestones “sinking into the earth…” Haunted by spirits lingering in the trees because “heaven and hell are full and purgatory is closed…” In this poetic juxta positioning of humanity and nature, the poet puts us in our place in an unkind, uncruel universe and leaves us somehow grateful.

-Mike Cohen



Throughout, the poems are very well crafted, precise and insightful. reutter is most certainly an engaging poet, whether he is writing of train journeys, of love and friendship and loss, of nature, of time passing: each poem sustains a reflective beauty that refreshes like walking into a cold mountain spring: they permeate and linger with a rare clarity and a sense of humour that will ensnare and take you by surprise. The book takes you on a journey of wonderful variations and consistently offers imagery that transport the reader into the poem and this is something that is not easy to achieve. Thunder, Lightning and Urban Cowboys is stark evidence that reutter is a master craftsman of his art form: cool: crisp: clear: quality.

-John D Robinson

Poet and Publisher: (Holy&intoxicated Publications)

A sampling from the book: https://alienbuddhapress.wordpress.com/2021/10/05/spotlight-thunder-lightning-and-urban-cowboys-by-g-emil-reutter/


You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HFXSD2F/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1633437563&refinements=p_27%3AG+Emil+Reutter&s=books&sr=1-1&text=G+Emil+Reutter

Etching the Ghost by Cathleen Cohen

By Lynette G. Esposito
Etching the Ghost by Cathleen Cohen, published by Atmosphere Press, is an interesting collection of poems about the art of painting and other subjects.  The voice in the poems Is honest and direct and the poetry illustrates skillfully how closely related the literary and visual arts are.
The tome is divided into four sections:  If Released, Magnificent, The Weight of the Press, No Mistakes in Art, and As Witness, As Echo. Each section has a particular focus.  The volume spans sixty-five pages and covers topics relating to relationships, art, landscapes and personal experiences.
In the first section, If Released, Magnificent, the poem Possibly wind on page nine uses visual metaphors to show situation and place in dealing with a daughter’s relationship to her parents.
            fans us out past dark.
           Fathers shout our names from doorways.
            In hedges we crouch,
           plan forays and small rebellions.
           I tear my yellow dress
          in a dirt fight, then lie
          to my mother’s shocked face.
The way the poem is set up suggests the fragmented steps a young person would take when doing something they know they shouldn’t do.  It is clear the parents care but children will be children.  The closure is direct and clear as the daughter faces her mother with a lie.  The poem is effective in presenting a common situation between parents and their kids.  It is interesting that the narrator is wearing the color yellow and a dress.  Her mother would not expect her daughter to be in a dirt fight let alone wearing a dress or, perhaps, lie.   The suggested conflict is clear and the poem works well.
The poem, No Mistakes in Art on page thirty-nine, has some of the same rebellious traits as Possibly wind.  The school tries to restrain and control the children but they are so of full life, they jostle and proclaim.
                 A quince breaks into bloom
                 outside the school
                where I sketch
               (between classes)
               trying to capture the tangle of citrus
               in rooted stance
               against brick walls
               that can’t contain children
                from chanting, jostling
               down stairwells, proclaiming
                       vivid and delicious.
Cohen cleverly inserts her artistic self into the observation of school children as if they are not only visual art but semi out of control poems that are not only vivid—a sight—but delicious poems connecting the literary to the visual art form.  The poem is strong in its setting and situation.  It makes the readers feel as if they are observing along with the narrator just to the corner of the poem’s edge.  I also like the way the stanzas are set up as if implying the stair steps the children are coming down.
Some of the poems in this book seem almost interactive like the poem No Mistakes in Art.  This volume has many strengths but I find it is uneven in tone and perhaps tries too hard to link art forms.  I wonder if the book had sketches next to the poems how this would affect the reader.  I bet it would be a positive.
You can find the book here: Etching the Ghost

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.

And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey by Amy Beeder


By Greg Bem

Where to locate on that over-fingers lacquer speech?
Over boundaries of corruption, the physics of corpse or ash?

(from “Ouija Blink” on page 9)

Sprawling across 36 poems divided between three distinct sections, Amy Beeder’s latest published poetic voice has concocted and presented a vast array of personas and lingual variations that feel, in a short span, like living history. And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey is a book that brings forward the medieval, the gothic, the pioneer, the ancient, the contemporary, and more into an alchemical, prismatic collection that collects with each page flipped.

Beeder’s poetry shifts and morphs in front of the reader, states of the perceived reality as ephemeral as time itself. Never feeling without, never feeling of lack, this is a book of captivation, rallying, and an undeniable memento. It features explorers, witches, linguists, novelists, philosophers, and gravediggers, to name a slice of the cast. And it is global, covering grounds from many places and many cultures.

When quarantines are lifted we’ll play Marco Polo

in the empty wards & by lamplight study ancient methods
of beekeeping: mud hive & yeast cake, the tendering

of tiny crowns & tiny homes of sedge.

(from “And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey Out of the Tears of Re” on page 8)

The poems are senselessly arousing, moving between tangible and tangential from breath to breath. It is a book that is mischievous and keen, gripping and confounding, and ultimately visceral in its aural estimations and proximities. And So Was Wax contains some description, some explanation, and yet never enough. There are allusions and wayfinding, some intentionally exposed and some buried within subtext, yet there is mystery, and it is strong and strange and lingering.

One of the endnotes calls forth a reference to Ezra Pound, and I could not help being reminded of the complexities, challenges, and illuminations of the Modernists at large in texts nearly 100 years old. Still, I was also reminded of Black Mountain, Naropa, and also, I was reminded of the epic poems and parables of ages and eras many, many years’ past.

your tongue thicken to an ox’s, pronouncing words
that only through your industry still merit this translation:
I sometimes feel I am liquifying like an Old Camembert.

(from “Flaubert & the Chancre” on page 33)

Such is Beeder’s work. It never relents and it always offers more, the further one dips their head (and their mind) inward. Ultimately, the book sits on the precipice of greatness with a feeling of necessitated muddiness: to leave out direction leads to inherent incoherence, but never without confidence, without the sense that the poet is in full control, and knowingly looking upward, into the sky, the stars, and all directions of time at once.

A book of questions and yet a book of documentation and storytelling, it is a collection that may, at length, feel connected to something larger, above and beyond its own covers. I am reminded of the longer works of Caroline Bergvall, Anne Carson, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson, whose books are woven together like intense strands.

Drought our summer corn was overrun again
with weed & cheat; the bitter zinnias fell to bits.

Dear yearlings our harvest is lattice & husk.

(from “Dear Drought” on page 30)

Reminisces and ruminations on form aside, Beeder’s third book is distinctly her own. She brings forward wisdom derivative of many ages, and yet the comments feel current to the urgencies of today. From climate change to spirituality to a belief of women, Beeder captures the moment by deferring to the relevance of the past. All told, the timelessness is timeliness, and the poet serves as a firm but quizzical reminder that we have much to learn by adjusting our gaze.

I am waiting at the crossroads, here at your broken gate
where barbed acacias stoop to shade my trespass.

(from “For Fresno’s Best Process Service Call Hermes” on page 56)

You can find the book here: https://www.tupelopress.org/product/and-so-wax-was-made-also-honey/

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

Two Poems by Jennifer Novotney

After Dinner Nap
Her arm hangs over the bed lazily
like a flower in need of rain.
Sometimes I’d stop to watch her sleep
witness the rise and fall of her chest
like calm waves glittering under a summer moon.
The long lines of light ripple in the liquidity
reflecting sky, the darkness enveloping the clouds.
I’d often wish she’d sit with me under that full moon
low and bright in the expansive night
but she was usually too tired, too drunk to stay awake
as if the world was too much for her
fragile, the way a thin vase balances precariously
on the mantle, little earthquakes rock it back and forth
on its delicate stem. In need of support, but instead
I watch for it to fall, the way it glides through the air
gracefully, the prism of rainbow light it catches
on the way down. The clink of glass as it smashes
apart on the wood floor, some pieces still intact
others irreparable, the way time ravishes even the
most beautiful creatures. When she wakes I see the weakness
tiny fissures that widen with age. It is only a matter of time
before she too cracks, daylight seeping through the dark places
dripping out between the crevices of her loose skin.
The Creak of the Floorboards
Growing up, our houses always had real wood floors
long thin planks of light wood that stretched out
across rooms, down hallways, through closets
underneath throw rugs meant to enhance warmth.
Each plank unique, a slightly different shade of brown
yellow flecks like inflections in one’s eyes
seeing, but not seeing, everything that takes place
within the walls of our home.
The sighs, like sitting down after a long hard day
maybe a long hard life of working, supporting
those who tread across it, all day, some nights
worn in places, chipped in some, splintered, the way
a boardwalk comes apart after years of exposure
to the salty sea air.
It was a status symbol to have genuine wood
not the fake kind that has all the notches and
textured grain, but not the smell, the slippery grip
of the freshly cleaned planks that socks slide so sweetly
across, dangerous if not prepared, correctly balanced
like skating through treacherous ice.
Jennifer Novotney holds an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. Her poetry has appeared in Buddhist Poetry ReviewPoetry Quarterly, and The Vignette Review. In 2014, she won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for her debut novel, Winter in the Soul. She grew up in Los Angeles, California and lives in North East Pennsylvania with her family where she teaches English.

Poisons & Antidotes by Andrea L. Fry

By Charles Rammelkamp
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” go the lyrics of a hit song by Kelly Clarkson, the same paradox at the heart of Andrea L. Fry’s impressive collection in which she explores the clash of the nutric and the toxic,  the safe and the perilous: the noxious and the obnoxious, as the title of the book’s first section sums up.
“Oh, I would divide the world into binaries,” she begins the poem called “The Glitter of the Simple,” but the dichotomy is never so clear, as she captures so beautifully later in the poem:
The sacred passion flower,
ringed by purple filaments,
though its cool smile nests in leaves
of cyanide.
Later in the poem, after having archly declared her intention to judge by appearances only, Fry more sagely notes the deceptive malleability of the world’s contents in an observation from which the collection takes its name:
Both substance and creature slink
over a delicate border,
can so easily pass
from poison to antidote.
Some of Fry’s poems are so deliciously specific in spelling out the world’s almost oxymoronic inconsistencies. “Jimsonweed” and “Mothballs,” which open the book, focus on these two modest objects to tease out the point. “The Flower Maker” tells the story of the accidental poisoning of a person who makes beautiful bouquets for ladies’ hair using a chemical like Scheele’s Green, a mixture containing arsenic. “She shaped the flowers, / and pinned them, // loved them like / little green children.”  Unfortunately, the flower maker got the poison all over herself, too, her hair and lashes, and eventually into her stomach and liver.
“The Snake Charmer” is another poem that plays on the ambiguity of the safe and the dangerous. Inspired by a magazine article about an Indian snake charmer who “attempted suicide by cobra” (“your nemesis / and livelihood coiled in a basket”), she describes the man considered an “entertainer” by some and a “beggar” by others:
Yours was like a prophet’s
mission, to travel to villages
and festivals – like a marshal
out in front, townspeople cowering
behind – to challenge peril,
dare it to come out from its
hiding, show itself.
An oncology nurse practitioner at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Fry knows what she’s talking about when she evaluates the risks and benefits of different drugs and therapies. “Tomfoolery” brings a smile with its curmudgeonly expression, but she speaks truth:
Harrumph, I say!
Your cure’s as toxic as the bug itself.
A panacea that kills the lymph.
Amphotericin destroys both fungus and the host;
camphor kills moths, gives us emphysema.
Amphetamines make depressives
leap the fence….
“Narcan,” a poem about the emergency drug used to treat opioid overdose, expresses a similar ambivalence; the “miracle” comes with a warning, “the burden / of pure gift.” “Therapy” continues the idea of the fragility of the body in response to drugs, “fondling kidneys / like pottery.”  And so we encounter “Amir” “holding / the sample of urine with a slight tremor, as if asking for alms,” as uncertain and terrified as any other anonymous patient.
This mixture of promise and peril is particularly potent in “Return,” a poem dedicated to “the Babushkas of Chernobyl,” the old women coming back to tend to the radioactive land, “to your home, / to what they said would be uninhabitable.” The birds, the bees, even, for a time, the wolves, moose and boars were gone. “But you would not grieve.  / There was work to be done.”
My favorite poem is the one called “The Renderer,” in which a farm mother cushions the death of a beloved ancient horse with a vision of Patsy grazing happily in Heaven, much like the story parents tell their children about the dead family pet going away to live on a bucolic farm. Unfortunately, before she can take the kids away, the renderer drives up, jerking “the brake up like he was snapping / something’s neck” and proceeds to describe how he will have to saw Patsy’s legs off before hooking her up and driving the carcass away. The mother hastily rolls up the window and starts to leave the property. They drive away in silence for a few minutes, and then:
“Yes, Jack,” I said.
“Was that God?”
Fry’s sense of humor shines throughout many of these poems, while expanding on her theme. “Don’t Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle!” channels the snarky colleague who manages to undercut her co-workers while smiling her fake smile. “Help Desk” is a sort of surreal take on the recorded telephone message that “directs your call.” “The Show Dog” anthropomorphizes the competitors in competitions like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “The Death of Rhetoric” humorously analyzes how language has been poisoned. It starts out:
Take whatever.
Once royal, now it dwells
like a fallen angel
in the most ignoble realm:
the syntax of a sullen teen.
These marvelous poems brim with wit, imagination and intelligence. What doesn’t simply charm or enchant you will make you wiser. (Am I right, Kelly Clarkson?)
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.