poetry book

City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia) by Diane Sahms

city shadow amazon

City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia) by Diane Sahms has just been released by Alien Buddha Press. You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BMSZ8NV8/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1668816380&refinements=p_27%3ADiane+Sahms&s=books&sr=1-2&text=Diane+Sahms 

What Others Say About  City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia)

In Diane Sahms’s ambitious City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia) there are classical elements, the prominence of the elegiac as well as the lyrical and an oracular power that echoes back to Greece, yet remains rooted in Philadelphia.  The language soars—blooms, although with a dark undertone, illuminating the shadow and shading the light.  The meticulous pairing of the shadow and light allows the reader to explore the connective tissue between the seemingly unalike. Sahms’ syntax alone imparts a musicality and a dissonance to her work. Readers are jarred into a heightened realm of acuity.  Heroin’s inner arm of a clawing dragon/he never slew and Blue Heron’s Blue-gray architecture wades slowly, deliberately/leads slavish eyes knee-deep into still waters. They are yoked together like duets.  In her “Suite for Iris” the poet’s persona explores the world from the perspective of Iris who exists in the liminal zone of part human-part flora, a fertile intersection of the primeval and the reasoned. Iris, tall stalk before shears, /rhizome’s roots as heart’s arteries. Sahms’ often heretical visions push brilliantly into an unseen darkness.

Stephanie Dickinson, author of The Emily Fables and Big Headed Anna Imagines Herself. 

Wade into the mirror with Diane Sahms as she unveils and unravels identities—probing for meaning and finding connections. Different life forms fuse into a “universal soul” in these “heart shuttling” sojourns that sonically imagine the magic of “spirits united.” Morality and mortality yield their secrets in exhilarating lyric passages in which emptiness is purified via resolute perception and consequent insight. —Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

In City of Shadow and Light (Philadelphia), Diane Sahms looks upward to the cosmic, then comes back to the personal, in poems that are full of natural imagery and (often) mystery. The focal point is the “first city,” Philadelphia, and its inhabitants, particularly those connected to the poet. We meet ones who create and others who struggle. What brings them together is the poet’s care for each and every one. Through these poems, you will gain a new appreciation for a place and some of its ordinary (and extraordinary) people. This is an eye-opening, heart-tugging collection. —Thaddeus Rutkowski, author of Tricks of Light

Diane Sahms’s City of Shadow & Light opens with the loss of two sons and continues to hearken more challenges as the book unfolds. But as she quotes from Jung in one epigraph, dark shadows only heighten the brightness of light. Thus, the book’s ending of “light” is hard-earned, and the fortitude is as inspiring as the “brave Raven, who stole light / from total darkness // for everyone.” The reader is left gladdened that this poet managed to retain her voice and that, despite everything, that “voice, still sings.”—Eileen R. Tabios

 

City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia) by Diane Sahms – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BMSZ8NV8/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1668816380&refinements=p_27%3ADiane+Sahms&s=books&sr=1-2&text=Diane+Sahms 

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Along the Way by Scott Pariseau

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By John Zheng
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Scott Pariseau’s Along the Way is his first collection of poems and prose in variant forms, including epitaph, haiku, tanka-like poems, sonnet, free verse, and four prose pieces. As he says in the preface, the poet arranges the collection nearly chronologically and leads us along the way to different places—lived and traveled by the author—to experience his nostalgia, sadness, and sense of beauty found in ordinary life.
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One characteristic of Pariseau’s poetry is the use of different poetic forms. “Fall Migration,” which serves as the prelude, is arranged in four stanzas, each composed of two couplets. It also gives attention to alliteration and assonance, as shown in “I long that I might leave the ground / to fly with geese by time unbound.” Another good example of alliteration is in “Sprays of snow stuck / to my moist, scarved mouth” (“Night Walk, Winter”). Pariseau writes sonnets too. “First Crush” is a love sonnet in two stanzas. While the scheme is Petrarchan (composed of an octave and a sestet), the rhyme pattern is mainly Shakespearean. Yet, while the octave follows the Shakespearean rhyme pattern closely (ABABCDCD), the sestet veers to some degree away from the Shakespearean rhyme. Instead of using the EFEFGG rhyme, Pariseau has three couplets in the sestet rhymed as EEFFGG.
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Another characteristic of Along the Way is the use of imagery coming from his personal experience. For example, “In Autumn Light” relates the crows to the black soil:
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Crows
fly slow,
like black soil
rolling
off plows.
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As one who was once a farmhand, this reviewer appreciates the poet’s accurate comparison made from his farming experience. Another interesting image, a spoked wheel in “In Rotation,” creates a vivid auditory and visual view of the lovely puppies:
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Six puppies
slurping water
from a bowl—
like a spoked wheel
rotation slowly
clockwise
as they drink.
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Pariseau is a keen observer who finds something memorable or beautiful in the ordinary. In “Still Life,” an eight-line poem, he sees and smells “the moist scent / of cut roses in a bowl” which “permeates everything” that is not pleasant to the senses: the scorching heat of an afternoon, the thin air in a dusty room, the drawn blinds, and the dim, yellow light.
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Moreover, memory brings out a sense of place loved by people, as presented in “Night in Harkey Valley, Arkansas”:
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This family, spread by miles,
is together again, talking late
at the table.  Love stirs,
grows in the eyes
of three generations.
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Ancestors are named—
they are present, waiting;
their bones slide easily
into fresh young cousins.
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This poem presents a common but cozy scene of a family time filled with love and harmony. Their good relationship and communication are reflected not only through their talk but in their eyes as well. Their talk moves smoothly to the second stanza about their ancestors to suggest a history and heritage of three generations, and this heritage becomes concrete in the last two miraculous lines. A reader may wish the poem could be longer with more details to flesh out the family time.
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Besides writing about daily life and memory, Pariseau also turns his eye to ecowriting. “Thirteen Turtles: A Prose Meditation”—a short prose piece—conveys a strong ecological message. It intends to raise awareness of the potential negative consequence of the human killing of birds and animals and the destruction done to the earth. Further, Pariseau mentions yin yang in the Chinese cosmological symbolism, which means balance. People should realize that when the balance no longer exists on this earth, nature will turn to punish its destroyers—human beings.
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Occasionally we hear a sentimental sigh. “Dream at Ocean Haven” sighs about the bygone youth: “O, when do those / pure colors of youths / begin acquiring / the solemn tints / of the grave?” but oftentimes we see impressionistic and delightful views in Along the Way with an expectation for an aftertaste.
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John (Jianqing) Zheng’s publications include A Way of Looking, Conversations with Dana Gioia, and African American Haiku: Cultural Visions. He is the editor of the Journal of Ethnic American Literature. His forthcoming poetry collection is titled The Dog Years of Reeducation from Madville Publishing.
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Communiqué: Poems From The Headlines by Ed Werstein

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By Edward Morin
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Ed Werstein’s first full-length collection, A Tar Pit to Dye In (2018), showed a jaunty bent for wordplay, commitment to poetry as vocation, and uncommon insight into human relationships and societal concerns. His new book, Communiqué: Poems From The Headlines (Waters Edge Press, 2021), builds on this foundation. It restates commitment in an opening epigraph from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Insurgent Art:
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“If you would be a poet, write living newspapers. Be a reporter from outer space, filing dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance for bullshit.”

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Communiqué distributes over five dozen poems into sections named for thematic categories used by the full-service newspapers: National and Local News, International News, Weather Report, Sports Report, Business News, Politics, Special: The War Report, Science and Religion, and Obituaries.” Citing the headline and media source for each poem, Werstein segues from the original coverage into his personal insights, feelings, and interpolations.
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On the National and Local front, “A Couple from Massachusetts” tells of hikers who slip off an icy cliff and fall to their death. At first, the poet asks:
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With news of war, mass shootings, a pandemic
and a looming environmental disaster,
Why do I need to know about this?
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He decides that, of the 7,500 people who die each day in the U.S., these two are special to more than just their relatives and friends because they died “in each other’s arms doing something they love to do. / I should be so lucky.” The interplay of public and deeply personal themes is continually present throughout the book.
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Ranging from very recent news to that of bygone eras, headlines are the dock from which Captain Werstein launches his flotilla of poems. “Transportation Blues,” uses stock phrases from blues lyrics in complaints about Governor Scott Walker’s veto of high-speed rail in Wisconsin and the overall degradation of railroad passenger service in the U.S. In “Dear Emmett,” the woman linked to the 1955 killing of Emmett Till admits six decades later that she gave false testimony, underscoring the slow pace of racial justice. The personal compulsions driving these poems prevent them from treading water as rhetorical propaganda.
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For International News, Werstein draws on his experience living in Latin America as he portrays a deadly earthquake, Chilean miners rescued after weeks trapped underground, and the politics of Pablo Neruda’s body being exhumed. “Teaching Women How to Fly” compares America’s infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 with a similar industrial atrocity in Bangladesh, where the women “flying” to their deaths were sewing clothes Americans buy at Walmart. Working people’s perspectives are prominent throughout the collection.
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Weather Report features “Junkman’s Wet Dream,” about a Milwaukee flood of biblical proportions and the aftermath:
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Today, in the sunshine, people all over the city
are hauling water-soaked hutches, cabinets
and carpets to the curb as old pickup trucks,
driven by junkyard vultures, circle
like Conestogas making camp,
like planes over La Guardia,
like toms around a cat in heat,
ready to pounce.
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The poem “It’s Not God, It’s Us” epitomizes America’s apathy in the face of global warming: “[Don’t] take any action, except maybe sending a few bucks: / our only way to make up for a strangled government.”
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The emotional tone of poems in Sports News are by turns acerbic or heartwarming. They spotlight injuries in football games, Trump’s censure of NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem, and celebrations of the poet’s hometown Milwaukee Brewers and the legendary Detroit Tiger broadcaster, Ernie Harwell.  In Business News, the poem “Mine” plays upon that word as a corporate representative urges the reopening of an environmentally dangerous iron mine in the Penokee Ridges, then asserts rights of ownership over incalculable assets:
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The oil is mine, the water, mine,
even the wind. I’ll meter it and sell it to you
as soon as you buy all my oil.
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The speaker’s exaggerations in favor of corporate greed reduce his arguments to absurdity.
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The poet himself becomes playfully absurd in the poem “Austerity,” which addresses the world’s debt problem. He asks naively,
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What if, like other states, the state of poetry were in default?
Poets everywhere would be in debt.
A word lifted here, a phrase there, . . .
and pretty soon it would start to add up.
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Lenders would keep monetized words like “gold,” “estates,” “offshore bank accounts” to themselves and
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[w]e would be left with only titles,
signifying not our ownership
but our mounting debts,
and these few words: austerity
crisis, foreclosure, unemployment,
hunger, poverty, war.
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Words that would never be taken from us.
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Communiqué includes four villanelles—a stanza form that usually hampers rhetorical purpose; the best of these is “Second Thoughts” in the Politics section. Responding to the headline, “Virginia Legislature Turns Down Ban on Military-style Weapons,” a gun-rights advocate asserts:
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Above all else on Earth I love my guns.
They’re symbols of my freedom and my rights. . . .
            *          *          *
Above my wife, my daughters and my sons
whose lives my guns protect throughout the night.
            *          *          *
Opposing points of view I always shun.
There’s only one amendment I can cite.
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The speaker’s romance with firearms has become his ruling passion:
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Some poems of Special: The War Report visit U. S. military incursions into Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, others poems treat related domestic outbreaks of gun violence. The poet hasn’t met a war he doesn’t dislike. Science and Religion offers lighter fare. “The Picture of Dorian Redwood” exults in longevity, “The Voices at Chauvet Cave” imagines artists of primitive drawings speaking to us, and “Pan-Demonic” is a Bacchanalian paeon to lovers’ sensual joys during Covid-enforced sequestration.
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Obituaries, the book’s final section, pays tribute to Werstein’s idols—Hank Aaron, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek. It also commemorates executed convict, Troy Davis. The piéce de resistance of this section is the charming “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” It cites the headline announcing the legendary child star’s demise and begins:
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Let no alcohol be poured today.
Shirley Temple is dead at eighty-five.
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Let us raise eponymous sweet concoctions
of fruit and bubbles and toast Clark Gable,
whose Hollywood star was eclipsed
by a six-year-old supernova
who earned 1,200 dollars a week
during the Depression.
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Recommending that we honor Shirley’s memory as contemporaries did by imitating her hairstyle, donning sailor suit and tap dance shoes, and becoming “ambassador to foreign lands,” the mourner concludes,
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Shirley Temple is dead at almost eighty-six.
The Good Ship Lollipop has sailed the River Styx.
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Communiqué’s unconventional, if not unique, amalgam of poetry and mass culture is a “people’s history” with something of value for nearly everybody. The poet makes what interests him tantalizing through finely honed paradox and sheer verbal legerdemain. Theodore Roethke told poets, “Get to your compulsions”; I had fun watching Ed Werstein display his. He examines contemporary phenomena such as global warming, income and racial inequality, and corporate control of government with provocative wit reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw.
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Edward Morin is a poet, song writer and translator whose work has been published in Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner and three poetry collections including The Bold News of Birdcalls (2021).  His co-translations of contemporary poems from Greek, Chinese, and Arabic have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. His book reviews have been published in Georgia Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Detroit News.
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Something Kindred by Nicole Tallman

something

By Alex Carrigan

In Nicole Tallman’s chapbook Something Kindred, she responds to the passing of her mother through a series of poems and prose pieces that examine the immediate effects of the loss. As Tallman’s foreword states, these are pieces about grief in “a timeless sense.” While they read as anecdotes and rumination following her mother’s death, it becomes clear that each of these pieces could exist at any point in time, showcasing how grief is sometimes something that is experienced for the rest of one’s life.

The collection begins with the passing of Tallman’s mother, Nancy, written as a disjointed prose piece detailing the final moments as Nancy’s family witnessed her passing. This piece, “On the Last Moments Leading to Your Death,” has its paragraphs spread out and spaced several lines down on the page. It feels like a slow descent into the final moment, punctuated by recollections on helping clean Nancy or feeding her a popsicle.

This is then followed by “On Surviving in the Early Days Following Your Death,” where Tallman writes about the aftermath of her mother’s passing. This heartbreaking piece shows the banality of life as it continues following loss, with Tallman and her father replacing their home’s microwave after it breaks and Tallman dividing her mother’s ashes. Many of these moments have an underlying sense of uncertainty and confusion, such as when Tallman writes,

Dad and I take a trip in the snow to get the rings you left me resized. Dad also asks me if he should take off his wedding ring. He isn’t sure of the proper thing to do. I tell him not to worry about what’s proper. He should just do what feels right. He isn’t sure what to do with that. He says 45 years of marriage is a long time.

It’s also here that we begin to see the confessional aspect of the collection. In between each piece in the chapbook, Tallman includes a “confession” where she admits to things like taking photos of her mother after she died or the melancholy that came from the first holidays without Nancy. It’s here where the collection reveals probably its strongest response to grief: where Tallman finds now is the time to be honest and admit things she may never say otherwise. This includes one passage, where Tallman is dividing her mother’s ashes and writes,

I don’t portion out any for your mother. Grandma says she should have gone first. I don’t disagree with her. Dad says he should have gone first too. I don’t disagree with him either.

After that, the collection drifts into poems where Tallman responds to something that reminds her of her mother. These pieces include poetry about her mother’s ashes spilling in her suitcase, or how her search for poems about bereavement led to her discovering Frieda Hughes, the daughter of Sylvia Plath who is now an artist. “Frieda Hughes, I want to eat all of your mother’s poems / and all of your paintings. // It’s hard not to look at Frieda and feel / something kindred— / us daughters of dead mothers” Tallman writes in “On Reading Poems, I Now Sympathize With Daughters Of Dead Mothers.”

While the beginning of the chapbook contains pieces that are specific in their relationship to the author’s experience, yet universal in their themes and images, it’s towards the end that Tallman begins to move to the more experimental and unique. “On Grieving” is a poem that has to be read by turning the page and squinting to make out the message of “Grief is a blurry imperfect circle.” The final piece in the collection, “On Love,” reads as a mission statement on Tallman, as if she had to catalogue herself.

The poem, inspired by Alex Dimitrov’s “Love,” is a series of statements, many of which are linked, such as I love a wood-burning fire. / I love people who own fireplaces in Miami. / I love that a Miami summer can feel more brutal than a Michigan winter. / I love going to the beach when there’s no sun.” “On Love” reads like many of these loves of Tallman are specific moments or visuals that could have emerged upon recollecting about her mother, and it’s the sort of piece that could make the reader want to catalog about a loved one.

Something Kindred is a tearjerking, powerful examination of grief. Tallman’s ability to make personal, individualized moments feel grand and universal speaks to her expert use of detail and language. It’s a collection that asks for confession and exhalation following loss, and it’s one that will likely leave the reader feeling lighter after reading as they begin to truly take in what’s left behind after death.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Something-Kindred-Nicole-Tallman/dp/1736230611

Alex Carrigan (he/him; @carriganak) is an editor, poet, and critic from Virginia. His debut poetry chapbook, May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), was longlisted for Perennial Press’ 2022 Chapbook Awards. He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review,  Barrelhouse, Sage Cigarettes (Best of the Net Nominee, 2023), ‘Stories About Penises’ (Guts Publishing, 2019), and more.

American Maniac by David Spicer

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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American Maniac by David Spicer, the reader experiences a voice that is loud and clear in seventy-seven pages of poems. Kerby Cassady, author of Overthinking in Poetry, says of American Maniacit is a must read for anyone uninterested in dreamy fantasies and shiny vehicles that take us nowhere but to our self- deluding perceptions of America.  This book will kick you in the ass and have you begging for more.
Spicer does not hold back.  In the title poem American Maniac on page thirteen, the tone is aggressive and clear.
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 My sister was the biggest kid
 on the block, so nobody
fucked with me.
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The twenty-seven line one-stanza poem suggests the narrator is a bit of a blow hard with a strange over protective sister who enacts vengeance more like a brother. The structure supports the narrative of the poem as it reads not as a conversation but a declaration. The last few lines pull it all together.
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His sister beat that sonofabitch, too.
Now there is silence,
now there is pretend time
to look out the window, he says,
but none of us in this magic city
believe him, just listen as long
as he wants to talk.
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The observers allow the reader to see the situation and closure comes.
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Anthem of a Terrorist on page forty-eight also demonstrates Spicer’s skillful control of voice.
Everybody needs to hate
when his eyes are dead.
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The poem continues in eleven couplets that read like mini declarations and puzzle pieces of a damaged angry mind.
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I’ll never die.
I don’t need your weapons.
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He continues.
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I am small but I am God’s brother.
I’ll kill you in my sleep.
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Spicer draws a picture of a dangerous person plotting out his harm to others and elevating himself to godhood.  The poem closes with:
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You are my first enemy.
After you, I will find someone else.
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The poem exposes the big ego of a terrorist and the last line indicates the terror will continue.  It is an excellent poem on a contemporary subject.
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This poetry volume is filled with contemporary themes.  On page seventy-seven, the poem Maniacs Survivor’s Song is again a poem written in eleven couplets with each one making a clear statement. The opening couplet sets the tone and scene.
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Apples will be blue this year.
The bombs fell yesterday.
The poem mirrors the terrorist poem almost as a response and details of aftermath.
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I can still hear the screams.
They are the new anthem.
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The poem clearly shows that surviving is not pleasant.  He uses nature images and human images that portray the severity of hatred.  The poem closes with:
and we have found a new God.
She sings to us as if we are lambs.
The positive side of the poem is that there is survival.  The type and breadth of the survival is not pretty. The Biblical reference to lambs suggests a new beginning and perhaps peace. This is one interpretation. There are, of course, others.
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This tome is one that commands a read and re-read.  It is not for the faint of heart.
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You can find the book here:  https://www.hekatepublishing.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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Editor’s note: David Spicer passed from this place on November 25, 2020.

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Defying Extinction By Amy Barone

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By Frank Wilson
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Among John Stuart Mill’s more famous observations is that “eloquence is heard, poetry  is overheard.” This latest collection of Amy Barone’s poems demonstrates this in an extraordinary way: Much that Barone so sharply observes of today’s world she wondrously transmutes into the poetry implicit in the language we speak every day: “Flashes of computer screens take me to task … I walk down familiar streets/in cities I no longer know.”
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Barone lives in New York City, but she grew up in Bryn Mawr, and has not forgotten her home town, remembering for instance “that ‘87 Andy Summers show when I was surrounded/by ‘it’ girls on and off stage at Philly’s Chestnut Cabaret” (“In the Pocket”). But Barone likes to travel, a favorite destination being Abruzzo. In “Bearly” she tells of the Abruzzan brown bears, “calm creatures / who roam the Apennine Mountains and woodlands … near the land of my ancestors / in a grand national park on a tourist ridden/peninsula that’s in hibernation.”
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There is much that is elegiac here. Barone’s grief for her late mother is palpable, nowhere more so than in “Handkerchiefs”:
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I found a paisley handkerchief in my mother’s handbag
on the day of her stroke. I left it there, cherished it,
never to be handled again — a symbol of etiquette,
her ladylike ways, a vanishing age.
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The title poem has to do with a massive ribbon that “will hang along the Brown Building/in Lower Manhattan, where 146 garment workers … perished in a fire/on March 25, 1911 ….”

Barone’s contribution is a “sky-blue fabric from bedding/my late mother sent me as a housewarming gift.”

A couple of poems later, we learn in “Lesson” that “He invites to his villa in Tivoli. / Presses me to love fluidly.” Who might that be? Well, it seems,
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Despite a gap of over 2,000 years,
ages after the rise and fall of Rome,
Catullus gives me writing lessons.
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Notable throughout these poems is Barone’s identification with the natural world.  Clematis, for instance: “Reluctant like a clematis, I shy from conflict … “
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Once I knew how to climb,
kept my reach high on the vine.
Now I mingle with wild artists,
crush the impulse to wilt over rows.
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It is easy enough in a review to give a pretty clear idea of the variety of these poems. What is not so easy to get across is how this variety contributes to the extraordinary unity of the collection. Indeed, when one finishes reading the book, the sense of ensemble is so strong that one has no choice but to read it again. Then one realizes that those Abruzzan bears are also “defying extinction.”
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Without preaching, Barone makes us aware that the world we live in now is quite different from the one most of us grew up in: “I don’t watch movies from a Smart TV that may be watching me.” Likewise, “Sometimes I draft stories on paper, not a blinding screen. / Soft on the eyes and gentle on my low-tech mind.”

But the collection ends on a kind of light note. Early in the book, we were told “Now that water’s been spotted there,/I think I’ll head to the moon for a swim ….”  And the final poem in the book, “Dolce far Niente” (the dictionary defines it as “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness”) makes reference to the Covid unpleasantness:

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Most nights, quarantine dreams intoxicate me,
so many people I hadn’t seen in years.
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But the sign-off is light-hearted: “Recharge your smartphone—freedom’s on the line.”
This is a book to treasure.
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Frank Wilson is a retired book review editor of The Inquirer. Books, Inq. — The Epilogue
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Of Mineral by Tiff Dressen

Of Mineral by Tiff Dressen
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Of Mineral by Tiff Dressen, published by the nonprofit Night Boatbooks in New York is a contemplation of form versus subject. Because the forms are hard to represent here with total accuracy, a description of form will be discussed in relation to the poems.
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In the poem, A Letter in May: Portals from San Francisco which begins on page four, is stretched and arranged as if the narrator is on a particular journey perusing the city. The poem consists of eighty-four lines presented in three-, two-, and one- line stanzas which are arranged in a form as to suggest a winding and unwinding forward movement just like wandering and walking around.
The poem is printed from page four to page nine which makes a little difficult to follow.
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The poem opens with the first stanza flush left.
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This city is a Labyrinth
I walk   in my head
another poet repeats.
Dressen proceeds with lines spaced, indented, and stand-alone to suggest barriers from going and finding solution.  The poem is also divided into sections with lines to indicate the change.  On the journey, average but representative things are observed.  One wonders in another’s mind, seeing and trying to understand the metaphorical meaning until the last lines
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house with phantom
flower crops
“It’s still warmer here”
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The reader realizes the search is for safety and finds it in a familiar although imperfect place. The image of a labyrinth has been successful in relating not only to a walk-through San Francisco, but also to the walk through life.
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Dressen uses this visual spacing technique in his other poems.  For example, in the two- stanza poem on page seventeen, Dark Sky Preserves, the spacing is complex and no punctuation is used to clarify.
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Because I wanted to learn how
to look at the sky
                         again
 
 
                              I chose from among
                               your voices
                                               constellations
 
                                                 nuclear
                               magic
                                                              numbers
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While the spacing and stretching is interesting, the poem’s words are strong and the images successful.  If I have not been one hundred percent on the spacing, I apologize.
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In the poem Night Arc: in October on page thirty-five, a more traditional form is used.  It is a one stanza verse with eighteen lines that is flush left and moves down the page in one skinny stream.
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Sea starved
we begin with
motion liquid oar
we took on water
night phospho
reticence
under pole
star plunge
some fish spoke
through my
lungs some large
mammal bellow
who is native
and who is not
those who could
swim survived
we studied
those tiny faces.
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The poem is well focused and lean. The images are clear and the ending is successful which demonstrates Dressen can produce both traditional and nontraditional verse with equal skill. This poem keeps the reader following the movement in the water until the final study of those being observed.
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Dressen varies the lengths of the poems as well as the subjects. The volume is fifty-nine pages of poems and is especially worth exploring for those who enjoy manipulation of form.
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Dressen’s first book of poems Songs from the Astral Bestiary was published in 2014
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You can find the book here: https://nightboat.org/book/of-mineral/
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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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Central Air by George Bilgere

central air

By Lynette G. Esposito

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

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

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

 

Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

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Lost Autographs by Peter Baroth

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