poetry book

New Release – 13 Poems from the Edge of Extinction – by Adrian Manning

Manning 13 Poems front COVER snip

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“Adrian Manning has a phenomenal ability to transform words into pictures. I love the way he paints his poems, brushed with this highly surreal and emotional tone. His newest poetry collection is no exception. Read it and see for yourself.”

—Janne Karlsson

“These short poems do a ‘dance on your tongue,’ delivering a feast for the mind. I was drawn to them like a moth is drawn to the heat of a lightbulb. Taste them like a hummingbird tastes the nectar of a flower in bloom. Each poem is like a step ladder, each rung leading you to the next one. Food for thought, digest them as you would a warm meal on a cold winter night.”

—A.D. Winans

“When I read work by Adrian Manning I fully expect to be challenged, intrigued, entertained and surprised. This little book is no exception to the rule.”

—John Yamrus

“Adrian Manning is a live-wire from Leicester, England, an old school old soul poet/publisher. Stay on your toes because these lean poems punch well above their weight.”

—Kent Taylor

 

Adrian Manning’s 13 Poems from the Edge of Extinction is hand assembled and saddle stapled. It features white cover stock, pastel light yellow end papers and pastel ivory pages. Cover art by Kevin Eberhardt. 8.5 x 5.5″. 18 pp. Laser printed. ISBN: 978-1-940996-39-4. Limited 1st edition of 100 copies.

Check out the book here: http://ccpress.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/ManningCC87.html?m=1

 

Waiting For The Light

waiting
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Alicia Suskin Ostriker is a poet who writes and lives in a city she loves with all its beauty and ugliness much like Charles Reznikoff, Suskin Ostriker is a walker. She writes of Upper Broadway, As the body of the beloved is a window/through which we behold the blackness and vastness of space/ pulsing with stars…  In this collection, it is the poems of Suskin Ostriker that pulsate with the passion of urban landscapes and polemical rendernings. Such as this from The Glory of Cities
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Let us now praise famous cities, our human fists against heaven, let us praise
      their devotion to wealth and power and art, goals toward which we swim
          ferociously upstream, tearing ourselves apart, to lay our eggs and die
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She writes of Biking to the George Washington Bridge:
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It sweeps away depression and today
you can’t tell the heaped pin-white
cherry blossoms abloom along
Riverside Drive from the clouds above
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A beautiful image from a poet who is an observer who casts her eyes upon life others may not see. Suskin Ostriker writes of the colorful quilt of her city, of immigrants from across the globe who have come here for a better life and hard work. Waiting for the Light is a collection of poetry full of praise, suffering and heartbreak. This is not a collection written through eyes covered in rose colored glasses but through eyes full of realism viewing the world and its landscapes of humanity.
 
You can find the book here: BookDetails
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

Amber Necklace from Gdańsk

 

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Reviewed by: Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
 
 
Linda Nemec Foster reiterates this real and imagined theme of yearning and self-discovery throughout the four sections of Amber Necklace from Gdańsk.
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In poem after poem of sculptured landscapes of Old World and New, of Poland (before WW I) to USA of today, Linda Nemec Foster yearns for wholeness, yet knows that this severance of self the “she” (“the other self”) from the Old World will be never be found “in the New,” as in the appropriately titled poem, “Doppelgänger” she writes:
                            …A mere roll of the dice that I’m here
                            and she somewhere else
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                            …because a simple act of birth that place me
                            in suburbs south of Cleveland and
                            not in a town across the river from Oświęcim
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The last line of the poem puts the reader at a screeching, yet realistic halt:
                             …may we never recognize each other on street.
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 Is this an acceptance of harsh reality, of being born in Cleveland, Ohio “on the opposite side of the world” to first generation parents (whose grandparents left Poland) and the realism that she will never be able to experience or have lived the life of “the other self.”   I believe the last line of the poem is realistic; however, within every artist/poet there is imagination; there is the “what if” question; there is the wishful desire to have that which you know you can never really have.  As if, perchance, there could have been a meeting of the “other self,” that is if Fate could have allowed her to live a different life (she never knew), a life she could never truly know. Yet, the fact is she was destined to live here in Ohio, in the New.  It is this longing that exists – to have known a different life, to have been given an opportunity to be a different self “other self” in this opening poem that stays with the reader especially because of the powerfully ironic last line
                            …may we never recognize each other on street.
Can one re-unite the two? No, never, and if we could then would we be better off not knowing what life would have been like anyway.  A bit paradoxical? Absolutely!  The “longing” to be someone we could never be, yet at the same time thinking we should have at least had a “chance” at it. A choice, perhaps This is the unknown, the not knowing (that can never truly be satisfied); and that which a second generation girl/woman ponders, especially when one is blessed/cursed with a creativity poetic mind. A mind that questions.
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This is a book of interconnected narrative poems with an undertow of longing for a life we can never have. Therefore, the second poem, “Doppelgänger,” has set the stage for the remainder of the poems in this collection.  The fact is she was born here, but her love is reflected in poems about a family she knew and a family she will never really know.
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The poems roll into and out of each other with a constant pulling undertow of longing, which is never understated in her poems about people and places.  Each poem beautifully written, beautifully sad, hurts the reader deeply, because there’s a void which cannot be filled. Especially evident in the poem,
“The Immigrant’s Dream” where each of the three stanzas begin with “a recurrent dream” and ends with a woman’s voice whispering two very strong final words: “You’re home.”
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This wise archetypal dream woman trying to offer closure tells the immigrant “you’re home” to give the disconnected speaker peace, resolution.  Yet, there really is no peace, no closure for three generations of women, who must live without a sense of true peace; and it’s not just the woman speaker, who is displayed but it is her grandparents, parents, and her own son that carries the burden of loss. 
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This sense of loss, in more detail, is also relevant in the poem, “Young Boy in a Tenement House, Holding the Moon.”
                                He is anonymous as a fairy tale.
                             His bare feet could be my father’s
                             or perhaps my son’s…
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the speaker’s father and / or son’s feet, and as the poem continues it includes the boy’s mother –
                            his mother five flights up
                            keeping six kids at bay, waiting
                            for that basin of water…
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So it is at this turning point of generational weariness that a child sent for water for an awaiting mother and a large family of siblings that the poet allows the boy to express his inner feelings.  The boy in this poem uses his imagination to cope with the un-copeable and this is where Nemic Foster has the young boy’s basin become the moon.  The reader knows a round basin resembles a full moon, but what is so poetically crafted here is that the boy
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                            …smiles/ not for the camera, but to himself, as if he’s holding a captured moon
Here the “moon,” may appear subtle, but to Nemec Foster it not subtle at all, rather the skilled use and choice of the word “captured.” It is not used as a verb here, rather an adjective, and not a “capturing” moon,” but a “captured moon,” as if the child and his entire family residing in a tenement were in a “captured” state of existence, as new comers to a foreign land (America in lieu of Poland).  The moon is metaphorically alone in the darkness and “captured” (involuntarily) in a gravitational orbit.  Poland is now dead to him as the moon, as the “captured moon.”  Captured defined is “to take into one’s possession or control by force.”  Now, pushing the envelope further, the boy whispers to the moon,
                             and whispering to it, his breath
                             lost in its silver and dust:
                             księżyc, księżyc, latać,  latać, daleko.
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And before the translation, the poem is interrupted by an foreign language (Polish), not English, because the boy and his siblings, mother, and possibly his extended family (grandparents, great-grandparents) are all displaced in America, not only by their residence in a tenement house, but by language itself. Now, the last two translated lines in English, as the last to lines of this poem:
                             Moon, moon, fly away, fly away,
                             and please, take me with you.
Here, the child’s plea, “please take me with you” to my real home, because the moon can see all, Poland and America, and the child is homesick for something he cannot have.
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The aforementioned poems are in the very beginning of Section I – Conjuring Up the Landscape and in continuing in that section Nemec Foster writes poems about her father learning to count in English; immigrant child at school; “The Old Neighborhood”; her mother, “The Silent One,” etc.  and ends the section with the poem, “Sitting in America at the End of the Century” with these last very painful lines (both in Polish and English) addressing her grandparents (Maria and Tomasz, Zofia and Franciszek)in the poem’s last stanza:  
                             … A distant granddaughter surrounded by cars,
                            longing for a language that’s more akin to damp
                            earth than linguistics, stuttering in a tongue
                            so natural to them they know what she’s trying
                            to say, even before the halting words
                            leave her lips.  Bardzo mi przykro,
                             nie wiem. I am sorry, I know nothing.
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A real page turner, so captivating that you, the reader, become engrossed with each poem, as I have; but you must continue onward with a reverent, dirge-like pace through the remaining three sections, as they will hypnotize you as well.  She is allowing their voices and her voice to be heard, so you can learn of the honesty, integrity, and beauty of each lived life. These narrative-memoir poems tell the familial immigrant stories of her grandparents and parents and also Nemec Foster’s very own second-generation story of, mentally and physically, crossing the Atlantic from America to Poland and then back to America again.
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Since I have elaborated in Section I, I will try to consolidate the remaining three sections, and this is not to diminish those sections, no, not at all, but in order not to make this – a too long review. 
Section II – The Rivers of Past and Present;  Section III- Dark Amber of Regret; &  Section IV – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss will keep the reader totally engaged.  I will pick one poem from each section to focus upon, as briefly as I can, in order to do justice to both poet and poem.
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Section II– The Rivers of Past and Present has four prose poems, with the exception of the poem, “The Two Rivers in My Story.” Once again these poems do not spare the reader their emotional empowerment, with an intense flow of prosaic images, narratives, and truths felt by a transplanted poet.  America’s Cuyahoga River aligns, yet conversely misaligns with Poland’s Vistula River – just as the past aligns, yet conversely misaligns to the present, at least in Nemec Foster’s telling of rivers and time in her prosaic poem, “The Women with the Two Rivers Growing from Her Hair” (wonderful title). Here, Nemec Foster recounts a “true” story told to her by her mother about her grandmother, Maria.
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                  …I know it’s true because my mother told me that her mother saw it with her own two  eyes.                  
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Interestingly enough, oral history imagined or true is prevalent among immigrant families and serves as a connective thread often linking one generation to the next, especially in this story of women.
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     Maria, my mother’s mother with green eyes who died long ago, whom I never knew, but could only imagine.
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Without giving the total story away here are some lines of her grandmother’s story told by Nemec Foster’s mother to her, whereby the flow of the women of her family and the flow of rivers align and misalign with each other.
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              One day she decided to leave her mother, her father, all her sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends and come to the New World and live in America.
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Her grandmother settled in Ohio in a boarding house near the Cuyahoga River and it took her weeks to pronounce the river’s name.
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She especially loved the sound of the city’s river, Cuyahoga, even though it took her many weeks before               she could even begin to pronounce it. …As if trying to will the river into her tiny bedroom on the third                    floor of Mrs. Okasinski’s boarding house.
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The grandmother’s dream of the Vistula River in Poland, where she turns into a mermaid.  A straight up metaphor, why, because oral tradition and the imagination usually go hand-in-hand.
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           She was a mermaid swimming in the deep, clear waters of her homeland, the Vistula River.  Her legs had              turned into one huge fin, her beautiful hair had become filmy seaweed.  Even her green eyes had turned                into the blue-white of mother-of-pearl.
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Nemec Foster hits the comparisons hard: Old World – Poland vs. New World – America; Vistula River vs. Cuyahoga River; the Past vs. the Present; and then with her brilliant choice of poetic language, the Simile
 – “like” for comparative purposes. 
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              The Vistula flowed around her like scattered diamonds.  For the first time since leaving  Poland, she felt homesick.  In the morning when she awoke, the rain was still falling, like  drops of a river from the sky.
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In finishing this comparative poem, there’s unification and /or a blending of the two separate entities into the one identity, separate but united in the poem’s summation:
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 Her long, golden hair had explicably transformed into the two rivers she loved so much:  blue Vistula of the fish-maid; green Cuyahoga of the exotic song. They flowed from her head like twin cascades of the past and present, the old and the new.
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And finally Nemec Foster’s heart wrenching metaphors provide hidden similarities between her grandmother and / or immigrant women and their descendants, directly and poetically equating them to river/water images:
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                 Some say the woman disappeared into the rivers that claimed her.  Some say she  walked into the rain and became the rain. And some refuse to believe that a woman’s hair can change into the waters of two rivers by mere act of a strange dream.  But then,  they don’t know the woman.
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Section III- Dark Amber of Regret succeeds II, but not with prosaic poems, rather 13 shorter poems. These poems – move the reader along the high wire of regret and longing, looking at each side Old – New, Poland – America, as if the speaker, a high wire walker were treading very carefully in a world where a fine wire-thin-line exists; and they must forever walk the path of an “examined” life with no real resolution, one always existing alongside the other.  This disconnection between two world’s trying to connect is stated in the first lines of the poem “Moje Rozwiane Włosy” where the East is separated from the West:
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                            Beyond any control of the East /West border,
                            Oder/Neisse line, the arbitrary demarcations
                            of free market and fixed economy, my hair
Here the speaker, I, uses the image of her “hair” to connect her.
At the beginning of the poem:
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                             …my hair
                             my hair has become wild, electric halo that refuses…
and at the end of this poem:
                             …My hair, my wild hair,
                            wanting to be a braided rope that connects the two.
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The hair image of the “I” speaker resonates back to the grandmother, Maria, and her “long, golden” braided hair (Section II, above). The speaker (probably Nemec Foster, herself) using a very womanly image of her hair is trying to connect the disconnect.  Actually the braiding of three long individual strands (daughter, mother, grandmother) into one braid connects the three women together in their two distinct worlds.
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I would be remiss not to state that Section III’s poems are extremely musical as a whole.  Many stanzas like verses of songs binding many voices together, as if each poem the voice of an instrument, a symphony playing melodiously together. Lovely musical titles too, and poems enriched with naturalistic settings containing names and colors of flowers and trees, such as “Mazovian Willows – Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 9” (Chopin exiled from Poland); “Song of Sorrow – On Listening to Gorecki’s Third Symphony “ (written as a rhythmic Villanelle);  After the War: Purple Flowers Spilling from the Window;” etcetera.  There is one very daunting poem, “Chapel of Skulls – Czermna, Poland” that does not fit the uplifting musical category of many of the others in this section.  It is realistically and humanistically devastating, more funereal.  I believe this poem a silent reminder to Nemec Foster that despite her families disconnect from Poland, there would be nothing more terrible then for her family to have been in Poland during WW I and WW II.  Not just our own deaths, as the poem reminds us in America and Europe, but the reminder of the
                             …mass graves at Katyn
                             or the empty crematorium at Auschwitz
                             can prepare you for this.
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Nothing can ever really prepare you for “this” meaning death.
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Further, the last poem of Section III is the book’s title – “Amber Necklace from Gdańsk” and this poem echoes back to the braided hair, but this time three
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                             strands of the past braided around my neck.
                             White amber of memory, gold amber of song, dark amber of regret.
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So, three colors of amber as memory, song, and regret are braided appropriately, as title of this book of poems.
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Section IV – This last section moves through character and place poems, but the reader is struck by the last three lines of the last poem, “Dancing with my sister.”  Here the poet not only echoes back to this Section’s title – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss –but concludes the book appropriately as follows:
                             We glow because we came from the same burnt-out dream
                             of second-generation immigrants and learned to smile
                             at the closed mouth of loss and dance, dance, dance.
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Linda Nemec Foster and her sister have truly learned to smile despite loss and the reader gallops along with Linda and her sister “to the Beer Barrel Polka” with “RESPECT” for the glowing women they have become in America.  In the second-generation immigrants’ fight for recognition, Linda Nemec Foster has won the braided Amber Necklace from Gdańsk glowing with three “tears (tiers) of the sun” around her neck.

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Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphian, is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Images of Being (Stone Garden Publishing, 2011), Lights Battered Edge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2015), and Night Sweat (Red Dashboard Press, 2016) – available at Amazon. Her poems have appeared in a number of online and print publications.  Awarded a grant in poetry from the AEV Foundation in 2013, and named the winner of the Working People’s Poetry Competition, 2015, she has served as Poet in Residence at Ryerss Museum and Library and as Poetry Editor of the Fox Chase Review.

Visit her at http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com  and https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/

Time Extends Life To Those Who Survive

feast

(Click on title for full screen view)

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Review by Thaddeus Rutkowski

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These poems, written by Jim Feast and addressed to his wife Nhi Chung, are full of passion, sensuality and physicality. Feast and Chung might be in many ways ordinary people, but the poems bring out a side that is extraordinary.
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Feast, a professor and member of the Unbearables group of writers in New York, tells us in his preface that he met Chung at New York City Technical College, where they both were working (she as a secretary, he as a tutor). On one occasion, she asked him to read a paper she wrote. It was the story of her escape from Vietnam by water. Her ability to swim saved her. Not surprisingly, the story caught Feast’s attention; he found Nhi “fascinating, charming and sexy.” Complicating matters, however, was the fact that Feast was engaged at the time and Chung was married (and pregnant). The book takes off from there.
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The first section covers the early days of Feast and Chung’s relationship, as seen in this poem, “Nhi and Patty (or Vice Versa)”:
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A brief, stringy cup of coffee
            tawny, ruddy at points, whitish, brackish
            a kind of orange, inside the peel.
            all those colors
            are in her skin
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brown eyes with a trace of green like a fir in the dark
            the whites, straight across, but a little narrower at the pointed end
            wearing a coat too long in the sleeves, and cheap, a grainy fabric, mica
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the way she comes up the street, let’s describe that.
            her legs are striding but the actual step is not long, feet planted as firmly
                        as the expression on her mouth.
            Patty waits for her.
            “It’s good to see you,” she says,
            then hesitates over whether to kiss her on the cheek.
            “And how are you?” Nhi says. “How are you,
            Peggy”?
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I like the way the poem moves from a description of coffee—and secondarily an orange peel—to a description of skin. Similarly, the image of “a fir (tree) in the dark” works as metaphor for a woman’s eyes. Then, in the third stanza, the poem becomes a story. The woman the poet has been observing walks up the street and meets another woman. We learn their names and discover that the poet is describing his new flame, Nhi, as she meets his fiancée, Patty. The punchline is that when they greet each other, Nhi gets Patty’s name wrong. It could be a typical language-barrier lapse—or a signal that these two will never be friends.
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            Later in the book, the poems become more philosophical, confirming that the poet’s understanding and appreciation of his partner have deepened.
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Here is a later poem, titled “Gum Sik,” which means “Golden.”
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You’re like a tiger on a burning bridge.
You’re like an eagle landing on a ledge,
the eagle of truth that never breaks her pledge.
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You’re like a teacup that is filled with rice.
You’re like a goddess that averts her eyes.
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How much the future involves the past.
How much the first time involves the last.
It may be painful but it is our task.
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First, I notice the rhymes, which appear (uncharacteristically here) at the ends of lines, instead of internally. They are interesting rhymes, imperfect in places, as with “bridge” and “ledge,” “rice” and “eyes,” and “last” and “task.” They pull the reader through the poem, just as a catchy song pulls the listener along to the next verse.
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But what is important is the meaning. The poet evokes powerful images or, more accurately, images filled with power. A tiger, an eagle and a goddess all have great, non-human strength. Yet the person addressed in this miniature ode is, I’m guessing, just a person, made mythic in the poet’s eyes. The imagery is not all large; there is also the humble teacup.
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The third and last stanza transitions into a meditation on time (the theme of the book’s title) and how we experience it. To Feast, points in time exist almost simultaneously (“the first time involves the last”). And “our task,” which I read as “anyone’s task,” can be difficult, yet it is there, immovable and un-ignorable.
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Throughout the book, I was taken with the poet’s use of sharp, playful, suggestive language, as well as his focus on his own experience. Feast has been lucky to be part of a love relationship that joins two complex people, from separate but long-established cultures.
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You can find the book here: Time Extends Life to Those Who Survive
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Thaddeus Rutkowski grew up in central Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Cornell University and the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of the fiction collectionViolent Outbursts (Spuyten Duyvil) and the novels Haywire (Starcherone/Dzanc), Tetched(Behler Publications) and Roughhouse (Kaya Press). All three novels were finalists for an Asian American Literary Award, and Haywire won the Members’ Choice Award, given by members of the Asian American Writers Workshop in New York. Haywire reached No. 1 on Small Press Distribution’s fiction best-seller list. Tetched was chosen as one of the best books reviewed in 2006 by Chronogram magazine. Thaddeus Rutkowski

 

Sentinel

dennisdalysentinelmockupcover
(Click on title for full screen view)
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Review by Zvi A. Sesling
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Previously I did a review of a Dennis Daly book of poetry in which I stated that he “has been there, done that…” In Custom House Daly takes readers to ancient foreign lands, places of the heart and love-hate relationship with the work place.
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In his latest poetic offering, Sentinel, Daly out does himself with mysterious poems that convince you he has an insider’s knowledge of the espionage game as played by the likes of the CIA and NSA, maybe even the FBI and any other three letter abbreviations you can think of. He does all this in the style of Wallace Stevens, itself not an easy accomplishment.
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The poem “Secrets” sets the stage of the dark and dangerous with an opening line that reminds me of the old radio program “The Shadow,” which began with the oft quoted
“Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men…”
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Channels that lead nowhere, nondescript
Dead ends that greet you like vacant smiles,
Yet there are caches of grim jewels
Hidden somewhere. A caution wire tripped
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Sets off the venal security
Alerting them to tell-all voices.
Silence the inevitable key
To cults that form the veiled basis
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Of earthly power. The living runes
Chiseled onto this fantastic world
Redolent of summer afternoons,
The ammunition spent, flag unfurled.
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This is how some reach their bitter end.
They sieve out quiet confidences
To spidery contenders, misspend
The rest on red win and circuses.
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Is this a childhood action movie, perhaps a serial? Could it be 007 in action? Jason Bourne on the loose? What it is not is a dream, and Daly lets you know that not all spies can keep their secrets, and often spending on drinks and pleasures leads to their demise.
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In “Patterns” Daly deals another dark and mysterious poem for the reader to try and interpret:
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The wave and the trough, the unmade man
Takes his turn in the froth-fingered air,
The usual briskness of elsewhere.
Then back again, at least that’s the plan
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Of sensible pretense, not reckless.
Not at all. Closing the hatch on sturm
And drang, he nods to all, reaffirms
Solidity and anxiousness
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And doubt that public certainty births.
He rehearses the routine. Danger,
So predicable, looms. He’ll wager
Life and limb. His stubborn will unearths.
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Fangs and feral claws. The wait not long
As he prepared for the frantic day
When fractal stress and those patterns may,
Seen from afar, go wrong, very wrong.
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The man of duty performs his task, he is, perhaps, too close to see the impending results while his superiors, his handlers can see the coming end, the losses he will suffer, maybe even his life.
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If you are not convinced of the darkness or the espionage, sink into “Agents of Influence” which incorporates some of the best thriller writing into Daly’s bag of poetics. All of pure noir.
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One by one the rocks are chiseled out,
Disassembled, a quick erasure
Of foundation. The shake of structure
Noticeable. As mildews of doubt
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Climb tapestries, traitors praise new gods,
The future guards of our guided wills.
Frescoes peel, plaster crumbles, fulfills
years of prediction, multiple frauds.
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Steeples, dwarfed now, but still extend up
Toward the unresistant stratosphere.
Demagogues assign fault. The frontier
Forts abandoned, rabble envelope
Our cities, poison our sweetest wells.
Men escape through the mountain passes
Or freeze where they fall. The blown bridges
Mapped months ago. Devolution sells.
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You may not find this the easiest book of poetry to read. Perhaps you will read a number of these poems two or three times and possibly reach a different conclusion each time. But one thing is for sure,Sentinel is well worth the effort because your mind will compare it to thriller novels, movies, television shows. In the end you will simply marvel at Dennis Daly’s ability to incorporate espionage into a poetic form– leaving you wanting more dark shadows and mysterious meanings. You will be pondering long after you have finished reading a poem or the book. Highly recommended.
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You can check out the book here: http://cms.reddashboard.com/Dennis-Daly/

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Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva, 2016)
Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011)
King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Press, 2010)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8
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This review first published at the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history of berks county by jennifer hetrick – volume 2

the labors of our fingertips--poems from manufacturing  history of berks county, volume two - COVER

By Philip Terman

in this digital age of factory closings, jennifer hetrick’s unique and admirable project to interview these workers and craft—in their own voices—stories about their labor and lives is an absolutely essential document, squarely in the tradition of walt whitman’s experiment to sing the “living and buried speech” that is “always vibrating here.” the poems are acts of preservation, but they are also more. these belt-sewers and barstool-makers and brick-stackers tell us the stories of their lives: betty kunkel recalling “jigging to that fiddle-sound, / our fast-footed steps carving out / cowboy and cowgirl sugar memories” or the way leroy fretz, whose life was “calculated in bricks” can say, “at the end of the day, you were tired.” in poem after poem, hetrick reminds us that poetry is everywhere, if we care enough to listen. most impressive is her invaluable ability and wisdom to really hear the spirits inside each of these speakers and to alchemize their voices into a poetry which becomes a history still alive now, here, at our fingertips.

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You can find the book here: http://thelaborsofourfingertips.blogspot.com/2016/08/volume-two-copies-are-now-available-for.html

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Philip Terman’s most recent books of poetry are Our Portion: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House Press) and Like a Bird Entering a Window and Leaving Through Another Window, a hand-sewn collaboration with an artist and bookbinder. A selection of his poems, My Dear Friend Kafka, has been translated into Arabic and published by Ninawa Press. His poems have appeared widely. He teaches at Clarion University, is co-director of The Chautauqua Writers Festival, and directs the Bridge Literary Arts Center in Franklin, PA.

Windows On Boland-the Poetry of Eavan Boland

boland

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By Ray Greenblatt

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          Eavan Boland is a consummate poet; the skills of her trade are luminous. Not one of her poems lacks vivid wording, musicality, or significant meaning. Of course poetry is a most pejorative art, as in preference for a favorite painting, a favorite piece of music, etc. I have chosen poems from her most recent selected works—New Collected Poems (2009)—to speak about. A key section of a poem by Boland can be a window into her mind, where we may observe the weaving of her fabric. After reviewing the ten volumes gathered in this compendium of work, I find that she primarily focuses on love and family.
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                                                              1-QUARANTINE
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                    In the morning they were both found dead.
                              Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
                    But her feet were held against his breastbone.
                    The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.
                    Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
                              There is no place here for the inexact
                    praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
                    There is only time for this merciless inventory.
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This poem captures a specific incident in the tragic history of a nation. A couple were trying to escape the famine of the 1840’s. The workhouse where they were quarantined offered little hope. Where they were escaping to is a moot point. “Quarantine” can be expanded to become a symbol for the Irish people sealed off in their own sick country. I am sure this one event is emblematic of the uncountable horrors that befell Ireland. And yet amongst all this cruelty and chaos Boland delineates, this is a love poem.
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The language is extremely simple. Words are repeated, but they all contribute to movement, namely the couple’s tortuous trek: “walking, walking, west, west, and, and, last, last, worst, worst.”  The vividness of fragments captures the fits and starts of dying, but it also drives home actual elements from which they suffered: “Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history . . . Also what they suffered. How they lived.” Yet their loving sacrifice for each other endures in history.
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                                                                         2-ONCE
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                                        I do not want us to be immortal or unlucky.
                                       To listen for our own death in the distance.
                                        Take my hand. Stand by the window.
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                                        I want to show you what is hidden in
                                        this ordinary, ageing human love is
                                       there still and will be.
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As we can see, Boland is steeped in Irish history. In several poems she makes reference to Lir, the sea god, whose children encounter sadness. She also speaks of Etain, a noble woman; yet she lives a tragic life metamorphosed over a thousand year period from a pool of water to a worm to a butterfly and finally into a beautiful swan. Here is one of the legends: Deirdre is the best known tragic heroine of Irish lore who runs off with her lover to escape a cruel king only to die.
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But through these inevitably tragic tales, Boland parallels contemporary times. Depending on how you look at it, suburbia can be primitive: “Our suburb was a forest, our roof was a home for thrushes . . . The chilled-to-the-bone light clears and shows us Irish wolves.” Touchingly, as in QUARANTINE she reiterates that through the ages love between a couple stands fast. This eternal legend, this idea, is a real and solid and provable one: to love is fulfillment.
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                                     3-THE BLACK LACE FAN MY MOTHER GAVE ME
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                              These are wild roses, appliquéd on silk by hand,
                              darkly picked, stitched boldly, quickly.
                             The rest is tortoiseshell and has the reticent,
                              clear patience of its element. It is
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                              a worn-out, underwater bullion and it keeps,
                              even now, an inference of its violation.
                              The lace is overcast as if the weather
                              it opened for and offset had entered it.
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Boland goes to the trouble to put her mother into this poem, so there must be an element of personal truth in it. Was this an old boy friend whose gift the mother still strangely treasures? Or was this the beginning of the relationship between Boland’s mother and father? No matter, the focus is on the fan and what it represents. The man is always late, the woman early: their characters defined. There is tension and the building storm intensifies that.
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Key words stand out: “bullion” can be a treasure, but a “violation” is suggested. The stormy weather seems to have entered the fabric of the fan itself. Then Boland abruptly shifts the focus in the last stanza of the poem to a crow. The crow’s wing is similar to the fan: “The whole, full, flirtatious span of it.” The mother wants to pass on this symbol to her daughter as a kind of advice.  If our natural feelings move us, we should fully enter into a relationship, whatever the chancy results might be.
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                                                                   4-THE GAME
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                              Then I was following the thaw northward and the air
                              was blonde with frost and sunshine and below me
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                              was only water and the shadow of flight in it
                              and the shape of wings under it, and in the hours
                              before morning I would be drawn down and drawn
                              down and there would be no ground under me
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                              and no more safe landing in the dawn breaking on
                              a room with sharp corners and surfaces on which
                              the red-jacketed and cruel-eyed fractions of chance
                              lay scattered where the players had abandoned them.
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The game was the card-playing of her mother and father. But in that seemingly harmless interplay was the ominous word “quarrelling.” It could be minor jibes, but not to this sensitive child, as this poetic section describes.  It is not a game; her parents’ careless words and moods wound her.  She wants to flee this southern country—namely England—to return home—north to Ireland. She does not feel safe. The cards are “cruel-eyed fractions of chance.” She emotionally experiences being “abandoned.”
Compounding her anxiety about her parents is the foreign environment. The Irish do not “pray for the King”; nor do they worship in the Anglican Church for “the archangels trapped in their granite hosannahs.” The poet often employs blank verse in four-line stanzas. As shown in QUARANTINE and THE BLACK LACE FAN MY MOTHER GAVE ME, that poetic form is effective for narrating a story, especially suggesting movement from place to place, such as the girl’s imaginary flight.
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                                                               5-THE JOURNEY
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                              ‘But these are women who sent out like you
                              when dusk became a dark sweet with leaves,
                              recovering the day, stooping, picking up
                              teddy bears and rag dolls and tricycles and buckets—
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                              ‘love’s archaeology—and they too like you
                              stood boot deep in flowers once in summer
                              or saw winter come in with a single magpie
                               in a caul of haws, a solo harlequin.’
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                              I stood fixed. I could not reach or speak to them.
                              Between us was the melancholy river,
                              the dream water, the narcotic crossing
                              and they had passed over it, its cold persuasions.
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This too is a four-line stanzaic form in blank verse, running to 96 lines, the length of some ballads. Boland has created her own myth paralleling the Greeks. Sappho, a fellow poetess, leads her to the Underworld where they see children who died without the chance to live out full lives. In the past “cholera, typhus, croup, diphtheria” were major childhood killers. Again, the repetition of words—“I would have, I would have, down, down, always, always, went on, went on, shadows, shadows, let me, let me, remember it, remember it —“ reinforces motion of the journey.
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Boland was in the midst of daily life: “My room was a mess—the usual hardcovers, half-finished cups, clothes piled up on a chair.” But she is brought up short when she imagines that she beholds the horror in the loss of a child. Sappho says: “What you have seen is beyond speech, beyond song, only not beyond love.” Boland writes two final wrenching lines: “The rain was grief in dreams; my children slept the last dark out safely and I went.”
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        6-HANGING CURTAINS WITH AN ABSTRACT PATTERN IN A CHILD’S ROOM
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                                        Observe
                                        how the season enters pure line
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                                        like a soul: all the signs we know
                                        are only ways
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                                        of coming to our senses.
                                        I can see
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                                        the distances off-loading colour now
                                        into angles as
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                                        I hang their weather in
                                        your room.
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We have now gathered the essential ingredients of Eavan Boland’s main poetic preoccupation: her loving marriage as well as her parents’, her feelings as a child and her love for her children. This poem further explores more intimately the one-on-one relationship with her daughter. As we have seen, Boland has written sentence fragments before. In this poem in addition she writes in sparse two-line stanzas, perhaps to echo a child’s simplicity; however, the thinking is adult.
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The choice of curtains is not the typical “prince” or “unicorn” design. Boland selects “ellipse” and “triangle.” They become what one can imagine: “frost on the spider’s web and on bicycle sheds.” “Observe how season enters pure line like a soul.” As we mature, she intimates to her growing daughter—much like Boland’s mother passed on to her by means of THE BLACK LACE FAN—there should be room in one’s life for  “dull morning,” “weather,” “disappointments.” All these elements—the delight and the sorrow—we must prepare for.
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                    7-FROM THE PAINTING Back from Market BY CHARDIN
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                    I think of what great art removes:
                    Hazard and death, the future and the past,
                    This woman’s secret history and her loves—
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                    And even the dawn market, from whose bargaining
                    She has just come back, where men and women
                    Congregate and go
                    Among the produce, learning to live from morning
                    To next day.
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Boland has words of wisdom for anyone who will read her poetry; these four following poems look at the role of modern woman. She has used Greek myth and Irish history to convey her thoughts. She has referred to famous paintings by Degas, Ingres or Renoir; this time by Jean Baptiste Chardin (1699-1779).  The colors in the painting are basic gray, blue and white. The scene is rendered pictorially, as would have been true in Chardin’s era, when artists like the Dutch school attempted to be more realistic.
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It is a scene of everyday country life in eighteenth century France.  But in striking poetic language the poet declares that the artist has missed the essential—not that it is possible to reveal in a frozen moment  “hazard and death, the future and the past, this woman’s secret history and her loves.” Only a novel or play or poem can delve deeply enough into human nature to reveal details of our souls.
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                                                           8-ODE TO SUBURBIA
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                              Six o’clock: the kitchen bulbs which blister
                              Your dark, your housewives starting to nose
                              Out each other’s day, the claustrophobia
                              Of your back gardens varicose
                              With shrubs make an ugly sister
                              Of your suburbia.
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                              How long ago did the glass in your windows subtly
                              Silver into mirrors which again
                              And again show the same woman
                              Shriek at a child, which multiply
                              A dish, a brush, ash,
                              The gape of a fish
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                              In the kitchen, the gape of a child in the cot.
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From the opening of this slyly humorous ode, a housewife’s life is revealed in the worst light: “bulbs which blister,” “housewives starting to nose,” “claustrophobia of your back gardens,” “an ugly sister of your suburbia,” “shriek at a child,” “a dish, a brush, ash, the gape of a fish in the kitchen, the gape of a child in the cot.” Are the “sh” sounds the attempts to shush the frustrations in life; or are they the beginning of a gigantic “shriek!” We get our first hint of a fairy tale, “nosing” into the poem, with “ugly sister” and “silver into mirrors.”
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The proof mounts up: “silver slipper on your foot,” “a wand,” “a coach,” “rat without leather reins.” Cinderella’s lot comes into focus! We laugh at the childlike end rhyme of “reins” and “sliming your drains.” But Boland has been facetiously rhyming all the time, from half-rhymes like “subtly” and “multiply” to a final full stanza: “may—day” and “house—mouse.” Boland infers that no amount of daydreaming will save you; in actual life you must take the bitter with the sweet.
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                                                                   9-ANOREXIA
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                                                  till I renounced
                                                  milk and honey
                                                  and the taste of lunch.
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                                                  I vomited
                                                  her hungers.
                                                  Now the bitch is burning.
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                                                  I am starved and curveless.
                                                  I am skin and bone.
                                                  She has learned her lesson.
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                                                  Thin as a rib
                                                  I turn in sleep.
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This brutally shocking poem is again a modern look at what dilemmas some women  encounter. Whether Boland herself experienced this problem, we don’t know. However, she could have readily observed many other women caught in this sad plight. The structure of the poem is (I do not pardon the pun) down to bare bones: many three-line stanzas with very short staccato lines. The lines are spit out, a literal act of an anorexic. So many powerful lines in addition to the ones above: “Flesh is heretic. My body is a witch. I am burning it. Yes, I am torching her curves and paps and wiles. They scorch in my self denials.”
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The anorexic denies what she sees in the mirror; she is never “perfect” enough, physically or emotionally. Not only is her body whittled down to “sticks,” but she has lost her faith for which she feels she will be burned like a heretic. Her mental state sounds like a penance: “Only a little more, only a few more days sinless, foodless” and “Caged so I will grow angular and holy.” Boland knows neither hope nor prayer can solve this condition. As a modern woman, who is a housewife as well as lover, she can sympathize.
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  .                                      10-DAPHNE WITH HER THIGHS IN BARK
                                        Save face, sister.
                                        Fall. Stumble.
                                        Rut with him.
                                        His rough heat will keep you warm and
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                                        you will be better off than me,
                                        with your memories
                                        down the garden,
                                        at the start of March,
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                                       unable to keep your eyes
                                       off the chestnut tree—
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                                        just the way
                                        it thrusts and hardens.
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This final poem that I wish to discuss is also written in a wildness of lines—very short and long, and stanzas—some one line to six. But the outcome is positive, if you work through the storyline. We have returned to Greek myth as in THE JOURNEY. Daphne, daughter of the river god Peneus, did not want to marry. Many men pursued her, but being a fast runner she always eluded them; until the god Apollo shows interest. Boland alters this tale by substituting Pan for Apollo, perhaps because the poet wanted the man to be homely, earthy, more man-like.
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Daphne eventually negates his advances by changing into a tree. As she suggested in ODE TO SUBURBIA, Boland paints the bleak scene: “I shall be here forever, setting out the tea, among the coppers and the branching alloys and the tin shine of this kitchen; laying saucers on the pine table.” The poet states that modern woman must daringly follow her instincts and live life to the fullest. For “the opposite of passion is not virtue but routine.”
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          In a quite cursory survey of ten poems from the ten volumes of her poetry, we have visited the house of Eavan Boland and have seen the most intimate rooms.  Of her ten books, five have dedications, which further prove her emotional and mental structure is based on family.  Two books are dedicated to her mother, two to her husband Kevin Casey, and her entire oeuvre is dedicated to her family. Her powerful poetry gives a solid posterity to those she knows and loves.
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You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/New-Collected-Poems-Eavan-Boland/dp/0393337308/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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Ray Greenblatt has written articles for: English Journal, Sea Change, Drexel Online Journal, Joseph Conrad Today, Bookmark Quarterly, Sunstone Press. He is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal and teaches a Joy of Poetry course at Temple University-OLLI