poetry book

The Buddha Wonders If She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis by Luisa Igloria

buddha

Review by Robbi Nester

Recently, I watched an episode of the Netflix series The Chef’s Table featuring the sublime cuisine of a South Korean Buddhist monk who resides in a monastery in the forest, where she cooks for her community as well as for visitors who come from all over the world to taste those dishes. The food she prepares, her words, and everything about her embodies the teachings of Buddhism.

The multiple avatars of the Buddha in Luisa Igloria’s collection of poetry The Buddha Wonders If She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing) have not yet reached this monk’s advanced stage of enlightenment. They have not retreated from the world to serene sanctuaries, but live out their lives in the midst of the chaos the rest of us must negotiate every day, and yet these poems, like the dishes the monk prepares, are perfect embodiments of a Buddhist practice.

In “The Buddha considers with all seriousness,” the Buddha shops for ice cream in a convenience store, where she considers “[t]he vanity of decisions that revolve around desire.” Though the speaker in this poem, as in so many others, is the Buddha, this desire is not theoretical. The poem and the poet are clearly attached to the world of the senses. These poems embrace that world and evoke it with great care.

At the same time, they take up the challenge embodied by Buddhist philosophy, finding a way to unite it with poetry, which on the surface seems incompatible with the notion that desire and the senses, the concrete things that make up the substance of poetry, are but illusions. The speaker in “Ghazal with Cow burial” wonders about the after-life of a cow: “The cow that in this life was cow, does it remain the same? Does it dream/ of feathered grass in the fields, of gnats, the low symphony of fellow-cows//chewing their cud?” Poetry without the body is hard to imagine. What does it mean to be oneself when all the particulars this entails have gone? The very act of pondering this insoluble riddle presents an act of meditation.

Similarly, in “The last temple in the north,” the speaker, clearly a teacher of literature like Igloria herself, muses on the odd parallels between postmodern theory and Buddhist philosophy. Post-structuralist theory reduces language to illusion, indefinitely deferring meaning, yet, the poet insists, “[o]nce we understand we have nothing, then and only then can we understand poetry,” the word “deconstructed into fearful significance.”

In one poem after another, the various incarnations of the Buddha undertake the mundane tasks of everyday life, going on the Internet, filling out job applications, and dealing with the same annoyances the rest of us face. Yet on top of these everyday frustrations, this Buddha has others. Igloria elaborates the down side of a life of absolute compassion. The Buddha, open to the suffering of every living creature, suffers from chronic migraines and also psychic pain of another sort. To that end, she seeks out a therapist.

Privy to the Buddha’s worries, we find him fretting about the possibility of resolving doctrine with one’s emotions, as in “The Buddha listens,” where the speaker wonders “How is it possible to cultivate detachment/at the same time that one practices compassion?” Yet elsewhere, in “The Buddha is a wallflower,” we find the speaker practicing this very skill, listening intently to another’s reminiscence and remarking “how a memory not even his can offer a spark undiminished by the years.” This is radical empathy, the ability to identify totally with another, an ability as prized among poets as among practitioners of Buddhism.

Despite the fact that these embodiments of the Buddha live among us and sometimes suffer as we do, Igloria reminds us in “Innervate” that we carry within us our own retreat, the “little hilly village” of the brain,”criss-crossed/by winding trails and nestled like an egg/in a walled-off fortress.”  It is to this redoubt where the speaker of “The Buddha picks up a call without first checking caller ID” retreats in his response to a telephone sales call, using a tactic that is at once straightforward and ingenious. Rather than simply hanging up, thus inviting further calls from the persistent sales-bot, the Buddha answers this person’s questions about life-insurance with tenets of Buddhist philosophy, such as “The goal/ of all life is the movement toward greater/and greater enlightenment, which is the freedom at last/from suffering and illusion.”

As this example suggests, Igloria both charms us with humor and gorgeously crafted poetry and embodies Buddhist concepts that can so often resist words. Whether you have never read the work of this poet or have followed her work regularly, treat yourself to this book.

 

You can find the book here: http://www.phoeniciapublishing.com/the-buddha-wonders.html

 

Robbi Nester frequently reviews books of poetry. She is the author of a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012) and three collections of poetry: A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014), Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017), and a forthcoming book, Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag).

Advertisements

Talking Pillow by Angela Ball

Talking Pillow by Angela Ball
.
Review by Lynette G. Esposito

.

Talking Pillow by Angela Ball a professor of English at the Southern University of Mississippi, takes the poetry reader on a contemporary ride arounda block of modern subjects represented in both literal and figurative images.

Published by the University of Pittsburg Press in their Pitt Poetry Series, this 55-page soft cover tome offers reflections on universal themes such as love, loss, death hope and grief.

The poems are divided into three sections:  Lady of the House, FBI Story, and Bicycle Story. The sections are thematic. In Lady of the House, the focus of the poems is on relationships and the myriad subjects that make them.  In FBI Story the theme switches to discovery and realization using contemporary images that are both representative and logical. In the section, The Bicycle Story, the reader rides with the narrator through locales, timelines passing through remembrance and grief.

In the lead poem in the first section, Society for Ladies of the House. the situation is set in an ambulance ride to the hospital and the desire for the patient’s recovery The surprise ending is sweet but not sentimental  and shows how love transcends every day minutiae to survive and make one recognize how glorious love is.  After the trip to the hospital, the last lines show the true purpose:.

        …It parades the sky in its windows, admits
         the opera of passing sirens, the swerving, rocking
         ambulance with the brave young driver, determined
         to reach the hospital in time to save the patient
         to let him heal and return home, tentative
         but upright, to his own true love, the Lady of the House
.
The poem I favor in FBI Story is the last poem in this section on page 37 entitled An Attempt.  Ball uses a dead bee..
.
           For us, all that’s left
           is a dried bee, tilted
           onto one wing.
.

The narrator says you cannot touch anything without water.  I like the perception of death during An Attempt, and the stillness represented by the bee caught trying but left unmoving.  It is a visible image in nature that asks the reader to understand action projected and action paused…probably without warning.  The last lines speak of the bee dust in the flower and the sad realization that the “we” of the poem will still not be any closer.

In The Bicycle Story, two poems attracted me: Lots of Swearing at the Fairgrounds, and Intercourse after Death Presents Special Difficulties.

          At the fairgrounds even children
          were full of curses, scrawled across mornings.
          What was denied, open pasture,
          the perfection of a stallion covering its mate.
.

The comment on confined spaces obscuring the beauty of nature is subtle but clear.

The lines that struck me in Intercourse After Death Presents Special Difficulties, beside the title, involve a congeal visit to the after life. Ball handles the desire without sentimentality but with intensity and possibility. .

      Nights I ingest the pill
        that lets me seem awake while in motion
        at home and at work.  I note
        today’s horoscope
       “a far-fetched hope is realized.”.  
.

For those who have lost a lover or a loved one, Ball suggest that there is shame in the need to touch and be touched by the lost one and how the narrator of the poem deals with the reality and perception

The book is a pleasure in its direct simplicity as well as its subtlety.

.

You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Talking-Pillow-Pitt-Poetry-Angela/dp/0822965151/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

.

Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.

Welcome Distractions- Accessible Poems for Time Strapped Humans by Carol Wierzbicki

wel dist
By g emil reutter
.
The first time I read a poem by Carol Wierzbicki was in the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.  Wierzbicki was part of the Unbearables with Thad Rutkowski, Hal Sirowitz and many other poets, who at the time were were active in challenging the established literary elites and elites in general. Unlike many movements, the Unbearables continue. In the case of Wierzbicki, she has released an excellent collection of poetry. Welcome Distractions – Accessible Poems for Time-Strapped Humans. Fittingly the book is part of the Unbearable Series published by Autonomedia. In these unadorned beautifully written poems Wierzbicki writes of poets, politics, her beloved Brooklyn and much more. In the second stanza of Ode to Brooklyn she captures pre-millennial Brooklyn.
.
You, with your rusting smokestacks,
your vigilante block associations,
chain-smoking beauty salon owners and patrons,
over the top Christmas displays crowding your
postage stamp-sized front lawns,
marketing slogans that breed like flies
your brass-knuckle childhoods,
your forsythia stubbornly flourishing
beside the grimiest warehouses,
your incongruously ultramodern gas stations
your overpasses and viaducts,
a thousand negative spaces for neighborhood kids
to unfurl their evil games,
lawnmowers, awnings your thwarted attempts
at upscale suburbia.
.

These images stay with the reader as a photograph in words, intense realism.

In the poem Champion Cat Breeder, Wierzbicki shows her humorous side in reflecting on poets.

“So you’re big in the poetry world/Who Cares?/ It’s like being a champion cat breeder/ You move in weird, fussy/ little circles/ where ego’s erupt like cat-spit …”

Wierzbicki takes on the elites in the poem, My Apology to Saks 5th Ave. In the second stanza she writes:

.

I don’t deserve to be here
I feel out of place
wandering among your white walls
and shiny black shelves
and unforgiving light
and angular salespeople.
.
And again in the fourth stanza:
.
…My guilt at being here cuts both ways:
I don’t earn enough money to shop here,
but I can still browse the sale racks
to comfortable anonymity;
no security personnel
will suddenly appear alongside me,
grabbing my thin, lily-white wrist.
.
She ends the poem, Unincorporated Township, in beautifully unadorned verse with images that once again stay with the reader.
.
The town hall stands unfinished
over earth that is brown and cracked
to match radon-soaked brick
of the hastily knocked-up dwellings
.
The snow that falls here
turns beige on contact
and the people that die here
do so in midsentence.
.
Wierzbicki writes poems of love, family, neighborhood, injustice. She reflects about the times we live in the poem Age:
.
We’re living in a disposable age, a polemical age, a laughable
age, a tragical age, a changeable age. An age of individuality that
curls back toward conformity like a snake eating its tail. A digital
age of tweets and posts and texts and yet an age where we crave
face-to-face contact. It’s an age of excess and yet not having
enough. An age of hate and yet of radical love cradling the hated ones.
.
It’s an age of extreme weather: fires, floods, tornados,
hurricanes and intensely beautiful days. An age of jealously
guarded privacy and unprecedented surveillance. An age of
space travel and deep drilling. Of discovery and discovering
how little we actually know. Of unstoppable development and
naturally reclaimed land, flowers blooming above sludge.
.
A paradoxical age of rural lifestyle movements within cities:
beehives and tomato plants on rooftops, crops of corn and herbs
in parking lots – where we’re both locavore and globally
connected. An age where the city has no future and IS the future.
.
Where we all speak different languages and yet push the same
buttons.
.
If you are a lover of poetry, of realism, of intense rhythmic poetry you should pick up a copy of Welcome Distractions- Accessible Poems for Time Strapped Humans.

You can find the book here:

https://bookstore.autonomedia.org/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=75_71_22&products_id=779

.

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found here: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/ 

.

The Handheld Mirror of the Mind by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

HandHeldMirroroftheMindText

.

Our poetry editor, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s fourth full length poetry collection, The Handheld Mirror of the Mind, is now available from Kelsay Books. You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1947465740/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530546351&sr=1-1

What others say about The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:

Poetry of global dreaming. Life on earth is under threat and Diane Sahms-Guarnieri makes a poetic call for the survival of humans and all animal species, life on the endangered list. We are all connected and interdependent. Our past teaches us core lessons for the future. Now is the time to take action to preserve life on the global home we share. Diane’s poetry is a celebration of this life, inside and out.

—Martin Chipperfield, 34thParallel Magazine

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is a stunning wordsmith. In her collection, The Handheld Mirror of the Mind, we journey through themes of loss, grief, our shared humanity, and the complexities of the inner life. With great tenderness and lyricism, Guarnieri skillfully navigates these topics. Her graceful descriptions of the natural world provide a vivid magic, as if painting with words. In one poem, Guarnieri refers to stars, “as pinprick diamonds mined out of/night’s cave—luminous studs/riveted through black velvet.” She deals with death and the expectation of loss with care, infusing the life of nature, as in the line, “Your dusty voice rising as spirit leaving mimosa.” There is also great comfort, as in the refrain of the poem, “As long as a heart is beating someone is always alive.” While dealing with human struggles, this collection offers hope. Guarnieri invites us to honor all beings, all creatures, and all understandings of faith by joining together, “as global dreamers in coexistence.”

—Cristina M. R. Norcross, Editor of Blue Heron Review; author of Amnesia and Awakenings and Still Life Stories, among others.

“What does a heart know anyway?” Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s lucid and brave fourth full-length collection The Handheld Mirror of the Mind wrestles with this question, as love and loss pass as naturally as the seasons. Through elegy and aubade, the speaker turns her gaze inward, interrogating the darkness. However, as she sifts through memory’s wreckage, there are patches of light and hope, of song. As the speaker reconciles: “I carry their song inside my body,/inside rhapsody of thoughts….To them I sing this easy truth.”

—Emari DiGiorgio, author of Girl Torpedo and The Things a Body Might Become

 

The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1947465740/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530546351&sr=1-1

 

Ornaments by David Daniel

ornaments

.

By Lynette  G. Esposito

.

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

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

 .

          In nature, what is beautiful is poisonous,

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

          This fact supported by naturalists worldwide.

 .

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

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

 .

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

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

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

 .

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

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

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

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

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

.

Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.

Journey to the Beloved by nur alima schieBeare

journey
.
By g emil reutter
.
nur alima schieBeare is a poet who is spiritual, reflective, a true believer with a dash of radical thought. schieBear has studied meditation and religions most of her life, a seeker of the answer. Journey to the Beloved is a weave of religion, music, love, nature, politics and jazz. These poems are not naïve as schieBeare has been around the block a few times as they say. An activist her plate is always full. Yet this poet brings us poems such as the first two stanzas of Birth Place:
.
how beautiful to live beyond the earth
to stream through darkest reach of space
a trail of luminous particles
a comet of sweeping light
.
to dance with planets
and whirl with suns
pausing to turn in the pulsing orbit
of sonorous elder beings
singing their harmonies for eons
.
These outstanding images bring the reader into the poem and at some points you can actually see schieBeare dancing with the planets above. Her musicality comes through in the first stanza of Autumn Sounds:
.
today the warmth of summer’s in the air
insects singing, dancing
in the golden mist
but quietly in the background
the voice autumn
sounds its warning
whispering ending…ending
.
It is evident again in the two stanzas of Poem of Life:
.
an interactive interweaving tapestry
of movement voices
cacophony of existence
we sing our heart songs
to one another
.
we soar
our wings brush the stars
the winds from our sky dance
an ocean of movement
a cloud cradle
in which the earth spins
turning on it’s axis
.
In the poem, To Genius Lost and Found, schieBeare jazzes things up- sounds of wholeness/soulness/descend into soulless/ half realms/of white powder dreams/glimpses of bliss/ warm love at blood speed. There is a rawness in her political poems such as this from Occupy- …I remember how much rage/I used to feel. but I’m not feeling that now,/just a desire to love and create beauty/bring light into the world/
where I feel a curtain descending,/a curtain of darkness,/ and it feels like the veil/ that descended across Europe in the  1930’s…
.
Deeply spiritual, the first three stanzas of the poem Bhakti Yoga defines her commitment to belief:
.
what can I say
I looked up at the crescent moon tonight
and I fell in love
.
I was driving home
after sitting with the lord of light
the lord’s fountain of living water
flowing from my heart
.
I looked up at that sliver of moon
and I fell
             and I fell
                          and I fell
                                       into love
.

nur alima schieBeare brings us on a journey through her life, her faith, her activism, her love for life always seeking the truth. nur alima schieBeare is a true believer in love and peace.

.
.

g emil reutter can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

 

Daphne and her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Daphne-cover9-330x518

.

By Lynette Esposito  

.

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