poetry collection

From Our Editors

Recent releases from our editors here at North of Oxford. We thank all for supporting our work.

Hand Held Mirror of the Mind

The Handheld Mirror of the Mind

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Stale Bread and Coffee

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Witness in the Convex Mirror by Eileen R. Tabios

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By g emil reutter
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Eillen Tabios is a prolific poet and editor, with over 50 collections notched on her belt, she continues to inspire with her ability to cast new light into the world of poetry. This past May, TinFish released the collection, Witness in the Convex Mirror. The concept to create poems beginning with the first two lines in each poem from Ashbery’s poem, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.
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This was no small task. We are fortunate that this project was developed by a poet like Tabios. She is the ultimate crafted poet whose hard work, insight and passion for the written word flows throughout these 135 pages of poetry. She begins the collection with The Song of Space.
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We set out to accomplish and wanted so desperately
to see come into being our corralled chords
disciplined into the sublime—it is otherwise impossible
to heighten cathedrals into a space where supplicants
will feel their smallness, thus, comprehend they are not
gods.
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Later in the poem she writes:
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I opened my eyes to
a rainbow settling itself upon my chest. I looked at this
odd light and whispered, “I’m no pot of gold, dear
Parmigianino”.
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The images of the heightened cathedral, smallness, comprehending they are not gods and then the fresh image of a rainbow settling itself upon my chest, simply beautiful.
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In the poem Civilization and Inheritance she tells us, like yellowing leaves on shrubs tentative/ before marauding birds. One’s beak/ flashed open to reveal a dangling worm— / surely imagination need not be radicalized/to fortell the fodder’s fate.
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In the poem, Integrity, she opens once again with two Ashbery lines and then brings us to unexpected places:
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The surprise, the tension are in the concept
rather than its realization. In this way, integrity
is possible as, like Picasso, we break into
irreparable fragments the image that assumes
it bespeaks the reality of psychology. To see
that woman sleeping amidst laundry piled up
in the corner of a room, her fingers trapped
in the pose of folding her master’s shirt, must
be to become broken witness—if not, integrity
becomes a dream trapped in a mirror. Only
the broken can muster the ability to howl
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The use of two of Ashbery’s lines to begin new poems is bold and courageous. Tabios has never been a poet to conform, she shatters the mirror. Its shards of images and words, both beautiful and harsh, of the comfortable and uncomfortable glitter like diamonds spilled out upon the floor. The book is divided into five sections. Abstract Expressions, The Sheriff’s Advice, Cubism of Color, Scars and Excavated Tankas. Each section is an honest reflection of the world we live in.
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Euphemisms for Mortality
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And swerving easily away, as though to protect
what it advertises, the gaze bypasses the age
of beams and leaded panes—no one wishes
to look at the old unless they can be elevated
by euphemisms. Say, “antique.” Say, “powerful”
Say, billionaire.” Say, “convex” for widening
the gaze when focus means the revelation of
mortality. You wake up one morning and, unlike
yesterday, the hand is spotted with dark spots,
the jowls hang, the breath catches on the third
step, and the prodigal child is at the door
with hand stretched for any inheritance. From
that point onward, everything you muster on
the piano shall be nostalgic and poignant. For
novels, you return to the Russians—at least
they live again when your trembling fingers
open their books. But you suspect no one will
read you, and you professed your entire life
that you are a poet. Damnation: I am a poet!
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You can get the book here: Witness in the Convex Mirror
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. His most recent collection is Stale Bread and Coffee
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New Release from Poet Stephen Page

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Congratulations to North of Oxford contributor Stephen Page on the release of his new book, The Salty River Bleeds ! 

The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page

Praise for The Salty River Bleeds

The Salty River Bleeds is a juicy tale in verse that draws us into the teeming world of a large Argentinian ranch. This world is populated by herds of horses and cows, nefarious ranch hands, foxes, bees, bats, parrots, carnivorous ants, Andean flamingoes, cattle rustlers, horse thieves, to name but a few of its many denizens. The narrative reveals the complicated web of woes in the life of a land manager, the tyranny of weather patterns, and one man’s battle against the encroachment of pesticides. In this world, nature’s staggering beauty and naked brutality are constantly in evidence. A stallion “learns the phases of grass.” Trucks struggle through “the butter of mud.” Cows can explode with bloat, and rain that the narrator prays will be called down from the sky by the croaking of tree frogs can make or break you. As its title suggests, The Salty River Bleeds is packed with the drama of birth, death and eternal conflict.

–Amy Gerstler, author of Bitter Angel

The Salty River Bleeds is ambitious in its scope and its execution, with a relevance to contemporary environmental issues. Stephen Page deftly combines poetry, prose, and letters…and relies on highly refined, compressed imagistic language and strong character development to tell his tale.

–Jim Daniels, author of Places Everyone

The Salty River Bleeds is a continuation of the story of Jonathan and Teresa that Stephen Page began in A Ranch Bordering the Salty River.  These poems speak of the visceral life of farming on a fictional ranch in Argentina.  Page’s narrative is a journey of perseverance through a physical and psychological wilderness where loveliness and brutality abide together.  Here, the likes of a raw and wet “afterbirth slopped into a steamy pile” leads to the mother straining to “stare at her calf until breath raised its ribs.” Page walks us through vulture-ravaged carcasses into pastures and wood and marsh; walks us into the solace of bees, mockingbirds and “a flock of black ibis” that “lift/and cloud away.” This is poetry told with an unflinching, yet reverent eye.

–Carolyn Welch, author of The Garden of Fragile Beings

The Salty River Bleeds is equal parts parable and fable, examining humankind’s destructive and self-defeating tendencies, particularly with regard to caring for the land human beings and animals rely on. Here where the Salty River bleeds, you will find that Myth swims, Old Man lingers on your peripheral vision only to disappear, and Black Dog follows you into the mythic Wood. On the ranch, you will encounter Tattler, Excuse Maker, and Bad Guy, archetypal figures standing in for all those whose motives are to be questioned. By turns imaginative and inventive, gritty and grisly, gorgeous and ephemeral, this is a book that will linger long after you have finished. There are inherent truths laid bare here that we would all do well to pay heed.

–Cati Porter, author of Seven Floors Up

In Stephen Page’s The Salty River Bleeds, the spiritual journey of Jonathan continues from A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. Looking for a story to explain his life, Jonathan meditates on nature, in particular Wood, a place of testing, a place of mysteries ripe to be discovered, and the people who work his land without reverence.  With an observant eye for detail, Page brings together striking images of the elements of earth and human life that become both obstacles to and medium through which the speaker of these poems understands his world.

–Caroline Malone, author of Dark Roots

Stephen Page’s The Salty River Bleeds is a pastoral and violent account of ranch life. His poetic collection blends agricultural and rustic contention with eco-rural insight and directness. His delivery is candid and un-floral, thus bestowing the music of his perception an energy of seized quotidian acuity. These poems dare the readers to care about the animals, the daily activities of surviving rurally, and the grammar of the land exploited by genetic modified commerce and industrialization. The work invites the geography of natural breeding life to marry the perennial charm of ranch hardship. There, in his work, exists the sensual preservation of humanity, but also diurnal desires. Page’s bucolic poems “may take you to an unlit alley at night” or “sound like buckets of water being poured on the corrugated roof.” Regardless of the rustic tempo his work imbues you, through Page’s percipient, omniscient eyes, we see and hear everything he observes and feels and yearns. Like sheep hides “salted in the transit room” – Page’s work is designed to ambush us, not with the forcefulness or melancholy of existence, but, as seen here, with the authoritative authenticity of his persistent fervor.

–Vi Khi Nao, author of Fish in Exile 

Stephen Page’s The Salty River Bleeds is a collection of connections. Page explores relationships, ethics, and economy through environmental images that ooze the intricacies of farm life. His thoughtful, sensory-rich prose and varied expressions of poetic form delve into the inner workings of losses and discoveries.

–Savannah Slone, Author of Hearing the Underwater 

Stephen Page is a true poetic chronicler of the complex business of ranching, that mythic journey. The Salty River Bleeds is iconic storytelling; a hybrid of poems, letters, and prose. Filled with rich images, “wood walks” and myth finding. “Life takes you into some unplanned territory.” Follow Page and we are “wading into wheat” and “working all week to save the corn.”  The tractor is broken, the fences need mending, but still we are watching and waiting for Old Man walking by the side of the road, the one who never stops. Follow Page into his dreamscape of visceral reality to satisfy a curiosity, an unspoken desire.

–Elaine Fletcher Chapman, author of Hunger for Salt

In The Salty River Bleeds, Stephen Page poetically and unapologetically reveals the real, harsh truths of running a ranch in Argentina. Johnathan’s daily stressors, created by unreliable employees, weather, and Teresa’s greedy son, Damien, find us anxiously watching him “run across pastures with my sword / Raised, looking for someone to decapitate.” Page softens Johnathan’s persona by peppering the pages with love, beauty, mate, and the whimsy of Wood and Myth as “A wooddove pops / its wings as it departs eucalypti mist auraed by / a vanilla sunrise.” The juxtaposition of the hard and the soft leaves us with a longing to know how Jonathan and Teresa’s story ends. The Fauna of this collection proves to be a mesmerizing sequel to the Flora of the initial introduction of Johnathan and Teresa in his earlier collection, A Ranch Bordering the Salty River.

–Laurie Higi, author of The Universe of Little Beaver Lake

The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page

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Jack Tar’s Lady Parts by Charles Rammelkamp

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By Lynette G. Esposito

This slim remarkable volume of forty-five pages of poetry published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company of North Carolina,  relies heavily on the readers’ response to suggestions from the contemporary mindset. For example, the title of the volume, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is suggestive but instead of being the suggestion it is the referral to the women in Charles Rammelkamp’s life and to women’s “sea” lives in history. This twist of what is expected and what is presented reveals itself in the poetic themes of courage, betrayal and resolution in the book’s three sections: Wives, Prostitutes, and Transvestites.

Rammelkamp details the trials of sailors’ wives in the first section Wives.  He not only paints a picture of history while employing short story techniques in each poem, he also unmasks the vulnerability and resilience of women on both a literal and metaphorical sea as seen in two companion poems: Saving the Horatio, May, 1815 and Loss on pages 10 and 11 respectively. In Saving the Horatio, May, 1815, the captain thanks the women on board for making a sail that can plug the hole in the ship caused by hitting rocks so it can get back to a safe port.  The men are bailing water while the women make the plug.  In lowering the sail, a man is lost and abandoned to the sea in a one for the many scenario.  In the companion poem, Loss, the viewpoint of the widow is explored and ends with the lament
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                        and even though Captain Dillon praised the women
                        for saving the ship,
                        all the accolades and honors of the British Navy
                        could never console me for my loss.
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In the second section, Prostitutes, Rammelkamp explores betrayal.  In the lead poem,  Fleet Marriage, 1750, on page19, the narrator details meeting a sailor just home from the sea.   In the opening line, she says Jack’s ship’d just come in and in the middle Jack gets restless and goes back to sea.  The last three-line stanza reveals the betrayal by Jack.
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                        Jack said he loved me,
                        when he went.
                         I said, yeah, I know.
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On page 24, Molly Poole Changes her Mind shows a woman able to take care of herself by working as a prostitute until she is beaten unconscious by a client who doesn’t pay. She gives up her day job and goes to the Female Penitentiary for Penitent Prostitutes at Stonehouse to be rehabbed.  In the course of the treatment, she trained to wash clothes, clean and say yes ma’am. After working to exhaustion, she changes her mind.  Society has betrayed the narrator and she makes clear how she feels in the last two lines of the poem.
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                         Fuck that.  .After three weeks, I sneaked away one night,
                         went back to the ships to take up whoring again.
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In the third section, Transvestites, women wear many masks to survive at sea. In the poem J.C. Dickinson, Surgeon’s Mate, and the Amazon, 1761 on page 27, an unnamed woman who was thought to be a man, is discovered on the toilet and her gender is revealed.  Because of her gender, she is off the boat. On page 42 in the poem Christopher Hughes Outed, the narrator posing as a man so she can work at sea confesses she is a woman.  The fellow sailors she confesses to promise to keep her secret.  The last stanza provides resolution.
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                         After a couple of days,
                        the rumor died a quiet death.\
                       Once again we were all complaining
                        about the awful food—
                        and how we did not get enough of it.
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The book is a pleasurable read of poetic vignettes which resurrect, in verse form,  harsh judgments on women as they try to earn their livelihood on and off the sea.  Rammelkamp uses history as his palette as he explores the plight of different types of women and their circumstances in history..  His approach is not judgmental which is a relief and the poems are clear and precise.
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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.  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.
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Stale Bread and Coffee Now Available

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Alien Buddha Press has just released, Stale Bread and Coffee, by contributing editor, g emil reutter.   The book is available for purchase at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/Stale-Bread-Coffee-Poems-reutter/dp/1093326018/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=g+emil+reutter&qid=1555018379&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmrnull

“As always g emil reutter has the ability to pull us into his world where he conjures up images of late night streets, broken relationships, and men who are on the edge of life and lost in America’s backwaters.” – James D Quinton, (1977-2012), Open Wide Magazine

“The colloquial voice of g emil reutter rises from the valley, circles back through years of close observation with a steady eye. There’s nothing trumped up in these poems, nothing inflated into transcendence. Here life is as it is for the line worker, the waitress, the cop, the perp or the barroom guys. These are the common folk who live in the service alleys of any Camelot, sketched in a subdued cadence whose unadornment honors their lives and does not weary of seeing their glimmer through the tarnish.” – Poet J.C. Todd – What Space This Body

https://www.amazon.com/Stale-Bread-Coffee-Poems-reutter/dp/1093326018/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=g+emil+reutter&qid=1555018379&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmrnull

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The Love Poems of Kenneth Rexroth

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By Ray Greenblatt

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          Kenneth Rexroth was considered the senior member of the Beats. He was writing experimental free verse and lengthy exhortations to the world as early as the 1920’s, a generation before Ginsberg, Kerouac, and the West Coast poets.

          But I think he has been overlooked for his exquisite love lyrics. These poems are often set in the wildest of the back country. Let’s insinuate ourselves into these scenes of love to observe how Rexroth illuminates them:
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         You beside me
          Like a colt swimming slowly in kelp
          In the nude sea
          Where ten thousand birds
          Move like a waved scarf
          On the long surge of sleep. (“Camargue”)
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Rexroth loves to look minutely at his lover. Indeed she becomes part of nature:
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          Eater of moonlight, drinker
          Of brightness, feet of jewels
          On the mountain, velvet feet
          In the meadow grass, darkness
          Braided with wild roses, wild
          Mare of the horizons.
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          It’s enough that the green glow
          Runs through the down on your arms
          Like a grass fire and your eyes
          Are fogs of the same endless light.
          Let the folds and divisions
          Of your anatomy envelop
          All horizons. (“Air and Angels”)
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The following poem opens with imagery that Rexroth remolds in his conclusion:
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          Lean back. Give me your mouth.
          Your grace is as beautiful as sleep.
          You move against me like a wave
          That moves in sleep.
          Your body spreads across my brain
          Like a bird filled summer.
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          My eyelids sink toward sleep in the hot
          Autumn of your uncoiled hair.
          Your body moves in my arms
          On the verge of sleep;
          And it is as though I held
          In my arms the bird filled
          Evening sky of summer. (“When We with Sappho”)
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          Sometimes the locale shifts to a foreign city, but the intense sensuality remains:
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          Your face topples into dark
          And the wind sounds like an army
          Breaking through dry reeds.
          We spread our aching bodies in the window
          And I can smell the odor of hay
          In the female smell of Venice. (“Sottoportico San Zaccaria”)
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          At times Rexroth removes all censure so that our faces redden at the intimacy, as in “Floating”:
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          Take me slowly while our gnawing lips
          Fumble against the humming blood in our throats.
          Move softly, do not move at all, but hold me,
          Deep, still, deep within you, while time slides away,
          As this river slides beyond this lily bed,
          And the thieving moments fuse and disappear
          In our mortal, timeless flesh.
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The poet is also able to capture moments of a lover’s personality:
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          Suddenly you laugh, like a pure
          Exulting flute, spring to your feet
          And plunge into the water.
          A white bird breaks from the rushes
          And flies away, and the boat rocks
          Drunkenly in the billows
          Of your nude jubilation. (“Still on Water”)
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So many of his poems are like scenes caught by a painter—nuanced details, striking movements often in open air held fast in bright colors:
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          A fervor parches you sometimes,
          And you hunch over it, silent,
          Cruel, and timid; and sometimes
          You are frightened with wantonness,
        And give me your desperation. (“Between Myself and Death”)
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          As Kenneth Rexroth’s art matured, his view toward love developed deeper feelings and interpretations. In “Incarnation” after a day of climbing, the narrator returns to camp and glimpses his love in the distance:
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          The crinkled iris petal,
          The gold hairs powdered with pollen,
          And the obscure cantata
          Of the tangled water, and the
          Burning, impassive snow peaks,
          Are knotted together here.
          This moment of fact and vision
          Seizes immortality,
          Becomes the person of this place.
          The responsibility
          Of love realized and beauty
          Seen burns in a burning angel
          Real beyond flower or stone.
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The lover remembers all his past loves, the highs and lows:
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          Under this tree for a moment,
          We have escaped the bitterness
          Of love, and love lost, and love
          Betrayed. And what might have been,
          And what might be, fall equally
          Away with what is, and leave
          Only these ideograms
          Printed on the immortal
          Hydrocarbons of flesh and stone. (“Lyell’s Hypothesis Again”)
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Sometimes we must apologize for mistakes to let the relationship heal and continue to grow:
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          Now my heart
          Turns towards you, awake at last,
          Penitent, lost in the last
          Loneliness. Speak to me. Talk
          To me. Break the black silence.
          Speak of a tree full of leaves,
          Of a flying bird, the new
          Moon in the sunset, a poem,
          A book, a person. (“Loneliness”)
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An outer and inner peace can be achieved eventually as seen in “Quietly”:
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          So quiet, our bodies, worn with the
          Times and the penances of love, our
          Brains curled, quiet in their shells, dormant,
          Our hearts slow, quiet, reliable
          In their interlocked rhythms, the pulse
          In your thigh caressing my cheek. Quiet.
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          At times Rexroth infused a religious tone into his poems of love:
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          Let us bring to each other
          The gifts brought once west through deserts—
          The precious metal of our mingled hair,
          The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
          The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
          Let us celebrate the daily
          Recurrent nativity of love,
          The endless epiphany of our fluent selves.  (“Lute Music”)
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          “She Is Away” is from a more mature poet’s point of view:
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 O love,
          I who am lost and damned with words,
          Whose words are a business and an art,
          I have no words. These word, this poem, this
          Is all confusion and ignorance.
          But I know that coached by your sweet heart,
          My heart beat one free beat and sent
          Through all my flesh the blood of truth.
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          Kenneth Rexroth lived from 1905 until 1982. His first wife Andree died in 1940, and he always revered her memory in several lyrics over the years. A very touching one simply titled “Andree Rexroth” concludes:
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          Bright trout poised in the current—
          The raccoon’s track at the water’s edge—
          A bittern booming in the distance—
          Your ashes scattered on this mountain—
          Moving seaward on this stream.
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          In the realm of poetry there is almost nothing more difficult to write than an original love lyric. We have looked at a number of passages. To conclude I would like to quote in full a short but very effective poem #X by Rexroth out of a series of linked poems titled “The Thin Edge of Your Pride”:
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          Out of the westborne now shall come a memory
          Floated upon it by my hands,
          By my lips that remember your kisses.
          It shall caress your hands, your lips,
          Your breasts, your thighs, with kisses,
          As real as flesh, as real as memory of flesh.
          I shall come to you with the spring,
          Spring’s flesh in the world,
          Translucent narcissus, dogwood like a vision,
          And phallic crocus,
          Spring’s flesh in my hands.
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All poems are taken from: The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, (Copper Canyon Press, 2004)
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You can find the book here:

https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/pages/browse/book.asp?bg=%7BD2AA026E-B2F1-46AF-9735-90395CFBBCD6%7D

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Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His book reviews have been published by a variety of periodicals: BookMark Quarterly, Joseph Conrad Today, English Journal, the Dylan Thomas Society, and the John Updike Society. His new book of poetry, Nocturne & Aubades, is newly available from Parnilis Press, 2018.

Pavement by Rustin Larson

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By Lynette Esposito

Rustin Larson’s poetry volume, Pavement, is more than slim with only 14 poems but it is also more than powerful.  When I read the last poem on page 33, I wanted more; it can’t be over already.  I was left on the pavement struggling, visualizing and wishing I was not stuck in “nowhere.”  Larson’s tight focus, innovative literary technique, and clearly defined imagery lead the reader down his many forms of pavement.

Larson provides a tight focus on the image of pavement in each of his fourteen poems as well as entitling this tome Pavement.   Each poem is entitled Pavement with a number after it going from Pavement 1 to Pavement 14. This almost over focus works well here as the starkness of the multiple references and suggestions are revealed.  In Pavement 1, the narrator observes a man in a bathrobe smelling of urine coming into the health shop

where he has gone for a cup of barley soup.  The poetic lines are unevenly set up in length and indention which I like in the flow of this one-stanza poem.  The suggestion of a health shop where one can pay to be healthy but turns someone obviously unhealthy and desperate out to the pavement serves as irony at its best especially when the clerk goes to wash her hands after touching his bathrobe.

In creating his poems, Larson uses standard literary techniques and images in innovative ways.  Diane Frank, author of Canon for Bears and Ponderosa Pines comments …

Pavement breaks into new territory.  Larson, for example, says in Pavement 5, The Pallbearer has a rat’s tongue. So many suggestions of what this means almost assail the reader’s imagination and visualizations of funerals he/she has attended.  Just like Larson says in Pavement 4, Things we play with at home and mentions matches.  The settings of funerals and home are places the reader has been and felt secure in but the images take the readers out of that “comfort” zone. While Larson uses standard stanza formats, he fiddles successfully with line length and spacing to allow his meaning and images to form a visual of stepping and sidestepping on the underlying pavement.

Another example of Larson’s use of innovative imaging is In Pavement 13.   Larson says Part of you drinks sunlight.  This is a life story of a Norfolk Pine with a dream and hope about life. The metaphor extends beyond the seedling to anyone who has wanted to amount to something with the exception of being an overworked accountant.

All I can say is I loved this book and I am thirsty after reading it.  I want more.

Rustin Larson is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in writing. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review and others.  He is the author of Wine-Dark House (Blue-Light Press 2009) and Crazy Star (selected for the Loess Hills Book Poetry Series in 2005. He has also won many prizes for his work.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Pavement-Rustin-Larson/dp/1421837781

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.