poetry collection

Music For A Wedding by Lauren Clark

music

By Lynette G. Esposito

Lauren Clark’s Music for a Wedding published by the University of Pittsburgh Press presents 82 pages of reminiscent poetry with visual images and interpretations of every day occurrences and locations..

Vijay Seshardi, Judge says Clark’s poems take the reader into “a relationship with the invisible and the ineffable, bringing image and language (as if by magic) to the page and to the reader.” Take for example on page one in an untitled poem:

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       There is a sorrow being outside your body
         even when I am in the places where it has been.
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This generalization brings this sorrow to the heart my naming a place, the kitchen, in the next stanza and the bedroom thereafter where the narrator measures her lover with the palm of her hand so that when he is gone, she can remake him.  He does not awaken.

In Aubade on page 32, she takes the reader to the bathroom and we all know what goes on in there.  Yet, she graphically shows the act of recreation with our panties down and in the washing of hands…reproducing the life it has known.  She visualizes a common act with judgment and appraisal about how life works.

On page 63, the narrator takes us into the bathroom again in the poem Afterfeast.

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         There is no absolute aloneness on this island
         and so it is for me to understand there is none
         on any island, and so it is or me
         in the white bathroom light.
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It is not the bathroom but the commonness of the room where there should be privacy for all things and where one should be alone.  As presented, the reader finds the illumination of the white bathroom light and the realization about interpreting absolute aloneness.

She ends this poetry tome with Illinois in Spring, outside and thinking of endings.

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            ….The place that is big enough to hold every
            absence. That things grow here, pale and small from enormous land,

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            inspires abject panic. The wonder of watching a flying bird land
            on water.  The end of the line will always give you that feeling.
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The natural elements of air and water and reaching a conclusion for this narrator is panic. A reader cannot help but react to this image because it happens so often and to so many beside lake, and rivers and oceans.

Clark is an effective writer juxtaposing the common with the uncommon and twisting the images to fit a fluid form. She leaves the window open for the lace curtains to fiddle in the breeze to form a  shadowed pattern on the mind of the reader. This is a good read for lovers of poetry.

Lauren Clark holds a B.A. in classics from Oberlin College and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan.  Music for a Wedding is the winner of the 2016 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry.

It is available at www.upress.pitt.edu

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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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Ordinary Impalers by Anton Yakovlev

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By Karen Corinne Herceg
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Anton Yakovlev writes with a nuanced sensibility and finely spun sensitivity that almost belie the impact and depth of the messages contained in each poem of his subtle but powerful new collection “Ordinary Impalers.” We are all truly “impalers”…not the larger-than life-monsters of history, the murderers, genocidal maniacs and infamous abusers, but each one of us who impale ourselves and one another each day in multiple ways that, in the aggregate, are no different energetically from what we perceive as larger transgressions.
In the opening poem, “Scapegoat Cemetery,” the narrator is “Clutching at gravestones for balance,” (P. 9, l. 1), a balance that puts him literally and metaphorically between reality and lost hope, seeking to blame the ancestor who never took responsibility for passing along the wounds and anger he has inherited. The damage he recalls emphasizes the desire for a better memory, of a distinction between what we wish for versus what truly occurred. And rage and outrage are completely justifiable responses for the ineptitude and lack of character we display in our interactions with one another. “The Submarine” describes a visit to an apparent tourist attraction that symbolizes our ability to submerge and resurface, a constant disappearance lost in “a few syllables” (P. 10, l. 3) as the narrator walks with his father in the shadow of his grandfather whose sins and legacy are palpable despite no physical presence: “There are orphans everywhere,/even those with parents alive,” (P. 10, ll. 8-9). The unhealed wounds disallow connection and reconciliation. Holidays, traditional observances and meaningless conversations are “useless homecomings” (p. 10, l. 22) and mere distractions. There are collections of images and fragments of interactions but nothing exchanged authentically between father and son. We rely on empty omens and conjured symbolic comforts as “Our controversial angels take us/into the Hallmark wolf packs,” (“Cliffhanger,” P. 13, l. 9). We create “terraces of abstraction” (“A Stop Sign Worn as a Helmet,” P. 20, l. 14). We search for meaning in disparate images and moments that ultimately elude us.
Yakovlev employs imaginative ways to convey meaning through an unexpected use of words that create greater, multiple impact as in “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” when he observes of a long-time relationship what is unrecognizable, forgotten or never acknowledged, “I could ask you questions to make you figure it out,/make you Sherlock your way to the only reasonable conclusion,” (P. 15, ll. 1-2) that is the irony of fearing the loss of what never existed. The use of the proper name Sherlock as a verb is fine-spun but jarring, almost humorous in an introspective manner.
In “The Immigrant” we see time passing without meaning, issues without resolution and words used to obfuscate meaning instead of avenues to true comprehension. There is a plea for deeper contact when the poet commands, “Stop fidgeting with your kaleidoscope./Hold a hand, say hi, have dessert.” (P. 16, ll. 19-20). He is speaking to various people in these poems, to the many relationships in which he has tried to reach out for something authentic only to find that the other’s “ghost has solidified.” (“Frog Pond,” P. 19, l. 21). We do not know what we are even looking for and so are completely lost:
            Before you meet again,
            Look for ravens on abandoned rocks
            Until you realize they are not the point. (P. 21, ll. 23-25)
We are absent from the present and unhealed from past traumas and grief. Yet Yakovlev actually offers a solution to healing in an unexpected but authentic manner:
            A rusted ship might float again someday,
            If you are nice enough to the bacteria
            That captain it from now on. (P. 22, ll. 16-18)
We must acknowledge and delve into those “bacteria” in order to excavate truth, clean out the wounds and not cover them up to fester beneath the oppression of blame and guilt. Instead we allow the losses to accrue and break us. We marginalize the authentic and are prey to the illusionary.
            In “The Jogger” we witness the portrait of a marriage as an exercise in perfunctory living amid external actions that do not constitute true depth and continuity in a relationship. Yakovlev describes the beginning of the marriage as “an incensed gallery/of old New England pumpkins, candles in antique stores,/afternoon trips to vegetable farms.” (P. 25, ll. 11-13), and then quickly adds “but only autumn could sustain that kind of enchantment./Quickly he grew to see the void in all other seasons” (P. 25, ll. 14-15). He is asking us to see what we substitute for real kinship and interaction. There is “the invisible lock in the double door of all ears” (P. 35, l. 20), and in the book’s title poem, “Ordinary Impalers,” he states, “so pretend we can cheer each other,/even if it’s Russian Roulette we play.” (P. 38, ll. 7-8). In the final poem, “The Lingering Portal,” we see a doorway of possibility of  “cathartic/hopes” (P. 50, ll. 4-5) once more thwarted by the past and unhealed memories that again cause us to lose our balance “and go to sleep” (P. 50, l. 19).
There are so many fine expressions in these poems that one could quote many lines from each piece as Yakovlev is careful and sparing with language, getting to the heart of things without sentimentality, unnecessary embellishment or overstatement. He explores the many ways we fail to reach one another, to connect and find our way to a clearer reality. He doesn’t negate possibility but rather addresses the realities of where most of us remain stuck and distant from one another and ourselves. There is a roadmap to healing within these wise poems if the reader takes advantage of the opportunity.
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Karen Corinne Herceg writes poetry, prose, reviews and essays.  A graduate of Columbia University, she has studied and read with renowned writers Philip Schultz, David Ignatow, John Ashbery and William Packard. Her latest book is Out From Calaboose by Nirala Publications (2017).  She lives in the Hudson Valley, New York.

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Waiting For The Light

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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

Spirit Boxing

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Review by g emil reutter

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There is a richness in American poetry that traces its roots from Levine to Sandburg to Whitman. Poetry rooted in the American spirit, the working class, the knowing of who we are and where we come from. In that chain that links poets to the barbaric yawp of Whitman we can add Afaa Michael Weaver as the next link. Weaver writes poetry that is spiritual yet rooted in realism, the passion for life that is missing from many modern poets who embrace disconnect. From the first stanza of Preachers:

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Worked in the steel mills, black men

from Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia

studying the way God whispered

in the hot air of the coke oven, how

the saints waved the smoke rising

up over Baltimore harbor, a pastiche

announcing the hope of generations.

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…God whispered/in the hot air of the coke oven 

This is not an imagined image, Weaver lived it, saw it, wrote it down. God whispering to the men and women who tended the coke ovens, popped lids, saw the vapers felt the intense heat. These are the people who where worn down by the heat of the oven, soaked with sweat and could hear God whispering.

In part two of The Ice House, 1969 Weaver writes:

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…If there is power in want,

I want to know it and be free of doubt

to be a man who walks on what earth is,

a solidity of words stolen from dreams

cooked up in the minds of star systems

we know only because we believe

the stories pasted on night skies.

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Here Weaver the spiritual poet once again joins in the realism of working in the ice house penning these beautiful images. Weaver’s unique ability to combine the spiritual with realism comes into focus time and again in such poems as Repack Room, A Nation of Hands, Interiors, a Miners Home. And then there is this stark realism from the poem The Winepress:.

Men and women come new, fresh,

step into one end of the mills dancing,

come out the other hobbling, coughing

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up the accumulated frustrations

of paychecks eating away at paychecks,

loan sharks promising to realize dreams.

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Steel mills chew up workers,

Put the young flesh in their jaws,

Teeth shining with ads for things.

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In Ode To The Righteous Union he begins in a Bejjing Starbucks, through the City of Cold Love, the Forbidden City to decaying tobacco barns to Virginia:

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I knew as a boy in Virginia, following

my father’s steps walking long rows,

him following the steps of his father,

each step backward until the first plow

was cast in some old testaments of dirt,

what earth is when it gives life to us, lets

us grow hands that make art from work.

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And so it is that Spirit Boxing by Afaa Michael Weaver is art from the work of life, of knowing the spiritual rooted in realism that warms and warns with each turn of the page.

 

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Boxing-Poetry-Michael-Weaver/dp/0822964589

 

.g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

 

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100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

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 Review by Stephen Page
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 I’ve been thinking lately how most of my life I dreamed I would live in a shack in the mountains without telephone or T.V., walk the woods, eat berries, drink snowmelt, and write about place.  I would of course visit a city on the weekends, for culture, you know, and sit on an unmade bed in an inexpensive hotel in the afternoon and watch soap operas on T.V.  Seriously though, the culture part of the dream includes art, ballet, theatre, cinema, fine cuisine, wine, friends, a love interest, a once a week teaching job—then back to the shack for a week of writing and communing with the natural world.  When I lived alone and single, which I have most of my life, it was easy to continue the shack dream, because by living alone, I was closer to that person on the mountain.  Since I have been married though, the hermit of me has hid, or should I say, reclused, but did not completely disappear.  He lurks among my cortical synopses, resides in my hippocampus.   He and the shack where he lives will be a part of my life’s work.  For a writer, there has to be a balance between writing and life.  Some writers need more of one than the other.  They way I see it, a writer may try to live a full life and write, but when the time comes to write, he needs to write, and only write.  The writing has to be more important than life when he is writing about life.  And (now I am getting away from the topic, but drawing a parallel), depending how private the writer is, a writer may want to edit, exclude, or delete his life from history and leave only his writings.  Sooner or later, though, someone is going to tell his story—that is, what he did, how he treated people—and that someone may be his mother, his sister, his spouse, his child, his friend, his enemy, or his dumped lover (any of whom may not be very kind); so why shouldn’t a writer keep a diary, talk to people, interview, write letters—tell his side of the story.  If he lived a good life (and that is, of course, a subjective phrase dependent upon cultural mores, subcultural trends, parental teachings, etc. etc.), he shouldn’t be ashamed about people knowing about his life.  He shouldn’t be afraid.  Not if he has courage.  Anyway, along those lines (and I have to focus on the shack—place), let’s see how life develops, you and I, the reader and the writer, let’s see how our poems appear, how we diarize and how we are biographed.  On those notes, let’s look at a book:
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Last week, I read e.e. cummings’s 100 Selected Poems.   He’s a god of course who visited this earth to show off and play with people’s heads.  Anyone could aspire to write half as well as him.  He breaks downs language only to rebuild it to high art.
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Stephen Page is a poet in Argentina via Detroit Michigan. He can be found here: Stephen Page

Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine – Selected Poems 1970-2010

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Review by g emil reutter
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I plucked this volume published by Bottle Of Smoke Press back in 2010 from my library to have another visit with the poet A.D. Winans. I have several of his chapbooks but I am always drawn to these selected poems for a good read. Winans is at times plainspoken and as he says you won’t need a dictionary to figure out what he is saying. He brings the heart and soul of America into his poems that reflect the hard times people have and some of the good times. As plainspoken as he is in his realism, he is at his best with images such as this from the 3rd stanza For William Wantling:
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The night rolls back its wings
Teeth as cold a naked bone
But neither the night nor
The poet dies quietly
Only the flesh expires
The word linger on welcoming
The taste of ash
And morning comes as no loss
For wherever you are
You survived the pain
Refused to surrender
Earth’s flesh removed from reality
Here in the wakening of dawn
Where the mist smells sweetly
And one can hear the throats
Of birds singing like cannons
In the hour when the spirit
Collects its visions
Replaying them on old walls
Gatsby shots from another era
Stills to fill the void
In a world of runaway tongues
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Winans is a poet of the working class, the disadvantaged. He lives among them and understands them when they pass into the forgotten world of the jobless such as the first 6 stanzas of The System:
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There are old men and women
Who have worked all their lives
Who have put in thirty-five
And forty years for the right
To a pension
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There are old people who have
Worked twenty years
Only to be laid off
Without so much as two weeks
Written notice
Abandoned to seek a living
At half the pay
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There are old people
Who have worked
Most of their lives
Only to witness
The company go belly-up
And find there is no pension
Fund left
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You can find them
On park benches
Or wandering lonely supermarkets
Or sitting daily
At neighborhood bars
Nursing their drinks
Like a blood transfusion
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They come in different flavors
Like lifesavers
Some thin and balding
Some fat and sweating
Some complaining bitterly
Some too proud to let the
Pain show
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So proud that they eat dog food
And find desert in back alley
Garbage cans
Trapped by false promises
Trapped by a belief in a system
That has abandoned them.
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Winans is the direct link to the Beat/Meat poetry movement and thus its child the Outlaw poetry movement. He writes of Bukowski, Ferlinghetti, Kaufman, Micheline and Burroughs, of politics, his time in Panama and visits to Mexico, of his mother and father, of lost loves, of hard times, of haunting memories such as in the poem. I Kiss The Feet Of Angels:
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dark starry night
fog creeping in
over the hills
raindrops falling
on the window
I see the faces of old friends
staring at me
ghosts from the past
freight trains steam ships
subway trains carrying their
cargo of death
Rimbaud the mad hatter
Baudelaire
Lorca fed a dinner of bullets
Kaufman a black messiah
walking Bourbon Street
eating a golden sardine
Micheline drinking with Kerouac
at Cedar Tavern
Jesus wiping the perspiration
from his forehead
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the foghorn plays a symphony
inside my head
I hear the drums
I feel the beat
I kiss the feet
of angels
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Winans is the last one left in the rodeo when it is all said and done. He has lived the life of a poet. A poet, publisher, performer, promoter of other poets, Winans is dedicated to the craft. At the age of 80 Winans is still creating his art. A new book is forthcoming this year, keep an eye out for it. Until then give yourself a gift and pick up a copy of Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine.
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

Time Extends Life To Those Who Survive

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(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