rain mountain press

Wherever I Look I am Never There by Allen Brafman

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By g emil reutter
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Allen Brafman is a poet of careful observation. His poems are quiet yet all have a strong undercurrent of passion of life and death. In the poem, Mirror, the poet reminds us how we carry with us all those who came before:
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This is my father’s beard
His face has become mine
My grandfather
chuckles inside the parlor mirror
His hand comes forth
He is about to pinch our cheek.
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A poet of deep reflection Brafman holds his memories close in what appears to be a simple poem yet is complex, the poem, This Morning:
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I found our first kiss
forty some years, hundreds
and hundreds of times
remembered, lost
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in the breast pocket of
a denim shirts, back
of the closet, shirt that
just about fits me again
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On the surface it appears to be a memory of a first kiss, but it is much more. The poet writes of a love of forty years, a memory that comes to him often over the years only once again to surface when trying on a shirt from the back of his closet. A gentle and beautiful love poem.
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The poet tells us in the poem, Birds Thick as WaterEach newly acquired loss/added/to all the losses/ lost and tallied before. He is a poet who writes of the reality of loss and what it means to those left behind such as this from the poem, Lost and Found:
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I don’t want to
talk about people
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I’ve spoken to on
the phone who
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died before I
got there
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This poem reflects the stark realism of life. It is not adorned in fanciful words, it is simply the truth, blocking out of their departure and our final destination.
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Brafman treats us to a beautiful surreal poem, Butterfly’s Child with haunting, majestic imagery.
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A yellow butterfly lifts a little
girl from the front yard
to a forest of marigolds burning
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In a third-floor window box. Explosive
winds hurl the butterly off
course,  put a cinder in the child’s
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eye. The child falls back to the yard, free
of the butterfly, the rain that follows.
Fed by water, flame that can never
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extinguish, she has become the daughter
of that butterfly, large black eyes
growing on yellow wing ferociously
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she sometimes flutters
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Brafman writes of a panhandler as a carnival barker in the poem, Playing the Odds. He tells us of a drunken escalator in the poem, Attacked from Within, and in the poem, Time is not Enough, he writes Lonely as a bar stool/in a crowded bar. There is nothing stale about this collection as Brafman fills his poems with fresh imagery. In the first stanza of Anna, he returns to stark realism of what we all know to be true on the subway:
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That woman’s
talking to herself,
don’t let her
see you
looking at her,
she might
start talking to you.
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Wherever I Look, I am Never There is a collection of poems that reflects life in realism, at times surreal. Of love, of loss, of the lonely, of family, of the will to go on. Brafman gives voice to those who live on the edges, of those departed in sometimes gentle and stark observations of a poet who loves life and those he encounters.
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g emil reutter can be found here: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape by John Goode

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By Lynette G. Espositio

John Goode’s Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape published by Rain Mountain Press is an image-laden delight of poems that visualize, conceptualize and realize perception from different but common landscapes.

Bill Yarrow, author of Blasphemer and The Vig of Love says “John Goode’s poems are—all things wild and wonderful.”  The reader can see this clearly in his poem When My Father Took His Chainsaw into the Forest on page 30.
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                    the television died. 
                   Cartoons crawled across the carpet
                   and begged for more cereal. 
                   
                   The small angel of my life curled up
                    inside me. 
 
                   The sun dragged a generator across the sky
                   and the grass turned brown.
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The visual is so clear the reader wants to hug the narrator.  The poem continues with this sharp visualization of the setting, tone and timbre to reality-based images that set time and place into emotion.
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                   When my father took his chainsaw into the forest,
                    he cut the opossum
                   out of the encyclopedia 
 
                    He turned comic books
                    into woodchips and stone.
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This clear evaluation of a father by his young son depicted in the images chosen reveals a landscape of detail and emotion.

This continues on through the four parts of the 104 pages of poems followed by an interview with Goode where he discusses motivation and technique.

Goode continues to visualize and conceptualize his poems even in the titles from as simple as Unemployed to Elegy for a Tree in a Poem Written by a Young Woman Sitting at the Bar.  His poems, like his titles, vary in length. Some are one stanza and some are several pages. I find this detail of form gives support to the themes.  Most are free verse/blank verse in narrative form.  In the five stanza poem The Riot of Waitresses, the first lines set a contemporary situation: The girls at work are giving birth to televisions without doctors.  From page 87 to page 94, the narrator discusses the thwarted plans of women with their breasts trapped in their boyfriends’ hands like pigeons. Goode juxtaposes common images with an unorthodox landscape.  Breasts, boyfriends, pigeons…I love it.

The reader begins through the visualization to realize something special is happening.  Goode is able to make a point or points by choosing common understandings that expand out to fresh perceptions on how life works in suggestive images that conjure many interpretations.

The poems are consistently both interesting and surprising.  In A Note From My Boss on page 95, Goode uses the letter format and uses the salutary Dear Jude to make a point.

The first line gives real sarcastic attitude please wipe up the Lysol carcasses.  This memo to the boss ends with authority: Thank-you and no signature.  How impersonal is this as a reference to real life workers and how effective in a poem.  Thank-you, John….Yours Lynette.

Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape is available from www.rainmountainpress.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.  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.

The Charnel House on Joyce Kilmer Avenue by Rob Cook

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By g emil reutter

I have known for some time by reading the works of Rob Cook that spirits, visions may haunt him. Or maybe not. Just maybe Cook views life a bit differently than most. Unlike most, his imagination pours forth in imagery and character driven prose that has given birth to his latest effort, The Charnel House on Joyce Kilmer Avenue. It is a slim 44 page offering that at first will leave you with the feeling, what the hell is going on here? Yet as one reads on the creative genius that is Rob Cook spills out upon page after page.

He introduces us to the main character, a college student, the narrator, who enters his new residence with books buried in his knapsack, hears a phone ring the way it is supposed to, hears the television telling stories the way it is trusted to tell those stories and who sees a smile hurry across the ceiling. His roommates come and go and then there are none except for the dead children in the dining room that does not have a table or chairs. In fact, when he is left alone there is no furniture at all. The narrator is mostly surrounded by silence and loneliness, one roommate sits in silence and never speaks. There is the girlfriend who lives in another city yet is never seen or heard. A college professor of self-importance who has lost his chin and a stalker who no one would understand stalking the narrator. Struggling with acne the narrator battles with hard lump surrounded by blackheads, a zit with “monstrous potential”.

There is Carl the roommate with the big boots who clumps up and down the stairs. Who picks the clumps of the narrator’s hair from the shower drain and deposits them by his toothbrush. And then there is this:

The toilet, clear as it was, smelled like the insides of a poet who wasted his life listening for the soundless snowfall of the day’s mail drifting through the door’s one crack of hope.

When asked what he does, the narrator claims to be a failed musician, or a student for he believes if he says he is a poet as a grown man he will not be fondly looked upon. There is Lincoln on the five dollar bill, gaunt and frowning at the narrator before Lincoln turns away.

The last thing Carl says is: Good luck with those friends of yours. There are many in the home without furniture at The Charnel House on Joyce Kilmer Avenue.

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You can find the book here: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9780998187273/the-charnel-house-on-joyce-kilmer-avenue.aspx

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

Weather by Kelly Cherry

weather

By g emil reutter

Cherry is a narrative poet in this slim collection of poems. Within its pages she captures turbulence, calm, defines the seasons. Cherry captures the wind in the poem, Birds on the Patio Feeders, No. 1:

The big wind scours the sky as if the sky is a giant kitchen sink/ Trees bend, hanging their heads, sorrowful/ Such drama. Yet we are captivated to see.

Yet the collection is just not about weather, it is about much more such as these lines from the poem, This Should be Winter, reflecting what the future may hold:

Thrity or forty years from now, we may be heading north in search of water, in search of air that can be breathed, in search of food that’s not been wrecked before it’s harvested.

Cherry captures the essence of a storm in both its quietness and violence in the poem, Rain:

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It falls. Sometimes quietly, sometime loudly
as bullets hitting targets, or soldiers in war

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A sprinkle doesn’t even seem like rain.
It does an almost silent dance, then stops.

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demure as a virgin. The breaking thunderstorm
rails at everyone, but the daylong soak

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that rescues trees, flowers, and failing farms
sings a song both simple and everlasting.

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In the poem, The Start of Spring, she writes of the young in comparison to the old:

Spring is for the young, and the young/ put smiles on the old. Maybe rueful smiles. maybe sagacious smiles, maybe fond smiles/ as the old remember their checkered youth…The young are always foolish/ the old, always reminiscent.

She writes of a beach party and the aftermath in the poem, The Fourth of July:

…men and woman burn logs on a beach and hope to get lucky/ Sex is such a driving force, and then?/ Its not. It leaves us high and dry/ as if our bodies were nothing but old clothes/ hanging on a weathered, worn-out laundry line. 

The poet writes of an elderly woman who keeps bits of the season in Autumn LeavesThe deaths of the living, even leaves/ sadden an elderly woman once a child/ dragging her feet through fallen leaves or pressing/ the pretty leaves into a scrapbook.

Cherry is a forecaster as she writes in the poem, Mayday:

It strikes terror in our hearts/ like a fire alarm…Is it the end of our world?/ Of course it is. Earth’s dying./ Our world is ill, regurgitating/ its insides.  

Weather by Kelly Cherry is not for those who enjoy the disconnect. This collection of narrative poems connects with the reader through plain speaking combined with excellent imagery. Cherry writes of the seasons but also utilizes weather as a metaphor for lives lived and more directly the condition of the earth.

You can buy the book here: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9780998187204/weather.aspx

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g emil reutter is a writer of stories and poems:

https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

Monte Carlo Days & Nights by Susan Tepper

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By Lynette G. Esposito

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Monte Carlo Days & Nights by Susan Tepper is a book filled with delightful short and short short stories that both entertain and amuse.

Published in soft cover by Rain Mountain Press, the stories take the reader on journeys that encompass the contemporary experience.  Of the twenty-two stories, my favorite is Adjacent toCentral Park.  Tepper sets the situation of two lovers in an upscale hotel room and all is seemingly going well as the reader sees the scene from the female narrator’s point of view.  Then—all is not going so well from the physical standpoint. How can one have sex at the Ritz Carlton in New York City and not be able to take a hot shower afterwards?  The man at the front desk claims there is a water main break so there is no water at all in the hotel  A freebie is offered for next time.  For this time, our narrator and her companion send out for baby wipes just as if they were ordering pizza to be delivered.  She claims she has used them successfully on a plane in flight. The language and circumstance of the characters is realistic and believable. While the situation is farcical, the depiction of modern life is serious.

My second favorite of the stories is Monte.  It is simple, short, direct, and yet reveals the different ways men and women approach each other.  This story is more of a vignette rather than the beginning, middle, end structure of a fictional short story.  As a slice of life amidst the other stories, it works well in revealing two characters circling each other n a relationship. The suggestive images of the hotel, the swimsuit, the hunger work both literally and figuratively. Do women consider going topless…yes but no.  The reader is in the female narrator’s head.

The final story in the book, Dinner, brings closure to the days and nights depicted throughout the sequence of encounters.  Our narrator, wearing a red spandex dress and no pantyhose, looks so “hot” her lover proposes marriage if he were the marrying kind.  How sweet, how ironic how no discussion of love or respect– just almost cold analysis with lust as the common denominator.  Trepper has a light touch on a subject where so many others write a long agonizing soliloquy on the “he loves me, he loves me not” boy meets girl storyline.

The 74 page book is an easy read sharing a contemporized voice with modern perceptions and situations.

The author, Susan Tepper, has been a marketing manager, a flight attendant, an interior decorator, and an award-winning author.  To find out more about her go to:

wwwsusantepper.com 

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You can find the book here: Monte Carlo Days Nights

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

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The Conduit and other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy by Richard Gessner

Gessner
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By g emil reutter
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Welcome to the strange world of Richard Gessner where words and images matter. Gessner provides the reader with fresh images, use of words and stories that may or may not be about what they appear to be. Surreal? Maybe. Or they may just be reality in disguise. 
 
The Zoo-Bray is located in the basement of a library. Those kept in the basement, (dark?), are writers of every kind. Parking-ticket scribblers face classical versifiers—Subpoena makers face street poets to produce spontaneous legal writs–… The forgotten face the immortal–. All of them are kept under the watchful eye of the zoo-breeder who wanders through the maze of hallways listening to the congress of burgeoning tete-a-tetes caught up in an infectious meld of snowballing ideas. He tells us at the center is an incubator where the pairs of the most promising writers chosen by the zoo-breeder are placed to mate and give birth. Gessner tells us the zoo-breeder decides what books make it to the upper shelves and what ones do not. Now the story could be viewed a surreal or a thinly masked critique of cookie cutter MFA programs.
 
Gessner gives us a wide ranging group of stories such as Excerpts From the Diary of a Neanderthal Dilettante. The Conduit a tale of a man stabbed in the heart seeking refuge in a pipe:
Moving down the windy concrete tunnel, listening for his arteries drain, he leaves a red carpet for the assailant’s knife. Millennial scorpion stinging itself drowning in cesspools of regeneration. Hug, wide, longer than all seeing memory. The pipe sparkles with light, twinkling with blood hitting the cold air. The strangeness of the travel of the man in the pipe with dance callers, ancestors, wedding rings looping, ego dust and random chaos. Weird images carefully crafted by a writer who has earned his chops. 
 
    He gives us hermits, a unicyclist, arbitrators, a man in a couch and so much more wrapped in unnatural situations. Gessner looks at the world through distorted glasses and yet as the reader moves through this work all comes into view. Such as in this flash fiction piece, The Pelican’s Tonsils: 
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    A psychiatrist stands in the ocean, wearing his patient’s galoshes, waiting for barnacles to adhere to them.
    His framed doctor’s degree has escaped from his office wall and taken up residence inside the pouch of a pelican sitting on a far off rock jutting from the ocean.
    In the stark wetness of the pouch, the lettering from the degree wears off getting stuck to the pelican’s tonsils. When the pelican dives for fish its tonsils wiggle, rearranging the lettering from the doctors degree.
    In order to restore his official identity and career, the psychiatrist affects a man of action stance, preparing to swim out into the ocean and give the pelican a tonsillectomy—but the barnacles clustering on his patient’s galoshes keep him anchored to the shore as he attempts to swim—the crustaceous ball and chain keeping him forever split!
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Gessner is a master of imagery, metaphor, of the unnatural setting and has produced a fantastic collection of bizarre stories that are equally disturbing and fantastic.
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter
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The Absent

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Review by g emil reutter

 

Rosalind Palermo Stevenson’s, The Absent, brings the reader on a forty nine year journey of the life of William Wright Martin. Stevenson’s research is outstanding as the book begins and ends in Philadelphia during the late 1800s with stops in the Wild West and Southwest territories of the United States. Martin and his wife Lucie are photographers, have their own studio yet live with his mother and aunt. Lucie and William are obsessed with the art. Lucie with portraits and what the images she creates reveal about people, he with structures and space.

…what silence speaks of…there is that apt gesture of silence, the hand closed in a gentle fist, the index finger raised and placed over the lips. It’s silly to stand there, the voice says, when you can lie down and rest. Yes rest. Enough time has passed—too many days. How many. Do you remember? You look worn. You look tired. It’s time. You agree that it’s time don’t you? 

As a child, William Martin and his mother are taken west from Philadelphia by his father. There at a young age he is being taught to be man by his rough and tough father although the mother is always protective. His father hears danger and throws the boy into the bushes where Martin witnesses the brutal slaying of his father by a gang of men. His mother brings him home to Philadelphia and his life begins again. He matures into a man who lives two lives, one in the reality of who he is and the other dominated by hauntings of what he has seen. Sleep evades him although he and Lucie are close in their marriage there are somethings, as the author says, you don’t share. They work in a studio where Lucie spends most of her time as he walks and photographs Philadelphia. They spend the off time at their mother’s house where Aunt Lavina also lives. Spiritualism and bird watching dominate the house. Suddenly his marriage is broke asunder, he is at a loss for Lucie is gone. He is there but is not. A haunted man, Martin makes seamless transitions from his real life to his dream state while awake or asleep. Martin is a man of tragedy who listens to the voices that haunt him.

Stevenson has a unique ability to develop the supporting cast in this work. The ever present mother and aunt, The Fell family who work at the studio and the interactions the complex Martin has with others in Philadelphia. During his mourning for the broken marriage he travels to the Mid-West on a photographic journey to the place his father was murdered. Stevenson provides a wide cast of supporting characters both in his journey to the Mid-West and again when he is surveying the Southwest. Native Americans, cowboys, hunters even a hermaphrodite who Martin oddly bonds with. New hauntings come to him, yet when he is returning to Philadelphia from his first trip to the Mid-West he meets Dr. Stiles and his daughter Angeline at the depot. The three travel to Philadelphia on the train as the civil war breaks out. Fell continues to manage the studio and over time his daughter Lucie is assisting him. A courtship begins between Angeline and William and they soon marry and live with Dr. Stiles. The couple remain childless and the ever patient Angeline lives with his love of the ever present first wife, Lucie, in his mind. She accepts his long term physical absence from her during his trips and walks about the city, although they as a couple also walk and go on carriage rides. There is a closeness between the two that is as bonding as is the absence.

You look worn. You look tired. It’s time. You agree that it’s time don’t you? 

Martin is a photographer of the era, always aware of the light and shadows. In The Absent, Stevenson has provided the reader with images of lights and shadows, of loss and love, of violence and peace. Of the complex nature of the mind and relationships. All of the characters come to life from the page in vivid detail in the haunted mind and life of William Wright Martin.

You can find the book here: http://rainmountainpress.com/books41.html

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