Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review of "Like Him" by Aaron Smith

"Like Him" by Aaron Smith, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was offered by's Poem-A-Day on October 31, 2013.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:

In this prose poem of twenty or twenty-one lines (there is one short line that may have been an artifact of space considerations), the speaker (identified as the poet in the poet's notes) rants about how his father never liked him and how he never could be the son his father wanted.  There is a universal theme that addresses the lasting scars inflicted upon children whose parents refuse to accept them for whom and what they are rather than for whom or what they want them to be.  The poem ends on a bitter note with the speaker "talking down" to his less educated father.  It appears the only lesson that the father taught his son was how to "…fight like his father, like him, like men: / the meanest guy wins, don't ever apologize."  What a sad legacy--but all too common, I fear.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review of "A Conceit" by Rae Armantrout

"A Conceit" by Rae Armantrout was offered by's Poem-A-Day on October 30, 2013.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:

Rae Armantrout (b. 1947) won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for her book of poems entitled Versed.  She has published numerous additional volumes of poetry, and her poems have been anthologized widely.  She is Professor of Poetry and Poetics at the University of California, San Diego.  A detailed biography may be found here:

The poem is divided into three sections, and a play on the various meanings of "vacuum" is found in each.  The first section consists of the inane (or vacuous) banter of television news anchors.  In the second section, the concept of "vacuous self-absorption" arises.

The poem closes by comparing conceit to "the vacuum energy."  The poet reveals in her notes that this refers to dark matter, whose property of repulsion is thought to be the reason for the universe's expansion.  "Repulsion" may also perhaps be read as "repellent," which brings the poem back to the repulsive antics of the anchors in the first section.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review of "War Rug" by Henri Cole

"War Rug" by Henri Cole was offered by's Poem-A-Day on October 29, 2013.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:

Henri Cole (b. 1956) has published numerous books of poetry, taught at several prestigious colleges and universities, and is the recipient of many awards and fellowships.  A detailed biography may be found here:

The poet reveals in his notes that over the past generation, the patterns woven into Afghan rugs have shifted from traditional animals and people to depictions of the modern weapons of war.  The poem ends with a chilling scene of an Afghan boy perhaps aiming a rifle, perhaps playing with a dog, or perhaps seconds from being shot.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review of "The Bride Tree Can't Be Read" by Brenda Hillman

"The Bride Tree Can't Be Read" by Brenda Hillman was offered by's Poem-A-Day on October 28, 2013.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:

Brenda Hillman (b. 1951) holds the Olivia Filippi Chair in Poetry at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.  She is the author of numerous volumes of poetry and winner of many awards, most recently  the Academy of American Poets Fellowship.  Critics have described her poetry as "eclectic and mercurial."  A detailed biography may be found here:

I agree with the critics who describe Mrs. Hillman's work as "eclectic and mercurial" and admit that I find "The Bride" difficult to understand.  However, I'll take a stab at it, stanza by stanza.  There are four stanzas of six lines each.

The first stanza introduces the "bride tree" metaphor.  It puts down roots, yet it is its branches that reach "the planet heart."  This may mean that the longing/urge/drive to find a mate is universal among all living things.

The second stanza ends with "the ambulance of art."  What a nice turn of phrase!  It may mean that art (poetry) has the ability to capture the mysteries of life.

The third stanza refers again to the metaphor of the bride tree with its use of the words "dress" (bridal gown) and "tree in the dream you wore."

The final stanza introduces "rhizomes," spreading and presumably giving off shoots at intervals.  Perhaps this is a metaphor for the inter-connectiveness of all life.

Review of a selection from "Oracles for Youth" by Caroline Gilman

A selection from "Oracles for Youth" by Caroline Gilman (1794 - 1888) was offered by's Poem-A-Day on October 27, 2013.  A link to the piece may be found here:

According to the editor's notes, Mrs. Gilman was fond of fortune-telling games.  This selection reads like so many fortune cookies messages, only in rhyming couplets often without attention to rhythm.  Interestingly, not all of the fortunes are good.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review of "The Clouded Morning" by Jones Very

"The Clouded Morning" by Jones Very (1813 - 1880) was offered by's Poem-A-Day on October 26, 2013. A link to the poem may be found here:

Due to the nature of his poetry, Jones Very was expelled from Harvard and committed to an insane asylum from 1834 to 1839.  Ralph Waldo Emerson befriended him and helped him publish his poetry.  Mr. Very is associated with the American Transcendentalist movement.

The particular poem of Very's chosen by Poem-A-Day appears to be a classical Shakespearian sonnet, a form for which Very was known.  The poem describes the coming of morning on a foggy day in vivid detail and lyric language.

New Poem: "Wake Up, America!"

"Wake Up, America!" is technically not a new poem.  I wrote it in December of 2009 when I was apparently feeling betrayed by the violations of the Constitution of the United States that were occurring (and, sadly, continue to occur).  The poem is a ballad of five quatrains that laments what TV's Andy Levy calls "the pussification of America."

I submitted the ballad as a "letter to the editor" of the Kansas City Star back when I originally composed it.  The Star declined to publish it.  I'm not sure why I then decided to file it without ever attempting to market it further.

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Poem: "The Ambassador"

 Another poem in my "A Wave of Poems" collection:  A satirical window into the illogical logistics of the military.  There's the right way, the wrong way, and then there's the military way.