Friday, October 31, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Song of the Witches" by William Shakespeare

In keeping with the spirit of Halloween, the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day chosen for October 31, 2014 is "Song of the Witches" by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616).  This well known, spooky sonnet, perhaps made even more well known by the Hogwarts Choir in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is excerpted from Macbeth Act IV Scene 1  Happy Halloween!

Song of the Witches
(from Macbeth)
William Shakespeare

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Songs of Eretz Surpasses 100,000 Views!

Dear Friends of Eretz,

I am pleased to announce that Songs of Eretz E-zine & Poetry Review has surpassed one-hundred-thousand views in just two-and-a-half years of existence.  I give my heartfelt thanks to all of the readers, contributors, and lovers of poetry who helped us to reach this major milestone.  Now let's go for a million!

Kind regards,


Sunday, October 26, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "Chronic Meanings" by Bob Perelman

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day for October 26, 2014 is "Chronic Meanings" by Bob Perelman.  The text of the poem as well as a audio reading of it by the poet may be found here:

The poet, critic, playwright, and translator Bob Perelman (b. 1947) is a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania.  He has published numerous poetry collections and works of criticism.  His poems have been described as "disrupt[ing] sense and syntax as they search to connect body and language."  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

Perelman dedicated "Chronic Meanings" to an acquaintance whom he admired, Leland Hickman (1934 - 1991) (pictured), the editor of Temblor in the '70s and '80s.  Perelman had learned that Hickman was dying from AIDS and composed "Chronic Meanings" to be a kind of sympathy card or, in view of Hickman's terminal illness, perhaps an elegy in anticipation of his death.  Perelman submitted the poem to Hickman, and Hickman personally typeset it and published it in Temblor.  So, in a way, Hickman typeset and published his own elegy.  Reference to this and additional information about "Chronic Meanings" in Perelman's own words may be found here:

Perelman arbitrarily limits each line of the poem to five words--this is emphasized in the second line:  "Five words can say only."  As Perelman demonstrates in his reading, the poem should be read with inflection that would indicate sudden, unexpected breaks in the lines.  If poetry is narrative, then "Chronic Meanings" is narrative interrupted, just as Hickman's life was cut short.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Poem of the Day: "And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name" by John Ashbery

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Poem of the Day for October 25, 2014 is "And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name" by John Ashbery (1979) from Houseboat Days (1987).  The text of the poem may be found here:

The Pulitzer Prize winning poet, John Ashbery (b. 1927) (pictured) is widely considered to be one the greatest poets of the twentieth century.  One critic described Ashbery's poetic style as "simultaneously incomprehensible and intelligent…with a weird pulsating rhythm."  Ashbery is the author of many award-winning and influential poetry collections.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

Ut Pictura Poesis:  As with painting, poetry.  This view of poetry had a profound influence on the poets of the New York School with whom Ashbery is closely associated.  The abstract expressionist painters of the New York School, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and others, valued spontaneity and improvisation over a reflective, cerebral approach.  Reference to this and additional information about abstract expressionism may be found here:

"You can't say it that way anymore."  This is the opening line of the poem as well as a summary of its content.  Ashbery might have meant by this that the era of characterizing beauty in traditional terms is over and implies that to persist in an old school approach to the characterization of beauty is to miss that which is most beautiful perhaps entirely.

From a meta-poetic or even meta-pedagogic point of view, Ashbery here offers a poem about how to write a poem in the modern era.  The first half of the piece lists examples of what should be included in a modern poem.  The third quarter of the poem gives an example of a modern poem--a poem within a poem.  The final quarter of the poem opens with, "When you write poetry:".  The use of a colon here is critical--it makes the line mean something like, "when you go about writing a poem, you must do the following."  What follows is advice as to what to do.  The poem might just as easily have been titled "And Ars Poetica Is Her Name."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Poem of the Day: "At night Chinamen jump" by Frank O'Hara

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Poem of the Day for October 23, 2014 is "At night Chinamen jump" by Frank O'Hara.  The poem was first published in 1957 in Meditations in an Emergency.  The text of the poem may be found here: biographical information about O'Hara may be found here:
The poem is arranged in ten rhyming couplets with three feet in each line.  It reads a bit like Hickory Dickory Dock.  The choice of form is unusual for a poet known for his association with the New York School with its "I-do-this, I-do-that," style.  O'Hara may have chosen it to introduce a bit of playfulness, even irony.

The conceit of the poem is interesting.  While the citizens of China, on the other side of the world from North America, are up and about during their day, at the same time the citizens of North America may be engaged in amorous activities during their night.  So, Americans mate to the rhythm of Chinese movements.  

America was hardly on good terms with China in 1957.  We still are not, but the relationship was even more strained then.  The poem might have been a disguised effort by O'Hara to get Americans to think about China just a little differently and with less fear.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" by Bernadette Mayer

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day is "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" by Bernadette Mayer.  The text of the poem as well as an audio reading of it by the poet may be found here:

Bernadette Mayer (b. 1945) (pictured) is associated with the New York School of Poets.  Her work has been compared to that of Gertrude Stein, and a critic once characterized her style as one that "cancels the boundaries between prose and poetry."  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" may be interpreted as commentary on the perceived changes in the passage of time that occur in the life of the mother of an infant child.  "Body snatcher" is a metaphor for the baby before it is born.  "Invasion" is a metaphor for the baby's birth, "invading" the world of the new mother. 

The poem reads (and is read by the poet in the recording) in a fast but not quite frantic pace.  The use of commas, which normally would allow for pauses, somehow enhances this affect as the narrative flows from one subject to another.  Time is compressed.  There is not enough time.

The eighth line of this thirty-line poem mentions turning the clocks back for daylight savings.  This would seem to add an extra hour to the day, as the speaker muses, but instead causes only confusion.  Time is disrupted.

After her daughter is put to bed, the speaker is left with two hours before she herself must retire.  She attempts to use this time to write and to read several books at once or in rapid succession.  Time is short and precious.  And there is not enough.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poetry Review Special Feature: "The Lost" by Chrystal Berche

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "The Lost," a previously unpublished poem by Chrystal Berche.  Ms. Berche is:  a wanderer, a martial artist, a songwriter, guitarist, photographer, digital artist, and a general observer of people, animals, interesting inanimate objects and the odd weather patterns that make Iowa such a wonderful place to live. She’s written one act plays, dabbled with flash fiction, churned out some short stories, and completed a few novels but hasn’t decided what do with them. When she’s not in front of the computer, she wanders the woods, even if she has to strap on snowshoes to do it. Specializing in nothing and dabbling in everything, she’s learned to find inspiration in anything, even the last leaf clinging desperately to a dying tree.

The Lost 

What fragile place is this?
Where birds chirp and the breeze
Blows warm against my skin
Here song replaces silence
Here the darkness has yet to reach
Melancholy moods await back
Where four walls meet to form home
Taunting me with the elusiveness
Of words lost and floating
In a jangle of thoughts inside my head
Fleetingly brushing against my mind
Then fleeing to the four corners
Where I dare not poke too deep
For fear of what might spill over onto the page
Words that flow free as this river that I envy
the majesty and the mist
Would that I could remain here forever
As fixed as a boulder
With pencil and ink and paper 
Endlessly dreaming and writing the day away.

Poet’s Notes:  This is how I see the woods in which I wander, the places that call to me so much I never want to leave. The first draft of the poem was written while seated on a moss covered log, watching the sun just beginning to go down. It’s a place to which I often go, a place I hope will never be spoiled by buildings and people, loud noise, and my ever-growing town.

Editor's Note:  I love the meta aspect of this poem as well as how the judicious use of punctuation creates a sense of fragmentation that strengthens the poetic conceit.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "Lana Turner has collapsed" by Frank O'Hara

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day for October 20, 2014 is "Lana Turner has collapsed" by Frank O'Hara.  Comparison of this poem will be made to O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died."  The text of "Lana Turner has collapsed" may be found here:  Biographical information about O'Hara and an analysis of "The Day Lady Died" may be found here:

Lana Turner
"Lana Turner has collapsed" is similar in style to the elegy "The Day Lady Died."  In both poems, the speakers, presumably O'Hara, are profoundly affected by disquieting news--in one the collapse of Lana Turner, and in the other the death of Billie Holiday.  In both instances, the speakers in the poems seek to distract themselves by musing upon the quotidian events that occurred on the days that the news was learned--mundane events that have become seared into their memories because they occurred on the days of the traumas.

However, it is clear that finality of the death of Billie Holiday, as might be expected, is much more difficult for O'Hara to process than is the collapse of Lana Turner.  In the elegy, O'Hara cannot even bring himself to mention the deceased by name, except cryptically in the title ("Day" for "Holiday").  In contrast, in the poem about Lana Turner, O'Hara dispenses with a title entirely and reveals the subject of the poem in the first line; he also repeats the first line in the eleventh and again mentions Turner's name is his plea in the final line.

The degree of procrastination and avoidance in the elegy is much greater than in the poem about Lana Turner.  In the former, O'Hara recounts memories of numerous places:  the shoeshine, diner, newsstand, liquor store, tobacconist's, movie theater, and finally the night club where Billie Holiday performed.  In contrast, in the latter, O'Hara mentions only three items, two of them related.  He recalls rushing through bad weather, presumably in New York City, and how the weather in California, where Turner would have been, is usually pleasant, and further recalls that he has been to many parties.  

Finally, the elegy ends wistfully with the speaker's breath being held in awe.  The Turner poem ends frantically with the speaker screaming or pleading with all of his vocal power.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "The Day Lady Died" by Frank O'Hara

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day for October 19, 2014 is "The Day Lady Died" (1959) by Frank O'Hara (1926 - 1966) (pictured).  The text of the poem may be found here: an audio recording of O'Hara reading the poem may be found here: "The Day Lady Died" is an elegy for jazz singer Billie Holiday.  Although her name is never mentioned in the tribute, part of her name, "day," is in the title (see below for citation).  For those who would like to set the mood for reading the poem, here is a link to some of Holiday's jazz singing:

O'Hara was a member of the "New York School" of poets, which included:  John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler.  The name was borrowed from The Abstract Expressionist painters of the 1950s & 1960s with whom the poets were tightly associated and by whom they were inspired.  Reference to this and additional biographical information about O'Hara, as well as a brief analysis of "The Day Lady Died," may be found here:

The title of "The Day Lady Died" screams elegy.  However, as aforementioned, the subject of the elegy is never mentioned by name, unless one accepts the "day" in the title to refer to "HoliDAY," a stretch for anyone not in the know.  Furthermore, the poem does not hint at whose life was lost until the penultimate line, and even then, the reference is vague.  Instead, a full twenty-seven of the poem's twenty-nine lines describe a series of quotidian doings and random wanderings through New York City on the part of the speaker.  It is as though the speaker sought to avoid the sadness of the loss by procrastination and distraction; indeed, even in the end when thoughts of the loss seem to overwhelm the speaker by literally taking his breath away, even then it was too painful for the speaker to mention the deceased by name.  Not a traditional elegy to be sure--but powerful nonetheless.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "I Know a Man" by Robert Creeley

The Songs of Eretz MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day for October 18, 2014 is "I Know a Man" (c. 1954)* by Robert Creeley (1926 - 2005).  A link to the poem as well as an audio recording by the poet of it may be found here:

Robert Creeley (pictured) was associated with Black Mountain College, a school of free thinkers in North Carolina.  He was the editor of its literary journal, Black Mountain Review, and became associated with the "Black Mountain Poets," whose ranks included Denise Levertov, Ed Dorn, and Fielding Dawson.  Creeley became known for his use of "projective verse," a concept that was a significant influence on the poetry of his era.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:

In "I Know a Man," the speaker and a friend are driving in an automobile.  All full of himself, the speaker, who is the driver, sophomorically babbles platitudes to his friend about how bad the world is what they might do about it.  He finally proposes that the best thing to do would be to buy a big car, presumably for use in an epic journey in search of the real America, or to find themselves, or for no really good reason other than to escape.  

Suddenly, the friend interrupts with a frantic plea for the driver to watch where he is going.  The literal interpretation is that the driver was not paying attention to the road and was about to be in or cause a motor vehicle accident.  Metaphorically, Creeley might have been saying that in order to accomplish anything (let alone changing the world), one must first be grounded in the reality of the here and now. 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Poetry Review Special Feature: "Motifs" by Steven Mayoff

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Motifs" by Steven Mayoff.  A biography of Mr. Mayoff may be found here:

Editor's Note:  "Motifs" offers a cool jazz mix of music and sex--lovers as instruments and instruments as lovers.  Put on some Miles Davis while you read this one aloud and enjoy Mayoff's rhythmic use of alliteration and consonance and let the images emerge.  "Motifs" was first published in Epignosis Quarterly in April 2014.

Steven Mayoff

Let us improvise motifs on neck
and shoulder, in the small of the back

and behind the knee, running blind fingers
over an accordion’s buttons, coaxing

a garlicky wheeze from cracked leather,
a thin current filling the spaces (minute

pockets of eternity).

The real music exists between
the notes, a serpentine shimmer disturbs

the air. The clarinet’s reed stiffens
to life between saintly lips and confesses

all secret misgivings through a high black bell.
Let us practice etudes on cuticles of keys and soft

pedals, tongues strumming inner strings.

The bow glides across tightly-wound tendons,
a loving scrape on an open nerve.

Let us dance beneath a score of crows… ecstasy
across sky and wire and we two scarecrows, a voicing

of dry grass, hesitation and desire, pushing
the 360-degree periphery, wind-loosened borders

disturbing our air. 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem came to fruition during a poetry workshop where my instructor helped me make sense of a shapeless early draft by suggesting I break up the poem into three parts. The original title was “Musicians” and later changed to “Let Us Improvise Motifs” and now shortened to just “Motifs.”  The real music exists / between the notes… (paraphrasing Debussy) is what brings this poem home for me and inspired the more spacious line breaks. Music and seduction go hand in hand, opening the way for joy and despair, knowing the two cannot be separated.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Poetry Review Special Feature: "The Journey" by Ellen Denton

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "The Journey" by Ellen Denton.  A biography of Mrs. Denton may be found here:

The Journey 
By Ellen Denton

Hermes, you were the only god
I carried forward from my childhood’s
world of myth into the here and now,
the everyday world. It was the wings
on your feet. Doesn’t life, in its best
and worst moments, strive to soar like that?
You were my trusted travelers guide.
In nightmares I’d sometimes see you.
You would take make hand.
You would lead me safely away.

Like a light on the edge of any dark dream
aren’t you sought by many in the end?
Someone there to guide them
safely from this world into the next,
letting them know they will not be lost.

And in between where life comes from
and where it’s going, aren’t you the face
of hope for so many in their journey
as they travel the pathway between the two,

looking up;
hoping that you will appear
with exciting news
and messages from the gods?

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was inspired by someone walking into a room while carrying a Ralph’s Supermarket brown paper bag.  I'm not sure that provides any insight into my process but I thought it worth mentioning.

Editor's Note:  I like the way Mrs. Denton blends Greek mythology into the modern world here.  "The Journey" was a finalist for the PK Poetry competition and was first published on the competition's website.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Poetry Review Special Feature: "Signpost" by Steven Mayoff

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Signpost" by Steven Mayoff.  A biography of Mr. Mayoff may be found here:

Steven Mayoff
Listen to the distance of geese and guns. 

An outline of arrowhead travels directly
toward day’s revolution into night.

Its trajectory from the Great Archer’s bow
can be tracked by a call-and-response of honking

and abrupt pops weaving through the clouds’ burnt
cork fringe. A metallic hue widens the distances

between speeds (sound and light) ricocheting
off the river’s glass surface, a lone ripple

embracing stillness, breathless in anticipation
of the next salvo of firecracker scatterings.

The nasal cries of the collective signpost -- pointing
toward what cannot be imagined – reach a high

frenzy, bruising the curved air purple-pink,
and leave far behind this straggling gaggle below.

Poet’s Notes:  For me, the first part of the first line, “Listen to the distance,” says it all.  I am a city boy who has lived in the country for the past thirteen years.  Although I live quite intimately with nature, I also feel the remoteness of living in so secluded an area.  The V formation of geese seems to be pointing me to a different self experience.  The sound of guns, an imminent danger, only drives home the urgency of understanding who I am.

Editor’s Note:  This poem brings vivid images to mind, a sense of beauty and danger, and a little ironic humor at the end.  “Signpost” was first published in North Cardinal Review in February 2013.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Poetry Review Special Feature: "Carmen" by Ellen Denton

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased is present "Carmen," a previously unpublished poem by Ellen Denton, a freelance writer living in the Rocky Mountains.  Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies covering a spectrum of fiction genres.  She has a strong fondness for speculative fiction, with work appearing in Suddenly Lost in Words anthologies, a Jusanni Productions print anthology, and others, and forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction.  She was one of the shortlisted finalists for the PK International poetry competition, and has had verse that appeared in a Binnacle publication.  Her creative non-fiction has been published a number of times in Publishing Syndicate anthologies and elsewhere.
Ellen Denton

The ocean brought her in to me
the ocean took her back.

Carmen died last night. She was 96.
She had, during life, visited 42
different countries, every US state,
survived 5 separate and distinct
bouts with cancer, and had 4 children
who didn’t visit or call her. Even
on Christmas. Never

A bad word to say about anyone,
she had the spirit of a seafaring bird.
Visiting her was always like a walk
on the beach at dawn. Star-fish, shells,
and stones, wonders of the sea
left on glistening sand
by the incoming tide. 
In death, if she could tell me
one thing now, she would say:

Turn off that open faucet of inner tears, girl.
The tides of life may wash something away,
but they always bring something new in the morning.

Poet’s Notes:  Carmen was a real person.  Her indifferent children were real.  The cancers were real.  Her death was real.  She rose above it all with this amazing good humor and grace.  I only met her by chance when I was visiting someone else in a senior care center, and came back to see her many times, because no one else did.  

Some people move around in our lives like ghosts.  Carmen, even dead, is more alive to me today than many people that still walk this earth.  She was a grand lady with a child’s heart – a true spark of light gone from the world.

Editor's Note:  Elegies are often too personal and lack the universality desired for inclusion in a literary journal.  "Carmen" is an exception.  Sadly, I believe that we probably all know someone like Carmen.  It is worth giving all of us a reminder.  There are nice elderly people out there who have been all but forgotten, as Mrs. Denton's breathtaking use of enjambment between the second and third stanzas drives home.