Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell 2014

Dear Friends of Eretz,

2014 was a great year for Songs of Eretz.  Last year, at this time, I made a New Year's resolution to read and present a new poem every day.  There were a few days missed, but I'm going to call that promise kept.

That resolution spawned the Poetry Review in June, which has since published the work of many poets, some of whom have impressive credentials, including:
A Former State Poet Laureate
6 Current or Former College/University Professors
An Emerson Prize Winner
A Rannu Fund Speculative Literature Award for Poetry Winner
An SFPA Elgin Chapbook Award Winner
A West Town Press Prize Winner
A Florence Khan Memorial Award Winner
A Red Ribbon Prize Winner
3 Magazine Editors
3 Pushcart Prize Nominees
A Dwarf Star Nominee

Most of the poets published in the Review have had other work published in other prestigious journals.  Many have also had poetry collections published.  And many more are up-and-coming poets whose voices are just beginning to be heard.  

The Review is going strong and here to stay with the work of many poets currently in the queue.  The Review also recently featured its first Poet of the Week, Carolyn Martin, who rapidly achieved "popular post" status from the exposure and promotion.

2015 will herald our first Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest winner.  The contest has been extended through January 15, so it is not too late to try to claim that title.  My goal is to make the contest an annual event, perhaps with guest judges, and hopefully for ever increasing amounts of prize money.

There were some sad moments this past year, such as our failed Kickstarter campaign, but we weathered them and emerged stronger.  As the year closes, I want to thank each and every one of you for your encouragement and support.

Happy New Year,

Steven Wittenberg Gordon


Monday, December 29, 2014

Poem of the Day: “Books I've Been Meaning To Read” by F. J. Bergmann

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Books I've Been Meaning To Read” by F. J. Bergmann.  Mrs. Bergmann’s work appeared previously in the Review where a brief bio may be found:

Books I've Been Meaning To Read
F. J. Bergmann

The books I've been meaning to read
cover the floor. They are meant to be 
read, someday. There are still a few 
patches of carpet showing. These are 
the books that matter, good books,
books that could show me the way. 

My husband swears if he trips on them
once more he'll ... A book can take you 
on a trip, a book is like a sailing ship.
These books are a flotilla, a fleet, 
an armada of sunken three-masters 
with their skeletonized crews, crazily 
skewed, littering the continental shelf.

They are important, they are mine, 
they are something I will get around to, 
he can get around them if he tries. I am 
trying, okay? I have not read them yet 
but when I do, everything will become 
clear and orderly. Somewhere in these
books, when I have the time to sit down 
and look through them carefully, there is
a book that will explain everything. 
That book will change my life: it will 
remedy all the deficiencies of fortune.

And it will pick up all the other books 
and put them away.

Poet’s Notes:  I worked in a used-book store (not to be confused with a used bookstore) for nearly a decade and spent far too much of my paycheck in the store itself. This was written at a time when the accumulation had gotten particularly out of hand. We have discovered that constructing a paperback-sized shelf at ceiling height all the way around the living room has freed up three bookcases--for more books, of course.

Editor’s Note:  Now here is a sentiment we bookish folk can certainly appreciate--and nicely expressed, too!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Contest Entry Deadline Extended

Many Friends of Eretz have requested an extension to the Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest deadline, citing the busy holiday season.  Your voices have been heard.  The deadline to enter (or re-enter!) the Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest has been extended through midnight CST on January 15, 2015.  See for details.

Poem of the Day: "Have You Ever Kissed a Firefly" by Sierra July

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Have You Ever Kissed a Firefly?” by Sierra July.  Ms. July is a University of Florida graduate, writer, and poet. Her fiction has appeared in Acidic Fiction and Saturday Night Reader, among other places, and is forthcoming in Belladonna Publishing's anthology Strange Little Girls. Her poetry has been featured in both Songs of Eretz venues and The Society of Classical Poets. To follow her progress, check out her website:

Have You Ever Kissed a Firefly?
Sierra July

Have you ever kissed a firefly,
And felt the heat of summertime,
Seen the sparks behind your eyes
Succumbed to your insides melting,
And dreamed you could take wing?

Tasted the nighttime air on your tongue,
Balanced the sun and moon in your hands,
So like those flitting orbs, those fireflies,
Calling to their life mates, their lifeblood,
Have you ever?

Been guided out of that darkness
When the bitter cold has set in and
Has begun to nibble, then gnaw, then saw?
Have you ever been led
Some place warm?

And knew, like those fireflies drawn together
Magnetized then linked,
That you were home?

I haven’t kissed a firely,
But I haven’t missed a thing
Not a moment of wonder
By having instead kissed you.

Poet's Notes: This was written with the thought of how love is said to make you warm and give you a glow. One of my favorite bugs is the firefly, and I always wanted to incorporate them into my work somehow. One day I realized this was the perfect way.

Editor’s Note:  What an original, lovely conceit for a love poem!  Bioluminescent! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Poem of the Day: "4 AM" by Jeremy Jusek

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “4 AM” by Jeremy Jusek.  Mr. Jusek’s work has been published previous in the Review here: where a brief bio may be found.

         4 AM
          Jeremy Jusek

The oak porch, peeling, creaks
            in tune with my knees.
            Another kind of heartbeat.
The ambassadors of morning,
            dew and mist, vanish.

Poet’s Notes:  Now that I live in Parma, a major suburb of Cleveland, I'm away from trees and surrounded by neighbors. I feel deprived of some fundamental things. Privacy. Calm weekends. Stars. There are many things I love about Cleveland, but I still feel the need to periodically capture the serenity that I miss so dearly. This is one of those attempts.

Editor’s Note:  I like the Japanese short form feel here as well as the crisp images and the metaphor about the heartbeat.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

November 2014 Issue Receives Favorable Review

"Science Fiction Poetry Spokesperson" Diane Severson Mori included the November 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine in her "Speculative Poetry Round Up" in Amazing Stories  

Amazing Stories was the world's first science fiction magazine and may be found in its new "social magazine for fans" form here:  The stated goal of this current iteration is to bring back the magazine in a form similar to what it once was.  Support this cause (it is free to do so) by going here:
The Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest
Has Entered Its Final Week!

Don't Miss Your Chance To Win

Monday, December 22, 2014

Poem of the Day: “The Boatman” by Christopher Hivner

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “The Boatman” by Christopher Hivner.  Mr. Hivner’s work has appeared previously in the Review where a brief biography may be found:

The Boatman
Christopher Hivner
Inspired by Houses of Parliament, Sunset 1903, by Claude Monet

The boatman skimmed the water
broken shafts of sunlight
buoying his craft
as he traced the shadows.

The buildings loomed
stealing the dying light
to hold for tomorrow,
their reflections
river monsters in repose.

The lapping of the water
against the hull
carried the captain
to home,
calm reassurance
he was where he
was supposed to be.

With a wink
to the ministers on shore
he prayed
they did their job
as well as
he did his.

Sun setting,
another day ending,
the boatman skimmed the water
reaching for the horizon
on the other side
of the shadows.

Poet’s Notes: I’ve always loved the silhouette of Parliament among the swirl of color in Monet’s Houses of Parliament, Sunset (one of the series is pictured). But the longer I stared at the painting I couldn’t help but wonder about the man in the boat. Who was he? Why was he on the water? The boat is small so it seemed like a fisherman’s boat or at least one belonging to a workingman of some kind. With the sun going down I saw him trying to get home to his family, passing by the impressive buildings with equal amounts of wonder and disdain.

Editor’s Note:  This is a good ekphrastic poem.  I am willing to wager that most observers of the paintings do not give much thought to the boatman, so it is interesting that Mr. Hivner chose to tell a story from the boatman's perspective.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Poem of the Day: "out of orbit" by John Reinhart

The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Poem of the Day for December 21, 2014 is "out of orbit" by John Reinhart.  Mr. Reinhart's work has appeared frequently in the Review.  He also has been published in the November 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine where a brief bio may be found

out of orbit
John Reinhart

with sullen glances
they tolerate
our indiscretions,
the flitting trees
and fickle wind,
sitting silently
in communion
with comets
shot across the sky

the stones do not
speak any more
to blighted beings
lost in motion.
They wait
and sing
their hymns
of sacred sorcery –
transforming layer
by layer
this simple rock
forgotten in the
sandy bay
of hesitant stars
and certainty

Poet’s Notes:  Rocks are great metaphors--until someone throws one through your window. And what say does the rock have in any of this? Careening some unmarked course, biding its time with more universal concerns, or orbiting patiently until the window opens, biding its time until it's time. The miracle of meaning is layered on the miracle of language, which is layered on the miracle of sound, which sounds great when the surfaces are stone, collecting their own stories for another time.

Editor’s Note:  I like what Mr. Reinhart has done here with the juxtaposition of rocks in space, the rock of earth, and the trees.  Reinhart’s thoughtful use of alliteration greatly enhances the aural quality of the poem.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Poem of the Day: “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering” by Carolyn Martin, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering” by Carolyn Martin, Poet of the Week.  A brief biography of the poet may be found here:

Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering
Carolyn Martin

It well behooves the son of Abraham
to understand the voice his father hears.
My mother learned this long ago:
that Yahweh’s laugh is always last and bears
more gifts than hearts can hold.

“Heaven has its humor,” so she claims,
and speaks again the laughter of my name.

“To worship,” was his ploy – that strong old man.
With men and donkey left a sight behind,
and ram nor thicket in our point of view,
we started on our holocaustal climb
to pay my father’s Lord his chosen due.

Naiveté is a blessing on such days.
It watched him altar wood with fire and grace,
missed the trembling in his chosen hands,
the sighing in his old man’s chosen face.
It saw the sun caress his blazing knife
and heard a voice call for the sacrifice.

“Heaven has its humor,” so they say.
(The angels laughed at last in father’s eyes.)
But still I try to grasp that chosen day,
to wash the smell of rams out of my mind,
to see the joke in flames that I survived.

“A test,” is all my father ever says.
Inside our tent my mother laughs my name.
They hold the stars and sands as their rewards.
But I, I cannot laugh. I fear unchosen fame
and the presents of my parents’ laughing Lord.

Poet’s Notes:  As a young nun and new poet in the early 70s, I tasked myself with rewriting biblical stories from a woman’s point of view. The story of Sarah and Abraham was my first successful attempt. I loved the scene where Sarah laughs in her tent when she overhears three messengers tell Abraham that he and she are going to have a child. And, I was tickled by the fact that their son Isaac was given a name that in Hebrew sounds like laughter.

This led me to “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering.” To prove his faithfulness to God, Abraham is commanded to take his only son up a mountainside and sacrifice him. While Abraham is lauded for his obedience in following these instructions, I wondered how Isaac felt about God and his father. This poem written in his voice is no laughing matter.

After reading  “Isaac” at a local temple a few years ago, a man well versed in Hebrew Scriptures informed me that, after that mountain trek, Isaac never spoke to his father again.

Editor’s Note:  This is an interesting take on the old story from the POV of Isaac.  Martin’s plays on the Hebrew meaning of Isaac's name--mocking, joyous, ironic, bitter--are well done.  “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering” was first published in Sisters Today, 1975.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Salieri, after a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, October, 1791" by Carolyn Martin, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Salieri, after a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, October, 1791” by Carolyn Martin, Poet of the Week.  A brief biography of the poet may be found here:

Poet’s Notes:  A poetry workshop assignment to watch the movie Amadeus inspired this poem. The teacher asked us to focus on the scene where Salieri sits in a balcony half-hidden by red drapes as he watches Mozart’s fiery performance. I must admit I played the famous coloratura’s aria from The Magic Flute over and over while writing this.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoyed this treatment of the subject and was definitely reminded of when I saw the film Amadeus long ago.  I strongly suggest that readers go here to cue up the coloratura’s aria and listen to it while reading the poem.  The poem was originally published in Carolyn Martin, Finding Compass (Portland, OR: Queen of Wands Press, 2011).   

Salieri, after a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute
at Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, October, 1791
Carolyn Martin
The cheap seats love the man.
Each night he lures them from slogging streets
into the pomp and pageantry of fairy tales
with music that makes the angels cry.

They love the oboes courting flutes, bassoons          
entwined in clarinets; strings outracing
trombones, trumpets, tubas, horns
toward kettledrums shuddering the boards
beneath their feet. They care not for scores
or virtuosity. They want delight—
magic doors, scenes that fly,
finales—and more, und mehr.

I hide behind red drapes high
above the crowd, and watch them watch
the note-barrage shooting from his fingertips. 
And when the coloratura soars
toward F above high C, I catch them catch
their breath before their “Bravos!”
seize the chandeliers where magic drips
from candle wax. The pulse-throb
of the aria vibrates my skin.
I want to cry. Divinity has voice.

But when the curtain falls
the deafening applause unhinges me.
“Encore! Encore!” reminds
this lesser child of God,
he’s fated second-best.

Heaven-hurt, I never could compose
so many notes across a page;
never could raise a mundane crowd
above its seats as that little man
with fire in his fingertips.