Death by Poetry
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present a double feature by Adele Gardner: "Death by Poetry" and "Stilts." Gardner's poetry collection, Dreaming of Days in Astophel, is available from Sam's Dot Publishing. Her stories and poems have appeared in: Daily Science Fiction, Legends of the Pendragon, The Doom of Camelot, Penumbra, Scheherazade's Façade, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, and New Myths, among others. In 2013, her long poem “The Time Traveler’s Weekend” placed third in the Rhysling Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association; in 2012, her short poem, “In Translation,” placed third in the Rhyslings. Two stories and a poem earned honorable mention in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Currently cataloging librarian for a public library, she's also literary executrix for her father, Delbert R. Gardner. Please visit www.gardnercastle.com.
Death by Poetry
Death by Poetry
In Celtic lands, a poet's curse could doom a king.
Now I face my own death, at your words:
the possibility of mangled wrists
scrawling out a last verse in staccato crimson,
or a watery grave plunged deep into Lucas Creek,
the windows rolled open, my foreign car
to let the swamp suck me down,
flesh and blood swept out eventually
through Menchville Creek to join the James River.
If my mouth were filled with mud,
I wouldn't speak when you ring each night,
your beautiful voice reading poetry
you've written for your latest lover:
your latest heartbreak. You're still mine,
and every cunning word in your wise haiku
slaps me with the visceral reality
of an emotion I ought never have heard.
My face reddens with the blows,
stinging on my end of the line as I listen
to your repetition of her final words:
how you pleaded, and she still refused.
And all the while you haven't noticed that
I'm sinking past the reeds, down through the silt--
I must burst the surface--I splutter,
the words rising, bitter love and teary complaints
popping like swamp-gas to poison you,
till you scream: "Enough! No more friendship!
I have no best friend any longer!
The distinction is meaningless and childish!"
Have I been a coward then,
to die so many deaths at your pen?
I stayed silent so I could hear that voice,
soak in the emotion I thirst for.
You insist I'm the better poet, but
I own not Emily's wit to break you down
in tiny slanted lines.
I cannot scan you into seventeen syllables
that signify much more than you seem to think I feel.
I cannot get your hooks out of my heart.
Even if I pretend I don't care,
act happy, high-spirited, the way you like me--
even if I manage not to call you--
or even if you talk to me all night--
I tell you I am drowning.
I've already sunk deep into Lucas Creek,
past any hope of light or air.
Your poems were
my final breath.
When Grandpa built stilts for our presents,
He equipped them with secret suppressants:
From the alley we'd vault
To the roof, then default
To a stroll through star spangles and crescents.
We helped him, that blazing July,
As he promised us all we would fly:
Hopping signs in the street
With our new wooden feet,
We'd outrace startled birds in the sky.
Tipped with vulcanized gravity shoes,
The stilts let us break all the rules:
Soon our anti-grav swing
Topped the roof with a fling:
Flying jets served as silver stepstools.
So we set sights on our grandest dreams:
To the moon! We'd explore, marry queens!
But our jaunt past the earth
Found no place for our mirth:
Quiet Moonies don't trust rowdy teens.
It's been years since our last escapade;
You might think we love life in the shade.
But our grandkids are due
The adventures we knew:
Time to reheel the stilts Grandpa made!
Poet’s Notes on “Death by Poetry”: I wrote this for an ex-beloved with whom I remained friends for a time. We were alternately one another’s muses, critics, and strange rivals, and at times had what felt like a poetry war. He would read his latest gorgeous work, in an intimate tone that suggested the verses were meant for me. Only after I’d provided enthusiastic praise did he reveal they belonged to his new beloved.
Poet’s Notes on “Stilts”: My maternal grandfather made my brothers, who are twins, two fantastic sets of handcrafted wooden stilts for the birthday all three of them shared—a fact which seemed even more appropriate because we frequently saw, in my brothers’ twinkling blue eyes, the laughter of our mischievous, blue-eyed, Irish Grandpa, with his magical tales in which we had amazing adventures and traveled on couches to the moon and back. Riding those stilts felt like flying!
Editor’s Note: In “Death by Poetry,” Gardner creates a haunting mood of despair that is simply delicious. She also creates a good sense of place, in a local sense (Newport News) and in a more cosmic or universal sense, with her reference to the Celts--this is most nicely done.
I like to fancy myself as fairly well read, but I've honestly never seen limericks presented in the linked fashion of Gardner’s “Stilts.” How delightful! Her last stanza adds just the perfect amount of sentimentality, too, bringing the stilts from her grandfather to her as a grandparent. "Death by Poetry" and "Stilts" first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “My Purple Tie” by Marge Simon. In addition to frequent appearances of her poetry in the Songs of Eretz venues, Ms. Simon's poetry, fiction, and illustrations have appeared in publications such as Strange Horizons, Niteblade, Daily Science Fiction Magazine, Pedestal, and Dreams & Nightmares. She is a former president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) and has served as editor of Star*Line, its journal. She won the Rhysling Award for Best Long Poem in 1995. She edits a column for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Newsletter, "Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side" and serves as Chair of the board of trustees. She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award in 2010 and the Dwarf Stars Award in 2012.
In addition to her poetry, she has published two prose collections: Christina's World, Sam's Dot Publications (2008) and Like Birds in the Rain, Sam's Dot (2007). She was awarded the Bram Stoker for Best Poetry Collection twice (2007 & 2012). Both of her 2011 poetry collections, Unearthly Delights and The Mad Hattery were Stoker finalists. Elektrik Milk Bath Press published a collection with Sandy DeLuca, Dangerous Dreams, in 2013. She is an active member in the HWA, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and SFPA. Find out more about Ms. Simon at www.margesimon.com.
A crowd of flies
haunts the drawing room.
Brown spots on peaches
in a room of scorched music
and uncommon speech.
She admits she ran off with me
for my teeth and my purple tie.
A woman always bends
toward a strong man, she says.
I grip the glass too tightly.
Poor you, she says, ministering
to my wound with tweezers
and a handkerchief of tears.
The skin around her eyes
like cracks in Wedgewood china,
so many lifts and still she’s down.
I’ll paint her in the nude,
careful to erase the years.
It wasn’t a dream,
her dusky violets dying,
all bitterroot and weed.
Is it anyone’s fault, after all,
her fantasies inside a story
with somebody else’s name?
So I suspend my disbelief
when she comes to fill my glass
in this world of flagrant lies,
where the canvas is empty
but the paint is real.
Poet’s Notes: Have you ever been with a crowd of unbearable bores? People who are way too full of themselves, living in their own little world of pretense, chatter, and backstabbing? That's the place the guy who has the purple tie and good teeth finds himself. Her being older didn't matter. She's well off, and he needed a woman with money. This poem explores what he really thinks of it all. Poor guy. Will he leave her?
Editor’s Note: My father (may his memory be a blessing), who was quite dashing in his day, used to talk about “the painted whore,” a colorful epithet that he employed to describe the many women who flirted with him at parties, for he had eyes only for his wife, my mother. This poem reminded me of my Dad, although his ultimate response to “the paint” on his would-be mistresses was the opposite of that of the man with the purple tie.
“My Purple Tie” first appeared in Pedestal in 2005 and was reprinted in Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine in January 2014. The graphic that accompanies today’s feature is an original illustration by the poet.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “God: The divine apostrophe” by James Frederick William Rowe. Mr. Rowe is an author and poet out of Brooklyn, New York, with works appearing in: Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Big Pulp, Tales of the Talisman, Bete Noire, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, as well as frequent appearances in the Songs of Eretz venues. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy, is an adjunct professor in the CUNY system, and works in a variety of freelance positions. Contact him at http://jamesfwrowe.wordpress.com.
Contracting space and time
Drawing finite to infinite
James Frederick William Rowe
Poet’s Notes: This poem has its roots on the subway and in conversation with Gaby Kappes. I was riding along the elevated tracks of the Culver Viaduct on the F-Line in Brooklyn while texting her my displeasure of how it is viewed as anachronistic to employ apostrophes to indicate a dropped syllable in words ending with –ed. I had been reading my collection of Keats, and it was his habit to mark all words ending in –ed that he intended to be read without –ed being its own syllable with a 'd instead of -ed. As I have written poems where the pronunciation of words ending in –ed in one way v. the other is necessary for the meter, I dubbed the apostrophe divine while I complained about how it would be fruitless to compose poems with such an archaic usage of the apostrophe. The end result was that—though I don't use a single apostrophe in the poem—my complaint inspired me to write a poem uniting the concept of the apostrophe to God.
The original version of this poem was much longer; however, upon suggestion of Dr. Gordon, I decided to pare it down to the first three lines, and make it what I dubbed an "inverted heterodox haiku" of 8-6-8. The theme of the poem is the distilled essence of the longer version, where God is viewed as that which can contract the otherwise unbridgeable gap of the finite and infinite, just as the apostrophe contracts words. Being both transcendent and imminent, God has it within Him to do what cannot otherwise be done in this regard. It also seems somehow fitting that a poet and philosopher would conceive of God as a punctuation mark.
Editor’s Note: In my role as an editor, I have read many good poems that contain great poems within them. Such was the case, in my opinion, with Mr. Rowe’s original poem. The twelve words printed here, comprising the opening three lines of the original, contain a distilled, crystallized message with a profound impact and a powerful, electrifying voice.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Jefferson Turnip” by Ross Balcom. Mr. Balcom is a counselor living in southern California. In addition to regular appearances in the Songs of Eretz venues, Mr. Balcom’s poems have appeared in Beyond Centauri, inkscrawl, Scifaikuest, Star*Line, Tigershark, and other publications. Currently, his favorite poets are John Ashbery, Lo Fu, and Michael McClure. In addition to poetry, his interests include parapsychology, hypnosis, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
He appeared in the gloom
of the abandoned farmhouse.
Slender, sombre, pale,
a boy in his early teens,
semi-transparent, a ghost.
He spoke but once:
"My name is Jefferson Turnip,"
and then he vanished.
left a crushing weight
in the night-dark room.
I fell to my knees
and wept; long, long
and sorrowfully, I wept.
Boys are the heralds of life;
they should not die.
Had I the power, I would restore
dead boys to life, would grant them
an eternity of sunlit fields and playgrounds.
This boy, Jefferson Turnip,
a child of the soil, a rural splash
of wonder, his voice like a rainbow
arching over the fields, his laughter
bright with the promise of
still greater joy, this boy
whose home is the world,
the one true world, this boy
the world's salvation, a sun-bright
heart embracing all...
...this boy I would call my own.
Alas, the ghost I saw
was only the flickering afterglow
of what once so brightly shone.
Wan, dim spectre, treading
hallowed dust and mouse droppings,
a stranger in his own abode...
He honored me, a mere interloper,
with his presence, breaking and entering
my heart, rousing paternal waters.
And my tears profusely flowed.
Lord God, they flowed.
I see him dead,
laid in a box,
returned to the soil.
I pray eternal day
Bless you, Jefferson Turnip,
bless you forever.
You gifted me
with your presence,
you made yourself known.
Though but a ghost,
you have a face and a name,
and that face and that name
belong to a boy who,
long ago, was loved.
Poet’s Notes: I had a dream in which I encountered a ghostly boy in an abandoned farmhouse. He said, "My name is Jefferson Turnip," and then he disappeared. I was inspired to write this poem.
Since writing the poem, Jefferson Turnip seems increasingly like a real person/presence to me. Maybe we are all "authored" into being. There is nothing mightier than the pen.
Editor’s Note: I hear echoes of Whitman and Poe here, but this poem is still one hundred percent Balcom. “Jefferson Turnip” first appeared (in poem form) in the May 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Audition” by Guy Belleranti. Mr. Belleranti writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, puzzles, and humor for adults and children. He’s been published in: Woman’s World, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Liquid Imagination, Big Pulp, The Saturday Evening Post, Scifaikuest, Highlights for Children, Every Day Poets and many other places. Two of his flash mysteries were nominated for Derringer awards, and he has won cash awards in many writing contests. His website is www.guybelleranti.com/.
Looking for a job
in a haunted house
he put on his most ferocious face.
But people only laughed.
So he put on big shoes,
a round red nose
and a wild wig of ratty hair
and became a clown.
No one laughed then.
Poet’s Notes: “Audition” came about when I was thinking about Halloween, haunted houses, and all the costumes that go with them. My thoughts continued on to one common year-round costumed performer, the clown. I thought of people’s different reactions to clowns. Some think they’re funny. Others, however, find them creepy and scary.
Editor’s Note: The last line of this poem, deliberately set apart from the preceding four-line stanzas, slammed the horror right into my marrow. I envisioned The Joker laughing maniacally or smiling seductively. Brrrr! “Audition” was first published in the anthology Anomalous Appetites in 2009 and reprinted in Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine in February 2014.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Hitchhiker to Anywhere” by Neil Eillman. More than 1,000 of Mr. Ellman’s poems have appeared in journals throughout the world. He was nominated for a Rhysling Award, and for Pushcart Prizes twice, and for Best of the Net twice.
(after graffiti art by Banksy)
by Neil Ellman
Anywhere is where
anywhere but here
where I am
where I was.
to find my soul
to be born again
no matter which
I’ll share the drive.
Carry my spirit
In the passenger seat
to the other side
is another place
where I can live
another life other than
the life I lead
or die again
in any other place
where I am now
Poet’s Notes: Ekphrastic poetry involves an effort to respond to and interact with a visual image. Just how far the poet should deviate from the original image remains somewhat controversial. My poem, "Hitchhiker to Anywhere," is closely related to the Banksy image itself, which is of Charles Manson holding a placard reading "Anywhere." While the graffiti was still in existence, efforts were made to change the placard to read "Nowhere," which was certainly a legitimate response. Mine is legitimate as well, but we probably will never know because of the secretiveness of the artist.
Editor’s Note: The Kerouac-ian, hippy vibe of this poem is such fun in spite of the art that inspired it.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “After Hearing Frost at Eleven” by Delbert R. Gardner. A veteran of World War II, Dr. Delbert R. Gardner taught English literature and creative writing for Keuka College. Recent Science Fiction/Fantasy publications include: a story in Lamplight, and poetry in Star*Line, Goblin Fruit, the 2010 and 2009 Rhysling Award Anthologies, and Tales of the Talisman. Over forty of Dr. Gardner's poems and stories have appeared in publications such as: The Literary Review, Poetry Digest, American Poetry Magazine, Provincetown Review, and Christian Science Monitor, among others. His nonfiction credits include the book An "Idle Singer" and His Audience: A Study of William Morris's Poetic Reputation in England, 1858-1900. Learn more at www.gardnercastle.com.
After Hearing Frost at Eleven
Delbert R. Gardner
They played an album of the poet reading
Some of his works--"The Death of the Hired Man,"
"The Road Not Taken," "Birches," "Mending Wall,"
And more. They smiled at his humanity,
Nodded at insight, and laughed at his wit.
The reading ended. "Voila!" said the man.
"An entertainer for when the lamp is lit!"
"An entertainer?" echoed his wife. "That's not
The way I see him. He's a poet who shares
His view of life, his feeling, and his thought."
"He's what you say, but an entertainer too--
Or 'storyteller' might be a better word.
Cut from the same cloth as the ancient bard,
But sewn in a different style to suit our day,
With greater emphasis on work than war.
If his muse had picked heroic heights to soar,
He could have plied his trade as well, I'd say,
Back when bards were welcomed royally
To beguile the time and inspire the citizenry."
The woman laughed: "Imagine sitting through
Long winter nights just listening to a bard
Chant through the Iliad or the Odyssey!
How would they concentrate without falling asleep?"
The man said, "Oh, they'd stay awake, all right.
It did for them what movies or TV
Will do for us when they are up to snuff--
As they are at times, although not often enough.
They'd forget their common worldly needs,
Like having dry, warm shelter and getting food,
And clothing to protect them and adorn--"
"Or how," she said, "to educate their brood."
"And other unromantic things," he said.
"They'd lose themselves in following the deeds
Of Odysseus, wherever he would roam.
His aspirations and adventures they would share,
Enjoy the titillation of each affair,
But exult with him upon his coming home
To ever-faithful Penelope at last."
"Now that's a myth!" she said. "A wife so steadfast
Doubts of her man would never enter her head;
She'd never believe he could be dead--or untrue.
What woman would wait like that for twenty years?"
"An ideal, of course," he answered: "we wouldn't ask
A living wife to fend off men that long--
It seems a more than Herculean task!--
But in that setting she's believable;
There's a poetic truth about her--beauty, too.
But Frost, I'm sure, would have understood."
She pondered that. "Yes, I think he would."
Commentary by Adele Gardner, literary executor for her father, Delbert R. Gardner: Every night after putting us to bed, my parents would sit together for an hour or so enjoying one another's company, talking, listening to jazz, and sharing their lives. Though they often spoke about us, one of the things they loved best to share was literature. Dad had been a college English professor, and Mom was once his creative writing student (she asked him out after she graduated). They often read to each other, and to us (I especially loved those rare occasions when Dad would read his own poetry).
While pursuing my master's in English literature, I found a recording of Robert Frost at the library. Dad loved Frost, and would often quote from his poems. We were all excited to have this chance to hear the poet read his own work. Dad told me how much he and Mom were enjoying listening to Frost in the evenings--long evenings of "us time," now that we kids were grown. Dad loved this special time with Mom that continued unbroken throughout the years, and I believe he incorporated many of these evenings past and present when sketching this tribute poem--a tribute both to Frost, and to my mother, Marilyn H. Gardner, who was "ever-faithful Penelope" in his mind, and no myth!
Editor's Note: I like the back-and-forth debate, reminiscent of some scenes from the Iliad, and the adroitly executed back-and-forth between free and Shakespearean verse. “After Hearing Frost at Eleven” was first published (posthumously) in the November 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.