Friday, July 31, 2015

The Annual Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest Approaches

The 2016 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest 
September 1 to October 15, 2015
The Winner Will Receive a

Contest Guidelines:

Special Guest Judge:  Former Oklahoma State Poet Laureate Carol Hamilton 
Find out more about Carol Hamilton here and by following Songs of Eretz Poetry Review in August, which will feature Ms. Hamilton as the Poet of the Month.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review of Dragonslayer by William King

I indulged in the guilty pleasure of reading Dragonslayer by William King, the fourth Gotrek & Felix novel, first published by Black Library in 2000.  The novel was originally available as a singleton through Black Library, and then became available as the first novel in the Second Omnibus Warhammer edition with the sequels Beastslayer and Vampireslayer under the same cover.  Sadly, the book is out of print, but used copies in good condition may be obtained through Amazon.  I paid about $17 for my copy of the three novel Second Omnibus edition through Amazon, shipping included.

Fans of the first three Gotrek & Felix novels as well fans of The Hobbit will enjoy Dragonslayer.  The general plot is quite similar to There & Back Again, although the quality of the writing is more summer pulp than high brow traditional fantasy Oxford professor.  I lost count of how many dwarfs populate the pages, but the star remains Gotrek son of Gurni, an avowed "Slayer," oath bound to seek out a glorious death in battle to atone for an unnamed dishonor.  In place of the reluctant Bilbo, there is the equally reluctant happy hunter and poet warrior Felix Jaeger, oath bound to be the chronicler of Gotrek's eventual death.  There is even an interesting wizard, though he is no Gandalf.  The book ends with a battle similar to the Battle of Five Armies, though in Dragonslayer the armies total only three.

Unlike The Hobbit, there is a little bit of romance involving Felix and a noblewoman warrior--an annoying bit of romance that did not do much to enhance or advance the plot.  Also unlike The Hobbit, King adds a little steampunk to the traditional fantasy courtesy of an interesting, Scotty-from-Star-Trek-like dwarf engineer, complete with an outrageous Scottish accent, who introduces black powder bombs, gatling guns, gyrocopters, and a dirigible airship into the mix.  King's description of a mid-air battle between the airship and the dragon alone is worth the price of the omnibus.

While the plot compares with Tolkien's, the method of storytelling compares with George R. R. Martin's. Like Martin, King tells his tale from the points of view of all of the major characters and some of the minor ones in turns, occasionally devoting a chapter to a single character's POV as Martin does, but most often devoting a page or two or even just a paragraph to one character before moving on to the next.  King does a good job with this.  The storyline is not disrupted and remains easy to follow.  I particularly enjoyed the points of view of the villains--almost enough to hope they would succeed in foiling the heroes.

Dragonslayer is a novel that I would recommend to any fan of traditional fantasy looking for a quick, enjoyable, good summer read.  While there is much that is familiar in terms of plot and characters, the familiarity is comforting rather than annoying, and there is enough unique material to keep fantasy fans turning the pages. Try reading it at the beach or in a comfy chair in a poorly lit room with a flagon of ale or, if you prefer, a bucket of vodka.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review of Dwarf Stars 2015 Edited by John Amen

The back cover of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) anthology Dwarf Stars 2015 boasts that contained within it is "the best very short speculative poetry of the prior year."  Mr. Amen's introduction promises "an impressive range of voices and content."  The inside cover explains that the anthology is made up of a selection of poems of ten lines or less (presumably selected by the editor) nominated by the members of the SFPA, and that one of the poems will be voted by the membership to receive the Dwarf Stars Award.

Sadly, the "anthology" contains only fifty-three poems.  Each poem averages about six lines, making for a total of about 300 lines of poetry--hardly "an impressive range of content."  As for "an impressive range of voices," only forty-three poets are represented, with the majority of those being tired, old, familiar ones.

This is not to say that there are not any good poems in the publication.  I found about half a dozen memorable scifaiku, a few thought-provoking science fiction pieces, and even three poems with a little humor in them that made me smile.  However, the chapbook (let's call it what it is, shall we?) did not live up to my expectations nor to its own self proclaimed hype.

The reasons for my disappointment with the chapbook may stem from the facts that membership in the SFPA is small--only about 200 members only a fraction of whom are active--and, more importantly, based on interest rather than merit.  Unlike the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), which extends the honor and privilege of membership only to those authors who have proven themselves worthy by being paid for their work by a certain number of recognized professional venues, the SFPA requires only a paid membership fee of $30 to join.

There is much that is good about the SFPA.  Its quarterly journal, Star*Line, provides a legitimate and prestigious paid venue for speculative poetry, and the organization sponsors a fun yearly speculative poetry contest open to members and non-members alike.  However, Dwarf Stars 2015 is proof that the SFPA needs to stop purporting to be the or even an authority on speculative poetry, and that the Dwarf Stars Award is a dubious honor at best.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Monday, July 27, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Our Neighbors” by Irena Pasvinter

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Our Neighbors” by Irena Pasvinter.  A biography of the poet may be found here:

Our Neighbors
Irena Pasvinter

In the world of swollen egos
In the land of crumpled hearts
People like to talk in riddles,
Splitting nonsense into parts.

Empty notions are in fashion
In the time of stifled cries,
And the highest paid profession
Is the one that tells most lies.

If they read these simple lines
In this land of fat-free fat,
They would say with winks and smiles:
Our neighbors are just like that.

Poet’s Notes:  “Our Neighbors” is a direct product of gloomy mood, which usually accompanies my exposure to a daily dosage of political news.

Editor’s Note:  I like how the poet uses the ballad form to make her point about the quality of today’s politicians and politics.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Embark” by Kaitlyn Frazier

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Embark” by Kaitlyn Frazier. A brief biography of the poet may be found here:

Kaitlyn Frazier

When darkness wakes and breaks upon thy face,
Lie still; think not of life’s tepid wastes.
Instead, hold fast to Nature’s treasured grace,
Explore the grounds of Fancy, gain a taste.

For there are things that death cannot replace,
And oft regrets are what our thoughts retrace.
So, let us yield to what is dear, embrace;
Cast folly to the winds and cease to chase.

Gladness in and out is the gift of space,
Stray not from thine own solace.
In order to be happy, one must praise
The cloth fabricated from thine own lace.

Embark on life and love’s true mission, race
Onward and happ’ly to long-life’s last place.

Poet’s Notes: “Embark” was meant to be a “seize the day” type of piece, inspired in part by “To His Coy Mistress” but with a depressing or dark undercurrent. That said, people may interpret the poem anyway they wish, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy poetry so much--the ambiguity of it can lead readers to various outcomes or possibilities.

Editor’s Note: The first line contains a nice inner rhyme--a strong beginning to this lovely sonnet. I like the way the poet varies the rhythm throughout--consistently inconsistent instead of strict iambic pentameter (which would have been boring)--while keeping the rhyme scheme constant (Ax14).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Poem of the Day: “All the Way Out Here” by Kaitlyn Frazier

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “All the Way Out Here” by Kaitlyn Frazier. Ms. Frazier was born and raised in Florence, Alabama and graduated from Central High School. Her senior year, she was awarded an honorable mention in the North Alabama Renaissance Sonnet Writing Contest for her poem, “Old One,” which was later published in the Lauderdale County literary magazine Sweet Inspirations. Her poetry has also appeared in: Belle Reve Literary Journal, Belleville Park Pages, Corner Club Press, and Poetry Pacific. Ms. Frazier is currently a nineteen-year-old mother and sophomore at Northwest-Shoals Community College where she aspires to be an English major. 

All the Way Out Here
Kaitlyn Frazier

My view from the porch
Includes a pasture with a fence
Spread out; ember grass sways; fiery torches
Ideas of leaving flit by with pretense.

Woe, that everyone could view things as I,
When here one is overcome with peace.
Who would want to leave,
This porch where leaves blot out the sky
Shaded in refuge and worldly release?

The cowbirds and chickadees warble away,
The dogs chase rabbits through the torch grass.
‘tis amusing to watch them leap and bark,
In such a careless yet animated way.

Rarely does a car trespass
The road; the road in which
My house and porch comfortably abode.
I’m sure these drivers pass by
And think, ‘Boy, aren’t they queer?’
For all heads turn and gaze at the road,
When the hum of a car sidles by this place,
All the way out here.

Poet’s Notes:  Of course, this piece was actually written on my front porch. I am a southern girl from a small town of Cloverdale, Alabama, and front-porch-sittin’ is important, especially on hot summer days. The setting is a description of my home place, and the dogs that chase rabbits are my mutts that we have adopted over the years. Plus, the rabbits still have a warren beside our driveway, which I find remarkable since our deceased Oliver annihilated at least three rabbits a day continuously. Needless to say he was fat.

One thing that I had to include in this poem is the fact that if you are southern and hardly anyone lives on your road, then literally every single car that passes by, you absolutely have to look at it. One, it’s a small town, so you may know who it is; two, humans are naturally curious and have to look at anything that moves. To me, the last stanza is sort of an inside joke, because my family and I are notorious for stopping whatever activity and gawking at the passing vehicle; then we look at each other, realize what we just did, and laugh.

Editor’s Note:  There is strong stuff here, particularly the intricate and beautiful rhyme scheme. The poet’s play on "leave" and "leaves" in the second stanza is inspired, as is her choice of "torches" in the first stanza followed by "torch" in the third. Her use of "road" three times in the final stanza, rhyming with "abode," causes one to think of roads leading to and away from home--a nice image.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Poem of the Day: “In Vino Veritas” by Irena Pasvinter

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “In Vino Veritas” by Irena Pasvinter.  A biography of the poet may be found here:

In Vino Veritas
Irena Pasvinter

I don’t care about terroir, fruit flavors
and mineral notes. Not today. Just pour
a glass to the rim. Length, body, complexity,
texture and structure — forget them. I’ll not
see, swirl, smell, sip and savor — I’ll gulp
the ruby blood of the earth, greedy for its
hearty warmth to melt the ice of grief
in my veins, to wrap its soft cocoon
of fog around my burning  brain.
Let’s drink for the  day when
beneath the canvas of
quiet joy we’ll be
able again
to see,
the spell of terroir,
hints of spice and mineral notes.

Poet’s Notes:  The more I find out about wine the more it fascinates me.  Each glass of quality wine tells a unique story about place, people, and time. “In Vino Veritas” is an attempt to emulate this storytelling essence of a wine glass in form and in content. 

Editor’s Note:  I love the word-painting here!  I also enjoy the way the poet employs the language of wine tasting to create an earthy, lusty, live-for-today kind of feel.  “In Vino Veritas” was first published in Every Day Poets.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Another Prophet” by Irena Pasvinter

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Another Prophet” by Irena Pasvinter.  Ms. Pasvinter was born in a country no longer found on maps in a town called Gomel, which in time became uncomfortably close to Chernobyl.  She studied electrical engineering in Moscow and returned home with a Master’s degree.  In 1994 she moved to Israel, where she converted into a software engineer and infiltrated the haven of local hi-tech.  

Pasvinter’s stories and poems have appeared in numerous online magazines including:  Every Day Poets, Every Day Fiction, Bartleby Snopes, Madswirl, Camroc Press, Fiction 365, Fiction on the Web, and many others, as well as in print in Poetry Quarterly and other venues.  Her poem "Psalm 3.14159..." (first published in Postcard Poems & Prose) was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Pasvinter owes her rich intellectual life to steady traffic jams in the Tel Aviv area; they allow her to consume lots of audio books, lectures, and foreign language courses.  She is currently working on her first novel.  To find out more about her literary adventures, visit

Another Prophet
Irena Pasvinter

He is spitting out the words of God
Through the fence of his rotten teeth.
His haggard body is tied in a knot,
Tangled beard is plastered with grease.

Just another prophet with cackling laugh,
Poor showman and lousy crook,
Lonely madman, sadly not mad enough
For the plot of the Holy Book.

In his youth he preached forgiveness and love,
Walked on puddles and acted odd,
But no traitor cared for him. It's tough
To be sold as the Son of God.

Now he preaches hatred, his lips are sealed
With white foam of ending days,
But at least his people will not be killed
To glorify him and his ways.

Poet’s Notes:  Human history is overpopulated with people claiming to be messiahs, prophets, and other kinds of divine representatives. Some of them gained immortality by making it into sacred books; others were even more successful and founded influential religions; while the less prominent quickly went out of fashion, often not without painful consequences.

As with any area of human activity, there must have been numerous prophets who were hopelessly bad at pursuing their careers. “Another Prophet” was born out of an attempt to imagine such a second-rate prophet at the end of his life. One day a line popped into my mind, and I immediately recognized it as the first line of the prophet’s poem. Its rhythm suggested the ensuing lines would not mind rhyming, which they did, in due course, in spite of the widespread discrimination against rhyming poetry in the modern poetic world.

Editor’s Note:  This one reminds me a bit of a scene from Monty Python's The Life of Brian, a satire that really speaks to me and that would, if re-released, especially resonate today.  The last stanza nicely summarizes how Christianity has been perverted to justify anti-Semitism and, though less of a direct analogy, how Islam has been used to justify terror and jihad.  Sadly, the topic is so timely that I considered featuring “Another Prophet” as a "current events poem."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Demon’s Whisper: Morningstar” by Paul Edward Costa

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Demon’s Whisper:  Morningstar” by Paul Edward Costa.  Mr. Costa has previously published poetry, fiction and non-fiction in:  Timber Journal, Yesteryear Fiction, Entropy, Thrice Fiction, Emerge Literary Journal, The J.J. Outre Review, Squawk Back, The Eunoia Review, and Diaspora Dialogues' webzine Shorthand.  He also has work forthcoming in The Bookends Review.

Costa’s areas of interest are:  illusion/reality, minimalism, surrealism, genre fiction, weird fiction, the grotesque, and the absurd.  He holds a Specialized Honors BA in History and a BA in Education from York University.  He is a writer and artist member at Night and Day Studios in Brampton, Canada and teaches high school English with the Peel District School Board.

Demon’s Whisper:  Morningstar
Paul Edward Costa

The Elfsage erased daydreams
with the truth of the trees’
                                 fluttering fingertips:

In the ancient lore
of the Morningstar Groves,
(where the tallest whitewood trees
                      reach high into the sky,
                      bending in blustery winds)
elusive sprites
move with swift elegance
in the upper regions of the whitewoods
                                           where silver leafed branches grow so thin
that feet frequently fail
in their attempted ascents
                             of the delicate branches,
                             swaying like angel breath’s
                                                      many stalks
in the most vertical nether regions of the western woods
                                                            high above
    cottages and decaying Elven mansions
                                                            high above
    the tired, wandering sentinels
    and the sapphire sparkling of the forest floor
    in a realm occupied only by birds
                                     and the thoughts of quarantined Elves
    gazing up
    out the windows of cottages with smoking chimneys
    picturing in their mind’s eye
             that where patterns
             of silver leafed branches run out
    and become thin fluttering fingertips,
           the sprites with sapphire eyes leap nimbly
                       from branch to branch
                      while they spin and sometimes kiss
                      like evasive thoughts far above
                      the dangerously seductive song
of the ground.

The last prayers of those perishing
                                        from the Sapphire Plague
land like condor vultures on the shoulders of the Sprites

     before slipping off into disregard and dissolution… 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem, written with oral recitation in mind, was first read live at an open mic/gallery showing at Night and Day Studios ( in Brampton, Ontario, Canada in spring 2015. "Demon's Whisper: Morningstar" is part of a larger mythology of work; two short stories, two novellas and one other poem further explore this world. With this piece I wanted to invoke the feeling of old narrative verse sagas, but with free verse and a contemporary fragmented quality (like scraps of writings from a lost civilization).

Editor’s Note:  Costa transports me into an amazing, ethereal, mystical world of elves and sprites and a sapphire plague.  I want to hear more of the lore of this world from the Elfsage.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Under the gazebo’s roof” by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Under the gazebo’s roof” by David C. Kopaska-Merkel.  Dr. Kopaska-Merkel studies the diverse part of the Earth called Alabama. He belongs to the Ganz tribe of the Glass folk, who wander the land in search of their lost transparency.

Kopaska-Merkel has written myriads of poems, stories, and essays since the ‘70s. His writing has appeared in Asimov'sStrange HorizonsNight Cry, and scores of other venues. He won the Rhysling Award (Science Fiction Poetry Association) for best long poem in 2006 for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. He has written twenty-three books, of which the latest is Luminous Worlds, a collection of dark poetry from Dark Regions Kopaska-Merkel has edited Dreams & Nightmares magazine since 1986. DN website @DavidKM on twitter.

Under the gazebo's roof
David C. Kopaska-Merkel
In my dream,
The elbows of my coat are eaten out,
But no one seems to notice the ragged holes.
The guests dip their faces into the tepid punch;
They come up pink and dripping, licking their lips.
I will leave the party soon.

Later, I sit in the ruined gazebo, playing cards.
“In the desert,” begins the iguana, “socialists are rare.”
I think of solitude and heat,
While rain spatters weathered planks, my hair, my shoulders,
The iguana's cracked and dusty hide.
In my dream, the house is silent now;
The party will be over soon.

Like endolithic vikings who have forgotten even their names,
The iguana and I sit, motionless, under the gazebo's roof.
Our thoughts leach out like water-soluble dye and
Soak into the floor.

Poet’s Notes:  In my mind this poem relates to my doctoral adviser and field research on trilobites in western Utah. This despite the poem's near-total transformation into an homage to Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novels and other psychedelic SF I read back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the Lewis Carroll-like mood and imagery here--an acid trip without the risk of having to drop it.  "Under the gazebo's roof" was previously published in Dreams & Nightmares 22 (1988), underfoot (chapbook, 1991), and in the August 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Poem of Day: “Sometimes in June” by Carl Boon

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Sometimes in June” by Carl Boon.  A native of Ohio, Carl Boon lives in Istanbul, where he directs the English prep school and teaches courses in literature at Yeni Yuzyil University. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in:  Posit, The Adirondack Review, The Tulane Review, Badlands, The Blue Bonnet Review, and other magazines.

Fall in Istambul
Sometimes in June
Carl Boon

Sometimes in June 
a little fall will startle you. 
You'll be walking home from work
behind a girl who's just begun
her bank job, and she twirls 
her hair at the traffic light,
twirls her purse on her thumb.
And in the time it takes
for the boy from Mardin 
selling plums on the corner to call,
leaves will have dotted the street
in yellows and reds. 
Then the smell, like unseen smoke
from a village
that wasn't there yesterday. 
You shiver. You are certain
of the season, but still a lapse,
a square of October 
on the side of the building
instead of a window. A woman
sweeping her balcony of leaves.
A forecast of rain and cool.

Poet’s Notes:  In "Tjanting", Ron Silliman observes that, "Reddest red contain red blue." "Sometimes in June" carries that notion to the realm of time and seasons, in which a trace of a smell in summer seems to contain fall. The poem begins with that idea, and then continues to portray images of fall in Istanbul. 

Editor’s Note:  The poet creates a quiet, magical mood here that draws me into a special moment.