Thursday, March 31, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Ghosts from the Past” by A. D. Winans

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Ghosts from the Past” by A. D. Winans.  Winans is a native San Francisco poet and writer and the former editor and publisher of Second Coming Press.  He is the author of over fifty books and chapbooks of poetry and prose.  In 2006 he won a PEN National Josephine Miles Award for excellence in literature. In 2009 PEN Oakland presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  A song poem of his was set to music and performed at Alice Tully Hall in New York.  He is on the Advisory Board of the New York Quarterly and the proposed San Francisco International Library of poetry.

Ghosts from the Past
A.D. Winans

I sit here at my favorite cafe
with a cup of coffee wearing
the early chill of morning
like a quilt of stitched memories

the sun a lunar graveyard
shines its eyes down on me
the months the years
a revolving door
like the trick mirrors
at the Funhouse
at Playland at the Beach

friends fewer in number
camp in my dreams
like ducks in a blind

left with a cup of morning coffee
a spoon that stirs memories
of  young women
the pleasure of warm flesh
on fresh linen sheets
hot as an iron pressed
to a singed garment
the conversations that lasted
into the early morning hours
turned to idle chatter
with ghosts from the past

Poet’s Notes:  I don't consciously sit down to write a poem.  They come to me from voices inside my head or unique circumstances I encounter.  One day I was sitting outside a cafe enjoying a cup of morning coffee. I was thinking about a friend of mine who had passed away, when a young woman walked by who looked a lot like a past lover of mine.  I am nearly eighty, and suddenly images of my youth swirled around inside my head.  I began writing them down on napkins, and thus the poem was born.

Editor’s Note:  I like the dreamlike mood the poet creates here as well as the way he plays with time. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Interregnum” by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor

Mary Soon Lee

Sixteen years old, fourth son,
still they sent him to the mountain

together with his brothers
before their father's body stiffened,

the kingdom suspended without a king:
four princes, one crown

(a crown he had no use for,
a crown of war, alliances, duty).

He slept on straw near his horse,
displacing the stableboy,

waited for his eldest brother to return
triumphant, ready for the throne--

then brother after brother vanished
into rock and ice and cloud.

The steward took his sword,
his shield, sent him out at dusk:

no torch, no guide, no horse,
no servant, no food, no water.

Snow deepened under his boots;
he waded through drifts,

fell once, twice. The wind mocked him;
he thought of the warm stable,

the bed of straw, his horse,
sleep -- but sleep meant death,

so he stumbled on. The wind
called his brothers' names.
He shouted back his own name;
the wind laughed. Snow fell.

He walked half-blind; sleet kissed
his forehead. The wind said sleep.

He sang to drown it, sang hymns,
nursery songs, drinking songs,

dirges, ballads, marching tunes, 
the love songs his mother had favored

(she who was bartered for peace
to a man she'd never met).

He fell, pushed himself upright,
saw a black cloud speed against the wind.

She landed beside him, her breath ash,
snow steaming from her wings.

He knelt, but did not beg,
and asked after his brothers.

"One slept. One fought. One pissed 
himself. They didn't taste like kings."

She laughed. "And you? What will you 
pay for a crown, little princeling?"

"Nothing. I don't want it."
She flamed, and he saw himself reflected

in her scales, a kneeling, shivering boy.
"Then why," she asked, "are you here?"

"Because they sent me." He stopped. "No."
He was so tired, he couldn't think--

"Because the kingdom needs a king."
He struggled to his feet.

"And what will you pay for the crown,
little princeling? Gold? Men? A song?"

"My freedom!" he shouted at her.
"Well," she said, "that's a start."

(Years later, on a spring morning,
his queen asked, greatly daring,

about the woman whose name he cried
in his sleep. "Not a woman," he said,

his heart on the mountain
where he entered his kingship.)

Poet's Notes:  In the summer of 2013, after a decade writing mainstream poetry, I happened to write several fantasy poems. "Interregnum" was the sixth of these, and the boy and the dragon pulled me into their world and kept me there. Since then, I have written over two hundred poems about what happened after the boy became king, but the broad arc of the tale was shaped by its beginning. King Xau is brave, resolute, honest, fond of horses, and puts his kingdom before himself. I have never written anything else that has meant as much to me.

Editor’s Note:  This is a powerful, old school, epic poem.  As with all good poems of this genre, it stands alone, creating its own past and future, and makes the reader yearn for more.  "Interregnum" was first published in Star*Line #36.4, Autumn 2013 and was a finalist in the recent Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Prescription (Imperative #5)” by Kris Rhodes

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Prescription (Imperative #5)” by Kris Rhodes.  Mr. Rhodes is a Philosophy professor residing in Indianapolis. He has had poems featured in, Songs of Eretz, and Star*Line.

Prescription (Imperative #5)
Kris Rhodes

When next you feel
the aforementioned ache
take my advice: concentrate

on the throb, the burn,
notice it still hurts but
you don't mind so much.

Now examine the effect
itself. Apply it once more.
Concentrate, the hurting-

but-not-minding beginning
now to fade. Think about
how you don't mind me

being so right but you
kind of do. Afterwards,
call me up with all your

and comments.

Poet’s Notes: This is one poem out of a series I call "Imperative Poems." In the series I try to find different ways to involve an imagined audience not necessarily the reader, though the use of the imperative puts pressure on readers to place themselves in that audience.

Editor’s Note:  As a physician, I'm a sucker for a well-done prescription conceit, and this poem certainly fills it!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Poem of the Day: "Metallic" by John C. Mannone, Frequent Contributor

John C. Mannone

Under the platinum moon
your face shines nobly, soft
as satin finish, the purple
sheen on your lips haunts me,
beckons mine to yours.

Under the aurum tinted sun
your copper-spangled hair
braids fire I cannot resist.
I succumb to you, I am no
superman, my flesh is rust.
I crumble to your touch.

Poet’s Notes:  I never imagined that when I happened upon the images of copper wire and other metals, some affected by the elements (pun intended), that they would stimulate this love poem by stacking allusions of metals into metaphors. Those metals in verse 1: platinum and aluminum; and in verse 2: gold and copper are all malleable, noble and/or shiny—they all go to her characteristics, but in the last lines, we also see the narrator’s characterization with iron (in the form hard steel of superman) and as the friable rust (iron oxide) an emotionally weathered and worn man.

It is no accident that the first verse begins with a lunar reference and the second with a solar one to give a night and day or a yin and yang feel to the poem. I also wanted two verses so that the reader might feel the tension build in each half.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Papa” by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor

Mary Soon Lee

Before cell phones, email, tweets,
I remember conversation,
the back-and-forth of it:
how my father drove across Europe
without even the radio on,
hours unrolling behind us
filled with debate, questions;
his unfailing delight
in hearing me recite
four lines of a poem by Robert Frost,
lines that he loved
but couldn't remember;
even our silences communal.
Poet’s Notes: When I was a child, once every two years we took the ferry from England to France, and then my father would drive us across Europe. We had roadside picnics; we went on a gondola in Venice; we walked inside an Alpine glacier; we played Scrabble in hotel bedrooms. But if I could revisit a single hour from that time, I would sit in the car while Papa drove and hear his voice again.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the rhythm of this piece as much as its timely and important message.  The final line is stunning in its beauty, and the hard rhyme between lines 8 and 9 is a nice surprise.  “Papa” was first published in Uppagus #10, February 2015 and was a finalist in the recent Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Poem of the Day: "Purim 2016" by the Editor

Purim 2016
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

As Terror walks brazenly in the city streets
Its nails shredding our citizens and allies
In a country once known for its sprouts and neutrality

The Haman of our Age learns the Argentine tango
Makes nice with the despot of a failed island nation
Allows the arc of Isis to spread its fractured light unchecked

Meanwhile in the supreme leader of ironies
In the land once ruled by Ahashverosh and Esther
Evil festers and mass destruction looms

Will another Queen politically correct the Politically Correct
Or will the dark force in the white house shade his eyes
With his version of a tricorn hat and enjoy his legacy of doom

Editor's/Poet's Note:  For commentary, please read today's offering in my personal blog, Steves of Grass

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Epicurus in Spring” by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

Epicurus in Spring
James Frederick William Rowe

First flowers
And the final thaw
Spring emerged
And had at last bloomed
After many fitful starts
And air that would in Autumn
Herald the return of jackets
Of hats and scarves
Was accounted warm
Even as ice will melt
Though cold water runs over it   
With delicate fingers
A notable Epicure
Delighted himself
By plucking from a bowl
The choicest selection of cheeses
As he dined amidst the perfumes
Of blossom and wind
Upon a park bench
Whereupon his friend arrived
Coatless and short sleeved
And greeted him like warm weather

Said he to whom cheese
Was his chief delight, his sole indulgence:
"My friend, my friend
Do you not now see my point?
This weather proves me right
For what is Spring without Winter?
So too is evil paired with good
Indeed, were it not for evil
We should never be good at all
As goodness springs from evil
Just as this season from the last"

"That pleasures deprived"
Began the gourmet sage
"Are heightened indeed I shall concede
And that the glory of this weather
Is made all the more by the long
Dreary days we have passed in frost
But tell me, my friend
You who have abandoned your winter wear
That warmth mayn't be wearying
Would you retain your coat
If winter never came again?"

"There would be no need."
     "There would be no need."

Poet’s Notes: "Epicurus in Spring" owes its genesis to the wonderful relief of spring weather after a long, terrible winter (as we had this last winter in New York), and the fortunate correspondence this change in temperature had with my spring philosophy's course class on the Problem of Evil.  The character of Epicurus is based on the ancient Greek philosopher (pictured).  I imagined him sitting outside of Gramercy Park, or else in Madison Square Park, both near Baruch College where I work. The addition of his bowl of cheese is merely added relish to his inner peace and the inherent pleasantness of the day, whether in New York or back in ancient Greece from which he has mysteriously been summoned in my mind.

Editor’s Note:  The opening stanza would make a fine stand-alone poem with its beautiful imagery, peaceful mood, appeal to the senses, and nod to ancient Greece.  The following philosophical discussion has a playful banter to it, enhanced by the rhythm of the piece.  The moral lesson is thought provoking and as timely now as it was in the centuries before the Common Era.   "Epicurus in Spring" was a finalist in the 2016 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Mystery” by Sierra July, Frequent Contributor

Sierra July

The forest 
Spoke of nightmares
Whispered by
Rustling leaves
Creaking branches
Trodden twig? 
Dismantled bone?

Poet’s Notes: The woods can be a beautiful place, but frightening when one sound can be mistaken for another.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Poem of the Day: “identity” by Shimon Palmer

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “identity” by Shimon Palmer.  A native of Michigan, Mr. Palmer lives with his wife and three children on his own small eco farm in the Judean desert.

Shimon Palmer

must i always
bear the cumbersome
weight of this identity
i’ve earned-

clamps seal
the valves as the brutal
black spear of the unknown
inches towards my vulnerable
engorged heart

and laughter
echos from some
deep chamber inside where
the real me is absent
still, after all.

Poet's Notes:  Identity is a complex matter.  It gives us, on the one hand, a comforting sense of belonging.  On the other hand, an identity can also be severely limiting, and sometimes is nothing but a hollow shell.  This poem deals with the moment where one's identity, and all the conceptions we hold about ourselves, seems to be suddenly empty and completely meaningless.  At that moment, "the real me," an essence beyond the limitations of identity, is felt.

Editor’s Note:  This is an interesting, modern take on the sonnet form with a fresh, thought provoking heart conceit.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Editor's Review of Melting the Ice King by Gerard Sarnat

I recently had the pleasure of reading Gerard Sarnat's latest poetry collection Melting the Ice King, published this year by Pessoa Press, San Francisco.  The book contains about seventy-six poems within about sixty-five actual pages.*  Most of the poems are elegies (often satirical ones) to the poet's father who died of lung cancer just shy of 100 years of age.  The irony and satire found throughout the collection begins right away with the cover photo, which features a romantic shot of the poet's rugged looking, movie star handsome father smoking a cigarette while on horseback and holding hands with his similarly mounted beauty of a wife (pictured).

Readers familiar with my personal biases know that I am not a fan of prosaic poetry and that I believe that vignette style poetry more properly belongs in collections of short stories or in flash fiction venues.  Thus, it will come as a surprise to readers of my reviews to learn that I actually enjoyed reading Dr. Sarnat's poems, about three quarters of which fall into the prosaic or vignette style categories.  The poems contain a Kerouac-ian rhythm and flow to them which I find compelling and pleasing to the ear. The raw honesty of the often ironic poems, while occasionally jarring, really sings; whether this is due to the form or the content or some combination is an interesting question.

The ideal audience for this collection would be elderly Jewish Americans of a liberal bent that remember the hippy era with mixed feelings.  A working knowledge of yiddish and medicine would serve the reader well, but Dr. Sarnat aids the uninitiated by the use of helpful footnotes.  However, readers who may only have heard of Jews and for whom the 1960s might as well be the 1860s will still enjoy reading this collection, as readers that fall into this category will have the additional pleasure of being immersed in what for them would be a new and interesting culture.

Many of the poems are personal to the Sarnat family--some a bit too personal, as when the junior Dr. Sarnat mentions the discovery of the senior doctor's "condom drawer."  However, the vast majority of the poems address difficult topics such as:  hospice, funeral planning, end of life decisions, sibling rivalry, the elderly taking care of the even more elderly, death, and loss.  These poems, though sung by Dr. Sarnat's unique voice about his unique extended family dynamic, have a rich, universal appeal.

Melting the Ice King, as well as other collections of poetry by Dr. Sarnat, is available on and at select bookstores.  It is a bit overpriced at $19.95, as many longer collections by more well known poets may be had for a fraction of that price.  A significant collection of Dr. Sarnat's poetry was published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.  Three of the poems that appear in Melting the Ice King were first published in the Review and may be found here and here and here  Another poem, "Red White and the Blues" is wrongly credited to Songs of Eretz in the Acknowledgments section of Melting the Ice King.   Five more poems by Dr. Sarnat published or reprinted in Songs of Eretz may be found here and here and here and here and here

About the Poet:  Dr. Sarnat received his education at Harvard and Stanford.  He established and staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, has been a CEO of healthcare organizations, and was a Stanford professor.  He and his wife of over forty-five years have three children and two grandchildren with more on the way, and live in the room above their oldest daughter’s garage.

*The number of actual pages (a term of my own invention) of a poetry collection is determined by counting the number of pages in a volume that are actually covered with words of poetry (a rather tedious process), leaving out all pages not found in the main body, all blank pages, blank spaces, and pages devoted only to section or chapter titles.

Duotrope Publishes an Interview with Our Editor

Interested in finding out more about the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review editorial process?  Read our editor's interview with Duotrope found here:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Parking Girl” by Anne Carly Abad, Frequent Contributor and Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Parking Girl” by Anne Carly Abad, a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor and this week’s Poet of the Week.  The poet’s biography may be found in the “About Our Editor & Frequent Contributors” section.

Parking Girl
Anne Carly Abad

Vehicles line up for a spot.

Slim, boxy, emblemed or blank
no one has a say
when parking's full
everyone waits, wonders--

tiny booth in the heat
keeper of gates, when will you open?

The lady inside smiles
when a driver demands his ticket--

a spot has just been freed--

she waves his access and,
as thanks, he sucks air through puckered lips,
the closest she gets to a lusty kiss.

Shift ends, lines dissipate,
the roads lie worn and quiet.

No one vies for the parking girl's attention
as she plods through shanty town alleys
to crouch into a tricycle ride home.

Poet's Notes:  A service job, a waiting job, the kind of patience involved in it must be a form of meditation or a fruit of imagination. What goes into an 8-hour shift intrigues me as much as my inability to stay put.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Rite of Passage” by Anne Carly Abad, Frequent Contributor and Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Rite of Passage” by Anne Carly Abad, a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor and this week’s Poet of the Week.  The poet’s biography may be found in the “About Our Editor & Frequent Contributors” section.

Rite of Passage
Anne Carly Abad

It fell
into the sink, into the marsh
of suds and rice grains caught by the sieve--
a roach no bigger than my nail.
Its shell catches light
to reveal more gold than
its kind should deserve, so

once it frees itself from the morass,
I anoint it with detergent;
the liquid pools on its carapace,
an emerald adornment.
It writhes under the weight of my
It might be screaming, but I have
no capacity to listen to little things

perhaps meant to flourish
in the pit.
I open the tap and baptize it quickly.
The roach stills for a moment
and then swims.

Poet's Notes:  The death of small beings must mean something as well. To celebrate such events or to mourn them…makes one think of one's own salvation in the grand scheme of things.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

FC Abad's Poetry Appears in Strange Horizons

Songs of Eretz is pleased to announce that "Exchange" by Frequent Contributor Anne Carly Abad was published this month in Strange Horizons

Poem of the Day: “Machinespeak” by Anne Carly Abad, Frequent Contributor and Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Machinespeak” by Anne Carly Abad, a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor and this week’s Poet of the Week.  The poet’s biography may be found in the “About Our Editor & Frequent Contributors” section.

Anne Carly Abad

confessions by anon
we let the birds
fall out

through the noise
a learned deafness

hehe--a loss
of words

bad joke
a lull after

Poet's Notes:  We built machines to tame our world. In relying on our own tools, we, too, were tamed. The way we speak, act and understand the world is a frame as sophisticated as the computer upon which we type.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Poem of the Day: “An Exploration of Sight” by Anne Carly Abad, Frequent Contributor and Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “An Exploration of Sight” by Anne Carly Abad, a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor and this week’s Poet of the Week.  The poet’s biography may be found in the “About Our Editor & Frequent Contributors” section.

An Exploration of Sight
Anne Carly Abad

a house cannot be all windows
so a hidden eye was fashioned into a door

your eyes beckon the outsider
to glimpse
an imprint of what once moved you--

I might have been that light--

but your door is easily swayed
it flies open and slams shut or
it slides back and forth like a trap
taking in every flicker of beauty

you became a body divided

I knocked on my own door
and let myself in

Poet's Notes:  In accepting another, how much does one change? How much does one give up? To me, accepting another person is just another way to examine the looking glass and take out the speck I might discover in my eye.