Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review by FC Reinhart of State of the Ship by L.E. Goldstein

If we are each the captain of our own ships, The State of the Ship (Dancing Girl Press & Studio 2016), Goldstein’s debut chapbook, is a fitting report on the poet’s outlook and approach to the storms, flat calm, and lulling waves of daily life, past, present, and future. This little collection reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s seafaring metaphor, “The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks.”

In poems often with long lines, which border on prose at times, with a couple prose poems for good measure, and one rhyming sonnet, these 20 poems work from childhood reminiscences, through early adulthood, with reflections on loss and disconnections, idealism and hope, desire and knowledge.

Memories of childhood where “under blanket, a green glow emits…/the child following each word she reads” foreshadows the book itself, a fascination with stories that simultaneously mirror life at the nose tip and raise the humdrum to beautiful ideals.

The limitless potential of early adulthood is stated succinctly in “Clearing”:

“I, too, flailed helplessly in sand;
I’ve been looking toward the stars too much”

And the practical truth that those same stars are still there for us, if we look. Far too often the beauty we know is shadowed by our own nearsightedness.

“somewhere more stars exist if it weren’t for the idiots
who keep their porch lights on we’d see them”

The long lines remind me somewhat of Campbell McGrath’s poems. Goldstein shares McGrath’s talent for elevating commonplace experiences into thoughtful encounters readers will carry with them. Goldstein edits Moon Pigeon Press to which I subscribe, and I appreciated reading her own poems after reading a year’s worth of poems she chose for publication.

The book itself is well put together. I have recently purchased titles from several small presses, and based on this volume, Dancing Girl Press & Studio ranks just above the middle in terms of print and layout quality. With two staples, the cover is a durable paper that feels good in the hands, with a teal wave pattern that is reminiscent of the Ruth Robbins woodcuts from the 1970s edition of the Wizard of Earthsea books. While a couple of Goldstein’s lines almost run off the page and the lines between the wallpaper cover image are visible, if not obvious, the book is well produced, well written, and well worth the $7 price tag

--John Reinhart

Friday, July 29, 2016

"By Cherry Green Ensorcelled" by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

By Cherry Green Ensorcelled
James Frederick William Rowe

Cherry Green

What colour do you think of
When I say those words?
Whatever it is
You're wrong
The phrase is meaningless
The colour imaginary
But I have made you
Envision it nevertheless
An incantation of an image
By the power of my words

     Was it bright?
     Was it dull?

Mine is bright like limes
Green as a traffic light
A-glow for go
In a rain-washed night
Green as candy is green
So is the caster
Victim of the spell
Captured, too
By the words he writes
And the images they conjure

Poet’s Notes:  Before reading these notes, do please take a moment to fix in your mind the colour you experienced when reading the poem. Part of the fun of this poem is having your own conception of what "cherry green" means.

The phrase "cherry green" came to me out of the blue (ha!) about a month ago. I believe I was sitting down to have breakfast when it just popped into my mind. What does it mean for green to be cherry? Cherry is a shade of red! And yet, in spite of this, I could not help but picture a colour, even if the phrase is meaningless and conflicts (as a philosopher I shall not say "contradicts") with itself.

Before writing the poem, I actually queried several people to ask them what they imagined cherry green to be, struck by how odd it was that a phrase which described a completely arbitrary and made up colour term could nevertheless evoke a picture. Some thought it was green, others red, some bright, others dull—really, I got a wide gamut of answers, though there seemed to have been a slight preference for green over red, and one such answer that it was an artificial green as one would see in candy, helped me in the poem itself ("green as candy is green"). Again, in spite of it being a meaningless phrase, we nevertheless are moved to imagine something to go alongside it. This magical (and I do mean magical) quality—the ability of words to ignite the imagination even without inherent meaning—thus became a major theme in the poem where I (the narrator/poet) am both the one who harnesses this power for my own purposes (by writing the poem and making everyone experience the colour), and also its victim (as I too am subject to the same power).

Aesthetically, this poem was pretty easy to write. After deciding I'd make a poem out of this, I penned it pretty simply on the subway. I altered it only for structural purposes, making "cherry" a single-verse stanza, and making the short questions in the middle their own stanza of four verses. The main stanzas are ten a piece, and I had only to alter them slightly to achieve this balance.

As for the title, I struggled a bit here, but as I recently became enamoured with the word "ensorcelled" after reading it in an old comic book (a freelance comic editor has to know his they're fun to read), and it suited the "magic" at play in this poem, I resolved my dilemma by incorporating it into the title. "Cherry Green" could've stood as the title of the poem itself, or simply "Ensorcelled", but by combining the two I think I underscore that theme of the power of words. Plus, I just like the title.

Editor’s Note:  The “colorful” spelling of “colour” is an affectation of the poet.  Also, I decided not to have a graphic accompany this post, as doing so might bias the reader and ruin the fun that would otherwise occur when reading this poem.  For what it is worth, I almost immediately thought of those horrible green cherries that are found in traditional fruitcake.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Review by FC Lee of Without Title by Geoffrey Hill

I lack the knowledge to appreciate this poetry collection by the acclaimed British poet, Geoffrey Hill. Reading it, I felt the same confusion that I sometimes feel reading T. S. Eliot. But when reading Eliot, I am less lost than I was here, and the beauty of Eliot's language holds me even when I am lost. This did not. I perceived that the author was serious in his intent; that he liked wordplay; that these poems speak of mortality, old age, and poetry itself. Yet I found the poems inaccessible, and was moved only rarely (usually by references to nature: plants, trees, birds).

A less ignorant reader would presumably like these poems better. The start of the first poem in the collection may be enough to determine this. The poem is titled "Improvisation on 'O Welt ich muss dich lassen'" and the opening four lines are:

     Traurig as one is between bearers, dancers,
     old comrades from the Crem or at the Palais,
     that's not the issue. Can't decide among
     the cheap comedians. I do panic.

With the aid of the internet, I deciphered the German in the title and the poem's first word, yet even then remained largely baffled.

The poems I liked best were "The Jumping Boy," which has a lightness to it as it returns (I think) to the narrator's childhood; "Offertorium: Suffolk, July 2003," with its specific, detailed invocation of nature; the brief, melancholic "Luxe, Calme et Volupte," and "Epiphany at Hurcott," especially for its lovely last line, which could almost be a minimalist poem by itself:

    The lake, reflective, floats, brimfull, its tawny sky.

--Mary Soon Lee

Poem of the Day: "founding fathers" by Lauren McBride, Frequent Contributor

founding fathers                 
cast in bronze -
current leaders
cast doubt
on the future

--Lauren McBride

Poet’s Notes: Surely I am not the only one frustrated by current leaders who seem to be more interested in personal political gain than what is best for "We the People" and the future of our great country?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Gravity Waves" by Tricia Knoll, Frequent Contributor

Gravity Waves
Tricia Knoll

warping space time we thought
was all science fiction
when Einstein said a hundred times
or was it a hundred years ago
the black holes dance together,
losing mass as energy
warps as beam.

So infinitesimally small
and so infinitesimally big
the words we struggle
to lay out on a warp
and declination
we can understand.

Quakes in the spacetime,
the scientist said I made one
lurching out of bed
for the shower
five minutes after
the alarm clock rang.
I thought so
Swelling time
to just make enough.

Poet’s Notes:  I read a daily science news blog. The discovery of gravity waves that Einstein predicted so long ago, well, that amazed me. I think I feel them moving through me. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Widow" by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor

Mary Soon Lee

As they carried Prince Connol's shrouded body
down to the moonlit harbor,
the fishermen and the soldiers sang.

     Mei, waiting in the largest fishing boat,
     neither wailed nor wept for her husband.

The men sang Connol's dirge, softly at first,
as they placed his body
in a wicker coracle within the large boat.

     Mei, pregnant, queasy, gagged on the
     mingled smells of myrrh, mackerel, decay.

Six men rowed her to sea, singing the dirge
in time to the stroke,
the fleet of fishing boats following.

     Mei blinked away sea spray,
     not tears. She hadn't loved Connol.

The men rowed, their voices rising
the further out they went,
the song echoed by the men in the other boats.

     Mei had scorned Connol as a barbarian:
     insolent, insulting, insufferable.

The men stopped. Stopped singing.
Stopped rowing.
One man handed Mei a flaming torch.

     Slowly Connol's patience, his kindness,
     had crept in upon Mei.

Wind, water against the hull, no voices
as they lowered the coracle
into the waves and rowed clear.

     Mei tossed the torch down on Connol.
     The flame caught on his shroud.

All the men on all the boats
turned then to Mei,
and she sang, clear-voiced,

     not the funeral dirge, but a lullaby,
     not in Connol's language, but her own,
     as she watched the fire burn out.

Poet's Notes: This is part of The Sign of the Dragon, my epic fantasy in verse. It is the final poem of a sequence that starts out like a fairy tale romance: the beautiful princess spurns the coarse barbarian who falls in love with her. However, the romance does not take the traditional path. They do marry but do not live happily ever after. Mei slowly comes to like Connol but not to love him, and he dies less than a year after their first meeting. More poems (many of them less tragic!) from The Sign of the Dragon may be read at

Monday, July 25, 2016

"Mendacious Manuals" by David Pring-Mill, Frequent Contributor

Mendacious Manuals
David Pring-Mill

We're lost
within a library
of censorship.
Fingers parse the pages,
with others
skimming quickly
past the paper cuts…
The distributed manuals
bind the banality,
insidiously instruct,
typographically terrorize!

One boy is angry:
a hand on forehead,
thumb apart
from fingers closed-together,
headphones masking
that sound of silence,
because even silence
is too vulnerable
to someone else's beats
and words.

And this abandoned youth
defies the heartless
through rhythms alone,
creating his own sonic myths
in mind.
What worlds could rise
from self-asserted patterns?
Can structures be shaken
by rumbling bass?

Respecting the etiquette of quiet,
I leave through the doorway;
my bar code doesn't beep.
Oblivious participants
form a crowd
and it is surging,
with anxious, jerking movements.

Hurry! faster!
excuse me,
watch out…

They walk swiftly
with blank and slightly
tortured faces,
as if they all might be late
for the apocalypse.
Embers impacting concrete
signify the cigarettes,
craved and consumed
with uncaring dismissal.

I read a film review
by Roger Ebert,
in which he observed:
"In the 1950s
smoked everywhere
all the time.
Life was a disease,
and smoking held it
temporarily in remission."

Barreling forward,
without choice,
I notice
an octagon of light
falling upon them
as they worry,
with lost rays filtered
into geometric command.
and the stampede finally
culminates, beautifully,
with a trampling elegance,
and a five-thirty congestion
of cars, and a cacophony
of engines, pouring
over everything reliably.

Sneakers, cone heels, and simple,
Oxford shoes can make
a metered mark upon
this world,
with thoughts tilting
against the natural orbit,
and aligning to the accuracy
of morphed-out shadows.
We emulate the distortions
of the ones who rushed before
and rush no more.

There is more to this world
than what first appears.
This is a game played
between light and darkness.
Strategically, and musically,
the clever ones anticipate
the next moves, conjuring up
a fantasy by which
they might get saved.

On the street corner,
an official passes out
revised manuals,
with even more options
crossed out.

Poet's Notes:  I would describe "Mendacious Manuals" as a vaguely political poem. People anxiously comply with patterns, to the detriment of society, ostensibly for the maintenance of society. Those who are willing to reconsider old considerations redeem us.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

FC Mannone Has Poem in Visual Verse

Songs of Eretz is pleased to announce that FC John Mannone’s poem "Her Faith Is Not Blind" has been published in Visual Verse:  Along with a poem from FC Tricia Knoll, that makes two FC’s with appearances in that issue!

4 Poems by FC Knoll Are Published

My poem  "Sea Shalls." now appears in Visual Verse, a fun site that posts an image each month and invites poets to respond.  

Two of my “garden” poems now appear on Flora's Forum: "Blueberries Round on My Mind." and "Sunflower.", which I call a forward roll poem, where one word leads to another.

Finally, "River Hands", an older poem of mine, is up on Whispers In The Wind

--Tricia Knoll 

Review by FC Lee of Ghosts of Past and Future by Darrell Schweitzer

As I began reading this, I thought it would be a fine poetry collection, no more than that. I liked the second poem -- "Cemetery Tour, Montreal, Early November 2001" -- well enough to stick a post-it note by it so that I could re-read it later, but I didn't love it. I liked the third poem "Death is the Great Unwinding," but not quite enough for a post-it note. The fourth poem had a handful of lines that I loved without loving the poem as a whole:

I miss the night sky.
       In the grave,
the stars of the deathlands
are few and faint and strange.

But then I read on. And I littered the book with post-it notes. Some poems I liked, some poems had parts I loved, some poems I loved in their entirety. The poems range from science fiction futures to the far past, and they speak of heroes and gods and the passing of all things. At times, such as in the brief "Cautionary Tale" or the longer (and ultimately sobering) "They Sure Eat a Lot in Epics," there is humor to lighten their collective weight.

Among many fine poems, I found nine that I loved: "The Copyist," set in 700 A.D., which sings of epic heroes and the power of story. "We Have Cast Their Idols Down," which I found brilliant and bitterly sad. "When We Think Upon the Kings of Old," which evokes Xerxes, Alexander, and Caesar to talk about the commonality of death. "Sir Canis De Nobody," which takes the told and re-told glory of Camelot and renders it newly moving via a dog's perspective. "After Hours in the Hall of Heroes," which casts a skeptical yet tender eye on heroic warriors. "Helen Returns to Troy," which portrays Helen in her old age, and is marvelous in every detail. "Near the End of the Epic," which pays tribute to the rank and file soldiers from heroic sagas. "At the Earth's Core," where Burroughs' adventurers confront Dante's Satan. "I Dreamed That I Sailed in a Ship of Heroes," perfectly wrought, which journeys from heroes to reality, with two lines that I particularly love:

"Dad, did you fall in the struggle?" I asked.
He replied, "No, I struggled in the fall."

--Mary Soon Lee

Friday, July 22, 2016

"Concerto" by Sierra July, Frequent Contributor

Sierra July

Under a blanket of stars,
She plays her violin.
A melody that haunts me,

Darkens my eyes, till I see
No more light
Save for the notes as they rain
Down on me.

Poet’s Notes: Inspiration for this stemmed from a show called “Your Lie in April,” about a music student deaf to his piano’s notes due to trauma and a girl who saves him. Rather than deaf, I imagined the character blind to all but a melody, the way the viewer feels when enveloped in the background music.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Chronicle" by David Pring-Mill, Frequent Contributor

David Pring-Mill

From above,
the grid of a city
resembles our circuitry:
electric, glowing, holy.
There is a quiet hum
to vibrating thoughts,
and lines of light.

With stories digitized,
machinery doomed –
who will read
our chronicle?
Our unadulterated,
adult content-laden
scribes of existence?
Our screeching
and howling
cries of existence?
Our desperate
and searching
queries of insistence?
Who will find
that chronicle,
and glean from it
the pain we inflicted
upon one another?
and will they empathize
with us, envision us?
What protagonists
will loom large
over pointless actions,
undiscerning reactions?
How will readers react
to our spate of reaction?
To the chains of repressive,
defensive distraction?
What actions will they take
to preserve or destroy
our traces of existence,
the lies of subsistence?
What will they add to the chronicle?

Poet's Notes:  Traditional poetic topics include nature and love. These themes are timeless and full of depth, but I believe that distinctly modern objects and phenomena are also deserving of poetic depiction. That is why I wrote "Chronicle" – a poem about the Internet.