Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Apparent" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

"Parent & Child" Watercolor on Paper
by J. Artemus Gordon
Eric McHenry
In memory of Evan, four or five years old

If it had been an open
window you would’ve kept
walking, but because
it was sun-puzzled glass
you saw me through, you stopped
halfway across the yard,
and squinted through the glare,
and waved, and seemed to wait
for something else to happen,

and finally it became
apparent that it had
already, and that you
were being kept from what
you’d been about to do
by nothing, and you gave
me one more gentle wave —
I’m here, you’re there
and left me in my frame.

Poet’s Notes: I don’t think I’ll ever write a poem that successfully conveys the broken-openness and vulnerability of being a parent but I plan to keep trying. 

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy how “apparent” is a clever play on “a parent”.  “Apparent” was first published in Seattle Review. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"How to Steal the Laptop of Your Childhood Nemesis" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

How to Steal the Laptop of Your Childhood Nemesis
"Sneak" Watercolor on Paper, by J. Artemus Gordon
Eric McHenry

She keeps a spare key in a hollow rock
outside the kitchen door she doesn’t lock.
Her lights are on. Her sheltie is all talk.
You shouldn’t need the code for the alarm
(1234) because she tried to arm
the thermostat again. You’re getting warm.
Her master suite smells like a Hallmark store.
Her vanity is huge. Try to ignore
the fact that everything’s a metaphor
and that I’ve let you walk right into it.
Blow out the Yankee Candles she left lit.
Take in the master bathroom. Take a shit.
Flush resolutely. Agitate the handle.
Refill the Softsoap. Light a Yankee Candle.
Her MacBook Pro is hiding, like the Grail,
in plain sight; anyone but you will fail
to realize it’s not a bathroom scale.
Open her desktop. Close her Yahoo! Mail.
She keeps her recent photos in a folder
called “Photos.” Click a thumbnail and behold her
in sunlight, in a champagne off-the-shoulder
sheath wedding dress, fussed over by attendants.
She’s forty and has come into resplendence
like an inheritance, like heirloom pendants
flattering ear and flawless collarbone.
I should have told you, or you should have known,
that she has changed the most and aged the least
of all your enemies, her face uncreased
by laughter, worry, shame, or self-denial.
Those are her cheekbones. That’s her cryptic smile.
Those are her footsteps on the kitchen tile.

Poet’s Notes: One day I asked my students to pretend to know how to do something (land a helicopter, restore a painting, fillet a stingray) and then write a poem that gives the reader instructions. As it was an in-class assignment, I started writing one of my own. This was the eventual result.  “How to Steal the Laptop of Your Childhood Nemesis” was first published in Slate.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"The Darker Grass" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

The Darker Grass
Eric McHenry

You hate the easy things to hate:
new buildings and the weird materials
they’re made from (gypcrete, carbon fiber, foam),
5-Hour Energy, four-dollar gas,
"Blight" Graphite and Watercolor on Paper by J. Artemus Gordon
the newness of the sacrificial grass
in medians, the new arterials
that in another month will narrow
to two lanes so that crews can widen them
to six lanes so that you won’t have to wait
your turn to wait your turn for a turn arrow.
You’ll drive an extra mile to do your driving
through parts of town that pose no threat of thriving,
which means you’ve started seeing more
of your old neighborhood, which makes you wonder
if architects are ever paid to render
houses in hypothetical decline,
because that might have helped prepare you for
the seeding lawn, the 6 that’s now a 9,
the deposed mini-dish, the single shutter,
the notice Scotch-taped to the door,
the doorless frame, the deviating gutter,
the misaligned and multicolored shingles,
the spraypaint flourishes, the altered angles
of everything including your old block
and your old house, which now looks like a stock
photo from an Economist article
on houses that are worth less than the cost
of razing them. If there’s a troubled ghost
that haunts that groaning storybook, it’s you.
How many midnights have you drifted through
its seven rooms? How long do you intend
to keep your vigil at that particle-
board windowpane before you apprehend
the lost colonial across the street,
the one that overlooked the neighborhood
paternally and got out while it could,
its front walk still advancing through the grass
in concrete increments to meet
the darker grass where the foundation was?

Poet’s Notes: This is another poem I wrote after moving back to my hometown. A front walk leading to a house that had been demolished was the image that got it going. 

Editor’s Note:  Housing and neighborhood “blight” is a real and pressing issue in many cities, including Kansas City, the major city closest to my home.  For a sad but true article on this growing problem, see  “The Darker Grass” was first published in Salamander.

Monday, August 28, 2017

"The Song of Stationary Nathan" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

The Song of Stationary Nathan
Eric McHenry
"Berry" Watercolor & Acrylic on Paper
by J. Artemus Gordon

I went out to the maple tree
because a riot was in its head,
and flung a Frisbee at the noise,
but brought a starling down instead,
and laid it in a shoebox nest,
and put some twigs and Skittles in,
and struggled up, and set it back
where I imagined it had been.

As I was shinnying down, I felt
a Skittle windfall on my head.
A skinny girl in red capris
was pelting me with green and red.
She swung her legs and laughed my name,
then disappeared into the crown.
I followed her until the swaying
and broken sunlight brought me down.

Though I am old with waiting here,
and she has grown up and away,
I’ll watch the tossing of those boughs
and catch her silhouette someday,
and we’ll walk lightly up the boughs,
and gather, in eternal June,
the Nilla Wafers of the sun,
the Necco Wafers of the moon.

Poet’s Notes: I love Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Aengus” so much that I decided to write it again, or to translate it from English into English. 

Editor’s Note:  Yeats’ poem may be found here “The Song of Stationary Nathan” was first published in Salamander.  

Artist's Note:  Poeticize the rainbow.  Taste the rainbow.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Lana the Poetry Dog Featured in Pet Magazine

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that our own Lana the Poetry Dog has been featured in Petsmart magazine’s annual “Beauty Issue”, and her glam shot was chosen for the issue’s cover (pictured).  Our editor could not be more proud of his Airedale terrier and was inspired to compose the following haiku to mark the occasion:

my poetry dog
what songs swim in your beast brain
the winter wolves know

Friday, August 25, 2017

"How to Write Autobiography" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

How to Write Autobiography
Eric McHenry

"Pitch" Watercolor on Paper by J. Artemus Gordon
Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood
says Satchel Paige in his memoir, with all
the daffy precision of the troubleball
that left left-handers corkscrewed in the mud.
Presume Kingfish’s innocence. Who’s bringing
the allegation but the alligator?
And who’s that writing? John the Revelator.
Don’t interrupt the blind man when he’s singing.
When writing, say or sing. Improvisation
was your whole life. Authentic is a game
that favors those who throw like trouble, name
like Adam and pronounce like Revelation.
Or fake it. Look at these italics, leaning
hard with the weight of someone else’s meaning.

Poet’s Notes: There’s a famously eccentric series of quotes from Satchel Paige’s autobiography that begins, “Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.” When I noticed that that was a perfect pentameter, I started writing this poem. It also refers to Amos ‘n’ Andy and the song “John the Revelator” by Blind Willie Johnson. Non-standard English is where all the brilliance is.  “How to Write Autobiography” was first published in Poet Lore.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Ether Monument" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

"Monument" Watercolor and Graphite on Paper by J. Artemus Gordon
Ether Monument
Eric McHenry

Because he can’t drink at the supper, Shane,
whose habits are the pain they palliate,
is trying not to drop a paper plate
of ravioli, garlic bread, and rain.

Because he can’t drink at the shelter either,
tonight he plans to lay his burden
down like a bedroll in the Public Garden
beside a fountain to commemorate

that the inhaling of ether
causes insensibility to pain.

Poet’s Notes: I remember the poet David Ferry who with his wife Anne used to run a free weekly supper for street people in a Boston church basement, telling me that many homeless alcoholics won’t sleep in shelters because they can’t drink there. At the time, I lived in an apartment near both the church and the Public Garden where the Ether Monument stands — a fountain and statue built in the late 19th century to honor the development of anesthetics. The inscription on the monument is comprised of the poem’s final lines. 

Editor’s Note:  This poem reminds me of another interesting and ironic fact about the homeless--the value they place upon clean socks.  I once read an article about an activist for the homeless who always carried pairs of new socks with her in her purse and car.  When approached by a homeless person, she would offer a pair of socks.  The street vagabonds, grifters, scammers, con artists, and drug addicts would refuse the gift.  Once one even betrayed himself by saying, “I have plenty of socks at home.”  Real homeless people, this activist found, would gratefully accept the socks and put them on their feet immediately.  “Ether Monument” was first published in Poetry International.

Artist's Note: Pictures of the Ether Monument were used as reference material for this piece. This is the first time I've really combined graphite with my watercolor. I enjoy the effect and may use it more later.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"Misreading Pennsylvania" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

Misreading Pennsylvania
Eric McHenry

When the seventh salvo of silver flashes
cued the blue floaters for the seventh time,
blotting the smaller letters from their sashes,
I mispronounced “Miss Reading” — made it rhyme
"Mystic Pennsylvania" Watercolor on Paper, by J. Artemus Gordon

with “misleading.” Pissed off her press agent,
Miss Information, who steamed out to smoke.
But the style writers covering the pageant
called it an unconscious masterstroke.

So I became the Master of Near Misses.
The work kept coming. “You must be Miss Taken,”
I transproposed to the Pork Products Princess
panel, and you should have seen Miss Bacon.

They ate it up, though. It was liberating.
Within a month I didn’t even need
my malaprompter. Cheating was creating.
Believing anything I couldn’t read

I crushed my quadrifocals. People shed
their crosshairs and acquired a layer of fuzz.
Consequence came uncoupled. What I said
I saw, and what I saw was what I was.

Poet’s Notes: I remember seeing a headline that said something like “Students Accused of Cheating” and misreading it as “Students Accused of Creating.” This poem is a meditation on the ways we improve the world with our mistakes. Its speaker is the emcee of the Miss Pennsylvania pageant, and I’m not sure how that happened, exactly. My wife is originally from Reading, PA, and that fact must have had something to do with it. 

Editor’s Note:  It is no easy task to make a traditional ballad fresh and entertaining.  The sheer number of malapropisms and plays on words ensures that this ballad is the exception.  “Misreading Pennsylvania” was first published in LitRag.

Artist's Note: Cassandra Angst, Miss Pennsylvania 2017, was used as reference for this piece.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"Vanguard" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

Eric McHenry

Here’s what I remember: Coleman Hawkins
and I are sitting at a mahogany table
"Low Point" Watercolor on Paper, by J. Artemus Gordon
in the Village Vanguard, quietly talking.
He’s finished a set in which he was unable
to summon even one unbroken tone
from the bell of his once-clarion saxophone.
But now that’s over and he feels all right.
He’s smoking because he’s wanted to all night,
drinking cloudy cognac from a tumbler
and coughing ferociously; his voice is weaker
than his cough; he’s barely audible, mumbling
to me because he knows I’m from Topeka.
He says, “That’s where I learned to tongue my horn.”
I know, and that’s the only thing I hear.
It’s 1969; in half a year
he’ll be dead. In three years I’ll be born.

Poet’s Notes: Coleman Hawkins spent his early teens in Topeka, and in the mid-’90s I became kind of obsessed with finding his house. Eventually, I tried to write a long poem about the search. This was the last section of it and the only one that survived.

Editor’s Note:  A good poet can twist time to his advantage, creating a four-dimensional experience for the reader.  I especially enjoy the way McHenry does that here.  “Vanguard” was first published in American Literary Review.

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Randy Used the Word" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

"Diverse" Watercolor on Paper, by J. Artemus Gordon
Randy Used the Word
Eric McHenry

When Randy used the word as though
it were a word that anyone might use,
I don’t know what I thought. I flared his cape
with my forearms and shifted in his chair.
I know I didn’t think of Tony’s hair,
a hi-top fade that Randy would have no
idea how to fix. I know I said
nothing, by which I must have meant Continue
filling my ears with trimmings. Dust my nape
with talcum. Offer me impartial views
of both sides of the back of my head.

And outside, let the barber’s pole continue
its reenactment. Let the silver ball recall
the bowl of leeches. Let the helical
progress-illusion of the stripes remain
the blood, the twining bandage, and the vein.

America, and I’m about to talk
directly to the Eric in you,
you had to pay for that one, but
the man you say you mean to be will walk
out of some barbershops with his hair half-cut.

Poet’s Notes: This happened to me when I was 14 or 15: I was getting a haircut, and the barber casually used a racial slur, and I didn’t say anything. A moral test that I failed. I started reading about barber poles while I was writing the poem and was amazed to learn what their colors allegedly symbolize. 

Editor’s Note:  I had a similar experience in my mid-teens in the barbershop of the small town where I was raised.  My barber didn’t say “nigger”, but his offhand comment was racist enough.  I remember feeling infuriated and insulted that he assumed that I would agree with his opinion and wondered if there was anything about me (other than being white and from the same town) that led him to believe that I would go along with him.

I thought about leaving immediately and without paying and with my hair half cut but reconsidered quickly as I realized that my barber and the other shop barber who happened to be his identical twin brother, as well as probably all of the men sitting in the shop waiting for their turns, would take issue--and the brothers at least were armed with razors, and one of those razors was literally at my throat. I wisely chose to ignore the comment, finish my haircut, and leave without tipping never to return.  It took me a long time to find another barber, but fortunately, it was the early 80s, and long hair was in style. 

Was my response a “moral failing” as Eric believes his was?  I don’t think so.  I lived to fight/write another day.  Also, in the words of a wise rabbi, “One is meant to live by the Commandments, not to die by them.” 

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to comment on “the word”.  Used in the context of quoting someone else, in historical context (ie: Mark Twain’s works), or in a philosophical discussion or essay such as this one, it is (or should be) perfectly polite and right to use the word “nigger”.  Substituting “the N-word” or “the word” as Eric does gives the word “nigger” evil power in the same way that using “you-know-who” instead of “Voldemort” or “Tom Riddle” gave evil power to J. K. Rowling’s dark wizard.  “Randy Used the Word” was first published in Able Muse.

Artist’s Note: For this piece, I decided to focus on the aspect of keeping silent. On the outside people often need to hide their unique thoughts and feelings and put on a veil to fit in with the crowd, sometimes for their own safety.

During my experience in college, if I ever made a comment that went against the general consensus I was met with hostility and threats. This was from both my peers and professors. I eventually learned to keep my mouth shut. Sadly, I had to accept that my college was not an open environment to discuss ideas freely.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

FC Reinhart Publishes Poetry Chapbook

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor John Reinhart’s latest poetry chapbook, "screaming", is now available

In addition, three new poems by Reinhart appear in Man in the Street's inaugural issue

Saturday, August 19, 2017

FC Pring-Mill Has Been Busy

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor David Pring-Mill has had four poems and an article published in other venues and an additional poem anthologized.

"Vast Spaces" is a philosophical poem about distances, time, and the foundations of the soul. It was published in Poetry Quarterly

"Solicitude" is a poem that addresses environmentalist themes. It was also published in Poetry Quarterly

"Different You" is a prose poem about the ways in which we try to ford the chaos of a tumultuous universe. It is about finding meaning in the meaningless and redrawing the lines between truth and assumption. "Different You" urges the reader to pursue full and relentless immersion in the stuff of life. It can be read in the latest issue of Inwood Indiana

"Discovery", a love poem, appears in California's Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology, available through Amazon

"Paw Prints in a Concrete Sidewalk", which extrapolates wider meaning from a minute observation, was published in Dual Coast Magazine

Finally, The National Interest has published David’s journalistic article, "Hyperloop Projects May Be Uniquely Vulnerable to Terrorism" 

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry
Eric McHenry

"Crows" Watercolor on Paper, by J. Artemus Gordon
I’ve seen the local news: it’s prose.
I prefer to look at the big picture
window — not because it shows
events exactly as they happen,
but because of the two recurring crows.

There’s tragic laughter in the way they fly.
Some flaw in their understructure
compensates the most emphatic flapping
with very little loft. One barely goes
over and the other just gets by.

Poet’s Notes: This poem was inspired by Howard Nemerov’s superior poem of the same title and by a big window in the apartment where my wife and I used to live. 

Editor’s Note:  The use of enjambment in the first stanza is masterful.  Splitting “picture” and “window” creates two meanings for “big picture / window” while setting up an intra-line rhyme.  Splitting “shows” and “events” continues an end-of-line rhyme, while lending “shows” two direct objects, “window” and “events”.  I also enjoy the way that “goes”, the last word in the penultimate line, harkens back to the rhymes in the first stanza.  “Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry” was first published in Potscrubber Lullabies.  Howard Nemerov's poem may be read here