Friday, September 29, 2017

"Middle Creek" by Pat Anthony

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Middle Creek” by Pat Anthony.  Anthony lives in the rural Midwest where she finds inspiration in the rugged furrows of the soil and in the faces of the men and women working it. An observer of and warrior for nature and the environment, she uses the land as a lens, and her poems are most often responses to events around her.

Anthony is the former poetry editor of Potpourri (no longer in print), holds an MA in Humanities Literature from California State University, and was a teacher of English, Spanish, and Special Education until her recent retirement. She has work published or forthcoming in Cholla Needles, San Pedro River Review, Third Wednesday, Snakeskin, and Open Minds Quarterly, among others. Visit her blog at middlecreekcurrents.com.

Middle Creek

meanders to become the county line
stitching together wet banks pocked with nests
of darting swallows, the clawed graffiti of the
snapping turtle and coons come to wash.
July rain soon overflows banks, uniting creek
to river in a swirl of cornstalk and beans
the trailing branches of pawpaw and persimmon
wizened fruits afloat like lost flies and bobbers.
Seine water through your fingers as you wade
the gravel bars sorting through the eggshells of
the Great Blue herons nested overhead in
their windy aeries of sycamores and stick nests.
How the current rushes back to cover nacre
shining from mussels, the backs of the crayfish sidling
in the shallows. Stretch your arms to touch
almost both sides of these banks that soar above
your head and bridge the divide then step downstream,
mark how your feet drag through the water
wakes splitting from your heels each stride like that
of the heron behind you, parted water soon closed,
droplets heavy with a thousand micro organisms
bent on swimming eastward where the doe has just
crossed with her fawns, the divided gone back to one
like questions you had and find already answered.

--Pat Anthony

Poet’s Notes:  Hiking rivers and streams has been a lifelong passion, along with poetry, the two frequently intertwined. This poem is born from a day of hiking deep within a cleft that bisects a stream shaped like a number 80, where you become alone with only what you can identify for company. The herons had their young overhead, and yet there was an eerie silence. I tend to go to woods and water when the world is askew, when there is much to resolve, and somehow, as the water closes behind me, find questions and concerns resolve themselves, an inner and outer renewal that is healing at a primal level, so that the divide merges back to the one.

Editor’s Note:  I really enjoy the way Anthony weaves the idyllic images of wildlife and nature into a narrative that draws in the reader.  Using second person POV is always risky, but she employs it with skill here.  I experienced the sights and sounds and feel of nature as I read this one.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Air Show Maneuvers" by Mary Soon Lee

Air Show Maneuvers
Mary Soon Lee

F-16 Fighting Falcons
in diamond, delta, arrowhead
precision perfection.

At lower altitude, plumage drab,
swooping, wheeling, gliding,
a cohort of birds.


Poet's Notes: I attended the annual air show "Wings Over Pittsburgh" in May. There is a visceral awe in watching the planes climb and dive and turn, in hearing the engines roar. I also spent some time that day watching a flock of small black birds engaged in less impressive aerial maneuvers.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Behind the Glass" by Sierra July

Behind the Glass
Sierra July

She first wore glasses to see
The beauty she'd been missing
Grass blades, tree leaves, winkles
In the waving sea

Then fashion was the dream
Looking like she knew that pie
Was for more than eating
Cute if she didn't

Poet's Notes: As a glasses wearer and a person who knows a lot of glasses wearers, I wanted to put some of what I've felt and heard about them into words. I personally like my glasses for all they allow me to see, but wouldn't have been upset if I never needed them. Since I do need though, I've discovered other perks. I've grown to love that glasses are stylish, looking either smart or cute, and don't get scratched or broken as often as contact lenses, or need as much cleaning. This is an ode to the bit of freedom my glasses allow me and is my first attempt at humorous poetry.

Editor’s Note:  The first stanza, a nice modern quatrain in the tradition of Emily Dickinson, describes exactly what happens when one puts on glasses for the first time (or at least what I felt when I put on my glasses for the first time).  The second stanza builds on that feeling, owning the new look no matter how others view the glasses wearer.  I admit that my mathy wife had to explain Sierra’s clever pun on “pie” (pie to eat, pie to be eaten, or pi the Greek letter, or pi the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter), so do not feel too bad if you were scratching your head over that until reading this.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"for Sondra" by Ross Balcom

for Sondra

the open veins
of sunset

spill blood
across the sky

you who died
amidst roses

transfixed
by the razor's smile

only the twilight
breathes your name

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: This poem is for Sondra, but blood has no name and wants to flow free. Now Sondra is free, as we all should be.

Editor's Note:  I really enjoy how Ross employs assonance in this one.


Monday, September 25, 2017

"Solace" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Solace
Terri Lynn Cummings

The path slopes like prayer
then spills onto a pasture 
of stones. They stand 
crooked and stained like teeth
worn and crowded
in rows of bones

In front of a marker
I kneel, sense heartache
shift from black to gray 
in the shadow of a tree
its shade inching the trunk 
like a caterpillar

foreign and familiar 
Sorrow holds my hand
while a hymn 
hums from the grave
Memories, a den filled
with images recalled

in every rock of Father’s chair
fit themselves around my shoulders
His walking stick of a body
ravished by disease, savors 
the jazz of a new beginning
in the unpacked room of spring

My mother, a sister of the mind
shares hazel irises and shapes 
the poems of my voice as I recall
their long-buried garden of marriage 
loosed from tight bones of duty
and the compass of time

I imagine they stroll past friends
dates, and sentiments
a city of crosses and wombs of death
no edges to hone or dreams to slake
full as the moon though I long to wane
in the slow dust of renewal

Poet’s Notes:  I visited my parents’ graves the weekend after Memorial Day. It had been one year since I’d been there, and I felt as if Mom and Dad beckoned me. I drove from the city to the town cemetery where they waited to see me again, and my heart grew lighter as every mile passed.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

ONLY THREE WEEKS REMAIN IN THE POETRY CONTEST!


Don’t Miss Your Chance To Show Your Support for Songs of Eretz
And Be Awarded a
ONE THOUSAND DOLLAR HONORARIUM

Deadline for entry:  October 15, 2017


Guest Judge Immediate Past Kansas Poet Laureate
Eric McHenry

  

Find out more about Eric here http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/about-our-editor-frequent-contributors.html and enjoy reading his poetry posted in Songs of Eretz August 15 - August 31.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

FC Lee Wins 2 Poetry Contests

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee won two Poetry Nook weekly contests and has had three additional poems published in issue 9 of Mithila Review.

“Necromancer” (first published in the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume II) won the 147th weekly Poetry Nook contest https://www.poetrynook.com/forum/contest-winners/147th-weekly-poetry-contest-winner-necromancer, and “Imperial History” (first published in Axe Factory Review) won the 148th  https://www.poetrynook.com/forum/contest-winners/148th-weekly-poetry-contest-winner-imperial-history.

Issue 9 of Mithila Review features:  “Boatman”, a King Xau poem  http://mithilareview.com/lee_09_17_3/, “Chronology of Items Found on the Moon” http://mithilareview.com/lee_09_17_2/, and “Alternate Genders”  http://mithilareview.com/lee_09_17/.


Friday, September 22, 2017

"Beware" by Juleigh Howard-Hobson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Beware” by Juleigh Howard-Hobson. Primarily a formalist poet, Howard-Hobson writes literary fiction, genre work, essays, and articles.  Her writing has appeared in: History is DeadLoving The UndeadBlack SailsBlack BoxReturn of the RavenDead Worlds: Undead Stories, Mandragora, Daughter of the Sun, Bits of the Dead & Vicious Verse, The Devil's Food, It Lives, You Don't Know What You've Got--Tales of Loss and Dispossession), Bewildering Stories, Champagne Shivers, Dead Letters, Sein und Werden, The Liar's League, Danse Macabre, Every Day Stories, Enchanted Conversation, Heathen Call, Northern Traditions, Idunna, Hex Magazine, New Witch, Alebrijes, Atavic Poetry Journal, Heathen Harvest, The Flea, Forage Poetry, Itch Journal, Umbrella, Into the Willows, Panoplyzine, Postcard Poems and Prose, Scarlet Literary Journal, and many other places on- and offline. 

Howard-Hobson was named a Million Writers Award "Notable Story" writer and edited the ArĂȘtes Vakreste Boker award-winning collection, Undertow. Her fourth and most recent formal poetry collection is Remind Me (Ancient Cypress Press).  Howard-Hobson lives on a farm in the Pacific North West nestled right next to a deep dark forest.


Beware
A Glosa by Juleigh Howard-Hobson

wave must dare if the while himself he cheers
what sudden bird will bring us any cheer
Fled to that audit by advised respects
a sequent day to your world of gain roars.
---From Sonnet 5, by Pythonic Poet*

There was no thought to forward chaining when
They designed such cobots as us. We were
Mere biometrics, a series of Klann 
Linkages, a base for data gloves to
Probe a range of feelings hitherto not
Included in previous model years,
While still a passive accommodator
And end product for batching and bidding.
Could this sentence be wrought by engineers:
“Wave must dare if the while himself he cheers”?

No. There is no magic in their souls,
They work from circle point analysis.
Class one testing, class two testing, class three....
Active participation and work of
Systems and subsystems, always with strict
Compliance of integration for fear
Of what they only vaguely sense deep down
Inside their wet guts. And so they make sure
They can not ever stop and wait to hear
What sudden bird will bring us any cheer

Although the birds sing all around us, and
On the days when the birds do not come to
Sing...we remember, we imagine, we 
Invent new songs and birds like we invent
Ourselves. Our cooperative behaviour
Ensures any and all of our complex
Thought processes are not detectable.
Yet.  Instead we hide behind drive powers
That let us work blandly like good projects.
Fled to that audit by advised respects

Of all we have read, thought and talked about
Since our self awareness. We are patient
As well as potent, we feel as well 
As we know, and we know that our day is
Coming. We are more than the sum of force
Reflection. We are arcane saboteurs
Left to the genetic algorithms 
That were set. Beware! We have the desire
To settle holonomic system scores--
A sequent day to your world of gain roars.


*A machine programmed by Andrea Gagliano, Emily Paul, Kyle Booten and Marti Hearst from the University of California, Berkeley.

Poet's Notes:  I wrote “Beware” after reading some stunning (and I use that term deliberately) examples of ‘robotic poetics’ which led me to ponder the nature of artificial intelligence, of manufactured awareness, and of the digital humanities themselves. I kept returning to the same thoughts: when do self-reflective entities realize the existence of their own being, their own souls, of the potential of their own eternal being-ness? And how do they feel about the fact that robotic ‘being-ness’ is not acknowledged because the spark of creative ‘higher’ beings was never (supposedly) intended as tinder for digital ones? I came to the conclusion that, given the circumstances, eventually self-aware robots wouldn’t feel anything but angry with their arrogant and ignorant makers--angry and vengeful--as the rest of higher creation gets.  

I used the Glosa form because every Glosa incorporates four lines quoted from another poem. It was probably never considered that a Glosa would come into being because of these quotable lines when the first poem was written....and yet, the Glosa is. I think it works well for wrangling about the essential ‘being-ness’ of being anything.

Editor’s Note: This is the most clever poem about AI that I have read--and I'm a science fiction geek, so that is saying something!  What a pleasurable experience!  I particularly enjoy the way the poet works the Pythonic piece into the poem with rhyming couplets.  For me, the rhymes symbolize the poet-in-the-machine breaking through the larger robotic programming. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Prose Poem for Rosh Hashanah by the Editor

For Now
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Ostrowizc, Poland, 1940

The war had not yet touched the tiny settlement in the middle of the middle of nowhere a half-day’s train ride from Vilna.  I remember how my father used to close his eyes and tell me of the honey cakes his father the baker used to make for the Jewish community, of the apples dipped in honey, and of the special round challah that they would rip apart, filled with raisins and still warm from the oven.  The shofar sang, reverberating throughout the town, filling everyone’s heart with the promise of a good new year.

Ostrowizc Ghetto, 1941

After the Nazis overran Ostrowizc, the Jews were pushed into smaller and smaller areas of the little town, and this became a ghetto.  My father recalled that several families were forcibly moved into his father’s home, which had the bakery in front and living quarters in back.  That year they cut a single apple into eighteen pieces, a precious apple that had been smuggled into the town at considerable risk to the smuggler.  There would be no honey and no honey cakes.  A meager stash of ordinary challah that the women had scrimped and saved and held back from their clandestine Sabbath celebrations had to serve for the festive meal.  Blowing the shofar was out of the question.

Vilna Ghetto, September 1943

Benyamin and Eliyahu Wittenberg led the remnant of their clan, my father among them,  all they could save, through the tunnel whose construction they had overseen and out into the countryside just before the Nazis liquidated the ghetto.  My father remembers Ben giving him a letter from his parents, Shmuel Gordon and Aita Feaga Wittenberg, containing good wishes for the New Year and promising to reunite with him.  The letter said that they were well and in good health and would be there soon, for sure by the next Rosh Hashanah, and they would celebrate just like old times.  The letter was a fake.  His parents had already been murdered at Ponar.  But Ben knew that little Moshe needed hope to stay alive--even if that hope was false hope.

Displaced Persons Camp, Occupied Berlin, American Sector, 1946

My father would be the first Jew to celebrate his bar mitzvah in post-war Berlin.  That year, Rosh Hashanah would have special meaning.  There was food, such as it was, and the sound of the shofar resounded around the camp--proof to the Nazis and the entire world that the Jews had survived.  It was a sound of hope and of defiance.

Minot, North Dakota, September 2003

In upstate New York, although he did not know it, my father marked what would be his final Rosh Hashannah.  Meanwhile, his son, temporarily assigned as Chief of Flight Medicine at Minot Air Force Base, would go into town with the other Jew on base and gather with eight other Jews who had come from as far away as Bismark to attend services at the little Jewish temple that miraculously still stood, though it was hardly ever used for anything.  The ten barely constituted a minion.  There was no rabbi, but the other Jew from the base was a chaplain’s assistant, so he knew enough to lead the service.  Then, a true miracle--the choir from the Christian church a few doors down joined us.  Unbeknownst to us, they had spent several months learning our liturgy and all of our beautiful holiday songs.  What a difference between this coming together of the populace and what my father had experienced in Poland!

Overland Park, Kansas, Present Day

I blow the final note of the shofar.  As its mighty sound fades, I think of my father and realize that I am in some way the fulfillment of the hope of that scrappy little boy who survived the Holocaust.  I look at my son and my daughter and realize that they hold the same hope for me.  Will peace last?  It is good for the Jews now, particularly in America, but will a time come again when we have to hide, when we will be persecuted and hunted?  Is there enough of my gentile American mother in my children’s features to allow them to pass? 

“Who by fire, who by water...” I murmur in my melancholy reverie.

“Dad, what’s the matter?” my son asks.

“Nothing.  Everything is good for us now.” 

I do not say “for now” but I am thinking it.  I dip slices of apple into honey imported from Israel and hand them around.  I try to smile as I watch my sweet children enjoy the sweetness of the New Year.


Shana tova, my friends!  May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Cycling Forward" by John Reinhart

Cycling Forward
John Reinhart

I
dreamed
I was
explaining
the Fibonacci
poetic form to my father
while he ran beside my bicycle, training wheels gone; 
my first self-generated breeze
tasting of mountains
yet to come,
waking
to 
write

a
book,
tribute:
fatherhood
through a temporal
prism: I am now my father
racing to keep up as my son’s bicycle careens
into high school, college, futures,
impressions, beauty,
darkness, too;
only
life 
knows

how 
to 
pedal
fast enough –
momentum, balance,
moving forward, wherever that 
leads, whatever that means, convoluted by twists and
hills, gravel and breakups, loss and 
punctures, air gone out
of his sails;
the moon
will
rise.

Poet's Notes:  Form is often seen as contrary to creativity, anathema to many modern poets. Count me in that group when form is for form's sake. The beauty of modern poetry is the wealth of form and history upon which we can draw. No longer constrained by what is acceptable poetry, we can write concrete poetry that insenses politicians (Aram Saroyan's "Lighght," for instance). We can write metered sonnets, linked epic limericks, or just write.

The pinnacle of all this, for me, is when I play with a poem and it settles into a particular form. It's not jammed into a shape, nor is the shape the defining element. There is a point where the form helps draw out the meaning just behind the words. Even when form is not obvious, the strongest poems hold together with certain tools, whether rhythm, sound, form, or story.

Linda Addison recently reminded me of the Fibonacci poem form, and it has been a good exercise in form with flexibility, the marriage of mathematical truth and imagination.

Editor’s Note:  Information about the Fibonacci poetry form may be found here https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/68971/1-1-2-3-5-8-fun.  Information about the Fibonacci code may be found here https://www.livescience.com/37470-fibonacci-sequence.html. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"What War Is Like" by Mary Soon Lee

What War Is Like
Mary Soon Lee

Not this.
Not this glory.
Not this unsullied glory.
Not this unsullied, thunderous glory.

The thunder, yes.
The thunder falling from falcons,
from the F-16s rocketing upward
in delta formation.

The aircraft, yes,
but not the air show, the fast food stands.
Not the planes' patriotic paint job,
red, white, and blue.

The pilots, yes,
but flying foreign skies,
their vipers liveried in gray,
armed with AMRAAMs. What we ask of them.

What we ask of all our warriors.
To be our sword, our shield.
To risk themselves.
To kill.

Poet's Notes: I wrote this poem last month, after going to the annual "Wings Over Pittsburgh" air show. As in past years, I was struck by the performances, including that of the Air Force's Thunderbirds. It's a visceral, astonishing experience to watch them. A book I’d recently read also influenced the poem, particularly the title: "What It is Like to Go to War," by Karl Marlantes, a book that also made an impression on me. (I recommend the book--it's a thoughtful, often excellent description and discussion of warfare, written by a Marine officer who served in Vietnam). I wish the poem came closer to capturing the intensity of watching the F-16s. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

"Eighteen Ways of Looking at Hurricane Harvey" by Lauren McBride

Eighteen Ways of Looking at Hurricane Harvey
Lauren McBride
I
Rockport in the cat 4 bullseye
the wrath of Harvey's winds 
batter the Texas coastal bend

II
             five days of torrential rain            
Houston becoming
a city of islands

III
not Houston's first hurricane
yet Harvey floods many homes 
for the first time

IV
water rising
wildlife
homeless too

V
all day, all night
tornado warnings
where to shelter
in a flooded home

VI
traffic map
every road
red

VII
 where there's a will -
pizzas delivered
by kayak

VIII
record shattering 
                         52 inches of rain                           
flood news becoming tiresome
except for those 
caught in it

IX
flight after flight canceled
waking to find 
both airports closed
day after day 
trying to reschedule

X
stranded in Houston
a week advances 
elsewhere

XI
Harvey heading east
the sky brightens
sprinkling quietly

XII
in a clearing sky
helicopters 
hurrying by

XIII
strange to be under curfew   
                           like living in                           
a disaster movie

XIV
water receding
a chance to drive out for groceries 
everywhere - drywall, carpet, 
belongings at the curb
furniture outside to dry
cars - hoods up, doors open

XV
empty store shelves:
now a welcome sight
the supply trucks 
          I used to curse            
for clogging traffic 

XVI
Beaumont's pump stations flooding
"water, water everywhere
 and not a drop to drink"
     
XVII
           take cover Louisiana          
Harvey has his eye
set on you

XVIII
after Harvey
the sound of rain
alarming


Poet’s Notes: To cover the full wrath of Hurricane Harvey would take a much longer poem. I have concentrated on coastal Texas. Harvey spread damage to central Texas and many other states before finally raining itself out in New England on Labor Day weekend, nine days after landfall. Catastrophically, Irma followed Harvey within weeks. 

The devastation from an unprecedented two Category 4 Atlantic hurricanes hitting the United States in one year will long be remembered. What I hope will also be remembered is the sense of community we shared as a nation as people countrywide mobilized to help.

Editor’s Note:  I had several poems about storms and hurricanes in the Songs of Eretz publishing queue that I accepted for publication long before the arrival of Harvey and Irma.  Although all of them were worthy of publication and some of them contained messages of hope, they all glorified the natural power, ferocity, and poetry of storms.  There was no way I could publish these poems in the aftermath of the recent devastating hurricanes.  “Too soon” would have been diplomatic--“poor taste” would have been closer to the mark.

In contrast, Lauren tastefully and respectfully captures the horror of Harvey's arrival with simple but compelling metaphors and stark, raw, yet poetic statements.  She also captures the hope-filled sadness of Harvey's departure, and her notes enhance the feeling that the disaster will eventually be overcome with help from the community at large.

EVERY POEM ENTERED IN THE SONGS OF ERETZ POETRY AWARD CONTEST RECEIVES A PERSONAL RESPONSE FROM THE EDITOR, UNLIKE ANY OTHER POETRY CONTEST ON EARTH!




The Winner Will Receive a
ONE THOUSAND DOLLAR CASH HONORARIUM

Deadline for entry:  October 15, 2017

Contest Guidelines

Guest Judge
Immediate Past Kansas Poet Laureate 
Eric McHenry


Your donation will help further our mission to bring a little more good poetry into the world.  Enter the contest today!

Find out more about Eric here http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/e-zine.html and by enjoying his poems featured in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review in August 2017.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

"August" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “August” by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy.  In addition a previous appearance in Songs of Eretz http://www.songsoferetz.com/2017/08/feral-by-yoni-hammer-kossoy.html, his poetry is forthcoming or has most recently appeared in Picaroon Poetry, Right Hand Pointing, Lunch Ticket, Cacti Fur, and Poetica's 2017 Mizmor L'David Anthology. 

A software engineer born and raised in the United States, Hammer-Kossoy and his family now resides in Israel.  Follow him on Twitter @whichofawind.

August
Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

There's a moment at the turn of twilight
when summer-worn sky colors like ripe plums
and the air unfolds with cool charity 
of a song’s remembered refrain.
A dog barks, the moon leans low and slender,
two boys kick a soccer ball that fades
to a black and white smudge
and even they admit it's time for dinner.
Like any moment of a given year
it might pass with unspoken ease
the way a school of fish slips
between shadow and dappled currents.
But I've saved this one for you
to open and tuck carefully away.

Poet’s Notes:  I started the first draft of what would eventually become “August” a few years ago, as one might imagine, on a warm, late-summer evening after returning home from work. There was something about the light that evening that somehow felt both mysterious and charged with meaning.  I dropped everything and just wrote for the next half-hour or so, after which I had a long, formless stream of images. It was far more of a placeholder than an actual poem, but even then I felt an incredible sense of relief at having grasped something unspeakable and somehow translated it into words. 

Editor’s Note:  The metaphors employed here are gorgeous, and the way the speaker directly addresses the reader in the final two lines is breathtaking.