Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Single-Malt Soul" by James Frederick William Rowe

Single-Malt Soul
James Frederick William Rowe

Upon retirement of a lifelong labour
Do our guardian angels
Imbibe a quaff
From the well of our soul?
We are after all
A fine aged spirit
Matured for years
In the cask of our body
Well made for sipping
The water of life

Would that mine would say:
"Single-malt soul
I shall take you with water
For you, undiluted
Are far too strong for me."

Poet’s Notes:  I take my Scotch whisky neat. That way, I can enjoy it by itself and savour the flavours of the dram in a pure form.  This poem celebrates that love of Scotch and plays upon the double meaning of spirit--as a soul and as the distilled essence of the alcohol. The poem shouldn't give too much difficulty in interpretation but it concerns a guardian angel’s drinking of the speaker’s soul as if his spirit were, in fact, well, a spirit—in this case, a single-malt Scotch.

“Whisky” in Gaelic means “water of life”, and this is likewise reflected in the poem as a play on words given that I am referencing the soul, which endows the body of life with, of course, the “water of life” of the Scotch. In the second stanza, the speaker wishes for the angel to be so impressed by his life that he has to take the dram with water, else the flavour would be overwhelming.

The poem was written rather quickly, but I cannot remember where. There is nothing especially ornate or complex in its structure, but I rather like how it came out.

Monday, October 30, 2017

"Shooting Fish" by Lauren McBride

Shooting Fish
Lauren McBride

When the wind is calm, I like to look
in the glassy pools of Shady Brook.
I'll cast no fly to the fish gliding by,
caught with my camera, not a hook.

Poet's Notes: My father was an avid fisherman. I used to fish with him when I was little. Then I began to enjoy watching fish swim around in the water and felt less inclined to catch them on a pointy hook. Years later and miles away, I started snapping pictures of various fish so I could ask my dad what kind each was.

Somehow, fish photos became the subject of this poem using a form new to me, the gwawdodyn, which I first saw posted on Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides Blog in 2013. Welsh in origin, I became eager to try this form after the Editor introduced me to another Welsh form, the englyn penfyr.  An example of this form may be found here http://www.songsoferetz.com/search?q=englyn+penfyr.

The gwawdodyn is composed of quatrains that require nine syllables per line and hard rhymes for lines 1, 2, and 4. Line 3 must have ten syllables and a different internal rhyme. I started by picking words with lots of rhymes like: fish, fin, tail, cast, glass, but nothing worked until I thought of "hook" then "brook" and "look," and my poem took shape instantly.

Friday, October 27, 2017

"Those Who Seek Nature" by David Pring-Mill, Poet of the Week

Those Who Seek Nature
David Pring-Mill

There are those who seek nature
to set beauty on their irises
with the hope that fantastic views
will be absorbed within,
swirling down their pupils' vortices.

They believe
a sensory bombardment
of clear water, steep stones,
sun-lit crests and foreign cultures
will drive out what is in their minds,
expelling any inferiority
or empty state.

In this fervor for nature,
there is a transparent desire
to make their own beings transparent,
so that nature will be seen through them
and its grandeur will be theirs.

Above my path,
a pumpkin sky was carved,
with slits in clouds.
The orange of these masked heavens
almost seems to hang on the hill.

Brightness remains
on the road, light and dust
becoming silver,
with pretty plants noting
asphalt borders,
in the way an airport at night is seen by
white and blue runway markers.
Here I see Menzies’ Larkspur
with stems dispersed and dried
in deep purple and rich blue,
advancing towards
the burnt-out mountains,
our scorched edge.

I live now, breathless,
for the closing of this day,
with its final enormity.
The enormity of nature
requires a reevaluation of oneself.
The altered sense of scale,
the drunken measurement
of everything, means that the soul
cannot account for itself.
Then the mind becomes
an inspired mathematician
fighting after a new formula.

There is no way around the self,
in the middle of nature, no way
to separate the hike from self-reflection.
Those fleeced nature-lovers
with their Instagram mountain selfies
expose the wild-eyed, insecure
narcissistic streak that runs
deep within man’s search for meaning,
trickling out of philosophical pages;
It is the call of awe
and reimagined purpose.

This world tumbles and smooths
rocks and people alike.
On the edge of a cliff,
I stop, holding
my fingers apart
against the wind and its aroma of pine,
with the narrative of my life
somewhere back
in the right-angular land
and pulsating streets,
where people are trying
desperately to drop
into the depths of the present.

Past lovers allow for an alternate reality,
A plausibility that can’t be challenged.
The smell of hair and sweat
can become sweet things,
sweetened by love or nostalgia.
Past lovers came with different smells,
even different types of clothing and accessories
texturing the half-seen sights of each day,
and certainly would have brought
different conversations full of ideas,
words and consequences.

And yet, within nature, time is mocked.
The wind is deaf to each
history declared.
Nature was injured by people
proclaiming progress
and that idea of progress is rooted in time.
But forests are the same now as they were then,
with ecological adjustments, but still
those trees stand with their superior height,
Still those mountains loom with their craggy might,
And so time disappears within nature
And your own timeline is reconsidered
before dissolving, too.

Poet’s Notes:  Many poems have been written about nature. Artists of all stripes frequently depict nature, the source of boundless inspiration. Tormented people go to nature to be healed. In this poem, I wrote about the psychology underlying those relationships.

Recently, the New York Times published a dual book review written by Charles Petersen, which made interesting commentary upon the history of hiking and the varied motivations of hikers. 34 million Americans go hiking each year. Peterson notes that many authors of works about hiking “take this experience as the occasion for an anguished excavation of [their] past.” Peterson’s article “Take a Hike!” can be read here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/08/17/take-a-hike-american-trails/.

Editor's Note:  This is David's final appearance in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.  I am sure that I speak not only for myself that his poetic gift will be dearly missed.  I have invited him to keep us apprised of his future achievements and hope to keep the readers of Songs of Eretz informed of them.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"Soft & Smooth" by David Pring-Mill, Poet of the Week

Soft & Smooth
David Pring-Mill
She is soft,
not only
in her body
but throughout her whole presence,
the way she moves and speaks.
The softness of her blonde hair
is also in her voice;
It’s a uniformed existence.

That voice, at times,
comes with a sudden upswell
of pitch, bringing with it
the erratic pressures
of her accent.

After a passionate kiss,
her pale blue
eyes grow wide
and lost in feeling.

Poet's Notes:  "Soft & Smooth" is one of those poems that come most directly from my personal life. As such, it's really just a record of observation, vaguely similar to my poem "Today," which recorded my miscalculation in carrying around an umbrella http://www.songsoferetz.com/2016/06/today-by-david-pring-mill-frequent.html.  Obviously, this poem is romantic whereas "Today" was not, but both works could also have been diary entries if I kept a diary. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Is Empathy a Form of Imagination?" by David Pring-Mill, Poet of the Week

Is Empathy a Form of Imagination?
David Pring-Mill

I see strange symmetry
and broken forms:
the processions
of people,
the tombs
of haphazard art.

A cerebral engineer is at work,
rethinking cogs of the world
to assemble it anew.

But do the farthest reaches of mind
also allow for the reaching heart?
Is empathy a form of imagination?

If you can't imagine,
how can you empathize?
If rooms are boring
with fixed forms
and surface feelings,
how can your mind wander
into another perspective?
We imagine, in part
so that we can empathize.

If we accept this as true,
it's ironic
how schools discard
arts and literature,
prescribing other fields
as more practical.

How can anything be practiced
if people, trapped in their own heads,
cannot work and dream together?

Poet's Notes:  Many artists are characterized as "bleeding hearts." Perhaps an active imagination leads to a heightened sense of empathy. Of course, artistic passions and empathic causes may also co-occur because people are trying to conform to the mores of existing social groups. This latter explanation is admittedly cynical, suggesting that artists' displays of empathy are disingenuous, whereas the former explanation provides both causality and aggrandizement.  With this poem, I intended to pull at the threads of interesting questions, without entirely unraveling these interwoven psychological yarns.

Editor’s Note:  This is a thought-provoking, activist but not in-your-face treatment of an important subject, especially in these polarized times. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Smile" By David Pring-Mill, Poet of the Week

By David Pring-Mill

Translators struggle to carry
meaning from one language
to another,
Trying to grant justice
to the beauty in words
that bubble up
from the authorial heart
and fizzle in the mind.
How can they ever
achieve this?

Even a smile can be read incorrectly,
with its intentions muddled 
by context, culture, history,
worry, fear, pain!

This messiness is all
we can hope for. 
It is impossible to truly know another person, 
given that we do not truly know ourselves
and exist within a vastness of unknowing.
A person is only regarded and loved
By impressions evoked.

Poet's Notes:  "Smile" is about unknowability and unattainability. Instead of going beyond the limits for revelation, this poem acknowledges the existence of limits and it is this acknowledgment that produces clarity. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

"Bleak" by David Pring-Mill, Poet of the Week

Editor’s Note:  It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that David Pring-Mill, a charter member of the Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor group, has decided to resign his status as a Frequent Contributor.  Worse still, he told me that he does not expect to write any more poetry in this lifetime--maybe some prose or rhetoric that feels poetic, but not pure poetry.  David intends to channel his creative time and energy toward completing a political documentary and to devote his creative expression to writing persuasive essays and making films.

Songs of Eretz is be honored to be an archival repository of David’s poetic work.  In recognition of his brief but important contribution to Songs of Eretz and the world of poetry and by way of saying farewell, David will be featured as the Songs of Eretz Poet of the Week this week.  It will indeed be “bleak” to lose his strong, lyrical, Whitmanian voice.

David Pring-Mill

Lost within foreign geography,
a silver arc of faith
suspends all my frailty,
with the intricate strength
of spider silk.

A bird flies above
the distillation tower
and sealed reactor —
Then onwards,
over some organized mess
of crisscrossing pipes
with endless stacks 
and filtered pressures.
Finally, it lands,
To rest on its perch.

From tips of white flowers,
green d├ęcor, and gravely bark,
this yellow-billed kite
launches itself, again
near the margins,
over the slaughterhouse,
Its feathers painted
the beautiful brown
of a rusty blade.
But it is powered by hunger,
desperate for carrion.

The bird searches
Undulating dunes, textured
by the pressures of spirited thumbs.
This desert is a sandy composition,
sung through lines of dry thirst,
with the careful dithering
of classical notes;
by auspicious lights,
peeled off the cosmos
like a clementine's loose skin.
All of life is wrapped up
in this desert membrane.

Poet's Notes:  I originally wrote "Bleak" under the title "Jagged Against Reason." In an earlier draft, the poem was about a quarreling and privileged couple humbled by their bleak surroundings while on a foreign trip. In this final draft, the poem has been distilled into a mostly sensory experience, set in the desert, on the edge of industry. I tried to depict hidden beauty as well as the harshness of life.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

FC McBride Has A Dozen Poems Published

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Lauren McBride has had twelve poems published in other venues.

"the neighbors' dog" haiku can be read online in The Heron's Nest http://www.theheronsnest.com/September2017/haiku-p11.html.

"with one puff" haiku appeared in print in the Aurorean, S/S issue http://encirclepub.com/aurorean/home/.

"Beneath This Blood-Red Sun They Come" can be read online in Kaleidotrope http://www.kaleidotrope.net/autumn-2017/beneath-this-blood-red-sun-they-come-by-lauren-mcbride/.

"For in that Sleep, What Nightmares . . ." appeared in print in http://store.albanlake.com/product/illumen-28/.

McBride has one poem each in the July and October issues of Spaceports & Spidersilk http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/spaceports.htm.

Finally, McBride has six poems in the August issue of Scifaikuest, both in print and online http://store.albanlake.com/product/scifaikuest-57/. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

"Tabernacle Among Stars" by John C. Mannone

Tabernacle Among Stars
John C. Mannone

The sun, a fire-brass peg,
nails the sky dome to horizon;
the tent, stitched with zipper of pines,
shrouded with sheer blue nylon air.

I look out the dome of my great tent
windowing heaven and wonder
who forged the iron suns, hammered
sparks still embering the anvil night.

                            Who made the stars
explode, who left their silver ash
beneath my feet? I sleep to dream
the answers that my grandfathers

Poet’s Notes: I was traveling south to Chattanooga on I-75 in early November 2007 when the sun appeared just above the horizon, and the sky appeared a beautiful clear blue, while rapidly taking on the hue of twilight. It reminded me of those glorious days of tenting. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"What He Told Me" by Mary Soon Lee

What He Told Me
Mary Soon Lee

Life is hard,
said my father,
as he apologized
for causing my existence,
for bringing me into a world of sorrow,
and I, who had met only the small sadnesses,
listened, undaunted, each time -- 
how many times? A dozen? More? --
that he said this.

Tell me if you're in trouble,
said my father,
whatever mistake you've made,
I've made worse ones.
But when I was in trouble,
he had left,
because life is hard.

Walk across the ladder,
he told me,
when I was little
and scared to cross
a playground ladder,
scared of falling,
of being hurt.
I walked across the ladder.
I didn't fall.
There are ladders everywhere,
of course, 
and though I've spent
most of my life
on the ground,
it is because of him
that I know myself
capable of climbing.

I burned the candle from both ends,
I made mistakes,
but have no regrets,
he said,
and I (me, myself) have not,
have rarely even lit
the candle.

Use the best glasses,
he said,
when I dropped one.
Don't keep them in a cupboard,
use them everyday.
Those glasses are in my cupboard now,
high up, unused,
but I am thinking
of lighting a candle,
of climbing onto a ladder,
even if it's a small one.

Poet's Notes:  My father grew up in Malaysia, part of the ethnically Chinese minority there, and then went to Dublin to study medicine, where he met my mother. He was a charismatic man, who had a colorful life. ​He was always, always a good father, but not always a good man. He was bolder, braver, and wilder than I am. His death was the first great sadness of my life. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Ferris Wheel" by Sierra July

Ferris Wheel
Sierra July

Lighting the background sky
The great wheel spins
Suspending passengers in bliss
Speed unnoticeable
Melting into time's flow
Body and mind high off the ground

Poet's Notes:  Despite having a clown phobia, I've always been fond of carnivals--the smells of cotton candy and popcorn, as well as the gleeful shouts coming from the rides are all a big help. My favorite of the rides is the Ferris wheel, though I've never ridden one. I've always liked seeing the glowing wheel from afar, spinning like its own sort of planet. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Silver Maple" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Silver Maple
Terri Lynn Cummings 

Fortune stolen
limbs broken
trunk split

lightning slayed
an elder among 
the flock, fractured

Magnolia, Cherry
and Spruce, blue
sway in sorrow 

for neighbor and nest
to beetles, worms, and ants

All remains 
to the pitch of Earth

and the green
of release

Poet’s Notes:  Lightning destroyed a neighbor’s Silver Maple, an old gentleman who anchored their lawn. The family grieved as if the tree were human. In a way, it was, for the tree attended births and birthday parties, graduations, and marriages. The sentinel graced their lives and died, an abrupt departure that reshaped their view, yet continued in the ring of nature. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Letter from the Editor to All Contest Participants

Dear Contest Participants,

I am awed and humbled by the level of participation in this year’s Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest, our only fundraising event.  It is thanks to you and your generous support that we will be able further our mission to bring a little more good poetry into the world.  

The contest raised enough in donations for the Review to begin offering honoraria to our guest poets at a professional rate beginning in 2018.  “Going pro” should put Songs of Eretz on a trajectory to be on par with the most prestigious literary journals. Furthermore, it is sure to attract guest poets of the utmost quality and refinement to our cause.

This contest saw the return of many loyal friends from previous years as well as an unprecedented number of new voices.  The large number of early entrants, as well as the significant number of poets who entered the contest multiple times, particularly moved me.  The high quality of the work entered was remarkable as well, making my job as preliminary judge difficult--a nice problem!

I hope that all of you enjoyed your contest experience and found the personal feedback on each of your poems to be of some use.  I know that I enjoyed or will enjoy carefully considering and responding to each and every poem that was submitted (there were many last-minute entries that I still look forward to reading).

Kind regards,
Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Friday, October 13, 2017




Contest Guidelines:

For donations, use PayPal.com with Donations@SongsOfEretz.com as the receiving address. The suggested donation is twelve dollars per year for regular visitors to our site, but we will appreciate any lesser amount you can afford to give.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Falling into Winter" by Lauren McBride

Falling into Winter    

Like powdered sugar
sprinkled on spice cakes -            
brown and russet leaves  
dusted in snowflakes.

--Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes: I love fall when I can fling open the windows and let in the cool crisp air instead of summer's inferno. Then I can use the oven without having the kitchen's accidental space heater overtax the air conditioner. And suddenly I feel the need to bake. Perhaps this is why spice cake came to mind to describe snow falling on autumn leaves.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Games People Play" by John C. Mannone

Games People Play
John C. Mannone

It’s The Game of Life, but the Trouble is
that we often take Risk without having a Clue.
Silence sometimes dominates: Don’t Break
the Ice or Say Anything, that would be Taboo.
And when we finally speak, there’s no Diplomacy,
what we say to each other is often a Scrabble bunch
of words or simply Balderdash—it’s Apples to Apples
in this Game of Thrones. Why does one or the other
often have Monopoly over the conversation
while the other throws Stick & Stones?
It would be better if we threw Candyland candy canes
or even Chutes and Ladders, they wouldn’t hurt as much.
Sorry, this is a Trivial Pursuit, you can remain
the Mastermind, the Dominant Species. It’s Pay Day
I’m going to Pick Up Sticks and as quick as Jumping Jacks,
Go home. Guess Who is not going to stay
in the Dungeon anymore, no more Twilight Struggles
or night time nightmares. I got a Ticket to Ride.
It’s a game, like Chess, and I just lost my queen.

Poet’s Notes: This is about failed relationships in terms of board games (at least 25 of the 76 most popular ones), as well as a few others. The games are italicized and capitalized. See http://www.listchallenges.com/92-best-board-games-of-all-time.