Monday, April 30, 2018

"model train" by Lauren McBride

"Train" Watercolor & Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
model train silent
on dusty tracks by dark towns
after Dad's passing

--Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes:  I loved listening to my Dad plan his train layout; loved watching him build one design and then another that ran even better; loved giving him train cars and engines, buildings and scenery for gifts over the years. Now when I go back to my parents’ house, I visit his train set and if I try hard I can almost hear him telling me about the next improvement.

Friday, April 27, 2018

"Victoria" by Mary Soon Lee

Mary Soon Lee
           'Tis better to have loved and lost
          Than never to have loved at all.
                 --Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"A Pleasant Stroll" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
That first year Victoria wailed like a banshee
whenever she went to the forest, alone,
sometimes three or four times a week,
berating Joanna for the eighteen months they'd had--
Tennyson entirely wrong,
far better not to have had those months
than to find herself alone at fifty-two,
alone but no longer suited to it,
her single toothbrush
an exclamation point on the sink.

Elsewhere, she contained herself, behaved,
assured her brother she was fine;
indulged in dessert;
taught dry-eyed at the community college,
eradicating all mention of Tennyson from her classes;
maintained the garden with military ferocity,
measuring gaps between tulip bulbs with a ruler.

Time passed, as it does until it stops.
She went to the woods more rarely.
Sometimes her wails took on the cadence
of a professional keener,
rather than a never-married widow.
Sometimes she held her silence,
tramping through dry leaves
or over thin sheets of snow.

Two years in, one of Jo's brothers visited,
told her she should make new friends.
As if, Victoria told him, as if I could,
but she pointed out she was hardly a paragon of misery,
she who shamelessly savored pastries,
she who'd read ninety-three detective novels
that first year.

Four years in, she took early retirement,
experimented with watercolors,
started a book club,
planted six dozen daffodil bulbs, all higgledy-piggledy,
replaced her copies of Tennyson.

Poet's Notes:   Victoria is an imaginary woman whom I've used in a number of poems centered on an equally imaginary book club. This poem takes place before the others and describes a part of Victoria's life before she started the book club. 

For the record, I like Tennyson. I first met his poetry when I was about seven years old. I loved "The Lady of Shalott" so much that I learned it by heart. Perhaps it was a few years after first reading it that I memorized the poem--it's hard to be certain--but it was during my childhood. I'm a little rusty now but I can still remember most of the poem. 

Editor's Note:  The text of Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" may be found here

A Poem & a Painting

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Alessio Zanelli has a poem, “Glances Off The Sill”, and a painting, “The Sentinel” (acrylic on board), in the 2018 issue of Sanskrit

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Crafting Snowflakes" by Sierra July

"Snowflake" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Crafting Snowflakes
Sierra July

Scissors and hole punch at the ready
One in either hand, she flew through cloud
Breath forming cold, forming ice, heavy
Snipped and clipped cut-outs, until snow fell
Generated geometric shapes,
No two alike; not one permanent

Poet's Notes: Besides writing and reading, doing art was one of the things I cherished growing up. From painting and drawing to cutting shapes (as in this poem) and building models out of Legos or play dough, art has always been a creative outlet for me. I consider writing an art too, of course, and put more time into it than in other crafts, thus this is an ode to my old pastimes--with a little fantasy added. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Replay" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

"Replay" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Outside the night 
was a cold clean sheet
stretched tight.
No one dared say
the only difference
between a last gasp kick
sailing wide by inches
and a fingertip catch
of the fluttering ball
shown over and over
from every possible angle
in slow and slower mo;
between a silent walk-off
and a celebratory pile-on;
between a lover's quarrel
and scorched earth
is a puff of wind.

Poet’s Notes:  Over the years, it has become more difficult for me to be a devoted football fan. Even without diving into controversies over identity politics and/or the physical dangers associated with the game, my main problems boil down to practical ones. First, the geographical distance between where I live and where the games are played make it impractical to watch games in real-time. Second, the simple fact of the matter is that outside of the US, the game called “football” uses a black and white ball and is actually played with a person’s feet. And yet, for big games, I still really enjoy getting together with friends and watching a replay the next day. As long as the beer is cold and no one blurts out any spoilers, it’s almost as good as the real thing.

Editor’s Note:  I've pretty much abandoned watching sports for the reasons Yoni states, but his point regarding the cold beer is well taken.  There is a certain making-a-point-about-the-pointless (pun intended) here that I enjoy, too. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"Why Wouldn't I Marvel?" by Ross Balcom

"Scream" Ink and Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Why Wouldn't I Marvel?
Ross Balcom

Why wouldn't I marvel 
at it: immaterial,
imperceptible, its mysteries
indescribable by word
or sign...why wouldn't I marvel?

Why wouldn't I marvel
at its polarizing power:
the way it pushed hostile camps
to opposite sides of a continent
newly divided...why wouldn't I marvel?

Why wouldn't I marvel
when it sucked me from your arms
into a vacuum where I had 
no breath or life, where my screams
were silence...why wouldn't I marvel?

Poet's Notes: This poem is about a powerful force or entity seemingly inimical to human well-being. This force or entity may actually exist. I haven't named it.

Editor’s Note:  This one is a bit of a departure from Ross’ usual offerings, with its longer lines and stanzas.  Interestingly, it still has a distinctive Balcom flavor.  It works for me as standard horror and as a larger metaphor for partisan politics. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

"Winter Glimmerings" by Alessio Zanelli

Winter Glimmerings
"Hoarfrost" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Alessio Zanelli

The stare of stars is leaking round
the brim of cloud-depicted lakes
on high. Appeased and hoarfrost-bound
the land returns more than it takes.

Along unmanned embankments cloaked
in mist, far-reaching limbs of air
contain the chill in which they’re soaked,
allowing vanguards to prepare.

Poet’s Notes:  All of a sudden, for once at the proper moment, autumn passes quickly into winter. Every now and then, I like to write short, formal poems. This one is made of two quatrains of iambic tetrameters inspired by elementary observations of nature, in particular of the surrounding landscape and the weather. 

Artist's Note: Depicting frost is not an easy task, but luckily watercolor is the most well equipped for this. I used salt in this piece to help create an organic "crystalline" effect.

As a side note: If anyone was wondering, yes, I changed my signature. I believe I am finally happy with this one, and it shouldn't change again.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

CQ Publishes 2 By FC Zanelli

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that two poems by Frequent Contributor Alessio Zanelli may be found in California Quarterly, published by the California State Poetry Society. "Twone" and "The Sea" are included in Volume 44, Issue 1 (Spring 2018)

Friday, April 20, 2018

"A Most Torrential Rain" by Kaitlyn Vaughn

"Ripple" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon

A Most Torrential Rain
Kaitlyn Vaughn

The mellow Autumn came,
And with it came
A most torrential rain.
The wind howled
The roof shook,
So many lives with it took.
The cyclone swirled,
The eye beheld,
And numerous structures with it fell.

Mellow, yes, mellow
Are the floods
In which multitudes of homes once stood.
Soaked and sea-ridden
Flowing in shambles
Towards its vast and new 
Cavernous abode.
Mellow is the land-turned sea
From which thousands ceased to be.
Left hollowed and destitute
From the so-called mellow dispute.
And from which came
A most torrential rain.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem stems from Byron; however, this mellow autumn isn’t so mellow. This poem is about the many hurricanes that wreaked havoc in the autumn of 2017. The word mellow makes me think of the calming quiet moment right before a storm hits, and of still ocean water.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Sanctuary of Apollo" by Vivian Finley Nida

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Sanctuary of Apollo” by Vivian Finley Nida.  Nida is a Teacher/Consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, affiliated with the University of Oklahoma.  She holds a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Secondary Education from Oklahoma State University. 

In addition to past appearances in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, her work has appeared in Illya’s Honey, Dragon Poet Review, River Poets Journal “Windows” edition, Westview:  Journal of Western Oklahoma, and the 2017 Woody Guthrie Poetry Anthology.  Nida lives in Oklahoma City.

Sanctuary of Apollo
Vivian Finley Nida 
          How lonely sits the city that was full of people!
          --The Lamentations of Jeremiah: 1

Inside the walled perimeter
strewn with rubble
"Apollo" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
an uneven path winds 

through the end of the world 
the home of Kourion’s protector
god of the woodlands

A low stone wall lines 
ruins of the palaestra 
where athletes trained

Some columns stand
Others lie collapsed 
like defeated wrestlers

Pillars guard a dormitory 
near the sacred way
leading to the elevated temple

Two columns soar twenty feet into leafless blue
support remnants of a portico 
walls, jagged like steep stairs 

Enduring in shade, stones lament
lost olive, orange, lemon groves
vineyards, cattle, donkeys

prayers to Apollo, worshippers 
who feared being cast into the sea 
for touching his temple

who lost faith in terra firma 
when it shook their tomorrows 
until the only thing certain was uncertainty

Poet’s Notes:  I visited this ancient site where people worshipped Apollo from the 8th century BCE to the 4th century CE when an earthquake destroyed it.  The ruins tell a story of how quickly one’s world can end, which led to this poem.

Editor’s Note:  The personification of the lost city in the 7th stanza is breathtaking, allowing the ruins to literally as well as figuratively represent her lost people.  I see a larger metaphor here for modern times--the lost city of Kourion as a metaphor for cities like Detroit or losses yet to come due to climate change, nuclear war, or some other catastrophe at which the final stanza hints.  The imagery is strong throughout the piece.  And as a bonus, Kourion is a real place (although a bit obscure--I admit I had to research it). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Simple Solutions" by Aparna Sanyal

Simple Solutions
Aparna Sanyal 

to Occam's razor until it slits my throat, 
simple solutions arrive too late, cry at my quick burial
then party at my wake.
Too late and I am china in alien hands
freely crushed into shards--
uncaring shards that cut, open wounds unevenly healed, then
scarify into knots and twists of tissue 
that weep my plasma.
Heuristic answers lack the romance that my grave craves-- 
So I wait patiently to be 
desiccated by your malignancy 
and the loping twists
of drama
that come in your wake. 
Crunch me underfoot.
Your leviathan weight
leaves a sense-shaped absence 
in my place.
Your juggernaut moves forward
Unstopped, uncontested,
by simple debate.

Poet’s Notes:  On September 29th, 2017, twenty-two people died in a stampede at the Elphinstone-Parel Railway Station in Mumbai. Daily commuters, simple people on their way to earning a livelihood, bent at quotidian tasks, unaware that they are at high risk, use this station heavily. 3,000 people die each year due to the Mumbai metropolitan train systems' poor infrastructure and overall civic negligence. The simple addition of footbridges and pathways, something for which citizens have been petitioning for years, would have averted this tragedy.

Sadly, those in power play grand games and ignore our basic human needs. The simple solutions are in front of us, but we choose to ignore them, take too little action too late.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Yard Work" by Mary Soon Lee

Yard Work
Mary Soon Lee

"Rose" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
At the garden center
you wilted early,
the morning hot and damp,
your legs worn out by running.
So busy, always busy,
touching anything, everything --
plastic watering cans, cardboard boxes,
tubs, wheelbarrows, trowels, rakes.
You wandered past rosebushes,
smelling carefully,
chose one with wide pink blooms,
faintly scented.
Back home,
after I had watered you and cooled you down,
you lifted bricks into our wheelbarrow,
helped me push each load to the dried-out pond.
Together we positioned bricks
on the concrete bottom,
poured bags of earth, one by one,
over the patchwork of brick.
So long a project
for a person of such busyness,
so many games you could have played instead.

Your small fingers
dug the hole for the rosebush,
helped me press it into the earth,
both of us tired, dirty, bent down,
the pink roses wobbling overhead.

Poet's Notes: This poem is about a day I spent on a gardening project with my daughter Lucy, back when she was four years old. There used to be a small, dried-out pond-basin in our backyard, and together Lucy and I converted it to a flowerbed. It was a lengthy project by the standards of a four-year-old, and this poem started out lengthy as well. I've revisited the poem since I first wrote it, whittling it down in stages. Poems do not always turn out well the first time around, or even the second time--at least, my poems don't!

Editor’s Note:  Mary has captured a precious moment here.  I especially like the way she treats her daughter as a plant in the 3rd stanza by having her "watered."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Brief Review by Mary Soon Lee of “The Essential Haiku, Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa” by Robert Hass

In The Essential Haiku, Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, Robert Hass provides translations of haiku by three of its preeminent practitioners together with supplemental material to give the reader context.  He discusses how haiku grew out of the older Japanese tradition of collaborative verse and notes that Basho, who lived in the seventeenth century, worked before haiku were recognized as an independent art form.

At the end of the book, Hass discusses the inherent challenges in translating haiku--how the resonances of their seasonal references, their mix of kanji and phonetic symbols, their syntax, and their punning are often difficult to render in English. I found the book an excellent introduction to the three poets.

A used hardcover copy of the book may be had from Amazon for about $2.50  A new hardcover copy may be had for about $54.00, and a new paperback copy may be had for about $8.50 from the same source.

Chiron Review Publishes One by FC Zanelli

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Alessio Zanelli’s poem "Stardustling" (after G√ľnther Grass) has been included in the Winter 2017 issue of Chiron Review

FC Mannone Receives Accolades at Writers Conference

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor John C. Mannone won first place in the “Writing for Young People” category at the recent Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference in Oak Ridge, Tennessee with his poem “Little Wishing Star”. He also placed third place in the “Poetry” category with “After the Fish Market”.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Announcing the 2018 1st Grade Poetry Chat Contest Winners

Our Editor-in-Chief recently appeared before Valerie Satterwhite’s 1st Grade class at the Patsy Sommer Elementary School in Austin, Texas via Skype as the special guest poet for a poetry teaching session  The session was facilitated by Nepris  With Dr. Gordon’s help, the children learned how to compose shape poems, acrostics, and traditional haiku, and learned a little about poetic devices.

Several of the first graders submitted poems to Songs of Eretz as part of a special poetry contest just for them.  Two young poets were deemed particularly worthy of recognition by Dr. Gordon and were offered five-dollar honoraria and publication in Songs of Eretz.  Please enjoy, “To Apple from Tree” by Belle Knox and, “Cats” by Sayee Junnare.

To         Apple
From        Tree
Little        Little        Apple
I do! 
Belle Knox

About the Poet:  Isabelle “Belle” Knox is seven years old. She likes to draw, bake, dance, and do gymnastics.

Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this poem because I really like apples. If we didn't have trees to take care of apples, we would not have apples. I did the shape of a tree because I thought it would be more fun.

Teacher’s Note:  It has been a pleasure to see Belle’s confidence grow this school year and her own personality shine.  She has really found a love for expressing herself through art and poetry. 

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the way the poet uses personification here, which is giving something else properties that only people usually possess.  In this case, the tree (parent) is having a conversation (like a person) with its apples (or children, as apples are full of seeds which could grow into apple trees).  The poem is in the shape of a tree and has the word “apple” twice, making it an apple tree.  I took some editorial liberties with the colors of the words in the presentation and did not include a graphic--this poem is its own graphic.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sayee Junnare

Nice cats 
Mean cats
Hungry cats
Lazy cats 
Sweet cats 
Scratchy cats 
Thirsty cats 
Quick cats 
Cute cats 
Black cats 
Sneaky cats
Cool cats

About the Poet:  Sayee Junnare is six years old.  Her favorite subject is science, and her favorite color is gold. She enjoys roller-skating, drawing animals, writing poems, and training dogs.  She especially likes to swim and play with her dog, Ginger. 

Poet’s Notes:  I like animals so I chose to write about cats. Poems are fun to read. I like to make my own. 

Teacher’s Note:  Sayee is an incredible, kind individual who cares for all people and every living thing. She wants to be a veterinarian, and most of her academic topics revolve around animals, especially dogs and cats. She is extremely bright, hard-working, and a pleasure to teach! 

Editor’s Note:  This one reminds me a little of the work of one of my favorite poets--Dr. Seuss!  Our mascot, Lana the Poetry Dog, thought this one was so good that it almost made her like cats, too--almost!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"The Guardsman of Qalaloom" by James Frederick William Rowe

The Guardsman of Qalaloom
James Frederick William Rowe 

This world is not for us
Its sunsets - its cities
"Qalaloom" Watercolor & Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
None of it is meant for us
We are as smoke 
Passed through a ray of light

Even when we are within
We are apart
Making use, but not using
Experiencing, but not knowing
Strangers in our home

Ours is to fight
For that which cannot be ours
To observe all the pleasures
Yet shun them all
But for the pleasure of war

Yes, war - that is ours
I say war and not protection
Though we are guardsmen in name
For it is war that is ours alone
Which is ours to claim

This spear in hand
Strong, steady, certain
As my soul is strong
As my heart is steady
As my duty is certain

It is the mark of what I am
That which distinguishes me
What sets me apart
Which puts me aside
Which marks me as unique

From this height I can see so far
So much, so many
Such sights, such scenes
Witnessed from afar
Always detached, never part

So strange
So strange to witness peace
To see a life lived without care
For indulgence and joy
So unlike me, so unlike

Why then is it familiar?
Familiar as something new is familiar
Other worlds, other lives
Other choices, other fates
This could be mine - this could be me

I do not envy
But I ponder
Why is it that I can be satisfied
In war as an end unto itself
And not for a life lived as they?

The light reflects in the smoke
For a moment illumined – aglow
But as the light shifts, and no wind blows
The smoke returns to darkness
As I return to myself

Poet’s Notes:  This poem details a moment of reverie for the eponymous guardsman of Qalaloom, a member of a military order upon a world or land (I imagined it in a sci-fi setting) where his caste are kept separate, distinct from the common men over whom they guard. As he observes the world from a metaphorical height, he is wistfully pondering how his life differs from those he guards. This wistfulness does not undermine his purpose, but he finds it strange to come to realize how different he is from others. For the time he is "as smoke / passed through a ray of light" but eventually "the smoke returns to darkness / as I return to myself". In other words, the guardsman concludes his thoughts and returns to whom he was. There is no crisis, only a moment of introspection. He remains what he is and always will be.

Editor’s Note:  What a mournful yet inspiring song!  I was at once reminded of George R. R. Martin's "Unsullied." 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"With the Maasai" by Heidi Seaborn

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “With the Maasai” by Heidi Seaborn.  Seaborn started writing poetry in 2016 after spending three decades as a marketing executive. Since then, her work has appeared in over forty journals and anthologies including Nimrod, Penn Review, and American Journal of Poetry. 

Seaborn is a graduate of Stanford University and is on the editorial staff of The Adroit Journal.  She lives in Seattle.  Visit her at

With the Maasai
Heidi Seaborn
    ~Great Rift Valley Tanzania 1984

When the rains fail
"Drought" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
they fail again. Tanzania burns
dry. Ntimama curses the empty
sky. His beasts, just bones. 

Tanzania burns dry. Parched
plains diminish
beasts, just bones. The empty
sky steals grain, milk, meat,

flesh to bone. Cattle
wander with wildebeest
as Tanzania burns dry as stone.
Ntimama curses this land

water dried to mud, mud
dried to blood red. Rift
Valley, earth and gash.
Cattle, then children.

Small bones burned, dry.
Cursed, by this empty
sky, the gash of withered
earth, when the rains fail, and fail.

Poet’s Notes:  “With the Maasai” recounts a time I spent in Tanzania with the Maasai during a drought. I started the poem as a pantoum and then let it break apart to mimic how everything loses form under these harsh conditions. The poem is part of a series I wrote about my personal experience with natural disasters, war, and terrorism that I am collecting into a chapbook entitled, “Postcards from the Aftermath.”