Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Lowell Jaeger Named Contest Judge & Poet of the Month

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Montana Poet Laureate Lowell Jaeger will serve as the Guest Judge for the Fifth Annual Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest (Endorsed by Duotrope) http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/songs-of-eretz.html, which will officially open September 1, 2018, and close October 15, 2018.  Lowell's biography may be found in the "Our Staff" section http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/about-our-editor-frequent-contributors.html.

Cash honoraria will be awarded to the first, second, and third place contest winners as well as to the eventual winner of the Readers Choice Award.  All awards will include publication in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.  A total of one thousand five hundred dollars will be distributed as follows.

First place:  One thousand dollars & a $50 Gift Certificate from Duotrope
Second place:  Two hundred dollars
Third place:  One hundred dollars
Readers Choice Award:  Two hundred dollars

As a run-up to the contest, Lowell will be featured as our Poet of the Month for August 2018, meaning one of his poems will be featured each weekday in August.  This will be a real treat!  Readers should be sure to read Lowell's Poet's Notes statements, which will provide interesting insights into the workings of the mind of this fascinating and entertaining poet.  Those planning to enter the contest will obviously be able to use such insights to their advantage.

"Atlantis" by Ross Balcom

Ross Balcom

Her body was a drowned city.

In opalescent halls,
I lost versions of myself to the blue flame,
sailors torching themselves in holocaust of mute desire.

A neon obelisk bore her name.
Electric corals thrummed,
and towers rose from canyons lost in Quaalude slumber.

Schools of multicolored fish found a single voice that seared the brain,
that spoke in light,
a napalm rainbow.
"Temptation" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon

Her skies,
her eyes.
Mirage that seized and emptied me,
that scattered my bones on far-off isles

and resurrected me.

I swam again her streets,
labyrinth of flesh and precious stone,
as her body remembered me.

A shark guarded her very breath;
its raven shadow sanctified her love,
solemn as tomb of elder gods.

Conch as big as whale blew a trumpet golden;
whorls of sound enrobed her form,
naked still to eyes entranced by beauty.

Her thighs,
her sighs.
Eros wove a destiny that captured sailor me,
waif of wreckage lost--and in her city found.

Love upraised a temple tall.

Her adorers gathered there for sacrifice.
No one died unwillingly;
all gave their lives freely to the glowing gong.

"Sound is the solution,
sound and the illimitable light.
We are delivered by the vast vibrations."

I slashed my wrists upon her name;
I bled to death on throne of pearl.

Quoth the merman,
"Love unites us,
sea and shore.
Our memories live in sunken cities...evermore."

Poet's Notes:  Atlantis is the great attractor; we are all destined to drown and die there. Sex and death and a watery grave. This poem is dedicated to Davey Jones. I thank Edgar Allan Poe, whose influence is manifest in the final stanza.

Monday, July 30, 2018

"Thank You for Goodbye" by Aparna Sanyal

Thank You for Goodbye 
Aparna Sanyal

"Decay" Watercolor & Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
I asked if we were okay,
you said sure. 

A tiny gouge of me was lost—
a fingertip, 
a flaky bit of scalp,
an eyelash clump.
a leaking vein.

The red rails on my skin were not cut, 
but a debt,
paid for the question I asked on repeat:
Were we okay?
This imprint of okay, I carried in my hands— 
pressed into my palms, 
nail moons that brought night 
dug from its lined landscape. 

You posed far away for photographs, 
Here, I lost food.
It returned sometimes 
on a bilious tongue, raging into ceramic.  
I lost my stomach to my womb
in stubborn herniation. 

Months followed your okay replies. 
In trickles and dabs, I lost light. 
How careless of me to flicker thus, when
I should have guttered out. 

When your Dear John letter came, 
I found it in my others folder, 

And at last, 
after the okay of us ran out, 
past every suspension,
shouting, then whispering, then keening, as it went— 
I lost fear.

Poet's Notes: This is a deeply personal poem about a heartbreak that happened years ago. We were both young but deeply in love. We could not grasp that the relationship had begun stuttering out months before we parted. When the final goodbye came, it was a relief.

Friday, July 27, 2018

"Glimpse" by Alessio Zanelli

Alessio Zanelli 

"Never Be" Graphite on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
She came to us
like rays of light to leafage,
drops of dew agleam on the grass,
now instead of never.
A prodigy,
a glint of tints
renewing day by day,
and growing, growing to perfection.
It seemed that nothing
could ever interfere,
hinder or bring that bloom to a stop.
No drought, no darkness, no break in time.
Our present distilled out of dreams.

But time is a devourer of successive ticks,
sheer, indistinct, elusive nows:
days, or years, exist in our minds,
like all illusions reach an end.
Sun and rain ensued for us to enjoy,
till grayness fell.
Shadows writhed, stretched, merged.
Nothing then re-emerged.
And we realized
it had been just a fleeting glow,
we’d been allowed a simple glimpse.
And it was through.
And she, and we, and all.

Poet’s Notes:  The miracle of unexpected life, then the ineffable tragedy of sudden, premature loss--too much for any poet to make a sensible poem. I tried though. The couple that suffered this loss, close friends of mine, still hasn’t recovered after quite a few years.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"Good Company" by Howard Stein

"Friends" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Good Company
Howard Stein     

Ambling toward me from the pond,
the ducks approach with hope,
maybe even longing,
no doubt with bread in mind.
They find me empty-handed, though.
For ducks' reasons I cannot fathom,
they gather around me, crouch,
and stay.  I had never
fancied myself
a substitute for bread.
Still, the thought gives me comfort.
We, the ducks and I,
keep each other good company.

Poet's Notes:  For many years I drove my young son to the local library to return and check out books and to sit and play in the large park surrounding the library. A huge pond was inside the park, home to many ducks. Sometimes while my son was inside the library or playing on the park grounds, I would sit on a bench and read or write.  A large group of ducks would surround me and stay long after it was apparent that I had no food for them. These were always refreshing times for me. This poem comes from an amalgam of such occasions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"Ceremony" by John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone

"Eagle" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
I look down from the wings of a great eagle,
a Muscogee song sifting through my feathers,
the wind singing prayers to my body below.

I sing to myself because I am a prayer even
after my spirit has gone—my body will stay
for a while for the ceremony we all need,

even as I was born, my mother washed me
with a flood of her love. Sponging her heart
into mine, I listened for her pulse as I drank in

her tenderness as soft as the whisper of milk.
Today, I am washed again with my memories
of her and of my children’s—drenched in stars.

Poet’s Notes: I was inspired to compose this poem after my attending a reading by Joy Harjo of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/joy-harjo. In recent years, I have been interested in the infusion of Indian culture, legend, and history into some of my poetry. 

Editor's Note:  See related works published in Songs of Eretz for the Ojibwe and Nez Perce Indian cultures:
“Dreamcatchers” (Tupelo Press 30/30 Project), a Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest finalist (from a time before John was a Frequent Contributor) http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/draft-e-zine_31.html, and

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"Reprise" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings

"Scoliosis" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Archeology (not music)
gained parents’ approval
for a university degree
My hands touched history--
personalized death
while people died like minutes

I knew they were similar--
an ancient corpse tossed in a grave 
found beneath a parking lot
and grandfather, regal in a suit
buried in a cotton field
They ruled by traditions 

narrow as hatchets, rigid 
as armor, while those shields 
protected and excluded them
The past, honest in its shadow
never shrinks from dishonor
or a jawbone, teeth intact

with nothing to chew 
but the wreck of time 
on bones like my back--
twisted as a sinner 
or a bootlegger 
or a king

Poet’s Notes:  Scoliosis runs on the paternal side of my family. Fortunately, medical science, technology, and a pair of fine surgeons made it possible to repair my back. Meanwhile, I had always felt sorry for King Richard III, labeled deformed, and who did not have the hope of relief. I used to imagine the pain he would have experienced while on horseback--especially since I saw how similar his curvature was to mine. 

I found the title for this poem after it was written. A friend suggested I use a musical term for the word repeat or repetition. I chose “reprise” to indicate medical issues are sometimes inherited or repeated. 

As for the jawbone (mentioned in the next to last stanza), I saw an ancient one at Caesarea, Israel. Part of an archaeological team, I examined it while standing inside a recently excavated Crusader soldier’s grave. I’ll never forget it.

Monday, July 23, 2018

3 By Cummings Anthologized

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Terri Lynn Cummings has had three of her poems anthologized by Lamar University Literary Press in Unlocking the Word:  An Anthology of Found Poetry.  The titles of the poems are “Round Dance” and “Pueblo Bonito” and “Power.”

The anthology may be ordered from:

and other major sellers.

"The Silent Swing" by Lauren McBride

The Silent Swing
Lauren McBride 

"Empty" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
The little swing now hangs so still
outside my kitchen window sill
where children once went flying high
with bare feet stretching to the sky
while singing in serene delight -
now silence in the autumn light.

The faithful rusty chains still show
the signs where little hands did grow.
With higher reach, each left their mark
till time demanded they depart.
Time marches on. Do children know
how parents hate for them to go?

Bright, happy days too soon replaced
with lonely hours, routine pace. 
Parental duties done, complete, 
rewarded with an empty seat.
With children bravely on their way,
no hug nor kiss come close of day.

If only time could grant a wish -
to spend a day with those we miss, 
a day where songs and laughter last
and time stops rushing by so fast.

Poet’s Notes:  When our oldest child went off to college, my husband and I felt a gap in the family almost as if someone had died. There was an empty place at the table, an empty room upstairs, and an empty swing outside. It was my husband's idea to focus on the swing.

Editor's Note:  My son never had a swing, a circumstance that I deeply regret.  By the time I settled down and could afford a house of my own in Kansas, he was well into his teens--too old for such childish things.  Two years later, he was off to art college, and now he's on his own.  The only "silent swing" I have of his is the one above which he painted to illustrate this beautiful and moving poem.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Two for Lee

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee has had two poems published in other venues.

Her poem "Red Rising" is in the July/August 2018 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Her poem "Alien Interview Questions" appeared in Dreams & Nightmares #109, May 2018.

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Relics of the Round Table" by Mary Soon Lee

Relics of the Round Table

"Relic" Watercolor & Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
They are good men still,
those few who survived,
the knights who once fought
at King Arthur's side.

Weathered and wiser,
still striving for right,
though they know full well
each day ends in night.

Gone is the glory
that woke in the world;
withdrawn now the grail,
God's grace tightly furled.

Camelot long lost,
the king laid in earth,
but even in darkness,
their virtue has worth.

--Mary Soon Lee

Poet's Notes:  This poem is part of a group that I wrote about the Arthurian legends. The poems included a fantastical take on the cats of Camelot, another about Arthur's dog, and a poem previously published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review about a girl pulling the sword from the stone instead of Arthur http://www.songsoferetz.com/2018/06/renunciation-by-mary-soon-lee.html. This poem is one of two about what might have happened to the soldiers and knights after Arthur was gone. It's also one of the relatively few poems in which I use rhyme.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Coalescences" by Howard Stein

Howard Stein   

It was not love at first sight --
The main theme stated outright,
Unmistakable from the start.
No, it was hardly discernable
In old-fashioned correspondence,
Letters written on stationery
And mailed across half a continent.

Themes out of the news coalesced
Of our long and busy lives
From bits and pieces of thematic material
Like the beginning of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony,
From fragments of chaos
To the full-blown subject
That could never have been guessed.

Poet's Notes:  Although this poem is about love, it is more about how much of my life seems to work. That is, no big theme that marks a beginning followed by a set of variations. I love classical music, and many composers, such as Brahms, use the theme-and-variations form. On the other hand, Sibelius is the quintessential composer who often starts with fragments and hints and builds up to a climactic statement of the theme.

This poem traces the bits-and-pieces, incremental development of a love relationship in my life. What retrospectively could be construed as inevitability felt more like a surprise when love came to full flower.  It was as if I was the last to know! The poem is about my sense of wonder of how it all happened, and how equally wonderful was the full statement of the theme.

Editor’s Note:  The classical music motif in this poem works well, particularly in the more lyrical (hence musical) parts of the piece.  That the entire piece is not lyrical fits well with the speaker's chaos theory of love if you will.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"At The Break Of Day" by Alessio Zanelli

At The Break Of Day
Alessio Zanelli

Reverie. And consciousness.
Creativity. And acquiescence.
Heedlessly on the knife’s edge:
revelation on one side,
oblivion on the other.
So the morning’s breaking—
train of thoughts out of control,
between mechanical gestures
and voluntary movements.
liable to derail any moment.
Until the gurgle from the moka pot
and the smell of buttered toast
restore the domain of the senses.
The day has just begun,
but among the swirls of the mind
it has been continuing forever,
with no beginning and no end.
It is no use conforming,
spotting four-leaf clover in the grass,
following contrails in the sky,
placing events in a logical sequence—
what happens is,
and what is happens.
All the rest is poppycock.
Nothing can be framed into any scheme,
simple or complex whatsoever.
Not the coffee spatters off the cup 
nor the burnt slices of bread.
Nothing better left unsaid.

Poet’s Notes: Really, I wouldn’t know what to think about this one.  I hope some reader will tell me!  I can only say that it came to my mind while on the threshold between awake and asleep, not long ago, and that it’s not a metaphysical piece, not in the least! At times poets don’t know what they’re writing, they simply feel like writing exactly what’s crossing their minds. Probably, that happens to me a bit too often.

Editor’s Note:  There are three states of consciousness that are widely recognized:  awake, asleep, and hypnagogia, a twilight state that is neither quite awake or asleep.  This poem captures a bit of the hypnagogic for me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Aftermath" by Sierra July

"Pendant" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon

A pendant hung from her neck
Matching the color of his eyes
When the fire in those eyes blew out
Clutching the pendant left her hand cold
And looking at it left her empty
Like she, the faux eye lacked emotion

--Sierra July

Poet's Notes:  This poem was inspired by Violet Evergarden, an anime about the importance of expressing your emotions to the ones you love. The plot seems simple, but as a writer, it speaks to me on a personal level, as I think it would to my fellow poets and readers. Another theme the show touches on is that flowery words can be beautiful, but sometimes simple words are best, and I wanted to convey that message in this poem while paying homage to the character's emotions, or lack thereof, after losing someone to war.

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Still Life" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

"Forest" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Still Life

The days and weeks
are ranks of planted pines.

Sunlight buzzes 
through open canopy.

In the understory
tight fists of seed

wait in vain
for a flame's caress.

--Yoni Hammer-Kossoy 

Poet’s Notes:  I love the specificity of the word “understory”, how it gives a name to the space between a forest’s floor and the tops of its trees. Yet there’s also something mysterious evoked by the word – as if there’s always another level of understanding waiting to be discovered below the surface of something, like a walk in the forest, like a poem.

Editor’s Note:  Successful short poems such as this one are difficult to compose, as every word must count at least once.  Some, as in "flame's" in the stunning final line, may carry double duty (flame as in the sun or the actual fire that some species of evergreens require for reproduction).

Friday, July 13, 2018

"the chicken in Juanita's taco" by Ross Balcom

"Evolved" Ink and Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
the chicken in Juanita's taco

descendant of dinosaurs,
fallen from Cretaceous splendor
to factory farm and misery,
ending as cooked flesh 
eaten by primate 
whose nimble hands
pressed corn tortilla

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: The consensus among paleontologists today is that birds are descendants of dinosaurs. Clear fossil evidence supports this view. Contrary to popular opinion, chickens are not stupid; ethologists (scientists who study non-human animal behavior) have established that these birds are quite intelligent. They no doubt suffer acutely in the horrible confines of factory farms.

Artist's Notes: This ended up looking more "Dragon Ball Z" than intended. That only really makes it better in my opinion though.