Tuesday, January 15, 2019


January/February 2019 "Winter" Theme Issue
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Cover Art "Wintry Gull" Ink on Paper 
Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are the work of our Art Editor or taken from "royalty-free" open internet sources.

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Table of Contents
A Letter from the Editor
Ross Balcom
   "Winter Surf"
Sylvia Cavanaugh
   "Winter Observatory" 
Terri Lynn Cummings
   "When Distant Hours Call"
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
   "Global Warming"
   "Wintry Mix"
Gene Hodge
   "Sweeping-Up the Gold"
Karla Linn Merrifield
   "The Swallowing" 
Vivian Finley Nida
   "Winter Vision"
James Frederick William Rowe
Howard Stein
   "Winter Truth" 
Charles A. Swanson
   "The Unlikelihood of Snow"
   "Winter Night"
   "Wood Supply" 
Alessio Zanelli
Poetry Review
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
   The Blue Touch by Gene Hodge
   Psyche's Scroll by Karla Linn Merrifield
Frequent Contributor News

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A Letter from the Editor
Despite the fact that we have formal seasons, the reality is that the calendar season is rarely indicative of the actual experience of the seasons as a living, breathing fact of the year. It isn't as if December 21st rolls around and winter is here; rather, winter is almost always far earlier than that arbitrary date, yet at the same time it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when winter starts. Nevertheless, there are signs--from the slant of sunlight to frost at dawn to the naked branches of the trees. These signs represent the actuality of winter's arrival, whether or not it is winter strictly by way of the calendar. 

I love the winter and so enjoy its presence that I have no desire to see it rushed away to the next season.  We might need to turn on the air conditioner in the summer, but images of warmth, light, and plenty are nevertheless often associated with winter, even though those things represent the opposite of what occurs in the season as it plays out in nature.  Winter is when we can simultaneously best enjoy the cold and the warmth, when natural destruction is wedded to the celebration of love and the promises of the new year, and when we have long nights and yet hope (as in the ancient traditions of the Winter Solstice) for the light to return. Of all seasons, winter most embodies these sorts of contrasts and provides ample fuel and inspiration to the poetically inclined. 

James Frederick William Rowe
Associate Editor

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Winter Surf
"Winter Surf" | Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Ross Balcom

Dismal is the winter sea,
and forlorn the snowman surfing it,
trying to hang ten in the cold.

He's a stud without fillies:
the beach babes are skeletons, 
their flesh long gone. Bunnies to bones.

I'd hail him if I could ("Frosty!"),
but my mouth's stuffed with snow;
I'm lost and dead as Edgar Poe.

Poet’s Notes:  Interestingly, I conceived this poem while walking in an arboretum here in sunny southern California.

Editor’s Note:  Despite the conundrum of a dead man for a speaker, I just can't resist the image of a macabre surfing Frosty.  SWG

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"Observatory" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
 Winter Observatory
  Sylvia Cavanaugh

  My grandfather climbed a short 
  ladder to the stars on winter nights,
  when America veered away
  from the sun to face a frigid void
  scattered with sharp sparkle,
  stars and distant worlds.
  Winter temperatures were the price
  of seeing the heavens so clear. 
  Grandad would come home 
  to me and grandma, shaking 
  stardust from his overcoat. 
  In the gold-lit living room
  I drank cocoa and listened  
  to myths and legends. 
  The way people broke down 
  the galaxy into dreams 
  and ambitions, a water bearer,
  twins, a lion, and a virgin. 

  Next morning, the Dog Star peeked 
  in my window at the icy break of day.

Poet’s Notes:  My grandfather ran the planetarium and produced educational shows for the North Museum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. On winter nights, he spent hours studying the stars and planets at the Franklin and Marshal observatory. When his eyesight dimmed at the end of his life he said he missed seeing stars and wildflowers. 

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When Distant Hours Call
Terri Lynn Cummings

"Yearly Cycle" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
The world shivers after autumn’s wake
I want to be true to this season of downy blankets
without bustle or blare toppling small pleasures—
early morning riddles awaiting daylight to nuzzle
whispered answers from sweet desires

Never one to rise in darkness, I name it 
protection, parenthood’s alarm hushed
Heaviness tugs from habit
lifts when deadlines demand wonder 
instead of endurance

Middle years of age have shed like leaves 
in fall, a brittle yellow. What sounds 
best, including honest complaints
(night sweats, unwanted weight)
ensures my life happened

Hard to hold onto absent
commonplace, half-filled 
cup, recognize fading signs
strangers’ smiles, well-placed dots—
edges of existence chipped by haze

I hold a ticket to walk out the door 
from my many faces to this skin’s
sole inhabitant, present
in an ever-altering

Poet’s Notes: The end of daylight saving time and autumn falling into winter triggered the words for this poem. Never an early riser (or a lover of cold temperatures), I prod myself to get on with duties and chores before early sunsets. Yet I am grateful to be retired and spend time doing what I choose for the most part. It is in the darkness that I question longevity. So I urge myself to appreciate and live in the moment, rather than wait for a summer that is never promised.

Editor’s Note:  Despite Terri’s self-proclaimed loathing of the cold and wintery, I feel a warmth and nice sense of urgency to live radiating from this poem.  SWG

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"Junco" | Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
 Global Warming
  Steven Wittenberg Gordon

  The cold and biting north wind blows
  The leaf buds shiver in their skins
  Spring is here yet still it snows
  The trees are ice-slicked mannequins.
  Goldfinches male keep plumage pale
  The hummingbirds do not arrive
  The starlings remain flecked of tail
  And juncos linger and survive.
  Still in their hubris men insist
  Earth’s temperature is on the rise 
  In this conceit they do persist
  Although the birds know otherwise.
Poet’s Notes:  As an amateur field biologist and backyard birder, I study our winged friends mostly for the sheer pleasure of it but partly to predict weather trends.  For example, my poem mentions many avian observations that can aid in predicting the de facto length of winter.

I am NOT a climate change denier.  However, I believe it is the height of hubris and borderline sacrilegious for climatologists to opine that human activity is the primary force driving it and an even higher level of hubris and blatant sacrilege for those scientists to claim that they understand enough about climatology at this point to make scientifically sound predictions. 

It certainly doesn’t seem to snow the way it used to half a century ago when I was a lad.  Ironically, that was back when leading climate scientists were giving dire warnings about Global Cooling https://www.forbes.com/2009/12/03/climate-science-gore-intelligent-technology-sutton.html#4b3f24d6260f.  I remember hearing those reports and fearfully looking outside with the expectation that a glacier might be about to engulf my home.

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts the weather eighteen months in advance with stunning 80% accuracy  https://www.almanac.com/content/how-accurate-was-old-farmers-almanacs-weather-forecast#.  The producers of these prognostications do not study human carbon emissions or bovine flatulence.  They study sunspot activity.

As a physician and scientist, I decry the politicization of the climate issue.  Proper science by definition must be coolly objective and independent of politics.  By the same token, in order to draw proper conclusions and make accurate predictions, scientific observations and experiments must be unbiased.  Unfortunately, a system as complex as the global climate has so many actual (let alone human) biases as to be almost completely incomprehensible.  Heck, our best and brightest, unlike birds, cannot even predict the local weather accurately much of the time!

Artist's Note: Fun fact: I spilled a drop of ink onto the top right corner of this piece. I managed to turn it into those three leaves. I must say it added a nice touch. A "happy accident" as Bob Ross says!  JAG

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

a hidden river
"Qanisqineq" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
secret of the Inuit
in the frozen north

snow falls from the sky
floats on the river’s surface
called qanisqineq

snow and river in balance
crystal and liquid

snow dams the river
the water slowly rises
an icy lake forms

the dam is broken
river carries lake away
balance is restored

Poet’s Notes: The Inuit have many words for “snow”.  “Qanisqineq” means “snow floating on water” https://www.princeton.edu/~browning/snow.html.

"Wintry Mix" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
 Wintry Mix
  Steven Wittenberg Gordon

  Wintry mix today.
  Will it turn to snow, sleet
  Ice or rain?
  Will the roads freeze
  On my way
  To work?
  Will I be late
  Or my duties shirk
  And turn around half-way?
  Will my boss be angry?
  Will you be there waiting
  At the end of day?

  Poet’s Notes:  I have criticized fellow poets for introducing a stunning surprise turn right at end of a poem, but here I believe my “turn” actually defines the poem and is if I do say so a spectacular success. Ostensibly about winter precipitation at first, when re-read through the lens of the final two verses, the preceding verses take on entirely new meanings.  “Winter” itself becomes “coldness of a relationship.” “Mix” implies “mixed feelings.” “Frozen roads” becomes a metaphor for a treacherous or impossible path back to the relationship.  “Late” becomes “too late” to save the relationship.  The references to “duties” and “boss” indicate perhaps a disagreement between lovers over the speaker’s work-life balance.  Will the speaker “turn around half-way” to save his relationship?  Will he perhaps meet his lover “half-way?”

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"Rays" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Sweeping-Up The Gold
Gene Hodge

Hurry to the kitchen.
The sun has just broken
through the tall pines
and scattered its gold
across the floor.

Bring a basket and broom.
These cold, dreary days of winter
have increased the price of gold
and the happiness of this day
may depreciate
with the shadows of evening.

Editor's Note:  While our poets are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by unlimited poets' notes, the practice of including them is no longer mandatory for appearing in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.  Some poets believe that their poems should be allowed "to speak for themselves," as I believe Gene's little winter fantasy does here.  SWG

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"Blizzard" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Karla Linn Merrifield
     For Nicolas Eckerson

Winter storm Avery,
season’s first, surges north,
smothering the East Coast
with a dangerous mix—

snow-whip, sleet-pelt, rain-soak
chill an assault to senses;
our shivering bodies
seek each other’s shelter.

Ours are the tentative 
first embrace of friendship,
first kiss of kin-spirits,
first words of twinned-mind’s desire

for Shelley and Coleridge,
Baudelaire and Rimbaud,
Whitman, Frost and Ginsburg,
Lorca and Neruda!

Your naked lines and mine
to melt in poetry’s heat.

Poet’s Notes: I hadn’t seen a flake of snow in years, yet I found myself headed into a blizzard. What in the world was I doing on that airplane? Why was I willing to face the c-c-c-old North? I let the poem tell me.

The Swallowing
Karla Linn Merrifield

"Gator" | Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
On the day of Everglades winter dew,
which is every day,
I awake to realize I’ve been
swallowed alive.
The Universe, having chased down
half-moon shadows,
consumes me whole
like a python swallows his prey:
This is the same Universe,
the Everywhere, which my husband
reminds me – this day
of winter dew swallowed by crows –

is expanding. We swallow hard.
Then a minion of alligators,
a court of vultures in their black
robes, featherless gray wigs,
cloud swallow,
and gallinules of the dew,
swallow the sky.
And the Universe as it is 
in wintry Everglades bedewed
swallows me with the morning stars.
I am the turtle taken by surprise,
plastron, carapace, soul and all.

Poet’s Notes: As a snowbird who migrates to Florida every autumn to escape frigid, snowy Western New York, I have had enough “white stuff” for a lifetime. Even after sixteen subtropical winters, I continue to marvel how the season expresses itself here, exploring in many poems, such as this one, the nature of the season.

Editor’s Note:  I decided to include these two of Karla’s poems, finding it interesting to read poetic commentary about winter from the perspective of a “snowbird”.  SWG

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Winter Vision
Vivian Finley Nida

At dusk, between dam
shrouded in dry Bermuda
and weathered posts

strung with rusted barbed wire
cold wind wrinkles green blanket 
of winter wheat, already crumpled

by tramp of Canadian geese
They lift ebony heads and necks
stunning with white chinstraps

fan wings soft as powdered cocoa
take flight, honking above stark trees
Downy history of migration forgotten

They cross lake’s inlet, sleep in center
leaving sleek, wet beavers to work all night
gnawing willows, thick along muddy bank 

Sun’s blaze dies to embers
On opposite shore, we tend our own desires
You bend, add wood to bonfire

drag canvas chairs closer, squeeze my hand 
When full moon blooms above horizon
we face each other, silent

We know what to expect
It is why we left city lights
Slowly, Earth moves in front of Sun 

steals light from Moon, leaving it crimson 
Unexpectedly, coyote, head tilted to heaven
emits a long, mournful, haunting howl

I grip your hand.  The wailing continues
pierces Blood Moon’s future as SpaceX touts 
giant leap for tourists who will look down

see total lunar eclipse, savor every sunrise
every sunset taking place simultaneously
in a glowing red ring around Earth

Poet’s Notes:  On January 20, 2019, my husband and I plan to watch the total lunar eclipse from this rural location.  The geese, no longer migratory, beavers, and coyote can be found there any winter evening, and we enjoy building bonfires and having a clear view of the night sky.  In planning for the upcoming eclipse, I found what someone would see if watching from the moon.  I also read that Elon Musk’s Space X had chosen its first paying passenger to travel to the moon in 2023.  Starting the New Year seems the perfect time to look to the past and future as Janus with two faces did in Roman mythology. 

Editor’s Note:  I love the way Vivian combines the pastoral with the speculative here. Her description of the geese is quite inspiring, especially as a metaphor for soon-to-be routine space travel.  SWG 

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James Frederick William Rowe
To the Winter Empress: 

There is no line of demarcation
No strict border between
The autumn and the winter
No point once crossed that implies
The irrevocable succession of the seasons
Just a gradual transition
From one to the next

Yet in the waning year there is always a time
When the variegated grandeur of the fall
Gives way to the bare beauty of winter
Some time when the slanted light
Too dimly streaks a frosted dawn
Or else, when naked branches
Form spiked steeples before the sky

Now winter is upon us, filled with contrasts:
When best we can enjoy the cold
     And appreciate most the fire
When death rids us of the old
     And love bids us beget the new
When night welcomes our longest rest
     And yet we hope for rekindled light

I do not pray for spring
I ask not to hasten first flowers
No, let the winter remain for now
We have need of its peace
Outside, the snow dances from heavy clouds
The powder highlights every bough, every blade
Tonight, it will glitter in the light of the moon

Poet’s Notes:  Like most of my poems, the subway provided the place where this was composed. It was written almost entirely within the span of one trip, but I was forced to put my notebook back in my bag so as not to forget to get off at the right stop.

The theme I wanted to first fixate upon was the notion of gradual change in the seasons.  I then focused on what I think is a defining feature of winter--how much the season relies on the notion of contrast. I conclude the poem with a fixation on concrete images of the winter wedded to a desire that it remain as it is. 

The intellect must give way, at the end, to the sensuous, with the feeling of the last verses embodying the thoughts of the proceeding ones. Without this giving way, the poem felt too intellectual, and I thought the concluding verses had a certain zen-like quality, of bringing the reader to the experience of winter itself.  

This poem is rather simple structurally, with every stanza consisting of seven verses a piece. The third stanza includes offset verses in order to drive home the notion of contrast better.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the way James uses precise poetic language to describe the blurriness of the change of seasons, creating an interesting contrast.  SWG

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Winter Truth       
Howard Stein    
                   Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Tod. 
                   --Gustav Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde

Spring – Promise of renewal
Blossoms and flowers’ resplendent allure
"Snowy Commute" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Venus, Queen of the Night
Siren’s call, enchanting love
Petals fall, trees scoured by wind
Green prevails

Summer – Promise of permanence
Mature, dense leaves
A thicket where lies can hide
Withstand summer’s storms

Autumn – Promise of second spring
Flamboyant leaves’ decoy
Brilliant colors from the first chill
Herald of endings – a brief affair
A lover’s vow broken
absence and grief

Winter – Laughter at promises
Destiny mocks fatuous hope
Rebirth foreshadows its own corpse
But hides from knowing its own secret
Trees pared to the bone
Naked, bare, exposed

Winter at last speaks the truth
The others are pretenders

Poet's Notes:  Poems about specific seasons, and poems about the cycle of seasons, are legion. I have also written many. This poem about "winter" is neither primarily about winter as a distinct entity, nor about the experience of the seasons as a recurrent circle, of which winter is a part. Rather it is about the sequence of seasons as a line, a journey toward winter as perhaps the final destination.

Much as I enjoy the famous Currier and Ives drawings that depict winter in an idealistic, carefree, romanticized way, a great deal of the time I experience winter differently. I think of Franz Schubert's Lieder (song) cycle, Die Winterreise (Winter Journeys), and readily see myself as dwelling in it. 

For me, the mood is not depressive but rather realistic, accepting. My illness-ridden aging, together with my recognition -- and occasional acceptance -- of my increasing physical and mental limitations, together with the approach of this year's winter (2018-2019), inspired the thought, imagery, metaphors, and finally words for this poem.

Editor’s Note:  I really enjoy the way the stanzas about the other seasons build to the climax of the winter stanzas here.  SWG 

Artist's Note: Winter is my favorite season. It is a guilty pleasure of mine to see the look of shock from warm weather lovers when I tell them that I often leave the window in my room open when it's cold. And yet, I am not sure if I have ever heard a more convincing negative take on winter before this poem. Or perhaps "negative" is not the right word, maybe 'melancholy', or 'matter of fact'. I think the "matter-of-fact-ness" of winter may be what I like most about it. In any event, finding a way to depict this poem in picture form was difficult. I decided the best thing to do was to "speak the truth." For this illustration, I referenced a picture I took a couple days prior while driving in the snow. I figured what could be more truthful and genuine than a scene from my own life?  JAG

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The Unlikelihood of Snow
Charles A. Swanson

White fields
                        I woke to.
The soft stuff
                        of playtime.
Snowball fights
                        and snowmen.

Mama’s back
                        I woke to.
A face turned
                        with looking out.
The window glass
                        a frame for longing.

No trip home
                        for her today.
That bit of road
                        that stretched away.
That farmhouse road
                        that ran through snow.

Did she see miles
                        that lay between?
Did she see grandma
                        beside her cook stove?
Did she not see
                        the joy of snow?

Poet’s Notes:  Some poems seem more organic in origin than others.  This one started in the tonal echoes created by the elegiac voice of the poem, “The Wife’s Lament,” and my poem owes its Anglo-Saxon form to “The Wife’s Lament” http://www.thehypertexts.com/The%20Wife's%20Lament%20Translation%20by%20Michael%20R%20Burch.htm.  I employed the pattern of the hemistich (half line) and stitch (whole line) along with the caesura (strong break) in every line. The translation by Burch does not show the caesura, but I have seen translations that honor the strong midline break.  Much of Anglo-Saxon verse is highly alliterative, but I did not aim for that quality in my poem.  

I was also thinking of Ezra Pound’s “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47692/the-river-merchants-wife-a-letter-56d22853677f9 and of Tess’s sorrowful letter to her absent husband, Angel, in Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/110.  A longing pervades all three works, and that note of sadness filled my head.  I also had been corresponding with my fellow poet and friend, Melanie Faith https://www.melaniedfaith.com/, as she and I were exchanging poems during the month of October.  She sent me a link to a YouTube video by Antje Duvekot and Meg Hutchinson as they sang “Gypsy Life” by John Gorka.  In the background of the singers was Duvekot’s artwork.  In it, a man with a knapsack walks across a stone bridge under a full moon https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=LC9Ozfsb5Ik.  

Echoes of such disparate art, disparate in form but not in voice, helped evoke my response.  The sparseness in my poem owes its origin not to an inability to remember but to the tone the tuning fork kept striking in my head.

Winter Night
Charles A. Swanson

A beast curled up
                in the dead of dark
a house corner
                against the foundation
                furred tongue
leaves piled brown
                heaped like old rags
shucked off from a bum
                or a shaggy goat
animated, the restless wind
                from the west, from the mountains
and dark ravines and snowfields
                from avalanches
ice floes and glaciers
                polar bears, Grizzlies
beard-drooling snow monsters more mysterious
                than mile deep lochs
called by a Norseman’s horn
                from trackless arctic wastes
stomping outside my house,
                shrieking and whimpering
guttural, gravelly
                muttering and threatening
shivering stony

Poet’s Notes:  In winter, everything shuts down and threat is everywhere.  The sap runs.  The blood retreats.  The animals hibernate or huddle.  The thrust of wind and wail seem ever in the offing.  Even the sun seems cold and brittle.  Snow fog wraps the trees and hides distances.

Editor’s Note:  This one radiates cold--that deep, ancient cold hidden in the marrow of our bones since the Ice Age.  SWG

Wood Supply
"Wood Supply" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Charles A. Swanson

A chainsaw throws teeth
around a blade and sprocket,
revving in anger,

or power some say
who relish the tear and thrust
of whining engines.

I see the circle
the chain makes, and think routine,
the dwindling wood pile,

the need to restock,
restack.  Such goes the pattern,
winter’s revolutions,

hoar-frost and bare trees,
shivering, hunger for heat,
and sweet smelling wood.

I brave the anger,
guard against furious teeth,
steady my old feet.

Poet’s Notes:  I still cut wood every year.  My chainsaw is around eighteen years old and it has not suffered any damage thus far, though I could easily have dropped a tree on it.  I’m glad to say that I have never cut myself either, though my son-in-law, who logs for a living, has been to the emergency doctor twice as the result of serious chainsaw accidents.

I have when I was younger and had fewer tools pushed firewood out of the forest up a steep hill in a wheelbarrow, while snow was on the ground.  I’m thankful today that I have a good truck and a serviceable tractor.

Winter is a struggle, and a good wood stove is a great solace when the electricity is down, but cutting wood is both onerous and dangerous.  The old saying goes that when you cut your own wood, it warms you twice.  The amount of work cutting and hauling the wood, and feeding the stove, seems to multiply the times I feel warmed.  As I write these words, however, I am enjoying the heat from the wood stove as the snow continues to fall outside my window.

Editor’s Note:  This poem radiates heat from the page. Can you feel it?  SWG

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"Sunset Over River Po Near Cremona" | Photo Taken 11/1/07 | Alessio Zanelli

Alessio Zanelli

Winds desert the valley. Coy horizons keep on hiding.
Eyes upturned by night still strive to spot an early token.
Morning fog appears to play the field before abiding.
Phantoms haunt the land at will. The spell remains unbroken.
Yet the long-stayed vanguards wait to quell the mighty giant.
Soon the winning sign will show, the dormant will be woken.
All shall bow, becoming silent, calm, submissive, pliant.

Poet’s Notes:  When I started conceiving this poem, I didn’t mean it to have a double meaning (physical, besides figurative). Originally, it simply had to be another metaphor for life, of how often people are kind of resilient, even opposed to change, to the inescapable flow of things, only to discover that they can carry on only yielding to it (as Darwin argued about the perpetuation of the species: not the strongest or the most intelligent, but only those adapting to change will survive). 

Subsequently, I realized that several words concerning the environment and the weather (initially chosen as metonyms) appeared in the poem (winds, valley, fog, land, etc.), and so it came naturally to me to finalize it also as a poem about the transition of one season into another (hence the crasis of the title, from “transition” and “season”), in particular, the longed-for arrival of winter. In fact, once again this year the whole of Italy is experiencing endless autumn, anomalously warm and violent, which has caused huge damage everywhere and taken an absurdly high human toll (see my LinkedIn post about this subject here: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6464205825433968640/). We all hope that winter (“the dormant”) will soon supersede it, bringing along a soothing peace. The poem is formal, consisting of seven lines of seven trochees each, in “terza rima” (third rhyme: ABABCBC).

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Poetry Review

The Blue Touch by Gene Hodge
Reviewed by Steven Wittenberg Gordon

I had the pleasure of reading the latest poetry collection by Frequent Contributor Gene Hodge, The Blue Touch, available through Barnes & Noble in perfect bound trade paperback for $12.95 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-blue-touch-gene-hodge/1129859291.  It is about seventy pages in length, but as with most poetry collections published these days, the amount of text per page makes for an effective length of about half that.  The collection may easily be read in one sitting--I would suggest by the fire with your favorite hot beverage in winter or under a veranda with your favorite cold beverage in fair weather.  Many of the poems were first published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, but there is plenty of new material to enjoy. The book is divided into three sections:  “Folks”, “The Experience”, and “Nature”. 

Those familiar with Gene’s work will smile as they read his signature people-watching poems that appear in the first section.  Gene has an uncanny knack for making his imagined or observed narratives inspired by ordinary “folks” into entertaining, insightful, and often poignant poems.  One of my favorites is the book’s opening poem, “Antiques, a Wedding, and Three Flat Tires”, which first appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review http://www.songsoferetz.com/2017/02/antiques-wedding-and-three-flat-tires.html.

In the second section, Gene brings out the unique in the mundane and the remarkable in the quotidian.  Here, the reader will, if only fleetingly, “experience” the day-to-day world through Gene’s eyes, where good omens abound, quiet moments become spiritual, living is celebrated in a positive manner with an almost childlike innocence, and where “images of creative thoughts / dance onto the finite stage.”

A peaceful stillness and transcendental power pervade the final section.  Every aspect of “nature”--from landscapes to weather patterns to wildlife--stimulates the imagination and spirit of this man whose observations and reflections poetically deliver to the reader a sense of quiet and contentment wrapped in folk wisdom.

The title of the collection is a bit of an enigma, as a “touch of blue” usually refers to depression.  Gene attempts, unsuccessfully I believe, to explain this seeming paradox in an author’s note, saying that, “life is the color filter you choose to look through.”  So, think “sky blue”, “ocean blue”, “baby blue,” or maybe “Blue’s Clues” when considering how the “blue” title may relate to this uplifting collection of poetry.

Psyche’s Scroll by Karla Linn Merrifield
Reviewed by Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Before I invited her to become a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor, Karla was kind enough to send me a copy of her epic poem Psyche’s Scroll (The Poetry Box, 2018) for review.  The epic unfolds on 125 pages, but if one takes into account the many pages that are filled only partially with text, it is effectively half that length.  I found it to be pretty heady stuff and the reading pretty slow going. Although I am sure there are readers out there who could read the work in one sitting, I could not. Fortunately, the poem is divided into six sections or “stages,” making for convenient stopping places along the way.

Without spoiling too much, the basic plot follows the “Woman Who Unearthed the Scroll.”  Her discovery of this secret, hidden scroll leads to the release of Psyche personified, a kind of genie of the lamp. The discoverer becomes a stand-in for the reader for whom Psyche imparts her knowledge of how the human mind and soul are influenced by external and internal forces.  Psyche introduces the reader to the Freudian trinity of Id (a poet), Ego, and Superego.  Superego takes many forms or labels, a few nourishing to Id and Ego, the vast majority malign.  The characters are feminists by definition, but not the kinds that annoy.

The essential moral lesson of the poem, which is demonstrated again and again through numerous poetic examples, is that physical injury can be endured without significant damage to one’s core being, but emotional injury can inflict heavy, even permanent, damage.  This lesson is the exact opposite of the old adage concerning “sticks and stones,” which, as anyone who has ever been labeled by teachers, bullies, bosses, parents, siblings, or others knows (and that is everyone), is one of the evilest and most terrible lies systematically taught to children. 

“Words” can and do “break” an individual at a level much deeper and more important than “bones.” It is about time someone with authority--and a great poet such as Karla has authority--espoused this view, which is obvious on its face and confirmed by universal experience.  Psyche’s Scroll is available through The Poetry Box in perfect bound trade paperback for $18.00 https://thepoetrybox.com/bookstore/psyches-scroll.

Are you the author or editor of a poetry collection, a poetry magazine, or other long poetic work?  If you would like to see a review of your work published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, please see our "Review Guidelines" section for details http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/review-guidelines.html.

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Frequent Contributor News
New FC Sylvia Cavanaugh recently had five of her poems published in a chapbook entitled “The Aging Poems” (Water's Edge Press).  Her poem 2019 "Spirit Park" was published in the Wisconsin Poet's Calendar https://www.wfop.org/wisconsin-poets-calendar-store/.  Bards Against Hunger: Wisconsin Edition (Local Gems Press) published "Eating Lunch in Lunch Detention" https://www.amazon.com/Bards-Against-cHunger-Wisconsin-Werstein/.  Verse-Virtual: An Online Community of Poets published "Woman's Spell" in December 2018 http://www.verse-virtual.com/sylvia-cavanaugh-2018-december.html2018, and "The Falconer" in January 2019 http://www.verse-virtual.com/sylvia-cavanaugh-2019-january.html.  Van Gogh Dreams: Poems Inspired by the Art and Life of Vincent Van Gogh (HenschelHAUS Publishing) published "Starry Night Over the Rhone" https://www.amazon.com/Van-Gogh-Dreams-inspired-Vincent-ebook/.

New FC Richard Fenwick recently published his second collection of poetry, Unusual Sorrows, poems he wrote from 2011 to 2015 during a time of several family losses to disease but followed by meeting and marrying his wife.  A copy may be obtained through Thrift Books for $13.60 https://www.thriftbooks.com/a/richard-m-fenwick/3630109/.

Art Editor Jason Artemus Gordon has been chosen to be the featured artist at the Blue Koi Midtown Restaurant, 1803 West 39th Street, Kansas City, Missouri.  His paintings and drawings, some of which originally appeared as illustrations in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, will be on display and for sale there through the end of February 2019.

Former FC Mary Soon Lee has had two poems recently published. "The Cats of Mars" appeared in NewMyths.com, Issue 45, December 2018 https://sites.google.com/a/newmyths.com/nmwebsite/poems/the-cats-of-mars, and "How to Seduce Apophis" appeared in Abyss & Apex, Issue 69, 1st Quarter 2019 http://www.abyssapexzine.com/2019/01/how-to-seduce-apophis/.

Former FC Lauren McBride has had several of her poems recently published in multiple venues.  "How You Kept Saving my Life" appears online in the January 2019 Abyss & Apex, Issue 69 edited by FC John C. Mannone http://www.abyssapexzine.com/2019/01/how-you-kept-saving-my-life/.  Her work appeared in the October 2018 and January 2019 issues of Spaceports & Spidersilk https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/915405.  Two of her poems made the November 2018 print issue of Scifaikuest, and a third was published in the online edition https://www.albanlakepublishing.com/scifaikuest-online.  Two additional haiku of hers were published in the Fall/Winter issue of the Aurorean.  Two of her poems were published in Star*Line 41.4.  And a 100-word micro-flash piece of hers was published in DrabbleHarvest #12.

New FC Karla Linn Merrifield is currently aboard the Queen Mary 2 on a world voyage that will take her to twenty-two countries over the course of 108 days, writing poems and taking photographs in response to her exposure to new places, peoples, and culture as she has done through the years on other wide-ranging travels. She’ll also continue researching the life and works of the great American artist John Sloan for her book-in-progress, This Magnificent Flirtation, which currently contains 106 haiga that Karla created, incorporating her haiku into Sloan’s numerous nudes.  She also continues work on her book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North, due out this spring from Cirque Press.

FC Howard Stein has recently had several poems published in other venues.  "Taking Notice" appeared in Vox poetica October 2, 2018 http://voxpoetica.com/taking-notice/.  "Natural Disasters" appeared in Ascent Aspirations Magazine--Friday's Poems October 19, 2018 http://www.davidpfraser.ca/fridays-poems.html. "The Cellist" appeared in Vox poetica November 4, 2018 http://voxpoetica.com/the-cellist/.  "Music of the High Desert, Ghost Ranch, NM" & "Morning Frost" & "Expansive Waves in the Wind" appeared in miller's pond poetry magazine Vol. 22, Web 1, Winter 2019   http://www.millerspondpoetry.com/index.php/issues/index.php?page=vol22web1#Howard%20F.%20Stein.

New FC Charles A. Swanson has recently had two poems anthologized.  “Man-Up: Preaching My Father’s Funeral” and “Love Shaving,” were recently published in Poetry Power: An Interactive Guide for Writing, Editing, Teaching, and Reflecting on the Life Poetic by Melanie Faith, Vine Leaves Press, available in print and as an e-book http://www.vineleavespress.com/poetry-power-by-melanie-faith.html.

Alessio Zanelli had another poem published on the website of The Society of Classical Poets, entitled "The Finite Prairies Under Boundless Skies", one of the few environmental poems he has ever written http://classicalpoets.org/2018/12/22/the-finite-prairies-under-boundless-skies-by-alessio-zanelli/.

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Lana the Poetry Dog
The next issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review (February/March 2019) will have a "Love" theme and will be published in mid-February.  Submissions for that issue are now closed, but submissions for the issue after that--our March/April "Fantasy & Fairytale" theme issue due out in mid-March--are now open.  Associate Editor James Frederick William Rowe will be the primary editor for our March/April issue.

The results of the fifth (and final) Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest, judged by Montana Poet Laureate Lowell Jaeger, will be published in February as a special edition.  Honoraria will be awarded for first place ($1,000), second place ($200), and third place ($100).  The Readers Choice Award Contest has been canceled due to there not being an adequate number of qualified finalists.

The original paintings and drawings created by our Art Editor Jason Artemus Gordon and used for the illustrations in this issue are available for purchase.  Please visit our "Artwork Store" page for details http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/artwork-store.html.

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