Wednesday, May 15, 2019

MAY/JUNE 2019 "JAPANESE FORM" ISSUE



May/June 2019 "Japanese Form" Theme Issue
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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
Poetry
Ross Balcom
   "The Sunflower Sequence"
   "kamikaze"
Sylvia Cavanaugh
   "Surprise sting on chest" 
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
   "Sabang Haibun"
Karla Linn Merrifield
   "May Day at Silver Lake"
Vivian Finley Nida
   "Wilted as pulled weeds"
Elizabeth Spencer Spragins
   "midnight rain bullets" 
Howard Stein
   "Stealth"
   "my cat naps with me"
Charles A. Swanson
   "The Watches of the Night"
Alessio Zanelli
   "Spring Haiku" 
Poetry Review
Finding Structure in Nature: 
A Collection of Haiku 
By Michael Carolan
Reviewed by James Frederick William Rowe
Frequent Contributor News
Forthcoming

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A Letter from the Editor
Japanese form poems are fairly easy to compose but good ones are elusive.  Over 100 poems were submitted for consideration for appearance in this issue.  Only eleven poems were accepted, including a haibun of my own.  It is remarkable that nearly half of our Frequent Contributors did not make the cut this time.

Japanese form poems, arguably more than any other poetry form, cannot afford to mince words, must have a certain spirit and feel to them, and (although this is a controversial point in English) must adhere to strict syllable counts or, if they do not, must nevertheless retain that je ne sais quoi essential to the form.  Good Japanese form poems are distilled, essential, instinctive, precise, and immediate.  They are simple yet profound.

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Poetry

The Sunflower Sequence
Ross Balcom

1.
the flowers found me
sunlight  shrieking in my brain
crazed yellow faces

2.
I ate wallpaper
it looked and tasted awful
yellow floral hell

3.
I fled the old house
fled the yellow papered walls--
into fields unknown

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the way these haiku mesh to form a riveting tale of horror.  SWG



kamikaze

red nose, Rising Sun
a clown car kamikaze
I die for Japan

--Ross Balcom






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Surprise sting on chest
hands steady on handlebars
bee snuck down my shirt

the road bends through clover fields
my moving wheels stay upright

--Sylvia Cavanaugh

Editor’s Note:  This is a nice little tanka that describes an experience I suffered twice as a lad.  I enjoy the way that the beauty of the final two lines takes some of the "sting" out of the first three.  SWG

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Sabang Haibun
Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

As I awaited re-deployment from Indonesia to New Jersey, I remember sitting just off the runway of the makeshift airport on Sabang, hypnotized by the gentle swaying of the heavily laden coconut trees, longing for home.

coconut covered
tsunami relief airport
Weh Island Sabang




Poet's Notes:  On December 26, 2004, a tsunami struck Indonesia, killing over 230,000 people and causing over $15 billion in damage.  I was an active duty Air Force flight surgeon at the time and was deployed to Indonesia under OPERATION UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, part of the worldwide humanitarian relief effort.  The United States military did a great deal of good there quickly and efficiently until the non-governmental organizations and local governments could take over the operation.

I kept a meticulous journal while I was overseas and composed many poems inspired by my situation and surroundings.  I compiled the poetry into a book-length poetic memoir (which has yet to find a publisher despite an aggressive marketing effort).  "Sabang Haibun" was taken from that collection, inspired by the coconut trees--a novelty for me--on Weh Island where the USAF had established an airfield and relief-supply warehouse.

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May Day at Silver Lake
Karla Linn Merrifield 

Adirondack rain
on May Day, a misty veil—
green light on green moss.

Tatters of beech leaves
drip pearls of crystal raindrops—
pure and abundant.

Hemlock and cedar
needles soften my footfalls:
stealth in the forest.

Granite slabs gather
lichen in praise of moisture—
the slow quick of spring.

Two loons on the cool
water in wild urgency
trail a fecund wake.

Poet’s Notes:  For nigh on twenty years my best friend and I partook of what we called “Wilderness Women Weekend,” a tradition usually passed at her family cabin deep in upper New York State’s rugged Adirondack Mountains. Inevitably, we hiked woodland and lakeshore trails that challenged our bodies but rewarded us with beauty that touched all our senses.  “May Day at Silver Lake,” a haiku sequence, recalls one such outing when it seemed the world was awakening after a long brutal winter right before our eyes. 

Editor’s Note:  I too am a fan of the Adirondacks and had hoped to live there one day (alas, I wound up in Maine--almost as good).  The haiku are beautiful alone and even better as a linked whole.  The final one about the loons took my breath away.  SWG

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Wilted as pulled weeds
she creaks porch rocker sunset
to moonflowers’ bloom

--Vivian Finley Nida

Poet’s Notes:  Before air conditioning, humid summer days left people wilted. To combat the heat at Grandmother’s, we sat on the porch, wet towels around necks and across legs, fan blowing on us.  It might sound miserable, but it was not, especially when darkness fell and family stories rose, filling the night with laughter as beautiful as moonflowers blooming.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the imagery and story here, as well as the joining of "sunset" and "moonflowers".  SWG


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midnight rain bullets
through this silver-plated pond—
ripples in a glass
mar the mirror of full moon
as her lantern dims and dies

--Elizabeth Spencer Spragins

Poet’s Notes:  This poem surfaced from memories of an ill-fated family camping trip. When an unexpected storm transformed the ground beneath our tents into a swamp, sleep was no longer possible. We packed up and abandoned the site around midnight. I now prefer to camp in cabins!

Editor’s Note:  I especially like the language used here and the contrast with the pond and moon, which I can imagine shattering beneath the driving midnight rain.  JFWR

Editor’s Note:  I agree with the Associate Editor and would add that Elizabeth has leveraged the tanka form well, filling its brevity with vivid imagery, metaphor, and a bit of personification. SWG

About the Poet:  Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a fiber artist, poet, and writer who taught in community colleges for more than a decade. Her tanka and bardic verse in the Celtic style have been published in Europe, Asia, and North America. The Language of Bones, a collection of her bardic verse, is scheduled for publication by Kelsay Books later this year. Updates are available on her website: www.authorsden.com/elizabethspragins.

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Stealth
Howard Stein

Fall arrives by stealth --
Just when no one is looking,
A few telltale leaves
Scrape along the dry sidewalk.
Soon, there is no turning back.

Poet's Notes: In mid-September 2018, I was sitting on my porch, noticing an occasional brown leaf float to the ground. A few dry leaves scratched on the sidewalk when the Oklahoma breeze was swift enough. From that spell emerged this poem. 





my cat naps with me
could we be the same species
where is my food bowl

--Howard Stein


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The Watches of the Night
Charles A. Swanson

I. On a clear night

full bucket, one star
cradled by the moon’s thin arm,
water’s reflection.

The moon, the star, our love floats
under the surface twinkling.


II.  Of so many

stars, stars in the lake,
stars in the river, rippling,
one in my glass jar.

One star, you little sparkle,
One star, you shy one, my love.


III.  Blushing

day’s light, barely pale,
pushes stars away, but you,
last star, I still see.

All through this day, in my heart,
dwelling in light, you are here.

Poet’s Notes:  I can see the sonnet in the tanka, but the absence of rhyme and meter, and the brevity, almost like a note left on the pillow instead of a fully expounded thesis, is stimulating.  I am intrigued by the intensity of short forms.  A few words, well chosen, can ripple a mind’s still surface like one smooth stone dropped upon the tensile surface of a pond.  Suddenly, the calm is broken, the circles widen, and boundaries are shaken.


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Spring Haiku
Alessio Zanelli

Spring has come
by the crunching sound
of trod snow

time to prune the trees
colors pop out in the fields
for the toil of bees

from swollen verdure
bursts of piercing mating calls
foreboding summer

exposed embankments
leading footsteps to the wood—
the storm will follow

along the river
beasties greet the longest day
no human bothers

back across young land
looking forward to its roar
me and the old beast

Poet’s Notes:  I rarely write Japanese-form poetry, apart from haiku, which I love reading and writing. For me, haiku really is a pristine form of poetry, pure, simple and instinctive, and the work by Basho is still unrivaled. Although not obsessed with it, as not having the same significance as in Japanese, I try to respect the traditional pattern of 5-7-5 syllables whenever I can. I like to write haiku about nature and the weather, extemporarily, and what I like the most is what I call “Zen” haiku, the straight descriptive condensation in a few syllables of what happens around me, on the instant.

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Poetry Review


Finding Structure in Nature: A Collection of Haiku by Michael Carolan
Reviewed by James Frederick William Rowe

I felt honored when Michael Carolan, my former-student-turned-dear-friend, asked for my editorial assistance with his debut book of poetry, Finding Structure in Nature: A Collection of Haiku(available through Amazon.com) and was pleased to write the forward to it. Michael's style is modern and contemporary.  His font of experiences is rooted in the here and now as a young man living his own life in New York City, but the beauty of his verse is timeless and true to a tradition that stretches back through the centuries. 

The haiku form naturally fits Michael as a poet and as a person, as it is uniquely able to distill the essence of beauty from a subject by its restricted, succinct structure, tolerating nothing extraneous or impure. Once subjected to the rigor of the haiku, what is left is the purified, simple, perfected core of his experiences, and it is these that Michael displays so perfectly through the delicate grace of his mastery of this medium. The poet and the poetry are distinctly tied together in this work, and what we see is the beauty of the song of Michael's being on the page. 

Michael’s experiences are broad, and this leads to the book being divided into seven sections, each of which contains a number of different haiku--abstract musings, concrete imagery, family, life, romance, nature, and art. The categories allow the reader to linger within the specific mood of the category before transitioning gently into the next. The book is also equally able to adopt an "open and read" method, as each haiku stands as much on its own as it does in a sequence. Nevertheless, I believe the book is best-read cover-to-cover, allowing the harmony to emerge as one progresses, exploring the broad river of experiences that runs through a young poet's life. The book has a beautiful arc when read in order, with the beginning and end representing the heights of thought, and the middle filled with the depths of sense and emotion.

Sprinkled throughout are several haiku arranged in sequences where each haiku may be thought of as a stanza in a larger poem. These allow Michael to explore a specific moment in great depth and tell a narrative tale that is more than the ephemeral moment that haiku normally encompass. Their small numbers serve as a nice complement to the brevity of the other haiku. 

While I love the book as a whole, my favorite section is “romance”. In my foreword, I describe Michael's "almost raw eroticism that resurrects the lusty rush of past ecstasies." Without becoming either lewd or lurid, Michael is able to capture the stirring depths of erotic infatuation and scalding passion.  Many of Michael's poems are also genuinely humorous, and readers are sure to enjoy as many laughs as they are to have their thoughts provoked by some of the poems that reflect upon society and its workings.  Finding Structure in Nature is a brilliant debut book of poems, and I have no doubt that it represents the first step in what I am sure will be a long and illustrious poetic career.



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
FC Sylvia Cavanaugh is pleased to announce that her poem, "Glinda Establishes the North Star Settlement House," received an Honorable Mention for a contest on poems inspired by The Wizard of Oz and was published on the Highland Park Poetry Muse's Gallery http://www.highlandparkpoetry.org/themusesgallery.html.  Her poem, "Rockford," has been published in Blue Herron Review
https://blueheronreview.com/bhr-issue-11-winter-2019/.  She has an article titled "The Poetry of Ekphrasis" published in the April issue of School Arts Magazine  https://www.davisart.com/Promotions/SchoolArts/Art-Advocacy.aspx?.

Former FC Mary Soon Lee had three poems published: "Guinevere" is in Fantasy & Science Fiction May/June 2019, "The Commandant of Mars" is in Eye to the Telescope #32, April 2019, and "Snapdragons" is in Uppagus #34, April 2019.

FC Karla Linn Merrifield has returned to the USA from her World Voyage aboard the Queen Mary after traveling 33,000 nautical miles.  Her new book, Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North, contains a collection of her poems complemented by numerous photographs from her twenty years of travel across the Arctic and near-Arctic North American. The book is available as available from publisher Cirque Press (www.cirquejournal.com) and on Amazon.

FC Alessio Zanelli is pleased to announce that a poem of his titled  “Transference”  was included in the anthology Cowboys & Cocktails: Poetry from the True Grit Saloon, recently published by Brick Street Poetry Inc. (Indiana)
http://www.brickstreetpoetry.org/poetry-on-brickstreet/https://www.amazon.com/dp/1092491600.  He also has a poem titled “I Am” in issue #40, Winter 2019 of Tipton Poetry Journal (Indiana) http://tiptonpoetryjournal.com & https://www.amazon.com/dp/1092883665. Finally, Sanskrit (UNC Charlotte) published a poem and a photograph of his titled, respectively, "The Car Counter" and "Pay your dues, Dirceo!", in the 2019 edition, titled "Passport", recently released. The magazine can be ordered directly from UNCC, via http://ninertimes.com/ & https://sanskritmagazine.com.


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Lana the Poetry Dog
Forthcoming
Our June/July 2019 "Science/Science Fiction" themed issue, with Associate Editor James Frederick William Rowe as lead editor, will be published in mid-June.  Submissions for that issue are closed.

We will be accepting submissions until June 15 for our long-anticipated "Sonnets" issue, due out in August, for which our Editor-in-Chief Steven Wittenberg Gordon will be back in the lead editor's seat.  Starting with that issue, Songs of Eretz will be published monthly at the beginning of each month rather than the middle.  

Songs of Eretz will take a summer vacation from about June 15 to around August 1.  We will be closed for submissions June 15 - June 30 and re-open on July 1 to consider prose poems for our "Prose Poems" themed issue due out in September, for which Dr. Gordon will again be the lead editor.  







The original paintings and drawings (and prints of them) created by our Art Editor Jason Artemus Gordon and used for the illustrations in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review are available for purchase with and without copies of the poems that inspired them.  Please visit our "Artwork Store" page for details http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/art.html.


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