RSS

Category Archives: Poetry Reviews

Plato Poetica by Daniel Klawitter

(A Poetica Place book review by Christina Anne Taylor)

I can see Plato himself raising his cloud white eyebrows over my latest acquisition for our Red Salon: Plato Poetica by Daniel Klawitter. Within the elegant cover are four parts consisting of thirty poems (one in four parts) and a prose piece, and though the book developed from a concise concept, the themes of the poems vary considerably with the binding substance being epigraphs from Plato. The reader must begin with the preface to put everything into context; the reader must understand that the poet knows full well what he’s doing as he juxtaposes his modern-day voice against the timeless philosopher. That in itself is amusing.

The poems themselves vary in style but maintain a consistent signature that rings true to the poet. My personal favorite might actually be the perceptive prose piece titled “Esmeralda and the Hellhounds of Anubis.” As a woman, I relate to the theme of cats and enjoy such thoughts as “…cats have one paw in this world and the other three paws in the realm of spirits.” Esmeralda raises a paw and breaks the prose with an incantation:

Dogs are prose and prone to please.
Mice are good for eating.
When moonlight splinters through the trees
We watch humans while they’re sleeping.

Disobedience is heroic.
It’s wrong to persecute witches.
Hell is a world with no poets
And Heaven a charm of finches.

“Barnyard of the Gods” was enjoyable with lines such as:

…Hades is in the cellar
canning the souls of the dead….

Clever wit is a perennial recurrence throughout Plato Poetica, but Klawitter does have a serious side, and when he’s in serious mode he waxes most poetic, as in “The Most Shameful Thing”:

My sackcloth soul
is a waste of windswept ashes—
a hermitage of pollution.

So the poet admits openly in his preface that these seventy-four pages are an experiment of a sort with each poem being inspired by an epigraph, and I think it was worthwhile–worth his time and worth readers’ time. Copies are available at Amazon.

 
Comments Off on Plato Poetica by Daniel Klawitter

Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Poetry Reviews

 

Tags: ,

Book Review: In Perpetuity by Mark Andrew Heathcote

(Reviewed by Christina Anne Taylor)

I received my copy of In Perpetuity, the first poetry collection of Mark Andrew Heathcote, a literary friend from the UK, and enjoyed reading it over coffee this morning. I’d call it a chapbook at 58 pages, but it’s perfect-bound with a beautiful, simple cover design of which the book’s preface is printed on the back and serves as an adequate summary from the poet to the reader:

“These poems are a snapshot of twenty-five years of poetry in the making. My words have given form to a living, breathing diary of one man’s life. Come take my hand and travel with me through moments of disparity, passion, and joy in my first collection of poetry [ . . . ] I give you my words, forever leaving you a piece of me.”

What strikes me about Heathcote’s work is how natural and honest he is through these 53 poems (“a living, breathing diary,” as he said), and I’d like to just quote some of my favorite parts of poems that struck a chord with me.

In “A Temporal Vision,” the poet begins with a tight “2/4 time” opening, then expands the lines briefly before lifting into a poetic flourish of inspiration:

Did I trace the wind backwards through its red iron clay root?
Trace it back to the core of a cavern in the mouth of a cave,
Back into them dank, dark smells of England’s thorn and fire,
Green-oaks tall as a bluebell’s spire,
English yews, soft scented, with a slow-growing desire.

In “Betel Leaves,” he gives us a more structured verse (many in his collection are melodic yet structured and with random rhyme). Lines 5-12:

And much like them tasty betel leaves
She folded in and around me, tucked me
Into her opium mouth, tucked me
Inside a secret sacred part of herself.

“Our eternity has no windows,” she said:
“Whatever direction you take yourself,
Be sure your heart has partaken and dined,
And your soul is well fed.”

Then placing an emerald leaf around my head,
She embellished me with a silken thread.
“Our eternity has no windows,” she said,
“But we too are butterflies jointly cocooned in a web.”

“Graced Am I,” lines 3-11:

Sunlight is our first brush with love
But moonlight, even when eclipsed
In its shadowy bloom
When it falls on our lips,
Is second to none:
It tugs at us in its ocean swell
It points us in ever unexpected new directions
It is the eye of a hurricane
It is the lily pads swaying…

In “How Wrong Was I,” we feel again what too many of us have felt at least once in life, and we empathize. The first half:

Once I came close to your Magnum Opus
I thought I was your inspiration
How wrong was I
Once I came close to your whispering soul
I thought I was its constellation
How wrong was I
Once I came close to the vortex of your heart
But I never entered; you didn’t want me there
Oh, how I drowned in deep despair.

And the first stanza of “Steps of Heaven”:

Morning glory must open
To seed the steps of heaven
And on her nap of cloud
Might yours be a halo, a crown
Opening the gates of heaven.

We see a common theme of the contemplations of a thoughtful, romantic soul who poured his human experience into this poetic heart-full collection. In Perpetuity serves to remind us that we are not alone in our struggles and our moments of joy through the beauty of the simple things. It’s available via Amazon.com and is also formatted for a free Kindle download, but of course I recommend a print copy.

 
Comments Off on Book Review: In Perpetuity by Mark Andrew Heathcote

Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Poetry Reviews

 

Tags: ,

Hermit Thrush by Amy Minato

(A book review by Christina Anne Taylor)

I’ve been enjoying Amy Minato’s Hermit Thrush, which was recently gifted to me by a friend in the literary scene who thought I would appreciate it. The poet’s educational background is Environmental Studies, and that’s precisely what her poems are: assessments, translations from one language into another so that readers might sense her perceptions. Multi-colored, multi-textural, reading her poems is like walking through a lucid dream, which is why this slim yet sufficiently full-filling collection is a perfect read first thing in the morning when one is still in alpha waves and needs a gentle awakening while the coffee is brewing.

hermit-thrushThis morning I awakened to “Body of the Earth”…

A swish through flakes

of the forest’s dead skin

where maple leaves lay yellow palms

on the tibia of beetle-burrowed sticks

and tresses of brown needles.

And from “Field Study at Harvest Moon”…

Across the meadow, sunset alights

corn lilies’ lacy tops,

a procession of candles

in a green night.

 

A doe grazes the margin

between meadow and pine rim,

one ear twitching for bugs,

the other for us.

Amy Minato artfully unfolds a mind that recognizes life in all things and frequently personifies to awaken what is silent, to set to motion what is still, and to present a layer of magic as she perceives it. She is the author or two other titles as well as Hermit Thrush, which was beautifully designed and published through Inkwater Press in August of this year. Copies are available through Powell’s Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Inkwater Press, and many local independent booksellers.

 
Comments Off on Hermit Thrush by Amy Minato

Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Poetry Reviews

 

Tags: ,

Nasty, Brutish and Short by Todd Millick

(Review by C. A. Taylor)

One of the best parts of my job as a publishing service-provider via Middle Island Press is that my clients sometimes send me copies of other books that they’ve published elsewhere. Such is the case with Todd Millick, author of Short and Sweet published by Middle Island Press, who recently sent me a copy of his first book of prose titled Nasty, Brutish and Short: Lessons and Laughs from an Overseas Officer.

(Continuing with my review at Amazon.com…)

I immediately felt the “funny” and consider this book to be genuinely healing in that sense. I feel so good when I read these stories, two or three at a time with my morning coffee. Though this book has a masculine “feel” and would appeal mostly to men, it appealed to me as well, and if my dad were still alive and residing in a VA hospital, I’d surely send him a copy of this book to help him recover from the inside out.

The title is a bit harsh, imo, to the reality of the stories in this collection. Yes, the well-traveled author is in touch with reality, and his accounts are complete with observations of crude and strange human behaviors in places like Bulgaria and Egypt, but the stories are intelligent lessons in geography; they are travel insights with a witty narrator who happens to have been a governmental “insider” who adds interesting tidbits such as telltale signs of whether or not countries have joined the EU. Recycle bins? Chances are, they’re in.

Most amusing to me are the author’s accounts of taxi drivers and drivers in general in Cairo. He claims that one cannot simply jump in a cab and expect that the driver knows how to get to one’s destination. One must, in most cases, tell the cab drivers where to turn, and if their horn quits working, they just might suffer a major internal crisis with a lack of “voice” on the road.

These and similar stories make for a delightful overall read. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Pick up a copy of Nasty, Brutish and Short at Amazon.com.

 
Comments Off on Nasty, Brutish and Short by Todd Millick

Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Literary News & Articles, Poetry Reviews

 

Tags: ,

Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams

Some weeks back I received a copy of Disinheritance by e-friend, poet and literary agent John Sibley Williams. It’s the kind of book that I like to savor slowly over time, because each poem is rich with what I define as true poetry: not words describing situations and sensations so much as situations and sensations finding the right words through the poet’s mind. In other words, I don’t see poetry as being manufactured in the poet’s mind. I see poetry as entering the poet’s mind and being translated, which Williams demonstrates in this collection.

First things first: the cover design is flawless, truly created with love. It’s nice and silky and the interior is equally well designed. The book is divided into three parts; it is well-crafted and well-ordered, and it returns throughout the book to a “Dead Boy” theme (the poet apparently being the “Dead Boy”). Here, a few lines from “A Dead Boy Learns Metaphor”:

 

The poetries of white blood cells

help us make sense of the body.

 

The comfort of abstraction,

of self-defining

by our creations.

 

Something clots.

 

I rename the white hospital walls swans.

Now they are feathered         and I

can finally be their pure spring lake.

 

The wolves at my bedside say my heart is an ocean

so I construct a simple ark to fit two of each limb.

 

The sheets are a canvas of long-

fallen leaves

so I rake my fingers over cotton and gather their falling.

 

I read these free-verse poems with the intent of penning a review, so I kept paper in the book and took notes firstly in search of my favorite poem. I found that each poem became my new favorite, or I should say I couldn’t choose a favorite, but I took the contents in slowly and thoughtfully because that’s what the poems require of the reader.

It took me years of reading poetry to arrive at appreciating free-verse. This is among the best of free-verse, the kind of poetry that those who aspire to express poetry should study and take note from literary lessons such as this from “In Apology”:

 

Not even earth can describe our harvest, not even the sky

and all its burning can speak for ash.

But there comes a time

abstractions must choose what shape to take.

 

For justice, please look down into my hands

as into a mirror. For truth, here’s

a cord of kindling. For you, a midnight river of stars.

 

I enjoy the quiet contemplations throughout Disinheritance. From “Oppenheimer”:

 

Mother we call the beauty in

what cannot be possessed,

and father, where are you

but in the violence it takes

to create her?

 

So the book flows…one pause, one sigh after another, and I’ll surely read it again and am grateful for my copy which will fit snugly on a shelf in our poetry room. Thanks, John!

Disinheritance (*click*) is now available at Amazon.com.

 

 
Comments Off on Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams

Posted by on August 11, 2016 in Poetry Reviews

 

Tags: ,

Big City Nighttime Stories: Book Review

We’re happy to have received word of a review of Big City Nighttime Stories (ISBN 978-0-6926-12682) in the Winter-Spring 2016 edition of The Rockford Review, published by the Rockford Writer’s Guild. The reviewer is editor Connie Kunst.

McCormick Cover JPEGBig City Nighttime Stories (Middle Island Press, 103 pages, $16)  by Gene McCormick is a collection of poetry available on Amazon or directly through the author.  Email: genebiz@att.net for more information or mail check/money order for $16 to PO Box 51, Wayne, IL 60184.

Gene McCormick captures the “ugh” moments of places and people a little too well.  I’ll just say it:  his writing makes me uncomfortable. What is he going to unveil next? What dysfunction is he going to uncover?  What underdog is he going to reveal?  He’s unpredictable.  I’ll just say it:  his writing is fascinating.  In this collection, we are reintroduced to “Ed” who is a regular in McCormick’s poetry.  Ed sleeps with prostitutes, drinks too much, has a terrible diet, and regularly judges others, but I like the guy anyway.  Sure, Ed is a loner and goes to all the dark places, but he does it all so colorfully.  Ed and all of McCormick’s poems make for delightfully dark reading.

Thank You, Connie, from Middle Island Press!

 

 
Comments Off on Big City Nighttime Stories: Book Review

Posted by on April 3, 2016 in Literary News & Articles, Poetry Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Insane in the Quatrain: a Book Review

(Reviewed by Christina)

I’ve been focusing on tying up literary loose-ends in my life, and I awakened at 2 a.m. with the thought of the book Insane in the Quatrain in my head. Strange, considering that I haven’t read it in a few years, but it was mailed to me as a review copy. I was overwhelmed by it and didn’t know what to say, because it’s as though the whole concept of the book is a joke.

Insane in the QuatrainThe author uses the name Bradley Lastname. He is unidentifiable by the cartoon photo, and what I gather from the “About the Author” page at the end of the book is that he’s also known as B-Dog Lastizzle by his peeps in the hood. (?) I don’t know many “peeps” who get into subjects such as 33rd degree Masonry and cultural devolution, but okay… (?) He does seem to be prolific. Insane in the Quatrain is 188 pages, and he also lists five other books by title “and several other books of poetry and fiction.”

Insane in the Quatrain is really quite sophisticated in content in a city-slick sort of way; it’s word-play gone rampant, often with a catchy rhythm and infused throughout with a potpourri of prosaic thoughts (in quick scanning, I only see one actual poem written in quatrains). The content IS funny – not just entertaining but Laughing-Out-Loud-Funny, but at times it’s crudity and obscenity on the hard offense, which is probably why I haven’t picked it up in a few years. Today I have it in my lap.

Even the layout of the book brings to mind a giant middle-finger as the page numbers are much larger than the text and they’re deliberately placed all over the page. The font size varies throughout, but this is all part of the jibe against the modern world and modern poetry in general.

Here I’ll quote his poem “the seven deadly SINaesthesiaS”:

at first I was amBIValent about Roy G. Biv,

but I have since gone from curious to furious.

  • O is BLUE, not orange, Roy.
  • U is green, not G, Roy.
  • O is BLUE, not B, Roy.
  • I is RED, not indigo, Roy.
  • Red is I, nor R, Roy.

I’m beginning to feel like young Vladimir Nabokov pointing out the errors on his wooden blocks.

And don’t go telling me that Rimbaud didn’t really have synaesthesia.

If he didn’t have it, he sure knew where to get it !!

Too bad he never shared it with you.

…and another poem: “SEVEN DAY WEEKEND”:

Saturday – Went bowling with the Bolsheviks

Sunday – Honorably mentioned by the Mensheviks

Monday – Beat eggs with the beatniks

Tuesday – Shaved legs with the neatniks

Wednesday – Picnicked with the sickniks

Thursday – Mutinied with the nogoodniks

Friday – Procrastinated with the woulda*coulda*shoulda-niks

So, on that note, Insane in the Quatrain (a product of The Press of the Third Mind, Chicago) is available at Amazon.com for people who need some intelligent amusement in their life and don’t mind occasionally being mentally assaulted.

Oh, and THANKS, B-Dog, for the copy. Peace-Out.

 

 
Comments Off on Insane in the Quatrain: a Book Review

Posted by on March 27, 2016 in Poetry Reviews

 

Tags: ,