Guest Post: What Shows Through by Poet Erica Goss

When you fiercely believe in a poet’s talent and their collection, you want to do everything you can to promote it and him/her to a wider audience.  You stick their book into strangers’ and friends’ hands and say, “Read this.”  Sometimes, that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but if you truly believe in a collection, you press onward.

Today, I’ve got a deeply moving guest post from poet Erica Goss, who I featured during the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour with a review of her book, Wild Place.  She will talk about the joy of publishing her collection, but also the deep sadness that came with it when her father’s body was discovered in the wilderness.

Following the guest post, I hope that you will enter for 1 of 2 copies I am going to giveaway to 2 lucky readers anywhere in the world.  Without further ado, please welcome Erica Goss.

On March 29, 2011, I checked my email late in the afternoon. The subject line “Chapbook Acceptance: Wild Place” caught my eye immediately. I opened the message and read, “Thank you for submitting to us. Your manuscript has been accepted for publication.” Blue capitals announced the sender as Finishing Line Press in Kentucky.

Finishing Line. I loved that name and its connotations: making it to the end and winning. But on March 29, 2011, “finishing line” meant something else. Three weeks earlier, some teenagers out hiking had discovered my father’s body in a remote part of Western Washington State. That was his finishing line: death from exposure, hunger, and thirst, brought on by dementia.

Over the following months, I struggled with grief and depression. Some days were simply too hard to bear. My friends congratulated me about the book, but I felt compelled to qualify their enthusiasm with reminders that I was grieving my father. As much as I wanted to shout with joy over the book’s imminent publication, I was unable to feel much happiness at such a time.

The book did give me some welcome distraction from dealing with my father’s death and trying to put his affairs in order. Choosing cover art, formatting the book, deciding which poems to keep and which to delete, absorbed many hours. At the back of my preparations, however, my father’s death lurked, a persistent ache in the pit of my stomach.

It took me some time to realize that I was living in one of those ironic situations that make good poems. The best poetry is tinged with its opposite emotion; to quote Chase Twitchell, “remember death.” As Linda Pastan writes in her poem “The Death of a Parent,”

Move to the front
of the line
a voice says, and suddenly
there is nobody
left standing between you
and the world, to take
the first blows
on their shoulders.

How often I wanted to share the news of my book’s publication with my father. In phone conversations, I’d told him about sending the book to various contests and small presses. The dementia that had been taking his brain away would lift for a little while, and he seemed genuinely interested. Then, abruptly, he would say, “Well, thank you for calling!” and hang up. When he did that, I knew that he had probably forgotten who I was, and ended the conversation to cover his embarrassment.

My father was never more attentive than when I read poetry to him. A former professor of German, he would fix his hazel eyes on me with the look he must have given his students when they mispronounced something, and listen intently. At the end, he would usually say, “Huh! Too bad he was such an ass,” or some other insulting remark about the poet. That’s when I knew my real father was back, at least for a moment. “Even jerks can write good poetry,” I would respond, hoping for his sudden laugh or the way he would smack the table, making us all jump. But more and more often, he would just look at me, puzzled, and turn back to the television.

My father loved run-down, decaying, decrepit places. This explains why he spent the last few years of his life, before his dementia worsened and he moved to Washington to live with his sister, in a tiny village in Northern California called Locke. Locke sits in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, where two of California’s largest rivers meet. Eleven hundred miles of poorly maintained levees protect Locke, the other small towns of the Delta, and its surrounding orchards and farmland.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, unruly by nature, seep under the levees, giving Locke and the whole area a lumpy, moldering appearance. Artists love Locke’s tilted buildings and its atmosphere of benign neglect (Locke is the setting for “My Father at Seventy,” one of the poems in Wild Place). The first few years my father spent in Locke were happy ones; he loved the small town vibe, the artists and writers who lived in ramshackle houses where the river bubbled up through the basements, and being so close to Nature. That was before he stopped calling, stopped paying his bills, stopped cleaning his house.

Wild Place’s cover photograph, taken by San Jose artist and architect Howard Partridge, shows a view of the Sutro Baths on the coast of San Francisco. It’s clear from the photograph that the Pacific Ocean is reclaiming that piece of land, wearing down the seawall and the surrounding cliffs. Here’s another place that water will eventually take back, just like in the Delta a few miles east.

Is this a metaphor for death? Maybe. But I’d rather think of it as a demonstration of Nature’s obdurate personality. As the French poet Saint-John Perse (Alexis Leger) writes: “In vain the surrounding land traces for us its narrow confines. One same wave throughout the world, one same wave since Troy rolls its haunch toward us.”

One same wave. “The Death of a Parent” gives us this image:

The slate is wiped
not clean but like a canvas
painted over in white
so that a whole new landscape
must be started,
bits of the old
still showing through.

It’s been over a year since that bipolar month of March, 2011. I’m learning what it means to grieve. Some days I feel my father’s loss as an acute pain; other times it’s heavy and dull, like an overcast, humid day. I have gotten better at allowing myself to feel unqualified joy at the publication of Wild Place. And I look for those places where the old bits show through.

Thanks, Erica, for sharing your story with us. I know that your father would be proud of you, no matter what. Also, please check out this poem she wrote in response to a prompt about what she would tell her 16-year-old self.

For those of you interested in this stunning collection, please leave a comment here about your own father. Deadline to enter will be May 31, 2012.

National Poetry Month Winners….

Click for all the posts from the 2012 tour, including those from Savvy Verse & Wit

Even though National Poetry Month is over and the blog tour has ended, I’ve still got a couple poetry items to wrap up.

First, thanks to everyone who participated this year, and I hope to see you all again in 2013. I’d like to recruit more poets, academics, and poetry readers to provide guest posts to other tour stops and to offer up their own blog stops on the tour. So if you’re interested, feel free to email me at any time.

We had some great guest posts and reviews, and you can visit any of the posts or tour stops by clicking on the tour button.  All of the links have been added to the Mr. Linky.  If I missed a post from you, please feel free to add it.

Second, I want to congratulate the winners of the National Poetry Month Blog Tour giveaway.

Congrats to Liviania from In Bed With Books and Lilian of Circus Toybox

Congrats to Jill from Rhapsody in Books

Congrats to Lilian from Circus Toybox

Congrats to the five winners of the Trembling Pillow Press Journals: Elizabeth, Gerry, and Parrish Lantern.

Congrats to the nine winners of Real Courage by Michael Meyerhofer: Leslie from Under My Apple Tree, Anna from Diary of an Eccentric, Kathy of Bermudaonion, Diane, and Chris.

There are some winners I still have not received an address from, please send it along so I can mail out your prizes.

Every Possible Blue by Matthew Thorburn

Every Possible Blue by Matthew Thorburn, whom I interviewed for 32 Poems, will be published by CW Books in May.  His poems read like paintings that visually leap from the page to create vivid scenes in the readers mind, from moments in a Jazz club with trumpets blaring to mannequins in the stores down Fifth Avenue in New York.  Moreover, these poems have the feel of the 20s and 30s with references to Greta Garbo and Barbara Bel Geddes.  It is like stepping back and forth in time to experience what has past and what is still vivid and relevant today, while at the same time creating a “blue” mood, a longing for the simpler moments of the past.

From "Now is Always a Good Time":

. . . But Hoagy Carmichael does
a funny thing at the piano and my heart

swings open like a Murphy bed.  Now a hint
of stale Nag Champa tickles my nose, or is this
Chanel No. 5 letting go of someone's taut tan wrist?"
From "Self-Portrait in Secondhand Tuxedo"

. . . Now he's breathing a sweet
something in someone's ear (only her ear
makes it into the picture) and there's

hardly room for me to pull up a stool
in this last corner I'm shading in: my antsy hands,
my waistcoat pooching over my waist.

I'm keeping company tonight with the bust
of Charlie Darwin, that lush.  He sniffs
the pale bud in my button-hole.  . . .

Readers will like when Thorburn directly references the paintings described or referenced in his poems as they can search the internet and gaze at images while reading. Like many of the scenes in his poems, there are mundane situations afoot, but with at least one element that is surprisingly awkward, which can be the narrator himself or other scene stealers.

There is a great deal of upheaval here and yet there is a sense of hope that continues to propel the narrator forward, and some of that can be attributed to the alliteration in some of these poems that make them musical and continuously moving (i.e. “Upper West Side Toodle-oo”).  What readers will love most about Every Possible Blue by Matthew Thorburn is the tug-of-war that happens between the past and future, lost faith and renewed hope, and failure and new opportunity.  A very human collection that delves into the internal struggles we face daily at every turn and yet still find a way to move forward.

Author photo by Takako Kim

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of three book of poems, Every Possible Blue (CW Books, forthcoming 2012), This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, forthcoming 2013) and Subject to Change (New Issues, 2004), and a chapbook, Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City, 2009). He is the recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as the Mississippi Review Prize, two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes, and fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

His poems have appeared in literary journals such as The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Michigan Quarterly Review and Pool. He is a regular contributor to the reviews section of Pleiades. His critical writing has also appeared in Jacket, The Laurel Review, Poetry Daily, Rowboat: Poetry in Translation and Rattle, among others.

A native of Michigan, Matthew Thorburn has lived in New York City for more than a decade. He is currently working on two new projects: a book-length poem that tells the story of one year, and a collection of poems about losing faith and possibly finding it again.


***For today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop, visit Travis Laurence Naught on Facebook.




This is my 33rd book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.



This is the 15th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Interview With Poet Arisa White

As National Poetry Month winds down with the month of April, I hope the tour was able to inspire you to read different poetry books and poets.  Today, I’ve got a special edition to the blog tour, an interview with poet Arisa White, author of Hurrah’s Nest, which I reviewed earlier last week.

I really enjoyed the variation in this collection, the imagery, and the personal story.  If you’re looking for poetry that makes you think, but is entertaining at the same time, White’s work is for you.

Without further ado, please welcome Arisa White:

1. What are your poetic roots? When did you begin reading and writing poetry and who has influenced you?

My family is an artistic bunch. There are poets, rappers, and writers, and dancers, and shit-talkers, which takes skill and craft as well! It’s in the blood and some of us have been fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue those dreams.

When my aunt, the oldest of seven, found out that I was writing and publishing poetry, she would call me on the phone and read me her poems and tell me her ideas for writing a memoir. It’s beautiful to be a source of inspiration for a woman I admire.  My paternal uncle Aubrey has a book of poetry published called Implantation. It’s funny how you look back on your life and can see that this has always been your path.

I began writing poetry in elementary school, really took a liking to limericks in junior high, and in high school I won a city-wide contest for a poem I wrote about women’s history month and I just kept going from there. I frequented the Brooklyn spoken word scene and was influenced by Jessica Care Moore, Mahogany, Saul Williams, Carl Hancock Rux, even the movie Love Jones had a positive impact.

My first book of poetry was an anthology of women poets, given to me by my global studies teacher. From that book, I memorized “Nikki Rosa” by Nikki Giovanni. Even at one point, I interned and was mentored by a local Brooklyn poet, India DuBois (I wonder how she’s doing?) who wrote Jazz and the Evening Sun. It is when I went off to Sarah Lawrence, I feel like the reading and delving into the craft of poetry began.

2. Hurrah’s Nest is a lot about the scars that shape us. How much of your poems are autobiographical?

Hurrah’s Nest is an autobiographical collection, rendered poetically. Mostly and lately, I have been writing from personal experiences–through the lens of self.  I’m making sense of what’s going around me, as well as to investigate what is going inside of me. Who am I? I feel that urgency to know, even more so, having relocated to the West six years ago and removed from the people, places, and things that I have defined myself with and by. The poems I’m writing now are an expression of my heroic journey.

3. As an MFA graduate, how do you feel the degree has helped you and/or hurt you? And what made you decide to obtain your MFA from UMass Amherst?

The MFA degree was what I wanted to get–I wanted to be skilled in my art. To be seen as an artist. I wasn’t really thinking about how I could use it. I don’t think I have consciously used my degree to get a job or a teaching gig–it’s been my writing and experiences I have relied so much on to open doors for me. In the end, it all works together.

I loved my MFA program at UMass, Amherst. It’s a three-year program and it’s a perfect amount of time. I received a three-year fellowship that covered my tuition, health care, and I gained valuable teaching experience. Also, the time to write was priceless. When deciding on MFA programs, this was my criterion, in order of importance: region, financial support, and faculty. At the time, I was living in NYC and I wanted to be somewhat close to my hometown. Also, I didn’t want to add to my debt. I really wanted to be financially supported so that I could concentrate on writing. UMass, Amherst, has a great faculty (Peter Gizzi, James Tate, Dara Wier) and is a part of the five-college system (Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire, and Holyoke). In addition to my graduate course work, I took poetry and dance classes at Smith–I had a wonderful time during my graduate years. Because I did not have the distraction of NYC, I really focused in on my writing and point of view. Hurrah’s Nest is essentially my thesis (thank you, Dara!).

4. Poetry is often solitary, more so than other art forms on occasion, because it is deeply personal, but there are efforts like the Split This Rock Poetry Festival and others that attempt to bring poetry to the masses and to bring about a social connection and call attention to a particular cause. Do you feel the need to do the same in your work? If so, why or why not? What do you think of these poetic movements?

I totally feel the need to call attention to particular causes in my writing. As a poet, it is how I engage–by interrogating how we relate or are not relating to each other and the social, economic, and political ramifications that has on certain groups within our culture. Poetry can be humanizing and restorative and believing that gives my poetry purpose, gives me purpose.

In thinking about the work I’ve created and want to create, I’m moving from the personal and to a social “I”. Hurrah’s Nest looks closely at the family unit, where it all starts, where we form a sense of self and how that self relates to others and the world. Then we step outside of the home and often time are in the habit of repeating what we have been told about who we are and what we can do.

I think we have to know our particular stories, so we can take responsibility for how they shape and recreate experiences. My second collection, A Penny Saved, which will be published by Willow Books in 2013, is about a woman who was held captive in her home for 11 years. I loosely based the collection on Polly Mitchell, a Nebraskan woman who finally escaped from her home and husband, with her four kids, in 2003. It’s mind blowing what we do to each other!

I’m in the process of adapting Post Pardon, a chapbook length long poem that explores the post-partum experience, into a libretto. My composer friend Jessica Jones is writing the music. And then, I’m applying for grants and residencies to write a series of eclogues that depict the lives of four sexually-exploited minors and their pimp, in an urban setting. For me, I’m very much focused on writing about women in extreme situations, calling attention to those realities.

5. What are you reading now in poetry and what poetry would you recommend others read and why? Also feel free to share anything about your upcoming poetry collections and projects?

Right now, I’m reading me and Nina by Monica Hand and Ardency by Kevin Young.

I would recommend others read Bitters by Rebecca Seiferle, Cranial Guitar by Bob Kaufman, Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen, leadbelly by Tyehimba Jess, Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine, and anything by Medbh McGuckian, because these poets have these fresh ways of saying/seeing things, a charge that makes you love and appreciate poetry, and an intelligence that makes me jealous! There are so many more poets whom I’m discovering too–so I recommend: never stop reading.

Thanks Arisa for answering my questions. I look forward to reading A Penny Saved and your eclogues.

***For Today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop, visit Reading Rendezvous.

147th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 147th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2012 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April 2011 and beginning again in April 2012.

Today’s poems is from William Stafford:

Once in the 40's

We were alone one night on a long
road in Montana. This was in winter, a big
night, far to the stars. We had hitched,
my wife and I, and left our ride at
a crossing to go on. Tired and cold--but
brave--we trudged along. This, we said,
was our life, watched over, allowed to go
where we wanted. We said we'd come back some time
when we got rich. We'd leave the others and find
a night like this, whatever we had to give,
and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

What do you think?

***For Today’s National Poetry Month post, go to Wordcoaster.

Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter

Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter, whom I interviewed for 32 Poems in 2011, is a piece of art that should be hung on the wall.  And like all art, there are references to other artists and art types within her poems, but there is more here — the art of being human.  In the first three sections, Winter carefully tailors each poem to touch on the connections we have to our animal selves, from the mischievous prankster in Eve who entices the snake to eat Adam in the Garden of Eden merely because she is bored in “Escape from Eden” to razor sharp focus of a hawk eying its prey in “Edge of February.”

There is a telling epigraph from Virginia Woolf, “I do not believe in separation.  We are not single.” that establishes the direction of Winter’s work as a look at us being separate as well as connected.  However, the collection is not only about being separate and being connected, it is about “being naked” and reveling in the “silos of time” we create (“Nostalgia for the Criminal Past,” page 9).  There is the past of our relatives and how it reverberates through the younger generations’ lives and how the past they share may be incomplete or slightly altered from reality, like in “Jellyfish Elvis.”  The narrator even questions the validity of the past whether told by others or lived, which calls into question whether the past should be revered or remembered and that we should merely live in the moment.

Winter shows a maturity in her imagery and line break selection that breaks boundaries and draws comparisons to the impressionists and abstract painters who defied artistic convention in their paintings.  From ” Hamster Thrown From Monster Truck,” “rumbling above us at the stoplight/like a frisky two-story building.,” and like “The eight a.m. sun moved out from clouds/like a well-trained MBA/adjusting to changed conditions./” in “Snapshot of a Boxer.”  Beyond the animal references, memories, and looks into the past, Winter uses water imagery in traditional ways to show reflections of what we want to see and what we desire, but provides readers with the punch in the gut when they realize the folly of those dreams, like in “Country Club Fourth of July.”

And despite the theme of appearance versus reality, there are other moments in the collection where the narrator will sink beneath the surface of the water in a tub to find an inner peace, like in “The Bath” and “Bathing at the Museum”:  “Like Bonnard’s wife/incessantly I bathe, sensations of liquid/intervening between mind//& body, blurring animosities./In dim flux the mind begins to lift,/words shimmer,//” (page 64).

The cover photo for this collection is reflective of its contents as the young girl looks circumspect about everything she is seeing out of that window, assessing it carefully, but wary of it at the same time.

The final section of the collection is a breaking out from the bonds of the past, and the passion that consumes those poems burns and takes action.  However, these poems also are reflective and playful, like “Wrong Sonnet: Mystery” where the narrator speaks to ghosts in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way.  Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter is another for the best of lists from theme, quality of the poems, and the imagery that illustrates the world in new ways.

About the Poet:

Kathleen Winter’s poems are forthcoming in Anti- and recently have appeared in Field, The New Republic, Verse Daily, 32 Poems and The Cincinnati Review. Her chapbook Invisible Pictures was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press. Kathleen received fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Piper Center at Arizona State University. She is an MFA student and composition teacher at ASU.

Check out today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop from Unputdownables.

This is my 31st book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is the 13th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Indie Lit Award Poetry Winner: Catalina by Laurie Soriano

Indie Lit Award Poetry Winner Catalina by Laurie Soriano, which was selected unanimously as the winner and also is published by Lummox Press, is a cohesive collection that maintains more than one theme throughout and simultaneously.  The narrator travels from east to west coasts and from innocence to corruption and recovery; the journey is bumpy and fraught with obstacles and stumbles.  Soriano uses imagery that jolts readers to the heart of her themes; parts one and two focus on how the narrator grows up in an abusive home with an alcoholic parent, while the final two sections focus on parenthood and how the past can shape us, but should not rule our actions.

There are some satiric qualities to these poems as well, like in “Betty’s Dive,” where a young woman takes on a dare and pays the ultimate price, and those issuing the dare laugh at what they think is her mock “dead-man’s float” until realization slowly creeps over them.  There is a great sense of irony in some of Soriano’s poems as well, such as the “no dogs” sign that is clearly the subject of many dogs’ walks in “Venice After Work.”

In addition to the deft use of these literary devices, the poet also clearly ties her poems together as a story unfolds, and it is most prominent in the movement from “Red Wine” to “Crash.”  In “Red Wine” (pages 44-5), the narrator is descending into the alcoholic abyss of her father: “. . . My hands/grip the flesh of their waists as I stumble/further toward the land of my father,/the shifting land of regret and soggy laughter./” and “I ask daddy if we want win.  He fills/our glasses like love, daddy never loved me/like wine, and we start thinning our blood/with this red stuff, our words flow/like liquid, we laugh fit to bust, and/we walk home arm in arm,/like we never did.//”  In “Crash” (pages 46-7), the narrator has followed the path of her father with her drinking and now driving along, experiences the worst kind of regret and shock:  “the effect of all our causes,/you and I shuttle separately to the spot//where our masses would marry/and your blood would stain the street./For a moment, one of those out of time,/we hung in the air, as breathless as sweethearts,/before we came together, your motorcycle/tearing a path through my car,/as your body flew/three car-lengths forward.//”

Soriano’s poetry is highly emotional, leading readers into tumultuous memories and through happier times, and in many ways, her poetry reminds me of the poetic prose of Beth Kephart.  Each writer’s words are chosen carefully and it shows — quiet little powerhouses of emotion that grab the heart strings and do not let go, though they may release their stronger grip for a moment or two depending on the mood of the poem.  In Part three — “Being Here” — Soriano emphasizes the “in-the-moment” nature of experiencing new life and parenthood, which can include struggle and joy.

Catalina by Laurie Soriano is more than stunning; it’s luminescent.  It’s a collection that will stay with readers long after reading, and will share a space on the shelves with those books that you’ll want to re-read again and again.  One of the best collections of the year, and unconventionally, this review is going to end with my favorite lines:

From "To the Attacker" (page 42-3)

You've slashed apart the ripe
abandon of my trust, torn away
the quietude I wore like a dress.
I am left with what is in the box.

Other Indie Lit Award Poetry Panel Reviews:

Diary of an Eccentric
Necromancy Never Pays

Poet Laurie Soriano

About the Poet:

Laurie Soriano is the author of Catalina (Lummox Press 2011). Her writing has appeared in Orange Room Review, FutureCycle Poetry, Flutter Poetry Journal, Gloom Cupboard, Heavy Bear, and West/Word, among others. She is also a music attorney, representing recording artists and songwriters and others in the music industry. She lives in Palos Verdes, California with her family.

Please also check out her interview for the Indie Lit Awards.


***For Today’s National Poetry Month blog tour post, visit Mr. Watson.***




This is my 30th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is the 12th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

The Day the World Ends by Ethan Coen

The Day the World Ends by Ethan Coen, one half of the Coen Brothers film making team with great films under their belt like Brother, Where Art Thou? and No Country for Old Men, is a twisted and unexpectedly thoughtful collection in places.  The limericks are bawdy and remind me of Christopher Moore’s humorous prose, but less in the smart and sassy humor and more in the low-class bathroom humor sense.  Necromancy Never Pays stated that the poetry in the volume is geared toward a male audience, and in most cases, that is true — particularly with the dirty limericks.

"Stone-age man, thawed from glacier, aghast:
'Was some snowman in my recent past?
And if so, who fucked who?
My dick's numb and quite blue
And there's freezer burn all up my ass.'" (Page 28)

Additionally, Coen appears to love rhyme, no matter how trite or over-stretched it might be.  Readers could find this collection amateur at best in how Coen chooses his rhymes, even when they have a tongue-in-cheek quality.  Like the “bathroom” humor, these rhymes can get tiresome.  Take for instance the rhymes in “Vine-Covered Verse” (page 53), “Lord, keep this farmer’s soul in peace,/For, though he dallied with his niece,/And cow, and nephew, none can claim/He, during, failed to praise Your name;/And how commit a lesser sin/When neighbors are but kine and kin?//”   However, even in this poem, there are moments of deeper thought in which the narrator is asking what sins are worse and should they all be forgiven or all be condemned.  It also questions how well we know our partners or other humans in general and what secrets they will take to their graves.

Coen’s poetry in this collection seems built for laughs among men mostly, though there are moments in which the poems are not trying so hard to be humorous.  There are some with an anachronistic quality to them, while others like “My Father’s Briefcase” are more serious and reflective.  “Therapy” uses humor and disdain to point out the inane struggle we have against aging and the depression that accompanies the process of aging, as the narrator talks of his depression to a less-than-helpful therapist.

The Day the World Ends by Ethan Coen is not for everyone and could be trying if read from cover to cover, but for those looking for a humorous romp on the underside of humanity, take a dip into these pages.

Poet Ethan Coen

About the Poet:

Ethan Jesse Coen is one half of the American film making duo the Coen brothers.  Their films include Blood Simple, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit. The brothers write, direct and produce their films jointly, although until recently Joel received sole credit for directing and Ethan for producing. They often alternate top billing for their screenplays while sharing film credits for editor under the alias Roderick Jaynes.

To enter to win one of 2 copies for US/Canada readers:

Leave a comment about what tour stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour you’ve enjoyed most, either here or on one of the participants’ blogs.

Blog, Tweet, or share the link on Facebook for up to 3 additional entries.

Deadline is April 30, 2012.

***Today’s tour stop is at Arisa White, so check it out!***


This is the 11th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 29th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

Hurrah’s Nest by Arisa White

Hurrah’s Nest by Arisa White is an illustration of the “untidy heap” or “tangle of debris that can block a stream” that family can become, and it will remind readers how birds create their nests out of the most unwelcome or tossed aside elements of the world from hair to fabric strings and twigs.  There are scars here, deep ones rooted in absentee parents and relatives whose ways of doing things countered the practices the narrator was taught.  Minor acts of rebellion scream out in dreadlocks and boyish haircuts on girls.  There are other poems with child-like qualities in which panties become parachutes and beaded braids become like seaweed in “Last Bath,” which represent happier memories and playfulness shared by young siblings with great imaginations.

In “Portrait Painter” (page 19), White’s narrator ponders the evident differences between herself and her brothers, whom she is called out of childhood into adulthood at a moment’s notice to help raise.  “It’s different/how our mother looks at us/with sweet and brick/of romances gone,” she observes.  A deep sadness and resentment pervades the poems in this collection as the narrator looks back on the waffling of her mother who in turns cares for and gives up care of her children, and threatens them with foster care when they’ve not behaved as they should, particularly in “Chore.”

Ostracization happens inside and outside the family for the narrator as she experiences typical classroom jokes coupled with the laughing she endures from her mother, brother, and step-father.  Her mother even chastizes her for her sensitivity, saying that it is like a “broken leg” in “Helicopter, Heliocopter Please Come Down. If You Don’t Come Down, I’ll Shoot You Down.” (page 28).

In “An Albatross to Us Both” (page 41-3), the theme of protection and strength is strongest as the narrator and her siblings “wear each other like amulets.”   Hurrah’s Nest by Arisa White is a lesson to us all that despite all of the “mess” we create with our lives and the messes that we live through, there are nuggets of wisdom and strength that we carry with us and nurture.  Strong imagery combined with themes of loss, separation, and togetherness create a powerful collection about the beautiful mess that families are and how they shape us.

Poet Arisa White

ARISA WHITE is a Cave Canem fellow, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess and Post Pardon; she was selected by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for the 2010 Hot Pink List. Member of the PlayGround writers’ pool, her play Frigidare was staged for the 15th Annual Best of PlayGround Festival. Recipient of the inaugural Rose O’Neill Literary House summer residency at Washington College in Maryland, Arisa has also received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005, her poetry has been published widely and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet. A blog editor for HER KIND, and the editorial assistant at Dance Studio Life magazine, Arisa is a native New Yorker, living in Oakland, CA, with her partner. Her debut collection, Hurrah’s Nest, was published by virtual artists collective.

****Check out today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop at Seer of Ghosts and Weaver of Stories.


This is the 10th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 28th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

Guest Post: Poetry for Lawyers by Jacob Klein

National Poetry Month’s blog tour has seen a number of poetry book reviews, guest posts about favorite poets, talk of superstitions, giveaways, and Indie Lit Award nominees. 

As part of the continued effort to show a variety of poets, poetry, and poetry lovers, today’s guest post is from a man working at the law firm Morgan and Moran in Atlanta, Ga., Jacob Klein. 

Please give him a warm welcome as he tells us about the poetry and the law.

Poetry, at its best, is mastery of language. Combining meaning with rhythm, rhythm with cadence and cadence with meter allows the poet to imprint words onto consciousness in a way that mere prose cannot.

A certain mastery of language is demonstrated in this piece, a decision rendered as a result of a car accident between a car and a tree. Judge Gillis produced the opinion as a parody of Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees.”

We thought that we would never see
A suit to compensate a tree.
A suit whose claim in tort is prest
Upon a mangled tree's behest;
A tree whose battered trunk was prest
Against a Chevy's crumpled crest;
A tree that faces each new day
With bark and limb in disarray;
A tree that may forever bear
A lasting need for tender care.
Flora lovers though we three,
We must uphold the court's decree.

The legal profession is not always loved and adored. Indeed some bards have chosen the doggerel form as a means of communicating negative feelings. One such is Brit performance poet, Alfred Lord Telecom, whose work “England’s Favorite Poem” is reproduced here. (Warning kids:contains a rude word.) The reader is referred to verse 8.

In antiquity no distinction was made between spoken and sung verse. It’s a fair point and allows us to consider Percy’s Song, written by Bob Dylan.

Law and language, hand in hand
To help us statute understand
Let speech be clear; coherent, please.
Let’s not baffle with legalese.

If it rhymes and it’s Dylan– it must be true.

Shakespeare, of course, is one of the great masters of the English language and it is to him we turn for our next example.

In this extract Hamlet considers a disinterred skull. To those asserting that the above is not poetry a poet might reply that everything that Shakespeare wrote is poetry.

“Why, may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he suffer this mad knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? Will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will scarcely lie in this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?"

(Hamlet, 5.1.97), Hamlet to Horatio

So at the end of a long day of legal briefs, angry clients and injunction filings there may be no better remedy than a comfortable chair, a sip of your favorite beverage and a wonderful poem. As these wordsmiths hone your mind like a whetstone to a sword you may even become a better lawyer for it!

Jacob Klein

About the Guest Post Author:

Jacob works with Morgan & Morgan, a personal injury law firm in Atlanta. He lives just outside the city with his wife Lily and their Shiba Inu, Henry.

***Today’s NPM tour stop is over at Peeking Between the Pages with Nicole Luongo of Bare Your Naked Truth.***

146th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 146th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2012 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April 2011 and beginning again in April 2012.

Today’s poems is from Diana Raab’s Listening to Africa:

Tse Tse Paradise (page 55)

An early evening game ride
rolls us through high savannah grass,
to where sleeping sickness lurks
and a bug blanket forms
to burrow under
our glistening white skins
coated with toxic repellants
which my doctor says
are better than
the disease they protect against.

We relentlessly duck and swat them away,
those pregnant noiseless flies
smothering us with their bug shower,
my son with a woolen blanket suspended
over his twenty-year-old head,
as we all dart from what could be
the absolutely fatal bite.

What do you think?

About the Poet:

Diana M. Raab is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She has a B.S. in Health Administration and Journalism, and an RN degree from Vanier College in Montreal, in addition to an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Spalding University’s Low-Residency Program.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As a child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. A journaling advocate and educator, Diana teaches creative journaling and memoir in workshops around the country. She frequently speaks and writes about the healing powers of writing.

***For today’s National Poetry Month Tour stop, Solid Quarter‘s Megan Burns visits Savvy Verse & Wit.***

Guest Post: 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series in New Orleans’ French Quarter by Megan Burns

Poetry readings and events can be found across America, and while poetry may seem like it only happens in April, that is not the case.  I also suspect that poetry events happen across the globe at many different times and months during the year.

Today’s guest post is from Megan Burns from Solid Quarter — where she blogs about poetry and the New Orleans Poetry Community — and independent poetry publisher Trembling Pillow Press, and she’s going to talk about a reading series in New Orleans.  Without further ado, please give her a warm welcome.

Co-host of 17 Poets! Dave Brinks reading with Beat poet Ruth Weiss (April, 2012)

To celebrate National Poetry month and Serena’s guest blog tour, I wanted to share a bit about running a reading series in New Orleans for the last nine years. My husband poet Dave Brinks and I started 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series in 2003 shortly after our daughter Mina was born. We feature one to two poets every Thursday evening followed by an open mic with a limit of 17 sign ups, hence the 17 Poets! name. Over the last nine years, we’ve had a chance to bring to New Orleans and the writing community here a wide variety of poets from translators like Bill Zavatsky and Pierre Joris to performance poets like Anne Waldman and Nicole Peyrafitte. We’ve enjoyed Alice Notley, Jerome Rothenberg, and Bill Berkson as well as frequent visits from Bernadette Mayer, Simon Pettet, and Andrei Codrescu. One of the highlights over the last nine years was a two-night special event with a Romanian group of teachers and students who traveled to New Orleans to perform in conjunction with New Orleans poets, writers and puppeteers. We have staged multimedia collaborations, puppet shows, Butoh performances and most recently a Brass Band performance with Beat poet Ruth Weiss who returned to New Orleans for the first time in 51 years.

An archive of photographs from our events prior to 2006 can be found over at the Big Bridge New Orleans Anthology.

Poet John Sinclair reading at 17 Poets! (Sept. 2011)

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures crippled New Orleans, 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series was the first poetry event held in New Orleans in October of 2005. We had a packed house of writers and poets, and we suspended the open mic limit to let everyone come to the microphone and share their words. The recording for this event called “Still Standing” was excerpted in a 2010 AWP Panel about post-Katrina Poetry. In 2006, the Jim Lehrer show came to New Orleans to record a reprisal of that night, and once again poets of New Orleans came out in full force to speak about their experiences. The show planned on taping just enough to fill the 8-10 minutes needed for the production, but instead they taped the entire two hour event even knowing they couldn’t use it all.

Poet Bernadette Mayer reading at 17 Poets! (Nov. 2011)

Personally, the reading series and space has over the years provided an important resource for our community. Every year we are surprised and humbled by the number of international and national poets who request to read at our space. For the New Orleans community, we continue to see more collaborations and more experimentation with each passing year. We’ve witnessed countless growths of projects as well as the amazing growth of writers as they continue to hone their craft. Many times, poet have said they felt safe and supported in this space while trying something new to their work or simply just showing up to be inspired while listening or sharing a new piece. Every week, the series keeps me tuned into the fact that poetry is about people, first and foremost. If you’re in New Orleans, be sure to pass by.

Thanks, Megan, for sharing this poetry reading series with us. Now, we can say that New Orleans is much more than Jazz and Blues.

Please check out their Facebook Page, Twitter, and YouTube.  If you’re interested in winning a copy of the Trembling Pillow Press Journals, enter here.