Big Thank You . . .

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who participated and commented during National Poetry Month. The blog tour was not as well organized this year given I’ve had a few life changes in recent months, but overall, everyone who participated did a great job and made me smile with each comment and contribution.

As a thank you, I’ve extended two poetry-related giveaways until mid-May. One is US/Canada only, the other is international.

Please feel free to check out the giveaways and spread the word:

******L.A. and Dog Years and I Can Be the One EP by Luke Rathborne; Deadline May 14 (US/Canada)

******Choose 1 of 5 poetry books to win; Deadline May 14 (Global)

You must enter through the links provided, NOT on this post.

95th Virtual Poetry Circle & Giveaway

Welcome to the 95th 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 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry.  Please contribute to the 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions and check out the National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

For today’s poem, we’re going to look at Andrew Kozma’s “Agoraphobia” from City of Regret, which I reviewed this week:


Look up and a nutshell carves itself into the sky,
wormholes draining light
like a car dripping oil.  Under this coffee-shop roof,

surrounded by glass and the pop
of empty air, concrete is quicksand.
But your hand lies there

like a painted anchor, a string of fishhooks
dulled with wear,
a twin I cannot name, a gag,

a one-way mirror, a mannequin
on a thin lattice of steel, a trellis
for thorns, a cupped nest,

there, on your side of the table, prepared.
A mug steams between us
like a wall merging with air.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions. Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles. It’s never too late to join the discussion.

***For the giveaway, I’m offering one of the poetry books I’ve reviewed during National Poetry Month up for grabs.  The winner can choose from the following books (click the links for my reviews):

1. The Poets Laureate Anthology edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
2. City of Regret by Andrew Kozma
3. Bone Key Elegies by Danielle Sellers
4. City of a Hundred Fires by Richard Blanco
5. White Egrets by Derek Walcott

To enter leave a comment about why you would choose one of those books if you win the giveaway.

Deadline is May 14, 2011, at 11:59 PM EST; This giveaway is international.

City of Regret by Andrew Kozma

City of Regret by Andrew Kozma is broken into five parts and each section is named for some element of the city — entrances, walls, living spaces, alleys, and exits.  (You can check out my 32 Poems Magazine interview with the poet, here. And please visit Saturday’s Virtual Poetry Circle –link will be live April 30 — for a look at one of his poems).

As a prologue to the collection, Kozma begins with the poem “Dis” (page 1), which is a fictional city in Dante’s The Divine Comedy containing the lower circles of hell.  Like Dante, Kozma goes on a journey through hell, but the poet is traveling through these circles to find his father who has died and with whom he has unfinished business as he says in the final lines:  “When a ravine splits the sky, Earth’s muddy light/unearths my father.  We have much to talk about.//”  This poem sets the tone for the remainder of the collection with its melancholy and mournful tone.

In the first section — entrances — Kozma uses individual poems to explore the various ways people and other beings meet, greet, avoid, and rush toward death.  In “That We May Find Ourselves at Death” (page 8), he echoes the lines of Emily Dickinson, who could not stop for death, when he asks where you go when you are late for death?  He questions how death is confronted when it has already happened and there is no way to turn back the clock.  But in other poems — such as “Night Meeting” (page 6) — the poet evokes violent images of a dead squirrel’s body pulsating with ants to demonstrate not only the sudden impact and violence of death, but the messy aftermath that often follows.  However, death need not always be violent and unexpected, it can come silently . . . gradually like in ” Your Sketch of the Church in Mourning” (page 13):  ” . . . You step with silence,/walking out, and walk slowly.  Navigate the marble floor/softly, or you will not hear the dead/call after you.//”

The poems in the second section — walls — all seem to personify the denial that comes with the stages of grief.  In “Blood Perimeter” (page 25), the narrator speaks of embracing the grief like one would embrace rust, an illustration of how tough it is to come to terms with grief.  In many cases, the poems speak of vanishing moments and people, events that are baffling yet make sense when impermanence of relationships and life are examined and understood.  Kozma uses rhyme and repetition in these poems to ensure the narrator’s meaning is not lost among the vivid images like that of the Acropolis or the hunting dogs.

In the third section — living spaces — the stage of acceptance is discovered beyond the walls of denial, but acceptance is not as tame as the word suggests.  Accepting death means letting go of the person you lose to death and in a way the narrator suggests that you have to rip free from the notion that they are still present by figuratively setting it afire, like in “Quarantine” (page 31).  These living memories and moments of joy and anger with loved ones often resurface during the grieving process, and it is these fragments that will ease the pain of acceptance, but they also become painful.  In “The Butcher” (page 38), accepting the loss and remembering the lost one is like slitting the wrist and letting the blood flow — tortuous but necessary to purge the immediate pain of grief.  Kozma’s images in this section are both violent and jarring, but effective.

In the final sections of the collection — alleys and exits — Kozma’s poems become darker, more melancholy as the loss sets in and becomes consuming.  Whether the darkness in these poems is tied to the narrator’s lack of faith in an afterlife or merely the deep emotional scarring of grief is unclear.  However, there are tinges of hope that death brings about a renewal as the ashes of a cremated body are returned to nature.

Overall, City of Regret by Andrew Kozma is a deeply moving homage to a deceased father and acts as a guide through the journey of grief.  While a different journey than the one taken by Dante in The Divine Comedy, Kozma’s journey does take the poems’ narrator through hell and more.  This collection is deeply evocative and will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.


This is my 8th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 14th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.



***This is a part of the National Poetry Month 2011 Blog Tour.

Interview With Poet Andrew Kozma

Poet Andrew Kozma

This month at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Andrew Kozma was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since he seems to enjoy the distractions of cafes as much as I do, though I more people watch than anything.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

General obsessions or writerly ones?

Generally, I’m obsessed with bad films (and generally interested in bad art of all kinds). I co-founded a bad movie club at my undergraduate school and have roped people into watching horrible films with me wherever I’ve moved. It’s sad, I suppose, that I’m always more interested in watching a bad movie than a good one (or, at least, one that is seen as “good” by the general populace). But people always want to watch what’s good. Where’s the love for the bad?

In writing, I find myself obsessed with extreme situations. An early poem of mine was inspired by nuns who “cut off their noses and lips to avoid violation.” More recently I’ve written about the Japanese Giant Hornet: a swarm of thirty can kill thirty thousand bees in a matter of hours.

More generally, I’m obsessed with form regardless of what genre I’m writing in. I try to treat everything I write as an experiment, pushing myself in a direction that I have yet to fully explore. In poetry, this means often writing in traditional forms, but also, more truthfully, that every poem I write inhabits a form even if it’s not immediately recognizable.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I belong to a writing group now for working on novels, but this is relatively new to me. My default learning vehicle for writing has been the academic workshop from freshman year of high school to my last years of my Ph.D. It’s true that, now, I would have to say that I find my writing group more helpful than workshops, but the reason for that is because all the people involved are experienced writers, have workshop experience, and like each other’s work. The writing group is really only an evolution of the workshop for me. The first thing I learned about workshops is that you quickly have to determine whose comments are useful to you and to filter out the rest, essentially creating your own private writing group within the larger workshop context.

The writing books that I enjoyed most are Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter and Stephen King’s On Writing. I don’t really like reading straight how-to books on writing. Both of those books are more a symptom of the way I do like to approach learning about writing book-wise: criticism. King’s Danse Macabre. Samuel R. Delany’s The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. James Blish’s Issues at Hand, and a Collections of essays by William Logan and Randall Jarrell.

Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

Coffee. And I don’t mean coffee in the sense that I need the caffeine to kickstart my heart or to keep me going – I drown my coffee in cream and sugar – it’s more that I like to have something hot at hand while writing. Drinking it (slowly) gives me something to do, and the heat from what I’m drinking makes me feel active. I think it has something to do with the fact that a hot beverage is a sort of clock. It only stays hot for so long.

Similar to the countdown inherent in a cooling cup of coffee, I use time to overcome writer’s block. When working, I’ll say that I have to write for a certain amount of time – when working on my novel it was two hours a day – and for that time I actually have to be writing. Yes, in theory, I could be staring at a blank screen for those two hours. In practice, if you set me in front of a computer and I have no other way to distract myself, I’ll begin stringing words together. Of course, whether those words will be coherent is anybody’s guess.

Here’s a sample poem from Andrew as well:

A Firm Belief in Unfettered Joy

Here is what I was going to tell you:
+++The Dalstroi orchestra played for them
+++as they approached over the ice
+++that had caught fast the ship
+++transporting the prisoners
+++through winter
+++to Magadan.

Here is what it was going to mean:
+++Even so, even here, even without knowledge.
+++There is joy in an attempt at joy by the Dalstroi
+++orchestra forced by the camp supervisors
+++to welcome with music those survivors
+++who saw the sun shining beneath the ice.

Here is the space between:
+++A siren carries itself across the city.
+++Against the pale grey sky, the dark branch.
+++The litter of dead petals on the church floor.
+++After the explosion, the absolute silence.
+++Snow becomes the icing on the earth.
+++Where the footprints stop, beauty lies untouched.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.