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American Software by Henry Crawford

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 102 pgs.
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With the increased reliance of society on technology and computers, American Software by Henry Crawford speaks to readers in programming language, a poetic device that transcribes everyday life to magnify its societal implications with precision. The collection even opens with a quote from The C Programming Language, 2nd Edition by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie.

I wan intrigued by this collection for one reason, my day job has me writing some technical pieces about mainframes. While I didn’t spy any specific references to mainframes, Crawford does rely on the formats of computing language to craft his poems about life in America. The collection’s opening poem, “Hello World!,” where readers are taken on a trip to one of the most tragic moments in someone’s life (Jackie Kennedy) and they’re whisked away to the automated check out line and the canning of soup, etc., all in the blink of a minute. Comparing that tragic moment in which someone could feel suspended in time and to be moving in slow motion to the current time where automation has taken over demonstrates Crawford’s look at society’s revolution toward speeding up everything.

Several of Crawford’s poems play a bit with perspective — whether as a president in “Lyndon Johnson” you could know every angle of a situation or as a husband and wife in “Living Under Roofs” could you even know your partner’s every thought and desire. Crawford masterfully plays with his poems to create something new, like in “When [Box] Met <Diamond>” where there is an internal conversation about the art of poetry within a conversation between the box and the diamond who meet inside the poem and begin their own conversation and plot to escape.

One of the best poems in the collection, “100 Years of the First World War,” in which references are made to “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae while the poem itself becomes like a play in which the poet is performing alongside McCrae and his “Soldier’s Song” moment.

The use of computer programming tags and symbols can make it harder to decipher the meaning of these poems, but discerning readers will enjoy the play in these poems. Let’s talk with the computer before the screen goes out. American Software by Henry Crawford tackles a lot of America’s societal issues in an automated world — the disconnect between people, the death penalty, wonder, and the pull between life and death.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Henry Crawford is a poet living and writing in the Washington, DC area. His work has appeared in several journals and online publications including Boulevard, Copper Nickel and the Southern Humanities Review. His first collection of poetry, American Software, was published in May of 2017 by CW Books, his second collection, The Binary Planet, is to be published by The Word Works in 2020.

Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 102 pgs.
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Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody offers poems of resilience and transformation, moving beyond tragedy and disappointment to a place of peace and hope. There are times when the readers is left with an ending that has no way forward, and isn’t that the way of relationships. Sometimes they just end, like in “Bitter Tea,” where a a broken relationship cannot be mended with tea.

Or in “Changeling” where it is clear a relationship has ended and while the phone is no longer ringing, the memories of laughter and intense blue eyes are still present. These are the lingering ghosts of our lives — we carry them with us as we move on. While we mourn them, we also realize that they are a part of who we are.

Goody’s poems inspired by art and paintings are vivid and conjure images in readers heads.

From “Blue Landscape” (pg. 37)

(Marc Chagall, “Couple in a Blue Landscape,” 1949)

They lie in the curve of the crescent moon,
a cosmic cradle, a gondola hovering in the sky.
He admires her lapis hair, her bare shoulders

and sodalite skin. A thousand shades of blue flicker,
rendering them luminous and ethereal as mermaids,
blue-green women with bodies as ripe as dark plums.

Her images conjure the feeling of the painting, like the brushstrokes that created it. We are inside the painting, voyeurs just at frame’s edge. While there is beauty, there is also great sadness. The poem, “Memory,” is devastatingly beautiful as a man holds the hands of a woman he loves but who no longer remembers him as her memories have faded … been stolen away. Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody is the embodiment of transformation — it can be beautiful, tragic, sad, and inspiring. Goody’s work is poignant and lasting.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Jessica Goody is the award-winning author of Defense Mechanisms: Poems on Life, Love, and Loss (Phosphene Publishing, 2016) and Phoenix: Transformation Poems (CW Books, 2019). Goody’s writing has appeared in over three dozen publications, including The Wallace Stevens Journal, Reader’s Digest, Event Horizon, The Seventh Wave, Third Wednesday, The MacGuffin, Harbinger Asylum and The Maine Review. Jessica is a columnist for SunSations Magazine and the winner of the 2016 Magnets and Ladders Poetry Prize. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Follow her blog tour with Poetic Book Tours.

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.