The Floating Door by M. E. Silverman

Source: the poet
Paperback, 92 pgs.
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The Floating Door by M.E. Silverman is a collection of poems that explores several schoolyard rhymes — “Step on a Crack” — and the experience of growing up in America, alongside the feeling of being an outsider in “The Last Jew” in Afghanistan. Silverman’s poems are a spiritual journey that is at times disconcerting, but also comforting. His poems look at American consumerism in a way that causes the reader to look at the life they imagine — the clean lines and everything in its place — and the life they lead, full of chaos and love.

One of the best looks at this is “Sitting in a Simulated Space at the Atlantic Station IKEA in Atlanta, Georgia,” in which the speaker is comfortably sitting in one of those staged rooms that the store is famous for, takes a book of poems from the shelf and begins to read. In this moment the speaker becomes part of the simulated room. But the illusion is broken when he decides to save the pages and rips them from the book and is caught by the eyes of a child in the store with her family. Silverman’s poems have children or child-like reactions in them to call attention to how discerning kids are to social cues and the visual moments around them, even if they don’t necessarily understand the words. In “‘I Don’t Believe,’ She Said, ‘In You.'” the narrator says, “He listened the way a/child presses an ear to a keyhole,” and readers can see the intensity of that moment — a spying on an adult conversation when one adult is exasperated with the other. The whole of the poem calls attention to a lack of attention we all have in arguments and moments of frustration — when we take less care in choosing our words and how those words can be interpreted by the listener a different way than what they were intended.

Silverman’s imagination is on full display in his descriptions, like this from “Response to: I Can’t Get Off the Couch”: “Look, the couch/would love nothing more than to waste the day caped with a shawl, laying/ burdened on someone’s back like Atlas, but honestly the couch is waiting for/the right cover to turn it almost youthful & beautiful, waiting for the vibrating/wonder of the vacuum so it can come clean, eyeing the shapely Victorian/curves of the love-seat, waiting & waiting for it to make the first move.” Oh, this unrequited love, the longing from across the room. Just beautiful.

Many of these poems offer surprise reactions in them: sensuality, families that have grown distant except for the love of a child that appears constant, and mirror images of suffering and displacement. There is a disconnect that is explored between being American and the Jewish religion, but within that feeling of disconnect, the narrator of the poems takes a journey to reconnect. The Floating Door by M.E. Silverman is a collection that moves the reader in and out of detachment in an effort to demonstrate that the feeling is fleeting and there is more to connect us with others than first appears to the eye.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

M. E. Silverman is the author of The Floating Door (Glass Lyre Press, 2018), The Breath Before Birds Fly (ELJ Press, 2013). The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary American Jewish Poetry (2013), which he co-edited with Deborah Ager, The Plume Anthology of Long-ish Poems (Madhat Press, 2018), which he co-edited with Andrew McFayden-Ketchum, and a forthcoming Holocaust anthology co-edited with Howard Debs. His work has appeared in over 90 journals including: Crab Orchard Review, Blood Orange Review, December, Town Creek Poetry, Chicago Quarterly Review, North Chicago Review, Battersea Review, The Naugatuck River Review, Many Mountains Moving, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The Los Angeles Review, Pacific Review, StorySouth, I-70 Review, UCity Review, Tupelo Quarterly Review. You can also check out his journal, Blue Lyra Review, and his press, Blue Lyra Press.

Mailbox Monday #547

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

The Broken God by Laura Roklicer from the poet for review.

By creating meaning, one is creating life. By creating Gods in the sky, one is killing the God in oneself. And the crucified love nails us all to the cross. Until we realize – and embrace – who we really are, we will remain just The Broken God.

The Floating Door by M.E. Silverman from the poet for review.

M.E. Silverman’s The Floating Door moves from the peculiar and vivid details of growing up Jewish in America to a series of musings about the last Jew in Kabul, over whom “the sun snaps shut/ like a casket.” Noah and Abraham and Isaac vie for attention in a child’s mind with schoolyard rhymes like step on a crack, break your mother’s back. A menorah takes center stage, then a Captain America glass. Throughout, there’s a daring coupling of whimsy and pathos. Shoes from the piles in the Holocaust Museum, “rise leisurely, puppets on strings” to “sweep through the air like Astaire and Rogers.” – Jacqueline Osherow

What did you receive?

An Interview With Poet M.E. Silverman

This week at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet M.E. Silverman was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since he loves Nina Simone, my dinner music companion Telemann, and Vivaldi.  You’ll have to check out all the great writing and poetry book recommendations.  Unfortunately, he’s a bit camera shy, but we do have an interview and a sample poem.

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.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I am a Dad first and often introduce myself as Vice-President of Isabel Inc. I actually once had someone inquire in these tough economic times about a job opening there, and if he wasn’t so serious, I might have continued the joke.

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 have taken several online workshops from 32 poems with Deborah Ager to Mid American Review with Craigo and I find them all helpful and inspirational. I tried the Dnzanc one on one critique but found it less than helpful. Kooser Poetry Home Repair Manual by far is one of the best how-to books, but also Triggering Town and Cleave’s Contemporary American Poetry: Behind the Scenes. I could not put down either Kim Addonizio‘s how-to books nor Padgett’s The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.

Of course, there are many anthologies I also enjoyed just to get exposure to other writers, including Chang’s Asian American Poetry, Collins Poetry 180, Yale Younger Poets Anthology, Feinstein’s Jazz Poetry Anthology & The Second Set Vol 2, Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of New Formalism, A Formal Feeling Comes ed. by Finch, A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry by Seaton, the KGB Bar Book of Poems, American Poetry Now (Pitt) and the Copper Canyon Anthology. Also, there are quite a few portable workshop books but by far the most enjoyable is Jack Myers Portable Poetry Workshop.

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

I find strong violin sax and trumpet to be the most inspiring instruments. Naima by Coltrane is a beautiful sweet song. Clifford Brown Portrait of Jenny with Strings. Any Miles Davis but I love the album Seven Steps to Heaven. Who could resist writing with music and a title like that? Nina Simone is a goddess of the vocal chords. Occasionally, I will go to Norah Jones but mostly it is Beethoven, Telemann, Vivaldi.

He also included a poem for readers to check out:

Bubbie’s Kitchen Secrets

We cooked in her kitchen,
a small square room
with a large double sink.

The refrigerator zapped
its electric ache
and like an old noir film,

the lights flickered in response.
For herbs, she had me climb onto the counter
and open the one window,

to reach the basil, the thyme,
the sunflowers potted on the fire escape,
a hazardous garden

the whole building used.
Two or three steps were lined
with mason jars full of cucumbers,

for pickles crisp from sunlight.
On this particular Sabbath,
I did what I always did, helped her make

the kugel,
a pudding made of noodles and eggs
with a dash of her secret:

the caramel color from sugar burnt,
not too little, not too much.
We were finishing up

when we smelled the cigar smoke
and heard heavy boots
pounding down the fire escape.

Then glass breaking,
a curse, that curse!,
quick and sharp

in gun-shot German.
Bubbie screamed. Scared,
I ducked under the table.

She whispered one word
before feinting:

Her war from long ago. Startled,
the man stepped back,
slipped and fell

to the pavement,
dying in agony.
Later,  she told me

she thought she saw
the guard from the camp.
The guard who gave the orders.

She told me this
as we huddled on the linoleum.
No one discovered how it happened.

I should have told somebody
when I read the paper and learned
he was just a student,

a young boy, like me.
I never did.

About the Poet:

M. E. Silverman moved from New Orleans to Georgia and teaches at Gordon College, with work appearing in Mizmor L’David Anthology: The Shoah, Crab Orchard Review, 32 Poems, Chicago Quarterly Review, Tapestry, The Los Angeles Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Cloudbank, Pacific Review, Sugar House Review, and other magazines. M. E. Silverman was a finalist for the 2008 New Letters Poetry Award, the 2008 DeNovo Contest and the 2009 Naugatuck River Review Contest.

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

***Also, please check out today’s National Poetry Month tour posts at Layers of Thought and Read Handed.