Wednesday, February 14, 2007


February 14, 2007

[N.B. You can scroll down for all articles or click on highlighted names or titles to go directly to referenced article. Since this is a large issue, if it takes too long to upload the entire issue, you also can click on the individual links below to more quickly get to a review that interests you.]


From Eileen Tabios

Ron Silliman reviews HAVING BEEN BLUE FOR CHARITY by kari edwards

Mark Young reviews HAVING BEEN BLUE FOR CHARITY by kari edwards


Julie R. Enszer reviews BALANCING ACTS by Rochelle Ratner

Ernesto Priego reviews THE ANIMAL HUSBAND by Christine Hamm

Nicholas Manning reviews NIGHT SEASON by Mark Lamoureux

Eileen Tabios reviews FIRST ADVENTURES OF COL AND SEM by Dan Waber

J.O. LeClerc reviews BOWERY WOMEN: POEMS, Ed. by Marjorie Tesser & Bob Holman

Ivy Alvarez presents a Chap Roundup reviewing MY LIGHTWEIGHT INTENTIONS by Pam Brown; SURFACE TENSION by Mackenzie Carignan and Scott Glassman; TRANSLATIONS FROM AFTER by Joel Chace; OH MISS MARY by Jim McCrary; DOVEY & ME by Strongin; and THE NAME POEMS by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

Julie R. Enszer reviews A HALF-RED SEA by Evie Shockley

Nicholas Manning reviews TRACT by Jon Leon

Mary Jo Malo reviews BLOOD AND SALSA / PAINTING RUST by Jonathan Penton

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor reviews THE GODS WE WORSHIP LIVE NEXT DOOR by Bino Realuyo

Eileen Tabios reviews THE ALLEGREZZA FICCIONES by Mark Young

Jeannine Hall Gailey reviews NAVIGATE, AMELIA EARHART'S LETTERS HOME by Rebecca Loudon

Nicholas Downing reviews CIVILIZATION by Elizabeth Arnold

William Allegrezza reviews KALI'S BLADE by Michelle Bautista

John Bloomberg-Rissman reviews UNPROTECTED TEXTS: SELECTED POEMS 1978-2006 by Tom Beckett

Tom Beckett reviews A READING, 18-20 by Beverly Dahlen

Eileen Tabios reviews WIND IS WIND AND RAIN IS RAIN by Brynne

Allen Bramhall reviews DOWN SPOOKY by Shanna Compton

Lynn Strongin reviews SHOT WITH EROS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS and SEED PODS, both by Glenna Luschei

William Allegrezza reviews I OF THE STORM by Bill Lavender

Richard Lopez reviews OH MISS MARY by Jim McCrary

Craig Santos Perez reviews THE TIME AT THE END OF THIS and 60 LV BO(E)MBS, both by Paolo Javier

Anne Haines presents reviews RADISH KING by Rebecca Loudon; LIVING THINGS by Charles Jensen; and MORTAL by Ivy Alvarez

Lynn Strongin reviews THIRST by Mary Oliver

Mario E. Mireles reviews excerpts from NOT EVEN DOGS by Ernesto Priego; Matsuo Bash’s “The Narrow Road of the Interior" in The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Ed. Maynard Mack; and Octavio Paz’s "The Tradition of the Haiku" in Convergences: Essays on Art and Literatur.

William Allegrezza reviews ELAPSING SPEEDWAY ORGANISM by Bruce Covey

Laurel Johnson reviews CALLS FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD by Robert Hershon

Eileen Tabios reviews BODY OF CRIMSON LEAVES by Celia Homesley

Eileen Tabios reviews THE PLANT WATERER AND OTHER THINGS IN COMMON by Kathryn Rantala

Julie R. Enszer reviews OSIP MANDELSTAM: NEW TRANSLATIONS, Ed. by Ilya Bernstein

Hugh Fox reviews SEEDPODS by Glenna Luschei


Mark Young reviews SONNET by Matt Hart

Eileen Tabios reviews THE GRACES by Elizabeth Treadwell and SONNET by Matt Hart

Andrew Joron reviews ULTRA VIOLET by Laura Moriarty

Britta Ameel reviews ALASKAPHRENIA by Christine Hume

Sharon Mesmer reviews OPPOSABLE THUMB by Joe Elliot

Eileen Tabios reviews OBEYED DILEMMA by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen

Alfred Yuson reviews BELIEVE & BETRAY by Cirilo F. Bautista

Alfred Yuson reviews MATADORA by Sarah Gambito

Alfred Yuson reviews FAULTY ELECTRICAL WIRING: POEMS by Ruel S. De Vera, A FEAST OR ORIGINS by Dinah Roma and ELSE IT WAS PURELY GIRLS by Angelo Suarez

What it Means to be Missy WinePoetics’ Dawgs


This issue is dedicated to kari edwards (1954-2006). kari was a Guest Editor for Galatea Resurrects' Inaugural Issue. I won't -- can't -- say what's impossible for me: how kari had so engaged, affected, and shared. So I thank Ron Silliman and Mark Young for manifesting this issue's dedication to kari with their reviews of hir posthumous -- and awesome -- poetry collection, having been blue for charity, accessible for free from BlazeVox Books HERE.


While the total number of reviews for this issue is lower than the prior issue's it's still a pretty hefty example of Giving! And if you adjust for Issue 4's spike in reviews from my e-begging for reviews so that I don't lose a bet that would have made me hang out naked in the cold on University Avenue in Berkeley for a day, then you'll see that the pattern affirms a consistent rise in reviews -- a rise in interest and participation from the poetry community. Thanks to you volunteer-reviewers who've contributed to the following:

Issue 1: 27 reviews

Issue 2: 39 new reviews (one project was reviewed twice by different reviewers)

Issue 3: 49 new reviews (two projects were each reviewed twice by different reviewers)

Issue 4: 61 new reviews (one project was reviewed thrice, and three projects were each reviewed twice by different reviewers)

Issue 5: 56 (four projects were each reviewed twice)

Of these engagements, the following were generated from review copies sent to Galatea Resurrects:

Issue 1: 9 out of 27 new reviews
Issue 2: 25 out of 39 new reviews
Issue 3: 27 out of 49 new reviews
Issue 4: 41 out of 61 new reviews
Issue 5: 34 out of 56 new reviews

So I continue to encourage publishers and authors to send in review copies. Reflecting the logistical support of the internet, reviewers from around the world are paying attention. For information on submission and review copies, go check out Galatea's Purse.


Between the prior issue and this issue, on a poetry-related List, a teacher cited Galatea Resurrects as a Creative Writing resource! Yes -- indeed! Resource Galatea!

And as always, please feel free to email me or put in Comments section any errors or publisher web sites information related to the books.


In 2006, Galatea Resurrects released four issues encompassing 176 new reviews and 31 online debuts of reviews first presented in print publications. I hang out with members of the secret organization, "Oenophiles For Poetry." I'm the only poet in the group. But the others sometimes get tipsy enough for me to trap them into doing something to support poetry.

So, at one of our recent gatherings, I was able to persuade Oenophiles for Poetry to read all of Galatea Resurrects' 2006 reviews. From their reading, Oenophiles for Poetry chose their favorite read, and we now are pleased to announce that Galatea Resurrects' 2006 CALENDAR AWARD goes to

Mr. Sandy McIntosh

for his review, viz a memoir, of LIVING IS WHAT I WANTED by David Ignatow as well as SELECTED SHORTER POEMS and THE TABLETS, both by Armand Schwerner.

If you did a review in 2006, don't get insulted yours wasn't picked. This isn’t a “best of reviews” contest; full disclosure requires me to say the judges were deep in their goblets when they picked the recipient of this CALENDAR AWARD.

The CALENDAR AWARD comes with two prizes. The first is a $20 gift certificate good towards the purchase of a poetry book. I hope that future years' awards will be worth more, but that's all that the total came to from the loose change that I managed to steal this year from the winos' pant pockets and cocktail purses which don't ever carry anything but lipstick (why is that, oeno-ladies?). Still, $20 should at least cover the purchase of one poetry book and that is a good thing, No? I mean, Yah?

The award is so named because the second prize is ... [insert drum roll] a Calendar. This, of course, is special because it is a 2007 Dutch Henry Winery calendar (y'all know I'm Dutch Henry's Poet Lariat, right?) and when you turn to the March page, you will see the same drop-dead gorgeous photo of Achilles and Gabriela that was featured in Issue 3. So, isn't that spe-cial?!


Now, speaking of that famous photo of Achilles and Gabriela:

Those who know me know that Moi's flagpole, as a poet, is empty. But Galatea is flexible enough to allow nations to visit, if it means that she can also raise the Dawg's Flag:

Because they guard my poetry so well, I'll do anything for Achilles and Gabriela who love to see their photos interrupt air:

I really can't believe I allowed flagpoles on the property, but as you readers know, I indulge my dogs -- rather, I indulge myself indulging my dogs. Woof.

With much Love, Fur and Poetry,

Eileen Tabios
St. Helena, CA
February 14, 2007



having been blue for charity by kari edwards
(BlazeVOX Books, forthcoming 2007 and downloadable HERE)

If you Google BlazeVOX Books, Geoffrey Gatza’s great little press in Buffalo, NY, the first listing will be “BlazeVOX [books] publishers of weird little books.” This may be truer than it seems, once you realize that BlazeVOX has published both Michael Magee’s Mainstream & Kent Johnson’s Epigramititus, the former being one of the first “big” books of flarf, the latter being Johnson’s latest attempt to challenge other poets to pay him heed. There are also volumes by Noah Eli Gordon, Joe Amato & others, plus a line of e-books published in PDF format. In this context, kari edwards’ forthcoming having been blue for charity is going to fit right in, something edwards never did very easily during a too-short life -- just 52 years to the day -- but which, particularly over the final decade, edwards had learned to make not just a virtue of, but indeed the center of a life’s work.

Three years ago, as I was preparing to read with kari at Philadelphia’s smoky La Tazza tavern on South Street, I wrote a review of Iduna that consciously avoided using any pronouns that suggested gender. As I suggested in the review, edwards’ lines

I am a man being a woman
I am a woman being a man
I am a homosexual being a straight woman being a homosexual man --
I am a homosexual woman being a straight man being a homosexual woman --

were more than simply playful. kari’s commitment to all sexual minorities began at home, literally. So far as I can tell, the one person who noticed was kari, who thanked me first thing for not making any presumptions, or at least not assigning any to print. To which I responded by saying something obvious like, “I thought that was the point,” to which edwards’ eyebrows punctuated a broad grin.

having been blue for charity is the first, hopefully not the last, of edwards’ posthumous works, a 120-plus page sequence divided into four parts. The titles of these sections just roll off the tongue:

(having been blue for charity)

Each contains a series of works that range from fairly direct prose poems and texts centered on the page in the manner of Michael McClure to others that are typographically so disruptive that I have no hope of reproducing them here. There are even prose paragraphs that lean to the left or right, others with narrow columns of justified type ALL IN CAPS, pages where the type is printed with a different orientation (including the diagonal). Consistently, however, what one finds, reading having been blue for charity, is a challenge to the reader not so unlike this one that occurs in the very first text:

it’s a trap and you start kissing me . . . you’re reading
this book or listening to me . . . you kiss me all over
. . . I can’t stop you or won’t. you’re my personal
vampire. I want you to suck my nipples, instead you
go down on me. your tongue is in my pussy or on
my cock (you decide). we are out of control. you’re
between my legs. I want to grab you, whisper something
. . . scream something. I feel the full-engulf
of payment. I am your road and you’re filled with
passion, aggression or ignorance. (pick one) I am
your mother, your sister, or that little boy next door.
you square time. I am breathless. heavy on the floor,
damp with sweat. this is a baker’s dozen, the hot surface
of creme brulee’. something in rapid repetition.
a loud gesture with a zealot’s thought. I think I hear
something. is there someone else? kiss me and leave
. . . you must. punish me, trample me. show me the
future in cards. paris is burning. I wait fifty or sixty
times. I’m alone in your lore. I am hungry. I didn’t
expect that. I have been driven out of the auditorium
for a minute. I didn’t expect that. I thought you
were jean genet, aleister crowley, or gertrude stein.
no, maybe virginia woolf. my breast. my wetness.
raspberry body stockings. a false penis, words and
tongues. I can no longer remember being a dog or a
possum. just words. you are my consciousness. I am
you, sitting there reading or listening, content and

The most important phrase here, at least to my reading, comes toward the end: just words. you are my consciousness. I am you…. Edwards’ gift, both as a writer and to us, is to have been perhaps the most sensitive person ever as to the borders of personhood, the confusions & transgressions that can lie there, the politics of it (presented almost always in the most practical, rather than, say, academic-philosophic, fashion). Precisely because kari varies presentation throughout this book, the reader’s sense of vertigo at being left at this precipice constantly is buffered from ever being too much. There is, as the section above suggests, a wicked sense of fun not that far from the surface, just as there is a sense of hurt, of alienation that can be overwhelming.

kari edwards is the first major writer to have died in the 21st century to have also only published books during it. That’s worth thinking about here in 2007. edwards was clearly a “late starter,” although kari had an earlier life involved in the visual arts in Philadelphia -- Gil Ott, himself a master of marginalization, was an important influence as, I take it, was a stay somewhere along the line at Naropa. But edwards arrived fully formed, albeit ever self-transforming. Try reading, for example, “good questions….”:

quick answer, no; quick answer, there is no here-to-there-there; no, quick answer, no, face-to-face, tag you’re it; quick answer, there is no answer; quick answer, stop being a body with organs; reach escape velocity; undo the gender tape on the body, put on with super glue, stapled in for good measure; can you spell escape route? quick answer, no-yes, yes-no, no-yes, yes-no; quick answer, how would you like your macmac’alike today, served your your way way, this way or that, choice (a) or (a) or (a) or (a) or (a); no; quick answer; maybe, (toto knew), home is where all objects cower in demonic mimicry; community is the now of now, of now of now; quick answer, can the tools of the master race, tongue or master master major major be anything more than have it now moments; quick answer, become unrecognizable, schizophrenic in a minor key; quick answer, no; quick answer, I am of the air waves, virtual, vital and a good fuck on channel 4; quick answer. it is always post-post historical postpost, never and can be, divergent unexpected endless curves, always post-post never-never’s or always bold holocaust road maps, one or the other guiding one through future mine fields; quick answer, the coyote and trickster; quick answer; feel the deep talons of commodity sink into flesh; quick answer; resistance is futile, you are already virtual, stuck in quantum glue...... quick answer, no, it’s already too late.

The idea of reading (or writing) as a game of tag makes total sense here, while at the same time the percussive music of the prosody drives the text, jabbing a verbal finger into the reader’s chest. It is no accident that sound here as in any text derives from breath. The text, literally, is hyperventilating.

For someone whose publishing career lasted under a decade, edwards proved remarkably successful almost immediately. We are fortunate that so many of us were ready to read edwards almost at once and that kari got to know just how important these words were proving to readers of all genders and orientations. It’s hard to imagine that anyone with kari edwards’ combination of gifts is going to stop this way again any time soon.


Ron Silliman will release two books this year: the University of California Press will publish The Age of Huts (compleat) in April and the University of Alabama Press will publish The Alphabet in 2008. Meanwhile, his Tjanting continues to be available from Salt Publishers.



having been blue for charity by kari edwards
(BlazeVOX [books]; Buffalo, N.Y., 2007. Downloadable HERE)

I wonder, what it
would be like to say: you have five months to live….

hanging from the sky

Lines like that. One wonders if the end was known before / the ending. Read that in the first poem, with the knowledge, & everything that follows has a different feel about it to what it might have otherwise been.

Everything has a different feel about it anyway. Words acquire power they never had until kari used them. Together, but often the singular. In context. It is / outpouring. It is "an emotion riff of rearranged things folded into an immense tableau."

Brilliance, yes. An edge of pain. It is killerpain, taken twice, thrice daily, before / during / after meals. It is pain softened by the finding of a spiritual home in India. Internal but not always the external. "who are these strangers?" It is struggle within, internal turmoil. It is exploration & exposition of living in

"…the space one holds, not an essential objectification one is held in, where one is stabilized into things in space, places with borders, bodies with procedures, proper behavior by corporeal containment, compulsory reproductive management, polarizing populations, producing mythological projections, slicing every single living energetic instant into bipolar neurosis for further control of an imagined boundary." (from an editorial in EAOGH)

The power is not affected but / more peace. It is form even when there is no form. Structure. Not always obvious until one sees poems presented in a different way to what they were when one saw them in their first appearance. The content constant but the structure moving. Then sometimes software-shifted. Not always successful but it would have been. Sooner rather than. Knowing the drive was there. Determination. Recognizing the power of, the power behind.

& yet, & yet. This is a book that was being put together but not quite finished. Little bits of dyslexia catch in the teeth. One wants it to be perfect. & yet, & yet, who gives a fuck about the imperfections? The strength, the vision, the power of the flow of words, the shaping & positioning of them, their putting together -- these things paper over, overcome small flaws. & isn't the adage that there should always be some flaw in the otherwise perfect?

kari is one of the great poets. Has always been to me. Will always be. having been blue for charity reinforces that. The regret is / that there was more to come. Much more. Unfinished busyness. Infinite brilliance. Discovery, discoveries. Aware of. Teasing.

playing possum in a hole, being a dog in blue ink that
turns black after my death



Mark Young is the editor of Otoliths where some of the poems included in having been blue for charity first appeared. An earlier post on kari appeared on his blog gamma ways.



Micah Ballard’s poems in 6x6 #5
(Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2001)


Negative Capability in the Verse of John Wieners by Micah Ballard
(San Francisco: Auguste Press, 2001)


Absinthian Journal by Micah Ballard
(San Francisco: Old Gold, 2002)


Bettina Coffin by Micah Ballard
(Portland: Red Ant Press, 2003)


Scenes from the Saragossa Manuscript by Micah Ballard
(Snag Press, 2004)


Unforeseen by Micah Ballard
(Cambridge: Faux Press, 2004)


Death Race V.S.O.P. by Micah Ballard (co-written with Cedar Sigo and Will Yackulic)
(Portland: Red Ant Press, 2005)


Evangeline Downs by Micah Ballard
(Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006)

Regarding Micah Ballard

I first became aware of Micah Ballard’s poetry at the end of 2001, when I read his work in issue 5 of 6x6 magazine. That issue opened with Frank Lima’s stunning poems in response to the events of September 11th. Soon afterwards, 6x6 #5 became a collector’s item when most remaining copies were destroyed in a fire. Since being introduced to his work, I have associated Ballard’s poems with the rarity and power of that particular issue of 6x6, destroyed by fire, clothed in archaic stanza forms and inhabited by ghosts we might not perceive as such, unrecognizable and camouflaged in the sweetest of lyric pulses. Ballard’s sparse stanzas (one poem in sestets, the rest in tercets) contrast nicely with the effusive torrent of imagery and allegorized grief in the longer lines of Lima’s work. In Ballard’s four poems for that issue, one finds a fully developed writer, his tone formal and elusive. Ballard is assured of his own sound, and he allows the reader to share in that bravery, that generous confidence. The first of his four poems, called “Of Yours,” begins thus:

What I’ve become is nothing
           other than what I used to be
soon as you place me there.
           Neither now nor ever
have I been anyone, besides
           that who you wanted me to.

Which is to say, Thanks to You
           I am more myself today
than I have been any other.
           It is this easiness & prodigality
wherein again I lose myself
           that I give you what you want

& so am sitting here, crotch
           in hands, alone, wanting to be
just that. Or somewhat in this way
           of speaking, manage to turn into
great personages so shaped by you.

What astonishes me when I read Ballard’s 6x6 poems is how he situates each text as an intimate collaboration with the reader. We are kept at a distance (“…alone, wanting to be / just that…”) yet still drawn into a type of communion with the lines, asked to stay close, to listen and watch the lines make their music. This direct address to the reader reflects the poet’s conception of reading and writing as forms of friendship. One befriends the poet through his or her work, delighting in commonalities and disagreements via the magic of the page, held up by the poem’s architecture. In “Impromptu,” he reminds us that poems hold a type of time-machine power in their structure:

& smoke, so I have
one more drink
bring out the bottles

take another toke.
Then back to books
& onto the street for looks,

where I find my friends
especially, the old ones
who no longer live

but are alive
in someone else’s heart.

In the spring of 2004 I showed my 88-year-old grandmother, who was a painter, a copy of Ballard’s Absinthian Journal, published two years earlier in San Francisco by Cedar Sigo’s Old Gold imprint. After flipping through the book, she chuckled and commented on the ever-diminishing amount of absinthe in the bottle portrayed in seven drawings by Will Yackulic that accompany the sequence of sestets. She mentioned how many of her favorite XIX century French painters often indulged in that turquoise liquor. She also noticed the skull that appears on the empty bottle’s label in the final drawing. As an artist, my grandmother often noticed the smallest details in a work of art, and she was aware of how those tiny moments can sustain an entire work. Now that my grandmother is no longer here, I fondly recall that afternoon together at her home outside Boston, as we flipped through the pages of Ballard’s book together for a few minutes. I’m pleased to think she might have noticed the enchanting, jagged rhythms and imagery of the opening poem in Absinthe Journal:

Tripped into a turquoise

tomb garden & suffering

from a nervous exhaustion

again I am eaten by the remains

of that classic pain red love

now burnt black. Out of all beauty

Death is a dynamic, almost inspirational, presence in much of Ballard’s writing. Not necessarily in an anguished or lamenting mode, but rather in the spirit of the realism so often invoked in hip-hop culture. Ballard is, as I read him, a hip-hop poet. And I’m not insinuating that one read him within a musical or pop culture context, though those elements can be found in his poems. By hip-hop, I mean he invents and thrills through minimalist Romantic techniques, street-hardened yet always ready to divulge an earnest vulnerability in his verses.

The beautiful, hand-made Old Gold edition includes green end paper that allows one to read the title page through a filter of solid absinthe. Before the book begins, one is already immersed in the intoxicating effects that Ballard’s poems depict and induce. Beauty does not, however, imply an escape from reality or suffering. Ballard is not an escapist, though his poems can often transport one beyond material reality. When I associate him with hip-hop culture, I’m trying to point out the extreme realism that inhabits his fantastical stanzas. As when he writes, again in Absinthe Journal:

into those shadowed places

of vague horror where doubled

in subterranean removals

the moon bleeds white crosses

across the sky & the colors

of sorrow soundsear in fear

Had my grandmother been able to sit down and read the poems in this book more closely, I imagine she would have approved of their painterly quality, the wash of colors and emotions Ballard can invoke for the reader on every page. In his poetry, one never knows what image or sound might appear next. He tends to work in fixed, or traditional, stanza forms. This might be as a way to assure his visual imagination is provided an adequate stage to perambulate. Again, the hip-hop I associate Ballard’s aesthetic with is rooted in ancient cultural techniques, that can be found in the archival poem-songs of African griots or the political and social commentary of Shakespeare’s multitude of characters.

Besides the audacity and beauty of Ballard’s poems, what excites me about his writing is that he works exclusively in semi-secretive, one could say epistolary, forms of publication, including limited edition chapbooks, magazines and web publications. It is thrilling to know that his poems live and breathe in such hand-made, organic editions. One is reminded of the humble, utilitarian folios that actors used for memorizing plays in the Elizabethan era, talismans the reader can carry anywhere.

Portland’s Red Ant Press has published two texts by Ballard. The first of these is a long poem in eleven parts called Bettina Coffin. While I am looking at Ballard’s work more or less chronologically here, this book reminds one of the consistency and timelessness of his poetic project. Born in Louisiana in the 1970s and now a resident of San Francisco, where he works at the New College of California, Ballard does make specific references to time and place. And yet, I keep noticing an effort in his poems to write verse that will not be contained by local or chronological factors. Instead, it is an allegiance to his “friends / especially, the old ones / who no longer live” that animates his work. This is where the reader is provided free reign within his poems, invited to participate in a ritual that transcends our limited decades of physical existence. Ballard is writing for the archive, acknowledging our temporary nature, even while singing of his own relative youth. He writes under the sign of a Keatsian self-awareness that sees youth’s illusory nature, “this living hand” the poet stretches out to his lover, and by extension to his readers.

The first section of Bettina Coffin, which I quote in full below, opens a conversation that could be heard as frantic, or maybe as being deeply engaged with a person beyond the poem’s reach:

Who is that shouting at me? Is
           it you old friend
               turned back from dust
at dusk?
               Down. Down.
Down. Is it now I come see
                              look who else is in
for the chanting. Through
& through I knew you then
           as you do me
               somehow right now.

This is Ballard’s method for invoking a listener beyond the stage of the poem. It might be us as we read his work, or it could be ancestors or friends from distant regions. What remains clear is Ballard’s belief in the poem as an invocation, a ritual that can transport and protect specific moments chosen for their power to move us. In this respect, I associate Ballard with a Romantic tradition that balances pleasure, poise and solitude, the intimate relationship a poem can provide for friendship and companionship, across the street and across decades or centuries. This transcendental impulse is never frivolous, perhaps because Ballard maintains an awareness of how fragile a concept lineage can be. The poet writes to continue a tradition that is never completely safe from the threat of annihilation. In part VI of Bettina Coffin, he refers to this link between self and past:

  Loyal to death
  my knowledge of the Cult comes
               from my African Ancestors
   “& this is Charles the Grinder speaking,
  one hundred & twenty two years after
Marie Laveau has died, June 16, 1881
                              on St. Anne Street. & I have come
               with the moon in the sky
  percolating & simulating according to
  certain mineral matter which I expose
               myself to.”

The second Ballard book published by Red Ant Press is the more recent Death Race V.S.O.P., written in collaboration with Cedar Sigo and Will Yackulic. Composed as those poems are in a spirit of communal anonymity, one can still make out Ballard’s distinctive voice among the short, violent lyrical bursts of that collection. Poetry is understood as an “encrypted order” that the reader and writers are inducted into through the process of composition and reading. As the three poets dissolve themselves in collaboration, likewise the reader is included as yet another component of the verses. One can think, for instance, of Rimbaud’s direct address to his readers throughout Une saison en enfer. These poems carry that same intense playfulness, violence and irony that Rimbaud employs in his final book.

Jack Kimball has done us all a favor by releasing Ballard’s Unforeseen (2004) as part of his series of online books for Faux Press. Anyone with access to the Internet and a printer can have a copy of this great book. Before you finish reading this review, go to the link above and print it out. Unforeseen has several poems that are published elsewhere. I’d like to cite an entire poem from this collection, one also included in Evangeline Downs, because it so clearly delineates Ballard’s allegiances:


Nefertiti over
right pec & serpent
with jaws open
on left shoulder.
German cross

with Exodus 18:11
across back, Playaz
on nape of neck.
Christ in crown
of thorns & flames

on left biceps
Heartless with skull
& crossbones on right.
50 Niggaz over sternum
Fuck the World

in script across shoulder
blades & trapezoids.
Laugh Now with mask
of Comedy on lower
sides of back, Cry

Later with mask
of Tragedy. Outlaw
down left forearm
Thug Life with bullet
across abs.

The poem is obviously, at first glance, a portrait of slain rapper and pop culture icon Tupac Shakur. I must admit I was never compelled by Tupac’s style and I found his death to be a predictable, if tragic, result of a life lived dangerously and foolishly. So, ostensibly this poem should mean very little to me, as I prefer a version of hip-hop one might find in figures like Jean Grae, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface or Nas on his first LP, rap experimentalists who continually fuck with form and the lyric impulse, contradicting themselves and challenging the listener. I’ve always found Tupac’s work to be dull and commercial. And yet, I keep returning to this poem for its elegiac portraiture and in turn I’m taking the time to reconsider Tupac’s value as an artist fully immersed in his particular era, the 1990s. As Ballard portrays him, he is archived through the tattoos that grace his magnetic but doomed body.

The enjambments of these stanzas echo the hard edges of his short life, lived as it was under the imperfect glare of fame and a commodification that helped to destroy him. Ballard has reminded me why that particular rapper resonates so deeply with millions of listeners across the globe. His contradictions and ancestry written out across his body in tattoo script, he is poetry brought to living fruition. When I read the poem, I think of him in his brilliant role in the film “Juice” (1992), where he portrayed a charismatic criminal who was ruthless yet sweet, poised between survival and generosity. Through Ballard’s homage, I can stop to appreciate Tupac as a poet immersed in life, an artist who embodies the contradictions and brilliance of an autochthonic and visionary art form.

Since finding a copy of Scenes from the Saragossa Manuscript a couple years ago in New York, I’ve tried to hunt down the film the title refers to, directed in the mid-1960s by the polish director Wojciech Jerzy Has, who in turn adapted his work from a novel by Jan Potocki (Poland, 1761-1815). The story concerns a French officer during the Napoleonic wars who discovers a manuscript in the Spanish city of Saragossa. Ballard’s ekphrastic sequence of 10 poems in unrhymed quatrains is printed in a beautifully crafted edition by Snag Press, with an inside cover displaying a scene from the film: a man hiding his face behind a human skull. I’ve also tried to find out who edits Snag Press and from where but to no avail. So, for me, this manuscript is clouded in bibliographical mystery, though if anything that serves this sequence of poems quite well.

Rereading this book, I’m immediately drawn into its oblique drama, the pull of the semi-archaic language Ballard employs in his carefully chosen lines. The texture of his language is what keeps me informed despite my lack of knowledge about plot details and references to the film. Ballard is writing an ars poetica at times in these quatrains, asking the reader to remember that poetry should be an adventure, a dangerous and exhilarating excursion. One that begins or rests on the page but which is never limited to that precinct alone. Section “III” of the poem brings us to ideas encountered in much of his work: the relation between poetry and death, not as a melodramatic or nihilistic bond, but rather as a spiritualized one. I quote in full:

But to sit on the throne in Tunisia
among harems, gardens & fountains
in the company of Golemez women
as to have drunk from their chalice

this potion. At mercy of crows
& unknown powers am I still too young
to be a cabalist? Tho I carry also
the same rope ‘round my neck. Yet

to experience poetry w/out ghosts
hang a mirror outside the door
shunning gypsies, informers of barren
words whose tone I hone. So now

to choose position of beggar as it does
not dim a nobleman’s jewel, be endowed
by contradictories which I know not what.
Is it that voice from above that must order

this astray, unless of testimony to lead
one away from countless worldly sins
hands & feet bound to the boards of this
upside down tree, cross I too must carry.

I delight in Ballard’s willful obscurity, which is enacted not for the sake of pretension or atmosphere, but as a reminder that poetry must be taken as a living force, one that directly concerns both reader and poet. Ballard’s latest work is a pamphlet with a beautifully designed glossy cover by Will Yackulic, yet another inimitable release from Ugly Duckling Presse, a publishing house that always manages to read their authors very closely, designing covers, pages and font that accurately reflect each book’s individual spirit. Evangeline Downs begins in a disaster zone, the poet’s native Louisiana on November 25, 2005, weeks after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. But the book is not merely a direct lament for a horrible devastation. It is also a stage where Ballard’s continuous interplay between the living and the dead is performed. In these poems, he is speaking to us and beyond:


There are two red chambers
& you are on the other side
only ashes. The vines along

the wall tell all, but what
remains? Old habits return
nightlife wanes & ordained

to find the source we scan
the sky for her war-torch.
Children of the Dead, House

of Napoleon, cobra & carnelian
where do the dawns draw out?
Far off & legendary

may the voices recall their lives
the brides remain lost to hide
for there is no age here

just these walls of ivy
with single trumpets
of blood.

Notice the way he builds towards such pointed questions in these stanzas, so as to seem so effortless, colloquial in their mourning, yet powerful in their evocation of a loss that is not mythologized or transformed. It is a loss written out in blood along the walls of a devastated city, a snapshot of the countless desperate graffiti murals so many of us saw scrawled all over New Orleans on our TV screens. Ballard takes on the poet’s task of remembrance and creation in this book. Not in some false redemptive or populist manner, but by reminding us that we constantly walk with death in its most banal yet cosmic manifestations. There is no time for elegy or frivolity in Ballard’s latest book, although one will find much pleasure and homage in these poems. There are, for instance, the appreciations of how family and friendship can sustain and nourish us. As we find in the penultimate poem, “Night Chant”:

Bring to his bed
company, so that
he might rest again.
Lay them down
one after another

& let them leave
or enter all as to
their own coming
or going. See
that his beard be

trimmed, tab paid
& poems printed.

I want to keep quoting entire poems from this book because it’s so magnificently sequenced all the way through. Even poems one has read earlier, in magazines and elsewhere, take on a new sheen in this collection. This is a slim, pocket-sized book one can easily carry on a bus, subway or airplane. The poems are short yet demand repeated visitations. I trust that eventually a publisher will release an edition that would include all these publications I’ve been discussing in one single, perfect-bound volume. And yet, there is so much pleasure in knowing these miscellaneous texts exist each in their own particular universe, pockets of glimmering sound stretched across half a decade and an entire nation’s landscape.

To conclude this all too brief foray into Ballard’s poetry, I return to the year I first read his work, when he published an essay on John Wieners. Negative Capability in the Verse of John Wieners was released by Auguste Press, which Ballard co-edits with his wife Sunnylyn Thibodeaux in San Francisco. I don’t know if Wieners was able to read this essay on his work before his untimely death in 2002, but if he did he surely would have appreciated the close reading Ballard gives his poetry. While Wieners continues to be hugely influential on several generations of American poets, at times it can feel as though his work has been banished from the academies and libraries, not to speak of newspapers and magazines. Very few critics seem to engage with his work in the sustained manner it deserves. Ballard’s essay is a necessary evaluation of Wieners’s writing in relation to John Keats’s well-known theory of “negative capability.” Ballard quotes extensively from the letters of Keats (the 1990 Oxford University Press version edited by Elizabeth Cook), and from all of Wieners’s major work, including the marvelous edition of his journals published by Sun & Moon Press in 1996.

Ballard assumes that his reader is familiar with the poetry of both Keats and Wieners. This works well for the essay, since it allows Ballard to immediately begin exploring the fruitful parallels between both authors. One can imagine that for many Keats scholars or readers, John Wieners might be considered a bit too obscure to consider as an equal to the young English poet. And yet, as Ballard proves in his eloquent essay, Wieners's own radical contributions to postmodern American poetry are very much rooted in certain traditional aspects of the English canon. Like Keats, Wieners is often concerned with the confluence of truth and beauty. Keats’s famous dictum on those two elements is often misinterpreted or dismissed as a naive visionary notion. Ballard attempts to dispel that misreading of Keats by discussing the young English poet’s 1817 letter to his brothers, where he outlined his theory of negative capability. Ballard begins to outline Keats’s theory in the following manner:

Though knowledge and reason are requisites and educators of the
imagination, only through the abolishment of what Keats termed
intelligence, or “consequitive” reasoning, can the unconscious, an
intense, intuitive and instinctive force, function as the intellect of
the imagination. Here, with half-knowledge and the use of the senses,
phenomena of the actual world are sympathetically welcomed,
conceived, and united equally to the mind. Moreover, by letting
sensations be the representative power of all nature, the imagination
can remain as the central force in the mind, heart, and human soul.

Ballard’s essay turns to various aspects of Keats’s theory, as delineated in his letters. This intuitive approach to the poetic imagination is not directly superimposed onto the poetry of Wieners, but is instead drawn out through careful consideration of the latter’s work over several decades. This essay made me remember the scant amount of critical work that has been produced on Wieners, not to speak of a properly researched biography. I mention this because the poems Ballard quotes from are related to such a wide cultural stratum of English and American poetic traditions. As much as Wieners is read as an outlaw poet (and I do believe his work challenges so many literary and social conventions) he was also deeply aware of himself within a specific continuum of poetic practice. When he spoke of himself as a Boston poet, he did so both ironically but also with a deep love and respect for the history of that place, which is the history of the United States. So, I find Ballard’s analysis of John Wieners within the context of John Keats’s poetic theories to be a proper acknowledgement of his importance as a poet.

Looking back at what I’ve written here about the books by Ballard I’ve managed to procure, I feel I’ve rushed through them too quickly. I can only entreat you to go find his books. I have no doubt his poems and essays will one day be widely available at bookstores and libraries. But for now, we will have to track down his work, text by text across the country.

Midway through his essay on Keats and Wieners, Ballard quotes from the journals the latter kept while he was living in San Francisco in the late 1950s:
                                             Oh lush
come to me out of your graves,
                              it is the day
the dead shall rise and populate
                              the skies.

In a sense, this resurrection is what Ballard is attempting in his own poetry. He is doing it in an esoteric, classical and humble idiom. In his poems, one encounters that same “intense, intuitive and instinctive force” he identifies in the work of John Keats. I look forward to seeing where he takes his readers in the future, and I trust you will find as much pleasure as I do in Micah Ballard’s dynamic verse.


Guillermo Parra was born in Cambridge, MA in 1970. He is the author of Caracas Notebook (Cy Gist Press, 2006) and he lives in Durham, NC.



Balancing Acts by Rochelle Ratner
(Marsh Hawk Press, East Rockaway, NY, 2006)

Rochelle Ratner’s Powerful Poetic Performance

Rochelle Ratner’s newest book Balancing Acts is a collection of seventy-two prose poems that, according to Ratner, “chronicle the growth of one woman or a mythic Everywoman, from early childhood through adulthood.” Balancing Acts is another strong book by a prolific and important contemporary poet and writer.

The individual poems of Balancing Acts and the collection as a whole raise interesting questions about genre and form issues in contemporary writing. The prose poem continues to become more popular in contemporary poetry circles. Mary Oliver’s recent volumes have included prose poems and many have included the phrase “prose poems” as a part of the subtitles. Mary A. Koncel’s book, You Can Tell a Horse Anything, is a poetry book comprised completely of prose poems. In addition, there are at least two anthologies of contemporary prose poetry, Ray Gonzalez’ anthology, No Boundaries, published by Tupelo Press focusing primarily on contemporary prose poems, and the historically comprehensive anthology, Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present, edited by David Lehman. Ratner’s contribution and, in fact, innovation in contemporary prose poetry is to bring a strong narrative perspective to the collection of prose poems. That is to say,while many prose poems rely on narrative within the poem itself, Ratner’s book has a narrative arc that is created through the interlinking of her prose poems.

The narrative arc of her book is not, however, entirely linear. Ratner notes in her description of the work that the book moves between one woman and a mythic Everywoman. Sometimes that move is a glissade and there is a sense that the book does hold a truthful center of a single woman, but sometimes that move is jerky and I wondered if the reach to Everywoman was compromising the narrative. Despite this, the overall narrative arc of Balancing Acts is a compelling one from start to finish.

Balancing Acts, also raises the usual questions about prose poetry, What makes a poem, a poem? and What makes prose, prose? These questions, despite their apparent simplicity, are worth reflection and renewed reflection when engaging in Ratner’s book. Ratner utilizes a pretty standard form of the prose poem in her book with each generally having between 150 and 200 words. It is perhaps for that reason that the poems which stand out as exemplary in this collection are the longer sequenced poems, particularly “The Exterminator’s Daughter,” “Food Fights I,” and “Food Fights II.” Each of these poems contain multiple parts within them. In these sustained poems, Ratner demonstrates the strength of her narrative vision and trajectory in the book.

More significantly to me in the reading of the book, however, related to questions about the lines between fiction and creative non-fiction as raised by Ratner’s text. The woman in the book is referred to in the third person; this provides a particular distance between the poet and the character and undermines the sense of reading autobiography or memoir, however, the tone and emotional intensity of some of the poems open themselves to reading as memoir or confessional poetry. In many ways, Balancing Acts could be read not as a book of prose poems, but as a novel of creative non-fiction or as fiction. Each of those options would change the reading, I would argue, and each would enhance and detract alternatively from the text. Thus, one of the achievements of this book is the way in which it challenges the conventional categories of text that we use today.

Setting these philosophical questions, while important, aside, and considering the text of Ratner’s work, which she titles, poems, there is great strength in the poems. Ratner shines in these prose poems when her imagery is tight and the conclusion revelatory. For instance in “Frozen Peas,” Ratner writes, “She always keeps at least two boxes of frozen peas in the freezer.” This reflection on peas, “little frozen green marbles,” turns into the story of a friendship, which concludes, “this was the beginning of a friendship that lasted ten years then just rolled away from her.” Similarly, in the poem “Last Week” Ratner writes, “For her last week of wife training he sends her…flowers or a plan…she can’t remember.” This poem concludes,

They held onto the card at least, kept it on its white plastic spoke and placed it in the base of the iron tavern puzzle she’s bought him years before, two hearts intertwined. The trick is to part them.

Ratner’s ability to develop an image and bring the unexpected and revelatory to the conclusion makes her strongest poems.

It is in this realm where she also demonstrates her broad tonal capacity. In the final poem of the first section, for instance, Ratner writes of house that she passed “on her way to and from grammar school. The house with the beautiful lawn. . . .” In this house was a junior high school teacher; “He was the sort of teach who romped on his large, pristine lawn.” Ratner concludes this poem,

A teacher who mowed the grass himself. Later, he would start a day camp. Later still, he would murder his family.

This creepy comment on the beautiful lawn demonstrates one of the many unexpected joys in the tonality of Ratner’s book.

Balancing Acts has many special things happening in it. The final special thing that I noticed is not about Ratner’s text but about Marsh Hawk Press. Something special is happening there. I’ve read a number of their books over the past year, many through the auspices of reviewing here at Galatea Resurrects. They have gathered a highly creative and talented group of authors and are putting out beautiful and interesting and provocative books. Huzzah, huzzah!


Julie R. Enszer is a writer and lesbian activist living in Maryland. She has previously been published in Iris: A Journal About Women, Room of One’s Own, Long Shot, the Web Del Sol Review, and the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual. You can learn more about her work at



the animal husband: poems about animals and food by Christine Hamm
(Dancing Girl Press, 2006)

Christine Hamm's poems in this 31-page chapbook run like bodily fluids over dry skin. I do not mean this as a metaphor but as literally as possible. I have been reading these poems over and over again over a period of six months, perhaps more, and the experience of both excitement and uneasiness only grows with each reading. I could attempt a "serious formal analysis" of Hamm's poetics as presented here, but no radiography, no clinical study explain, at least to me, the uncanny feeling of both pleasure and repulsion that infects me.

Before anything else, there is a silence. A need to remain silent. Surprise. Perhaps fear. No, disgust. No, enjoyment, pleasure, jouissance.


The throat gets dry. We take the chapbook to the toilet, to read it there -- of all the places where we have read this chapbook, perhaps the most appropriate one. I open the chapbook for the millionth time, and I start re-reading from the last page. From bottom to top. I know this poem almost by heart, titled "Toilets I Have Known", and the last stanza, beginning with the line

The Island:

reminds me of where I am. Not the toilet, but the island, perhaps not Hamm's Island, but this is not Hamm speaking, is she, but this voice of hers (of hers? who is she? Isn't it all about that, anyway?), who has known these toilets, these highlights of her toileting experience, we could say, the ultimate human place, the definitive repository of human life as waste and cycle and new beginnings.


So here we (we? isn't that what this is all about, methinks, now that I read this chapbook for the zillionth time) are sitting and reading and the last stanza of this prodigy of a poem has a last sentence that reads, most appropriately,

Makes me feel three again, new at this.

And there, not here, because time has happened and things have passed since then, I finally understood what the animal husband did to me. It made me feel three again, new at this. New at this business of reading and writing poetry, yes, but not only that. New at this business of life, of being a man, whatever that means, of being a living creature, a person inhabiting this world, breathing, eating, drinking, loving, having sex, going to the toilet.

Like three again, when discovery was an everyday experience and when pleasure and fear where more confused than ever.

And I am sure we are not making ourselves clear here. Let us try again.

the animal husband: poems about animals and food has been for me the ultimate contemporary poetic experience of my recent days. I dreaded writing about it, saying something about it. I kept it under the pillow, forgot it at the most unusual places, had to ask a friend to save it from the debris of my past life across the apparently insurmountable distance of the sea and into the new chaos of my new-found life in this Island. The chapbook traversed the earth, so to speak, as it followed me from Mexico City to London, got dirty, got folded out in violent and unexpected ways. Poor thing: but here I am telling you the truth.

Because we begin reading and the first poem asks, as a title, "Who has not wished her husband into a cat?", and concludes, mercilessly, frankly, violently,

Animal love is the only love
men allow women.
and it is so short:
only that moment
in which a bear cub murmurs to himself
and begins to suck.

As a male reader, I feel the stomach fold into itself and chest join the back as one closes the big volume of an encyclopedia. Dust comes off after the dry, empty sound. The punch.

The second poem, single-handedly called "Marriage", describes in first person a husband apparently obsessed with the cleanliness of some forks. The last stanza, a couplet, sums up the intimate domestic picture:

The forks will take care of him
in the morning.

And so the animal husband builds itself as an essay on domesticity. It is amazing how Hamm constructs this beast of a chapbook, this cookbook of a bestiary, this zoologia fantastica for the 21st century, as if every poem were part of a perfectly well-designed plan, an insurrection, a betrayal, a complot, a vengeance, an act of justice.

The vulnerability of sitting on the toilet, pants down, the echo of the white material, the peaceful liquid awaiting behind, the male organ feeling the chilly air of the emptiness of the basin is the best space and the best situation for this subversive literature -- because that is what it is, and if poetry has not the power to subvert, then what -- where man/husband is "reduced" to animal, sometimes vermin, sometimes pet, sometimes victim, sometimes predator.

In "A Mouse", Hamm defines her poetic universe (kitchen/bedroom/food/sleep/husband/cat/mouse/sex/fluids) and comes back to that shakespearean ghost of domesticity and revenge, of wash basins and bloody hands, the manifesto of a poetics of retaliation through softness and lyricism, metaphor and symbolism, and right in the middle of the poem the poet pushes the sharp trident of a fork into our chests in a stanza of three lines,

a handful of blood and intent
he is the small thing that never lets us
forget what we have done


the animal husband is an amazing collection of poetic artifacts. These poems make the psyches of the Desperate Housewives of Wysteria Lane seem like childish, luminous fairy tales (if there were ever such). Because Hamm seems to be rewriting here everything from Alice in Wonderland to Red-Riding Hood to Cinderella to Snow White, and constructs a universe of bodily fluids, animality, passion, hunger, lust and sloth. But her poetry is not only terrifying and uncannily abject, but also incredibly tender. In one of the best poems of the chapbook, "Amorous Morsels", the first stanza reads like a homage to e.e. cummings,

Come in my mouth,
He said
(my heart like a starling beating against the window)

and what follows is the sexiest description of a cunnilingus, down to its most graphic details, a delicious example of pornopoetics that nullifies all attempts of euphemizing it as mere erotica.


And maybe this explains why I always ended up reading the animal husband in the toilet. A Freudian paradise of contradictory drives, a desiring machine that creates more desire, a literary definition of jouissance, a symbolic assassination of everything paternal, a catalogue of anxieties, a teratological treatise of husbandry and masculinity.

Genital, vocal and anal, the animal husband is, above all, a joy to read, but not in that enjoyment to which we are getting so used to in these tabloid-obsessed days of ours. A joy which is hard to digest, hard to endure, hard to maintain. Maybe chapbooks are like erections, and it is difficult to keep them going for a long time ("it is so short", the first poem complains/warns/describes) unless a certain art is mastered. What Hamm achieves with the animal husband is a celebration of all pleasures and abjections with the mastery of an experienced Yogi.

Like all worthwhile pleasures, the animal husband also hurts, and perhaps this is why I like it so very, very much.


Ernesto Priego studied English Literature at UNAM, Mexico as an undergraduate, critical theory at UEA, Norwich, England as a master's student, and is now attempting to do a PhD at the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, University College London. His translation of Jessica Abel's award-winning graphic novel, La Perdida, is just out from Astiberri Editores (Bilbao, Spain). His first book of poetry is Not Even Dogs (Meritage Press, 2006).



Night Season by Mark Lamoureux
(Available online at Dusie, 2006)

This is a mixed review. Let’s begin near the beginning:

Parthenogenesis lives in the red steps
               that were paining,

each night the wanted body
               eats the tail of the wasp.

(An orange heart pinned
               to a map, emitting

grace.) No cause for doubt, what
               appears in a hill of ash

or on the underpass—a veil who
               manifests & vanishes, a name

burned in granite. Chromium
               swaddle & lyre, a poultice

to loose that voice, to wade
               in the blood-colored, the tepid.

I could go on, but this is clearly glorious: waverings of colour, movement, with hints of Jack Spicer or the Spanish surreal. In contemporary terms I thought of MTC Cronin -- though Mark Lamoureux is somewhat more disquieting -- who has herself used these offset couplets to good effect. Here, the form gives pull and energy to Lamoureux’s otherwise delicate phrasing, acting as a necessary visual and aural stimulus.

So much for a first point: many of Lamoureux’s poems in Night Season are, I think, largely unfaultable. It will be important to bear this in mind over the course of my following remarks, which will take a more explicitly critical bent. Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier for a critic to speak of the faultable; it is also true, however, that what works less well can often act as a sort of window into a poetic, allowing us to better see -- precisely by means of this “gap” -- the internal functionings of the mechanism.

For me, then, the problem is this: Mark Lamoureux’s supple, modal writing is precisely not a poetics of excess. For this reason, any slippage into excess stands out, appearing remarkably stark. My hypothesis is that the effect of this deeply evocative poetry is here and there lessened by a tendency towards what might be called a type of poetic “overstatement”.

Now, this is a jeopardous thing for a critic to say. Firstly, the notion of “overwriting” is so atrociously common as to have become a dreaded workshop cliché. It is a criticism that all poets have heard, myself included, and yet it is usually not very clear what one means by it. So, I will attempt to explain what I mean.

Let us take the following extract from Night Season, which for me is perhaps the weakest moment in the book:

We sleep even
as figures march
through snow
or dust to enact

Now, I may be wrong, but this seems to me quite a known poetic cliché. I seem to remember its presence in Alexandr Blök, Georg Trakl, even Wilfred Owen. The sentiment perhaps strives for Audenesque oratorical proclamation -- “we sit in peace while the dogs of Europe . . .” etc. -- but it is nothing we have not seen. Of course, cliché is fine if it serves a purpose; but the apparent general idea -- that “passivity may lead to violence” -- while perhaps formulaically true, is here flatly and unremarkably presented.

My point is that what I identify here, for want of a better word, as overstatement, impacts badly on Lamoureux’s delicate verse by disclosing to us more than we need to know. Why not figures “walking”? Because we must be explicitly told, by “marching”, that we are dealing with an “army”?

But then, we come across Lamoureux at his astonishing best, the way I always want him to be:

The new grass
hammers at topsoil.
The world doubles
over in the pain
of its own birth,
long face beset
by everything
that tumbles from
metal-colored skies.

This is gorgeous: supple, yet with the tensile strength of thin metal, the writing’s formal concision contributing to the impression of fragile strands weaved somehow into a strong fabric.

I am delighted. I read on:

Anxiety forges
a crown of wrens
around the mind.
May my death
never come.
Still—I am just
a plant like all the rest.

In this deftly wrought opening, the apogee of poetic sentiment is for me situated in lines 4 and 5, at the Berriganesque avowal of desired immortality -- for Berrigan, the more direct “I will never die”. This is also, I think, the strophe’s rhythmic and melodic high-point: the sonic tension built up in the three first lines is released by this shorter, condensed affirmation.

But then, in the last couplet, what has happened! “Still -- I am just/ a plant like all the rest.” Why this dissipation, this watering down? So sadly for me, the acme of sentiment -- “May my death/ never come” -- is immediately followed by deep bathos: “Still -- I am just . . .” What does this concluding remark do save remove the tension so willfully accrued in the preceding lines? What is this but the covering of deep emotion in the daily vernacular of self-comfort?

This final couplet seems to me to pull the poem down out of its highest spheres of evocation and image into those of reductive explanations, of the type: “I do not wish to die, but this is after all what happens to all those who make up part of the organic community.” I do not want to leave the poem in this way. The poem is more complex than this summation leads us to believe. I want to leave it with the wondrous impression of an “anxiety” forged around my mind in a crown of wrens! This ultimate couplet leaves me empty, and I cannot help thinking that what is at play here is a form of poetic self-protection, the suspicion that the direct statement concerning death had somehow “gone too far”. This protection concerns me: I don’t see its evident necessity, certainly not as “explanation” of the luscious suite of tone and imagery established in this strophe’s first lines.

Lamoureux’s poetry can be so delicate, almost insubstantial, and yet it is still often able to approach the “grand statement.” This is its strength. But by subsequently -- or consequently -- covering such grand statement by the reflex of the quotidian . . . Doesn’t this lack a degree of poetic nerve?

Well, that is a big thing to say, all the more so for the fact that Lamoureux is elsewhere, in the more “faultless” poems, so daring, and so aesthetically successful in his risk-taking:

Our noble star
               emits the colors of the zodiac,

speaking to the ground,
                           tell me

where the carriage horses go
               at night, divorced

at last from their nameless

“Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus”, perhaps. Except, then we are presented once more with a moment where there is a little too much: too much given, explicited, formulated or framed:
for the dumb arms that pull the bag
over our heads & seal the rift
with the blue wax without mass
or shape. Praise, for the mouth
that ends words, each curse I hurl
at ether as the clasp of days closes
end to end.

Or here, in a case of syntactic, rather than lexic, surfeit:

Follow the faint arrow etched on each
dark wall, into a ring that laps the arc
of our one bitter sun, into a sunless shade.

The syntax escapes and runs quickly beyond the sentiment, tripping itself up and requiring the insertion of the rather stilted comma: “, into a sunless shade”. Is it a desired effect? Perhaps. But I’m not convinced of its effectiveness. For, precisely where there is less, Lamoureux is so intensely beautiful:

Not-yet-spring blooms
               like the Cyrillic at Brighton

                           Beach, before
the quiet sea, humped

by freighters & on the street
               all is twitching stillness

There are not less words, necessarily, but there is less support. There is an autonomy to this language, robbed largely of its meanderings, of its own explanations of itself.

I hope it is clear what I mean. This is sometimes a difficult impression to describe, and though I have talked a good deal about it, I do not want these critiques to detract too greatly from what is, in all senses, a resolutely achieved book. I would simply have liked to see these mostly wonderful poems be allowed to stand on their own, always: with no bathos, with no post-facto validation. To quote Mark Lamoureux -- ironically, in this context -- I would have liked to have seen them “divorced/ at last from their nameless/ burden.” Allowed to thrive thus in the splendor of their textured sounds and forms: “under no moon/ with no floor below.”


Nicholas Manning is Assistant Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Strasbourg, France, currently writing his doctoral thesis on rhetoric and sincerity in post-war European and American poetry. His poems, articles, translations and reviews have appeared in such places as Verse, Fascicle, Free Verse, Dusie, The Argotist, BlazeVox, MiPoesias, Eratio, Cipher Journal, CrossXConnect, Shampoo, among others. This year he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.



first adventures of col and sem by Dan Waber
(Kite Tail Press #21, 2007)

Boy oh boy did this book ever irritate me!

So. Yeah, yeah: there I was thinking myself oh-so-smart. So intelligent. So insightful. So wise. So visionary. So so Moi. Etcetera etcetera.

There I was all a-perky over my sharp little self that I even thought to be the one to reveal to the universe “the secret lives of punctuations”—to reveal what punctuations really think, to reveal their usually hidden lives.

A scholar even affirmed the brilliance of my work with punctuations—in this case, a decolonialism scholar. Here’s deep-thinker Leny M. Strobel who, in an essay I’m amazed I didn’t bribe her to write, notes:

What happens when the elided, marginalized and invisible take on center stage on the page?

As I write this, I am reading Postcolonial Melancholia by Paul Gilroy. He asks the same question but in a different but related context. How can we avoid recyling the narratives of an imperial past that has become useless to the present? How do we deal with the post-imperial trauma (of Britain and by extension, the U.S.) that must rely on these recycled narratives to keep the dead empire alive? How do we deal with the Other who now lives in the (dead) empire’s center? How do we get ride of racism that is at the root of Other-ing?

His reply: De-familiarize the familiar. Dis-entangle ourselves from the old narratives. Withdraw our consent from the empire’s attempt to continue fanning the fires of racism and xenophobia in the name of protecting the empire’s image of its glorious past. Face the reality of the traumatic consequences of colonial conquests.

Could it be that one way of doing that is to begin to look at the greatest tool of the empire of the 19th and 205h century: the English language and its grammar rules?

In a way, I see Eileen de-familiarizing punctuations in these poems. In giving them new and not-so secret lives, she challenges the reader to conjure new relationships, new images, new stories.

That essay is part of my 2006 book, The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I (xPress(ed). That’s right: “Vol. I”. Someday, I thought, I’d insightfully blather out the gems Vol. II, then Vol. III, Vol. IV etcetera to a universe breathlessly anticipating my insights.

Well. Suffice it to say, Dan Waber may have just aborted that particular journey.

Boy, did he make my blood run cold with his first adventures of col and sem. His bloody book bloody well presents punctuations’ real lives, not through my suddenly-lame strategy of utilizing words but by presenting, indeed, the punctuations themselves!


Here’s an example from my “Parentheticals” which seaks to reveal the secret lives of parentheses:

(dungeons: a waste of marble)

Contrast that with this excerpt from Waber’s book. The book opens with the phrase

they meet

and then punctuations centered on each page. That is, each of the sets of punctuations below are presented one to a page, centered, on a page:

: |

. . |

. | .

. / .

. \ .


! / !

. / ,

. / ?

! \ .

~; :

By presenting images that encourage one to imagine a narrative of a first meeting—a narrative based on mere tweakings of tiny marks—Waber indeed proves himself a master of both minimalism and concrete poetry. The way a straight vertical line relaxes into a slant or the way a question elicits the emphatic answer of an exclamation point—both can aptly mirror the tonal shifts of such a conversation. The latter, for example, could symbolize how col and sem discover something pleasurable in common…!

“Col” and “sem”, I assume, are short for “colon” and “semicolon.” That their names are cut off means the reader has to be the one to complete their identities into, respectively, Colon and Semicolon. This involvement of the reader is synchronistic with how, for the overall project, the reader engagement is critical for the successful unfolding of a meaningful narrative.

I don’t know whether postcolonial issues entered into Waber’s poetics as he explored punctuations. But he certainly did achieve what Strobel admired about “de-familiarizing punctuations ... In giving them new and not-so secret lives, [Waber] challenges the reader to conjure new relationships, new images, new stories”

All without words. Words suddenly unnecessary. How irritating for me to see how deftly Waber proves that saying: Poetry isn’t words.

Even his byline is witty. Not just “by Dan Waber” but instead:

Dan Waber

Colon, get it? Colon: and then the book unfolds.

Sigh. So. This is a witty project sure to be enjoyed by readers who, unlike me, don’t suffer from the delusion they know punctuations better than anyone. I am forced to recommend this book, even as it makes me throw my pen against the wall. Let those letters fall!

The Queen is Dead! Long live the King!

Through Waber’s devious fingers, the punctuations arise!


Eileen Tabios HEARTS wine, dogs and Thou.


J.O. LECLERC Reviews

Bowery Women: Poems, An Anthology Edited by Marjorie Tesser & Bob Holman
(YBK Publishers, New York, NY C.E. 2006)

There’s a place called The Bowery Poetry Club (BPC). BPC is located on The Bowery on the isle of Manahatos in Noo Yawk City (The Reviewuh’s hometown. Yuh gotta a problem wit’ that?).

The proprietor of BPC is Sir Robert Holman. A night in shining orlon. Bob is very famous for divers (muchas) things (cosas) poetic (poetica). Bob also knows everybody (todas personas en el mundo) -- even the reviewer. If the current anno was 500 B.C.E., Bob would know Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Plato and Earl Stanley Gardner. Bob has been “profiled” in The New Yorker (gasp!) and will no doubt eventually be a Nobel Laureate for Molecular Biology.

Full disclosure: Back one night in 2004, I was bar flyin’ at BPC. The club has many tasty brews on tap. Upon that evening, I did consume a rather large amount of British Ale. This (of course) resulted in me insulting everybody in BPC except the bartender named Laurel. I do describe Laurel as Aphrodite armed with the largest lexicon of four letter words I ever did hear. Although my wife Janet was present, I did tell Laurel that I loved her. Laurel told me to shut my bleepin’ loud mouth. Janet expressed similar sentiments in rather more genteel terms. Now: the reason I’m tellin’ you all this is because Proprietor Bob Holman coulda easily had the behemoth bouncer throw me outta the place long before I pledged my troth to Laurel (actually, any six year old child coulda 86’d me that nicht). But Bob didn’t do that. Instead, he offered me a glass of Pernod on the house! Whatta Guy! HE realized I wasn’t just some drunken jerk! HE saw that I was a drunken jerk with poete maudite potential!

So you see, the preceding belabored tale tells why Bob Holman can get jiggy with Hank Kissinger in Kent, Connecticut on any given weekend (Dr. Kissinger will probably plead plausible denial of my asseverations). And by the way, the book being discussed is really edited (and beautifully so) by one Marjorie Tesser.

But the subject at hand is the text Bowery Women: Poems. The text has 76 pomes by 76 wimmin swimmin in the Parnassian Ocean o’ The Bowery Potree Club. Of the 76ers, some are quite well known -- I refer, of course, to such luminaries as Anne (Whoa!) Waldman, Jessica Hagedorn (Philippines born and bred! And -- she wrote a book [among quite a few others] called Dream Jungle {a blue diamond title}), Maureen Owen (MO OH !!!), Janine Pommy Vega (another being who knows everybody and has been everywhere -- although she don’t know me -- but I don’t think she’s losing any sleep over that fact), and Patricia Spears-Jones (I’m gonna tell you straight out. Do not mess wit’ P. S-J! She really is one strong woman).

The five aforementioned plus 71 equals a Book Garden of Earthly and Celestial Delights. Just think on these names: Alana Ruben Free (gee-zuzz! whuttaname!), Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz (yes. yes. YES!!!), Ann Bettison Enzminger (That’s whut ah sed…,), Jennifer Blowdryer (after a tingly, soothing shampoo), and Zhang Er (wellsir, ‘round these parts, folks jes’ call her Er). I could go on, but I won’t. All 76 are wonderful, including Reggie Cabico (Senator, I know Reggie Cabico. I shook Reggie’s right hand on New Year’s Day, 2007. And Senator, Reggie Cabico is no Reggie Cabico. Oh Yes Reggie Is ! I was jus’ kiddin’).

Now, I can’t give a roll call of all 76 of ‘em. I mean. The Colts jus’ beat The Bears in The Super Bowl (Prince did an incredible half-time show). Does that mean I have to memorize both team’s complete rosters!? Including the defensive coordinators!?? Come on. I got things to do. I gotta defrost my rusty Subaru – that in itself takes about an hour in the NE rust-belt (♪ She Wore a ♪ Yeller Rust ♪ Belt…,♪).

Whut I am gonnadew is quote out sum outstandin’ laahhns from my partikewlar favoritos. Afteryewbyethuhbookyewcandoolahkwhahzz (yu juz reduhrunnon stetmuhn).

Startin’ up: The Poet Cynthia Kraman. The Poem "Speak in the Dark"

O ocean’s glassy waves, speak in the dark
O sticky countertops, speak in the dark
O uncontrolled thoughts, speak in the dark
O mountain, mouse, morass, speak in the dark
Running blood, ampersand, speak in the dark
Mossy stone, silent lark, speak in the dark
O remaindered poetry, speak in the dark

Kraman lays out 14 more lines like the above stuff. If you can’t hear that magic, there’s nuthin’ ikendoo to help whutalesyuh, Doc.

Next please: The Poet Jackie Sheeler. The Poem "Marlboro Woman"

I started killing myself at twelve
with Mom’s Pall Malls and Dad’s Lucky Strikes
but I’ve always been the impatient type, needed
to kill myself a little faster, found

more exotic poisons:…,

We called it hair-on in the ghetto
talking shit while blood dripped to the concrete
of abandoned building alleys from our veins.

Jackie S. knows where she’s bin. How ‘bout you? How ‘bout me?

And (of course): The Poets The O’Debra Twins The Poem "Puppet Love"

I have a confession to make. I think The O’Debra Twins are Fabulous! I am their unknown love-slave! I don’t care who knows it. So there.

The very day shall come, yea, when The O’Debras, yea, shall vaunt above, yea, even those twin, yea, beasts of the Apocko -------!!! Yes! Them!

I refer, of course, to (yes) Oh-Purra & the insidual (aaargh) FizzissionFill !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Their poem "Puppet Luhv" is actually a PLAY (yaay!!!). It is far superior to Stoppard’s doppelslop The Coasts of Utopia (and the amazing thing is…, regular people and irregular people are actually allowed ( ! ) to come inside ( !!! ) the extremely important BOWERY POETRY CLUB and enjoy the O’Debras performances !!!!! The only people allowed to sit and numbsnore through U2oo-Pia’s Coastwaddle are Neilsin Mandelowicz and Susan Saranrap! Methinks Tom will embrace Tony like Liz Tailor on the National Velveeta Pony. The point being - Puppet Love is a Laff-Rot. I love puppets. QED.

So I think you should really check out Bowery Women: Poems.

Women. Poetry. Kwite-a-Kombo.


M.. LeClerc is a poet. And, as such, not yet distinguished from all the other bewildered ones & multiples driving divers all-wheel drive “sport” utility vehicles through stormthermal Norsestikold sturmvintners. LeClerc resides in a navy blue color community with his spouse The Distinguished American Poet Janet Hamill. Jayo plays guitar and reads a lot of books & other things. He even has a 1977 F train local subway schedule in his vast, superterranean library. JOLC is sometimes thought vexatious, and, yes, yes, even lunautical bleu by faux haute bourgeois white fakes. In spite of, or, perhaps, because, of (not precluding other possible reasons), such white spite, LeClerc has some fantastic friends. Such as. The scintillant S’s (Patricia & Bill), The NaturallyVeryNice N’s (Jen & Phil), Song-Writing’s Mazda Master Andy J, Rockabilly Search Wizard Matty G, and (of course) zine eddy-aytor & whoa-ever so evermerry great saintrix known here (within this document) -- on these most cryptick & (Shall we not say so Sir ?) most fantastical labarynthium (devised so & so disguised so kleverlee & (oh so verily they are) so the magickal mysticulous & caramba-la-la spacie saycheekie pages so only, AND, it is so necessarily Dee-sew-tow-Dakota-Po-tay-tuh-toe, as the only, but, nevereverknow (no -- not ever) lonely -- through wind, rain, and, yea, bitter storm snow -- the Brave, the Courageous, the Famously Good, yea, (and we indeed shall say Sir) code page.



surface tension: a 10-day tryst by Scott Glassman & Mackenzie Carignan


The Name Poems by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright


Translations From After by Joel Chace


Oh Miss Mary by Jim McCrary


Dovey & Me by Lynn Strongin


My Lightweight Intentions by Pam Brown


surface tension: a 10-day tryst by Scott Glassman & Mackenzie Carignan
(Dusie, 2006)

surface tension: a 10-day tryst is the second collaborative project between Scott Glassman & Mackenzie Carignan, the first being Helixes. Surface tension is a property of a liquid’s surface layer that allows it to behave as if it were an elastic sheet, on which small objects or insects can float. Working together online collapses the distance between Carignan’s Chicago and Glassman’s New Jersey to create surface tension. From this, one might speculate not only about the poets’ relationship and the invented relationship between the personae in their poems, but about relationships between people as a whole, their elasticity, permeability or otherwise. Even the chapbook’s title and subtitle generates a certain frisson, an electric undercurrent zinging in the words ‘tryst’ and ‘tension’. But does this buzz exist in the poems themselves? Or is it merely ‘surface tension’?

During the ten-day tryst, a word or two provides a glancing cohesion between the two speakers and their words, linking each paired poem for the day: green, moving, fences, pomegranate, windows, river. Like secret safe words, they increase the sense of intimacy between the correspondents. The first days’ poems begin tentatively, the speakers still getting to know the other person’s quirks and foibles, while referring anxiously to significant pronouns: ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘we’ and ‘he’. Who are these people? Tension mounts with every sensual detail:

               Who gives
their heart to the parasite—the one
who wants it most?

The tightest part. The space where we are
up against each other, limbs taut and twined,

seeing how hard we
can push without disturbing the words.
(‘cold compress’)

The one thing contributing to a sense of indefinable identity is that the poems are not attributed to either poet. Part of the fun is speculating who has written which poem, since each poem retains clues to each poet’s style, where one has a fondness for parentheses and slashes, while the other prefers couplets and tercets. While one might prefer a bit more melding between the voices, of spillage and admixture that more closely reflects the intermingling within a tryst, instead of the poems remaining distinct, surface tension is a very exciting collaboration between two emerging poets who are on the verge of a breakthrough, and it is all the more valuable as this chapbook forms part of an artistic process that points to their next potential co-creation.

As if glimpsed from behind sheer hotel curtains, surface tension would pique anyone’s voyeuristic tendencies. Seductive in scope and stirring in execution, there is no earthly reason why one should not give in to temptation. Go on, I say. Take a peek.


The Name Poems by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
(Sisyphus Press, Chapbook Series #19)

Jeffrey Cyphers Wright’s The Name Poems is a chapbook of twenty-three intensely frolicsome sonnets, shining brassily in a dimly lit noir bar while a chanteuse croons on stage and a greasy mobster tries to buy the poems a drink. Wreathed by the obscuring cigar-smoke of sophistication, it is sound-tracked by toasting champagne glasses and tinkling laughter, reels from tipsy fun to wistful whimsy:

I dreamed of hurricanes in empty rooms,
more empty than your spike heel
now we’ve polished off the Beaujolais.
(‘The Last Hurrah’)

The sonnets in The Name Poems are dedicated to names such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Anne Waldman because, as Wright explains in his Foreword: ‘Lita [Hornick, a sometime co-creator in the chapbook] was also a wealthy patron and would take me to dinner with poets like John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg…’ Such name-dropping carries its own ironies and meta-ironies.

‘What’s in a name,’ Shakespeare asked. A name serves to identify and also, to mark out the space of the person it represents. Notably, the chapbook’s cover image is composed of initials, presented as cut out letters in the style of a ransom note. The initials represent the dedicatees, who all have a sonnet or two dedicated to them. Perhaps, in a way, a name also holds something to ransom, by withholding the person in exchange for the name, so that before one meets her, the name has created several expectations of the person behind the name.

               Spiritual urgency purrs
lapping at ladders as you
twirl my silver pony tail.
Have faith, my dear. This we count
on all year. […]

‘Follow’ is an absorbing sonnet Wright co-created with Hornick, one of a few. With its obvious love for words, its sense of play with assonance and rhyme, it evokes a non-stop party lifestyle, with its associated surreal moments and peculiar, narcotised sadnesses. So successfully do Wright’s poems benefit from his collaborative efforts with Hornick, resulting in poems that are intriguing, exciting, immediate and fun that, if not for the fact that Hornick died in 2000, one would like another chapbook created tout de suite. Wright’s closing couplets in many sonnets are particularly satisfying.

The Name Poems points to lives beyond the level of the poem, a metanymic world of hothouse relationships, populated by characters reminiscent of orchids, beautiful and blossoming in the claustrophobic steam of art, privilege and money. Real or not, it is both pretty and scary, and not a little hard to believe.


Translations From After by Joel Chace
(anabasis.xtant, 2004, email:

Translations From After by Joel Chace, the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, is a multi-voiced work that moves and stirs and forces the reader to engage with the poems, to formulate something that makes sense. It is a standard relationship—the poet presents the material while the reader gleans meaning as much as possible to decode the poem. Yet Translations From After goes that little bit further. Chace makes the reader work for it, and such toil is not without its pleasures.

Poems such as ‘milkweed’, ‘time’ and ‘fog of’, with their tropes of war, gamesmanship, manipulating controls, seeking a prize, averting death, strange instructions and spells, also feel like online text adventures, while ‘flying night fisherman’ has the added element of theatrical staging: ‘enter HAPPYFISH’, ‘enter SURERSTRING’. Many of the poems in Translations From After exhibit not only Chace’s ease with layers and intersecting voices, found documents and signs (changes in voice and source material denoted through font style):
like an old cow
                                         with each
first light of the mind rising
up out of that ground to
                              get chicken
prices for your egg

… Chace also uses onomatopoeia with a certain grim joy that is somewhat startling:

After this ddddddd… This after ccccccc is
before aaaaaaa before ends.
                                           What quests?
(‘Translations, #9’)

‘Translations’ is a long work comprised of 21 poem-sections, most 12 lines long. [Those stepped lines are tricky buggers. Note the numbers’ reverse symmetry: 21, 12.] It contains one of the other pleasures in the chapbook: Chace’s evocative word-creations from which we can create multiple meanings. From ‘Priable functures, splenters’ (#18), we might extrapolate ‘private’, ‘friable’ and ‘pliable’, ‘function’ and ‘punctures’, ‘splinters’ and ‘renters’, among many other connotative words. As with any translation, there is an element of the Rorschach blot in one’s interpretations—one can reveal more about one’s self than intended.

As section #10 asks, ‘Where, lies the / aftermath of matters?’ It is up to the reader to create meaning, construct something new. Joel Chace’s Translations From After is a vigorous reminder of this satisfaction, of using one’s imagination to fill in the blanks and creating something else entirely with one’s mind.


Oh Miss Mary by Jim McCrary
(Lawrence, Kansas: Really Old Gringo Press, Larence, Kansas, 2006)

Oh Miss Mary is the latest chapbook from Jim McCrary, a publishing veteran of numerous chapbooks, pamphlets, broadsides, zines and various ephemera, including My Book, Hotter and Now, and Holbox. In his bio posted after one of his Galatea Resurrects reviews, he describes this chapbook as speaking to the real life of Mary Magdalene ‘who [in my humble opinion] is a true Holy Ghost’. The chapbook’s prologue sets the scene for a quirky and audacious re-imagining of the relationship between Mary and Jesus:

Dude also offered to take her with him to his upcoming show which was gonna feature free wine and sandwiches. Well, our girl thought, a crowd is a crowd. What really sent Mar into a swoon was dude talking about walking on water during a storm. Whoa!! To someone with a foot fetish to begin with, this man was saying all the right things.

In this long poem that brings Mary Magdalene forward to the 1960s, the style seems more incantatory chant than the straightforward narrative that the prologue would suggest. At several points in the poem, interpretation becomes uncomfortably open:

Ah…take Mary for me
Take her for me again
Seven times seven times seven
They call it
Possessed she was

I call it fucked

“You got to pick up every stitch….”

By ‘fucked’, does the speaker mean literally or metaphorically? Is it criticism or pragmatism? Certainly a sexual interpretation is likely, borne out by the use of such ambiguous words as ‘come’, ‘fetish’, ‘rapture’ and ‘nailed’. The appearance of the ‘I’ speaker at this point in the poem raises a number of questions as to his role and relationship to Mary [did he take part in the ‘taking’ or was just a voyeur?], questions that are not really answered by the poem’s end.

‘Oh Miss Mary’ is threaded by a refrain from ‘Season of the Witch’, a song by 60s British pop singer Donovan, the effect of which creates a songlike rhythm and adds to the sense that, just as one might do a rain dance to call down the rain, the speaker is calling down a saviour to save everyone from ‘The bitch Bush witch in the white house’.

In its epilogue, the chapbook ends by defining more explicitly the intent of Oh Miss Mary, coupling it with a warning to would-be detractors, too: ‘Also, to Toozer or Collins or Lehman who might consider this ‘crap’ – fuck off. It is my language and I love it to death and mangle/handle it with loving abuse.’ And you can’t say fairer than that.


Dovey & Me by Lynn Strongin
(Solo Press, 2006)

In Dovey & Me, a chapbook by Lynn Strongin, she dedicates this work ‘for the homeless’. Its poems are likely to drop a quiet enchantment on the reader in this portrait of a friendship between two ‘bird-women’, who have made their home in a hut on the beach.

The first poem, ‘Dovey’, introduces a few unexpected words, such as ‘watry’ and ‘slipt’, the spelling of which evokes speech that is either slangy, regional, mediaeval or all three, effectively setting the scene for the rest of the chapbook:

I went down to the beach,
to discover this strange heap
asleep, breathing, yes, a she, & breathing

in a den as snug as a sweet potato hull:
living under a windblown-log
muttering, “Welcome. […]

A strange atmosphere pervades this relationship that brings to mind Macbeth’s three witches. These two characters have created their own world, which leaves everybody else beyond their ken:

Nobody understands us now.
Our tongue Elizabethan. We are known as the old & the young

(‘Dovey Has a Triangle of a Mirror’)

This theme of beguilement resonates. Theirs is a brief, charmed existence, living ‘as in a sweet potato shell’, but it cannot endure forever. Even as the speaker chronicles their best moments: ‘We have been together so long her wingtip reaches for mine’, already change scents the wind, so that any day the spell might be broken.

Fragility is another theme in the chapbook, finding its embodiment in images of glass: sea-glass, windows, mirrors and jewels, scattered throughout the work. Time works against them, crawling during their bored hours, reading Shakespeare. It ignores them with cruel disregard: ‘the human // race driving itself on’ (‘Human Race’). It flies past much too quickly even when the speaker tries to hold on: ‘Every day I try to make a bit more / of the mystery’ (‘The Mystery That is Us’).

Strongin is a poet of detail and mood, her language and technique so very assured that reading Dovey & Me is a definite pleasure. There is plenty to linger on and re-read. Exploring and setting down the particulars of such a complex and multifaceted relationship is not without difficulties, yet the love Strongin conveys between the speaker and Dovey is plain and evident. Dovey & Me is a sad, tender and tough elegy, honouring a friendship and a love that flourished even in strange circumstances.


My Lightweight Intentions by Pam Brown
(Never-Never Books, New South Wales, 2006)

Pam Brown’s My Lightweight Intentions was originally published by Folio (Salt) in 1998 and the poems have not aged in the intervening time, with their acerbic observations that still sting. Consisting of seven poems, Brown’s chapbook offers up a range of humorous and poignant disclosures, oftentimes in the same poem. In ‘The Ing Thing’, she writes:
                          ,                you’re
               those spacy
                              year planners !

               lead us to your
               Writers’ Centres !
dot                dot                dot
(p. 2)

This is a sharp contrast to the more quiet reflections later on, made during sleepless hours:

morning’s nothing
             floats along
like an unrecovered
               flight recorder
(p. 3)

Peppered with snippets of conversation and televisionary sound bites, this long poem could have continued indefinitely in this vein—so when it ends, it registers as a shock, yet it is one of surprise and recognition.

The chapbook’s last poem, ‘Miracles’, contains further shocks of recognition, as if the speaker has rediscovered the hidden order of the world:

one poet chooses another –
stick some truisms
             on my back cover
& appropriate this –
“a crude empiricist”
“a natural empathiser”

declares the text

Though the speaker denies her naïveté (‘I know / how corny & disorderly / the whole thing is –’), her own closing, declarative text speaks of a certain and wilful optimism: ‘I believe in miracles’.

My Lightweight Intentions reveals itself as not being as frivolous of intent as it purports to be, veiling its prevalent themes of social and political frustrations under a scrim of humour and cynicism, which partway reveals the face of the disgruntled idealist underneath.


Ivy Alvarez is the author of Mortal . Her poetry appears in journals and anthologies worldwide and online. In 2006, she was awarded a grant to write poems for her second poetry manuscript from the Australia Council for the Arts.