SECTION EIGHT
POETRY REVIEWS PAGE ONE

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COLUMN SIXTY-THREE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2001
(Copyright 2001 The Blacklisted Journalist)

 

An Inventory Of Fragile Knowledge by Mary Kennan Herbert.  44 pages, $10 check made out to Mary K. Herbert, 20 South Portland Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217.  A fine chapbook of mature observations on life and love and nature and childhood reminiscences.  Sex is about the pre-Aids 1960's, when Mary meets a cornet player and becomes a groupie: "?He just knocks me out.  Image, image.  His musical gifts are icing on the cake.  One night I go to hear a few sets by myself.  If a young woman alone shows up for the last set, that means she is available for the night.  Oh, yeah.  Mr. Coronet Player comes out and sits by me for a while, in between sets.  He asks me if I'd like to go home with him.  We walk all the way to Sheridan Square, where my coronet player buys orange juice and eggs ("for a great breakfast, baby"), then we grab a cab up to his loft in Chelsea.  The loft, a dark and cluttered aerie, is the kind of place where a lone jazz musician can maintain a semblance of domesticity.  In short order we are in bed -- my heart is pounding in anticipation.  Mr. Coronet Player is tired, but determined to make love to his groupie.  His groping is perfunctory, but not ill-intentioned.  Like a ram in an urban barnyard, he pushes determinedly against my virginal brush, to no avail.  He suddenly stops, looks long and hard at me.  After a while he asks, "Are you a virgin?"  When I confess yes, he sighs, swings his legs over the side of the bed, lights a cigarette.  He stands up, naked, skinny, pale, kind of vulnerable in the early light.  Then: remember this always -- he plays the cornet for me, a piece he wrote."  The last piece, Assume Crash Position, is nicely poetic, about the last words a pilot says before he crashes: "?But others may opt for spectacular car crashes, plunging airplanes, torpedoed ships, sharks, flames, drownings --an instant to pray, or do as poets must do: spew out last minute poems in quick, condensed spurts.  Like a box one opens, and out comes sweet stars, comets, Milky Way, the universe -- all this dazzling stuff compressed into a moment at the wall when all you have time to say is "I love you"."  A fine collection of heartwarming verse. 

Bathtub Gin poetry magazine published twice a year, chapbook format.  52 pages, $6 single issue or $10 subscription for two issues from Christopher Harter, C/O Bathtub Gin, PO Box 2392, Bloomington, IN  47402 email: Charter@bluemarble.net  http://www.bluemarble.net/~charter/btgin.htm  Although a little thin and expensive at $6 an issue, this is a professionally done, nice looking small poetry magazine with nice textured paper.  Good mix of poems from well-known and lesser known writers.  An incredibly beautiful yet sad poem from issue 3 by John Grey entitled Third Floor Apartment reads: "the silence of the syringe, dream damsel floating atop a motorcade of thoughts up and down his arms, lacerations fight like children to be heard  the woman is a whore this setting says, and yet how can you afford not to follow her, to save her where she lives  below, traffic exudes its bellicose vulgarity, one more grim way of getting places."  Some great stuff in there, with writer bios, reviews and black and white photographs, check it out.

The Dark Pages.  Artwords by Barb Yordy.  Poetry, photocopied and side stapled, 16 pages, $2 from Barb Yordy, 5001 West Walnut St., Lancaster, PA 17603.  This work of art lives up to it's name, with artwork and poetry of dark beauty.  The poems are mostly about how the main character survived child molestation and must live with the haunting scars and demons.  The first poem is an introduction to the rest of the chapbook: "Tossing and turning?furniture blocking a locked door?could he get in anyway?  I wondered -- he's still in the house, lying on the couch he molested me on?I need to sleep?my science project is due tomorrow and the teacher will never understand if I'm not there with bells on?I could surely use a  weapon to place under my pillow'this empty rum bottle would work just fine?mama, if he's just playing, why do I feel pain when he chokes me??why do I feel so traumatized when he gropes me?  Why do I feel so angry that I wish for the Nuclear Annihilation of the human race?  No!  Can't turn away mama!  This man is the reason why I believe in demons!  NO!  Don't collapse under his weight, weak mama!  This man has slaughtered angels!"  And that's just the first poem!  This collection draws you in and makes you feel compassion for the main character, and that's rare in poetry these days.  The artwork is first rate, with gripping detail and a hint of 19th Century Art Nouveau or 1960's Pcychedelia in the background details.  I look forward to more work from Barb Yordy, or how about a compilation of all the Barb Yordy/Phillip Buster (Kevin M. Hibshman) pieces?  That would be cool.  This is well worth the price, do check it out.

Funk/Works Poetry chapbook by Catfish McDaris and Mark Sonnenfeld.  28 pages,  $4 check made out to Mark Sonnenfeld, from MaryMark Press, 45-08 Old Millstone Drive, East Windsor, NJ 08520.  An interesting chapbook with drawings by various artists and poems by two wildly divergent poet styles.  In Funk, the first half of the chapbook, Catfish writes with tongue firmly planted in cheek, of boozing, carousing with women, shitting, pissing and fucking, a good measure of humour and dark wit thrown in; yet somehow Catfish is also serious and soul-searching.  In Works, Mark Sonnenfeld writes in a post-modern constructionist way, his words like a puzzle one has to crack and think about.  His poems are challenging to say the least. Confessions On Easter Under A  Full Moon by Catfish reads: "A quiet anger lives inside of me.  A volcano of rage.  It feeds on atrocities that exist in many shapes.  Women shrieking at unwanted children in shitty diapers.  Husbands slapping wives, cursing their love.  The blackhearted parents in Colorado of the dead little girl.  Blackassed O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson.  Rich prospering and promoting racism, eliminating the workers of America.  Politicians being bought and sold like $5 whores.  There is a grim darkness in our world.  Maybe we should start over?  IS there a solution?  Prayer?  Suicide?  Revolution?  Answer me God if you're sitting up on that big yellow moon.  If not, Fuck your mama!"  I like to go for the cheap laughs, myself!  Contrast that with the poem Deep Eleven by Sonnenfeld: "; fog-ice-a quintet that's right  psychic park pieces of red candy  Look not.  Me?  Like beginning to take in long talks  Falls-to keep physically Seen  unable wheels s onnenfeld 17th person in Force Pathway Odor Upon Color prayers : tire : to mental exhaust : strobe dim dull draggy frock coat {aluminum} upset stomach : out loud rock music is identified. I exist therefore."  It's kind of like the enigmatic lyrics of rock singer Michael Stipe of R.E.M., without the music though to carry you along.  Still, Mark's style grows on you and makes you think.  An interesting meeting of two distinct poetic minds, check it out.

The Hit-Man poetry chapbook by Harry R. Wilkins $5 US cash or check made out to Harry R. Wilkins, plus sase to Harry R. Wilkins, 86 rue Montbrilliant, CH-1202 Geneve, Switzerland.  I didn't care much for these pretentious blatherings by Harry, who was born and lives in Europe.  Some of these poems are politically incorrect and anti-American. What's the word I'm looking for?  Ah yes. Snotty.  The poem Politically Incorrect reads: "Joy overwhelmed us when that evening the newsboy passed by our table at the Geneva caf? shouting the headline: "Kennedy assassine a Dallas!"  Three years later, freezing as a newsboy on Vienna's Kennedy-Bridge, the remembrance of this joy helped me to keep warm."  What is the point of this viciousness?  To be "cool"?  Talk about Ugly Americans, how about Pseudo-Intellectual Asshole Europeans.  Another poem compares US soldiers visiting brothels in Germany to cockroaches slithering away before they get caught.  Other poems are just inept and pseudo-intellectual bullshit, as in Inside Out: "Is there a little dancing girl inside every old woman?  Or is there an old woman inside every little dancing girl?  And could there be a little dancing girl inside every old slut?  Or an old slut inside every dancing girl?"  How profound.  One almost imagines Maurice Chevalier breaking out into Thank Heavens Fore Little Girls.  I think I'm going to be sick.  You might like this monumentally awful drivel, but I didn't.  It is one of the few chapbooks I have ever received that has rubbed me the wrong way. 

Nixies poetry chapbook by Robert Edwards.  50 pages, $4 please make check out to Robert Edwards, Pemmican Press, PO Box 121, Redmond, WA 98073.  Finely polished poetry that bristles with a wonder for nature and man.  Little Myth reads: "All the doors in the universe explode their locks!  Quasars pulse deep within the brain!  A thunderous music migrates through our blood!  Now the empty bow is drawn back and aimed at the rising moon.  The old woman, older than tools, is reaching for our hands.  Rain clouds roll above the ripening corn.  We are no longer attached to our names."  I don't know what the title Nixies means, but I enjoyed this collection very much and went back to it again and again.  Fine poetry that deserves a read. 

Oh Amsterdammers!  Oh Amsterdammers!  Poetry book by Lee Bridges.  62 pages, $8  check made out to Dave Christy, 31 Waterloo St, New Hope, PA 18938.  Another delightful book of Post-Beat observations on humankind and life in and around Amsterdam, Lee's home.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the hash bars and red light districts, prayers for a new day and the alternating sadness and joy-de-vrie of life.  Travelers, Roads Twist reads: "Once they saw the same star what brilliance love, gaiety and wit in eternal bliss  spring waters spurting like some virgin maids of gold  How bright the dawn when hearts unfold.  Once they heard the same voice sad dissonance drab, dreary and unfit mourns of what is missed and of how hard it is to come in from the cold  the weeper's song of souls being sold.  And don't you know they never got paid just look at the way most folks get laid into holes in the floor when they've prayed and prayed.  Signing over this and crying over that while taking life as a matter of fact and of holes in the floor when they've prayed and prayed.  Once they touched the same women  Discontinuance Indeed, the truth of it so few can resist a whore's naked thigh  a mother's sweet endearing kiss.  The tale never grows old but travelers, roads twist."  A fine collection of memorable poetry and wisdom, take it out every once in a while like the Bible to treasure and behold.

Pemmican  Annual poetry magazine edited by Robert Edwards. 74 pages, $5 single copy, checks made out to Robert Edwards, Pemmican Press, PO Box 121, Redmond, WA 98073-0121.  Professional looking poetry magazine with finely polished poems of diverse styles.  A simple but powerful poem by Teresinka Pereira called Passion, reads: "Time can't ever bend me down.  I have a panoramic tongue, hungry eyes and invisible feet: I'm in love"  The Hunter by John Smelcer reads: "This evening I walk across tundra, it's long silence unrolling towards me, plunging in the wind. In the distance, whiter than bone dust, a bear listens  to the shape of the wind and the snow, smells the far scent of an ivory-toothed whale gripped in death's right belly.  It ranges up through ice, through air, to night where pale dots of light appear beyond the far edge of a blue frontier, and the moon is a hole torn at the top of a barren sky.  It is a scene slowly dying until all that remains a solitary bear clutching at emptiness; in a moment the sun too will be gone, hiding even it's spare embers as darkness gathers in folds in a far recess of winter."  Nicely crafted poetry by some fine poets.

Poems Of Boston and Just Beyond: From The Back Bay to The Back Ward, poetry chapbook by Douglas S. Holder.  $4 from Alpha Beat Press, check made out to Dave Christy, 31 Waterloo St, New Hope, PA 18938.  Tightly constructed poetry with interesting imagery dot this chapbook.  Poems about life in and around Boston and on a Psychiatry Ward at a hospital in Boston.  Fallen Cherub Outside A Liquor Store reads: "A rainy night with the sudden wasted light of the store's neon sign -- I saw him first his head his crown topped with a manicured puff of cream colored curls swirling into each other like the top of some celebratory cake supported by the abrupt ends of his crew cut rising from the sides of his head.  He turned his face towards me -- a smiling mouth that had turned cruel in a fresco of smoky, wet mist floating in a menthol cloud."  This is a very well done chapbook with poems that offer enigmatic, heartfelt, well-turned phrases and colorful ideas.  Well worth seeking out.

David Portolano: Prayers Of A Punk.  Spoken word poetry cd with jazz music.  30 minutes, $10 check made out to David Portolano, 163 Overmount Ave Apt H, West Paterson, NJ 07424.  lonemonk@aol.com.  Excellent poetry written and read by Dave Portolano, with spare music.  The second half sounds a little better, less muffled, but overall a nice production.  Nice photos and graphics, the back photo showing the poet at Kerouac's grave.  The poems evoke images of Kerouac and the Buddhist religion of which Dave is an ardent practitioner.  Some of the poems have appeared in Lucid Moon, and Dave gives a nice dedication to me and my magazine.  Producer Brian Aliano plays sax, bass and synthesizer and Dave also reads over some excerpts from Charlie "Bird" Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Slim and Ravi Shankar (which might be excised on the second pressing due to copyrights.  That would be a shame).  I have listened to this over and over and each time I listen to it I get more out of the readings.  The music is spare, just enough so that it doesn't overpower the readings.  A very enjoyable production, good work Dave! 

Random Kisses 4 Poetry mini-zine, c/0 Brian John Mitchell, ed., Random Kisses, PO Box 18062, Raleigh, NC 27619.  http://members.xoom.com/hrthrt/randomk.html   Each issue is two 34 cent stamps plus one sase.  Published irregularly.  24 pages, a new charming mini-poetry zine, 2" by 3 1/2", with brutal poetry that encourages the word "fuck".  Rimbaud would be proud.  Boring #14 reads: "Pull all this out of me so I'm purer  than you  Cut all this past out make me new  Make me beautiful  Make me blind  Because I want to love you.  Untitled next to it reads: "I muss your taste  I need to cut off  apiece of your flesh to chew and suck on to fulfill me to keep me sedated   to keep Reality away  to build my new religion on."  Writers are credited at beginning, not underneath each poem, so poetry seems to flow together.  A little downbeat, not for the faint of heart, but we can't all read about happy fluffy bunnies all the time!  A cool idea!

Time Blades  Short stories by Dan Buck.  $4 from Alpha Beat Press, check made out to Dave Christy, 31 Waterloo St., New Hope, PA 18938.  These very short stories are deadpan and dryly humorous, often with a twist ending.  Light reads: "The sunlight skipped across the lake as Fran dreamed about her fifth husband.  "He'll have to be strong and wise," Fran whispered, "Rich and handsome."  And of course her next husband was the answer to her dreams.  The trouble was she woke up too late."  Okay.  The question is, does Dan Buck realize he is being facetious?!  It gets a little repetitive and downbeat after a while, but some of it makes you smile. 

Waking In A Cold Sweat: 3 a.m. Recollections And Ruminations by Douglas Holder.  32 pages, self-published poetry chapbook, $3 to Ibbetson St. Press, 33 Ibbetson St., Somerville, MA 02143.  Nicely done clean looking poetry collection featuring poems reminiscent of childhood, Jewish ethnic food, the city of Boston, and family.  The Last Hot Dog reads: "Long after he was hungry -- it was the last thing he asked for with any appetite.  She brought it up to his sick bed  biting through the red casing  the familiar orgasm of juice hitting the roof of his mouth in some facsimile of his youth.  Bites of memory: the Summer ball parks.  The steam rising from the carts in warm fragrant clouds against the shock of Winter cold.  The mysterious, darkened delicatessens under the elevated tracks  the Bronyx gray afternoons dining with his father  the sullen, colorless meals  though, the franks fully garnished the bright yellow and green of mustard and relish.  HE swallowed hard but it was all too much to digest."  The family relationship vignettes, such as Final Screams Of A Spinster and In Bed With Your Wife are especially touching and poignant.  A wonderfully humane collection of inspiring poetry,  at a low price too. Well worth checking out.

Whew!  Poetry book by Lee Bridges. $8 from Alpha Beat Press, check made out to Dave Christy, 31 Waterloo St., New Hope, PA 18938.  An enthusiastic potsmoker (the cover features a bong like my grandmother has in her living room and my Uncle Teddy  was once caught smoking pot out of!), the African American poet Lee Bridges writes in a matter-of-fact Post-Beat style.  HE reminisces about being thrown in jail for smoking illegal weed, and he sometimes writes in song verse or prayer form of his sorrows and dreams and hope for the future.  Every Goodbye Ain't Gone reads: "Searing bolts branding trademarked chests heaving with all of the fears of Humankind trembling, tried and denied while submerging so deep into the abyss until all that can be hoped for is to wake up in the morning breathing "Thank God" every goodbye ain't gone."  A highly unusual and refreshing collection of poetry that recalls the Blues and soothes the soul and makes you want to toke up!  Well worth checking out.

Please send poetry books, chapbooks, cds, broadsides or whatever for review to Ralph Haselmann Jr. at 67 Norma Road, Hampton, New Jersey 08827.  Include price plus postage, who to make check out to, and address to order from.  I will review them within 2 weeks and send you a copy of the review.  Publishers have my permission in advance to reprint any part of my reviews as long as they send me a copy of what it appears in.  The reviews go out to several small press discussion lists, including David McNamara's poetry )ism( list, Doug Holder's list, Kelly DeSaint's list, J.J. Campbell's list and Frank Moore's list, after which they will be archived on my Lucid Moon Poetry Website. My reviews are also picked up by 5 websites, including Al Aronowitz' The Blacklisted Journalist website (http://www.bigmagic.com/pages/blackj), Joe Grant's BookZen website (http://www.bookzen.com/ ),  Andre Cordrescue's Exquisite Corpse, (http://www.exquisitecorpse.org), Carlye Archibeque's The Independent Review Site (http://www.irs.theroadlesstraveled.org), Brian Morrisey's Poesy magazine and website (http://www.geocities.com/bmorrise2/) Don Hoyt's Web Writer's Workshop (http://www.webwritersworkshop.com).  My telephone number is (908) 735-4447, e-mail ralphy@lucidmoonpoetry.com and my Lucid Moon Poetry Website is http://www.lucidmoonpoetry.com.  Please visit my website often and sign my guestbook!

Ralph Haselmann Jr.

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