(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)

[At this writing, LUCID MOON editor Ralph Haselmann Jr. is still recuperating in Morristown Memorial Hospital, Morristown, N.J., from injuries suffered in a freak auto accident near his home. An infected wound in his back refuses to heal and he can't speak to visitors because of a tracheotomy tube in his throat, according to his mother, Kathy Haselmann. She is trying to arrange his transfer to the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in West Orange once he is discharged from the hospital.]

Amerika by dot-to-dot, poetry chapbook by Paul Weinman. 1998, 28 pages, $2 cash or check made out to Cari Taplin, editor, Kitty Litter Press, PO Box 3189, Nederland, CO 80466-3189. Paul Weinman is a poet who is committed to his work. He squeezes out all the intellectual doodoo and reshapes it into hot air balloons from where he catches glimpses of America by dot-to-dot. He starts off each poem with a town, state and population figure and then takes a poetic snapshot of that town in paragraph form with hilarious details. It's all like some comical almanac entry. Often, he lets his hot air balloon soar to heights of silliness. Old Coast, SC. Popl. 7,884 '88 reads: "Gonads had been listed for the Deli Dept. Aged tractors as floor supervisors. "Damn!" said the grandmother of 21. "Hot damn and donuts for quack doctors and for all potholes that fester with crickets!" My mother had warned me of these thickening days. She'd sit me down and tap my head wack, wack it with her wooden spoon. Her chant was steady, her clothes…ragged And, I'll admit, even my midlife erections would respond to the sigh of old shoes. Kind of a delayed reaction." I can't take this stuff seriously as poetry, but it sure is amusing and Weinman has found a new form to work within. He's certainly an original!

Balloons and Twisted Pins, poetry chapbook by Steve Conway and Cari Taplin. 1997, 16 pages, $2 cash or check made out to Cari Taplin, editor, Kitty Litter Press, PO Box 3189, Nederland, CO 80466-3189. A fine collaboration of somewhat prickly poetry, hence the title Balloons and Twisted Pins. The Wind Whispers by Steve Conway reads: "The wind whispers through the trees while waves wash onto the shore where weather worn rocks are kissed by the warmth of wispy rays of sun when it rises from the watery sea wagon wheels widen the ruts of time washed on its westward journey wafting overhead waking the world eventually waning wearily from whence it came & a waterfall of stars weepingly works across the wideness of sky." Wideness Of Sky by Cari Taplin reads: "never been so vulnerable and free as when I was under the huge and infinite sky of Wyoming or Montana or South Dakota or new Mexico or Kansas or any number of places where trees and city structures don't block the view close you in. where the truth of Mother Nature takes your breath." These two poets go well together.

Black Spring Press mezzotint series. Free with sase to Black Spring Press, 61-36 160th Street, Flushing, NY 11365. A mezzotint is a colored cardboard broadside equaling 4 pages of poetry. This is a fine looking series with some surprising and engaging poetry. #4, Teachers Thinking I Was Unprepared by Miriam A. Cohen had some terse imagery and fine details. Cancer reads: "Wooden Dove on my mantle sedates the room today I am fully devoted to "Marilyn" who shared affection like a big dog; small cat with little life left." Miriam's poetry is nostalgic for a better time. #5, Notes From The Underground by Albert Huffstickler repeats certain phrases in each poem to good effect. That Certain Something reads: "I like the way she sits, I relish the affinity of ass and chair, the arch of her back, the prim poise of her seatedness deluges me in fantasies, I like the way she sits." #6, The Horseman Knew Her, by Raymond Mason, is funny in a stand-up comedy sort of way. Times and Times reads: Some politician has written a pamphlet stating that if your children start getting humanistic ideas they are most certainly on drugs! No doubt about it. In my young days they thought you were a communist."

+a-dump-ba! #7, Blues Lecture #1 by Gordon T. Osing is divided into 13 parts, each part a saying of wisdom about the blues. #2 Reads: "Image devours image in the forest, shadow light, ad infinitum; in the random, decomposing leaf capillaries resides an old map of Paris." Some insightful heavy logic going on there, very refreshing. #8, Beyond A Man Thing by John Grey has some rough violent imagery, if you like your poetry dark. The Cut In Your Arm reads: "you're looking at your blood like it's a mirror your face is forming in each droplet your cheeks like flaming roses your eyes red as sunsets you figure it's a prison breakout you're escaping from yourself down your trembling arm over your white knuckles along the ridges of your palm that's you dripping like a melting rooftop making puddle after puddle on the floor it's a kind of thaw you tell the stabbing pain you'll take it." #9, The Aesthetics of a Yo-Yo by Nathan Graziano is a good overview of his style, which is rich in detail and has good use of metaphors but is slightly ho-hum. Style reads: "Everyone has a tattoo these days. Then there's you. Blue jeans and a t-shirt, hair pulled back in a dull ponytail. Pierced plainly in the ears only. But I see your style so clear when you light a cigarette or reach across my chest to turn off the bedroom light." I'd like to see more tension and drama in Nate's poetry. He does have talent, it just need s a jumpstart. All in all a good series, for the price of a sase, which can't be beat. 

Caught In A Crystal Bowl, poetry chapbook by Wolfgang Somary. 2000, 32 pages, $6 check made out to Manifold, 99 Vera Ave., London N21 1RP. This is a well-written collection of verse that touches on cosmology, ancient myths, nature and the beauty of life. The opening poem is ripe with amazing imagery: A Singer's Prayers: " Tinder of life in the fire I glow, wind of the free in the breath that I blow, ploughman on horseback on earth that I fill, sail of my hope on the ocean I spill, sum of all sounds, you beyond names, tongue of my silence and cadence of flames: sing through my throat, oh make me your flute -- my pulse be your cymbals, my heartstrings your lute. Lend me the hum of an eagle in flight, a comet in snowdrift to brighten your night, the crown of an elm to shelter your birds, tune me to sing you a song without words…" Beautiful sing-song imagery and a sense of history make this collection a treat to read.

The Cardinal Points, poetry chapbook by Carlos Sherman. 2000, 96 pages, $10 check made out to Manifold, 99 Vera Ave., London N21 1RP. Beautiful Native American Indian poetry steeped in nature, tribal lore and mysticism. Sherman writes with dignity and poise of the afterlife in many of the poems here, including Milky Way: "River Of heaven of Indian history the home of gods, animals and deeds, cradle of myth-science or science-myth Andes Bible who art in heaven, confirm, I pray, the holiness of the past. That wise law of the Indian who has studied your stars that he might understand His own life Milky Way, witness eternal to life and death, image of the Andes from sun to sun, and from moon to moon, cradle of myth-science or science-myth, Andes Bible who art in heaven, recall, I pray, the genocide of yesterday, today and tomorrow, for ever and ever, Hau." These are the best, most heartfelt poems I read this week, and the book is in four languages, including Spanish, English, and Russian.

Eternal Hum, poetry chapbook By Dave Church. 2000, 20 pages, $2 cash or check made out to Cari Taplin, editor, Kitty Litter Press, PO Box 3189, Nederland, CO 80466. Another fine Kitty Litter chapbook, this one by Dave Church is full of short and sweet poems, plain and simple observations. The Falling Of The First Snow reads: "The falling of the first snow arrived today just as moon drifted off to sleep. Landscape blizzard white by sunburst at high noon -- leaving me dreaming young again -- when fun was ordinary -- and time present tense only. Before night blackened sky, I sat back near my window -- my ears to children below -- moving me to smile -- not enough though to join in -- the years having drained that part of me." Church has a keen eye for detail and a good way of commenting on life that comes off as hard-won wisdom. A fine effort. I would like to see a full length book by Dave Church some day, he has a lot to say and he says it well.

First Flush, poetry chapbook by Bob Newman. 1999, 40 pages, $6 check made out to Manifold, 99 Vera Ave., London N21 1RP. Newman writes about such subjects as love and science with a playfulness and an air of knowledge about him. Eclipse reads: "This is the day when we shall see the moon dispute the morning sky; usurp the sun; beshroud the world in unaccustomed dark. We know this -- and we know it won't last long. This is the day; the wait will not be long until we're on the dark side of the moon. Unseen by us, our life-giver, the sun, will impotently rage against the dark. The birds, lulled into silence by the dark, will tuck heads under wings " but not for long. Two minutes only, this night of the moon, before the sky is reclaimed by the sun. Though there is nothing new under the sun, all seems new at the dying of the dark. A second full dawn chorus, loud and long will celebrate the passing of the moon. Don't worry when the moon obscures the sun, although the day be dark, it won't be long." The poems are informative, funny, and unapolagetically British in a formal way. A good collection.

Love-Hate Continuum, poetry chapbook by Mark Terrill, with cover art by Terrill. 2001, 36 pages, $5 cash or check made out to Green Bean Press, PO Box 237, NYC 10013. Mark Terrill has a fine sense of humour and displays it well in this chapbook. Ultimatum reads: " I remember picking you up on the way to work you sitting on the steps of your Palo Alto house reading your bible me, hungover, tired, in my junkyard Rambler station wagon knowing the whole thing was doomed already you having told me it was me or him and me being a non-believer I knew I didn't stand a chance against the allure of that goofy carpenter's son from Bethlehem and when it was finally over I wasn't so pissed that you'd been born again I was just pissed that you'd been born at all." Just the right amount of sarcasm to balance the humour in these poems. Terrill writes with a wizened air, been there done that. I enjoyed this collection.

The Lummox Book Of Days, 2001 Calander with maxims by B.Z. Niditch. 2001, 64 pages, $6 ppd cash or check made out to The Lummox Press, POB 5301, San Pedro, CA 90733. This is a handy little calendar, another in the charming Little Red Book series, with 150 maxims by B.Z. Niditch, such as "To be alone and isolated is to be a writer" and "every poet is born with a death sentence: the death of his language." A little stern, but these maxims make you think and are fun to read.

The San Pedro Poems, poetry chapbook by Raindog (R.D. Armstrong). 2001, 48 pages, $6 ppd to The Lummox Press, POB 5301, San Pedro, CA 90733. Here Raindog writes of a time and a place, San Pedro, California, final home of poet Charles Bukowski. The poems are wistful and sad and funny all at the same time. San Pedro reads: "Yes, it's true, I left San Pedro though in truth it must also be said that you can never leave this town entirely. It will follow you like a bad rumour like a stray dog like a dream never realized never captured. Even though I only lived here for 6 years it felt like home to me. But "home" is an uneasy concept something always sought after rarely achieved "A place in the world" a distant vision a life glimpsed in passing something that I've seen or thought I've seen but never been able to find when I retraced my steps…There will always be a piece of San Pedro buried deep in my heart. A burning ember that cannot be ignored." A fine collection, Raindog writes well.

Seasons From The Second Floor, poetry chapbook by Nathan Graziano. 2001, 52 pages, $5 cash or check made out to Green Bean Press, PO Box 237, NYC 10013. Nate Graziano is a meat and potatoes poet. Which is ok, I like my steak with ketchup and onions and my potato with globs of butter and sour cream and salt and pepper. Hence the problem -- Nate doesn't write with ketchup and onions and globs of butter and sour cream and salt and pepper, he just sticks to meat and potatoes, which is bland and boring. One Romantic reads: "She's sitting on the couch. The phone bill in her lap. A calculator in one hand and a strand of brown hair wrapped around her index finger. She's dividing a large number by two. I'm sitting cross-legged on the rug. Picking at the blue carpet and staring out the window at a telephone wire cutting across a tree. I'm thinking about Kansas and how crisp the air tastes in the middle of nowhere." Kinda wistful, kinda funny, kinda dull too. I dunno, Nathan has talent, but I've read better by Nathan.

The Spirit Collection, poetry chapbook by Elizabeth Kay. 2000, 42 pages, $7 check made out to MANIFOLD, 99 Vera Ave., London N21 1RP… Elizabeth Kay writes tightly constructed verse that mostly rhymes. Her poems are rich in description and are often humorous. She uses razor-sharp metaphors that suggest a fine wit and vocabulary. Metrophobia reads: "a fear of poetry runs deep within the class. The students blanch at words like ode; trip over feet, feel sure they'll never win; whatever is a bloody antipode? Zit's like an exercise in writing code. Sestinas come and go, the weeks progress; the metre's inching forward, stress is less pronounced. Some hone and polish, some refrain; some learn the rules, apply them -- others guess, go blank, get tanka-ed up, and try again. Note the puns "metre's inching forward" and "get tanka-ed up". I enjoyed the playfulness in Kay's work very much.  

Uncertain Age, poetry chapbook by Hilary Sheers. 2000, 54 pages, $8 check made out to Manifold, 99 Vera Ave., London N21 1RP. Beautifully wrought turn of phrases and pungent imagery make this poetry collection sing. Old Haunts reads: "For old times' sake I found the pub again hard by the long abandoned slipway and the dead docks now bedecked with flower baskets its sign repainted gilt with curlicues inside, the frosted glass replaced with reproduction pine and fruit machines even the bar billiards table glowed green as a fresh mown lawn stroked by new cues. I left friends seated round a table twenty years ago basking in the pallid sun of May their sooty salty wit glistening on the dust black smoky garden. I had expected them to sail as I was doing out on the tide to more vigorous places done with this dancing ring the neverending swapping of emotional washing. I took my drink to the faded lawn beside these watery streets where sat the group, slumped deeper in their seats hands stiffening round glasses skin, cheeks, bellies, breasts sagging the walk up to the bar an effort. Dawdling years shrunk flat as their slothful talk batted sluggish from lip to ear and back unnoticed like the passing ships. I was the wonder of the year wit barbed sharp as tennis balls lobbed in a slow descriptive arc till lethargy stole back. Over the drawling sentences I caught a quick riposte a cuffing shot, a verbal volley. I looked to see the source. Slow eyes followed mine reflecting in their desultory gaze a group of twenty-somethings whose talk waltzed bright as skin, taut as muscles, fresh as bitter tossing the future in the air." Sheers tackles such wistful subjects as getting older, memories, old haunts. A fine collection.

What's This About, Then?, poetry chapbook by Kevin L. Donihe, with cover art by Matt B. Seats 2000, 24 pages, $2 cash or check made out to Cari Taplin, editor, Kitty Litter Press, PO Box 3189, Nederland, CO 80466. This is poetry that Edgar Allen Poe might write today, if he were alive and fey! The poems are heartfelt, tender, and a little dark. In The Garden Of Kali reads: "In the Garden of Kali wafts the odor of honeysuckle of rosewood (step cautiously -- the roots here drink from the memories of divorced flesh/denuded bone and at the core of each flower lies a calcium smile) a true gardener knows that for every death there is a convulsive yet equally beautiful birth and in the Garden of Kali every grave opens into a womb." Kevin writes really well; this is some of the best poetry I reviewed this week.

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,  and J.J. Campbell's list, after which they will be archived on my Lucid Moon Poetry Website. My reviews are also  picked up by 6 websites, including Al Aronowitz' The Blacklisted Journalist website ( ), Joe Grant's BookZen website ( ),  Andre Cordrescue's Exquisite Corpse, (, Carlye Archibeque's The Independent Review Site (, Brian Morrisey's Poesy magazine and website ( Don Hoyt's Web Writer's Workshop  My telephone number is (908) 735-4447, e-mail and my Lucid Moon Poetry Website is  Please visit my website often and sign my guestbook!

Ralph Haselmann Jr.  ##



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