SECTION TWELVE
POETRY REVIEWS

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COLUMN SEVENTY, APRIL 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)

[Still partially paralyzed from his freak auto accident last fall and still unable to speak because of his tracheotomy collar, Ralph Haselmann Jr. at this writing is accepting visitors at the Summit Ridge Rehabilitation Center at 100 Summit Avenue in West Orange, New Jersey, where he still faces months more of recuperation and rehabilitation.]

Fall 2000, Lucid Moon Website, http://www.lucidmoonpoetry.com

BOX OF ROCKS ISSUE ONE

Box Of Rocks Issue One, October 2000, Mini-chap of prose and short stories by various authors, 4" x 5", 88 pages, free/trade, send submissions to Box Of Rocks, P.O. Box 841, Bloomington, IN 47402-0841, e-mail chadredden@hotmail.com . This is a cool little zine of short stories by authors such as Maria Kazalia, Dan Buck, M.J. Dykes, Jason George, Mandi J. Priest, Marcia Renee Goodman, V. Moxious and Chad Redden. The illustrations were cool 1950's parodies, and the short stories were interesting as well, a kaleidoscope of styles. Most touching was Goodman's Flesh, about a woman who becomes drawn to a dress in a window shop and the shopowner whose daughter the dress belonged to. A masterful little story, very poignant. Dan Buck's little micro stories are wacky, you don't know if he's aware that he's being facetious or not! The other stories were cool too. I found Maria Kazalia to be abrasive as usual, a little hard to take. Overall a good collection of writings. This is a quirky little publication, and it's available free or as a trade. Send your stories and send some money, I'd like to read future issues.

THE CANNABIS POET

The Cannabis Poet: A World Of Smoke by Lee Bridges. Poetry book, 2000, 64 pages, $7 to Dave Christy, Alpha Beat Press, 31 Waterloo Street, New Hope, PA 18938 Another charming meditation on love, smoking reefer in coffeehouses in Amsterdam, and just being alive and soaking it all in, by The Cannabis Poet, Lee Bridges. Long Overdue reads: "In the silence in the darkness in the loneliness there is you In the distance in the yonder in the nothingness there is you In the evenings in the mornings when lofty skies are warm and blue Your nearness is indeed a long time overdue." Lee is a gentle poet; his activism for legalizing pot worldwide is a good cause. His cheerfulness is catching, let it roll all over you and touch your heart.

 CITY OF POETS

City Of Poets (18 Boston Voices), Poetry anthology by various Boston area poets, 2000, 106 pages, $10 Douglas Holder, Singing Bone Press, 33 Ibbetson Street, Somerville, MA, 02143. A fine collection of diverse poetic voices, too many good poems to single out, but Rufus Goodwin's poems sang to me the most. His poem As Evening Walks By reads: "Sleep, for there are no abstractions in sleep, no empty thoughts in dreams--so dream. Askance, the dancer is at once her dance. Picture and sign become one: Light: the breath of the mind. Belief: the leaf strewn, lovelit lane. Walk here, in arbored shade, sunset on a balcony of sky. Quick, come as the passing swallow, even as evening walks away. Sleep, for there are no abstractions in sleep, no empty thoughts in dreams--so dream. Askance." That's as lush and beautiful as a Kleenex forest! Many other good poets as well. Kudos to Douglas Holder and Singing Bone Press/Ibbetson St. Press for putting together such a refreshing collection of poetry.

CHOPSTIX NUMBERS 

Chopstix Numbers, Poetry book by Craig Cotter, 2000, 86 pages, $12 from Ahsahta Press, Dept. Of English, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, Idaho 83725. I enjoyed this wistful, sweet and sour collection of poetry musings told in the persona of a gay Asian male. The main character obsesses about sex and about his weight and cruises the local nightspot, Chopstix. The poems are told in diary journal entries. 4/22/96 reads "Chopstix. Gay Asian saturday nights only. west hollywood?other nights straight. My shape is as unpleasant as this disco music & the filipino drag queen, 19, in white hot pants, white tube top, mandatory black spikes, his tattoos & straight shoulder length black hair a cigarette holder. Cube glass wall giving me the acid trip view of santa monica boulevard green & purple stars and can I make out an international house of pancakes? I'm first in Chopstix watching 15 young asians set up for Saturday night…" The poems were matter-of-fact, straightforward, warm and funny, and I dreamt I had an Asian boyfriend after reading this collection! With all the sex going on, Aids is seen as ominous, but just another precaution. A lot of the sex comes out of massage sessions and the atmosphere is casual. A night world far apart from my own sheltered existence. I enjoyed this collection immensely, it's the type of writing that can be revisited with new insights picked up on each time you reread it. I highly recommend Chopstix Numbers.

THE COLLECTED POEMS

The Collected Poems, Poetry book by Stanley Kunitz, 2000, 284 pages, $27.95, available at your local bookstore or by special order. Stanley Kunitz is now 95 and Poet Laureate; he writes lyrical verse, and this is a strong collection spanning from 1928 to the present, with excerpts from all his major poetry collections. The poems are academic, but some are really poetic and come alive with beautiful turns of phrases. Most exceptional is When The Light Falls from This Garland, Danger, Selected Poems 1928-1958: "When the light falls, it falls on her in whose rose-gilded chamber a music strained through mind turns everything to measure. The light that seeks her out finds answering light within, and the two join hands and dance on either side of her skin. The lily and the swan attend her whiter pride, while the courtly laurel kneels to kiss his mantling bride. Under each cherry-bough she spreads her silken cloths at the rumour of a wind, to gather up her deaths, for the petals of her heart are shaken in a night, whose ceremonial art is dying into light." These poems are from another era, old fashioned in rhyme, meter, etc, but they are a nice antidote to what passes for much of poetry today! Highly recommended.

DANCING WITH THE ONE-ARMED MAN 

Dancing With The One-Armed Man, poetry chapbook by Alison Pelegrin, 2000, 36 pages, $6 from Slipstream, Box 2071, Niagara Falls, NY 14301. Poet Alison Pelegrin weaves quiet tales of desolation, all couched in rich detail and character illustration. She writes about her mother, her uncle Earl, Eunice and other characters that seem ordinary but have a hint of star power. She dances in the title poem with a one-armed man who moves gracefully across the floor like a Fred Astaire. Reading the poem, you almost wish she was with the real Astaire, then his one arm wouldn't matter. The title poem reads: "He spins me, and his one good arm is stronger than I thought. I can see through his yellow oxford--a ribbed undershirt, air beneath his elbow. When he turns me to his chest I feel the crinkle of his pocket full of peppermints. The tobacco smell he's steeped in wraps around us like a sweet cherry sheet. Heavy and misshapen, the half-arm hooks my waist, and his eyes push me backwards in a waltz. His leather shoes whisper across the floor until they barely touch, and when the song is over we keep moving. I'm afraid he'll dance away my legs or twist me into spins until I vanish. Then he's have to cover up my stumbling the way I've poised my right arm to hide his empty sleeve."

"The tobacco smell he's steeped in" is a good description, and it is often smells that reconnect us to memories of a time and place long ago. Alison Pelegrin makes her memories ours. A fine collection.

DREAMS AT THE AU BON PAIN 

Dreams At The Au Bon Pain, poetry chapbook by Douglas Holder, 20 pages, 1999, $2 from Doug Holder at Ibbetson St. Press, 33 Ibbetson Street, Somerville, MA 02143. These poems are not pretty--musings about the psychiatric ward, of J. Edgar Hoover getting reamed up the ass, of wrestling his father in the nude, of memories of Auschwitz death camps--it all makes for some pretty powerful imagery---dreams or nightmares or musings at the caf? Au Bon Pain--a real place or a fictional state of mind. A Lucien Freud Nude reads: "Her head thrown back in abandon---the legs like generous thick shanks of beef. The breasts--large and flat lay deflated on the corpulent folds of her stomach. What does she welcome? Or welcomed? Spread like pastry lard on a couch looking into the heavens for some piercing answer through the barriers of undulating flesh." Douglas Holder is a fine poet, and here he comes up with poems we may not want to read about, but we surely must admire his style and talent.

FOOLING WITH WORDS

Fooling With Words, A Celebration Of Poets And Their Craft poet interviews by Bill Moyers. 1999, 230 pages, hardcover, $20 available in bookstores or by special order. Here the gentle voice of PBS, Bill Moyers interviews eleven poets at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo, New Jersey in 1998, including Coleman Barks, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Mark Doty, Deborah Garrison, Jane Hirshfield, Stanley Kunitz, Kurtis Lamkin, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Paul Muldoon, Marge Piercy and Robert Pinsky. No underground Beat poets here, just erudite musings with academic poets. Still, a rich tapestry of poems, interviews, words and ideas. Coleman Barks comments on how the mind makes poetic connections: "The way images and rhythms and sound clusters work on us and through us is complicated and hidden deep in the DNA. There's an innate, mysterious core to the poetic talent, a genius that can't be explained, which doesn't mean we aren't aware of it. We hear it, and we can celebrate it. The thing is to just sit, or walk around, and fiddle with language, listen to language, and see what turns up. Let yourself be open. I like "form? that feels left open." Fine conversations with Mark Doty and Robert Pinsky as well, the then-Poet Laureate. This is a great little book worth many readings. I met Bill Moyers at a book signing in Clinton, New Jersey for this book and he signed my copy, "For Ralph, a kindred spirit." I gave him some of my poems to read and fully expect to be among the next volume of poets he interviews!

THE GLANCE 

The Glance (Songs Of Soul-Meeting) Poetry book By Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. Hardcover, 1999, 99 pages, $18, available at your local bookstore or by special order. Jelaluddin Rumi was a 12th century Persian poet who had a life-transforming meeting with Shams of Tabriz; they became close friends and soul mates and Rumi started writing his poetry, 3000 poems in all; about 1000 are translated so far. With this volume Rumi writes about love and deep friendship. The poems are good but I wanted them to be somehow more majestic and mystical. Only a few of the poems in this volume are exceptional. One that is excellent, What Is The Heart, reads: "What is the heart? It is not human, and it is not imaginary. I call it you. Stately bird, who one moment combines with this world, and the next, and passes through the boundary to the unseen. The soul cannot find you because you are the soul's wings, how it moves. Eyes cannot see you: you are the source of sight. You're the one thing repentance will not repent, nor news report. Spring comes: one seed refuses to germinate and start being a tree. One poor piece of wood blackens but will not catch fire. The alchemist wonders at a bit of copper that resists turning to gold. Who am I that I'm with you and still myself? When the sun comes up, the complicated nightmind of the constellations fades. Snowforms do not last through July. The heart-quality embodied by our master, Shams Tabriz, will always dissolve the old quarrel between those who believe in the dignity of a human being's decisions and those who claim they're an illusion." I was disappointed in what I was led to believe was a terrific mystical poet. The bulk of this book is just ordinary. I'll have to read other Rumi collections to be convinced of his greatness. In the Islamic world, Rumi is akin to Kahlil Gibran or Walt Whitman. From what I've read so far I'll say he's not in their class, not by a long shot. I'll get back to you on this poet!

THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE

The Language Of Life, A Festival Of Poets poetry interviews by Bill Moyers. 1995, Softcover, 450 pages, $18.95, available at your local bookstore or by special order. If Fooling With Words is a primer, this is an encyclopedia of interviews with prominent poets, including W. S. Merwin, Claribel Alegria, James A. Autry, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, Marilyn Chin, Lucille Clifton, William Stafford, Victor Hernandaz Cruz, Rita Dove, Carolyn Forche, Donald Hall, Joy Harjo, Michael S. Harper, Robert Haas, Garrett Kaoru Hongo, Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon, Stanley Kunitz, Li-Young Lee, Linda McCarriston, Sandra McPherson, David Mura, Naomi Shihab Nye, Adrienne Rich, Galway Kinnell, Gary Snyder, Gerald Stern, Sekou Sundiata, Mary Tallmountain, Quincy Troupe, Daisy Zamora, and Octavio Paz. This book is indispensible for the ideas and images presented, a must read for every serious poet. A companion video series exists which ran on PBS.

LOST LEDGE

Lost Ledge, poetry book by Mokuo Nagayama, 1999, 84 pages, $10 The Zion Press, 165-83, Arise, Ikawadani-cho Nishi-ku, Kobe, 651-2113 Japan. A thoughtful collection of delicate verse about mountain climbing and taking in the vastness of it all. Sleepless Night reads: "There falls upon me a night longer than a trail heavier than a burden and colder than frost Head just laid on the knapsack eyes gazing at the darkness ears trying to listen to the voice of silence Turns and twists of the body on the bare floor make the soul slip away to tread a frozen path picking up mountain fragments calling up mountain memories." The author comes up with some beautiful turns of phrases and meditations on hiking. A breath of fresh air.

PET FOODS

Pet Food Some words by Catfish McDaris. Mini poetry chap, 2000, 20 pages, $2 to Showerhead Press, C/O Josh Filan, 9430 Claire Ave, Northridge, CA 91324. Catfish McDaris is a hilarious amigo, his poems are witty and fresh. This is a cute but somewhat slight production, with 5 poems and some Pizza Hut coupons woven into the binding! Most funny was Birdman From Albuquerque, about trying to get rid of some pigeons resting on the roof. I'd like to read some meatier full-length collections of McDaris' work, but this is a charming gem.

POEMS FROM 42ND STREET

Poems From 42nd Street, Poetry book by Rufus Goodwin with drawings by Phyllis Yampolsky. 2000, 96 pages, $6 from Doug Holder at Ibbetson St. Press, 33 Ibbetson Street, Somerville, MA 02143. This is a beautiful book with charming drawings. The typeface seems handwritten, a nice effect. Each poem is about the poem taking the form of something else--42nd street, a caf?, a desk, prison walls, a winding road. The language is soft and subtle and rich. Down The Road reads: "The car, swallowed up by night, was headed somewhere, somewhere, down the long road of hindsight from where I used to care. This was a bygone place out by an ancient garden that wore a familiar face where God gave the first pardon. The night was full of soft talk about the future of true love, and I almost got out to walk in the direction I was thinking of. But the car kept moving to the radio, the future just wouldn't stop, the darkness itself was on the go so I simply put down the canvas top. A star seemed so high to climb might have followed it out of mind, but memories of forgotten time had me driving almost blind. No, the future was yet, yes, yet to come, a destination where we unload the love that miles away some one waits for on the winding road." These poems, taken together, take you into their world on a journey into the long good night. Highly recommended.

STAIN 

Stain, poetry cd by T. Anders Carson. 2000, 38 minutes, see website for price and ordering information http://www.members.tripod.com/TACARSON . This is a wonderful poetry collection read by poet T. Anders Carson, full of vitality and life, poetic musings and wistful memories. Each poem is full of ideas that stay with you long after the cd ends. What a refreshing breath of fresh air, compared to the nerdy noodlings of Charles Ardinger, reviewed elsewhere. This is poetry that sings. Highly recommended.

YOU HEAR ME?

You Hear Me? Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys, edited by Betsy Franco. $14.99, 2000, 108 pages, hardcover, available at your local bookstore or by special order. This is a moving collection of fierce poetic words by voices dying to be heard. The streets are a lonely place, even the schoolyard where bullies abound. Most touching was the essay by Nick Sletten, age 13, called Being Beat Up. Nick has Tourettes Syndrome, a little understood disease that causes facial and vocal tics and sometimes uncontrolled cursing. I have a friend who suffers from Tourettes so I know the teasing and taunting one has to endure. The teenagers represented here are angry, defiant, horny and vulnerable. Out Of My Life by Corey Edge, age 17, reads: "I want my grandmother to stop sending me to the store with fifty dollars worth of bottles not sold in Michigan. I want my grandfather to stop telling the same war stories that begin at breakfast and end after dinner. I want the Kool-Aid to stop disappearing in one hour. I want the ice trays to stay filled. I want the only bathroom in the house to be free for me when nature calls. I want big Ms. Whitaker to stop wearing that frizzy wig and pink dress that barely covers what only her husband needs to see. I want this to be the last stanza of this poem so I can burn this worn down pencil and inhale the ashes." Thank God there is only one rap poem, but this book prevents a diversity of styles and moods. A fine way to get inside what teenagers are thinking today. Editor Betsy Franco has also done a companion volume for teenage girls called Sharing Secrets. Both highly recommended.

 THE WHO

The Who poetry cd by Charles Ardinger, 2000, 37 minutes, $10 to Robert Roden, Temporary Vandalism, P. O. Box 6184, Orange, CA 92863. Charles Ardinger is an Orange County poet who has somewhat of a following, and with this cd it's hard to see why. He is the perpetual high school nerd, even doing a rap at one point. White people can't rap. Somewhere between a Beat poet and an abstract modern poet, Charles muses on a variety of subjects that catch your attention. He uses words to sculpt a mood that evokes the ugliness of everyday life, but he has a dry sense of humour that offsets the ugliness. Still, this cd bored me to death. I longed for majestic poetry after hearing this, instead of mundane poetry that celebrated the banality of life.

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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