THE BOOK BUFFET
LOOKING FOR A SOFT PLACE TO LAND. Poems by Cin Salach. Tia Chucha Press, 1996, 69p, $10.95. Reviewed by Ken Morris.
LOOKING FOR A SOFT PLACE TO LAND is performance poet Cin Salach's first full-length of poetry (and unfortunately the only book to date). It is a most pleasant surprise, from the intriguing and attractive cover by Mark Pennell-Howell to the depth of the emotion-laden poems that fill her book. Sadly, many poets who successfully perform in bars and pubs and engage a drinking audience's attention very often fail in their transition to the printed page, largely because there isn't the immediate connection with the audience. A poet's strengths as a reader and performer cannot compensate for weaknesses which are all too clearly apparent when reduced to black and white.
Cin Salach adroitly avoids this pitfall by her care and attention in crafting her poems without losing the spark that drives them. Further, she is aware of what poems are here for in the first place. In "Freeing the Fossil," she writes of words that "They are telling me to dream/in colors I have not yet dreamed." The poem's concluding verse makes no rational sense whatsoever, yet wonderfully describes in the language of poetry both its legacy and purpose:
Their stories have fertilized this ground
Where the next step waits to fall,
And I raise to my lips this floor
Of history's forest.
I lift it up to my mouth,
But before it can touch my tongue
It sprouts wings
It becomes the sky.
LOOKING FOR A SOFT PLACE TO LAND contains one of the most strikingly beautiful poems I've read in years. "Open Mouths" begins
In my dream I was wishing
I had another language/to speak to you in,"
and perfectly captures the feeling of thankfulness that only fully appreciated love can bring. One of the great strengths of Cin Salach's poetry is the depth of emotion and appreciation she expresses about and to the people who have helped shape and influence her life. The contrast between poems such as "Birth Days" and "Fibers of Me," dedicated to her mother and father respectively, and "Blonde," which is about Marilyn Monroe, reveals one of Salach's strongest underlying themes. The importance of genuine personal connections is far more important than the falseness of perceptions based on image and hollow traditions (as in "Church"). What is impressive about how Cin Salach deals with what could be shattering disillusionment is that she refuses to let her voice be silenced by it and her sense of hope is contagious as in "After Cages":
History left you alone here,
Don't let the future do the same.
But you are feeling the wind in your hair, finally After all these years
And the answer is almost too easy:
Send history packing,
But keep the future panting.
Claim this sky for yourself.
Make it sacred.
Declare it off limits to anyone
Who isn't madly in love with you.
Understand that not everyone will be.
The optimism Salach expresses in many of her poems seems to come from a sense that living life with an appreciation and awareness of its blessings matters more than anything and a sureness that poetry and art are more than simply relevant: They are transformative. The sculptor in "More" pushes and polishes "rough into smooth/Nothing into something/Something/into more." In "The Ocean's Reply,":
Flesh can send a scientist screaming
Or drive an inventor insane
But the fingerprints it leaves behind,
The layers of lifetimes,
Every relationship's ripple,
Will continue to spurt and spawn
New skin New stories.
Human handholds for the future.
In the same poem are two of my favorite lines because they are wise, humorous and provocative at the same time: "This body of information is not easily accessible/Dance with me and you'll know." Awareness is active, not merely observed or felt, but Salach doesn't claim to be omniscient or even sure of herself despite her awareness. As she puts it in "I'm a Stranger Here Myself,":
Each part of my body has different ideas about Where it should go./
And how it should look
Putting one foot in front of the other
Is more likely to cause
Than forward movement.
Cin Salach's voice in Looking for a Soft Place to Land is, more often than not, intensely personal, and she is not afraid to poke fun at herself or to show her vulnerability, which is one of this book's most endearing qualities. She draws the reader very deep inside her world and the reader goes more than willingly. By sharing her uncertainties and passions with us, Salach makes the emotional connection with the reader immediate because we relate to her and want to see things the way she does because it feels like the real truth, and her words of encouragement, when they come, have the impact of revelation because she allows us to feel and learn along with her. A good example of this is "Specifically," about writer's block. I understand exactly what she means by "This is what I was afraid of:/This paper this thought lines/dividing white space lines diving/nothing…this ache/this loss/for words." The brilliant paradox here is that Salach writes with authority but does not project an air of authority unless it is needed, as in the anthemic "You Have the Right Not to Remain Silent."
This is not to say that Cin Salach is all sweetness and vulnerability. "The Cheated Heart" and "Get Human" almost seems out of place in this book because they lack the compassion she reveals almost everywhere else, and I rather pity the poor souls who inspired them. Similarly, "Betty's Mouth" suffers from its weak repeating lines "there was a hole in you/where all your words/slipped through" and rhymes which are far too obvious. However, the poem would work well as the lyrics to a trash song, so perhaps I am merely not in touch with her intentions here. These are very minor criticisms, however, and they are the only ones I have about the entire book.
Cin Salach has taken great care in organizing the material here. There is a natural and logical progression between the poems in LOOKING FOR A SOFT PLACE TO LAND, beginning with awakening ("Freeing the Fossil") and ending with realization of purpose despite life's imperfections (the excellent "After Birth"). Also, her attention to craft is quite impressive. "Wind Drunk Women," for example, has a structure that reinforces the words perfectly and makes the poem feel breezy.
Salach's poetry is accessible because of the simplicity of the language and its immediacy, and she makes excellent use of repetition, often ingeniously. "Velvet," about the liberation of Prague, has every stanza begin: "I can't tell you much, except," and it serves as an ideal framework for some stunning lines, such as "the absence of bullets made peace/scream through this city like fire." Often her simplicity is deceptive. Although the symbolism doesn't get any more complex than the title itself (you won't need copies of BULFINCH'S MYTHOLOGY and THE WHITE GODDESS by your side to make sense of these poems), when symbols occur, they are readily understandable and reinforce Cin Salach's soaring spirit most effectively. Another strength is that the poems are very diverse in scope and depth and sound wonderful when read aloud, which I highly recommend.
What I like best about LOOKING FOR A SOFT PLACE TO LAND is its overall strength. Each reading of the book made me like it more, and Salach's poems made me feel as if she was giving me something valuable with each reading. In many ways, LOOKING FOR A SOFT PLACE TO LAND is a coming-of-age book, and experiencing Cin Salach's coming to grips with her place in this world and understanding her role as an artist in it is an inspiring journey. I would like to offer her my personal thanks and congratulations for a fine book she should justifiably be very proud of.
Cleary, Daniel. The Green Ribbon, Enright House of Ireland, 1993. 54 pages, paper, no price indicated. 1-55605-230-8. Reviewed by Whitney Scott.
Multi-talented artist / poet / Irish tenor Daniel Cleary left his native Tipperary, Ireland for London in the early 1960s and came to Chicago, where he remains. He's brought with him the musical lilt and pleasing rhyme schemes that move his poetry, creating a series of lyric images portraying his homeland, celluloid's Marilyn Monroe and Fred Astaire, and Chicago intersections.
In "Homesick" he writes:
Homesick for hills, for fields, for streams; Homesick for mountains too it seems
For windy skies for country roads;
For little picturesque abodes.
Homesick for trees, for fruits, for flowers, For happy, sunlit July hours;
For sudden mists, for silver rain,
For things I may not see again.
Homesick for friends, the brightest, best;
For long untroubled nights of rest
He recalls Joe Di Maggio's rage and the public's delight at that famous scene in The Seven Year Itch as he salutes Marilyn:
You, your skirt billowing above the grate of the subway
As the train roared beneath; they used a
Blown up version of the scene above Times Square
To advertise the movie when it first appeared.
You were our goddess then, a remarkable icon -
Wispy, ethereal, every mans secret dream
(the woman he loved next in line to Mama)
Later he laments
another casualty in the eternal quest for youth and beauty;
That glamour that must eventually fade
And yes, his images evoke green lands of comforting familiarity, even for those of us who'll never set foot on the Emerald Isle just as he inspires nostalgia for Marilyn and the era she defined, now gone but never faded or forgotten as long as film preserves her pouty lips, her full, ripe curves and knowing, tempting innocence.
Perhaps it's Cleary's knowing innocence that tempts the reader, the listener, draws us in to experience seemingly simple, straight-forward poems complete with end-rhyme and elliptical thought scenes, all tying together to form something more complex and satisfying than simply the sum of its parts.
Tyler, Lawrence. Prophecies. Puddin'head Press, 1990. 108 pages, $10. 0-9615879-1-1. Reviewed by Whitney Scott.
Lwence Tyler's Prophecies is divided into three sections, each long poems: History 308: The America; Kilroy Was Here; and Prophecies: A dialogue with God.
In the first he approaches the "continuing saga of Fortress America, only to find himself a recluse,
Trying to find
There is so little time.
Flailing out to in an attempt to discover or create a sense of direction amidst a gripping nostalgia for experiences only hinted at but not actually known, he says,
I would make my future
If I could see
That is you
Would I need
The "Kilroy" section gives us a voice of one calling himself Kilroy, frozen for 400 years, then thawed,
Though dead to you
And your world.
Reborn into a seemingly brave, new world, he praises technology and trade, noting that "life was art," but deplores a form of communication that's not telepathy, but "empathy with thoughts."
Finally, by seeming to cooperate with those who would exploit him, he doles out bits of historical information in return for training to pilot starships to distant stars, "a dream of youth fulfilled." Yet, despite soaring on to riches, his anger eats away at him, and he seeks help, only to find that "life is the problem."
Ultimately, he comes to a dialogue with God when he feels time is so short he "can hear it." Asking "Why does God like rock and roll music?" he falls into a reverie, a God-dancc, finding that all he needs has always been with him, yet searching for ways in which to love God, others, and finally, self. He yearns for a miracle, a vision, a glimpse of God in a woman's smile, only to find he must, at last, accustom himself to God's unknowable ways. An interesting message of spirituality and faith though not new, but compelling and comforting.
Cynthia Gallaher, Swimmer's Prayer. Cover photography by Christina Hope. 86p. $10.95. 1999. ISBN 1-890234-02-6. Missing Spoke Press, P. O. Box 9569. Seattle, WA 98109. (Copies also available from Gallaher at P.O. Box A3604, Chicago, Illinois 60690.)
Swimmer's Prayer, a book of 35 poems by Cynthia Gallaher, published by Missing Spoke Press from Seattle, Washington, comes with its own collection of laudatory recommendations, pronouncing the poet "heir to Nelson Algren," "able to slip into the dreams and heartbreaks of an amazing variety of people," and "intelligent, warm, compassionate." And it's all true. As a life-long Chicagoan myself, I find myself reading Gallaher's canvas of Chicago's neighborhoods— from Blue Island Avenue to Harlem and Irving Plaza and the waters of Lake Michigan and the Luxor Baths beside my old el stop at North Avenue/Milwaukee/Damen— like a photo album of familiar places and faces. They elicit as many memories as they do vivid flashes of imagery.
Mind wandering my way through an initial reading of Swimmer's Prayer, I found myself walking the alewife strewn beaches of decades past and moving through the foot traffic of downtown sidewalks as a result of Gallaher's sense of detail and ability to surprise with just the right word. Her Chicago journey, however, moves well beyond the external landmarks of the classic lines other writers have used to describe it: "the city in a garden" . . . "the city that works" . . . "the tall, bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities." It penetrates the psyche and the skins of the people who inhabit her urban landscape, the "toothpick-leg girls trying to walk in the shoes of Marilyn Monroe," the "teenagers making out on avocado-green shag carpeting in the lava light glow," and the "Polish immigrant men in the lunch-hour 'Lucky Man Cafe'." They each inhabit the city which dwells in Cynthia Gallaher's poems, and they enliven the text with the diverse perspectives that they suggest, even while the persona within the works remains exclusively that of the poet.
Reading Swimmer's Prayer a second time, I slipped past my own associations and memories of riding a bicycle from Humboldt Park to Blue Island and back as a thirteen year old on a long hot summer's day and negotiating various transactions within the concrete shadows of pre-gentrified River North, and I found myself infused with an attitude of self-absorbed preoccupation that "Failed Model" crystallized for me—something else besides what I found frequently present inside the cityscape evoked within my mind. Something about the "portfolio of near-hit notions/poorly lit" ("Failed Model"), something about the seeming disdain for the bungalow dwellers observing the "Wild Ride Down Bryn Mawr," something even about the "cracked crab" family of prospective in-laws compared to the "sloppy joes" of home, and I found myself drawing back from the voice that I had welcomed inside my head, informed, I am certain, by a perspective that I might otherwise never have, but wondering. Ms Gallaher's Chicago swims in a comfort zone of its own that may or may not seem to embrace all comers.
Feeling as I do about the city, finding it reflected in vital images across the wide spread of its terrain is a great joy, and Swimmer's Prayer unquestionably evokes that pleasure, every bit as much as seeing "the old neighborhood" on the big screen in a suburban Cineplex. Cynthia Gallaher is clearly a fine poet with a vivid sense of image; this reader, however, seems to find a leaning toward "fresh blackberries and Devonshire cream on silver" and away from tortillas like the poet's "grandma's bare buttock/after sitting too long." I'm sure it's merely a matter of taste. —Jeff Helgeson
Nina Corwin, Conversations with Friendly Demons and Tainted Saints. Cover illustration & photography by Ron Seymour. 60p. $10. 1999. ISBN 0-9615879-6-2. Puddin'head Press, P.O. Box 477889, Chicago IL 60647.
Nina Corwin's volume of poetry, Conversations with Friendly Demons and Tainted Saints, published by Puddin'head Press, offers up 28 pieces which range from the interior monologue of Eve after the Fall to the jazz improvisations of "Mr. Music Plays a Solo None Too Sane." In her poems, Corwin conveys a feminine sensibility that touches self-conscious sensitivities in "Ugly Duckling Awaits the Pie in the Fairy Tale Sky" and the triumph of female endurance in "Lady Sisyphus."
Pressing beyond the too common all-on -the-surface style of many others who specifically prepare their work for performance, Corwin brings a nuanced literary awareness to her poems. It embraces reference and allusion and freshens the wide spectrum of traditions which she selectively echoes with a new take that is totally her own. In poems like "Daphne Reflects on Becoming a Tree" and "Exhorting Orpheus," classical Greek mythology serves as the source, or rather as a point of departure for contemporary introspection. In "Please, Doctor Pangloss," Voltaire's Candide becomes the catalyst for commentary and in "Looking for Mental Hygiene" Corwin's experience as a working psychotherapist informs her lines with an authority that moves well beyond the merely self-centered outpourings of those who turn to the cathartic creation of verse in the hope of releasing through exposure their own personal demons. Clearly, Conversations with Friendly Demons and Tainted Saints is a volume of poetry to sit down with, to savor, and to revisit. It is a collection of new verse which brings rich traditions into a modern mode and provides a perspective that is both intelligent and emotionally aware.
Harvey Overton, How We Measure Fourteen and Other Poems. Chicago: The Hidkey Press, 1998. 68p.
Sestinas, villanelles, and sonnets still have a place in the post-modernist landscape of contemporary poetry. Harvey Overton's How We Measure Fourteen and Other Poems is a somber book, composed of mostly sonnets, that explores the complexities of old age, sickness, and death. In "Addiction," he confronts his own cancer with an edgy acknowledgment to the power of pain:
I've learned to scan the poetry of pain.
I know its prosody in organ, bone:
it's knives, it's screws that turn, it is a flame that burns like acid in my skeleton.
When late at night it pulsates on my breath, the nurses double up my fix;
that my addiction is not drugs but death.
Other poems counterpoint this sadness, such as his fine praise poem to Monk, Night Song for Thelonius:
It's always night or we wouldn't need light when notes darken and the Monk
runs deep as we wake to
dream 'round midnight
shaded in chiaroscuro blue.
Overton also runs deep. --Frank Varela
Carolyn Paprocki, A Routine Omelette Becomes the Big Bang and Other Poems. Illustrations by Alvera Salerno. 16p. $3. Newark, Delaware: SALAMAG Press,
Carolyn Paprocki's A Routine Omelette Becomes the Big Bang and Other Poems is surprisingly accomplished and versatile for a first book, refreshing in its originality and utter lack of pretension. Paprocki possesses all the tools of an often-published poet: strong, vivid images; well-developed themes; a natural sense of how to use rhythms, assonance and internal rhyme that complement and reinforce each poem's message perfectly, and a vision that transforms the commonplace into its organization, beginning with "Spread the Word," a proclamation which alludes to Genesis (and contains a great line: "Poetry is the raving of the dazzlingly sane") and ending with "Orange Grapes," symbolic of an artistic journey reaching fruition.
Parocki is no brooding, bitter artist wringing her hands over past resentments. She envisions the entirety of the universe in her kitchen where she is "conducting an orchestra/With a wooden spoon." While her father in "Mr. Big" is "Too big, too strong/No room for anyone else," she remembers him also as "jazz and gravel and sky," "roaring with life," "big hands and big cars/Asphalt and trombones/And a martini." Only one poem here is truly dark, "Family on Fire," and it is possibly the collection's strongest, with its stratling images of disquiet: "I stood and stared./The girl's hair was still black,/bitten in places by fire./The man was conspicuously absent." What really makes this book shine, though, is Paprocki's engaging sense of humor in poems like "Smooth Women" and "No Time to Write and It's All My Fault ." I recommend this book highly and hope Paprocki finds much more time to write. —Ken Morris
John Dickson, The Music of Solid Objects. Illustrations by John Clark. 102p. $7.95. ISBN 0-939395-22-3. Winnetka IL: Thorntree Press, 1997. (Order copies from Dickson at 2249 Sherman Avenue, Evanston IL 60201. Also available for $5.95 each are Waving at Trains, 1986, 92 p, Thorntree Press and Victoria Hotel, 1976, 107p, Chicago Review Press.)
This remarkable collection begins with "Molly in the Kitchen," who challenges the poet:
Read me your poem, go on,
read your poem to me so I can nestle
in the feel of it, bask in the sounds of it... John answers Molly's challenge with poems which address the cost of the artistic life. Writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, and others speak through these poems, each with a singular voice, so that the reader feels almost like an eavesdropper reading the very private journals of people possessing extraordinary genius. These lives become real, lifting from the page as if the reader were walking with people as diverse as Matisse, Da Vinci, Nijinski, van Gogh, and Isadora Duncan. John varies his narration, using strong imagery with surprising twists. Artist John Clark has illustrated the text with sensitive line drawings, an effective collaboration.
For anyone who works in the creative arts, this book is at once a celebration and a warning. John ends his collection with "Poetry Reading," which describes the effect the reading has had on its listeners after the poet leaves:
some fly along the street beside her,
some ride behind her on horseback...
and some remain in their folding chairs
counting their beads
or staring at spots on the oak floor.
No one is left untouched. For anyone who likes poetry, this book is a delight to read, and very welcome from a poet who has been silent too long.
—Martha Modena Vertreace
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Rush Hour. 84p. $9. 1997. ISBN 0-935697-08-x. Midwest Villages & Voices, P.O. Box 40214, St. Paul, Minnesota 55104. (Also available from Midwest Villages & Voices, Kevin Fitzpatrick's Down on the Corner, $5.)
The competent narrative poems by Kevin Fitzpatrick in his latest collection, Rush Hour, trace the rough and tumble history of his city-background youngster days to the not really predictable suit-and-tie office life, complete with briefcase under the arm. Although, in a way, it almost parallels the often-repeated historical accounts of virile barbarians being absorbed into the very civilizations they invaded. In fact, the reading of Rush Hour could cause many a green-visored clerk or CEO to reminisce with, "Hey, we had some wild times back then, too," and recall the chipped tooth or bloody nose of schoolyard fights and some of the salty characters that dotted their lives.
School days, family, and office life are a poet's gold mine, and since Kevin Fitzpatrick is a highly observant student of people, his work confirms that we all grow up in spite of our youth, or maybe because of it. And he does it in such a variety of poetic styles that we are concerned with what he has to say.
Karen Stockwell, Possibilities. Illustrations by the author, Karen Dilsaver Stockwell. 43p. $5. Chicago: West Walker Press, 1998. (Order copies from Stockwell at 4229 N. Monticello, Chicago, IL 60618.)
Possibilities is an impresive and moving poetry chapbook that was written by the accomplished Chicago writer Karen Stockwell. She frequents several open mic venues, including cafe Aloha, and has appeared on the cable access series A Touch of a Poet. Stockwell's poems are disarmingly simple, and they effectively convey what it is to be a growing, changing person. A good song to accompany the reading of the book would be the late, great Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year." Both the song and the poem inspire a vaguely nostalgic, thoughtfully reflective state of mind.
The book's poems are heavily autobiographical, and Stockwell shares some traits with practitioners of the confessional style of poetry, including such figures as Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath. Stockwell's poems capture the emotional directness of the style, yet manage to avoid typical confessional self indulgence. Possibilities, like Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters, deals with many high points in a life centered around a relationship in seeming chronological order. "First Kiss," for instance, captures one of the most vivid moments at the beginning of a relationship, and by the time of "I Sing in the Dark," the relationship has matured and deepened. "Watermark" reflects pain as the relationship veers dangerously close to a breakup. Eventually the poet artfully sings the praises of children in "Journey" when she writes, "The laughter of a baby is like the flutter of new wings/a sound of pure and delighted discovery." Finally, she ponders the future in the title poem "Possibilities."
Martha Modena Vertreace, Second Mourning. 74p. $7. Edinburgh, Scotland: diehard poetry, 1998. (Also available from diehard poetry, Martha
Modena Vertreace's Light Caught Bending, $7, 1995. Copies of both books can be obtained from Vertreace at 1155 E. 56th St., Chicago IL 60637.)
Where to begin? Martha Modena Vertreace's poetry is so rich, so wide-sweeping in its subjects, so overpowering in its imagery that, like the moon Martha reveres, it can be viewed from any direction without losing its character and beauty.
With subtle humor, her poetry blends the profane with the spiritual, the "Individual" with the "Universe," as in "Callie-Emma": "When the Moon swells, a crow lands/on the elbow of the roof, strokes the velvet cowl/of wings the way a nun in cloistered habit smooths/her veil at final vows" and again in "Leaving the Porchlight On": "plum branches scratch/the eaves; starlings try to get in,/not knowing where she hid the spare key."
Being of Scottish and Irish descent myself, Martha's Scottish and Irish poems speak directly to me. I am glad to reassure her that, despite her reservations in "Dublin, Cloudy" ("I think it strange—a Black girl bringing/Irish memories/to Ireland"), she has caught in these poems the spirit, the flavor of my cultural climes.
In "Dualities" ("By the weir, we dug/for quern stones to grind whatever spells/we could brew"), she holds hands with dear old Rabbie himself.
—Anne V. McGravie
Maureen Tolman Flannery, Secret of the Rising Up: Poems from Mexico. Photography by Marianna Yampolsky. 96p. $14. 1998. ISBN 0-934272-50-6. John Gordon Burke Publisher, Inc., Box 1492, Evanston, IL 60204-1492.
Maureen Tolman Flannery's new book of poems, Secret of the Rising Up: Poems of Mexico, offers an exploration of a country through the richly sensual perceptions accumulated over a span of thirty years. Dividing her poems into four sections ("Ghosts Dreaming in Me," "The Window Facing My Neighbors," "Places Imprinting My Soul," and "The Grand Shapeshifting of Gods"), Flannery progresses from personal history to portraits of people and intimate landscapes and then to conceptual considerations that transcend the particular and elevate it to an intuitively felt higher plane of awareness. Her journey is an outward excursion through memory to abstraction that is richly enhanced with textured image.
Infused with a tension between past and present, Flannery seems to have abstracted the flavor of such Mexican writers as Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes. The sense of Mexico which she conveys in her poems is unrestricted by time and:
will not answer to clocks on men's wrists, for the segments in which she measures time are larger than most, and the sun as precise an instrument as she cares to be warned by. (from "Mexi-Phile")
Joe Somoza, Sojourner, So to Speak. Illustrations by Jill Somoza. 98p. $12.
1997. La Alameda Press, 9636 Guadalupe Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114.
Sojourner, So to Speak, by Southwest poet Joe Somoza offers the kind of meditation that is sometimes neglected in the hothouse world of contemporary poetry. Born in Asturias, Spain, he celebrates ordinary existence not with Walt Whitman's gusto, but in cool tones with laser precision:
As I'm walking back
from the car the old
man on the stoop
and I wonder if it's
habit or comment.
If I should, therefore,
But there's form, too, as well as humor, lurking beneath the polish, as illustrated in "A Foreign Game," where Somoza contemplates his "place" in the pecking order of poets:
All the guys are there
and I'm one of the guys.
Aren't I, guys? There's
Ezra, who can palm the ball
for such a little guy.
T.S., who learned to play
at prep school.
Sojourner, So to Speak offers the reader a view of a quiet world.
Effie Mihopoulos, Pastel Words. Chicago: Ommation Press,1998.$3. (Also available: The Moon Cycle, 1991, $8, and Languid Love Lyrics, 1993, $8. All three can be ordered from Mihopoulos at 5548 N. Sawyer, Chicago, IL 60625.)
There is a poem inside you
like a baby
It is easy to identify with the opening lines of "Conception," the first poem in Pastel Words, a new collection of poetry by Effie Mihopoulos—and much else. In "Facets": "you change your mask each day/as if it were/underwear/or pantyhose" or in "Maneuvers": "you stare at me/as if I were a blank wall." With "Making Up," we witness a shattered relationship metaphorically in a mirror, "reflected in a thousand/tiny bits of glass." She has a variety of supple themes, from the incestuous "The Obedient Daughter" ("don't tell Mommy/I am wearing her clothes.") to the enchanting "Into Spring" (where "each jeweled breath" is "a yearbook of air/to curl yourself around." Even in "Winter of the Heart," we find: "those fogged-over windows.../open them/and they become doors into your subconscious..." In the concluding poem, "Critical Assertions," we read, "When words are too much/or not enough with us/Or don't especially matter."And yet, it is words that are this fine poet's stock in trade, that will always matter to her and her readers. As in previous works, Mihopoulos shows us an unerring sense for the right word to express either the essence, or the reality, of the human condition. The poet speaks with a strong, clear voice. She knows whereof she speaks, and says it well.
Gertrude Rubin, A Beating of Wings. 91p. $8.95. ISBN 0-941363-09-0. Deerfield IL: Lake Shore Publishing, 1991. (Order copies from Rubin at 2914 W. Rascher, Chicago IL 60625.)
In this extensive collection of poems, Gertrude Rubin delves into ordinary events with a perception open to subtly. She is aware of the heroic and tragic elements of just living life.
Her book is divided into three parts. "Vivaldi's Seasons" is set around seasonal themes with diverse subjects. "Taken from Life," dedicated to her mother, is a marvelous series of character studies, mostly of aging family members. We sense their strong will to survive, and Gertrude Rubin's sorrow and resignation at their passing. "When death invades, it steals the best away," she writes in "Break-In." The third part, "A Beating of Wings," explores many topics, some political, as in "Memories of Vietnam," "The Exiles," and "Grant Park Remembered."
Gertrude rubin moves comfortably from meter and rhyme to free verse. In elegant language, sometimes with wry humor, she asserts her humanity and her sense of connection with everything, from a tree being chopped down outside her window to a friend who died at Auschwitz. Her affirmation of life can be heard in "To the Moon."
Now is the time
to break loose,
live by your wits,
take the advice
of an earth maverick:
This poet defies gravity while standing firmly on the ground.
GARLAND COURT REVIEW
Reviewed By Sue Straus
Garland Court Review 2000 is a publication of mainly poetry, with pictures, drawings and photography. This book is published by Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. It has been five years since the last issue--a great loss, as the quality of the poetry, stories, drawings, and photography is very high.
I do have some arguments with the layout--some typos not corrected, for instance. I found the poem "Love" by Gloria Tate to be a very good poem. However, it was marred for me when one line was found on the following page (24), separated from the rest of the poem. It begins:
Love is an emotion that many people yearn for.
People have never had anyone to love him or her.
Love is something that everyone needs in his or her life. Because
Love and to be loved is so magical, so brilliant, so wonderful that
it makes one feel special.
Ms. Tate speaks to the community holding together in times of harmony and in tragic times. The love of family and romantic love. The last stanza, including the misplaced line is:
It will make a couple take long walks through the park, hold hands
and gaze into each other's eyes. Love will also make a couple
feel alive and sends chills running down their spine. Love
is sweet, beautiful an can last
Love conquers all and is a many splendored thing.
That is why we need more love in this world."
The last line does fit well with the photo located below it. The photo is of two students smiling into the camera. A young man sits at a table with many neat piles of paper in front of him. A young woman stands behind him with her arms around him.
Another problem with the layout is in the "Table of Contents. About 1/4th of the way from the bottom of page 5 lies the caption "TABLE of CONTENTS, cont." On the following page there is no headline but a listing of the continuation of contents goes on just the same.
On page 58 is a picture of a Garland Street sign (no credit was given) and an explanation of where it is, "Loop Jr. College, (now Harold Washington College) used to be housed in the building that borders the Court." I would have preferred that this photo be placed on one of the inside covers, since the back inside cover was left blank.
I loved the photograph on the inside cover (no credit given, but Mayor Harold Washington's dates, 1922-1987, are listed). It is from a 1985 Holiday Food Drive. Mayor Washington is seen smiling and dancing the Superbowl Schuffle with two members of that year's Chicago Bears team. To the left of the mayor is Richard Dent and to the mayor's right is Otis Wilson.
I was impressed by the placement of a certain piece of art work with a particular poem or story. They seemed enhanced by the presence of each other.
The Garland Court Review 2000 reminded me of going to a poetry reading and hearing the poet enhance his or her work by music, the use of his or her voice or by movement and other performance art techniques. This leads to a very hightened reading experience for me.
On page 34 is an untitled drawing by Christa Coleman. I felt this drawing was well matched with the poem it faced, "The Abolitionist's Journey", by Tasha Williams. The drawing is like three totem poles. On the one to the far left is a pole of many designs including, "VIVA" scatched into it above a design of a flower. The next pole is that of a man facing the poem. The one on the far right has a head of a god from Native American folklore, I believe. It also faces the poem. Upon its body is a picture of the sun on the bottom of it. The whole picture gives a feeling of determination and optimism. This feeling of determination and a better day awaiting us is also found in the poem.
"The Abolitionists Journey" begins:
It ends after moving on the journey from slavery through the U. S. Civil War and into the present with,
The following poem on page 36, "The House of Ideas" by Joan Morris reflects upon the everyday lives of a lot of people, including me. It reads
This is the house of ideas-
You see many books here
books and paintings.
An idea in formation is
are its birthing place,
its mother's womb-
often born of passion
Accident and pain
But Music and Thought
fill the crevises
But the baby
does not stay there-
There are tentative steps
and try again.
We are all inventors
trying sometimes for
the first time:
things which sound
crazy, obvious, we
don't dare speak
But they persist like
to be heard
In this house---vibrant.
Facing this poem is a beutiful drawing by Catalina Renteria, entitled, "Family Portrait." You see a woman sitting and in her arm is her son. She has her other hand on the back of her smilling daughter. The girl has a doll in her hands. In the background are two pictures. One is of a reclining woman with her hand on a book. The other shows a young man in a formal suit. There is a plant next to the woman on the side where she holds the boy. Although the drawing, like all the others in the book are in shades of gray, you get the impression of a vibrant, warm and colorful home.
The cover is a drawing of two eyes of a woman looking out at you (in three colors: gray, purple, and green, the green on the eyelids like eyeshadow.) It is repeated in shades of gray within, on page 76, facing the poem , "Pythagoras' Shadow" by Ken Morris.
This poem reads:
It is twilight in the new beginning place.
Pythagoras casts his shadow still:
The darkness of narrow light
Truths and numbers are subtle.
Standing facing their caves,
Resenting hes laws'his order
Without knowing why.
Somehow you understand
That two is one and three is one-
The Holy Fusion,
The completed soul.
If you want me to help
You count the stars,
You can choose
Your side of the sky.
I'll take the other side."
I like this poem's conclusion that we all have to choose sometimes to make it in this world. We all are part of the whole. We are all needed to hold the community together although we may not see life the same way. We may rebel, we may have to overcome obstacles and yet we rise to the challenge life brings to us.
The quality of the contents, the print, the cover drawing and all the poems, stories and the artwork within the Garland Court Review 2000 leads to a very rewarding experience.
OTHER BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM LOCAL AUTHORS
Carlos Cortez, Where Are the Voices? and other Wobbly Poems. Illustrations by the author. 62p. $10. 1997. Poems of Revolt #4. Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1740 W. Greenleaf Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626. (Order copies from Cortez at 2654 N. Marshfield, Chicago IL 60614. Also available de Kansas a kalifas and back to Chicago, 1992, $3, and Crystal-Gazing, the Amber Fluid, 1990, $5.)
John Dickson, The Music of Solid Objects. Illustrations by John Clark. 102p. $7.95. ISBN 0-939395-22-3. Winnetka, IL: Thorntree Press, 1997. (Order copies from Dickson at 2249 Sherman Avenue, Evanston IL 60201. Also available for $5.95 each are Waving at Trains, 1986, 92p, Thorntree Press, ISBN 0-939395-07-x and Victoria Hotel, 1976, 107p, Chicago Review Press. )
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Rush Hour. 84p. $9. 1997. ISBN 0-935697-08-x. Midwest Villages & Voices, P.O. Box 40214, St. Paul, Minnesota 55104. (Also available from Midwest Villages & Voices, Kevin Fitzpatrick's Down on the Corner, $5.)
Carolyn Paprocki, A Routine Omelette Becomes the Big Bang & other poems. Illustrations by Alvera Salerno. $3. Newark Delaware: Salamag, 1997. (Order copies from Paprocki at 2704 N. Oak Park Avenue, Chicago IL 60635.)
Gertrude Rubin, A Beating of Wings. 91p. $8.95. ISBN 0-941363-09-0. Deerfield IL: Lake Shore Publishing, 1991. (Order copies from Rubin at 2914 W. Rascher, Chicago, IL 60625.)
Joe Somoza, Sojourner, So to Speak. Illustrations by Jill Somoza. 98p. $12. 1997. La Alameda Press, 9636 Guadalupe Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114.
Karen Stockwell, Possibilities. Illustrations by the author, Karen Dilsalver Stockwell. 43p. $5. Chicago: West Walker Press, 1998. (Order copies from Stockwell at 4229 N. Monticello, Chicago IL 60618.)
Martha Modena Vertreace, Second Mourning. 74p. $7. Edinburgh, Scotland: diehard poetry, 1998. (Also available from diehard poetry, Martha Modena Vertreace's Light Caught Bending, $7, 1995. Copies of both books can also be obtained from Vertreace at 1155 E. 56th St., Chicago IL 60637.)
Effie Mihopoulos, Pastel Words. $3. Chicago:Ommation Press, 1998. (Copies from Mihopoulos, 5548 N. Sawyer, Chicago, IL 60625. Also available The Moon Cycle, 1991, $8, and Languid Love Lyrics, 1993, $8.)
Maureen Tolman Flannery, Secret of the Rising Up: Poems of Mexico. Photography by Mariana Yamplosky. 96p. $14. 1998. ISBN 0-934272-50-6. John Gordon Burke Publisher, Inc., P.O. Box 1492, Evanston, IL 60204-1492.
Lee Kitzis, editor. The Anti-Mensch: An Anthology. Illustrations by Skip Williamson. $3. May 1996. Puddin'head Press, P.O. Box 477889, Chicago, IL 60647.
Lee Kitzis, editor. The Anti-Mensch II: An Anthology. Illustrations by Skip Williamson. $3.50. January 1997. Puddin'head Press, P.O. Box 477889, Chicago, IL 60647.
Going 60 in Chicago: 60 Years of Poetry from the Poets Club of Chicago, 1937-1997. 60th Anniversary Edition. 140p. $10.95 + $1 postage and handling from Master Printers, Attn: Pat Gangas, 8 Pembroke, Oak Brook IL 60521. ISBN 1-887312-04-8.
A Taste of Poetry...Chicago Style: An Anthology by Poets & Patrons Club of Chicago. 40th Anniversary Edition. 136p. 1996. $9.95 + $1 postage and handling from Master Printers, Attn: Patricia Gangas, 8 Pembroke, Oak Brook IL 60521. ISBN 1-887312-03-x.
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Note: Here is a virtual smorgasborg of reviews by and about well known Chicago poets.