Monday, December 5, 2016

Tiller North - Rosa Lane (Sixteen Rivers Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Tiller North.  Rosa Lane.  Sixteen Rivers Press.  San Francisco, California.  2016.

Rosa Lane's Tiller North makes Today's book of poetry think of Alistair MacLeod's short stories in marvels such as The Lost Salt Gift of Blood and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories if they were written by a woman of equal power and persuasive gifts.  Or Michael Crummey's stunning novel Sweetland.  These poems feel like they are familiar, like they take place on or near the same water.

Today's book of poetry says this because these poems are big, they feel like stories, fill up the space and imagination just like a big novel.  These poems situate you in a rural/remote fishing community surrounded by sea and brush.  You are in the kerosene lit kitchen, you are in that death-watch bedroom.

But most certainly, you are there.  

The natural path Rosa Lane pushes you down in these poems is strewn with hard work and calloused hands, hard living and some hard luck.  Yet there doesn't seem to be much complaint, this is reportage using memory rendered poetic.  Lane isn't asking for any empathy, her heart is full to bursting with memory.

June Bugs

Electricity buzzes the yellow bulb
in Maine's humid heat. June bugs bomb
the porch light with spiny legs -- date-colored
and oversized.
                        Spring peepers pin the night,
pitch a universe in my mother's kitchen, except
I have not yet occurred to her. She is sixteen,
and I will be hers in less than a year.

Supper's on the table for the boy who will be
my father, his nineteen-year-old body big
and husky. He rinses dried splashes
of work from the day's ocean into a small
blue basin, enameled and filled
with hand-pumped water drawn from the well.

Fireflies light the field aflame. Conceived in the heat
of summer, I appear a small spark of night
planted in the deep crevice between them.


Lane takes the reader to a time and a specific place in these poems.  We'll never truly understand the life of a small and remote fishing village but we certainly understand more now.  We can't smell the kerosene or the fish but Lane gets us there, we are on the coast of Maine gazing west towards civilization.

Today's book of poetry was terribly enamoured reading Tiller North, Rose Lane has that steady Andrew Wyeth gaze and hand, and it would appear some of his same ideas about story, narrative and how to make the heart arc.  Many of Wyeth's paintings seem stark but in fact they never are, Rosa Lane has that trick finessed. There are some hard moments in Tiller North but a warm and tempered heart is leading the way.  Tiller North is coming of age poetry writ large over the working class background of a young woman in a remote place.  

Tiller North

Take Route 130 nine miles
where it dead-ends at the coastal tip,

keep your eye on the spire,
how it peaks above ragged pines

torn from a small length of ocean:
shingled shacks drunk with fog,

the mouth of John's River, a bar
of khaki sand, a stand of piers rusted

in salty air, Dora's cow pasture blurred
with brutes down meadow. How the fog

dampens fisher boats wedged at the wharf,
arched glass stained with light on the hill.


Households begin at the Point,
where fisher boys drive

their cars fast to the cliff,
test their brakes, scare

their girls, who squeal and dive
for safety into dangerous

arms. Tongues of the bell buoy
bang a rhythm of ocean in backseats,

when sixteen-year-old bodies grow
pregnant, birth armloads that suck

tiny breasts, unready. The young stumble
along a path of church bells calling them

to kneel Protestant pews and swallow
white wafers of a single mind.


Fisher boats named women wait in the cove,
anchor lines tied at the nose, nets piled

in the hold. Our father stands there waving
across the salt air, our mother at the shore

squinting the sun, seaweed floating
her black hair across the surface ahead

of winter already moving in. The three of us
run to the school bus each morning.

Our father's fingers, cracked with cold, count
singles laid on the kitchen table at night,

our porch lights lit proof of survival at the edge
of the harbor we are damned to leave.


No guests for this morning's read as Ottawa was covered in snow this morning.  A number of our staff didn't make it to our digs on Dagmar.  I was out shovelling snow for over an hour earlier this morning and will go back out when it stops snowing altogether.  Milo, our head tech, and Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, both made it through the snow, they live close by and walked.  The three of us batted these poems around until we reached shore.

Today's book of poetry really liked the tone Lane establishes from the start, she has such confidence and is so self-assured that you feel like some of it might rub off, a little osmosis through hard living.


Lucy's shack sat on cinder blocks
pressed into peat near the bog,
a piece of real estate
no one wanted. Saturday night
down at the hall,
she laid navy beans
on numbers, played six cards,
won a few coins
on the left straight.
                                She drives
headlights up the throat of driveway
pounded hard by the last rain. Trees
crawl across the face
of the house. Her porch light
burns a small hole at the door.
Her boyfriend can't wait up,
he said -- her daughter's silhouette
in the upper window riding horseback
on a horse she never sees.


Rosa Lane's Tiller North is the 37th title from San Francisco's Sixteen Rivers Press.  Lane joins a fraternity that includes Nina Lindsay, Stella Beratlis, Ito Naga and Beverly Burch, very fine company.

Today's book of poetry thinks you should join Rosa Lane on her journey back to the Maine of her youth.  Lane's Tiller North imparts a portrait of family and community, loss and found, in one elegant nostalgic yawp.

Rosa Lane

ROSA LANE is a native of coastal Maine, with familial and ancestral roots steeped in lobster fishing. She earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of the poetry chapbook Roots and Reckonings(Granite Press, East, 1980). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including The Briar Cliff Review, Crab Orchard Review, New South, and Ploughshares. After earning her second master’s and a Ph.D. in sustainable architecture from UC Berkeley, Lane works as an architect and divides her time between coastal Maine and the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her partner.

“Tiller North ends with the word sing, a final act in a volume of poems that narrates sorrows and pays tribute to the Maine people Rosa Lane comes from. She offers scenes looked over carefully, as everyone takes their place at the table. She tells of making it through a sense of unbelonging, imprinted by rejection based on class and cut-off dreams mitigated by fierce love, hard work, and constant relation to family, place, and the rules of the season.”
     —Beatrix Gates, author of Dos and In the Open

Rosa Lane’s poems in this remarkable volume are reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop’s in the author’s fierce dedication to craft….Lane’s poems build through the architecture of the image; the texture of physical detail; and a sparse, understated language that resonates a profound love of humanity, an embrace of the people around her, and a deep, inward movement of the poet’s imagination.”
     —Stephen Haven, author of The Last Sacred Place in North America and Dust and Bread

“In Tiller North, Rosa Lane gives us a world—not just one compass point, but all of them. In poems as lyrical as they are narrative, she presents a family and a landscape with precision and compassion. Her writing is as sharp as her heart is full. Tiller North is a moving and accomplished book.”
     —John Skoyles, author of A Little Faith and Permanent Change

Rosa Lane’s poetry reminds us why, at a certain time in our lives, we’ve had enough of innocence. Here is a compendium of those so crucial, chronology-defying self-revelations that we only know through our skin….Each poem is a skiff sculling through sounds almost Hopkinsesque, each measure of music anchored by the ground base we feel more than hear.”
     —Jeffrey Levine, author of Rumor of Cortez and Mortal, Everlasting



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Friday, December 2, 2016

All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together - Stephen Brockwell (Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together.  Stephen Brockwell.  Mansfield Press.  A Stuart Ross Book.  Toronto, Ontario.  2016.

"Dust falls over the ocean too, as I recall."
     - The Saline Diminishments

All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together feels like a departure and an arrival for the multi-talented Stephen Brockwell.  Today's book of poetry has long admired the work of Brockwell, All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together is his fourteenth or fifteenth poetry title and we have been watching all along.

The departure, if we can call it that, is an emotional one.  Brockwell has always had a keenly expressive and fiercely intelligent voice but with All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together Brockwell draws back the curtains to reveal the inner dimensions of a complicated heart.  Brockwell has always had an ample tool box of poetic tools to draw from but with this latest book he ups the ante, the closer you get to the heart the sharper the poems become.

This book was edited for press by the omnipresent and galactic Stuart Ross and it shows.  It is tight as a drum.

And there are a couple of list poems and you know how much we like those here at Today's book of poetry.

The Location of Culture

At a truckstop counter in Paris.

Over by the Starbucks in Nagoya, I didn't understand a
word. Inside Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure, finest beans in
Iowa, I caught a word I knew.

Curbside near a Philly cheesesteak joint on a sizzling
Friday in August, Brandon insists we take it with
Cheez Whiz.

Under plane trees and palms at the San Diego Zoo, polar
bears soak on wet concrete.

Underneath the oak, a bench has been installed, site for
lapdogs, evening weed, Viola-Cesario soliloquies.

Through the ear canal, the caw of the crow on the street
lamp resonates in the ossicles.

Across Coltrane's reed.

In deer-hide drums I wish I had an ear for.

In neck, fret, and peg, braced spruce and manicured nail.
Through humbucker and valve.

At the Blackburn Arms where Jack McGuire performs
songs no one hears over the off-key accompaniment of
hammered regulars.

Through noise-cancelling Beats, Bluetooth Queen of
the Night.

Notwithstanding my mother's Sinatra, my daughter's

Throughout the exhausted sleeper's veins. Between
treatment and injection site. In small-print

In bed, in a hammock between trees, in the bath, on moss,
in cold lakes, our bodies pair by prepositions.

On the lips of the toddler smooshing pages with jam. In
the theatre of her hands. She tilts her head to the right,
mimics her father's imitative coos.

Throughout the primary school hallways when the bell
rings on a May scorcher as the shrieks of recessing kids
are at their peak.

At the public library beside the canal, on a table behind
rare-book stacks, volumes open, spread.

Between the pages of my great-uncle Eddie's Leaves of
Grass. In the handshake of his Bajan lover, Colin.

On the handles of my grandfather's paintbrushes:
accidental abstract expressionism.

In the cellar, inside the chest with mould-dusted leather
locking straps; "Man on the Moon" newspapers, a loaded
handgun, plastic-wrapped vintage pornography, rags sharp
with turpentine.

Inside shelves installed in his dresser drawers, we found
the alphabetized complete works of Edgar Rice Burroughs,
Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey.

Toward Mont Royal's cross, the white spruce, or the fly on
the window at the Montreal General Hospital where my
father's eyes finally settled.

In Parc Jarry bleachers, hot dog in mouth as Bailey singles
Woods home. In the T-shirt's cherished mustard stain.

In Muzak accompanying the Zamboni's peculiar figures.

At Arena Robert Guertin, in locker rooms of broken sticks,
what might Guy Lafleur's poster eyes have seen?

On the court, hoops: in court, hoops.

Around the ditch where the sewer crew shovels through
effluent, hoping to find and close a valve.

Abaft the engine room, reeking of fish and fuel.

From the combine harvester's thousand-watt stereo, barley
field Marley.

Under the boardroom table of the princes of power, bless
their blue silk ties, there's gum. For all their financial
instruments, pick your prepositions; govern them by
sharp verbs.

In my mother's blueprints for Montreal trunks.

Over the copper pair, the glass fibre, between towers:
packets of everything. We like it.

Under the Cisco bridge, trolls creep.

In diodes emitting a radiant moving window of briefest

In the palimpsest of typewriter roller and plasma screen,
PINs for accounts of the poorest and richest.

In Homer.

Between rings in birch grain, inside axe and saw cuts,
under initialled bark.

Under the throat of the slaughtered calf, along the blade of
the sakin.

At the cathedral for her funeral, in liturgy and hymn,
unexpected comfort.

In the LAV -- none of us wants to hear it -- when the RPG
renders acronyms disgusting.

@Cranium Central Station, a bat in the attic hangs itself
to sleep.


Stephen Brockwell's All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together feels like a clearing of the deck.  Parents and grandparents and various other ghosts are ceremoniously debunked into their eternal beds amid the cathartic tumble.  Brockwell is searching for a new kind of honesty and it is not an easy purchase, people get hurt, bruises form, seen and unseen.

It's difficult magic to reconcile your heart with your hopes and it is almost impossible not to remember expectations as responsibilities.  Brockwell is swimming against some harsh and well established currents but his stroke is strong and true.  It's always hard to be who we want when dealing with who we are gets in the way.

Accidental Vegan

My fridge had more food than I needed.
Jane, I asked you to come to my house and cook with me:
onions, garlic, long beans, fish -- no fish!

It was never about the cooking --
you knew that --
it was our way of putting our lips on the same dish.

In the rain, face to face
at the market, we huddled by the fish tank,
watching the slow, sad carp,
gills pulsing, mouth opening, eyes wet, of course.


Stephen Brockwell is a disarming poet.  In the past his wit and intelligent charm always made for smart, sharp poems worth reading.  With All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together Brockwell has added a new level of emotional candor and intensity that is both jarring and exciting.

This sort of honesty, when honed by the articulate hands of an old pro like Brockwell makes for some compelling poetry and rewarding reading.

Today's book of poetry understands that Brockwell had some misgivings about All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together and it is easy to see why.  When you put that much on the table the room turns quiet and all eyes focus on the gambler.  Brockwell plays the winning hand and doesn't even crack a grin.

Biography Of Mistaken Identities

I was mistaken for Steve Martin at a bar in Montreal.
I was mistaken for someone Richard Simmons could love
by Richard Simmons on a flight to Los Angeles.
I was mistaken for Olympian Ken Read
but I've never needed skis to hurtle downhill.
I was mistaken for a gay man at Swizzles
and played it to my advantage at the slam.
I was such a flirt! Were they mistaken?
I am told I could be mistaken for Henry Rollins.
Soon my dog will mistake me for an old hound
on the porch, bark in my face, and tear my ears.
I hope to be mistaken for soil by seedling pines.


We had guest appearances at the Today's book of poetry offices this morning.  We had just started our morning read when the doorbell rang.  In walked Ayano Omota, Yuka Kashino and Ayaka Nishiwaki. I didn't recognize any of them at first but Ayaka had Pharoah Sanders at the end of her arm and I certainly knew who he was right away.  They'd just tumbled out of a rusted old '56 Caddy short that was sitting in the laneway.  I almost lost my mind.

But like all other guests Pharoah and the ladies had to take their turn reading a poem.  Stephen Brockwell has never sounded better.

Today's book of poetry has been a big Stephen Brockwell fan for a long time and we believe that All Of Us Reticent, Here, Together is his best book.  

Image result for stephen brockwell photo
Stephen Brockwell

Stephen Brockwell cut his writing teeth in the ’80s in Montreal, appearing on French and English CBC Radio and in the anthologies Cross/cut: Contemporary English Quebec Poetry and The Insecurity of Art (both Véhicule Press, 1982). George Woodcock described Brockwell’s first book, The Wire in Fences, as having an “extraordinary range of empathies and perceptions.” Harold Bloom wrote that Brockwell’s second book, Cometology, “held rare and authentic promise.” Fruitfly Geographic won the Archibald Lampman award for best book of poetry in Ottawa in 2005. Brockwell currently operates a small IT consulting company from the 7th floor of the Chateau Laurier and lives in a house perpetually under construction.

“In All of Us Reticent, Here, Together, Stephen Brockwell tenders an unsettled confessional: the poet decentring himself to cast light on the shame of being human. Awkward, wry, acerbic, these poems nonetheless find intimacy in all the locations of culture.”
     —Soraya Peerbaye, author of Tell: Poems for a Girlhood

“Stephen Brockwell’s poetry, already luminous with intelligence and subtle musical energy, pulses with a new, raw, elegiac edge in his latest collection, All of Us Reticent, Here, Together. Ever curious, ever vigilant, Brockwell’s voice sorts through bruised truths and reverberant detail to deliver these poems of startling tenderness and honesty.”
     —David O’Meara, author of A Pretty Sight

Stephen Brockwell
Reading at 17 Poets
Video:  Megan Burns



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

And the cat says... - Susan L. Helwig (Quattro Books)

Today's book of poetry:
And the cat says...  Susan L. Helwig.  Quattro Books.  Toronto, Ontario.  2013.


Any of you who truly know Today's book of poetry will know our true feelings about cats, so you can imagine with what trepidation we opened Susan L. Helwig's little marvel And the cat says... .  What we found were poems like "Letter to Philip Roth" and the extemporaneous explanation of the connection between eggplants and love.

And the cat says... is a cornucopia of entertainments.  Helwig has found a comfortable spot with enough humour and pathos to suit her sly needs.  It's like she has them tied together at the waist and and knee and this book is the dazzling three legged sprint.

Original Sin

The Bible got it wrong
it wasn't an apple that Eve ate
no apple spurted bright thick juice
stained her chin
made her breasts glisten

It was a tomato


What virgin bride in the Old Country
did not thank a tomato
hiding where the hymen used to be
for the groom's prideful groans
and carmine sheets in the morning?

when a mob spews anger
it's tomatoes that shout Revolution!

Tomatoes made the sauce in Little Italy
when young Corleone shot the Chief
no apple caused that amount of trouble, ever.

Why just the other day, dining el fresco
I planned a sensible order, salad, dressing on the side
vegetables in season
when the sun caught the ketchup on someone else's fries

I swear that red stuff winked at me
two shades off ruby.


Today's book of poetry wouldn't call Helwig bawdy, that would be less a compliment than a snide remark.  Helwig isn't bawdy but she is delightfully frank.  

My wife has a coterie of amazing female friends called "The Nasty Girls" (apologies to recent news cycles but my wife's friends coined this term for their tribe over a quarter of a century ago), women of sardonic wit and relentless humour and all of it tinged with their many years of life experience wisdom.  Their motto, if they had such a thing, could easily be "no bullshit allowed" and I'm convinced that they would welcome Susan L. Helwig into their fold as one of their own.

Da Capo, with repeats

Hard to do with a partner
what I've done alone for so long
the breathing, the rhythm
everything throws me
we start, we stop, soft laughter
high-pitched nerves

Underway again
he has a man's love of speed
I was thinking adagio, with no strings
and presto! here we are at the end

Perhaps a different position
if I were the one erect
bowing the violin in long caresses
and he sat at my piano
tickling the ivories

Afterwards, neither asks, how was it for you?
knowing full well which bars
were peppered with mistakes
the music doesn't lie
all we can hope is same time next week
another chance to come together.


Today's book of poetry is impressed by how tidily Helwig is able to keep her business.  These poems can be ribald but they're never rude, they are experienced but not tired, wise without the tiresome burden of wisecracks.  Today's book of poetry liked Susan L. Helwig's style.

Our morning read welcomed a couple of guests this morning and as you all know by now - everyone present has to read at the morning go round.  Dexter read a few in his slow and quiet loquacious fashion, then our friend Sara teased some sorrowful music out of one or two and some belly-laughs out of few more.  Our regular staff were inspired by our guests and upped their game.  And the cat says... sounded like the life of the party.

Now that we two love again

The world glows peppermint, rain-washed, new
and we can dally in a house the size of April
without the hurry-up of student sex
the roommate back from class too soon
now Marsalis, not Mingus, warms our tea

Out the window and down the street
the Salvation Army band, its jolly tuba
leads the parade

Later in the garden, grandchildren, yours
will make their shrieks and finds,
the softly tinted Easter eggs I hid last night
adobe cream and evergreen mist
the chocolate bunnies, bittersweet.


Today's book of poetry appreciates his job more every day - books like Susan L. Helwig's And the cat says... make it so.  Helwig has poems that ask important questions, laments about love and social issues and so on but mostly Today's book of poetry sees books like this as reportage from the generous heart and inquiring mind of another traveller.

No cats were harmed in the production of this blog.

SusanLHelwig_Edit from Chris A. Hughes
Susan L. Helwig

Susan L. Helwig grew up on a dairy farm in southwestern Ontario just outside of Neustadt. From 1994 to 2002 she interviewed Canadian and international authors for the radio programme “In Other Words” on CKLN 88.1. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies in Canada and abroad, and she has two previous poetry collections: Catch the Sweet (Seraphim Editions, 2001) and Pink Purse Girl (Wolsak and Wynn, 2006).

Delicious.  Entertaining.  Susan L. Helwig's And the cat says... (her best collection so far), is so readable it makes poetry seem like a naughty pleasure.
     -  David Gilmour



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Primary Source - Jason Schneiderman (Red Hen Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Primary Source.  Jason Schneiderman.  Red Hen Press.  Pasadena, California.  2016.

Winner of the Benjamin Salter Award, 2014

To Please and Instruct

       The purpose of art is to please and instruct
       -- Horace, Arts Poetica

The moral of this poem is fuck you.

The moral of this poem is I'm drunk.

The moral of this poem is I'm too drunk to be held responsible for what I'm
saying to you right now.

The moral of this poem is you're fat.

The moral of this poem is if you come after me, I will have your Hotmail
account turned off, true story.

The moral of this poem is herpes.

The moral of this poem is the Pope's a liar.

The moral of this poem is I'm sorry I threw up through my nose on you.

The moral of this poem is getting through customs without a passport.

The moral of this poem is gestalt therapy.

The moral of this poem is terrorists.

The moral of this poem is you like Tarantino movies because you're stupid
and I like Tarantino movies because I'm smart.

The moral of this poem is cats that look like Hitler.

The moral of this poem is reality television.

The moral of this poem is don't have sex with your siblings, parents, or
anyone under eighteen, sixteen if you're in Greece, fourteen in Denmark.

The moral of this poem is meth mouth.

The moral of this poem is gun-show loophole.

The moral of this poem is Gawker.

The moral of this poem is two state solution.

The moral of this poem is too much rage.

The moral of this poem is rehab sucks.

The moral of this poem is your wife being fingered in the bathroom at a 
party by this guy you invited because you thought he was cool and look
where that got you. 

The moral of this poem is rules change.

The moral of this poem is George Washington filling his dentures with
teeth pulled from his slaves.

The moral of this poem is kill me.

The moral of this poem is hip surgery.

The moral of this poem is drone strike wedding massacre.

The moral of this poem is thong.

The moral of this poem is shut up.

The moral of this poem is make me.


Let's get this party started with a kick-ass list poem.  That's the ticket.  Today's book of poetry loves a good list poem and "To Please and Instruct" is a stone-cold killer and the best list poem we've come across in a good while.

Jason Schneiderman's Primary Source is a playground for avid readers of poetry.  There is no commitment by the poet to any particular school or style of poetry, Schneiderman is all over the stylistic map and that is a total win for the reader.  This poet tears it up with ribald wit, no obvious sympathies, and a willingness to go in for the kill.  If Schneiderman were an athlete Today's book of poetry is convinced he'd be a wicked smart decathlete.

My Rich Friend

My rich friend wasn't always rich
but now he's very good at it,
by which I mean he's generous,
has excellent taste, never makes
anyone uncomfortable, has good
boundaries, and please don't tell him
but if I were ever to kill myself,
he has this wonderful window
in this perfect little dining nook
that's fifteen stories up and opens
all the way. The last thing
I would see is a soapstone zodiac
carved into a recess in the ceiling,
and then the city going by
ever so fast. I'm not usually tempted
by an open window. I don't know
how he survives it every day.


Primary Source does all those things Today's book of poetry looks for in a book of poems.  These poems are clever but not coy with wicked dry humour and instructive without ever being overbearing. 

Schneiderman dives into Cole Porter water with a pseudo-song of three verses that he uses to start off each of the three sections of Primary Sources.  Schneiderman is tipping his hat and it is a big hat because he has something to say and is surrounding himself with a litany of poets and a peppering of cultural pop shots.  Here's a partial list:  James Merrill, Helen Vendler, Stephen Spender, Yoko Ono, William the Shake, Thom Gunn, David Lee Roth (of all spandex wearing people), Marie Howe, John of Ashbery, Farah Fawcett, Frank O'Hara, the Beats, Dale Young, Ashton Kutcher, Robert Pinsky, Mark Doty, Robert Lowell, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, William Matthews and so on.  It's a hearty list of playmates and influences and guilty pleasures.

Jason Schneiderman knows how to play hard and in these poems he talks about gender and the performative nature of gender and how cruel and ignorant love and lust can be.  Schneiderman also muses on racism, John Cage and the fear of bears.  Today's book of poetry found it all compelling.

The Turing Test

        It might be urged that when playing 'the imitation game' the best strategy for
          the machine may possibly be something other than the behaviour of a man.
          -- Alan Turing

Who do you think he is, this boy in the Midwest
jerking off to the end of Alan Turing's biography,
getting aroused by the parts where the shame
and degradation are exactly what he's always wanted,
at a pornographic remove, and his history teacher
knows nothing about the end of Alan Turing's life,
which this boy will wisely leave out of his report.
Chemical castration? Hot. Nascent breasts? Hot.
Driven to suicide? Hot. Hot. Hot. And yes,
in the morning, on the school bus, or in the passenger
seat of his friend-girl's car, he'll think, That was
seriously fucked up, jerking off to that, and he won't 
even tent his pants by the light of day, knowing
he erased his browser history of all the chastity
blogs, and all the chat rooms where he gets to be
six-foot-two and the captain of the football team
who always just turned eighteen yesterday and
is enslaved to his coach, but that fantasy is getting
tired, and his mind wonders to tomorrow's trig
exam, and soon he'll get back to Alan Turing,
cock-slave to his government. Hot. Defeater of Nazis.
Hot. And by day, this you're-not-fooling-anyone
president of the Gay/Straight alliance may be furious
at how this hero was treated, will start a petition
to get the science lab named for Alan Turing,
but at night he wonders, in one recurring fantasy,
if he could ever pass the Turing test, but in the other
direction. If maybe, just maybe, no one could ever tell
he was human.


Sunday morning usually makes for a quietish office read but the Today's book of poetry staff were full of piss and vinegar today.  Schneiderman isn't just brilliant he can be incendiary.  Milo, our head tech, was particularly taken by the strong and fearless head on Schneiderman's shoulders.  Milo insisted we include a fourth poem today and he made a good case for it.  Today's book of poetry was easily swayed.

In the Next Room

She said, "Remember when you liked me
more than crack?" and he said, "Yeah, that
was when I hadn't met crack yet." and when
she huffed and tried to leave the booth
he grabbed her arm, and pulled her back
and said, "We have to talk about the dog,
remember?" and she said, "I thought
we were talking about the dog?" and he said,
"We have to finish talking about the dog,"
and she said, "So fucking finish talking
about the dog." and he said, "So stop being
a giant cunt and I will," at which point,
in a single sweeping movement of her arm
she knocked every single thing off the table,
and the cups and plates broke against
the floor, and the coffee flew up and stained
my pants, and the silverware clattered, and
we weren't overhearing anymore, we were
paying rapt attention, and he said, "You're paying
for that, you bitch," and she said,
"Pick up the tab, asshole," and not one
single person tried to stop her as she left.


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Jason Schneiderman


Jason Schneiderman was born in San Antonio Texas, but was raised around the United States and Western Europe owing to his father s military service. He holds BAs in English and Russian from the University of Maryland, an MFA from NYU, and a PhD from the Graduate Center of CUNY. He is the author of two previous collections of poems: Sublimation Point (Four Way Books, 2004) and Striking Surface (Ashland Poetry Press, 2010), winner of the Richard Snyder Prize. He is also the editor of the anthology Queer: A Reader for Writers (Oxford University Press, 2015). His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poetry, Verse Daily, The Poetry Review, and The Penguin Book of the Sonnet. Schneiderman has received Fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Yaddo, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and is the recipient of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Michael Broder."

Jason Schneiderman's Primary Source is a sparkling demonstration of this principle: a poet evolves by making as many aspects of the self as possible available on the page. By turns sardonic and sincere, nakedly vulnerable or armored in irony, the wild magpie intelligence shaping these poems plucks threads from Shakespeare and Stein, borrows forms from Cole Porter and Wittgenstein, and bows to a variety of influences so vast (Sylvia Plath and David Lee Roth?) as to constitute a way of situating the self, influencing the dizzily happy reader to a queer subject, a livewire thinker at work, a breathing human presence."
     -  Mark Doty

Schneiderman's poetry goes beyond camp, slapstick, and coterie aesthetics, although that's his terrain, too; his quick-dazzle intellect is its own happening, a commedia dell'arte cutting through the noise, offering both literary and social critique. The pleasures are here, the mystique of Schneiderman is Schneiderman."
     --  Major Jackson

 'Elegy VII (Last Moment)' by Jason Schneiderman
Video: PBS Newshour


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Homefront - Childhood Memories of WWII - Peggy Trojan (Evening Street Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Homefront - Childhood Memories of WWII.  Peggy Trojan.  Evening Street Press.  Dublin, Ohio.  2015.


Homefront - Childhood Memories of WWII is a gentle beauty of a book.  Peggy Trojan's poems travel through time and take you with them.  In Homefront World War II is in full swing and the poems are homespun missives, community updates and emotional weather reports.

Trojan's world churns past with such sweet simplicity and genuine respectful wonder that you almost think you are inside an episode of The Waltons - but the hearty sensibility of our narrator/heroine does see the cost of battle, the horrors of war that men inflict upon one another.

Winter Hill, 1943

Ten or twelve,
we met each evening on the hill,
dragging our sleds.
Built a fire,
threw in potatoes
from pockets of wool parkas,
started sliding.

Across the sea,
a world was burning.
At school, we practiced hiding under desks,
scanned the skies for enemy planes.
Together, we felt safe.
We owned the moonlight and the hill.

Tired out, near curfew,
we retrieved our cache,
rolled them out to sizzle on the snow.
Now hunks of oval charcoal,
skins burned thick.

We held our potatoes with snowy mitts,
peeled off the black,
passed the wax paper packet of salt.
Innocent as starlight,
we ate the winter night.

Mothers called from the village,
voices thin as string
stretching across the frosty air.
Jaw--onn, Jer--ree, Bill--ee

Secure as the moon,
we kicked snow on smoldering embers,
gathered our sleds.
headed home to porch light beacons.


Peggy Trojan's Homefront is a book entirely devoid of guile or avarice.  These poems sound and feel as true as the day is long, they are written with a tenderness and affection of intention but they are never coy or affected.  

Trojan has a voice we immediately trust as a familiar and all of her stories, though new to us, sound and feel as though they are family lore.

Blue Star, Gold Star

Cousin Roy was the first one
wounded from this little town.
He recovered and was sent
back to battle.
When he was killed,
they couldn't find any part
of him to send home to bury.
His father always thought
he would come back
to take over the farm.
There was no memorial service...
No minister was available
out there in the country,
and his Pa said he couldn't take anymore.
His sister even had a Christmas present
ready to mail when the news came.
Nothing to do
but take down the blue service star,
and hang a gold star
in the window now.


As you all know Today's book of poetry has a reading every morning of the day's book, this morning's reading was a real tonic.  The poems brought forward our parents and our grandparents and played with memory so as to help us believe we know and understand them better.,  Homefront is not a historical document but it is true living history and here at Today's book of poetry we often feel that's the ticket.  

None of this would matter much if the poems didn't work as poems but this is solid, dependable, straight forward as the wheels on the front of a train engine stuff.  Today's book of poetry felt right at home.  

Roosevelt Dies

The day The President died,
Our President, My President,
the only President I ever knew,
they interrupted Tom Mix on the radio
with the breaking news.
I ran across the yard to the Co-op
and leaped the two steps
to my dad's office.

"Oh, my stars!" he gasped,
and yelled to the whole store,
"The President is dead!"
He turned his radio on, loud.

Everyone stopped:
the clerks filling orders,
shoppers with their ration books,
the butcher weighing hamburger,
the feed man in the back room,
kids eyeing the bulk candy.
All came in shocked silence
to the office door.

Quietly, like fog, reality filled
the room with genuine grief.
Then everything moved
in slow motion
as people went back
to finish what they were doing
while our whole world changed.


In November 2016 it is hard for many readers to remember how World War II shaped the modern world and all those who experienced it. Time has not changed this tapestry, Peggy Trojan has woven something wondrous here, a glimpse, a beautiful detail, of how community and family come together when united by purpose and fear.

Peggy Trojan's Homefront is tender testament to the determination of those left at home and to the unfiltered bright eyes of someone who remembers.

Peggy Trojan

PEGGY TROJAN and her husband live in the north woods of Wisconsin in a house they built not far from her childhood home after they retired from teaching. She is the mother of six, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of two. She submitted her first poem for publication when she was seventy-seven, and has been enjoying seeing her work in print. She has been published in the Boston Literary Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, Talking Stick, Wisconsin People and Ideas Magazine, Thunderbird Review, Little Eagle's Re/Verse, Your Daily Poem, and many other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook collection of poems about her parents, Everyday Love, is available on Amazon. She is a member of Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

Peggy Trojan was there on the Home Front, an eight to twelve year old girl from northwest Wisconsin as “the world was burning” (“Winter Hill 1943”) thousands of miles away. We see through her eyes as she witnesses “the heroes at home” (“Home Front”), the rationing and the tragedy of neighbors switching the Blue Star for the Gold Star in the window. These are poems of great tenderness and simplicity, powerfully remembered… “the girls played house and the boys played war” (“Playtime”).
     --Bruce Dethlefsen, Wisconsin Poet Laureate (2011-2012) author of Small Talk, Little Eagle Press

Peggy Trojan's poetry is straightforward and focused, yet lyrical and poignant. Through clean images and sharp details, she takes us to a time when war was a daily reality. This book is both a poetic and historical treasure.
     --Jan Chronister, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College author of Target Practice, Parallel             Press

What a pleasure this collection is! Clear-eyed and perceptive, these narrative poems in Homefront by Peggy Trojan tell the story of a child in small Midwestern town during World WWII: the music, the girls playing jacks, the buttons on underwear, the ration books, the small town general store, and “for the first time/ questioning if man was kind.” It’s a chronicle of the war effort, and readers will be delighted with the sharp images of growing up, the privations and pleasures, the interesting portraits of people, and the news dispatches of the war and Holocaust seen through the eyes of a child. Every poem is necessary to this collection, and each captures a time and a place, returning to us the stories and strengths of our parents and grandparents. She paints with words, and her language is both plain-spoken and beautiful and full of pathos. These poems are lit with love.
     --Sheila Packa Duluth, Poet Laureate 2010-2012 author of Night Train Red Dust, Cloud Birds, and         Echo & Lightning 



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.