Friday, May 17, 2019

Listen Before Transmit — Dani Couture (A Buckrider Book/Wolsak & Wynn)

Today's book of poetry:
Listen Before Transmit.  Dani Couture.  A Buckrider Book/Wolsak & Wynn.  Hamilton, Ontario.  2018.

Listen Before Transmit

Dani Couture is stringing some perfectly good Tangerine Dream soundtrack to the back of your head, her pointed fingers all skulduggery and tectonic.  Listen Before Transmit is a highly sophisticated series of messages sent from somewhere that seems like the present and between someplace that feels like the future.

It's all dreamlike familiar, deju vu freaky and future skeptical.  Dani Couture's voice is uber-modern.  In fact Listen Before Transmit may be seen as an introduction to a new lexicon, a new emotional matrix.


The bronze statue of a soldier sits astride
a bronze horse imagined exactly 1.5 times

larger than any known breed. A slayed dragon,
artfully reclined in death, tops well-chiselled notes

on an empire. If the enemy is imagined
as a dragon, the enemy will be unaware

we know they are our enemy. Or recall they
once were and may be again. The recurring

apogee of goals and timelines. In the park, hostas
proliferate, stab up in spring like strip spikes

that puncture all to arrest one. Like dreaming once
to end all waking. Melatonin jet lag, sleep, and here

you are able to float and horses ride men above
a conflict of dented texts. Small details, contrails,

threaded through to make it almost believable - a lie
from the one in your bed, but from and to yourself.

Recombinant data. At rest, your brain selects
a Zeppelin to tour a city of spires. Math

was never your strong suit. You were told
to bring three adapters. The pleasure of plugging in

everything at once is undeniable. By percentage
the galleries had more heads than bodies.

Outside of one, a man, granite, holds up the head
of a woman, granite, emancipated from her body.

Saving her, punishing her, or both. You failed to read
the plaque. A second gallery welcomes visitors

with bay window-sized breasts fashioned in three
colours of neon piping, which, in your mind, flash

OPEN, OPEN, OPEN. Artist's intent aside, you enter
the gallery like a fisherman's knot and leave hooked.

This where you felt most at home away from home.
Home where the grackles are the size of ravens,

ravens the size of dogs, dogs the size of horses,
yet women still variable according to need and purpose.

At the departure gate, you ask a guard if you speak
a different language than your father, are you ensured security

of your own thought outside his borders? Everyone said
this was a long way to go to be somewhere else.


Today's book of poetry recently heard from our travelling correspondent Otis.  He's currently on assignment in Port Credit.  Years ago Today's book of poetry took up residence in Port Credit with a certain and genuine Blanche Dubois, and her mother.  It's a small world and we're hoping Otis gets out alive and unscathed.  Port Credit can be one dangerous place.  And his mailbox is overflowing.

Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, is a big Dani Couture fan and insisted we get YAW (Mansfield Press, 2014),  Sweet (Pedlar Press, 2010), and Good Meat (Pedlar Press 2006) out of the stacks for the morning read.  Milo, our head tech and just recently back from a honeymoon with Kathryn, shot into action like he was shot out of a love gun.  Kathryn handed out Couture's oeuvre and a splendid morning read ensued.  Dani Couture's poems made our staff sound smart, they all liked that.

Listen Before Transmit reads like it could be the unknown love child of Walter Tevis and Saint Sharon Olds.

Report on the Status of Raccoons
on Fern Avenue

The children have elected them, en masse,
as head gardener, tastemaker, first love.
Individually, some are mistaken for escaped
house cats or nothing at all - renter's side
of a one-way mirror. Assembled, they move
as one. a giant fractal considering
the neighbourhood, licking off shingles
for the gap-toothed view of our pills,
passwords and occasional sex. Last frost
is their favourite formula. Their claws
are fashioned from pull tabs, lighter silver,
and lost earrings. The only words they know
are I am sorry, spoken in varying orders,
velaric, almost, and often, swallowed.
Each animal forms a binary system
with one of the feral chickens of Kauai.
They believe they are an island. Some are
able to camouflage as kitchen-made satellites
moving across telephone wires. They collect
open-window data, half-lives of half-heard
conversations. They party trick refuse, ingest,
then leave it on porches, neatly, in curls. Each
individual hair on their coat is an antenna
to an auxiliary. They reclaim old pelts, cold
crowns, from attics, to commune with their dead,
and wonder why we pick our brushes clean.
They believe we invented the rat and car tire.
Understand construction cranes to be a form
of prayer. They take more meaning
from the lay of flagstones than they should.
They're partial to the sound of human crying.
They sleep unmolested in the eaves
we'll never finish paying for.


One of the things, one of the many that Today's book of poetry adores in the poetry of Dani Couture, and Listen Before Transmit is no exception, is the catalogue of poets, musicians, artists, painters, thinkers, that Couture folds into whatever she is cooking.  Everyone from Saint Eileen of Myles and the immortal Pink of Floyd, Kate Hall to Joseph Henri Honore Boex.  The point being that Couture is a searcher, fully engaged in a dynamic dialogue with the world.

Today's book of poetry ran into Dani Couture at a recent poetry festival and introduced himself.  Couture read her socks off, dazzled the audience and then walked off the stage with an "aw shucks, it weren't nothin'" grin.  That's how the pro's do it.

Mother, Order Apple

The radio reports there are no
apples this year, so you drive

to the closest orchard and ask
for apples. I would like to buy apples.

When the man at the chained gate
tells you there are none, you say:

I want apples. You tell him
there have always been apples.

Fifty-seven years of apples.
He tells you to drive west

two thousand miles. You'll find apples
there, just down the road

from here. He says if you'd died
in surgery as expected, you would

not be without apples this year.
A perfect record.

Maybe he didn't say those words
exactly, but you knew

he was thinking them
as he walked away to where he keeps

shelves of canned halves, the ones
he saved for a year like this.


Today's book of poetry has long admired the poetry of Dani Couture, we wrote about YAW back in 2014 and you can read about that here:  

Listen Before Transmit is what happens when an excellent poet gets better.  She has the long sustain, Couture's yawp continues and Today's book of poetry couldn't be happier.  We are all richer to hear it, learn something.

Dani Couture cooks, she's the real burn.

Image result for dani couture photos

Dani Couture

Dani Couture is the author of several collections of poetry and the novel Algoma (Invisible Publishing). From 2012 to 2016, she was the Poetry and Fiction Editor at This Magazine. Couture’s work has been nominated for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, received an honour of distinction from the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers, and won the ReLit Award for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in publications in Canada, the US, and the UK, and several editions of Best Canadian Poetry in English.


"The poems in Listen Before Transmit exist in the slippage between language, experience and memory – deftly moving one way, then another, in a call-and-response to the human condition. A beautiful and accomplished collection."
     – Helen Humphreys, author of The Ghost Orchard

"A deft collage of syntactical fragments, the title poem of Listen Before Transmit foregrounds the principles of uncertainty, estrangement and disconnection that underlie the haunting mindscapes of this book. But there is also a countermusic in the book that strengthens the hold these poems gain over the reader, a music enacting the human search – however fraught, even risible – for connection and coherence in an indifferent universe. In 'Minus Time' both movements are manifest: ‘Who were you when you understood the sun / was simply a star? That you, in part / were made / of collapse. You, smallest sun.' Couture's questing figures probe galaxies within and without, in the process enmeshing us in the excitement and risk of both sorts of journey. Spend time with this book. Agile in its management of form, intellectually and emotionally nuanced, it will repay you with riches."
      – Mary Dalton, author of Edge: Essays, Reviews, Interviews
"Equal parts generous and curious, Dani Couture's Listen Before Transmit is born from the tender space where history ends and the future begins. These beautifully crafted poems place hunger and joy beneath a microscope, attuning the reader to what is magnified there . . . Listen Before Transmit opens the skies for us, demanding we ask more from the science fictive statics our bodies swim inside. Imagine the stars looking down at us when we look up at them: in this intimate and daring book, they do."
     – Jessica Rae Bergamino, author of The Desiring Object or Voyager Two Explains to the      
        Gathering of Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them

Dani Couture
Video: BlackCoffeePoet



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.

Monday, May 13, 2019

If There Were Roads — Joanna Lilley (Turnstone Press)

Today's book of poetry:
If There Were Roads.  Joanna Lilley.  Turnstone Press.  Winnipeg, Manitoba.  2017.

Joanna Lilley is very much a poet of place.  Geography plays a big part in her narrative of If There Were Roads.  The particulars of geography may sometimes confuse the reader because Lilley both writes about where she is — and where she isn't.

The constant is Lilley herself, her keen eyes and wickedly sharp pen.  Lilley makes a strong argument that we are shaped by geography and our place in it.  It is a simple concept but a far more complicated actuality.  Joanna Lilley navigates the territory of the present like an enlightened cartographer whose keen ear remembers and makes way for the past.


My boyfriend had a vision:
my bicycle chucked in a truck;
It would be red, he said.
As if he'd ever been to Canada.

A man I served at the bar asked
if I was going still, now the desert war
was on. I should carry a gun, another said.
As if he'd ever been to Canada.

It was twenty years ago today, the day
I started. A long bicycle ride,
drawing corners on a ragged country,
I stretched six thousand miles

to fit in enough aloneness
after all the cram of England.
Len the long-haul trucker saw me twice
on his trans-Canada run.

The third time, he came out of a cafe
as I went in. Fourth run, he bought me supper
at a truck stop. A salad, for a vegetarian,
with jelly and marshmellows.

He'd got out of Keeseekoose, saved
for a semi that cost more than a house
and made it home. He hadn't seen
his daughter for half her six-year life,

didn't know if he still had a wife.
Len said I shouldn't camp. He offered
me his bunk. We slept beside each other
after he got back ache on the front seat

and asked to share. When I left, he gave
me a song on a dirty, cracked cassette.
Anne Murray's Bluebird.
Not my thing but beautiful.

He said he meant it. That was Saskatchewan.
Chester in Nova Scotia had seen me too.
He made me pancakes. Marc in New Brunswick
took me home for apple pie.

He told me he had a girlfriend.
Ray — Ontario — kept giving me food,
said I must eat as I cycled along. I left
the helmet he gave in a campground.

Women didn't feed me.
Alice in Ontario said she was jealous:
all that time to think. Marianne
cried because I was on my own.

In Manitoba, Judy the teacher caught
me camping at the school.
I slept in her white house
down by the sunken Birdtail River,

a riddle of hills that were really the prairie
above. Helen in Alberta called me
a fellow traveller, told me the bird I'd heard
since Quebec was just a wood thrush.

It wasn't supposed to be about the people.
It was the land I wanted: skies, the muskeg,
taiga, the bear who crossed the highway,
the coyote who followed me, the foxes

who watched. In the Yukon, Julie
took me to her cabin on the Dempster.
It took me fifteen years to make it back.
As if I could live anywhere but Canada.


If There Were Roads does concern itself with matters beyond geography.  Lilley dares to venture into the open and endless plain of the emotional landscape.  This is where Joanna Lilley really shines.

If There Were Roads got carried around quite a bit in the last ten days.  It spent several hours at various medical institutions as well as an over-night trip to a hometown funeral.  Whenever Today's book of poetry picked up If There Were Roads we found another of the myriad destinations Lilley serves up on a banquet platter.  It was better than carrying maps.

Just a Man

I wish I could be just a man
passing by a row of shops.

A man as ordinary as a road with potholes,
as a bridge across a river frilled with brown foam,

or the tugboats of a working firth.
A man where urban is normal,

where a park is unremarkable,
where dogs walk without pulling

and pigeons peck at screwed up burger wrappers.
I wish I was a man in a jacket, collar down,

a little fashion in my trouser leg, passing by
a doorway, a yellow skip, a litter bin,

past men and women at the bus stop
who barely notice me.

I wish I didn't care that the sun has set,
that the street lights have come on,

creating shadows,
and I'm still half a mile from home.


When Joanna Lilley talks about such things as gender it is without bile.  A man becomes "as ordinary as a pothole."  Lilley's poetry is lush with thoughtful consideration given to the small moments that make up our existence, the detailed moments that make us human.

Tom the Wolfe made it abundantly clear "that we can't go home again."  Jack of Kerouac told us how to live "on the road," while Joanna Lilley charts a path where place is something inside the individual, to be carried wherever need be.

Can the solace we need and seek be manufactured by the strength of self, Today's book of poetry believes that Lilley does believe just that.  Then the knowing where are inside is the only direction one needs.

Where I Was Born

I am not just from where I was born;
I am from where I've lived.
On Dartmoor's sheep-cropped edges,
beside golden, bouldered tors.
A shingle beach, a chalky sea,
a land to a preceptory.
A valley, a waterfall, a cairn.
And, yes, that first rough field
of shaggy grass in Cambridgeshire
my parents brought me home to.
A brown pond, a thatched roof
over a weak floor, a sheepdog
watching my pram. For I was born
within the sound of horses' hooves,
across the county line in Suffolk
farthest from the Bow Bells
of the litter. My siblings
can have their London births.
My first breath yanked sheets of air
from fens as far as sea, from roofs
with spaces in between.
I have sought those spaces ever since
and found them even in the boughs
of plane trees on a city street.
They stay with me, these spaces.
I've brought them here to the forest edge,
where land might still be sacred.
Though far from field and moor and sea
I am at last where I need to be.


We are in a slightly dishevelled office here at Today's book of poetry.  Much is afoot, including a lovely red "coffee table" that has become a central and critical component to our entire operation.  It is sitting on top of Today's book of poetry's desk.  Today's book of poetry has been distracted by reasons beyond your amusement, but Joanna Lilley's If There Were Roads has been close company and reminding us of what really matters.

There is a haunting, to come after, feeling to these poems.  A knowing, that once read, you'll want to travel this road again.

Joanna Lilley

Joanna Lilley

Joanna Lilley is an award-winning poet living in Whitehorse. Born in the UK, Joanna has always been drawn north, crossing the Arctic Circle twice, before settling in the Yukon. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Malahat Review and Grain. If There Were Roads is her second collection of poetry.

Joanna Lilley claims in her poem “Two Ghosts” that “it wasn’t supposed to be about the people,” yet that is exactly what If There Were Roads is about—people and what they do to the bodies of animals; people on journeys accompanied by ghosts, and myth, and crows; people both lost and at home. Lilley’s journey takes us into the cycles of the seasons where certainty exists only in acute observation and reflection. If There Were Roads is haunting and luscious, full of place and heart.
     — Micheline Maylor, Little Wildheart

Poems of place and displacement, of leaving home and finding home, move seamlessly through inner and outer landscapes in Lilley’s lively, evocative collection. Arresting and captivating, If There Were Roads is poetry brimming with new ways of seeing.
     —Catherine Graham, The Celery Forest   



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, May 3, 2019

Poetry Comes Out of My Mouth — Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (Dialogos Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Poetry Comes Out of My Mouth.  Mario Santiago Papasquiaro.  Translated by Arturo Mantec贸n,    Dialogos Books.  New Orleans, Louisiana.  2018.

Today's book of poetry loves Mexico and today we love Mexico even more.  Why?  Because only Mexico could produce a Mario Santiago Papasquiro (1953-1998), born Jose Alfredo Zendejas, Papasquiro chose his name.  Always rebelling, even against his own name.

Today's book of poetry was completely in the dark about Papasquiaro until Poetry Comes Out of My Mouth  and the excellent introduction to Papasquiaro by Ilan Stavans.  There is much to know about the bohemian Papasquiaro and his partner in crime Roberto Bola帽o, the founders of Infrarealism (also called Visceral Realism).  This poetry is written in deliberate opposition to the mainstream of Mexican poetry in the 70's.

These poems sound like they were shot out of a cannon that you're standing next to, they are as electric as that eel biting your face.  Poetry Comes Out of My Mouth explodes like biting pus leaving an abscess and that immediate stanky relief that follows.  Santiago is a full on fuselage of fireworks and it is fabulous.

Poetry Comes Out of my Mouth

For Roberto Bola帽o, who I feel will become my Maharishi and is the founder of a movement
whose name I am unaware of & in which I pledge to fully realize myself

Poetry comes out of mouth,
it juts out from my nostrils / my penis
unexpectedly /
the shuddering
the resplendence /
& drool as well
& my hair now yanked out
by the sheer force of riding it
& pulling out of its deviations /
& dandruff / & the petrification
of so many of the herbs & roots
of this world / that before
taking a  bite of them we are obliged
to spit...
Poetry comes out of my mouth,
from my clenched hands, from each resolute
pore of my skin /
from this volatile, random place /
testicularly located /
sharpening its dagger / its irritations
its manifest propensity to
explode / & light the fuse
in a refrigerator climate
in which it is neither GOOD or BAD
nor shaggy hanks nor keepsake locks of hair
      nor even a head cold
that merits being called a cold
nor even one single case of Fever-Frever
worthy of being recorded as such in this
my motionless country
      Poetry comes out of my mouth,
with an animal pelt & some antennae
& a few eyes of a fly /
With the warbles of a caged
canary / & the yawns
cacophonous yawns of the
zoo keeper /
     Night & day / Red & Black
with the ovaries of a girl
with the hoarse voice a boy
with the hesitant gaze
but rabid / beautifully rabid
of a queer kid who doesn't
want to be hidden in a
bottomless barrel
               Poetry comes out of my mouth
with the clean blackness of gasoline
with the eloquent brilliance of a 500-volt spotlight
with the excitement & the pride
of some biceps
      masters of their world
(& within the relativity
of master Einstein):
      The all-powerful ones
With the colors of a suit of clothes
made with fabric remnants /
with the confused sounds
chaotically harmonized
of hundreds & hundreds of disparate
car horns /
a day of bottleneck
on the beltway
            Against gale winds & inundations
(& in a certain way a
favor to them)
against houses with closed doors
against worm-ridden suns
against cirrhosis far beyond
the liver /
against soft drink bottles
containing urea /
against boys & girls
castrated / frozen
on the day of their birth /
against the tons of
dirt & garbage
that fall on top of us,
when what one wants
is to show oneself to be happy & beautiful
as a palpable demonstration
of a new "rebirth"
      Jumping & running with the
agile ones / putting a wax taper in
the asshole of the dimwits /
planning luncheons & soirees
with the bright ones /
     getting immensely
enthused over the resolution
of the malfunctions / from Aries to Pisces
from Monday to Sunday /
from January to December
from the 1st to the 31st
from the worn-out board on the floor
to the spider web shimmying on
the roof /
       of flatulence in flatulence
of the impression of a reactionary
upon meeting for the 1st time
a naked woman /
      the last Ah of "somebody
or other," when the 3rd World War
breaks out /
      visiting the sick
      greeting the healthy
conspiring underground
sabotaging above ground
holding back / advancing
hurrying your gulp
savoring it
gargling it
massaging yourself with it
injecting yourself with it
       / scratching, clawing
      by the light of a midnight sun
like 2 lovers digging into each other
like 2 lovers expanding
out to their ultimate possibilities
the signifiers & the signified
of the Braille system
like a drunken binge of
sunflowers in circles / like a
diadem of dahlias  the favorite
flower of Judith /
like a hit of marijuana
& you touch Nirvana with your hands
you move a finger, & you realize
you pull up grass & you smile /
flower pot worm / worm of red
earth that you did not know yourself/
Like a huge out of control psilocybin trip
that makes flour out of the rock
of your 4 walls /
& puts you on the prow of the comet Kohoutek
& leaves your sprees & revelry exposed,
your entire expanse
your abbreviation,
     ready to be shaken off /
so as to not forsake the proper cholera
for the unjust dirty tricks /
but rather to enrich
but rather to strengthen
the fuse to the TNT,
to explode it
to make the pupil of your eye turn inward
      Now he sings who wept
a short time ago
Shouts / Leaps / Mounts / Ejaculates ?
That So & So whom they had given up
for dead /
Now the hard ballads
soft cantatas / Bronx cheers
& the aftertaste for him who has spit out
the earth & the mucous
with which his eyes had sealed /
      Poetry comes out of my mouth
in full gerundial coin
in full flow of potable water
in full viral luminosity
in full capacity of contagion
So it goes with poetry /
& for her
      I have nothing but praises


Born in Mexico City in 1953, Santiago lived in Paris, Vienna, Barcelona and Jerusalem between 1976 and 1978.  He was chasing love, in love with a woman he couldn't have.  Papasquiaro returned to Mexico City and died in 1998.  He was a man dedicated to love as few men ever are.

Today's book of poetry had Delinquent Habits blasting out on the office box this morning as we tried our best to get in the proper mood to hammer out our morning read.  Papasquiaro didn't just use Spanish but Mexican slang, Chilango—argot, words "from Nahuatl, the pre-Columbian language of Mexica, and several other indigenous nations."

Today's book of poetry couldn't keep up to the cultural and political references that spit up out of Papasquiaro's poems like water dropped on to a hot skillet.

Implacable Song

I shit on God
& on all of his dead
I shit on the communion host
& the virgin's little cunt
I shit on the dead
of the God of God
on the master morality of Friedrich Nietzsche
on the trembling body on my soul
& on the exposed nettles of the atheist
on the premature death of the righteous
on the fleeting nature of coitus & its flash
On the animal verb
On rhizome-like imagination
On the texts of fully weaned wisdom
On the ass crack of the planets
I shit
Concentrating on the wildfire of my pores
on this alcohol undergrowth that thrashes me
on the infinite eye of my footprints
on the savage fury of shameful chaos
on impossible death & its offerings
On the med of the asp that suns itself
on the rocks of the beloved
on the levitation of my skull & bones
on the lame heart of the unspeakable
On the aqueous aleph of my stigmata
on the vitreous rash of my assassin
on the hand of pleasure
on the drug wedged in his front teeth
On the philanthropic ogre & his wife
on the wretched grave of chance
on the germ of lyrical poetry / which is a turd
On the airborne horseshit
on the sleep sand in the eyes of moles
on the all-splendored cranium of Charleville
On the rats still fleeing from the Drunken Sea
on the soft
on the flabby
& on the defenseless
On the toads' belch of either
on boiling blood
on the shadows
on the pink phlegm of the daybreak
on the insensate glass I have chosen for a road
in the canyons of swollen Venus
On the banquet platter
in the little chamber pots of the ceasefire
on the rotten toadstool & its trident
On the genealogical tumor of the US Army
on the extensive lineage of shit
Abyss & resplendency / chance & wind
Open vein from coccyx to clavicle
Lateness of pregnancy
/ Flame of muffled harps
On groins without the armpits of God-inventorofthedead
on the suave & multiple murmur made by 2 teardrops
: on the sea : on its deserts :
& on myself


Today's book of poetry marvelled at how easy it was to embrace Arturo Mantec贸n's translations and walk right into these panoramic poems.  To be frank and honest, as we always try to be here, Today's book of poetry is now in love with Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, happy happy joy joy that we've found him. —— But stupid sad that we had never heard of him earlier.

When you open the pages of Poetry Comes Out of My Mouth it is a little like the first time you hear Coltrane's "Giant Steps" or Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower."  You know you are in the presence of greatness.  All you want to do is bask in it.

¡Oye!  Mario Santiago Papasquiaro is a poet you didn't know you were waiting for.

William Shakespeare Arrives in Chilpancingo

William Shakespeare arrives in Chilpancingo
almost breaking his crown
in a small plane accident

A Jehovah's Witness (of the sleepwalking kind)
watches him on the sly

a federal security officer
shoots at him & does not hit him

William Shakespeare arrives (as he likes it)
his hip still hot & fragrant
his cranium invaded by flaming salamanders
fit together like pillows of rock & moss

William Shakespeare gets lost in Chilpancingo
—on the way from the cabaret to the gynecologist—
traveling now on tip-toe
now kissing the jaw of his anti-Lecumberri gradual progress
his blood-tunnel
his helicopter backbone
his most witch-like will
his caprice in flight
upon which he rides & lets our cries while fleeing

William Shakespeare / who seeded his flowerbed with black small pox in
excursion on the camino real
intoxication that we now savor as classic
William Shakespeare playing chess in Chilpancingo


Today's book of poetry is gobstruck, our poetry world just got that much bigger in the best way possible.  There isn't much of Mario Santiago Papasquiaro 's poetry that survived his death.  We are lucky to have Poetry Comes Out of My Mouth.

On days like today I have the best job in the world.  Today's book of poetry was honoured to write about Papasquiaro.

Mario Santiago Papasquiaro

Mario Santiago Papasquiaro
(1954 - 1998)

Mario Santiago (1953-1998) was a poet errant, an incessant wanderer of the storied streets of Mexico City and an adventurous pursuer of love in Europe and the Middle East.

In his mid-twenties he met a young woman, Claudia Kerik, at a poetry workshop (attended, also, by Roberto Bola帽o and other infra-realists) held in a cultural center in Chapultepec Park. Mario Santiago became infatuated with her. His love was not returned. When Kerik, who was Jewish, decided to emigrate to Israel in 1977, he followed her. He went to Paris and made his way to Jerusalem and worked on a nearby kibbutz to be near her. When he finally gave up his romantic pursuit, he made a slow retreat through Europe, writing poetry whenever he could. In Vienna, he was jailed for participating in a political demonstration and was expelled from Austria. He worked as a dishwasher in Barcelona and a fisherman and crop picker in the south of France, and he was a vagabond in Paris before finally going back to Mexico.

A rebellious man with a prickly personality and anti-social tendencies, he had difficulty holding down a job. He would burn off excess energy by taking long walks, at times for days on end but always coming home to the most important person in his life, his wife Rebeca L贸pez, the familial anchor who provided him the love and support necessary to his work. He was injured when hit by a car while on one of his interminable hikes. This did not deter him from taking his long meditative walks, but thereafter he had to use a cane.

After his accident, he became reckless and would cross busy streets with no regard for oncoming traffic, and on January 10, 1998, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver and killed.

After he had been missing several days, his wife called the police. She was directed to a morgue where she identified a corpse as her husband.

Arturo Mantec贸n

Arturo Mantec贸n is a poet, story writer and translator born in Laredo, Texas and raised in Detroit, Michigan. His poetry has appeared in La Ventana Abierta, Poetry Now and various anthologies. His short stories have been published in The Americas Review, Caf茅 Bellas Artes, Bliss, and The Dunes Review. A collection of his short stories, Memories, Cuentos Ver铆dicos, y Otras Outright Lies, was published by En Casa in 2014.

He has translated the poetry and prose of the mad Spanish poeta maldito, Leopoldo Mar铆a Panero, in three collections: My Naked Brain (Swan Scythe Press, 2011), Like an eye in the hand of a beggar (Editions Michel Eyquem, 2013), and Rosa Enferma / The Sick Rose (Swan Scythe Press, 2016).

He has also translated the prose and poetry of the uniquely erudite Spanish writer, champion poker player and ornithologist, Francisco Ferrer Ler铆n in a volume titled Chance Encounters and Waking Dreams (Editions Michel Eyquem, 2016).

The poetry of legendary Mexican poet Mario Santiago Papasquiaro is little known in the USA. Closest friend of Roberto Bola帽o (he is Ulises Lima in his Los Detectives Salvajes), Mario Santiago’s poetry flies in the most hallucinatory manner out of the tangled mass of Mexico’s heritage. Fusing the supernal and infernal energies of C茅sar Vallejo and Allen Ginsberg, this non-stop automatic-rifle poetry has few peers in contemporary poetry anywhere, and the meticulous translations of Arturo Mantec贸n superbly render this often difficult stylist into an English equally explosive and eloquent. With this potpourri of past and present, imagined and unimaginable visions, Santiago puts himself over the edge, racing as it were to his own destruction.
       —Ivan Arg眉elles, author of The Invention of Spain and Madonna Septet

Mario Santiago writes not only with brilliance, but pays homage to his many influences—from the Beat poets to Artaud—whom he turns into his family in a theater of cultural references and, as a communist, makes them all part of his fundamental, historical rage for justice, love and transformation in an epoch steeped in drugs, lunacy and spontaneous righteousness. Arturo Mantec贸n’s majestic translations reveal Santiago’s mastery of lyricism and poetic drama. If you find yourself reading yourself when you read this book, don’t say I didn’t tell you so—that’s how great Santiago is.
      —Jack Hirschmanm, author of All That’s Left and Front Lines

Every line of these poems pack little explosions of beauty, thought, rage, joy, that coalesce into a radiant blaze. I found myself bouncing in my chair as I read, carried by the language’s irresistible exuberance, and Arturo Mantec贸n’s on-fire translations. These poems make fresh a youthful spirit and language from a lost time. Mario Santiago still drives solemn pompous Mexican critics crazy; some are deeply annoyed that his friend and champion Roberto Bola帽o’s fame have brought these poems new attention. I love the poems that take on some of Mexico’s sacred foundational myths, and far from merely subverting them, unexpectedly humanize these majestic figures and bring them so close, in poems that drum their honest, brilliantly jiving yet humble beat inside of you: “the children of my children will transmit my vision in their own way.”
      —Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name and The Art of Political Murder



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.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Basic Programming - Megan Burns (Lavender Ink)

Today's book of poetry:
Basic Programming.  Megan Burns.  Lavender Ink.  New Orleans, Louisiana.  2018.

"there is no fairness in our world/ only lessons
that teach us how to be."
                                                                                                    from "200 Next Endings"

Megan Burns is operating at a level that Today's book of poetry is unfamiliar with.  Somehow Today's book of poetry has arrived in 2019 with nearly no computer skills or knowledge.  Burns knows everything and has decided to try and write new code for us all.

Burns loves Bob Dylan like a Saint, and shouldn't we all.  She lists thirty-four different Dylan tracks at various time throughout Basic Programming.  And then there's the Wuthering Heights influence, Emily Bronte gets her say but Megan Burns does not stop there either.  Burns is attempting to write a new code that will move us forward, help us understand.

Burns lists an entire troop of influences from Eknath Easwaran's translation of The Bhagavad Gita to Kathy Acker & McKenie Wark's I'm Very Into You: Correspondence 1995-1996.  There are a couple of dozen more.  

What does it all mean?  It means Megan Burns knows where she wants to take the reader and her poems and she is writing the code to do it through her poems.  The resulting rocket ship beauties soar.


always being first to text (giving), attention whore (everything to do with it), believing
universe brought us together for special purpose (everything to do with it), confusing
healthy, safe partners for boring (everything to do with it), consult Tarot cards for advice
(everything to do with it), days of being ignored (receiving), dissecting text messages for
subtext (giving), empty (everything to do with it), exchanging sexual pictures of videos w/
a stranger (everything to do with it), fantasize future w/ lover (giving), ignoring intuition
about partner choice (giving), imagining perfect sexual scenarios w/ strangers (giving),
insert sexual language or flirt as a wall (everything to do with it), loving people who can't
love back (giving), mistaking anxiety for love (everything to do with it), mistaking coldness,
emotional unavailability or general disinterest for mysterious or deep unrequited need
other can't express (everything to do with it), playing role of perky, eccentric girl who
has no deep intentions (giving), pretending not to care (giving), not caring (everything to
do with it), rehash all details of minor interactions w/ friends for subliminal clues missed
(everything to do with it), relishing in rejection (receiving), scared (everything to do with
it), sex one time w/ a stranger (receiving), texts t/o day w/ strangers who want to meet for
sex (giving), waiting for others to make contact (receiving), unable to quell compulsion to
make contact to see how long until s/he responds (everything to do with it), unprotected
sex (receiving), ways of a devil sleeping in a lion's den (everything to do with it)


Make no mistake, there were aspects of Basic Programming that confused the hell out of Today's book of poetry.  Our younger staff laughed, laughed, laughed.   They dialed into Megan Burns opus like they were laser sighted.

Of course it didn't matter because Megan Burns' Basic Programming delighted Today's book of poetry right down to our toes.  Electricity, like the kind that must flow in Megan Burns veins, is a rare commodity.

Today's book of poetry was listening to Laura Nyro in the office this morning.  That means everyone was listening to Laura this morning.  And somehow that seemed a good fit.  Nyro was genius personified, so ahead of her time that her work is timely now, fifty years later.  

Today's book of poetry is in a conundrum with Megan Burns name.  You regular readers of Today's book of poetry will recognize that "burns" is the verb of choice when describing poetry we like.  We threw it around the office, "Burns burns!"  But it was unsatisfactory.  We love, love, love Megan Burns last name and won't be deterred.  Burns does exactly that, Megan Burns burns.  

Electric and splendid.


shaped & unshaped by those who first care take
how did you learn a language of skin
I have irrepressible ideas about what I want
limits to love           we mean time and attention
learning to become what can be trusted
watch our world burn

don't corpse me     I eat dead   she said men    but delirament
ate her whole headed   I came back fiery sorry
for fallout from my fury
tell me what position you want me to take
sometimes I can't be patient or gentle    I need you
in my mouth/ my mouth needs to say things I can't choke back
how to screw an epistolary form into an object

poetry is the perfect lover / hardly anyone wants it
sounds symphony inside me
falling out of mouth / tongues move to produce
delitescent / patter of need / after he cums in my mouth
can't catch breath / taken by surprise / against other people
press your palms into me / do you know / how seductive timing is /
to take slowly what we want to coalesce
life always acting like that riddle
with corn, chicken and a fox
boating across and you can only carry two
I'm never good enough for myself
life breaks heart / daily
fighting for smallest / peace   count me in          whole
fucking haul / slippage, a state I solid against

that is what love promises

let me know what I am
when it all goes dark


May 1, and we're expecting either snow or an ice-storm.  The rivers that run through Ottawa are over-flowing their banks.  The weather Gods are making an example out of us.  In a city that hasn't seen a tornado in all my 62 years, we had five in one day last year.  This year, for the second time in the last three years we are having "a 100 year event" flood.

The Today's book of poetry offices are safe and on high ground.  Unless the Rideau River overflows and then we'll have bigger problems.  All our staff are safe and dry.  And today Megan Burns brought down the house with her monster Basic Programming.  Another possible one hundred year event.

Basic Programming is an infectious read, once Burns gets into your system you want more.  Just like Laura Nyro.

And don't even get us started on the sexual firestorm Burns can bring down on the house.


once I ask Kali to consume us
mouth shaped to nothing

storied as any wuthering height
a traveling rogue runs off with a golden prize
a poet wakes up and pulls a world along beside her
touch this stone/ carved names are remembered
words to soothe/ lullaby hours

look, sit where you are to watch stories unfold
look, deeply enough until love
do you know how to brave
do you know about really cracking your heart open
to receive/ what are you afraid of/ stories will always call us back

you have nothing/ to fear/ nothing/ but fear/ to fear/ you/ nothing/ you/ love/ everything

how we are blind to a reciprocity of love as we narrow on one to one/ and forget that it
vibrates between all of us/ what you put out is your world/ a world

our world a mirror/two sided/flipped one way: good/evil:love/hate/hate:despair/joy: con-
flict/ resolution:blessings/ curse: throw them both away
throw them both away, a toss towards never being chained down again

one line of code is all it takes to run a completely different program/poetry is a constant
reaching / an only truth that matters

in coming generation: you must learn to live without these shackles
if you let go, what fills void: out universe abhors absolutes & is absolute
what fills is beyond a container
beyond worded


Today's book of poetry gets very excited when poetry this fine scampers through our lives.  Emily Bronte told me to tell you to "buy this book."

Well, have you ever known Emily to be wrong?

Megan Burns is welcome here at Today's book of poetry any time.  This poet burns, burns, burns.

Megan Burns

Megan Burns is the publisher at Trembling Pillow Press ( She also hosts the Blood Jet Poetry Reading Series in New Orleans and is the co-founder of the New Orleans Poetry Festival ( She has been most recently published in Jacket Magazine, Callaloo, New Laurel Review, Dream Pop, and Diagram. Her poetry and prose reviews have been published in Tarpaulin Sky, Gently Read Lit, Big Bridge, and Rain Taxi. She has four books, Memorial + Sight Lines (2008), Sound and Basin (2013), Commitment (2015), and Basic Programming (2018), published by Lavender Ink. She has two recent chapbooks: Dollbaby (Horseless Press, 2013) and i always wanted to start over (Nous-Zot Press, 2014). Horse Less Press released her Twin Peaks chap, Sleepwalk With Me, in 2016.

"Velocity" by Megan Burns (Poem Reel 2)
Video: Lisa Pasold



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.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

RED — Chase Berggrun (Birds, LLC)

Today's book of poetry:
RED.  Chase Berggrun.  Birds, LLC.  Minneapolis, New York, Raleigh.  2018.

R E D Final Cover Rgb 72Dpi 432X648

Chase Berggrun climbs inside of Bram Stoker's Dracula and comes out the other end illuminated, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.  

Today's book of poetry is only ever looking for fine poetry to share, but we also want to make a point of looking everywhere we can.  Gender has become an important issue, delicate and beyond our limited reasoning, but it is important to Today's book of poetry to be blind to gender at the same time as we are trying to give unlimited access regardless of gender.  

Chase Berggrun wrote RED while transitioning gender.  As though that weren't enough to do.  But Today's book of poetry is damned glad Berggrun showed up and took on the Prince of Darkness on their own terms.

Berggrun takes apart Stoker's masterpiece from inside, word by word, using erasure as a methodology.  The resulting text, sub-text, is a hidden masterpiece.  As Chase Berggrun pares and redacts, dissects the original text, an astonishingly fresh and essential new story is revealed.  This is construction at the pyramid level, we can see the seams but are completely baffled at how it was actually accomplished.  Our hats are off.

Chapter I

I was thirty

I was a country of queer force

rushing east to see the strangest side of twilight

I was a woman      in the usual way

I had no language     but the distress and duty

I have been taught to doubt my mother and fear tradition

but my queer tongue    would not     could not shut up

The afternoon sun seemed mighty

and touched my arm with a delicate pain

A woman     kneeling in self-surrender to the new

weeping silver into great masses of greyness      the clouds

which ceaselessly walk and pause as though unmercifully urged on

Through the darkness I could see a stormy sea

a strange mixture of movements

Something slight and flickering seemed to mock my universal yes

I asked what this all meant

I struck a match

and its flame somewhere far off in the distance plunged

Suddenly a faint and endless absence

began beetling around

the howl that swept

the ruined sky


Sherlock Holmes at his infinite and clever best could not have deciphered Chase Berggrun's Red out of Stoker's Dracula.  This is world class winnowing of red gold.  Not to diminish Bram Stoker's great book, but Berggrun has completed the harder task.  Somehow, beyond reason and out of sight of witnesses, Berggrun has gutted the original and discovered new fresh meat.  

     "We never refer to sadness
       as something that looks
       but it does"
                          CHAPTER VIII

Chase Berggrun reaches into the Gothic patriarchy, puts their arms elbow deep in to all of Stoker's horror and comes out the other side clean, bold, brave, with certainty of purpose.

      "I want to believe in a universe
       willing to understand"
                          CHAPTER IV

Chapter XXV

Note this

I have come to understand      a particular freedom

without restraining mood

aglow     as if loosened

God     you are going to be so good to me

I know a poison you do not

beginning and ending with my hand

the blackest prelude

Note the quaint seriousness of my voice      low and strained

The flesh     the rough flinch

My fast-bending hand

which subdued the whiteness of his hair

I shrink into all wives       and their hands

their hands      that loved me best    I have not forgotten

that set me free     from the thrall      my husband held over me

What I have arranged to do will be no murder

Even if it were

I know now what men feel

that special excitement when in active danger

This necessary task        euthanasia         a comfort

I am in a fever of hands

I found him whetting

the edge of his throat      driven by cold

His hands instinctively sought

my smooth arrangement

He is sure I will come at his call

but I have not lost the grace a woman has

a power he may not take away

I      with perfect nervous poise

let loose wings       a thought-strong swan

When the time comes        I alone slaughter

I alone         ultimately triumph

The tight country he had tried to invade

he kissed it         sick and keen

There is more to tell and I shall tell you

Forgive me if I seem remorseless

selfishness frees my soul somewhat

Not even God is with me now


Today's book of poetry treads with some trepidation, tripping all over ourselves to be gender sensitive.  Why?  Isn't Today's book of poetry just about poetry?  Mostly, but in our poetry world we want to be sure we send the right message to all of our brothers and sisters, all of whom deserve our love and respect regardless of how, when, where or why they have their present identity. Our only job is to be inclusive until the need for such discussions vanish. 

Today's book of poetry has never cared about poetry trousers, except for Vladimir Mayakovsky's "A Red Cloud in Trousers."  We only really care about the poems.

And here is where Chase Berggrun is aces all around.  RED is such a freaking pleasure to read you will be hacking into the air around you.  Sounds will come out that you haven't heard before.  Surprise, joy, satisfaction.

RED is really a master class, it is simply excellent.  Berggrun's utterly fearless burning transforms Dracula into a new and essential read, a new modern marvel.  And this time it is all about turning into the light.

excerpt from Chapter XXVII

               I was a high wind between flurries
               he was lying like a black ribbon
               I mounted his square chest
               I felt imprisoned there
               I saw him below me
               he came quickly
               a sudden cry from the south of me
               he shouted in glee

I got out my revolver

It was strange to see the snow shining brightly around us

Every instant came in bursts

The hollow sound swept the air-space

It was hard to distinguish the real

as the sun dropped lower and lower

He was unaware at first

he fell forward in an unmistakable way

and gave a quick movement of his fist

I felt no fear but only a surging

In the midst of this the sun set

No time seemed to pass besides

By now the blood was spurting through his chest

his eyes glazed with the vindictive look I knew too well

As the moment plunged into my body

I sunk to the ground

Blood between my fingers

Red upon my face

My eyes followed the falling snow

And he died


Frankly, until reading Chase Berggrun's Red, Today's book of poetry wouldn't have believed you could redact gold and come up diamonds.  

Chase Berggrun take a big bow.

Chase Berggrun Costume Bw 300X300

Chase Berggrun

Chase Berggrun is a trans poet. They are the author of R E D, forthcoming from Birds, LLC. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Lambda Literary Spotlight, Pinwheel, PEN Poetry Series, Sixth Finch, Diagram, The Offing, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. They received their MFA from New York University. They are poetry editor at Big Lucks.

"Discontent and its Civilizations" Poems of Erasure by Chase Berggrun
Video: Susan Russell



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.