Monday, August 13, 2018

Blackbird Song — Randy Lundy (University of Regina Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Blackbird Song.  Randy Lundy.  University of Regina Press.  Oskana Poetry & Poetics.  Regina,  Saskatchewan.  2018.

What Today's book of poetry sees most, when we rumble through the pages of Randy Lundy's sublime Blackbird Song, is optimism.  These poems have a knowing bigger than our puny understanding, an entire belief system fueling kindness.  What Randy Lundy does in Blackbird Song is nothing less than reconciliation with the earth, directed by heartsong.

Randy Lundy is a Cree poet so why do I keep thinking of Li Po, the Poet Knight-Errant?  Randy Lundy's poetry makes me think of Robert Bly because these poems are based in the natural world.  Lundy doesn't write like Li Po or Robert Bly but he writes with the same certainty, the knowledge is real.


          after Jane Kenyon

It's true what the dying woman said,
there's no accounting for happiness.

No matter the good will you have spent
trying the patience of family and friends,
some of whom have died. Never mind
that every time you dig deep in your pockets
you find those cold, bright coins
of anger and regret.

Sparrows gather daily at the feeder
you have hung in the elm tree in the backyard
and at the earthen bowl you will fill with water
for their raucous bathing.

Sleek, bright wings glisten in the sun.
They have no shame.


In Randy Lundy world there is time for contemplation and consideration, these aren't meditations, yet.  But in some future world where reasonable people reside, Today's book of poetry could see Blackbird Song as a cornerstone text.

Today's book of poetry is a city boy.  Not a New York City boy, but I grew up with asphalt under my feet.  Lundy, almost instantly, convinces the reader that they inhabit a world only understandable by being in step with nature.

Come to think of it, other than the short mention of a train in one of his poems, the inclusion of an axe and a cigarette in another, Lundy gives us no evidence of civilizations marring of his resplendent nature.  Lundy's world begins and ends in the natural world beyond roofs and ceilings.

Cypress Hills

Here the trees hold the stars
in their spheres. This neither a metaphor,
nor a clever trick. It is simply what to fear
from wind when the cliffs step forward
fall into emptiness.

There is no need for you
to quiet your mind, to shrink your soul
like a drought-dormant root to fit
the coulee's begging bowl.
The coyote and buffalo rubbing stone
pay no heed. The restless dead
wander through pine shadows muttering,
unable to hear your desperate invocations.

Even if they could, they would not pause
but simply vanish into the moon-soaked night
like the white-tailed deer on gleaming hooves
stepping into the mist and darkness, leaving
opposing crescent glyphs in wet earth.

Constellation after constellation turning
on the spears of the trees.


Today's book of poetry believes that Blackbird Song is a celebration and that's how we played it with this morning's reading.  We didn't want to appropriate any one's anything but we did give thanks to the maker of all things with a little tobacco smoke before starting in.

Tomas and Frieda dropped by again this morning so we were sure to get them in the reading line-up.

Randy Lundy's poems read more like good prayers, mantra's for future progress, songs for souls deeply attached to the earth under foot.  These poems feel the liturgy, a guide to new rituals, new empowerment.  Most importantly to Today's book of poetry; they embrace the earth and come back future hopeful.

Another Season

Buds on the mountain ash this spring,
a green paler than you have ever seen.

Sunlight, blackbird singing.
What more could you ask, friend?

Pilgrim, what more?


Blackbird Song is a book of poetry you will always treasure.  These poems are as ageless as the blue, blue sky we hope to see every morning.

Image result for randy lundy photo

Randy Lundy

Randy Lundy is a member of the Barren Lands (Cree) First Nation. He has published two previous collections of poetry, Under the Night Sun and Gift of the Hawk. His work has been widely anthologized. He lives in Pense, Saskatchewan.

“Lundy has entered the place where the masters reside. His poems join the shades that walk among them. There aren’t many people who get to that place and sometimes it can feel very lonely there, but the masters are saved by the brilliant and humble work they have done, their poems the crevices in our lives where the light shines through." 
     – Patrick Lane, author of Washita

“Randy Lundy’s poems bring forward the spirit of his Cree ancestry, and place our species humbly among the creatures of Earth—who are all observed with deep reverence and perceptive care.” 
     – Don McKay, author of Strike/Slip

“This is the book of poems I’ve been waiting for … His poems burn us, feed us, and make us feel beloved even if we have been broken. Language, as he uses it, holds us and leads us to a place where we can mourn and pray and wonder.” 
     – Lorna Crozier, author of What the Soul Doesn’t Want



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.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern — Kristofer Collins (Hyacinth Girl Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern.  Kristofer Collins.  Hyacinth Girl Press.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  2017.

Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern, Kristofer Collins

Today's book of poetry can flatter himself by thinking that perhaps it is because Kristofer Collins hits so close to our own poetry senses, but Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern comes roaring out of the gate fully formed and shooting from both hips.  If these poems were dancers they'd be killers and the rest of us would have to clear the floor.

Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern runs a little warmer than most.  Whatever the cause, we were some pleased.

Our friend Pistol dropped by early this morning and I had to leave him untended in my office for a few moments.  Instead of having him ransack my desk, as he does, given half a chance, I left him with Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern and told him I'd want a book report.  Pistol still isn't house-broken but he does have skills and I respect his judgment in some areas.  He doesn't write poetry but he is a fine painter and when he gives an opinion it is a considered one.

All of that to say that Today's book of poetry think we got the Pistol seal of approval for Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern.  Collins is much like our associate Pistol, good sense of humour, good sense of timing and not much concerned with propriety.  

Can't say anything about Mr. Collins because we've never met but when we say Pistol has a sense of timing we mean he knows when to throw a pass.  As far as clocks go, and being on time, Pistol is from another planet.  He showed up at the office this morning for a meeting we were to have yesterday.  

Today's book of poetry is quite sure Kristofer Collins can burn.

This Is Work

Like chipping away at the world's first
glacier with your tiny black ax; or
collecting canines from all the mouths
of all the beasts who chased their meat
across the dusty African veldt; or stacking
plate after dirty plate in your family's
first apartment until the ceiling buckles
and the stars finally take notice; or harder
still, writing one true thing.


Pistol's assessment was that he thought Collins wrote somewhat like Today's book of poetry.  I don't see it, this kid is quicker, cleaner, tighter, leaner.  But I do like the way he swaggers down a page.

These poems are simple but not simplistic.  They brim with real life just the way we live it, real love just the way we lose it, a real world.  Kristofer Collins has his eyes open.

A Belated Pœm For My Wife's 30th Birthday

O Christ how I want to write a poem without sputtering
in defeat only eight lines deep like some asthmatic jackhammer.
Surely it's lovely somewhere still
and isn't that remarkable enough?
Are these days unworthy of mention simply because they feel so similar?
When I say last Monday it's clear I could also mean Tuesday three months ago.
If I didn't have to pay the water bill I wouldn't know the 25th had come and gone.
But we will always have your birthday to set our watches by.
And I know Five Easy Pieces is 98 minutes long
and The 400 Blows is 99.
And somewhere in all that time unspooling a life can be lived.
That last time we sat together and talked in a movie theater,
as couples came and went around us,
you said you would come to where I worked just to look at me,
to watch me move and talk to people I appeared to know,
and sometimes act stand-offish or cruel.
You thought you could love a man like that.
And never before have you wanted to call a stranger sweetheart more.
But time passes and here we are.
And what's strange is we used to sleep in different beds in different houses.
And isn't this worth the effort of commemoration?
Isn't this worth all the time we have remaining?
Here in the dark quietly together.


Our morning read was a dam-buster of a thing.  Everyone on our staff caught the Collins vibe and we ripped through Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern as though we were evangelists who had just seen the light.  These poems roll off of the tongue so easily because they feel so read and true.  

Just like Banjo Patterson had his hero say, Mr. Collins, "you're welcome at my fire anytime."

Today's book of poetry loved the tempo and loved the feeling every time Kristofer Collins stepped on the gas and revved Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern up.


At the track
the serious gamblers
lug fat binders
full of stats
& equine genealogies,
grumble confidently
over spiked coffee
about sires & photo finishes
now distant in time
while I'm equipped
with a half-eaten bag of Cheetos,
the nub of a pencil
liberated from the public library,
and the absolute certainty
any horse named
after Elvis Presley
is a sure thing.


Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern is the first chapbook Today's book of poetry has seen from Pittsburgh's Hyacinth Girl Press.  Today's book of poetry is here to tell you that Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern is the best thing to come out of Pittsburgh since Sid last raised the cup.

It's also worth nothing that Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern is a very snappy dresser, Today's book of poetry loved the design, the funky end papers and snazzy cover, and the orange pinking-sheared ribbon binding.  It is all an over-the-top success.

Image result for kristofer collins photo

Kristofer Collins

(and if this is not Mr. Collins, Today's book of poetry
apologizes.  A conversation will be held with our
research department.)

Kristofer Collins lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife Dr. Anna Johnson and their three cats.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Headline News — John Deming (Indolent Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Headline News.  John Deming.  Indolent Books.  Brooklyn, New York.  2018.

what is my relationship with your god

what is my relationship with your god
what is my relationship with your media

the man with the black ski mask
the flashy blade in his hand
the man with the orange hat



compromising one's fears like putting
on an orange


John Deming is hot for headlines, Headline News is prescient and makes for an action packed read.  At a time when fewer and fewer poets are interested, Deming is gleaning gold from the mouths of power.

Deming's flash-card epistles scour the media, eat the bold print like crackers, and then like some wizened and wise sage, he parrots the memes to us in these postcard sized pronouncements.


I know
I've seen the tapestries

placid doesn't
know what
capture means

unicorn encircled
by a small pink fence
bleeding into flowers


Today's book of poetry got a particular feeling in our stomach when reading Headline News.  With every turn of the page we felt like we were being let in on some new hyper-knowledge.  Reading John Deming makes you feel informed and a little edgy too.  That is a good thing - poetry should be unsettling once in a while.

Talk about unsettled!!, as I wrote those last lines a giant spider eight-legged over towards me.  I didn't notice him until he hoofed it over a yellow post-it note on the corner of my desk.  Today's book of poetry is an insect suck (and yes, I do know that spiders aren't insects).  Spiders scare the bejesus out of me, make me weak in the knees.

For the spider-lovers in the audience - it is time for you to turn your heads.

It was with a spontaneous and deadly thumping splat that I introduced myself to the dark brown arachnid.  It was a one time meeting but I'm afraid I had turned the beast into a Kurt Vonnegut doodled asshole ❋.

Today's book of poetry would never kill a spider in the outdoors — but if you're in my house and on my desk — goodbye spider.

Today's book of poetry apologizes for the distraction.  Milo, our head tech, kleenexed the spider to a garbage pail and arachnid heaven.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, got the rest of us rolling with the morning read of Mr. Deming's thoroughly entertaining and enlightening Headline News.  


they'll be outdated
just as fast
you watch

the wheelbarrow
also was a tech

you can only save
lives for so 


Deming is submerging us in the new language of today's media, the modern gaze.  Our future will be described in headlines only, or not at all.

Today's book of poetry was surprised by how easily Deming had us convinced that Headline News is future vision.  These poems had us bending our brittle brains around some surreal curves but Deming always gets his ship back on course.

Yes, John Deming can burn.

belief in the destiny of values

belief in the destiny of values
means community and fear



when there is thunder
my schnauzer gets scared

the emotional lives of penguins
our emotional lives in dreams

birds fed by dreams and the holes they leave
as with unimpaired meteor streams


Today's book of poetry is exited to bring John Deming into your poetry lives.  These are headlines you must read, poems that force you to think against your own grain and enjoy it are unicorn rare.
Good poetry is always worth your time and Headline News demands it. 

Today's book of poetry is going to share a rare fifth poem.  Why?  John Deming's Headline News earned it.

okay so the worst has happened

okay so the worst has happened
someone build a fire


I still have my Duane Reade
Rewards card I'll be fine

after all it's still just the rest of the world and you

some hundred million others wondering
how to overcome extreme
what to do


Image result for john deming photo

John Deming

JOHN DEMING has published poems and articles in Boston Review, Salon, Fence, New Orleans Review, A Public Space, Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, and elsewhere. He is editor in chief of Coldfront and lives in New York City, where he directs the writing center at LIM College and, with Jason Schneiderman, co-curates KGB Monday Night Poetry in the East Village.

“It is difficult to get the news from poems,” wrote William Carlos Williams, “yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” In Headline News, John Deming gives us the news and makes a poem of it, springboarding into a prosody informed by brevity, clarity and precision, a kind of decalinear sonnet unfolding itself into blossom. Deming’s great gift here is a capacious and capricious mindfulness, improvising and responding to the deadpan lunacy of newspaper headlines in such a way as to make them seem almost mystical.
     —D. A. POWELL

In Headline News, John Deming makes us feel the strangeness of what we’ve been hearing and seeing in 21st century America. Reading these poems, “I’m feeling weirder/and clearer tonight.” Quoted headlines appear in all caps, but the rest of the writing is equally telegraphic and punchy—until we get punch drunk, wondering what’s real news and what isn’t. This mix-up seems telling and inevitable now.



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, August 4, 2018

The Art of Dying — Sarah Tolmie (McGill-Queens University Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Art of Dying.  Sarah Tolmie.  McGill-Queens University Press.  Montreal & Kingston·London·Chicago.  2018.

Before you read a word of Sarah Tolmie's transcendent The Art of Dying, you need to listen to Sir Ralph Stanley's harrowing rendition of his classic "O Death", which you can hear here:

If you're still standing you might be ready for what Sarah Tolmie has cooked up for us.  Today's book of poetry sits in awe listening to Mr. Stanley bargain it all down and Tolmie has the same glaze of class and integrity.  The same deathly grit.

The Art of Dying tackles death with a capital D.  Tolmie takes on every experience death has to offer.  If you listen closely enough you might even come to think that Sarah Tolmie loved death.

Tolmie has plenty to say to the "poets" and their lofty ideals, she knows full well that death is waiting for them too, and tells them so.  There are eighty-nine numbered poems in The Art of Dying, Today's book of poetry had a field day because we could have shared, happily, any of them.  Tolmie doesn't tolerate any weak siblings, she has no dead weight allowed.


Poets no longer rate so high
In the consolation industry.
We've been fools.

TV has usurped our role:
Zombies, vampires, doctors, priests
Tell us our deaths need not be.

Our friends spam us from the internet
With the final selfie that death photobombed.
Truth is becalmed.


The Art of Dying tickles the poetry funny bone with whimsy and some wacky rhymes, but it is all for amusement, to calm the dying, for giggles.  Tolmie has laser vision, night-goggle vision, into our deepest fears, our deepest fear, the last one: death.

Sarah Tolmie runs a tight ship.  Each of these untitled pronouncements rings precisely, clearly and then precariously, all taking on death, all dying.

It's not like of this comes as too much of a surprise for Today's book of poetry.  Any of our regular readers will remember that Sarah Tolmie is a two-time Today's book of poetry star.  The Art of Dying is Tolmie's third appearance here.  Back in May of 2015 Today's book of poetry was delighted to write about Tolmie's Sonnets in a Blue Dress and Other Poems (Baseline Press, 2014).  Then in November of the same year we were lucky enough to get our hands on Tolmie's Trio (McGill-Queens University Press, 2015).  Both of those can be seen here:

Today's book of poetry has come to believe that Sarah Tolmie is as dependable a poet as you can imagine, we know that when we pick up a Sarah Tolmie book that it will be full of riches.


Michael Jackson had a Lazarus fail.
He always did thing on the grand scale,
Having himself euthanized nightly.

Finally it stuck.
The doc went out to smoke or make a call
And he never woke-up.

Widespread woe, tributes, lawsuits ensued
but one thing everybody knew
Was all his wealth did him no good.

This is counterintuitive
And makes us slightly pleased
At the death of celebrities.


Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, took control of the morning reading and rolled out our copies of Trio and Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems to accompany The Art of Dying.  Tomas and Frieda, two old friends of Today's book of poetry, dropped by this morning and of course Kathryn made them read as well.  Tomas and Frieda added some spice and some enthusiasm to our core group.  And of course whenever we have visitors the staff are inspired to reach for their better poetry selves.

Reading The Art of Dying is a little like skipping and hop-scotch:  you read the first poem and get you a poetry smile/high going and then gravity, momentum, and other unseen forces of nature compel you forward.  Curiosity kisses one side of your cheek and death kisses the other.  This is Chef type burning.

Today's book of poetry would be remiss if we didn't mention the spectacular killer cover of The Art of Dying.  David Drummond designed it and we are convinced he is a Devilchild.  But the cover is hard-core cool and worthy of the fine poems enclosed within.


The present American horror show
May yet be remembered by a single poem.
People get tired of video.

I've seen this poem a dozen times
About just one guy who died.
Otherwise it's all the same.

Make no mistake that a news report,
Whatever that is in this day and age,
Whoever protests, whoever pays,

Lasts a single minute. Holinshed's lists
Of aristocrats who died for this and that
Come over slowly from Calais

On parchment strips, those will remain
While all things fade
From the digital consciousness.

Eric Garner. That was the name.
Let it be carried in the world mainframe
Until the canticle for Leibowitz.


As previously stated, Today's book of poetry is now an official Sarah Tolmie fan.  With The Art of Dying Tolmie enters the rare "threepeat" territory on our pages.

Today's book of poetry now knows Tolmie is gold and burning.  I guess we've known it all along.

Image result for sarah tolmie photo

Sarah Tolmie

Sarah Tolmie is associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo. Her poetry collection Trio was shortlisted for the 2016 Pat Lowther Memorial Award.

“There is astute compassion in discussions of assisted suicide, the fleeting life of an imaginary friend, and the confusion of hospital stays that deftly turn daily incidences into larger existential considerations … In these direct, personal brushes with death, Tolmie is at her most clear-sighted, stripping away the rubble of euphemism we use as a salve against the enigma of death.”
    — Montreal Review of Books



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, August 1, 2018

Pressed Against All That Nothing — Cody Deitz (Yak Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Pressed Against All That Nothing.  Cody Deitz.
Number One - Native Blossom Chapbook Series Two.  Yak Press.  Littlerock, California.  2015.

Poems by Cody Deitz

Take note, if Today's book of poetry gave out stars, today we would have to give them all to Cody Deitz.  Pressed Against All That Nothing is nothing short of extraordinary.  

Cody Deitz does a bunch of things in this marvelous book, but mostly Today's book of poetry thinks Deitz shows his brother true love and devotion.

These poems don't just "give sorrow words," as Maryse Holder would have said, they are both a vivid poetry accounting of harrowing personal losses, and a lovingly detailed account of the strength of a brother's love.  Deitz writes both about his brother's addictions and his incarceration but always from a loving and accepting terra firma.

Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia)

               for my brother, and R.G.

In the great expanse of sky
                                        and nothing,
we pass cigarettes back and forth:

the only holy incense we know,
timid offerings to the teenage gods of rebellion and getting lucky,

each sacramental stick carried
out into the desert—where else do sacraments belong?

Brothers, we share apathy,
exhaled through the nose,
                                 staining clothes and fingertips vanilla.

From the depths of our chests,
each streak of smoke flies off
like a pale crow.

I'm nostalgic for a past that doesn't exist
in a town that was never real,

and though it's still years to come,
                                                 and now, we're still in this together—

I can already see me getting out of this place and you standing alone
out in the Joshua trees, pressed against all that nothing.


Deitz never loses hope for the reappearance of his lost brother and he understands that this battle doesn't always have a victor.  The emotionally fraught landscape of these poems is one where the family of an addict endure, suffer, wait.  

The canvas Pressed Against All That Nothing appears on is mined with dangers both unseen and predicted.  And as much as Deitz fears his brother may never return from his abyss, Deitz never loses hope or faith.

Cody Deitz is one hell of a marksman because every single poem in Pressed Against All That Nothing hits the target right in its blood-red centre.  Today's book of poetry is here to tell you that Deitz is more than a fine marksman, he consistently hits targets that only moments ago were invisible.

Hindsight In Six Parts


July evening, mid-summer drought
                                      like always, and windy.

A red-tailed hawk updrafts foothills nearby,
                                                      just hunting for mice,

and you're not sober yet—the leaves wait to turn
and let gravity take them, the earth waiting—

But you haven't yet lost your sense of being alive, either,
                                                     the shudder and cringe of it,

as you wait again for a car to drive you into the night.

You have yet to be left in the desert

while mom and dad fly off—
the tired nest finally pulled out from under you.

Your room is still your own, a cluttered installation:
video games, tissue boxes, cheap watches that hold their breath—
                                            things not yet sold for Vicodin and rum.

The floor strewn with empty Marlboro packs,
                                                         their many tiny gaping mouths.

You have yet to be picked up in the night,
pulled from that red-eyed neighborhood,
                                              your freedom left on the roadside.

Your car emptied of plastic bottles, pinhead knot of resin,
glass pieces with bowls like small translucent moons:
                                         small catalog of municipal reckoning.

It will sit empty in the weeds for months,
mechanical ghost
              of your leaving.

You've yet to be bussed downtown
and left in Men's Central,

locked away for months in psychiatric,

        (How will you keep warm in that heat-sink,
          angry architecture?)

where you will freeze in your powerlessness,
its democratic pain.

The prison windows are tall, narrow eyes
                                             that look out into nothing.

You have yet to learn in rehab you've carried sickness for years,
an illegible letter, chicken-scratch diagnosis.

You haven't stood beneath the streetlight amber,
                                             watched the smoke rise

from the coffee-can ashtray, carcinogen bloom,

cigarette butts wrinkled petals wedged
into that strange bouquet nobody sent.

Now you stop your car on 65th street,
sleeping houses on one side,
                    tumbleweeds and dark on the other.

You load a bowl and look out, considering all that grows
                                                                  without sustenance:

Joshua trees and juniper amazingly green without a breath
of water for weeks, their heads tall and stoic in the desert chill—

you read once, of their root structures,
                         everything connected so nothing slips past.


Today's book of poetry has been behind the wheel of car for six of the last seven days and still feels the wind whipping past.  As a result, we aren't moving very much, or very quickly, today.  But Today's book of poetry was so taken by Deitz's Pressed Against All That Nothing that today's office reading was a solo shot.  The entire staff sat stone silent while I whipped through Pressed Against All That Nothing as though it were something of my own creation.  I should be so lucky.

These poems felt so tight I could barely get the pages apart.  These poems were so ripped with magic Today's book of poetry didn't know whether to spit or wind my watch, they just worked.  Cody Deitz is in Master Chef territory, he's so good in the poetry kitchen you can smell his burn from every direction.

Habit Of The World

          Don't take it personal, they said;
          but I did, I took it all quite personal
                        -Tony Hoagland

The jacaranda tree at the end of my street
has been losing itself all week,

dropping its amethyst and lavender
all over the sidewalk, while spring burns off like fog
                                       and the sky looks blue and determined.

It's easy to take it personal—this undermining of permanence,
                                                                   this habit of the world.


Cody Deitz gives his brother every opportunity to come home again but as Thomas the Wolfe so aptly told us, you can never do that again.  

Today's book of poetry fell in love with how far Deitz was willing to go in his brother's name.  As it turns out Deitz is willing to go as far as it takes, these poems are a full-fledged love song to his flawed and beautiful sibling.

Deitz knows that being straight is a good thing but it is not the only thing.  Some of us have other dreams.

Image result for cody deitz photo

Cody Deitz

Cody Deitz, a California native, now resides in North Dakota where he is pursuing his PhD. in English at the University of North Dakota. He is fascinated with poetry of place, and how geography informs individual experience, seeking in his work to explore this connection and the insights it affords.

Cody Deitz understands something about interiority—that ‘the subconscious is always a terrain’—and he fluidly moves between the psychic space of the shared dark and that brighter horizon where ‘the sun becomes the symbol it always wanted to be, / that slippery metaphor for god, shooting into the well’s eye.’ These are poems of addiction, recovery, fraternal love, and a Ginsberg-like faith that there is salvation in poetry. The genius of Cody Deitz is in his intimate, meditative act of witness, far-seeing yet detailed. He offers an undeniably unifying force of human spirit where we learn the pain and possibility of ‘unmaking. . .the terrible.’ Like the ‘steel refrigerator / with its cord buried in dirt,’ these poems, too, seem ‘plugged. . .into the world.’ ”
     ~ Leilani Hall, author of Swimming the Witch  

“Cody Deitz’s collection documents a brother’s disappearance into addiction, a black hole around which the family spins. After stints in prison, psych care, and rehab, he reemerges barely recognizable — a figure that, like Zeno’s paradox, the speaker can never fully reach, ‘the idea of progress // suddenly unfathomable.’ These events are embodied and presented in vivid, resonant details: Joshua trees, shoe prints in desert sand, the mouths of empty Marlboro packs, the crackle of a prison telephone. In his precise and yet discursive verse, Deitz’s poetic attention is ‘More than turning on a light—it’s becoming // the bulb and the switch and the finger. . .’ ”
     ~ Heidi Czerwiec, author of Self-Portrait as Bettie Page and A is for A-ké, The Chinese Monster 

“Cody Deitz’ work is a live wire snaking over the asphalt of lyrical poetry, though the hum of his words never rises above the electric din: instead, it is the reader who reverberates with recognition in the mechanical ghost Deitz creates out of his stark architecture. The invisible cord of his words will become a nightlight in a forever-darkening sky, will conduct electricity against this fleeting urban solitude. His poetry is a voice that both reassures from the hallway and echoes back to you in a strange rhythm, as you lay safe and pressed against all that nothing.”
     ~ Gina Alexandra, MFA candidate, UCSD

Cody Deitz
reads from
Pressed Against All That Nothing
Video:  YakPress



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, July 29, 2018

Bociany (Storks) — Jonathan Garfinkel (knife|fork|book)

Today's book of poetry:
Bociany (Storks).  Jonathan Garfinkel.  knife|fork|book.  Toronto, Ontario.  2017.

(Two things about this photo - our apologies to Jonathan Garfinkel,
this was the best we could do and it is a sorry attempt.  Milo, our 
head tech, was on holiday today.  Secondly, Bociany (Storks), 
is a smart and tidy looking book, contrary to our photo.

Bociany - Przylecialy  "the storks have arrived" Polish folklore.

Jonathan Garfinkel has that thing, we all want to see it in a poem, magic.  And I bet he has it in his plays as well.  This type of certainty isn't random.

One of the short gems from this golden jewel is titled "Ornithology."  Ornithology is the study of birds and Garfinkel flights his poems with plenty of aviators.  But Today's book of poetry couldn't help but think of the Charlie Parker song/anthem/call to prayer "Ornithology" and all of the flying it has inspired.  Garfinkel's study is a poem that takes the same imaginative leaps of faith as Charlie Parker, he gives these poems wings.


I light a fire. Put on the coffee.
The radio struggles.
Wearing only a white towel,
'Molting,' you promise.

See no change. remember
your father beat you
to the punch. He wanted
to drive out the birds
from beneath.

We make love in the corridor
The station clearer.

A grey jay studies its reflection
moments before hitting the window.


The storks are a good omen in Polish folklore and Garfinkel uses them and others flights of fancy as he is looking for silver linings when he looks to the cloudy sky.  Today's book of poetry sees little but gold in Bociany (Storks).  Jonathan Garfinkel takes us all over the world with his traveller's knowledge, with his knowing he reaches for the sky, every bird wants to eventually soar, but Garfinkel remains grounded every time out.  This is fancy cooking.

Just to be clear, Today's book of poetry is convinced Bociany (Storks) is a remarkable publication.  These poems are built of strong, solid stuff.  This is a kitchen that burns.


The taut-faced crowd waits to board.
Too little food, too much prayer. One line
becomes four, a sniper takes aim.
Then the trampling and the panic.
I think of Forest Hill, tree-lined streets.
the multitudes of Mercedes
docked at the synagogue.
Rich women kvetch over lattes
too much foam, not enough heat.
Somewhere in their grief, a prayer.
Calling us: All aboard. The captain
whittles the air with his bamboo stick.
'Back,' he screams. We press forward,
teeter toward India.
The clouds full of hidden maps.
The White Nuclear Night.
Women in black burqas dart
to and fro, children
yelp in terror or delight.
The ferry swings towards the lights.


Today's book of poetry came away from Bociany (Storks) full of admiration for Jonathan Garfinkel.  We think in another life he may have been a watchmaker.  His poems are finely crafted, wheels inside wheels, all in perfect motion, one concentrated motion, every elaboration fitted precisely, every essential puzzle piece dropping into place as though nature intended it.

It's Sunday morning and the Today's book of poetry offices are a tad quieter than usual.  Everyone is here, except Milo, but few are vocal.  The morning reading was followed by several orders for jet-black coffee as the peons scurried back to their poetry-hidey-holes.

All humour aside, Today's book of poetry is a new convert, we're in for every word Garfinkel cares to utter.  We loved Bociany (Storks), what can we say?  The only fault was its brevity, we wanted more and more and more.


The soul is not a stone
to carve into.
But we take care of the world.
Bridges, gardens, mending.

Of all his jewelry I loved it most.
Light, elegant, a square face
with gold hands.
The watch repairman pried

the case back to show me
dust and moisture seeped into the crown.
Microscopic footprints,
a corroded mechanics, lunar.

When I was a child
I curled into his body.
Seconds that made so much noise.
Time, like love, wanting.


Today's book of poetry apologizes for our recent absence from the scene, we were filling up our tanks in Quebec.  We visited the Abbaye De Saint-Beniot-Du-Lac where a cluster of Benedictine monks live in silence but sing during their services.  We were lucky enough to hear some of this beautiful chanting.  Nothing like a little perspective to help set the mind straight.

We also bought some cider and cheese, those Benedictine's are industrious.

Jonathan Garfinkel's Bociany (Storks) went down like untapped spring water directly from the source.  Today's book of poetry could not get enough of it.

Image result for jonathan garfinkel photo

Jonathan Garfinkel

Jonathan is an award-winning poet, playwright and prose writer. His genre-bending work bridges the personal and the political, and is often inspired by his travels to far-flung, dangerous places, with an eye toward the humourous and absurd. He is the author of the book of poetry Glass Psalms. His plays have been produced across Canada and Germany and include The Trials of John Demjanjuk: A Holocaust Cabaret, and the 2011 Governor General's nominated House of Many Tongues. His award winning non-fiction has appeared in Walrus, Tablet, PEN International, 18 Bridges and the Globe and Mail, as well as Cabin Fever: An Anthology of the Best New Canadian Non-Fiction. His memoir Ambivalence: Crossing the Israel/Palestine Divide, was published to critical acclaim in five countries. In March 2016 his theatrical adaptation of the novel Cockroach by Rawi Hage will premiere in Calgary at Alberta Theatre Projects. Jonathan teaches creative writing at the National Theatre School of Canada.


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, July 22, 2018

Sinners Dance — Darrell Epp (Mosaic Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Sinners Dance.  Darrell Epp.  Mosaic Press.  Oakville, Ontario.  2017.

sinners dance by darrell epp

Today's book of poetry is willing to go down any road Darrell Epp chooses to take us.  Sinners Dance continues the hard driving standard we've come to expect from Mr. Epp.

Sinners Dance is the third title by Darrell Epp that Today's book of poetry has explored.  You can find links to Today's book of poetry and After Hours (Mosaic Press, 2016) and Imaginary Maps (Signature Editions) right here:

The only thing that has changed with Darrell Epp's new poetry, Sinners Dance, is that the beautiful bastard is getting better.  He's upped his game.  Sinners Dance brims with lovely movies and astonishing novels, all sorts of entertainments, disguised as tight, brief and illuminating poems.

Left Lung

the fuzzy black spot on the x-ray reminded
him of a dark star which reminded him of a
movie but this was no movie, the specialist
was very sorry, left lung he said but meant
right lung, the image was reversed, how odd
to be alive, standing in the hub of the world's
sweaty churning in a miami dolphins jersey
not knowing what to say, where to aim. he
thought of that end-times prophet preaching
in front of jackson square; the beast rising
from the sea, the woman with MYSTERY
tattooed on her forehead. he wished he'd
listened, he wished he'd hugged him, why
hadn't he hugged him, he thought of being
a kid, racing his bike up the ramp, catching
air, defying gravity, moments so pregnant
they were building blocks for every other
moment, like fighting against rush hour
traffic, the endless throbbing of it all, he
headed down main west toward james st.,
he'd find that guy waving his homemade
signs, he'd touch him, and as the stock
exchange wound down, as tanks moved
across the desert, confess everything.


Darrell Epp's poetry often leads to fits of jealousy for Today' book of poetry, when what I really want is to share how fine I find these poems.  One of Epp's excellent tricks is to allow the reader instant access.  Epp doesn't put anything between the story he wants to tell and the reader.  The reader digests these poems on contact.

Another thing about Sinners Dance, Epp is getting wiser.  So many of these poems wrap up the frayed edges of our thinking.  Today's book of poetry isn't suggesting that Darrell Epp suddenly has the answer to everything, instead his poetry leads us, without impediment, to the right questions.

Winter Dream

'talking about shopping is not really talking,'
she said, that's why she didn't answer
jill's texts anymore, that's why she blocked
her on facebook. i said, 'there's an
alternative world where i'm an mvp,
a vip, with dozens of grandkids.'
she said, 'that's cool,' and carved
obscenities with her thumb into
the frost caked on the window.
that winter the world was our
idea, our boozy chauffeur, our
hunchbacked prankmonkey
somersaulting on command.
the spell lasted until the cat
got sick, the vet's disdainful
looks made us feel like guilty
truants, she gave him the finger
as i paid the pharmacist, then
the pipes froze on us and nine
months later she was teaching
english on the island of kyoto.


Today's book of poetry has Pharoah Saunders on the box this morning and that should come as no surprise.  Our morning read was led, with brisk enthusiasm, by Milo, our head tech.  Milo suggested we come up with a name, a title, a designation of some respect, per se, for the poets we've visited at least three times.

Off the top of my snowy-white head memory would suggest that list include Nelson Ball, Sue Goyette, Stuart Ross and now Darrell Epp.  We will have to look a little closer to confirm our list.

Today's book of poetry is open to suggestion.  We threw Milo's idea around the room and liked it, then we agreed we'd wait until we heard what you readers thought.  We can't wait to hear what you think.

Once we started reading Darrell Epp's Sinners Dance, everyone on our staff entered Epp world and did our best to hammer these fine poems home.

Halo of Flies

i'm patrolling my turf, counting the windows without
glass, the bakeries and shoe stores turned into squats.
this is where ifrah hitched a ride on the handlebars of
my mountain bike, this is where lily informed me we
had nothing in common, she made it sound like she
was imparting the secret of the universe and i could
barely stifle a yawn. that's the first escape where we
looked for mars the war god through your brother's
telescope, had chin-up contests off the ladder. i give
it a tug and the metal groans and shakes, oxidation
takes no prisoners. rust always wins but he doesn't
have to be so smug about it. i'll come back with a
camera, i'll record all the fading signage before
the demolition crews make way for gentrification.
i'm in the dog house because i forgot valentine's
day, my wife says i seem distracted, my head's
an empty bag, my heart's a corroded cog, my
left brain trips up my right brain like a saboteur,
i see consciousness as a halo of flies, as the
900-pound gorilla on the other end of the
seesaw. i step on a crack, say a prayer, give
thanks for the men who poured the concrete,
laid the bricks and pipes we take for granted,
recall there's grace enough for everybody.


"recall there's grace enough for everybody."  That is a great line and a fine end.

Today's book of poetry has always liked lists.  Darrell Epp is going on our list, the list we keep close for ready referral.  Sinners Dance will reel you around the floor, make you guilty-dizzy in parts, happy-dizzy in others.

That's some good dancing.

Image result for darrell epp photo

Darrell Epp

Darrell Epp’s poetry has appeared in dozens of magazines including Maisonneuve, Poetry Ireland, Sub-Terrain, and The Saranac Review. His previous poetry collection include Imaginary Maps (Signature Editions, 2009) and After Hours (Mosaic Press, 2016). Darrell lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Sinners Dance places the reader in a pre-apocalyptic world, clearly recognizable as our own …There is wit in Epp’s writing, but the overall view of life is bleak, the guardians of our civilization blind, the maps deceiving.”
     – Bernadette Rule, Hamilton Review of Books

“Epp’s poems have a distinct Hamilton flavour, he also says there are certain truths and experiences everyone can identify with, no matter where they live.”
     – Emma Reilly, Interview & Feature in the Hamilton Spectator

Darrell Epp
Pregnant Fly Dead on my Windshield
Video:  Darrell Epp


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