Thursday, February 15, 2018

Send - Domenico Capilongo (Guernica Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Send.  Domenico Capilongo.  Essential Poets Series 244.  Guernica Editions.  Toronto - Buffalo - Lancaster (U.K.).  2017.

Today's book of poetry knew we'd heard the name Domenico Capilongo before so we sent Milo into the stacks.  As soon as Milo sat Capilongo's first two books down on my desk I remembered.

Domenico Capilongo does plenty in his first book but Today's book of poetry remembered how Capilongo nailed that whole furtive first kiss with his poem "Shera-Lee" from I Thought Elvis Was Italian (Wolsak & Wynn, 2008).  Today's book of poetry remembered thinking that maybe Capilongo was another Len Gasparini character but he soon wrote us out of that illusion.  I Thought Elvis Was Italian was all James Brown hip and e.e. cummings poetic, quoting John Lennon and tipping the old hat to Saint Michael of Ondaatje.  We loved it.

Hold That Note (Quattro Books, 2010) had Louis Armstrong, Theolonious Monk, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane and Tom Waits as angels in the wings.  You just know that Today's book of poetry is going to have a lot of time for that, all the time in the world.

Send is a whole new ball game.  A clean slate.  But Today's book of poetry doesn't own a phone, of any kind.  There is a land-line phone in our office, plugged into the wall.  Today's book of poetry has never sent or received a text.  Domenico Capilongo's Send bursts at the seams with messages that you need to receive.

Contrary to the constantly public display of "texting" by the current POTUS there are texts worth reading, messages worth hearing.  Send is full of them.

Capilongo gives us instant access in his efforts to capture the languages and means we use to communicate. Capilongo catalogues it all from Morse Code to "whistled languages."


all the selfies. all the shame. after all the tex-
ting. all the comments. all the sexting. after
all the nakedness. all the pain. after all the
instagram. all the secret tattoos. after all the
tweeting. all the play-by-play. after all the
facetime. all the snapchat. the skype. after
all the auto-correct email. all the googling
after all.


Marconi and Alexander Graham Bell both put in cameos in Capilongo's efforts to search out every step forward in our haste to communicate faster.  Today's book of poetry suspects that some of these communiques are "found poems" and we can only celebrate Capilongo's keen sense of every methodology.  Domenico Capilongo is an all-in type poet if his first two books are any indication and in Send he invests it all in how we communicate.

Capilongo's sense of humour is abundant in these compellingly readable poems.  Today's book of poetry fears I am out of my depths because I can only think I know what it means when Capilongo titles a poem "Christopher Marlow Pocket Calls William Shakespeare."  The poem itself is hilarious.

kiss me like houdini's wife

straightjacketed and ready to take the plunge
in the dark. his mind racing through steps.
through the math of the weight of water. the
pressure of oxygen in his lungs. the sound
of the eyes of the crowd all around him. the
kiss from his wife. his tongue meets hers.
she slips a key into his mouth. he pushes it
into the corner of his cheek for later. the
crowd takes a breath. kiss me.


Our morning read started a little later than usual today.  It's not snowing in Ottawa for the first time in weeks but there is a misty rain that is falling and coating everything it touches in a lovely coat of ice.  Milo insisted we use all three Capilongo titles for the morning read but agreed we would hammer through Send first. 

Much to Capilongo's credit he happily jumps into concrete poems when he feels the need.  Here Today's book of poetry feels terribly unqualified to comment except to say that in most cases these poems surprised us with the clarity of a particular message, for us they were dead on.  And that is first time Today's book of poetry has ever said that!

During the reading we passed those poems around for everyone to see and then kept on with the rest.

In Capilongo's exhaustive and almost encyclopedic search for examples of how we choose to communicate he never loses sight of the reader, always makes certain they are engaged, Capilongo is communicating in a direct line with us.  The poems in Send got Today's book of poetry on Capilongo's side early.  After that the intriguing entertainment/exploration never let up.

carretto siciliano

in argentina or brazil there are ex-nazi soldiers in their
eighties who still hide in the shadows of trees. who still
wear large hats with sun glasses. they try to speak spanish
or portuguese. they try to walk slowly with knees bent but
you can still see the stiffness in their backs. the harsh ac
cent hanging at the ends of words. these men, in the early
morning, still wonder how the allies managed to take sicily.
     it was one man, a lowly carretto driver, some salvatore
or giuseppe, who came up with the idea. the germans were
everywhere with their checkpoints. no one was safe. they
even looked under hats. it came to him in a dream. the sky
was purple. his carretto flying over palermo like some sicil-
ian santa. his horse turned head back and spoke to him.
     we can send the messages with the horses, he thought
to himself over morning coffee, but how? the germans
even check under the horses' balls. later when he fed his
horse he saw it shove some food in its cheek only to share
it with another horse in the plazza.
     messages were sent in little walnut-sized capsules
from horse-to-horse piazza-to-piazza all across sicily. the
german soldiers often commented about the strange sicil-
ian horses, seltsame kussende pferde. strange kissing horses.
     this sicilian secret is know only to a chosen few. if
you want to know the truth about how this really hap-
pened you will have to go to sicily and ask one of the
horses yourself.


Domenico Capilongo writes solid poetry that you can depend on, every time out.  These are sweet, smart, clever, witty, funny, incisive poems that will re-wire your future communication.  All Today's book of poetry can say to Mr. Capilongo is thank you.

It's usually three strikes and you are out in almost every league.  What does it mean when you hit a homer out of the park your first three times up to the plate?

Capilongo's Send is a book of poetry you can hang your hat on.  This cat can seriously burn.

Image result for Domenico capilongo photo

Domenico Capilongo

Born when rotary telephones came in multiple colours, Domenico Capilongo began writing with pencil and paper, passing poetry notes from the back of the class. He still writes in notebooks, used a typewriter in high school, and his earliest published poems were printed on a dot-matrix printer. His first books of poetry, I thought elvis was Italian (2008) and hold the note (2010), as well as his first book of short fiction, Subtitles (Guernica, 2012), came very close to winning awards and were all mailed in the post. A high school creative writing teacher and karate instructor, he lives with his wife and children in Toronto. Find out more on the information superhighway at

In his latest book, Dom Quixote mounts a new smartphone and tilts away at our digital windmills. His chivalry is analogue: what is lost in our twittering is the seed-bed of his musings. Messages between and underneath communications—tender, sensuous, comically misaligned and/or brutal by turn—are gathered up and offered back to us as rebus: an oracular operating system where what we mean is not always how we speak.
     - Chris D’Iorio, author of Without Blue

Book teaser for
Domenico Capilongo's Send
Video: Capilongo Poetry



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, February 11, 2018

The More - Ronna Bloom (Pedlar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The More.  Ronna Bloom.  Pedlar Press.  St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.  2017.


"I'm not the sort of person who gets people into trouble,
But the trouble I'm in, we're all in."
                                                                                                - "I Start The Day"

Today's book of poetry read Ronna Bloom's first book, Fear of the Ride (Carleton University Press, 1996) some time ago and pulled it down from the stacks for a refresher on Bloom.  And are we ever glad we did.  Two poems in we remembered everything we needed to know about Ronna Bloom's poetry.  We're in.  She writes it, we'll read it.

Stone cold, rock hard, solid.  Fear of the Ride was full of short, precise, simple poems that took up instant residence on our emotional radar.  So what do we know prior to The More:  Bloom writes hard and clear and clean poems with razor crisp edges, and does it within an emotional framework built on empathy but never above sympathy.  Bloom writes poetry that knows the ways of the world.

Some people are forced, through circumstance, no fault of their own, to see more than their share of suffering.  Not that anyone has ever figured out exactly, how much suffering each of us should bear.  Ronna Bloom's voice has seen her share, and perhaps the shares of a few others.

The More has a precision of empathy laced with irony that is consistently compelling for the reader.  Bloom, these twenty years removed from Fear of the Ride has lost none of her considerable edge.  All these years of experience have added a deeper layer of emotional understanding and with it a considered melancholy.

Appointment in Samarra

30 people in chemo today multiplied by
x hospitals in y countries and z universes.

Back here. H smiles through 4 syringes of chemicals, 2 bags of saline,
and a flush of life-giving killer liquid.

White-haired sisters in their 70s share clippings of their modelling days
with shirtless men in big cars, take selfies holding up their matching drips.

A woman in the corner looks exactly like what is happening to her.
Pale and bald like coal after a fire.

Slap me good and hard with mortality while I'm strong.
My body wants to run as though it's seen a ghost.


"but to stay true to the process and its shtick
in the service of a mission that holds in its mouth
the names and imagined wants of others"
                                                                                 - "This Breakfast"

Today's book of poetry enjoyed The More because Bloom is consistently entertaining.  Her serious poems can be funny as hell but Bloom's pitch never falters, she is always heading towards the heart of the thing.

Bloom has a compassionate heart but recognizes that heart isn't enough in a world willing to inflict what it does.  Bloom likes to mix it up emotionally and no matter how grim the circumstance Bloom has room for some tenderness.


Everything I dread, I look forward to.

Whoever I condemn, I am him.

Whatever I think is irrelevant is, until I become irrelevant.

Tomorrow I'll be the one I bully today.

The next person I love scares me already.

u have a sweet face a boy told me when I was young, so I didn't show it.

I used my mind to hurt when I was hurting.

The queen sees her cruelty and bends in grief.

Like her, my remorse is as awful as my arrogance.

The word care means worry. To suffer is to allow.

The pain then is part of the happiness now.

Avoidance meets us halfway.

We could cut to the chase and embrace.


Another snowy morning here at Today's book of poetry.  Ottawa is certainly a winter wonderland of snow these days.  The morning read was commandeered by Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, from the word go.  Kathryn said that she felt an instant "attach" to these poems.  As we read through both The More and Fear of the Ride Kathryn assigned specific poems to specific readers as though she were a happy little Napoleon, more correctly like one of those Great Catherines, directing the battle from the comfort of the new reading chair.

It was hard not to notice that Kathryn had brought in a pillow, arm-rest covers and a beautiful length of silk for the back of the chair.  Or the piles of books Kathryn had quickly amassing on both sides of our new chair.

The reading itself was a slick affair, everyone got into Bloom's tight orchestrations and read them with the proper gravitas and glee.

A Blessing For The Waning

Here's to the last suck before birth of separation, before gums have teeth.
To skin that's soft, brown, rough, cracked, bruised, itching, callused,
folding over, touched. To the body held, whole unto itself.

Here's to what the body was before anything changed, which was never.
To the original flat chest of everyone.

Here's to the growths, hoped for and maligned.
The deletions, depilations, bargains, and beseechments.

Here's to loss of consciousness remembered waking up in the morning, in
recovery, bewildered, with toast in your mouth.

To the sleep that was good but is now interrupted and induced.
To pain that lodges, that travels.

Desire breathes like a tide, goes a long way out,
and surprises when it comes back in a swell.
The way grief does.

Here's to falling and to falling, and to falling falling.

To the curse of forgetting and its gift, forgetting.
To the gift of remembering and its curse, memory.

To having had a life. Us creature and our smells.

Here's goodbye to clothes that fit another body.
To the last embrace you didn't know was last.

Here's to kissing the last mouth on yours. Pucker up.
Pucker up now and go.


You all know how much Today's book of poetry loves a "list" poem and Bloom gives us a humdinger for our final poem.

Today's book of poetry was happy to see The More come through the door.  We have admired this woman's poetry for a good long time.  The More is ample confirmation the Bloom is the poet we always thought, but better.

Image result for ronna bloom photo

Ronna Bloom

Ronna Bloom is a poet, speaker, psychotherapist, and author of six books. Her poems have been broadcast on the CBC, displayed in public spaces, recorded by the CNIB, and translated into Spanish and Bengali.
Ronna speaks and writes at corporate events, leads organizational retreats, runs workshops, and does poetry and writing coaching. She brings twenty years of psychotherapy practice to her work as a poet and facilitator.
She is currently Poet in Community at the University of Toronto and Poet in Residence at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Ronna has performed with Juno award-winning musician Jayme Stone. A one minute film based on the poem “Grief Without Fantasy” was made by filmmaker Midi Onodera and screened in the Official Selection at the Toronto Urban Film Festival.
Ronna has written 5 books of poetry, which some people really liked. Several of these have been shortlisted for Canadian literary prizes. Her sixth book, The More, was just released October 12, 2017.

“Soulful, urgent, profound.”

“I think this is Bloom’s best collection yet. She actively engages with the world, saying things that I immediately want to write down to make mine.”

Ronna Bloom
from The More
Video: Ronna Bloom



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, February 9, 2018

Siren - Kateri Lanthier (Vehicule Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Siren.  Kateri Lanthier.  Signal Editions.  Vehicule Press.  Montreal, Quebec.  2017.

Kateri Lanthier isn't going to give up anything easily in Siren.  Lanthier's tight inner monologues, confessionals and testimonials are so laden with images and metaphors that take up instant residence in your brain you feel you've been poetry hammered.

Kateri is a full speed poet, no meandering allowed.  One minute you're a grand piano and the next a Formula One engine.  Lanthier finds a way so that "coral has osteoporosis" and "The satellite dish and the satellite must weep for their decay."  Lanthier ties these disparate threads together into an information overload, poems ripe with jaw drop.


I was the waif in the snowbank of the banquet hall parking lot.
A voluptuous stray. A bravura drunk. My thoughts encrypted in sugar.

Chiming through my rain-streaked gaze, the hues of this week's cocktail:
CuraƧao blues, maraschino rage, olive, lime cordial, not bitter.

Unplugged from the folk circuit, unhinged by your grin.
When the heat deigns to return, the extremities sing pain.

The perimeter keeps expanding. Shots ricochet round the arch.
Catch me, catch me, if you must! Back me into the Earth's crust.

I clawed you from the rock and now you glisten on my finger.
In the marble at your temples, I can trace the throb of doubt.

All night the blind truck-river-road courses past my house.
Sirens swim the butterfly to comfort each shipwreck.


Today's book of poetry had Milo, our head tech, fetch Lanthier's first book, Reporting From Night (Iguana Books, 2011), out of the stacks for our morning reading.  Witty and sensual, it says so on the cover.  What Today's book of poetry remembers is that Lanthier's first book had a warm tenderness.

Try this one:

March Hatter

I am afflicted by tulipomania,
and an attention headache.

I am at least as confused
as the raccoon drinking
ice water on our deck
in the mid-day sun.


Imperfect moments perfectly caught in time.  That's a slick skill.  But Lanthier is after bigger game with Siren, she's stretching bigger muscles.  Today's book of poetry thoroughly enjoyed Reporting From Night but Siren is a whole new ball game.

Lanthier has been doing some serious reading since the last time out and it shows.  Today's book of poetry has nothing but time for poets who love and respect other poets and Lanthier pays constant tribute with her own particular inventive instrument.


The ice in the field has its game face on. That wind will toy with your feelings.
May I recommend revenge, served chilled in silence and slow time?

The toy lies upturned in the bin, wheels stilled or legs askew.
As soon as one kid palms it, the others whine in chorus.

So it is with the redhead at the bar, the blonde on your roommate's bed.
I've jammed your signal with sticky fingers: remote control's over and out.

I thought I was writing love poems. Turns out, I was writing to Mars.
"Dear distant red-faced planet! How highly ironic you are."

How artless, all that sweet talk while you twisted the pocket knife.
Meretricious. A miniature elephant carved in poachers' ivory.

As soon as a child is handed a toy, he tears off the wrapper and feasts.
But then, from the corner of the room, the empty box works its magic.

Cold and perfect, the toys in the window; the smears on the glass are where art lies.
When your abacus is missing a bead, you learn so much more about math.


Our morning read was held in considerably more comfort as we have added another reading chair to the office furniture courtesy of our friends Jeff and Tina at Vanier Moderns.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, appears to have claimed it as her own, already has a stack of books beside the chair, marking her territory.  Kathryn led the charge this morning for the readings and then put both of Lanthier's titles, Siren and Reporting From Night on her new pile, labelled ever so carefully in Kathryn's beautiful hand with red and yellow marker and it says: "TOUCH + DIE!!

Today's book of poetry thinks Lanthier would appreciate Kathryn's strong independent attitude and charm.  Kathryn pointed out Lanthier's use of the Ghazal and it's good that she did.  Today's book of poetry wouldn't know a ghazal from a gazelle but we know when we like a poem.  For Today's book of poetry Kateri Lanthier's Siren worked its own particular spell on this reader.  There's a kind of "compelling melancholy" in Lanthier's poetry.

What Washes Off, What Sticks

The grey-clothed day unsheathes to pink. Tickles the horizon.
Nightfall on site. I rub the jaw of the daffodil-dinosaur digger.

Light makes its last, weak argument. Excuses itself for the night.
No more hearsing and rehearsing. One false note: colony collapse.

Your lack of inflection troubles me. You must seize a ghost by the wrist.
Is this obsession, addiction, habit or an unscratchable itch?

We need new earth, dirt bags! They're sandbagged up at the mall.
Sweet soil arrived from the countryside. Got trashed in the parkette.

The ransom note in tenor clef of nosebleed on the pavement.
The cursive curse of a love note pissed in pale ale on the snow.

Strike the set. The dream mill's strapped to a dead-pan flatbed trailer.
The coldest day in decades and the sky is newborn blue.

You scrub at the stain while marvelling at what washes off, what sticks.
A missed miscarriage. The heartbeat that skipped town but never left.


With Siren Kateri Lanthier firmly stakes her ground as a poet to be dealt with.  This is confident, smart poetry that surprises the reader with a "seductive power."

Image result for kateri lanthier photo

Kateri Lanthier


Kateri Lanthier's work has appeared in numerous journals, including Green Mountains Review, Hazlitt and Best Canadian Poetry 2014. She was awarded the 2013 Walrus Poetry Prize. Her first book of poems is Reporting from Night (Iguana, 2011). She lives in Toronto with her family.

"In Siren, Kateri Lanthier puts contemporary culture on blast. Playful, kaleidoscopic, and full of unexpected connections, her ghazals "think at the top of their lungs"-- boldly exploiting the Persian form's compressed energy. Plug-in and prepare to be "pistil-whipped."
     - Jim Johnstone, author of Dog Ear

"Every one of these dazzling poems is crammed with wildly memorable images and expressions. With her whip-smart couplets and snappy lines, Lanthier offers a highly original and witty perspective on the world."
      - Jane Yeh, author of The Ninjas

Kateri Lanthier
Reading at the Tree Reading Series, September 12, 2017
Video:  Tree Reading Series


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

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Tincture of Sunlight - Vivian Hansen (Frontenac House Poetry)

Today's book of poetry:
A Tincture of Sunlight.  Vivian Hansen.  Frontenac House Poetry.  Calgary, Alberta.  2017.

A Tincture of Sunlight makes me think of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea along with Robert Ruark's The Old Man and the Boy or The Old Man's Boy Grows Older for a moment.  Vivian Hansen's "Old Man" is Cree/white and he is everyone's "Old Man."  And old men are smart.

Part Trickster and part Gulley Jimson, Hansen has appropriated the "Old Man" voice, as narrated by his lover, as a tool to bend and fold as needed to tell these remarkable little stories.

Acapella Wind

Old Man says he likes to hear the wind
stealing past
my kitchen window,
howling, like a coyote
wailing and trolling,
echo through a storm.

Air and anger shove
through the window's eyes.

For these speechless lamentations,
he is back in depression Saskatchewan.

Wind sucking
through dead-pine clapboards slats,
moaning inside his head,
soothing edges,
singing past
the drunken blasts
of father-yells below the staircase.

This is A Capella.
The lyric of wind.

Coyotes in spring heat.

The used-to-be of smoking
willow leaves
through a prairie howl.

Almost 85,
he says he's in his second childhood
drags on a roll-your-own.


I ask him what his dreams are about inside the wind.

He says:
They're wet.


The "Old Man" seems to know almost everything that has happened and everything that is going to but he doesn't know how to soothe his own aching heart.  In this life "Old Man" has been a soldier and a lover and a scientist and a father and so on.  Hansen shares some of the vast research she has assembled as inserts in the text when necessary and it is helpful, it adds context.  Hansen also borrows a little from some friends:  from Leonard Cohen, Robert Service and Don McKay, Annie Dillard and Lorna Crozier, G.D. Burgess and more...

The resulting poems have a seductive quality to them, it's a tone in the Lover's voice that she has adopted from the "Old Man."  That tone comforts the reader like the smell of an evening fire, a subtle invitation to sit down and talk or to just sit and listen.

Counting Coup

Got to thinking it wasn't a bad idea
to steal something from the enemy.

There was one stinking battle one night.
We shelled the square-heads most of the night.
Left them to rot.
Battle of Falaise Gap.

I strolled through the field the next morning.
Sun was up and bright,
shining on a field of dead German stumps.
Sunlight landed on light
from the ring -- nearly blinded me.

young guy, blonde, about my age.
Just married, I guess.
Couldn't get the ring off of his finger because his carcass
had blown into a balloon.

The ring had a beautiful design --
a switchback criss-crossing the circle of gold.
Inside, the engraving of an Iron Cross.
I wanted it.

Old Man waves his pinky finger,
still wearing the wedding ring of the dead German soldier.
He takes it off and shows it to me.
All the years wore off the switchback design
from its hopeful circle.
It no longer held a pattern, except in his memory.

I peer at the engraved Iron cross.
Imagine the widow identifying the body,
looking for the ring and finding -- a missing finger.


Today's book of poetry wants to take a moment to tip our hats in the direction of Frontenac House Poetry for their new direction in design.  Neil Petrunia designed A Tincture of Sunlight and it is both elegant and cool.  Frontenac House Poetry's new books are striking.

Vivian Hansen has created a universe in A Tincture of Sunlight that seems far more generous and warm then our present one.  Today's book of poetry knows that each universe has it's own Gods and Demons and the "Old Man's" Lover carries him and us with tender determination.

Our morning read got started late again.  More snow today.  Winter in Ottawa, who knew?  When the troops stumbled in they were all snow-shovelling beat and weary.  Vivian Hansen's "Old Man" and his lover both soothed their snow bruises and inspired their poetry engines.

Milo went into the stacks and brought out a copy of Hansen's A Bitter Mood of Clouds (Frontenac House Poetry, 2013), which we happily threw into the mix when the gang had finished reading A Tincture of Sunlight.  Hansen apparently knows how to inhabit any voice she wants.  What A Bitter Mood of Clouds demonstrated to Today's book of poetry, thoroughly, is that Hansen may be the real Trickster.

Sticking to Bones

Old Man's subtle sarcasm:
why don't you do some praying
for your own sins, if you believe there's a God at all!

-- imagine that --

I tell him it's really his own he wants forgiven.

His Old Bones,
etched with arthritis,
grieve him with the treachery
in his own body.

Pain that forces him to stop
driving, off an eternal highway
to stretch the seams of his knees.

It must have been here
I began inhaling grace,
exhaling whispers.

Enfolding him in my heart, praying
for Jesus to touch him.
And he kept driving, his knees suddenly painless.

I couldn't believe it

He said later, the simple
testimony of the unbeliever.

When I asked God to touch Old Man,
I meant his Old heart,
his tortured mind.

But instead, a laughing God
began to work
on his aching, arthritic, knees.


Today's book of poetry loves a book that swallows you whole like Jonah in the Whale; Okay, the whale was a big fish, but still.  Vivian Hansen writes poems that border on myth and she does it with a natural elan that welcomes the reader into every poem.  Hansen's "Old Man" is trying to make sense of the world and his life which is both a big job and to him, a big joke.  Making sense of the world, ha.  Hansen's ribald Lover and her "Old Man" can take a joke.

A Tincture of Sunlight is as pleasantly surprising as it is impressive.

Image result for vivian hansen photo

Vivian Hansen

Vivian Hansen has published in genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A Bitter Mood of Clouds was published by Frontenac House in 2013, a Long Poem that tells the story of Arne Petersen, who received gender reassignment in Denmark in 1953. Earlier work includes Angel Alley: the Victims of Jack the Ripper and Never Call it Bird: the Melodies of AIDS (Passwords Enterprises) and Leylines of My Flesh (Touchwood 2002), which chronicles the immigration experience of Danish Canadians. Vivian’s essay ‘Hundedagene and the Foxtail Phenomena” appears in Coming Here, Being Here: A Canadian Migration Anthology (Guernica 2016). Vivian teaches creative writing at Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary, as well as at the Alexandra Writers Centre. She is a member of The League of Canadian Poets and The Writers Guild of Alberta. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

Vivian Hansen
Reads from A Bitter Mood of Clouds
Video: Frontenac House



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, February 4, 2018

Dazzle - Alison Stone (Jacar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Dazzle.  Alison Stone.  Jacar Press.  Durham, North Carolina.  2017.

"Don't settle for pale,
idea filled days. Let joy slap
you out of sleep."
                                                                                                 from "Pleasure"

Dazzle is exactly as advertised, the damned thing "dazzles" as sparks appear between your fingers while you are trying to read.  Damned blue sparks that tickle your fingers and fuck up your brain.  Alison Stone has a trick where she leads you down one garden path or another and then she shivs the readers brain to an entirely different plane.

It's a madhouse inside Dazzle.  Stone is writing within a self-imposed and very formal technique in many of these poems but you simply don't notice specific literary technique until the second time around.  The first time you read these poems you do some sort of Dazzle jaw-drop.

After reading a couple of Alison Stone's monsters you are not only hooked, you're hooked bad and only the next last line will help.


My body's hot-wired, brazen as the garter
on a bride's thigh. High on anger,
we climb our hill near
the graveyard, lean against the broken gate
to pass around a flask of Tang
and vodka while stars dye the dull green
bushes silver. Somewhere politicians rant
and old people, their dreams eaten
by money, rest up for the death they enter
every morning and call compromise. Eager
kisses leave me trembling and great.


Alison Stone plays with style for her own amusement, stretching those extraordinary poetry muscles simply because she can.  But whether she is writing free verse or adhering to a tight set of self imposed arbitrary rules - these poems all work the same way.  Stone softens us up with the tender details and careful suggestions all decorously arranged and then she lowers some sort of heavyweight boom.  It is simply marvelous how she sets them up and then knocks them down.


Tossed aside, I'm dull. Toad-
ugly. Fat. Dumb. Battered. Bent.
Each muscle and tendon
aches. Whatever I did wrong, let me atone.
Friends offer vodka, swear I'll mend.

One morning, I wake up. It's done.
Birds no longer chirp your name;
the sun's insistent yellow might mean
promise. When you can't get a date,
feel lonely, scared, don't
call. I'll be fucking a new lover with abandon.


Stone takes no prisoners and takes no sass.  Alison Stone is a poet after my own poet heart with Dazzle.  There is never a moment's hesitation in these poems.  Stone is willing to bet it all every time out of the gate.  Today's book of poetry thinks that Stone has her bad engine tuned to perfection, these poems are note perfect when at high rev and Stone never takes her foot off of the gas.


I love you, but don't test
my patience. I won't share.

I know that
bitch from down the street
has starte-
d sniffing around, wanting a taste.

She better keep her twat
out of our happiness. Three's
a bloodbath. This is no threat,

it's a fact: I won't let you waste
our love. You'll only leave in a hearse.


There's five or six inches of fresh snow outside this morning and it is still coming down like Santa was expected.  That means that some of the minions didn't make it to the office in time for our morning read.  But I smell scotch all over Milo and Kathryn's meagre snow complaints.  I won't mention it because they are both poetry dedicated and work for the right price.

The reading itself was a gas.  So many of Stone's poems start out like the better angels of our hopes and dreams only to reveal the true nature of our devilish hearts.

These poems rang out across our offices like silver bullets and each and every one of us was a damned vampire.  At the end of the reading bodies were scattered all over the floor.


The space between
husky and wolf,
between longing for
and shouldn't have.
between lovers' bodies
and the thickening dark.

Short corridor of last chances,
final flickerings
before moths kamikaze
toward cracked street lights
and the dull sun,
sucker punched by night,
goes down.


Dazzle is exactly as advertised.  Whether Stone is taking apart a relationship and revealing the deep, dark heart of truth or simply musing about the "husky and wolf," if you aren't "dazzled" by these poems then your poetry engine is misfiring.

Today's book of poetry ended up reading these poems to K last night when we went to bed.  K is the better judge of almost everything and Alison Stone's Dazzle not only got K's seal of approval, it garnered actual profanity-laced praise.  Like me, K couldn't contain the combination of joy and awe these poems evoked without swearing.  Today's book of poetry doesn't have any higher praise.

Image result for alison stone photo

Alison Stone

Alison Stone has published three previous full-length collections: Ordinary Magic (NYQ Books, 2016), Dangerous Enough (Persa Press, 2014), and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award; as well as three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and many other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry's Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly's Madeline Sabin award. She was recently Writer in Residence at LitSpace St. Pete. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practises in NYC and Nyack.

“With a jeweler’s lapidary skill, Alison Stone has fashioned a string of gemlike poems that indeed (dare I say it?) dazzle—with wisdom, wit, and brio. She’s crafted every line to a high polish, rich in metaphor and music. Wide-ranging in subjects—so much to catch the eye—this book brims with “the shimmer, the shiver, the quicksilver / flickers. The sparkle, the dazzle of poetry.” Readers, enjoy!”
     — Richard Foerster

“Stone is not a ‘literary’ poet (there are enough of them)… She is interested in a woman’s truth, and has something hard won (but won) to give her readers. This is strong poetry.”
     — Allen Grossman

“Stone offers lean and sparkling poetry that invites us to join with it — poems that are, in their way, multi-faceted spaces to explore, discovering what we may, and grafting what we bring.”
     — Timothy McLafferty

Poems from Dangerous Enough by Alison Stone
Video: DobraPolskaSzkola



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, February 2, 2018

Precious Energy - Shannon Bramer (Book Thug)

Today's book of poetry:
Precious Energy.  Shannon Bramer.  Book Thug.  Toronto, Ontario.  2017.

Today's book of poetry not only met Shannon Bramer a few months ago, we shared the same stage.  Shannon graced the podium whereas Today's book of poetry kind of menaced it.  It was a genuine pleasure to meet Bramer.  We went prepared with a copy of her suitcases and other poems (Exile Editions, 1999) along with a copy of the recently published Precious Energy.

Today's book of poetry doesn't actually get to meet many of the poets that we write about on our blog. And you poets are a beautifully strange lot so when you meet a poet who resembles normal it is always a bit of a shock.  Bramer is so down to earth and honest you'd almost think she were regular folk.

But she's one of us, cursed with poetry and putting a smile on things anyway.

When You Are Sad You Must Also

Get lice and buy the special combs.

Eat as much garlic as possible.
Stuff it up your ass.

Write Sestinas.
Telephone your religious brother and challenge his beliefs.

Find a carpet catalogue and read it with an open mind.

Watch Law & Order.
Her perfect body's in the dumpster.

Clog up the toilet.

Buy a toy gun and point it at your head.
Point it at your husband's head.

Tell a new friend you need money.
Get down on  your hands and knees
                               and beg for it.


Suitcases and Other Poems was Bramer's first book and it was nineteen years ago.  Things have changed and so has Bramer.  Along with all the skill and promise Bramer showed in her first book she's added a lifetime of adult living.  Here's what Janice Kulyk Keefer had to say about suitcases and other poems.

          "Uncanny, the brilliance and beauty of this first book of poems.
          Shannon Bramer gives us both the sharp, clean bones of grief,
          and the deliciousness of those perceptual shocks that makes us 
          see the already-known-gardens, suitcases, speckled fruit -- as if
          for the first time, and through extraordinary eyes."

There's been a lot of water flow under Bramer's bridges since then.  Bramer's voice in Precious Energy is mature in the best ways.  A preciously dark sense of humour goes a long towards salving life's bruises.  Bramer realizes, fully, that survival always includes scars -- both inside and out.

Bramer comes right out and says that thing.  There may be boundaries in life but there are few in Bramer's poems.

The Cold Feel of The Forks and Knives

At 6:35 in the morning it's all in the sound

of the cutlery. How will he handle it?

If there is any roughness he's just hurried; don't

worry. Things will get easier. My son

likes to throw his plastic cup. We need to let him

touch things he might break.

Even me. I don't want to think about

my husband's hands

or the cold feel of the forks and knives.

I'm afraid of what comes next. I listen

to him empty the dishwasher.

It's a wonder some people are not sad.

He's pouring coffee now. He's on

the stairs with our third child

and coming in to wake me up.


Bramer mines those timeless minutes that make up real life and it makes for some very powerful poetry.  Our morning read included both our Bramer titles.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, took over the duties on suitcases and other poems, the rest of us passed around Precious Energy.  We had Uyama Hiroto and Haruka Nakamura on the box so we took our time between poems to let them sink in.

Shannon Bramer writes superbly clean poetry about a woman's life.  She writes about it with candor as though confessing and then throws in her own counterpoint to keep herself honest.  Today's book of poetry is always going to have time for that.

The Days of The Fox

It was one drunken night after another, back

in the days of the fox. Once with the bottles

I put my own heart out with the trash

but three young raccoons found it first, tore it

to pieces in the cedars. My fox got nothing

that night but a few broken zinnias,

some sour cherry pits. I watched him

nuzzle the garbage until he noticed me, sober

as stars. He put his paws up

on the back door and I opened it

so he could smell me, my empty hands.

Let me in anyway, said the fox.

It's not your heart that I want.


Today's book of poetry admits that he was totally charmed when we met Bramer a few months ago -- and why wouldn't we be?  Bramer has one of those voices where you can't wait to hear what the hell she's going to say next.  Domesticity under a harsh glare can unravel quickly but Bramer has superb tools and pulls it all together.  She's able to wrestle her demons and turn them into splendid poems and that is worth the price of admission any day.

Image result for shannon bramer photo

Shannon Bramer

Poet and playwright Shannon Bramer lives in Toronto. Previous collections of poetry include: suitcases and other poems (winner of the 2000 Hamilton and Region Best Book Award), scarf, and The Refrigerator Memory. She has also published chapbooks with above/ground press and BookThug, and regularly conducts poetry workshops for students of all ages. An illustrated collection of poems for very young children is forthcoming from Groundwood Books in the spring of 2019. Precious Energy is her first full-length collection in over a decade.

“Shannon Bramer writes with a candor that is as clever as it is devastating. Through masterfully crafted studies of the everyday, Bramer transcends, in the manner of Lydia Davis, drawing the domestic into utter sublimity.”
—Robin Richardson, author of Knife Throwing Through Self-Hypnosis

“With this collection Bramer has redeemed modern poetry. Precious Energy is a must for anyone who has ever had their clothes drenched in a child’s vomit, seen their cell phone as the enemy, momentarily failed to recognize their lover or wondered what the point of all this is.”
—Andrew Kaufman, author of All My Friends are Superheroes and Small Claims

Shannon Bramer 
reading from Precious Energy
Video: Jay MillAr


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
Please excuse some of the format issues Today's book of poetry is experiencing.  Our head Tech, Milo, is out of the office this morning and when my computer refused to comply with my suggestions there was much kerfuffle and humpffffing.  We'll try to be back to regularly scheduled broadcasting asap.