Sunday, June 17, 2018

Goodnight David McFadden, good luck to the rest of us

Today's book of poetry:
Goodnight David McFadden, good luck to the rest of us.

Image result for david mcfadden photo

Today's book of poetry has been on the road for a couple of days.  We travelled to Cobourg where our old friend Stuart Ross hosted us for an evening.  If you want to know what paradise is going to be like, spend an evening with Stuart and his partner in crime Laurie.

On Saturday, I joined Stuart and Laurie and a rather large crowd at St. Anne's Church in Toronto to say Goodbye to David McFadden.  Say goodbye we did.  The Reverend Maggie Helwig, a very fine poet, saw me sitting at the back of the church and joined me, as old friends do.  It was Maggie who told me that the entire interior of St. Anne's, all of the panels, were painted by members of the Group of Seven.

At first I thought Maggie was making a religious reference I was too slow to pick up on, but as she continued a light shone down and slapped me in the side of the head.  I spent considerable time staring at the ceilings and walls.  The Group of Seven in a downtown Toronto church where one of Canada's greatest poets was getting a send-off.  Perfect.

Stuart Ross was one of several folk who spoke during the service for David.  There was a small and excellent choir and much singing.  Of course there were tears everywhere, Hazel Millar was sitting in the row in front of me with other in the Toronto literati, tears abounded.

David McFadden dying was certainly sad.  His funeral service was full of respect and admiration and faith.  His friends and family made sure his final Dilbert moments in public were full of humour and love.

Goodnight David McFadden.

*   *

In transit to and from Cobourg and Toronto and then back to Ottawa, Today's book of poetry visited three libraries, looking for their "for sale" shelves or rooms, and three secondhand bookstores.  One of the bookstores, in Oshawa, was going out of business, in fact, it was the last day the store was to be open.  I'd been frequenting this store recently because they always had a considerable amount of poetry on the shelf.  Their poetry books are always eight dollars or less, but on the last day they were open, the price on the covers was being reduced by 75%.  Their usual inexpensive pricing had already been reduced during the previous weeks. 

Today's book of poetry also discovered The Book Shop in Tamworth, Ontario.  We didn't discover it so much as take the directions Stuart Ross had provided.  The directions were excellent and needed.  I've lived in this part of Ontario for most of my life and had never heard of Tamworth.  But there is was, and so was The Book Shop.  What an oasis.  Robert Wright, the proprietor, couldn't be nicer and he certainly knows his stuff.  I've rarely seen such a big or intelligent poetry section in a secondhand bookstore.  Robert took my stack of post-it note lists of poets I'm looking for and promptly put books in my hand like jewels.

By the time Today's book of poetry had made it back to our offices we had somehow picked up fifty-eight new poetry titles.  A couple of those are deliberate doubles, I always keep a stack of books to give to friends, and a few will be doubles (because my brain is old and stupid) simply because I didn't remember that they were in the stacks.  Today's book of poetry has some reading to do.

Both for your amusement, and my own, I'm going to list what we found.  Today's book of poetry will be back to regular programming a.s.a.p.

This is what we unpacked from our recent trip:

There Is No Falling - Robert Hogg
The Rain in the Trees - W.S. Merwin
Museum of Bone and Water - Nicole Brossard
[Today's book of poetry knew we had these titles, but couldn't pass up the price/opportunity to give a copy on to some unsuspecting friend.]

The Ends of the Earth - Jacqueline Turner
Far Side of the Earth - Tom Sleigh
Free Will - Harold Rhenisch
I, Another. The Space Between - Jamie Reid
Under A Small Moon - Gary Radison
Previously Feared Darkness - Robert Priest
The Cellophone Sky - Jeff Park
Waiting for the Gulf Stream - Bert Almon
And The Stars Were Shining - John Ashberry
Mother's Love and Other Poems - Elizabeth Beach
Civil and Civic - Jonathan Bennett
Blert - Jordan Scott
Echo Gods and Silent Mountains - Patrick Woodcock
The Ice House - Melissa Walker
Invisible to Predators - R.M. Vaughn
WaveSon.nets - V - Losing Luna - Stephanie Strickland
Listen to the Wind - James Reaney
News & Smoke - Sharon Thesen
Late for Work - David Tucker
An Aquarium - Jeffery Lang
Reading the Bible Backwards - Robert Priest
Burns for Isadora - Hawkley Workman
Second Collection - Caroling Morgan di Giovanni
Flesh, A Naked Dress - Susan Andrews Grace
The Shunning - Patrick Friesen
Flicker and Hawk - Patrick Friesen
The Cradle Place - Thomas Lux
Ninety-five Nights of Listening - Malinda Markham
Blessing the Boats - Lucille Clifton
The Constructor - John Koethe
Bleeding Heart Fist Fight - Brandon Hahn
Till I Caught Myself - Ruth Roach Pierson
The Improved Binoculars - Irving Layton
Girl By The Water - Gary Geddes
Way More West - Edward Dorn
Work Book - Steven Heighton
Hammerstroke - Don Domanski
Water Cranes - Chris Banks
Vellum - Matt Donovan
Stone Baby - Dolores Reimer
More To Keep Us Warm - Jacob Scheier
Grid - Brenda Schmidt
Fear of Knives - Anne Szumigalski
Famous Roadkill - Allan Safarik
Don't Let It End Like This Tell Them I Said Something - Paul Vermeersch
The Sea With No One In It - Niki Koulouris
Late Capitalist Sublime - Ryan Kamstra
You - Gary Hyland
Hands Reaching in Water - Gary Hyland
This Is A Love Song - Hugh MacDonald
The Nerve - Glyn Maxwell
Lard Cake - David McGimpsey
Glimpse - George Murray
Point No Point - Jane Munro
The Sentinel - A.F. Moritz




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, June 14, 2018

How to Wear This Body — Hayden Saunier (Terrapin Books)

Today's book of poetry:
How to Wear This Body.  Hayden Saunier.  Terrapin Books.  West Caldwell, New Jersey.  2017.


Is it fair to call poetry reasonable?  Hayden Saunier writes poetry that makes a very convincing case out of reason, gentle reason at that.  Relationships happen and Saunier has plenty to say about them—
and about how to "stay alive" in this world.

As Christopher Bursk (author of The Improbable Swervings of Atoms) suggests, Saunier shows us "how to live on this planet."  Saunier connects us.

Hard Facts

To stay alive do not resist
that's what you're told

as if it were a simple act to make yourself
be only meat

and bone
pressed down into an asphalt street

and not a form of suicide
erase yourself be dead enough

that he or she or they'll decide
there is no need to kill you

though do not resist
can make no guarantee of this

but if you stay alive
do not resist will mean you have to stand

your dead self up
walk out into the world alive

which is another kind of death
and harder every single time

you have to kill enough
(do not resist) to stay alive.


Today's book of poetry thoroughly enjoyed ambling through How to Wear This Body.  Hayden Saunier is easy to feel at home with.  Yet, from somewhere deep below the reader can't help but sense the spirit of Carson McCullers dancing behind the scenes.  McCullers always knew more than she revealed, she knew what was in the dark, untended corner of the room. McCuillers' once said that "there's nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished. Or an old address book." 

It's not that Saunier ever has the catastrophic arms of fate swinging for the fences but deep below the surface of these poems, you can feel the "undertoad."

Hayden Saunier is one smooth character.  Most of these poems ring familiar, not because we've seen them before, but because they accurately catch the rhythms that sustain us.

Hard Facts

She's cleaning fish.
Old rivers of raised veins
twist down her forearms
through networks of scars
down her wrists to the roots
of her fingers, the palms of
her hands, her arms
rest on the workbench a moment,
this woman who could be
any woman on the lee
side of any harbor
where there's been war.
She picks up a bone-handled
blade from the workbench,
scrapes guts into buckets,
flicks bits of shine from her
fingertips, and I wonder
how long, if at all, it took
before she could pick up a knife,
and knife, in her hands cut
by knives, but the answer,
I venture, like the answer
to everything else, is —
it depends on how hungry you get.


Saunier has no trouble with putting it out there, "Hard Facts" is a good case in point.  But Saunier can also contemplate and savor, her poem "Asparagus" is almost as crisp and tasty and tender as the real thing.

Our morning read was another slightly subdued affair.  Today's book of poetry is having a hard poetry week. Today's book of poetry will be in Toronto this weekend for the funeral of David McFadden, Canadian poetry giant and one of my heroes.

But our hearts are heavier still.  Stephen Reid (writer/bank-robber), died earlier this week.  Stephen Reid was the husband of Susan Musgrave.  Our regular readers will know it already, but Today's book of poetry's esteem for Musgrave knows no bounds.  She is one of Canada's finest poets.  Today's book of poetry sends our deepest condolences to Ms. Musgrave and her entire family.

Our staff did get down to business and gave Hayden Saunier's How to Wear This Body a proper Today's book of poetry reading.  Our dear friend Alexandre added his accent to the proceedings which lent an international feel to the event.  We did Hayden Saunier proud.


Some nights my mind still tries
to peel away squares of blackened paper
from the old-fashioned kiosk

of my spinal column, photographs
and placards posted by the body
behind the mind's back, years ago,

glued with spit and wheat paste.
Images gone, titles gone,
all part of the whole

structure now, hardened,
darkened, their weight subsumed
into frame. The way a tree grows

first around, then through, barbed
wire, or folds the small grey marble
headstone of a child into its

knotted roots. Such heaviness
our bones haul in and hold inside.
No wonder we can't fly.


Today's book of poetry must apologize to Hayden Saunier as we were a bit distracted this week.  Saunier's poetry deserves the readers full attention.

Image result for hayden saunier photo

Hayden Saunier

Hayden Saunier is the author of three poetry collections, Tips for Domestic Travel (Black Lawrence Press, 2009) a St. Lawrence Award Finalist, and Say Luck (Big Pencil Press, 2013), which won the 2013 Gell Poetry Prize. She is also the author of a chapbook, Field Trip to the Underworld (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012), winner of the Keystone Chapbook Award. Her work has been published in such journals as Beloit Poetry Journal, Nimrod, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her work has also been featured on Verse Daily and has been awarded the 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize, the 2011 Rattle Poetry Prize, and the 2005 Robert Fraser Award. A poet, actor, and teaching artist, she holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives on a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The interconnectedness of everything on earth, how we belong to it all, how permeable boundaries are between us and the natural world, how things sing and what they sing of are rendered with aching acuity. Whether a poem’s focus shines on a “rump sprung sofa,” a turkey vulture, or dazzling autumn trees described as “sugar maple drama queens,” even evanescence becomes rich and luminous in these poems. This is a gorgeous, precise and deeply graceful collection.
     — Amy Gerstler

Hayden Saunier
"Where Poetry Begins"

Video: Serenity Bishop



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, June 11, 2018

Battle Lines — Matthew Borczon (Epic Rites Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Battle Lines.  Matthew Borczon.  Epic Rites Press.  Sherwood Park, Alberta.  2017.

Matthew Borczon writes such pared down verse that at first, you might think something was missing.  There's nothing missing at all.  These poems are as precise as a shot from a sniper.

Borczon worked as a Naval Reserve Hospital Corpsman from 2010 until 2012 when he was diagnosed with PTSD.  Borczon was witness to the horrors endured by over 2,000 veterans under his care.  Clearly their scars left scars.

my mother

told me
that my
brothers sat
her down
to say
it doesn't
matter if
you don't
know him
you need
to figure
out how
to love
him anyway.


Battle Lines rattles the razor edge of a combat veterans memories, all those things a veteran cannot forget.  In Matthew Borczon's world the worst really does happen and it comes from every direction at once and without notice.  Battle Lines makes clear, and we need reminding, that many of the hardest battles veterans face occur when they've come home.

Borczon's therapeutic voice is like a lancet taking the top off the roiling and festering boil, a release of all that putrid conglomeration that infects the memory.  Fear and remorse live here.

It's clear from these poems that we ask too much of those who we put in harm's way.

the inmate

had tattooed
his squad
number on
his forearm
from his
time in
the infantry
when it
was the
same as
his new
cell number
he asked
me if 
I thought
that meant
I had
only worked
in the prison
for a
month and
had only
come back
from Afghanistan
the month
before that
so I
told him
I no longer
believe anything
means anything.


Today's book of poetry read through Battle Lines like there was a prize waiting for us at the end.  Borczon doesn't waste one second of your poetry time.  Hopefully each reader will take a little compassion and understanding from these missives.  It's not often a voice from inside the beast can/will/wants to articulate or share their sorrow.  Borczon wants us to sympathize because unless you are battle-hardened you can't empathize.

None of our clan of readers here in the office has ever been close to a battle or a war.  Today's book of poetry saw "skull and crossbones" signs at the side of the road when travelling through Croatia over a decade ago.  Those were the unhappy reminders of active minefields.  And as you regular readers will know, we once heard automatic gunfire in New Orleans.  That's it and lucky for us.  Borczon comes from a different group of citizens.

None the less, we did try to do Matthew Borczon and Battle Lines proud with our morning read.  Solemn and serious.

my wife

says she
tried to
wake me
but is
afraid to
touch me
or shake
me because
of how
much I
still jump
and scream


Battle Lines is the second book of poetry by Matthew Borczon.  Today's book of poetry will be anxious to see numbers three and four and so on.  Borczon has a discerning eye and a cargo-bay sized heart at work in these poems; Today's book of poetry is always going to pay attention to that.

Image result for matthew borczon photo

Matthew Borczon

Matthew Borczon was born and still lives in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Edinboro University in 1990 with a degree in fine arts. He joined the United States Naval Reserve in 2001 as a hospital corpsman. In 2010 he was deployed to Camp Bastion to work in their hospital, the busiest combat hospital in the war at that time. There he provided health care to 2,268 coalition and local national forces. Diagnosed with PTSD in 2012 Matthew started writing as a way to tell his story. He publishes widely in the small press. When he is not writing he raises four children with his wife of twenty years, works as a practical nurse for a social service agency and is still a member of the Naval reserve. Along the way he has been a model, bouncer, amateur boxer, martial arts instructor, art teacher to inner city children and a prison nurse. Battle Lines is his second book of poetry.

Poets Underground
Matthew Borczon

Video: Poets Underground


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, June 9, 2018

Flightpaths: the lost journals of Amelia Earhart — Heidi Greco (Caitlin Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Flightpaths: the lost journals of Amelia Earhart.  Heidi Greco.  Caitlin Press.  Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia.  2018.

Reading Heidi Greco's Flightpaths: the lost journals of Amelia Earhart is like falling into a Saturday afternoon matinee at the movies of my youth.  Greco has imagined and made real all those things we've so longed to discover about the ending to the Amelia Earhart story, the beginning of the legend.

Greco's done her homework.  Today's book of poetry knew about the "friendship" between the high flying aviatrix and the President's wife.  But Greco takes them up among the stars where they make snow out of one of Eleanor's boas.  Greco reveals dark secrets and hidden gems, jewels for the inquisitive historian.

The theories Heidi Greco expands on as to the demise of Amelia Earhart have been given light of day before but Greco affectionately moves past rumour to give rich flesh and bone back to the narrative.  Just like those afternoon movies of my youth; Greco sets up the audience and then delightfully mows them down.

July 8

Made an awkward wade to the plane, for another quick series of maydays.
Dumb luck revealed a little sack of fruit floating beside my seat (how
could I have missed it?), a gift from one of the sweet women at Lae. She'd
handed it over smiling, saying repeatedly "po, po." She should have said
"poo poo" as it's not agreed with me. Shit, shat, shatted. Enormously. I
may have lost more fluids than the soggy fruit supplied. Modesty long
gone between Noonan and me. Even so, this is beyond normal, requires
a skirt. Eleanor and Katharine, my cohorts in independence, would laugh
at how ladylike I've become.


Heidi Greco's Flightpaths: the lost journals of Amelia Earhart offers up more than one solution to the famed pilot's true story.  We deduce that Earhart had an open relationship with her husband and a thoroughly modern and adventurous dance card that spanned both gender and expectation.

These poems fantasize more than one perilous end for Earhart, but any real fan of Earhart, or any ardent reader, will already have heard these theories.  What Greco does that amazes is to create a narrative the reader can and does believe.  We believe the movie as it is playing out in front of us.  

With a variety of conjured tricks, Heidi Greco has us eating her fictionalized account of an unknown story right out of her poetry hands.  She doesn't even bother with a poetry bowl.  Greco gets us to believe a thing is true even though we already know it is made up.  That's some good poetry cooking.

This, my new husband

The father sells shoes, shiny as the pomade
he slicks into his thinning hair.
This dull groom of mine welcomes the war,
explains to me, as if to a child,
"An army marches on its feet,"
What am I to learn from this?
Surely, the measuring of feet cannot
fill the needs of his mind.

I would stand with the women
in the factory, if I could.
But no, I am cautioned:
I might show my hand, reveal
some bold trait, one that could draw
unwanted attention. Or worse,

speak out with too strong a thought
one not befitting this pretty head I now wear,
maybe get sent to the loony bin
along with the other hysterical wives,
the ones who didn't behave.

Hair this long annoys me, tangling in the brush,
this continual dyeing of roots to keep them brown,
mouse enough to blend with this dun-colored world
the sentence I must serve, rest of my too-lifeless days.

Oh, for a pinch of danger, a taste of sudden intrigue,
anything to fire up my engines.


Today's book of poetry morning reading was just a little off track today, everyone remains a little subdued and saddened by the passing of the great Canadian poet David McFadden.  Earlier this week David finally succumbed to a lengthy illness.  

David McFadden was a big influence on Today's book of poetry.  Mr. McFadden had been to our home a couple of times and for a brief period of time we corresponded regularly.  We were never buddies but we were friends.  Today's book of poetry was very honoured to be included in 70th birthday book for David.  We weren't buddies — but I wish we had been.  David McFadden was looked to up by an entire generation of Canadian poets and Today's book of poetry is saddened by his passing. 

Stuart Ross, celebrated poet and close friend, has suggested that he is going to read a David McFadden poem at all of his readings in the future.  Today's book of poetry thinks we should all follow the same plan of action.

After a round of David McFadden poems, mostly from Poems Worth Knowing (Coach House Books, 1971), we got back in to the proper flow and gave Heidi and Amelia a proper flight test.

July 12

To think I used to mope about the thickness of my ankles, call them my
elephant legs. Bigger than ever the ankle is blooming, like an overfed dahl-
ia in my cousin's flower bed. Now it truly holds the shape of an elephant's
leg, would make a good umbrella stand for someone's elegant foyer. Yet
despite its bulbous shape, it feels as if the bones are disintegrating. As if
the constant salt air has seeped inside and begun dissolving them. Can't
distract myself from the pain anymore. Reciting poems, making up songs,
repeating my times tables, nothing does the trick. Zero times 180 is still
zero. Since Fred no longer needs the pills, I may try using the ones that
remain. What effect they may have on me, I cannot say. Tomorrow I mean
to begin some letters to family and friends. Perhaps a batch of sweet fare-


Heidi Greco puts belief in the hands of the reader.  We come to believe that this movie is real.  Poetry that transports is a hard currency to deny.  Flightpaths is money.

Heidi Greco

Heidi Greco

Heidi Greco is a longtime resident of Surrey, BC. In addition to writing and editing, she often leads workshops – on topics that range from ekphrastic poetry to chapbook making. She’s been an advocate for the literary arts in her community and was instrumental in establishing two distinct reading series, but she considers her greatest success to have been convincing her city to hire an official Poet Laureate. She writes in many genres – with poems, fiction, essays and book reviews to her credit. Her books include a novella, Shrinking Violets which was co-winner of the Ken Klonsky Award in 2011. Her work has also appeared in many anthologies, most recently in Make it True: Poetry from Cascadia (Leaf Press, 2015) and The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil, 2015). In addition to making Sunday suppers for her adult sons, she keeps a sporadic blog at

Flightpaths: The Lost Journals of Amelia Earhart slips easily from windowpane prose to lyric as Heidi Greco delivers the realities, the fantasies, the possibilities of Amelia Earhart’s last flight over the Pacific Ocean with a complex simplicity that gives us both what probably was and what might have been — building a poem/story of a life bigger than history.”
—Brian Brett, author of Tuco: The Parrot, The Others, and The Scattershot World

“In this unique and intriguing fictional tale, Heidi Greco convinces us that Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 10 Electra went down near a remote Pacific island. This tragic event, and the disappearance of Amelia’s plane into the ocean, leaves the reader wondering what happened to this brave pilot who accepted the challenge of a world flight in 1937.”
— Ann Holtgren Pellegreno, Pellegreno was the first to fly a Lockheed 10 Electra around the world on the Earhart Trail. On July 2, 1967, she dropped a wreath on Howland Island.

“I am not one to read a lot of poetry, but when combined with contextual passages and based on a historical event, my interest was piqued and my imagination stimulated by the fascinating concept that Ms Greco has penned. Recommended.”
The Miramichi Reader

Heidi Greco

Feature Poet @ PJ/PNW
Video: TheVideoGuys



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, June 4, 2018

The Fix — Lisa Wells (University of Iowa Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Fix.  Lisa Wells.  University of Iowa Press.  Iowa City, Iowa.  2018


Image result for lisa wells the fix

The Fix is in.

Lisa Wells has climbed right into the poetry heart of Today's book of poetry.  Wells burns like her hands were made of matches.

Today's book of poetry did not recognize the language Lisa Wells was employing at first, some renegotiation was necessary, and it was my fault.  But Today's book of poetry did know from the very first poem in this insanely entertaining debut that it was going to require a seat-belt and helmet.

The Fix has a sureness to it, an accomplished voice, Wells gets to the heart with zest and immediately consumes the reader with her abandon fervor.  Today's book of poetry had to think about it for a minute and then it hit us.  We have only recently become aware of the superpoetry of the nurse/poet Belle Waring (Belle Waring died of cancer in 2015).  There's a zany, I don't give two shits - except that I care deeply, mantra.  A completely abandoned building sort of shouting that goes on in the poetry of Waring and Wells seems cut from the same fine cloth.

What Today's book of poetry was clumsily trying to say is that we are BIG admirers of Belle Waring and were surprised to find Lisa Wells raising the same hairs on our poetry neck.  Today's book of poetry will be looking at Belle Waring's Refuge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990) and Dark Blonde (Sarabande Books, 1997) at some point in the near future.  The Belle Waring books arrived in our offices courtesy of our Southern Correspondent, The Twangster, reigning St. Louis Champ.  He sends regular literary "care packages."

Today's book of poetry is so happy to introduce you to the poetry of Lisa Wells we can hardly sit still in our seats.

Theory of Knowledge

Alive on the highway shoulder.
The ruddy trucker passed

tossed a can from his cab
and I scrambled to retrieve it.

Cut like a twig and titless
the boys said
bbs on a breadboard.

Crossed my arms over my chest
in the frigid stock room of the mini-mart
while a classmate donned a nylon bib
and counted my cache into his hamper.

So I whipped a boy at school with my windbreaker
and where my zipper caught his shin, he split.

Blood slipped through the fold
mercury slow.

For that, a teacher faced me toward a wall
to think about my wrongs.

I don't need a wall to know.


When Today's book of poetry tells you the Lisa Wells poems are not concerned with point of entry, they attack you like an unseen gas, impervious to detection and thoroughly effective;  you're not going to believe what will happen to you — even as it is happening.

That last sentence/paragraph will have Max, our Sr. Ed., bleeding out his eyeballs; but Today's book of poetry has learned that we have to poke the beast once in a while just to make sure he is still breathing.

Back to point of entry.  Lisa Wells is the perfect poetry assassin because these poems come at you with such humour and wit that we often don't see the big "pop-up" mallet she keeps in other hand.  The Fix is devoid of trickery, These poems come at the reader straight down the middle of the page, Lisa Wells may be the Larry Csonka* of American poetry.

*Larry Csonka played for the Miami Dolphins and is universally respected for his inside game.  Fearless and unstoppable.  "The Sundance Kid" won a couple of Superbowls and was the star running back on the only professional football team to have a full undefeated season.


I stitched my mask of hide- snout- sinew- talon- and rode
the vast savanna to war

in my former life. I was the hybrid. I sewed my brutal double-helix
     into a child

and packed her boots with greasy wool that felted as she walked in bright

stratified color. Carpathian bronze couldn't buy her off
when she leapt at the throat of my lover.

Him I called The Lion for his yawn and yellow ringlets.

I placed a Deglet date upon his tongue, I pressed
the golden scarab into amber, straddled all his lap, kissed

my cresset to the yurts of my superiors

and in this life, I think I'd like to do more damage.


Today's book of poetry thinks that Lisa Wells has a considerable reserve of grit, she knows that most injustices go unpunished and that many go unnoticed.  Wells is a reporter, and an excellent one at that, but she can't stay neutral.

Our morning read was robust to say the least with an excellent cast of characters here for the event.  Jeff popped by to measure my desk for another bookcase, at present I count something like fourteen bookcases, one-hundred and twelve shelves, in my office, but I need a couple more.  Jeff has the knowledge.  He also has a great voice and rattled off a couple of Wells poems.  Thomas was on this morning, he brought in his friends Pistol and Barb.  All three of them contributed.  The office was a busy place this morning.  

We laughed and laughed.  All complaints get sent to the fifth floor.

With Lisa Wells, no complaints at all.

"Poetry Man"

      after Phoebe Snow

To recall the cull of this life.

That one must harvest by selective annulment
the body they will wed

                     and the body they will hustle
from dress to tongue on the sly

                                           for days
I lay as a flank in my lover's maw

                      swathed in wine while warm
winds frisked the wisteria.

It was innocent.

He lashed my wrist to the mast.
He tied my blind because I wanted

to be battered in the swell
            and blossoms purple still
any place he pressed his mouth
any place

I asked for it.
By now I know, I begged:
relieve your mouth its bland aperture

Talk to me some more


Home's that place       somewhere      you go each day

in absence of his finger I have conveyed to my teeth
a relentless procession of corn chips, zoned out

on the bedroom wall.
Little my tongue does for the hole it circumnavigates.

It was a clear day, sun jigging figures from the leaves
on the alien green of College Park
              I was ocular in his arms

an enormous pupil, blown open.

     We knew the hour had come
by the way the light collected

raptured to several heavens
there's no need to choose.


If choice is obviated  "Le Paradis n'est pas artificiel"

his letter begins, anxiety of what is
in back of each long note.

He compares me to a garden.  "Why weed what winter will kill?"

Fidelity is perennial, survives the cold     cloaked as a peony.

He wishes me a grand carouse at the local dive, a dry
bottom bun for my rubber burger
and another man's sex         bashful boy.


do not touch the stove you will

fuse to its element    slaver over
the burn.             You don't have to go.

You're hiding something sweet
from this swollen thumb

and from these glossy welts derives
the suspicion that I am truly sick.

Monstrously wooed by these
reports of injury, he admits

         "its invocation of parts. You have a thumb. Eyes."

Instruments of agency.   Logic divides
pleasure from having
               give it to me

All Medea's remonstrations ended on a blade.
downed in the poisoned mug, draped in the tainted gown

but she never howled
when love departed

she muscled out to meet him.


Any of you regular readers of Today's book of poetry will know that we are always a sucker for poets who find hope.  Lisa Wells gives us renewed hope, and why not?  

This energy, zip and intelligence make for that rarest of books, can't miss poetry.  It will "muscle out to meet" you.

Burn, Lisa, Burn.

Lisa Wells


Lisa Wells is a poet and nonfiction writer who lives in Tucson, Arizona. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, the Believer, Denver Quarterly, Rumpus, Third Coast, and the Iowa Review.

“Full and luscious as a grape before wine-making or a moon before love-making, the poems in The Fix live in a roadside space that’s earthy, sensual, erotic, and wild. Lisa Wells writes by feel, shaping, kneading, and bending the line the way a potter builds a ceramic vessel from the bottom up, coiling around a central idea until it’s solid, visible, and ready to be marveled at.”
     —D. A. Powell

The Fix is ruthless, sleepless, vigilant, obsessive: a profound work of mystery and matter, of power and pleasure, in which any singular truth is always just a step ahead, a bit beyond reach, below sight line. This new voice is so strange it sounds familiar, like family unforgivable or a lover who’s never over, or like a kind of food only grown on alien soil but that tastes disturbingly like your childhood. Here, every line is a surprise, a curve, a path this visionary poet cut just this moment for you to travel deep and emerge altered by this, her stark dark knowing. You’ll read this brilliant book again and again looking for the way back from it.”
     —Brenda Shaughnessy, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize

The Fix is perfectly executed. It’s always poetry, yet it never strains to be poetry. It’s flush with nervous and yet confidently directed energy. Its most striking moments are never haphazard, but are surprising and indelible. It doesn’t read like a first book, it reads like a book for life.”
     —Shane McCrae, author, In the Language of My Captor

“Lisa Wells knows all too well that a fix is just a habitual stay against the moment’s decay, and in these corporeal poems equal parts binge and purge, one can only wonder what rough bitch slouches down low to be reborn in a Paradise as dirty and comfy as a trucker’s blown rig.”
     —Timothy Liu

Lisa Wells
reads "The End"
Video:  BitchMedia



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