Friday, July 20, 2018

Burning the Evidence — Todd Cirillo (Epic Rites Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Burning the Evidence.  Todd Cirillo.  Epic Rites Press.  Woodbridge, Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada.  2017.

Todd Cirillo, like Heath Ledger's Joker, is quite prepared to watch it all burn.  These poems evoke an anti-establishment ethos from the first hard line Cirillo pounds down.  And all the poems that follow are similarly crafted, hammer to anvil.

No one likes the Bukowski reference these days but Today's book of poetry is too old to know who the new age Buk might be, so there you go.  But we'll settle for any hard-drinking, hard-living, hard writing, truth teller who can make us laugh and make us cry.  Burning the evidence is our huckleberry today.


It was the last time
you would stay over,
and I wasn't sad
about it.

We agreed to say
it was not you
and it was not me.

But really,
we know,
deep down
that the next time
we are at the bar
telling our story,
we will say
it was definitely


Todd Cirillo brings his own take on things to the game.  Cirillo leads with his heart more often than the traditional tough guy but nothing comes easy when your girlfriend owns a .357.

The heart and soul of the matter is that Today's book of poetry simply likes the way Cirillo talks.  We like the way he gets from A to B, and what he has to say along the way.  Burning the Evidence bristles with anecdotes and love songs, accusations and admissions, and Cirillo makes them all feel true.

These poems feel as though they could happen to you, or may, in another place and time.

Everybody's a Critic

I had been drinking Moscow Mules
for half the day,
trying to work on poems,
attempting to get the words right,
elicit the correct emotion,
break the perfect hearts,
I drank,
I wrote,
I drank,
I wrote.

At 6:30 pm
my girlfriend
joined me.
When she arrived
I got up to go to the bathroom
grabbed my poems
and stated,
"I'll take the poems with me
so no one steals them."

She quickly responded,
"I think there's enough toilet paper in there."


Burning the Evidence isn't all love's battlefield and hungover mornings.  Todd Cirillo is also able to play the love poem, sweet like a cooing dove, without cloying and only a minimal threat of violence.  Cirillo knows he is always holding the trump card, joker that he is.

The morning read at the Today's book of poetry offices was led by Milo, our head tech.  Milo was convinced early on that just like some other Epic Rites Press poets, Cirillo could really burn.

If Burning the Evidence were a Tom Waits album it would be Blue Valentines, Rickie Lee Jones on the back cover, bent over backwards or a Thunderbird, her blonde hair falling like a dangerous rainbow over the back of the car, like a summer shower with lightning in the offing, the blue neon green of the night all ambient and tender and frightening.

If Burning the Evidence were a meal, it would be the special at a diner, but the gravy is made in the kitchen, the fries are homecut, and the apple pie was made by Mom.

If Burning the Evidence were a car, the body might need a little work, some bondo, but it would cover ground like a cheetah and run like a top.  Maybe some grumble in the idle.

You get the picture.

Memory Never Lies

I won't lie—
it has gotten incredibly difficult
to recall
who I wrote which
poem for.
the names and moments,
even the years
have begun to blue together
in a kaleidoscope
of inspirational moments.
after reading my poems
when a girl asks,
"Who was THAT one about?"
I always remember
to tell the truth:
"That one was
for you baby."


Burning the Evidence by Todd Cirillo runs a little hot, pick it up with care.  But pick it up.

Image result for todd cirillo photo

Todd Cirillo

Todd Cirillo is co-founder of Six Ft. Swells Press and one of the originators of the After-Hours Poetry movement. He is sought after as an editor and performer and has worked on numerous collections for poets and writers. Todd is widely recognized for his performances. He has read from Jack Kerouac's On the Road to the accompaniment of famed musician, David Amram, performed at the infamous Bukowski Festival in Long Beach, CA, been featured in Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, New York City, New Orleans, Paris, beaches, barrooms and back alleys.
His books include; Burning the Evidence; Sucker’s Paradise; ROXY; Sexy Devils; Everybody Knows the Dice are Loaded; This Troubled Heart; Still a Party; Tonight, You’re Coming Home with Us, and his poems have appeared in numerous national and international literary journals, magazines such as The New Laurel Review, Trumpet, The Poetry Box, Verse on the Vine, Lummox Press, Sacramento Voices, Red Fez, and on cocktail napkins everywhere.

Todd Cirillo
reads "Good Strategy"
at Deep Vellum Bookstore, 
Dallas, Texas
Video: cannibaldrake



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, July 18, 2018

Sick and I — Katie Fewster-Yan (Desert Pet Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Sick and I.  Katie Fewster-Yan.  Desert Pets Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2017.

SUMMER by Stevie Howel

Katie Fewster-Yan's Sick and I is some slick stuff.  Fewster-Yan has more happening in one poem than many poets have happen in a book.  Sick and I reads like some hyper-stream-of-consciousness, from a very richly textured and well-informed stream.

Today's book of poetry is scrambling for the right deferential phrasing because Katie Fewster-Yan brings a great game right out of the gate.  Not since reading Suzannah Showler's Sucks To Be You - and other true taunts (Odourless Press, 2013) has Today's book of poetry been quite so impressed by a chapbook.  Make no mistake, you will see more of Katie Fewster-Yan.


On Tuesday, you extract the capsules
from the second compartment,
bend back its cap like a flap
on an advent calendar.
From the fridge, you'll draw
the same waning cheese block,
remove the last two slices
from the bread loaf that has let itself go
without protest. Empty, its bag
bloats like a ghoul, counter-beached.
The triumphant bread clip
by its side holds its arms raised
like an amnesiac wrestler lost
in the glory of its last remembered
match. What is to be done with them,
as with your days, is up to you.

Of what use is the gravy boat,
or the milk carafe decalled
with jubilant cows? Cold utensils,
packed like factory-bred animals
spoon belly up in drawers, sparkling
at the underside of the counter
while each morning rises
like a mouthless child.
How instinctively we decide
how long to chew before we swallow!
As if we were made to. As if each day
were scrupulously portioned,
wrapped like a tiny prize, counting up
or down to what you longed for.


Fewster-Yan literally took our breath away with her poem "A Moment on the Lips."  These poems come at the reader with velocity, no passive speculation, Fewster is on target and fierce.  And funny.

Sick and I is a slim volume but once you've read it you'll start to feel its weight.  Today's book of poetry has read through it several times and now the damned thing is so heavy we can barely lift it.


Today's book of poetry has one of the best jobs in the world on days like this, when I get to share poetry this fine.  It's all part of larger scheme of world domination by Today's book of poetry and our staff.  "First we take Manhattan..."

Today's book of poetry is convinced Sick and I will be a calling-card to much bigger things.  Katie Fewster-Yan is ready.

A Moment on the Lips

My boyfriend holds me by my ex-lover's
genitals. The waistband of my leggings
makes my mother's nipples itch.
When I kissed its insides, curious,
the freezer split my lip, but I will bury
it with me some day in my grave.
Who needs tattoos? I'm hip-swathed
with chip packets and gum wrappers,
evangelical pamphlets and sandwich
coupons. The liver spots that dotted
my late grandfather's IV-pierced hand
ink my midriff like a galaxy. On the subway,
the ladies I'm crammed next to look
less impressed than they should be,
dipping their hips in the Pacific I once
kissed so you might taste the sound
of whales when I returned. When I dance,
a skirt of plankton swirls around me
in a balm millennia sediment-packed
to keep my lips slick. Thanks to history,
to my best decisions cinched around me
like a child's leash. Thank you grandma
for that eight-shaped, candy-studded cake
with all those gilded chocolate dollars
on the top that I sucked clean. Now I am
spangled and frosted at the waistline.
I'm the nucleus in a probability storm
of all my charged encounters.
Go ahead. Just try to shower me.


The morning read at the Today's book of poetry offices was splendid.  The weather finally broke here in Ottawa and we have the windows open and the air is fresh and cool and good.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, lined us all up and assigned the poems.  Katie Fewster-Yan's poems rolled out and around the office like some splendid music, full of charm, wit and the razor.

Fewster-Yan has the knowledge.  If she were a London Cabbie she'd know it all blind-folded.  Her poems are fierce and fiercely intelligent.

Coming Through

I hold a ring of dried pineapple in one hand,
two thumb tacks in the other. Focus
is a shifty faculty. I drop a spoon
into the trash can and cart a cantaloupe rind
back to the sink. You watch your input
vie for my regard on the multichannel system
my attention's splitting into.
Take your hand and put it on my
volume dial. I want to hold you arrested
and so close to the chest
there's no room for playing cards.
I'm at the edge of a crater
trying to recall what I came here
to pull from it. Someone's hole-punched
the record. You put your car keys
in the freezer, and a shut door
in your memory erases them for weeks.
I'm keeping one eye on you peeling
off your nylons while the other's in the kitchen
shucking peas. You're at your core cleaving
more necks than a hydra. Bring your heads
toward us. I want to hold me in your teeth.


"I want to hold me in your teeth."  Perfect.  Hilarious.  Dark.

Our morning read over, Milo, our head tech, has the Troggs blaring over our sound system, and now he's followed them up with Nick Cage singing an old Jimi Hendrix song, "Hey Joe."  And now Milo and Kathryn are dancing across the office floor like happy hippies.

Katie Fewster-Yan's Sick and I has left the Today's book of poetry offices in a groovy mood.  Great poetry will do that to you every time.

Image result for katie fewster-yan photo

Katie Fewster-Yan

Katie Fewster-Yan is currently living in Newfoundland and Labrador.


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, July 16, 2018

The Price of Scarlet — Brianna Noll (University Press of Kentucky)

Today's book of poetry:
The Price of Scarlet.  Brianna Noll.  University Press of Kentucky.  Lexington, Kentucky.  2017.

Sometimes, and today is one of those times, Today's book of poetry can tell if someone can and will, burn.  Instantly.

Brianna Noll is in robust and refined territory with Today's book of poetry.  We're lucky to have a front row seat.

Today's book of poetry discovered early on that it didn't matter what Noll was writing about, we were in, hooked, ready to read every word and follow her wherever she cared to go.  We were never disappointed.  The Price of Scarlet doesn't sneak up on the reader as much as it swallows the reader whole, pushes us out at the other end, more erudite than upon entrance.

What poems!  Today's book of poetry is reluctant to use the much overused exclamation mark, but Noll demands it!  Why on earth would Today's book of poetry ever care about the lives of fighting crickets?  Why, because if Noll cares, I care.  And so on.

Flavor Is the Price of Scarlet

Color pours from the life
of things—scarlet dripping
from the skins of apples;
a field of lavender, seeping.
When we talk of a color's
richness, what we mean
is its worth. Capital
has always been a figment
with value, and in this we see
its excess. We are told:
everything is made.
Taste, like color, is something
we cultivate. We prune trees
before they're matured
because this stunting
produces the best fruit.
When they're full-grown,
they're no longer trying
to prove themselves, to reach
the source of light.
You cannot make optimism
work for you—nothing
perfect comes of chance.
These are the instructions
we were given. We abide
the best we can, making
value, making demand.
Then we watch the skies.
When the persimmons glow
wildly on moonless nights,
you know they're ripe—
worth the price of their hue,
a carefully cultivated bronze.


One of the very good things about Brianna Noll's The Price of Scarlet is that Noll has no doubt.  There's a certainty in every poem, whether she is investigating the nature of the wind or invoking the Kraken from the deep.

This is a remarkable first book of poems.  From the first poem to the last these solid poems feel polished to a fine gloss.  

Noll is an observational poet much of the time.  She takes it in, dismantles where needed and then reforms the story of what we believed to be true.

Noll's pursuits are esoteric, to be sure, but the resulting poems are universal.  Noll is visceral without stooping to the grandstand.

On Social Graces

When I say
you're laced
with bitterness,
I mean it
as a compliment,
your distaste
for formality
some ruggedness
to temper what
might otherwise
cloy. This is why
we salt icing.
There's some good
in a hint of rain—
the metallic
smell, the sky
threaded with gray.


Our morning read here at Blast Furnace Boulevard and Centre of the Sun Crescent, formerly known as the Today's book of poetry offices was tempered by the clinking of glasses.  Our newest intern, Maggie, who has been good for at least one shocking moment a day, did just that when she arrived this morning with labelled thermoses.  One for each of us.

It was only eleven a.m. in the third circle of hell of our inferno like habitat but we all knew it was noon somewhere else.  My thermos, bless Maggie's industrious and well-researched intentions, was filled with Pink Lemonade and a healthy portion of Beefeater Gin.  Max came bustling out of his office the instant he heard ice hitting the side of a glass, he's honed into the network of the clink.  He wouldn't say what Maggie put in his thermos but he damned sure liked it, he was quite clear about the odds of his sharing.  Clearly Maggie is Max's new best friend.

Don't know what how Maggie got it out of Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, but I'm pretty sure her thermos is filled with Southern Comfort and Amaretto, in equal measure.  With ice.  Where I come from it is called a Sicilian Kiss.

So, the start of our morning read was rather splendid, if not a little animated.  Brianna Noll's excellent The Price of Scarlet gave each of us beautiful ammunition.  But by the time we got to the second round of the reading a few of my office compatriots seemed to be nearing that early afternoon nap phase.  Milo, our head tech, stretched out on the office couch like some Hobbesian stuffed tiger, and at that point we called it a day.  Not sure what Milo had in his thermos but when he nodded off I took a look.  Not a drop of evidence left.

The Price of Scarlet had elevated all our moods with a mixture of humour, intelligence and grace.  It was our wicked intern Maggie who hijacked today's show.  She'll be dealt with in the proper fashion soonish, anon, later.

Sometimes, We Think of Our Place in the World

Sweet machine, you
electrify the night—
the planets whir
with the noise
of your churning.
And when volcanoes
erupt on the West
Coast of America or
into the Sea of Japan,
you beautify them
with magma thunder-
storms, which make us
think of Mars, the god
and the planet—an electric,
unified whole. We are
drawn to your charge—
and, I think, we are
your charge. If we
were to write palm-
of-the-hand stories across
our palmist's lines and
thatches, we'd say,
The secret machine thrills
the air like the blades
of a helicopter, or 
In the end, we'll think 
of snow drifting, little
helium balloons.
We imagine whole
galaxies radiate
from our chests and
extremities, and we'll
write what we believe
to be true. This
is your influence—
we want to be gorgeous
little moments, too.


Today's book of poetry apologizes for going off the rails instead of summarizing Brianna Noll's powerful book of poems.  We can tell you that Today's book of poetry found these poems invigorating and bountiful.  

Read The Price of Scarlet, it will intoxicate you.

Image result for brianna noll photo

Brianna Noll

Brianna Noll is a postdoctoral fellow in teaching and mentoring in the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2013, she helped found the literary magazine, The Account: A Journal of Poetry, Prose, and Thought, for which she serves as poetry editor. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including the Georgia Review, 32 Poems, the Kenyon Review Online, Passages North, Puerto del Sol, and Salt Hill.

Brianna Noll’s vivid, haunting collection contains poetry wide-ranging and deep, with a brilliance reminiscent of Marianne Moore, and a similar interest in creation.
     -- Lisa Williams, author of Women Reading to the Sea and Gazelle in the House

Brianna Noll is on the find-out committee. Like an Emily Dickinson for the twenty-first century, she rules out nothing. These quiet, powerful poems tells us that the world is connected, that all we need to see those connections is what Noll has in abundance: openness, patience, and an eye for beauty. 
-- David Kirby, author of Get Up, Please

Brianna Noll
 reading for the Women Write Resistance anthology
 at the Book Cellar in Chicago on March 7, 2014.


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, July 11, 2018

Particles - New & Selected Poems — Dan Gerber (Copper Canyon Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Particles - New & Selected Poems.  Dan Gerber.  Copper Canyon Press.  Port Townsend, Washington.  2017.

Dan Gerber's Particles - New & Selected Poems covers the years 1971 to the present and the first thing that Today's book of poetry noticed was the consistency.  Gerber is writing with the same careful authority now as he did almost fifty years ago.  Another way to approach this would be to say that Gerber's older poems do not feel dated, they remain fresh as daisies.

It's no mean feat to carry a voice through the decades.  Even the Rolling Stones have changed their sound over the years, Dylan went electric.  Gerber, strong out of the gate,  and has still never wavered.

Spring Creek

Standing at ease in the current,
watching my thoughts stream by,
seventeen thousand thoughts in a day.
If I grasp one the river stops flowing.

Those horses on the walls of the Chauvet cave,
twenty thousand years before the pharoahs—
unsurpassed and thoroughly modern—
before Homer, Heraclitus, or Pollock.

Do we think of pigeons as lowly
because they crowd our trees and the empty spring day?
I saw one torn apart by a hawk — one bird —
and at that moment I grieved.

My grief is here with my joy now,
wingtip to talon, they circle,
one closer at first, then the other.


Dan Gerber reminds Today's book of poetry of Robert Bly with his clean voice. But Gerber is a poet on his own, Today's book of poetry can't remember when we last read a poet with this combination of certain and clear.

We could be terribly wrong but Today's book of poetry sees cycles as a central theme of Particles.
The circle of life,"we are born, we suffer, we die" as Anatole France suggested, has been altered by the smooth dulcet tones of Dan Gerber's poems to be, more properly, "we are born, we see beauty and we suffer, we die."

Now don't ever blame Mr. Gerber for the outlandish claims of Today's book of poetry.  But Dan Gerber's shift of the bar is not small change.  In the order of things Gerber's consistent, charming and subtly powerful voice has been ringing the bell through generations who've abandoned the narrative for more academic and esoteric ground.

Not Gerber, he has stayed the course with his reflective posture, careful breathing and sustained optimism.

For Randall Jarrell

                             for Gretel Ehrlich

A man struck by lightning
is seldom appeased by house current.
The bolt that steals vision or
restores it, splits the young poplar,
hurls thunder over the roof,
makes widows of farmwives
and ashes of the barn.

The wild geese never die; the lilacs
reappear each May, and the night sky
continues its imperturbable dance.


Today's book of poetry gets excited when the name of any of the giants appears in a poem.  Randall Jarrell was under appreciated, but we can see that Dan Gerber thought highly of him.  Yet another reason to sit down at Gerber's fire and listen to him burn.

Our morning read was a tickle here at the Today's book of poetry offices.  Our heat wave continues; my computer has turned itself off twice this morning, the screen just goes blank with a pppffffffttttt.
It does not like the heat.  Someone was kind enough to leave a chocolate on my pillow last night.  When I tried to open it, liquid chocolate ran all over my hand.  Pure liquid.

We've got the big fans out now, blowing directly on our computers.  Milo, our head tech, is working on better solutions, bless his big egghead heart.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, led the charge this morning.

Dan Gerber's poetry makes all the readers look good.  At every point in these poems Gerber's honest voice, and all of his intentions, are perfectly clear.  His quiet voice rings with authority.

Finally, This Rain

Every spring, foretold by its candles,
the pine grows that much taller.

Becoming the image of the image cast ahead
of what we hope to become —

stars continually revising themselves
and stars too faint to be named

translate the great dark hours of our being
into a language we love.


Today's book of poetry has a great deal of admiration for the poet/novelist Jim Harrison.  When we saw his blurb on the cover of Particles Today's book of poetry knew we would like the poetry of Dan Gerber.  We just had no idea how much.

Just like the best in any other endeavor, these poems quietly go about their business without a care in the world.  They know their own strength.  Dan Gerber burns with assured certainty.

Dan Gerber

 Dan Gerber is the author of a dozen books of poetry, fiction, essays, and memoir.  He has received the Mark Twain Award, "Book of the Year" honors from Foreward magazine, and inclusion in Best American Poetry and The American Life in Poetry

“Dan Gerber tenderly reels his readers through the ‘beautiful movie’ he calls the passing of time on earth in a language completely unadorned and Zen-like in its quietude. The thing itself carries the weight of these poems, which recall the deep imagery of Vallejo, Neruda and Wright.”
—Rain Taxi

“Gerber has a gentle touch and an unaffected, articulate voice that can be smart, funny, wise—sometimes all at the same time.”
 —Library Journal

“These are beautiful meditative poems of surprise and wonder fully engaged with the world of experience, which he regards with a sacramental reverence.”
 —Mark Arendt, awards judge, Society of Midland Authors 2013 Book of the Year Award in Poetry

“[Gerber’s] poetry explores everyday experiences and images, successfully converting them into something unique and magical.”
 —Library of Michigan

“[Gerber’s] evocations are clearly, simply rendered with an almost Zen-like kind of meditative transcendence.”
 —Fallon Eagle Standard

“[Gerber] is one of the most adept and accessible of the poets who explore the meaning of humans, relation with earth and existence itself.”

"Dan Gerber's work is completely untarnished by fad or fashion and I enter it again and again with a sense of wonderment.  When our age pass, this work will remain."
—Jim Harrison

Dan Gerber
at the EP Foster Library
Video: AskewPoetryJournal



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 8, 2018

Prison Industrial Complex Explodes — Mercedes Eng (Talonbooks)

Today's book of poetry:
Prison Industrial Complex Explodes.  Mercedes Eng.  Talonbooks.  Vancouver, British Columbia.  2017.

from Section 3

In 2003, at the age of 14, Ashley Smith was confined to
a youth detention facility for 1 month after throwing
crabapples at a postal employee. The initial 1-month
sentence lasted almost 4 years, almost entirely in isolation,
until her death by self-strangulation in 2007. Though Smith
was videotaped placing a ligature around her neck, guards
did not enter her cell to intervene and 45 minutes passed
before she was examined and pronounced dead.


Today's book of poetry will try to answer all the appropriate questions regarding Mercedes Eng's absolutely incendiary Prison Industrial Complex Explodes.  Eng, through diligent research and persistence, has unearthed and given life to this unbelievable (but too damned real) indictment of our alacrity at putting our citizens in prison.  Eng's case is plain and clear and direct, she has ample and obvious and odious proof that our joy of incarceration is aimed primarily at people of colour, aboriginal citizens, and it is rising rapidly.

Eng has amassed clippings, documents, reports, songs, family photographs, government papers and so on; she has broken them down into knowable information.  A factual assault on the senses that is disguised as a book of poetry.  This isn't often pretty poetry but it certainly is necessary.

from Section 6

Manitoba's Child and Family Services department seized
358 newborns, an average of one newborn every day,
between 2014 and 2015. The province has one of the
highest apprehension rates in Canada and it currently has
about 10,000 children in care, the majority of whom are

In 2007, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a
human rights complaint alleging that Aboriginal Affairs
and Northern Development Canada provides deplorable
funding for child welfare on reserves, far below financial
support given to other Canadians.

In 2013, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
reported that 62% of First Nations children in Manitoba live
in poverty, are three times more likely to live in a house
requiring major repairs, and are five time more likely to
live in an overcrowded house compared to low income
non-indigenous children.

60s Scoop
62% of red children
without adequate food water and shelter

means change genocidal intent constant


Prison Industrial Complex Explodes has hit close to home for Eng, her father's story plays out in these pages.  Eng bring clear worded hypocrisy right to the front of the class, right to the front of the chaos.

Eng has papered the corridors of this book with the official prose, letters and various communications from prison, from deportations.  There really is nowhere left to hide.  Eng has created a long poem/manifesto that lays bare the tattered and racist logic that feeds the big economic machine.  The Prison Industrial Complex is making some people an awful lot of money.  Big money.

When all is said and done on the American southern border, after all the horrid, racist, extremist and alarmingly bad behaviour, follow the money.  Racism can be very profitable.

up next on Border Security: Canada's Front Line

The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed that 42-year-old Lucia
Vega Jimenez died in Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)
custody. Jimenez was awaiting deportation to Mexico when
she attempted suicide. She was found hanging from a shower
stall in the immigration holding centre at the Vancouver air-
port, on December 20, 2015.

Jimenez had a job as a hotel worker in Vancouver when she
was arrested over an unpaid transit ticket, transferred to jail,
then sent to the CBSA holding cells at the Vancouver airport
to await deportation.


Today's book of poetry's morning read was a cranky affair.  The weather in Ottawa has been pizza-oven-hot recently and some of us haven't fully reformed after melting out of shape.  And Prison Industrial Complex Explodes offers no respite, nor should it.  Page after page of Eng's book ring out like a steel hammer hitting an anvil.

Eng's hammer blows are damning evidence of the larger society's blind eye and willing complicity.  Eng puts a magnifying glass on the horrible domino consequences of our own systemic racism as it has torn across generations.

There are no lullabies for bedtime in Prison Industrial Complex Explodes, instead, Eng gives us a warning shot across the bow of reason.  These systems, our collective and willful ignorance, and the motives of big business all combine to create cycles of internment for many Canadians, simply because of the colour of their skin.

from Section 4

they let out Jessi's dad when Carole gave birth to
their daughter
beautiful Carole, paper-bag-coloured skin a black waterfall
of Pocahontas hair
Jessi was lucky to get a golden halo

Jessi's destatused mama died of the system
they let out Jessi's dad to look after her
once the price of her mama was extracted

I wonder how it is for beautiful
could-pass-for-a-white-girl Jessi
would-be-pheneticized-as-a-white-girl Jessi

Jessi who not only looked like a white girl
but the right kind of white girl
the kind of white girl boys and men go to war over
the kind of white girl who needs more lebensraum
the kind of white girl I used to wanna be


Mercedes Eng has very carefully dotted all her i's and crossing her t's to build a winning case.  Sometimes, and this is one of those times, the song is a bitter one, but so very needed.

Mercedes Eng can burn like Cannonball Adderley could burn.  Today's book of poetry will be looking forward to more from Eng.  Prison Industrial Complex Explodes is the indictment the title promises.  Good for Eng.

Image result for mercedes eng photo

Mercedes Eng

Mercedes Eng teaches and writes in Vancouver, on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories. She is the author of two chapbooks, February 2010 (2010) and knuckle sandwich (2011), and of Mercenary English (CUE Books, 2013; Mercenary Press, 2016), a long poem about violence and resistance in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver. Her writing has appeared in Jacket 2, The Downtown East, The Volcano, on the sides of the Burrard and Granville Bridges as contributions to public art projects, and in the collectively produced chapbooks, r/ally (No One Is Illegal), Surveillance, and M’aidez (Press Release). She is currently working on a women’s prison reader and a detective novel set in her grandfather’s Chinatown supper club, circa 1948.

“Simple – but not simplistic – lines such as ‘i think about that yellow bead a lot’ reflect Eng’s exquisite attention and make me feel intimately connected to the poet-speaker. … [Other lines] reveal imagination and attention to lineation. … At once powerful and beautiful, gentle and urgent, I await more from this voice.”
     —Doyali Islam in the Globe & Mail



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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ordinary Monsters — Justin Bond (Mongrel Empire Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Ordinary Monsters.  Justin Bond.  Mongrel Empire Press.  Norman, Oklahoma.  2017.

"And as you lie in bed
like an effigy of yourself
it is the ordinary that comes to save you."
                                                                                                         Linda Pastan
                                                                                                         The Ordinary

Justin Bond's Ordinary Monsters blooms open like some splendid bruise you have to touch just to see how much it is going to hurt.  Then you need to reassure yourself, was that pain or pleasure, and you touch the bruise once more.

Perhaps comparing poetry to a bruise is unfair and misleading but Bond can stand the heat.  These poems are plain beautiful, and wise, and witty.

Today's book of poetry can be clueless, and clueless we were, not realizing that Justin Bond was gay.  This man's lovely love poems transcend gender.  Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, we take that as a given.  Bond takes up some of that territory between love and lust, he uses these tight poems to bridge that gap.

The Right Way to Want Me

Lady Gaga


Justin Bond just comes off so damned smart with his big heart and compassionate brain.  Ordinary Monsters made Today's book of poetry laugh, cry and even momentarily, uncomfortably horny.  That particular poem is one my lovely wife of twenty-five years will probably want to read.  (Hello Sweetie)

The clumsy point Today's book of poetry is trying to make is that these poems are universal.  By being honest with himself Bond unveils some of the deep truths we are all tethered to regardless of our preferences in plumbing.

There is a real hopeful stance to Justin Bond's poetry.  Ordinary Monsters is dense with optimism in the face of overwhelming odds, and the reader will follow Bond anywhere he cares to go.  After the first couple of poems of Ordinary Monsters there was no doubt about Today's book of poetry being a Justin Bond fan.                                                                                        

The Wolf on His Deathbed, Remorseless

Let it not be forgotten
that I was no more or less
than the sum of my instincts.

Would you blame me for hunger?
A girl moved like flame through the forest.
Even now she smolders the brush of those dead years.

Blood is untamable.
She was weak, I was not,
and this world will not let you choose.


And after the "wolf" poem, Today's book of poetry knew we were in deep.  Mr. Bond can burn with the best.

Last evening, Today's book of poetry was on the front porch with the fore mentioned K, we were talking about WisΕ‚awa Szymborska, because it was her birthday.  Later today I will pull out some Szymborska from the stacks and add them to the reading pile on K's side of the bed.  K has a very low tolerance for bad, so-so and mediocre poetry.  I only dare leave her "the best of the best of the best" as Rip Torn would have said if Men In Black were about poetry.  I won't hesitate to add Bond to K's reading pile either.

Ordinary Monsters

Once when I was a child
walking alone to my grandma's house
I saw something scary in the woods.
I still remember the snap of the twig
like a crunching of bone
that startled me silent mid-song,
the dun-colored fur covering the leg
that stepped out from behind the trunk
of an old pecan tree,
foreign and sapling-thick.
How I ran, clumsily and blindly, fearing
the thing all children secretly fear most:
the fairytale come to life.

We grow up and the world grows
smaller. The monsters it breeds
have become a more ordinary variety,
hairy-legged and hungry,
some wearing the faces of people
I tell myself I might want to love.
But even as I feel myself opening
to receive them, I shut my eyes tight
as two fists, I can't bear to look back
at the forest behind me.


Ordinary Monsters made for an excellent morning read here at Today's book of poetry.  The one complication was that as we don't have air conditioning in the Today's book of poetry offices, we were forced into the basement to get out today's blog/review.  There's a big fan on the box where I've got my computer.  My computer itself sits on it's own "cooling fan" base.  But sometimes things burn up - it was 35 C in Ottawa yesterday, with the humidex it was 110 F, hotter than Baghdad.

It's going to remain very hot all week so I've given orders to cover up the windows and doors.  But it is too late; our first floor is blistering hot, the second floor has turned to liquid magma, last time I checked it was 374 C.

The staff reading itself was great, Bond speaks with such a lovely, almost gallant voice and his poems make the reader sound intelligent.  Our crew like that.

Justin Bond reminded Today's book of poetry of the wide variety of voices needed to make up a choir, and they are out there in the poetry ether, yawping Whitmanesque, brilliant voices.

Gay poet, gay poetry.  Today's book of poetry is absolutely certain this poetry transcends my ability/desire to label it.  If you are a regular Today's book of poetry reader you will probably be at the point where you just let the poems speak for themselves.  That would always be excellent advice, but dear reader, please know, please trust me, when I say that we have a poetry loving staff working hard to bring you the very best poetry we can find - regardless of gender or choice of public restroom.

Justin Bond's poems are simply beautiful beasts you'll recognize as they work their way through to your poetry heart.

Justin Bond

Justin Bond was born, raised and educated in Oklahoma. He is the author of the chapbook Going Native (Red Bird 2014). His work has been included as part of The Pulitzer Remix (a National Poetry Month initiative), performed in Emotive Fruition’s 2016 Pride performance, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives and works in New York City.

"All of the new thinking is about loss," Robert Hass once wrote. "In that, it resembles all of the old thinking." Gay poet Justin Bond's gorgeous debut collection pays beautiful, painful homage to this human tradition. These pages steep the reader in passion and grief, stark and gleaming. They nourish us with lust, lyricism and the will to go on, which is, as Bond says, "part of what elevates us above a clumsy gallop of meat and bone.”
—Ruth L. Schwartz, winner of the National Poetry Series prize,
Autumn House Press Poetry Prize, Anhinga Prize for Poetry, AWP Award Series prize.

"The story of us,” writes Justin Bond, “is the story of America.” The smart, insightful, and revelatory poems of Ordinary Monsters are themselves stories of us (both reader and writer) but also of this vast and bizarre country.
And like our country, Bond’s poems are diverse, ambitious, and explosive.
Walt Whitman would love their big, expansive, democratic heart. You will too.
—Dean Rader, winner of the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize,
2010 Writer's League of Texas Poetry Prize, and the George H. Bogin Award from the Poetry Society of America


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