Sunday, January 3, 2021

Michael Dennis (September 1, 1956 - December 31, 2020)

It is with deep regret that Today's Book of Poetry announces the death of Michael Dennis. He passed away December 31st, 2020. Michael's Today's Book of Poetry touched a lot of lives. He will be greatly missed by so many.   

Friday, April 3, 2020

The LAST Today's book of poetry

Hello all you beautiful poetry monsters. 

Due to circumstances beyond our control Today's book of poetry will no longer be posting a blog/review.

I would like to thank each and every publisher, poet, and press agent I've had the pleasure of dealing with.

Today's book of poetry is one of the better experiences I've had in my life and I would like to thank you all for it.

Publishers, take note, Today's book of poetry will no longer be answering emails or requests.  Once again, thank you for letting me create Today's book of poetry.  I got to read so much fabulous poetry, it really was the best job in the world.

Sending love and peace.

Michael Dennis

Thanks for all the peaches.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

As One Fire Consumes Another - John Sibley Williams (Orison Books)

Today's book of poetry:
As One Fire Consumes Another.  John Sibley Williams.  Orison Books.  Asheville, North Carolina.  2019.



Hello to all you poetry fans, thanks for turning in.  The last couple of weeks have seen nothing but things we haven't seen before.  

Today's book of poetry and all of our staff send all of our love and best wishes to those countless health care workers and essential workers and the police and the firemen and firewomen too.  Thank you.  That person behind a mask at the hospital, the grocery store, the bank, that's what heroes look like.

As such today's blog is dedicated to Sally Riley and Connie White and Birgit Jackson, not only essential workers but essential sisters.

Now to poetry.  Today's book of poetry has been down the John Sibley Williams path before.  Today's book of poetry looked at his book, Disinheritance (Apprentice House Press) back in November of 2016 and you can see that here:

Beyond excellent if memory serves, Disinheritance was one of the best books of poetry Today's book of poetry has had the pleasure of writing about, full stop.  And As One Fire Consumes Another is more of the same, excellence.

As One Fire Consumes Another is Williams forth book of poetry and the man has it down.  Almost every poem in this collection has been previously published in a magazine or journal that we other poets would all be tickled to appear in.  Reading John Sibley Williams is a bit shocking because he never drops the ball, no matter how hard the poem hits.  Today's book of poetry surveyed our office for today's poetry selections because we simply couldn't decide on our own.  Like picking out diamonds from diamonds.  Today's book of poetry was helpless, every poem in As One Fire Consumes Another is essential stuff.  John Sibley Williams is one of the very best poets of his generation.

Small Treasons

Somewhere,  a  body moves  across
another without harm, as if taking a
knife to the sky,  &  we  can answer
when a child asks  where the world
goes    when     our     eyes     close.
Somewhere, we are sorry; I assume
for our silences. Bones ache & char
& must burn, somewhere. Even our
ghosts have left us. There must be a
place  where  hands  aren't  cages &
cages      aren't      gestures      well-
intentioned  but  failing.  Where we
love with more than body & hurt &
know  when  we  have  hurt. Some-
where,   a  less  flammable  history,
at least where the sparks fly upward
before falling back to ash.


Today's book of poetry needs to apologize to both our readers and to John Sibley Williams.  All of these poems appear in As One Fire Consumes Another with perfect margins on both sides of the text.  As our head tech Milo is in quarantine in another country and Thomas, our new intern, is in quarantine just up the street Today's book of poetry is helpless.  Of course I blame others who can't defend defend themselves, I certainly wouldn't admit to my own faults.  Hopefully we'll be back to a full staff soon.

As One Fire Consumes Another is filled with poems that sound so familiar as to be memory or even nightmare, it is like these poems belong to the memories of ghosts we don't know yet.  These poems catalogue an often grim horizon of rape, lynching, war, death and so on.  So how then does the reader leave As One Fire Consumes Another with any modicum of hope?  Today's book of poetry suggests that it is because of the heartwork visible in a John Sibley Williams poem.  The voice in these poems is a voice we all recognize, a voice that even as it scorches the earth leaves us hope.  How can that be?

Today's book of poetry has been sitting on As One Fire Consumes Another for a couple of weeks while watching the world unfurl, slow down, grind to an almost stop.  Today's book of poetry knew we'd need a poetry monster to get our ball rolling again.  John Sibley Williams is that poetry beast.  This cat only knows full burn.

Us & Them

Not that the alloy filament  sparking
iron wires needs us to call this light.
Even in our absence, shadows flee,
& when the switch lowers, return to
us undiminished. Not that the dead
won't still be here in the morning if
we dress their wounds & declare the
world healed.  It's not that anything
really heals.  Not that torture works
or fails.  Even if they drown upside
down in a small bucket of water in 
white room lit by a single swaying
bulb, our questions keep coming.


If you have a book club you should read As One Fire Consumes Another.  If you teach poetry you're going to need copies of As One Fire Consumes Another.  If you love poetry as Today's book of poetry knows you must, this is the next poet you need to read.

There is no let up in these poems.  Williams never takes his foot off of the gas.  This morning Today's book of poetry was listening to Steel Pulse and Bob Marley and the Wailers too, their sound swallowing you until you think you are singing the song.  Williams does the same thing.  As you read these poems his voice becomes a familiar, a haunting echo of how you have seen the world turning towards the flame.

Three Ways to Feign Suicide

The neon interrupting night calls us.
Behind the only convenience store in
this town built on convenience,
safety, hall monitors, & bright white
fences, we exhaust our bodies. Un-
labeled pills, vodka, screwing what-
ever recognizes itself in the swollen
whiteness of our eyes.  It's not the
dying,  not how, but the uncertain
whenness.  That we may all be loved
like good little sons, but not equally.


There are a thousand ways to say it,
but we'll take touching ourselves or
each other over the world will never
be more than the world any day.  As
we sketch schools in dust with our
heels, call our dead older brothers
teacher, burn our returned letters to
god.  As we love like unconquered
trees, like hay in horseless fields.  As
we yell fire in crowded fires, press
twigs to our temples to mean bang.


It's not the glue holding broken toys
together but that anyone bothered. It
is no bother, sparrow, hurling stones
at you when our candles burn longer
than our hands can hold them. Each
day is the day the earth ends, & then
there's always tomorrow.  Morning
needles through night to find us no
closer or farther from ourselves; all
our kicked-out-of-heavenness gone.
What I think I mean to say is, we're
just animal enough to stay.


Today's book of poetry needs to take this opportunity to thank poetry fan and all-round excellent citizen and pal, David St. Scrimshaw, for sending us a poetry care package courtesy of Black Squirrel Books.  The kindness of others never fails to reminds us here at Today's book of poetry that hope is everywhere.

Heartbreak and then hope, it's a good combination.  John Sibley Williams works so close to that line it is a frightening spiral, before you know it the excitement overcomes fear and then you don't want it to stop.  Today's book of poetry gives a sincere and very deep bow in John Sibley Williams direction, we are privileged to see As One Fire Consumes Another.

Stay at home poetry bums and read more poetry, repeat the process.  

As One Fire Consumes Another is a good poetry book to start this process with.  It really doesn't get any better than this.


John Sibley Williams

John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. He has also served as editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies, Alive at the Center (Ooligan Press, 2013) and Motionless from the Iron Bridge (barebones books, 2013). A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Laux/Millar Prize, Wabash Prize, Philip Booth Award, Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, The 46er Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a freelance poetry editor, writing coach, and literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Review, Colorado Review, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies.

John holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rivier University and an MA in Book Publishing from Portland State University. He teaches poetry for Literary Arts as part of their Writers in the Schools program and works as a poetry editor and mentor for The Poetry Barn and WriteByNight. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his partner and boisterous twin toddlers, Kaiya and Gabriel.

This is an important book from a major talent. Williams is an honest witness of a nation’s foibles, a writer who has the chops to see and name the worst in us and then divine it into something humane and beautiful to read.
 —The Oregonian

John Sibley Williams confronts the violent side of American history and its effect on our notions of self, fatherhood, and citizenship. […] The poems, which veer from elegiac to declarative to prayerlike, drill down into the beliefs and fears that underpin this violence.
 —Poets & Writers Magazine

One of the most original books of poetry I have read in decades.
 —Sean Thomas Dougherty

His poetry sets the normative uses of poetic language alight and burns away our safe skin of lyric expectation and contextual surety. Do not expect to read these poems and be unchallenged, unchanged.
 –Rusty Morrison

As One Fire Consumes Another transcends beyond the boundaries of family and history and country, beyond the body’s tragedies, the “silenced bones of others.” These poems rise as invocation, as testimonial to life’s unfiltered beauty, violence, and faith, to the “light . . . already in us.”
 –Vandana Khanna

As One Fire Consumes Another is a rare creation full of song and seethe […] It is a book of radiance and ruin that manages to be benevolent while breathing fire.
 –Simone Muench

If America’s collective conscience is at war, the wounds and battle scars are in full display in John Sibley Williams’ arresting book.
 –Rigoberto GonzΓ‘lez

These poems live in brilliant little cages that Williams has built for them, the language itself held to the fire. This collection grieves. It flames.
 –Chelsea Dingman

Full of passion and heart, this book is always digging through the rubble towards life.
 –Tyree Daye

DecemberMag Vol. 26.2 Launch Event - John Sibley Williams- Poetry Reading
Video:  December Magazine



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, March 19, 2020

We Were Like Everyone Else - Ken Victor (Cormorant Books)

Today's book of poetry:
We Were Like Everyone Else.  Ken Victor.  Cormorant Books.  Toronto, Ontario.  2019.

We Were Like Everyone Else

We Were Like Everyone Else by the soon to be well-known Ken Victor isn't much like anything else.  Books of poetry this fine are as rare as hen's teeth.  Victor writes mostly narratives but unlike the vast herd of poetry monsters out there he is rarely the hero of his story.

Today's book of poetry dove into We Were Like Everyone Else and wham!  Victor's lead off poem kicked my poetry head hard.  I knew instantly that this type of cooking had to be shared.  The man can flat out burn.

The Discovery Of Mouths

At first eating was through skin
like plants: the way they devour sunlight
without teeth or tongue. Foods were
rubbed in, all over. Ripe avocados,
for instance: on bellies, on arms,
buttocks, breasts, scalp. Wherever
the body wanted nourishment. Feeding time
was a potpourri of ecstasies: a banana
on the spine, plums rolled
behind the knees, a sliced cantaloupe
cradling the elbow. All this was
thousands of years before the first
one-minute screen kiss, back
in the very earliest days of Eden,
back when thoughts jumped without
speech across the gaps between them.
Adam and Eve, that is, who never
missed a meal, sampling the Garden
all over their bodies: putting
leaf lettuce between their toes,
pushing ripe baby tomatoes into their ears,
pomegranates turning their genitals red.
How sweet the delicacies of those early days!
Before Freud, before gossip, before hunger.


We Were Like Everyone Else is one of those grab-bags you dig in to anywhere and come out rich.  Ken Victor writes about all the big stuff; family, father/son relationships, parenting, death and the Angel of.

The poems vary in style but consistently hammer home the same messages, love your community, but family first, faith is an honour not an imposition, community again.

Ken Victor has studied with some of our generations very best poets and it shows; Jack Myers, Tess Gallagher, Philip Booth, Stephen Dobyns, Hayden Carruth and others.  Many of the poems in We Were Like Everyone Else have previously been published in magazines or journals.  We are lucky Victor decided to share them with us.

What Seems To Matter Most

When Ricky Holt, juvenile delinquent, booked into the woods
that day in '81 to escape his early-release program, I yelled to him
that he juked like the Juice, the way he was running in and out

between the scrub oaks and the pines, and Ricky stopped and
glanced back at me with that handsome black face of his, knowing
I could never catch him, so he smiled before disappearing, then

I had to radio for the dogs because we couldn't have him loose
this close to an off-season town on a windy stretch of Cape Cod,
so eventually they got him and hauled his ass back in front of me

and asked me if I wanted to take him back or have him locked up,
well, I said, without a moment's hesitation, you can lock 'im up;
I don't know why I said it, he wasn't a bad kid, just not able to get

his act together, which I understand, I mean was I much different,
I'm not sure I have it together now, thirty years after I said
lock him up, which is when Ricky went back into the system and

I didn't give him a second thought until the Juice again became
a story: his white Bronco going down the freeway, taking me
back to Ricky in those woods, dodging trees like nasty linebackers

aiming to take their crack at him -- blam! you sucker! -- Ricky
thinking he could get away, turn his big dreams into something
real the way O.J. had been The #1 Man for a lot of years, breaking

records and downfield tackles before he went to trial -- black man
white woman -- the whole sorry story driving out all other news
and America brought  back to what seems to matter most to it,

me thinking how I was once the judge and the whole goddamn
jury and I made my decision lickety-split no second chances, you
either get with the program or you git, and I started wondering

where that came from, why there wasn't the slightest bit of mercy
wrapped somewhere inside my ready justice, as if I thought under
Ricky's Converse All-Stars he must have had bootstraps just like

those turn-of-century immigrants, and if he wasn't going to begin
to pick himself up I wouldn't do it for him, and so Ricky returned
to the state's secure facility where he'd started, where he'd wait

to hear what came next: words from the social worker, the juvenile
judge, the facility superintendent, pronouncements woven together
like strands in a rope vigilante citizens were only too ready to yank.


Ken Victor isn't afraid of taking on the hard truth poem and they can truly be a bother.  Victor doesn't flinch, nor should he.  Many of these poems involve lessons given and learned by his children, given and learned by our poet.  These tender poems are cornerstones, are the blood and bone and love made cornerstones of Victor's foundation.  These poems ring true like pure musical notes.

We Were Like Everyone Else is a book you will want to go back to.  There is so much Today's book of poetry enjoyed but it doesn't all come easily.  Watching those we love diminish and die in front of our eyes is traumatic - some of these poems will tear your heart up.

The Request

The day my son was born
my spiritual practice dissolved.
Whatever I had absorbed

on the wisdom of non-attachment
left in a great commotion. Rope of
-- what else can I name it -- love

pulled me towards his unopened eyes.
Expelled from his first home, he flailed
naked in the new light. I bent over my wife

and tasted the salt sweat beading on her brow,
stroked her hair matted in its disarray,
bent over both of them -- flesh

to flesh to flesh -- and whispered a request:
grant me another hundred years
to spend in my present form.


Ken Victor has some of the same demons we all carry and some of the other kind too.  In We Were Like Everyone Else his humanistic voice will raise your spirits, some of his dark moments will haunt you, but luckily Victor also doses out enough hope to sustain all you poetry babies.

Ken Victor is first rate, We Were Like Everyone Else will be amongst the best poetry you read this year.

Ken Victor

Ken Victor moved to Canada full-time from the States in 1990 after spending many summers guiding canoe trips in Northwestern Ontario. A graduate of the writing program at Syracuse University, over the years he has published his poetry in journals on both sides of the border. We Were Like Everyone Else is his first book. Now a Canadian by choice, Victor makes his home with his wife and three children in the Gatineau Hills of West Quebec, where he designs learning for organizations.



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, March 16, 2020

Bulletproof - Matthew Murrey (Jacar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Bulletproof.  Matthew Murrey.  Jacar Press.  Durham, North Carolina. 2019.

"Grim as a box of bullets."
                                                                                             Shadow of a Prayer

Matthew Murrey's Bulletproof "comes correct" as our dear friend Chef Duncan would say.  Almost every poem in Bulletproof has previously seen the light of day in an anthology or journal or magazine and so on, that's not easy to do.  When Today's book of poetry was a much younger poet that was the path; publish in small magazines and journals and then take that success to the bigger magazines and journals and so on.  Once you'd staked some ground there, in the grassroots, those poems became the manuscript you'd send on to a publisher, a book publisher.

Bulletproof is quietly intense poetry, Murrey is crystal clear all the time but that doesn't mean that he's constantly showing all of his cards.  Murrey's poems have vigor but they never swagger.

Bike Messenger's Last Drop

Fifteen stories above brake lights,
horns and clenched steering wheels,
keyboards are quiet, doors locked
and phones mute in their cradles.
I'm walking back to the elevators
with an envelope left in the hallway
for me--my final run of the day.
Half past five and I'm past ready
to be done, to go underground
for a noisy train, to join everyone
heading home for the night.
Then an elevator opens; two women
step off, pushing their metal carts
of buckets, mops, soap, and rags.
They're speaking a language I can't
place--Serbian or Ukrainian perhaps.
They nod to me, then one heads east,
one west, toward opposite ends of the hall.
Their conversation ends, cut off
by distance and the rattle
of their carts.  Last bit of work
in hand, I ride the elevator down,
thinking of those women--
how they smiled and talked
with each other; how one patted
the other's arm as they parted.
Also I'm imagining all the trashcans,
dusty tables, coffee stains, toilets
and dropped Kleenex--the tasks
they will bend and kneel to;
how they were separated;
how we are silenced.


Bulletproof is so down to earth genuine that the music might be missed for the terra firma, but Murrey doesn't roll that way.  What Murrey cooks has no fat, these lean poems vibrate with heart-music.  Bulletproof lives in the space of the common ground we all share and breathes common sense.  Odds are you poetry babies have lived one or more of Murrey's sharp narratives.  Matthew Murrey's heart is always available, but it might be behind a bulletproof vest.

At our morning read we heard all about the police action on our quiet street last night.  Today's book of poetry takes a small stack of poetry to bed most nights, usually before 9.  By 10:30 Today's book of poetry was dead to the world and to the arrests taking place in front of our offices.  Haven't heard any of the details but simply because of the proximity - this sort of information alone can raise your blood pressure, make the hair on your arms vibrate.  Matthew Murrey's Bulletproof does the same beautifully damned thing.

Lucky You

All the breaks
you'll never know.  Red light
that kept you from being
broadsided and brain-damaged
just three blocks further on.
The thief who would've broken
in and waited under your bed
with a gun, got killed
when he was only ten, a freak
accident that broke his neck.

The thunderstorm bruising
the horizon would've been my last,
but I was on the couch, too sick
to get up and check the car windows
when the pelting rain started
and the tree limb fell, busting
the sidewalk and burying
its splintered end deep in dirt.

What doesn't happen, doesn't
hurt--hurtles by like a city block-sized
mountain of rock silently shooting
past the earth, whizzes by unseen
like a stray bullet, like germs in a sneeze.

Another year of drinking that water
and the doctor would've said,
"I hate to break this to you."
Good thing the phone rang.
Good thing they took a wrong turn.
I'm so glad you came early.  Oh,
and that mosquito you just slapped,
that was the one.  Lucky you.


Today's book of poetry shares much of Matthew Murrey's world view, how luck is both saint and sinner.  We've both encountered the sharp end of the stick.  Today's book of poetry doesn't remember who said it first, but it doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down (in life, getting knocked down is a certainty for us all), life is all about getting back up.

Murrey shares the contradictions we endure in our every day walk through it all.  Bulletproof isn't in the business of offering solutions.  These poems give poignant consideration to where the rubber meets the road.

Shoot the Cat

That's what my father did: killed
the engine, went back in the house,
opened the drawer by the bed,
and picked up the loaded thirty-eight.

He'd been backing the SUV down
the driveway when he ran over Foma
who'd lived with my sister for ten years
before she moved to Rochester.

I'm not sure if it took two shots, or just one,
but if cats could talk, Foma would have
thanked him for not letting her writhe and yowl
with her crushed pelvis for the last hours

of her fifteen years in Jacksonville,
which had been pretty good up until that moment
when she didn't see or hear the Dodge Ramcharger,
and my father didn't see her in the wide mirror
at his elbow.  They both were getting old.


Today's book of poetry wants to send out all our best wishes to all you poetry babies as the world braces for the COVID - 19 pandemic.  What an excellent opportunity to read more poetry.  If there is hoarding to be done, make it books of poetry, fill your shelves.

And if you're buying poetry nothing could be more prescient than the honest beauty and big hearted Matthew Murrey and his Bulletproof.  Murrey's poems are splendid common sense rendered lyrical.

Image result for matthew murrey photo poet

Matthew Murrey

Matthew Murrey was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, graduated from Stetson University in Deland, Florida, and then moved to Chicago in 1984. In Chicago he lived at a Catholic Worker house for a year, worked as a dishwasher, cook, bike messenger, and residential assistant - and met his partner. They moved to Iowa City in 1986 where he completed a graduate degree in education before returning to Chicago. Back in the city, he worked as a bus driver for a mental health center and - in 1992 - moved to Urbana where he was a mental health counselor for almost 8 years. In 2000 he enrolled at the University of Illinois and completed a library degree; he is now a public school librarian in Urbana. Murrey and his partner have two grown sons.

“A generous range of thought-worthy subjects, approached with simplicity, wisdom, and a deft use of language.”
     - Marilyn Nelson

Matthew Murrey
reading at the Book launch for Bulletproof
at the Urban Free Library
March 5, 2019
Video: Matthew Murrey



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.