Tuesday, December 22, 2015

3rd Annual Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize

Today's book of poetry would like to announce the winner of the 
3rd Annual
Kitty Lewis 
Hazel Millar 
Dennis Tourbin 
Poetry Prize

Eva H.D.  Rotten Perfect Mouth.  Mansfield Press, Toronto, Ontario, 2015.

To see Today's book of poetry on Eva H.D. and Rotten Perfect Mouth: 


Today's book of poetry will return firing on all cylinders in the new year.  We wish all our friends a safe and family filled holiday season.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Listening Long and Late - Peter Everwine (Pitt Poetry Series)

Today's book of poetry:
Listening Long and Late.  Peter Everwine.  Pitt Poetry Series.  University of Pittsburgh Press.  Pittsburgh, P.A.  2013.

Man, oh man.  If you've got something to say it wouldn't hurt to mention it around Peter Everwine, that cat is listening.  Everwine seems to have heard everything from the sound of the blood cursing through your very veins to the silent voices of the buzzards who feed off of the dead.

What this witless and inarticulate blogger wants to tell you about is how unnervingly articulate Listening Long and Late is on every page.  Everwine is an everyman voice filtered through a good scholar's wisdom.  His ear is firmly to the ground but his brain knows what Zarathustra mused.

Elegy For The Poet Charles Moulton

When we were last together,
you read me your latest poem from a sheaf
of hand-scrawled pages, dog-eared
and rolled together by a rubber band.
You didn't ask me to look at it.
We both knew why: I thought a catfish
had a better grasp of English spelling;
you thought my soul had narrowed
from too many years in a classroom.
Yours was a freedom one might envy,
listening to your drawl of gravelly music,
that wild guffaw when a line pleased you.
I have a photo of you, taken
on some mountain -- big grin,
arms held out wide, you're dancing a jig
buck-naked in your broken boots
and there's so much joy in your grizzled face
I have to turn away.
You look like you're getting ready to fly.


Today's book of poetry is a big fan of hope in poetry, joy too.  Everwine has joy and hope in abundance but it never comes at the cost of reason.  He knows it all comes at a cost.  Sorrow and the inevitable slide towards the long dirt nap, it's all in here - but with Everwine's keen ear and deadly sense of humour we can accept certain inevitabilities.

These poems are grounded in faith but there is no preaching here.  Listening Long and Late is no sermon, these songs come from a respected elder.  If there is any pretense in these poems Today's book of poetry couldn't find it.

Today's book of poetry is a sucker for particular specifics.  Our friend and mentor Stuart Ross has suggested that I am particularly susceptible to any mention of Charlie Parker (he's in one of these splendid poems), Lester Young, Coltrane, and he is right.  But I'm also a fall on the floor sucker for old timey country and bluegrass.

The Banjo Dream

One morning Earl Scruggs sits up in bed, reaches for his fa-
mous banjo and plays nine consecutive wrong notes to a tune
he's known all his life. What's happening? he cries, holding up
his hands, which he no longer recognizes. Meanwhile, thou-
sands of miles away, I have awakened from a disturbing dream
to discover that my hands--they no longer seem mine--have
become thick-veined and tremble on my quilt like small horses
in the starting gates. I am suddenly overwhelmed by happi-
ness. Everything lies open before me: Days. Blue distances.
The song that will unlock the gates of paradise.


I had to assign Milo to the task of deciphering from the Nahuatl, I knew he'd spent considerable time in the Valley of Mexico.  Kathryn looked after the Hebrew and did some research on Yaakov Orland before this mornings read.  What we all agreed on was how deceptively simple these beautifully crafted poems are.  The bite in these poems is so deft you don't feel the pinch but you do feel the anti-venom thundering through your veins.  You feel wiser.

The Train Station of Milan

Leaving Milan, what I remember
is the old man in a blue cap
who stood apart from the press of travelers,
waving goodbye as if bereft.

In the failing light of that winter day,
framed by the great vault of the station
and growing smaller in the distance,
he seemed already blurred with Time.

I was young then, with few cares
and a suitcase full of destinations.
I gave him little thought in passing.
The old man surely is dead now,

and I am of the age he was
when I first saw him -- as I see
him now -- that winter afternoon
in Milan, his hand extended, palm up,

his fingers opening and closing,
as if he were setting free something
he held, if only for a moment,
then beckoning it to come back.


Watching and listening is something but it is not enough.  Someone has to give it all meaning by understanding what it is we need to be better miners, to be better caretakers, to be better.  Listening Long and Late is a strong step in that direction.  This is sublime work by a learned and generous heart.

Today's book of poetry takes heart, poems like these give us all hope.

Peter Everwine

Peter Everwine is the author of seven previous poetry collections, including From The Meadow and Collecting the Animals, which won the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1972.  Everwine is the recipient of numerous honours, including two Pushcart Prizes, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation.  He is emeritus professor of English at California State University, Fresno, and was a senior Fulbright lecturer in American poetry at the University of Haifa, Israel.

“What a rich array of music lies within Listening Long and Late. With refreshing authenticity, Everwine weds playfulness to practice, lyricism to narrative, pathos to the ordinary. Indeed, he has listened ‘long and late’ to the music of such venerable masters as Tu Fu, the hidden genius on the street, and the anonymous Aztec poets of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Everwine writes with the same ‘deified heart’ that divines the mystery of his quotidian subjects in a language that is at once plain and poetic. His own work seamlessly segues into his translations from the Hebrew and Nahuatl, as if all the poems belonged to the same poet, which they in fact do, as the glorious multitudes of Peter Everwine, one of the masters of our age.”
     — Chard deNiord

“The poems in Peter Everwine’s Listening Long and Late are woven out of memory and mystery, with surprising translations from the Nahuatl and Hebrew. Everwine is a faithful listener, always keeping ‘one ear cocked for the unsayable.’ These elegiac poems murmur and sing and celebrate the most humble creatures among us.”
     — Anne Marie Macari

“[Everwine’s] poems . . . possess the simplicity and clarity I find in the great Spanish poems of Antonio Machado and his contemporary Juan Ramón Jimenez but in contemporary English and in the rhythms of our speech, that rhythm glorified.” 
     — Philip Levine, Ploughshares

“Peter Everwine is a poet’s poet, the kind of writer other poets read with equal parts of envy, gratitude, and joy. . . . [His] poems are crystalline, pared to essentials; they are heartrending, and they are beautiful.”
     — Gary Young

Peter Everwine
Video:  Poetrymind


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, December 17, 2015

Emergency Anthems - Alex Green (Brooklyn Arts Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Emergency Anthems.  Alex Green.  Brooklyn Arts Press.  Brooklyn, New York, 2014.

This book could walk on water.

Today's book of poetry was re-reading Emergency Anthems in bed last night and screaming out loud as a result.  Luckily K was awake because there was no way she could have slept through my repeated exclamations, shouts of joy and wonder.  How in the hell was Alex Green touching nerve endings I didn't know I had?

K could see and hear my obvious delight and excitement and asked me to read one aloud.  I gave her "The Wide Gates of the Lowlands" and she was hooked, she sat bolt upright in bed and said "I have got to hear another."  I hit her with "All Night the Airfields, Amy Winehouse" and that was it.  K was in, she gave me carte blanche for outlandish displays and loud retorts.  She was amazed too.

It's what David Porter, in his very worthwhile review of Emergency Anthems at Amazon.ca, says, "The best poetry reads like a secret language in which you are already fluent."

Why a Chokehold only Works
if the Person Is Standing near You

On the news you never hear about someone who is good at
karate saving the day; banks get robbed, cars get stolen, buildings
explode, but no crime ever gets derailed by a black belt who can
kick the air into stars and snap limbs behind his back. Once you
signed up for a martial arts class, but in the first few minutes you
tore your groin so badly you felt the muscle split from the bone
and orbit violently below your abdomen. In the car, the pain
vibrated in the new pocket of empty space. When you got home
you needed the retired magician with emphysema to help you
out of your car and into your house. You feel asleep on the couch
to a cooking show in which everybody cheered when alcohol
and cheese got added to pasta sauce. When you woke up, the
magician was still there, sitting next to you and passing coins
over his fingers; you watched the silver rise from nowhere, stand
up like wheels, and roll down his wrists, moving to the best of
what little breath he had left. You could hear how the gears of his
lungs had snapped and were gone--you imagined them wet and
frayed, dangling over the boneless galaxies of his throat. There
was dried blood on the wall, the lights kept flickering and you
were sure you would never be amazed by anything ever again.


All hell broke loose at our morning read.  Milo phoned three friends, Kathryn called in reinforcements.  Now all of them are in the back room reading Alex Green with a megaphone Milo made out of my desk blotter.  We are going to need better locks on the doors.  Milo and Kathryn insisted that their friends votes should count, the consensus was we hadn't seen a book we liked more yet this year.

I first read Nicanor Parra's Emergency Poems (New Directions Publishing, 1972) back in the late 70's.  It's been a cornerstone book ever since.  I'm here to tell you that Alex Green's Emergency Anthems is a book I will return to for a long, long time.  Once I love something I love it forever, if I can.

Green has the surgeon's scalpel, the laser touch.  He consistently cuts closer to the bone.  These prose poems are uncanny magic.  In Green's universe there are archetypes and certain seasons that shape the tides of men.  There are sharks and Captains and the end of summer is always looming -- and we feel it all as a new familiar.

Blue Door Option

Everybody knew the magician was dying and this would be
his last party. All of his ex-girlfriends were there -- even Stacey
Mitchell, the news anchor who he had lived with on a houseboat
in the '70s when he held his breath for the whole summer. Today
he was taking requests. He would make birds explode from his
chest, he would steal wallets from anyone in the room, he would
build a house of cards on the back of his hands. All anyone
had to do was ask. But no one did, because they were sure he
would crack in the middle, fall to the floor, and leave something
suspended they could never fix. So instead of magic, he sang an
old Nathan McCoy song about losing something in Hawaii. He
had a falsetto you could feel across your shoulders. His hands
were thin, he hadn't slept in two months, and you were the only
one who knew that a few weeks earlier he had parked his car
somewhere and lost it. When he was too sick to come out for his
own garage sale, he told you to give everything away. You watched
people take his couch, his television, his doves, and you felt like
you were officiating a slow robbery. If you're a decent magician, he
once told you, when you die people will miss you. But if you're a really
great magician, they'll always think you're alive and in the middle of the
best trick of all time. Even though you watched him fade in front
of a machine, heard his breathing disappear like a radio station
slipping off the air, you still look for his now. In the eyes of the
teller at the bank, in the stands at minor league baseball games,
in the credits of independent movies from Iceland. The only way
to be sure is to look everywhere.


These novels disguised as poems read like insights in an autobiography you are part of.  Green's personal universe is filled with symbols we somehow recognize, his sad songs a lament so familiar it sounds like an echo.

Green has a Bill Hicks funny bone and a Raymond Carver brain.

Emergency Anthem

When the guy with the gun ran into the restaurant she owned,
stole a strawberry danish, and shot his head off in the women's
bathroom, you stood around the body unsure of what to do
with your hands. The man with the beard and the hat said he
had known a little bit about him, told you he'd swallowed glass
at a party once to prove a point. What was the point, she asked.
Just chewed it up and swallowed it while everyone watched, he
said. What was the point? she asked again. It's probably still in
him, he said. The the police came and did quick math around
the body, all the while not looking worried, as if the seriousness
of a thing depended on how long it took to clean it up. Later,
she closed the restaurant and the two of you sat around the big
black table in the back. She was sad about the man and you were
sorry you had nothing clever to say about dying. On the news a
boy broke a record by skipping a rock thirty-four times, baseball
players were traded for other baseball players to be named later,
and the weatherman you went to high school with said the big
storm was going to be bigger than he thought. You held her hand
and waited for the rain and thought about how terrible it is that
we remember so much.


There were lines in almost every poem in this book that made me shout out loud.  

I really do have the best job in the world for a man like me.  Pharoah is barking out "I Want To Talk About You" on the box, I have a good friend coming over and we are going out to lunch, later today I'm meeting K downtown for an event we are both excited about.  And with any luck at all another book of poetry will come through the mailbox while I'm out to lunch. 

Emergency Anthems is THE book I will be recommending to all my friends.  Today's book of poetry believes discerning readers will be doing the same for years.  Alex Green's first book is so much better than I am able to express.

Alex Green

Alex Green was born in California and raised in the East Bay. A two-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry, his work has appeared in RHINO, The Canary, Mid-American Review, and Barrow Street. He is the author of The Stone Roses (Bloomsbury Academic), currently teaches at St. Mary’s College of California, and is Editor of Stereo Embers Magazine. You can visit him at www.alexgreenbooks.com.

“Alex Green’s work blossoms on the page like small explosions. A surf-side Spoon River tinged with Chandler, Dali, and David Lynch. Neon sunsets, lost girls, grifting tennis instructors, and dazed surfers with bite scars shaped like lightning bolts. And through it all, the dark, swift flash of sharks. Serious and hilarious, Green’s pop culture satire lunges with the same deft surprise as those sharks.”
     -- Tom DiCillo, director of When You're Strange and Living in Oblivion

“Green’s short pieces read like secrets, someone sharing a passion, a bias, a humiliation, a love. They crash into your ears like the surf, and you flip the page, awaiting the next beauty, the next set of waves.”
    -- Joshua Mohr, author of Some Things That Meant The World To Me

“Alex Green is the uncrowned poet laureate of the last day of Summer and his first book is an absolute stunner—rich with metaphor, confessional honesty, and melancholy narrative. In Green’s sun-battered landscape, it’s always the last day of summer, nothing worked out the way it was supposed to, and the optimistic pop songs in the background play a jangly counterpoint to real life disappointments. In the afterglow, he finds humor, revelation, and that much maligned old measure of poetic meaning: beauty. Green forgoes opaque linguistic ornamentation in favor of coherent narrative, honesty, and lyricism. His gift for sudden and surprising metaphors is unmatched. This is a collection to return to over and over again and one that marks the debut of an important and refreshing poetic voice. Emergency Anthems is incredible, my favorite book of poetry of the last five years. Maybe of any five years.”
     -- Jesse Michaels, author of Whispering Bodies



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dissection - Care Santos (A Midsummer Night's Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Dissection.  Care Santos.  Translated by Lawrence Schimel.  Periscope #3.  A Midsummer Night's Press.  New York, New York.  2014

Today's book of poetry is honoured to have the Spanish poet Care Santos visit us care of A Midsummer Night's Press.  Although Santos is best known for her novels and short story collections we would never suspect a thing, these poems are poet born.

The voice of these poems demand a nod of the head, a tilt of the hat, a round of applause for Lawrence Schimel, the translator.  These poems never feel translated, they still feel wet from the hand of the poet.  Today's book of poetry gets the feeling that nothing was lost in translation.

Care Santos has a delicious and savory sense of humour and you'll find it in full bloom in Dissection.  Santos has that last line knock-out punch down pat.

Big Game

My vagina above the chimney
would be a good decoration.
"...And it gave birth to my three children," you'd tell
visitors, with a trace of pride.
Of course, mine would not be the only one
nor even the most appreciated (as is known,
the hunter appreciates the difficult)
but in the collection
of stuffed and mounted vulvas
it would enjoy a certain privileged position.

On rainy days, alone,
you would drink a coffee before the chimney
looking at your trophies.
You'd close your eyes.
You'd shed tears
in perfect time with the beat of the memory
and then you'd close the shutters
and say goodbye until the next day.

All murderers usually miss
the breath of life they steal from their victims.


Santos needs her sense of humour because she also has some serious despair.  I've always wondered why so many extremely intelligent people are so poor at protecting their hearts.  Santos breaks her unprotected heart just like the rest of us and it is a beautifully sad fall.

Intercity Call

I hear cats meow while you say
                                                                              "It's late."
They seem angry (perhaps your presence bother them):
they're creatures not especially given to social life.
"I'm going to hang up,"
                                         you mutter,
                                         "my dinner is getting cold."
They complain, piteously, wearied: they detest you.
You invade a place beside their owner
who belongs to them.
If only they knew how to do it
tonight, slowly, while you're sleeping,
with a single blow, they would open your throat
and fill you with sawdust and cotton
after devouring your entrails.
                                                                   But no.
Those creatures and I are very similar:
our courage reaches only to humiliate ourselves.

Words like stakes for this farewell
that doesn't ever end.
I crack, I split into pieces, I grow old,
the sadness of my skin dirties the tiles.

With each new reply, one of my limbs gangrenes,
but you are calm because you haven't noticed,
you keep talking. Shattering. Demolishing.
Tomorrow I'll buy large quantities
of cotton and sawdust. (Embalming oneself
is quite difficult, but I adore challenges.)

The cats alliterate their inharmonious hates.
What an absurd chorus you've given my collapse.

If I knew their names I'd say I liked them.
Now I envy them because they sleep with you.
I sleep with death. It is my pet
(or cotton and sawdust). It bears a cat's name.

The night is very dark or I've closed my eyes.
The silence warns me that I no longer breathe
or that you've hung up the phone (it's the same).

Frost coats the thresholds
of all the exits of my life.


Santos is honest and brave.  Not walk into a burning building brave, although I'm sure if it were a matter of the heart no burning building would hold her back.  No, honest brave, my heart is on fire, my heart is charred, here is my heart, brave.

The reader can't help but be pulled into her longing to be whole, to repair or recapture, love.

Transylvania Effect

Vampire (according to Freud) is that which causes damage
because they've made it immune to suffering,
because it ignores the pain it causes its victim,
because it ignores, no more, because it ignores.
A vampire, legend tells us,
can never sleep outside its house,
nor be far from its bed and shelter
that makes the monster monstrous.

At last I've understood
you're aversion to trips,
or the rejection of sleeping in strange beds,
or of going out very early
or dishes with garlic
or so many other things.

I've dismantled the bed, and I give it away.
There are no coffins for two sleepers
(not even in IKEA). Now our bedroom
is a crypt.

My carelessness already has a just price.
I can't find my reflection in mirrors.


Today's morning read was a real frown and tickle.  Everyone liked Dissection and the poems were a gas to read aloud -- but there were so many laugh-or-cry moments it was hard to keep poetic equilibrium.

Today's book of poetry was deeply impressed by Care Santos and Dissection, so much so that we are evoking the rarely used 4th POEM CLAUSE.  

This last poem is an indulgence and because I'm the boss in this small universe, indulge I will.  I thought the last poem in Care Santos' collection was near perfect, here it is.


If you've reached here
                                      and you're still breathing
you've already paid for everything you've done.


Care Santos
Care Santos

Care Santos (Mataró, 1970) is one of Spain’s most versatile and prolific writers. Writing in both Catalan and Spanish, she is the author of over 40 books in different genres, including novels, short story collections, young adult and children’s books, poetry, etc. She has won numerous prizes and awards, including the Ateneo Joven from Seville, the Alfonso de Cossío Short Story Prize, and in young adult literature both the Gran Angular Prize and the Barco de Vapor Prize, among many others. Dissection won the Carmen Conde Award for a book of poetry by a woman writer in 2007. Her most recent adult novel, Desig de xocolata, won the 34th Ramon Llull Prize. Her work has also been translated into Basque, Galician, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Swedish, as well as English. She lives with her family in Mataró, Barcelona.

Lawrence Schimel

Lawrence Schimel (New York, 1971) writes in both English and Spanish and has published over 100 books in many different genres as author or anthologist. He has won the Lambda Literary Award twice, for PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality (with Carol Queen; Cleis) and First Person Queer (with Richard Labonté; Arsenal Pulp). His children's books ¿Lees un libro conmigo? (Panamericana) and Igual que ellos/Just Like Them (Ediciones del Viento) were chosen by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities 2007 and 2013, respectively, and No hay nada como el original (Destino) was chosen for the White Ravens 2005. His picture book ¡Vamos a ver a papà! (Ekaré) was translated into English by Elisa Amado and published as Let's Go See Papá! (Groundwood Books). His most recent publications as a translator are the graphic novel EuroNightmare by Aleix Saló (Penguin Random House) and the forthcoming children's book Mister H by Daniel Nesquens (Eerdmans). He lives in Madrid, Spain, where he is a Spanish->English translator.



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, December 13, 2015

Tidal - Josh Kalscheur (Four Way Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Tidal.  Josh Kalscheur.  Four Way Books.  New York, New York.  2015.


Josh Kalscheur sets Tidal in Chuuk State.  Chuuk State is a small island that is part of the Federated States of Micronesia.  Think west of Hawaii/Marshall Islands and east of Indonesia.

Chuuk State has both a rhythm and a language all its own and Kalscheur is immersed.  He has gone inside the stories, legends and miseries of a culture on the fringes of the western world and found a world not so different from our own. 


I slung rocks into the roadside mango tree,
as the rotted clumps aching to drop what was too sweet
to hold any longer. I played my ukulele
and the strings broke. I sat and watched you.
The engine in the truck you rode whined
to a stall. Let me tell you this had nothing to do
with your thighs or the chewed pulp-red betelnut
wedged in your cheek, spat like sickness
into the jungle. You'd come this way before,
a turtle shell comb lodged in your hair, singing
acappella. You think I wanted to fuck you,
lead you to some concrete showerhouse and sing
a love song into the blossom tucked behind your ear?
It's true. You could've raised your eyebrows
and meant yes. You could've tugged on your skirt
for the men at the corner. I stripped a ukulele string,
sacrificed the neck, lobbed a mango your way.
It wouldn't fall but floated to the cliff above
the road, sweeping down and cutting wings
into its skin. It flew back to the branch. It looked past
where I sat on the carcass of a Honda, past the sway
of banana leaf, to the wall of mud behind me
and up the striated wall to the cliff again. It waited
for the ocean to sing to the shore, for exhaust to gray
in the sky and disappear. And then it fell softly
into the wind, the trail of juice and flies running after,
buzzing and catching in the braids of your hair.


The specifics of place dictate food and influence everything that shapes culture.  Place shapes how you see/appreciate the sun, how you walk across the ground.  Tidal both microscopes in on a specific time and place, Chuuk State, and telescopes out to encompass all that big world beyond all that big blue sea.

Beer and men and women and desire - that is a universal story.  I assure you that when we finally meet aliens and are taught their strange language by our new overlords, we are going to discover the same fault lines.  Alien beer and alien men and alien women and alien desire.

With Tidal Josh Kalscheur has both broadened our scope with his loving mural of a strangish yet familiar  land and reconfirmed our long held belief that we are all the same silly meat. 


She dives off the dock along on her lightest day
of bleeding and even the leaves in the guava trees
shake free, even the mangrove branches crack
and clutter the shore. she breaks the waves clear

and turns a funnel of foam still, her song lost
in clouds of spray. Her mother wants to stop it
in the taro patch, twist the roots and squeeze saltwater
through raw cracks and veins that keep

leaking to the mud below. The clan must be saved
somehow. The sisters bury the rotting breadfruit
and wait for it to sweeten and run. The undertow
pulls shadows from the surface of the seafloor,

moving in blocks with schools of yellow-fins.
The aunties dry the seaweed caught in the coral.
They want to cover her piece by piece, heal her.
The brothers do what they can with dust

they rub off a tree they won't name. They take it
to heart when she grows sick and pats their cheeks
with the back of her hand. She wants a shift
in the night-wind, a distance to rush through

the way a fishbone threads a palm. She wants
to massage herself with swordgrass and bent stems,
to wait for harvest to swell and cleanse her.


Tidal is a both a celebration and a lament, but it feels more like an eulogy than a prayer,  Kalscheur has a big emotional investment in Chuuk State; it is a small corner of the world but for the length of this good read it becomes the center of the universe.  Kalscheur has a tender affection for his islands but that never tempers the fear of change nor the desperate clamor for it.


The women wrap their dresses under their shins.
Their voices leave the meetinghouse for tree-beds
and cracked sheet metal roofs. Plumerias cover

the floor where a basket of money sits, where my father
shakes hands. Braided fronds loosen on the fence
by the road, and girls who knew my brother well

crouch by the wall looking in, their hands red
from plucking the rusted wire of a window.
I'm watching my mother fan the face and touch

the mouth with oil. I'm watching my cousins
who wear collared shirts pass a bag of betelnut
between them. My oldest uncle leans on a pipe,

his arms bulging from the sleeves. The generator clicks in
and shadows fade from unpounded nails
and sagging beams. I'm told they found him

two compounds from here, by the dying breadfruit tree,
by the house of a girl he went with, a spot he swept
the leaves from. In the waiting line aunties ask for plates,

for the bin of pig meat. They ask if I've had enough.
I remember shoving him to the edge of his truck
in front of my father and bruising his knee.

He slashed a V into my arm and ran off
to carve his canoe. And on the tables, flies pull bits
of fish from bones left by men I'm told are uncles.

I've never met them. Men file through with bags of rice.
Boys sit by the door or wait in picked-apart cars
alive with tapioca growing from the engine

or through springs under the seats,
where even the floor is rotted out and blooming.


Josh Kalsheur's Tidal is both the beautiful bloom of the flower and the inevitable descent of the petals to the dirt below.  Island life doesn't sound ideal but Kalscheur certainly makes it sound real.  Today's book of poetry thoroughly enjoyed this trip.

Josh Kalscheur

Josh Kalscheur has published poems in Boston Review, Slate, jubilat, Ninth Letter, Witness, Blackbird andBest New Poets 2013, among others. A graduate of Saint Olaf College and UW-Madison, he teaches classes at both UW-Madison and Madison College in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Some great books of poems feel driven by the play of language, endlessly inventive syntax propelling us headlong down the page. Other great books feel driven by conviction, the poet enraptured by a world that feels bigger, messier than the language at hand. Josh Kalscheur's Tidal is both these books at once. Set from start to finish in the seductively claustrophobic culture of Micronesia, the poems make the act of recording the world seem indistinguishable from an act of the highest imagination. Every perspective (male, female, old, young, outsider, insider) is rendered here in a language whose inventiveness feels inexhaustible--syntax, line, and diction colluding to build poems that are themselves the world in which the poet walks. This world, the world of human suffering, human folly, belongs to all of us, but the language--pulsing, tender, giddy, suave--is Josh Kalscheur's alone." -- James Longenbach, judge

Josh Kalscheur
reading at the Midwest Writing Center's SPECTRA poetry event
Rozz-Tox, Rock Island
October 29, 2015
Video:  Therese Guise



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, December 6, 2015

Sabotage - Priscila Uppal (Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Sabotage.  Priscila Uppal.  Mansfield Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2015.


Priscila Uppal is some piece of work.  Sabotage, her eleventh book of poetry, is the child with the nasty grin taking his/her finger out of the dike just to see what happens.  

Like the Batman's butler said, "Some men just want to see things burn."

These poems are precision bombing, smart strikes into the daily minutia that makes up our lives.  Subjects big and small are jury-rigged for destruction.

The Police Came for a Visit

just as grandma used to drop by before
             her nervous breakdown & the stroke.
I laid out two pots of loose-leaf tea
             & a selection of wheat-free, dairy-free cookies.
They removed their boots & caps
             but looped their guns around their fingers
& joined me on the carpet where I taught them 2
             expert knitting stitches while they explained
clause 3.21 of the Search & Seizures Regulations.
             My bladder was full so they insisted on escorting
me & standing guard as I washed my hands
             with cranberry soap. We traded photographs.
Yes, yes, that's my uncle, I assured the tall one,
             no, no, he's not a doctor, he's a nurse.
The short one placed uncle in a special envelope.
             I put on a video while they napped &
napped & napped--why wouldn't they wake up?
             Just like grandma, I thought, to visit & leave
you to lift crumbs off your floor. I was looking
             forward to testing out the sirens & earning
a new badge, kissing their smooth cheeks & waving
             like a widow from the driveway.
The walkie-talkie won't stop bleating. In a few
             moments, after I finish combing their hair
I'll sing Happy Birthday to You to the dispatcher
             just like Marilyn Monroe.


If it can go wrong you'll find it in here.  Priscilla Uppal is your tongue prodding your sorest tooth.  Poke.  Poke.  Poke.  Uppal is all about pushing over the apple cart, because that's what humans do.  These poems dive in and out of our continuous fall from grace as though Uppal got the directions for conduct right out of our collective unconscious.

She is on top of every devious moment since the beginning of time and she knows who to blame.


A millionaire is shot. And his wife. And their unborn child.
Revenge selects an arsenal of weapons.

Armies drawn by lots construct arguments.
Leaders rise like tanks and airplanes.
Gardens plant anxious roots.
Gossip punished by banishment.

Goodbye beautiful youth.
Perhaps you would like to marry a sweet blond or bouncy brunette
before the bullet rounds.
Perhaps you would like to use a lifeline to mail a letter
to your attorney, or ask your dear
old mother for advice.

Each week, ten thousand foot soldiers are served
faulty gas masks, ten thousand more must give up
their limbs for tent pegs.

The challenges get crueler. The prizes stranger.
The confessions more predictable.

Nations text their ballots into the trenches,
go back to genetically modified dinners
and genetically modified cares.

As soon as a commercial break calls truce,
the fan website nearly crashes from all the orders
for bright red poppies and T-shirts that read Never Forget.


If it weren't for my trusted Pharoah Sanders playing "Body and Soul" in our office right now --  I think we might have a mutiny.  Sabotage is entirely that.  At our morning read Sabotage stirred things up.  The more we read, the more you could see it, our gentle Milo was ready to kick the chair out from under the first person he could just to see the look on their face.  These poems are the just-lit match heading for the fuse.  They rile readers into various degrees shitstorm.

Frankly Today's book of poetry thinks more poetry should be this incendiary.

Sabotage had a whole bunch of poems we wanted to share just to rattle the cage, but we stuck with our three strike rule.  We even overlooked a fine list poem of sorts -"In The Psych Ward".  Uppal speaks with such natural authority it never occurs to you not to listen with care.

There Are No Timeouts in History

At best there are pauses between rounds
to stitch skin, wipe blood, spit into the bin,
& except for a few predictable platitudes,
collect bets & wave to what's left of the crowd.


Poem after perfect poem in this dart shooting contest just nails the bulls-eye with a laser taut moment.  Uppal really does have her finger on the pulse and the jugular.

Today's book of poetry gives out big props for Sabotage.  Sustained smarts like this are what make that poetry train hum down those tracks.

Priscilla Uppal

Dr. Priscila Uppal is a Toronto poet, fiction writer and York University Professor. Among her publications are ten collections of poetry, most recently, Ontological Necessities (2006; shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry
Prize), Traumatology (2010), Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010 (Bloodaxe Books, U.K.), and Winter Sport: Poems and Summer Sport: Poems; the critically-acclaimed novels The Divine Economy of Salvation(2002) and To Whom It May Concern (2009); the study We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy (2009), and the memoir Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother (2013; shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Prize and the Governor General’s Award). Her work has been published internationally and translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, Greek, Italian, Korean and Latvian. She was the first-ever poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now during the 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games as well as the Roger’s Cup Tennis Tournament in 2011. Six Essential Questions, her first play, had its world premiere as part of the Factory Theatre 2013-2014 season, and will be published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. Time Out London recently dubbed her “Canada’s coolest poet.”

Priscila Uppal
reads "Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder"
Video:  PBS NewsHour



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, December 2, 2015

History - Rodger Moody (sight | for | sight books)

Today's book of poetry:
History.  Rodger Moody.  sight | for | sight books.  Eugene, Oregon.  2015.

This is the second time Today's book of poetry has had the opportunity to read a book of poems by the talented Rodger Moody.  The first was Self-Portrait/Sixteen Sevenlings and we wrote about that here:

Moody was brilliantly terse with some self-composed restraints in the first book of his we looked at but clearly he has more than one trick up his sleeve.

With History, the curiously clever Moody has taken off the gloves and allowed himself fuller disclosure.  I get the impression that Rodger Moody is a soft spoken man, very considered.  That would be just like these poems.  History has a quirky certainty to every word, it hums honest.


I've come back
to tell you about my life
along the river, about the rusty iron
bridge where my friends shot carp,
about how the cruelty of farmers
is the cruelty of fathers,
about how they lingered in hayfields
or drank beers on dark back roads,
or how they arched over small town girls
and summer shorts so tight each pair
shaped a butterfly between a girl's legs.


Moody is telling the story of his own life and it is story-telling of the highest order.  This story is shaped by and reflects the America of Moody's generation as he reveals the innermost workings of a heart that wants to feel joy.  Rodger Moody's History is hopeful in the face of less hopeful times.

He can also be one outrageously funny dude.

Milo is reading over my shoulder and has just insisted I rephrase that last sentence.

Now Milo is sitting in the corner, facing the wall, and memorizing my NO EDITING FROM THE ELVES manifesto, and he's wearing the Jewel Poetry Cap of Shame.

But he was right.

Rodger Moody can also be a darkly outrageous and funny dude.

I can hear Milo snickering in the corner.  Kathryn is now wearing the Jewel Cap.  It looks better on her.  Wait until Milo sees his homework!  It's Ezra's Cantos for Milo tonight.  That will desmirk him.

Rodger Moody's History is a journey to the present for the poet and it encompasses all of his past, all the ghosts, living and dead.  Today's book of poetry identifies with these poems, they seem carved from such a similar understanding of the world and it's tumultuous currents.

Unbending Intent

It's 1987. I'm married now.
I have two boys. My hair
is shorter. I drive a Subaru.
Old friends hardly know me.
The mustache that once curled
over my delicate upper lip
is gone. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't
decadent, I was just looking
for myself in the long dark
of my early years when Dad
prodded me into his own lost dream.
He thought the way to hold
your head above the water
was to see the world in a sailor suit,
one made to order for any boy
who wanted to press his rubbery frame
into its blue lie, blue the color
of warmth, a warmth that would never
penetrate the smooth skin of desire.
No matter how gentle the wind
appeared in 1969, there was a big
lie in the air around everyone's body
in that year of riots and napalm.
Now my own boys fight;
I ask myself what can it mean?
But there's love in how they look out
for each other; then the older one
will turn on his smaller brother
like a stray animal too long on its own.
But for what I still ask myself?
A parent's attention shifts
between births almost like fashion
among those monied enough to care.
I can't follow it all, and wonder
will my boys ever see
their real father, how he told
the ship's chaplain that he wouldn't
sail when the ship left port
for the Gulf of Tonkin. Would
they understand his three months
on the psych ward feigning insanity
to avoid the craziness of a country
gone totally mad? Unbending intent
was my phrase, the saving grace
that steeled my blood against those
who wouldn't listen, that carried
me through to those who would.


With History, Today's book of poetry's second Rodger Moody book, it is confirmed, we are big fans and very fond of his poetry.  We liked it before, we love it now.  I don't want to say that Moody is doing it quietly, he is an understated, walk softly poet,  The big stick aspect would be his clarity.  Moody is as honest as your best friend, you always know exactly what is in his heart.  His very human heart.

Thoughts on the Seven Year Itch

In the beginning I loved my wife,
and she loved me, opening the gates
to her passion, giving of herself
and taking, in turn, from me, that which
I had to give. But the years wear us down,
and the children, and the responsibilities
curb the fire, set the mind to thinking.
There's danger in freedom, desire the last
thing you want to leave behind when you leave
the house. The day comes as the front porch
fades from sight, and the days tumble over one
another like the pile of dirty clothes
by the bidet. The street outside is gravel,
a cul-de-sac where the neighbors build their fences
flush against the street, guarding every inch
of their bought and paid for freedom. I dream
about the beach on the Atlantic side of the Cape,
debris and waves crashing together on the shore,
a legacy of sadness like the millstone marriage brings
to those with weak hearts; saltwater and sea air,
rightly rolled joints, autoeroticism, all of these help,
if only a little, in the half-light of dreamy
daytime thoughts of romance and meeting someone new.
In the end it doesn't add up, or even need to.


A reluctant optimist.  That's the ticket and I'm going with it.  Rodger Moody's History is first a modern life contemplated with compassion and gentle consideration, and secondly, an accurate emotional barometer of our times.

Today's book of poetry had a regular morning read, before Milo's corner of the room/Jewel Cap incident.  Milo is back in the pack, with a different Rodger Moody book in each hand.  The consensus at the morning read was easy to see, everyone was big smiles and thumbs up.  Rodger Moody is on solid, solid ground here at Today's book of poetry.

Rodger Moody

Rodger Moody was the recipient of the C. Hamilton Bailey Fellowship in Poetry from Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon. His poems have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Caliban, Indiana Review, Mudfish, uspstreet, and other magazines. He is the founding editor of Siverfish Review Press.

Rodger Moody s HISTORY is not just his own story. Yes, these poems tell the story of one man s life from the American mid- century on to the present moment. But they also chart the ways a soul may gradually grow more ample, complex, supple, and humane. From childhood bewilderments and adolescent desires, to inevitable encounters with the world s savageries and insanities, and then to the tender dilemmas of parenthood and the stern losses one must learn to absorb, these poems reveal what Moody calls the real work. As he says in the title poem, the labor of soul-making begins in the long dark before you turn on the lights, and is lonely / against the backdrop of ordinary days.
     — Fred Marchant.



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.