Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tell - poems for a girlhood - Soraya Peerbaye (Pedlar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Tell - poems for a girlhood.  Soraya Peerbaye.  Pedlar Press.  St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.  2015.

Young men do terrible things all the time, we see it on the television news every night, we are frequently shocked by new levels of horror but ultimately we've given up the pretense of being surprised.  We know evil lurks in anticipation.

But when young women do terrible things it genuinely upsets whatever karmic balance we delicately hold on to.  It troubles our inner ear, makes us stumble, slur.

Soraya Peerbaye's Tell - poems for a girlhood reenvisions the horrible death of Reena Virk.  Virk, a young teenage girl was murdered by a gang of peers, mostly other girls, in November of 1997 in Saanich, British Columbia.

See them say

overturned verdicts.
Transcripts of earlier testimony
placed before the witness,
past and present overlaid
like vellum, the defence
cross-examining each
falsehood, each fault or failure
of memory, I was tricked, said one.

On the stand they were always
thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.
The boy who was Warren's friend,
diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder; the girl who testified
to seeing Kelly and Warren
cross the bridge together,
dead at seventeen, heart failure.
Then she was only a recording,
a click, a lick of ribbon,
a hiss of white noise.

Voir-dire. See, say,
to see them say, say
what is true. Warren said
he and Kelly made a pact,
that he'd say he beat up a Native
for calling her a hootchie.
The year he recanted he traced
Metis lines in his cheekbones,
asked to be transferred
to Kwikwexwelhp Healing Village.

I remind you, witness,
that you are still under oath.
Offered a glass of water
when they wept. They drank
without thirst, without lowering their eyes.

Kelly shouted in the courtroom
at the prosecutor:
- You can say anything you want
but everything that comes out of your mouth
is going to be wrong.

                    - What did you say? asked the Crown.

- What is coming out of your mouth -

what you are saying -
                     everything that comes out of
                                     your mouth -


Heather Spears tackledanced through this territory in 2000, immediately after the first trial, with Required Reading/A witness in words and drawings to the Reena Virk Trials 1998-2000 (Wolsak and Wynn, 2000).  Spears' book is a serious lament and compelling read.  Soraya Peerbaye is from the same school of unadorned and emotionally controlled narrative and it makes for a riveting engagement.

Peerbaye knows a metronome of reason and persistent inquiry will bring us closer to the truth than hysterical anger and rage.

Craigflower Bridge

          Get up.

A bridge is wood trestle below, metal
above; a guardrail

of teal-green lattice. Hennaed patches of rust.
"I need help. I need help. I need help."

A bridge is a distance, measured in steps, in pools
of lamplight, the time it takes to cross.

In breaths. - How far did you watch her go?
- Halfway across, to where the light spreads out.

Headlights of passing cars, bright beads on a wire
that curves into darkness: Highway 1A, Gorge Road.

- Did you observe her gait as she crossed?
I thought of the gaits of Indian dance,

the little I learned, carrying
my clumsiness far into adulthood:

elephant, peacock, deer. - She was
staggering, light-headed.

A bridge is held up by belief that you will go
over to the other shore

to someone who wants you, to somewhere


The truth of a thing is never known the same way by two different people.  Several trials and the best efforts of justice have never seen one answer, one solution, one truth.  Sometimes poetry can help fill that gap and Peerbaye's intense gaze aims to do just that.

Tell - poems for a girlhood carries a quiet sense of dread, the weight of a murdered young woman and the murky dance of fractured memory.

We knew going in that Tell - poems for a girlhood was not going to have a happy ending but Peerbaye and her intelligent diligence kept us turning pages for a story we already knew.  Books of poetry don't get much sadder that this one.


Was time important to you that night?
Yes, they said.

Did you abide by a curfew? Ten o'clock,
eleven, midnight.

Who greeted you? Mothers who kissed
their daughters goodnight, mothers who checked
their daughters' breath.

Who greeted you? No mothers; girls signed their names
in the register, and women who were not their mothers
initialed the time.

How long did it last? A moment.

How long is a moment?

How long did it last? the Crown asked Warren.
- I don't know. - How long did it feel like? - Forever.

How long does it take to walk across the bridge?

How long does it take to walk home?

I'm fucked. I'm fucked for the rest of my life. Warren,
overheard crying to his father, the night of his arrest.
The tidal chart entered as an exhibit, indicating the time lapse
between high waters and low waters.

I don't remember. It was so long ago, Kelly repeated,
a monotone. Her second trial. At her third, she fell silent.

How old the Gorge, how old the middens. All carbon-14 dates
have probability errors, as atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons
changed radiocarbon amounts in the natural world.

How long the trials. Twelve years.

How long did you look back?
I remember

being fifteen, lying on my best friend's bed, listening
to Forever Young by Alphaville.  How badly I wanted a boy
to slow dance that song with.


Soraya Peerbaye's Tell- poems for a girlhood won the 2016 Trillium Poetry Award and is nominated for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize.  That's some pretty high cotton.  

The staff here at Today's book of poetry had a rather sombre reading this morning.  Reverent and quiet.  Not all pleasures are joys.

Soraya Peerbaye
Soraya Peerbaye

Soraya Peerbaye’s first collection of poetry, Poems for the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. Her poems have appeared in Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Women Poets (2004), edited by Priscila Uppal and Rishma Dunlop, as well as the literary journals Other Voices, Prairie Fire and The New Quarterly; she has also contributed to the chapbook anthology Translating Horses. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Peerbaye lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

Peerbaye's new work tells a haunting story of girlhood, one we wish could be untold or exchanged for one that powerfully honours the colour of our skin. Still, these poems placate our loss with their clear-eyed intelligence and depth.
     - Natasha Bakht

Soraya Peerbaye
video: Q at CBC



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, October 27, 2016

Off-Leash - Dorothy Mahoney (Palimpsest Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Off-Leash.  Dorothy Mahoney.  Palimpsest Press.  Windsor, Ontario.  2016

Off-Leash cover

Dorothy Mahoney's Off-Leash is an unassuming, candid, considered treatise of canine experience and wisdom, much of it from the muzzles of the beasts themselves.  Mahoney has accomplished what legions of sci-fi fans, futurists and pet lovers have long imagined but yet to master - she can speak Dog.

Kitch dogs

A Rottweiler between the stoic couple
of American Gothic, lean a
Pekinese into the arms of Mona Lisa, or yet,
substitute the heads of dogs for humans, or
paint by number the large-eyed dog on velvet.
There will always be dogs playing poker,
or nodding on the dashboard
of a slow-moving Chevy, a wooden
silhouette of a dog hunches over
a patchy lawn, dogs barking Christmas carols,
the bowling sweaters my mother knit
with hunting dogs and rising pheasants,
ceramic Scotties ready to shake
salt and pepper from their heads.


Our newest staff member Odin was all over this book.  After reading Off-Leash Odin handed it back to me with a bit of a scowl, he insisted that if I didn't write about Dorothy Mahoney's barkingly brilliant book that he would bite me.  Then he growled a little bit.

Off-Leash isn't that attention loving puppy always anxious to jump up onto your lap.  These are older dog poems, experienced dogs, very literate dogs.  Dorothy Mahoney does that perfect thing, these poems transport the reader, however briefly, to a world where that barrier to complete understanding
between beast and biped has been rendered moot.  

The reason employed by Mahoney and her canine ambassadors is unassailable.


When you're a Cairn Terrier in the witch's castle
there is much to fear:

shut in a basket,
             the winged monkey told to drown you,
                          the mammoth guards, their marching feet,

the draw bridge closing,
the widening chasm
to jump.

             There's wind, smoke, fire.
                            In all that is a dream:

spinning house, poppy fields,
man behind a curtain;

there's your girl lost
             on a yellow road
                          with no one else to guide her.


Who hasn't worried about being drowned by winged monkeys?

Off-Leash is consistently entertaining as Mahoney susses out what is really important to our four legged friends.  It turns out that our concerns are not that different.

It's a dog's life,  But which dog?  Today's book of poetry is pretty sure that Queen E's pooches make it through the day a little differently than Prince, the white Boxer across the street, or Bruce, his British Bulldog buddy with the football obsession and the skin condition. 

Mahoney's dogs are like us, varied, complex and searching.  And sometimes they just need to take a good sniff around.  For some of us it's a good bone, a warm hearth and the smelly feet of the master we love.  Other dogs need the space to run, to chase wind, rabbit and reason simply because they can.

Dog years

You are the reminder of my mortality,
pulling me along
as you race ahead
advancing beyond my own age
in dog years
to reach the end of your lead
to fall behind
when I have settled completely
into step with you.

That there might be others
seems startling now,
that I am the witness of your age
marking time with your name

before you...

and after...

How many of my own years have I myself forgotten
yet you marked mornings by meals and walks
when only the sun was waking.

I hurried
while you lingered wistfully
at each tree and corner watchful-
wary of what I could not see.


Today's book of poetry thinks these doggy tales are universal and only the best poems manage that. Dorothy Mahoney has done a remarkable job with Off-Leash, she's crossed a species language barrier and made poetry out of that.  Beautiful.

Every dog owner out there should read this book.  And then read it to your dog.

Image result for dorothy mahoney poet photo
Dorothy Mahoney

Dorothy Mahoney is the author of two poetry collections, Through Painted Skies and Returning to the Point. Her poetry has been included in numerous anthologies, most recently appearing in Detours: An Anthology of Poets from Windsor and Essex County. Palimpsest Press released Off-Leash in 2016. A retired teacher, she resides in Windsor, Ontario.

"Mahoney writes about dogs as if dogs matter; and the strength and tenderness of her poetry convinces us that they do. Her poems write dogs into the human psyche, into history. They invite humans to enter the canine realm. Beautifully paced, there is nothing coy or sentimental about this collection, just best words next to best words in the best order, just "a dog next to a dog next to a dog."
     - Arleen Pare

Dorothy Mahoney
Black Moss Press Block
video: Black Moss 



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, October 23, 2016

Mirror Image - Len Gasparini (Guernica Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Mirror Image. Len Gasparini.  Essential Poet Series 209.  Guernica Editions. Toronto - Buffalo - Lancaster(U.K.).  2014.

Mirror Image

I first discovered Len Gasparini in 1976 when rummaging through stack of used books in a ramshackle barbershop near the Ford plant I worked at in Windsor.  I was writing poems and had published in a few small magazines and journals but I was still a couple of years away from my first book. 

Gasparini was a liberating and inspirational find.  Here was a poet whose straight ahead no bullshit persona came jumping off of the page and grabbed me by the collar.  I liked Gasparini right out of the gate and have been a big fan ever since.

Early this morning I sent Milo, our head tech, into the stacks to see what he could find by Gasparini, this is what he came back with:

21 X 3 - with Dorothy Farmiloe/Eugene McNamara, The Gryphon Press, 1967
Cutty Sark - The Quarry Press, 1970
Tunnel Bus to Detroit - Fiddlehead Poetry, 1971
Pelee Island - Thistle Printing, 1972
The Somniloquist - Fiddlehead Poetry, 1972
One Bullet Left - Alive Press, 1974
If You Love - Borealis Press, 1975
Moon Without Light - York Publishing, 1978
Breaking and Entering, New and Selected Poems - Mosaic Press/Valley Editions, 1980
Ink from an Octopus - Hounslow Press, 1989
I Once Had a Pet Praying Mantis - Mosaic Press,1995
A Canadian In Dixie - Lyrical Myrical, 2003
Leftover Love to Kill - Lyrical Myrical, 2004

Turns out this is only a portion of his output.

Today's book of poetry cannot begin to tell you how thrilled we were to see Gasparini's Mirror Image come through the door.  Len Gasparini has been a big hero of ours for almost forty years. Today's book of poetry was reading poems by Gasparini before Bukowski, before Purdy, Carver, Ross, any of it.  I thought Len Gasparini was the original gangster poet.

This first poem comes from a longer sequence of poems, "Memories of the Rockin' Fifties" and encapsulates the feeling I had back in the Windsor of my youth when I first picked up a copy of One Bullet Left.

from Memories of the Rockin' Fifties


       for Jim Christy

How summer day in the city.
On my way to a beach party
I stopped for cigarettes at a corner store.
A 35 cent Avon paperback, The Subterraneans,
by Jack Kerouac, caught my eye.
(The title sounded like sci-fi.)
I bought the book ... read passages
to my sunbathing pals drinking contraband beer.
When the party ended, it came
as no little surprise to see the beach
hadn't moved, the lake was still there;
but this cat wasn't.
Kerouac had turned me around.
I was never altogether the same after that.


The poetry of Len Gasparini is often clipped so short that you don't realize you've been rabbit punched.  No wasted movement.  Gasparini is a romantic of an old school of take no prisoners, that might include the ghosts of Raymond Chandler and Jim Harrison, maybe even Charles the B.

Mirror Image is two books in one.  The first thirty pages are poetry and the remainder is prose.  Odin, our newest staff member is working over the prose right now and I don't have the heart to tell him that prose is above our pay grade.  Our mandate stops with the poetry.  But what fine, crisp, clean poems these are.

Endangered Species

     for Patrick Lane

In a country that was founded
on the backs of fur-bearing animals
I once saw a stuffed adult cougar
at a trade show in Vancouver's BC Place.
It there is reincarnation,
metempsychosis, transmutation, or whatever,
I hope that I come back
as a cougar, Felis concolor,
solitary and nocturnal in the wilds
of northern British Columbia.
I will stalk, ambush, and stab
my sharp canines into the neck
of any motherfucking nimrod
who tries to hunt me down.
I'll eat my fill: feed my kittens:
and leave the rest for the ravens.


Gasparini has been publishing his honest and unfettered poetry with resolute consistency for the best part of fifty years.  Today's book of poetry feels honoured to have him come through the door, for an opportunity to share his work.

Many of Gasparini's poems can be read as reportage sans resolution, these poems often raise more questions than answers.  Today's book of poetry thinks Gasparini's modus operandi has always been the pulling back of the curtain to show the real world at work.  That old over the rainbow trick from the Wizard of Oz.


Alone, with nowhere to go,
she stands on the corner
of some deserted intersection
late at night, waiting
for a traffic light.


Today's book of poetry has admired the poetry of Len Gasparini my entire adult life and is pleased to share his work with you.  You're not going to like every poem in Gasparini's vast catalogue, no poet can pass that test, but all these years on Gasparini has never let me down.

Len Gasparini
Len Gasparini

Born in Windsor, Ontario, Len Gasparini is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry, five short-story collections, including The Snows of Yesteryear (2011), The Undertaker's Wife (,2007), and A Demon in My View (2003), which was translated into French as Nouvelle noirceur. He has also written two children’s books, a work of non-fiction, and a one-act play. In 1990, he was awarded the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize for poetry. In 2010, he won the NOW Open Poetry Stage event. Having lived in Montreal, Vancouver, New Orleans, and Washington State, he now divides his time between Toronto and his hometown. Mirror Image, his latest collection, combines poetry and prose.


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, October 20, 2016

Mammoth - Larissa Andrusyshyn (Punchy Poetry/DC Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Mammoth.  Larissa Andrusyshyn.  Punchy Poetry.  DC Books.  Montreal, Quebec.  2010.

Back in October of last year Today's book of poetry looked at Larissa Andrusyshyn's second book of poetry, Proof (Punchy Poetry/DC Books, 2014) and you can see that here:

The first thing Today's book of poetry said in that review/blog was that we wanted to get our meaty little hands Andrusyshyn's first book, Mammoth.  We did.

It is startlingly good which comes as no surprise here.  Andrusyshyn's one-two punch of Mammoth and Proof is a noteworthy accomplishment and one hell of an entrance to Canadian letters.

Mammoth could be seen, in part, as a scientific report on genetics and the moody behaviour of those under a variety of microscopes.  Andrusyshyn has the intricate eye of procedure that she apparently stole from some now blind scientist, she also has a streak of Darwinian glee in her anthropomorphous and delightfully necessary beasts repleat with human language and understanding.

What she does more than anything else is to write poems of such self evident truthfulness and perception that the reader willingly accepts the reason of mammoths, the contemplative nature of polar bears, the tell-tale beating of a petri-dish laboratory heart.

The Grizzly Man

Timothy is supposed to leave at the end of the season,
pack the bear-proof bins, the tent and video camera,
board a Cessna for the airport.

But he doesn't return
to the shrugging of airline employees,
the seat numbers, the exhausting trajectories
of airports and luggage that spins like cake slices
for the bored customer of windowless diners.

He stays in the grizzly maze,
the dense bramble on the nature reserve
where he hides his camp from the parks department.

The view from here is something
and the grizzly bear knows this place.
But the bear does not wish to be Timothy
and he does not think of humans
or hold up lenses to watch them with.

Days later, when the parks department finds the campsite,
they bag the evidence, shoot the bear
and collect the remains.

Someone recovers the video camera
and there are hours and hours of footage: Timothy
touching the wet muzzle of a sow, talking to the bears,
calling them by their names.


Today's book of poetry knows we shouldn't laugh at that story, so turn away for a moment because it makes us howl.

Larissa Andrusyshyn happily employs the scientific worlds of biology, anthropology and numerous other ologys, Andrusyshyn renders them clever tools as she navigates those belief systems for us, translates so that the terrain makes our poetry hearts race.  If Mammoth weren't so damned spot on emotionally you'd almost think someone as clever as Andrusyshyn was toying with us.

Polar Bear Caught on Ice Floe Updates Status

There's a spray of water and your skin seems to detach from
your skull in temperatures like that. The wind just drives
the vapor up your nose and it's all burning and salt. In the
photograph the glacier looks like a coral reef up close, real
close so you think you see the calcium hydroxyapatite
depositing itself there in microbial stacks. On top there's me,
so you might realize this could be the last piece of ice on
earth and they you'll wonder why it's all carved out like that,
with holes and a ledge that looks like it could just hold the
weight of a cartoon coyote for a split second before dropping
off the field of view. Below me there's the water so clear I can
see fifty feet down. Have you heard the sound of breaking
ice? It's like a giant door opening, a huge ungreased hinge
or the crack of trees before they fall and you feel like you are
about to step out into an important moment like a moon
landing or something.


Milo, our head tech, was tickled pink this morning when I foisted Mammoth on the staff for the morning read.

"This is that Proof poet!  Right!?"

Milo could hardly contain his enthusiasm and it was infectious.  This morning's reading was quick paced in a room full of smiles.

Mammoth reads smart and clean, the poems give themselves to the reader with such self-evident precision and common sense that Today's book of poetry had to look behind the covers to see if it was a trick.  Andrusyshyn impressed Today's book of poetry with ProofMammoth confirms it, this is a poet full of golden promise.

Waiting Room

The waiting room is teeming with news
and updates, white blood cell levels
and the flight details for your friends from Winnipeg.
We visit you in shifts, in manageable numbers.

What I want to do is write something completely
giddy. Something about sea horses. Polygons,
cappuccino scum. The elbows of mediocrity.

You pull the oxygen mask away to talk
and your father frowns.
Lungs filling with blood, you are trying to remember
a recipe for bread. You stop and take breaths.
You keep repeating "three cups of flaxseed flour."
Behind the mask that fogs and clears,
your voice is a blizzard, an operatic storm.
We lean against each other motionless, someone
is writing the recipe down, because we want
to bake the bread again, because it was the bread you brought
to the last party we remember. You start again from the 
and we hang like the troubled hands of murderers.


Mammoth isn't all sunshine and blue sky.  Andrusyshyn gives us a fair share of the certainty of death at the end of the ride -  but her entertaining poems make it a more worthwhile journey.

Two books in and Larissa Andrusyshyn has made a big fan out of Today's book of poetry.

Larissa Andrusyshyn
Larissa Andrusyshyn

Larissa Andrusyshyn’s first book Mammoth (DC Books 2010) was shortlisted for the QWF First Book Prize and the Kobzar Literary Award. Her poems have been shortlisted for Arc Magazine’s Poem of the Year and the Malahat Review’s Open Season Award. She works with a local non-profit to offer creative writing workshops to at-risk youth. She lives, writes and is planning her zombie apocalypse survival strategy in Montreal



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, October 18, 2016

A Dog's Life - Adam Scheffler (Jacar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
A Dog's Life.  Adam Scheffler.  Jacar Press.  Durham, North Carolina.  2016

Adam Scheffler is singing a big, big song in A Dog's Life and it is mostly a song of joy.  You'll hear a few complaints and genuine concerns along the way but that's only natural. Mostly Scheffler is aiming high, he's generous and kind.

Scheffler ruminates at length in his conversational and prosodic style and boy oh boy do we like to listen.  There's nothing naive about the poems in A Dog's Life but there is a certain innocence.  Adam Scheffler's innocence has some experience to it.

Years ago I published a poem that had a line in it that insisted you can't have innocence and experience too, they are two separate horses bursting out of the gate.  Well, apparently I was wrong.

Woman and Dogs

My girlfriend's dog is small and fat and neurotic
and smells at night like an African meat flower.
It loves her more than some people love anyone
in a riddle of love it worries at, lying there on the floor.
As she writes it makes strange sounds:
lickings, sighings, sucking, shiftings
like the worrying-tide of the world, like the vast
dog-tide of the world in its love of the moon
and of fetching sticks. My girlfriend is very quiet
and very white like the moon, and some people think
she is cold and uncaring just like it.
But her dog knows better, it knows she is quiet
like the sun as she writes her stories
tapping them quietly with her fingers, shaping
the messages she has heard of painful warmth
and love, quietly as a tree repeating the hard message
of the sun in its devotion of leaves and listening.
I have listened carefully to the dog. I have stolen
the dog's secret about her. I have figured it out.
She is quiet and so she writes long stories
and I am loud and so I write quick poems
tiring myself out more quickly to look up at her
as lovingly and neurotically as the dog
perhaps never as lovingly as the dog
who unlike me has nothing to prove
who does not write poems except the thought-poems
of the chase, the sky, the walk, the meal.
Sick of the dog, I have had too much also of poems
petulant, filled with strange achings
I think of my navel which is too deep like a mine
I send my finger into it like a canary and feel sad
and weird and know I will die. But sometimes
she tells me she likes my chest and I take her
in my arms and feel for once superior to the dog.
Before this dog she had another dog I never met, a
golden retriever, who was not at all neurotic
who swallowed her childhood happily
like a white spiral fossil and brought it back
covered with a fine varnish fine slobber of evening
and died, and now is only a picture in a cheap frame
on the top of her desk as she writes. It makes me think
of all I can't see: the long list of books she gave me
how they existed all my life and before it
and her story right now invisible to her too
like the idea of a flower to all the roots underneath
their gossipy brags and worries: how their flowers
grow tall as the spine of a young boy, go blue
as a nun's lips in winter, unless the earth goes
upwards forever unbroken - but there she is
at least, complete: watched by the dog who is dead
watched by the dog who smells bad and is alive
watched by me, who am sick of poems and of life too maybe
but am alive and glad to look at her, at the tiny mark
on her cheek where the clamp brought her forth kicking
from the womb to sit one day quietly in the
wound and fury of writing before the three of us
who cannot help, who wait in aches and shiftings
for her to turn round and speak gently our names.


Today's book of poetry found a lot of joy in A Dog's Life despite the arrows of real life skewering hearts, Scheffler has created an entertaining and compassionate balance in these poems, a sense of hope.

We do hear about the irresponsible parenting skills of pandas and the inexplicably large salary of a business man from Tulsa, there are laments of different orders peppered here and there, but Scheffler never loses his focus.  The dark is only ever a reminder that the blue sky is coming.

Great Grandfathers

They sit quiet in murmuring
restaurants, at family gatherings,
wearing old paisley ties and tweed,
hands folded on their laps,
ready to ask for the one thing on the menu they can order
for old age means fewer choices.

At the end of the table
they float on pillows, counting out
the abacus of their pills
for they are unhearing
though their ears are swollen up
big as cabbages in lovely whorls,
cobwebs, funnels gathering darkness.

Their boredom is loud though,
a knot we try to untie with talk.
They catch a few words, maybe,
or let them drift past like feathers,
turning their eyes inwards
to the root cellar where memories
and dreams grow twined.


It came as no surprise to Today's book of poetry that most of this collection had been previously published in scores of magazines and journals.  Good ones.  In fact it pleases Today's book of poetry to know that the editors of these publications saw what we see, Adam Scheffler writes damned good poems.

A Dog's Life comes right up to you just like a friendly dog, licks your hand, settles down at your feet and you feel reassured.

Our newest staff member Odin was particularly charmed by Scheffler's poems and made a special request that I post the following poem.  Apparently Odin never met a waitress he didn't love.


Half the men in here tonight
are in love with her,
ordering twice as much wine
as they planned,
getting quite drunk.
She's not beautiful
quite plainly dressed,
in overalls,
in her early 50's. But the men
look up and drink,
admiring her no-makeup,
her aloofness,
joking to see her smile blandly
and glide away,
making empty plates vanish
like any hope of her number.
They are in love for once
without desire, as she recites
tonight's specials
from memory, taking orders
in her head too,
forgetting nothing, leaving them all
feeling that care and
distance are what they wanted,
not love after all.


Today's book of poetry felt that the poems in Adam Scheffler's A Dog's Life were straight forward and true.  You will feel better about the world after reading these poems.  Reason and hope go a long way to beating back the darkness.

Image result for adam scheffler poet photo
Adam Scheffler

Adam Scheffler grew up in California, received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is currently finishing his PhD in English at Harvard.

“A Dog’s Life is a delightful romp through Americana by way of ‘real’ America with sly, politically engaged poems. Though this poet issues a rallying cry against ‘siren songs of entertainment,’ his poems are completely entertaining but, at the same time, completely wise. He takes on true love, extinction, our fragile environment, war, technology, porn, aging and our fight against it, cancer, nursing homes, and death. A Dog’s Life is an enlightened look at Doritos, Carson Daly, Walmart, McDonalds, theme parks, and, of course, dogs.”
     — Denise Duhamel

“The real singers – whether lamenting or praising – give us a sense of life as larger than we could have expressed before they arrived. With an explorer’s curiosity and drive, Adam Scheffler turns his poems into a treasury. He speaks of the value and wonder in small and large things, and like a dog (the dog he’d have us believe his soul is), meets the world with undisguised exuberance. These poems are spiritual in the way poetry is best suited to be: they articulate our good fortune to be alive.”
    — Bob Hicok



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"
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Largeness of Rescue - Eva Tihanyi (Inanna Publications)

Today's book of poetry:
The Largeness of Rescue.  Eva Tihanyi.  Inanna Publications & Education Inc.  Toronto, Ontario.  2016

Eva Tihanyi won us over pretty early into her excellent The Largeness of Rescue.  Tihanyi is so eloquently reasonable that we started to hope she could explain everything.  

Then we read "Bridge" which was written in memory of Dorothy Farmiloe and recognized immediately that we were on terra firma.  Today's book of poetry has long admired Dorothy Farmiloe and so we went to the stacks this morning and were able to retrieve three chapbooks and one trade volume of poems.  Poems for Apartment Dwellers (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1970), Winter Orange Mood (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1972) and Blue Is The Colour Of Death (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1973), and Words For My Weeping Daughter (Penumbra Press, 1980).

Doronthy Farmiloe (1921-2015) published ten poetry books/chapbooks by our estimation, another ten or eleven published books in different fields, but has never been widely known or championed, Today's book of poetry has always thought she had the real goods and are tickled pink that Tihanyi thinks it too.  Eva Tihanyi giving Dorothy Farmiloe the nod tells Today's book of poetry plenty.

Circles and Lines


July 31, 1960

Chet Baker races toward Viareggio,
the late afternoon road uncoiling
like a languid serpent, the horizon
an illusion of certainty, his quest for home
a stubborn unacknowledged longing
without end or consolation.

Needs, wants, must have a fix.
Stops at a gas station in Lucca, locks
himself in the washroom,
does not reappear.

Time passes. The attendant knocks,
then bangs, keeps banging, eventually
assumes emergency.
When the police arrive,
they find a disheveled man
standing dazed before the blood-spattered sink
syringe in hand.

It will linger for days, the stench
of Paco Rabanne cologne and week-old sweat.


Is it tragedy when you choose?


The trial eight months later
is sensational, the defendant
found guilty.

San Giorgio Penitentiary looms
at the centre of town, its medieval walls
and black windows as unrepentant
as its celebrity prisoner who, for years a vagrant
in his own life, is now jailed in it.

The second wife has been discarded,
the new mistress ensconced in the Hotel Universo,
the press duly scandalized.

Served: an Italian drama
of operatic proportions..

The world laps it up
like a thirsty dog.


Before the arrest, a triumph:

Chet Baker plays Il Bussolotto,
a grand nightclub lounge on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The patrons anoint him their trombo d'oro, adore
the intimate coolness of his jazz worship
in the summer air.

What they don't see:
how at the end of the night
he tosses his horn on the piano
rushes out for the next fix.

How in the morning
the sun falls in
through the sea-facing picture window,
alights on the tarnished horn, such sad beauty.


Art is not a closed circle
or a straight line.

The heart embraces its craving, the blood rises,
a great irrational wave washing over
the unsuspecting bones, and all is deluged
in its red tidings, the secret song divulged,
its rhythm, rhythm, rhythm
beating some time into submission, beating time.

If this were true, it couldn't be said.

And to hold it: impossible
as a signature on water.


Church bells and lone trumpet --
the sounds of Lucca that summer
as the locals gather along the promenade
to hear "Someone to Watch Over Me"
in the evening stillness.

During the day Chet Baker plays chess,
waits for visits from his mistress
who waits for his release.
Even the air waits.

And every night the sound
of the brooding trumpet, tendrils of melody
curling and winding, climbing and falling,
tender above all.



There is nothing as seductive as genius.
Women will endure almost anything for it, the lure
of greatness, the shiny hook
upon which adulation squirms.

The young man in the jeans and white T-shirt
has it, the chiseled dark glamour,
the allure of those
who resist being loved.

The woman are many and various,
the trumpet's charismatic notes
sliding into their ears like promiscuous tongues.

Chet Baker looks down while he plays,
speaks little, smiles less.
He is a Gabriel for sinners,
a corrupt angel resisting rescue.

But they all try to save him, the women.
They try.

.After prison Chet Baker is Chet Baker.

No closed circle, no straight line.

The mistress eventually becomes the wife,
bears him three children.

Many years from now at his funeral
a vase of white roses
will suddenly and inexplicably shatter,
strewing flowers and broken glass
as her feet.


As most of you faithful readers already know - a good jazz poem will sucker punch Today's book of poetry every time.  And "Circles and Lines" is a doozey.

Write about Saint Chet of Baker or Lady Sir Charlie Parker and you will get our full attention.  Write about them well and you end up on this blog, were it possible we'd throw throw garlands at your feet.

If it were only Dorothy Farmiloe and jazz Today's book of poetry would be happy enough but there is so much more of value going on in The Largeness of Rescue.  Tihanyi is trying to figure out that most difficult thing - how to be a good person.  Today's book of poetry comes away from The Largeness of Rescue thinking that Tihanyi wants us to celebrate as much as we can, whatever small victories we inhabit, Tihanyi's poems suggest we celebrate them.  This is good advice.


To focus on not focusing:
sometimes this is the answer,
sometimes not.

Remember: all that is placed in water
either sinks or floats.

You are your own forest,
and all the green shimmering
and all the darkness.

What gathers in the margins
of your invisible life
is depleted and replenished
as time, in its alternating current
of hope and hopelessness
moves you.

Look it in the eye:
the horror and the wonder
that is transience.

Where there is fear,
celebration cannot enter.


Eva Tihnayi describes love as the cat in her poem "The Schrodinger Principle".  Today's book of poetry has always assumed that the practical lesson to be learned from the Schrodinger Principle is that life doesn't exist until you actively engage in it.  You have to open the box, you have to jump into love, before you'll have any idea of what it is or where it will go.  Of course Today's book of poetry is frequently wrong.

There was some head shaking around our skeptical office this morning but Today's book of poetry is with Tihanyi when she says "but I will always side with love."

Eva Tihnayi has published eight previous poetry collections but when we checked our shelves we could only put our hands on two of them, Prophecies Near the Speed of Light (Thistledown Press, 1984) and In The Key Of Red (Inanna Publications, 2010).  Those both got passed around along with the Dorothy Farmiloe at our morning read today.  A few poems slipped out and that was just fine, there is nothing we like more at our morning read than variety and context.


A constellation of endings,
loss after loss.

You are supposed to be happy.

It is summer, after all.

Yet it is hard to watch
history repeat itself,
the same
but never the same.

And it is always personal
though from a distance
we don't admit this.

Every day
you watch over your mother.

Every day
you watch over your sister.

On your watch
love never falters.


Hope.  Today's book of poetry always loves to see hope and are reassured by The Largeness of Rescue that hope is still a good thing.  Eva Tihanyi's template for a more understanding, listening, tolerant and mentoring world is one we can all get behind.

Image result for EVA TIHANYI PHOTO
Eva Tihanyi

Eva Tihanyi teaches at Niagara College and divides her time between Port Dalhousie (St. Catharines) and Toronto. The Largeness of Rescue is her eighth volume of poetry. She has also published a collection of short stories, Truth and Other Fictions.

The big theme—perhaps the only theme—is the narrative that unfolds between the bookends of our birth and our death. Each of us is born into a time and place—our present—and must answer the questions only we can answer for ourselves: Who are we? What will we do? What choices will we make? The Largeness of Rescue helps us travel along our own storyline by doing what the best art does so well: engages us with ourselves and with our world, and encourages us to slow down and consider our very humanness.

The Largeness of Rescue is a book of both restlessness and acceptance; both a longing for clarity and a reconciliation. In this way, the poems form a moving whole, seeking resolution in the larger embrace of art.”
     —Anne Michaels, Author of Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault

"Eva Tihanyi’s The Largeness of Rescue explores the many ways we both long for and resist rescue—rescue from ourselves, from each other, from the vagaries of the world. These poems sit poised at the cusp of a paradox, that place between “hope and hopelessness,” “horror and wonder” (“Precept”) where the personal explodes into the public realm. “I” becomes “you” becomes “we.” This is a book about borders, about “the middle place of possibility” that can move us past “carrion fear.” Tihanyi’s cycle contains both shorter lyrics and long poems, some of which explore the lives of artists and visionaries whose work sustained a precarious creativity: the Romantic poets, T.S. Eliot, and jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Among these luminaries, also arise the poet’s peers, family, friends, fellow artists, and loves. The book reveals how, not despite, but though our common uncertainties and frailties, we hold the power to rescue. Rescue becomes not only a noun but a verb. Choosing to become rescuers (each in our own small way) is in itself a means of rescue. In the end it is the heart’s measure that proffers hope: “but always I will side with love / and always I will choose.”
     —Susan McCaslin, author of Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga and The Disarmed Heart

"The Largeness of Rescue is a grave and tender collection, much preoccupied with issues of choice and destiny, and how they resonate throughout our lives. “Is it a tragedy when you choose?” she asks of the self-destructive jazz genius Chet Baker, and envisions T .S. Eliot turning his back on the “bad Russian novel” of his life to “foray into literature / on a plank of contrived neutrality / which he himself does not trust.” Most of the personae of these poems are nameless and their struggles and regrets less celebrated, but no less resonant: having been laughed at at twelve for his clumsiness, a man refuses to dance, in later years, with the wife who loves dancing, so that “Eventually / no one is dancing.” What connects them all is an awareness of life’s central paradox: we are always hoping to arrive somewhere better, even though all we have is the present moment."
     —Susan Glickman, author of Safe as Houses

"With clarity and insight, Eva Tihanyi’s poetry offers both personal revelation and mature reflection on art, time and history. Serene in spirit and precise in language, The Largeness of Rescue is her finest work."
     —Carole Giangrande, author of Here Comes the Dreamer and Midsummer

"Among my favorite poems in this reflective collection are those tributes Eva Tihanyi composes to the artist. There is her powerful evocation of Chet Baker and the “tendrils of melody” and charismatic notes” that emanate from his “brooding trumpet”; the complex mix of his giftedness, his inconsolability, the lure of fame and the prison of his addiction. Then too, she offers a rich portrait of T. S. Eliot, who struggled to “crack the code of his insurgent heart”; and before him, Tihanyi remembers the legacy of the Romantic Poets, the places they lived and their “allegiance to words,” which can “ignite like a tiny sun.” As she notes the particulars of all their lives, and the continuum of learning our own, Tihanyi asks that we pledge to live—to live in love—in spite of the paradoxes which fill this collection with subdued wonder."
     —Carol Lipszyc, author of The Saviour Shoes and Other Stories and Singing Me Home

"Long-time readers of Eva Tihanyi’s powerful poetry have always appreciated her clarity and candor. Now, in her eighth collection, The Largeness of Rescue, we see the poet’s deep reckoning with loss, longing and mortality. Whether it’s a student crying in her office, or the slow demise of jazz genius Chet Baker, or the poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley in Italy, Tihanyi’s soulful poems show an intrimate understanding of life—and often the great human cost of art. Tihanyi offers us poetry that whispers from one heart to another."
     —Bruce Hunter, author of Two O'Clock Creek, new and selected poetry and In The Bear's House

"Eva Tihanyi writes with clarity by employing powerful metaphors and epigrammatic language with an unflinching philosophical honesty to capture the conditions of our lives. If there is a dark atmosphere in some of these poems, there is also an underlying hope expressed in tender affirmation."
     —Laurence Hutchman, author of Beyond Borders

“Art is not a closed circle / or a straight line.” Eva Tihanyi’s poems evoke many moments of art, from Chet Baker’s music drifting from an Italian prison to a cave artist place handprints on rock. She pieces these moments together along the curving trails of lyric and perception."
     —Alice Major, author of Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science and Memory's Daughter



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.