Saturday, December 23, 2017

Today's book of poetry 5th annual Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize

Today's book of poetry would like to announce the winner of the

5th Annual
Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize.

The Corpses of the Future  -  Lynn Crosbie  (House of Anansi, 2017)

To see Today's book of poetry's look at Lynn Crosbie's excellent The Corpses of the Future look here:

Image result for lynn crosbie photo

Lynn Crosbie


Today's book of poetry would like to thank every poet and publisher who sent us books, that's what we live for.

It's been a curious year, our staff has increased in happy size and we would all like to wish you the very best for the holiday season.

Our readership has grown.  Last month we had 20,000 readers.  Our total readership recently surpassed 360,000.  Today's book of poetry has now posted 645 blogs/reviews.

The winner of the Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize is invited to have dinner at the home offices of Today's book of poetry.

Past winners of the Prize:

2013 - Nora Gould, I See My Love More Clearly From A Distance (Brick Books)
2014 - Kayla Czaga, For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions)
2015 - Eva H.D., Rotten Perfect Mouth (Mansfield Press)
2016 - Stuart Ross, A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent. (A Buckrider Book/Wolsak & Wynn)

We will return in January fully rested and full of piss and vinegar.



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 21, 2017

The Better Monsters - Puneet Dutt (Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Better Monsters.  Puneet Dutt.  Mansfield Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2017.

The poems in the first part of Puneet Dutt's bracing and honest The Better Monsters come from the voice of an outsider.  Dutt's voice has been in camps, heard gunfire at night.  But by the time we are finished Dutt is insider enough that she knows exactly how to reach us.

Whether in Jalalabad or Kabul Dutt's world-weary voice always remembers that:
                                                "to see fighters
                                  from another country with guns
                                  in my local market everyday
                                  not knowing what they were doing
                                  I would hate them"
                                                              Over Cider And Whiskey In Hotel Rooms

Dutt's voice is also inhabited by those same fighters, lost in a world foreign enough to them to allow any extravagance or insanity.

Alien Alien
"he pays cash, that's why he's called Mister."
            - Oswald Joseph Mtshali

never had an education
took a talvar to school
and fled the country

records of Saturday Night Fevers
bell bottom stone-washed jeans
played his youth

eyes closed
he reached Queens

doors closed to his
dark room body
doors always closed
no matter the knock
we were toes and whispers
children of his parent's eyes

he left his records behind
walled open to VHS's
Deep Purple Aerosmith Bon Jovi
another hit

long drives
alone in a white U-Haul
and all the trucks he ever haggled for
that broke down from so many miles

Hey God, I'm just a little man got a wife and family
he knew the songs
the CK jeans
Yankee's cap
they sold him

her and him
two suitcases each
so fast they left us
to get there

Memphis to New Orleans
i asked him
what did you see
criss-crossed veins
alligators and beads
the giant peach
what did you see

dekhna kyah tah
what was there

we'd long for postcards
Mount Rushmore Gettysburg America
5 a.m. and stand
fleamarkets sun under tarp
until now they can't stand anymore

i find them again
on the same street
weary of motels and rest stops
bruised soap souvenirs
of what they've been
back to where they started
97 to 95

from Georgia and back
all along the coast
boxes we'd help make
thought it was a game
hide and seek
perfumes scrunchies barrettes
whatever they could buy

whatever they could sell
always afraid of who was at the door

she kept chipped bottles
Testers without caps
fingered blue RI, America
gifted us Caution: Flammable
and sprayed
stars and stripes

we got through school this way
not being stinky Pakis
go home
we bought
like good greencards
when they asked
we bought
swore allegiance
to clothes and movies
credit card after credit card
found a way to stay

that English
fly tape ensnares flies with appealing colors
Made in USA
so much about
Manifest Destiny
Christopher Columbus

that America
and when they try to make the rent
next month  we have it next month
we scattered
kids and weddings
north and south
they still ask us where
we're really from

implies place
when i slip a hundred in her purse
even when i dye my hair blonde
my tongue lashed by ESL
i can only interpret
a weekend
so many of us
the odds are bet against us
              we alien alien


Time and distance take new shape when you are on the other side of the world from where you started, the earth your toes remember both too far away to touch and too long ago for warmth.

Punnet Dutt's tender and tragic poems seat the reader in the empty space endured by those who are forced to leave their own terra firma, their own culture, their own countries.  Dutt makes it real on the page.

Today's book of poetry thinks that Puneet Dutt talks from both sides of the invisible fence that impedes all our human travails and this encompassing vision serves her well.  As harrowing as some of the moments these poems endure, Dutt's voice ultimately never gives up hope and that's the magic.


it's 4 a.m. and clear
             13 degrees centigrade
             in Jalalabad

             Google can't calculate the drive   the
walk    or how long it will take by TTC
             only shows the expanse of impossible
             the mouth of the South Pacific
             the fingernail of Chile
             and Hawaii         the crumbs

             i type:
"calculate distance between two coordinates"
and receive
the haversine formula

to calculate distance between two points--that is
the shortest distance over the earth's surface
and the bearing between two latitudes promises
the distance formula   its origin   its use
the length of hypotenuse   is the distance between two

says to just type your equations and let the calculator do
the rest!
to find the distance between two points
(X1,Y1) and (X2,Y2)
all that you need to do is use the--

                but all i want to know is
how far
from daughter
from mother
from herself she will be
                from me
when she returns


Our morning read was a little more low key than usual.  Apparently our entire staff, moi included, decided that we could drink all the red wine we could find in the bar.  Amateurs that we are we left three bottles standing at the end of the night but we'd admirably polished off several of their friends. The morning read was subdued intensity tempered by aspirin.  But Dutt's voice was clear, despite our fumbling efforts, these poems worked.  They have been tempered over hotter flame then any of us will endure.

Reasons To Throw Stones

America begins
this way
48 Trenton St.
where i slowly ask
what i'd thought of for a year--
why did you leave me behind?

she sniffs and
immediately pulls me toward a bath alarmed
by the size of my long loose undergarments
stitched in India elastic frills and ribbons at
each end you can't wear those!
i'll have to take you
sluicing me over the head with measuring
cups of soap

immediately America begins with a vigorous
scrubbing immediately i change and please so
immediately i know America is not for big
open questions my mother brandishes card
after card slashing through lines builds my
closed of each auditions next day don't give
them reasons to throw stones this she gives me
now i arrive in Canada i don't know what to
do immediately when i arrive to Canada what
to do immediately?


Today's book of poetry thought Puneet Dutt's poems were human in a way that allowed all readers to get to the center of them.  But once there Dutt isn't reluctant to insist you see the battles and the battle scars from a new position.  Dutt aims for The Better Monsters amongst us human beings and emerges at the end of her harrowing journey still embracing hope.

That's courage.

Punnet Dutt

Puneet Dutt received her MA in English from Ryerson University. She is the author of the chapbook PTSD south beach (Grey Borders Books), which was a Finalist for the 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize (Phantom Books). Her work has been published in a number of journals and in Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. She was born in India and raised in New Jersey. She now resides in Toronto with her husband, where she is an editorial board member at Canthius and a creative writing workshop facilitator with the Toronto Writers Collective. She can be found online at

“Fierce and finely crafted, The Better Monsters distils life’s strangeness in poems that bridge the gap between warning and augury. A tour-de-force from one of Canada’s most promising writers.”
     —Jim Johnstone, author of The Chemical Life

“In this gripping first collection, Dutt evokes innocence within and despite the cruel enigma of inevitable arrival. She masterfully connotes this ironic centre—the empty solace of truth telling: ‘so fast they left us/to get there.’”
     —Hal Niedzviecki, Broken Pencil Magazine

“The poems in The Better Monsters teach us how humanity is its own greatest threat but also its greatest salvation. Dutt’s world is one of greater and lesser evils, where the only virtue is the beauty that her language provides. Yes, perhaps her poetry is our best chance to escape our everyday monsters, our monsters within.”                                                                                                                     —Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Pushcart Prize nominated poet, New York University, United Nations                                                     consultant


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 17, 2017

Home Was Elsewhere - Stanley Fefferman (Quattro Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Home Was Elsewhere.  Stanley Fefferman.  Quattro Books.  Toronto, Ontario.  2017.

The best horse will run before it sees
the shadow of the whip

Stanley Fefferman hit Today's book of poetry over the head with a poetry sledgehammer with his poem "Black Spruce" from Home Was Elsewhere.  There we were ambling along, poetry happy, inside of Fefferman's poem, liking this one, jotting the title of another down and then...

The last stanza of "Black Spruce" anvil punched Today's book of poetry.

Don't get us wrong, we live for those poetry moments when we are rocked, given the opportunity we would embrace the author, demand good drink in their name, and so on...

It is some sweet footwork going in inside Fefferman's poems.

Black Spruce

Black Spruce sway in the wind
I turn to them for solace
because they never complain

White paper consoles me
On its surface words appear
like cricket chirps

When I think of your goodness
I burn and become restless
Meanwhile, what do do?

When we are together
there is such a flowing
Then, what to do?

I want you to understand
star-crossed lovers are the only kind
Love is out of this world


Fefferman has us tangled up in Henry Miller carnal glee activity one minute and meditating the next and maybe that is the true Dharma.  I will have to ask my buddy Bear, the original Canadian Buddha Bear.

Home Was Elsewhere rolls along in sort of content but still searching vibe as though Fefferman were navigating the reader into a specific channel.  And he is.  There is as much celebration in Home Was Elsewhere as their are questions.

Everything Closed in Acrylic

It is a sort of winter-day feeling
silent and clear
everything closed in acrylic

It is heart scraped raw quivering in dry air
longing for moist 'membrance
not closed in dry poem -

official version of glittering moment - 
but a sudden shock, snapped elevator cable
and us inside falling alive

It is gradual melting of stomach
unloved bones settling in socketry
loose and jingly

and all dead silence
glowing in your face
for no reason like a smile

Perhaps two birds twitter in the snow
and enormous blue jay thighs
rock a branch during takeoff


"enormous blue jay thighs" Whoosh.  I wish I'd written that.  Fefferman has the touch, a particular deft hand that elevates these meditations into poetry.  A knowing that experience plus wisdom and the open eye is enough to fill our palette and every page. 

Today's book of poetry got a bit of the big brother feeling from Home Was Elsewhere.  Not Russia - Big Brother, but the older, wiser sibling big brother who genuinely has both your interests and your future at heart.  Fefferman is sharing the way of things, how they work or don't.

Our morning read was held indoors with the furnace blasting.  -18 C here in the nation's capital this morning and when the crew started ice-cubing through the front door the coat rack started to resemble the Michelin Man, then Humpty Dumpty, and finally a pyramid of extra coats, sweaters, scarves and hats.  The pyramid was short lived.  It all collapsed to the floor with a quiet and very well padded splat.  Now there is a three foot tall mound of winter apparel in the corner of the office.

Milo, our head tech, has already determined that the pile makes for an excellent couch, and it is warm too.  That's where he sat for the morning read.

Growing a Mustache on Your Fingernail

Strike a gong:

walking alone on a sunlit morning in spring
or walking with your lover, hand in hand, on a
cold afternoon, talking about her husband's career
or coming home to a surprise, a clean sink or
someone in bed with your wife.

Strike a gong:

sparkling champagne in crystal
raised to toast to the moment when
who becomes someone, becomes so what,
and the, the Imperial Dinner:
silver footmen behind each chair

or mother's cooking, served in the kitchen -
noodle soup, bread, meat, and cold tinned peaches,
daughter takes her first steps in the living room,
grandfather, nearly senile, recalls the days of his strength,
while outside, a thunderstorm rages.

Strike a gong:

we all take off our clothes
and dance on the darkening green
between huge raindrops
pretending to dodge lightning bolts,
but really afraid


Fefferman explains his modus operandi in part with pieces like "Birdbrain" where he outlines the rigours of a solitary life of contemplation.  The reader is left to balance the yin/yang of Fefferman's Home Was Elsewhere.  For Today's book of poetry it was all happy exploration.

Fefferman, whether talking about love and/or carnal passion  -  or contemplating his space in the world, he is doing it with fine poems.

Stanley Headshot Catalogue__

Stanley Fefferman

Stanley Fefferman is an eclectic poet mentored by Louis Dudek in Montreal, Barry Callaghan in Toronto, and Allen Ginsberg in Boulder. He trained in meditation under Chogyam Trungpa, studied photography with Michael Wood and Jack Dale, completed graduate studies in homeopathy with Jeremy Sherr, and certified as a Regression Therapist with Roger Woolger. These trainings inform his poetry. Forty of his broadcasts aired on CBC National Radio. Hundreds of his essays on music, his performance photographs, and two academic textbooks were published in electronic media. Fefferman taught writing at Naropa University’s Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and founded the Atkinson Creative Writing Program at York University where he is Professor Emeritus. Home Was Elsewhere is his first collection of poetry.

Fefferman’s first collection registers, sometimes in the same poem, the tension between the call of an inner world of experience (the complexities of love, the layers of memory) and the equally insistent call from the world outside (landscape, birdsong, weather). What is it? the poet asks in one poem. What’s it like? he asks in another. And to answer these questions he repeatedly zeroes in on le mot juste or the perfect image as he does, for instance, in “Caroline’s Laughter” both jackhammer yammer and kamikaze bumblebee.
      – Ricardo Sternberg

When I first heard Stanley Fefferman read his poems I was struck by their musicality, humour and wisdom. … His poems are meditations on moments in which he dissolves the boundaries between the self and nature, challenging us to reconfigure our perception of reality with playful words and phrases and lines that surprise us with their shifting tones of voice. It is a poetry filled with insight and gratitude.
      – Laurence Hutchman

So many words were perfectly surprising, so many lines lifted off the page. Many poems had the pleasing shape of a circle, or a spiral, or a leaf either drifting from branch to ground, or rising into the sun.
      – Randy Roark

Stanley Fefferman Poetry ReadingTUFAS 01 26 17
Video: Stanley Fefferman



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

Friday, December 15, 2017

Drugstore Blue - Susana H. Case (Five Oaks Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Drugstore Blue.  Susana H. Case.  Five Oaks Press.  Newburgh, New York.  2017.

Today's book of poetry is a big fan of Susana H. Case.  Milo, our head tech, came out of the stacks with 4Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press, 2014) which Today's book of poetry looked at back in January of 2016.  You can see that here:

Milo also found Case's Manual of Practical Sexual Advice (Kattywampus Press, 2012) and The Scottish Cafe (Slapering Hol Press, 2002).  Today's book of poetry has read and enjoyed all of these Case titles.  Drugstore Blue is the best yet.

Susana H. Case has a beautiful swagger.  In our misogynist world we expect it from certain types of men but we haven't come far enough that this kind of swagger doesn't stand out.  And it's not like male; I'm bigger, better, stronger swagger - it's more of a "I'm smart and I've come out to play" swagger.  An entirely different beast.

Hold Me Like You'll Never Let Me Go

In the street, I find an acoustic guitar,
no name on it, so I decide it's mine
and learn some chords from
a pretty boy ten year younger
whom I retrieve from a SoHo party.

He plays in a garage band. He likes
my long, ironed-straight hair, how I
remove my clothes, their erratic cuts,
easy to toss on to a chair. For a week
we don't leave the apartment.
He makes no plans to go home, but home
is Sweden, so that's understandable.
I strum and roam through rooms,
feeling like a folk goddess.
"I'm leaving on a jet plane," I sing.

You ever spend a whole week naked, talking
about nothing but folk rock? But then
we run out of food and being with him begins
to seem like shoplifting.  You ever do that,
take what you want just to see how it feels?


Susana H. Case is all about empowerment in Drugstore Blue and it is a book I want my sisters and my wife to read.  Case isn't asking for anything, bless her cotton socks, she's telling us the new home base like she were the umpire of common sense.

Today's book of poetry enjoyed these poems in part because they remind me of my very favourite women, my wife K, and my sisters, the estimable Luba S, Donna (reigning Queen of The Nasty Grrls) and so on.  None of them are full time poets but they are all this sort of smart, this sort of strong.

I hate when poets are referred to as brave, they are writing poetry not charging the front lines into machine-gun fire and grenades.  But Today's book of poetry sure does have a lot of time for Case and her enthusiastic embrace of a strong woman's mantra.  Only the strong poets are this carnal without sounding licentious.  Case makes a strong case for passion.

Jeanne Moreau, I Love You

In the film, Jeanne Moreau has two lovers,
a rich one on his polo horse and a poor
archaeologist, connoisseur of good bones.
The husband in Dijon is unbearable
in his sarcastic neglect of her.
How can anyone resist her pouty lips,
dismissed by camermen as not photogenic--
I want to kiss those lips.

Her orgasm, shown as a trembling hand
labeled The Lovers pornographic
until Justice Potter Stewart at the Supreme Court
ruled, I know it when I see it, and this is not porn.

I remember, sadly, in an interview, she announced
that sex as an older woman was undignified.
But, in the film she's young, and her existence
as domestic furniture deviates
in unexpected ways: One night of making love

and there she goes with the new lover, in his Citroen,
away into the sunrise, into a revised life,
escaping the death so resident in her old one.
And sex is a little death, sure,
but escape from death too,
done here to the music of Brahms.
Besides, her archaeologist makes her laugh.

I don't want to see her die for not one,
but two indiscretions, this being 1958.
What courage she has driving away
from the Lake of Indifference to Terra Incognita,
as the map drawn at the beginning
of the movie lays out the land of love!
Not even one time does she look back.


Today's book of poetry loves Jeanne Moreau, how could you not?  Some of the staff here had to do a quick search for Moreau and got a quick tutorial from Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, on Ms. Moreau and her films.  Our morning read was splendid.  The women on the Today's book of poetry loved Case and Drugstore Blue like it was fresh popcorn drenched with real butter.  The men at Today's book of poetry loved the optimism in these poems.  Susana H. Case even makes men sound redeemable.

When Case goes all dark the lights in the room go out as well.  Case gets you to surrender all your defenses with reason and then she starts swinging her emotional battle-axe and takes no prisoners.

Case is a many sided die, but each side is clearly demarcated.  Drugstore Blue is a velvet hammer.


Hedy Lamarr, runaway trophy wife
of a businessman dealing in shells and grenades,
calls George to ask about glands:
George Antheil, crime writer,
master of pneumatic piano rolls--
his hobby is endocrinology.

She's worried; Louis B. Mayer, studio boss,
doesn't want another flapper,
is dismissive of her flat breasts.
He wants a glamour-puss.

Any girl can be glamorous, she sighs.
All you have to do is stand still
and look stupid.

From breasts, the talk shifts to weapons.
Instead of a torpedo bra,
Hedy and George invent a radio-controlled
guidance system for torpedoes,
an early smart bomb, voluptuous and busty.

They patent it in 1942. Its parts allude to punched
piano rolls, sixteen perfectly synchronized pianolas
in Antheil's Ballet Mecanique
(scored also for airplane propellers).

The Pentagon bosses are as dismissive
of their invention as Louis is of her breasts,
can't grasp a player piano in a torpedo,
refuse to believe
this beautiful woman so nude and orgasmic
running through the woods in the film, Ecstasy,
so glamour-puss,
could also be smart.


Susana H. Case is the smart woman who has no fear of shining.  These days when there is so much paste disguised as gem stone, Susana H. Case is mining diamonds.

Susana H Case2b

Susana H. Case

Susana H. Case is the author of five books of poetry, most recently, Drugstore Blue, new in 2017 from Five Oaks Press, and 4 Rms w Vu from Mayapple Press, as well as four chapbooks. One of her collections, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press in Poland. Her poems appear widely in magazines and anthologies. Recent poems can be found in: The Cortland Review, Fourteen Hills, Portland Review, Potomac Review, and Rattle, among others. Dr. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City.

“In Drugstore Blue, Susana H. Case’s speaker is a femme fatale in serious eyeshadow: ‘You need me / like a tongue needs a second / mouth.’ That’s the sound of her craft, one of her dart-like declarations, hitting its mark. Rarely has makeup, and the color blue, in particular, come alive on the page like this: ‘Blue all the way to the brow, an eyelid / tin-glazed, / underglazed, / sancai lead glazed, / oxide blue glazed, / a glaze of blue not born of the blues, but the antidote, / spring blue, felice blue, / green dragon constellation blue, / occult knowledge blue, / the eye of God.’ Need I say more? Her poetry reads like a graphic novel, a romp, a road-trip in a borrowed car, speeding with a wild child at the wheel. Vivid, direct, episodic, and utterly believable, Case’s tropes make excellent landings. From Morandi to Velvet Elvis, from Marrakech to Cartagena, eros is never far off, and her text glitters on the page in a poetry of great precision.”
     — Elaine Sexton, author of Causeway and Prospect/Refuge
“Susana H. Case’s Drugstore Blue offers the edgy yet compassionate and sometimes racy odyssey of a woman coming of age. The poems, wonderfully complex both in their craft as well as their emotional depth, often widen into larger mythological and historical realms. Case’s fine ear and wit are deeply satisfying.”
     — Sally Bliumis-Dunn, author of Second Skin and Echolocation

“Susana H. Case dedicates Drugstore Blue to her maternal grandmother who, ‘In her youth, having never seen a ship… considered crossing an ocean and thought, Yes, I can do that.’ Case clearly inherited her grandmother’s courage and curiosity. The speaker in these poems explores terrain both internal and external—from callow youth to vibrant maturity, from Bushwick to Zimbabwe. More seeker than tourist, she keeps her eyes wide open and invites her reader along for the adventure, forcing us to see what goes on in the world we inhabit, even if it does ‘cause inconveniences, / like thinking.’”
      — Grace Bauer, author of The Women at the Well and MEAN/TIME

"Copiapò" by Susana H Case, from the poetry anthology "Rabbit Ears"
Video:  Rabbit Ears TV



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 13, 2017

Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision - Sebastian Matthews (Red Hen Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision.  Sebastian Matthews.  Red Hen Press.  Pasadena, California.  2017.

Sebastian Matthews Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision reads like a pot-boiler.  The anguished scream of metal on metal is one of the first things we hear as Matthews takes us inside a head-on collision with a dead man.  Matthews car was struck by the victim of a fatal heart attack.  A dead man was driving the car that almost killed Matthews and family.

These poems explore in minute detail the seconds surrounding the accident as they telescope back and forth across his consciousness and morphine haze.  Time takes on entirely new properties from the time it takes two cars to collide to the time it takes for two legs to heal.

What lifts Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision beyond mere reportage is the detail, both emotional and physical, that Matthews is willing to share and shape into a meaningful message.  This book starts with the chronicling of a disaster and the many pains and distractions it causes.  But by the time you get to the end of Matthews road trip the focus has completely changed.

Tips on Surviving a Head-On Collision

Try not to rely too heavily on time passing swiftly. It won't cooperate. Besides,
there will come a time when you want to slow it back down.  It won't do that, either.
Better leave time to its serpentine tasks. Allow for confusion inside the cockpit
bubble of pain management. Keep your finger on eject. Mistakes will be made.
Bed too short. Too much morphine. Not enough. Remember how the simple act
of breathing got you through the crash. It's there to carry you through again. Death
was waiting out in the open. You nearly drove past, but its ghost swerved at you.
Ignore the plastic tubes they make you blow into. Let the words bruised heart blossom
into their full, clear, un-ironic truth.


Matthews takes us from point and time of impact and then through a couple of years of rehabilitation and up to the present.  It is an emotional and physical struggle.  In one instant your life and your family's life becomes "the accident."  The world is measured in "before" and "since."  Most of us have endured some calamity whether it be a death or an illness or an accident and Matthews tells us his survival story in a way we can all relate to, he shares the unsaid.

Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision is not full of chuckles but Sebastian Matthews does have a sense of humour.  More importantly he has found hope through perseverance.  None of the "since" is easy but Matthews affirms that is a little easier every day.  We learn to cope with change or it will destroy us.

Breaking Your Leg in Four Places

The pins in your hip the size of roofing nails.
Your femur fractured twice, once at the top
and again in the middle. Your patella cracked
under the strain. Then your ankle snapped.
Though it might have gone the other way:
from gas pedal contact on up. Take your pick,
you're fucked. And your other foot mangled,
too, crushed where the toes come together
at the arch. No more tennis, the bone doc
quips, unless your partner is no good. (Though
a pro would feed you forehands in the center
of the court.) How about dancing? Well, maybe
in a while. Let's take it one step at a time.


Our morning read was a little later than usual today.  Ottawa has just enjoyed our first real snow of the winter and there was much shovelling to be done this morning.  Our newest staff member, Philip, showed up, did exactly what we asked him to do and left a little richer.  Philip is the highest paid member of our staff and only comes by when he wants to.  But we wouldn't be here this morning without him.  

The rest of us carped our way through Matthews Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision as though we were family invested, we ripped through these like the poems were butter and we were hot knives.

Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision is a poetry book with a narrative arc, one poems builds prior knowledge for the next.  This is a healing story more that a crashing story and it hooks the reader by the poetry throat early on and doesn't let go until Matthews reveals that hope is what saves us.

Black Hills

Not the abruptly slowing cars ahead, nor the traffic snarled to a standstill, now
inching forward as the right lane merged with the left; not the blinking lights ahead,
nor the ambulance sprawled sideways across the lanes; not the men and women
huddled in the breakdown lane; not even the one automobile, turned over on its
hood, door ajar. None of it stirred my son and and his friend from their video game
cocoon, never once looking up to see, happy in each other's parallel play. (It's when
you buy the moon," one says to the other. "This game gets fun.") And on the way
back from the match, late afternoon light cutting sideways across the lanes, visor
down to block the blare, I passed the exit for 221, the road we crashed on at just
this hour, heading up to Spruce Pine for a weekend getaway. I kept us straight on
40, letting the quiet music carry me forward; and as we headed up the mountains,
the stench of burning brakes from the trucks coming down, with the snow now
bright and triumphant behind the Black Hills calling out the oncoming night in
trumpeting reds and yellows, even I didn't look up from my cocoon of driving and
notice all the potential wreckage, even I didn't flare up in my own body or lose hope
for the future.


Sebastian Matthews Beginner's Guide To A Head-On Collision is further evidence that Red Hen Press continues to attract the best poets around.

Today's book of poetry sees the world in much the same way as Matthews, hands up on defense, perseverance, hard work and hope.

What a fine book.
Sebastian Matthews

Sebastian Matthews

Sebastian Matthews is the author of a memoir and three books of poetry. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, The Sun, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. He is currently working on a novel, a collection of personal essays, and a book of prose poems. Matthews serves on the Vermont Studio Center trustee board and on the advisory board of Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters.

"Beginner's Guide to a Head-On Collision offers the deeply moving poetic memoir of Sebastian Matthews's life in the years after the car accident that devastated him and his wife and son. The poems, which often read like electric improvised prayer-songs, intimately evoke the terrors and wonders of catastrophic physical injury and of 'life re-booted.' They are disturbing, eerie poems that embody the paradoxes of being The Dead Man at the crossing. They are amazingly honest in their hopeful, mystical sense of fate. In this unforgettable book, the reader is present at the scene of the accident where the hovering spirit that has departed the body addresses the living person re-entering his brokenness and answering for his transcendent awareness."
     --Kevin McIlvoy, author of The Complete History of New Mexico

"It cleaves the life. An auto accident. Moving it into before and after. Parts of this postcataclysm instruction manual read like a dream, as if what is happening is happening both to the self in toto--batted, fractured, spliced and reconstructed--as well as to another self that watches, cool and objective, determining the outcome. By reading Beginner's Guide to a Head-On Collision we learn how to go in and out of the body as necessary and, in order to take in the possibility of a larger life, how to wrest from breakage release from our thin views of who we are. Here is Matthews the husband, the father, the driver, the patient, the Virgo obsessively advising, the man looking back, the man looking forward."
     --Vievee Francis, author of Forest Primeval, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

"Sebastian Matthews has incredible patience for the beginner, since he is one himself, as he confronts the severe agony of a terrible car accident. In short narratives, brief lyrics, prose poems, and mock astro-missives, Matthews reminds us how the brutal pain of collision might dramatically change us. '[W]hat we shared was the truth of impact— / our bodies ringing like bells in a small town / on a Holy day . . .' These poems detail both physical and spiritual misery, and though suffering can turn us into many things, Matthews—our banged up storyteller, singer, docent—strives to deliver himself back to a body of affection, intimacy, and kindness. Beginner's Guide to a Head-On Collision is a remarkable record of that difficult journey."
     --Patrick Rosal

   A Reading by Poet Sebastian Matthews (with Marie Harris)
Video: FromtheFishouse



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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Kholin 66: Diaries and Poems - Igor Kholin - Translated by Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Today's book of poetry:
Kholin 66: Diaries and Poems.  Igor Kholin.  Translated by Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich.  Eastern European Poets Series #40.  Ugly Duckling Presse.  Brooklyn, New York.  2017.

Kholin 66: Diaries and Poems

Today's book of poetry can't even begin to imagine the life Igor Kholin (1920-1999) endured.  The few poems in this utterly intriguing translation by Morse and Bela show an utterly unforgiving Kholin in full unmitigated rant.  It's rather splendid.

Russia in 1966 was most likely as reported, not a very nice place for most people.  Today's book of poetry lived in Eastern Europe for the best part of a year in the late 80's.  I had unrestricted freedom, access to more money than most citizens and at best it was a bittersweet existence.  Kholin shared squalor, abject poverty and an orphanage childhood are one hard anvil to pound a life out on.  As a young adult fighting in World War II he got a bullet in the head and survived.  This is a tough man in a tough world.


     You may think
     This shining
     Is a washing 
     I'm not what I seem
     I'm a poet
     The only
     Man on Venus
     My parents
     Are loudspeakers
     My buddies
     Are light switches
     My best friend
     Is a blender


Even though his Diaries name drop an encyclopedic run on the artists and writers of the day Igor Kholin was never one of the educated intelligentsia who wrote poetry.  Kholin was an orphan who ran away when he was in grade two (if Today's book of poetry followed along closely enough) and ended up shot in the army.  After the war he was banned from Moscow for a time for a drunken fight in the street with soldiers.  Kholin may be the most outsider poet of all.

Kholin died poor in Moscow at the age of 79 and it is only now that most of his work is seeing the light of day.  Igor may be the first true pissed off, pissed drunk, piss stink poet we've seen at Today's book of poetry in a while.  He certainly paid all of his dues, some of yours and mine as well.


     One guy says
     I'm a genius
     I say
     That's definitely true
     Others say
     I'm a hack
     And I agree with that
     A third says
     I killed a guy
     Indeed, I nod
     Everything people say about you
     Is the truth
     From nothing


Our morning read stretched into an early afternoon vodka shower and an early evening headache.  Today's book of poetry only now remembers our love/hate relationship with vodka.  Milo, our head tech and soon to be excommunicated vodka dispensing poetry junkie, thought vodka shots suited the sentiment of Igor Kholin's Kholin 66: Diaries and Poems and he was right.  I was wrong to bring out the Becherovka.  

I know that now.

Today's book of poetry did make sure that theses short little power shots by Kholtin were given the space, time and respect they deserve.  These short poems may be the most honest window into a corner of Russia we were never allowed to see.  Igor Kholin was abrasive and completely unrepentant.  These poems are poetry time bombs from  a past that was previously impenetrable to the west.


     Kholin broke his leg
     Thank God
     Against him, but
     May he break
     His neck
     May he break
     His back
     Son of a bitch
     May he
     In the next life
     And in this one
     May his children
     May he be
     Buried alive
     May he
     Fall down the toilet
     May he
     Choke to death on shit


Today's book of poetry is hoping more poetry by Igor Kholin in uncovered and translated.  He makes the world seem a smaller place.  Even in his desolate disquiet Kholin finds humour, dark as a rat's shadow, but humour none the less.  Khodin is proof yet again that there is nothing stronger than the human spirit.

And that there is no one grumpier than a bitchy old poet.  Bless his cotton socks.

Igor Kholin

Igor Kholin

Igor Kholin was born in Moscow in 1920, ran away from an orphanage in Ryazan, and eventually enrolled in a military academy in Novorossiysk. He barely survived World War II (a bullet that grazed the corner of his lips came out of his back). In 1946, he was exiled from the military and Moscow for slapping a drunken comrade-in-arms. Kholin landed in a labor camp in Lianozovo, a suburb of Moscow, where one of his friends was the guard and would occasionally let him out to visit the Lianozovo library—he'd started writing poetry. When he asked to check out a book by forbidden poet Alexander Blok, he aroused the interest of the librarian, Olga Potapova, an artist married to the poet and painter Evgeny Kropivnitsky. The two of them hosted a Sunday salon out of their nearby barracks apartment, encouraging the work of young artists and a few poets, including Genrikh Sapgir and Vsevolod Nekrasov. Along with Kholin, they called themselves Kropivnitsky's students and formed a loose poetry collective known as the Lianozovo Group. Kholin's early work took the rough edges of Soviet life—the poverty, brutality and alcoholism rampant in the barracks—as his primary subject matter, while lampooning formulaic Socialist Realist poetics. The world that Kholin depicted in his poems, where abrupt death inevitably cut down two-dimensional stock characters, was too crude and inglorious to be considered poetry by official standards. Later years saw cycles of outer-space poems and a series of poetic self-portraits, simultaneously wildly superlative and deeply self-deprecating; but all of it equally unpublishable until the fall of the Soviet Union. Kholin barely supported himself with odd jobs: children's book author, writing tutor, waiter and, after the 1970s, antiques dealer. Igor Kholin died in Moscow in 1999. Kholin 66 is the first book of Kholin's work in English translation.

Ainsley Morse
Ainsley Morse has been translating 20th- and 21st-century Russian and (former-) Yugoslav literature since 2006. She holds a PhD in Slavic literatures from Harvard University and teaches all over the Russian and Yugoslav traditions. Previous publications include the co-translation of Vsevolod Nekrasov, I Live I See, (with Bela Shayevich, UDP 2013) and Andrei Sen-Senkov's Anatomical Theater (translated with Peter Golub, Zephyr Press, 2013). Upcoming translations include the farcical Soviet pastoral Beyond Tula, by Andrey Egunov, and a collection of theoretical essays by the brilliant Formalist Yuri Tynianov.

Bela Shayevich
Bela Shayevich is a writer, translator, and illustrator. She is the co-translator of I Live I See by Vsevolod Nekrasov (UDP). Her translations have appeared in It's No Good by Kirill Medvedev (UDP/n+1) and various periodicals including Little Star and The New Yorker.



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