Friday, March 30, 2018

Union River - Poems and Sketches - Paul Marion (Bootstrap Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Union River - Poems and Sketches.  Paul Marion.  Bootstrap Press.  Lowell, Massachusetts.  2017.

Union River: Poems and Sketches

"The United States themselves are
essentially the greatest poem."
                                                                             - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Today's book of poetry almost walked into a wall last night while trying to remember just how attached Jack Kerouac was to Lowell, Massachusetts.  Today's book of poetry heard through the poetry grapevine that Paul Marion was involved with a Kerouac book a few years ago.  Then I'm thinking Robert Lowell's For the Union Dead for some damned reason.  Kerouac was searching for an America that was yet to exist and Lowell was lamenting a generational slaughter and still embracing that "greatest poem" the United States.  For the Union Dead is, as G.S. Fraser said in The New York Times, "a song of praise."

All of that to lead us to Paul Marion's Union River which we will contend is another song of praise and a worthy inclusion in that great American songbook.  Paul Marion has sunk over forty years of poetry into Union River and there is some deep water.

Mississippi Delta Blues Ballets Russes

     Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) and George Balanchine (Giorgi Balanchivadze) both died
      on April 30, 1983.

America's all over the map.
Pick your plague, grab your cure.
There's no front curtain, no wall in back.
Every ticket has its price,
Any fence is full of holes,
And it's an open field from Montana to Canada.
America's all over the map,
It's a human soup boiled from scratch in gypsy pots,
Crazed vessels, rare skillets, iron bowls that were stashed in bags,
Lugged by hands of every language over purple hills,
Along the glacier trail, through a plasma sky, straight from the steppes.
America's all over the map, its mix a staple crop..
Muddy Waters pirouettes on steam-guitar, spreads the blues on canvas.
He's a rolling stone in the bayou, a boatman on the Volga.
There's a French Quarter balalaika, there's a jazz master in Red Square,
There's George Balachine in a golden cowboy suit.


It is an American dream of sorts although we never see Grand Funk Railroad in here anywhere.  Marion rambles over the American psyche, landscape, and his vision of the vast impressionist painting of a country spread like a quilt under the 49th parallel.  Paul Marion's catch-all is over-flowing with love for the American dream in all of its variations.  Not a vulgar image of jingoistic hysteria but a genuine exploration and understanding of what really does make America great.

It's not like Union River is beyond noticing some of the enduring legacies of discord and the painful truths that accompany systemic racism, aboriginal neglect/genocide, the American war dead and the emotional cost of demanding the lives of the poor in payment to feed a nation's war-machine.  Marion is packing it all in there along with the bread and circuses.

The Blackfeet Indian Pencil

I've been told I'm part Indian, but don't believe it.
North American tribe. Canadian blood.
Snow country natives. First people to make love on the continent.
The Marion, Ohio, All-Indian NFL team of 1922
Fielded Arrowhead, Black Bear, Deerslayer, Wrinkle Meat,
Laughing Gas, Red Fang, Baptiste Thunder, Lone Wolf, and Deadeye.
Indians made this pencil I'm using.
Same business as Henry Thoreau before his trip up the Merrimack River.
Like Jefferson and Lincoln, Marion spreads across the states,
Praise for the Swamp Fox, General Francis Marion,
Who tied the British in revolutionary knots down Carolina way.
Southerners captured the North's Merrimack, renamed the ship Virginia,
Then armored it for a clash with the Union's ironclad.
Marion Drive crosses Sunset Boulevard.
When actress Ruth Marion died in Carmel last week,
The L.A. Times praised her as "a stroke of good luck to her friends."
Her screen-star father had romanced Greta Garbo.
Jazz Age-script whiz Frances Marion earned Academy Awards.
I had not heard of the Hollywood Marions.
Costa Mesa, California, has a Merrimac Street.
In Missouri, one river is called Meramac.
The word can mean "Strong Place" in Algonkian,
Language of tribes from Massachusetts to the Rockies:
Pawtucket, Pemigewasset, Ojibawa, Cree, Fox
Shawnee, Arapahoe, Wamesit, and Blackfoot.


Most importantly, to Today's book of poetry, is how Marion is doing all this hard work and still coming up with poems that read like apple pie, peach pie, cherry pie, American Pie.  Paul Marion's Union River is tackling Ken Burns documentary territory in an attempt to tell the American story with as much unfettered and unfiltered honesty as his lens will endure.  These are fine poems and damned good stories.

The morning read here at Today's book of poetry was held under some minor duress.  It's a holiday weekend here in Canada and even though each and every one of our considerate and considerable staff is a complete heathen they all claimed religious fevers of one sort or another and abandoned their posts with considerable haste yesterday afternoon.  Only Max, our Sr. Editor, remains in the office today - and he was drunk on communal wine and rum-balls when I first opened the door to his dark cavern around eight this morning.  He was mumbling about the double-space after a period and whether the name Stormy was going to ruin weather based nom de plumes for the considerable future.

Harry at the Lowell Conference

He kept telling us he dropped out of high school, but Harry spoke as well
as any old politician at a hotel banquet. He asked why the U.S.A. and
South Africa are the only modern countries without national health care.
He called Reagan "a turkey" and described a White House full of smoky
mirrors. Harry Callahan of the Industrial Workers said Nancy's idea of
cruel and unusual punishment is being dragged to Sears and forced to
pick a dress off the rack.
     Harry isn't sure Labor should be a political party, but won't rule
it out. "We're like rats," he said, "and when cornered, we'll fight -- fight
dirty if needed." Harry went to the Soviet Union. He said they have
hearts and put pants on the same way we do. "Why shouldn't I go to
learn something? The Pepsi and Caterpillar executives go twice a month."
He wonders why Americans don't know history. He said most people
want to be in unions, but aren't -- people can see that union workers
make more a week.
     Harry said, "The democracy has problems. There's no democracy
at work -- never has been. American businessmen want authoritarian
systems at work." He said he might be the first guy to put a bullet between
the eyes of a capitalist if the fight goes to the street. He tells that to
businessmen, he said, and they listen, confident that it will never happen.


Today's book of poetry was very impressed with the passionate voice of Paul Marion and the reasonable speech of his sound and hearty Union River.  This is mature poetry and flawless story-telling from a first rate poet.

Image result for paul marion photo

Paul Marion

Paul Marion is the author of several collections of poetry, including Strong Place (1984) and What Is the City? (2006), and editor of Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac (Viking/Penguin, 1999), which has been published in translation in Italy (Mondadori) and France (DeNoel). His book Mill Power: The Origin and Impact of Lowell National Historical Park (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) documents the making of a new kind of national park in Lowell, all told in the context of the city’s notable urban renaissance since 1970. A new collection of poems and sketches, Union River, is due in 2017 from Bootstrap Press. The book is a lyrical Americana address spanning 40 years of writing.

His poems and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Bohemian (Japan), Bostonia, The Café Review, Slate, Carolina Quarterly, The Christian Science Monitor, The Massachusetts Review, Public Art Review, Salamander, The Salmon Literary Quarterly (Ireland), Wisconsin Review, Yankee, and several anthologies, including For A Living: The Poetry of Work (University of Illinois Press), French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets (Louisiana Literature Press), Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems (Southern Illinois University Press), Québec Kérouac Blues (Canada), and Visiting Frost: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Robert Frost (University of Iowa Press).


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, March 27, 2018

Loving from the Backbone - Catherine Arra (Flutter Press) + Slamming & Spitting - Catherine Arra (Circle In The Woods Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Loving From the Backbone.  Catherine Arra.  Flutter Press.  San Jacinto, California.  2015.

Today's book of poetry:
Slamming & Spitting.  Catherine Arra.  Circle In The Woods Press.  2016. (2nd Edition.  First published by Red Ochre Press)

His Offer

He places a clear glass bowl in the center
of the breakfast bar, fills it
with lettuces, arugula, silky purples and greens.
He washes and slices a plump yellow pepper
dashes its brilliance into the crispy leaf bed.
A wizard concocting a potion
he tumbles all together, anointing his offer
with fragrant vinegar, virgin oil.
He hands me a fork with the sweet fall of his lashes
inviting me to dine.


Well Loving from the Backbone certainly starts off sweetly enough.  Love poems that would draw the birds out of the trees.  But surprisingly that doesn't last and when it all comes falling down Catherine Arra certainly has something to say about that.  

We all know that love, when it comes sex-wrapped and drooling with lust's vice-grip talons, circumstances will kindly rip you a new one.  The blurbs on the back of Loving from the Backbone might lead the reader to believe that there is gentle work afoot but Today's book of poetry recognizes Arra's tone and sees the iron fist under the velvet glove.

Blind Passage

          They do not scratch, they do not tear;
                    their massive blood
          moves as moon-tides, near, more near,
                    till they touch in flood.
                                                        D.H. Lawrence
                                                        from The Elephant is Slow to Mate

Where in this brain
or when in hope for good love at last
did I make the rule
I could write only sweet when I wrote about you?
Verse to exalt you, sigh your sensual prowess
odes to immortalize your basic male parts?
What about the mid-ways I've crossed alone
apologies swallowed by dial tones?
What about priorities that wrung me under
property, ambition, past lovers, friends?
What about the gall I've rustled into dinner
the rage into quiet forgiving?
Where is this body
or these carapaced holes of a tattered psyche
did I find the childhood
to love you so blindly or at all?
Is it the rising of your sex above the silk
and the arching of my crooked spine?
Is it blindness that tunnels intellect
or instinct that moves the elephant to mate?


Loving from the Backbone becomes a torrid and delightful reckoning of that on-going battle between the sheets and everywhere else in the house.  Catherine Arras protagonist leaps back into the fray with the experienced arms of a fervid Venus.

Arra can whip up a carnal frenzy with the best of 'em and Loving from the Backbone dares to accurately deconstruct it all for the poetry world so that Arra can continue this dance with considerable panache.

Refrigerator Poem

Love you under my peach
and behind
on top
nearing and always
Honey, please do scream through me like forest sun.


Slamming & Spitting, the second Catherine Arra chapbook that Today's book of poetry is tackling today starts at the bottom.  Arra opens up the abyss and invites us in for a look as she attempts to end difficult love with grace and endevours to move forward.  Slamming & Spitting starts with a relationship ending amid much regret.  All of memories best angels haunt the separation dreams of night, these poems let you know that the loss feels like a hidden finger weighing down the scale.

Slamming & Spitting

In 1913, Niels Bohr made a metaphor
          reached across decades to a fifth-grade girl.

His atom with its nucleus of protons and neutrons
          chalked on the blackboard in blue and pink
          danced inside dances of yellow ornaments.

It's pretty, she thought
          She would remember it
not the science - the idea, the unwritten law
making it appear so and somehow obeyed.

          Even Einstein agreed and
          called Bohr's atom music.

Living, she discovered, was a theory
          of something like atoms
          a super-collider adventure of slamming and spitting
          speeding and slowing, or annihilating parts
          back to primordial silence.

No matter
          Bohr's picture was blasted out of contention
          twelve years after he drew it.

No matter
          it was replaced with no picture at all - a condition
          like poetry before it's written.


By the end of Slamming & Spitting Arra has reckoned with her crisis, worked for atonement and has come out the other side whole, it not disheveled.  Some of us never make it to shore from that murky water, so often slipping under bitter water with shore in sight.

Our morning read was a lot of fun.  Catherine Arra isn't shy about having a few fireworks in her poetry parade and these two chapbooks got rolled over with some energetic fever.

Things That Collapse

Sunflowers in mid-September
heavy heads bowed low to the roots
of crippled stems.

A seventy-foot maple
under the chainsaw's wedge.

The temples of antiquity
when pagan gods fell to the order of one.

A cardboard box
flattened corner by corner.

Fruits and vegetables
too long without water.

Balloons, lungs, old skin.

An ocean wave rolled to a hiss,.
An avalanche waterfalled, dominos downed
sand sculptures.

The horses in Gone With the Wind and True Grit.

 A universe that stops expanding
a body that stops breathing.
A marriage.


Catherine Arra impressed Today's book of poetry with Loving from the Backbone and her encore, Slamming & Spitting provided all the additional evidence we needed.  Catherine Arra is a Today's book of poetry kind of poet: honest, crisp, honest, passionate and so on....

We're in.

Catherine Arra

Catherine Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. A former English and writing teacher, she now teaches part time, facilitates a local writers’ group and spends winters on the Space Coast of Florida. Although a writer from teenage years, only after she left the classroom in 2012 has she had the time to both write and publish.

Her chapbooks are:

Slamming & Splitting, a 2013 winner of the Red Ochre Press Chapbook Contest, (Red Ochre Press, 2014), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015) and Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

The Fall of American Democracry Anthology Reading
August 25, 2017
Stone Ridge, New York
Cartheigh Coffee

Catherine Arra reads
along with Roger Aplon, Mike Jurkovic and Cheryl A. Rice.
Video: Calling All Poets Series



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, March 25, 2018

Many Parishes - Adrian Koesters (BrickHouse Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Many Parishes.  Adrian Koesters.  BrickHouse Books.  Baltimore, Maryland.  2013.

Today's book of poetry will get to Adrian Koesters superb Many Parishes in a moment.  

We wanted to take a brief moment to mention David Steingass.  Our southern correspondent David Clewell has opened eyes around here with his recommendations and insist-upons.  David "Twangster" Clewell happened to mention recently that David Steingass had been an important mentor to him.  As is happens we had an early book by Steingass on hand, Body Compass (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1969), and took it down as soon as we got the word from Clewell.  

Consider this as a toast to Mr. Steingass and a tip of the hat to our southern friend.

Daydream  -  David Steingass

As a boy,
I thought no one could speak
Until he had learned.
I crept to the birds
And listened with my mouth
Open. I imagined
The birds were standing
In my mouth.


Adrian Koesters splendid Many Parishes is really three books in one.  Koesters must have realized this as she has neatly gathered these poems into three sections in her book; "Parochial World," "The Nuns Who Never Existed" and "Many Parishes."

Along the way Koesters tackles all the big subjects; love, sex and death.  But she's even better in the underbrush of grief, the shadow of doubt and then the strong and reassuring voice of reason waltzes in like she owned the place.  These poems not only work hard, they work on the page.

Sonnet for SoWeBo

The ten-year-old spinster sits on the back roof
          looking out on to a frame of wire and windows
lined with cotton underwear and lingerie,
          fathers smoking out onto the slips and housecoats
shaded by trees not even God intended to bring
          out of the Garden. She leans out in her undershirt, she
hears a radio, crooning something foreign and new
          from Lemmon Street where her colored sitter lives,

and she shrinks from the men who crawl along the back gates
          to beckon: "Come on down, sweetheart, I got something
over here to show you," and when she waits to come to them,
          they snarl and command as if she owed it,
because she is small and they are not,
          because they are exposed and need a hand.


Koesters is searching for the "secret answer" and until she finds it she's willing to implicate every suspicion.  In Koesters world it is her "deeply spiritual" intuition that spirals through these poems like a Spirograph of knowing.  She does find answers along the way but most of them lead to more questions.

Koester climbs that ladder until these poems emerge somewhat pure of heart and hellbent on securing reason.  Adrian Koester knows that to learn a real lesson there may be real pain in the answer and still she pushes to that end.  Today's book of poetry ultimately thinks that Koesters is a realistic optimist.

Following Intentions

Feeling accidents, dead of
winter, new year's remorse,
uncertain return
of love. We anticipate
but ought to predict, as when
the second clementine tastes
as sweet as the first, the web
of yellow veins pulls easy
from the fruit, the half-bottom
sections divulge everyday
secrets in the pale juice. As
it is, there are rooms
to be cleaned, the bed
made up, relatives to phone.
If you were one of these,
the rest would be easy;
as it is, I don't pretend to more
than step down, breathe out,
smooth up.


Our morning read was a rather mixed affair with a surprising number of people running about and through the Today's book of poetry offices.  Earlier today our Sr. Editor, Max, saved a catastrophe when he stopped me from posting an entirely new post about a chapbook that we had already covered.  The entire chapbook had been reproduced in its entirety in a larger volume that Today's book of poetry had already posted a blog about.  My brain is old and stupid.

Adrian Koesters snapped me out of that daze and provided ample material for our staff to let their ya-ya's out.  We included Koesters more recent Three Days with the Long Moon (Brickhouse Books, 2017), in our morning read.  We're hoping that Koesters more recent title will be fodder for the future Today's book of poetry poetry machine.

In Another Winter
           for Boyd Benson

We take this child we call belief, stand
it up against the darker children,
make it behave in rounder consonants,

as if there were soft ways
to see into the sky. All the green stains
I have loved seep into shirttails
pressed too long into the field

where sometimes the corn flecks,
at others stubble frosts over and is glad. Pretty,
how pretty it all might be,

in winter, as a January afternoon
folds over into February, and the darkness
explains itself, takes its threat
and curves it into a pocket:

the jacks, balls, and marbles at rest
under thrifty fingers not ready,
yet, to hold softer hands than these.


Today's book of poetry was somewhat enchanted to be in Adrian Koesters world, as dark and tumultuous as that sometimes is.  Koesters is in their asking that hard question.  As it sometimes happens with one book or another, an author opens a door and invites you in.  Koesters world was entirely worth the visit.

Image result for adrian koesters photo

Adrian Koesters

Adrian Koesters is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She attended high school in Bellingham, Washington, and has lived most of her life in Nebraska, where she has worked in Omaha and Lincoln as a high school teacher, secretary, sign language interpreter, academic advisor, editorial specialist, and university professor. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, and a Ph.D. in English (fiction and poetry writing) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she was an assistant editor in Poetry for Prairie Schooner magazine and an assistant editor for Ted Kooser’s syndicated newspaper column, "American Life in Poetry.”She has taught creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Creighton University, and currently works as a research editorial specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“Koesters’ Many Parishes is an original. The poems seem to smack the hard-ass contemporary world up against a deep spiritual sense, until we see they’re one and the same. Adrian Koesters is able to write of men calling out to a ten-year old ‘spinster’ to ‘come on down, sweetheart, I got something over here to show you,’ and allow us to feel in her small, frightened heart the identical anguish of soul as in the nun who’s ‘divided from the principalities and goes in terror of them.’ These poems, like the nuns, ‘take things personally.’ They’re lyrical confessions of the deepest griefs—abuse, divorce, doubt, and loneliness. They provide absolution, and positively joy, in their skillful and lucid singing.” 
      —Fleda Brown, author of No Need of Sympathy

Adrian Koesters
"Sonnet for SoWeBo"
Video courtesy: BrickHouse Books



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, March 21, 2018

Poems From the Planet Crouton - Wayne F. Burke (Epic Rites Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Poems From the Planet Crouton.  Wayne F. Burke.  Epic Rites Press.  Tree Killer Ink.  Punk Chapbook Series.  2017.


Okay, I've just read Poems From the Planet Crouton for the third time and I guess that alone should tell you everything you need to know.  Today's book of poetry was interested enough to take Poems From the Planet Crouton around the track.  Of course Today's book of poetry is now familiar with Mr. Burke, we have some experience inside of Burke books, two of his earlier titles, Dickhead (BareBack Press, 2015) and Knuckle Sandwiches (BareBack Press, 2016), have graced our pages.

You can see those two Today's book of poetry offerings here:

Poems From the Planet Crouton is more of the same strong stuff and it is a hard sell.  This is Charles Bukowski in some of less hospitable moments, an angry Milton Acorn throwing beer in ire and indignation.  Wayne F. Burke likes to stir the pot, throw gasoline on the fire.


I wore sneakers while growing up,
nothing but;
shoes were only for church
and had to last
no one was eager to put up 20 bucks
for new shoes
or for anything else;
I got two pair of new pants at
the start of each school year,
one I wore two days in a row
the other three days
and reversed the order
the following week;
one day
while waiting for the school bus on the steps
of the grocery store
Mahoney the wise guy glue-sniffer thief
said to me: "At least I have more than two pair
of pants,"
and I said "Well, we can't all have a wardrobe like
which got a big laugh
and caused Mahoney to 
hate my guts
more than he already


Burke is dissatisfied, disengaged, disinterested and disturbing.  It is persona or persona non grata?  Wayne F. Burke doesn't care and neither does Today's book of poetry.  Burke really does seem to embody a Chinaski ethic/ethos in these subterranean bluesick home-spun yarns of dispossessed indifference.

Today's book of poetry doesn't think that Wayne F. Burke has a heart of darkened cinder but we are convinced he doesn't live anywhere near Mr. Rogers.  It's not malevolence but there is a certain dark malice to Burke's undertoad.

And Today's book of poetry would be remiss if we didn't tell you that Burke and our office has had some correspondence since the posting of our blog/review about Dickhead.  Burke seems as consistent in his letters as he is real in his poems.


My Uncle tells me to go
bring back his bowling shirt
white with gold letters
yes master
right away
but I hesitate too long
and feel the pinch of his fingers
like pliers
on my earlobe
and am led around
the table
a kind of dance
not a waltz
a tango
of pain
that does not end
when he lets go
I carry it with me
up the stairs
and back down
through the years
the gold of the shirt
staining my hands
and nothing I could or
can do
to get the stain out.


This poem left Today's book of poetry in a cold sweat with the understated menace and stoic acceptance of circumstance endured and implied.

Another corker reading here in our offices this morning.  Our new intern, Maggie, insisted that the men should do the reading this morning while she led the women in a robust cat-calling, cursing fusillade of industrious feminist indignation mixed with equal shares of ribald and raucous rollicking roars of poetic approval.  

Wayne F. Burke may be a challenge for the faintest of heart but Today's book of poetry continues to be entertained by the bright light intensity of the honesty in his voice.  Burke's voice never falters or uses a reverse gear.  It is hell or high water.

A better place

No corpse
just a box
with her ashes
in it
and her picture on the wall;
she went up in flames
to wherever--
a dark-eyed over-sized priest
who looks as if he stepped
from "The Godfather" movie
says that she is in Heaven
with Christ;
my older brother gives a eulogy
that brings a tear to my eye
and causes my sister-in-law to weep;
there is nothing else for anyone
to say
except for the priest
who insists that she is in
a better place,
to which
no one disagrees;
we put our coats on
and shuffle out the door
for the eats
at a restaurant which
none of us has been to
since the last funeral.


Today's book of poetry worked at the Canada Council Art Bank for a few days recently and was reminded in the most spectacular way that there is beauty and poetry everywhere we care to look.

While at the Art Bank I was working under the guidance of the sage old master-craftsman Michael the Hewko.  Hewko also built the beautiful shelves that line my office from floor to ceiling.  With his last installation of my shelves he left, on the one exposed shelf side, a brass set of numbers that act as a brace for the shelf and as a decoration, they look splendid.  But he installed these shelves some time ago and he still hasn't told me what the number "415" means.  Leaving work yesterday the beautiful old bastard handed me a small piece of folded paper and said that I wasn't to read it until he was out of sight.  Not sure where he got the quote:

      "Information is the transmission of meaning.  When information is randomized, meaning
        cannot be transmitted, and we have a state of entropy."

It strikes me that Michael the Hewko and Wayne F. Burke are cut out of the same misanthropic cloth.  Poems From the Planet Crouton are all about the transmission of meaning, in a direct clear line straight to the vanishing point.

Image result for wayne f. burke poet photo

Wayne F. Burke

Not once as a kid growing up in a small mill-town in the hills of North Berkshire County, Massachusetts, did I think of becoming a poet. I wanted to become a Major League Baseball player, and if I could have hit a curve-ball with more facility than I showed, I might have become one. Or maybe not: I had a lot of other things beside baseball on my mind in adolescence. Not poetry though. Only in college did poetry show up, for me, on the radar screen. My college roommate, a tough guy from a similar background as mine, and also an ex-jock like me, not only wrote poetry but read what he wrote to whomever would listen. He was beautiful; militant in his advocacy of poetry, and because of his example I began my first attempts to write a poem. I was nineteen at the time and at my second college and destined to attend two more before awarded a "Bachelor of Arts" degree quantifying me a totally worthless entity to the business and commercial world. A world I remained on the periphery of and low-down on the food chain for a number of years--years during which I thought more about writing poetry then actually writing any. Years in which the idea of being a poet was more enticing to me--and far easier--than doing the work involved in becoming a poet (or even a facsimile thereof). At some point in my later 30's--the exact chronology is beyond me--I published a few poems, but poetry was a sort of sideline to me; prose was what I worked at. Rather than poet, I considered myself scholar, critic, and future novelist. That I was 3rd rate as scholar, 2nd rate as critic, and unrated as novelist, did not deter me. I published two books of literary criticism in my 40's, and had numerous book reviews, articles, and some short stories published during my 50's...And then I gave up. Quit. Stopped writing and concentrated on drawing pictures; also went to nursing school and became licensed as an LPN. And then I had a heart attack. Or what I thought a heart attack, later diagnosed as arterial heart disease. Serendipitously, as I see it, I had begun writing again, strictly poetry, just previous to my diagnoses, and after by-pass surgery (triple though I was shooting for quintuple) I began writing daily and with a sort of vengeance. A schedule I have followed these past two years and one that has resulted in my recently published book (June 1, 2015) as well as a previously published volume and at least one future volume (now in larval stage).

Wayne F. Burke
Video: BareBack Press



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, March 18, 2018

Itzhak Perlman's Broken String - Jacqueline Jules (Evening Street Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Itzhak Perlman's Broken String.  Jacqueline Jules.  Evening Street Press.  Sacramento, California.  2017.


The legend of Itzhak Perlman's broken string is certainly worth knowing and Jacqueline Jules quite naturally starts this book off with a brief explanation.  It's a moving story, a great anecdote and a marvelous metaphor chalked full of portent.  It's a corker about perseverance, the nature of creativity and adaptability.  This story provides Jules with all she needs for ballast as she plunges into poems about the nature of grief and loss in a world full of brevity.

Jacqueline Jules is writing about grief and about how loss moves in and takes over the steering of the ship.  For my generation, born in the '50s, these are common enough waters, so many of our friends, family and loved ones have slipped beneath the waves, slipped away from this mortal coil.

Letter to 30 Year Old Self

Time recolors every red moment to pale blue.

The colleague who called you "anal"
was correct. The teacher who criticized
your two year old was tactless but on target.

A broken car on the day of a big interview
may not be the worst luck you have.
There are bigger monsters under the bed
and when they reach for your neck
with large bony digits you will regret
past grief over stained white pants
and stolen credit cards.

Patience buys more sleep than pills.

Answers not yet available
should be tucked beneath the pillow
like a baby tooth for the fairy.

Every life is lived on a high wire,
strung over the treetops,
just below the clouds.

Don't expect to feel safe.

Put one slippered foot in front of the other
and balance, arms extended,
for as long as you can.


Today's book of poetry made a point of playing some Itzhak Perlman recordings while the gang were hammering today's blog together.  As much as we love his playing on John Williams soundtrack for Schindler's List, we went a little more classical today.  Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 - featuring Itzhak Perlman.  That certainly set a tone.

Some of the greatest works of art are about loss and grief.  Today's book of poetry thinks of Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 [“Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”], Op. 36 or Pablo Picasso's Guernica.

Jacqueline Jules isn't forgiving anyone in Itzhak Perlman's Broken String for her despair.  Loss leaves everything less vivid and when hope does appear it comes at a terrible cost.  Jules is able to keep the tension taut in Itzhak Perlman's Broken String without ever breaking the string or alienating her audience with the sad tentacles of her on-going dismay.

The Mystery of Falling Objects

They say an apple
from his mother's garden
hit him on the head.

Created the "Eureka Moment"
when all became clear, a fundamental
law of nature revealed.

Though I find it hard to believe
no one noticed before Isaac Newton
that a glass thrown in anger
sinks to the floor. Somehow
we needed Newton's math to prove
we are vulnerable to falling objects.

At least until Einstein came along
with a theory most can quote
but few profess to comprehend.

Gravity, the reason why
everything on earth is pulled
by unknown forces. Why Prayer
cannot modify what is meant to be.

Yet both Science and Faith insist
nothing is random,
and the universe must be forgiven
when one falling body floats in the air
and another crashes with a deafening thud.


Another splendid morning read at the Today's book of poetry offices.  Maggie, our new intern, has been quite enthusiastic about our policy of a morning read of the day's poet.  She invited her friends Tomas and Frieda to join in today's read and they both did themselves proud.

Jacqueline Jules writes the type of poetry we like best here at Today's book of poetry.  It is immediately accessible, emotionally implicating and ultimately entirely rewarding.  These poems go straight to that part of our hearts that knows grief and all of his sad friends.

Dry Needling

If you stick a needle
in a hyper-irritable spot,
taut muscles will relax,
my therapist says.

I laugh at his silly plan.
Better to tease a tiger
than poke the pain.

My therapist insists.

Find the trigger. Stick
a needle in the spot.
Push till you feel
your grief twist
and twitch.

Disrupt the spasm
pinching the nerve
tighter and tighter.


Jacqueline Jules is a prolific author with over 40 titles in various genres to her credit but so far, only a couple of chapbooks of her fine poetry.  Today's book of poetry would enthusiastically welcome more poetry from Jules.  Like Itzhak Perlman, Jules is able to continue to create beauty even after one of her strings has been broken.


Jacqueline Jules

Jacqueline Jules is a former librarian, who was intrigued by every book she put on the shelf. As a reader and as a writer, she does not restrict herself to one genre.
She is the author of 40 books for young readers on a wide variety of topics, including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, Feathers for Peacock, and Never Say a Mean Word Again.
Her poetry has appeared in over a hundred publications including Evening Street Review,Inkwell, Poetica, Killing the Angel, Soundings Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Potomac Review, Imitation Fruit, Calyx, Broadkill Review, and Pirene's Fountain.
She has received the Library of Virginia Cardozo Award, the Spirit First Poetry Award, the Sydney Taylor Honor Award, an Aesop Accolade, the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award, and the Arlington Arts Moving Words Award.
Her poetry chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press) and Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), were released in 2014. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband where she spends most of her time exercising, reading, and writing. Visit her author website at and her teaching tips blog, Pencil Tips Writing Workshop at

In the apocryphal story told about Yitzhak Perlman during his concert at Lincoln Center in 1995 when one of the four violin strings suddenly tore, and he proceeded to reconceive and play the entire work with three remaining strings, he said that “sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can make with what you have left.” If ever there were a work that explores the aftermath of loss, it is this powerful and highly original collection by Jacqueline Jules. “Every life is lived on a high wire,/ strung over the treetops…//Don’t expect to feel safe.” The poet reminds us not to waste time grieving over “stolen credit cards” and a “broken car on the day of a big interview.” Reminds us how “Joy sits on a seesaw with Grief.” If it’s divinity we seek, best we gather the “stone tablets” and carry them through the wilderness of time. Consolation can be “sunlight/streaming through/serrated shapes…like fingers” that “wipe” away “tears.”
—Myra Sklarew, Author of Lithuania: New & Selected Poems

What plucks at the heart strings of Jacqueline Jules’ intense poems of Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String is a dialectic between faith and loss where science mediates. “Both Science and Faith insist/ nothing is random.” Grief is a squatter—an unwanted presence after friends and family leave the bereaved. The poet dares to challenge Jean-Paul Sartre on despair and suggests to the physical therapist “better to tease a tiger/ than poke a pain.” Everything connects: Emily Dickinson, vending machines, a gypsy girl with rocks in her pockets who steps into a river. This is a smart and smarting journey through the human condition.
—Karren L. Alenier, author of The Anima of Paul Bowles

This lovely and moving collection explores what happens when grief is chronic. After the shock of initial loss, when grief becomes a daily companion, we must learn, as Jacqueline Jules wisely writes, to find music in our crippled instruments. Like Jean-Paul Sartre, we “cross that cruel river”; like Isaac Newton, our personal math proves “we are vulnerable to falling objects.”
—Kim Roberts, founding editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly

"Stronger Than Cleopatra"
Jacqueline Jules
Video:  ELJ Publications: Title Art



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, March 16, 2018

Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us - Allan Cooper (Gaspereau Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us.  Allan Cooper.  Gaspereau Press.  Kentville, New Brunswick.  2017,

Allan Cooper's Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us is a little like walking into a log-fire warmed home where you know you are welcome.  The opening section of Cooper's thoughtful and tender volume reads like an open letter to his granddaughter and his daughter.  But they could be the children of anyone, these themes are universal.  

Cooper's poem "Standing At The Open Door" is a joyous yawp of observant optimism and we can all use a good dose of that these days.  Allan Cooper would have us believe that there is much more to be celebrated beyond beauty.  Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us will tell you "What the Cricket Said," and "The Young Raccoon," and "The Heron Flying."

They are all saying a different version of the same Walt Whitman grassy thing.  If Allan Cooper had a mantra it might be to take joy in the present and to celebrate the simplest gifts with grace.  Cooper is almost Zen, almost beatific, in his willingness to wait for the quiet moment simply so he can celebrate it with hope carefully disguised as an appreciation.

Hinges and Latches

I stop at the door in the middle of the night
to make sure the old cat is still breathing.
I will do this many times before I sleep.

I like hinges and latches,
the way the key clicks in the lock
before I open the cabin door.

What's this on the table? Someone has
brought me a gift: daisies and vetch,
goldenrod opening the doorways of the fall.

My child, bundle up this love
I have for you. What we carry with us
to the end is enough.

My father was standing at the open door
the moment you were born. Although
he'd been gone a long, still I felt him there.


Cooper's "Requiem" for his father stands alone as a tribute and a testament to the power of love and how it seeps through the generations with a great undercurrent.  Cooper muses about heaven but by now we know that Cooper believes heaven is on earth.  Somewhere between youthful promise and the jubilee Cooper sees in the eyes of his granddaughter and the memory of his father's gaze -- Cooper realizes the fleeting nature of chance and the true celebrations are always those of the heart.

This is no big leap for Cooper.  We had Milo, our head tech, head in to the stacks because I knew we had some Cooper gold.  Milo came back with Blood Lines (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1979), Poems Released on a Nuclear Wind (Pottersfield Press, 1987) and The Deer Yard (co-written with Harry Thurston, Gaspereau Press, 2013).  I remembered reading Cooper back in my Acme Art & Sailboat days and thinking that I would die to have a book with Fiddlehead.

Take a look at this gem from Poems Released on a Nuclear Wind.  Cooper has been playing with the same carefully considered tool box for a long, long time.

The Bee Leaves The Deep Flower Reluctantly

I think of so many things
contained by this cold:

old berries and poplar catkins
beneath the ice

the bones of a mole,

a day in 1965
when I played after school
the red shovel
tunnelling through a drift,

and overhead
the tiny crystals
sounding in every flake of falling snow.

     *              *           *

There is no moment that has more weight
than a child's:

moment of summer filled with the promise
of forever,

the smell of fresh grass, and a cricket singing,

the hand of my grandfather leading me
down to a river, through beech and alder,

a river
flowing always

         *           *           *

Basho said,

the bee leaves
the deep flower

Look inside a nest
inside a stone
or tree...

is inward
and divine.


And this, thirty years later, from Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us.

The Wild Clover Plant

There must be some reason why this earth keeps
on breathing. It must be out there somewhere
in the long grass, in the tiniest insect's carapace.

You used to come and get me to show me
the small garter snakes beside the foundation.
In your way, you gave me childhood's second chance.

The yellow mushrooms have gathered in a fairy ring
around the old spruce. When we stand inside it,
I tell you anything can happen.

There are times when I've drunk the dregs of grief.
But I'd rather be the silly man -- arms akimbo --
dancing in the middle of the kitchen floor.

When I say I'm in love with the world, I mean it.
Even the lonely bead of dew on the wild clover
seems enough to feed the world.


Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us is like a drink of ice-cold well-water on a sweaty-hot day.  These poems are clear to see through and pure when put to the poetry bullshit barometer.  

[Milo recently insisted we have one installed, to quote Milo's favourite movie character, "Just in cases."]

Everyone chimed in happy on the morning read today.  Our new intern Maggie led with an enthusiastic charge.  Maggie has only recently joined the Today's book of poetry staff.  We found Maggie in the poetry section of Black Squirrel Books here in Ottawa.  Every city needs a Black Squirrel Books and Ottawa is certainly grateful for all they do for the literary community.  Maggie told Today's book of poetry that her current favourite poets were Susan Musgrave, Sue Goyette and Eileen Myles.  We hired her on the spot.

The Invisible Book

     What is the language using us for?
           - W. S. GRAHAM

The invisible book
writes itself
whether we know it or not.
It's in love with the small things we abandon.


I like sentences that begin with rain
and end in silence.
The stones love it too,
and the white rabbit feeding at the edge of the field.


Heaven can wait,
But I seem to find it
in the fox sparrows
kicking up bugs from the leaves.


No one knows when the last word will come.
That's why I talk so much.
Let's spend the rest of the day with a stone Buddha,
who is always silent, always aware.


I can deal with silence, and age,
two or three books on my shelf.
I want to wander with Rilke near the dark roses.
I want to tell Hesse our homesickness will never end.


I'd like to take a little walk
that ends at water.
All the roads inside me
are turning to sand.


The earth breathes evenly,
takes everything inside: the bones
of a vole, the blue shadow hiding
inside an empty snail shell.


The brook sound reminds me
of the earth's hands,
holding everything steady.
What catches the earth when it falls?


I want to be playful with the light,
show it my shadow in late afternoon.
At night I am the lone presence
moving from room to room.


Night comes. The whole field
is soaked with dew.
Lovers don't mind: they spend
the night wrapped in a cocoon of light.


I step outside to take in
the moon, the clouds, a little wind.
Someone keeps changing my name,
and the small things I fall in love with.


Don't worry,
someone looks over us.
It would be a shame if the world
were a garden where nothing ever grew.


I am the voice that never leaves you.
I am the hand that never sleeps.
I am the voice of the wild grass ripening
the shade inside the light.


It's a good thing that the earth
shakes itself now and then, like a giant
waking from sleep. In the earth's cells,
whole pastures of light are waiting to be born.


Let's be playful, then.
It may be the only way to mend the soul.
A woman stitched it by moonlight
from the sorrows of passion and dew.


Call down the black and white angels of the air.
It may be the only hope we have.
Wings keep turning the pages of the invisible book
that we glimpse but may never know.


Today's book of poetry reminded everyone on our staff that we had purchased our first Allan Cooper title, Blood Lines, before ANY of them were born.  Now almost forty years later Today's book of poetry is proud to share Allan Cooper's most recent title with all of you.  In truth, not much has changed: Mr. Cooper's poems remain instantly engaging and inspirationally humane.

Allan Cooper has found what he was looking for, it is our great pleasure to share it.  Everything We've Loved Comes Back To Find Us is a book of poetry that soothes where our souls ache.  This is always a welcomed tonic.

Allan Cooper

Allan Cooper has published over a dozen books of poetry, most recently The Deer Yard (with Harry Thurston) and The Alma Elegies. He has twice won the Alfred G. Bailey Award for poetry. He is the founder of Owl's Head Press and has been the editor of the intermittently-published literary journal Germination since 1982. Cooper is also a songwriter and performer. He divides his time between Riverview and Alma, NB.



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