Thursday, May 31, 2018

Declassified — Mariela Griffor (Eyewear Publishing Ltd.)

Today's book of poetry:
Declassified.  Mariela Griffor.  Eyewear Publishing Ltd.  Marylebone, London, U.K.

Declassified by Mariela Griffor is bursting at the seams with ideas, imagery and outside influences.  A short retinue of guest stars has to include:  Nelson Mandela, William S. Burroughs, George Orwell, Sappho, Kurt Cobain, David Foster Wallace, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Sofia Kovalevskaya, Sylvia Plath, James Joyce, Henry David Thoreau, Ariel Dorfman and Marcel Proust.

Regardless of the guests, in the end these are poems of love and loss.  Every highway we know has ditches littered with the ruined and rusty hulks of what someone once called hope.  Or at least the wire-fenced, flower adorned, temporary altar, a reminder of someone's worst moment, another person's worst loss.


May 20, 2014
For Regina Derieva

We never met; we never spoke to each other
except through the immigrant song of Jan Johansson,
we knew we were united in
indestructible fibers of life breathing
in and breathing out, marching
to the sound of old days, in countries
that remind us of our own countries,
speaking old languages, that remind us of our own tongues,
we became so suddenly eternal tourists with a right to vote.

It was a time in my life when I stopped laughing
and I knew you did too. I could see it
in the photographs of magazines and
journals where new poems by you were published.
I knew what it was to be without a reason to laugh.

So sorry to have to miss you,
well-planned journeys, well they never happened.
I planned several trips to Rinkeby,
a town that I avoided fiercely when
I was there. It is not easy
to be reminded of cut wings, as you know.

My trips to Stockholm were always
the same, Gamla Stan, centrums, H&M
and the Viking Museum, then back to Uppsala.
Rinkeby was a forbidden point,
the limbo of anybody's trajectory.
But had I known then you were there
I would have faced the fear
and visited you.

I love your work. The fresh, naïve
and sweet idea the world can be improved, stained
on the pages everywhere.
I love the way you put the
best of you in your poems. The way
you make yourself at home inside a whale,
the way some of your images cannot
leave my head for days, exactly like
a pop song. The way you make me think
with each line and take me to places
I have never been before.

I love the way that insufferable persistence
of something must change in this
endlessness of war times, this time that
consumes each of us and makes us bend
in the direction of the wind a dozen times per day
as in your poem. I pray for that persistence
to infect everyone who reads you.

I'm sorry to have missed you in this life.
I imagine what great times you and I would have had
if we only had the opportunity and time, and money of course,
don't forget that, to meet.

Silly of me to think we would have had
that cup of coffee in Gamla Stan
and talked about pigeons and old catholic schools,
and how the world is not changing but ending.
Nature has its tricks, and even if we make progress,
it will make us part of its garden. Yes, at least.


Today's book of poetry has always flattered ourselves that we are "experienced."  It is to laugh.  Mariela Griffor's Declassified reminds Today's book of poetry just how sheltered our life has been.  Up until a post-Katrina visit to New Orleans, I had never heard a gun shot from a weapon fired in anger.  I've only heard it once.  Admittedly it was several rapid shots from a pistol followed immediately by three or four quick bursts of machine gun fire in return,

The last rebellion of any kind here in Canada was the failed FLQ operation.  That was when I was young and both Quebec City and Montreal were as far from Peterborough as Mars.  Griffor's Chilean history and her experiences as a political refugee are but one layer of the Griffor onion.

Today's book of poetry was won over quickly, Mariela Griffor has lived through things we cannot begin to imagine and come out the other side clean and hopeful.  How astonishing is that?  People still have to love and tenderness plays a big role in the Griffor canon.

The Last One

Last night I could not sleep,
the children were not at home. They both had
sleepovers. I was tired, too. Too much time away from
grown ups and I know they will be OK, I will move
back. This time, closer to my father, that at that
time will be old and probably very cranky. But
I will move back to spend with him the
time we never could give to each other before.
I will move back to those mountains in between
Pucon and Talcahuano, I will go to the beaches
around. I also plan to write.

I will take walks in San Pedro to
meet those people I saw the last time
when I was there, and I will run to the
Ocean, to touch the black sand of San Pedro,
I will be closer to God, feeling the thick
air of the early morning. I will let the salt
make my face ruggy and I will think about you and
those days in Chiloe, at the End of the Earth.
I also will go and visit my old relatives, those
that are so old that they don't even remember their
ages. I will put back the pieces of that last poem, and
will promise that you will always have a place in my mind.

It's time for you and me to go different
ways. You find the place your soul was longing.
And I will choose to stay here without you and
with the other I love. Just hang out there,
the day to get together is every day shorter,
but now it is time for me to do so much more.
Last night as I said I could not sleep
I knew this would be my last letter and my
last poem for you.


Our morning read was set up by Eric Burden & War belting out the long version of "Spill the Wine."
When Eric quit his temperamental scat, with War throbbing behind him like "hot rings of fire," we got on with our poetry business.

Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, started us off this morning and we were away, Thomas sat in, along with Lucy, our newest intern, and declassified Declassified.

Sometimes the horrors of life confound us innocents, but those rare souls who have had their pearls polished by terrible friction and come out the other side shining write wondrous and brave,  Griffor can write deeply caring and sweet poems, or she can knock on the darkness door. 


Somebody told me this country was hard:
But not this hard.
I didn't believe it because
I came from a hard country myself
and because I lived in other hard
countries so I was not afraid.
I thought we were different yet not
that different. I have nostalgia
for the homeland as I always
did have nostalgia so it was
nothing new. When I started
to see and feel in this new
spooky way and my left eye
started to tremble and I could not
control the movement, like the
most embarrassing tic you can
imagine, I withdrew. The time
began to walk slowly in the
inside and very fast on the outside.
The day after the new election
the bombs and the new troops
didn't stop, we will not talk
about it, because as in my hard
country we don't talk about it.
We can talk only about what
we can talk about and the
rest is just the poor imagination
of dissidents. And how can it be
interesting to talk about what
dissidents talk about if
we already talked about it in the past
elections in the last century. It was
always the same. I do try to see the
good side of living in a hard country
though, so I'm not totally a critic.
I do want to have
my duties, my opinions, and I do
want to see things are changing for
the better, including the economy as
they say on TV. One of the good things
when soldiers come from the front line.
Have you seen the screen of the TV full
of beautiful children running to meet
daddy or mommy coming back? And
the uniform they wear, really beautiful,
no marks of blood or dirt anywhere.
Nobody could guess what
those uniforms can say. Don't take
this the wrong way. I also come
from a family in another hard
country that knows very well
the duty and honour of wearing a uniform
especially this one. What hits me
that hardest is the bouquet
of flowers the soldier brings to his
bride or wife and the running of
this beautiful woman to his side,
the crying every time. Perhaps because
I'm a romantic and I like flowers
or perhaps because I remember his
face destroyed by the hand grenade
he was carrying or the landmine
put in the ground by who knows who.
I guess we will never know. I remember
thinking how much makeup
the mortician had to put
over his face to hide all that
damage. His hair looked good
but those nostril pieces missing
will haunt me forever. See? My
country is also hard. Like
yours. I do think there is
a reason sometimes, yet
most of the time I just think
there is a bigger plot and not
exactly by God or the Devil that things
are this hard. Those who don't
think I'm right, they tell me
to get over it, to adapt, to adjust
and get over it. The ones that think
I'm right, they are mostly silent,
they hide, they don't like my
posts and they avoid
me when I get too difficult.
The problem is that I cannot
adapt and I'm always surprised
seeing more and more people
give in. Yesterday my oldest
child told me in the grocery store
she hated Albanians. Why? I asked
her and she told me, in her building
on the first floor there is a family
of four living in a nine hundred square foot
apartment and all above them can
smell their disgusting food,
bending over to my ear she whispered
and said, I don't like them because they
are all terrorists. And how do you know
that? I asked. Everybody knows that
she responded looking over her
shoulder to show me the Albanian couple
paying at the next cashier. I tell
her that's it. No more. I know I
will adapt. I will write more things
that can be printed and some people
will never read my poems and maybe
I will not think this country is hard
anymore and I will see the positive
side of the whole story and forget.
In the meantime I don't, I'm dangerous
if I remember scars , doorbells,
the sulfur smell of the tear gas
bomb and whistling zig-zag of
bullets coming from an unknown
direction, or if I remember he didn't
have his three left hand fingers.
[But excuse me for a moment,
my friend Cora is at the door,
we need to chat about her French doors
she is getting for her house]
Back to what I was saying:
He used to play the guitar with that hand.
I know they told me this
country was hard but I'm telling
you the truth when I say, nobody
really told me it was this hard.


Today's book of poetry has a soft spot for Chilean poets.  Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval (1914-2018), is an all-time favourite here in our offices.  Mariela Griffor will have the recently interred centenarian Parra, smiling, at the very least, a certain sly grin.  Griffor is that hard as nails poet with a gentle and loving human heart.


Image result for mariela griffor photo

Mariela Griffor

Mariela Griffor is the author of The Psychiatrist (Eyewear Publishing, 2013) and translator of Canto General by Pablo Neruda (Tupelo Press, 2016). She attended the University of Santiago and the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. She left Chile for an involuntary exile in Sweden in 1985. She is publisher of Marick Press. Her work has appeared in periodicals across Latin America and the United States. Griffor holds a B.A in Journalism and a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New England College. 

“Mariela Griffor’s brilliant poems navigate the distance between languages, homelands and heartlands. Her poems are the musical and engraved declarations the wounded world requires.”
     — Derick Burleson

Ma demeure brûle
5 Poems by Mariela Griffor
Video:  LOrigineDuMondeTV


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, May 28, 2018

Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting — Shivanee Ramlochan (Peepal Tree Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting.  Shivanee Ramlochan.  Peepal Tree Press.  Leeds, U.K.  2017.

"You tell him
I am the queen
the comeuppance
the hard heretic that nature intended."
                                                                                      from - Vivek Chooses Her Husband

Today's book of poetry is unsure of what to say about the flame content of these poems.  The poems in Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting come in heavy and hot.  Shivanee Ramlochan is singing in a new key, these poems, a new language - but familiar.  Ramlochan is "the hard heretic" and she's paid full price for the experience.

Shivanee Ramlochan's poetry almost does feel haunted.  Today's book of poetry thinks we understand the need for ghosts to do her bidding.  Like more women then we will ever know about, the heroine of these poems has been raped.  That Ramlochan can/does make poetry, art and beauty out of such horror renders these poems almost sacred.

Duenne Lara

I write into you hard enough
the rumour murmurs that you'll come for me.

I scratch you through the water mirror, suck you under my talons,
will you knock & claim me? I keep
this one soft garden in my trachea vacant; I
stripped speech for split gourds, choking on seeds so you
might come and live in me, little
lover, come
claim these metatarsal prayers.

Everyone knows I am haunting.

Enact it again, you whisper, using mora and purpleheart to tell me.
Mourn me all over, cloister to caul.
Weep me upright in our wedding bower, my little bride, and I
do, I do,

I take the four rivers of the forest by throat and algal sinew,
pump the waters into my lungs. Come,
I'll christen you away from the devil's doorstep,
duenne suitor, duenne saviour, duenne dowry,
Duenne, you are mine

by sharp incense and pistol recoil, by moth fabric and mouth to mouth.
The wooden atlas delivers deeper rings in us
while the devil tries again to win your heart,

Come here, she marrow-bites.
I have something for you, but it looks like torture.
She scrapes it from the ruins of the moonlight museum.
She smiles as it eats our national anthem from your tongue.

No one told you how it would hurt, to have your feet forced against
family hearth.
The mangroves stroked you taut while the devil cracked your bones right,
a blister body of devotion
a casket of cunning charms to stamp you for her service.

I will never make you walk again, if you will be mine.


Shivanee Ramlochan's women, clan after clan, embody strong and resilient characters of noble charm and wit.  You also know that they are willing to carry a sharp knife that no gentleman need ever see.  Ramlochan's women love other women.  And are willing to cut bad men.

Today's book of poetry admits that we had to go to the mattresses with Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting.  Generally we don't like to admit how many times we have to go to the dictionary to get through a poem (and usually that is a poem killer), but with Lady Shivanee we were willing to do whatever it took.  Once you are on certain rides you don't ever want them to stop.  Dame Shivanee Ramlochan is a beautiful monster poet.

Poem after poem in Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting had us sad, happy, angry, and often in the same poem.  We think it is because Duchess Ramlochan has a bad engine with only one setting, when her engine is on things are ready to burn, like only the best bad engines can.

1. On the Third Anniversary of the Rape

Don't say Tunapuna Police Station.
Say you found yourself in the cave of a minotaur, not
knowing how you got there, with a lap of red thread.
Don't say forced anal entry.
Say you learned that some flowers bloom and die
at night. Say you remember stamen, filament,
cross-pollination, say that hummingbirds are

vital to the process.

Give the minotaur time to write in the police ledger. Lap
the red thread
around the hummingbird vase.

Don't say I took out the garbage alone and he grabbed me by the waist
and he was handsome.
                  Say Shakespeare. Recite Macbeth for the tropics.
Lady MacBeth was the Queen of Carnival
and she stabbed Banquo with a vagrant's shiv during J'ouvert.
She danced a blood dingolay and gave her husband a Dimanche Gras

I am in mud and glitter so far steeped that going back is not an option.
Don't say rapist.

Say engineer of aerosol deodorant because pepper spray is illegal,
anything is illegal
Fight back too hard, and it's illegal,
>your nails are illegal

Don't say you have a vagina, say
he stole your insurance policy/your bank boxes/your first car

he took something he'll be punished for taking,
not something you're punished for holding
like red thread between your thighs.


Our morning read was a full house sort of affair but it was the women who came out styling today.  None of the men on the Today's book of poetry staff had any of the angry sincerity that the women on our staff said was necessary.  For good reason.  None of the men on our staff have ever been the victim of generations of systemic sexism.

Rape is a mean bastard of a delicate topic and Shivanee Ramlochan has no trouble just kicking the crap right out of all previous tip-toeing.  These poems bear witness, frank and unforgiving.  And Today's book of poetry has nothing but respect for the strength in these poems — and the determination of the poet.  Regardless of the seriousness of the topic, the addressing of terror and male aggression, these poems are only successful if they work as poetry.

That's why we are here.  Shivanee burns.

Camp Burn Down

You and me and the fires we used to keep each other alive.
The fire at Camp Balandra.
The fire at Fort George.
The fire at fuck my throat
while my mother's on the phone, and the island's flooding
so everyone's indoors
but you are the skinniest raft
not provided for by the government,
unlawful from her to Tobago
and back.

There are small welts on the backs
of your hands as you braid me
down to the campsite.
This is the camp of Sunday afters,
your father's car radio
melting our eardrums while you move in me.
This is the fort of no retracing, every
place on my body you touch
burned nova.
burned past recognition.
You burn me into an atlas
into a Form One geometry tin
inside a perfect's handspan,
cock to cock to cheap vaseline,
burning me something new in each fire.

Snow might come to Tunapuna,
and your father would still spill
my guts in front of the market.
There would be hail in the public library,
and your father's pig cutlass
opening my thigh. The weather could vomit itself,
turn the catalogues of gale and gust inside out,
and the biggest damage would be
what I've done to you.

Remember the camp at the edge of the island?

The white stones brining to nothing
as you nerve-ground them between thumb and tongue,
scattering the wet cremations on my forehead.

I bless you, you said, I bless you here.
Nothing touched us except the rest of the world.


Today's book of poetry will remember the name of Shivanee Ramlochan because we will be singing it from the rafters for the next little while.  If you get lucky enough to read Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting you will be unlikely to forget either.  Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting will tear your fricking heart out and give you hope all at the same time.  That's a rare ride, a rare human combination.

Shivanee Ramlochan

Shivanee Ramlochan is a Trinidadian poet, arts reporter and book blogger. She is the Book Reviews Editor for Caribbean Beat Magazine. Shivanee also writes about books for the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Anglophone Caribbean's largest literary festival, as well as Paper Based Bookshop, Trinidad and Tobago's oldest independent Caribbean specialty bookseller. She is the deputy editor of The Caribbean Review of Books. Her first book of poems, Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, was published by Peepal Tree Press on October 3rd, 2017.

Ramlochan’s poetry slays whoever would force an ‘identity’ on it. It alchemizes the roles of grandmothers, abortionists, labourers, clerks, dancers, policemen, cousins, rapists into the greatest intensity of human. The world fucked the Caribbean archipelago, where European-derived shepherdesses and pre-Abrahamic Lilith now wander as peers among manifold beings. The music is consonantal, full of pleasure/pain. Rich as a García Márquez novel, these are uncompromising conversations, intimacy wrestling survival.
     —Vahni Capildeo, author of Measures of Expatriation.

This debut book is a subversive tour-de-force, a poetry of Holi powder and sarisilk drifting with beauty; of flayed predators, persistent hunger and thirst, broken bodies of daughters and sons; of cultural keep-down, wedding-weep, rape-ache, and the raw dreaming of rebel lovers; of abeer-streaked bodies’ sex-throb and split and Kali hex words brutally gleaming in the moonlit museum. These stunning poems fiercely and inventively wrestle language of beast, wolf, fishtail, and gods monstrous, singing firesongs of purification for the island dead and survival for the living. In these pages of la sangre viva, “spirit does linger.”
     —Loretta Collins Klobah, author of The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman.

These poems crackle with soucouyant ire and the voices of duennes in stanzas so bewitching you will not want to look away. Against a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian backdrop, abortionists, rapists, ancestors, and deities incarnate as grief. Surprise awaits in tightly wrought lines that are “no accidental shrine” to ancestry, femininity, and filial devotion. Always some darkness casts shadows against the beauty of love. Always the ghost of a story beckons the reader close.
     —Rajiv Mohabir, author of The Cowherd’s Son and The Taxidermist’s Cut.

In transgressive mode, Shivanee Ramlochan invokes gods, goddesses or demons to do what poetry should do–alarm and ignite us, surprise and blast us and tear at our heartstrings. Welcome to a challenging, unforgettable and courageous new voice.
     —Olive Senior, author of The Pain Tree.

Shivanee Ramlochan
reads three poems from 
Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting
at the Paper Based Bookshop
Video:  Shivanee Ramlochan



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


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Acceptable Time — Tom Moore (Ravenna Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Acceptable Time.  Tom Moore.  Ravenna Press.  Spokane, Washington.  2016.


The boulders are whispering in the sea heat.

It's the same sun they've known
for a million years, the same sea.

As we walk along the beach we might
think they're just

dumb stones

but they are merely slow.
It takes so long for their mouths
to open (and a single vowel ten-thousand

years to form) that we don't hear.

We don't sense the changes overcoming
these rocks

as they split themselves into speech

nor the language of minds so strange
we're blurs on a copper sun.


That's how you write a poem!  Is it just me? I had to read "Rock" two or three times before I absorbed it all, before it sunk in.  Sometimes I think my head is made out of rock.

When Tom Moore is on, and he is on like a freaking siren, he is electric.  And funny.  Dark funny — and all you regular readers of Today's book of poetry know that we like that best.

As one of our Today's book of poetry heroes, the great Charles Bukowski said, when asked about writing poems:  "they must be full of power, they must make you want to turn the page."  And Tom Moore is all over that.

Don't be distracted by the lazy Bukowski quote.  Today's book of poetry loves Buk, but to be clear, Tom Moore's poetry is nothing like Charles the B.  We used the quote because Moore not only has power, he knows how to use it, and yes, we want to turn the page.

Hunting Out of Season

Though it's not his habit to be contrite
he enter the forest cautiously

for this is the place where the light over-spills
frozen ponds

and flocks in the long grass gather.
After checking his compass to make

quite sure

he's lost
he starts

to sing mating songs—waits
for the deer girls to show.

Slowly, they spill
from the forest with
legs of careful stepping

and their heads held high—

so near

the whole herd
clatters through his brain.

The eyes of each are blessed
with the gift of

perfect trajectory

and his songs bore into their minds
like bullets

they can't hear.


Today's book of poetry had to get Max, our Sr. Editor, out of his private salon/saloon, and team him up with Milo, our head tech, to try and find out who this Tom Moore is.  No luck at all.  Nothing!  The only thing Today's book of poetry knows about Tom Moore is that he can burn.

If he were a boxer he'd be a champ and most of his opponents would later complain that they didn't see it coming.  Moore has the velvet glove with a big old anvil inside.

What Today's book of poetry most admired in Moore's Acceptable Time was the Moore never rushes anything.  Moore likes to play it sweet until just before the curtain, and it works.  These poems act like crisp fables, the lessons uncertain until the last line, last word.  That's how to make it sing.


At first it stayed in the shoebox
in the closet
in the hall

and talked to itself about the dog
that once ran its tongue

along the lid of the box
that went away when it heard

a noise

and never came back.
In the spring it discovered
it could unlearn the night and its own


Now, it's summer
—stuffy, warm, and deep—
and still it lies in the shoebox.

A tendril has started to dig
through the floor

drawing its strength from
the rotten wood

driving its thin brain steadily
into the other side of consciousness.

If we listened, we might
hear its heaving

comically serious
weightlifter grunts—feel

the house slip.


Our morning read here at Today's book of poetry was a little quieter than normal.  It is an overcast Saturday morning here in Ottawa and some of our staff phoned in with the Friday night flu.  Today's book of poetry likes to think we are an understanding employer and have decided not to flog any of them.  But they will pay.

Tom Moore would understand.

I put India Arie on the box with her version of "The Creator Has A Master Plan," the Pharoah Sanders classic.  Everyone in the office knew it was time for business and gathered round.  When India finished I read Acceptable Time to the troops.  Even Max stayed for the duration.

Max's approval carries a lot of weight here and it certified my contention, Tom Moore impressed us all day long.


Sometimes the body has done enough.
It's not that the flesh
doesn't care

what the soul might have wanted
or for those who've come
by thinking
they could help—

it's because of all the partial deaths

that have happened before that
the last's made almost


If the flesh could talk to the soul, it might
ask why, with skin flaking off and the
breasts having out-lived

their usefulness
it should go on?

Yet the soul can't answer
these or any other questions.

After midnight
the halls quiet down—

even the bacteria yawn.

Perhaps she would have heard
the bags of fluid beeping

as the bodies were washed by hand

or from somewhere far away
the echo of a flood tide, booming.

When the end finally came the
details of her death must
have been quite


like the glint she saw on a
metal hinge, the 
railing as

the light descended.


Today's book of poetry played the full four poem Monty today because Mr. Moore earned it.  Acceptable Time is a remarkable little book that punches way above its weight.

Tom Moore is a Senior Instructor of Liberal Studies at Western Washington University.


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, May 22, 2018

Lady Lazarus Redux — Amanda Earl (above/ground press)

Today's book of poetry:
Lady Lazarus Redux.  Amanda Earl.  above/ground press.  Ottawa, Ontario.  2017.

Gwendolyn MacEwen, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.  

Amanda Earl has gone to the source, the deep pool, and come up smoking.  Today's book of poetry won't bother explaining how and what Earl borrowed from these giants, Earl explains it clearly enough in an "Afterword."  The technique doesn't matter that much to Today's book of poetry although it is an amazing and diligent feat, all that matters to us is what Earl does with the tools she has manufactured.  

Amanda Earl's Lady Lazarus Redux burns.

Today's book of poetry is relatively familiar with some of Amanda Earl's earlier works, we had Milo, our head tech, go into the stacks and he brought back Kiki (Chaudiere Books, 2014), I Owe Saint Hildegard the Light (unarmed chapbooks, no date), and 48 Bowls (le Temps des cerises/an Angel House Press Imprint, 2013).  Of course Milo now knows he has to add a few Amanda Earl titles to our ongoing list of poetry titles we are in search mode for.

Today's book of poetry is familiar enough with Earl to know that unlike the rest of us, Earl is willing to spread her net wide.  Amanda Earl isn't dedicated to a particular voice, a particular style, instead she tries new styles on like intellectual hats.  The poems in Lady Lazarus Redux employ a more narrative hook and Earl is happy to step on the gas, she is willing and able to stretch her bad engine into a higher gear.

Part Ten: The Same, Identical Woman

I am exhausted. I am exhausted.
Pillar of white in a blackout of knives.
                         Sylvia Plath, The Bee Meeting


Another messy wake up at four thirty a.m. against my will. I sip water, try to
dehydrate so I won't be clumsy but all the ghosts are here. They won't let me


Silence makes its painstaking way into the day's carnival. Tap screech. Fridge
moan. I am unaccustomed to strangers. Dawn is my sleep's enemy. I want to make
a mansion out of my bed. Exhausted by eight p.m., I become thin as glass.


Winter is smooth. I crave the burr of spring, its exotic tricks of light, shadow
dancing. I avoid crowds, put on a velvet demeanour, tile my worries as limestone
shale on Ashburnham Hill. My goal is translucence.


What's the etiquette for I don't give a fuck! I choose a white card. My hands are
dry. I'd steal moisture from the moon, but that's time-consuming. The moon
despises me. We are rivals.


I am an exile in a colourful fish pond. I swim in the wrong direction, if I swim at
all. I am neglected with the sodden lilies and lazy bullfrogs, my outsider pals. I
unravel the seams of my gills to reveal my scars. I am graceless. Most days I fake it.


In public I don another mask, made of leaves that never turn or die. I am the
overripe thorn never the flower. I have outstayed my welcome. I have teeth. I am
sharp. I can sting. I bristle. There is no gentle here.


My hair is silver. I refuse to dye. I let it grow. It curtains the dark. I am
embarrassed not noble. A roll of sorrow overcomes.


I've never paid attention to omens. I choose a blue card. Blue for melancholy, for
medicine in the form of small pills. Yellow for Valium. I shred portents. I cry.
Fountains overflow. Here's an obsolete penny. Make a wish.


Fear is lamp black, impenetrable. I drown in my unadulterated contradictions. I
poison the light with humid passion when I'm supposed to be dried up. See me
smile to camouflage the sorrow, blond as flaxen, smooth as linseed. Spin me into
cool material.


I am monstrous, a whore, I confess reluctantly to eager suitors. They wear out
their purity. I canvas misery. I am a beautiful liar, n'est-ce pas? It's an affliction. A
siren with a head of silver years. Men swagger. I indulge them. I am fond of the
ingenue, but I don't want to guide him, I just want to be a witness.


In Lady Lazarus Redux Amanda Earl is almost always quoting someone in her single project based matrix, one of the four, MacEwen,Rich, Sexton or Plath.  But the language is always Earl.  But when Earl quotes Plath she is starting up the engine.

     "I am terrified by the dark thing
      That sleeps inside me."
                                      Sylvia Plath, Elm

Earl starts one of the her ten dynamos that appear in Lady Lazarus Redux with this great Plath quote and Today's book of poetry is pretty sure that Earl realizes that most of us have "dark things" that come in the night, but very few of us are capable of making music out of the dark.  Discord is a big black raven that sweeps above and around Earl's poems, that is until she grabs the beast and starts plucking it's long feathers.

Earl leans on the dark and pulls it taut.  Men aren't secondary in these poems, but they are barely present, barely necessary.  Earl is speaking from a place that seeks no approval.  This is a type of reporting for the new poetry news.

Part Four: The Paperweight

The world is blood-hot and personal
                                  Sylvia Plath, Totem


Dread follows a siege of cravings and aversions. As if my plasma is pleading for 
iron, a backbone, resilience.


The leaf of my temper unfurls and fiery bells of fury clang in my skull. I stumble
with the weight of hot iron. I am charred. I boil. I am a danger zone. Now
emotions are snow-feathered, delicate. I tremble, so brittle, I splinter.


This blood rust scent of myself incites burnt ocher dreams: cars on fire, sirens
wailing, the howl of nameless creatures in the hot dark. Gardens are luminous with
flame. I cannot surface.


Saints cry out to me in nightmares. The sheets are stained. I press my finger
against my clit. In the morning I wake with dried blood on my palm.


Treat this body as a numb castle with the drawbridge up. Do not attempt to 
rescue the princess. She is seated at her doom, doing nervous needlework, pricking
her finger. She is cursed.


Thoughts shear through my mind. Dread is an icicle that stabs into calm. Ice turns 
to brick. This is not alchemy, it is anxiety, a muddy recognition. Flat, unpercussive


It doesn't matter if I cross a thousand cold rivers, hug an icepack in my sleep, eat
an ice cream cone while wandering in January with my coat open, stand naked at
the window on a wintry night, the serpent of heat licks flame at my skin until I am
soaked in sweat.


Dear moon, a gesture would be nice. You're always so regular. I have a calendar
that tells me when you wax and wane. I envy your predictability. Bright wolf of
silvery gibbons while my uterus clenches blankly.


I am not made of iron. I seethe and sob. The earth turns from day to night and I
from dark to light. My bounce against infinity is no more than an ephemeral


This lust is carried on scorched winds. When I touch a pencil, it turns to ash. I stay
away on purpose. Internalize my fervour. I am no gallery of calm. I am a 
connoisseur of carnality. A heat-seeker, a bomb.


The women here at Today's book of poetry are all big fans of Amanda Earl.  As Kathyrn, our Jr. Editor said this morning:  "She will say the thing!"  No fear.

In an effort for full disclosure Today's book of poetry does know Amanda Earl, we have one of her hand-made bowls sitting beside the desk in our office.  Today's book of poetry would go so far as to say that we are friends with Ms. Earl — but our circles don't intersect all that often.

Our morning read was smooth as glass.  Maggie, our new intern, took over the reins and laser pointed us home.  A Ms. Birney (yes, an honest to goodness, real life, relative of the late Saint Earle of Birney) joined us for this morning's reading.  The gang rose to the challenge and waltzed Amanda Earl around our offices and into the beautiful spring morning.  Ms. Birney brought a friend, Lucy, who was new to us all but made she made friends of us all quickly, joined in the reading. Lucy chose this last poem

Part Eight: The Cat

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it.
                       Sylvia Plath, Elm


Opening childproof extra strength sinus medication, plastic pantyliner bags, jars of
nuts, wine sealed with corks has become increasingly difficult with age. Will alone
isn't enough. I aspire to be enriched. I end up a restless paces of the night, all
packages destroyed by my teeth, my head pounding and stains in my underpants.


Age inscribes its sophistry on my body. This flesh was never holy but decadent
and real. I caress my scars.


My senses incinerate order, but I am no fan of chaos. The surface is rapacious and
dull. I want to delve, not to police my actions. I try to get hold of myself.


My emotions roar. My anxieties sear me. I am clinging as hard as I can to the
balustrade of optimism. I have two sides at least, odd and even. Odd usually wins.


I am an actor in the torchlight, making unidentifiable shadow puppets on the wall.
I do not envy youth. I am an arsonist of memory. I set each reminiscence on fire
and watch the remnants curl as it burns. I wake up sweating. My father tried to
possess me. Sometimes I believe he succeeded. And we are in hell together.


Here is a recollection. It is Christmas Eve. My father is into the whiskey again. I
am upstairs in my bedroom, but the shouts of my parents' battle reach my ears.
There is sudden movement. Screams. Something crashes.  I hide underneath my 
bed. I piss my pajamas because I am too afraid to leave the room to go to the


Nightmares have anchors. This ship doesn't move. Holidays weigh me down. Bing
Crosby is singing White Christmas. I love the red cardinals on the cards strung
across the silver garlands in the living room. But a black bird caws in the sun and
the sky darkens once again.


Flights of fancy got me through childhood. My stories, my imaginary friends, the 
willow tree fairies, standing still on the railroad tracks, imagining the train would
take me away, escapes to cool creeks, tadpoles in a bucket, surprise frogs. I
remember that little girl. I wish I could be her guardian angel.


When I left home I took the Red Rose tea figurines with me. The owl and the
duck, the foxes and deer, the cats and dogs, the fish, the monkeys, we fled. I
wrapped them in tissue paper to keep them whole.


The little girl is made of glass. Despair causes cracks in her psyche that can't quite
be repaired. Now she reflects the light. So many colours in the prism of her life
reflected back as shards of memory and a love of the broken.


"...and a love of the broken."  That damned line broke Today's book of poetry's heart the first time we read it, and the second and the third.

Today's book of poetry was very happy to write about Amanda Earl's most recent chapbook Lady Lazarus Redux.  Amanda Earl is a poet of large appetites, Today's book of poetry is certain we will see more from Earl.

Image result for amanda earl photo

Amanda Earl
Photo: Charles Earl

Amanda Earl is an Ottawa writer, publisher and visual poet. She's the managing editor of and the fallen angel of AngelHousePress.  More information is available at

Amanda Earl
Tree reading series
Video: Tree Reading 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, May 20, 2018

Nelson — Dag T. Straumsvåg (Proper Tales Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Nelson.  Dag T. Straumsvåg.  Proper Tales Press.  Cobourg, Ontario.  2017.

Not that Today's book of poetry won't/can't take responsibility, but I do have to tell you that Milo, our head tech and digital Prince, isn't in the office this morning.  That I was able to take a photo of Dag T. Straumsvåg's Nelson is an accomplishment.  I had help.  Odin, our former head of security, returned for a visit this morning and we were so damned happy to see him that we felt drunkAll of that before mumbling out an apology to Dag, Today's book of poetry is sorry our cover photo is sideways.  Damned Commodore 16.

As any of our regular readers knows — Today's book of poetry is a big fan of the Canadian poet Nelson Ball.  Nelson is the current champion of doing the most with the least, but his lean poetry is never sparse.  Today's book of poetry is not alone in our admiration (we have written about Nelson Ball several times over the years) of Sir Admiral Nelson Ball.

Norwegian poet Dag T. Straumsvåg wrote Nelson with his Highness Mr. Ball in mind, a tribute to be sure, but Dag wasn't intending to mimic Ball's style.  And he doesn't, Straumsvåg is a little closer in style to Stuart Ross, the irrepressible poet/publisher and all around mensch.

Dag T. Straumsvåg does capture Nelson Ball's whimsy though, a bit of his clear light.  These poems fall like a light rain but every image acts like a seed.

Winter Morning

of the year.
The fly
the windowsill
its front
to make 


Old Dag T. had a dark hue to his sense of humour, just the way we like it.  Today's book of poetry wanted to ask him about the Death Metal scene in the Botswana of his memory.  Now there's a poem that packs a Kung-Fu poetry punch.  

For such a small press Proper Tales Press continuously ups the ante with the breadth of their titles and authors.  Regular readers of this blog will know that Proper Tales Press publisher Stuart Ross (who we have written about several times on our blog) is a close friend of Today's book of poetry.  Our guest room is named after the man.

Mr. Ross casts an awfully wide net and it shows.  Proper Tales Press has a long and consistent record of original voices and Dag T. Straumsvåg joins an excellent chorus.

Many of the poems in this collection were written in English, those that were translated from Nynorsk read like they were written in English as well.  Invisible.

At The Bar

you'd better leave now

the waitress says in a friendly voice to the man
she points toward the door and the grainy dark outside

you'd better leave now


Our morning read was flat out zany.  Odin was back in the fold for the day and that brought a tear to my eye that I wanted no one to see.  I pretended I was sneezing when I pulled out my big hanky.  Thomas was happy to see Odin as well, Odin taught him what he knows.  So we let Odin lead the show.  These short poems were worth reading slowly.  This little collection left a big impression on us all.

Sometimes poems just seem to fit into your head space,  Dag T. Straumsvåg seems to have whittled his work down to fine, smooth projectile that always finds its mark.


We're offered amnesia
and we accept.

We can make good friends
out of blue clay.

We can count
the buttons on our shirts,

make history.
Our sleep is calm, roaming

with darkness in the hills,
learning to whistle.


Today's book of poetry hopes that every time someone reads Dag T. Straumsvåg's Nelson the poetry Gods nod a little more gently in Nelson Ball's way.  Nelson won't barge in uninvited, remains polite and well behaved.  That sly Nelson.  That sly Dag T. Straumsvåg.

Related image
Photo: Kapitonova
 Dag T. Straumsvåg 

Dag T. Straumsvåg was born in 1964 and grew up on the west coast of Norway. He is the author and translator of four books of poetry, most recently The Lure-Maker from Posio (Red Dragonfly Press, 2011), translated by Robert Hedin and Louis Jenkins. A selection of his poems is included in Robert Hedin: At the Great Door of Morning—Selected Poems and Translations (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). His poems have appeared in numerous journals in Norway and North America. He lives in Trondheim.

A poem by  Dag T. Straumsvåg 
Video: Motionpoems



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