Saturday, April 27, 2019

RED — Chase Berggrun (Birds, LLC)

Today's book of poetry:
RED.  Chase Berggrun.  Birds, LLC.  Minneapolis, New York, Raleigh.  2018.

R E D Final Cover Rgb 72Dpi 432X648

Chase Berggrun climbs inside of Bram Stoker's Dracula and comes out the other end illuminated, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.  

Today's book of poetry is only ever looking for fine poetry to share, but we also want to make a point of looking everywhere we can.  Gender has become an important issue, delicate and beyond our limited reasoning, but it is important to Today's book of poetry to be blind to gender at the same time as we are trying to give unlimited access regardless of gender.  

Chase Berggrun wrote RED while transitioning gender.  As though that weren't enough to do.  But Today's book of poetry is damned glad Berggrun showed up and took on the Prince of Darkness on their own terms.

Berggrun takes apart Stoker's masterpiece from inside, word by word, using erasure as a methodology.  The resulting text, sub-text, is a hidden masterpiece.  As Chase Berggrun pares and redacts, dissects the original text, an astonishingly fresh and essential new story is revealed.  This is construction at the pyramid level, we can see the seams but are completely baffled at how it was actually accomplished.  Our hats are off.

Chapter I

I was thirty

I was a country of queer force

rushing east to see the strangest side of twilight

I was a woman      in the usual way

I had no language     but the distress and duty

I have been taught to doubt my mother and fear tradition

but my queer tongue    would not     could not shut up

The afternoon sun seemed mighty

and touched my arm with a delicate pain

A woman     kneeling in self-surrender to the new

weeping silver into great masses of greyness      the clouds

which ceaselessly walk and pause as though unmercifully urged on

Through the darkness I could see a stormy sea

a strange mixture of movements

Something slight and flickering seemed to mock my universal yes

I asked what this all meant

I struck a match

and its flame somewhere far off in the distance plunged

Suddenly a faint and endless absence

began beetling around

the howl that swept

the ruined sky


Sherlock Holmes at his infinite and clever best could not have deciphered Chase Berggrun's Red out of Stoker's Dracula.  This is world class winnowing of red gold.  Not to diminish Bram Stoker's great book, but Berggrun has completed the harder task.  Somehow, beyond reason and out of sight of witnesses, Berggrun has gutted the original and discovered new fresh meat.  

     "We never refer to sadness
       as something that looks
       but it does"
                          CHAPTER VIII

Chase Berggrun reaches into the Gothic patriarchy, puts their arms elbow deep in to all of Stoker's horror and comes out the other side clean, bold, brave, with certainty of purpose.

      "I want to believe in a universe
       willing to understand"
                          CHAPTER IV

Chapter XXV

Note this

I have come to understand      a particular freedom

without restraining mood

aglow     as if loosened

God     you are going to be so good to me

I know a poison you do not

beginning and ending with my hand

the blackest prelude

Note the quaint seriousness of my voice      low and strained

The flesh     the rough flinch

My fast-bending hand

which subdued the whiteness of his hair

I shrink into all wives       and their hands

their hands      that loved me best    I have not forgotten

that set me free     from the thrall      my husband held over me

What I have arranged to do will be no murder

Even if it were

I know now what men feel

that special excitement when in active danger

This necessary task        euthanasia         a comfort

I am in a fever of hands

I found him whetting

the edge of his throat      driven by cold

His hands instinctively sought

my smooth arrangement

He is sure I will come at his call

but I have not lost the grace a woman has

a power he may not take away

I      with perfect nervous poise

let loose wings       a thought-strong swan

When the time comes        I alone slaughter

I alone         ultimately triumph

The tight country he had tried to invade

he kissed it         sick and keen

There is more to tell and I shall tell you

Forgive me if I seem remorseless

selfishness frees my soul somewhat

Not even God is with me now


Today's book of poetry treads with some trepidation, tripping all over ourselves to be gender sensitive.  Why?  Isn't Today's book of poetry just about poetry?  Mostly, but in our poetry world we want to be sure we send the right message to all of our brothers and sisters, all of whom deserve our love and respect regardless of how, when, where or why they have their present identity. Our only job is to be inclusive until the need for such discussions vanish. 

Today's book of poetry has never cared about poetry trousers, except for Vladimir Mayakovsky's "A Red Cloud in Trousers."  We only really care about the poems.

And here is where Chase Berggrun is aces all around.  RED is such a freaking pleasure to read you will be hacking into the air around you.  Sounds will come out that you haven't heard before.  Surprise, joy, satisfaction.

RED is really a master class, it is simply excellent.  Berggrun's utterly fearless burning transforms Dracula into a new and essential read, a new modern marvel.  And this time it is all about turning into the light.

excerpt from Chapter XXVII

               I was a high wind between flurries
               he was lying like a black ribbon
               I mounted his square chest
               I felt imprisoned there
               I saw him below me
               he came quickly
               a sudden cry from the south of me
               he shouted in glee

I got out my revolver

It was strange to see the snow shining brightly around us

Every instant came in bursts

The hollow sound swept the air-space

It was hard to distinguish the real

as the sun dropped lower and lower

He was unaware at first

he fell forward in an unmistakable way

and gave a quick movement of his fist

I felt no fear but only a surging

In the midst of this the sun set

No time seemed to pass besides

By now the blood was spurting through his chest

his eyes glazed with the vindictive look I knew too well

As the moment plunged into my body

I sunk to the ground

Blood between my fingers

Red upon my face

My eyes followed the falling snow

And he died


Frankly, until reading Chase Berggrun's Red, Today's book of poetry wouldn't have believed you could redact gold and come up diamonds.  

Chase Berggrun take a big bow.

Chase Berggrun Costume Bw 300X300

Chase Berggrun

Chase Berggrun is a trans poet. They are the author of R E D, forthcoming from Birds, LLC. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Lambda Literary Spotlight, Pinwheel, PEN Poetry Series, Sixth Finch, Diagram, The Offing, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. They received their MFA from New York University. They are poetry editor at Big Lucks.

"Discontent and its Civilizations" Poems of Erasure by Chase Berggrun
Video: Susan Russell



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

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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

What Snakes Want — Kita Shantiris (Mayapple Press)

Today's book of poetry:
What Snakes Want.  Kita Shantiris.  Mayapple Press.  Woodstock, New York.  2015.

Kita Shantiris can burn, baby, burn.  There is something unique in her poetry kitchen, something akin to magic.  Her poems are plenty fine narratives about the this and that of our monkey dance, strong and articulate.

If it were just that, Today's book of poetry would be satisfied, but What Snakes Want contains a higher gear that kicks in at precisely the right moment.  It is a hard and quick slap to the face, Cher snapping a young Nic Cage's head back like a bobble doll in "Moonstruck" and saying "Snap out of it!"  Shantiris body slams us with some tidy resolutions, some small puzzle piece that implodes on contact with your reasonable mind.


I'm looking for a photo of you from Burma.
One that was shot after combat.
One where your cheeks are lined
with sweat and fear like the treads
tanks make driving through mud.

Deep in the jungle, I'm looking for a way
to forgive you for the monsoons
and all you leeched from us.
Something to illuminate
the explosions that followed.

A way to forget all the nights
I pretended my bed was a ditch
and sleep had already killed me.
A way to forget you brooding in the doorway
like a panther in one of your way stories.

Someone inside me kept watch
while you taught us to make bedrolls
the way they taught you in the army.
If I didn't learn quickly, you might strike
with your unpredictable paw.

You waged hand-to-hand combat
with the furniture and anyone big enough
to question your authority.
Now you are a prisoner
of your wheelchair.

I'm going to push you as fast as I can.
It's time you knew how it felt
when you gunned the blue Ford to ninety.
You're not driving anymore.
You're mine for interrogation.


Kita Shantiris is a sniper.  A poetry ninja.  She gets in close for the kill when necessary.  Shantiris reminds us again and again and again of the empowering generosity to be found in good poems.  What Snakes Want glows with liberating discovery, villains are uncovered and named, heroic acts of redemption and failure, dark and fetid.

It's all in Shantiris' What Snakes Want.  Today's book of poetry was reminded how much we like to be surprised, how much we appreciate being challenged.  What Snakes Want delivers with every poem, all of them enlightening, aimed at the sun and all that blue - or aimed at so much of that dark we abide because we must.

Rear View Mirror

You grabbed the past in your hands
by accident. You were looking straight ahead
as if nothing were in the mirror.

It had been a night of happy hallucinations.
Furniture in my front yard to make room for dancing—
windows wide open, hips slightly in synch,

sweat and reggae infecting everyone.
The cops called it disturbing the peace.
You split after we carried the bed in.

You'd almost made it to the off-ramp
when a black and white pulled even.
You smiled at the officers like you were innocent,

made a smooth move adjusting the mirror.
They laughed when it broke loose
and everything behind you fell into your lap.


What Snakes Want made for a very spirited morning here in the Today's book of poetry offices.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, took the helm and assigned the poems with her typical moxie and jam and elan.  Kita Shantiris was given the "star" treatment, and for good reason.  What Snakes Want vibrates with a rebellious and generous intelligence.  Think of PJ Harvey playing anything.

The morning reading was full of knowing smiles and then the other kind, sublime moments.  Just like Today's book of poetry asserted when we began, Kita Shantiris can burn.

What Snakes Want recognizes how much violence occurs without it being named or recorded.  How much is endured in silence.  Many of the poems in What Snakes Want are "giving sorrow words" as Maryse Holder both said and knew too well.  Shantiris breaks down some of the dark standards of quiet acceptance, bites back a bit, she has an alternative.

Goethe's Girdle

Nothing is more fattening than solitude.
My heart growls

stripping the cupboards.
Dear Wilhelm, I have tried

trading peristalsis for passion—
walnuts and sausage,

babka and schnapps — Homer
when my stomach balks.

Each word is a lump.
Let's not bite at my delusions.

If you could see me
in this orgy of distraction,

you'd say, my friend,
I want love too much.

No. I want too much
to be deserving.

Oh, if my blood were lighter.
I'd open a vein and float.


Today's book of poetry just liked the way Kita Shantiris got it all down on the page, accessible as a phone book back when they were a much needed Rosetta.  Darkly detailed and forgiving at the same time.

Like all the poets we like best here at Today's book of poetry Kita Shantiris offers light and hope.  No innocent glee, Shantiris is still aware of the undertoad, its dark allure.

Image result for kita shantiris photo

Kita Shanatiris

Kita Shantiris, also known as Kita S. Curry, is an American poet and psychologist. Published in the U.S., Ireland and England, her poetry has appeared in Ambit, Crannóg, the Fish Anthology, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Quarterly West, The Moth, Slipstream, Wisconsin Review and other journals. Her poems were included in The Border, a collection of three poets’ work published by Bombshelter Press (1984), and two were anthologized in The Faber Book of Movie Verse (Faber & Faber 1993).
After a long hiatus focused on her career as a psychologist, Kita resumed writing again. In 2012, she won 2nd Prize in the Ballymaloe International Poetry Contest, and she has twice been a Runner-Up in Fish Publishing’s contest (2011, 2014). Her first full-length poetry collection, What Snakes Want, was published by Mayapple Press in 2015. It received Honorable Mention in poetry from the Eric Hoffer Book Award, was a finalist for the INDIEFAB Award, and was shortlisted for the International Rubery Award.

Psychologist Dr. Kita S. Curry is CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a non-profit in Los Angeles ( Its Suicide Prevention center, mental health and substance use programs help more than 90,000 children and adults each year. Kita brings personal and professional experience to this work. Suicide has taken the lives of three relatives; when she was young and uninsured, she first sought treatment for depression at a community mental health center in Philadelphia.
Frequently interviewed by the media, Kita has been honored for erasing the stigma associated with mental illness and bringing services to communities of color. She was selected for California’s Advisory Committees on Suicide Prevention and Stigma and Discrimination and has served on the boards of several advocacy organizations—most recently the National Council on Behavioral Health. She currently serves on the Steering Committee of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Kita graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English. With the support of an NIMH fellowship, she earned a PhD in Psychology at UCLA. Her husband, Peter Curry, played guitar in the long-running surf band The Halibutsand currently plays bass in Grammy-nominated Los Straitjackets.

"Something edgy and intense haunts Kita Shantiris' poems, always threatening to flare up just outside their frames. Like a great auteur, she teases us with implication, with slow builds, the sneaky reveal, with what you can't yet see. Or, she'll give us a flash of aftermath, letting us glimpse "a tub of red water" where the violence has already taken place. Carefully orchestrating her pace, Shantiris lets things dawn on us, which contributes to the sense of delicious discovery one has in reading this collection. Wanderlust, an ode to coffee shops, an erotic poem set in a gaudy Laundromat, a child lying in bed hearing her abusive father come home…it's all here, articulate, compressed, suspenseful. "It takes brandy to center me/glowing alone here." The reader will likely find herself glowing along with these poems."
     —Amy Gerstler, author of National Book Critics Award winner Bitter Angel

"One could spend a lifetime with Kita's new and powerfully personal book of poetry, What Snakes Want. The poems speak of a life replete with love, loss, pain, honesty, insight, longing, sensuality, and a deep unabashed unsentimental appreciation for the very gift of life itself. The poems are accessible yet abound with rich imagery, beautifully wrought observations of the natural world and of our very human behavior, and they do so with an intensity of feeling and care that ultimately resound with hope as they reach in and touch the soul."
     – Ed Harris, actor, screenwriter, director

"Already recognized with awards, Kita Shantiris is a poet whose work in this book glows with a naked, scalpel-sharp intelligence and a refreshing delight in language. Full of startlingly good poems—"The Last Lake" comes to mind and "Milking the Adder," the source of the title, especially. What Snakes Want is a fine collection, and one of the most exciting I have read in recent years."
      – Patrick Chapman, poet,  A Promiscuity of Spines: New and Selected Poems

Kita Shantiris
Selected readings from What Snakes Want
Video: Bob Bowdon


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, April 23, 2019

Having Never Met - Inga Pizāne (A Midsummer Night's Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Having Never Met.  Inga Pizāne.  Translated by Jayde Will.  Periscope #05.  A Midsummer Night's Press.  New York, New York.  2018.


Inga Pizāne's Having Never Met comes to Today's book of poetry from Latvia via the very generous translation skills of Jayde Will, and we are all very grateful.  Today's book of poetry was swept up immediately by Pizāne's precise narratives on the acts of desire and the battles of the heart.

Inga Pizāne keeps things clean and tight regardless of whether she's writing about domestic bliss or the other evil end of the spectrum where relationships turn into a stinking dumpster of bad decisions that you never want to sleep with again.


From I don't know you
to I know you better than myself
we traveled far and wide.

Until we reached our final destination.

Then we traveled back
even farther and wider
from I know you better than myself
to I don't know you at all.


It's as though Pizāne knows us all, our inner thoughts and workings, what we think when we think of love and what we think of love when it leaves as though born on the wind.  Having Never Met is one tidy ship.  If this were jazz, Inge Pizāne would be a female Paul Desmond.  Complicated as you'd ever need but pure and direct and unmistakably cool.

We all want love and Today's book of poetry applauds Inga Pizāne in her attempts to sing with a real voice.  So much music we hear now is strained through a tuner so we no longer know what is true.  Pizāne suffers know such travail, we hear the pleasure of a natural and beautiful voice.  Inga Pizāne fights all those battles of the inside with aplomb.


you have access
to my
old version


search in the settings
and update manually


use me more
update me regularly

make sure that I don't freeze up
please don't accidentally delete me


go ahead update it
I am a free


Today is a bit of a landmark for Today's book of poetry.  Today's blog/review is our 750th.  

Today's book of poetry celebrated Easter with a little office hunt.  We had Milo, our head technician, hiding eggs, chocolate eggs everywhere.  I fear we'll be finding them until Christmas.

Today's book of poetry needs to give a huge shout out to Barbare Kulig Spanton and her family, Clara, Philip, Sean and Asilka, for the Easter egg dying experience.  Not sure how Today's book of poetry got to 62 without ever hot-waxing an egg but I can now strike that off of our list.  It was splendid.

Another thing Today's book of poetry is especially happy about is that Inga Pizāne proves what we have always believed.  There is excellent poetry all over our world.  Having Never Met can stand solidly in an poetry library.


If not for you,
I would have left on that
airplane long ago,
a cheap flight
going whoknowswhere,
and while the stewardess would tell us about
the life vests and
how long the flight was going to be,
I would look at the clouds
which wouldn't even seem beautiful,

If not for you,
who smothers my migratory bird instincts,
if not for you,
who would keep me here
without keeping me here,

I would learn
at seminars


Today's book of poetry is convinced that there is no better feeling than being in love.  No worse feeling than no longer being in love.  Having Never Met touches on both solitudes with equal charisma and charm.  

Inga Pizāne can burn.

Image result for inga pizāne

Inga Pizāne

Inga Pizāne (born 1986 in Kraslava) is a Latvian poet. Pizāne has studied education in Latvia and Sweden, simultaneously attending lectures at the Literary Academy. Her first collection of poems titled You are no Snow (Tu neesi sniegs) was published in 2016 by Janis Roze. She has performed at the Poetry Days events in Riga, the European Poetry festival, the America’s Poetry festival in New York and in other international workshops and festivals; and her work has appeared in theatre and radio. She is currently preparing her second book of poems in Latvian and writing stories. Her collection of poems HAVING NEVER MET (translated from Latvian by Jayde Will) was published by A Midsummer Night’s Press. Her translated work has been published in Disclaimermag, Glasgow Review of Books, Tupelo Quarterly etc.

Image result for jayde will photo

Jayde Will

Jayde Will is a literary translator from Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian.  Recent or forthcoming translations include Latvian author Daina Tabuna's short story collection The Secret Box (The Emma Press) and Latvian poet Artis Ostup's collection Gestures (Ugly Duckling Presse).  He lives in Riga.

Inga Pizāne and Helen Ivory - European Poetry Festival : Norwich
Video: fowlerpoetry



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, April 21, 2019

There It Is: New & Selected Poems - Michael Casey (Loom Press)

Today's book of poetry:
There It Is: New & Selected Poems. Michael Casey.  Loom Press.  Lowell, Massachusetts.  2017.

There It Is: New and Selected Poems

Today's book of poetry picked up a copy of Michael Casey's Obscenities (Yale University Press, 1972), about two hundred years ago.  Since then we've been wondering what happened to this wildly authentic voice.  Our search is over, Lowell Massachusetts publisher Loom Press sent Today's book of poetry There It Is: New & Selected Poems and we can finally catch up with Michael Casey.

There's a lot of catching up to do.  As far as we can tell Casey has published ten or eleven books/chapbooks.  From what Today's book of poetry sees in There It Is Casey has maintained his down to earth, working man approach to his poetry since he crawled out of the jungle in Vietnam.  Not literally, Today's book of poetry knows nothing of Casey's military service and experience except what is revealed in his first poems.  But he was there and his poems are like televisions where he supplies the narrative.

Today's book of poetry had deep respect for the Casey who wrote Obscenities.  Nothing has changed.  Michael Casey's poems are so crystal clear and free of artifice it almost feels like a trick.  But it is a damned fine one, the reader's connection to Casey's poetry is automatic.  Instantaneous.

forklift driver

the forklift driver
fucked up the elevator again
he tried to drive the forklift in it
when the door was close
this is the third day in a row
something like that happened
I'd say to him
don't even bother ta punch out
just leave
it'd be worth the week's pay or so
just to get rid of him
do you know how important
that fuckin elevator is?
Lou is yellin all over for yarn
because he can't get it
and this is holding up the knitting room
napping room and the whole place
gonna be backed up now
they tell me Lou
is pissin and moanin up there
like he was pissin razor blades


This next poem is one that Today's book of poetry remembers from our first Casey experience, back when we read Obscenities all those years ago.  I never forgot it.  

Michael Casey can stay with you.

a bummer

we were going single file
through his rice paddies
and the farmer
started hitting the lead track
with a rake
he wouldn't stop
and TC went to talk to him
and the farmer
tried to hit him too
so the tracks went sideways
side by side
through the guy's fields
instead of single file
Hard On, Proud Mary
Bummer, Wallace, Rosemary's Baby
The Rutgers Road Runner
Go Get em—Done Got Em
went side by side
through the fields
  if you have a farm in Vietnam
and a house in hell
sell the farm
and go home


Michael Casey writes poems as though he'd mastered ventriloquism.  Every voice he assumes in these poems feels real and true, sounds it too.  Casey has acquired some mad dark knowledge over the years and he knows how our hearts work.

Yet There It Is is populated with characters we all know because we live with them all around us in our daily lives.  These people, these feelings, are universal.  Michael Casey isn't above kicking your feet out from under you to make a necessary point.  At the same time Today's book of poetry sees a sense of humour of heroic measure.

the wall board knife

Armand's son read
an article somewhere
unscrupulous contractors
are building houses so cheaply 
with fiberboard
that any crook
can break in
not through a door or window
but just using a wall board knife
and cutting through siding
and particle board
very easily
Armand related this to me
before his son
went to the sneezer in Billerica
but I was curious
so I ask a contractor acquaintance
someone building two million dollar
condos in Concord
does he use
cheap fiberboard in construction?
right away he says no
and then he adds
not when anyone's looking


The only problem Today's book of poetry had with Michael Casey and There It Is is that now we want/need to find the rest of his excellent work.  Milo, our head tech and pseudo-librarian, has been properly tasked.  Milo thought that Casey rocked and insisted on leading our morning reading.

Today's book of poetry is slowly getting back on track.  We did want to share and celebrate with our readership, Today's book of poetry is currently getting over 1,000 readers a day.  We recently clawed our way past 500,000 readers.  

There It Is may be the biggest surprise in our recent reading.  As much as Today's book of poetry was looking forward to reading Michael Casey's Selected..., we felt rewarded way beyond our expectations.

diction a detriment to the working class

she used to be our neighbor
but they moved away to a bigger house
and I babysat when she was nearby
one child then
and I babysat when she moved
two children later
to a monster house
three car garage
into none of which
would the Hummer fit
she knew the going rate
one dollar per hour per child
she always rounded down
one hour fifteen minutes
would be paid as one hour
it grated though
but jobs are jobs
so I get the call one day
they drove me there and back
and while there
her aunt shows
with her four children
I am there
for three hours twenty minutes
and she gave me three big ones
next time she called
I declined and she was really mad
I mean I was the one cheated
you know that right?
however in retrospect
I should not have said
fuck you and your auntie too
well I guess


Michael Casey's poems are honest and true and necessary.  There It Is is a new favourite in the Today's book of poetry offices.   And a future classic.

Michael Casey

Michael Casey is from Lowell, Massachusetts, and attended the public schools in that city. He received a B.S. degree in physics in 1968 from University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where poet William Aiken taught the modern poetry course. Drafted that year, Casey became a military policeman in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and later in Landing Zone Bayonet, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, with the Americal Division. The journal of his military experience became the book,Obscenities, published in 1972 by the Yale University Press. His book, Millrat, on blue collar work in a textile mill dye house has been published by Adastra Press. Casey taught for many years at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

The publication of Michael Casey's New and Selected Poems, with his quirky portraits of ordinary Americans, is an event to celebrate. Like a photographer snapping pictures relentlessly, he must have written a poem about everyone he ever met with dead-on realism. Compared to him, the Spoon River Anthology is a work for kiddies. If Robert Frost was a poet of the rural New Englander, Michael Casey, also a New Englander, brings to life his mill town background, the guys who didn't go on to college and the larger world, but married the girls they dated in high school and got jobs in the mill. When he's sent to Vietnam he captures his fellow soldiers in their own military jargon. A master of the vernacular, he forces one to question writing in the 'correct' language when so many of us speak it quite differently, the language we think and feel in. Rare among poets, he's willing to explore colloquial speech in all its messiness, and gets it down perfectly – in fact, he's got us all down spot on. This collection, with its wide range of voices, is a unique achievement.”
     — Edward Field, author of The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag and After the Fall: Poems Old and New

“I first heard Michael Casey read these poems on a July evening in New Hampshire long ago while the war in Vietnam was still a tremendous confusion and sorrow for all of us and the poems made sense of it in a new way. My writer father had discovered that our summer neighbor was a poet and had invited him to read to us. I was stunned by the power of the language, the great-heartedness of the poems, the way Casey was not afraid to write about how men act under pressure, the way he used ordinary words to describe extraordinary feelings.
Now I read the poems in a New York City apartment in a time that seems as confusing as the 1970’s. Michael Casey’s poems changed as he went back to work after the war and later when he moved north, but their power is undiminished. He is tough but the poems are tender. These are poems that grab you by the heart and refuse to let you go. Read them!”
      – Susan Cheever, author of Drinking in America: Our Secret History and E.E. Cummings: A Life

“These are wonderfully droll, deadpan poems, like slyly condensed short stories, with an eye for the tellingly absurd detail and an ear for the oddities of everyday speech.”
      — Michael Foley, author of The Age of Absurdity and Isn’t This Fun: Investigating the Serious Business of Enjoying Ourselves

Doug Holder interviews Michael Casey
Video: Doug Holder


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

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
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Friday, April 19, 2019

Free Range Kids - Peggy Trojan (Evening Street Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Free Range Kids.  Peggy Trojan.  Evening Street Press.  Sacramento, California.  2017.

Winner of the 2017 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize.


In many of the best ways Peggy Trojan's Free Range Kids reminds Today's book of poetry of Saint Harper of Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.  Both pull from a deep well of what we know to be good and true.

Much like Jebb's cigar box Boo Radley treasures, Peggy Trojan's poems reveal their magic, one subtle move at a time.  And like Boo Radley's gifts of friendship, each of these little jewels can be savoured.  Trojan has just the right tidy morsel when that tidy morsel is called for.

Today's book of poetry has had the pleasure of a Peggy Trojan book before.  Back in November of 2016 Today's book of poetry looked at Homefront - Childhood Memories of WWII (Evening Street Press 2015).  You can look at that here:

Clearly Today's book of poetry has a soft spot for the talented Trojan.

Home Town

About a mile square
surrounded by woods
my hometown provided
a safe nest.
Anchored in the center
with a town hall,
one church, and one school.
We knew the names
of every person in every house,
and all the dogs.
Allowed to roam free,
we invented our days
with the resources we had:
the river, the backyards, each other.
None of us were ever afraid
to walk home in the dark.


A much simpler world perhaps.  Trojan does paint a more bucolic scene than most of us have been privilege to but Trojan is still writing from a geographical/historical/time and context that Today's book of poetry understands.  When very young, Today's book of poetry lived in a very small town, village.  We did have the freedom to walk as far as we pleased in any direction but in truth we rarely moved out of earshot range.

Today's young heroes and heroines are much the same, masters/mistresses of their own small green universes.

It would be easy to see these poems as nostalgia for a time gone by but they ring deeper, more universal than mere nostalgia.  Free Range Kids reminds us of a time before Trump and men and women like him.  

These poems feel refreshing and hopeful at a time when some hope would be helpful.  Peggy Trojan reminds us of how pure, simple and clean we are when we enter the fray, this mortal coil.

What's Due

Pa switched me once.
Don't remember what for.
Made quite a show of it, though.
Went out in snow
for a willow branch.
Laid it on top of the heater
to thaw so it had a little spring.
Gave me a minute to rue my deed,
then, a couple stinging whacks
on the backs of my skinny legs.
Like I said, don't remember what for.
It never became a habit.


Today's book of poetry has been sporadically absent in recent months and we apologize.  We buried a great man last week.  James "Jimmy" Patrick Griffin.  He was a good, good man.  A great father and a great husband and a great Brother-in-Law.  Jim didn't have much of an interest in poetry but always made it clear he was interested in me.  

Today's book of poetry is getting old and tired and slow.  But we will continue to post new blogs/reviews for the foreseeable future. 

Peggy Trojan lifted our spirits and that's why we wanted to share her poetry with you.  Trojan lived in a world that no longer exists but in giving us Free Range Kids we do get to take a look.  Memory is the most beautiful part of being human.  We get to remember what we love.

Lunch Guest, 1939

Mom, who's that man on the steps?
   Just somebody passing through.
Why is he here?
   Because he was hungry.
What is he eating?
   A fried egg sandwich.
And coffee?
   Yes, and coffee.
Why is he eating out there?
   He said he liked it outdoors.
How did he know where we lived?
   I guess they tell each other.
Where is he going?
   Back to the train, I think.
Is he ever coming back?
   Probably not.
Why did he call you "Ma'am"?
   I think he was just being polite.


Perhaps it is my age and perhaps it is the season, Peggy Trojan's Free Range Kids made Today's book of poetry feel hope.  And as Robin Roberston says in her poem "Cusp" from the excellent Swithering,
"Is there anything, more heartbreaking than hope?"

Today's book of poetry is back in the saddle.  Hang on.  It's going to be a bumpy ride.


Peggy Trojan

PEGGY TROJAN and her husband live in the north woods of Wisconsin in a house they built not far from her childhood home after they retired from teaching. She is the mother of six, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of two. She submitted her first poem for publication when she was seventy-seven, and has been enjoying seeing her work in print. She has been published in the Boston Literary Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, Talking Stick, Wisconsin People and Ideas Magazine, Thunderbird Review, Little Eagle's Re/Verse, Your Daily Poem, and many other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook collection of poems about her parents, Everyday Love, is available on Amazon. She is a member of Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

Young readers will be introduced to childhood without video games or cell phones, while seniors - especially those from small towns - will revel in memories of chores and the many ways children entertained themselves. The collection is as tasty as the potatoes retrieved from a charcoal fire after sledding in the snow.
       - Wilda Morris, Editor, Wilda Morris Poetry Challenge



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.