Friday, April 3, 2020

The LAST Today's book of poetry

Hello all you beautiful poetry monsters. 

Due to circumstances beyond our control Today's book of poetry will no longer be posting a blog/review.

I would like to thank each and every publisher, poet, and press agent I've had the pleasure of dealing with.

Today's book of poetry is one of the better experiences I've had in my life and I would like to thank you all for it.

Publishers, take note, Today's book of poetry will no longer be answering emails or requests.  Once again, thank you for letting me create Today's book of poetry.  I got to read so much fabulous poetry, it really was the best job in the world.

Sending love and peace.

Michael Dennis

Thanks for all the peaches.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

As One Fire Consumes Another - John Sibley Williams (Orison Books)

Today's book of poetry:
As One Fire Consumes Another.  John Sibley Williams.  Orison Books.  Asheville, North Carolina.  2019.



Hello to all you poetry fans, thanks for turning in.  The last couple of weeks have seen nothing but things we haven't seen before.  

Today's book of poetry and all of our staff send all of our love and best wishes to those countless health care workers and essential workers and the police and the firemen and firewomen too.  Thank you.  That person behind a mask at the hospital, the grocery store, the bank, that's what heroes look like.

As such today's blog is dedicated to Sally Riley and Connie White and Birgit Jackson, not only essential workers but essential sisters.

Now to poetry.  Today's book of poetry has been down the John Sibley Williams path before.  Today's book of poetry looked at his book, Disinheritance (Apprentice House Press) back in November of 2016 and you can see that here:

Beyond excellent if memory serves, Disinheritance was one of the best books of poetry Today's book of poetry has had the pleasure of writing about, full stop.  And As One Fire Consumes Another is more of the same, excellence.

As One Fire Consumes Another is Williams forth book of poetry and the man has it down.  Almost every poem in this collection has been previously published in a magazine or journal that we other poets would all be tickled to appear in.  Reading John Sibley Williams is a bit shocking because he never drops the ball, no matter how hard the poem hits.  Today's book of poetry surveyed our office for today's poetry selections because we simply couldn't decide on our own.  Like picking out diamonds from diamonds.  Today's book of poetry was helpless, every poem in As One Fire Consumes Another is essential stuff.  John Sibley Williams is one of the very best poets of his generation.

Small Treasons

Somewhere,  a  body moves  across
another without harm, as if taking a
knife to the sky,  &  we  can answer
when a child asks  where the world
goes    when     our     eyes     close.
Somewhere, we are sorry; I assume
for our silences. Bones ache & char
& must burn, somewhere. Even our
ghosts have left us. There must be a
place  where  hands  aren't  cages &
cages      aren't      gestures      well-
intentioned  but  failing.  Where we
love with more than body & hurt &
know  when  we  have  hurt. Some-
where,   a  less  flammable  history,
at least where the sparks fly upward
before falling back to ash.


Today's book of poetry needs to apologize to both our readers and to John Sibley Williams.  All of these poems appear in As One Fire Consumes Another with perfect margins on both sides of the text.  As our head tech Milo is in quarantine in another country and Thomas, our new intern, is in quarantine just up the street Today's book of poetry is helpless.  Of course I blame others who can't defend defend themselves, I certainly wouldn't admit to my own faults.  Hopefully we'll be back to a full staff soon.

As One Fire Consumes Another is filled with poems that sound so familiar as to be memory or even nightmare, it is like these poems belong to the memories of ghosts we don't know yet.  These poems catalogue an often grim horizon of rape, lynching, war, death and so on.  So how then does the reader leave As One Fire Consumes Another with any modicum of hope?  Today's book of poetry suggests that it is because of the heartwork visible in a John Sibley Williams poem.  The voice in these poems is a voice we all recognize, a voice that even as it scorches the earth leaves us hope.  How can that be?

Today's book of poetry has been sitting on As One Fire Consumes Another for a couple of weeks while watching the world unfurl, slow down, grind to an almost stop.  Today's book of poetry knew we'd need a poetry monster to get our ball rolling again.  John Sibley Williams is that poetry beast.  This cat only knows full burn.

Us & Them

Not that the alloy filament  sparking
iron wires needs us to call this light.
Even in our absence, shadows flee,
& when the switch lowers, return to
us undiminished. Not that the dead
won't still be here in the morning if
we dress their wounds & declare the
world healed.  It's not that anything
really heals.  Not that torture works
or fails.  Even if they drown upside
down in a small bucket of water in 
white room lit by a single swaying
bulb, our questions keep coming.


If you have a book club you should read As One Fire Consumes Another.  If you teach poetry you're going to need copies of As One Fire Consumes Another.  If you love poetry as Today's book of poetry knows you must, this is the next poet you need to read.

There is no let up in these poems.  Williams never takes his foot off of the gas.  This morning Today's book of poetry was listening to Steel Pulse and Bob Marley and the Wailers too, their sound swallowing you until you think you are singing the song.  Williams does the same thing.  As you read these poems his voice becomes a familiar, a haunting echo of how you have seen the world turning towards the flame.

Three Ways to Feign Suicide

The neon interrupting night calls us.
Behind the only convenience store in
this town built on convenience,
safety, hall monitors, & bright white
fences, we exhaust our bodies. Un-
labeled pills, vodka, screwing what-
ever recognizes itself in the swollen
whiteness of our eyes.  It's not the
dying,  not how, but the uncertain
whenness.  That we may all be loved
like good little sons, but not equally.


There are a thousand ways to say it,
but we'll take touching ourselves or
each other over the world will never
be more than the world any day.  As
we sketch schools in dust with our
heels, call our dead older brothers
teacher, burn our returned letters to
god.  As we love like unconquered
trees, like hay in horseless fields.  As
we yell fire in crowded fires, press
twigs to our temples to mean bang.


It's not the glue holding broken toys
together but that anyone bothered. It
is no bother, sparrow, hurling stones
at you when our candles burn longer
than our hands can hold them. Each
day is the day the earth ends, & then
there's always tomorrow.  Morning
needles through night to find us no
closer or farther from ourselves; all
our kicked-out-of-heavenness gone.
What I think I mean to say is, we're
just animal enough to stay.


Today's book of poetry needs to take this opportunity to thank poetry fan and all-round excellent citizen and pal, David St. Scrimshaw, for sending us a poetry care package courtesy of Black Squirrel Books.  The kindness of others never fails to reminds us here at Today's book of poetry that hope is everywhere.

Heartbreak and then hope, it's a good combination.  John Sibley Williams works so close to that line it is a frightening spiral, before you know it the excitement overcomes fear and then you don't want it to stop.  Today's book of poetry gives a sincere and very deep bow in John Sibley Williams direction, we are privileged to see As One Fire Consumes Another.

Stay at home poetry bums and read more poetry, repeat the process.  

As One Fire Consumes Another is a good poetry book to start this process with.  It really doesn't get any better than this.


John Sibley Williams

John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. He has also served as editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies, Alive at the Center (Ooligan Press, 2013) and Motionless from the Iron Bridge (barebones books, 2013). A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Laux/Millar Prize, Wabash Prize, Philip Booth Award, Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, The 46er Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a freelance poetry editor, writing coach, and literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Review, Colorado Review, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies.

John holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rivier University and an MA in Book Publishing from Portland State University. He teaches poetry for Literary Arts as part of their Writers in the Schools program and works as a poetry editor and mentor for The Poetry Barn and WriteByNight. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his partner and boisterous twin toddlers, Kaiya and Gabriel.

This is an important book from a major talent. Williams is an honest witness of a nation’s foibles, a writer who has the chops to see and name the worst in us and then divine it into something humane and beautiful to read.
 —The Oregonian

John Sibley Williams confronts the violent side of American history and its effect on our notions of self, fatherhood, and citizenship. […] The poems, which veer from elegiac to declarative to prayerlike, drill down into the beliefs and fears that underpin this violence.
 —Poets & Writers Magazine

One of the most original books of poetry I have read in decades.
 —Sean Thomas Dougherty

His poetry sets the normative uses of poetic language alight and burns away our safe skin of lyric expectation and contextual surety. Do not expect to read these poems and be unchallenged, unchanged.
 –Rusty Morrison

As One Fire Consumes Another transcends beyond the boundaries of family and history and country, beyond the body’s tragedies, the “silenced bones of others.” These poems rise as invocation, as testimonial to life’s unfiltered beauty, violence, and faith, to the “light . . . already in us.”
 –Vandana Khanna

As One Fire Consumes Another is a rare creation full of song and seethe […] It is a book of radiance and ruin that manages to be benevolent while breathing fire.
 –Simone Muench

If America’s collective conscience is at war, the wounds and battle scars are in full display in John Sibley Williams’ arresting book.
 –Rigoberto GonzΓ‘lez

These poems live in brilliant little cages that Williams has built for them, the language itself held to the fire. This collection grieves. It flames.
 –Chelsea Dingman

Full of passion and heart, this book is always digging through the rubble towards life.
 –Tyree Daye

DecemberMag Vol. 26.2 Launch Event - John Sibley Williams- Poetry Reading
Video:  December Magazine



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, March 19, 2020

We Were Like Everyone Else - Ken Victor (Cormorant Books)

Today's book of poetry:
We Were Like Everyone Else.  Ken Victor.  Cormorant Books.  Toronto, Ontario.  2019.

We Were Like Everyone Else

We Were Like Everyone Else by the soon to be well-known Ken Victor isn't much like anything else.  Books of poetry this fine are as rare as hen's teeth.  Victor writes mostly narratives but unlike the vast herd of poetry monsters out there he is rarely the hero of his story.

Today's book of poetry dove into We Were Like Everyone Else and wham!  Victor's lead off poem kicked my poetry head hard.  I knew instantly that this type of cooking had to be shared.  The man can flat out burn.

The Discovery Of Mouths

At first eating was through skin
like plants: the way they devour sunlight
without teeth or tongue. Foods were
rubbed in, all over. Ripe avocados,
for instance: on bellies, on arms,
buttocks, breasts, scalp. Wherever
the body wanted nourishment. Feeding time
was a potpourri of ecstasies: a banana
on the spine, plums rolled
behind the knees, a sliced cantaloupe
cradling the elbow. All this was
thousands of years before the first
one-minute screen kiss, back
in the very earliest days of Eden,
back when thoughts jumped without
speech across the gaps between them.
Adam and Eve, that is, who never
missed a meal, sampling the Garden
all over their bodies: putting
leaf lettuce between their toes,
pushing ripe baby tomatoes into their ears,
pomegranates turning their genitals red.
How sweet the delicacies of those early days!
Before Freud, before gossip, before hunger.


We Were Like Everyone Else is one of those grab-bags you dig in to anywhere and come out rich.  Ken Victor writes about all the big stuff; family, father/son relationships, parenting, death and the Angel of.

The poems vary in style but consistently hammer home the same messages, love your community, but family first, faith is an honour not an imposition, community again.

Ken Victor has studied with some of our generations very best poets and it shows; Jack Myers, Tess Gallagher, Philip Booth, Stephen Dobyns, Hayden Carruth and others.  Many of the poems in We Were Like Everyone Else have previously been published in magazines or journals.  We are lucky Victor decided to share them with us.

What Seems To Matter Most

When Ricky Holt, juvenile delinquent, booked into the woods
that day in '81 to escape his early-release program, I yelled to him
that he juked like the Juice, the way he was running in and out

between the scrub oaks and the pines, and Ricky stopped and
glanced back at me with that handsome black face of his, knowing
I could never catch him, so he smiled before disappearing, then

I had to radio for the dogs because we couldn't have him loose
this close to an off-season town on a windy stretch of Cape Cod,
so eventually they got him and hauled his ass back in front of me

and asked me if I wanted to take him back or have him locked up,
well, I said, without a moment's hesitation, you can lock 'im up;
I don't know why I said it, he wasn't a bad kid, just not able to get

his act together, which I understand, I mean was I much different,
I'm not sure I have it together now, thirty years after I said
lock him up, which is when Ricky went back into the system and

I didn't give him a second thought until the Juice again became
a story: his white Bronco going down the freeway, taking me
back to Ricky in those woods, dodging trees like nasty linebackers

aiming to take their crack at him -- blam! you sucker! -- Ricky
thinking he could get away, turn his big dreams into something
real the way O.J. had been The #1 Man for a lot of years, breaking

records and downfield tackles before he went to trial -- black man
white woman -- the whole sorry story driving out all other news
and America brought  back to what seems to matter most to it,

me thinking how I was once the judge and the whole goddamn
jury and I made my decision lickety-split no second chances, you
either get with the program or you git, and I started wondering

where that came from, why there wasn't the slightest bit of mercy
wrapped somewhere inside my ready justice, as if I thought under
Ricky's Converse All-Stars he must have had bootstraps just like

those turn-of-century immigrants, and if he wasn't going to begin
to pick himself up I wouldn't do it for him, and so Ricky returned
to the state's secure facility where he'd started, where he'd wait

to hear what came next: words from the social worker, the juvenile
judge, the facility superintendent, pronouncements woven together
like strands in a rope vigilante citizens were only too ready to yank.


Ken Victor isn't afraid of taking on the hard truth poem and they can truly be a bother.  Victor doesn't flinch, nor should he.  Many of these poems involve lessons given and learned by his children, given and learned by our poet.  These tender poems are cornerstones, are the blood and bone and love made cornerstones of Victor's foundation.  These poems ring true like pure musical notes.

We Were Like Everyone Else is a book you will want to go back to.  There is so much Today's book of poetry enjoyed but it doesn't all come easily.  Watching those we love diminish and die in front of our eyes is traumatic - some of these poems will tear your heart up.

The Request

The day my son was born
my spiritual practice dissolved.
Whatever I had absorbed

on the wisdom of non-attachment
left in a great commotion. Rope of
-- what else can I name it -- love

pulled me towards his unopened eyes.
Expelled from his first home, he flailed
naked in the new light. I bent over my wife

and tasted the salt sweat beading on her brow,
stroked her hair matted in its disarray,
bent over both of them -- flesh

to flesh to flesh -- and whispered a request:
grant me another hundred years
to spend in my present form.


Ken Victor has some of the same demons we all carry and some of the other kind too.  In We Were Like Everyone Else his humanistic voice will raise your spirits, some of his dark moments will haunt you, but luckily Victor also doses out enough hope to sustain all you poetry babies.

Ken Victor is first rate, We Were Like Everyone Else will be amongst the best poetry you read this year.

Ken Victor

Ken Victor moved to Canada full-time from the States in 1990 after spending many summers guiding canoe trips in Northwestern Ontario. A graduate of the writing program at Syracuse University, over the years he has published his poetry in journals on both sides of the border. We Were Like Everyone Else is his first book. Now a Canadian by choice, Victor makes his home with his wife and three children in the Gatineau Hills of West Quebec, where he designs learning for organizations.



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, March 16, 2020

Bulletproof - Matthew Murrey (Jacar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Bulletproof.  Matthew Murrey.  Jacar Press.  Durham, North Carolina. 2019.

"Grim as a box of bullets."
                                                                                             Shadow of a Prayer

Matthew Murrey's Bulletproof "comes correct" as our dear friend Chef Duncan would say.  Almost every poem in Bulletproof has previously seen the light of day in an anthology or journal or magazine and so on, that's not easy to do.  When Today's book of poetry was a much younger poet that was the path; publish in small magazines and journals and then take that success to the bigger magazines and journals and so on.  Once you'd staked some ground there, in the grassroots, those poems became the manuscript you'd send on to a publisher, a book publisher.

Bulletproof is quietly intense poetry, Murrey is crystal clear all the time but that doesn't mean that he's constantly showing all of his cards.  Murrey's poems have vigor but they never swagger.

Bike Messenger's Last Drop

Fifteen stories above brake lights,
horns and clenched steering wheels,
keyboards are quiet, doors locked
and phones mute in their cradles.
I'm walking back to the elevators
with an envelope left in the hallway
for me--my final run of the day.
Half past five and I'm past ready
to be done, to go underground
for a noisy train, to join everyone
heading home for the night.
Then an elevator opens; two women
step off, pushing their metal carts
of buckets, mops, soap, and rags.
They're speaking a language I can't
place--Serbian or Ukrainian perhaps.
They nod to me, then one heads east,
one west, toward opposite ends of the hall.
Their conversation ends, cut off
by distance and the rattle
of their carts.  Last bit of work
in hand, I ride the elevator down,
thinking of those women--
how they smiled and talked
with each other; how one patted
the other's arm as they parted.
Also I'm imagining all the trashcans,
dusty tables, coffee stains, toilets
and dropped Kleenex--the tasks
they will bend and kneel to;
how they were separated;
how we are silenced.


Bulletproof is so down to earth genuine that the music might be missed for the terra firma, but Murrey doesn't roll that way.  What Murrey cooks has no fat, these lean poems vibrate with heart-music.  Bulletproof lives in the space of the common ground we all share and breathes common sense.  Odds are you poetry babies have lived one or more of Murrey's sharp narratives.  Matthew Murrey's heart is always available, but it might be behind a bulletproof vest.

At our morning read we heard all about the police action on our quiet street last night.  Today's book of poetry takes a small stack of poetry to bed most nights, usually before 9.  By 10:30 Today's book of poetry was dead to the world and to the arrests taking place in front of our offices.  Haven't heard any of the details but simply because of the proximity - this sort of information alone can raise your blood pressure, make the hair on your arms vibrate.  Matthew Murrey's Bulletproof does the same beautifully damned thing.

Lucky You

All the breaks
you'll never know.  Red light
that kept you from being
broadsided and brain-damaged
just three blocks further on.
The thief who would've broken
in and waited under your bed
with a gun, got killed
when he was only ten, a freak
accident that broke his neck.

The thunderstorm bruising
the horizon would've been my last,
but I was on the couch, too sick
to get up and check the car windows
when the pelting rain started
and the tree limb fell, busting
the sidewalk and burying
its splintered end deep in dirt.

What doesn't happen, doesn't
hurt--hurtles by like a city block-sized
mountain of rock silently shooting
past the earth, whizzes by unseen
like a stray bullet, like germs in a sneeze.

Another year of drinking that water
and the doctor would've said,
"I hate to break this to you."
Good thing the phone rang.
Good thing they took a wrong turn.
I'm so glad you came early.  Oh,
and that mosquito you just slapped,
that was the one.  Lucky you.


Today's book of poetry shares much of Matthew Murrey's world view, how luck is both saint and sinner.  We've both encountered the sharp end of the stick.  Today's book of poetry doesn't remember who said it first, but it doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down (in life, getting knocked down is a certainty for us all), life is all about getting back up.

Murrey shares the contradictions we endure in our every day walk through it all.  Bulletproof isn't in the business of offering solutions.  These poems give poignant consideration to where the rubber meets the road.

Shoot the Cat

That's what my father did: killed
the engine, went back in the house,
opened the drawer by the bed,
and picked up the loaded thirty-eight.

He'd been backing the SUV down
the driveway when he ran over Foma
who'd lived with my sister for ten years
before she moved to Rochester.

I'm not sure if it took two shots, or just one,
but if cats could talk, Foma would have
thanked him for not letting her writhe and yowl
with her crushed pelvis for the last hours

of her fifteen years in Jacksonville,
which had been pretty good up until that moment
when she didn't see or hear the Dodge Ramcharger,
and my father didn't see her in the wide mirror
at his elbow.  They both were getting old.


Today's book of poetry wants to send out all our best wishes to all you poetry babies as the world braces for the COVID - 19 pandemic.  What an excellent opportunity to read more poetry.  If there is hoarding to be done, make it books of poetry, fill your shelves.

And if you're buying poetry nothing could be more prescient than the honest beauty and big hearted Matthew Murrey and his Bulletproof.  Murrey's poems are splendid common sense rendered lyrical.

Image result for matthew murrey photo poet

Matthew Murrey

Matthew Murrey was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, graduated from Stetson University in Deland, Florida, and then moved to Chicago in 1984. In Chicago he lived at a Catholic Worker house for a year, worked as a dishwasher, cook, bike messenger, and residential assistant - and met his partner. They moved to Iowa City in 1986 where he completed a graduate degree in education before returning to Chicago. Back in the city, he worked as a bus driver for a mental health center and - in 1992 - moved to Urbana where he was a mental health counselor for almost 8 years. In 2000 he enrolled at the University of Illinois and completed a library degree; he is now a public school librarian in Urbana. Murrey and his partner have two grown sons.

“A generous range of thought-worthy subjects, approached with simplicity, wisdom, and a deft use of language.”
     - Marilyn Nelson

Matthew Murrey
reading at the Book launch for Bulletproof
at the Urban Free Library
March 5, 2019
Video: Matthew Murrey



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, March 14, 2020

CIRCADIA - kevin mcpherson eckhoff (Gaspereau Press Limited)

Today's book of poetry:
CIRCADIA.  kevin mcpherson eckhoff.  Devil's Whim Occasional Chapbook Series.  Devil's Whim Chapbook No. 37.  Gaspereau Press Limited.  Kentville, Nova Scotia.  2018.

kevin mcpherson eckhoff's CIRCADIA gives us twelve absolutely engaging list poems.  Those of you poetry babies who regularly attend Today's book of poetry will remember our fondness of the form.  eckhoff's poems, each of the twelve is titled for a month of the year, are scatalogical gold.

Before you are finished the all too brief CIRCADIA, you really will not want it to end, eckhoff will have you travel from lemming history and Play-Doh to the Violent Femmes and the male CEO of Mother's Against Drunk Driving. This is deep-sea diving without taking a breath.

If this were a road trip, it would be one of the best; CIRCADIA is poetry rendered into hilarious and somewhat doomed hopscotch.  Not sure if eckhoff would ever take his foot off of the gas, but what a ride.


    Play that song,
     Play it again.
     Now, improvise.

I ate some cotton candy. I bought a plastic Wonder
Woman cup for a dollar. I lifted some weights. I'm
not in a classroom teaching. I didn't vomit. I picked
up four boxes of books and papers and puppets and
knickknacks that the custodian had cleaned out of 
my office at Okanagan College. I ate five peaches. I
asked the president of the board of directors to step
down. I spit my gum out the car window. I brought
home an orphaned baby vole. Kiddo named the baby
vole, which we've since learned may actually be a
pack rat, Diggin' Smily. I ran. We moved the toddler-
sized armchair into the bathroom because my
3-year-old was spending so much of his day on the
potty and the milking stool gets so hard on the butt
after reading five books. I lifted some weights. My
3-year-old asked: "What does God think of John
Lent?" I flipped a table to emphasize a point. I drove
to Vancouver. Playing at the park with my 1-year-old,
the moonrise was a word thief. I ran. There were
many toads on the road. I ate some popcorn. A kid at
the park told me that he is really into parkour and
that he just learnt about it yesterday. I watched a
lawyer cage his tears, in part, because I questioned
his actions and abilities. I petted a capybara. I didn't
go to the lantern festival. I deactivated my Facebook
account. I cried. I texted so much while driving. I
wondered how dreams work. I took three boxes of
books to the bookstore to sell. I spotted a fawn on
the side of the highway nuzzling a large lump of
brown fur.


The twelve monthly missives make for a eventful year, eckhoff is hammering out poems that are consistent, anti-cryptic, clear cut, and clean of artifice.  What more could the poetry angels ask for?

Today's book of poetry loves the way kevin mcpherson eckhoff rolls the dice and we cannot wait to see more of this obviously smarty-pants brilliant poet's poetry.  

CIRCADIA makes it all simple, a grandfather dies as easily as a snack of warm nuts appears.  A crossword puzzle and Max Ernst's The Hundred Headless Woman appear on the same palette and with the same simple but vivid colours.


     Between thought and expression, let us now kiss the culprit.
     Ooh, I don't know just what it's all about

I almost had sex. I ran. I didn't wear a seatbelt. I got
shit-eared by Laurel because her favorite foliage in
the front yard, a red twig dogwood, which she kept
calling forsythia, was by her judgement, irreparably
over-pruned by my mother. I played at the park. I 
auditioned for the role of James. I Googled "how to
cook frozen steaks." I drank three coffees. I lifted
some weights. I watched my 3-year-old reveal how a
cattail that has survived the winter contains the fluff
of roughly a hundred thousand billion dandelion
seeds. I had a new passport photo taken. I went to
the chiropractor. I went swimming in the public
pool. I cleaned up my 3-year-old's puke from the bed.
I lifted some weights. I bought the hedgehog a 
wheel, in which it ran for 90 minutes. I threw up. I
did not lift any weights. I wondered about the word
"hide" --how its noun and verb meanings collide. I
threw rocks into a creek. I lifted some weights. I had
sex. I momentarily fell asleep on the hardwood floor
while my 3-year-old and I hid from Jehovah's
Witnesses who were knocking on our door. I started
watching the second season of Daredevil. I shaved. I
ran. I beat up the cherry tree using a scythe to sap
my anger. I ate a lot of chocolate. My 3-year-old
tossed a shred of toenail into the hash browns
as they were frying. I picked up my new passport.
I didn't buy my mom a birthday gift.


It's almost spring here in Ottawa and we are all anxiously awaiting "open-window-weather", in the meantime we will rely on poetry like kevin mcpherson eckhoff's refreshing CIRCADIA.  There is so much to enjoy in these inventories, catalogues, lists, poems.

Today's book of poetry has Pharoah Sanders blasting out of the box, his seminal recording of "Oh Lord, let me do no wrong."  Today's book of poetry bought this recording many years ago, in Los Angeles, and then played it non-stop as we drove our rented car up and down California.  Sanders always gives Today's book of poetry more than we asked for, always a life-confirming Walt Whitman "barbaric yawp."  CIRCADIA dances like that, a rhythm all of its own.


          I waited in the shadow of my stupid house.

I rolled down a grassy hill. I went to my first gala film
premiere. I lifted some weights. I only had one
coffee. I sneezed. I killed a mosquito. I cleaned the
vegetable crisper. I saw my best friend. I self-taped
an audition for the role of Shawn in a film called He's
Out There, even though I know I won't get it. I was
hot. I ate some buffalo-wing-flavoured combos. I
swam in Okanagan Lake. I ran. I didn't get a
callback. I thought about Orlando, the city, not the
book. I clipped my fingernails. I saw a fly trapped in
a Ziploc bag at the playground and I didn't let it out.
My parents visited. I read 36 chapbook-length
manuscripts. I tried teaching my 10-month-old how
to gesture "momma" in American Sign Language,
which he could only imitate as "bitch." I lifted some
weights. I lamented not having found Anne Tardos
and her work 10 years ago. I felt like a hammer. I
nabbed a feral kitten out from under a red minivan at
Caravan Farm Theatre and brought it home. I went
swimming at the green boathouse. The kitten went
to live with our friend Cody. I signed up for a 
LinkedIn account. I ran. I read about Yuxweluptun's
proposal to rename B.C. I worked out at the Vernon
Boxing Club for the first time.


Today's book of poetry looks out over our big wooden desk and sees the room Michael Hewko built for me.  A quick and simple look at our shelves quickly reveals how poetry beasts like David Clewell, Stuart Ross, Cameron Anstee, David Collins, et al., have showered on our office with generosity.  The poetry world can be like that.  We have much to be thankful for in these offices and it gives Today's book of poetry hope.

In CIRCADIA eckhoff circumnavigates some difficult terrain but with such elan that the lasting impression is one of giddy comfort.  You will have a poetry smile on your face after reading this book, our new intern Tomas guarantees it.

Image result for kevin mcpherson eckhoff photo

kevin mcpherson eckhoff

Kevin McPherson Eckhoff is a writer, an actor, a teacher, a hubbub and a daddoo. The Globe & Mail described his most recent book—their biography (BookThug)—as “wide-ranging” and “incredibly playful.” He plays one of the lead characters in Sean Braune’s feature film Nuptials. By day, he teaches writing and shit at Okanagan College with his very star bff, Jake Kennedy; by night, he lives on unceded Splats’in Territory with a Laurel and two miniscule muscular men.



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, March 12, 2020

This Is Not A Frank Ocean Cover Album - Alan Chazaro (Black Lawrence Press)

Today's book of poetry:
This Is Not A Frank Ocean Cover Album.  Alan Chazaro.  Black Lawrence Press.  New York.  2019.

Black River Chapbook Competition Winner

Barrelhouse Reviews: THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM by Alan Chazaro

Being a sixty-three year-old grumpy white man in Canada, Today's book of poetry is sadly unfamiliar with contemporary music.  Bird, Trane, Prez and so on, Billie, Sarah, these are the musicians I know.  Hip hop, as I've only very recently discovered, is rock n roll as much as any other.  But until I started to write this blog/review I had never heard of Frank Ocean or Christopher Edwin Cooksey, I certainly had never heard of Odd Future or listened to Channel Orange or Blond.  But after a first reading of Alan Chazaro's This Is Not A Frank Ocean Cover Album we figured we needed to hear Frank Ocean's acclaimed Blond.  Astounding.

Alan Chazaro's This Is Not A Frank Ocean Cover Album is like a slice of some new fruit, spicy, fragrant and tasty.  Alan Chazaro can cook.  So can Frank Ocean.

Self-Portrait as American

I say fuck
because it feels right
about now,
and I say love because
what wrong
could it bring?
I haven't shot a pistol
since my stepdad
flung his Desert Eagle
from the bedroom and took us
to burst freedom as kids.
The smell of sulfur
and devil, the pinch
of steel between my 10-
year-old finger. I didn't
seek this, was never good
at hitting body-
sized targets,
kept my eyes
shut while I curled
the trigger. It's heavier
than you think,
to hold and re-
lease thunder.
Not like the movies but
somehow like the movies.
Ears still ringing,
in my bones.


Alan Chazaro is doing some singing of his own in This Is Not A Frank Ocean Cover Album.  But wouldn't you know it, he's also looking at colonialism, toxic masculinity and tenderness.  Chazaro is using a multi-coloured brush and painting broad strokes when he paints his landscapes.  And of course he paints in the detail so that it all fits.

Yes, Today's book of poetry uses metaphors like cooking, singing, painting, to describe poetry and we feel good about it.  And just in passing, our photo does not do it justice, the cover of This Is Not A Frank Ocean Cover Album is one of the very best we have seen in a long time.  Splendid.

Self-Portrait as Cartographer

Have you ever retraced the borders on a world
map with your abuela's lipstick? Post-

colonialism is a word that means re-hustle,
but should never be re-Tweeted. This isn't

a political statement. The states have been on fire
for as long as they have been stated. What happens

when GPS can no longer locate what you are
looking for? I'm talking cartography,

the fog-swallow of clouds, a wandering
mathematics. Since we've come a long way

from the art of papyrus. Since we've come for more
than your blood can script. Return to your proper

homes. This land is full of forsaken places
I've never visited. What is a sign if it only points to you

in one direction? How can you sleep with your eyes
open and an open road ahead of you?

Is it possible to be found when you've fallen
off the map? I've been in wilderness. I've been in fluorescent

cities. I mean this literally--how the lights raged
across both places. How I know the silence

of hands that can draw worlds and hands
that won't even try.


Today's book of poetry was listening to Frank Ocean this morning, but when we typing up this blog it was Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, that lot.  I don't think Mr. Chazaro would object.  

The world is on fire and Alan Chazaro is pointing fingers.  This poetry takes place in a world Today's book of poetry has not spent much time in - so why is it so compelling?

Actually, this is where Frank Ocean really comes in to play, listening to Mr. Ocean it was easy to imagine Chazaro writing these poems.  The same casual elegance and a little embrace of the classic "fuck you."

Chazaro writes about Oscar de La Hoya fighting Julio CΓ©sar ChΓ‘vez and Today's book of poetry is in the room.  Today's book of poetry has nothing but admiration for this poem and the poet who got it down.

Julio CΓ©sar ChΓ‘vez vs. Oscar De La Hoya, 1996

That night our apartment was an armpit, testosterone
and sweat-washed as if Papi and his friends were the ones

entering the ring. When he let me sip his Heineken I knew
it was a big deal. I stumbled and hiccupped, imitating

Dumbo from the cartoon I'd loved. The men laughed, easily
entertained until ChΓ‘vez appeared on screen. The Mexican

Warrior, they called him. Papi reminded me
how he had battled one hundred fighters, more

than Ali, or Tyson, or Dempsey. The De La Hoya
entered. Everyone booed, telling him to go back

to his locker like the traitor he was. The Mexicans
thought he was gringo and the gringos thought

he was Mexican. I should've smiled
with missing front teeth for The Golden Boy

in his mixed-up outfit, a combo
of US and Mexican flags, but I didn't, I don't

remember the actual fight, a flurry
of blurred punches and the card girls in bikinis. I wasn't sure

what took place until everyone on the couch started
grumbling, their movements a slow and beer-confused

disappointment. I swear someone must've cried. ChΓ‘vez 
was hunched over in his corner, right eye swollen

from repeated jabs to the brow, while De La Hoya
stood center, undefeated.


Poetry may be the uniter of worlds, Alan Chazaro was not considering the attention of an aging Canadian, his house surrounded by snow, when he wrote these fine poems.  A true poetry voice always has a clear sound and Chazaro cooks that up proper.

Today's book of poetry will be waiting, both hopeful and anxious, for Chazaro's next poetry title.  The man is a stone cold poetry assassin and Today's book of poetry loves that madly.

Image result for alan chazaro poet photo

Alan Chazaro

Alan Chazaro is a high school teacher at the Oakland School for the Arts, the former Lawrence Ferlinghetti Fellow at the University of San Francisco, and a June Jordan Poetry for the People alum at UC Berkeley. A Bay Area native, his poems have been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Puerto del Sol, Huizache, Acentos Review, and Ninth Letter. He is a recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Award and has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes. His first poetry collection, THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM
(Black Lawrence Press, 2019), was the winner of the 2018 Black River Chapbook Competition, and his second book, PIΓ‘ATA THEORY (Black Lawrence Press, 2019), was awarded the 2018 Hudson Prize.

"Listen: This book is so good it makes me want to curse. Better still: it makes me want to go write. Alan Chazaro's THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM is full of neon imagery—a blunt passed around like 'just-born stars,' an apartment full of men watching boxing as an armpit. Chazaro's lyric is expansive; his music is tight. Nod your head & find yourself going back to each poem to trace its wisdom like a kid hitting rewind on a Walkman to hear their favorite punch line over and over. Chazaro's poems explore masculinity & machismo with tenderness, they define & redefine ideas of home, and they shout out the Bay Area with love & precision."
—JosΓ© Olivarez

"Welcome to the blood hymn of the fast-moving body. In THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM, debut poet, Alan Chazaro, breaks open—beautifully—the contemporary poetry landscape, crossing bridges, contemplating borders, and reckoning with the legacies of a rumbling boyhood. The voices here are tender, intellectual; hungry for desert wonder and midnight hoops, they wind their way through the ruins of Athens, the streets of Mexico City, and back to the yards and bars of Oakland. 'We are byproducts of earthquakes,' confesses the speaker; 'Do not look away.' A burning and beautiful achievement by a poet on the rise."
 —Brynn Saito

"Alan Chazaro's THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM challenges us to listen. To reckon with the troubling vibrations of diaspora and masculinity in the landscapes of a gentrifying America and postcolonial world. In these pages you'll find a poet who has done that listening, who has listened to himself, his loved ones, his community. Who knows 'there are streets that have retained the noises of ghosts,' and has found a way to remix those vibrations as a way of navigating the joys and perils of his world."
—Malcolm Friend

"THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM is a full-throated song, a reclamation of language, history, and memory that resonates across time and space and generations. Here, the Bay Area is sentient and brimming with sound, possessing a body and blood of its own. Chazaro's language is pure electricity, revealing the sonic landscapes and silences that surround lineages, memories, and displacements. By alchemizing loss into light, these poems are both cosmic and deeply embodied. Chazaro rewrites masculinity and reckons with colonialism, all while guiding us toward the mythic possibilities of creation: 'how constellations are formed / from the darkness of our mouths.' Each poem contains a home within itself, a home that defies nation and gentrification, a home that can hold all of us. This collection is kaleidoscopic, alive with joy and mourning and defiance. With each singing line, it brings the future to us: 'One day, / let us all return to ourselves.'"
—Kristin Chang

Alan Chazaro -- "16 Reasons Why a Dreamer Will Be the First Person to Build a Spacecraft"
Oakland School for the Arts-- Heart of Oakland 2019 Written by Alan Chazaro Performed by Alan Chazaro and OSA students



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 10, 2020

Local Haunts - David White (Pedlar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Local Haunts.  David White.  Pedlar Press.  St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.  2019.

There is all the sad glamour you are every going to need in the first section of David White's Local Haunts.  The first section of this book, titled "Port Franks, Looking Towards Kettle Point" makes poetry out of distressing and disturbing childhood travesties.  There is an electric current running underneath this section, when you are reading Local Haunts you can feel it hum.

In White's poems coming of age comes at a cost.  Some of these poems hit the reader like a punch and others like a weep.  Either way that hum keeps you plugged in.

For Today's book of poetry there is some common ground between David White and myself.  The first section of Local Haunts reflect some of White's experience growing up in and around London, Ontario and having a father in the military.  Many of White's locations are familiar to my childhood self.  My father was a member of the RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) and stationed in London, where I was born just two short years after Mr. White.  Today's book of poetry was born at St. Joseph's Hospital, London, Ontario.  I have memories of Wolseley Barracks.  Apparently my misbehaviour was a factor in the formation of rules about children watching movies on the base.  Enduring the beach at Iperwash was a regular happening in my family, I enjoyed it about as much as Mr. White, so not much at all.  Although our complaints were somewhat different.


Dragged out of the bathtub, held there
naked, dripping, suspended in my Daddy's grip
before the full-length mirror,
six years old, skin and bone,
bruises all on display,
scrawny genitals shriveled up,
while he wails away beyond words:

You fuckin' little brat! Goddamn skinny little puke.
People'll think we don't feed you, you god-
damn little bastard.

Bone dance of throttled skeleton
held there, purples turning black.
One last thrust. I'm flat against the mirror,
face and body grotesque,
a dangling distortion, more
emancipated Third World child
than suitably fattened North American,
Daddy screaming, beer breath
hot on my shoulder:

fuckin' skinny little son of a bitch.


David White is gay, but Today's book of poetry would never mention such a thing unless it was relevant to the poetry.  In the remaining two-thirds of Local Haunts much of his poetry concerns his journey in a world that can still be frightfully hostile.  Yet for Today's book of poetry there enough moments of splendid joy, optimism and celebration in Local Haunts, to entice all you poetry babies.  White's community, like all others, looking for love and happiness, and rightly so.

The second and third chapters/elements of Local Haunts share and revel in the experience of searching for and sharing love.  Entirely admirable end game plan.  

Days of 1986

Last time I saw Greg Van Patter,
Gay farmer, he was walking,

hobbling with a cane
past Kingsmill's Department Store.

That was out of character, but soon,
too soon, he was dying of AIDS.

I first met Greg during a summer gift:
homemade ice cream

on the lawns of Eldon House
his--suited, for the party--

supple body, perfectly fitted,
consecrated to toil,

laugh lines caressed
by sun on furrowed fields, eyes

flared as his glance
irresistibly engaged,

his smile impeccable
through the extended evening blue.

I revelled in the musk
of his event horizon,

those moments
of erotic singularity

amidst all the dainty
Eldon House Garden Partiers,

those ends of June when Chris,
Museum Director,

rounded up all his friends
and, unbeknownst to the Board,

surreptitiously put on the biggest
"A-List" Gay party in town.

Gone now so many of the revellers
who danced away those evenings

as the dusk embraced
then erased their dreams.


There are so many fine and precise moments in Local Haunts, whether White is in a happy poem or a sad one, his constant attention leaves the attentive reader with that little jaw drop moment with expedient frequency.

Today's book of poetry will return to David White's excellent Local Haunts in a moment.  We wanted to report that our readership just surpassed 800,000 and we're pretty excited about that here in our offices.  Our new intern, Tomas, surprised us with a cake, eight candles on top.  It was a great way to start the day.  The cake, vanilla with vanilla icing, side of whipped cream, was delightful.  That's the good news.

The less good news is that Today's book of poetry has been sad of late.  One of our greatest poetry friends, David Clewell, died quite recently and unexpectedly.  Today's book of poetry had spoken to David just a few days before his demise but David barely mentioned that he was ill.  David Clewell, former Missouri State Poet Laureate, had been a guiding light in recent years.  His knowledge of poetry and poets simply superior to any I had previously encountered.  David's generosity of spirit and action filled Today's book of poetry's heart with joy AND added ludicrously wonderful additions to the Today's book of poetry poetry library.

Our good friend Michael Hewko died last week.  If you knew about Hewko you knew he was simply the best at what he did.  But it is unlikely you ever heard of Michael.  He was the genuine curmudgeon.  K and I have artwork by Michael Hewko in several rooms of our house, he painted all the walls, built all the bookcases in my study and the permanent ones in the rest of our house, he designed and built our bathroom, and he was my curmudgeonly old friend.  The very first art I ever bought was from Michael Hewko.  It hangs in our bedroom.  Oh yes, he designed and built a sliding shelf that fits over our bed, built it out of old doors.  The man was a certain type of genius and those of us who loved him now have that big hole where he used to grumble.

Death is coming to us all, no doubt about that shit.  And my sadness is certainly no worse than yours.  But this particular double hit, following a year of funerals and grief, was simply staggering.  Today's book of poetry is looking forward to getting back on track, yesterday's surprising Ottawa sun storm of delight was a good step.

Reading David White's Local Haunts is exactly the poetry kick in the ass that Today's book of poetry wanted/needed to get our train back on the tracks.  Here's some more:

Almost As If

     It was never easy being a homosexual.
                                        -Stephen Sondheim

and it's almost as if I'm cruising Mannahatta,
arm in arm with Walt Whitman,
searching every passing eye
for resonant desire,

searching for the one
I could cling to,
electric, adhesive,
spontaneous genital combustion,

and it's almost as if I'm holding
Hart Crane's hand,
to keep him from leaping
from the ocean liner's deck

into the Gulf of Mexico.
"Goodbye. Goodbye, everybody," he cries,
and the ship sails on towards
the desolation of America,

and it's almost as if I'm howling
with Allen Ginsberg
while the best minds of my generation
are destroyed by the madness

of yet another grasping, greedy,
hypocritical, evangelical,
insincere abomination
of Capital,

and it's almost as if I'm standing
beside Marsha P. Johnson
outside the Stonewall Inn
those early morning hours.

June 28, 1969, grieving
the death of Judy Garland and shouting
"Gay Power!"
before a billy club strikes her head,

handcuffs encircle her wrists,
and it's almost as if I'm demonstrating
with ACT UP
at the AIDS Conference in Montreal

June 4, 1989,
chanting "Silence = Death,"
reading the Montreal Manifesto
(and what do I mean, "almost?"

I was there,
chanting, carrying my placard),
and my body's hanging,
broken, in Wyoming

on the fence beside Matthew Shepard,
October 12th, 1998,
pistol-whipped face
a red sea of blood

except where tears
river down his dying cheeks:
he was finally, October 26, 2018,
twenty years after his death,

laid to rest in Washington
Cathedral, and I'm attending
the marriage of friends
who've been living together for decades

but only now can legally seal their bonds
and live the dream they've held on to
all these unacknowledged years,
and I'm maintaining vigilance

against the rising tide
of far-right ignorance
seeking once again
to repeal our future.


All of you poetry babies, thank you so much for 800,000 hits, Today's book of poetry certainly appreciates it.  We would like to thank each and every one of you personally.  In lieu of that we will continue to bring you quality poetry at just the right price.

If you would like to interact with Today's book of poetry we are sending out a challenge:  send us your favourite book of poetry you don't think we have in the stacks.  Best entry will receive two Crying Charlies and one night's stay in the Stuart Ross Guest + Reading Room, transportation not included.

Our mailing address remains:

Michael Dennis/Today's book of poetry
111 Dagmar Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario
K1L 5T3

So Today's book of poetry is happy to be back in the saddle, happier still that we can bring you titles like Local Haunts by David White.  A big, big, big thanks goes out to the publishers, like Pedlar Press, who keep Today's book of poetry in business by sending us their best.

David White

David White was a participant in Renga: a collaborative poem (Brick Books, 1980).  In 1994, in completion of his Ph.D., he wrote A Territory Not Yet On The Map: Relocating Gay Aestheticism In The Age Of AIDS.  His first solo collection of poems is The Lark Ascending (Pedlar Press, 2017).  Local Haunts is his second collection.  For many years he taught Theatre History and Writing at Fanshawe College.  He lives in London, Ontario.



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.