charles p. ries | ries reviews

4 03 2010

PoetryDispatch No.316 | March 3, 2010

RIES REVIEWS

the small presses
by
CHARLES P. RIES

Lines On Lake Winnebago

Gary C. Busha, 33 pages, $8.00, Marsh River Editions, M233 Marsh Road, Marshfield, Wisconsin 54449

To Gary C. Busha, life is the sound of one man fishing. Lake Winnebago (located in East Central Wisconsin) plays host to guys in boats, guys sitting over ice holes, guys drinking schnapps and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and guys standing under maple trees waiting for the big one to take the bait. It’s Zen meditation with worms and fishing rods. Busha’s Lines On Lake Winnebago is a reflection on life in sparse, conversational language. His poems and reflections are as effortless as the act of casting and reeling. In Getting Hooked he notes “Each fishing day / adds to my memories of / a star-clear night. / drunk with fresh life.” And in Portrait of Dock Fishing he sees “Old men with big yellow bellies / remember themselves as lean river boys / fishing together from the docks.”

There are no existential crisies or drunken diatribes against the insanity of life here. No shock rocks to grab your mind, but rather a numinous embracing of the freedom found on Lake Winnebago doing almost nothing. Ham and Cheeses on Rye “I am an old man fishing in the rain / on my sagging dock, without a fish in miles- / yet, it’s a perfect day for fishing.” #6 Hooks “on the dock, the scent of weeds, / wet wood, and rain hangs over the water. / The scales fly up like hailstones. / He hears a roll of thunder and feels / scales and raindrops fall in his hair.”

But beyond the beauty of these plain-spoken poems is the production quality of this fine looking chapbook. The cover jacket, photo reproductions, and cardstock are all well chosen making this not just a great chap to read, but a wonderful chap to hold. Gary Busha goes deep into common experience and nets rich imagery with still, clear meanings.

CELEBRATION OF SAMATHA

By: t. kilgore splake | The Vertin Press, P.O. Box 508, Calumet, Michigan 49913 | 56 Pages / Price: $17.50 | Make checks and money order payable to t.k. splake

I am always curious to see what poets can do with long writing. I know that for many it is a journey often considered, but seldom taken. I was pleased then to see t. kilgore splake take the leap with his novella entitled, “A Celebration of Samantha”. This is love story made all the more poignant because it also looks at the end of life. I was surprised that splake, who can write sometimes painfully long poems in stream of consciousness prose style, was able to reign himself in to tell this very sweet story. Here we find the Gray Beard Dancer has fallen in love with Elizabeth the young counter waitress at his local coffee shop. She has a young eight-year-old daughter named, Samantha who gives this story much of its depth. Told over thirteen chapters, it also includes black and white photos that depict the various places splake shares with us on this journey. This blending of prose and photo gives the story a memoir kind of intimacy. And while splake calls his book a work of fiction, it is hard to believe there is much distance between what is on the page and his life. Splake reflects on the end of his life, while celebrating love with Elizabeth, and becoming an endearing, wise and thoughtful friend to Samantha. As with all really good stories, I was left at the end wondering, “How did it all work out? Did they stay together?” I wanted more, but realized that fifty-six pages of prose may be all the prose we will get from a writer whose inclinations and interests seem more connected to poetry than long fiction, but I wish this weren’t so. I wanted splake to move this story forward another two hundred pages and take me in and out of the deep waters of love in his very unique fashion.

ČERVENA BARVA PRESS | Gloria Mindock, Editor, P.O. Box 440357, W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222 | www.cervenabarvapress.com

What do you suppose is in the water in Somerville? Small press publishers are popping up all over the place: Ibbetson Street Press, sunny outside press and now, Červená Barva Press. Maybe we should all drink some of that Somerville prose juice as it appears to be poetry fortified.

Gloria Mindock founded Červená Barva Press in April 2005, since that time she has published and designed ten chapbooks, three e-books, and twenty-one poetry postcards. Forthcoming in 2007 are four more chapbooks, four full-length poetry books, as well as two plays and fourteen poetry postcards by fourteen poets using paintings by Nancy Mitchell. Oh, and she also publishes a monthly electronic newsletter which lists readings from all over the world as well as interviews with authors. I asked Gloria how it all began, “I started this press because of my passion for poetry. I edited the Boston Literary Review (BluR) for 10 years, and I read high-quality submissions during that period. Since the magazine ceased circulation, I have spent many years freelance writing, but see a need for a new publishing forum. This led me to take it a step further and expand into publishing. I wanted to provide another outlet for writers who take risks, have a strong voice, and are unique. Eventually I will publish more writing from different countries, particularly authors from Eastern Europe. There are so many wonderful writers in this world and I want to give them more exposure.” Mindock’s fascination with Eastern Europe, and especially Prague, prompted her to name her press Červená Barva which means the “red color” in Czech.

As the following short poetry reviews will note, Mindock has a wide range of tastes and inclinations when it comes to the writers she chooses to publish:

The Whole Enchilada

By: Ed Miller

Wonderful! If this is Miller’s first chap book – I want to put in an advance order on the next ten. I loved “Dear Poet” and “Extraterrestrials Use Holographic Imagery Of Naked Females”. How glorious to read a wry sense of humor who is capable of creating such endless possibilities.

God Of The Jellyfish

By: Lucille Lang Day

We need more poets with M.A.’s in zoology and Ph.D.’s in science and math education, or we will never discover the metaphoric limits of the ocean, stars and universe. Oh, and Lucille Lang Day also has a M.A. in English and M.F.A. in creative writing. She will never run out of material given the galaxies she has chosen to examine. She does a wonderful job making this collision of science, the cosmic, and the day-to-day work.

Of All The Meals I Had Before: Poems About Food and Eating

By: Doug Holder

This collection of poetry may well elevate food above sex as one of life’s two great pleasures. Holder writes in the spare precise style he is known for. No extras – all meat and potatoes. These are highly descriptive, ambient poems of place and person. I was surprised at how well Holder pulled this collection off.

Gothic Calligraphy

By: Flavia Cosma

Mindock says her favorite writers come from Eastern Europe. As I read this delicious and somber Romanian born Canadian poet, it is easy to see why. Cosma uses nature as a backdrop and foundation for her poetry. She is a Richard Wilber Poetry in Translation winner for her book of poetry 47 POEMS. One has to wonder if being born speaking Slavic gives a poet the upper hand when painting silk on water.

Bilingual Poems

By: Richard Kostelanetz

I had to work hard to get through Kostelanetz’s work – esoteric word art more than poetry. Begging the question, where does poetry end and visual art begin? Scrabble meets Einstein. Bilingual Poems is on one level a series of two dimensional Mandalas, and on another, a series of Gideon knots. Kostelanetz says that his goal is “to be the most inventive poet ever in American Literature.” He just might do it, but will people read it?

W Is For War

By: George Held

It is hard to create metaphor or image equal to combat. War is horror – how can words ever come close to mirroring moments of such suffering and fear? I give George Held credit for trying and doing such a good job at it. His poem, “From Nam to Armageddon” is a great piece of work. One of the most complete war poems I have ever read.

Fishing In Green Waters

By: Judy Ray

These are effortless poems that spin between here and now using both conversational and lyrical language. Judy Ray lavishes description around the subjects of her observations that are often common in their nature, but elevates their substance with her gentle compassion. Her poems, “Anonymous Valentines” and “Sometimes” are wonderful works. About this Fishing In Green Waters, Judy Ray says, “This new collection is more elusive in theme, and maybe more mysterious for that reason. Several of the poems refer to those sparks of excitement which come from recognition of some moment of transient beauty, or a small gesture which speaks for a historic moment.” This is work by a very fine, skilled, steady hand

I asked Mindock about her background and influences and she said, “My mother always painted, and poetry was always around me. I always had that artistic background. My dad taught 7th and 8th grade English. There are a lot of artists in my family. My sister is a musicologist. My parents are my biggest influence.”

Doug Holder of Ibbetson Street says this about Mindock, “Gloria has long experience in the poetry biz. We call each other holy fools because we are passionate about our work, and don’t make a red cent, like most of the holy fools in the small press. She puts out a quality product and is a joy to deal with!” Doug is right, and we poets are lucky to have holy fools who work for nothing, but the joy it brings them.

SALUD | Selected Writings. By Curt Johnson

216 Pages, Price: $15.00, Cross & Roads Press, P.O. Box 33, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

SALUD is a homage to Curt Johnson by his dear friend and small press institution, Norb Blei. This is the 27th publication from Blei’s, Cross + Roads Press. Blei says, “When a writer reaches the point of Selected Works in his life, a definite benchmark has been achieved. You stand by your words. What you’ve penned you are. This could not be more true then in the life and work of Curt Johnson, short story artist, novelist, essayist, critic, and one of the best yet, least celebrated writers and publisher (december magazine and december press) coming out of the heartland.”

Through SALUD, Blei gives us a sampling of Johnson’s work: novel excerpts, essays, articles, and memoirs. The challenge here is condensing the works of a writer who wrote so broadly and in so many forms. I often felt like I was getting only the first course – a taste. But this is want Blei intended to do; tempt us with Johnson’s work and encourage us to seek it out.

This book is both a literary experience and a history of the small independent press. Johnson who is now in his 80’s, was editor of the highly regarded december magazine in the early 60s. He was one of the first to publish the works of Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates, Bukowski, and Ted Kooser, to name only a few who have gone onto popular acclaim. But Johnson also published the work of many writers who never hit it big, or at all. Johnson and Blei are two of the patron saints of the small press. They have been in it and doing it for over 50 years. They do it as much to give new writers a place to shine, a chance to be heard, as much as for any glory they may receive.

I found the interview between Johnson and Blei that concludes SALUD a delight – a history lesson and look inside the head of two small press pioneers. Blei says in the interview, “Curt have you, one of the Granddaddies of independent publishers in America, ever been invited to read your work and/or discuss the role of the independent presses in academia? Northwestern University? The University of Illinois (Johnson has lived his life in Chicago). And Johnson replies, “I don’t think the academy and its creative writing courses are of much use to the real writer. And I don’t think the safe haven the academy provides established writers does their own writing much good either.”

For those of us active in the independent small press this book is a must read. How can we know that we are innovating if we don’t know what has come before us? But even more, SALUD is a morality tale that has been told again and again by yet another talented, prolific writer sitting at linoleum kitchen table at 11:00 a.m., having a coffee and a shot of whiskey with a fellow writer and friend reflecting on the old days, lamenting the fact he never quite hit it big, but not willing to change one thing about his journey, the books he wrote, the people he met, or the writers he helped along the way.

Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot (www.wordriot.org), Pass Port Journal (www.passportjournal.org) and ESC! (www.escmagazine.com). He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore (www.woodlandpattern.org). He is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes (http://www.visitsheboygan.com/dairyland/). You may find additional samples of his work by going to: http://www.literati.net/Ries/





charles p. ries | one book

18 02 2010

PoetryDispatch No. 312 | February 18, 2010

ONE BOOK

by
Charles P. Ries

What is a book? Is it a manuscript that, in one form or another that has been rejected by over 300 agents and has not found a publisher a book? Are the 600 copies I have created at my local Kinko’s-FedEx for $5.00 and then sold for $10.00 a book? I don’t know, but after years of immersing myself in this writing trough, I no longer care. I just write what I write. And I publish any way I can.

I caught the heat twelve years ago. Before then I had not been born to the word. I did not write fiction, poetry, short stories, articles, reviews, interviews, but when the light shown on me I became a hot rocket. I have published five books of poetry and too many reviews, articles, and interviews to count (but no one gets ‘book credit’ for any of this kind of writing, do they?). At one point I was the poetry editor to three on line publications. I was consumed with writing. I loved it. It was everywhere.

Not long after my literary birth, I decided it was time to try short stories. So I wrote twenty six of them focused on my growing up on a mink farm in Wisconsin. I am quite sure that each story in this collection was rewritten in excess of twenty times. When I submitted it to agents as a short story collection, I was rejected by over 100 agents. So I hired myself a developmental editor and she guided me through restructuring the short story collection into a novel based on memory. My guess is we rewrote that manuscript about fifteen times before submitting it to agents who loved it, but said was too small a story to make money on. So I began to publish The Fathers We Find myself and sell it. But I didn’t stop there. I wrote a continuation of The Fathers We Find called, A Life By Invitation and again queried agents; and again received a hurricane of rejections. So I worked with my developmental editor to weave material from The Fathers We Find as flash backs in A Life By Invitation. The final product was wonderful. I queried over 200 agents. I still have the entire list of agents whom I queried and who rejected my manuscript; I call it my Page of Pain. That manuscript sits in my drawer until one day the heat returns and I will again rebuild it.

But nothing is wasted. No effort goes unrewarded. I continue to sell The Father We Find and people love it. They laugh, they cry, they are puzzled. Sometimes it is this love that keeps us writing. It is this love that makes me realize, I have something to say and people love how I say it. So if there was one book I would like you to read, it would be The Fathers We Find.

PUBLISHING RECORD

BOOKS DUE IN 2010

  • Girl Friend & Other Mysteries of Love by Alternating Current Press, Leah Angstman, Editor.
  • I’d Rather Be Mexican by Cervena Barva Press, Gloria Mindock, Editor.

PUBLISHED BOOKS

  • I’d Rather Be Mexican, http://www.TMPoetry.com (download free) 2005
  • The Last Time, Moon Printing and Publications 2005
  • Odd, Four-Step Publications, (second printing) 2004
  • The Fathers We Find: The Making of a Pleasant Humble Boy, (Prose) Bad Monk Press/Kinko’s FedEx 2004
  • Monje Malo Speaks English, Four-Step Publications, (third printing) 2003
  • Bad Monk: Neither Here Nor There, Lockout Press/Four-Step Publications 2001

Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews, and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry. Most recently he was awarded the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association “Jade Ring” Award for humorous poetry. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot (www.wordriot.org) and a former member of the board at the Woodland Pattern Book Center. Charles is Co-Chairman of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. He will have two books of poetry published in early 2010: Girl Friend & Other Mysteries of Love that will be published by Alternating Current Press, Leah Angstman, Editor. And I’d Rather Be Mexican that will be published by Cervena Barva Press, Gloria Mindock, Editor. He is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes (http://www.visitsheboygan.com/dairyland/). Most recently he was interviewed by Jane Crown for Blog Radio. You may find that interview by going to: www.janecrown.com and clicking on archived shows at the bottom of the page. You may find additional samples of his work by going to: http://www.literati.net/Ries/





charles p. ries | reviews on michael kriesel, william taylor jr. & karla huston

8 07 2009

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 189 | July 8, 2009

(small press reviews #3)

RIES REVIEWS:

Michael Kriesel, William Taylor Jr. & Karla Huston

The Light of Fields by: Michael Kriesel, 31 Poems / 68 Pages, Price: $5 (includes shipping), Propaganda Press / “Pocket Protector Series”, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge, MA 02149. Review by Charles P. Ries

“The Light of Fields” by Michael Kriesel was originally published in 1982 by Jump River Press, Inc. out of Prentice, Wisconsin when Kriesel was just twenty years old. It was one of Kriesel’s first books of poetry and gave me the opportunity to visit this writer early in his career. One can certainly see the same careful, spare, almost Haiku quality to many of Kriesel’s poems, and one also finds his wonderful ability to extract unique and unfolding metaphors from the heart of rural Wisconsin. I don’t think any poet writing today can draw image from the rural farming environment like Kriesel. But what I also found was a young man focused on romance, reflecting on marriage. I often think that first poems are the most personal. They are the fertile ground from which art grows. If one reads Kriesel more recent books of poetry, we see him dancing between forms, extending forms, getting us lost in his numinous meanings, but in “The Light of Fields” we find Kriesel looking around and discovering his world for the first time.

Here is his wonderful title poem, “The Light of Fields”:

“Wholly knowing the grasses sure / growing // the earth holding green breathing / beings toward morning / against the far dark between stars // and supporting each separate stem / bent away from the sun // Knowing these by the earth in you / deep with the nights of our sleep / and the light of these fields in you / easy I rest in your grain //Wholly knowing these grasses grow / over all death // and the delicate skeletons covered by / green raising past them // I love you / and lie down in your fields // unafraid of grass rising to cover me.”

Let me also say this is a tiny book of poetry – just two inches by two and three quarters inches square. Leah Angstman who is the publisher of Propaganda Press calls it her “Pocket Protector Series”. This is the seventh in her Pocket Protector Series. And while this book is tiny, it is packed with poetry. This was a wonderful opportunity to visit a writer as a young man and discover that his early work foretold the bright future Kriesel continues to have.

WORDS FOR SONGS NEVER WRITTEN: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by: William Taylor Jr., 126 Poems/196 Pages/$13.95, Centennial Press, Charles Nevsimal, Publisher, P.O. Box 170322, Milwaukee, WI 53217-8026. Review by Charles P. Ries

“Words for Songs Never Written” is big, deep, and beautiful. In the small press, where doing everything on no budget is the norm; it is wonderful to see a publication that “looks” as good as this one. It is a perfect melding of content and medium moving a great book of poetry to another level. So who better to publish this full collection than Charles Nevsimal of Centennial Press, who has made a business of migrating anything between two covers into both visual and literary art. In “Words for Songs Never Written”, William Taylor Jr. weeps in the mist of poetic transcendence as he examines the common miracles that live within and near each of us.

I first encountered Taylor’s work eight years ago when I discovered his poem “Being Lonely” in Zen Baby (this poem also appears in this collection). It was such a remarkable poem of searching sadness that I never forgot it. “Words for Songs Never Written” again demonstrates why Taylor has attracted such a devoted following and such high praise from throughout the independent press. In his poem, “Eyes Like Something Lost” he writes,

“I didn’t know her / I had never seen her before // but there was something / in her voice / and in her eyes // there was something / in the clothes she wore / and the way she moved // something in her way of speaking // that instantly told me / she was damaged // I felt a sudden kinship of sorts / for I am the same way / myself // I watched her from across the room / and wondered what the world / had done to her // I imagined the two of us / sitting in some quiet room / smoking and drinking / telling stories / ’til 4 a.m. // she had a frightened smile / she had eyes like something lost // and she was gone before / I could tell her she was / beautiful.”

I asked him how he walks the line between pathos and hope, without falling subject to cliché. He told me, “In much of my work there is a certain mood or feeling I want to convey and I simply try to use the best words possible to do so. I don’t know how else to explain it. I do believe there is sadness in beauty and sometimes beauty in sadness. To quote Thomas Hardy, If a way to the best there be, it exacts a full look at the worst. Meaning, the dark aspects of life must be confronted and accepted before any real peace of mind or happiness can be achieved. A kind of peace must be made with the darkness.”

This collision of darkness and light, sadness and hope is well reflected in his poem, “Early Morning Just Before The Dawn”:

“The bus moves along the freeway / beneath grayblue clouds / fading stars / and wisps of pink // I’m rarely up before noon / so I don’t see this kind of thing / too often // there is something in me that imagines / if everything cold remain / just like this / things would work out / in spite of it all / but the sun crawls red / and slow to the horizon / like a wounded god / and soon, too soon, / all the bloody trouble will begin.”

Taylor stands back from the world, sees its pain, its many blemishes, and yet celebrates the inevitable beauty of it all. When I was reading this collection I was reminded of the great small press poet, Albert Huffstickler, who passed away in 2002 and called poetry the sharing of “holy secrets.” I believe that great poetry and poets convey this almost mystical essence in their work. It is what draws me and keeps me reading writers like Taylor. It is remarkable that Taylor, who just turned 40 years of age, can write with such life weary maturity. I am eager to see how he will continue to elevate and explain his pain, longing, and his unrequited search for perfect redemption. This is a wonderful poet, and great book of poetry.

AN INVENTORY OF LOST THINGS by: Karla Huston, 32 Pages / 23 Poems, Price: $8, Centennial Press, P.O. Box 170322, Milwaukee, WI 53217. Review/Interview by Charles P. Ries

Women have a distinct view of the erotic and love’s secrets. In reading Karla Huston’s new book of poetry, “An Inventory of Lost Things”, I enter into the ebb and flow of feminine romantic imagination. While not all of twenty-three poems of this collection focus on the heart’s yearning, a good number do and comprise the central theme of this eloquently written book of poetry.

Huston approaches her topic from a number of angles. In final stanza of her poem “The One on The Left” she says,

“But you can’t take your mind off the boy, / barely twenty, going on the rest of his life – / going off for an afternoon at the shore. God knows / what they’ll do on the blanket / when it’s floated behind the vine-covered fence.” And again these lines taken from the closing of her poem, “Your Marie”: “You should know her hair was chestnut, / a flag of copper stars glittering / against the curve of her neck / and the strand that kissed her cheek / I knew you’d kissed when she left you / for the last time while her hips rolled / when she walked away / and her breast swayed in dreams / even now the ones you prayed into.”

Her book of poetry would easily fall into the category of great chic lit. Huston poems are thoughtfully narrative and carefully designed. There is no spare air in these poems. Each is complete from beginning to end.

I am reminded, as I read this collection, of the seminal book on women’s sexual fantasies, My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday. Our two genders reflect so differently on the erotic and on romance. Huston is masterful at understanding the sensual wonder world of the woman. As in this section from her poem “Rewind” demonstrates,

“If she could, she’d take the first / bus out of happyland, find her own / little place and read sweaty novels / for the rest of her life. He’s weary / of the honey-I’m-homes / and the honey-dos and the honeyed / hams.” And again from this section of her poem, “The Plastic Surgeon’s Wife”: “When they make love, she fears / how he’d like to improve her – / a little lift there, a little tighter there, / fill her breasts with vanilla, / admire the suction in her soul — / his reservoir, never full.”

This is a wonderful exploration of the feminine mind, by a writer uniquely suited to explore this undulating landscape of passion, yearning, and lost things.

More on Karla Huston can be fond on here web site by clicking here…

Charles P. Ries

lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press & Publishing. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot. He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore and a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. But most of all he is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes. You may find additional samples of his work by going to: http://www.literati.net/Ries/





charles p. ries | reviews

26 04 2009

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 180 | APRIL 26, 2009

(small press reviews #2)

CHARLES P. RIES REVIEWS,
Small Presses, Small Writers, BIG Voices:
MINDOCK, SONNENFELD, WITTE

BLOOD SOAKED DRESSES
By: Gloria Mindock
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street
Somerville, MA 02143
Price: $13.50 / 62 Pages / 45 Poems
IBSN: 978-4303-1034-1

In her third book of poetry, “Blood Soaked Dresses” Gloria Mindock raises horror to transcendent allegory. With language that has a lyrical soft quality to it, her new book of poetry becomes the perfect vehicle to express moments (sad, horrific, and glorious) that are set in El Salvador during its civil war from 1980 to 1992. When we see the massacre of innocents continuing in Kenya, Somalia, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan – the list becomes painfully endless. Her book becomes a timeless poetic prayer for peace.

Her book of poetry is about the most painful of subjects. Through Mindock’s love of this culture, its people, words, and many flavors, she creates transcendent metaphor after transcendent metaphor. Here are a few cherry-picked from her poem, “Seeing Is Only a Flawed Secret”: “A long shadow filling my body”, “I have conversation with the abyss”; “My weary mind is just a symbol.” “The sky is gray today. / healing itself back to blue.” Jesus, rearrange your schedule. / Go, show me your lips. Make your kiss / a compass so I know where to go.” “I look out the window and feel / like a fool. / Everyone carries on with no ears. / Such motionless supervision – a crime!” Amazing – and these lines and phrases are taken from just one of her 45 poems.

Mindock’s success with “Blood Soaked Dresses” is all the more remarkable given how very hard it is to write about horror. If a poet can enter into this world, speak to this blackness and create a wisp of hope, then the poet is by demonstration a great writer indeed.

typewriter art
By: Mark Sonnenfeld
Marymark Press
45-08 Old Millstone Drive
East Windsor, NJ 08520
Price: $4 / 16 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-9798819-9-2

Mark Sonnenfeld is a unique creature in the small press. His world is one that lives at the intersection of poetry, word, and visual art. Many times his use of language has nothing to do with complete thought or meaning, but rather the splattering of words in a random cascade. We might call his work “experimental”, but for the fact that poetry, as one of writings shortest forms, lends itself to constant variation and experimentation. His new book, “typewriter art” is no different. Dedicated to small press pioneer and all around good-guy Joseph Verrilli, he takes words, or rather the ink-on-paper-image of words, and collides them with a phrase. On page 8 we find word the word “Mark” in 68 point type face and below it the phrase, “Magazines from the stack”. On page 5 we find the phrase “I woke to head pressure” in 14 point type laid onto a page that has a series of letters extracted from words in 68 point bold black type face. His work is so conceptual that it is even hard to clearly describe – it must be both seen and read.

So what is one to make of this? Is it poetry or is it visual art? Certainly it is experimental, and in each art form there is a mad scientist who will push the medium’s relevance toward the absurd, toward meaninglessness, through the trap door of context, and perhaps, toward yet new meanings. Will this become the rage? Will thousands of writers try to do what Sonnenfeld has done? I doubt it, but the highest form of flattery isn’t always imitation, sometimes it is our acknowledgement to artists like Sonnenfield that we have experienced their creation and encourage their continued exploration. The great literary unknown will be a richer friendlier planet because we have pioneers like Sonnenfeld orbiting the “word”.

THE WIND TWIRLS EVERYTHING
By: Francine Witte
Muscle Head Press Chapbooks
Boneworld Publishing

3700 County Road 24
Russell, New York 13684
Price: $5 / 40 Pages / 25 Stories

Francine Witte’s book of flash fiction/prose poems gives us two wonderful things. The first is her nimble and effortless use of story, form, and technique. This collection of 25 short form vignettes shows us how quickly a skilled writer can create place, character, conflict, and move a story to a stratifying conclusion. Witte who is also a poet and a playwright applies these two forms into interesting, fast moving short stories. Her technique is effortless and invisible, but central to making these stories move forward.

The second gift of “The Wind Twirls Everything” is her reflection on love, clueless good hearted men, place, and family. The men who populate her stories “try” to do the right thing, they are not without heart and soul, but still they do manage to stumble. Into this mix are the women who love, long for, or try to stay away from them. This collision of interests and abilities gives the stories in this collection their strong core. She is quick and nimble as she riffs around a variety of topics: a chair, a love, a city, a time, a man, a woman.

There are many great stories in this collection: Jake Is A Forgotten Place, Someone Keeps Calling, My Husband’s Mistress, Joe and Sue Get In The Car, to name a few. The open paragraph of her story, “The Romance Of Sadness” gives us a taste of how well and how quickly Witte invites us into her world, “One day, she fell in love with the sadness. Unlike the man who had given it to her, the sadness would stay with her long into the night and never leave. If the sadness did leave, there would more sadness. And that was good.” And again her opening paragraph of “Someone Keeps Calling”: “A faraway voice. Like a voice underwater. He says hello. Nothing more. He hangs up. Calls back. His breath is angry, inviting, sexual. He’s distant, but intimate. Saying nothing. Saying everything.”

What a treat to see Witte bob and weave structure, pacing, and story with such alacrity. How wonderful to read stories that run no more than 350 words in length contain so much heart, humor, yearning and meaning.

Charles P. Ries

lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press & Publishing. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot.  He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore and a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. But most of all he is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes. You may find additional samples of his work by going to: http://www.literati.net/Ries/





charles p. ries | fly of inspiration

21 10 2007

frog.jpg

Poetry Dispatch No. 98 | August 27, 2006

FLY OF INSPIRATION by Charles P. Ries

Sometimes when I sit down
to write I place my fingers
just above the key board and
let my mind expand beyond
the confines of my head.
It’s a little relaxation technique
I do. I fill the whole house with
my mind and invite those
‘things’ floating in the unseen
to come visit. As I do this I
can feel myself get a bit light
headed. Then I remain still and
wait. Like a frog on a lily pad
scanning the sky for a fly to eat.

And I wait.

Sooner or later, I see or feel
something as it comes in for a
landing. I let it rest on my tongue
as I try to figure out what it tastes
like and feels like, and what it might
become if I spend time with it.
Usually it will tell me something
about itself, but more often than
not it remains a mystery until I
follow it with my fingers.

from ODD, Pudding House Publications, 2005








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