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FROM POETRY KIT MAGAZINE - 6
This is our
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In this issue
of PK POETRY REVIEW
Blind Genius and Wild Luck: The Poetry
of John Yamrus. Review by Marc Carver
by Joy Howard, Review by Abergail Morley
by Millicent Borges Accardi
Review By Lesley Burt
Faludy Lights the
Flame of Freedom in Eastern Europe, By Thomas Orszag-Land
BLIND GENIUS AND WILD LUCK: THE
POETRY OF JOHN YAMRUS by Todd Moore
Review by Marc Carver
… A few years ago a guy who worked off and
on at prospecting came to one of my readings and at the end
asked me, how come you write poetry when you know there’s no
money in it? I gave
him my best fuck you smile and said, how come you dig for
gold in a mountain when you know that no gold is there.
The guy said point taken and retreated toward the
wine and cheese table where the wine was cheap ripple and
the cheese had gone bad.
The trick is you’re not in it for the gold
in the mountain.
You’re in it for the gold in the poem and there is plenty of
gold in a John Yamrus poem.
According to one of Yamrus’ bios, he’s
been working the line since 1970 and that is just about the
same time that I got my start in the poetry game.
When I look at a Yamrus poem, I know that I am
reading a poem that appears to be almost too simple.
And, I am sure that there are twenty something
wannabes who glance at his work and say I can do that.
Only the thing is most poets can’t do that, young or
old. And, the cost
for doing that is beyond estimate. Only death can tell you
the true cost of a poem.
Yamrus would be the first to admit he has
learned from the best.
In an earlier essay, I pointed out that Charles
Bukowski was almost certainly an influence.
And, Gerald Locklin’s poetry has also
worked its magic on the Yamrus line.
Locklin’s poetry is riddled with a strange
lacerating restraint, a feeling of laconic self effacement.
In a sense, it operates almost like a lament except
for the jazz poems where the idea of jazz momentarily
liberates Locklin, takes him to another place, frees him for
the existential moment of the intoxicating riff.
The important thing to keep in mind is
that Yamrus knows he can never be Charles Bukowski.
Bukowski came up from underneath the floorboards of America
at a time when most poets wouldn’t even admit that those
floorboards were there or that there were denizens who lived
down under. Bukowski
fought his way out and changed the way that we see things.
The impact of Bukowski’s poetry is particularly
evident in this Yamrus poem.
isn’t mine these
it’s all filtered down
and i wish
take it back.
I need to make a sidebar observation right
here. I wish I’d
written this poem.
Not that I have been directly influenced
by Mr. Bukowski because I know I haven’t.
I’d like to think that I was his major competition
but it’s the kind of thought I’d get after my third highball
and my cheeks would get a little warm and my expectations
for everything went right through the roof.
In my prime drinking days, I knew I could outwrite
any poet alive and I also knew at the same time that the
odds were I was terminally fucked.
Other poems I’d wished I’d written are
Waiting For The Barbarians by Cavafy, Things I Didn’t Know I
Loved by Nazim Hikmet,
The Day Lady Died by Frank O’Hara, The Bells Of
Cherokee Ponies by d. a. levy, The Gunfighter by Kell
Robertson, The Play and Theory Of The Duende by Federico
Garcia Lorca which isn’t a poem except that it really is a
poem, Mayakovsky’s A Cloud In Pants, and Tony Moffeit’s
There are also many others, too numerous to mention.
The miracle is that we make do with what
we have and by making do, by being honest about Bukowski’s
influence on his work, John Yamrus suddenly and with a
certain amount of blind genius and wild luck wrote
Bukowski’s property which somehow transcends the whole idea
of being enslaved to Bukowski’s language.
In fact, what Yamrus does in this one simple poem
which could almost be spoken in a kind of shaking whisper is
that he somehow invented a stripped bare language which is
all his own.
At the end of Bukowski’s property, Yamrus
writes, it’s all filtered down/through you/ Mr.
Bukowski…/and i wish/you’d/come here/and/take it back.
By denying his own language, by asking Bukowski to
appear and take it all back, Yamrus gambles with an all or
nothing gesture to make the poem and the language his own.
Which is why I love this poem so much.
It dances right at the edge where all great poetry
dances. That’s why
this poem belongs in the ranks of poems by Hikmet,
O’Hara, Lorca, Mayakovsky, d. a. levy,
Tony Moffeit, and Kell Robertson.
poetry takes great risks, sometimes at the
top of the voice as in the case of Mayakovsky, sometimes
quietly as in the case of a Cavafy or a John Yamrus.
The poetry of John Yamrus demands more attention.
There is real blood in this man’s work.
CAN'T STOP NOW!
Epic Rites Press
DOING CARTWHEELS ON DOOMSDAY AFTERNOON
Epic Rites Press
New And Selected Poems
Joy Howard, Ward Wood Publishing, 2011 Review by Abergail
collection Howard continues to surprise with richness and
liveliness. When I thought I’d worked out the pattern of
poems and pieced them together in my head, she shifted
voices and I’d stumbled on another that would completely
change my mind about the collection as a whole.
Wild Bunch does this. It
tripped me up after the preceding poems; I just wasn’t
expecting it. Like the earth-nuts of the first sub-poem, it
grows, low at first and then blooms with beautiful language,
introducing a run of nature poems that follow:
“When umbels open they assume
but afterwards become erect”
gives us some diverse pieces;
Be Lucky with its arresting
and unexpected final couplet, bowls players,
moth-collectors, as well as using various dialects such as
Place of Safety
its wonderful final verse
tilting the whole poem on its head. Particularly powerful is
based on a television interview with three women
‘collaborators’ from World War II.
At times I thought
some extraneous words could have been snipped out and I felt
a little let down by a couple of the images. Nevertheless
she has some killer lines and some poems that really do make
you sit bolt upright.
Turning Point, Berlin Kreuzberg
are brilliantly executed and wonderful linguistically. For
me the collection is worth buying for those two poems alone.
If I could leave you with two pieces from the book they
would be these:
merely an arrangement
you do not understand”
From the Void
“with brilliant capability of being
hidden in a pocket, held in the protecting curve
a handspan, this small splendour has
survived the smash and grab of centuries.”
Injuring Eternity by
Millicent Borges Accardi
By Lesley Burt
There is much to enjoy in this collection. Whether or not
the poems are autobiographical, they convey a sense that
they arise from very personal experiences. The book is
divided into three sections: Morning, Noon and Evening,
which seem, at least in part, to correspond with life
A few poems are dedicated to friends or family members,
including the first: ‘His Hands on her Black Pants’, in
which a couple who are expecting their first child go to a
concert. We learn a good deal about them from the short
poem, which closes with this memorable image:
Her Black pants and uncrossed legs
Against his white fingers were all
She could see of the piano keys.
My favourite in the book, ‘The Story of the Ten Blackbirds’,
is in the final section. The poem is about an aunt whose
damaged fingers are whirling paper blackbirds in the air as
part of a nursery-rhyme game with the child, who watches:
Rapt, kneeling at her feet
Holding onto her legs, astonished
At her magic tricks. Horrified
By her fingers.......
For me, there are a couple of irritations about the poetry
that could be resolved with some sensitive editing. Firstly,
many line endings seem to be randomly chosen and are
distracting; for example this opening to a poem dedicated
the poet’s grandmother suggests a potholing image that I do
not think is intended:
Ah Ida you never caved
In well maybe once
Secondly, most of the poems are written with capital letters
at the start of each line, with the effect of emphasising
the line endings that do not work well.
Overall, though, the collection contains some interesting
and original ideas and images.
Published in USA by Mischievous Muse Press/World Nouveau
Publisher ID: 6051514-10-9
Millicent Borges Accardi’s books also include the chapbook:
Woman on a Shaky
Bridge, and another full-length collection: Only
More So is due to be published by Salmon Press
91 pp, $15, Ridgeway Press,
PO Box 120,
is the fourth poetry collection by one of
leading contemporary poets. Saleem Peeradina, now resident
focuses much of his attention on his homeland, often raising
the problem of vast inequalities between rich and poor,
particularly in the urban landscape, through a combination
of humour, satire and irony.
However, he also paints a vivid picture
of life in the countryside, where reality is far removed
from the life which the advertiser would like to portray to
the outside world, as in ‘Field Day’:
The singers of songs at threshing time
Have changed costumes to perform new
Clearing mountains of grain, lugging
heavy jute bags
As if they were pillows. Their limbs
Their soles don’t crack. Of course they
do not swear.
His lyrical pieces scintillate with
image and metaphor to produce poetry of memorable lines in
poem after poem. In ‘Absence’ he writes poignantly about the
leave-taking of a loved one in these terms, ‘Interiors
unanimated by flesh’; ‘Our voices tied by a slender thread’;
‘I move over to your side, to try on/ The shape you left in
Peeradina also explores the theme of
where East meets West: firstly in his own native country,
where in ‘Dream’, ‘The fruit was not/ Imported, the language
was, that gave all things local/ A new name’; and secondly
within his travels across an adopted continent, as
exemplified in the poem, ‘Inside Story’ where the poet’s
belongings are put on view by a Canadian Customs Officer,
‘She’s getting the scoop of my life,/ my guts spilling/ all
over the table!/ And we’ve hardly met!’
It is an innovative collection, which
includes a section derived from the first lines of old Hindi
film songs and ghazals. The poet takes his own directions.
‘Song for the Misled’, for example, is based on two of the
writer’s real and personal stories. It concerns what happens
on a daily basis in many Indian women’s lives:
What did you ever get
From yoking yourself to him?
You wanted to show them all
What stuff you were made of.
Then why did you shut the books
And put your reason to sleep?
The poet begins the collection,
however, with three poems which explore the role of the
artist. The first, ‘Exhibit A’ is an attack on art as mere
decoration, shorn of a truer reflection of reality, ‘We buy
this fiction/ And make out of it a window on our wall.’
Peeradina chooses the Japanese artist, Ando Hiroshige as one
who ‘got it right.’ Thus in ‘Exhibit B’ he points to an
artist who never saw ‘the inside of a thatched hut’, and yet
the poet can declare, ‘But he was everywhere.’ He took time
to look long and hard before consigning an image to paper,
so that he ‘missed nothing.’ ‘Exhibit C’ pleads with the
tourist/consumer to go beyond the picture-perfect subject
offered in the ‘brochure’, so that he might be aware of the
history buried under the landscape:
Of bones crushed under cobblestones, or
Blood bubbling out of the backyard
The poet employs irony to great effect
in hard-hitting poems such as, ‘Split Frame’
where a woman sits on the street,
presumably in Africa, watching a television screen as
contestants vie for prizes by stuffing themselves with
hamburgers and hotdogs, while all the time, ‘The child she
cradles has beseeching eyes/ And gluey nose attached to a
At other times he gives way to humour
as in the examples, ‘Windy Day Chime’ and the amusing, ‘Ode
to her Legs’, in which he warns the reader not to expect a
poem about, ‘Marilyn Monroe airing/ her crotch on a sultry
night.’ Instead, he extols the virtues of women’s legs,
which need to be strong and healthy, as these legs are
dedicated to looking after their spouses. Indeed, it is
suggested that the husbands might do well to recognise that,
‘It may turn out/ That heaven lies underneath a woman’s
At other times the poet employs
language out of sheer exuberance; in Muldoonesque playful
form in the poem, ‘Cliché Nation’. Also, in ‘Letters
Crossing’ there are some almost surreal touches as letters
are delivered East to West and vice versa:
…… jumping ship, my letter
Seeks out yours which has also broken
Loose, to perform a wild, high altitude
Dance on a ruffled bed of clouds……
It is in the third and final section,
‘Slow Dance’ in which Peeradina delivers some of his most
revealing philosophical and metaphysical musings. In the
first poem, ‘Scarecrow’ his is a damning appraisal of
organised religion, ‘Better to live/ In doubt, knowing
nothing/ Than to put your faith in conmen.’ Then, in a
tongue-in-cheek final poem he contemplates the arrangements
that might be set in place upon his death, which entail, ‘a
no-fuss, no-nonsense funeral’, for as he says, ‘I never
liked ceremonies or rituals.’ It is a mixture of wit and
practicality which mark his wish for a low-key departure:
…………… no velvet-lined casket. Bundle me
In a plain old shroud. Better still,
use cling-wrap. No flowers
No doggerel-defaced card, no limo, no
solemn music. Dispense with
Priest, procession, grave and
Here is a collection which will
captivate readers from both East and West. Saleem Peeradina
is an accessible poet, yet insight and profundity inhabit
every page. Perhaps a line from, ‘Tips on Eating With Your
Hand’ might go some way to capturing the spirit of his
poetry, ‘A melange of pungent spices and flavors.’
The book can be ordered from:
LIGHTS THE FLAME OF FREEDOM IN EASTERN EUROPE
From THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND,
translated book, a soft-spoken poet who spent a long life
writing in an awkward minority language unrelated to most
others is taking his rightful place among the giants of
world literature -- even in his homeland.
György Faludy was born in Budapest a century ago last
September. He was a Jew who wanted desperately to be a
Hungarian, but had to spend some of his best writing years
in exile or prison. His poetry, circulated at home illegally
during the grim years of Nazi and subsequent Soviet
occupation, kept alive the flame of freedom and decency for
generations of his adoring public.
Yet the Hungarian literary establishment has still managed
to keep his name out of the schoolbooks, despite the two
decades since the advent of democratic rule. Entirely in
vain. For his poetry has now become a potent force in the
struggle of post-Communist Europe to liberate itself from
the lingering spirit of its bygone tyrannies.
Maecenas Press of Budapest has just
issued a Faludy collection in English translation (37
Vers/37 Poems, trans. Peter
Zollman, 2010, 208pp.,
ISBN: 9789632032252, 2,490 Forints or about Ł7). Penguin
Modern Classics of London has also just released Faludy’s
autobiography (My Happy Days in
Hell, trans. Kathleen Szász,
2010, 522pp., ISBN 9780141193205, Ł12.99p), a book first
published in English in 1962, anticipating Alexander
Archipelago by more than a
A natural teacher and spellbinding
raconteur, Faludy leads his reader across a blood-drenched
landscape, sharing his enjoyment and surprise at morality,
friendship, loyalty and sheer physical as well as aesthetic
pleasure that have somehow overcome the carnage. His
autobiography is an essential literary document of the 20th
century, the testimony of a writer whose stature is
comparable to those of his beloved Auden, Lorca, Rilke and
Faludy, who died in 2006, was my teacher for most of my life
and my close friend towards the end of his. I have discussed
the book with two of its principal characters, also close
associates of the author, who were impressed with the
veracity of Faludy’s recollection. Many of the events of
My Happy Days in Hell
are also described in Faludy’s poetry,
written during or shortly after their occurrence. These
contemporaneous records confirm the accuracy of the later
He was relentlessly pursued all his life by the hostility of
the agents of repression as well as the love of a devoted
public. He burst on the literary stage of Budapest just
before the rise of Nazi oppression with a collection of
ballads exuding the love of freedom, adapted from the
mediaeval French of Francois Villon. The following lines
from the book (part of the poem
Despised and Welcomed,
rendered in my own English adaptation)
describe Faludy’s life as well as the romantic character of
Faludy’s Villon, now a familiar figure of Hungarian
...Triumphant stars erect their vast cathedral
above me and dew calms my feet below
as I pursue my god (and he's retreating)
and feel my world through every loving pore.
I've rested on the peaks of many mountains
and wondered at the sweating quarry-slaves
but whistling bypassed all the stately towers
for I knew saw through our rulers' fancy games.
And thus I have received but scorn and kisses,
and thus I've learned to find an equal rest
in squalor and beneath the whitest pillars,
a man despised and welcomed everywhere.
autobiography illustrated by the Maecenas collection covers
a lively and horrendous 15-year period from Faludy’s first
exile to his release from prison in 1953. The book opens
with a description of the country of his youth, a
semi-feudal backwater locked in bitter resentment then as
now over Hungary’s territorial losses suffered after the
First World War. The author fled to Paris after a Hungarian
parliamentary deputy had suffered a heart attack on reading
a Faludy poem lampooning his pro-Nazi voting record. The
poet thought this was his greatest literary achievement.
In Paris, Faludy courted, wrote and starved a lot and met
people who later influenced European history. As the Nazis
advanced, he retreated first to French North Africa and then
to the United States where he served the Free Hungary
Movement as its honorary secretary. He later enlisted in the
US Air Force to fight the war in the Far East theatre
against Japan. He astonished his hosts afterwards by
declining their offer of American citizenship and returning
to his war-torn homeland at the first opportunity. Soon he
found himself in prison on trumped-up charges.
The poet endured torture in the dungeons of the Communist
state security organization AVO, which had been used earlier
for the same purpose by the Hungarian Nazi movement, the
Arrow-Cross. Eventually he “confessed” to being a CIA spy,
but laid a trap for the planners of a prospective show trial
by identifying his alleged American minders as Captain Edgar
Allan Poe and Major Walt Whitman. He spent his final night
in that building -- now a museum called The House of Terror,
open to the public -- awaiting his promised execution at
dawn before being dispatched, instead, to serve a 25-year
forced labour sentence handed down without a trial.
He saved many of his poems composed in captivity by
entrusting them to his memory. He was assisted in this by
his fellow prisoners -- including my two informants whom I
eventually interviewed in Toronto -- who memorized and
recited them during work. On their release from prison in
the confusion following Stalin’s death in 1953, the same
comrades helped Faludy to reassemble the poems for
Faludy chose exile again after the collapse of the 1956
Hungarian revolution against Soviet rule, edited a literary
journal in London, taught at Columbia University in New York
and received a Pulitzer Prize as well as an honorary
doctorate from the University of Toronto. He was nominated
for a literary Nobel.
He returned to his homeland yet
again at the age of 78, together with his lover Eric
Johnson, an American classicist poet, to witness the
implosion of Communism and the birth of democracy. He was
greeted by a tumultuous welcome and more literary prizes.
More than a decade later, he married Fanny Kovács, a poet
then aged 28. This was his fourth marriage, in which he
spent his final, extraordinarily creative years.
Many English translations of
Faludy’s poetry have been collected also in
East and West
(1978) and Learn This Poem of
Mine by Heart (1983), both ed.
John Robert Colombo, and
Selected Poems (1985),
trans. Robin Skelton. Faludy's
irreverent Hungarian adaptation of the Villon ballads has
been adapted further in my own English
His poetry is rich in unforgettable,
romantic or flippant turns of phrase that unfailingly draw
their power from keen perception. The poems are often
composed in delicate, chanson-like tones that can
unexpectedly give way to heart-chilling horror, without ever
compromising the highest standards of literature.
Yet Faludy has remained an irritant to many Hungarian
teachers, critics and editors. I think this is because of
his irrepressible voice in praise of freedom, an anathema to
the very nature of the literary establishment here that has
evolved through the long decades of rigid regulation under
successive tyrannies. And perhaps he was too successful at
flouting social conventions and egging on his detractors to
The literary elite tore into Faludy’s reputation after his
death by questioning the value of his poetry and even the
veracity of My Happy Days in
Hell. While the world mourned
the passing of a brilliant mind, a minor Hungarian writer
opined in an obituary published by
newspaper of London that the book contained “picaresque
adventures and saucy anecdotes... even if it is uncertain
how much of it is based on fact”. He also asserted that
Faludy’s verse was “rarely faultless”.
Another writer stated on an establishment literary website,
without citing evidence, that the book was full of “fibs”.
And even before his funeral, which turned into a spontaneous
demonstration of national grief, the mass circulation
Népszabadság newspaper of
Budapest categorically ruled that “the Hungarian literary
canon does not recognize Faludy”.
Perhaps the silliest and most revealing criticism was
sounded during the recent election campaign by a leader of
the far-Right Jobbik party -- the heirs of the notorious
Arrow-Cross -- expressing outrage over the recital of a
Faludy poem at a public event. Faludy was a “well known
Zionist enemy of the Hungarian nation”, the speaker declared
(also in the absence of evidence) and proposed that in
future all poems chosen for public performance should be
routinely vetted by the authorities.
But all this will pass into irrelevance. The city of Toronto
has already adopted Faludy as its own poet and named after
him a small park beneath the apartment where he had spent 14
years of his exile. As Eastern Europe passes through its
awkward present transition away from authoritarian rule,
Faludy may yet teach its administrators of culture how to
trust their own public, and even their own hearts.
THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign
correspondent. His last book was
CHRISTMAS IN AUSCHWITZ: Holocaust
Poetry Translated from the Hungarian of András Mezei
(Smokestack, England, 2010).
THE POETS (MOSTLY) WHO HAVE TOUCHED ME (LIVING AND DEAD.
ALL TRUE: ESPECIALLY THE LIES) By Lyn Lifshin is out and
getting strong reviews: "a tremendous book along the lines
of John Berryman's Dream songs"…."mind
candy".."witty…lusty…a feast of words." If you are a poet,
know a poet, or are wild for the secrets of writers you may
never have heard before, this is a book you shouldn't
resist. More details at
POETRY KIT BOOKS OF THE MONTH
Cats and Other Myths by J S Watts
Etcetera by Brian Wake
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