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POETRY REVIEWS FROM POETRY KIT MAGAZINE - 6

This is our occasion newsletter containing information about new and classic books. Along with reviews we will publish news of book launches and other related information. If you would like to contribute a review, a new or classic poetry book that is still available, please let me know at info@poetrykit.org You can also provide any other information that you feel is appropriate and we will consider it.

In this issue of PK POETRY REVIEW

Blind Genius and Wild Luck: The Poetry of John Yamrus. Review by Marc Carver

Refurbishment by Joy Howard, Review by Abergail Morley

Injuring Eternity by Millicent Borges Accardi Review By Lesley Burt

Slow Dance, by Saleem Peeradina, Review by Ray Givans

Faludy Lights the Flame of Freedom in Eastern Europe, By Thomas Orszag-Land

Book Notes

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. Nobody can. 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.

 

Bukowski’s property

 

this poem

isn’t mine these

thoughts aren’t

mine these

sentences aren’t

mine these

cadences

aren’t

mine these

lines aren’t

mine.

nothing

i do

or think

or write

is mine.

it’s all filtered down

through you

Mr. Bukowski…

and i wish

you’d

come here

and

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 Luminous Animal. 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. Great

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

ISBN: 978-1-926860-060

amazon.com

spdbooks.org

http://www.spdbooks.org/Producte/9781926860060/cant-stop-now.aspx

DOING CARTWHEELS ON DOOMSDAY AFTERNOON

Epic Rites Press

ISBN: 978-0-9811844-8-7

amazon.com

spdbooks.org

http://www.spdbooks.org/Search/Default.aspx?SearchTerm=doing+cartwheels+on+doomsday+afternoon

New And Selected Poems

Lummox Press

ISBN: 978-1-929878-00-0

amazon.com

http://lummoxpress.com/yamrus.htm

Refurbishment Joy Howard, Ward Wood Publishing, 2011 Review by Abergail Morley

Throughout this 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

a nodding attitude

but afterwards become erect”

Howard 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 that in Place of Safety - its wonderful final verse tilting the whole poem on its head. Particularly powerful is Collaboratrice 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 and The Knife 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:

“Chaos

is merely an arrangement

you do not understand” From the Void

“with brilliant capability of being

hidden in a pocket, held in the protecting curve

of a handspan, this small splendour has

survived the smash and grab of centuries.” Refurbishment


Abergail Morley http://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/featured-poets

Review of 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 stages.

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 company (2010)

Publisher ID: 6051514-10-9

ISBN: 978-0-9828865-4-0

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 (Ireland, 2012).

 

Slow Dance, by Saleem Peeradina, 91 pp, $15, Ridgeway Press, PO Box 120, Roseville, MI 48066, USA.

Review by Ray Givans

Slow Dance is the fourth poetry collection by one of India’s leading contemporary poets. Saleem Peeradina, now resident in Michigan, 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 tasks

Clearing mountains of grain, lugging heavy jute bags

As if they were pillows. Their limbs never ache,

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 the bed’.

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 well…

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 swollen/ Ribcage.’

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 New York 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 feet.’

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 monument….

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: spslowdance@gmail.com














Modern Classics:
FALUDY LIGHTS THE FLAME OF FREEDOM IN EASTERN EUROPE

From THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND, in Budapest


BOOK after 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 Solzhenitsin's Gulag Archipelago by more than a decade.

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 Yeats.
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 work.
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 literature.

...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.


The Penguin 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 publication.
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 Free Women (1991).

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 embarrass themselves.
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 The Guardian 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).

BOOK NOTES

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 www.lynlifshin.com

POETRY KIT BOOKS OF THE MONTH

Cats and Other Myths by J S Watts

Etcetera by Brian Wake

We are always interested in reading third party reviews of any contemporary poetry books, or other books about poetry which might be of interest. Reviews of older books which have an interest for the reviewer will also be considered.

Reviews from previous editions of this newsletter are available in the Poetry Kit Magazine at http://www.poetrykit.org/pkmag/index.htm

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