Elizabeth C. Herron, In The Cities Of Sleep, Fernwood Press, 2023
An eco-consciousness pervades the poems of In The Cities Of Sleep as a deeply held belief and every living thing comes under the poet’s purview.
Encoded in the nucleus of every cell,
in the DNA is a song—
so long as the cells hold their shape,
your body making music,
dead or alive,
—from “Cell Song”
Activist and fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers, Herron is the Current Sonoma County Poet Laureate (2022-2024). Her meditations reflect on a collective humanity and inhumanity, the cruel lawlessness of corporate capitalism and the communal concerns of the greater populace. In the x pages of this handsome volume of poetry she highlights the plight of the marginalized, whether it is an estuary or an indigenous people. Herron’s poetry voices her concerns and speaks of a global agenda.
Gwynn O’Gara, We Who Dream, Finishing Line Press, 2023
“Music From The Mall #11601” is a pithy, nay frisky, Molly Bloom blues like lyric that packs a punch in case you think you know what the person sitting across the table from you is thinking. “Oh, studious fellow eyeing the frozen dinners/ bend me over the deepfreeze/ ‘till the ice cream turns to soup.” There are exotic as well as erotic undertones and overtones in this slim volume of 25 poems from Finishing Lines Press. O’Gara writes with a directness that speaks of a keen eye when addressing the quotidian, one that demands that it lend itself to the lyric grasp of the moment. In the poem “Pharaoh’s Daughter” the frankness of the request for her final disposition “let my spirit pour like oil/ through the fingers of the gods” echoes the depth of feeling of her poetry.
Bart Schneider, Chester Arnold, The Daily Feast, Kelly’s Cove Press, 2022
Like Toulouse-Lautrec’s family who painted their game after the hunt and before they cooked it, author Bart Schneider and artist Chester Arnold sit around the table and play with their food. Schneider is no slouch as a poet and rises to the occasion of this pandemic generated project. When the poet and painter could no longer get together for their regular lunches on the sunny plaza in Sonoma (among other places), they conceived of the idea reenacting their missed repasts through poetry and art. Arnold renditions of the repasts, entrees, and desserts stand out as a delicious mélange of colors with attention to the delicacies and details. Schneider provides a veritable menu of musing of his collaborator’s delineations.
Norman Fischer, Selected Poems, Chax Press, 2022
Fluent and metaphysical, the poems selected here from over thirty years of prolific creation are intent on lightening the load much as a bodhisattva might. Fischer’s poetry reflects on his day job as “one of the most highly respected Zen teachers in America” and the responsibility that occasions is in the writing of responsible poems. Categorized into twelve sections covering numerous publications and books since the first in 1980, this selections provides an overview of Fischer’s work through 2013 as it graduates successively to its authentic voice. An MFA from Iowa’s famed workshop, his method is impeccable and thoughtful.
To refer to a life in poetry
I am living or leading
Somewhere under the carpet, in the quiet,
Or around the corner, beyond the pale
Upon which I remark, squeak about, or subtly weave
Is to make a mark in water
Draw an edge for the sky
—from “Upheavals in Feeling”
What started off as literature has been integrated into practice, encouraging a particular mindfulness. Like many Pacific Rim adherent of the Way including Snyder, Whalen, Kyger, and Hirshfield (to name but a few), there is the ineffable quality of ethereal states to these poems joined in rigorous delineation and scholarly erudition. These are studied works, guided tours that reflect an avowed commitment to meditation as a practice while allowing for consideration of a verbal reality in its own literary realm. As a koan might prompt a certain derailment in an orderly semantic unfolding, Fischer frames his responses to the passing parade of notions, perceptions, and the incidental with observational clarity for such an illusory goal. And true to form, Chax Press, as it does for many of its authors, publishes an attractive book of poems.
Clifford Burke, Rain Tree Jazz (Like Haiku), Desert Rose Press Keepsake Series, Winter, 2023; Modulations, Desert Rose Press Keepsake Series, Spring, 2023
Once again Clifford Burke delights with his long practiced printing craft and his equally enduring expertise in shaping a poem–whether short lyric or haiku, he is up to the task. Burke wrote the book on printing the poem and each of these little chapbooks is an exemplar on how it is done.
Barbara Henning, Take It Down, above/ground press 2023
Barbara Henning’s poignantly heartbreaking poem on the death of her daughter-in-law, Rie Shimamura.
Tinker Greene, Look What Happens, 2023
A harvest of 12 poems from notebooks and appropriated texts much like a film editor gleaning image sequences from stock footage and splicing them into a coherent or incoherent whole (as the case may be). Similar methods were used by the Bolsheviks in creating their revolutionary propaganda and by Philip Whalen in creating his works of genius.
From the master of falling swoops, Joel Dailey, with Swoopcards 9 & 21
Pingback: Black Bart Quarterly Review Of Books I-2 | The New Black Bart Poetry Society