BlazeVOX14 Fall 2014
Health Update: In case you did not know I recently had a major health scare. I developed a severe case of pneumonia in the late spring. In the summer it bloomed into a full lung abscess, which hospitalized me for a short while. I have been recovering nicely at home and even though I am still being treated by very capable doctors, I will be better in about two or three months. However, do know that I am back to work and it has been a real pleasure to be working on this issue of BlazeVOX. I think you will enjoy it too. So hurray!
Thanksgiving Menu-Poem: Dedicated to You, the reader of BlazeVOX Beginning in 2002 with a Menu-Poem to honor Charles Bernstein, I have continued this series of texts using a menu as the basis to honor prominent poets. Being a trained professional chef I wanted to blend my love of food and poetry into a book-length work that would fit within the ideas of Thanksgiving. In a feast of words, I wanted to honor poets who have meant many things to many readers in a form that could be presented to everyone. Over the years we have honored many fine poets, but last year we had a bit of a fiasco, a wonderful poet declined the Menu-Poem for very fine reasons. So to pick things back up, we decided it was best to dedicate this poem to you, the reader, and bring you in on all the fun. Hurray! I would also like to take this opportunity, on a day of giving thanks, to say a special thank you to everyone who was kind enough to be there for me during this tumultuous year. The outpouring of support was something that made my wife Donna and I feel just grand. So to say ‘Hurray, I am still alive’ and to say thank you all, this Menu-Poem is dedicated to you. So save the date, I’ll be sure to send you a link to this year’s menu-poem. But also have a look at our previous years menu-poems in case you are eager to see what this is all about.
Rockets! Geoffrey Gatza, editor
Helen Park — Gnats at Tiger Uncle’s Funeral
Holly Hunt — Poly-Webbous
Jennifer Lesh — Desire is a Funny Child
Alan Semrow — Beach House
Josepha Gutelius — Revenge
Katherine Forbes Riley — It Comes in Threes
Lora Hilty — Thirty Years in the Hole
Meg Flannery — The Frank Slide
Moriah Hampton —The End
A Pretty Place to Mourn by Jan LaPerle
Jan LaPerle’s A Pretty Place to Mourn is “filled with knowing”—a dark, fearful, loving, motherly knowing about the unsafe worlds we all inhabit. So much falls, disappears, washes ashore; so much is “eaten from the inside out” or swallowed up in the earth. Her poems seek a safe ground that holds us all up, binding us to one another, even as we “stand in the middle of this loss.” Will our circle be unbroken? For the time being, let's comfort ourselves with listening to LaPerle's “generous love for others” singing on our behalf.
—Jeff Hardin, author of Fall Sanctuary and Notes for a Praise Book
Oxidane by Nicole Matos
“Coming alive is terrible,” the speaker of Oxidane warns. She is terribly loyal, a tiny teen bodyguard driven by “compulsive solidarity” to protect her “empyrean and unnameable” friend. Packed with hard truths and witty observations of adolescent friendship, these narrative poems are heavy as a garden hose in winter and yet still “looped in sparking arcs” of language. You will want to know these girls, tame them, drink them back in.
—Sara Tracey, author of Some Kind of Shelter
The Color Symphonies by Wade Stevenson
“Your book flows like a wonderful ballet using the colors as movements toward a higher goal. It feels like music all the way through. I thought of Elgar’s Nimrod Variations or Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. You have all the best parts of poetry mixed into a world that is almost the scope of a novel. I felt a great sense of warmth towards Blue. Symphony is the word for this book.”
—Geoffrey Gatza, Author of Apollo and House of Forgetting
Evening Train by Tom Clark
Tom Clark is a master of surprise. He is a poet twenty-four hours a day and in possession of a very entertaining mind. He gets the familiar and the strange to dance together, and the dance steps are never the ones you expect. There is pathos in the humor of the situation: "First it's stuffed bunnies they're giving you. Next it's ice cream and then the nice surprise — you're at the hospital, having an operation." Clark has the ability to guide words as they "turn a nowhere into a putative somewhere" — to take the complications of mental or physical experience and redeem them in lyric poems of notable brevity. Evening Train is smart and companionable and joyously imaginative.
— David Lehman
The Hunger in Our Eyes by Jared Demick
Jared Demick's The Hunger in Our Eyes is a little bit country and a whole lot of cross-country(ies). The shape-shifting Americana here scores a playfully re-visionist choreography that brings into focus what imperial eyes typically miss: the accidents of landscape, the histories of food, the body's crossings. With extended meditations on cassava and honky-tonk (!), this book seeks out its own uneasy roots in a prickly and code-twitching vernacular, in an alternative We somewhere between solidarity and irony, between selfing the other and othering the self. (See Williams's In the American Grain: “We are, too, the others.”). Still, this is a poetics limber enough to find meaning in strategic silences, in the “awhereness” of “our undelved / selves.” “We’re / osmotin’ / peoples,” sings the poet (a.k.a Demick); the rest is academic.
—Urayoán Noel, author of Hi-Density Politics and In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam
Reflections of Hostile Revelries by Jennifer C. Wolfe
Jennifer C. Wolfe’s new collection Reflections of Hostile Revelries is the voice in our heads that needs to be spoken. In this progressive work, Wolfe targets our richest and most powerful enemies addressing their essential flaws and epic mistakes while reminding the reader these are the exact people running our countries. Reflections of Hostile Revelries is direct and honest oral poetics and will leave you tired, but eager to read on.
—Jordan Antonucci, Editor, Monkey Puzzle Press
The Speed of our Lives by Grace C. Ocasio
Grace Ocasio’s poems embrace their subjects with a photographic clarity and a chic sense of style. Whether she is mining “the unmistakable depth” of Garbo’s face, or musing in wonder at Angela Davis’ hair, “more lavish/ than a Carmen Miranda headpiece,” she taps into the iconic power of her images in order to draw strength from them and offer it to us. These bracing poems celebrate everything from nature to history, to the family, to the famous – and in each, she discovers the music and meaning that lets them bloom in all their strangeness and surprise.
The Landfill Dancers by Mary Kasimor
In The Landfill Dancers, Mary Kasimor feasts and fetes us on precision in freedom and pleasure in disequilibrium via “sounds to dream” and “unspeakable/art that reflect[s] ourselves.” An organic whole of refined beauty and sophistication, these lapidary artifacts of rigorous & disciplined experimentation offer a dazzling array of delicate yet potent expansions of lyric’s intellectual, aesthetic, & emotional potential via a web of variations on Kasimor’s invented forms, crafted and turned to frameworks of implication as sharp and graceful as razor wire lace. Like the gleaming city-scape of an idealized future, The Landfill Dancers is populated by one perfectly executed and imaginatively liberated structure after another, adding up to a remarkable whole that is diverse yet unified, richly textured, and precise – a sharp and soaring verbal landscape to study and admire.
—Susan Lewis, author of How to be Another
Trust Me and other Fictions by Chuck Richardson
Maybe there’s “nothing more about it. Only the tears and what may or may not come next ” writes Chuck Richardson, author of Trust Me [and other fictions]. Perhaps all that’s left is our perception of experience, which is antithetical to the notion that there’s a universe at work. Richardson’s stories show us that life is constantly “emerging from and disappearing into ever-changing masques,” and like “The Caterpillar,” we shed our skins more than once throughout our lifetimes, with some changes being relevant “[or] not.” Sometimes there’s no lesson, no secret. But that’s also what can make life so beautiful.
—LOREN KLEINMAN, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs
PHARMAKON (A CASE HISTORY) by Kristina Marie Darling
In PHARMAKON (A CASE HISTORY), readers encounter speaker as diviner, a questionable house of rooms with reoccurring “trinkets pinned in a velvet box.” Through footnotes & fragmentary thinking, through image, we enter these rooms, craved longing in the open spaces ruminative in its search, a diviner’s wit. Through rites of sacrifice, eros, sessions, the boundaries of time are broken down & the reader is caught in an alternative already-present that cannot help itself but be gone or going. It is impossible not to be enraptured in the longing of Darling’s intimately created perception, the hysteria of myth & deconstruction, the waiting, the water rushing, the shaky here & now.
—Shelly Taylor, author of Black-Eyed Heifer
Noah’s Ark by Sam Magavern with images by Monica Angle
Sam Magavern opens quick portals in "Noah's Ark" for morning visions and wisdoms: reports and chants from dark and funny parts of the mind. Here are sudden pictures of durable wonder. Read quickly and all at once. And breathe in Monica Angle's long now, a broadly painted calligraphy that stitches the poems into the book and keeps it afloat, a watercolor time and life line that locates the enduring horizon. Not often do image and word float together like this – making so well such unspeakable sense together.
—Anthony Bannon, executive director, Burchfield Penney Art Center
Down Stranger Roads by Roger Craik
No one sounds like Roger Craik. His voice, a beguilingly cosmopolitan mix of British purebred and American mutt, is the well-stamped passport he shows at border crossings from Ashtabula to Auschwitz, from Kent State to Krakow, from Amsterdam to the far-flung outposts of the human heart. This poet is most at home when far from home, prowling the shrapneled boondocks and scrap yards of Cold War history. His poems are pungent as a supper of pork and tripe and boiled cabbage, washed down with a few dark pints of the local brew. A true sojourner, he is one of our finest singers of the quiet elations and solitary illuminations of travel.
—George B. Bilgere, author of The White Museum which was awarded the 2009 Autumn House Poetry Prize