HE LOOKED BEYOND MY FAULTS AND SAW MY NEEDS by Leonard Gontarek Hanging Loose Press, 88 pages reviewed by Brandon Lafving Reading John Ashbery’s early works in college, I remember begging the poetry to make a goddamn point. My yearnings for intellectual coherence went unanswered, regardless of how much attention, how many thoughts I piled up on the poems. No matter how hard I tried, my efforts were resisted. I have often wondered since: what would happen if Ashbery were crackable? I even made a number of attempts, myself. Leonard Gontarek’s fifth book, He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs, finally answers my question. A casual reader might see in this collection – the pole-vaulting mindset, the penchant for painterly imagery, or the ability of certain, magical phrases to hold an entire universe of subjective meaning – and presume in this postmodern sepulcher of ours that there are no … chop! chop! read more!
SOLECISM by Rosebud Ben-Oni Virtual Artists Collective, 80 pages reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke It is not difficult to lose patience with the poems of Rosebud Ben-Oni’s Solecism: studded with cultural and personal reference, streets names, and regionalisms – not to mention the grammatical experimentation implicit in a book of poetry – Ben-Oni’s work disorients. The reader clings to disparate stanzas, following ambiguously symbolic sparrows, in a fruitless attempt to add everything up, but the author evades a single style. Ben-Oni traverses her mixed Jewish-Hispanic heritage in sudden turns; just as the reader grows accustomed to colonias and sal si puedes they find themselves in Israel (with side trips back to the States), the parts of the poet divided into cavalier sections. A fragmented poem about Ramadan lives alongside unexpectedly sentimental lines like “and so they fly away / breaking my heart on this cold, cold day” or a sugary ode … chop! chop! read more!
by Kevin Varrone
Digital Earthenware, available from iTunes
Reviewed by Anna Strong
Kevin Varrone’s Box Score: An Autobiography spans across form — from autobiography to history to visual art to the baseball rulebook to the prose poem — content, and reading experience. Presented as a highly interactive free iPad and (by early June 2013) iPhone app, Varrone’s text, which he calls an autobiography, does almost everything in its power to thwart that somewhat restrictive classification. “Box Score” is made of a series of prose poems, each of which invokes Philadelphia history, baseball history (e.g. the first night game ever played between the Phillies and the Reds) Philadelphia baseball, a speaker’s personal recollections (“police your area my dad would say as he smoothed dirt around the first base bag w/ his foot after a bad hop ate me up”), baseball terminology (page 78 is simply a line of a batter’s statistics: g: 1 ab: 0 r: 0 h: 0 2b: 0 3b: 0 hr: 0 avg: .000), found language (Harry Kalas’ famous “outta here” long ball call appears on page 73), and lyrical, evocative images that seem disembodied from — and beautifully juxtapose — the rest of the language (“I’d pick dandelions & snap their heads before they turned to wishes,” page 19).
MISS PLASTIQUE by Lynn Levin Ragged Sky Press, 68 pages reviewed by Michelle Reale I should have know from the cover of Lynn Levin’s book that I would be able to connect with the poems inside on a very visceral level: that blond doll, with the thick cat eye eyeliner, all blonde and coiffed, with head tipped—yeah, I get it. When I played with my Barbie dolls, they broke rules, they were well-dressed rebels, and they smiled in your face, but plotted their escape behind your back. Lynn Levin writes of a generation here—my generation, her generation, our generation, but her themes are universal, though some of the particulars, some details give a throb to the heart because, well, recognition in any form is a powerful thing. She slips in details you think you may have forgotten about your young life long past, but realize they’ve only been coiled tight … chop! chop! read more!
MOODS Rachel B. Glaser Factory Hollow Press, 80 pages Reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke MOODS seems innocent enough at first glance: thin and neatly printed, the poems average about two short pages in length, while the cover art – bare-breasted women combing colors from a campfire with hairbrushes – advertises little more than a squishy meditation on divine femininity or the joys of stereotypical womanhood. In a certain sense, Glaser delivers on this front; her poetry is comprised of mystical generalizations about female sexuality, menstruation, and emotion, but the author’s manipulation of these societal tropes is expertly done — they become threatening, subversive. Glaser throws foolish stigma in our faces: and I’m about to get my period maybe I’ll get it now or now Her female subjects are (as they should be) difficult to pin down, at once susceptible to higher powers (God, psychology) and ruthlessly assertive, dominating their male counterparts, … chop! chop! read more!
POEMS FOR THE WRITING Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin Texture Press, 154 pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS In the poetry workshop, we encourage writers to explore their individual potentials, to experiment, and to eschew valuations of “good” in exchange for measures of success as achieving authorial vision. The instructor must speak to a wide spectrum of skill. Valerie Fox’s and Lynn Levin’s new book, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, supplies a toolbox for doing just that. The range of prompts makes the creation of art a more accessible act to a wider audience. Ultimately, this works as a text for how to teach poetry. The book intermixes the prompts with respect to levels of difficulty and formal elements of the resulting poems. The first prompt, the paraclausithyron, may appeal to an old world sense of “The Poet,” but introductory workshop students might … chop! chop! read more!