Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BL Kennedy Talks About His Friendship with Ginsberg, Waldman and His Own Fabulous Poetic Life

Listen to The BL Kennedy interview HERE.

Learn how a grade school dropout earns two Masters degrees and becomes an English teacher, an exciting performance poet and great catalyst in the poetry community. Hear BL's personal stories of his time with Alan Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. Learn about BL's other influences including but not limited to The Alamo, The Wizard of Oz, Frank Sinatra and Godzilla.

Just Kids by Patti Smith, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Just Kids
Patti Smith

Harper Collins
New York, NY
$27.00 (Hardcover)
278 pgs
ISBN: 978-0-621131-2

Memorial Song for Robert

Little emerald bird wants fly away
If I cup my hand, could I make him stay??
Little emerald soul, little emerald eye.
Little emerald bird, must we say goodbye?

I’ve been a fan of the poet Patti Smith since age sixteen. I first encountered her work
in a small little book titled Wit, published by Gotham Book Mart, and again in another
tight volume of poetry Seventh Heaven, published by Telegraph Books in San Francisco.
But the poet Patti Smith (and I do mean to use the word ‘poet’) really started speaking
to me around 1974 or ’75, when I have the opportunity to see her perform at CBGB’s
in New York City. It was there that I realized for the first time just how the marriage of
performance, poetry, and art blend in the capable hands of an artist.

Now we have Just Kids, the 2010 recipient of the National Book Award for nonfiction
memoir. It tells the story of the poet’s meeting and relationship with then struggling artist Robert Mapplethorpe. It was the summer that John Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, the summer of 1968. For these two artists it was a summer of divine initiation.

I cannot help but praise of Smith’s writing in the pages of the memoir, for here the poet,
the rock and roll star, opens her heart and let the reader in with an almost photographic
enthusiasm. We travel the city of New York from Coney Island to 42nd st., and eventually
to the celebrated round-table of Max’s Kansas City, where Andy Warhol held court.
In 1969, this couple, who were just kids, would hold up in the famed Chelsea Hotel
and enter a world of community of both the famous and infamous, eventually entering
a world of heightened imagination and awareness. It was here that two individuals
discovered for each other the soul of their art.

Can I recommend Just Kids as a book to be investigated by any lover of 60’s and early
70’s culture? Damn right I can! This is just one fine book, an incredible read that any
scholar who has yet to explore the subjects of rock and roll culture, to the early punk
rock culture, to the birth of poetry as part of the eternal voice. This is author and poet
Patti Smith putting her story on the line, and it is a book of beauty and beatitude that I
just could not put down. So yeah, if you have the chance, pick up a copy of Just Kids. I
understand that Echo is about to release a trade size paperback edition, so you have no
excuses not to read this fine, heartfelt and sustaining memoir from a poet and artist who
helped define the latter half of the 20th century.

Order HERE.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete Uncensored History of the Beat Generation

The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete Uncensored History of the Beat Generation
Bill Morgan

Free Press
New York, NY
291 pgs
ISBN: 978-1-4165-9242-6

There are so many damn books about the Beat Generation that it makes my head wanna
explode. So, of course, when I came across The Typewriter is Holy, which refers to
itself as the complete uncensored history of the Beat Generation, I had my doubts. I
mean, look, kids, think of it: I’ve read it all from Gerald Nicosia Memory, Babe to Ann Charter’s Kerouac: a Biography. I have interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Ed Sanders. Oh, and I must not forget Ann Waldman. I have seen oral biographies such as Jack’s Book by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee, to The Illustrated Beat Generation by Harvey Pekar.

Yet, there was something about The Typewriter is Holy. Bill Morgan had his finger on
a heartbeat of a generation. This book just blossoms. It is a highly entertaining narrativeof a literary movement that defied the constraints of 50’s society, which had no fear toopposed censorship with its prose and poetry; in short, it was a movement of writers,poets, painters, musicians that were strictly American in it scream for change. I mean,think of it. This was an explosion in the American literary psyche, which started by an accidental review of a book by Jack Kerouac called On the Road, and then, a censorship case concerning Ginsberg’s classic American poem Howl. Bill Morgan tells this story with class and style better than most historians of the so called Beat Generation have had the balls to tell in the past.

So look, I highly recommend this book. If you happen to be traveling past some local
bookstore and you happen to spot it, buy it. Pick it up. Share the beauty of this incredible book with yourself and anyone you love. The Typewriter is Holy is hands down a classic by Bill Morgan, who I might add has written the acclaimed biography of Allen Ginsberg I Celebrate Myself: the Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg. Morgan has been an archival consultant for nearly every member of the Beat Generation, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Diane Di Prima, William S. Burroughs and Edie Kerouac. He KNOWS his subject. Buy this book.

Review by BL Kennedy

Friday, December 24, 2010

Speak-Spake-Spoke Kirpal Gordon with the Claire Daly Band, CD Review by Jade Blackmore


Kirpal Gordon with the Claire Daly Band

LDP Media

Poet and freelance writer Kirpal Gordon boasts a bio teeming with literary adventures of all stripes. He studied creative writing with Ginsburg at Naropa Institute, later earning an M.F.A at the University of Arizona. Prior to that, he received a B.A. degree in Religious studies from Fordham. His work has been published in over 20 books available from Pegasus Press, Leaping Dog Press and other notable literary publishers. He’s performed spoken word at the Howl Festival in New York City, WNYC radio, jazz festivals and other venues. Literary and jazz critics have praised his street-smart, shape-shifting writing and performing style. Gordon often performs spoken word with jazz musicians complementing the playful, spiritual and often chameleon-like nature of his work.

Speak-Spake-Spoke, Gordon’s latest spoken word/jazz CD, was recorded as an accompaniment to his poetry collection, Eros in Sanskrit: Lyrics & Meditations, 2007-1977. This melding of jazz and poetry is much more than spoken word with music in the background. It’s a fully fleshed out piece of musical art that combines a first-class jazz ensemble (The Claire Daily Band) reinventing House of the Rising Sun, I Got Rhythm, and other familiar songs while Gordon performs his poems in a cool and confident be-bop style. Gordon doesn’t merely “recite” poetry; his voice is a vocal instrument mingling with the band.

The funky album opener Antidote to Armageddon tells the tale of the Cisco Kid as a purveyor of life-enhancing voodoo. War’s 1973 hit is given a playful bebop treatment here. Claire Daley’s flute flourishes and Arthur Barron’s trombone trade moods here, inviting you into a surreal jungle soundscape. Eros in Sanskrit combines Tommy Dorsey’s Song of India with a subtly flirtatious poem of love and oneness. An instrumental interlude by the brass section wails teasingly mid-song, playing off Gordon’s light-hearted delivery perfectly. Blue Rilke, an original musical composition begins with a lonesome sounding baritone sax and segues into Gordon’s tribute to the poet Rainer-Maria Rilke. Gordon’s ear-pleasing cadence shines here with lines like the salve that heals touches tips to fingertips’ feel. Eli Yamin’s laidback piano introduction sets the pace for the Origins in the Key of Sea, a mellow ode to springtime’s renewal after the rain. Daly’s baritone sax warms up Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most, the standard that partners with this spoken word piece. Out There Without a Prayer ends the CD with a brassy jazz funeral dirge to post-Katrina New Orleans.

Speak-Spake-Spoke works on many levels. It’s best classified as a modern jazz album, if one needed to file it under a descriptor. Kirpal Gordon’s be-bopping vocal rhythm imbues a sense of musical joy to poetry that’s already lively in print. There’s a subplot of spirituality underlying much of the work here. (Gordon is a noted speaker on meditation and philosophy.) Listeners who dig beneath the surface of Speak-Spake-Spoke will be glad they did. There are many lyrical and musical treasures to unravel here.

Kirpal's Website

Amazon Buy Link

Monday, December 20, 2010

Poem of the Week: We Are Planting The Baby Heads By Moonlight by Alan Catlin

Alan Catlin
has published dozens of chapbooks and full length books of prose and poetry. His work has been nominated for many prizes including two citations by Marvin Malone editor of Wormwood Review for two of his books as Most Neglected Books of the Year. His most recent book is "Near Death in the Afternoon on Becker Street" from March Street Press. Forthcoming shortly, is a chapbook of ekphrastic oil spill poems, "Deep Water Horizon," from Pygmy Forest Press.

We are planting the baby heads by moonlight

in the rock infested fields. Not real
baby heads, but plastic ones, found in
junkyards, burned out buildings,
foreclosed homes. Some damaged more
than others, their pried open eyes staring
at nothing now and the plastic sheets real
babies were changed on, transmuted into
flesh for all the unseen creatures stumbling
about among the refuse, crawling on all
fours, crying out the way toddlers do to be
saved from everything let loose in the night.

We are planting the baby head's. Hoping
that with nurturing and with care, they will
grow into something fine that will be cherished
in a way that only children can be. The ones that
don't, we will leave behind to become snowmen
and women, effigies that become scarecrows
in another life, in a field like this one, where
the moon is the sun and night, is day, where
all the old appliances go to die, you can hear
their coils heating, the incessant hum of the
refrigerators, the singing of the stoves.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine: Selected Poems 1970-2010 by A.D. Winans

Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine: Selected Poems 1970-2010
A.D. Winans

Bottle of Smoke Press
Dover, DE
$50.00 (Hardcover) $25.00 (Paperback)
365 pgs
ISBN: 0-9777300-8-5

Ghosts in the Night

the shrill cry of dead
jazz greats ring out
in the night gliding
in dark rain clouds

jazz notes loud as thunder
burst the eardrums
like artillery fire
the 4-walls closing in
like a police dragnet

jazz luminaries beautiful
butterflies spreading
their wings
reshaping the stars
the universe
cosmic matter waiting
to be reborn

Well, those great folks at Bottle of Smoke Press are at it again. This time it’s the publication of Drowning like Li Po in a River of Red Wine: Selected Poems 1970-2010 by A.D. Winans. This is an extremely handsome hardcover collection that any bibliophile would be happy in placing on their bookshelf and any lover of poetry would devour.

I have known A.D. Winans since 1997, and over the years, I’ve reviewed many of his chapbooks and regular books for the Rattlesnake Review (a publication in Sacramento.) Sometimes I gave him great praise, and sometimes lukewarm praise, but I’ve never found it the case where I had nothing to say concerning the author’s poetry. Now, with this collection, I get to reread many of those poems in a respectful and handsome format. This is an outstanding collection that I could not easily put down. The poems included run the gambit of the author’s body of work since 1970 to present. At times, with some of the earlier poems in this book, I felt let down with the structure and what the author/poet was attempting to do. This is basically because I was approaching the poems with the wrong attitude, for I was looking at A.D. Winans the man as opposed to A.D Winans the poet. Let me explain: A.D. Winans the man bleeds from the heart and places it on the page, whereas A.D. Winans the poet will at times leave the reader with a feeling that the poem is forced instead of completely finished.

But in the end, a good literary critic can only come to the conclusion that the poet’s output is respectful to both the reader and the writer. A good example is “Tales of Crazy John”, which Winans composed in 1975. These are remarkable poems which have left me with deep feelings towards his subject matter. Throughout this collection, Winans writes tributes to other poets such as Kenneth Patchen, d.a. levy, Bob Kaufman, Jack Micheline, and always tributes to Charles Bukowski and the author’s beloved city of San Francisco. Most likely the strongest poems in the book are“13 Jazz Poems”, for here Winans writes about a subject close to his heart. These poems are polished and unique of voice, and I simply love them. The Panama poems from his 2006 chapbook “This Land is Not My Land” grab the reader with their style and outspokenness.

All in all, Winans the poet places his heart on the table. So if you have the extra cash to invest, I would suggest you contact Bottle of Smoke Press and order a copy of Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine as soon as possible. You will not go wrong with this fine and insightful collection of the poet’s work, which in his own right has more or less become a legend.

Order from Bottle of Smoke Press

Review by BL Kennedy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Riddle of the Wooden Gun by Todd Moore, reviewed by BL Kennedy

The Riddle of the Wooden Gun

Todd Moore

Lummox Press

San Pedro, CA


ISBN: 978-1-929878-01-7


all gone lost
half of the
known indi
viduals pres
ent at the
crown point
escape say
dillinger had
a real gun
the other
half state
he was in
of a wooden

I had the opportunity of meeting Todd Moore at a rare appearance he made at Luna’s Café in Sacramento, CA and found a very pleasant man; a poet of the people who just happened to be kind of obsessed with John Dillinger and early 1930’s gangsters. Now, you really can’t fault anybody for having such a unique interest in a particular era of American history (personally, I think I’ve seen more poems written by a variety of poets, both American and across the globe, who cited Dillinger as an honorary than cited Christ). That night, Moore read with a steady grace and high humor. In his poem, Moore not only approaches Dillinger as a person, but addressed the legend that has made a lasting mark on American history and on the history of the world. I mean, think of it; Dillinger is a star. He is a star of 1930’s gangsters; for whatever reason, he outshines the second rate franchise of Bonnie and Clyde, and may even eclipse Capone in the American imagination.

Todd Moore’s book The Riddle of the Wooden Gun can only add to the legend of this already iconic figure. These poems are raw, violent and riddled with humor. Todd Moore runs with language and takes no prisoners. He is more than just a poet, he is an Outlaw; a writer of intellect and legend. Todd Moore has been published in over 1000 literary journals, and its really a loss for American Literature that he passed away early last year. I will miss this poet, his voice and his work, which penetrated American literature on so many levels. Along with Tony Moffit and Charles Bukowski, he was truly one of the original ‘meat poets’. Moore is a dirty realist and a saint of Noir culture. I love the Riddle of the Wooden Gun and highly suggest it as a book to be read and enjoyed by any lover of poetry. As for Todd Moore, I will miss him dearly, for its rare that you meet a poet who brings such honor to the craft.

Order from Lummox Press.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mindwalking by Edward Mycue, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Mindwalking 1937-2007:
New and Selected Poems

Edward Mycue

Philos Press
Lacey, WA
ISBN: 978-0-615-17969-8
70 pgs


mind is the best time
machine where your ‘rush’
enables my ‘swoop’ and my rust remembers your
memory of me, treasure
that remains as long as we

are able to return for
as long as I remember
you we live remain my/your/our everafter thoughts
through the mind’s
embrace an armful of stars

Back in the early 90’s, when I was in the MFA program of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and Naropa in Boulder, CO, one of my poetry teachers Ed Sanders said “Kennedy, when all this stuff is over and all the dust clears, most literary critics are gonna say that Anselm Hollo was one of the best poets of the latter half of the 20th century.” And, this may be so, because Anselm Hollo is one of those unique writer-translators that you just cannot ignore.

And so when I come across a book like Mindwalking by Edward Mycue, I seem to remember what Ed Sanders had to say about Anselm Hollo, because here is a poet who hums, a poet who climbs from the streets of San Francisco with a New York Texan voice. There is no other way to say it. Edward Mycue is just that unique. Now granted, a lot of people that I know have had problems with Mycue’s work, we won’t go into that. However, I find the poems in this book are interesting and alluring, imaginative, and sometimes wonderful.

I had the pleasure of actually meeting the poet a little more than a year ago while still hosting poetry readings and open mic poetry at Luna’s Café in Sacramento, CA. I could not help but to notice the precision of his language, the crisp lyric and a voice that just stood alone in and of itself. It truly amazed me that at the age of seventy, this poet is singing, simply singing in a voice that never sleeps. I was kept alive by that reading, as I am kept alive by this wonderful book from Philos Press.

Can I recommend Mindwalking? I sure can. I think its one of the best collections of lyric poetry that I had the chance to encounter in the past five years. At a price of twelve dollars, hey, you can’t go wrong. This is a unique book, and it’s a book that many poetry lovers will want on their bookshelves. Buy it, dig the poems, and dig the poet. I highly recommend the work of Edward Mycue.

Purchase at Philos Press.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Poem of the Week: Youth on the Moon by David Corbett

David Corbett is a poet, a screenwriter, and the author of four novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book), Blood of Paradise (nominated for numerous awards, including the Edgar, and named a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book), and 2010's Do They Know I’m Running? ("a rich, hard-hitting epic"—Publisher's Weekly, starred review). His work is often compared to that of Graham Greene and Robert Stone. His story “Pretty Little Parasite” was selected for Best American Mystery Stories 2009. For more, go to: www.davidcorbett.com.

Youth on the Moon

Older now, I see the end in the beginning,
like the crackpot uncle who ruins every movie.
You snore facedown on the mussed white sheets,
pillow clenched in your suntanned arm.
A salt wind through the screen stirs the musk
that hangs in the room like a winking smile.
I let my hand trace the muscles in the small
of your back, lay my palm on an odd cool spot
where your tush curves up as though waiting
for a kiss and I know too well I will lose you
someday, or you me. In every wonder
a sacrifice nobody asked for bides its time.
Is the miracle any less dear for its cruelty?
Would I withdraw my hand if I knew exactly
the ruthless end its touch foretold?
Perhaps the going will be slow, a sickness,
or some dizzy fall on a strange stair,
a shattered glass and then—what?
There’s the other secret we can’t get around.
But do we want to? Do we want this moment
to be giddy and weightless, youth on the moon,
or is it exactly the uncaring gravity,
this downdraft on all things, the patient ghost
lying in wait that quickens each kiss, each touch,
each sweaty cry in this beachfront room?
Shuttered sunlight stripes the plaster wall.
Outside the window, waves thrum against the sand,
echoing your breath, your heartbeat. Your eyelids twitch.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Art of Sylvia Pekarek

They call me the "The Lyrical Fine Artist" because I often write poems and stories, to accompany the artwork I create. I aspire my art work to be spontaneous, momentous and dynamic, infused with the passion I have for life. I like to use mix media to bring forth the complexity of life's profound moments. I believe this helps bring depth into my work. At times I may start a painting, or sketch and then capture it into my computer to enhance it digitally. I am part of the "digital generation," it swims in my veins. I am like the pianist who uses the piano, to create music. I play the computer like an instrument and let the creativity flow as I work. I also love feeling the brush in my hand, stroking the canvas with pigments, I will never abandon that process completely. The computer allows my flurry thoughts to bring forth directness of intent, much more rapidly, capturing the moment.

I first realized that creating Art was embedded in the depths of my soul was when I was in the first grade, because I would arrive early to class just to fill the chalk board with my Art. I felt this was my way of observing the world and expressing my thoughts. I found Art to be my answer. Later on I attended San Francisco Academy of Art University, I studied and majored in Graphic Design, along with fine art classes.

I aspire for visual indulgence of the natural world, that motivates me to create and write, about the ordinary; that becomes extraordinary by the mere appreciation of it's raw beauty, of it's natural state.. With an intense stirring in my soul, I strive to be true to self. Fully embracing my true feelings of emotions, pure and uncensored..

As an artist, I feel deeply, and passionately, and like to reflect my emotions on to every creative aspect that I am a part of, for this is the fuel that drives me to create. When it comes to my art style, I want to think never say never and never say always. I want to say yes! To expanding my art style, and my words.

Artwork: Falling
& Poem

The wind blows, sound of sharp wisp of cold air goes by.
Dancing trees follow the wind, dignified, and grounded.
Vulnerable leaf, drifting, floating, landing, settling.
Falling, falling, gliding, swaying in the wind.
Hopeless drifter, drifting, beauty falling like a whisper.
Lullaby and fly, follow the breeze to transcend time.
Up with the wind, landing back with new start.
Waltz of colors mixing, fused with contrast light.
Swirls of blurred colors, to mesmerize the eye.
Up lifting the spirit, inviting the present descend.
Wind in my ear, spelling out secrets, to be.
Spoken heart, deep thoughts, casting sensation.
Awakening, creating a whirl wind of theatrics.
Drama stated, with brilliance, this golden show of flight.

Visit Sylvia's online Gallery.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Drive By: Shards and Poems by John Bennett, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Drive By: Shards & Poems

John Bennett

Lummox Press
San Pedro, CA
ISBN: 978-1-929878-09-3
140 pgs

Fear & Understanding

It scares me
what you write
a woman said
I don’t
understand it.

You understand it
more than you
if it
scares you
I said,
& then she looked
really scared.

I will simply put it this way; I think that John Bennett is one of the best goddamn writers of short poetry (he calls them ‘shards) on the Northwest coast. I have known John Bennett for some years and I am ever amazed at the man’s literary outpour as a poet and an author. I can’t begin to tell you that when I read John Bennett at times, I have a feeling that I am a witness to greatness. He is that badass.

This collection Drive By: Shards and Poems continually fascinates me, because there is just something in Bennett’s writing that crawls up your spine and rips out the backbone. These are very readable, down to earth, genuine, and yet unique in their own way. I guess that I am a captive fan, because in John Bennett, I see the ghost of Jack Kerouac, drunk some heavy balls and lots of brains. The shards are lyrical. You cannot categorize them. It is my opinion that Bennett, as a poet, is simply true to himself. And what more can a reader ask for?

You know, it’s kinda like listening to the best Beatles song ever, whatever the hell that may be. John Bennett is a voice to reckon with who has been around since the Beat era. I could only say that along with Jack Hirschman, Bennett is the heartbeat of contemporary American literature. The shards will seduce you with the slow wisp of a Blues harmonica and a meaningful dance of your soul. Yeah, if you have the chance, buy Drive By: Shards and Poems. It’s one of those books that I would just not pass up, for Bennett is a poet of heart, voice, and verse that will simply kick your ass and leave you asking for more.

Order from Lummox Press.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paleo-A View of the Sky, CD Review by Jade Blackmore

is the pseudonym used by songwriter/indie artist David Strackany. In 2006-2007, he wrote one song every day for a year. The results became his best-known project, The Song Diary. Paleo’s latest album, A View of the Sky, is the third album from this folk/indie/lo-fi curio.. It features the prolific, gravelly-voiced singer strumming thirteen hit-or-miss compositions, many of them on a miniature or toy guitar. And believe it or not, most of the time it sounds pretty convincing! Born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, Paleo now resides in Brooklyn --that is, when he’s not touring the country in a van and crashing at homes of friends and new fans in between gigs. (One article I read about him claimed he lived “out of his car” for five years. .This nomadic approach makes for an interesting, but uneven collection of tunes.

Paleo’s scratchy troubadour voice cracks here and there on the album opener “View of the Sky.” I’m not sure what to make of the instrumentation on this one. It sounds like someone shaking maracas occasionally punctuating it with horns. As for the lyrics, they resemble itinerant, modernist poetry more than your average song lyrics. This song, as well as many others on the CD, would work well as spoken word. That’s where the real strength lies. The music is best described as ambient folk that successfully translates into fully structured songs every so often.

“World’s Smallest Violin”, a humorous little ditty, with munchkin-like backing vocals and a whistling interlude, sounds more like a proper song than the opening track. “Me and Mabelene “ is a whimsical, smile-inducing adult lullaby, ..“King James Fakebook” has charmingly bare-bones percussion and a driving rhythm that complement its stream of consciousness lyrics and the refrain “We’re all the same inside.” The vocals in “Too in Love to Die” are barely a croak, the sparse chords backing it forlorn and weak, like a last gasp.

A View of the Sky has a few fun tunes, a few poignant ones, and several more that sound like poems backed up by modern-day beatnik types during spoken word night. Paleo strips music down to its bare-bones essence, letting the words and melody stand on their own.

Paleo’s website

Amazon Buy Link

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Red Buddha by Maia Penfold reviewed by BL Kennedy

The Red Buddha
Maia Penfold

Hcolom Press
Ellensburg, WA
ISBN: 978-0-9776783-3-4
169 pgs

Instructions to My Son

The day will come
Not for an expensive box
Dropped in a hole in the ground
Covered up with dirt

My choice is cremation
Fire and flame
Down to clean ash
Sharp bits of bone

In Colorado or Oregon
Climb a convenient mountain
To a seaward rushing stream
Put me in its mountain music
And let me go

To join with everything


One of the hard things about being a literary critic is not always agreeing one hundred percent with your peers, be they poets or publishers. And so I come to review The Red Buddha with a kind of trepidation; there are poems in this collection that I absolutely adore. Maia Penfold is by all means an uncompromising force of electricity. My friend T.L Kryss writes that she is unique and authentic in her voice, and implores you to listen to that voice. In addition to Kryss, the poet Sharon Doubiago tells me that Penfold is a joy to discover and she belongs in the roll call of ‘beatitude’, and her poems are a natural evolution of an ancient counterculture. My dear friend John Bennett, who tirelessly promotes The Red Buddha, informs me of the unique qualities of the poet’s work. In addition, Ann Menebroker has told me she had a hard time putting the book down.

I guess that there is something different with the way the poet speaks to me in this volume, because I can’t seem to connect with every syllable of every word. True, there is a unique lyrical quality that is reminiscent of that ‘special something’s something’ found in the voice of every great poet that I have read. But still, I can’t put my finger on the greatness in all of Penfold’s work. It’s like this: I like the poet, I like her voice, and I enjoy the majority of what she has to say. In fact, I would say that voice is almost symphonic; it’s like the way you walk down a city street or the way you sit and breathe among the Great Redwoods on the Northwest coast. There is a quality that I so want to write about, I can feel the heartbeat of the poet, it's that close. Yet, I can’t seem to connect with the wisdom. I can feel Penfold’s spirit spit at heaven from a diamond tongue, I can come THAT close. And yet, there’s something very delicate, something miniscule that seems to be missing. I guess if I had to look at it in terms of music, say the difference between the polished voice of the Rolling Stones and the raw urban rants of the Ramones. There is a small something that is so wide it becomes both visible and palpable.

Can I recommend The Red Buddha? I would love to say that it is hands down one of the best books of poetry I’ve read in years. But I can’t. There is a part of me as a literary critic that simply cannot connect with the writer’s voice. I see her work as a lone spirit dancing in the wind, I hear her voice as a singular echo, and I can feel the gentle rasping of her heart. So, in the end, I will say purchase The Red Buddha, because Penfold’s voice is unique and individual.

Order from Hcolom Press

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Introducing Our New Music Reviewer: Jade Blackmore

Greetings from Hollyweird! My name is Jade Blackmore and I’m the new music reviewer for Belinda Subraman’s Blog.

I’ve lived in Hollywood, California for the past 11 years. Unfortunately, I don’t live in the toney hills or Malibu, but in a rock ‘n’ roll neighborhood just off the freeway. It has its charms, though. The neighborhood is full of characters (in a good way) who inspire some of my work. I’m a freelance writer and publicist earning a living (just barely) by writing web content, blogs, and business copy from home.

But that’s just what pays the bills. My real passion is music. Listening to it, writing about it, and singing karaoke! When I lived in New York in the 1990s, I worked in the music industry, for a music publisher and then for a trade magazine. Before that, I reviewed music for my college newspaper – my first published concert review was of Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band. Since then, I’ve written hundreds of reviews and conducted interviews for fanzines, websites, blogs and magazines. You can check out some of them (and links to others) on my blog, The Slums Off Hollywood Boulevard.

I’m excited about contributing to Belinda’s blog! I’m open to reviewing all types of music – rock, pop, jazz, folk, electronica, you name it. You can email me at jadeblackmore@sbcglobal if you have digital downloads you’d like me to review, or you can send CDs to the address below. My first review will be up later this week!


Send CDs for review to:

Jade Blackmore
1626 N. Wilcox Ave. #113
Hollywood, CA 90028

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Outer Gate: The Collected Poems of Nora May French, reviewed by BL Kennedy

The Outer Gate: The Collected Poems of Nora May French
Edited by Donald Sidney-Fryer and Alan Gullette

Hippocampus Press

New York, NY

ISBN: 978-0-9824296-6-2

254 pgs

The Outer Gate

Life said: “My house is thine with all its store;

Behold, I open shining ways to thee—

Of every inner portal make thee free:

O child I may not bar the outer door.

Go from me if thou wilt, to come no more;

But all thy pain is mine; thy flesh of me;

And must I hear thee faint and woefully,

Call on me from the darkness and implore?

Nay, mother, for I follow at thy will.

But often times thy voice is sharp to hear,

Thy trailing fragrance heavy on the breath;

Always the outer hall is very still,

And on my face a pleasant wind and clear

Blows straitly from the narrow gate of Death.

In his lengthy introduction to The Outer Gate: The Collected Poems of Nora May French, poet Donald Sydney-Fryer informs us that the poet Nora May French died in Carmel, by the sea on the Monterey Peninsula on 14th November, 1907 at the early age of 26. French, the only female member of a group of poets known as the California Romantics, which included amongst its members George Sterling, Ambrose Bierce, Clark Ashton Smith, Herman Scheffauer and Jack London, bordered on the near mystical essence of that group.

Now, Hippocampus Press gives us what is possibly the best collection of French’s poetry printed within the last one hundred years in a handsome trade paperback edition. Having only heard of this poet throughout my adult life, I found it a pleasure to be treated to such a large sampling of her works, chiefly written between the years 1898 to 1907. This is a rich and lyrical collection of poetry that any reader or purveyor of poetics would find to be a rare treat. What one can say about French as a person simply contradicts her work as a poet, for here is the singular female voice of a pre-WWI era that reaches out and grabs the reader with gentle intones of “hear my words.” Here is enigmatic and ethereal figure in American literature that seduces and possesses with its own kind of cosmic grace.

This book and its extensive biographic and critical introduction by Donald Sydney-Fryer pay tribute to Norma May French, her contemporaries and admirers. Here is a woman who is a product of the early bohemian culture of California, who along with Clark Ashton Smith opened widely the doors to early 20th century American literature. What can I tell you about The Outer Gate? It’s a collection of poetry I’d highly recommend by a very unique and singular voice. For those of you who have never heard of this poet or who are unfamiliar with her work, The Outer Gate is a book to invest in, because it is the essential collection representing a woman’s voice, her cries, her passions, and her fears and sorrows. The early passing of Nora May French was a great loss in the annals of American literature.

Order from Hippocampus Press

Poem of the Week: Language Arts by Chuck Joy

Chuck Joy. Author, Dreamville, also presented at the Erie Art Museum.
His poems have appeared in magazines & on TV. He's the host of Poetry Scene,
at the Erie Book Store. Chair of Erie County Pennsylvania's Poetry Committee.
Co-chair of the Art Committee for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Producer, director. poet, All Aboard, the Erie Playhouse.


not much, a hum
breath, addressed toward speech
the thought behind the words

sometimes text
our work product, every line
a gray parade of letters
high-stepping toward the right margin
drumline swinging, tubas shining
one young man with a saxophone
tall hat strapped under his chin
head filled with crazy dreams
sometimes thinks he’s John Coltrane

sometimes other unknown persons
blowing the golden saxophone of words
their lives, those opportunities
disguised as terrible problems
really, a cool grotto
crystal water dripping, green ferns
distant gongs ringing

cloudlessness, a smooth platform
from which to launch fantastic rafts
elaborate constructions, riverboats
big wheel, filigree rail, white as whipped cream
multiple decks, mahogany and chrome
rainbow music billowing from antique speakers

staffed by eager crew, these ships
handsome men and women, climbing ladders
assisting passengers, toward their berths
deluxe staterooms, simple hammocks
all aboard, to change the world

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