Monday, January 31, 2011

Stonework: Selected Poems James DenBoer, reviewed by Bl Kennedy

Stonework: Selected Poems
James DenBoer
Swan Scythe Press
Davis, CA
94 pgs
ISBN: 1-930454-25-2

Learning the Way

After the fall of the first snow,
we start our game of tracking
on bluffs above Lake Michigan.

I read up in summer on the knacks
of Indians, and practiced them
on friends a half hour back,

learned to leap from grass clump
to stone find hard ways to go
over frozen fields. Alone,

escaping, with the slow boom
of wages against packed ice
cracking below, I tested the limits

of my self by itself.
Plains winds tuned the steps
Of those intricate dances.

This is gonna be short but sweet. James DenBoer is the gentleman poet of Sacramento.
Saying that, I want to add that the poems in Stonework are alive with awakeness in the physical world, and yet shares a comic clarity of mind. It is only apparent that the poet is in love with life. He challenges the reader to share that love. There is a great humanness in these poems, a lyrical flowing-together of narrative verse and image.

DenBoer takes you on a journey that goes beyond the boundaries of the great spirit that is filled with lucid expression and philosophical grace. This is art in the high form, an example of the Other Self explored.

Upon reading these poems, I could not but help to think of that classic Lou Reed
song “Perfect Day.” There is that much clarity here. It’s been a while since I’ve read a volume of poetry which speaks with such a divine echo. I think the last that comes to mind was Dennis Schmitz and his classic collection String. So, will I recommend this book? You bet your baby’s booties I do. If you have the chance to see DenBoer read, do so. If you happen to find a copy of Stonework, buy it. End of story.

For more info visit Swan
Scythe Press.

Margaret Cornish presented by Wendy Webb

Margaret Cornish

giant strides backwards
in time and space, returning
to walk a snail's pace

room only for one.
intruders sniff round the shell
as tortoise withdraws.

back to sanity
of earth, sea and sky, far from
man's depravity.

growing in comfort
the octopus in its cave
feeds within its reach.

I only met Margaret once; she died recently aged 95 and, until eyesight failed, she sent lots of haiku for my magazine, Tips for Writers. She said, 'Remember me when you're my age'. I could not imagine this possibility, but, somehow, with her independence of thought, she felt I was following in her footsteps.

Margaret Cornish Ridout, a teacher for 30 years, in schools and colleges of London, Germany, Oxford and Dorset, married with 3 children. She retired to life as a Crofter in Southern Ireland, and finally settled in Suffolk, where she found the Haiku form of poetry suitable for the length of thought possible at her age.

Wendy Webb, London, Midlands, Norfolk and - like Margaret - returning to her first love (of poetry), a prolific writer, editor, poet and devisor of new poetry forms. A great love of water, and lately writing a whole series of books of Mermaid's Tales around the Norfolk Broads.

Children of the Sun and Earth by John Bennett, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Children of the Sun and Earth

John Bennett
Hcolom Press
Ellensburg, WA
229 pgs
ISBN: 0-9776783-2-6-001

How does someone eighteen years old wind up in an army hospital or some fucked-up
snowed-in treeless hill in Germany, a stone’s throw from the Czech border? Walls so thin the snow blows through the cracks, settles on the drab-green metal bed frames like China White, jonesing so bad you want to lick it off.

John Bennett, poet, publisher, and writer, is hands down a legend. I know that sounds
odd for a literary reviewer to put into print, but nevertheless, in my opinion, it’s the truth. Children of the Sun and Earth is a classic. It is a novel in six parts that I simply could not put down. Part of that rests in the fact that Bennett is such a clean author of narrative prose. His book, its settings, and his characters come alive with breathtaking realism in this telling novel that comes from Bennett’s worldly experience.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to read a novel by American author that seduces its reader with such grace and style. As I’ve said in past reviews of Bennett’s work in the Rattlesnake Review and this blog, John Bennett is a living legend in the world of American literature, no and, ifs, or buts. Children of the Sun and Earth is the author’s writing at its very best.

It’s kinda sad that the book doesn’t get as much distribution as it deserves, for in my opinion, this is a novel that should be on most bestseller lists. I’m talking some serious stuff here: when you consider the crap is passed off as literature while books like Children of the Sun and Earth are chiefly ignored by major critics to make room for what? The new Dean Koontz novel? I have to ask: what’s wrong with this picture?

Bennett’s book, in my opinion, is a contemporary classic. It’s right up there with the best work of Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, and John Gardner. Dear reader, a small note: I will not shit you about the importance of this book. I will tell you to get off that little chair in front of your computer where you are reading this review and hunt this book down NOW. It is that important an example of literature, FINE literature in the American tradition of the novel.

For more info visit Hcolom Press.

T.S. ELIOT presented by Janice Hale-Hobby

Thomas Stearns Eliot
born September 26, 1888, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.—died January 4, 1965, London, England was an American-English poet, playwright, literary critic, and editor, a leader of the modernist movement in poetry in such works as The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943). Eliot exercised a strong influence on Anglo-American culture from the 1920s until late in the century. His experiments in diction, style, and versification revitalized English poetry, and in a series of critical essays he shattered old orthodoxies and erected new ones. The publication of Four Quartets led to his recognition as the greatest living English poet and man of letters, and in 1948 he was awarded both the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

by T. S. Eliot

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Submitted by Janice Hale-Hobby, Hillsdale, Michigan

This poem resonated with me since I read it in 1968 in Sally Bryan’s Lab Writing class in Seattle, Washington. It speaks hopefully of the universality of life, its eternal passions, and the moebius of renewal.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Specious Species: issue no. four, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Specious Species: issue no. four
Various Authors
Collected by Joe Donohoe
Specious Species Press
San Francisco, CA
175 pg

Its Friday, no its Saturday

[…] the world is curved
so no matter how tall you stand
you can only see to the horizon

and the sun only comes up
half of the time
but it does come up […]
-Charlie Getter

Specious Species is a literary journal from the mind of publisher Joe Donohoe that I
find to be most impressive. This is issue no. 4; it is the first issue that is perfect bound with a full color cover. I am impressed. Art director Scott Barnes really outdid himself with this very handsome Journal, which features writings from John Shirley, Clint Smith, Guinevere Q, Ed Bowers, Charlie Getter, Bill Gainer, and Joanna Key. It also has interviews with Jello Biafra, articles by Daphne Gottlieb, and V. Vale, not to mention a very unique and telling layout.

I really love this journal. It is, unlike most literary journals, informative and fun loving with an edge, with interesting articles about everything from the environment to the history of Re/search magazine. This journal is one of those products that just yell at you “BUY ME! READ ME! LISTEN TO OUR VOICE!” Up until now, I thought as far as publishing went, I thought San Francisco was dead. But then comes Joe Donohoe with his incredible vision, who redefines the small magazine and reworks it into something,unique and interesting.

So I give praise to Joe Donohoe, his staff, and contributing writers. If you have a chance to hunt this fine publication out, do it because you will not regret the purchase.

More info on the Species page.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Music Review: Sci-fi Romance: And Surrender My Body to the Flames By Jade Blackmore

Music Review: Sci-fi Romance: And Surrender My Body to the Flames

By Jade Blackmore

Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Vance Kotrla is a man of many talents. He once played drums for death metal band Black Spiral and formed his own production company, Broken Image Entertainment, shortly after graduating from high school. Now he has turned his attention to music, releasing a solo CD, ..and surrender my body to the flames, under the moniker Sci-fi Romance. The name was inspired by a review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which described the film as a “sci-fi romance.”

…And Surrender my body to the flames has already placed on a Best of 2010 list from a Dutch music blog. Even a cursory listen to the eleven tracks on the CD (also available via digital download on Bandcamp), will help you understand why this debut effort received such an accolade. The songs explore themes of love and loss with a sound that can best be described as “alt-folk.” The lyrics, which appear on the Windows Media Player screen as you listen to each track, have a melancholy literary bent to them. It’s somber Nick Cave meets Joseph Heller with a screening of Metropolis in the background. Fittingly, Kotrla has complied public domain footage from science-fiction films to accompany the songs on …And Surrender my body. You can watch the videos on his YouTube channel or the Sci-fi Romance website.

Frankenstein’s Lament, with its haunting female background vocals and sparse acoustic guitar, is told from Dr. Frankenstein’s point of view as the angry villagers rebel against his creation. These Scars, combines a love song about emotional pain and a sci-fi tale of impending death. Kotrla channels a bit of Type O-Negative here, that is, if Type-O had a more intellectual approach to their lyrics. The wistful Long Gone looks back at youthful mistakes, while In the Dark Together conjures up visions of two young lovers on the road in a desert town, vowing to stick together no matter what fate bestows upon them.

…And Surrender my body to the flames is an unusual combination of poetic lyrics, old-school science fiction imagery. Vance Kotrla’s main strength here lies in his words, and the mostly acoustic music serves as a conveyance to reveal the emotions and storyline.

Sci-Fi Romance Website

ReverbNation Profile


Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Love Letter to Darwin by Jane Crown reviewed by BL Kennedy

A Love Letter to Darwin

Jane Crown
Lummox Press
San Pedro, CA
ISBN: 978-1-929878-21-5


Forgive the ape in him.
remember trees are his fraternity.
Your womb sees dank and plain,
and without him,
he knows it is just
his opposable thumb
that wrecks it for both of us.

Well, the good folks at Lummox Press are at it again, infecting the world with poetry. In this case, I am talking about A Love Letter to Darwin by the multi-talented poet, radio host, and playwright Jane Crown. I have to be very upfront here: I found the layout of the book to be unnerving. I didn’t like the horizontal format, which I felt did not compliment the poetry, but that is my personal note to the publisher and not the poet.

Sacramento poet Ann Menebroker writes that Jane Crown “expresses outbursts of
honesty and truth, as the history of the heart can best define it.” I couldn’t agree more,for Jane Crown is a unique talent with an expressive language all her own. I think it was the composer Duke Ellington who said “Nothing is more beautiful when a man owns his language.” This is true about the work of Jane Crown, and although I do not like all the poems in this book, there are sprinklings of insight and beauty that I simply cannot ignore. I find Crown’s narrative poetry to be seductive and sweet of heart in a very funny way. Her sense of humor just eyes you.

Still, I find the book at 149 pages to be just too long for a book of a poetry by such a young poet. Yet, there are poems here I simply can’t ignore. Serial Killer, for example, reminds me of a frustrated punk rock lyric, while Sixteen Couplets jump all over the page; somebody should have told Ms. Crown what a couplet is. This is just honest criticism. Still, I can’t ignore the writings of this author. Crown is well read, that is obvious. But well read is one thing; the composition of poetry is another. I feel some of these poems were written with impatience. Yet there are lines that you just cannot help to feel. When Crown is writing, she is indeed the outrider of her own literature. She kisses the reader with her word, rains upon them with image and art. It simply refuses to be

Can I recommend ? In all truth, I would have to say yes, because there are some poems
in this text that do speak out. As I said, I do not necessarily care for the formatting of this book, because it simply does not complement the poetry, and looks rather clumsy. But the formatting of the book and the work of the poetry are two separate issues. As a literary critic, I am talking about the poetry. So, yes I do recommend this book, and if you have a chance to buy it, and you are so inclined to enter the world of Jane Crown, I highly recommend the experience.

More info from Lummox Press.

From the Canyon Outward by Neeli Cherkovski reviewed by BL Kennedy

From the Canyon Outward
Neeli Cherkovski
R.L Crow Publications
Penn Valley, CA
70 pgs
ISBN: 978-0-9722958-1-9


I will build
a forest in the grass
of Washington Square
where we wandered arm in arm

worrying about splendor
and what it means
to share a bed

forgiveness branches
growing from my dreams
as I curve my body
toward the confusion
of anguish
falling out of you

windows call to doors
in the hollow of a mother’s anger
in the dreadnought of vision
and slam shut
when you turn from me
facing that which I fear

smooth slender hips
of woman I will never be

I love the work of Neeli Cherkovski, a poet I’ve known for many years. He is a scholar,
a literary critic, teacher, publisher, biographer, and poet. His book Whitman’s Wild
Children, in the opinion of this critic, is one of the best books written about contemporary American poetry, and his new collection From the Canyon Outward is hands-down

This is a beautiful collection of poetry written by a poet with a keen eye for language and a sense of lyric. Neeli Cherkovski’s poetry will simply never let you down. I enjoyed
this book; in fact, I can go so far as to say that I enjoy almost every poem in this book,
from Bukowski Makes the Huntington Library to Man of Twilight. These are poems that
grow on the reader with the impact of a fine glass of wine or a comet. This is some of the
best work I’ve seen from this poet in years. The language is rich, deep and philosophical,
elegant with an edge of voice.

Neeli Cherkovski is a master of the lyric poem. I have often thought of Neeli Cherkovski
as an off-the-page poet; in other words, to experience Neeli the Writer is not the same as
experiencing Neeli the Reader. It seems as though there are two separate poets here. One
is on a searching journey through his inner most being; the other spreads the joy of that
being and fills the room with the music of his voice. Can I recommend From the Canyon
Outward? You bet your ass I will, I will sing praise of this book all the way to my grave,
for here is some fine poetry by a master poet. Here is a poet who reaches into the very
essence of language and spits out the wisdom of its beauty. I cannot thank R.L Crow
enough for publishing this book, and I bow to Neeli Cherkovski for composing these
beautiful poems. Go to your nearest book dealer and purchase a copy of The Canyon

Outward; in fact purchase several copies. They make great gifts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eros in Sanskrit by Kipral Gordon, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Eros in Sanskrit
Kipral Gordon
Leaping Dog Press/ Asylum Arts Press
Raleigh, NC
66 pgs
ISBN: 978-1-58775-024-3

Blue Rilke

[…] When Kerouac scat in prose what Rilke wrote his epitaph

toward, sacred slits slid open & birth marked the bloody cost to
show why heart & hymen got broken: to elevate love above
all other instruction for tender’s the wound insisting us human
& the slave that heals is in the touch of lips & feel of fingertips.
We’ve seen the shapes rage takes against the flicker of the flame:
bombs drop, blood flows, bones break. […]

The work of Kirpal Gordon was a surprising little treat that just totally caught me off guard. I can only imagine having the experience to see this poet perform. The prose poems in Eros in Sanskrit tend to seduce the reader with its authors ‘no holds barred’ attitude. The poems are just small, concise executions of genius. In a lot of ways, Kirpal Gordon reminds me of young d.a. levy or a finely tuned Jack Micheline. You can see in his work the influence of the street as he drags you through an assortment of lyrics and meditations written between 2007 and 1977. Gordon is the consummate New Yorker, a nomad and nut of the streets. Theses collected lyrics and meditations reflect thirty years of apprenticeship with such notables as Alan Ginsberg and Robert Duncan at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, CO, to Norman Dubie at Arizona State University, and Richard Shelton at the University of Arizona.

In addition, these little works of fiction and nonfiction remind me of the late Jim Carroll and his Basketball Diaries. I can almost smell the jazz solo that serves as background to each meditation and each lyric. I absolutely love this collection, which moves all over the place, from the Mojave Desert to New Orleans, from Texas Hill Country to the West Coast. Kirpal Gordon screams his rants with loud echoes across canyons of the heart. His meditations rest in a nest of saxophones, his narratives explode from the page to the mind. So if you’re looking for something cool, something just unique and beautiful, an independent voice, this is your book and your poet. Buy it, dig it, and if its just the right night in the right conditions and the right glass of wine, let the poetry bathe you like you’ve never been bathed before.

Get more info here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Atlantis Fragments by Donald Sidney-Fryer

The Atlantis Fragments

By Donald Sidney-Fryer
Hippocampus Press
New York, NY
$50.00 (Hardcover)
548 pgs
ISBN: 978-0-979380-6

To Clark Ashton Smith

(13 January, 1893—August 1961)

One with the stars and singing splendor of the night,
The alchemist of beauty and the bales is gone,
Leaving at last in long-delayed and stately flight
For worlds where never-ending suns of wonder dawn;
Where unicorned chimaeras all of crystal fawn
About the breast of sphinx and succubus asmile;
Where black, profulgent prodigies of horror spawn,
Alone or through the cunning necromantic guile
Of mighty and omniscient mages; where the vial
Of darkly glamorous night has poured its black above
Some Atlantean, enchanted, ocean-founding isle
Where prince and princess prove the philter-spell of love…

One with all worlds and things of wonder lying lost of space and time,
He is at long last gone to claim, once more, his native sphere sublime.

I first encounter Donald Sidney-Fryer, the poet and Spenserian scholar, in May of 1976.
At the time, he had just completed a massive bibliography of the writings of Clark
Ashton Smith. He was also the author of ‘Atlantean Sonnets’, a wonderful little edition
published by Arkham House.

Now, we have the Atlantis Fragments, a very big book, which comprises sonnets, sonnet
fragments, and other assorted loose writings by this very talented author and scholar.
Over the years, I have watched Fryer’s poems unfold in many different editions. I
have also had the honor to have many conversations with both the man and the author,
covering a vast array of subjects from Russian Ballet to the writings of Norma May
French to the importance of the California Romantic poets. I consider Fryer an important
member of this small but influential movement.

Upon looking at the Atlantis Fragments, I could not help but admire the lyrical quality
and musicality embedded in Mr. Fryer’s poetry, for here is a poet who claims his
language as his personal truth. He is a poet who does not fear the layers of his inner
psyche, to explore the wholeness of his immense body of work.

As in the case of George Sterling and Robinson Jeffers, Donald Sidney-Fryer’s work
unfolds in layers of complexity. Do I recommend the Atlantis Fragments? I do, and I
do so with a very high praise for the author and his art. Yes, this is an expensive book,
but it is a book that belongs in the library of any lover of poetry. In truth, the writings of Donald Sidney-Fryer are unique and belong to a world where poetry will always be alive,kicking, and filled with romance and honor.

Order from Hippocampus Press.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Next Moment by Debra Kaufman, reviewed by BL Kennedy

Debra Kaufman

Jacar Press

Durham, NC


64 pgs


Lunch with Leonard Cohen

He shambles out of winter air

into the dim oyster café, looks

for the one who invited him here.

I wave. He recognizes me

from his dream. We dip

our spoons into milky stew

I know of a place, he says.

Down we go, down,

through a maze of shining stones.

I won’t find my way back, I say.

Still I follow him into a temple.

Light pours through

high stained windows.

I wanted to stop here and pray,

but we ride an elevator to a penthouse

of cumulous clouds. Azure

furniture floats, haloed in gold.

The saints in their chemises

should be here any minute.

A secret chord is hidden in each of us,

he says, electric with desire.

The Sister of Mercy sing Hallelujah.

We kiss, and I see what is—

this moment, right now.

Debra Kaufman’s poetry is like a warped spiritual journey of passion, emotional turmoil, loss and the discovery of Spirit. She is lyrical, descriptive, self aware and a poet whom I would not be able to soon put down. Her poems reach inside the heart of the reader, and are not soon forgotten. The Next Moment is a lyrical and compassionate collection, a song, a hymn, a celebration of acceptance.

Kaufman deals honestly with the hurt and embarrassment of everyday life, a bold move for any artist. The poems in this book leave the reader longing for the next word, the next line filled with almost a mystical beauty. Here is a poet to enjoy, who celebrates life in and of itself. I was totally caught off guard. I had never read the poems of Debra Kaufman, I had never been exposed to her work. And yet, upon reading this book, I found nothing selfish in her poems, but instead found a text filled with beauty and delicate language; it is both haunting and salutary; it’s a basket of flowers filled with so much color and so much reverence to the ‘now’ of the moment. I like this book immensely and really urge the reader to go out and find a copy of Kaufman’s poems in either the local library or bookstore, for this is an important writer who doesn’t shoot from the hip but speaks from the heart. So yes, I highly recommend The Next Moment. It is a book that lovers and readers of contemporary poetry will find as satisfying as a Paul Desmond saxophone solo. I can go on and on about this writer and her work, but that would be a great injustice. These poems need to be discovered for themselves. Please do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of the Next Moment by Debra Kaufman. I guarantee you will not do yourself wrong.

For more info visit Debra's website.
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