Monday, January 30, 2012

The Accidental Navigator by Henry Denander, reviewed by BL Kennedy






The Accidental Navigator

Henry Denander
Lummox Press
San Pedro, CA
125 pgs
$15.00
ISBN: 978-929878-88-8







The Last Stanza

I had a letter from a magazine saying he
passed on my poems, which is fine of course, but
in the end he added that he really liked one of my
poems up to the last stanza which he didn’t like
at all.

I liked the letter from the editor
except his last stanza.



Let me say this right up front; Henry Denander is one of my favorite poets. I know-- I know what you’re going to say. A book reviewer should be objective and not play the favorites card. But you know what? I need to ask the readers how one reviews a book of poetry that comes from the heart. Truth is, I loved reading these poems. It was like taking a trip back to my days at Naropa. For in these poems I saw the lyrical explorations and conversational idioms of some of my teachers such as Anselm Hollo, Ed Sanders, Andrew Shelling, and Robert Creeley. Simply put, I consider Henry Denander a master poet.

The bad side is that this wonderful collection of new and selected poems and a story was published by Lummox Press, a press that, in the past, has given me great trouble over reviewing their books. In fact, I almost did not review this book because of the pushiness of this particular press. But, once I opened it up and read the poems, it became a different story. These new poems of Henry Denander were striking and filled with beautiful narrative. I simply could not put the book down. As I’ve already pointed out, Denander is a master poet. What really struck me about this wonderful collection is that it opens up with an introductory statement not by Denander, but by that master poet in Cleveland, Tom Kryss. Now, understand why this is significant: the fact that Tom Kryss wrote this introductory statement brings Denander’s writings to a new light, at least for me. It has a connection with the Cleveland poetry scene started by d.a. levy. Up until now, I never saw Henry Denander as a member of the mimeograph revolution, and he probably isn’t. But because of these beautiful introductory notes by Tom Kryss, he is now, at least in my mind, a member of that rebel school of underground poets.

So let’s finish this up. I ain’t shootin from the hip when I tell you to get off your butts and don’t go to your bookstore, because most bookstores do not purchase Lummox Press. So order this wonderful collection of poetry by a man who I consider the newest member of the Living Underground.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ROUND EARTH, OPEN SKY by Kirpal Gordon, reviewed by BL Kennedy



Round Earth, Open Sky

Kirpal Gordon
Giant Steps Press
Freeport, NY
185 pgs
$14.95
ISBN: 978-0 615-47673-5

The memory of the nights I had drunk blood and eaten flesh under the full moon became firmly lodged in me: a compulsion, a menace always waiting there, a grief and a fare too ancient, a sorrow bred into the essence of the race, a lodestone too old for any individual to fight away from, or even to know and place accurately.

First off, let me say that I really enjoy novels that I cannot find in my local bookstore, and this was the case of Round Earth, Open Sky by Kirpal Gordon. The book reminded me of a partly mystical vision on a crash course collision with Robert Anton Wilson. I have never had the opportunity to read this author before, and to my surprise, found the book quite entertaining, somewhat magickal, lyrical and subversive, and all fun. Think Jack Kerouac meets Carlos Castaneda. Mr. Gordon is indeed a postmodern trickster, and if he is anything like this reviewer, was probably raised on comic books and Classics Illustrated before discovering grown up books. Don’t get me wrong: that’s not a put down, that’s a compliment. I really enjoyed Mr. Gordon’s novel and I feel that it should be read by connoisseurs of postmodern fiction. Gordon both illuminates and simultaneously entertains. I think its kind of sad that this novel, or better yet, the publishers of this novel, have not given it a wider distribution, because Mr. Gordon is like that photographer who steps out of nowhere to photograph a mysterious stranger in just the right light. And so I will highly recommend Round Earth, Open Sky. If you can find a copy, buy it. If you can’t, do some research, order it online.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

THE WORDS OF A WAY WALKER by Nicholas Bylotas



Visit the website way-walker.com to place an order and receive these 150 pages of life changing journey written by Nicholas Bylotas, fresh and hot off the press!

You'll laugh, cry, love, hate, admonish, gaze in wonder at, and most of all be entertained and inspired by Bylotas as he seeks identity and purpose in the coming of age story for the generation of Americans next at bat. This book is relevant not only to young adults, but also to adults with children, and even those without, but to any person who feels like they are navigating through a sea of mist called society. The way is clearer than you think.

The book is divided into 3 parts: The white words, the black words, and the blue words. The significance of such titles is evident by the distinct difference in the style of writing as it was recorded to paper, and a thrill to experience in it’s fullness.

The Words of A Way Walker
not only chronicles his travels, but is also the journal of his soul. There were times of brilliant glory as he overcame the obstacles of life. There were also moments of dark strife as he confronted the demons of his own mind. This journal is his story, his friend, his lover, and his faithful companion, dedicated to you and to all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Francois Girard's The Red Violin, movie review by Travis Hedge Coke




After Rachel suggested we watch The Red Violin, we were engaged. That is a fine way to present the movie's effects to you. It carries emotion, time, a sense of inevitability... and if you think on it too long you might start tearing apart that moving presentation, dissecting it for parts that are terribly less interesting. This is the one significant flaw of a beautiful film, that it does not stand up to deep scrutiny, but director Francois Girard has utilized this flaw as an advantage for the right audience, in that the film is so nakedly structured that it encourages us not to analyze, but to breathe it in.

I contribute this film to Girard, though it is well-acted, divinely shot and processed, edited kindly, and features great sets, props, lighting and presentation. My assumption is that these talents did not conglomerate around Don McKellar's script (which was written with Girard, so) as though fish called by instinct, but were orchestrated the same as the stunt violinist mimes playing in the film standing behind various actors who cannot approximate well enough. As movies following an organic prop through various scenes of deleterious relevance go, The Red Violin, is remarkable. As films using symbolism and allusion go, you really are best off not worrying and if you do recognize something, to disregard it and enjoy the radiant colors or the clarity of the acting, instead. From locale to locale, age to age, we find this remarkable violin present for astonishing circumstances and impractical passions, but the people it touches and the violin, itself, touched, are all damaged, too.

The breaking of the violin, any violence committed to it, injures us more quickly, perhaps, than harm to humans in the movie, as we are encouraged to imbue the instrument with the lives of those who knew it. The Red Violin, so sought in the present day scenes, as we flashback to other lives now past, is an irrational conglomerate of time and love and pain and passing. The repair of the violin, the analysis it undergoes in the movie, the sampling and fact-checking, flag all its flaws and failings and yet, to those who feel its beauty, those facts are now ignored, the nature of the thing is disregarded more than once in the course of the movie, for a determined faith in the instrument. The violin called the Red Violin and the movie, The Red Violin, survive and thrive and climb and inspire based in faith, in forthright faith, not critical or survivalist consideration. As with the paintings that some shots homage, it is not the pigments and the paints that make it beautiful, but that we willingly disregard there are pigments and not purely experience.

This is not a Peter Greenaway movie. Just as robust spacefarers such as Captain James Kirk probably never did on science fiction TV, you don't wait for test results to come back and tell you the composition of the atmosphere, you beam down to that weird planet knowing romance, adventure, and inevitability await. You fill your lungs, feel the heady impact of too much too fast, hold it until you are near tingly and driven through with the urge, before exhaling and inhaling again in rhythm of necessity and pleasure.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vindicated in the Blood of the Lamb by John Bennett, reviewed by BL Kennedy



Vindicated in the Blood of the Lamb
John Bennett
Bottle of Smoke Press
Dover, DE
$10.00





On the Seventh Day

Another week
in the
tar pits

Here I
stand
with a
kerosene-soaked
rage,
ready to
clean myself
up for a day of rest

To say that John Bennett is one of my favorite writers is doing the man a great disservice. Bennett is one of those writers who pulls no punches. He is all gut and grizzle, and this small little book (and I do mean small) from Bottle of Smoke Press is an absolute charm, handsomely bound, and beautifully letter-pressed. It is one of those rare books of poetry and prose that you simply cannot put down. Bennett has been writing in the ‘shard’ mode since the mid nineties, and this book is nothing short of a labor of love, and if by any rare chance you have the opportunity to secure a copy form Bottle of Smoke Press, and if by any chance you succeed, you’ll be doing yourself a great favor This is one of those beautiful, hand bound collections of writings that will get into your head and nest. I highly, highly recommend John Bennett’s Vindicated in the Blood of the Lamb. So whatever you have to do to secure a copy, whether its selling your firstborn or your bicycle, I say do it. You can’t go wrong with this marvelous collection of shards.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Map of Time by Felix J Palma, reviewed by BL Kennedy



The Map of Time
Felix J Palma
Atria Books
New York, NY
609 pgs
$26.00
ISBN: 978-1-4391-6739-7



Andre Harrington would have gladly died several times over if that meant not having to choose just one pistol from among his father’s vast collection in the living room cabinet.

The Map of Time
, in my opinion, recalls the science fiction of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, then takes these early masters and turns them on their heads with a brilliant and breathtaking new voice. This is an inventive and luscious story with a core of unsettling weirdness. Listen, kids, I am a sucker for time travel movies as well as well as time travel stories, and with The Map of Time, Felix J Palma, in his U.S. debut, takes the reader on a journey filled with lyrical storytelling and rich attention to detail. I must point out that this is the first book in a trilogy of intriguing thrillers. It is though provoking and an entertaining read. Palma uses all the basic ingredients of Steampunk, Fantasy and Mystery genres, mixing it all in one big pot, adding a strange, grim spice and serving it cold. The result is a Victorian era, high tech adventure that borders on the weird and nightmarish. Palma is a master and a delight to read. And the story? Well, you know what: I’m gonna make you get off your ass and buy the book yourself. I was awestruck in reading this fine novel with all these plots, all these mysteries, and all this lovely, lovely writing. So go out and buy it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, Edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem





The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
Edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem
Houghton Mifflin Hartcort
Boston, MA
944 pgs
$40.00
ISBN: 978-0-547-54935-5


Reviewed by BL KENNEDY






4:1 In Ubik the forward moving force of time (or time-force expressed as an ergic field) has ceased. All changes result form that. Forms regress. The substrate is revealed.

Finally! After years of waiting, the estate of Philip K. Dick releases the closest thing we will ever have, as far as an insight goes, into this very original American author. For years, Philip K. Dick was labeled as “a science fiction writer”. But today, he is simply a writer, and an excellent one. So, with the release of The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, there is much to celebrate. Editors Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem have done an outstanding job in bringing the world a Philip K. Dick to the contemporary reader with understanding, compassion, and insight. This is nine hundred plus pages of pure genius: uncensored, raw, powerful genius, which has been selected from thousands of pages of typed and handwritten notes, journal entries, letters and story sketches. The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is indeed the magnificent and imaginative final work of an author who dedicated his life to questioning the nature of reality, humanity, the perception of space and time, and the relationship between the human and the divine. This is the definitive presentation of Dick’s brilliant and epic work, which fully documents his “eight year attempt to fathom what he called 2-3-74”, a postmodern visionary experience of the entire universe “transformed into information” in entries that sometimes ran for hundreds of pages. His freewheeling voice ranges from personal confession to esoteric scholarship to dream accounts. I cannot find the words to tell you how delighted I am to hold this book in my hands. When you buy it, you will feel the same. This is not an option: buy it. If you are a poet, novelist, painter, cartoonist, if you are creative in ANY way, buy it. If you’re not creative and simply love a beautiful, engaging, sometimes sinister, always enlightening read, buy it. If you’re anyone, buy it. The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick will become the bible for the creative soul.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Beat Takeshi's Sonatine, movie review by Travis Hedge Coke




Sonatine opens with an impaled blue fish against a red sky. Somewhere in the ninety-four minutes that follow, we may realize, as the characters understand at a remove, that the film is an impaled fish held into a sky colored as blood. Such is life, or at least, the life of these low-ranking gangsters.

A sort of casual arthouse picture, Sonatine is directed by its star, Takeshi Kitano, with somber succinctness reveling in both minimalism and flourish, juxtaposing the stark, Howard Hawksian cinematography of Katsumi Yanagashima and a soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi (who frequently scores children's films for Studio Ghibli). It's simplicity is always only surface deep and that surface is several times violently penetrated, torn open with bullet-wound ferocity so that the levels beneath bleed out.

Paying tribute to a long tradition of gangster films in Japan, Sonatine is respectful as it is irreverent and indicting. Many a “traditional” gangland film in Japan was fully funded and supported by criminals, by gangsters, and there is a sometimes unnerving tendency to humanize and excuse even the most vicious crimes. Sonatine doesn't bother. It humanizes only because these are human beings, but Takeshi makes it clear he knows that human is both humane and inhumane. That a filmed human, a movie man, is both real and unreal, flesh and symbol.

The tension in Sonatine – and there is continual tension – is not that of a man deciding his life, but of the trigger on a pistol being slowly pulled until the mechanism releases the hammer and a bullet is fired. Somewhere over the ninety-four minutes run-time, it may be realized that Sonatine is a firing pistol, a suicide shot, a murder in the round, but by then, what damage done?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters, reviewed by BL Kennedy










Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters

Edited by Bill Morgan and David Stanford
Viking Press
499 pgs
$14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61129-305-0

Oh shit, another collection of letters from Jack Kerouac. I can’t say no; I mean, after all, I graduated the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. So you might say that my mind swells with Kerouac. You know, it wasn’t that long ago I was living in the Bronx and walking with my buddy the late Michael Dyson, who was a great writer and all that stuff. He was the first person to turn me on to Jack Kerouac. He did it because that week, he was excited that Ann Charters had just published the first biography of Jack Kerouac. So, like I said, I kind of have Kerouac in my veins. I mean, what is it we DON’T know about the writers of the Beat Generation? I once had a historian tell me that we can reasonably figure out how many times Jack Kerouac farted in one day. In other words, the Beat Generation proper is the most recorded literary movement in American History. But do we need another book of Kerouac’s letters? We probably don’t, but when you get one as good as this book, you get sucker punched.

Since that famed meeting in the Bronx with Mike Dyson, I’ve read everything that Kerouac has written which has been published to date. And I will be the first to admit that I get very dubious about the way editors approach the letters of any author. I was terrified of this one. But you know what? Sometimes, terror is a good thing. It means I still long to learn and discover what I can about any school of writing.

I love this book. I think it’s a living history of a remarkable correspondence between two very solid and endeared friends. I will recommend particular collection of letters between Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to any reader who has a curious itch to discover the contribution that these two men made to American literature. Hey, how much does this goddamn book cost? Fourteen ninety-five? Shit, even I on my rags budget can afford that. Look, guys, gals, whatever; I’m just recommending a very, very good book, and hoping that you will read this review and get a little bit inspired to purchase it. This is a fine collection of letters and should be respected as such. In other words, get off your ass and buy the book.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Dime Detectives by Ron Goulart, reviewed by BL Kennedy



The Dime Detectives
Ron Goulart
The Mysterious Press
New York, NY
247 pgs
$17.95
ISBN: 0-89296-191-0

The hare-boiled private eye, cynical, and yet often sentimental, made his initial appearance as a fully evolved character in the 1920s. His first showed up in the untrimmed pages of the pulpwood fiction magazines, but within a decade he was to be found between the covers of hardbound books issued by respectable publishers, on movie screens across the nation, and even in the funny papers.

I have a serious addiction to comprehensive histories of anything literary. I also have an addiction to the writing of Ron Goulart, and I also have an addiction to Mysterious Press. Add all those together, and The Dime Detectives is a junkie’s treat. This is a comprehensive book that takes its title from a school of literature found somewhere between the dime novels of the late nineteenth century and the paperbacks of today. And it’s a book I absolutely love. Here you have the history in rough cut pages of the pulp magazine, and that genre’s contribution to American Mystery Fiction, and the birth of the Private Detective as hero.

Goulart gives a beautiful overview of the wary new breed, wise-cracking, tough detective in such magazines as Black Mask; Detective Fiction Weekly; Crime Busters; Dime Detective; and Spicy Detective. And let’s not forget the dashing writers; authors such as Dashell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, and John Jakes. All these guys first appeared in the pulps.

The Dime Detectives offers a scholarly overview of crime pulp history through the eyes of author and pulp magazine historian Ron Goulart. I love this book and will recommend it to anybody who has a love of literature and its history. Goulart’s writing has covered many critical works on American popular culture. Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazine, and his classic The Great History of Comic Books both successfully contribute to our current understanding of American literature.

So in the end, we have a very handsome edition and a book that will seduce any armchair historian of pulp fiction. I love The Dime Detectives and I highly recommend the book to be placed in the library of any serious student of American literature.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Cabinet of What You Don’t See by Tantra Bensko, reviewed by BL Kennedy



The Cabinet of What You Don’t See
Tantra Bensko
ISMs Press
Manchester, UK
$5.00




Drawer Seven

Notes to put under the dresses of the dolls. To pin in there, to their vaginas. To give birth to words. To give birth to the story. Cut into strips with little scissors.

These don’t glow in the dark. They lie there and do nothing. You can’t read them. You often believe you can read them in your dreams. They almost tell you the answer.


It is no secret that I have a soft spot in my heart for Tantra Bensko. The author holds an MFA, teaches experimental literature; she edits, writes, and coaches writing. Her chapbooks Watching the Windows Sleep and Swinging on the Edge of Day were published by Naissance Press. Her full length book Lucid Membrane I have already reviewed. She has over 170 publications of short stories, novellas, and poems, including several in magazines that have given her awards, like the Carolina Quarterly and Iowa Journal of literary Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart, and in my opinion, she is one of the most exciting writers out there today.

The Cabinet of What You Don’t See is a handsome collection of prose poetry. I happen to like this writer and her microscopic view of language. In this book, she tells some fine stories that will keep you both entertained and begging for more. So what can I tell ya, kids? Wherever you can find a chapbook or book by Tantra Bensko, grab it! Trust me, you won’t regret the decision.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

CAN'T STOP NOW by John Yarmus, reviewed by BL Kennedy



John Yamrus
Can’t Stop Now!
Epic Rites Press
133 pgs
$17.50
ISBN: 978-1-926860-06-0







The Great Writer

told
him to
write about

what
and who
you know

which
made
him which

he
had more
interesting friends.



There has long been a problem with ‘contemporary’ poetry. The problem itself stems from too many young, untrained poets attempting to duplicate the poetry of Jack Kerouac, or any of the Beats, including the pedestrian scrawl of Bukowski. You heard right: I just called Buk pedestrian. Let’s hope I don’t get beat up tomorrow for it or the next time I walk into a bar or a poetry reading here in Sacramento (same thing, really.)

Now, let’s address the poems of John Yamrus. Once again, I find I have to point out the influence of such seasoned writers as Buk, John Bennett, Jack Micheline, and Kell Robertson. I hate wanna-be straight-lined conversational or narrative poems. I just do not have a nice place for them in my stomach. However, I’m going to make an exception here with John Yamrus. Can’t Stop Now! is an excellent collection of some 133 pgs, a giant amount poetry books, and I’m sorry, but rather unnecessary. John Yamrus has a talent; he need not flaunt it. I like a lot of the poems here, even with their sometimes show off references to names like Phillip Marlowe, and old radio shows. Look, the only radio show that I had the opportunity to hear in my younger days was the Broadcast of H.G. Welles War of the Worlds.

Still again, there is something here that draws me to the poetry of John Yamrus. The work stands in and of itself. It has a lyrical quality that I find kind of fits nicely in what I want in a poem. Granted, as I stated earlier, the book is a little bit too long at 133 pgs, but I’m gonna recommend it. I’m gonna recommend it because there are some poems in this collection that I’ve really enjoyed, and Can’t Stop Now is a handsome book which should fit nicely into anybody’s poetry library. And John Yamrus is, at times, a damn fine writer.
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