Our societies are in deep crisis. The latest strand of the capitalist-nationalist virus is particularly aggressive: Brexit, Trump and various other ethno-populist movements across the Globe, disguised under democratic wrappings, represent a great danger for Humanity and Nature. Wars, discriminations of all types and poverty will only get worse in the New World Dis-order. In this book, Goddess opens proceedings and summons culprits, victims and heroes to make their case in poetic form: irony, joy, bitterness and hope come together through rhythmic directness and daring metaphors. The first book of the Goddess Series, Los viajes de Diosa (The Travels of Goddess), was published in 2015 in Spain and came as a response to the Great Recession. Tony Martin-Woods is an artivist who lives in England since 1995. He runs Transforming with Poetry at Inkwell, Leeds, and contributes to 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Under his Spanish name, he directs the digitisation project Poesía Ártemis and is the UK Delegate for Crátera, where he publishes translations into Spanish. His work has appeared in various anthologies and in Poetry Life and Times. https://www.amazon.co.uk. Goddess Summons Nation Tony Martin Woods by Antonio Martínez Arboleda (Author)
Excerpt from Goodess Summons the Nation. Editors Note: A visit via the link allows you aLook Inside to see the Table of Contents, available also on Kindle:
THE NIGHT OF TRUMP
I woke up suffocated
by the mare of the night.
I held my heart,
I looked through the screen
like an agonising wizard
on the hidden
of a crystal
How many emotions,
how much attention,
could the map
of the States
red and blue,
the numbers of colleges,
the random borders
of arbitrary plots
meant to me
what they meant that night:
an evil that no soul
will ever forgive,
a twilight that our dawn
will have to redeem.
T I M E TO LEAVE B R E X I T
I’ve never been an island,
Nor a chunk of it.
I could never be one
Cause I’m a social being
made of flesh
And so are you.
Cake it or Leave it:
We never were an island,
In fact there is no We
That anyone speaks for.
The sea is mainly a friend
An open road for all.
Storms are exceptions,
But national hyperventilation does not help.
Cake it or Leave it:
Our hearts are big enough
To cherish complex loyalties
Like we love mothers and fathers
And brothers and sisters
We can love England,
In an equal
Antonio Martínez Arboleda:
Tony Martin-Woods started to write poetry for the public in 2012, at the age of 43, driven by his political indignation. That same year he also set in motion Poesía Indignada, an online publication of political poetry. He runs the poetry evening Transforming with Poetry at Inkwell, in Leeds, and collaborates with 100 Thousands Poets for Change. Tony is also known in the UK for his work as an academic and educator under his real-life name, Antonio Martínez Arboleda. His project of digitisation of poetry, Ártemis, compiles more than 100 high quality videos of Spanish poets and other Open Educational Resources. http://www.artemispoesia.com/. He is the delegate in the UK of Crátera Revista de Críticay Poesía Contemporánea , where he also publishes his work as translator from English into Spanish. He published his first volume of poetry in Spanish, Los viajes de Diosa (The Travels of Goddess), in 2015, as a response to the Great Recession, particularly in Spain. His second book, Goddess Summons The Nation, is a critique of the ideas of nation and capitalism, mainly in the British Brexit context. It incorporates voices of culprits, victims and heroes with mordacity and rhythm. It consists of 21 poems, 18 of which are originally written in English. It is available in print and kindle in Amazon and other platforms.
Aquillrelle’s Anthology Wall7 is now released and published in both Ebook/PDF and Paper formats. It can be purchased on Lulu (and a couple of months from now also on Amazon, etc.).
Many thanks to the participants and to the supporters, it was hard yet gratifying work. Enjoy your (and your friends’) art!
The seventh wall. Some graffiti. Some works of art. Even some smudges included since they hold a message to be heard. Because this is the essence of every Aquillrelle wall – let everyone who values his/her word get a piece of the wall to themselves. You, the readers, are the beneficiaries. Read!
The poem included below is an excerpt from the above reviewed anthology
Elliptical Shift by Robin Ouzman Hislop
Meadows of wild flowers
sweet in an urban niche
framed by a hand of nostalgia
framed in an enclosure
for the price of pathos
riots of the human race
rampage across its space
in resistance, resentment
everywhere history obscures the view
an enigmatic phantom
it projects its rapacious plans onto tomorrow
McDonald’s signs, stewards of the planet, protein signifier
regularities merge into a wholeness
the news comes on, in a refrain of the same monotone
as if the world were made new again.
The darkest regions of the planet’s mind
the photon of a star in a formless moment
becomes an instance of a memory
as the desert invites the ripple
to a turbulence of refrain
a window frame constrains
its world view to all that follows on
as if it could choose between what’s real
such choices, shape our view
to the now, before an open future
sunset on the high street, traffic
vanishing into it like black dots
whizzing out of the blind, the zonk
plonk, disappearing into its shadow
dust of ages, its record
all the particles cascading
into the horizon’s viewpoint
all the bits, pieces in their parts
blowing on the horizon’s sunset
Time is not the shadow cast by the world
the world is the shadow cast by time
A Philosophy of Yard
FORTE Publications #12
Ashmun Street Snapper Hill Monrovia, Liberia
ISBN-10: 0994534795 ISBN-13: 978-0994534798
A Philosophy of Yard by Jack Kolkmeyer takes an intimate look at poetic reflections of the past, present and future day in a philosophical manner. This book leaves the reader with an understanding of how we view ourselves and how one should grasp the universe by accepting all of the mysteries and magic that ultimately grounds us. Kolkmeyer’s book opens with a poem titled “Often as a child” (1) but ironically, the poem was written about the death of Kolkmeyer’s grandfather which took place in Cincinnati. While this poem invites the reader into the authors personal space it also stresses of the importance of a life-cycle from a child’s perspective. On the other hand the author’s theme poem “A Philosophy of Yard” (2) written in Delray Beach weaves magic of wonder as it relates to nature’s stones, plants, seeds, weeds and animals, thus allowing everything to grow and reorganize itself in due season. In this review of A Philosophy of Yard, I will weigh in on the contents and expound on the strengths and weaknesses of Kolkmeyers’ book. Therefore, buckle yourselves because A Philosophy of Yard will travel you from the “here” to the “there,” and brings the reader full circle back into one’s very own yard, while instructing you along the way.
The author strategically draws from poets; such as T. E. Hulme, Wallace Stevens and D. H. Lawrence using their unique metaphor style for place and implements it into the veins of his book. While the Beat Poets educated Kolkmeyer about meter and flow he skillfully mimics their style as well and weaves that throughout the book also. This author is no stranger to writing from the depths of his soul, while using inspirations from some of the great poets before his time. Kolkmeyer surrounds himself with knowledge of the African American culture as well, which gives the poetry within this book that rhythm and blues flare; adding literary renaissance to the messages that he conveys within his body of work.
Kolkmeyer’s poem “Coimbra Universidad” takes place in Coimbra, Portugal and figuratively points to D. H. Lawrence’s legendary writing style as Kolkmeyer opened the poem with “the sounding of a bitch bell” (106;1). The opening line is powerful, commands immediate attention and yet is definitely a controversial statement that can be viewed as offensive. Overall, the book has roots running deep in familial, providing clear imagery structured in a simplistic way. Yet, this erudite author manages skillfully to make one cogitate about the complexities of life along that path as it also relates to the human race. For example, in the poem “Everybody is Colored (a song)” (100) written in Santa Fe, the author masterfully tackles the race issue head on by addressing “everybody is colored/everybody’s got a mother/and a bag of white bones” (100;1-4).
Talk about iron sharpening iron; this author, shrewd and skillful understands the powerful effect of carefully placed line breaks in his poetry and uses them masterfully in creating genuine stanzas which ultimately stir emotions within the reader as seen in his poem “do doo wop” (95). This poem captures the Harlem Renaissance revolutionary explosion at its best and vibes with Langston Hughes’ poem “The Weary Blues” which evokes a tone of melancholy. While Kolkmeyer’s poem “doo doo wop” (95) has that very same disposition in these lines “Street corner colors fly/faintly yellow umber/surely some blues…shining from the muted lights/prying into the night life/a street corner prophet on his knee” (95;11-17) he manages to create originality and uniqueness in his poem thus causing it to stand up against Hughes’ masterpiece.
Kolkmeyer’s poem “Autumn” (4) and “The pod people” (6) both taking place in Delray Beach, can be compared to Robert Frosts’ poetic style, which often depicts relationships between nature imagery and humans. In the poem “Autumn” Kolkmeyer brilliantly captures the beauty of nature shared with humans as he wrote “we just wait with resignation knowing that winter is near…as we prepare a warmer spot/amidst the moves and rearrangements” (4;14-17). Whereas, in the poem “The pod people” he skillfully uses metaphors to capture that same effect within these lines “but we are in deed /the seed people/planting ourselves along furrows of time/seen differently from star to star” (6;6-9). Kolkmeyer deliberately takes the reader on another journey within these poems by shifting the reader’s mind into various periods as it relates to time which ultimately lends the authors instructions on embracing life.
Kolkmeyer’s poems “A New Seed (a song),” “Coltrane,” “Winter Solstice Winter Light,” and “To Wallace Stevens” reminds one of Frank O’Hara’s writings, while adding dimension of self-reflection and conscious control to otherwise permissive unpredictability. At times Kolkmeyer’s poetry reads like O’Hara’s and could be viewed as bluster of rants and even provocative. For example in the poem “Coltrane” Kolkmeyer skillfully rants “nocturnal admissions…lost arcs and frozen phrases/wholly wars of redemption/tangled transgressions…play deeply” (121;7-11) and then he follows it with a question of uncertainty “how deep is the ocean”(121;12). Nonetheless, it’s important to note that O’ Hara’s works are celebrated amongst the greatest, which further adds credibility to Kolkmeyer’s brilliant masterpiece. However, all the greats are subjected to criticism and Kolkmeyer is certainly no exception to the rule.
The author certainly captures home which takes place in Pittsburgh as he metaphorically points the reader back there within this poem “The Pittsburgh Boys” (66) in the following lines “lost in the hills and the valleys/jumpin’ the fences/riden’ trollies… crossin’ bridges… livin’/in a together place” (66;19-25). He further adds “we were Pittsburgh boys…still we are… we’ll keep going on/because of where we’re from” (67;7-13). “Kolkmeyer’s book is a labor of love that adds dimensions and challenges to one’s understanding as it relates to how we value ourselves and those closest to us. Kolkmeyer’s book can be compared to August Wilson’s incredible play Fences, because, like Wilson, the author describes how separated and yet connected families are throughout life as seen in this particular poem.
Furthermore, Kolkmeyer is unafraid to dig, sow and plant his poetic seeds into the grounds of richly fertilized soil, causing his literary prose and ethos to have great impact, which will influence how modern day writers approach their craft. This author’s voice is vibrant colorful, and distinctly powerful, which challenges the reader to also dig deep and wrestle analytically with the issues of life found in one’s own yard. I look forward not only this project, but, the transformation of Kolkmeyer, his growth and the poetic soul destined to become one of the 21st century greats.
Renee’ Drummond-Brown, is an accomplished poetess with experience in creative writing. She is a graduate of Geneva College of Western Pennsylvania. Renee’ is still in pursuit of excellence towards her mark for higher education. She is working on her sixth book and has numerous works published globally which can be seen in cubm.org/news, KWEE Magazine, Leaves of Ink, Raven Cage Poetry and Prose Ezine, Realistic Poetry International, Scarlet Leaf Publishing House, SickLit Magazine, The Metro Gazette Publishing Company, Inc., Tuck, and Whispers Magazine just to name a few. Civil Rights Activist, Ms. Rutha Mae Harris, Original Freedom Singer of the Civil Rights Movement, was responsible for having Drummond-Brown’s very first poem published in the Metro Gazette Publishing Company, Inc., in Albany, GA. Renee’ also has poetry published in several anthologies and honorable mentions to her credit in various writing outlets. Renee’ won and/or placed in several poetry contests globally and her books are eligible for nomination for a Black Book award in Southampton County Virginia. She was Poet of the Month 2017, Winner in the Our Poetry Archives and prestigious Potpourri Poets/Artists Writing Community in the past year. She has even graced the cover of KWEE Magazine in the month of May, 2016. Her love for creative writing is undoubtedly displayed through her very unique style and her work solidifies her as a force to be reckoned with in the literary world of poetry. Renee’ is inspired by non-other than Dr. Maya Angelou, because of her, Renee’ posits “Still I write, I write, and I’ll write!”
Cartoon Molecules is divided into six stoas, or porticos where, safe from the inclement weather of the outer world, the poet, thinking cap on, can walk like the peripatetic philosophers of ancient Greece, his readers following him about, absorbing the wisdom he is imparting, and occasionally, though sometimes without full comprehension, repeating it like rhapsodes. In short, the organization of the book invites one in, each stoa like a carnival tent, magical and intriguing to the starry-eyed reader. One pulls a flap and wonders, “What’s in here?” and is never disappointed. But at the same time. the ultimate subject of Mister Hislop’s extraordinary book is so large, so kaleidoscopic, that, in this reader’s opinion, to do it justice requires much more than a review. Like Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, it should have a skeleton key (as by Campbell and Robinson); like the universe, it should have a space traveller who can explore its endless depths. But don’t get me wrong. We get more than enough of magic and beauty when we just get some of it—like beautiful, unknowable life.
Take this sampler, a favorite of mine:
Dream of the machine
At the top of the stairs, perhaps she’s a person
in three persons traffic in her hair hums
life and intelligence a person
a fixed stair with a parading universe
machine intelligence a person
a ballooning moon
a universe in entelechy a person
or is she a simulation
a cartoon molecule in the dream of the machine
as long as she’s prisoner of an unknown
perhaps she’s a simulation
finite limits in a false eternity
voice of a world collapsing endlessly
a frozen world with only leaning things
lapsing crumbling without memory
a world at an end in frosted shadows that ride
in their depths a wilderness
could a machine swallow a universe
or a universe swallow a machine
at the top of the stairs the locusts come
in her hair the simulacrum
In this work Mister Hislop reaches for the ends of being and, I suppose, though he may not think it, ideal grace. Deep in this Hislop-simulated universe of the cartoon molecule that dances its jig throughout his space-time continuum, he searches, as in “Dream of the machine,” for what might be called electronic love. He sings the body electric at the top of the stairs. Who is she? What is she? Machine or woman; or some combination of the two? Is it possible for the reader to think of it/her as Grace, or at least, as “grace”? Mister Hislop seems to think of it/her both ways; but then, isn’t it pretty well accepted that there are multiple universes? Perhaps in one universe she is the one thing, and in another, another.
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Aside from the centuries, Mister Poe and Mister Hislop are not so far apart, and, do you know, despite the objections that I expect from almost everyone, possibly including Mister Hislop, I say the two poets are partners in the exploration of the Universe. “Eureka,” cried Archimedes; Eureka, wrote Mister Poe; Eureka! Mister Hislop, fare thee well, as you explore the world of deep space.
A personal reaction/essay from:
Richard Lloyd Cederberg
Initially the title of the book puzzled me. ‘Babble’ and poetry seemed antithetic. But Robin’s usage of the title in the first poem – ‘Africa North’ -seemed to be hinting at something vaster in scope. “All the babble of the Souk, men over there, over there women. All the life of the planet, so little part of it that I breathe” This made it seem like a sweeping vision from a finite point of view. After reading various poems, I saw that the poet’s work was alive with surreal vignettes; visual snippets patched together to create a montage of life’s mysteries, colors, and characters. This particular observation was supported (I felt) in a verse from ‘Lucky Hat Day’. “The world is a patchwork quilt, stitched up to the hilt its seams, which we quarter in our dreams, on which our edifice is built.”
Soren Kierkegaard said: “The poet can understand everything, in riddles, and wonderfully explain everything, in riddles, but he cannot understand himself, or understand that he himself is a riddle.” At that point I knew that attempting to dissect the poet’s work in a grand intellectual context was the wrong approach. Besides, I wasn’t qualified. Instead I would read it as if I was sitting under a waterfall and offer back the stimulating way the content was washing over me. First and foremost… I purposed for a better grasp of the title. Something that made sense to me. With that I felt I would have a better chance at apprehending the contents. So that’s where it began.
Book titles, for me, are kinda’ like figureheads on the prows of wooden sailing vessels; a face on it, but not the power of it. This title seemed to be corroborating all the chaos and noise humanity makes living their lives and hawking their philosophies and products in a global marketplace. Certainly this obvious interpretation had some merit, but it didn’t seem (to me) to affirm the books ultimate scope. Still curious; I dug into the definitions and discovered something intriguing. There was one definition that stood apart and became a key that started a trickle of water for me.
BABBLE as an intransitive verb: to talk enthusiastically or excessively. To utter meaningless or unintelligible sounds. To make sounds as though babbling. As a transitive verb: To utter in an incoherently or meaninglessly repetitious manner. To reveal by talk that is too free. SOUK… a marketplace in North Africa or the Middle East. A fuller definition: A marketplace in North Africa or the Middle East.
A bazaar. Also: a stall in such a marketplace. It became personal here. STALL… A small area set off by walls for a special use. A booth where articles are displayed for sale. The water began to flow stronger now.
The Poet’s Stall. You can call it whatever you want but each of us has one. Mind. The seat of the faculty of reason. The poet’s singularity of cogitation. Senses. Telescope. Microscope. Binoculars. Tools. Oxymoron. Pun. Idiom. Simile. Onomatopoeia. Hyperbole. Alliteration. Personification. Metaphor. A verse from ‘The Pine at the Summit’ offered a glimpse into the process. “My mind’s a needle scratching sky, bleeding a sigh of shadow, as through tension of this extension, I summit into ascension.”
All poets require a safe [set apart] place they can enter to assimilate and interpret the world around them. A place where they can observe the mysterious vastness of life without being overwhelmed by it. I could visualize, then, a place set apart in the midst of a noisy-plagued-global-marketplace, where the poet could readily analyze, understand, and express the essential (and non-essential) elements of all that was being observed and felt; locally, from his travels, and in a broader global context. Robin’s poetry found the cracks in my defenses then and began hydrating me. Each reading, after that; the content became more meaningful.
As someone once said: “It requires wisdom to understand wisdom; the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.” Many say that poetry is an [almost] dead art form. I’m not so sure about that now.
For me personally: the essence of profound insight is simplicity. If poets only cater to poets then a part of the ‘souk’ is deprived. Some say poetry is painting with the gift of speech. If this is true, and I believe it is, then Robin’s work, to me, evokes, M.C. Escher, Robert Raushenberg, and perhaps (at times) even Salvador Dali. Readers take caution. Robin is a poet’s poet. A reasoning philosopher who sees life vastly different than most, and, who channels much of what he sees and feels into his work.
“As he affirms in ‘Clear Drops of Water’: “To write is my possession – a given time, a given space, a given self, as if it were an alchemy that could turn blood into wine, we’ve different tastes nature or me.”
‘All the Babble of the Souk’ is not simple. It is woven with riddles that, when resolved, offer the reader a singular critique of life from a safe perspective. Robin’s poetry may never be fully grasped by me. It is esoteric. Intriguing. Surreal. Adventurous. Philosophic. Brainy. But even though it demands carefully considered thought to fathom; it still flows as pure water in its declarations, imagery, and suggestions. Poet Hislop’s unique work has heightened my appreciation for the written word.
1. I am once again thankful for the depth, beauty, and mysteries of another’s poetic invention.
2. I discovered another beautiful view of the One Tree.
3. I have purposed now to get out of myself (more often) to discover another’s perspective; something quite essential for the poet and creative writer I’m thinking.
4. I can see an aspect of metaphor now that I’ve never known.
5. Poetry is NOT dead.
JEG HILSER DEG Robin Ouzman Hislop
Richard Lloyd Cederberg
August 2007 Richard was nominated for a 2008 PUSHCART PRIZE. Richard was awarded 2007 BEST NEW FICTION at CST for his first three novels and also 2006 WRITER OF THE YEAR @thewritingforum.net … Richard has been a featured Poet on Poetry Life and Times Aug/Sept 2008, Jan 2013, Aug 2013, and Oct 2013 and has been published in varied anthologies, compendiums, and e-zines. Richard’s literary work is currently in over 35,000 data bases and outlets. Richard’s novels include: A Monumental Journey… In Search of the First Tribe… The Underground River… Beyond Understanding. A new novel, Between the Cracks, was completed March 2014 and will be available summer 2014.
Richard has been privileged to travel extensively throughout the USA, the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan in Canada, the Yukon Territories, Kodiak Island, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Petersburg, Glacier Bay, in Alaska, the Azorean Archipelagoes, and throughout Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Holland… Richard and his wife, Michele, have been avid adventurers and, when time permits, still enjoy exploring the Laguna Mountains, the Cuyamaca Mountains, the High Deserts in Southern California, the Eastern Sierra’s, the Dixie National Forest, the Northern California and Southern Oregon coastlines, and the “Four Corners” region of the United States.
Richard designed, constructed, and operated a MIDI Digital Recording Studio – TAYLOR and GRACE – from 1995 – 2002. For seven years he diligently fulfilled his own musical visions and those of others. Richard personally composed, and multi-track recorded, over 500 compositions during this time and has two completed CD’s to his personal credit: WHAT LOVE HAS DONE and THE PATH. Both albums were mixed and mastered by Steve Wetherbee, founder of Golden Track Studios in San Diego, California.
Richard retired from music after performing professionally for fifteen years and seven years of recording studio explorations. He works, now, at one of San Diego’s premier historical sites, as a Superintendent. Richard is also a carpenter and a collector of classic books, and books long out of print.
Review of All The Babble of the Souk
By Robin Ouzman Hislop
I had the great pleasure of reviewing “All the Babble of the Souk” by a very experienced and talented poet, Robin Ouzman Hislop.
The book is split into the two parts, The first part is “All the Babble and the Souk 1” and is very short in comparison to the second part, “All the Babble and the Souk 2”.
Reader beware, this poet is on a different level. Do not read this if you don’t want to engage your essence in a series of fantastic life/mind changing events. Many of the poems herein push the boundaries between science and philosophy and develop a sense of doubt within the reader. These poems carry you on a cosmological, philosophical journey that is sure to leave you speechless and thinking on deeper frequencies.
These are just a few of my favorites from part one.
From the very start with the poem “Africa North,” Hislop captures the reader in a vivid description of a thriving cityscape filled with many sensuous sensations. The poem “Passage” is a psychological view into the mind of the modern human. The poem, “Non Linear” focuses on the inception of homo Sapiens and how the system we created dwarfs us into a microcosm of everything around us.
The second part is filled to the brim with intellectually stimulating pieces that deserve at least a second read through. The poem “Accident” grasped me and made me think of past events that I thought were lost forever.
The poem, “Slant” is written in sections such as, “on the Bus” and details philosophical messages the author has gained through these experiences. I very much enjoyed this poem as it is raw, delves deep into the mind of the poet and presents the inner workings of the brain.
The poem, “Edge” touches on what I believe is our greatest political and existential battle; human extinction.
This book changed my perspective on the human experience. Highly recommended to anyone who is into philosophy and isn’t afraid to take a step in a different direction.
Adam Levon Brown is a poet and author residing in Eugene, Oregon. He has one published poetry book out, Musings of a Madman, which is a collection of poems made to enlighten and inspire the reader. Adam attributes his love of poetry to the many great poets he discovered in the school library during his formative years. He enjoys listening to political hip hop music and is a political activist himself.
All the babble of the Souk
all the life of the planet &
so little part of it, that I breathe
Robin Ouzman Hislop, born UK, graduate in philosophy & religions, has travelled extensively throughout his lifetime but now lives in semi- retirement as a TEFL teacher and translator.
Robin was editor of the 12 year running on-line monthly poetry journal Poetry Life and Times. In 2013 he joined with Dave Jackson as co-editor at Artvilla.com, where he presently edits Poetry Life & Times.
He’s been previously published in a variety of international magazines, recent publications including Voices without Borders Volume 1 (USA), Cold Mountain Review (Appalachian University, N. Carolina), The Poetic Bond Volumes (thepoeticbond.com) and Phoenix Rising from the Ashes (a recently published international Anthology of Sonnets).
Robin is a philosopher, poet, published author and more. It has been my privilege to reap the benefits of this man’s knowledge on an array of subjects. He has extensive knowledge on mind/body philosophy, evolutionary theory & cosmology theory. A man ahead of his time. A true visionary and creative genius. ~Janet Caldwell, COO at Inner Child Ltd, author of the Author Den’s award winning “5 degrees to separation”
Robin is a brilliant writer and philosopher as well as a recognized poet. He is an editor and contributor for Poetry Life and Times and other publications. ~David Michael Jackson, Web Publisher at Artvilla.com
Robin is a highly innovative and gifted poet, who excels in writing sonnets, blank verse and haiku, and in translating poetry from Spanish into English. His work is first-rate. ~Richard Vallance, Linguist Linear B, Knossos & Mycenaean
…on All the Babble of the Souk
Gary Beck – All the Babble of the Souk is an elegant journey through both foreign and familiar climes. Anything but babble. Time and space bend in mysterious mists and mechanistic voyages. The poems pulsate with languid images that add to the wonder of travel to exotic places.
Scott Hastie – A collection of real substance that is long overdue. Robin writes with impressive depth and across a spread of philosophic stimuli that he makes uniquely his own. You do not have to travel long before you trip over killer lines, again and again… This is fresh, original and mature work, grown from one special creative soul’s well seasoned experience. Robin truly has a voice that is his own and it has been worth the wait to see it flower…
Robin Marchesi – High time this great Poet was properly in print. His Poems resonate like the work of Cavafy and Gibran. They are deep and revealing, resonating in one’s inner self. This book will stimulate your metaphysical being. Robin’s Poetry opens you to questions about who you are…. Essential reading……
R. W. Haynes – Robin Ouzman Hislop’s All the Babble of the Souk grips elemental tangles with wisely wistful authority, making a claim both for the adequacy of animate language and for erudite perception. Counterpointing the abstruse and the inescapably basic, these poems draw upon a power that surprises, engaging the reader in the poet’s heartfelt conversation with a tradition and its diverse voices, including T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. Hislop’s retro-modernist recovery of vision argues for a refreshed perception of poetic possibility and a turn from the infinite regress of the verse which echoes the empty sophistry of twentieth-century language philosophers. Music, with its syncopation, minor chords, pauses, accelerations, jingles, knocks, and elegiac phrases constitutes a crucial part of the essence of this splendid collection.
Ian Irvine (Hobson) – The metaphor of the ‘marketplace’ or ‘bazaar’ – symbolic in this collection of public spaces generally (both physical and cultural/mediatised) – launches this remarkable collection of poems by a poet, editor and creative thinker of international significance. The ‘souk’ is a place of trade, chance meetings, overheard conversations and communal eating. This collection also links it to our post-post modern state of life in the face of cultural globalisation. However, rather than theorise key aspects of our world we are invited to explore them instead as states of being – with joyous and anxious dimensions. As the poet/narrator mingles, observes, samples and digests (in poem after poem) a colourful array of stimuli – sensorial, relational and intellectual – we gradually feel our perception of life and the species crisis/moment deepen and expand. The melancholy grandeur of the human predicament slowly comes into focus – largely through the poet’s gift of empathy. A wonderful selection of poems updating for the new millennia themes mulled over by the likes of Baudelaire (in Paris Spleen), Apollinaire (in Zone), George Oppen (in Of Being Numerous) and many other great 19th and 20th century poets.
Marie Marshall – The eternal curse of a poetry editor is that she can seldom read for pleasure alone. For example, when I come across a phrase in Robin Ouzman Hislop’s new collection of poems – this phrase, ‘a beehive of allies’ – I find myself wondering whether he meant ‘alleys’, instead of just reading on and enjoying the ride. Because Robin’s poetry is often just that, a ride. The same poem that brought me up short in editor mode, contains lines like in little stanzas like
The hag in her rags begs her bag
holding all shadows to account.
each a new thought after a pause for breath, or so it seems, each with an image that sparkles, almost with effrontery. That’s how I like my poetry – image, sound, and bare-faced cheek.
As the images pile up, or maybe I unearth more as I drill down, discovering depth in the poetry, the typographical puzzles pile up too, and I begin to wonder if they are deliberate cantrips on the poet’s part. I hope they are. I hope they are, because I want to trust the poet’s intentions. I know he’s not your average Internet Joe, but a man with a mean, keen pen. He knows how to play, how to make free, how to brew poetry:
Riding along in our dream machine
our virtual reality all but a scream
blood on the wind screen, faithful Fido’s gone
the machine’s a mess, – every where’s a gas.
A trickle through a diaphanous sheen
a thin crust peels, roll the dice
a question of ethics, the cost of life.
Y’know, somewhere along the line, Ezra Pound and John Cooper Clarke rolled dice for this man’s soul, and I can’t say who won. Maybe he walked away laughing while the bones still tumbled, soul intact. I hope so. He has the measure of our suburbs, seeing how
gleamed cleaned cars
the phallus of a Sunday afternoon
let us (you’re here too, and I have morphed into ‘we’) catch our reflection in that polished surface, wondering how to measure the depth of the shine. Meanwhile
Danger, Deep Water, Keep Out
As if we could. There are caesuras in this collection, but they almost seem accidental, as though titles, page breaks, and stars merely interrupted a flow of thought momentarily. The collection has the feel of a single work, as though the poet sat down, started at the beginning, wrote the middle, and stopped at the end. See? The golden arches of a fast-food outlet, the taunts of a cuckoo, big Sunday words like ‘bifurcation’, ‘pheromone’, and ‘olfactory’, all rub shoulders, and rub along. We ride. It’s the same ride all the time, but the scenery outside the window shifts, and fellow passengers come and go. Occasionally we get off, but only to stretch our legs
As we celebrate
life lies dead on the table
we eat it.
and then the ride starts again. But a short offering like that reminds me that on the return journey I must insist on long enough to read each poem on its own…
and I’m by myself again, closing the book at its final page. Second impressions:
The poet is aware of the shape of his work on the page, of its concreteness. The poet knows when to be serious and when not to, and he knows when to muddy the water of each with the other. When he says ‘Watch my stick’, you hear ‘This means you!’ The poet can make a dream return from the rubble of artifice. I know poetry when I see it.
Norman Ball, writer, author of Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in Six Easy Payments – Before I get to the book itself, I’d like to offer up a confession. Robin and I have, over the years, engaged in some fascinating discussions on such far-flung topics as Big Bang contrarianism, the mystery of consciousness, theories of memes, multiverses, Popper falsifiability and vitalism, just to name a few; in short, the usual water cooler chatter. Or maybe not. Robin’s a whole lot smarter than me. Nonetheless it’s a lot of fun trying to keep up. If you’ll forgive a mixed metaphor, we’re odd ducks of a feather.
For one thing, Hislop is not averse to the occasional Latinate or ism getting tossed into a stanza. Of course poetical exploration of High Concept puts one at odds with the prevailing penchant for concrete image and tactile adhesives. There are many in poetry today who insist that, if you can’t say something nice about a spatula, a garden hose or a lamppost, you have no business trafficking in periphrasis. Everything must be grounded in the real, they say—as if such a thing as the real really existed. If I may say, oh prevailing sentiment in poetry, get real.
So, perhaps All the Babble of the Souk is not for everyone. But then, what of any value ever is? Poetry marches under a Big Spatula and we all can’t be flipping fried eggs and hash. Besides, in the hands of a deftly abstract mind, abstraction is not exactly a kick in the head. Nor will it break the yokes and spoil your breakfast. What is a speculative poetic excursion, after all, but high imagination and eccentricity commiserating via language? Let the arbiters of bric a brac catalog the quotidian like good flea marketeers. Such people are born to rummage about in the attic and log their heirlooms on eBay. Hislop doesn’t trammel their kiosks. He has Big Thoughts to mull.
Fresh off a personally intense eye-mind exploration , I found myself greatly predisposed to ‘Maps’, a four-piece series of poetic aphorisms that offers some dazzling insights into how we demarcate our space, time and existence, and especially how these elements are conveyed, if not even defined, by our senses:
This notion of time having a real job to do immediately put me in mind of John Archibald Wheeler: “Time is what prevents everyt hing from happening at once.” Hislop may be onto something even more subtle: Does time keep chaos at bay, allowing time for our disparate senses to marry their qualia into a coherent universe? Perhaps those with Synesthesia are more evolved creators of worlds, their gaps between sound and vision less discontinuous.
‘Maps’ delivered me to a speculation I wouldn’t have reached otherwise. And I find that’s a critical function of Hislop’s poetry. It gathers, then points away. More important than the resolved landing place is how it offers a hospitable ‘symposium’, couching philosophical fields of inquiry within poetic metaphor from which the reader’s own speculative arcs can then rise and take tangential flight; speculations feeding speculations. What does resolution ever resolve anyway? Conclusions are overrated. The concrete of the concretists doesn’t exist in a world:
seeking an ineffable concrete
in an abstraction
which defies location. —from ‘Red Butterflies’
Tumbling down rabbit holes beats rabbit stew any old day, especially when the universe has us fixed for the tasty, sentient rabbit anyway. In this sense I would call Hislop’s poetry inviting, intelligent, and non-binding.
In ‘From Here to Silence, three’, he sets up a free will versus determinism tug-of-war stalked by Nietzschean recurrence and Leonard Susskind’s holographic 2D picture-show. You got a problem with that, Rod McKuen?
Say we are not sui generis
(the cause of yourself)
we are homeostatic holographs
dimensions in spectral parallel membranes
our near eternal process to err
along such a line we pass time in, time out
but could we not cheat the butterfly effect?
The stanza ends on the plaintive hope, reminiscent of Kafka that our cycle of error could end if freewill achieved grace but for an instant. Let us hope that moment arrives as I’m so tired of breaking my shoelace the day before Thanksgiving forever.
Am I losing the yucksters in all the heavy universe lifting? Not so fast. Hislop can be funny too. ‘At a Slant’ has a droll quality that still draws a snicker if for no other reason than that we’re stuck, all together (‘but it’s the same for all of us!’):
The con of life
the weirdness of its melodramatic sham
how good we are at yesterday, tomorrow
always better than before
like, being had – in the process by it.
The juxtaposed tenses of being had cement the interminable predicament we share. No exit. But at least we perfect our yesterdays until such time as we resume them anew, becoming rank amateurs all over again; amateurs though with a difference, with a modicum of acquired wisdom and an almost imperceptibly elevated rank.
Okay, so it’s bleak, black humor. But there are shafts of light. One day, though maybe yet a half-eternity away, some butterfly will escape the dark matter of our descending shoe. (Butterflies pervade Hislop’s poetry.) We’ll be released to the next pristine universe armed with a butterfly-brain’s worth of hard-earned prescience. So yes, each successive Big Bang is not an unadulterated singularity. Some kernel of hard-earned wisdom gets borne through. Each new universe is a tooth on a slowly revolving gear that turns towards…perfection? In short, something barely better. Since Hislop asks, that’s what—I think, I hope—may be next:
Pack, the near infinite
(in—the moment before you munch)
take a bit of the biscuit
before the Big Crunch
it’s an eternal packet
& having all, what’s next? —from ‘Lucky Hat Day’
All the Babble of the Souk will have you pondering your predicament in a whole new imaginative light. Reflect well my friend, as mindless impulsivity and materialist inanity are precisely what dangle this eternity over the present-day abyss. Therein may lie our paper-thin chance for freedom: by insect increment, one pardoned butterfly per eon at a time.
Richard Vallance, writer, author of Canadian Spirit Voices – If “All the Babble of the Souk” is anything but memorable — as it surely is — it is so because of its sweeping portrayal of the tumultuous market that is humankind. The “babble” of this bazaar is that of all the markets in the world — irrespective of nation, language, culture or race or for that matter, at the symbolic level, of any manifestation of our nature, be it “good” or “evil”, which are not opposing psychological or spiritual states as all too many naďvely imagine, but rather their subtle blending in our psyche. There is no suggestion of the presence or absence of God or a “god”. It is irrelevant. There is just humanity.
The poems, mostly quasi free form, some of them highly reminiscent of haiku, range from very short to a few pages long. Except for one poem and one only, Scale Free, in which we come face to face with some of the most beautiful imagery in the entire collection, and I quote:
A cuckoo taunts
high in the mountain
where are you?
there is not a single question to be found in the rest of the book. All the rest of the poems consist only of statements, some of them brief, others rather too long for my taste and some even downright convoluted. When this approach to poetry composition is carried to its extreme, it can and sometimes does result in the overly prosaic. That is the only real quarrel I have with this collection. Fortunately, there are only only a handful of poems which are painfully prone to the prosaic. Among these are Mannequins, the whole series Maps 1,2,3,4, The Prisoners, Non Linear and in particular Rust (which reads more like a scientific tract than a poem), none of which have any real appeal to me.
The rest of the poems run from agreeable at the very least to the truly amazing. Among those poems agreeable to the mind and/or the ear I count: Passage, At the Party, Here Comes the Moon, Multiverse, The Pine at the Summit and Wind upon a River. Others like these will more or less please the reader. But as everyone knows, we all have our own preferences for the kinds of poetry we like. The poems which appeal more to one person appeal less to another. The aforementioned choices are merely my own.
Next come poems which display remarkable talent, such as: After Dylan on the Ninth Wave (which I for one particularly like), Africa North (haiku-like), A Witch for Halloween (in which we find some of the most striking chthonic imagery in the book), Core (commendable for its brevity, economy of verse & imagery), Entanglements (haiku-like), Sequence 1 & 2 (haiku-like) and Story of a Rose.
I have a marked preference for the poet’s haiku-like poems. Haiku have always strongly appealed to me. In fact, I myself, along with Robin Ouzman Hislop and so many other truly talented haijin, have composed a considerable number of poems of this nature, many of which were published in the print quarterly, Canadian Zen Haiku (2004-2010), which is now out of print. Brevity is the soul of wit, and indeed of the memorable. It is Robin Ouzman Hislop’ s more compact poems which please me the most. There are exceptions, poems which are not haiku-like or are somewhat lengthier. There are some truly memorable lines in these poems. For instance, we have:
from Africa North:
A winnowing canvass tosses corn
… as fireflies in the blazing day.
In the gloaming a solitary reaper reaps its shadow.
(Reminiscences of Wordsworth’ s, The Solitary Reaper, one of the most astonishingly beautiful poems in English.)
from After Dylan on the Ninth Wave, there are a considerable number of memorable lines, which you can explore for yourself. The poem is not quite up to Dylan Thomas… a very tough act to follow!
and from Core:
reaching my eye’s peninsula
sudden scene, solitary strand
All of the poems in this class pleased me a great deal.
Now we come to the downright brilliant poems, of which there are naturally only a few. I might as well cite them all. They are Scale Free (a series of haiku-like lines & almost pure haiku), A Split Second Later’s Late, Laminations in Lacquer, Lucky Hat Day and Red Butterflies, all of which had a powerful psychological and spiritual impact on me. Here are just a few of the lines from these truly remarkable poems which really struck me, and I mean really —
from A Split Second Later’s Late:
… a serpent’s spit according to legend.
from Laminations in Lacquer, the gripping lines:
Fireworks like a diaphanous lithograph
print an emblazoned sky
on the craggy mountains of the night
where comets play at kites
& glistening the eerie beak hisses.
and from Red Butterflies, where we find some of the most highly inspired, truly imaginative lines:
but as a collage on shifting sands…
A sword brazed in a fire
that does not distinguish
between the battle
& the field.
I believe we can safely say that the poet has achieved a level of poetic style and content which can hardly disappoint. Some of the poems in in “All the Babble of the Souk” remind me of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. Perhaps the most striking feature of this volume is the poet’s portrayal of humanity, which deprives us of any escape from the darker, more insidious depths of our human condition. The most striking imagery in the entire collection forces itself on the least flattering trait of of our nature, our tendency towards — I might as well say it flat out — bestiality, which leaps to the fore in the poet’s all too frequent comparison between homo sapiens and apes (King Simian, seeking simian), gorillas, baboons and other fierce beasts of that ilk, all the way to neanderthals, Australopithecus and the odious nocturnal lupine, the proverbial werewolf. Lines such as: the hairless ape, go ape, going bananas… all mercilessly zero in on our ape-like nature bedeviling our so-called civilized veneer.
There is also frequent reference to eating meat, and being eaten (we grow the meat we eat, those she didn’t eat alive, children simply to feed her, how they like human flesh, to be consumed by hell), all the way through to witchcraft and Zombie imagery. The dreadful presence of these creatures of the night inexorably lurks just beneath the thin veneer our blasé urbanity.
To cut to the quick, the most memorable qualities of Robin Ouzman Hislop’s poetic gifts are his penchant for economy of lines and the puissant imagery of the chthonic. Where these features dominate any poem, they impel it towards the nonpareil! Such poems soar. When it works, it works supremely well. As for the rest, there is much to please the reader.
Troubled Water: Quietism in the Age of Performance By Norman Ball
(previously appeared in Trinacria, Fall 2014 in abridged form)
In Jared Carter’s latest collection of poetry The Darkened Rooms of Summer, the poem ‘Picking Stone’ is prefaced with the following passage from Emerson’s ‘Self-Reliance’:
“Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”
Carter’s poetry conducts the latent convictions of the earth with unwavering fealty. Latent conviction suggests oblique paradox as does a room darkened by summer (also, the “dark shining” in ‘Scryer’ and the “harsh glare billowing darkness” in ‘The Shriving’). The grand, ineluctable cycles that move across the earth, and in equal measure through Carter’s poetry, extinguish their ends in their beginnings. Everywhere, light appears out of the darkness, or does one interpenetrate the other? Both. Stones are regurgitated to the surface like bundled mysteries. Were they there last planting season? Yes and no. Each encroaches upon, or drains from, the other as though through a great quantum sieve. One well imagines how fevered entrances and sweeping bows—all that performative mumbo-jumbo—would overwhelm what arrives to Carter’s still eye as a,“…broken heave of light and dark” (from ‘Phoenix’). Animated readings seize the eyeballs in the room yet banish the clearing. Through it all, the world forever adulterates and falls, mostly onto the shoulders of those who labor, in brief intervals, atop its primordial cycle.
Carter is a contemplative poet, yes. But in the spirit of Wordworth’s wise passiveness (there are powers/Which of themselves our minds impress/That we can feed this mind of ours,/In wise passiveness – Expostulation and Reply ll.21-24). This contemplative state is metaphorically expressed in ‘Mississinewa Reservoir at Winter Pool’. Here, the townspeople, ‘as though/having risen from a deep sleep/and come at last to a place/no longer having anything in it/except themselves.’
Quietism has fallen on loud, hard times. No one wants to take a silent bullet and invoke the clearing. Every day across America, poetry jumpstarts a bright new career in readings. Ill-suited ovations are the rage. Bowling night hardly stands a chance. In ‘The Oddfellows’ Waiting Room at Glencove Cemetery’, Carter begs to differ. A resolute listener, he continues to hold the thin, quiet line: ‘There must always be a place like this/where the dimensions collapse inwardly/ like a telescope you slip into your pocket.’ This is a beautiful image echoing again the Emerson quote; a telescope, tasked with mapping the outer reaches of the universe, collapsing into and inward, to a place where the poet stands waiting.
A heretical notion from the earliest times, quietism was formalized as such by Pope Innocent XI in 1687. Thomas Merton referred to it as an inert ‘spiritual vacuum’. The Protestant work ethic was equally hostile to a movement that rejected faith’s role as a catalyst for striving, wrestling and capital formation. The fundamental objection was that a faith that lacked vigor and purpose in the world risked falling into listlessness and solipsism. Soon enough, God’s voice would be shouted down by the clatter of railroads and later the ubiquitous presence of handheld devices.
There’s even less escaping the world today. Poems arrive hyperlinked to position papers. Recently, poetry critic and identity politician Ron Silliman accused quietism (or as poetasters like to call it, The School of Quietude) of a sly tactical reticence aimed at “denial of self-identification” and a refusal to be named. State your business or lay down your pen. Resisting industrial barcodes is, for the poetry confab, a first-order sin of omission. Poets are expected today to ‘splain themselves on the way to a good internecine squabble. Wearing their schools on their sleeves, they hoist grievances with a gusto that would make Robert Frost’s politicians blanch.
Well offstage, heads down and dimly lit, Carter’s people are forever lifting bricks and stones, digging up roots, exhuming the dead, but not with the isolating despair of Sisyphus. Here is a passage from ‘Ginseng’:
But all of them together— hunters,
thieves, those who keep the old ways—
pass it from hand to hand along
a chain of those who know exactly
where it is going, what it is worth—
The continental malaise of self-absorption has never reached Mississinewa County. Carter’s people accept their sublimated roles as momentary caretakers of the land—from prior hands, into future hands. To paraphrase Frost, life is notable mostly for going on, albeit with a flitting cast of characters, which is another way of saying time has a way of standing still:
Nothing done well ever ends,
she said, touching my hand, not even land
built up one act at a time, so that all
that went before, and after, still waits
there. –from ‘Poem Written on a Line from the Walam Olum’
We lift stones at our appointed times, then drop them for the earth to reclaim, swallow up, to be expunged anew, rediscovered and lifted once again (‘the inmost in due time becomes the outmost’). This human bucket brigade treads a cosmic circle that may well harbor a far-off, though ultimately inhuman, coherence. Coleridge’s tail-eating serpent meets Eliot’s still-point in ‘Mourning Dove’ where, “all of their singing is circular, and comes back to the same stillness.” In ‘The Undertaker’, we find a similar acquiescence to a cycle larger than one generation’s labors:
Each man slowly recognized, like a combination of lost numbers,
that men younger than themselves had labored here,
grown old, and were gone, who had lifted this same earth,
who had put in what they now took out
As for this moment, for you and for me, the mind is a stone to be rolled away from the entrance of the soul. Only then can man and earth enjoy unmediated communion. The ubiquitous arrowheads, stones with a fashioned vengeance, are scattered about the landscape like long-discarded arguments “dropped from an empty sky”. At times even the dead must be lifted in order to deliver their stillness to higher ground. The new reservoir promises to round all edges. Who will save the dead? Few congregants are up to the task, as the undertaker soon learns:
Fell overcome with heat, one did, the first day;
another struck by the sun; two more threw down their tools
and walked away. The few who stayed till the job was done
rode together in the back of Sefe’s pickup each quitting time
to a tavern on the highway”—from ‘The Undertaker’
What happens when self-negating labor is abandoned for the seductive rush of slogans, movements, grand causes and petty, indulgent feuds, in short the usual “bed of fabrications” (from ‘Shaking the Peonies’)? In ‘Phoenix’, we find two soldiers in borrowed Napoleonic uniforms, trapped in a generational family feud not of their making, in a Shawnee war not of their bidding. Adding to the worldly layers of confusion and “alienated majesty”, they find themselves comrades in the same war. Seeking to resolve these bewildering allegiances, they end up fighting one another to the death. In perhaps the most comprehensively emblematic image in the collection (we have the water, the rocks, the rising darkness and the failing light), the two men venture down to the hollow with the General’s consent where a “dark presence/rose up— a basin of troubled water, seething/and boiling, surging over heaps of stones/catching the last light through the trees”.
In ‘Picking Stone’, these men seem to appear again, this time as boys, “still in baseball uniforms from a game at the Legion” Later they, “pry with an iron bar against a great gray rock. They will not quit, they begin to roar as they bear down on it.”
Those closest to the earth do not bear uniforms well; or else the organizing principle becomes, “…so smudged you can’t tell what army” they’re in (from ‘Covered Bridge’). Uniforms are regimenting colors that march us away from ourselves. The uniform du jour in poetry these days is the performance poet. In his struggle to be heard, this thoroughly modern bard finds his public voice only to lose his vocation. After all, his job is not to linger, but to vacate the clearing his contemplation ushers through. The limelight eludes the proper poet by design.
Carter’s quietude is a conscious and sustained act, hardly a feeble acquiescence. He resists polluting the stillness with gratuitous detail, resigning himself with poetic fatalism to Keats’ negative capabilities, that ‘part of your mind that cannot hurry, that has never learned to decide’ (from ‘Mississinewa County Road’). Forbearance is the bright shadow that guides his pen.
The poet advertises himself only on the rarest occasions. In ‘At the Sign-Painters’, he extolls the Depression-era sign painters who stoically accept being observed at their labors. We sense the poet’s calling slowly forming in a boy’s mind. The words are prefigured, waiting to be filled out with whispers. But no speeches please. The universe entrusts its signs to the artisan who stands, in ready quietude, brush in-hand:
for the slow sweep and whisper
of the brush— liked seeing the ghost letters in pencil
gradually filling out, fresh and wet and gleaming, words
forming out of all that darkness, that huge disorder.
Contemplatives are particularly maddening because they eschew textual impartations from ‘higher authorities’, be they clergymen or self-appointed poetry critics. At least meditation involves meditating upon something: a prayer, a papal bull, the new Tom Cruise movie, a political manifesto. The arrangers of the world seek indoctrinated readers, not divine listeners. In the absence of doctrinaires, the sway of earthly power is loosened. French Quietist Jeanne Marie Guyon called it ‘loosening the stays’. Or as Carter says in ‘The Shriving’, ‘‘Things got in the way of what he saw and heard.”
I can detect no earthly authority to which Jared Carter’s poetry answers, except perhaps the earth itself. No sooner did I fancy him brushing against Shaker sensibilities in Indiana, his lifelong home and the locale for most of these poems, than I fell across ‘The Believers’ inscribed to “Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky” with appearances no less, from Mother Ann Lee, the “endless chain” and the “narrow path”.
There is, in his poetry, Mother Ann Lee’s ‘retirement’ from opinion and argument into the unitive state of divine contemplation. When the nervous chatter stops, the clearing is allowed and the universe bursts forth. While nature can be chronicled for the labors it performs beneath our feet, we are here not to move mountains but to occasionally move our dead to higher ground. The mind feeds nothing. Carter’s poems cannot be willed into existence. Rather, they find him at his workbench, bristling with craft and emptied of polemic.
This is a sprawling collection, nearly 200 pages, that assembles poems from Carter’s first five books. I confess to approaching this task with great trepidation, knowing I could never do the volume anywhere near full justice. For instance, I have barely touched upon his metrical verse and his astonishingly unlabored villanelles. Instead, I have kept things to where my own fascinations seemed to gravitate, mostly, as it turns out, in the earlier work. That would be stones, arrowheads, borrowed uniforms, adulterated light and the elevated dead. I note his latest work favors compression. I prefer the unhurried eccentricity of his longer lines. In the main, this poetry moves across the earth with understated majesty. The ultimate testament to craft is the poet’s polite absence. I applaud Carter for leaving well enough alone.
NORMAN BALL (BA Political Science/Econ, Washington & Lee University; MBA, George Washington University) is a well-travelled Scots-American businessman, author and poet whose essays have appeared in Counterpunch, The Western Muslim and elsewhere. His new book “Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in Six Easy Payments” is available here. Two essay collections, “How Can We Make Your Power More Comfortable?” and “The Frantic Force” are spoken of here and here, respectively. His recent collection of poetry “Serpentrope” is here from White Violet Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the Rain
After the rain, it’s time to walk the field
again, near where the river bends. Each year
I come to look for what this place will yield—
lost things still rising here.
The farmer’s plow turns over, without fail,
a crop of arrowheads, but where or why
they fall is hard to say. They seem, like hail,
dropped from an empty sky,
yet for an hour or two, after the rain
has washed away the dusty afterbirth
of their return, a few will show up plain
on the reopened earth.
Still, even these are hard to see—
at first they look like any other stone.
The trick to finding them is not to be
too sure about what’s known;
conviction’s liable to say straight off
this one’s a leaf, or that one’s merely clay,
and miss the point: after the rain, soft
furrows show one way
across the field, but what is hidden here
requires a different view—the glance of one
not looking straight ahead, who in the clear
light of the morning sun
simply keeps wandering across the rows,
letting his own perspective change.
After the rain, perhaps, something will show,
glittering and strange.
Jared Carter is an American poet. His first collection of poems, Work, for the Night Is Coming, won the Walt Whitman Award for 1980. His second poetry collection, After the Rain, received the Poets’ Prize for 1995. His third collection, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, was published in 1999. His latest book is Darkened-Rooms-of-Summer, published in 2014 by the University of Nebraska Press, with an intro by Ted Kooser.
Carter was a recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award for 1985. His fellowships include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Other honors have included the New Letters Literary Award for Poetry in 1992, judged by Philip Levine, and the 2002 Rainmaker Award for Poetry from Zone 3 magazine, judged by Marilyn Chin. He was invited to read his work at the Library of Congress on December 9, 2004.
A Midwesterner from Indiana, he studied at Yale and at Goddard, and worked briefly as a newspaper reporter. After military service and travel abroad, he made his home in Indianapolis, where he found employment in textbook publishing. He continues to serve as a consultant in that field.
In his main body of work, Carter offers “a local habitation and a name,” and invites the reader to explore a place called Mississinewa County, a world of small towns and family farms and hard-working people who live close to the land. The many characters in Carter’s poems—soldiers, Shakers, farmers, ex-football players, berry pickers, derelicts—strive to maintain their dignity and to uphold their traditions. It is the striving that connects them with the universal, and it is the author’s craftsmanship—a style one critic, H. L. Hix, has described as “diamond-hard clarity”—that makes them memorable. Mississinewa County first sprang to life in Carter’s initial book, Work, for the Night Is Coming. Critical response was immediate. “From beginning to end,” Dana Gioia wrote in his review of the book in Poetry, “this volume has the quiet passion of conviction, the voice of a poet who knows exactly what he wants to say and how to say it.” In McGill’s Literary Annual, Henry Taylor described Work, for the Night Is Coming as “one of the clearest and strongest first books to have appeared in recent decades.” Writing for Library Journal, Margaret Gibson called it “a true winner. It is simply splendid.”
Carter’s second collection, After the Rain, attracted similar notice. “Extraordinary,” Gioia reported in the Washington Post Book World, “a dark, haunting book in the tradition of Frost.” In New Letters Book Reviewer, Ted Kooser found After the Rain to be “a moving and masterful book, charming in the best sense of that word.” It offered “proof,” Robert Phillips wrote in the Houston Post, “that the art of poetry is alive and well in America.” Perhaps Robert McPhillips, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, 1994, best summed up the critical reaction to Carter’s second book: “Well crafted, philosophically profound, and eminently readable . . . the finest, most varied, and most rewarding volume of poetry published in 1993.”
Carter’s third collection, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, published by Cleveland State in 1999, takes the reader even farther into Mississinewa territory. At the same time it pays homage to one of Carter’s particular interests, the heritage of French exploration and discovery in the American heartland. Always an upholder of traditionalism in prosody and poetic practice, Carter turns, in this third book, to the extremely repetitive and very French poetic form of the villanelle. David Lee Garrison, writing in The Southern Indiana Review, found these villanelles to be “as simple and subtle as the change in light and shadow against a wall created by the shift of a log in the fire, the sound of a door swinging open in the wind, or peonies that reveal an old pathway through an orchard.”
“Carter’s is a poetry of a resolute middle distance, firmly of this world: between the dust under the earth and the dust of space there exists the place that the poem can illumine.”—Helen Vendler, New York Review of Books