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As in her first poetry collection, In Which Miss Maybelline Is Introduced To The Honourable Dr. Suzuki, music and poetry are inextricably intertwined in Katrin Talbot's life. Words and images, filtered through musical tropes, come naturally as breathing. St. Cecelia's Daze exhibits Talbot's broadening scope as a poet, indelibly guiding the reader through four segments—Recitative, Scherzo, Modulation to Relative Minor and Standard Rep—as if perusing an actual concert programme. Whether it's a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, a Bartok violin quartet or the award-winning "Sewing With Chopin", Talbot is the gentle, if firm, instructor marrying concepts to its appropriate language. At times, though, this dichotomy threatens to break her life apart, as in the poem "Around the Globe": My head now/tight with Word, or, more exactly, in the final poem she tossed the pearl/slo-mo/into that untidy/treasure chest/I hide in/the back/of my untidy/head. Nevertheless, a primal, even sensuous joy wriggles through each poem, urging the reader to seek out more than the advantages of/a delicate/life.
by James P. Roberts
the Other Side of the Eye
Once one has read several hundred poetry collections over the course of a handful of years, it takes an especially powerful and unique voice to separate itself from the vortex of black ink spilled on white paper. Often these voices come from outside the American experience, yet uses itself to translate that experience with fresh insights. Bryan Thao Worra's first collection, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EYE, clearly distinguishes itself as apart yet mixed, full of strange devices and exquisitely memorable constructs that leaves the reader immersed in wonder. A Laotian-American writer, he is replete with the memory of his native country, "The Kingdom of a Million Elephants", and uses their traditions of oral story-telling and song in his poetry. Yet his reactions to being displaced cannot be denied or withheld, as evidenced in the poem "Aliens": "As I run down my strange streets/an accidental alien without/ a ray gun." An ardent Lovecraftian scholar, Bryan Thao Worra pays oblique tribute to HPL in "The Deep Ones" adroitly mixing images of things rising from the sea with the ambitions of his native Laos after civil war and despot rule. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EYE is rife with pop culture references, yet underlying all is a universal truth: that poetry speaks of the human experience and all that it contains.
by James P. Roberts
Intermedia Art of R. Virgil Ellis
R. Virgil Ellis, unlike many of his contemporaries, has embraced the technological voodoo of the Computer Age with a vengeance. In his new multi-media DVD, he compiles excerpts from four past performances into an often stunning array of vibrant colors, radically different musical modes, and his own eclectic and passionate brand of poetry. These performances include those with Ellis's groups Fuzzy Logic and the Chamber Rock Ensemble. In the title selection "Mandelbrot Room" Ellis achieves a psychedelic trip through the caverns of the mind. His voice cajoles and captivates, the music ethereal yet contemplative reminding me at times of a little known group of the Seventies called Esperanto who had an LP of early Electric Light Orchestra flavored tunes called 'Danse Macabre'. "Make Me A Shaman" comes over as a trifle melodramatic with the music dissonant and jarring at times. The images are often at odds with the tenor of the poetry. "Derridada" is probably my favorite, an amusing play with language punctuated with a nice score that floats between jazz and hip-hop. After all these attempts to draw the listener/viewer in to a virtual other-world, the last selection, "Formula One", completely baffles with its mundane approach to a single subject matter. I suppose it represents a particular interest of Ellis's but it seems a distinct letdown. MANDELBROT ROOM isn't background noise to a sustained conversation; it requires a practiced effort to view in its entirety. One can imagine this viewed on a wall-sized screen in a living room and be an enjoyable experience, but seen on a computer screen it seems boxed, straining to get out and expand.
by James P. Roberts
for the Warehouse
for the Warehouse is a lament for Mierda Verde, a do-it-yourself
music venue in a local warehouse, that was profiled in Madison's
most prominent yuppie nightlife paper without permission of the venue's
caretakers, and, predictably, shut down just after.
of her piece has this much bite and vision and more.
by Benjamin Pierce
Old Reviews: Reviews previously posted on this page.
me cut to the chase for all you poetry review skimmers out there. (You
know who you are.) Chasing Saturday Night by Michael Kriesel
is one of the best books of poetry I have ever read. Go out and buy
it right now.
—Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred print and electronic publications. He has received three Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing and most recently he read his poetry on National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over seventy NPR affiliates. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry the most recent entitled, The Last Time. He was recently appointed to the Poet Laureate Commission for the State of Wisconsin and he is the poetry editor for Word Riot (www.wordriot.org). He is also on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You may find additional samples of his work by going to www.literarti.net/Ries/ and you may write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ries has again put together a collection of poems that reflect his
ability to examine his surroundings and himself with a skeptic’s
eye and a romanticist’s ideals. When he combines the two, he
offers readers a rich assortment of perspectives of the human condition—both
actual and imagined. He has succeeded in doing that in The Last
Time, his fourth book of poetry, published recently by The Moon
of Tucson, Arizona.
—Lou Roach (This review was first published in Free Verse)
poems by Karla Huston
Karla Huston's latest chapbook Catch and Release, the reader
is seamlessly transported all the way from a fourth-grade infatuation
to a middle-aged mother dirty-dancing in the kitchen in the hilarious
poem "How I Went from Cooler than Ratshit to Lame and Really Annoying." These
poems posess a remarkable immediacy, as if the narrative of each poem
were indeed happening as we read them, from the shores of a Midwestern
lake to deserts filled saguaros—their ancient arms raised/ in
praised of great and dangerous things.
report on Hermine Meinhard’s BRIGHT TURQUOISE UMBRELLA
Hermine Meinhard appears to be in her fifties; soft salt-and-pepper hair somewhat short, cool glasses, a petite frame, very soft-spoken voice. Pauses, lengthy pauses, direct eye contact, and smiles give her reading an authoritative voice that is so very inviting and warm. She is the poetry editor of 3rd Bed, www.3rdbed.com. One of their interests is in historical documents. Her MFA is from Sarah Lawrence, and she teaches at NYU and the NY Writers Workshop at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.
Do you revise?
“I am not a heavy reviser. My work is getting the raw language on to the page”
Do you like Russell Edson?
important; she still likes him but writes more about real experiences
Umbrella draws on her childhood. “I use tricks to generate the language. I’m very organic with how I work with form.” The shape of her poems must fit the form. She is not referring to received forms, except for the prose poem. She started out in fiction and went to prose poems.
Meinhard needs unstructured time—as part of her process—in addition to time for reading and writing. She says she can read all day. Her visit to Madison was a kind of “vacation” and she lolled luxuriously in bed in the mornings reading (at Best Western Inn on the Park). Tricks: free writing, using dreams, more.
Meinhard conducted a workshop at Room of One’s Own where exercises involved handling unrelated household objects; the participants alternated placing them in arrangements on the table, then wrote descriptions or about whatever thoughts these objects/activities stimulated. The second round used the first writings as material for a take-off point.
A student asks where she likes to write: “I like to be home. I write in my bedroom. I think because bed is connected to the unconscious/dream. But one time I was on the sofa during a summer I was not fully well, and a wonderful breeze came in through the window, and it brought me the poem “Shore.” (p.16 in Umbrella) Meinhard also says she was “almost a hermit” for a long time in her life.
Title of the book? Meinhard likes the vivid image it conveys and says the titular poem (p. 32) brings together the themes of the book: ocean, body, food, animals, unexpected meeting…. Her titles ALWAYS come after the writing of the poem—the title is often from discarded scraps of material that went into the process but not the final poem.
The first section of the book, The Wind, is from childhood. The book is “as if the dream self were telling the story of the poet.” In the third section of the book, Portrait of Myself, the titles come from the I Ching, the Chinese book of prophecy/hexagrams. Meinhard also says this section has a heroine going on a journey—the tiny poems have lots of space/pauses that are a part of the journey …. ”you need silence.” Some of the titles from this section are: “The Fox “ (death), “The Lights Like Golden Fish Lead Me Home”, and “And Does Not Return”.
A young student asks what it’s like to be a writer living in New York: Meinhard said it took 3-4 years for her to find community—she thinks it’s important to have a community “to have other people for whom writing is also important and who support your work.” Her new poems are set in an eastern European country in time of war, but a friend says her voice is essentially the same.
recently enjoyed God's Gift To Women, the second book of the Scots
poet Don Paterson (his first book, Nil Nil, is not as impressive).
These works are extremely varied in form and content, but the title piece
is a stunning, wrenching, long poem in metered rhyme, a nightmare with
ominous references to child abuse, death camps, and the Brothers Grimm.