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Stuart Bartow pierces the veil of received ideas and notions

in Book Reviews by

stuartlawnbookStuart Bartow’s poems are a proper antidote to two polarities in American poetry, vapidity and pretension. Squashed between those polarities, the spirit of inquiry goes begging, but not in Bartow’s work. He connects the dots. He does not come across as contemptuous of the butterfly effect, as does the American press in its adamant refusal to connect the dots—a refusal shared by many poets, perhaps in the misguided conviction that it contradicts modernist ideas about poetry.

When the American press called George W. Bush incurious it might well have been talking about itself and a large body of our poetry, which prefers to play it safe, keep it light, and by all means spurn the rhapsodic.

The sonnet is in some ways a form of self-discipline, a way of accustoming oneself to thinking concisely. There is something in its fourteen-line structure that requires you to organize your thoughts into a kind of algorithm that then helps you address enigmas, whether in your daily rounds or in your poetry. Stuart Bartow’s nonce sonnets , published here in Arabesques for the first time, reveal his rigor as a poet and as a seeker after elixirs for the elements of his experiences. Succinctness is not merely about saying something well and sharply, it’s about going to the quick: it’s about quickness.

The poems in Einstein’s Lawn are varied. Some of them are prose poems. There are couplets, metered stanzas, rhymed stanzas, and concrete poems. Because he is writing about Albert Einstein and physics, he has taken care to provide notes lest we’re unfamiliar with the God particle, Glaucus or Absolute Zero.

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The Architecture of Love Memory Death and Desire and Other Poems, by George Wallace

in Poetry by

THE ARCHITECTURE OF LOVE MEMORY DEATH AND DESIRE

There’s no use crying like an idiot child, life is an assassin, chewing on a toothpick, wearing a film noir raincoat and grinning like Bogart and Bacall, and beauty walks by on crooked feet, finger on the trigger, ready to shoot you up or shoot you out of its mouth like spit, and love is nervous as a cat in the southern zone and I am looking for evidence of the sacred in the flesh, and love is always right there behind me or right around the corner, ready to brain me with a cobblestone or the butt end of a handgun

and I worship you publicly and in secret and alone, and memory is time and time is an oppressor, and time is a tyrant and a dead-end alleyway, and life is sacred as bread and spills like milk, and the smile which lurks behind the drapery of flowers is a dynamic music and a bashful woman is always pouring out sweet wine and inviting me to walk with my own shadow,

go blindly, she says, walk through blindly, do not turn back
and the architecture of love memory death and desire is a shadow
and I have loved many women, and only one woman, and you

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Sober Cooking by Lynn McGee

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I am tired of fighting.  Our chiefs are killed.  Looking Glass is dead.  Toohulhulsote is dead.  The old men are all dead.  It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead.

— Chief Joseph

sobercooking-png“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.”  

—Black Elk

Anyone who has read the words of these indelible Native Americans has savored the purity, the utter artlessness of their speech and the thought processes it reveals. They are poets of plain speech in ways William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost would have admired. And for all we know they may have influenced those poets.

Lynn McGee is this kind of poet. The purity and lack of artifice in her poems opens our minds to anything she has to say, and from the very first poem of Sober Cooking she tells us that she is not the kind of poet who, like the press, writes incident reports. She is, rather, the kind of poet who grasps the amplitudhedron, who knows that everything is a facet of the same jewel:

Rifling through the deep bin of ginger root,
I find one that is both plump and gnarled,
heavy with moisture
and gleaming, slick when sliced.

How long will I see your absence,
in the small steps of my life?

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Making her final passage, a poet leaves behind an exquisite logbook, by Djelloul Marbrook

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Crossing The North Sea, Susanna Roxman, Dionysia Press Ltd., 2013, 87pp. £ 7.50. $11.75

crossingthenorthseaThe poet and critic Susanna Roxman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susanna_Roxman) died September 30, 2015, leaving behind a body of work we ought to mine with diligence. Her work deserves the kind of attention we too often lavish on writers who are better at working the levers of our culture than working their craft. Our obsession with money as a measure of success inclines us to neglect all too many deserving artists.

The Anglophone world is like a body out of touch with its parts. It seems at times neurologically incapable of collective introspection. We read the Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books or any of the major Australian, New Zealand or Indian reviews and they seem only distantly and sometimes condescendingly aware of each other’s literary lives. The exception perhaps is North America, where because of their proximity, Canadians and Americans are aware of each other, but their relationship is marked by Canada’s struggle to preserve its identity. Read More

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