Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Little Kisses, Lloyd Schwartz.


Poet Lloyd Schwartz





Little Kisses, Lloyd Schwartz. The University of Chicago Press. 73 pages. $18.00. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-45827-4.

By Ed Meek

Lloyd Schwartz has become a cultural icon in the Boston area. Like Robert Pinsky, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Helen Vendler, his is a name you probably recognize. Part of the reason for this is that Lloyd Schwartz has a wide range. I first ran into his work in the 80s when he wrote about opera for the Boston Phoenix. He is a well-known Elizabeth Bishop scholar and he won a Pulitzer Prize writing criticism about her. He does a little acting. He teaches in the MFA Program at University of Massachusetts Harbor Campus, and he writes poetry.

In his new book of poems, Schwartz is often funny in a bittersweet way. His humor has a sadness and a sentimental undercurrent whether he is writing about a conversation with his mother who has Alzheimer’s, or a close friend who disappeared, or a ring he can’t find, or being mistaken for Gerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead in a parking lot in Somerville.

Some of these poems do not exactly read like poetry but rather like the hybrid form of prose and poetry that is showing up more and more these days (see Claudia Rankine for example). Other poems are tighter with rhyme and assonance and cadence. He uses some of his expertise in music here and there, and sometimes engages in a kind of playfulness as in “Howl.” “How’ll I learn my lines if there isn’t any script? /How’ll I find my shoes if I can’t find my glasses?”

In a poem entitled “Crossword,” he is both funny and clever.

You’re doing a crossword.
I’m working on a puzzle.
Do you love me enough?
What’s the missing word?

Yet, he can also be serious. In a poem about a missing friend, he concludes with these lines: “Our birthdays are looming. The older I get, the less and less/ I understand this world, /and the people in it.” The ending is unexpected, yet as with all good endings, it rings true and hits the mark in this puzzling period we are living through.

Here he is describing an orchestra conductor:

Breezing easily between exotic Chinoiserie
and hometown hoedown, whisking lightly between
woodwind delicacy and jazzy trombone…

He’s all dippy knees, flappy elbows, and floppy wrists…

He threw himself into the music—and very nearly into
the first violin section…

Late one night in a parking lot in Somerville he sees two young men smoking marijuana. He is worried as he walks to his car. Then one of the two men tells him a silly joke and offers him a drag because he looks like Jerry Garcia: “long gray hair and a bushy gray (almost white) beard…” He laughs about the encounter all the way home.

My favorite, “Goldring,” is about losing a ring he’d worn for thirty years. He goes from obsessing about losing the ring to trying to find it to connecting it to other types of loss. Then he does what all writers do, he writes about it.

Why should he lose it now?

He’d been having a run of bad luck.

A downward spiral…

His finger feels empty.

He feels empty and sad…

Another little hole in his life…

Endings, separations, partings—always leave him melancholy.

At a party he is always last to leave…

Maybe he should write his own poem—the way other poets turn their losses/into poems.

When Schwartz comments on other writers turning loss into poetry, he is making fun of them but he is also being self-deprecating and poking fun at himself since he is doing that too.

In these poems what comes across in his poetry is a sense that Schwartz is both warm and likable and using poetry as a means of dealing with the world. Warmth and likability are not attributes one automatically assumes about poets and artists. In these difficult times, reading “Little Kisses” is reassuring. There may be Alzheimer’s, people may disappear from our lives, sometimes we lose objects we care about, but there is great music to be listened to, people can be nice, and there’s a lot of good poetry to read.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Manhattan, An Archaeology by Eileen R. Tabios







Manhattan, An Archaeology 
by Eileen R. Tabios  
Copyright 2017 by Eileen R. Tabios  
Paloma Press 
Tucson, AZ 
ISBN 978-1-365-87509-0 
Softbound, 111 pages + notes & acknowledgements $40 (before discount) 

Review by Zvi A. Sesling 

Since the 1990s-- when I first encountered  Eileen Tabios’s poetry , she has continually taken readers on a different journey of creativity with each book.  Ms. Tabios is one of the Philippines' great gifts to the United States.  Her poetry is innovative, definitely creative and never repetitive.   

Manhattan: An Archaeology is  in six parts:  The Artifacts, Post-Nostalgia, Big City Cante Intermedio, Winter on Wall Street (A Novella-in-Verse), Vacation: Skiing Away From Manhattan, Clyfford Still Studies and 2016 Diptych.  For our edification she adds Selected Notes to Poems. 

My personal favorite is Chapter Nine in the Novella called “The Firm”  

Bellowing like a bull in heat  
was encouraged 

But certain things just weren’t done –  
we learned them in our first year: 

Do not dress better than your boss  
Do not get drunker than your boss 

Come to work neat and pressed 
like a fine pair of sheets 

But if your tie was not undone 
sleeves rolled up 
shirt tail hanging out of your pants 
by 9 a.m. 
you weren’t working hard enough 

Never wear Hermes ties 
leave those to lawyers and golfers 

Never wear cheap shoes 


When you get a new pair 
polish them 20 times 
before debuting them 
Your shoes should not look bought 
but like you inherited them 
from a rich uncle 

Never get a cheap haircut 
A bad apartment at a good address 
is greater than 
a fabulous apartment at a bad address 

If your boss gives you a Mont Blanc pen 
at the end of a salary negotiation 
you were taken to the cleaners 

Never insult a client – no matter 
how stupid or rude, they have 
the required $20 million to open 
an account at The Firm 

If one of your colleagues is fired 
never speak to him again: 
failure is transmittable 

Never show excessive zeal 

Never never never 
Always always always 

* 

A wealthy father 
can exist 
A wealthy uncle? Never 

The wealthy never  
underestimate  
lineage 

One feels compelled to read Ms. Tabios not only for the humor, the entertainment, and the talent, but for the lessons.  And there are usually many from which you can pick .In “The Firm” there are lessons like the one I  taught myself-- when my first public relations boss said: To be a good PR man you need to have three straight martinis and not feel a thing. 
To which I replied:  If I had three straight martinis I wouldn’t feel a thing. 
But as Tabios often writes, I digress.   Back to the review. 
  
With Tabios the reader is always headed to new ground, new thought,a certain joy, an enlightenment, if you will, that free the readers from the dullness they have read before.  Here are some examples:

On Conceiving Silent Pleas(e) 
--after PH-635, Only on canvas (1967) 

I believe I am reminding you that no one owns space, though you can cup it 
within a folded palm and feel the same power that ignites a short, fat man  
looking at his thin, tall wife—diamonds studding the platinum manacles around 
her scented neck and wrists— 

Park City, Utah Tabios unleashes these six lines to open a five page poem: 

1. 
Together, we have only imagined the sky 
a trapdoor with a lost key bow seducing eagles 

whose darting eyes never reveal affection— 
Once, yours did (the setting the back seat of a cab) 

which made me gather fallen petals 
from roses gifted by an unnamed chambermaid— 

Finally this one: 

Letter From Paris to New York 
--November 2016 

When offered Versailles 
I shook my head 

Once was enough for me 

No need to gorge 
on Foie gras, etcetera 
though many do 





There are many other lines in Tabios’s poetry that intrigue – there always are.  Her language is light years ahead of many poets from countries around the world, yet remains accessible and exciting. 

This book is well worth the time you spend reading it. 
__________________________________________ 
Zvi A. Sesling 
Author: The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Co., 2017), Love Poems From Hell (Flutter Press, 2017), Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva, 2016), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011), King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010). 
Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review, Bagel Bards Anthologies Nos. 7, 8 and #12. 
Publisher, Muddy River Books