Friday, August 08, 2014

Rivals of Morning, poems by Matthew D'Abate

"All At Once, Light Slips in Like a Blade"
Rivals of Morning, poems by Matthew D'Abate

Matthew D'Abate lives in metaphor ("we wait like gypsies/screaming for dreams", "dabs of black ink in the/picture show of the centuries", " his puddles of blue/watching the sunlight drip/from his fingertips." ) His scattered images spray like a peeling black fireplug on the hottest day of summer. Rivals of Morning is street poetry, the dirty, littered, hopeful, heart-filled city street, off which he tends bars, tells tales, and writes poems, some of which are gathered in this, his vital and decisive, first collection.

Matt is an American writer, an American poet, self-invented, self-proclaimed, democratic in his inclinations, alert to the possibilities around him and willing to spill his blood in service of his art. This is no academy bred, MFA toting, painfully self-aware technician of the lyric line, but a guy who illuminates his poems, with sweat imagination, vulnerability and candor. His ambitions are smaller than Whitman's; he's not looking to invent an American poetry, or to reinvent it today, but in his self-construction, he follows the inventive, original line carrying from Whitman, through Kerouac to Bukowski. His subject matter, "rivals of morning"--those of us who live in the night world--and his sensitive embrace of their experience and dilemmas, place him deep in the tradition of artists who've memorably mined the diamond in coal vein of the American night, Hopper, Hammett, Kazan, Selby, Bukowski, and Waits, extending it across the millennial divide with verve, quirk and pathos.

I've seen you
a thousand nights
doing your thing
and I've always wanted
to know what
you'd be like
when the door closes
and you're only paid
to serve

Rivals of Morning, is the poetry of a young artist as jazz innovator, one who spent years blowing behind the woodshed before going public with this brave and savage volume. Reading "Rivals" is like listening to Charlie Parker play Cherokee, or looking at an early Pollack, D'Abate has cracked something open, blowing licks never heard before, fresh, confident, divergent, potent with possibility. Rivals of Morning is one of those rare books of poems whose energy, spice, passion and bloody truth surge past its flaws, a flash flood in an arroyo. Our eyes see the unneeded word, the awkward construction, the metaphoric disconnects, but these burrs don't catch; Matthew's images and his drive to communicate are too strong. Rivals of Morning brings us through the aching point, far past the hiss of dawn, where light cannot be held back a moment longer, into the flash when the shade goes up and light comes flooding through.

the thing is that no one
owns the light or the direction of it

but grows toward the glow
despite the silence
and the gravity below

Read Rivals of Morning; better still, get your friends to read it too; go out with them to your version of the Cedar, the San Remo, or the Whitehorse, and discuss it with them loudly. Twenty-years from now, you'll wake up and say, "I remember that night. I remember I read it when."

Marc Zegans

Marc Zegans, is a poet and creative development advisor based in Santa Cruz California.  He’s recently completed, Lyon Street, a collection of poems about San Francisco during his coming of age in the late seventies and early eighties.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Taking a Look Around Us: A Review of When The Light Turns Green by Kenneth Pobo, illustrations by Stacy Esch.

Taking a Look Around Us: A Review of When The Light Turns Green

Review by Emily Pineau

“Sooner or later/ everything is departure.  The hand lets go./ Wind finds it,” Kenneth Pobo writes in his poem, “Suitcase”.  This feeling of change, nature, and moving on is carried throughout Pobo’s poetry collection, When the Light Turns Green, illustrated by Stacy Esch.  Nature appears to be the binding force and metaphor that Pobo uses when talking about life, death, and the feeling of being stuck between the two.  Esch’s illustrations capture the feeling of childlike playfulness, imagination, and discovery that is found in Pobo’s examination of nature, the struggles of growing old, and letting go.  Esch gives a face to the sun and to the characters that are around trees and woven within a collage of bright colors.  This characteristic in her artwork instantly personifies nature, which matches the importance of nature found in Pobo’s poems.

As Pobo walks us through an intense scene in his poem, “Face the Autumn," he compares facing the seasons with the concept of facing bullies.  Pobo writes:

How to face
Autumn? Winter? Spring? Bullies,
birds surrounding the house
at the end of Hitchcock’s film,


When this feeling of being cornered is being compared to things that we have to face in life, such as the seasons, it makes this concept feel more manageable somehow.  Even when the harshness of winter seems to be unbearable, humans have the ability to make it through. So, when someone is faced with the harshness of bullying, helplessness, or loneliness, it would come to reason that people could make it through these situations and feelings as well.  Despite the fact that people may not know how to face these things, we somehow manage to keep going and cycle through, just like the seasons do.  Also, with this poem comes Esch’s picture called, “Where is the Horizon?”  A sun that has a face is being depicted as peeking over the land with what looks to be a pained expression.  Just like with Pobo’s poem, there seems to be a feeling of waiting for something to end, or waiting for a certain light or other side to come.  It is a very powerful metaphor thinking about the sun itself waiting and looking for something to happen.  Usually the sun is seen as something so constant and stationary that one would not think that it would desire change or long to be somewhere else.

    Pobo continues to change how one would think about certain aspects of nature with his poem, “Tree.”  I found this poem to be the one that best showcases Pobo’s unique and impactful images.  In this poem he shows how people can appear to be different in relation to nature and how nature can look different when compared with itself.  Pobo writes, “Put sky in a tree/ and it’s less than/ a caught kite.”  The sky is typically seen as something in the world that is overwhelming because it completely surrounds us and we do not see an end to it.  On the other hand, Pobo is suggesting that if you look at a tree and the spaces in between the branches you will find that the sky is tangled up in it.   Nature is all about perspective, just like how life is all about perspective.  Pobo also writes:

I sit under a leaf house
with no doors to lock,
no windows to close,
quiet slipping off
urgent green.

Houses are usually seen as something that would enclose someone and give them privacy.  In this image, however, a “leaf house” gives the narrator a feeling of openness and what sounds like a feeling of relief.  Peacefulness washes over the narrator at the end of the poem, and it feels like his life has been changed somehow.  The way that he looks at the world has been altered.  Also, accompanying this poem is Esch’s picture, “Last Call”.  In this green, yellow, and orange dominated picture, the sun has a curious look on its face as it is looking out at a fairy or some sort of character with its face hidden by a black mark.  There is a tilted tree off to the side and the setting appears to be a forest-type area.  This picture has a mystical feel to it and it feels like it came out of a fairy tale.  This aura of magic and mystery compliments Pobo’s poem very nicely because there are many elements of the unknown when it comes to looking at people and at nature.

    In general, people are constantly trying to figure out the uncertainties of each other and the world, while at the same time they are avoiding what they know for a fact—everyone’s time has a limit to it.  Naturally people want to continue to rush on to the next thing in life so that they do not waste any time being stuck in the same place.  Pobo’s poetry reminds us, however, that life shouldn’t be about rushing to the next stop.  We all need to slow down, water some plants, and look up at the sky.  After all, the light will turn green eventually.

************ Emily Pineau is an English major at Endicott College and the author of No Need to Speak (Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College Young Poet Series)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Bound Each to Each By Ann Taylor

Bound Each to Each
By Ann Taylor
Finishing Line Press
ISBN: 978-1-62229-392-6
28 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

You don’t often see majesty in miscellany. Ann Taylor’s new collection of poems, Bound Each to Each, proves the exception. Her pieces may come from multiple directions but they bring with them a breadth, intelligence, and an underpinning of mythology that speak to their readers with accomplished and appropriately lofty tones.

Much of this majesty the poet delivers through meditations on place. In her opening poem entitled Horn Pond Taylor compares the gravitas of the pond she views every day from her kitchen window to immortalized bodies of water found in literature. She notices the reduced wonderment in each of her literary lakes as opposed to the strengthening magic in her nearby watery vision. Here begins the history and family lore of what she sees,

It’s the tale of Narragansett Winitihooloo
and Nansema, his Pawtucket Juliet,

or the old ice-cutting (my uncles’ misery),
slicing for the hot world
“crystal  blocks of Yankee coolness.”
It’s a newspaper vision of my grandfather
wheeling his famous figure 8’s.
Or cautious skids across this ice
leashed to my headlong Yellow Lab.
Then there are ma’s peanut butter picnics,
My trout reeled in by dad, let go by me,
A first kiss, and the battered pine
Dressed in red berries by my kids…

Taylor mixes exotica of place with laugh out loud humor in her poem Nairobi Track. The humans—she among them—drag race an ostrich on a track in Kenya. The ostrich has clearly been through this before. His delight seems to border on hubris. The poem makes an interesting point about humankind’s opponent and his feathery thrust, or non-thrust. It concludes thusly,

Long legs stretching, claws dinning in,
he seems almost a gangly lope until he
outpaces our mandated 30 MPH, glances
over and back at us as he departs.

All runway, no lift, the only way this fastest
earthly bird feels wind’s course through
billowing white wingfeathers is to run to win,
everything depending on it.

A mother’s primal instinct to protect her young drives Taylor’s title poem Bound Each to Each. For days the poet’s daughter dotes on a nest of robin eggs. When natural forces and predators threaten the new eggs, the mothering daughter resorts to high technology—namely a Nissan Altima to save the day. This brings to the poet’s mind her daughter’s first car and the night it died. Taylor explains,

on a rainy 3 AM highway—
“Mom! My car just stopped!”
On the way there, I hear
in the cellphone background,
the eighteen-wheeler roar,
dread the stranger’s “Can I help you?”

William Wordsworth’s poem Daffodils gets some neat and well-deserved commentary in Taylor’s piece entitled The Daffodils to Wordsworth. The poet describes our communal plight with concern and care as only a spiritual solitary could. Taylor, floating lonely as a cloud over these lines, meditates on tribal comforts. The poem dances to its conclusion here,

Our ancestral species reach
to hundreds of thousands,
so down to our ancient roots
we know only accumulated beauty,
the comfort of numbers,
the bliss that comes with
leaning as others lean.

Taylor turns the table on pretentious artists, their cockeyed fans, and their self-important, presumptuous reviewers (I ought to know) in her poem entitled Portrait of Lisa Gherardini. Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile curls up with generational disdain the more she sees. The poem opens up like a shotgun blast,

“So foolish,” you seem to be thinking,
Madonna… Mona… Lady Lisa…
looking out at this carnevale of jesters
with raptor noses, pom-pom slippers,
Mickey Mouse ears, Osama beard,
or petting Paris Hilton’s pup.
Dali layers on his own pointy mustache,
Bug eyes, fingers dripping coins.

Among the millions in Eiffel t-shirts
angling for a cell- phone camera shot,
was the carpenter who claimed you for Italy,
the acid attacker, the hurler with the rock
that got your elbow…

At the heart of this chapbook the poem Homecoming offers Taylor’s classic take on Agamemnon’s somewhat unpleasant return to Mycenae after the sack of Troy. The poem, done in counterpoint, reads like a mini play. Cassandra, Agamemnon’s new slave girl, spits out her venomous prophecies in wonderfully crazed fashion. Clueless and arrogant Agamemnon rides his chariot into his wife’s death trap. The understatement builds to a powerful conclusion. I like this poem an awful lot. Here’s a center section of the counterpoint,

“Poor Cassandra’s crazy,”
my family thought, and turned away,
as you do now. You were
too easily deceived by my joy
in your company, blind to me
and my revenge.

    Why, my dear, do you point, shout?
    Do you laugh or weep?

It’s laughter, dear king,
as I see you trust her smile,
her comforting words
fraught with falsity.

    I want to share all this with you,
    but look, my wife
    spreads the carpet wide.

Historic place poems always interest me. Toward the end of this impressive collection Taylor offers us her poem Gallows Hill, Salem. It’s a nifty little piece, perfectly toned.  Nature knows the character of the poisoned land that the poet presents to us. Bloody red on white, sumac, redtail, and a robin’s breast on snow drifts, tells the tale. Innocents were damned here on what is forevermore evil ground. The poet says,

A redtail rises against darkening sun,
a hoarse crow tries to call, and an early robin
clings to a bare branch, does not…
should not…sing.

Snow squalls smooth granite folded over
like the scroll that named them witches,
named this as the place
to damn them.

Penned grandeur in such a little book— very nicely done!