Explorations of the Mirror: The Oil Paintings and Poetry of Bonny Hut

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Coleridge indicates the method: In the hexameter rises the fountain's all-silvery radiance; In the pentameter aye falling in melody back. Translation from Schiller, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is significant that none of the five greatest examples of elegiac poetry—that based upon death, or reflections upon death—in the English language, use this form.

The Greek dactylic hexameter, the classic model as the iambic five-foot line is in English, is far more complicated, according to the prosodists, than it sounds. There are six feet. The fifst four are dactyls or spondees. The fifth must be a dactyl; otherwise, if a spon- dee appears here, the verse is called spondaic. The last is a spondee or a trochee. A diagram makes this clearer. This may be written in English, with an accent basis instead of a quantity basis that is, long and short syllables.

Hendecasyllabics were eleven-syllabled lines composed of a spon- dee, a dactyl, and trochees. Alcaics, named from the lyric poet Alcaeus, a contemporary of Sappho, are of several kinds. The first variety has a five-foot line, consisting of a spondee or iamb, an iamb, a long syllable, and two dactyls. Here is the pattern:. What are the names of these feet?

The first is an epitrite first, sec- ond, third or fourth epitrite, depending upon the Jocation of the short syllable ; two choriambi or choriambs as above; and a bacchius. This technique does not often produce poetry in English; more often, it produces prosody or verse. For an Alcaic ode, each strophe consists of four lines. The first two are eleven-syllabled Alcaics of the first kind; the third an especial form of iambic two-foot of nine syllables, described as hypercatalec- tic; and the fourth a ten-syllabled Alcaic of the second kind.

Ten- nyson tried to catch it in:. God-gifted organ-voice of England, Milton, a name to resound for ages. Milton, Alfred Tennyson. Sapphics are named after the poet Sappho, who is said to have used the form with high skill. A sapphic line consists of five equal beats, its central one of three syllables, and the rest of two each.

The origi- nal Greek sapphic stanza consisted of three of these lines, followed by a shorter line called an adonic, the whole following this pattern:. Certain English poets have essayed this meter. In the examples given, the accent sign means a syllable described as long; the other sym- bol means one described as short. Here is Swinburne's use of the form:. Feet, the straining plumes of the doves that drew her, Looking, always looking with necks reverted, Back to Lesbos, back to the hills whereunder Shone Mitylene Sapphics, Algernon Charles Swinburne.

A choriambic line consists of a spondee, three choriambi and an iamb. A galliambic line is composed of iambs, one of which drops its final syllable, the next foot to the last being an anapest. Indentation The purpose of indentation is primarily to indicate the rhyme scheme. Indenting a line means sinking it inward by an increased blank space in the left-hand margin. Every paragraph in prose is indented at its beginning.

An early indentation of poetry was similar to this, and consisted in indenting only the first line of each stanza. Where the poet desires to impress the reader with his rhyme scheme, indenting of lines rhymed is proper:. That which her slender waist confined Shall now my joyful temples bind: No monarch but would give his crown His arms might do what this has done. On a Girdle, Edmund Waller. Needless to say, the poet set this up without indentation. The motive for such misindentation seems to be the following foggy thinking on the part of the versifier:.

Once the motive for indentation is learned—to show the similarity of rhyme sounds terminating lines indented to the same point—this error will be avoided. One of Guy Wetmore Carryll's eight verse poems proceeds:. Though diligent and zealous, he Became a slave to jealousy. Considering her beauty, 'Twas his duty To be that! Here the first, third, fourth and sixth indentations indicate rhyming changes; the second and fifth are to center briefer rhyming lines.

The object is to make the poem appear as presentable as possible, consid- ering the rhyme scheme and length of line. Recall the indentation of Shelley's To a Skylark, already given. As to sonnets, there are only two proper ways to present them: indenting for rhyme and omitting indentation.

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The Italian and Shake- spearean form would then have the following indentation, if this is used to indicate the rhyme scheme:. It is more usual to set up sonnets without indentation. The original method of indenting the Shakespearean sonnet consisted of twelve lines without indentation and an identation for the concluding couplet. All this assumes that the poet wishes to impress on the reader the rhyming scheme and the poet's fidelity in following it. But this is ini- tiating the reader into the irrelevant laboratory work of the poet, and has its many disadvantages, since the reader primarily wishes to know what the poet has to say, not the devices by which he increases his effectiveness.

The modern tendency is to eliminate the indenta- tion in all poems. If poems are printed similarly to prose, the indenta- tion will be the same as prose, to indicate paragraph openings, or to insert a quotation. These, like all definitions, define from the centers, not from the boundaries. A long-winded narrative in the first person, telling the poet's own adventures, might be classed with reason as any of the three: narrative poetry because it tells a story; dramatic, like a long dramatic monologue; and lyric, because the poet himself is speaking.

This attitude classification is not of primary importance. A fourth division, didactic poetry, that which teaches or points a moral, was once popular and is still encountered. It is regarded at best as a low flight of poetry. Epic, Metrical Romance, Tale An epic is a long narrative poem, dealing with heroic events, usually with supernatural guidance and participation in the action. Epics are divided into natural or folk epics, and literary epics. There is a suggested theory that folk epics are preceded by and composed of folk ballads.

The earliest known epics exhibit little or no trace of any welding or amalgamating process. The earliest literary remains in Greece are of the epic type, of three varieties. Epics of personal romance and war center around the semimythical blind bard Homer, with his Iliad—the story of the flight of Helen of Sparta with her Trojan lover, Paris; the war of Greeks against Trojans to avenge this; the anger of Greek Achilles and its effects; the defeat of Troy—and the Odyssey, telling the world wan- derings of Grecian Odysseus after the sack of Troy, and of his return to his native Ithaca.

Epics dealing with the mysteries of religion center around the mythical singer Orpheus. Epics of a didactic nature center around the name of Hesiod. Scholars state that many lost epics in all three fields preceded the epics now remaining. They originated before the invention of writing and were transmitted orally, with inevitable changes and additions from time to time. Literary epics are a later attempt to catch the charm of the ancient epics; and as a rule they are a lower flight. Spenser's Faerie Queene has lost most of its charm for many modern English readers; even Milton's Paradise Lost, which sought to express English Puritanism as Dante had sought to express medieval Catholicism, is largely dull to modern readers.

Stories in verse preceded stories in prose. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the narrative metrical romances and tales of Scott, Byron and others, preceded the novel and the short story in English. But prose has become the popular medium, as it is the more natural one, and the long poetic narrative today usually seems artificial.

Ballad The ballad, the brief story in verse, alone retains some general popularity. It came to mean the folksong that tells a brief story—at first to be sung, later to be said or read. The Germanic bards or scalds, the gleemen, harpers, minstrels, troubadours, and minne- singersrs were a distinguished lot—the oral literature and music of races in the pre-bookish age.

The chief figures in the ballads at first were noble, since nobles were the patrons of the singers. Later on, the lower classes became vocal—the oppressed Saxons in the Robin Hood ballads, and many early ballads in which a commoner ends by marry- ing one of noble lineage. The technique at first was simple, often with a simple refrain that the hearers might chorus. In English, the first ballad meter was seven-foot iambic lines, rhymed in couplets.

A vari- ant of this is the Scottish ballad Edward, Edward, with a pause be- tween the invoked names taking the place of a foot in alternate lines:. Quhy does zour brand sae drop wi' bluid, and quhy sae sad gang zee, O? Like the majority of the older ballads, this is a gory thing, full of blood and stark universal passions. If modern poetry gave us more of such red meat instead of caviar canapes, it would hold a wider popu- larity than it now has. The rhythm is much freer than centuries of later iambic versifica- tion.

The modern versifier can learn much of the way to sprinkle anapests in an iambic pattern, and of more important devices in ver- sification, from old English folk ballads, as from that other depository of English folk verse, Mother Goose. Folk ballads originate among people largely pre-bookish; certain American mountaineers and cer- tain Negroes still commemorate thrilling events with folk ballads, like the one within our memory on The Sinking of the Titantic. Literary ballads are more successful than literary epics.

The stanza form is almost invariably simple. Yet it is worthwhile to study the slight elaborations of the ballad meter that Coleridge employed—with stanzas ranging from four to nine ballad half-lines. There are many more successful literary ballads. Dramatic Poetry Like storytelling, drama is largely a lost field to poetry, purely because of the unnaturalness of poetic drama as usually written.

There is a field for drama in natural free verse, which may yet be widely used. Classic drama was divided into tragedy, a play ending in death, and comedy, a play not ending in death. This division was unworkable and has been abandoned today. Thespis, reputed father of Grecian drama, never permitted more than one actor on the stage at one time, with a chorus to interpret the action to the audience.

This rigid convention was shattered by Aeschylus, who added a second actor. Sophocles added a third; but classic Greek drama never permitted a fourth. The typical Shake- spearean play had five acts, the climax occurring during the third act, the solution at the end. This usually meant a dragging fourth act, which only Othello among the great tragedies avoided. Shakespeare and most other English verse dramatists used a five-foot iambic line, most often in blank or unrhymed verse.

None of these conventions are more sacred than the one-actor convention of Thespis. The dramatic monologue, or dramatic lyric, sprung from the speeches of Thespis's actor and the unnatural soliloquy of classic and English drama, is the one form of drama in verse which preserves considerable popularity.

Robert Browning made this field peculiarly his own, with such magnificent dramatic vignettes as My Last Duchess, Andrea del Sarto, Caliban upon Setebos and so many more. His tremendous The Ring and the Book is, within a brief framework, ten immense dramatic monologues: the same group of facts, as seen through the eyes of ten differing personalities. Such dramatic mono- logues may be in any rhythm, any line length, and with or without rhyme. Success comes in proportion to the naturalness of the speech, the universality and depth of the emotion displayed, and the accuracy in character drawing.

Lyric Poetry: Ode, Elegy, Pastoral Perhaps the earliest, and certainly the most enduringly popular type of poetry, is the lyric. As the name indicates, it meant originally poetry to be sung to the lyre—a dance at first accompanying this. The Greek Pindaric ode had three movements: a stro- phe, in which the chorus moved from a given spot toward the right; the antistrophe, following the same versification pattern, and to the same tune, in which the chorus moved correspondingly to the left; and the concluding epode, different in structure, sung to a different tune, and with the chorus standing still.

Efforts to revive this form in English have not succeeded. In English, the ode is a dignified lyric on some high theme, with constant progress in its stanzas toward its con- clusion. Familiar odes in English include Wordsworth's:. Our birth is but a sleep and- a forgetting; The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, Hath elsewhere its setting And cometh from afar; Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home.

Heaven lies about us in our infancy! An elegy is a formal expression of the poet's grief at death, whether general or centered about the death of an individual. It has no more definite a pattern in English than the ode. Milton, in Lycidas, uses an iambic measure, with lines of differing lengths, and a f luidic rhyme scheme. Shelley, in Adonais, chose the Spenserian stanza.

Tennyson, in In Memoriam, selected the quatrain pattern already encountered. Whitman, in his major Lincoln threnody, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, wrote in magnificent polyrhythmic verse. Gray's familiar Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, alone among these a meditation upon death in general, used alternate-rhymed five-foot iambic lines.

There are many familiar short elegies in the language. The pastoral is a reflective lyric upon some aspect of nature, for- merly concerned with shepherd life, whence its name. As city living increasingly replaces country living, some form of city lyric may supplant the pastoral, if it does not die without offspring. It is best to reserve the word for a lyric intended to be set to music.

This calls for a knowledge, on the part of the poet, of the human voice in music, and the ease or diffi- culty with which the various sounds are produced. Certain conso- nants and combinations of consonants are singable only with great difficulty. A line like:. The terminal consonants m, n, I, r are sung with ease; s, z, ch, sh, as terminals, with difficulty. Of the vowels, broad a, long o, long a, ou are easiest to sing, though no vowel is really diffi- cult. The words chosen should always end, and as far as possible include, only sounds which open the mouth, instead of closing it.

Simple words are to be preferred to complicated ones; definite precise words to indefinite abstract ones; emotion-evoking words to intellec- tualized ones. The lyric canon in English is one of the glories of its literature. After the dawn-hour lyrics before the Elizabethan age, the golden song of Campion—. Shall I come, sweet Love, to thee, When the evening beams are set? Shall I not excluded be, Will you find no feigned let? Thomas Campion. The themes and treatments of the lyric may vary as widely as the desires and visions of the poets. A lyric may have any chosen form of rhythm, with or without rhyme.

Here is an example from the chief American user of the form, in a lyric called Reconciliation:. Word over all, beautiful as the sky, Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost, That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this soil'd world; For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead, I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—I draw near, Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.

Reconciliation, Walt Whitman. Modern users of polyrhythmic poetry as a rule use less eloquence than Whitman and less of the expansive cosmic note, and tend instead toward the tense and gripping emotional appeal usual in rhymed and metric lyrics. Much shorter line division is also common. The Sonnet The sonnet is the most popular fixed form in English. It is a lyric of fourteen iambic five-foot lines, with a defined and definite rhyme scheme.

There are two forms of it widely used in English, the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, and the Shakespearean sonnet. The rhyme scheme of the Italian sonnet appears from the following example:. The world is too much with us; late and soon; 1 Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: 2 Little we see in Nature that is ours; 2 We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

For this, for everything, we are out of tune; 1 It moves us not. I'd rather be 3 A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 4 So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 3 Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 4 Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; 3 Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. The first eight lines of any sonnet are called the octave.

In the Ital- ian sonnet, the rhyme scheme is rigid and may not be departed from. The octave consists of two quatrains rhymed 1,2,2, 1, the In Memo- nam rhyming pattern made familiar by Tennyson's use of it. The entire octave then rhymes 1, 2, 2, 1; 1, 2, 2, 1. It is not permitted to vary the rhymes in the second half of the octave, by using 1, 2, 2, 1; 3, 2, 2, 3, or a form too commonly encountered, 1, 2, 2, 1; 3, 4, 4,3. The concluding six lines of any sonnet are called the sestet.

The two permissible rhyme schemes for the sestet of an Italian sonnet are 3,4, 3,4, 3,4, and 3,4, 5, 3,4, 5. It will be noted that the sonnet by Wordsworth, quoted above, uses the proper octave rhyme scheme and the first of these two sestet arrangements. As to treatment, the octave must be end-stopped—that is, the eighth line must mark the termination of a sentence. Even the halves of the octave should be end-stopped. The first quatrain should intro- duce the theme and develop it in a certain direction; the second should continue this development in the same direction.

The sestet intro- duces a new development in a different direction, with the first tercet carrying this new direction to a definite point; and the final tercet bringing the theme to a conclusion. The actual movement of the strict Italian sonnet may be expressed as a flow in the octave and an ebb in the sestet—so Theodore Watts-Dunton phrased it in his sonnet The Sonnet's Voice.

This does not mean, of course, that the inspiration or the emotional effect should ebb. Wordsworth's sonnet, emotionally effective as it is, violates several of these strict rules. The octave movement does not end with the eighth line, but trespasses into the ninth. There is no break in thought between the two tercets that together comprise the sestet.

We will find constantly among the masters violations of the rules, at times in the nature of experiments; none of these has as yet established its popularity in English poetry. Venetian Republic, Wordsworth's octave rhymes 1, 2, 2, 1; 1, 3, 3, 1—another variation. One authority examined 6, Italian sonnets in English and found these variations for the terminal sestet rhymes:. Two of these have terminal couplets, the most regrettable variation of the Italian sonnet. Six others include a couplet somewhere within the sestet.

In addition to the above, the following two-rhyme variants are found:. Only the first excludes any couplet rhyming. Shelley's poem Ozyman- dias had the rhyme scheme 1, 2, 1, 2; 1, 3, 4, 3; 5, 4, 5, 6, 5, 6. Milton led the way in failing to separate clearly the octave and sestet, so much so that his type of sonnet is sometimes called the Miltonic- Italian in rhyme pattern, but without the characteristic Italian flow and ebb of theme, broken after the eighth line.

The Shakespearean sonnet is simpler and more natural in rhyming, and is in wider favor among English-using poets. From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate; 6 For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings 7 That then I scorn to change my state with kings. This is the accepted Shakespearean indentation for this form: though it may be indented to show rhyming mates, as the Italian also may be.

Both types of the sonnet at times are printed with octave and sestet separated, making a poem of two stanzas; or an octave divided into two quatrains, and at times the sestet similarly divided. The rhyming scheme of the Shakespearean sonnet is three qua- trains—1,2,1, 2; 3,4, 3,4; 5, 6, 5, 6—with a concluding couplet, 7, 7. A shrewd interspersing of double or feminine rhymes aids. Many variations have been tried on this simple rhyming basis.

Sir Philip Sidney repeated the rhymes of the first quatrain in the second, giving him a pattern of 1, 2, 1, 2; 1, 2, 1, 2; 3, 4, 3, 4; 5, 5. Spenser, in his sonnets, used a chain-verse device of interlocking rhymes throughout each sonnet, so that his pattern was: 1,2, 1, 2; 2, 3, 2, 3; 3, 4, 3, 4; 5, 5. Keats, in his second sonnet on Fame, wedded the Shakespearean octave to the Italian sestet, with his rhyme scheme 1, 2, 1, 2; 3, 4, 3,4; 5, 6, 5, 7, 7, 6.

Rupert Brooke, in the first and fifth of his soldier sonnets, used the Shakespearean octave and a straight Italian sestet: 5, 6, 7, 5, 6, 7. The third and fourth of the same series also wander from any strict pattern. The sonnet was invented in Italy in the 13th century, probably by Pier delle Vigne, Secretary of State in the Sicilian court of Frederick.

His sonnet Pero cK amore is the earliest known. His rhyme form—1, 2, 1,2; 1,2, 1, 2; 3, 4, 5, 3, 4, 5—has never become popular in English. The French sonnet prefers the strict Italian octave, with a sestet of three rhymes commencing with a couplet. This also has not become naturalized in English. There are occasional variations in English poetry, such as 1, 2, 1, 2; 2, 1,2, 1; 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 5; Italian sonnets with sestet 3,4, 3, 4, 5, 5; and so on. Watts-Dunton points out, in his article on the sonnet in the eleventh edition of the Encyclo- paedia Britannica, that the charm of this and otherfixedforms comes from familiarity in advance with the rhyme scheme to be followed; and that this charm is dissipated when any break in the expected rhyme scheme occurs.

We feel somewhat as if we listened to a limer- ick with an extra foot or an extra line: a sense of surprise, its pleasure being doubtful. In spite of this, poets continue to vary the rigid forms from time to time and will continue to do so. The sonnet, of either form, is used by many poets as a fourteen- line stanza. Many of the Elizabethan sonnet sequences illustrate this; and there are many more recent examples. In writing the sonnet, it will aid to write down the rhyme scheme to the right of the space where your lines are to be written, and thereafter to mark across from each numbered rhyme the initial consonantal sounds used: giving a check against repeating a rhyming sound that is, identity , which is inexcusable false rhyming.

We would then have a notebook page like:. Thus, by this check, it appears that the poet used, for rhyme 1, OLD, these consonantal sounds: g, h, t, b; for rhyme 2, EN, s, b, m, r; for rhyme 3, IZ, sk, the unconsonanted vowel sound, and m; for rhyme 4, EN, k, m, and the unconsonanted vowel sound. No identi- ties; rhyme throughout. The sonnet, from a technical rhyming stand- point, has no flaws. When this method is followed during the writing of the sonnet—the first group of columns, that containing the numer- als, properly indented, being written down first—this gives a check as the writing of the sonnet proceeds and saves much rewriting.

Nor is there any rea- son for holding the serious poet higher than the comic poet. Surely Aristophanes, the great Athenian comic dramatist, ranked as high and was doubtless more popular and influential than any of the great seri- ous triad, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Shakespeare the comic dramatist, the author of Merry Wives of Windsor, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, is as impressive a figure as the Shakespeare who let the melancholy Dane live and die in Elsi- nore, the Shakespeare who was the chronicler of Othello's jealousy and Lear's senility.

Cervantes, who jeered knighthood to death, is greater as a writer than any other Spaniard; Racine, Moliere, Voltaire, Anatole France were greatest as satirists; and so the roll continues. Serious writers and poets are more popular and are taken more seri- ously; but this may be because it is more civilized and difficult to laugh than to weep. Animals can suffer agonies; but they cannot chuckle. Gilbert's The Bab Bollards for any number of closet dramas, ponderous versified essays and odes, or a whole trainload of lyrics to spring and young love. Fixed forms of poetry tend to become outgrown, like a child's shirt too small to close over a man's heart.

They then become relegated to minor versifiers, to light verse writers, and to college and high school exercises. Prose ages more quickly than poetry: witness such master- pieces, written for adults, as the world's great fairy stories, Aesop's fables, the Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels in the nursery; and the essays and novels of yesterday encountered in school or college. Poetry itself ages: Shakespeare, Milton, Virgil, Horace are more used in the classroom than in the living room today, and so of the rest of them.

Prose, in the large, must be rephrased every fifty years or less to be enjoyable to living men; poetry survives longer, but the hour will come when the most enduring poem of a Shakespeare or a Sap- pho will seem ancient, and must be restated or recreated by a living poet, to speak again for the maturing soul of man.

If this is true of the poetry itself, it is truer of the patterns in which poetry has been uttered, and especially of the fixed forms. The sonnet, an emigrant from Italy that became naturalized in English literature, still holds its own as a major method of expressing serious poetry, in the eyes of many poets and readers. Even at that, it is now regarded as puerile by the extreme advocates of free verse or polyrhythmic poetry, especially since Whitman and the Imagist movement.

Numerous other alien verse forms did not fare so well and have established themselves primarily as mediums for light and humorous verse. These include the ballade, the rondeau, the vil- lanelle, the triolet, and so on. This may be because of theirrigidrules and formal repetitions, which were not acceptable to the living poet.

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And yet they started as seriously as Sapphics, heroic blank verse, or polyrhythms. Of all the forms of verse originating in medieval Provence, among those that failed to acclimatize themselves in English are the vers, canzo, sirvente, tenso, alba, serena, pastorella, breu-doble, an retroensa. Only the most elaborate of the lot, the intricate sestina, ha survived in English. When religious crusades wiped out this culture, the germs of formalized verse took root in northern France, espe- cially under Charles d'Orleans and Frangois Villon. The ballade appeared. Spenser used 3, of his nine-line Spenserian stanzas in one poem: across the Channel, Eustache Deschamps, a friend of Chaucer's, left no less than 1, complete ballades.

Froissart the chronicler wrote many. Charles d'Orleans is hailed as the early master of the roundel, as Villon is lauded as the prince of ballade-makers. Jean Passerat gave the villanelle its present form in the sixteenth century; Voiture, a century later, perfected therondeau. In the seven- teenth century, after the forms had been known for two hundred years in English, Patrick Carey published a series of dignified religious tri- olets; and the overartificialized forms have repeatedly been revived since.

No syllable once used as a rhyme can be used again in the same poem as a rhyme—not even if it is spelled differently or if the whole word is altered by a prefix. This bars such identities as Ruth, a girl's name, and ruth, pity; bear, an animal, bear, to support, bare, forbear, and so on; sale and sail; claim, reclaim, and disclaim; facility, imbecility; and, if this is taken as a single rhyme, not a triple one, it forbids the use of more than one from this group: tea, manatee, imbecility, impossibility, lenity, and so on.

As to the refrain, an important element in many of these forms:. The refrain must not be a meaningless repetition of sounds as in many English ballads; it must aid in the progress of the thought; come in naturally; and be repeated in all its sounds, without any change of sound. Slipshod versifiers alter the refrain by changing the introductory word, as by using an and for a but, a then for an if. This is unfor- giveable. But the requirement goes no further than the repetition of all sounds.

Punctuation may be changed, spelling may be changed, meaning may be changed: permitting the following—. It's meet, this sale; Its meat, this sale. Gray day; Grade aye; Grade A. The Ballade Family There are two standard forms of the ballade. The more usual one consists of three stanzas of eight lines each; followed by a concluding quatrain, known as the envoy.

It is thus a poem of twenty-eight lines, or twice the length of a sonnet. Each stanza, and the envoy, terminate with a line repeated sound by sound, and called the refrain. The same set of rhyme sounds used in the first stanza, in the same order, must be used in each stanza; and the last half of this scheme must be used in the envoy. No rhyme sound, once used as a rhyme, may be used again for that purpose anywhere else in the poem.

Each stanza and the envoy must close with the refrain line, repeated without any alteration of sound; though its punctua- tion, meaning and spelling may be altered. The sense of the refrain must be supreme throughout the bal- lade, the culminating refrain line being always brought in without strain or effort as the natural close of the stanza or envoy.

Formerly the length of the refrain governed the length of the stanza. Thus an eight-syllabled refrain dictated an eight-line stanza, and a ten-syllabled refrain a ten-line stanza. This rule is followed no longer. The stanza should carry an unbroken sense throughout, and not be split in meaning into two quatrains, or any other divi- sion. The needful pauses for punctuation are allowed, but the sense is not to be finished midway of the stanza.

The envoy, as used in ballades and the chant royal, was at first addressed to the patron of the poet. It is thus usual to com- mence it with some such invocation as Prince! This is at times omitted. The envoy is both a dedication and a cul- mination, and should be richer in wording and meaning and more stately in imagery than the preceding lines.

Here is a well-wrought ballade, in four-foot iambic verse. The rhyme scheme is indicated by the numerals 1, 2, and 3, the refrain line being designated 3R. And where the tears they made to flow? The lover's call? As to the two requirements about rhyming, a ballade requires six 1 rhymes. Here the six consonantal sounds, as the checking column establishes, are s, tr, fr, k, pi, and m.

A ballade requires fourteen 2 rhymes. The five sounds used here are g, the unconso- nanted vowel, v, k, and thr. The rhyming is correct throughout. The refrain line is used without any alteration of any kind through- out, satisfying the third requirement. It is used throughout as a natu- ral climax of each stanza. Each stanza has its own climactic rise to the refrain. The envoy meets the requirements wholly. The meter of a ballade need not be four-foot iambic, as in this example. A recent newspaper ballade had only two trochees to the line, its refrain being "Life is gay.

The most famous of all ballades is Fran? There are many familiar translations of this: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's with the refrain "But where are the snows of yester-year? None of these are authentic recreations in living poetry; not even of the refrain Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan? But where are the last year's snows?

In technique, Rossetti has entirely different rhyming sounds in each stanza and another in the envoy. Payne is accurate though he repeats some rhyme sounds, and uses words as unliving as vade that is, go, , marish, whilere, dole; and surely "Virgin debonair" is an unfortunate mistranslation of Villon's stately Vierge souvraine.

At least, none of this is as archaic as two words in this line of Rossetti's version:. Examining the Villon original, we find that he uses the terminal sounds -maine seven times, and rhymes it with moyne and other apparent consonances; rhymes lis and Allis; and otherwise is as lax as French rules allow, rather than following the strict and at that time unpromulgated English rules.

An acceptable version in English may take advantage of the practices in the original, although it will have to be an authentic poetic recreation. The second standard form of the ballade consists of stanzas of ten lines, usually of ten syllables each, as in the five-foot iambic pattern; followed by an envoy of five lines. For the envoy, the rhyme scheme is 3, 3, 4, 3, 4R. This is much rarer in English than the foregoing. The ballade with double refrain uses two refrains, one occurring at the fourth line of every stanza, and one at the eighth; while, in the envoy, the refrains are the second and fourth lines respectively, the envoy being rhymed couplet-wise.

The rhyme scheme for each stanza is 1, 2, 1, 2R; 2, 3, 2, 3R, 2R being the first refrain line, and 3R the second. The rhyme scheme for the envoy is 2, 2R, 3, 3R. The best technique selects two antithetical refrains, and develops each stanza upon the refrain used to close it. Here is an excellent example:. When the roads are heavy with mire and rut, 1 In November fogs, in December snows, 2 When the North Wind howls, and the doors are shut, 1 There is place and enough for the pains of prose;— 2R But whenever a scent from the whitehorn blows, 2 And the jasmine-stars to the casement climb, 3 And a Rosalind-face at the lattic shows, 2 Then hey!

Then hey! The position of the two refrains is indicated throughout by 2R and 3R; and the couplet rhyming of the envoy is also indicated. The double ballade consists of six stanzas of- eight or ten lines each, rhymed as in the ballades already given. Thus this may be six stanzas rhymed 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, 3, 2, 3R; or 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 3, 4R. Usually the envoy is omitted. Henley, who liked the form, always used an envoy.

His Double Ballade of the Nothingness of Things goes beyond these schemes, and has eleven lines to each stanza, rhymed 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5R; with an envoy rhymed 3, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5R. And he has stranger varieties. Swinburne's Ballade of Swimming has ten lines to the stanza, and seven anapests to each line—a long inter- val between rhymes. The chant royal is the longest and most dignified offspring of the ballade.

It has five stanzas of eleven lines each, usually rhymed 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5R. The envoy has five lines, rhymed 4, 4, 5, 4", 5R. Sixty lines, in all. Seven 5 rhymes, ten each of 1 , 2 , and 3 , and eighteen separate rhymes for 4. Here is an amusing example:. I would that all men my hard case might know; How grievously I suffer for no sin; I, Adolphe Culpepper Ferguson, for lo! I, of my landlady am locked in, For being short on this sad Saturday, Nor having shekels of silver wherewith to pay; She has turned and is departed with my key; Wherefore, not even as other boarders free, I sing as prisoners to their dungeon stones When for ten days they expiate a spree : Behold the deeds that are done of Mrs.

Led by the daughter of my landlady Piano-ward. This day, for all my moans, Dry bread and water have been served me. Behold the deeds that are done of Mrs. For my part, I pray: That Badarjewska maid may wait for aye Ere she sits with a lover, as did we Once sit together, Amabel!

Can it be That all that arduous wooing not atones For Saturday shortness of trade dollars three? Smith was aforetime the Lothario gay. Yet once, I mind me, Smith was forced to stay Close in his room. Not calm, as I, was he: But his noise brought no pleasaunce, verily. And Poems Far and Wide is the kind of collection that principles like this would produce: varied in every conceivable way. Thematically, though, there are a lot of consistent elements. I have spoken of the interest in encapsulation and mirroring. An extended and exhausting attempt to celebrate a fleeting moment in a wildly hybridised art form.

She died late last year. It comes after a long publishing lull. Once having gotten underway as one of the four Brisbane poets of Four Poets in where she published as Judith Green she published books at a fairly conventional rate up to her New and Selected Poems of , but after that her publications became rather sparser.

All in all, there is a certain unbuttoning in poetic matters and a focussing on the humane values of friendship as the dark comes ever closer and everything is pared down to essentials. This is a case of the poet joining the broader community and sharing their outrage. There are poems about suicide bombings, pre-Fitzgerald corruption in Queensland, Abu Ghraib, and the imprisonment of the Uighur writer Ilham Tohti. Though John Howard will obviously bear most of the opprobrium of history — for encouraging and cashing-in politically on this sudden revelation of a hidden dark side of Australian culture — both political parties, at different times, followed the ugly trail of demonization.

Everyone knows the poetic problems that these issues present. A poet, wishing to, at least, express their personal anger is required to find an angle that will result in something better than mere journalism or demonstration slogans. But this raises the paradox that a sophisticated, nuanced and angled approach to some public event — the kind of thing that poets and readers of poetry expect — aestheticises the event itself, replacing the rawer emotions of horror or outrage by the altogether more comfortable one of aesthetic pleasure.

Horrors in the northern hemisphere are, in other words, nightmares that Australians wake up to. The most intriguing of the poems in this section seems the most oblique. The poem is built, metaphorically, around the notions of calling and breath, and, as a result, one wants to approach it interpretively as a poem about the role of poetry itself in these ethically fraught situations. That would accord with its being placed first in the section. But it remains rather elusive: it could be saying that situations of horror the Nazi occupation of Poland produce such a distorted world that a situation in which a child become the arbiter of life and death is not to be judged simply.

The dominant impulse here is memory, a lot more interesting, at least superficially, that outrage. And Rodriguez has always been interested in the mechanisms of memory. Often, in this mode, a shortish poem acts as a kind of box in which a small cluster of memories relating to a friend is kept.

But there are two poems which stand out as being better than this. The fact that we are likely to be initially confused about what is clearly a very coherent poem is an indicator of being in the same room as a real poem. Again, the poem provides some context though in this case it takes place not in a footnote but in its title since Cordelia is the loving daughter whose love is not expressed and the non-expression precipitates the tragedy.

And the setting seems to be a childhood one of rocking horses and tin soldiers rather than the adult one. Rodriguez imagines herself playing the part of Olivia and Devadasan the part of the separated twin, Viola. The fact that she is buried on a place called Quibble Island provides another verbal complexity — this time a nasty irony in that all literature teachers might well be buried on a place with a name like that. These three poems stand out for exactly that quality among a group of poems which is marked, if anything, by a loosening of poetic stays.

The Gang of One is one of those literary rescue efforts that need to be both encouraged and supported. Robert Harris, who died at the young age of forty-two, was never a dominant figure in Australian poetry, a fact demonstrated by his spotty inclusions in the various anthologies of the time. Had it not been for this book, a selection from his five books, together with some journal-published poems and some unpublished ones, selected by Judith Beveridge and with a good introduction by Philip Mead, he might have disappeared forever, like so many others.

Instead readers can now get a far better perspective on a decidedly odd, and in many ways impressive, career. The first thing that occurs to me, reading through all his books, is how hard he had to work to make himself into a good poet. Some people find their mode and their voice almost immediately, others publish a first book of what are, really, successful experiments before mining a particular vein in later books.

Harris seemed to take until his fourth book, The Cloud Passes Over , to produce consistently good poems. The first three books show someone not only not sure of the kind of poetry he wants to write but somebody without much of an ear for what makes a good line or a good sentence: he was, in other words, far from being dangerously fluent.

The last two books, which are quite special, redeem all this, of course, and it makes one admire the dogged determination with which Harris pursued the idea of making himself into a poet over a period of perhaps a dozen years. In both Localities and Translations from the Albatross , one can see what Harris wants his poetry to do. These poems demonstrate an interest in the social world, both its individuals and its hidden mechanisms, while at the same time allowing for moments of uplift, usually involving elements of the natural world, especially light and clouds though sometimes music.

In other words, he wants to look horizontally at the social while retaining some space for a tentative upward look towards the transcendent. A few lines from the former will make the point:. The last two of the five sections attempt to balance the misery of these lives with intimations of a richer inner life symbolised by, in Eliot-fashion, a rose. Something similar happens in Translations from the Albatross. The varieties in subject and method seem genuinely informed experiments rather than desperate searches for a poetry that will work.

The poems deal with two aspects of Christianity. The first component of this is reflected in the first three poems whose titles I have already given and they quickly sketch out the area where conversion is relevant to the poems. In the first, for example, intellectual scepticism is faced head-on:. Admittedly, the notion that living and resurrected gods are pretty common, especially in the Levant, is an objection of its period — a time of pop-anthropology — and thus hardly constitutes the full panoply of intellectual difficulties that Christianity faces, but it is refreshing to see that it immediately forms a part of the experience.

And this can only be done if the fragmentary experiences of that order are powerful enough to override the intellect or even common sense. So a powerful part of the poetic experience relates, for Harris, to a personal encounter with the benevolent side of the godhead.

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But the other side is present as well — the Yahweh of the Jewish bible who grows in the first half of the first millennium BCE from a cranky local god to an overwhelming master of the universe or, at least, master of the world and the nearest stars — the then-known part of the universe.

Many of the poems of The Cloud Passes Over were written in the mountains behind Bega and the violent onset of winds which sweep clouds over the landscape that one finds there, becomes a congenial place in which to read and think about the God of Hosts. It certainly involves a lot of reconsideration of his thus-far unsatisfactory development. But even though that might be a danger, the proof is in the poems and this group celebrating the winds and clouds of the Australian Alps is terrific.

They are fascinating because they are cross-pollinated by the sense of the Lord of Hosts expressing himself in various of the books of the prophets, as a cleansing gale. Another reason for the fact that these poems impress so much may be that they concretise what in the earlier poems is no more than a glance upward towards the transcendent. Poetically, the issue is whether the poem is weakened by its finish as it certainly is by a virtual quotation from Eliot, earlier on.

Presumably Harris was drawn to Webb partly through the enthusiasm of Robert Adamson, an admirer of Webb and friend of Harris, but also as someone sharing a similar uncomfortable position — that of a poet-believer in secular times. It is interested in the effects of the disappearance of the boat on the communities that were nearby, especially those of Carnavon. Since the exact events of the sinking were not known and what was known by the military was not made public, we are in the Lord Lucan world of rumour, self-deception and paranoia.

The entire sequence is, in other words, also about truth with or without its capital letter , reality, community and poetry. As such it adds a layer of complexity to the sequence. He clearly wants the effect of this to be something approximating a very controlled open form, encouraging the reader to read both horizontally and vertically syntagmatically and paradigmatically perhaps. Much, in fact, is in a decidedly lyrical vein. As an outsider I can only guess but I can imagine Harris responding very strongly to this figure of a well-educated intelligent girl going perfectly bravely to her death.

She is, in effect, a candidate for Protestant sainthood. He is also concerned, throughout, to investigate the stake others have in visiting not only the texts but the sites of her life and death:. This may result from the little detail there is about her — a lack that spurs on speculation — but it also has an effect rather like the poems for the Sydney: that there is a gap surrounded by complex designs, in fact a gap which favours complex designs. The last poem is about the man who is at the centre of the events, the Duke of Northumberland and recounts how Harris finds, investigating him, that, far from being the archetypal Tudor politician, sacrificing all to ambition, he actually did many benevolent things including, significantly, providing funding for the stage while he was the senior advisor to Edward the Sixth.

There are plenty of poems about time in this new book, Towards Light , but the most important theme seems to be the issue of wholeness and its counterpart, dissolution, especially expressed in the opposition of light and dark. One would expect the continuous movement of Magnetic North — it now moves at a rate of forty kilometres a year in a circle — to disorient those animals which rely on it for navigation, to induce, in other words, a kind of dementia. The second poem asks us to imagine a lake in which a ferryman disappears into the fog of its title:.

The fact that a sonnet is followed by an extended free verse meditation may in itself be a little symbol, deliberate or accidental, of the different ways meaning can occur in a poem: the latter running the risk of wordy dissolution and the former the risk of an over-tight structure that cuts off possible readings in the interests of the one true reading the author intended — a Magnetic North, in other words, which stays still.

This suggests that the first section of the book may be imagined as a counterpart to the last and it is true that other poems of this section — surely the strongest part of the book — are also quietly positive. Those last words encapsulate the form that the positive elements in Towards Light tend to take. Without this the positive can be nothing more than, psychologically, an expression of an upbeat personality Christopher Smart, say or, philosophically, a gesture towards transcendence.

One of the features of a forest setting is, of course, that it is organic: rich processes of decay and dissolution are occurring underfoot balancing out the movement towards light. At first it seems like a poem about the different customs of past times, better in some ways, perhaps, but barely relevant — even comic — today. But the other poems of the book enable us to refine this slightly. They represent the optimistic view that, in this book, is balanced against the bleak. By the time we get to the Parkinsonism poems at the end we realise that that disease not only fragments the individual mind but also cuts the sufferer off from the community of loved ones and friends.

But the land puts up its own fight. Of course, in the case of the natural world reclaiming shopping centres and holiday flats, it may be that a superior unity superior because earlier is defeating a mass-movement which is not a true unity at all. The third section of the book, the longest, seems on the surface a more homely collection of pieces about birds, cows in Galicia and the natural world at large but here the same themes of community as well as time mark the poems out. It could be reasonably said to be important in any imaginative use of language, of course, because any sort of substitution, as in metaphor or metonymy, involves a larger being replaced by a smaller or more rarely vice versa, but many of these poems enjoy the disjunction between the wide perspective and the tight focus.

Her position helps to reduce the difference in dimension between the human- and bird-worlds and she and the turkeys share some kind of brief moment together:. While Giordano Bruno is a byword for the kind of intellectual imaginativeness about creation which always wanted to break the bounds of the restrictive beliefs of his contemporary world. Towards Light shows these themes consistently in the varied poems that make it up. It raises the question of whether the process of natural selection is an example of unity or dissolution, or whether it shows unity as a dynamic process rather than a static one.

And there are many poems which follow the previous book, Tempo , in being concerned with the effect of time. Though it is highly structured it contains quite an assortment of kinds of poems — is the book a unity in itself? Take two poems whose position in the books in which they appear alerts readers as to their significance. The first is the title poem of The Wild Reply. Of course, a reader always needs to guard against the tendency to interpret what may be designed to be something surrealistically resistant to interpretation as being an allegory about poetry itself, but the reading possibilities are certainly there.

In either case, what are we to make of the distinction, which the poem emphasises, between fire and flame? But the fact remains that highly atmospheric, fragmented narratives often with an Eastern European setting and suggesting a background of revolution, war and massacre bulk large in Crow College.

Some poems are less puzzling than others. When the poems are successful, powerful entities they rather resist this and a reader has to widen his or her focus. But a wider focus often produces a vague and shifting image that is a bit of an insult to the finishedness of individual poems. Speech, silence and aphasia are issues that recur.

In other words they are described as though they were active visitants, and visitations of the dead seems to be another issue that the poems engage with. Not a ghost, perhaps, but possibly appearing like one of the hanged, gassed and electrocuted, and certainly a maker of ghosts. These recurring themes, are no more than a brief comfort to someone trying to read these poems as a body of work rather than as a collection of self-contained pieces.

Identifying some of them is certainly reassuring for a reader because they act like little flashes of familiarity. Of course, there are more significant generalisations to search for — ethical and aesthetic ones, for example, but these poems are very resistant to simple statements about issues like these. I think someone has said, somewhere, that Lew must be the Australian poet that we know least about from her poems.

Does this mean that occluding is one of the functions of these poems? And it is a very distinctive landscape of river red gums standing in the channels, overflows and sandbanks of the Murray and its tributaries. The poetry, to match this, wants to move not by logical or imagistic assertion towards a triumphal conclusion but by surprising shifts and disjunctions. It seems a detour with a double purpose, at one level recording the processes by which original names were transmuted into the names of properties and towns and thus venturing into the territory of the study of the function of naming in landtaking.

But this respectable and conventional interest is balanced against the very distinctive interest West always has in languages and their sounds. The Romantic tendency is inclined to favour the former and there is a swing to the latter embodied in movements like Chosisme and Neusachlichkeit. The issues raised in these first two poems appear in later ones in the book.

I think this is connected with the question raised in the first poem of where significance is to be found and how it is to be found, suggesting that the answer is not as a random symbolisation but as a long-held loving development that sees, rather than makes, connections. At any rate these cicadas are not merely insects with a weird life-cycle:. This all rather makes Carol and Ahoy into an exploration of aesthetics, which is part of its interest but not the only one.

There is, throughout the book, a strong personal theme. In a sense this is a preparation for the last three poems of the book. One can see why this is being done, even though it seems at odds with the style of the other poems. One superficial feature of this might be the comparative lack of Italian elements. The earlier books showed someone inhabiting two different cultures and two different languages — climbing the Tower of Babel. But a more important feature is the mode of the poems themselves. They meditate in sophisticated ways while working along in a mundane environment.

Perhaps he is looking for a way of thrashing out issues that might, in the future, form the basis for another kind of lyric. Perhaps he wants to recreate the meditative mode for a new century. Most of the poems there are exceptions are beautifully wrought objects whereby what is essentially a prose idea — an understanding of an experience, a representation of an emotion — forms the structure of the poem.

The River in the Sky we met the title — a translation of the Japanese words for the Milky Way — at the end of his last book of memoirs where it was floated as a title for a novel about the Pacific War might be a book which bypasses all these problems. There is a quality of undeterminedness about it which is very attractive. It might be described loosely as a collection of memorable experiences some of which are familiar from the autobiographical volumes and earlier poems.

But the interesting part is the structure whereby these experiences are organised. And that uncertainty makes reading The River in the Sky all the richer an experience. One of the possible structures that the book suggests for itself is of the epic: except, of course, at just over three and a half thousand lines, this can only be a mini-epic. And the genre of mini-epic allows for plenty of self-deprecating bathos that, in his prose, James is a master of. Instead it is composed of those memories which are still powerful enough to make a weakened and limited existence meaningful.

The memories intensify as the capacities of the body to explore are reduced. One of the generic features of the epic is the journey into the underworld, present in both the Homeric epics but also in something even earlier like Gilgamesh. In The River in the Sky , this takes place when James, remembering the ever-present Luna Park of his Sydney childhood, imagines seeing it from a restaurant across the harbour, supernaturally lit up:.

Always the candy bulbs shone through the night, But now they shone by day. I could see beams Of colour in the sunlight. Were there prisms Piled up like fruit, a rack of fresnal lenses? A Technicolor Lichtdom stained the streaks Of cirrus. Had they turned the place into Some kind of laser farm? The fact that this is done in serviceable pentameters suggests that it is an especially written piece for the poem. Other sections, clearly made up from notes, drafts and even sketches for other poems are likely to have a quite different deployment of lines and beats.

Taking a ferry to the fun park James finds his first primary school teacher, Miss Coleman, acting as gatekeeper ie ticket collector. To get to the ride the poet has to pass through a series of crowds all, apparently, drawn from his Postcards television documentaries, a comment, perhaps, that certain parts of ones outward career have to be shed before the inner career can be understood. The journey turns out to take him from a crude exterior to an inner baroque architecture — the Amalienburg — in which the first ghost who speaks to him is that of Mies van der Rohe who sets out on a long discussion of the relationship between baroque extravagance and the severities of De Stijl.

It seems a bit like one of the lectures from Paradiso at first but it also raises the issue of how this book is constructed, using here an architectural analogy. And finally, epic-style, there is a companion occasionally invoked. But if epic is one possible structural model for what is going on here, there are plenty of others. There is the idea, for example, of the continuous journey — either sailing or flying or riding — in which individual memories are imagined to be ports visited or corners explored, on what is otherwise a coherent movement:. This is the way my memories connect Now that they have no pattern.

All I can do is make the pictures click As I go sailing on the stream of thought. There are also plenty of images of circles and webs including the internet of course which, in YouTube, makes memories of performances revisitable and thus eternally present and one early passage brings the two together:. This is a river song, Linking the vivid foci Where once my mind was formed That now must fall apart: A global network blasted To ruins by the pressure Of its lust to grow, which proves now At long last, after all this time, To be its urge to die.

Images of circles begin early in the poem. Everyone knows that Camus died in a car crash but who knew the make of car? James has a sharp eye for precise detail, especially technical detail. It might be no more that the ability of an autodidact arriving from the far end of the civilised world. But the issue here is whether this is a prose virtue or a poetic one.

At any rate the image of the circling wheel extends to cosmic proportions when the poem gets to focus, as it does a number of times, on the gorgeous disc of the Andromeda Galaxy towards which the Milky Way is slowly travelling. The River in the Sky finishes with a quickly modulated return from the cosmic perspective to the local one:. I had thought this ship was sailing Across the river in the sky towards Andromeda, but in the night it stopped Quite close to home, and on the quay Boxes were slung ashore that indicated Another destination altogether, Somewhere nearby and just across the river.

Another possible structure for the poem is that of the collection. Within the decorated borders Of the magic book The enchanted houses and the great Ladies and their daughters Flocks a mumuration of starlings The congregations at the poles Of the bar magnet Echo within perceptions Like the Almagest of Ptolemy. If it comes as no great shock to find Ljuba Welitsch, famous for her Salome , next to Bill Haley and the Comets, James is largely responsible for that fact.

Ultimately, The River in the Sky prepares for a journey which is no journey. There is an explicit rejection of the ancient Egyptian model of a celestial after-life that one voyages towards so that one can go on enjoying ones vast and expensive collection of material goods. But for those blessed with fantastically rich inner lives, there will always be the question of what will become of these memories. But, in the moments before dissolution they shine most brightly. As I said at the beginning, an aggressively declining physical state seems matched by a growth in clarity and brightness of memories.

And, as an historian, Judt saw his memories as having a value as historical data. There was also a third element, a kind of autobiographical thread which allowed readers glimpses of a professional life spent as a public affairs consultant. Hot Take points in the same three directions although there are significant developments. For all that it is so impressively au fait with contemporary life and its idioms it never, poetically, acts as mere comment. Although contemporary popular culture is a medium in which are all, willy nilly, immersed, it is also a very spotty set of competencies.

Popular culture is also transient with a vengeance, moving out of focus as quickly as it is grasped: one shudders to think of the amount of research and the volume of the footnotes that any number of breezy invocations of items of contemporary culture are going to need in anthologies a few years from now. I read it as an attempt to broaden imaginative possibilities by co-opting references to make surprising conjunctions. The pass weighted like a gull rising on a sea breeze liberates us or bars us from the skin of our soundtrack.

This is the threat of our days in the middle of the beginning of the end. And throughout the book there is an interest in beginnings, endings and renewals applied to public and private life. Another image for contemporary history is the crash. There are the long seconds before impact, learning for the first time the wonder of spring dawn malicking your new hair; a tender moment wrapped around a grey gum. I said earlier that this is a book interested in beginnings and ends — as well as the middles in the middle. All of this description really only supports the proposition that the same axes of popular culture, angry satire and autobiography, found in the earlier books are at work here.

And they work really well: Ferney seems to me to be a poet steadily growing in sophistication and potency. The hip, throwaway tone of these pieces may alienate some first-time readers but the core of the poems, together with the complex ways they work, is neither cheap nor trivial. The underlying image of the self — as lover, city-dweller — animates the poems and interacts in complex ways with the description of the state of the human race nearly twenty years into a new millennium.

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John A. The death of an independent, Norman Cole, in leads to the replacement of the Curtin government by one lead by Warren Mahony. Despite this multiplicity, the narrative is, however, dominated by the histories of two frustrated relationships. Each has a moment when a decision, quickly taken, leads on to a disaster which is, in its own bleak way, a kind of fulfillment. In the other relationship, Telford, while involved in setting up the new governmental centre of Mt Macedon, comes across an old University friend, Wood-Conroy, while on a trip to Melbourne.

Wood-Conroy, a remorseless behind-the-scenes operator, is clearly based on Alf Conlon who, coincidentally, for readers of Australian poetry, was the employer of James McAuley and Harold Stewart, the authors of the Ern Malley hoax which, more and more, looks like a plot derived from a book by Scott. Significantly, when all the explanations of the events are made at the end, it is Wood-Conroy who takes a leading role. Menadue and Mischka are involved in different campaigns, the former demonstrating, perhaps, how a soldier should behave in impossible times and the latter how an artist might.

Reginald Thomas is an extraordinary creation, an innocent novelist and radio dramatist who suddenly finds that he experiences visions that turn out to be accurate, word perfect predictions of the future. Since this material is worked into radio plays, he is immediately imprisoned by security forces who find him — since he is completely aware of his future fate — calmly waiting for them. A bunyip, escaped from the pages of Ola Cohn, roams the country.

In fact, these waters are a specific manifestation of the most important element of this alternative reality: tunnels as well as passages of water connect different places and even different times. A short trip along a tunnel that one of his fellow deserters has fallen into takes Menadue, for example, far away from the line of the opposing armies into Tallon, deep in the interior.

It is no accident that Roy Cunningham goes into the mines to draw the workers there, nor is it an accident that he should become disoriented and hear Japanese voices if not from another reality then from another place and a future time. Whereas the bunyip enters the narrative as a nightmare from literature, actual literary characters appear also. But Gertrude Stein together with Alice B. This episode also makes a contribution to the idea of N as a kind of anatomy of distortions since its first person voice is impossibly high-flown for a small boy, even one who has read widely. And then there are the comic distortions of a recognisable, historical reality.

The arrival of General MacArthur after his evacuation from the Philippines together with the American forces is a tour-de-force of fantastic, hyperbolic comedy just tenuously tethered to reality:. And then the General was with us. You would see him everywhere, MacArthur — on street corners, striding down Collins Street, his trousers from the knees down to the cuffs soaked, as though he had just stepped from a landing craft into the shallows of a beach-head ready to lead his men to victory.

On occasion he would drive to the suburbs to call numbers in the bingo parlours. He was well-loved. People flocked to get his signature in their autograph books; he would turn the pages to the back inside cover and in a tiny hand print:. And if it were a woman he would kiss her; and if a man, he would arm-wrestle with him on the pavement. There was, we found, nothing extraordinary about this — in America, we were told, all heroes did such things. Raising their gleaming trombones, their gleaming trumpets, clutching their banjos, whole divisions of them, picking in perfect unison.

Simple items from what might be thought of as the aesthetic dimension of the book would include the distinctive voice given to each of the narrators. More generally, the evocative power of the recreations of Australian life — most especially Melburnian and bohemian life — at the end of the thirties is overwhelmingly detailed and accurate without ever being oppressive in the leaden, fact-laden way of well-researched historical fictions. Ask, and the temptation would be to dismiss Melbourne as a dreary, sober, almost sanctimonious place. A city of steel-grey buildings to and from which workers, suited, dressed, in appropriately sober clothing, made their charges every day.

But that is not as I remember it. To me, Melbourne was the time of after-hours drinks in the back bar at the Swanston; of a celebratory dinner, with carafe of wine, at the Balalaika a Three Course Meal inc. Tea 6d a glass tumbler. One might think of it as being a dramatic imagination because it isolates specific encounters and focusses intensely on them.

But I prefer to think of it as deriving from an aesthetic pleasure in shapeliness. This was not Melbourne. Melbourne was a dreary city. A sober, almost sanctimonious place. A running Corporal Davidson appeared, shirt fluttering. And he stood there a good half-minute trying to make some sense of it. Just guessing. Just passing on the news. Just on my way to inform him when I saw you. Carry on. The pleasure of this scene lies in the understanding of what the other is thinking which quickly develops between the two characters without any authorial explanation.

It is very close to theatre. It is Menadue whose story provides an example of this shapeliness moved beyond the short, tight scenes into something much larger. At that moment. There is a speech, a passage, he half-remembers from school, from Shakespeare, half-learnt. About wading in so deep one might just as well go on as return. He would like the authority of Shakespeare to make something of this journey Enter Menadue, a Captain in the Australian Army , with Fisher, a Sergeant , and Cooke and Young, common soldiers , something more than how he knows it seems — a selfish rush for survival.

One hundred and twenty pages later we see Menadue for the last time when, together with Fisher, they work out a plan for infecting as many of the Japanese scientists as possible with the plague whose symptoms they are already suffering from:. The disorientation. The length of this quotation will give readers some idea of the extent to which this is a favourite example out of many. N , in all its different modes, is united by this method of shaping narrative into scenes but it is also united by its shared symbols and significances.

In a sense the entire media presentation of the war in N is a fabrication derived from copied reports about the earlier war, hence the stalled battlelines before the surrender. There are two motifs that are worth looking at briefly. The Nancy is the name Burke gives to the boat that he launches into the vast inland sea, named, we are told, after his sister. Sacrifices Have To Be Human is lyrical and intimate, surreal and raw in its truth-telling. She was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in and A collection of her poetry along with three others is entitled 4 Los Angeles Poets.

Her poetry book, The Gynecic Papers , deals primary with women's issues. Sleeping Guardia n from Finishing Line Press was published in She is the recipient of two first place awards from the Malibu Art Association. She was profiled in the LA Times as a poet and artist. Tied by the binds of convention, this bound self twists against the ropes around her wrists, not so much to free herself, but to better feel the burns they make there when she does. In careful read: care-filled scalpel-precise lines, we hear a voice compelled to speak out in what Allan Grossman calls "the language of last resort.

There are real hauntings and anxieties here, often of the most excruciating, heart-wrenching variety, but somehow the book leaves me in the mood of a crisp, clear morning on which one feels amazed to be alive. Erin Malone's poems drop flares into the dark sea of new motherhood, illuminating the silvered leap of a mind mid-flight, a mind at times unmade: the mind of making.

Wildly precise and sharply beautiful, these poems detonate inside the most unlikely containers: studies of dead languages, incandescent bulbs, fables, terrariums, "an alphabet of crows. Malone's principal technique is compression, and the music that results from her carefully-considered, chiseled lines is crystaline. Hover is a rewarding, emotionally resonant debut collection. Erin Malone was raised in Nebraska and Colorado.

Following Margarita Ezcurra's moving poems over the decades, I could not miss her originality, depth and love that touch the spirit. Images of nature run magnificently and profoundly throughout her work, but so do images of her childhood terror, she holding her father's hand while echoes of marching boots grow louder. These are images that haunt her, and will haunt the reader. Her poetry—no matter how personal—is as universal as love. Margarita Ezcurra was born and raised in Bolivia, during the turbulent period in South America. When she was a teenager her family sought political asylum in Argentina.

Shortly afterward Margarita married and began her family. In she moved with her family to the United States and started a new life. Margarita writes about these two worlds: her childhood, family, and memories of the turmoil in South America, and the joys of family and nature that she has found in the second part of her life. Born in Robstown, Texas he spent most of his life in California, moving to Fresno in the late s where he became a prominent member of the "Fresno School" of poets associated with Philip Levine and Peter Everwine.

Salinas published eight books of poetry, many chapbooks, and his poetry was widely anthologized. Salinas lived for his poetry, and as it developed and matured with each book, his work remained as arresting and inventive as it was at the beginning. After a career of almost forty years, he died in Fresno in Luis Omar Salinas was, and continues to be, one of the leading voices in Chicano Literature as well as an important and essential voice in contemporary American poetry. This was in the s, and he was giving me work enormously original, powerful.

His experience gave his poetry magnifi ed authority. This man had a gift. As a Chicano raised in a Texas border town, he has always known that concentrated sense of life that gets exposed at the margins of things--a fi eld, a town, a living to make or lose. There is much sadness and joy in Omar's poems, often intermixed, but mostly there is an abiding compassion for those so exposed to the world that they have only their own nakedness to offer it. And perhaps this is more than kinship, it is community. Luis Omar Salinas is one of the most important and essential poets of the twentieth century.

Elegy for Desire is a cultural statement, a political view of America, and a brave and deep celebration of the life of a writer. From the earliest beginnings of Chicano Literature encounters, every occasion where Chicano writers have gathered, be it poetry readings, Cantos, Festivales, etc. This has been not only the opinion of his fellow poets but that of critics as well. I cannot think of another poet, Latino or otherwise, as daring with love poetry, as fi erce in his honesty, as nimble with line, image, and mood.

These are, above all, accomplished and beautiful poems that will be read and reread for a very long time. Rachel Heimowitz's collection of poems, What the Light Reveals , is a remarkable debut. As Rachel Heimowitz reckons her place as a woman in a time and place of war, we find ourselves, as readers, enveloped in one of the most intimate and dramatic sequences of poems in recent years. This is a book to cherish. It is a woman's purpose, this is true, and it is the poet's purpose, too.

In What the Light Reveals , Heimowitz shows herself to be precisely that poet, and the result is poetry of grace, exquisite wrenching, and stark honesty. In Flower Compass Sutras , Gretchen Mattox is attuned to those moments when speaking and not speaking are simultaneous: "Didn't I make you what you are? Didn't I leave you alone in order to teach you " Amidst this world of deceit self and otherwise , the speaker declares: "I am tired of double speak, paradox. Her poems ask: what can the wound teach us? What can the "little flower of combustion"?

These are poems whose yearning for the beloved's body take them beyond the body. Like Jack Gilbert before him, Roxas-Chua reaches beyond the imagery and emotions we expect--creating his own universe, logic, and definitions of the beautiful. This is a striking book of poetry that, while unable to save the beloved, makes several brave attempts at rescue anyway.

For unrest is both the motive for song and the tension within the finished poem. This poet explores identity as child, grown man, and citizen. His lyrics hold out to us disruption and discovery, balance and beauty. A consistent, tender and insightful voice. He works at The Poetry Loft. For more information visit: thepoetryloft. Celia Dropkin's lyrics come fully loaded. They are terse and musical, like songs, and carefully constructed to explode with maximum impact. She is interested in violence and tenderness together, as our nervous systems seem to be.

Early in the 20th century, in New York, having learned Yiddish or some other language new to you, watching a new age be born as if that were natural. This is a unique moment, still alive. The poems are still alive. A brandishment of insouciant play, Jeanette Marie Clough 's Flourish is a "bold or extravagant gesture or action" from start to finish.

Luring us with the name of a "thing" we think we know and a slant first line, even the table of contents is refreshing. That dictionary you didn't know you needed: it's this one. Even within the sprawl of a sometimes-harrowing emotional arc, the poems pop with wild originality and bracing joy. I cannot get enough of them. Flourish , the new Jeannette Marie Clough book, never relies on external simplicities.

Rather, we're offered the delight of Clough's inner certainty in defining the unknowable. Her poem "Cold" begins: "Alone it has no shape," then proceeds to give us marvelous, original shapes for cold, including fireflies and a knick-knack shelf. This latest book offers Clough's mature depth of understanding, her wry humor, her sensuality and her willingness to risk herself creatively in order to portray our world as a whole new planet.

Ever her faithful reader, I'm more than happy to live there. Jeanette Marie Clough 's newest collection, Flourish , reminds me once again why I should read poetry. To paraphrase Kazantsakis' from The Last Temptation, it is a truth which gives us wings that lets us soar. If what she says isn't absolutely true it ought to be. Clough has emerged in this generation of talented poets with her feet firmly planted on creative soil, her head in the clouds, her poems the language of ether as though she is the one true authorized interpreter for the Muse.

Who but Robin Chapman would think of Planck's equation, Einstein and quanta while chopping onions, the origins of the universe while pork fat sizzles in the pan? With a scientist's knowledge and a poet's eye for beauty and correspondences, she tracks the stars and considers the fate of the earth; hers is an acute, observant gaze that moves with ease from paleontology to the private lives of rabbits in poems that join the work of intellect and love.

As she moves from Wisconsin to France, from broad landscapes to the microscopic, from the news that spills out of our televisions to what biology tell us will be the fate of our troubled world, the scientist in her explains while the poet gives us hope. One Hundred White Pelicans is a wise and wondrous book that will make you worried for our world and long for its redemption.

A Pilgrim’s Regress: From This World to Another One: Delivered under the Similtude of a Dream

One of my favorite words is 'redolent,' and these poems are certainly that: redolent of a damp Adirondack trail, and of an imagined parched future. A future that we can still prevent, but only with great acts of the imagination and the will. The poems in Robin Chapman 's One Hundred White Pelicans interweave a story of some of nature's most sacred treasures, now threatened by looming environmental crises. Chapman's ideas are so rich, and in ten or so lines she cuts to the essence of scientific concepts and heated debates.

From oil disasters and the gulf coast dead zone, to the imminent end of arctic settlements and the pine beetle's path of destruction spurred by global warming, Chapman lays bare today's inconvenient truths.

Category: Art Catalogues

Her poem, "Cassandra on Prozac" makes clear that solutions abound, yet even the simplest elude our grasp in a world divided by competing interests. In short, Chapman's collection of poems represents one of the most concise, yet penetrating, assessments of the state of our world that I have ever read. She received nine California Arts Council grants, three National Endowment for the Arts regional grants, five artist fellowships from the City of Ventura and a Pushcart nomination.

She was a finalist in contests from Cleveland State University Poetry Center and University of Arkansas Press Poetry Series and has taught poetry-writing workshops for homeless, abused, neglected and emotionally-disturbed youths, developmentally-disabled adults, at a maximum security men's prison, juvenile halls, and every grade through California Poets in the Schools. She holds an M. In The Wild Shine of Oranges , Shelley Savren finds the neglected, incarcerated and sick, and explores the perils of family, and a daughter coming into her own.

These frank, tightly-crafted narratives recount the sounds of protest and are testament to lives lost and shared, where, in moments of mercy, "there are no shadows. These poems describe historical change and global issues in personal narrative and familial experience in a way that makes history easy to understand. Foods, concentration camps, culture, love and loss abound in these poems and are treated with an affection and kindness seldom achieved in poetry. Michael Miller 's view of the cycle of life is personal.

There is care for the line that narrates accidental then intentional life as preparation for the "first fleeting touch down" of one he hopes will follow. Tracing an arc from infancy to adulthood, Michael Miller's The First Thing Mastered meshes individual experience with larger philosophies of causes, effects and aftereffects. From an infant studying a crack on the ceiling to a boy clearing a backyard of Santa Ana wind debris to a pre-adolescent growing up in "a house of unsmiling men," Miller finely crafts lines expressive of poetry's capacity to preserve and transform reality.

From the nuanced art of these poems I learn how different patience is from movement, and yet, how like patience certain repeat movements can be. An understated beauty of gothic measure achieved with diamond clarity, The First Thing Mastered moves through the reader with something wonderful and unique. It has style. She was an associate editor of the West Wind Review for three years.

It is available on Amazon. She has just completed a novel: Following the Compass Rose and will be seeking an agent as soon as possible. In her new collection Along the Meridian , Dianne Butler gives us a world in which we feel the soil through the hands of gardeners and farm workers on both sides of the U. Buy two copies: one for yourself and one for your friend who thinks she doesn't like poetry. Like the seasonal concertos written by the composer for whom Michael Hanner has named this collection, the poems herein mix a fine lyric tenderness with something more autumnal and even darker in their moments of coldest imagining.

I was deeply taken by the poems' thoughtful oppositions of memory and language. This is the kind of refi ned bittersweetness we seek from poetry, knowing the salt is absolutely necessary to our brighter pleasures. Really a beautiful accomplishment. This is a book you can flip through like a breeze through a photo album on the screen porch of a summer house you rented from the author. You lived through many of the same titular years Michael Hanner evokes, probably, and his seasoned stories-- a certain wet spring in London, Lake Michigan in November--may set you dreaming of your own exotic summers and winters.

Some things here, though, will remain opaque, singular, clearly expressed but nearly incommunicable, incomprehensible except in how wryly and sprightly they lead us through the stages of Hanner's history of illusions and disillusions, and insist--with superb fi delity to the moment and the slightest shrug--that although there may have once been more to life, this is what's left. Warning us, "I forget so easily," Vivaldi is an exhortation to the continuity of life: "Behind me winds a vast landscape. His outside interests are gardening, irony, English croquet, French cooking, Argentine tango and photography.

He lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife, poet Toni Hanner. Thomas Aslin has brought us a fine, sometimes heartbroken but more often celebratory sight of his days and the days of his people. And ours. Believe you me, his grandfather used to say. That's what I want to say. Believe you me. A Moon Over Wings lights up the night. Just a splendid book. I can't think when I've read a collection that so persistently embodies Faulkner's dictum that "the past is never dead. It's not even past. Crows on wires; tulip beds and windborne snow; apple trees and elk; whiskey, and strawberries.

The beauty and bright pain of life are on full display in this collection, as is the knowledge that death awaits, and that the "tenuous light" in-between is the here, and the now, full of "stories of blue snow and feral wings. A Moon Over Wings is an attentive, loving book.

It is nourishing and beautiful portraiture. A Moon Over Wings is a haunted, haunting examination of love as a blessing, love as a curse, the echoes of what's been lost or left behind ringing with beautiful clarity. Aslin's poems breathe on the pageintimate songs of memory and mercy and love. As her fine gaze takes in "muting folds of skin like exclamation marks," she enlarges the reader's sight along with her own.

Baugher finds words for the wordless as the body and artwork acquire voices, bringing the visual into language, the heart's unsaid into words. Wild with ideas, rich with emotion, her lines focus on paintings and sculpture, then leap from them into her own spirited imagination. Her words praise what "we see and can never see.

The recombinant DNA of Baugher's chosen gallery generates its own idiosyncratic "axial heat. Ekphrastic poems must not simply describe their subjects; they must embody them. Myles Gordon is a writer and teacher living in Newton, Massachusetts. He has published poetry in several periodicals and is a past honorable mention for the AWP Intro Award in poetry. Inside the Splintered Wood is tender and deeply human. Myles Gordon is simply an outstanding poet.

Myles Gordon's Inside the Splintered Wood is a very funny book. But don't take this poet lightly. He'll be the one telling the "joke of utter humanity" when the place blows up. Inside the Splintered Wood , the debut collection from Myles Gordon, is at once brave and ravenous; an embodiment of love starved for itself.

It's also a pledge, fulfilled poem after poem. There is danger here, but also gratitude and redemption. Spoken by different voices, real and imagined, famous and infamous, these poems strike at the heart, at its brightest 'wood. A remarkable sonnet sequence lies at the heart of Myles Gordon's brave collection about family and history and the resulting wounds and recovery. The sonnets unfold steadily, inexorably, reaching into the poet's core being time and again.

The depth of Gordon's insight is fully matched by the artistry of his verse; he has written a powerful book. Jean Barrett Holloway 's honest and original poems lead into the obsessions of a world where failure, pain, sweat, blood, injury, and the inevitable ice baths are just a breath away from magic: moments when mind, bones, muscle, and the whole world's weight become light as air and "gravity blinks. Jean Barrett Holloway has produced a very insightful memoir of her years of involvement with a hard core weightlifting team.

Her reflections bring back vivid memories to those who were there over the years. For those in the sport, it provides a glimpse of events, personalities, and unique insights to what really happened as part of hard training and stressful competition. A wonderful overview of a tribe of weightlifters that leaves one wishing for more.

It turns out we never leave this world; it leaves us, touch by touch and thing by thing. But there are enchantments in the empty spaces if we would only look for them. Linguistically playful, unabashedly romantic, combining wit and irony and unrelenting longing, Larry Colker's poems remind us that it's never too late to lose everything, never too late to risk everything again. In Amnesia and Wings , the world is seen through the eyes of a speaker who seems to be both a kind of spy in his own house of love and a kind of film noir anti-hero of his own life.

He looks back and looks forward and wants, after all, the caterpillar's gift to the butterfly— Amnesia and Wings —and he makes us want that, too. Larry Colker's Amnesia and Wings speaks insightfully. A master of the apt and unexpected metaphor, Colker spikes emotion with wit to keep readers engaged and on their toes. This book won't give you amnesia; it will refresh your memory. It will give your imagination wings. Stephen McDonald reveals the sacred that's in everything around us.

In the title poem, when the boy steps out of the House of Mirrors, the faces of the people at the carnival "waver and shimmer". This is what these poems do—they show us the shimmering world. House of Mirrors is about people: fatherhood, family, strangers and friends, notable for its attention to language and empathy for its subject matter, the human in all their many guises. I'm drawn to the poems of Steve McDonald, the way they move so easily from the sacred to the profane and back again. Their language is both lyrical and specific.

Their subject is the human heart. Steve McDonald makes the ordinary extraordinary as he examines nature and ourselves in unflinching detail. In House of Mirrors , we move from the wonder of a spider and its intricate web to the machinations of the human heart. The beauty of McDonald's imagery opens us to his and our own vulnerability and struggles "mud nests hang. In this book the startling and raw turn into a state of grace. He lives with his wife, Marlyle, in Murrieta, California. Steve can be contacted through his website at stevemcdonaldpoetry. He teaches creative writing, leads workshops, and curates literary events.

The founder of Conflux Press, he lives in Los Angeles. Jim Natal 's 52 Views: The Haibun Variations is a record of a year, mostly in Arizona and in an interconnected age, of the struggles of everyday life in the context of family, place, current events, and art. Interspersed with journal entries are short haiku-like poems that reflect and refract the light of the prose in surprising ways. Reading the pieces in succession, you can feel your mind shifting from prose-mode to poetry-mode.

A successful venture into the form, it's like reading three books at once, at the same time in the moment, in memory, and in reflection. With an informative 'Afterword,' it is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand or write contemporary haibun. In 52 Views , Jim Natal mines daily experience in these observant and insightful, contemporary haibun.

These poems celebrate the ghosts of our pasts, the struggles of our present, and the uncertain hopes we recklessly claim for our futures. The poems in Dixie Salazar 's Altar For Escaped Voices are ambitious invitations to contemplate her deeply observed world. This is where poetry meets art.

In Dixie Salazar 's groupings of altar items, the unholy pairings are often comical and dreadfully sad. These altars are worth a visit, with our hands not in prayer but touching both cheeks in astonishment. Stanley Kunitz once said, "I dream of an art so transparent that you can look through and see the world. His project has always been one of clarity, of specific and imaginative attention to the world.

The brilliance of this book, its importance, is that Hanzlicek's eye and imagination cherish the tenuous connection of all our lives with the sustaining music of the soul. What always characterizes C. Hanzlicek's verse is the way he balances risk and control. His voice is never severe, despite his insistence on seeing, as Worsdworth would say, "into the life of things.

Reading The Lives of Birds is like taking a walk with a clear-eyed and intent companion: you discover the "rarities of a small world" you hadn't noticed before. Small wonder that birds frequently turn up in these poems: flash of color or shy recluse, local spirits full of song and distance. Hanzlicek is drawn to those occasions when the common and familiar give way to what is transcendent or redemptive, which is to say that he is essentially a poet of celebrations. Dark days or fair, these are poems I return to.

Tsvetanka Elenkova is an important figure in Bulgarian poetry. But her importance is much more than merely national. Her poems are still and controlled, yet are at the same time exercises in transcendence. They are both thought-experiments and insights. Elenkova is that rare thing in twenty-first century literature, a poet whose faith makes everything appear afresh.

Tenderly, she offers the reader a world that is both familiar, and lightly transformed. Elenkova is surprising, necessary and unique. Tsvetanka Elenkova's devotion to dramatizing these quick shifts between mind and eye, eye and heart, help to give her poems a spiritual immediacy that bypasses the formalizing rituals and conventions of most religious poetry, whether those rituals and conventions be Christian, Buddhist, or what have you. The essence of these poems is a prayerful relation to the world, but without being directed to God, or asking for something in return for her belief.

All the poet asks is that language, as it makes its way to the page, remain vital and alert, as it embraces human conundrums and paradoxes. Todd Fredson's first collection of poems is a sometimes live run of cradle songs balanced with the falling catkin atmospheres of some of our more terrible vehicles of human salvation. I think of Rilke's pained-city , and Roethke's Far Field. What I celebrate here is the originality of this work and the simple fact that I cannot easily make it subordinate to other important first books of our period.

The poems in The Crucifix-Blocks , Todd Fredson's mysterious and beautiful debut, spring from that most authentic of impulses: deep feeling. But walking, as he does, at the union of cloud and consequence, he's written a book that affects the ear as much as it does the heart. In exploring the rewards of undertaking treacherous travels— both of body through West Africa and the mind romantic and familial love — it wants to center the self on a great continuum of meaning.

It looks back, it looks forward, but most importantly, it looks out. This is a passionate, gorgeous and satisfying book. Again and again, these meditations expose their quiet wisdoms with an admirable sleight-of-hand. Against the meditative flow of any given passage, unexpected and exquisitely honed images appear with the force of lightning strikes. The precise and surprising architectures of these poems help expose the heart's — and the mind's — inevitable emergencies. Todd Fredson brings a delicate, incisive, and lyrical social realism to American poetry, and with this single book has emerged as one of our most powerful younger voices.

He lives with his partner and their two sons in Santa Monica, California. Sam Pereira's poems are built to last. The expertly turned sentences and lines show exquisite craftsmanship. But Pereira's poems reach way beyond craftsmanship. With a tonal range that includes hilarity and wonder, righteous indignation and whispered affection, Pereira accounts for experience—the poet's own and all of ours—with the fidelity and big-heartedness of a first rate artist. Like the horse who appears in one poem, this book waits generously for you, and then it "takes you on the ride of your life.

Like a night of sipping single malt Scotch and listening to Chet Baker while recalling ex-lovers, these poems provide those exquisite sensual pleasures that "make [our] lives remarkable again. Sam Pereira's poetry creates an entire universe in which the possible and impossible seamlessly coexist. God is a great rabbit, the screams of lobsters will never be heard, horses never learn to read, Tupac is rapping to the angels, and Sinatra would be singing the author's songs were it not for the fact that he's dead and shooting craps at the Sands Heaven.

Dusting on Sunday is filled with intelligent wit that allows its deeper themes to be heartfelt by the reader. Don't miss out. Read this book! Catharine Clark-Sayles writes with a cool critical eye and yet, at the same time, with great grace and conviction. This a delicate balance—one not every poet can manage—but she does it extremely well. Her life experiences are broad and her compassion is unlimited.

It's all there in the title poem, Lifeboats, and the poems that make up this collection enact what Catharine Clark-Sayles calls the "rules of lifeboats: Someone always goes mad; someone always dies; and someone will be eaten Clarke-Sayles is a truth-teller, and there's a certain quiet, a serenity to the work, well-observed and welcome in our mad, unsettled times.

Seems, does it not, that we are all, one way and another, ready these days for the cry, "Man the lifeboats! Catharine Clark-Sayles writes poetry between patients in her medical practice. Her family came from West Virginia and traveled over much of the United States with her military father. She completed medical school in Denver and moved to San Francisco. A childhood love of poetry resurfaced in her forties and she has been writing ever since. Dr Clark-Sayles has recently had poems published in Runes, Spillway and online journals Pirene's Fountain and locuspoint.

Her first book, One Breath , was published by Tebot Bach in A Map of Shadows is an ambitious, enthusiastic sequence of lyrics and meditations that is unique yet has affinities with works as distinguished—and as "difficult," because of far-flung sources and innovative arrangements—as Ezra Pound's Cantos and David Jones's Anathemata. Everywhere informed by a sensibility strongly inclined to synaestheia, this volume speaks to the collector of curiosities and the connoisseurs of chaos latent in the postmodern soul.

By turns effete, surreal, charming, and daring, but continually deft, this map of poetic shadows tells mysterious stories, tickled by the occasional flutter of rhyme over the steady wonder of the unfolding images. Gabriel Meyer has a light touch and a sure hand. Gabriel Meyer's new collection A Map of Shadows is an ingenious and compelling sequence of meditations and reflections on the Tuileries garden in Paris, as both subject and backdrop.

Gracious and elegant at every moment, A Map of Shadows recognizes the constant desire for an Eden—a paradise—that arises in artist, citizen, and lover alike. John Author of The Auroras Through the hard lens of the recent war in Iraq, the poems in David Allen Sullivan's Every Seed of the Pomegranate span the wide landscapes of history, culture, and mythology. More importantly, Sullivan's gaze is steeped in compassion for all connected to the combat zone; these finely crafted poems investigate and interrogate that which is most deeply human.

During a recent trip to Baghdad I was asked by an Iraqi poet, "When will the artists in America create work in conversation with us? David Allen Sullivan paints a visually nuanced and starkly realistic picture of the horrors and futility of war; he has crafted this picture not with brush and paint, but pen and ink. These are poems not so much driven by the war in Iraq, as by a highly artful feel for the craft of poetry, and by the poet's distillation of others' experiences of that war. Like Brian Turner before him, David Allen Sullivan has allowed the war and its already lingering consequences to use him as a vessel to bring the war home.

Still, what is most brilliant here is the depth and breadth of a lovely and never tired diction that the poet finds appropriate to tell— show really—illuminated moments from the war, a sense of the musical line that is eerily appropriate to its often grim contexts, and a luxurious clarity and sure-handedness that makes you feel glad for the power of language to endure even our most horrible human deeds.

Here is a poet to be reckoned with. Through an almost trance-like conjuring of individuals' voices from the U. These are poems which remind us how far back war reaches and how long it will take to recover. Like one of his characters, the porcelain factory worker in Ramadi recycling rejects, David Allen Sullivan takes the sacred dust that's left us and remakes it into poems that "earn back what's lost. These gritty, lyrical poems about the invasion of Iraq, issue not from CNN, but from the voices David Allen Sullivan has listened to, and from his own empathetic and far-ranging research and study.

It is the deep, real, considered response of a citizen who is paying for the war in more ways than one—as we all are. It is a moving and important book. Listening to poetry is one of those imaginary vehicles we can ride in until we hit an honest IED of traumatic memory. The poems in this book contain many such explosions. The often praiseful, sometimes wrenching poems in Toni Hanner's The Ravelling Braid are stories of the well-worn earth, lost ancestors, of lovers and seekers, of 'bones and blood black with rain.

This bighearted poet calls us to a world where we are braided with loss and redemption. The narrator remembers the forced assimilation of her father, aches with the pleasure of dance—"bones and blood black with rain"—and conjures up a world of tomatoes, cottonwoods, red clay, Lutheran potluck dishes, diner waitresses and old Fords. This is a necessary book for our times: a howl at "our sharp American edges", in all their deadliness and beauty. As is common in first books, with The Ravelling Braid Toni Hanner erects a creation myth to introduce her voice to the contemporary poetry landscape.

What is wonderfully uncommon here is the singularity, maturity and assuredness of that voice. These are musical, expertly wrought lyric narratives that remind us that storytelling and craft are alive and, more importantly, relevant, to readers in the 21st century. A very fine collection — brimming and sparkling. When readers reach the bottoms of these poems, the air will be different. She is married to the poet Michael Hanner and lives in Eugene, Oregon. If Carroll Kearly relied on mere reminiscence to propel the reader from poem to poem in The Plain Above the River , the collection might devolve to "fragments of memory keep[ing] family together".

Instead, he evokes a sensuality and sensibility rapidly disappearing from the American cultural landscape.

No matter how or where your personal history has been constructed, these simultaneously simple and complex poems will remind you of sensations you may have forgotten: the fragrance of "Bing cherries [with their] deep-red-to-black flesh", a song "signaling the falling away". Read this book slowly. Savor it.