Thursday, July 24, 2014


I'm always reading poetry and haven't caught up on this blog with much of it lately, so here's three slim volumes (what folks call "chapbooks"—those stapled in the middle, thin collections more like little magazines or brochures—but I call all of them "books" cause they are).

WALK ZONE (AlookWritenowBook) is the title of a unique short book of poetry and photography by Phil Johnson. The poems and the photographs depend upon the use of familiar imagery (seemingly "found"—in the sense of stumbled upon, though in many cases obviously "selected") juxtaposed in unfamiliar ways. Dreamlike in their evocativeness, they demand attention while at the same time eluding it.

Here's some lines from "If You Don't Know Spanish/And You're Age 50."

"She's fascinated by the power strips at Staples.
Are they really surge protectors?

Who can fail to remember the healthy vitality
of the Doublemint Twins: soft, sweet, and chewable.

He fucked his brains out and now he's living on fumes."

AN EVENING IN EUROPE (Toad Press) is Mark Terril's (a poet I have written about often on this blog and elsewhere because I love his work and his BREAD & FISH is on my alltime favorite list) translation of some poems by Jorg Fauser (the "o" should have an umlaut but I don't know how to make one, and as you can guess if you don't know, Fauser was a German poet who was born at the end of WWII and died in 1987).

I love most of these poems, their fierce honesty and casual throw away quality, similar to a lot of "American" poetry since the 1950s, but uniquely his own in the end. My most favorite are too long to quote here but here's a not too long one:

""Apartment House

The televisions spit out purple dentures
And goals in the last minute
And violence in every form
And every machine-language
But in the hallway it smells like the Yugoslav's
Goulash and the wet underwear
Of the girls and mortar and mud
And the rock'n'roll hammers on the third floor
And Schubert's unfinished starts up
On the eighth, and the dachshund barks, the
Canary chirps, in the rear courtyard
The pigeons coo, even they no longer
Feel the winter, Nature,
That's the suicide who first
Waters his geraniums,
The porpoise in the sewage pipe, the rat in
The toothbrush glass, and
Beer is the blood of the poet.

Even the writer on the second floor
Has a woman in his bed.
Let him in, girl, and
Hold him tight.
We only live once, or as CW always says:
You never know what it might be
Good for."

Seems like I'm always reading someone's translations of Rimbaud. I used to get in arguments over them, as if I knew (because despite his rep Rimabud often translates poorly in my experience). A poet I've known for many decades, Bill Zavatsky, is the translator of a recent (chap)book: RIMBAUD 1O POEMS (Omertà Publications), that includes "The Drunken Boat," and a mixed bag of others, which, when they're good, they're terrific, as these lines from the second section of "Novel" may illustrate:

"—That's where we can pick out a tiny patch
Of dark azure, framed by a little branch,
Pinned with a naughty star that melts
In gentle shudders, small and all white...

June night! Seventeen!—It knocks us out.
The sap is champagne and rushes to our heads...
We talk a lot; on our lips we feel a kiss
Pulsing like the heart of some tiny beast..."

Seems to me most of the books I've loved the most in my life were hardly known by most people and that will only become more true as books with any literary quotient seem to be going the way of theater, a kind of almost elite art form for a small portion of a mostly educated audience (whether self-taught or formally schooled) that got hooked on the magic of the intellectual and emotional satisfaction of lit that touches their sense of what it's all about, or should be. I'm happy to be among them.


Anonymous said...
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Lally said...

Dear Michael,
Thank you for your insightful & eloquent writing on these
chapbooks & for cluing me in on good works by these poets.
I was moved by their poetry & what you wrote.
Harry Northup

mona larson said...

thanks for sharing ..

hope your having a beautiful summer...

Robert Berner said...

Lal--If your type font does not contain the .. umlaut symbol, you may indicate it be adding an e after the vowel; e.g., Maenner for the plural of Mann. bb.