Sunday, March 31, 2013


The Poetry of Today: What’s New?

Reviews by Anthony Servante 

A New Monthly Feature from the Servante of Darkness 




Let’s discuss the premise before looking at the words. It is an axiom in academic writing that poetry must speak for itself. A writer cannot interpret meaning for the reader, giving insight to his own words as if they required his presence to clarify the work’s intents. The poem must stand up to the scrutiny of the reader alone. With this axiom in mind, we proceed to our poetry for today; we have works by Michael H. Hanson, William Cook, Lori R. Lopez, and Rafael L. Lopez.

We start our new column with Mike Hanson.




Add Michael H. Hanson to the modern “metaphysical poets”, "...a phrase coined in 1781 by the critic Dr Johnson, following a comment on Donne by the poet John Dryden. Dryden had written of Donne in 1693: 'He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love'" (Wiki). In other words, there are deeper meanings in the romanticism of Mike’s poems, an indirect comment on the thorns of the rose, per se, while praising the red petals of the love flower. Those familiar with Mike’s Facebook works know that he selects art and photos depicting objects of Beauty and then writes a poem around each object, describing it for effect while revealing the subjective effect it has on him. This dualistic approach to images is “metaphysical,” that is, it conveys a Janusian nature to the thing itself and “art for art’s sake”, but the two are so entwined, one cannot tell where the artwork begins and where the poem (or poet) ends.



Let’s take a look at the title poem from Mike’s work, JUBILANT WHISPERS:


Jubilant Whispers

In my childhood I hid, shaking, behind


my mother’s skirts, petrified by the world,


a cowering soul, a cowardly mole,


safe and secure deep inside of myself.


In my teenage years I bloomed awkwardly


stripping off coats of content baby fat


unnerved by the appeal of the fair sex


and desperate to shed my father’s chains.


In my twenties I embraced the college


scene, the vibrant classes, the joy of beer,


that sweet thrill of guerilla filmmaking,

and the paradise, and crush, of first love.

In my thirties I took to married life,

a five day work week, buying a house,

doing yard work, small talk with my neighbors,

watching it decay to fated divorce.

Now in my forties I am cocooning

myself in poetry spun daily on

my computer screen, humble confessions,

lasting desires, and flickers of dim hope.

I feel a pressure building inside me,

an explosion of jubilant whispers.



Mike celebrates the joys of life via the dire effects of time’s passing and the corruption of joy. Note that isolation is “safe and secure”; his first brushes with the “fair sex” (that is, beautiful women) “unnerve him"; in matters of love, “paradise” is juxtaposed with “crush” (as in disappointment—but also note the double meaning of the word ‘crush’, which can mean first love as well); “marriage” decays into “divorce”; “cocooning” himself in poetry brings “hope”, but only “flickers” of it, contrasted with “lasting desires” (more waning and decay) ; jubilancy becomes the words of the poetry, the “whispers” of the decay of the passing big, bad world he has contended with since youth. We are privy to the waning of Mike’s joys with the permanence of his poems, everlasting works of literature, here where he is truly safe.



Michael H. Hanson

Michael created, and co-wrote, the first three books in the Sha'Daa shared-world anthology series (Sha'Daa: Tales of The Apocalypse", "Sha'Daa: Last Call", and "Sha"Daa: Pawns). He also has two collections of poetry in print ("Autumn Blush" published by YaYe Books and "Jubilant Whispers" published by Diminuendo Press). 
He can be contacted at:

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William Cook joins the Modernism School of Poetry. From Wiki: “For the modernists, it was essential to move away from the merely personal towards an intellectual statement that poetry could make about the world.” Thus William combines a writing style of prose and poetry to weave an intellectual tapestry, slipping his words in and out of subjective and objective observations, pulling and pushing the reader to envision the completed tapestry while savoring the in’s and out’s of the words themselves, much as we watch a movie without thinking about the camera work or actor interpretations of the screenplay. As Peter Gabriel points out in The Cinema Show regarding the use of cosmetics: “Concealing to reveal.”

Let’s consider the “The edge of the night” from MOMENT OF FREEDOM: Selected Poetry. First off, two notes: the title Moment of Freedom is ironic in that the title indirectly states, a lifetime of slavery to the “moment of freedom”, much as the term “a cloudless clim” from Lord Byron, must incorporate “cloud” to denote an empty sky: an image to convey emptiness rather than simply using the unpoetic “empty” to state such. Second, the poem’s title capitalizes the article but not the noun or prepositional phrase, combining poetic license with standard grammatical rule (namely “The”, the first word in the line, must be capitalized). The intellectualizing has begun; William flaunts the world’s rules by obeying them as he pleases, this, a moment of freedom.

To the work:

The edge of the night

I

A table spread in a tomb, dinner for the dead

the dead! Why did you pay a visit to my eyes last night?

Night is the time for angels of dreams

we who, each of us, will one day return

to our hungry mother the grave. The darkness comes

from knowing nothing is ours, except death

takes bites out of my heart. O Asclepius pupil

teacher Chiron, please bring medicine

to my dead love, and I forever understudy

will attempt some sort of attainment

to wake with a sore splitting back from the cold floor

in borrowed clothes and eyes, lent by a saint

giving at the same time an encompassing embrace

‘Friend,’ is all he said in tears, heart big enough to feed

this dead world. To wake up and see the sun

if not the glare from beyond, glittering

on broken glass, beside stretched roadside

where some had sprayed symbolic worlds and signs

scars full of flowers – to wake is to see

again this unusual world, whose secret cannot be known

until we enter the sky, or the earth

takes the edge off the night, the memory of your smile

II

Judging this town of sleep, I found it had already been judged

the Lord on his axe-cut cross of cypress

he is an incurable domestic bore

a family man, who never swore a word

an only child with a hollow mother

full with the carved cares of a household

wearing his poverty as a coat of arms

for eyes to look upon that beheld no bravura of vision.

The crisp grass rattles and shakes ripely, dryly

and all of this in fidelity to death

it was the same old same old, the hard husk of the ego

won’t ever resolve, yet grinds down hard internally

into the swirl, the wine bitter-soaked seed

labouring lie -- vice is kindled, burned in loins that melt

peculiar smiles alive, of all hope

has gone to explore the forlorn desert all alone

far away from the security of grim towns

where a girl is safe searching numbly in the comfort of fear.

You have gone or strayed away, never to be found

I sit and hear sour hiss of traffic calling

this burned and gutted ghost, vague semblance of time

on and off like one long sick light-switch

electric dream/confused state of everyone

greedy for dead love, drain her life, her soul

from every side for me. Greatest dribbling cannibal

tired Bolshie future, sleep . . . with disease.

III

Torn in two, I stand between, the idol and the grave

I do not know anything, I do not know. I do not

of this world, know anything – nor do I want to

but I have misled the past and will do so again

bring the teachers to the fore, let them stand

and be accounted as emperors of their own disease

and demise. As the sky claps the earth -- wrings blood

from all rocks and far away I fly, every day

from the storm in the brain. The science of the mind

corroded the body, blinded every mile I ever burnt

in this life and the next if there ever were such a thing.


To discuss William’s deliberate misuse of grammar would be folly as it is part of the pursuit to reach the reader. Note also his use of metaphor and litotes. To say simply: “a corpse” is not in his vocabulary; he metaphorically says “dinner” and the diner, death (“the dead!”). Knowledge is life, and life is accepting death: “The darkness comes from knowing nothing is ours, except death….” The first slip into litotes comes from a shift into prose from the metaphor: “…to wake with a sore splitting back from the cold floor in borrowed clothes and eyes…” and with the “borrowed…eyes” shifts back to poetry and metaphor. These are very aesthetic acrobatics. 

Furthermore, in the line “To wake up and see the sun if not the glare from beyond” we see additional shifts with the sun at once literal and figurative (as that solar body we find upon waking and as a metaphor for the afterlife). William maintains the balance between shifts throughout the work and ultimately “time” becomes a “cannibal” eating us as we sleep and wake, with varying degrees of metaphoric intents. Thus, the final line of Part II captures this fatality of cannibalism of the self as William becomes the “I” of the poem and states the thesis with the “if”, bringing together the personal and the intellectual in Part III: “The science of the mind corroded the body, blinded every mile I ever burnt in this life and the next if there ever were such a thing.”

A work in three parts, “The edge of the night” is representative of the poetry throughout MOMENT OF FREEDOM. Think of the book as a complete poem with each individual poem making up the whole. I do not recommend jumping around reading individual works, but rather beginning to end, as one would read James Joyce’s Ulysses or William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. It is a work worthy to be mentioned with these modernist authors.


William Cook

William Cook is a writer of the macabre from New Zealand, a small antipodean island group in the South Pacific. When not writing, he looks after two small daughters and designs book covers that are designed to scare the hell out of people. 

He can be reached at:

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Lori R. Lopez joins the ranks of the symbolists. Wiki defines symbolism as “largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, anti-idealistic styles which were attempts to represent reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal.” This nature of writing is akin to the absurdists who restructure “reality” and create a new view of life (think Gina Ranalli with SKY TONGUES, a novel about a “biracial hermaphrodite with tongues for fingers”). Lori plays the absurdism straight-faced in her poetry. In fact, she lets us in on the masquerade right up front: “This is a book that’s both serious and silly. Like me. (the author)”. 

The topic for upheaval in Lori’s book POETIC REFLECTIONS: Keep the Heart of a Child is poetry itself. There is a mock tone from the narrator who has self-conscious observations on her own words as well as on the reader’s perceptions. Right away one sees the double meaning inherent in the title: Keep the Heart of a Child can mean Think young and you'll stay young OR Place a child's heart in a jar for keeping. If it weren’t for the serious use of symbolism, metaphor and prose style, I’d call it satiric absurdism. 

Two notes: Those are not typos. Lori plays on the word “Forward” in her Foreword; and in her summary of this work tells us “With thirteen oft-humorous “Poetic Reflections” columns as a framework for chapters and themes, the author presents a collection of original poems and song lyrics from “a lifetime of versage” — a journey through her soul. The volume features giddy lingual romps, the words to a variety of Folk-Rock ballads, poems from other book projects, witty mullings, and much more. A serious thread running through the book is the topic of Abuse, which the author addresses directly as well as in verse. The collection is thoughtful, unusual, uplifting, and emotional. This is Lori R. Lopez at her gravest and wryly mischievous best. What is an Author’s Draft? It is an original concept devised by Lori R. Lopez: The author’s true voice; the author’s pure and untampered vision, preserving her idiosyncracies and eccentric stylings!” So there.


To the work:


ode to a poem


What is it that cannot be defined in mere terms

But by words that sing like larks at heart

The song of every feather

And ring clear as bells that toll in crisp weather

Yet can freeze a moment

Like a winter’s day

And on little cat feet

Snatch my breath away?

What is it about a poem

That cannot be just written

But engineered and composed

Until we are smitten

Sketched and gushed and spilled

Like drops of frenzied inspiration

Etched and rushed and willed

To the point of poignant desperation?

What is it that rhymes like a tune

Strikes a chord and beats in my breast

Yet does not grow tired or frail with age

For it is always clear and fresh?

What is it, indeed, but a poem

The nimble word dance of the tongue

That speaks to mind and soul of images

Succinct, surreal, common and uncommon

For everyone.



Quoth the raven, “Furthermore!”

Hi, ’tis I. And hitherwith I must discuss a theme of sorts for this section. Any ideas?
Poetry’s a rather broad topic. I could leave it open, I guess. Have this chapter be the place
for verses that won’t fit anywhere else. Or is that too obvious? I don’t wish to clear things
up. No, no. I prefer to be confusing.

This is a pickle.

(Not an actual pickle, silly. I’m being metaphoric.)

(Although it isn’t really a metaphor, just another meaning.)

(You know what I mean.)

(And in case you don’t, please get help. Immediately. You shouldn’t be wandering

the streets.)

(Besides, if this were a real pickle I’m sure I would stick it in a sandwich, not inside a

book!)

Okay, I give up. I have no clue what theme to designate, so I’m just going to stuff

everything that’s left over hereafter. And if anything should remain, unless it’s a pickle, it’ll

just have to be left out. If it’s a pickle, I shall probably eat it.

I’m very glad that’s decided . . .


The Ode, a form truer to the English Romantics and Victorians, is a sacred work, but Lori handles it with playful expertise. She employs a Jazzy rhyme scheme, unpredictable, some false, some true, and virtually abandons it at the close; this form keeps the readers more intent on the content than the form, in symbolist fashion (I mean, does anyone look at the paint in Dali’s works when there are melting clocks about?!) The opening line joins a lark and a cat in the question about the job of words in a poem; it is hard not to feel tension from the cat in proximity to the bird. A clever image (in words) in fact rhetorically answering the very question the ode raises. Later we have “drops” of inspiration bringing to mind beads of perspiration (as in poetry is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration). It makes one wonder if Lori had this in mind when she wrote this or if it were a subconscious flash of symbolist genius. After I wrote my review of Ray Garton’s Serpent Girl, I pointed out certain religious symbolism at work throughout; he responded, “… whether stuff like that is consciously done, it's there. I think a whooooole lotta stuff goes on in the subconscious of every writer that he or she is totally unaware of.” Later, when Lori brings up the subject of “rhymes” in the ode, the actual rhymes turn false (“breast” and “fresh”, for example), then disappear altogether. Very clever.

Then the ode is followed by a Greek Chorus, that I included above after the poem, exactly as it is in the book. At once talking with the reader and herself, Lori engages a one-sided conversation, mocking (again) the very nature of what has come before. She mocks the metaphor of the “pickle” till it is wrung of all its juice in a humorous aside that becomes a work in itself: digression as poetic device. Witty and funny.

After reading and reviewing a number of Lori’s books, I am still surprised that she can catch me off-guard. “poetic reflections: keep the heart of a child” will blindside you with its symbolic absurdism and just plain funny writings. As Lori says, “I am always at play with words.”


Lori R. Lopez

Lori R. Lopez has always loved books since being read to when small, then reading and writing them herself. She is the author of works spanning multiple categories from Nonfiction to Fiction; novel to story to verse collection; children's fiction, storybooks and more, usually with a blend of genres such as Humor, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural, Thriller, Epic-Adventure and so on. Her titles include OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ: THIRTEEN TORMENTOUS TALES, and her award-winning novel AN ILL WIND BLOWS.

She can be reached at: 


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Rafael L. Lopez brings us a work of poetry that is a first class conceptual piece. “In conceptual poetry, appropriation is often used as a means to create new work, focused more on the initial concept rather than the final product of the poem.”  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22097#sthash.jRsma9Ql.dpuf

Where to begin? Rafael has created a world that does not exist (maybe). On this planet or dimension, there are poets who write in much the same manner as they do on Earth. We write about people, nature, emotions, youth, aged, and every earthly topic a creative writer can approach with words. Well, the poets of the world called Eath write about their planet in much the same way. What we have here is a book of poetry from Eath. I won’t give you all the names of the poets (Yenba, Alindra, for instance) who contribute to this volume. It is high-concept realized for the reader. Rafael is lost in this work. He needn’t have put his name to the book; it serves only to underscore that it is high-concept. I think of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures being captured and written by Dr. John H. Watson, as if Holmes were real, (which to many fans he is). Many readers will share a similar experience with A WORLD OF WORDS.

A sample:


Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

By Axumno


The fog lifts

Ascending heights not known

To we land-treaders

The clouds remain

Cloaking the sky

Like feathers upon a bird

Soft yet unyielding

Gray fluffs float

And one cannot see

Nor even glimpse

What may lie beyond that wall

Of vapor

Nonetheless

Sunshine still shines

Day is bright

Perhaps not as vivid as days ere

But for a cloudy day

When all one sees is sailing mist

The sunshine surprises us

With its never-ending gleam



Common to the poems, the word Sun is always capitalized, denoting the importance the solar sphere plays to the Eathlings. Nature is addressed and its peculiarities to the Earth’s nature are empathetic. For instance, Eath has seas, mountains, valleys, clouds, etc, but in true conceptual form, there are “water-winds” as opposed to our “desert winds” per se. The Eathlings seem like natural born Romantics, adoring Nature and spiritualizing it. (Remember: for the Romantics, “nature” was the wardrobe of God). Thus we have a temporal view of nature on Eath; the flowers, for instance, “blow” off a scent but once, called a “silent whispering”, leaving only the memory of it as the scent quickly “goes”. We see the world through the eyes of the poetry just as we see the world of the Renaissance or the Middle Ages through their poetry. But in the later case, they are real poets who lived back then; in the former, they are imagined poets. However, we still see a real world from these Eathling poets, as real as historical worlds of the past on Earth that we can only imagine through the words of the real poets, but maybe that's the point, that "a world of words" is merely imagination realized for the reader. That's quite a feat for any author, real or not.

One poem from this book does not do this review justice. And one cannot call it Science Fiction as that minimizes the poetic character of the work. It is best simply to be swept over by the poems and to visit Eath for yourself. That is the best review I can give this astonishing conceptual work of other-worldliness. 

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Rafael L. Lopez


Rafael L. Lopez is a poet, writer, actor, artist, knight and more who resides in Southern California when not off crafting magic within his world of Eath. Inspired by the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, his favorite author, he first conjured ideas for Eath as the base for a boardgame at age eleven. Recording his visions, he began developing a vast history and culture for the land's kingdoms and inhabitants, then by his eighteenth birthday completed the first draft of Volume One for a book series titled THE LEGEND OF MIRALD, along with short stories about a hero named Lastenberg. Between the ages of sixteen and seventeen he had also composed a collection of poems for Eath, thereafter inventing the names and lives of fictitious poets with different styles and voices. A WORLD OF WORDS is the result, a volume of verse introducing his elaborate fantasy.

Rafael can be reached at: 


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That wraps up our Poetry for this month. As tempting as it is to ask each author what they mean by the poems they've written, I must follow the academic rule for analyzing and deconstructing poetry: that the works must stand on their own. I hope I've succeeded in my first attempt to bring some poetry to my blog. If you would like to submit your book of poems for review next month, contact me on Facebook by message or post. NO individual poems, please. Completed books or ebooks. Thank you.



1 comment:

  1. Excellent as always, Anthony! A great beginning to a fine new facet of your blog! Thank you so much for reading and remarking on my book, as well as Rafael's. Your perspectives and observations are (as usual) extremely intelligent and witty! :)

    ReplyDelete