Welcome, dear readers, to the ninth edition of Poetry Today. With us, we have some regular contributors as well as some new wordsmiths.They are: Michael H. Hanson, Kim Acrylic, Vincenzo Bilof, John Boden, Tery Molina, Charlie Sheen, and a nod to Eden Ahbez. So, let's take a look at what's new in the field of poetry.
He has two collections of mainstream poetry in print ("AUTUMN BLUSH" published by YaYe Books and "JUBILANT WHISPERS" published by Diminuendo Press) and is presently compiling his third poetic anthology, "LUMINOUS LULLABIES", and an illustrated collection of poems for children, "THE GREAT SOAP REBELLION".
In 2014, Michael will be overseeing the writing and publishing of the new shared-world, anthology "SHA'DAA: INKED" and the stand-alone science fiction shared world book, NOT TO YIELD.
In 2013, his short story "Failure to Comply" was published in Perseid Press's "WHAT SCARES THE BOOGEYMAN" anthology, his short story "Truth Will Conquer" was published in Gabrielle Faust's "HIGH STAKES" Vampire Anthology, his short story "The ITTT" was published in Janet Morris's Heroes in Hell (HIH) anthology volume, "DREAMERS IN HELL" Michael had stories in the last two HIH volumes, "LAWYERS IN HELL" and "ROGUES IN HELL." His short story "The Traveling Luminous Museum" will be published in Perseid Press's "TERROR BY GASLIGHT" anthology Edited by John Manning.
Michael is also the Founder of the international writers club, THE FICTIONEERS, a non-profit organization created in 2007 to encourage the writing of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and the creative interaction of fledgling writers with more experienced professionals. THE FICTIONEERS, whose current roster is made up of over 132 authors world-wide, is loosely modeled after those fun children's clubs of mid-20th Century radio fame (Captain Midnight, Little Orphan Annie, etc.).
Michael is a Staff Editor at The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
All my life I have bathed in loneliness
like a decadent, lethargic Roman
scrubbing the blood of violent conquest
off of my weathered, and stained, and scarred soul,
a cleansing and safe purification
separating me from scary masses
and all too jarring and tactile handshakes
and frank unnerving intimacies of
piercing face to face communication.
I have dried my naked hopes in towels
of indifference and wash cloths of fear,
allowing the light of isolation
so empowering and overwhelming
to knead and massage and comfort my heart,
an under-used and oft-neglected thing
that still aches to pump hope's formaldehyde
throughout my failing necrotic psyche
preserving this semblance of mortal life,
this jarred and pickled exhibit that pens
rudimentary and banal poems,
unfit for any human consumption,
the merest refuse of much grander meals
and the guttural mumblings of defeat...
He Gave Her Apples by Michael H. Hanson
Sometimes she dreams of her father,
wise and aging when she was young,
sporting a long lovely white beard
by the time she had reached high school.
Tall like an ash tree with pale leaves,
shoulders and arms like thick oak trunks,
pressed against them she felt so safe
when threatened by all of life’s storms.
He never wavered in his love,
so deeply rooted in belief,
cradling her when tears rained down,
comforting her with an apple.
In Lost Dogs Of The Finger Lakes, Mike Hanson cloaks the modern pains of life in the garment of poetic metaphor; here, it is the Roman-esque trappings of decadence and hedonism. The poem opens right off with the comparative form: "All my life I have bathed in loneliness/like a decadent, lethargic Roman/
scrubbing the blood of violent conquest/off of my weathered, and stained, and scarred soul". Daily existence for the narrator is lonely and filled with bad memories ("scarred soul"). But these feelings are buried deep, where they appear to be unreachable, as the narrator covers them with decadence, lethargy, violent conquest (possibly one-night stands or bad relationships), and massages.
It is a well-sustained metaphor, reminiscent of the 16th Century English poets, such as John Donne ("Death Be Not Proud" comes to mind), but Mike in his usual modern spin on the format by self-referencing himself within his own poetry: "my failing necrotic psyche/preserving this semblance of mortal life,/this jarred and pickled exhibit that pens/rudimentary and banal poems". He switches the metaphor from classic to modern in an effort to point out to the reader his own fragile "failings" as a decadent romantic, accepting "the guttural mumblings of defeat" by writing the poem at hand.
Of course, Mike wants us to know that he is talking about the painting, "Inner Arsonist" by Helenka, but here he (perhaps inadvertently) projects himself into the work of art via his poem ("transference", if I remember my Psychology 101). In either case, a very honest poem by Hanson who only uses the paintings as springboards for his own epiphanies and our reading pleasure. It's not for nothing that I call Michael H. Hanson the poet with words for eyes.
In He Gave Her Apples, Mike stays true to the painting “Sodality” by artist Roya Bijan. Notice that he avoids the use of first person altogether here, and thus there is no epiphanal shift. He maintains the storyline he creates for the painting, describing the two characters in the painting in three stanzas (Mike usually follows three stanzas with a couplet--here he closes the poem on the third stanza). The reason is clear why the poem must end here: He solved the mystery of the "apple". It would be at this point where Mike could have alluded to himself and made the painting and poem about himself; he chose not to, which may not be unwise, but merely allowing this work to be selfless. Sometimes, however, I enjoy seeing Mike's epiphanal shifts, as they add modernism to the 16th Century poetic form, which he so cleverly updates. Though, in this case, the poem retains its place in the past. I suppose he can't take a chance with every poem, but this critic and poetry reader can hope, can't he?
MY FACEBOOK PAGE LINKS: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kim-Acrylic/72624288127
Her "hollowed out night[s]" her sacrifices to make this "love" work, but to no avail. She already know the answer to her predicament, for she begs the question: "For at what length shall I be blighted?" The answer: She shall be blighted by "Kodak moments", false images and memories that don't reflect the true feelings that accompany those moments, like a happy family photograph that masks the spousal abuse that occurred minutes before the picture was taken. But although Kim wallows in the despair of spending such wasted love on "beasts and trolling men", she has yet to commit to ending such affairs in her future, for she ends the poem with the question: "Will I bleed your sweat?" Here the image of lovemaking, sweat, meets the image of suffering, bleed. By leaving the question unanswered, even the reader must question her commitment to breaking this vicious cycle of "irrational love".
Perhaps that's the point. Perhaps this is the question she asks herself ad infinitum, bad lover after bad. For those of us who have been here, we sympathize, but for those of us who have broken the cycle, we ask: Whatcha waiting for? For the reader to reach this point and feel the frustration of the poet is testament to the power of Kim Acrylic's poetry.
In "love me hard", Kim salutes the "Muse", that hellish inspiration that makes writer after writer suffer to create art. F. Paul Wilson calls it "that dreaded epiphany", the moment when an idea itself creates a bigger idea, and you know there's nothing you can do about it because the bigger idea is also a better idea than the one you came up with. Usually I would pass on such a popular idea for a poem (and many a short story), but Kim's approach is clever: The Muse, like a lost puppy, has "Sad eyes, pouty lips". Very cute image and poem, and I'm glad she got that off her chest. Now let's get back to the warped love metaphors.
A member of the Horror Writers Association, Vincenzo is the author of the Zombie Ascension series and "Nightmare of the Dead". His latest book happens to include aliens; "Gravity Comics Massacre", available from Bizarro Pulp Press. A novel written as a collection of poems, "The Horror Show" is another one of his nonsensical works.
When he's not chasing his kids around the house or watching bad horror films, he reads and reviews horror fiction, though his tastes are more literary. Forthcoming projects include "Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse", and "Vampire Strippers from Saturn". You can check out his blog here: http://vincenzobilof.blogspot.com/ He asks that readers of his work are aged 18+.
Gonzo is his favorite Muppet.
The first line alludes to an "angel", but transposed against a "hologram" (faith versus science). The second line talks of "sins" paired with "cliche". He mocks the ritual of atonement for sins without the "catharsis" of absolvement. This irony sets up lines three and four where the "prophet" is compared to money, namely the eye on the pyramid on the back of American bills. The Catholic church loves its collection plate, though Bilof could be referring to any organized religion. Lines five and six play "inspiration" and "wings", two echoes of the "angel" from the first line, sabotaging their importance by covering them with "raven feces" (the blackness of the bird contrasted with the white wings of the angel). And it is here in flight that the "airplane meltdown" transpires. Simply, a plane is about to crash. Then that wicked seventh line that blames the pending crash not on the hand of God, but on the hand of a "gremlin". Very clever.
And then Vincenzo returns the last line of the poem to a religious allusion: "prayer". As the plane goes down, this religious narrator is "on his knees", at the mercy of "someone else's prayer", for his own is tainted by the incongruities of lines one through six. He cast so much doubt on faith, that his own prayers have no strength behind him, no religious conviction. And then the plane broke down. It'd be very funny, if it weren't so sarcastically sad.
In We Can Be Couches Together, Bilof uses a construct of stanzas varying in length to delve into the concept of psychiatric evaluation as business venture, rather than humanitarian pursuit. The patient is a "war veteran", a conceit for wounded social beings, everyday people with problems bigger than solutions (think people in debt with low-paying jobs). The "counselor" is portrayed as an extension of the pharmaceutical industry: "your name/can weaponize xanax and wellbutrin/this hurts, see, and words she said/human yes, flaws, makes us human". Follow the Catch-22 of therapeutic logic that Bilof employs: we are human, thus flawed, so drugs can attack ("weaponize") our flaws, and return us to a normal human state, which is flawed, so we need drugs, and so on. Clever vicious circle our poet has woven. But he doesn't stop there.
The counselor "scribbling hieroglyphics" writes her diagnosis beyond normal language. While the patient seeks simple answers, "Will I get better?" the patient asks, to which the doctor replies "next appointment". It is the infamous evasion of a straight answer: You will get well tomorrow. And as the next appointment turns into the next and the next, tomorrow never comes. Sadly, the doctor's pen (the scribblings, or rather, the unending and ineffective therapy) rushes to forestall and even prevent the patient's suicide ("self-inflicted homicide"), the patient breaks the cycle, signaling his surrender to the inefficient care of his therapist, for the patient declares that "I can't make it that day" for the next appointment. This is the poetic denouement; the patient has succumbed to ending his life.
Bilof shows how the patient and the therapist (two couches) are similar in their predicaments; both are helpless but rely on each other to be helped. This is testament to the ineffectual therapy that we rely on and trust to help us deal with our problems (life's flaws). Ironically, the poet here captures one of the sad vicious circles of the blind leading the blind, whether socially or therapeutically.
We starve and stumble
to the altars
made of twigs and mud
offering our eyes
our lives and
those of our children
different cogs and gears
what is done
this blood on my hands
a love filled rorschach
scabbed with good intentions
misguided and suffocating
black plastic and lilacs
bubble wrap and roses
gifts long dead and
stinking in gold lined boxes
and bags of red foil
like the red
under my fingernails
the best gift ever
I will eat you myself before
sharing you with the world.
My tongue is black
a thousand times a day
revived when I whisper
a name like yours
the blood in my veins
feels like ants
the thoughts in my mind
feel like ants
holding you in my arms
feels like ants
this delicate balance
this awkward fondle
this is stale
In Harmonious Cannibalism, John Boden writes a striking poem with a focus on man's procreation as self-destructive progress. He begins his metaphor with starvation as our need to seed the next generation rather than feed this generation, our own, here and now. He alludes to the "church" and its decree that we go forth and multiply: "the altars/made of twigs and mud"..."those of our children/same machinery/different cogs and gears". Just as our parents had us to perpetuate the "machinery", they sacrificed themselves to raise kids, and, in turn, the kids grow to have children, sacrificing themselves as well. One generation starves to create the next starving generation. It's a cross between the poor fatalism found in author like Albert Camus and Victorian apologists who painted the children as victims of the Industrial Age.
Boden does not offer solutions, as Dickens did in his novels; rather, he simply seeks to remind us of the life that adults lose to give life to their children. The progression and sacrifice for the sake of the nuclear family is this "cannibalistic" ritual that Boden refers to in the final lines: "I will eat you myself before/sharing you with the world." If your child will not reproduce, he, in essence, is cannibalizing the next generation, and if that is the case, one should live his own life rather than have children. And although it is a grim metaphor, one should live for oneself rather for the species, one should accomplish what we expect our children to accomplish. Then the "machinery" is at our mercy, rather than the other way around.
For months I have been adrift at sea, the smell of the ocean that once appeased me now disturbs my sleep. I find myself up on deck feeling forlorn and frail. The wind blowing slightly nipping then cooling my face. On the horizon I see the sun peek furtively as the waves dance, folding and frothing to the wind. My thoughts from deep within surface as does the sun. I feel the warmth upon my face. Weary of this long journey my mind begins to feel heavy, I struggle to make it to a once new but now tattered old deck chair, and attempt to seek comfort on its narrow surface.
As I close my eyes I pray that soon I will come upon dry land. My eyes bare the circular motion, so familiar to me, that will embark me into a comforting land of dreams. As I lie there quietly the ocean whispers softly caressing and filling my ears, as the sailboat slightly rocks causing the waves to break against the hull. Further do I drift into sleep. Alas I feel at peace, at one with the universe, surely there must be a smile on my face even though no one is there to witness it. I shift to get more comfortable when I feel a warm tingling that surrounds me. Imaged or real I know not, but it intensifies.
Oh my there in the distance, I see the most beautiful creature the heavens could possibly conjure up. Upon my face I feel her golden hair falling slightly touching, she moves her head and her hair teases me. I can't help but wonder from where this extraordinary lady has come. Then as if to hear my thoughts she lens down and whispers to me." I am here, fear not again for I have come to guide you and I will never again leave you side" Such a piece comes over me as I have never felt before.
Rage runs rampant and far.
As it encumbers our soul,
it keeps itself unknown.
Is love and understanding
the healer of the damage
left there in the soul?
Piercing the very fibers
of this vast universe.
Is it possible that
there, is no cure
for this unworthy host?
Please help me find
the cure before we are ablaze.
Put love where rage is, in our hearts.
Love and understanding is the Power
that pieces the soul, back together.
Give me the strength to combat
those who refuse to understand
or heed your simple rules.
Let their eyes be opened wide
and enlighten, because
if they are not, they will
be unaware when the
universe comes calling.
Or left behind
To taste the wrath!
Please help them learn
the ways and the laws
of existence, with the universe.
Angel by Tery Molina is a prose piece masquerading as poetry. This practice harkens back to the writers such as William Wordsworth in English and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in America. The focus is on Nature as the "cloak of God". It was more lecture than lyric. In the opening stanza/paragraph, Molina includes the "sea", the "wind", and the "sun", and its effect on her. This type of poetry is termed "Romantic", not in the romance sense but in the religious sense (the cloak of God, remember). In this sense, the feeling of "awe" at the sight of Nature produced this poetry, so the Romantics believed that by describing their own reaction to the awesomeness of Nature, they were capturing a moment of glory shared with God.
The second stanza/paragraph turns to prayer for "land". Molina describes this hope as an intense feeling. Here her description parallels the definition of Romantic "awe": "Imaged or real I know not, but it intensifies". (I'm not sure, but I think Tery meant "Imagined" rather than "Imaged" [sic]). With this feeling of awe, Tery writes an image of beauty in the third stanza/paragraph and concludes that "Such a piece comes over me as I have never felt before". (Again, I believe Tery meant "peace" rather than "piece" [sic]).
In Rage, Molina takes life to task in comparison with the soul. The body serves as a vessel for the spirit, but it suffers that "rage" which comes with an imperfect body ("host"). She questions the imbalance of a life of "combat" with the ailments of life as the soul struggles to be free. She looks to the heavens for answers to her rage. But she finds that she must accept her situation in life. She learns to listen and asks the reader to listen as well and not to succumb to the rage of life's cruel turns; she writes, "Let their eyes be opened wide/and enlighten, because/if they are not, they will/be unaware when the/universe comes calling". Although Rage does not have the Romantic leanings of Angel, Tery Molina reveals more of a modern sentiment that seeks faith in these times of trial.
Nature Boy by Eden Ahbez
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day, a magic day
He passed my way, and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"
Odd that we discussed the Romantics earlier because Eden Ahbez in Nature Boy is talking about Jesus Christ. "Strange and enchanted" refer to uniqueness of the Son of God. "Shy and sad of eye" refers to message for man and his disappointment with how man has received the message. Always wary (shy) about how the next person will receive him, he sadly delivers his word to those who do listen, such as our narrator. For him, it was a "magic" day to receive the word of this wise man. They "spoke/Of many things, fools and kings. Note how he includes all mankind with this simple line, for he is really addressing all men between the highest and lowest. But his ultimate message is agape, which is to "love and be loved in return". Selfless love is the opposite of selfish love or egoism; it is love to give without want. The line repeats twice, for the message is important.
A word about the song. It has been recorded by Nat King Cole, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, and a host of other world famous singers. I chose the David Bowie with Massive Attack version rather than the Nat King Cole version because I believe it captures the spirit of the poem/lyrics. I don't want to stray too far from the poetry, but I recommend your reading further about Eden Ahbez, who ushered in the Hip Movement of the 1960s.
David Bowie and Massive Attack
That concludes our readings for today. I hope to begin immediately on the next poetry column. If things go as planned you should have two poetry columns this month. We try to publish the Poetry Today in the last week of each month. Apologies for the delay. If you are interested in submitting poetry for the April issue, send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.