The Flowers Lied Second in the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy By Michael Goldberg Neumu Press, © 2015 ISBN 9780990398349 Cover: Leslie Goldberg Paperback: $19.95 Review by M. Sedlof C0ntributing Writer It’s not easy to go through life driven by an intense desire to be part of a scene that really doesn’t think it needs you. Such is the quandary of Michael Stein in The Flowers Lied, Part Two of the Freak Scene Trilogy by Michael Goldberg that began with True Love Scars. After suffering ritualistic tribulations of young love in Scars, Stein (aka, Writerman), returns to the college scene older, wiser, increasingly hell-bent on becoming the rock ‘n’ roll writer of his dreams. Stein’s further maturation comes at a cost. Still throttled by hormonal urges, he continues to suffer in lustful but patient pursuit of a lesbian love interest that never really gets off the ground. The relationship flourishes as long as it remains platonic, but wilts when push comes to shove. Meanwhile, his best friend Jim falls for a woman who eventually takes Stein in a one-night-stand as much to see if she can, as to drive a wedge between him and Jim that sets them apart forever. Goldberg continues to draw on his knowledge of music and musicians, dropping in names, places and lines that help define moments in time and illustrate the ‘70s experience. Revel in the ingenuity of a more than chance meeting with Neil Young that is a mark of Stein’s aggressive pursuit of his career goal. Grow with him as he discards the false gods of rock criticism who dismiss him as a wannabe, yet fail to acknowledge (at their own expense) his insistence on the imminent importance of The New York Dolls. Stein knows he’s been a schmuck, but in this progression, it should certainly make him a better person in the end. Thus it is that discordant youth with its forked tongue and divided loyalties between family, self and others manages to take another step out from under the umbrella of naivete, into the real world and the bright sunlight of self-knowledge. So looking forward to Part Three. About the reviewer: M. Sedlof teaches palmistry from a small studio on East 8th Street in New York City. You won’t find him on facebook.
INDIAN GIVER Poems John Smelcer Leapfrog Press (Fredonia, NY) ISBN: 978-1-935248-80-4 February 2016 130 pages $14 Review by Lyn Lifshin Sorrow, terror, heartbreak, bitterness, anger, dreams and failed dreams, sarcasm and irony braid with a rare dash of humor. This a beautiful, unique book, a lament of beauty and horror, of loss for the wounded indigenous life. Sadness pervades these strong, heart-piercing poems. Dreams blend with nightmares often set in nature where what happens is not always kind but almost never without beauty. In “Durable Breath” “Raven’s muffled caw rise from the river.” The sadness over the loss of Indian language pervades the poems. “My father, born at Indian River, does not know his mother’s language.” But in the darkness, Raven’s wings lift “ancient syllables like an ochre tide.” In “Returning the Gift,” a raven the speaker has fed for weeks, cutting salmon to dry on racks in the sun, returns months later to rescue the man who is lost moose hunting under a fingernail moon listening to tight-stringer wind from inside (his) flutter tent until morning when the world is wintered and the raven “quietly, through the stark white of the North “leads him from the forest home.” So often the loneliness is cut by some beauty, some animal, some spirit from “far ochre mountains,” singing and singing to his pain and sadness. I admire Smelcer’s way of combining beauty, anger, sadness and nature in “So Begins the Lasting Silence.” SO BEGINS THE LASTING SILENCE There is no doubt I will be the last speaker of our dying language I will know that day has come when I call out across the frozen river to the far white mountain in my Native tongue and wait forever for an echo that will not return — the far white mountain having forgotten its Indian name Horror and pain are never far from the Indian landscape. In “Reservation Roulette,” “Ceremony,” “Tax Evasion,” and “Deer on the Snowy Field” where men toss infants in the air for shooting practice as the future crumbles, we see a land where terror lurks. Extreme sadness is never far from the speaker’s thoughts. In “Dandelions in Full Bloom,” a poem ending in beauty, it is a beauty following an unfair execution. Anger glows red hot in “Things You Didn’t Know About American History # 138” and in “How to Make Blue Ribbon Fry Bread.” “My Frostbitten Heart,” a poem about the day frostbite captured him, there is that familiar sadness and beauty. “Sometimes I feel it in my chest, my frozen heart, fragile as a snowflake…ready to shatter at any minute like thin ice on a pond.” So many lines and images stay with me – often because of the merging in one poem of pain, love, beauty and fear. In one of the most visually beautiful poems “Indian boys love to beat Indian drums while Indian girls sway in moving circles. The hearts of Indian boys are tight stretched drums. The hearts of Indian girls are beautiful sad songs.” And I love the haunting lines from “The Last Fancy Dancer,” again a lament for the loss of his culture, the traditions, the language: No more drums. No more dancers. He stood outside and cried beneath the stars, the stars, flowers of his country.” A striking, beautiful book
December 11, 2015
About the reviewer: Lyn Lifshin has published over 130 books and chapbooks including 3 from Black Sparrow Press: Cold Comfort, Before It’s Light and Another Woman Who Looks Like Me. Before Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle, Lifshin published her prize winning book about the short-lived beautiful race horse Ruffian, The Licorice Daughter: My Year With Ruffian and Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness. An update to her Gale Research Autobiography is out: Lips, Blues, Blue Lace: On The Outside. Also just out is a dvd of the documentary film about her: Lyn Lifshin: Not Made Of Glass. Just out: Femme Eterna and Moving Through Stained Glass: the Maple Poems. Forthcoming: Degas Little Dancer and Winter Poems from Kind of a Hurricane press, Paintings and Poems, from Tangerine press and The Silk Road from Night Ballet, alivelikealoadedgun from Transcendent Zero Press. Her poetry has appeared in several issues of Ragazine.CC. For more information: www.lynlifshin.com
ALIANZA: 5 U.S. Poets in Ecuador Steve Barfield, Alan Britt, Alex Lima, Silvia Scheibli and Lilvia Soto Cover Art by Pablo Caviedes Cypress Books Rio Rico, AZ Copyright 2015 ISBN: 0-9647754-4-1 LoC Control #: 2015944031 96 pages, $14.00 Review by Michael Foldes, Editor, Ragazine.CC High in the Cordillera Occidental, where the only lights are the stars, and the stars do not interfere and fight with one another, where one star does not block out the beauty of another, where one’s spirit really does expand like the unfolding of angels’ wings, and the imagination takes flight…. Such is the resonance of the soaring poetry in this splendid anthology that fuses five poets’ voices to speak as one in a Greek chorus of friendship with one another, gaining understanding of those they encounter on this journey to another world, and the redefinition of the value of their transitional positions in this world, as in the universe itself. The poets’ visit to Ecuador came at the invitation of Gabriel Cisneros Abedrabbo, (himself a poet, and Vice President of the Ecuadorian House of Culture), as part of a poetry exchange “to celebrate two great literary cultures…” Indeed, the poems written in English all appear in translation into Spanish, and poems written in Spanish appear in translation into English. Not all the poems come directly from their experiences on this journey, but all reflect the kindred spirit of a diverse community. Leading the charge up this mountain is Immanentist poet Steve Barfield, whose words carry from “the dry bed of an ancient sea” to Cremation where “The roar of the fire is the same/as that found in the solar wind…,” to thunder that is “an echo of a sudden light.” Of the European influx, he writes: But listen, I hear the Christians coming to rewrite the history. Their wheels bounce on the cobbles of the old culture. They arrive at night in a lanterned carriage with their black robes and their white teeth. The influence of Latin American poets felt by Towson professor Alan Britt, comes through clearly in “Neruda Sings Whitman”: You said pinch the head off Ozymandias, so poor folks could get their fill, & fill they did, for a moment, until United Fruit snatched it away, again. Britt, who read at the opening of the 911 Museum, and whose interview and poetry are part of the collection of the Library of Congress, strongly encouraged this reviewer to ride along on this international poetry exchange opportunity, which unfortunately was not possible. In hearing about the trip, and reading the works in this collection, I strove to identify missed opportunities, such as the gatherings of hundreds of Ecuadorians who attended open readings by the assembled poets. A difficult audience to find in the nether regions of America, but common in lands where poetry still runs in the blood as much a soulful expression of life as music can be in the industrial world. Perhaps they wondered, when coming to the events, “What makes these North Americans tick?” Ecuadorian poet and artist Alex Lima was instrumental in making this visit by his fellow poets an opportunity to know and appreciate the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of his native country. Active in the arts communities of Metro New York, and like all five of the poets in this volume an active member of the art collective We Are You Project International, recently completed his doctoral dissertation on 18th –Century Ecuadorean poetry. Lima’s “Roof” gives us a window on the essence of city life from an astute observer’s perspective, unvarnished, not angry. Not humble, but truthful and without secrets: A roof is not a rooftop It’s a tar oasis in the middle of a concrete desert It’s the summer terrace in the midst of a heat wave It’s a backard for those with no backyard It’s the dance floor where salsa moves are improvised To the beat of a boombox and a Budweiser Where a compai from Mayagüez sports a sleeve-less T-shirt And fakes a full turn like a Welterweight boxer To put his virtues on display … like he is about to spin. Silvia Scheibli writes often of the Latino experience from the perspective of an Arizonan living close to the border with Mexico. Her poem, “Song of Bahia Banderas, Mexico”, addresses the dichotomy of the real and perceived: On a giant hammock between the Sierra Madre and the Puerto Vallarta Malecon souls of Santa Guadalupe come to negotiate sins with magnificent frigate birds, carnivores & Magpie Jays unaware of the breadth of salty wind on the Aztec penumbra – Obscure yet enflamed in the foothills of imagination − closer to heavy glances registered in the names of Tin Tan or his cousins at Mismaloya than on the arches of “The Night of the Iguana,” forever idolized in the archives of Hollywood … One of my favorite poets writing of the Latina experience from an insider’s perspective is Lilvia Soto. Soto is founder and was the first director of La Casa Latina: the University of Pennsylvania Center for Hispanic Excellence, participates widely in international poetry festivals and literary conferences. Her poem, “bone music,” speaks to the tragedies and lasting effects of political and societal violence. now she knows what happened and can bury him next to his father have a place she can visit talk to him say she worried when he didn’t come home her face hurt when his was struck her back ached when his was kicked peed blood for weeks felt nauseous when he had to lick his slop off the floor whisper she years for his bones at dawn, even now. The poems in this collection will open your eyes to changes you may not even know are taking place in the here and now, terrible situations that unfortunately persist, and delightful discoveries that will light your day like a candle flame that lights a room at night high in the Cordillera where a family sings of both hardship and the simple joys of being.
- note: Other work by the poets in this collection have appeared previously in editions of Ragazine.CC. You can search for them by name in either or both: http://old.ragazine.cc and https://www.ragazine.cc.