Zoom Blog


Romance With Small-Time Crooks by Alexis Ivy reviewed in PANK


REVIEW - Romance With Small-Time Crooks by Alexis Ivy

~by Anne Champion



BlazeVOX Books

90 pages/$16.00

The cover of Alexis Ivy’s debut collection depicts a scattered stack of cards and a hand overturning the Queen of Diamonds and the Eight of Clubs.  The Queen of Diamonds, of course, denotes power, royalty, and adornment, while the eight is a common symbol of infinity: all of this is embedded within the gamble, a game of chance, risk, and luck.  Similarly, these themes seem to trail the speaker of this collection in poems that take risks resulting in big payoffs.  These poems travel through the seedy underbelly of American life, exploring characters bound by their own self destruction embedded in a world of sex, drugs, liquor, and crime and a speaker that’s attracted to the scarred, the imperfect, and the dangerous.   While redemption and happy endings seem impossible in this collection, the poems refuse pity, instead transforming gutters into places of magic, insight, and growth.

Many poems in the collection recall still life paintings in their vivid imagery and details.  However, these still lifes illustrate ruin and utter desolation.  “So I Got Stoned,” depicts the actions and backgrounds of a speaker who has plummeted into silence.  The poem begins “I sorta wasn’t talking,/I sorta didn’t talk./I didn’t talk.”  These lines reveal the speaker’s reluctance to speak even now, as it takes several tries before anything can be said with any certainty.  Then, the still life gets painted through several sharp, compelling details, and the poem ends with the speaker’s reflection:

Wasted under
the willows at the Charles River,
chain smoking so I wouldn’t be
just sitting there.

Read more »

Kristina Marie Darling has Two New Reviews



Kristina Marie Darling has two new great reviews. The first is a review on her book Vow, which was just published in the November issue of Stirring: A Literary Collection.   




The second is an insightful review-in-footnotes of Petrarchan in the new issue of Diagram reviewed by Lisa Ampleman.




Read more »

Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning is reviewed in the Star Beacon


October 27, 2013

In the name of love

A gift from long ago now shared with the world

ASHTABULA — For more than 50 years, Kent State University-Ashtabula English Professor Roger Craik kept a hidden manuscript tucked away with his most treasured possessions.

The book is a facsimile of Robert Browning’s “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” illustrated by Craik’s parents, Tom and Wendy Craik, and given to him on his 6th birthday in 1962, when he was considered old enough to enjoy it.

However, his parents created the book some years earlier. His father described the circumstances to his son as follows and described in the foreword of the book:

In September 1958 I went to New York to teach for the academic year at Queens College (CCNY), and Wendy accompanied me. (You remained in England, at Kingston, with Rita and Gary.) (Roger’s maternal grandparents). During the day, while I was teaching, she pursued her research on Jane Austen’s novels in the New York Public Library. We were living in East 58th Street.

In February 1959 we used the break between semesters to visit Williamsburg, Va., where we bought the attractive traditionally-bound book in handmade paper which now contains “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” Our idea was to create a present for you on our return. I calculated the length of the poem and the space available, and in the evenings of about a fortnight wrote it out and drew the pictures, which Wendy coloured in watercoulour. We returned to England in May 1959.

Of course, Roger Craik remembers nothing of this, being only 3 years old at the time, but he does remember enjoying “The Pied Piper” being read to him, and sensing his parents’ relish in reading aloud and their pausing to point to the illustrations.

Only a handful of people, visitors and friends have seen the book since it was written in 1959. A few years ago, with his parents’ permission, Craik made a copy of the treasured book in Nottingham, England and began sending it out to friends as an email attachment.

“Everyone who has seen the book, loves it,” he said. “The book shows the love of a young couple (my parents), and their young son from whom they were separated a year.”

Tom Craik penned Browning’s words, nothing added or deleted, but the illustrations come entirely from Tom and Wendy Craik’s imaginations. They were 32 and 25 years old at the time.

Editor and Publisher Geoffrey Gatza of BlazeVOX (books) said he was taken by the story of the book as much as the book itself.

“This was one of those golden moments for a book publisher, where you can instantly see a worthwhile project and say yes in a minute without ever having to worry, and just focus in on its potential success,” Gatza said. “I am a fan of Robert Browning’s poetry and this poem in particular has a significant place within our culture. This matched with the blithe drawings by Roger (Craik’s) father, you can see the gentle hand that lies behind the pen.

“The blending of talents in the parents’ artwork making an object for their son, who they are separated from by an ocean, makes this book more poignant. It all comes together in a lovely book that I think will become a cherished item in anyone’s bookshelf.”

Craik said he is very excited about the book, which he tried to get published as a gift to his parents.

“I am far more excited about this book, which is for my parents, than I am about my own book of poems, ‘Down Stranger Roads,’ which will come out later this year,” he said.

For the 2013-2014 academic year, Craik is teaching English at Oradea University in Romania having been honored as a Fulbright Scholar. He is teaching poetry writing and literature to Romanian students and is enjoying it very much.

Traveling to faraway places to share his creativity and knowledge is nothing new for Craik. Two years ago, he spent two weeks as a poet-in-residence at Al Ain University in the United Arab Emirates. There he presented his latest poems and taught a poetry writing class at both the men and women’s colleges. A professor from the AAU English Department translated for him. Craik read the poem in English, and then the professor would read the poem translated in Arabic.

Craik said it was a very memorable trip.

English by birth and educated at the universities of Reading and Southampton, Craik has worked as a journalist, TV critic and chess columnist. Before coming to the U.S. in 1991, he worked in Turkish universities and was awarded a Beinecke Fellowship to Yale in 1990.

He has written three books on literature, including an edition of John Donne, with his father, as well as a host of academic articles and scholarly notes, and six books of poetry.

Craik is widely traveled, having visited North Yemen, Egypt, South Africa, Tibet, Nepal, Japan and Bulgaria, where he taught during spring 2007 on a Fulbright Scholarship.

His father was born in Warrington, Cheshire in 1927, and educated at the Boteler Grammar School there, from which he won an Open Exhibition in French and English to Christ’s College Cambridge, where he studied under F.R. Leavis and Enid Welsford.

He taught English at Leicester University College (later Leicester University), Aberdeen, Dundee and Durham, where he was Professor of English from 1977 until his retirement in 1989. After “The Tudor Interlude” (1958) and “The Comic Tales Chaucer” (1964) he devoted himself chiefly to the critically editing of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

His mother, Wendy Craik, was born in East Finchley, North London, in 1934, and evacuated to the countryside in World War II.

After receiving a Ph.D. at Leicester University College, supervised by Monica Jones, she worked as a schoolteacher before entering academia.

She was Reader in English at Aberdeen University, and Professor of English at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, and has written four books on the 19th Century novel.

Today, the couple resides in England.


Read the book here

Read more »

a great review of Petrarchan in The Columbia Poetry Review


Review of Kristina Marie Darling’s Petrachan


Darling’s latest, Petrarchan, is an unwritten work. Its poems, non-existent, allude to themselves through interwoven footnotes, which frame the empty pages so richly, it feels as though the verse were pared down to the most incidental, stirring self-realizations. Through them, Darling explores the land-scape of her psyche – a “house by the sea.” Its archetypal fiber weaves the numerous and obscure corridors of her soul out of domestic imagery. A necklace beneath a stairwell glimmers as the steps catch fire.

To Darling, we are fragmented by the secret rooms of the heart and the life-blood they quietly gestate, which, when discovered, upsets the balance of our identity – the underpinning question: “What is a relationship with the self?” This is strikingly revisited in her erasures of Petrarch’s sonnets, whose meanings are altered – in some cases, empowered – by Darling’s cuts. The sonnets explored become volatile – a few words, isolated, expose infinite possibilities for meaning.  Petrarchan reconfigures identity as a reaction to what we do not know. Self-awareness becomes an anxiety and acceptance of chance arrangement – meaning emerges as a chaotic intersection of experiences whose halls we feel through blindly, but trust.

Read the whole review here

Check out Petrarcan here

Read more »

Brushes with, by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed on Poet Hound


Kristina Marie Darling's Brushes With

Kristina Marie Darling strikes again with creating a surreal and memorable journey through her particular style of writing in Brushes With, a collection that captures a romance that is no longer, scenes and footnotes that entice and leave the reader curious and wanting more. The works themselves provide enticing instances of foreshadowing for the doomed relationship. Darling contrasts light and dark, physical space versus the words inside one’s mind, memories and imagery delicately entwine. Below I am happy to share some samples:


We were no longer in love. The sky, too, was beginning to show its wear. A silk lining could be seen through every slit in the dark green fabric. 1
I started to wonder where we went wrong. You were holding a map of the constellations.2 Each of the minor stars had been assigned to a square on a little grid. The map seemed scientific so I approached you.3
You kept looking down at your compass. The needle spinning beneath a little screw. Maybe this is where we went wrong.
Above us, the sky is still wearing its green dress. The most delicate strings holding it all in place.

1. The photographs portray this dress as one of the most violent manifestations of the heroine’s femininity.
2. At the edge of the map, she could discern a cluster of minor stars. Their incessant movement seemed difficult to comprehend, let alone to document.
3. “I had wanted to understand the cause of this fearful disturbance. Within my compass the needle kept spinning and spinning.”

*I apologize that my footnotes’ numbers do not appear like they should, that is the limitation of trying to transfer her work to a blog post. I will say that I love how she creates her text and ties footnotes to them, along with pages of just footnotes. In this piece the overwhelming darkness and the avoidance of eye contact depicts a couple avoiding each other even while present in each other’s lives. The comparison of the sky to dark green fabric with silk lining is romantic and delicate, so delicate that strings hold it in place and threaten to smother the couple should the fabric break free. Whether that was the meaning behind Darling’s piece I do not know, I only know that it is how I picture it for myself. Darling is a master at creating a visually stimulating piece weighted with more emotion than you initially read into. 
Read the whole review here
Read more »
« 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... »

Extra Pages

Photos on flickr