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Flutes and Tomatoes by Wade Stevenson Reviewed at Kirkus

Flutes and Tomatoes by Wade Stevenson


A Memoir with Poems

This book, a combination of engaging memoir and unusual poetry, proves that quirkiness doesn’t preclude depth. The twin pole-stars of the work are simple objects—flutes and tomatoes—but its still life also includes a knife, a bottle of wine, and the interior of a small atelier in Paris. Composed in the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s death, this collection reveals the compulsive attention of extreme grief. In it, the author reminisces about a trip he took with his love, wandering the Loire Valley farms one glorious summer. But the only evidence of passion that remains now is a dozen tomatoes stolen from those farms, and the flute that the author’s love played so well. Faced with a sense of inertia, the author believed that grappling on to something solid might help: “The only thing that would make a difference would be if I could find some objective proof of love….if I chose an object of my affection and tried to understand it as no one had understood it before.” The subject was right there on the table, red and ripening: “William Blake said he could see eternity in a grain of sand. Why not in the seed of a tomato?” In Stevenson’s provocative verse, the fruits themselves connote a fleshy voluptuousness: “Tenderly, with blind / Fingers you touch the precious skin / As it swells and dilates / Like some enormous empty heart.” But beyond the author’s rich metaphors, the objective fact of the tomatoes drives the book’s credibility: “I have written so much about the tomatoes / They at last have become the REAL REAL.” In the end, the author penetrates his subject with a knifelike concentration, which grants him acceptance of his own plight; ready for a new start, he writes of going up the steps of his basement apartment into the busy streets of a new life. Readers should take a chance on this work, and not let the unusual focus dissuade them. 

A paean to the tomato and a song of natural devotion.

Read the whole review here

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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed at Poets and Poems



TSP Susan Lewis

Prose poetry isn’t as easy as it might look. I didn’t realize what tight control it can require until reading three recently published works by poet Susan Lewis, two of which are prose poetry and one of which is the more familiar verse style.

Lewis is an accomplished poet, having published numerous collections and chapbooks, including Animal HusbandryCommodity FetishismThe Following Message and At Times Your Linesamong others. Within the space of roughly a year, she published three books—two collections and a chapbook—and these are three I’ve recently read: How to Be AnotherState of the Union and This Visit. Her poetry has been published in numerous literary journals and poetry publications.

The poetry in the three collections has a broad range of subjects—commercialism, food, environmental issues, language, relationships, to mention only a few—but each of the volumes reflects a similar voice, a voice utilizing an observant eye and an air of authority. Consider the title poem from How to Be Another:

Read the whole Review here 

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Metamericana by Seth Abramson Reviewed in New Pages



  • Image
  • Poetry
  •  Seth Abramson
  • 2015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-60964-194-8
  • Paperback
  • 120pp
  • $16.00
  • Benjamin Champagne
A good poem places pressure on language in an interesting way. This mantra can be peeled from the pages of Seth Abramson’s Metamericana. However, his secret seems to be that a good poem places pressure on ideas in an interesting way—that a good idea places pressure on old ideas in an interesting way. Philosophy places pressure on technology and technology places pressure on philosophy. All of this interacts in a swirling and kaleidoscopic manner. 

The Metamodernists use the prefix meta, derived from Plato’s metaxis. In Metamodernism, it is the movement between modernism and postmodernism that grants a static and stable nature. Elements that were often opposed now seen to be one, mostly irony and sincerity. To achieve this, Abramson uses conceptual poetry, the creative methodology of which he describes at the end of the work. 

The book begins with two patterned pieces. The opening poem is called “Genesis”: “Much made of little. Little made of knowledge. Knowledge made of scholarship.” The poem continues on like that for an entire page, the movement from each subject fluid and logical, occasionally funny or transgressive. A further glimpse provides more insight:
Moonlight made of fantasy. Fantasy made of cleverness. Cleverness made of ridicule. Ridicule made of Hondas. Hondas made of steel. Steel made of Superman. Superman made of Marvel. Marvel made of DC. DC made of politicians. Politicians made of turkey. Turkey made of banks. Banks made of efficacy. Efficacy made of ink. Ink made of blood. Blood made of chocolate. Chocolate made of God. God made of Bibles. Bibles made of laws.
His commentary on what it takes to create a fantasy is all rolled up in the clever turns of phrase he delivers. These in turn help him to comment on politics and society from a position that lacks self­righteousness. The poems arrive in these positions naturally and move out of them just as easily, passing through God, Genetics, Uncertainty and Humanity. The poem finishes by saying “Men made of women. Women made of women. Women made of women. Women made of women,” assumedly into infinity. 
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The Sun & the Moon by Kristina Marie Darling Reviewed at the Iowa Review

Kristina Marie Darling’s new book The Sun & The Moon takes up the metaphor of celestial bodies to contemplate the movement of the bodies of two lovers as they move through the space of their lives. To illustrate the astronomical importance of her undertaking, Darling’s Appendix A offers three illustrations of two famous astronomical clocks. These clocks “show the relative location of the sun and the moon,” as well as planets and constellations. Though these other minor heavenly bodies make an appearance, it is the story of the sun and moon’s relationship to each other where Darling focuses her light.      

The long poem “The Sun & The Moon” consists of numbered prose poems and presents a teleological narrative that is signaled sometimes as one day, a calendar year, or several years of celestial orbit. Darling signals chronology by adopting the numbering system of the illustrated clocks, presenting twenty-two poems and a narrative that follows the seasonal changes created by sunlight received. Darling’s book is also a teleological narrative of a marriage, from the initial first night of the wedding party to a last night after the husband’s departure. In the poem, the speaker watches her party burn, contemplates what her husband brings to their union, and catalogs her own acquiesces to what she witnesses with a scientific, detached horror. Though she “did what she could to keep the house from burning,” she acknowledges that “sometimes things go wrong at parties.” This narrative suggests that couples lack complete power to direct a relationship’s arc, despite herculean efforts. The Sun & The Moon is the wife’s story. Blame and fault is cast on the husband, who “had an odd way of showing affection” and leads in an army of ghosts who polished knives, watched them, took notes, and eventually drove them apart. The husband is also the one who tends the fires and shakes an “empty wine bottle in the air.” Though the wife blames the husband for his destructive role, she owns her complicity. She loves him, says it’s a marriage of “practicality,” one which only began when “we decided we’d generate our own heat.” She admits, “It’s the strangest things that keep me from leaving.” Though the husband/sun leaves, the wife/moon ends the relationship by starting the fire, an act that surprises even the ghosts. Darling writes, “It’s safe to say they didn’t expect me to light the first match.” Like clocks that trace time, teleological narratives posit a beginning and an end, and both remind us to see time, and here, marriage, as linear. Marriage is built with an anticipated end.

Read more on The Sun and Moon Here 


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Requited by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed on Drunken Boat


Leaving Their Roses Behind 

Reviewed by Carlo Matos 

When a pair of doomed lovers wanders a garden, as they do in the very
first prose poem of Kristina Marie Darling’s Requited, it’s hard not to cast
them in the roles of Adam and Eve, the original doomed pair of the
Christian tradition. “We walk to a rose garden in the dead of winter,”
says our heroine, which suggests the garden may have already gone
through its postlapsarian transformation, trapped as it is in “a season
[that] never changes.” They stroll in a garden where the ivy is dead and
the only cherubs about are made of ice-cracked stone. Right from the
start, we sense the relationship, like the statues, is fracturing. “There
are always so many things that can go wrong in a conversation,” says
our speaker, which on the surface of things is a wonderfully simple way
of describing how relationships often miss the mark, but it also has to be
the most understated way of describing the ultimate failure of logos in
the first paradise—a series of catastrophic conversations between
YHWH, the couple, and the pesky serpent.

And like their Biblical counterparts, they too must eventually leave
the garden: “The way out of the garden is simple. I let go of your hand
and climb over a chain link fence.” The way out, of course, is always
simple; it’s the way back in that is challenging like the walled garden
of Milton’s paradise protected by warlike archangels with flaming
swords. Milton’s couple walks hand-in-hand east of Eden, but for
Darling’s couple to find their way out, they must simply break their grip
and make the climb alone.

Read the whole review here 

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