Poetry Reviews

LB Sedlacek

Reviews by LB Sedlacek, some of which first appeared in e-zine issues of “The Poetry Market Ezine”

Poetry Reviews

A Collection of Ekphrastic Poetry
By Michael Escoubas
148 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-761-3
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Besides the uniqueness of ekphrastic poems from the outset, this new collection of poems by Michael Escoubas is also quite original as it is a companion book to Sharmagne Leland St.-John’s own poetry book of the same name. They used the same images and the same title for each of their books. Leland St. John is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief and Escoubas is Editor and Book Reviewer for “Scribe and Quill.”

Escoubas has a way of bringing the art to life with his words. From the poem, “Gentlemen in Black” after “The Magpie” by Claude Monet: “After a fresh fall of snow / the magpie shakes snow-salt / off his wings.” You can easily imagine this picture whether you’ve seen it or not from these opening lines. The painting by Monet appears to be of a backyard in the snow.

From the poem “Vibrations in Color” after “Pines and Rocks” by Paul Cezanne: …”Like pines / whose roots find soil in rocks / you moved the rocks inch by inch / until you became the bridge / between Monet and Picasso / you exchanged a palette of dark / colors for Nature’s soul-lifting / presence….” This particular painting is of a forest scene. Escoubas takes you into the painting and then beyond it. It’s an all encompassing experience to see the art, feel it and then be transported in and around it by such inspired verses.

These poems are wonderous, thought-provoking, and welcoming. It is a sensitive journey of art elevating poetry and vice versa. The poems expand and explore the works of arts themselves leading the reader into a cerebral and refreshing comparison of two types of creative expression.

From the poem “Deserted Beach”
after a watercolor by Luis Cámera

“her life was the sand
and the sky and the twilight
not the pock-marked beach
nor the brown grass
waving helplessly in the breeze
nor the brittle fence
that could not keep them apart”

This collection is an emotional embodiment and perfect blend of the marriage between art, creativity and poetry. These poems rejuvenate the art. These poems uplift and accentuate the art with an accessible overall tone, and deep examinations of what lies beyond the colors and words on the page.

“Call Me Snake”
By William Heyen
148 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-759-0
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

“Call Me Snake” is separated into three different sections. They are “Competition,” “Romance” and “The Football Corporations.” I’m always one that reads the Table of Contents (TOC) to see what’s in store for me as a reader. Unique and I can’t wait to see what he does with this are two thoughts that come to mind with this new collection by Heyen.

The poems in the first section are sports related. Most of them have to do with football. Not to fulfil a cliché’ but yes I am a female that doesn’t watch sports at all on TV or in person. (I do, however, watch school sports!) My philosophy on this is that I’d rather be participating in the sport (good or bad or in-between) than sitting around watching it. Wrestling, volleyball, skateboarding are included here, too. You do not need to be familiar with sports, though, to read these poems. They are not simply poems about a football game, or another sport but rather an intense exploration of life through sports, because of sports or possibly what goes on in practice, retirement after playing and during the entertainment of this pastime.

From the poem “Draft”:
“He’s got what we call the right work ethic.
You know the gym rat cliché, first at practice,
last to leave. He says he wants to give back
to the game & to the Corporation,”

That’s simply the beginning of this poem. The next two verses really put the nitty gritty life of a athlete into perspective, deservingly so.

The next section continues along the lines of the same theme, but in a different take. There’s a poem called “If Jesus Played Football” and a tribute poem to “Kobe.” Plus, there’s a wry poem on a clash between a couple of coaches called “The Altercation.”

From the poem “Yellow Card”:
“This first World Cup on the moon:
without incendiary incident until
that signal corner kick for Axis when
their striker clappered our goalie’s bell”

The last section “The Football Corporations” is more in line with what happens in the commercialism of the game, a fans perspective, and so on. It’s not what you’d expect probably when it comes to this field.
Heyen’s style cuts to the core. His lines are not afraid to make good calls, bad calls, the calls he feels necessary to get the thought across.

Many of these poems were previously published in an earlier collection entitled “The Football Corporations.” And quite a few appeared in magazines.

Heyen is the author / editor of more than 40 books. He is Professor of English/Poet in Residence Emeritus at the College at Brockport, his undergraduate alma mater.

These poems are raw, but connected. With Heyen’s poems, no syllable is wasted and each word is meaningful.

LB Sedlacek has also reviewed Heyen’s “Crop Circles.”

“Sipping Tea & Bullfrog Songs”
… and other sightings of the Wind Rose
A Prose & Poetry Collection
By Baidha Dominique Fercoq
118 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-722-4
Copyright 2020

Review by LB Sedlacek

There are 9 sections in this recent poetry collection by Fercoq. The book is a mixture of prose and poems. The prose and poetry compliment each other and often flow from one to the other in a seamless fluid presentation.

The prose almost seems like an introduction to the poem following. But each is strong enough to stand alone, and reads quite well independently.

The prose is fresh and compelling. The poems are gentle and full of life. It’s quite a feat to be able to write both prose and poems, but to also weave them together is somewhat extraordinary and certainly a refreshing change to the traditional presentation in a poetry book.

“There are stories held quietly between walls, scents lingering long / after flowers have bloomed.” Lines like these (from page 24) give you an idea of what’s to be found on the pages in Fercoq’s book. This piece of prose is followed by a poem entitled “Stories from a Mountain Cabin Wall.” It opens with these lines: “The cushion of summer grass / beguiles my perception’s prism.” Imagine walking in a meadow in a grassy field, maybe being overcome by a rainbow and then continue the journey into this visual wonder of a poem.

Fercoq appears to be an accomplished poet. He skillfully leads the way into a spectacular imaginative experience with each piece of prose and each poem that joins it.

From page 63: “Fleeting treasure hunts fill many lives, and they manifest in different ways.” This is the opening prose line on this page before the poem “Sweetest Berry.” There’s much more to this poem than a bird trying to gather a berry to give to its baby chick.

From the poem “Dried Husk”
“Dried fruited soul
your husk rustles in the wind
as scavenging wildlife pluck your remnants
their sustenance in frigid winter’s lair.”

The prose prior to this poem talks about us being part of life’s cycle. And also it talks of how the flight of love, hope, joy, and despair brings us to our final end. Poets are natural observers and also naturals at comparisons. Taking an image such as a dried husk and comparing it to living life until it becomes final shows that Fercoq is a skillful poet.

From page 88:  “Who has never stopped in a field to look for a four-leaf clover?”  And who has never stopped to read a poem, or a book of poetry?  If you are new to poetry, this book is a great place to start.  If you are a poetry fan, then this book is one to add to your to be read list.  

Fercoq presents a compelling book of verses and prose.  The words practically fall off the page into your heart and soul.

“Footsteps in the Garden”
By Bob MacKenzie
126 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-742-2
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Bob MacKenzie starts off his new poetry book with these lines: “in battered stetson and old jeans /
he recalls the time of legends” from the poem “an american dream.” His use of sparse language gives you just what you need just like this poem lets you know his style of writing poems right up front.

Writing poems should be truly original even if you are writing about things/people/places others have also written about, too. MacKenzie’s verses exhale unique images which truly sets them apart.

MacKenzie’s poems vary from a few verses to several pages. I’m always saying that the poem should dictate the length and not the other way around. In the poem “in the midst of things” he gives you an eye opening view of empty streets and city life, myths and paradise, poets and folk singers and so on. This poem is a masterful tale, somewhat like a ballad.

These lines from the poem “The Dark Shimmering Deep for all the prophets in rags”: “I walk a wilderness of concrete streets, / I speak to the wind, I cry out to the sky,” make you want to reread them, savor them, then continue reading along to see what comes next.

These poems plumb the depts of life. MacKenzie’s words are soulful and skillful.

From the poem “Street of Dreams”:
“a street painted in darker shades
blues and blacks just beyond sundown
lamp posts supporting cones of light
staged yellow circles in the dark
fading to the vanishing point”

MacKenzie’s pacing is spot on. The verses sizzle with suspense, resilience, hope, love, trauma, solace, woes, so much.

My favorite poem in the collection is “read aloud.” It is a wise look at words and writing, something very important to writers everywhere. Lines from the poem: “the first and all / saying by / eye gesture / intonation / flow flux howl rant rave / dance fire smoke captive / words undone / doing” This poem is riveting as if it reads the minds of almost any writer out there struggling to get words down on paper.

It seems MacKenzie has found his own way of writing splicing in clever content amidst terrific verses. You will read the difference and maybe hope that all poetry was written like this.

“The Book of Questions” by Pablo Neruda

“The Book of Questions”
By Pablo Neruda
74 pages
Copper Canyon Press
Copyright 1974, 1991

Review by LB Sedlacek

This book of poems is one that Neruda finished shortly before his death. Each poem is short and almost every verse ends with a question. The poems pose questions — related ones usually, too.

It’s a unique way to write a poem, perhaps, and highly interesting proving points to poinder. It’s also the sign of an accomplished poet to wrte with brevity or in the opposite sense in great length. Know when to keep your poem short, know when to make them long.

These lines though, written mostly as questions, are short in length but long in thought. From poem III: “Is thre anything in the world sadder / than a train standing in the rain?”

One example of all the possibilities to ponder with these poems. No wonder, Neruda was one of the world’s great poets.

“The Five and Dime Store of Eternity” by Sean Lause

“The Five and Dime Store of Eternity”
By Sean Lause
83 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-744-6
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Sean Lause fills the pages in this new poetry collection with deeply personal poems. The poems are introspective and thoughtful. The visuals, the images he presents are perfectly crafted, but will zing right through your heart and give you pause.

He writes with passion. You can tell that every word for each poem has a deliberate reason for being there and that speaks highly of his craftwork as a poet.

From the poem “Astronaut of dreams”:
“Times I returned speechless,
all my words burned up in re-entry,
tumbling through eternities of blue,
learning to speak the silence of the stars.
Once I nearly drowned in timeless night,
dark as the heart of a burrowing beetle,
needles clicking like radioactive crickets,
yet I learned all that light can sing.
Harmonious recess—I left the mother ship
like human popcorn on a string,
guided by moons, luck, and wary angels.”

You will feel close to Lause’s creative spirit as you read these lines. He has a way of taking the seemingly ordinary and turning it a totally different direction. I find his verses introspective and inspiring. These are the types of poems with lines you’ll wish to memorize, share, and quote.

His subjects vary and contrast each other in a good way. For instance, in the poem “The Good War” he addresses the lives of different soldiers. The next poem is called “Bees of Autumn.” This poem is a reminiscent one remembering a lost love in autumn. “Before the Contract” speaks of factory workers and Thomas Wolfe. A good flow in the poem itself is always appreciated, but when used to go from one page to the next it helps the overall feel of reading the book in its entirety.

From the poem “The secret book-sniffer”:
“Hidden in the public library,
I sit encaved in an antique chair
(hand-carved, hand-polished)
in the Rabbi Dorfman Memorial
Reading Lounge, invisible to the
click-clicking multitude, each in his
boxed-in-solitude called computer.”

Lause writes in such an original way. His book makes use of visuals, placement of words which gives the reader not only an enjoyable books of poems to read but also one that is attractive, imaginative, fresh and exciting.

It’s a vulnerable and tender work, but also a strong and capable one as well. This collection has plenty to say. You will find solace, surprises, and connection within these pages.

“The Slow Knot of Time” by Martin Jones

“The Slow Knot of Time”
By Martin Jones
74 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-713-2
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Lyrical like poems greet you in this new collection of poems from Martin Jones. It is quite the calling card to illustrate a sensitive poet’s voice.

The lines are marked by an attention to detail peppered with moments of fragility, exaltation, dreams, Cadillacs, fate etc. The variety of poems is refreshing.

He seems to write with a curiosity. He even includes a poem which is an homage to Robert Frost. He handles this quite nicely.

His poems are mostly free verse, with some in prose. Plus there are some conversational poems as well. Even his rhymes are good. The poems seem inquisitive as if they want you the reader to go along with them along their path of discovery, or to help solve any unanswered questions.

His writing is committed. There is great care in each and every poem and it shows. The poems also invoke place or travel like poetry. It’s almost like going on a journey when turning the pages in this new poetry book.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section contains poems mostly for adults. The second section has poems for kids. This makes this poetry book a shareable book amongst parents and kids, or grandparents and grandkids. What will become of poetry if we don’t encourage younger generations to read and write it?

From the poem “Visit to the Mall”:
“Pull on your gummy boots
and fasten up your jacket,
grab the mitts and woolen scarf
beside the sewing basket,
Mom is driving to the mall today,
the school day is through,
we’ll ride the rolling-rocking horse
and see the petting zoo.”

The poems are heartfelt. That much is clear. Plus, they seem filled with gratitude in just simply being happy to exist.

Including the kid poems in the end is quite endearing. It also shows the skill and range of Jones’ abilities. This poetry book is filled with retrospection, love, dancing, family, ah so many things.

The poems are accessible. That makes all the difference when you read poems you want to enjoy them, learn from them, remember them and perhaps think about them later.

“The Slow Knot of Time” will be a long lasting poetry collection. It is a clever and encouraging book of poems.

“Space Place Time” by Dr David Dunn

“Space Place Time”
By Dr David Dunn
102 pages
ISBN: 978-93-90601-41-7
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

In this new collection of poems from Dunn, there’s quite a lot of good works mostly written in free verse and some rhyming styles. Visuals meet with each verse and the results are great.

Poetry may be considered to be an oral medium, but it is a visual one as well. The way words are used, the line spacing, the number of words on each line, spaces between verses, all of it matters to the poem. And, all of that can have an affect on how the poem may be interpreted and even on how well the reader enjoys the poem. Dunn is able to take advantage of all of this enhancing the impact of each poem.

From the poem “Fortuna I: The Kingmaker”:
“She didn’t speak in singularities.
Her head — a busy station, a terminus for memories;
a bakery for new ideas, dozens of tiny ovens, each
with delicacies and interesting staples; a barracks of
solid principles, life-learned skills, and barbed wire experience;
scar tissue healed over delicate, slightly perfumed skin;
vampirised; cannibalised; successful; waving a skull and
cross bones as a welcome warning flag.”

These poems take on interesting comparisons. They are quite imaginative. The images are easy to experience. Often, each poem takes an unexpected turn. Poetry allows the option to write how you want to, and to write about what you want to and Dunn does just that. For instance, he might combine lines or split them up to give the poem a certain gist.

The variation in the subjects included in the poems is nice. It weaves in so many different things.

From the poem “Fortuna IV: Taken to the Cleaners”
“On television, the wife was rational.
Discrete foreplay, forgiven indiscretion.
Eureka, Monica!
Clit on Clinton.
Doing me thigh way.
Interning me softly.
Monica, Hillary, country matters.
The lover, the wife, my venereal funeral.
No better political suicide than inside an intern.
Impressionless pillow talk upright in the Ovum Office.
Presidential precedents: FDR and JFK.
A fiendsex reborn from its ashes.”

Dunn’s writing is vulnerable. He layers image upon image and also poem after poem. They gel together nicely in the book as a whole. He obviously has a lot to say.

My favorite poem in the collection is “Hunters’ Hibernation.” He wrote this after Rilke, one of my favorite poets. He captures the nuances well. You can simply imagine sitting in those rocking chairs with the older couple and their dog.

This collection of poems has much to say. The poet is quite aware of what he’s saying. It’s also very original as one of the poems includes a poem within a poem as a crossword puzzle. This poet dares to take chances and has given us some very good poems to read.

A Sense of Place” by Richard Rose

“A Sense of Place”
By Richard Rose
92 pages
ISBN: 978-93-88319-41-6
Copyright 2020

Review by LB Sedlacek

This new collection of poems from Richard Rose contains what would be very likely to be called place poetry. Not everyone knows what this is – at least I end up explaining it a lot to people as I have published a few place poem books of my own.

Place poetry is what it says it is – it gives you a sense of the place that is being described in the poem or perhaps in a poetry book or chapbook as a whole. You might liken it to travel poems or something similar.

Rose’s poems take place, so to speak, in England, Scotland, India, etc. While poems can express feelings they can also express a feeling of experience as one tends to have when going somewhere.

From the poem “Hauling Net”:
“I hear chanting long before I see the men.
Along the shore their calls compete against the tide’s percussive
bidding me come, draw nearer, calling come see, and then
be one within the rhythm as man and nature here converge.”

As you read these lines, you can easily imagine men dragging in fishing nets. The way he intersperses space within his lines and makes good use of it also easily gives the image of water moving, waves coming in and out, ropes being fed through the line, etc. Rose does a great job between the dance of image and realness.

From the poem “A Landscape Never Meant for Man”:
“I scour the horizon,
but find it ill descried.
Blues and whites affiliate,
conspiring to conceal the seam
where land and sky should be defined.”

Rose’s poems move from place to place, strength to strength, from rich image to rich image. It’s easy to see why several of the poems in this collection were previously published in various publications.

Rose blends place into struggles and existence of the location, philosophical thoughts and perhaps real life happenings that define the poem itself. It’s an impressive use of balance in presentation. Poetry is wonderful for expression, and Rose definitely makes use of that.

Rose’s poems are intimate and vulnerable. He uses precise language to capture the inherent nature of the place he is writing about.

The poems are free verse but there is a use of some technique giving the language a musical like quality with deep emotional insights. Some of the poems seem confessional. There is a consistent use of grounding but powerful images.

These poems rejoice in their discoveries of place. They will show the reader a life lived fully in each one.

“Misplaced Vegetables” by Rich Ives

“Misplaced Vegetables”
By Rich Ives
98 pages
ISBN: 978-93-88319-87-4
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Rich Ives’ offer a tapestry of poems in these fable like verses of yesteryear into the present. He’s not afraid to take his poems off into dungeons, shadows, fairy tales and the like. Reading poetry with twists and turns can be quite satisfying. Poems don’t have to all be written in contrite rhyming verse.

His titles are a thing of beauty as well. When I teach poetry classes or write articles about writing it I’m always quick to point out that if you’re using a title in your poem then remember it is part of the poem. Ives certainly knows this. I believe my favorite title of his poems in this collection is this one:
“The Mayor’s New Policy on the Distribution of Urban Garden Produce.” You just know that you are in for an interesting read.

From the title, let’s look at his opening lines – they have that hook! It’s like the first line of a book – if it’s good you’re going to keep on reading. This opening line is from the poem “The Telegram Got Larger”: “every room in the sentence was a new color.” One can imagine from that sentence alone what may or may not be happening next in the poem.

Ives seems exceptionally good at putting together his poems. Several of them were published in various publications as well. These poems are smart and imaginative. Plus they are populated by complex and interesting verses.

The poems are a feisty bit of storytelling. Ives presents a good narrative. With every poem there seems to be more inside of it than on the outside.

These poems are also entertaining. Ives writes with compassion and an absolute willingness to take his work out into new directions.

From the poem “If I Have One More Thing to Say”:
“The shark-people have pearls in their eyes. I sleep
on a little island they surround, which delights me.
If the moon came down, it would be just as small
and see just as much, but it likes everyone looking.”

Ives has an unerring eye for a world beyond our own. The poem takes you into another world, another place.

From the poem “Definitions Occurring During Efforts to Determine the Role of the Primary Domicile in Contested Divorce Proceedings”:
“you’re already here now arrive
I’ve got a plate in my head for you
dinner’s late but I’m thinking about
utensils and bargaining with yesterday”

He turns lines inside and out. That takes guts as a poet. Plus, it’s good fun to read.

Genuine desire, human outrage, funny nature, life in times long ago, so many things– imagine what must go on in the poet’s head when he’s writing. Then read this book – it’s for the meek and the mighty!

Generous Peril” by Alan Elyshevitz

“Generous Peril”
By Alan Elyshevitz
71 pages
ISBN: 978-93-90601-85-1
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

There’s a great deal of variety in these new poems by Elyshevitz. The opening poem, “My Wife is Shrinking” is a look at women losing size or shrinking juxtaposed with workmen and how they get through the job. Quite the comparisons!

The range in this new collection is impressive. This line “More and more, I notice your gravity, /
a melancholy tilt toward the equator” from the poem “Late Summer” shows you the flavor of the poems, and the possibilities.

From the poem “The Engine”:
“Tutoring me on the parts
of this engine you lull me
to sleep like religion”

This poet seems to have the gift of taking one thing and turning it into another, or taking the reader down a path way different than may be expected. He’s not afraid to tackle any subject, or so it seems, and he’s not afraid to try something new.

The poems are exceptional. They are smart and imaginative. Each one is peppered by something interesting and complex.

Poetry by its nature can seem contrite or dull, but Elyshevitz’s lines promise us an inside look at how a good poem really ticks. He’s got great process.

You could read these poems every day. They have a willingness to lead you to more. And, it’s good for the reader to see, feel, think more about a poem than what at first may seem to be there.

Here’s another line to illustrate his gifts as a poet: “When I was a boy, rat poison was a quaint way out /
of bankruptcy” from the poem “Another Fraudulent Memoir.” A good opening, and then the poem goes in quite another way which makes it seem like an intense skirmish of words.

Quite a lot of these poems have been previously published in several different journals and zines. They hinge together well in the way the author has placed them in the book.

From the poem “The Greenland Vikings”:
“The Greenland Vikings wandered far from home,
conquering their head colds,
driven by an appetite for wood.
Their sleep was flat and leaden like the sea;
their wives were calm and broken in.”

It takes some smarts to tackle the Vikings in a poem. He also covers such subjects as Brazil, bread, the Homestead Act, Christmas Eve and the Monroe Doctrine and oh yes friendship, airports and ampersands. It really will keep the reader wanting to read because you just won’t know what to expect next.

Elyshevitz ends his poetry book with the poem “Theory of Everything.” This is the opening line: “Imagine a point of light, the hothouse of creation.” That says it all, imagine how you think a book of poetry should be written and you will find “Generous Peril.” This is superior poetry.

“Reverberations of the Genome” by James Grabill

“Reverberations of the Genome”
By James Grabill
99 pages
ISBN: 978-93-90601-42-4
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

There’s a constant comfort to the poems in this new book from James Grabill. He examines life, essentially presenting his poems almost as a research experiment or paper but in a far more interesting way. Immediately with the first poem, “Reverberation of the Genome,” you will be drawn in. This particular poem, is divided into four parts: “The Symbiosis in Diego Rivera,” “As the Sun Soars Over,” “In Schoenberg Mind,” and “Blue Fin in the Seas of Hemingway.” The titles are such hooks, you could just stop with them but after reading them, of course, you will want to read more and deeper into the text and see what’s behind them, or what else may be going on in the poem. After this zinger of an opening, he continues forth with yet more poems seeking to figure out existence, or perhaps something else that you as the reader can decide.

Grabill peppers his manuscript with famous quotes. They set the mood and his words rise up to the occasion.

The poems in this collection almost seem cosmic – they reach for the stars, so to speak, and actually get there. The poems are mostly written in free verse or prose with some lyrical qualities to them.

Grabill is well-published with several past publications of poems as well as many poetry books published by a variety of publishers. His craft is evident here.

From the poem “Seated at the Table”:
“Around the lion-clawed table of day and night sit the first humans
and their legendary offspring. Given the number of sensibilities and
ways they encoded the world, not many can agree about what’s to be
eaten and how it must be served. Erstwhile, enclaves attempt to enslave
escutcheony legions that qualify as the other to do the dirty work.”

This poem illustrates the scope of Grabill’s poetry. He manages to show you what makes his poems tick and then take it in an unexpected direction almost as if he’s collaborating with himself. Reading this book of poems is a creative experience. His poems seem to define humanity, flawed though it may be.

The poems are compelling and completely in the moment. They toil away at showing the reader a way to understanding.

Grabill almost seems like an invincible knight, a hero poet writing verse as if his life depended on it. There’s a certain cool and wow factor to his writing. Nature, too, has its footprint all throughout this book of poems.

Poems often cover every day things, happenings, etc., but once you keep reading you will get that jolt, that reason to keep on reading to see what else is there. Each section ties together well and that helps give the book an overall cohesiveness and one that suits it well.

Grabill’s poems confront dilemmas of life. Your life, though, will burgeon rewardingly after reading his new book. It’s a must read destination, a book you should have on your nightstand for daily consumption.

“After Goya” New & Selected Poems by Roger Aplon

“After Goya”
New & Selected Poems
By Roger Aplon
77 pages
ISBN: 978-93-90601-10-3
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Roger Aplon has put together a collection of poems with a wide variety of sections. In each one, there’s a contrast in style, theme, and so on. The poems are intense, each one simply enough to stand on its own.

From the poem “Just-Like-That”:
“The valley floor heaves & rumbles as rain cascades & lightning
chases them to their king-size bed where he slips
into her & panthers race the sky & coyotes scream with their
ghosts swimming through mesquite & cactus &”

His visuals are outstanding. It’s the poet’s gift to be able to use imagery to say what you mean in only a few words, lines, or verses.

His poems are stunning and draw from all sorts of things. The poems are set apart by some of the underlying philosophies in them. Aplon delivers a literary feel that touches hearts, souls and minds. His poems are relevant.

From the poem “There’s a Hole That Cannot Be Filled”:
“There’s a hole in the hall & another in the door that leads to the bedroom &
another in the kitchen &
in fact, there are holes throughout this house & the garden is filled
with holes &
there are holes in the visions of those who live here & thrive on
empty spaces &”

What his poems tackle at times seem ambitious. Yet, he constantly achieves what he is after. Each poem seems to unveil something else or something more than what it seems each one ending in a good conclusion. The end of a poem is just as important as the beginning and the middle.

“After Goya” is the stuff that good poems are made of. Aplon has had several other books as well as chapbooks published.

He writes to shine a light, to make change. Each word seems carefully chosen and fraught with meaning. He places each line in just the right spot to move the flow of the poem, to get the message across. What is poetry without conveying something or motivating the reader?

From the poem “Desert Lullaby”:
“Remembering (Among So Many) the Hass Refugee Camp – Idlib, Syria – 8/16/2019
Yes Tonight A camp Initiated for the Safety & Health of
the Disoriented Displaced & Dislodged Lies silent only
Fragments of Bodies that Once Filled its Squalid Tents Remain
& Yes as Reported a Bomb From a Lone Russian Jet Dissolved
All Hope of Life With a Whimper & a Bang & So Yes
We Announce & Plead We’re So Sick of War & The Thugs”

Alpon dedicates this book of poems to “all those who continue the fight for Enlightenment & Freedom, Wherever & Whenever.” He does good work with this in his collection.

The book is divided into sections titled “Encounters,” “To Witness,” “Six New Improvisations,” “Celebrating the Free Musical Improvisations of Anthony Tan,” and “Goya’s.” Each one compliments the other almost like experiencing a movie or play in so many acts.

From the poem “After: Anthony Tan’s Un/Divided”:
“Humm – Humm – Humm & gatt & got & gaunt & got gaunt &
She breathes & He gasps & dit & dit & dot-dot & catch & wire on fire
& eery & envy & tink & tingle & mum & mum & mum & boc & book
& botch & up & down & here’s the weather & the Giant whispers &”

Reading his poems are like listening to a serious song, a chant, a ceremony of sorts. These poems can be loud or quiet, but either way they blast you into thinking about what’s being said.

“Simona: A Celebration of the SPCA” by Chad Norman

“Simona: A Celebration of the SPCA”
By Chad Norman
99 pages
ISBN: 978-93-88319-52-2
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

This book of poems is a themed one dedicated to the rescuing of a cat named, Simona. While living in Truro, Norman and his family chose to add a pet to their lives. As many rescued pets are apt to do, the cat chose them as her new mates. The cat in turn became Norman’s muse.

Muses? Remember those? Ah, I bet you have a muse of sorts in your own writing life.

Norman infuses the poems in this collection with storytelling type poems about how Simona came to live with them. Simona is a Calico cat.

Each poem tells a bit about the cat’s life, or the poem is inspired by the cat. Pets have been inspiring humans (while serving as their companions) it seems forever and this is an enjoyable take on that.

The poems are often written from Simona’s point of view. They are clever and fun to read!

From the poem “The Rapport”:
“She causes this.
An ease in knowing
the language in the placement,
how the human hand
comes against her,
her head ,tail, ears, and paws.”

How easy it is to imagine such a relationship with one’s pet. Don’t have a pet? You may want one after you read these sweet poems.

Norman adopted the cat from an SPCA shelter. He found the cat after she had been traumatized by violent kicks from a human.

From the poem “Something about a Visit to the SPCA”:
“a Being who cares
enough to agree on a choice, to choose
to be a family ready to rescue a cat, a pet,
a reason to be a family hoping to enlarge,
hoping to be a family ready to say a pet
can enlarge us, can be the reason to rescue,
can be what the family requires to hope”

It is very involving to detail real life events into a poem. Each one of these is riveting. The emotion behind Norman’s cat’s adoption is so real. He achieves a victory with not only sharing his story and the cat’s story but also on the basis of turning the story into poetry. He wields his words in just the exact right way.
At times the poems are unsettling, but they are also intelligent and involving. How could you not empathize with this cat? How could you not be dreaming of a muse of your own to inspire your poetry writing after reading this book of poems?

This might be a book of love poetry between cat and humans, but it is utterly compelling. These are most definitely poems for fans of pets!

“Dream Tree” Haiku by David Watts

“Dream Tree”
By David Watts
50 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-714-9
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Short poems or haikus are not for everyone, but there’s a lot to be said to be able to contain your poems in such a brief form. First of all, it takes skill to write poems short in length (but not in what they say). Plus, this is also formal poetry because it’s written in a form.

From Page 23:
“morning fog
the shape
of fog”

There are so many possibilities to each poems and with no pun intended a bit like being surprised by what you might find in a fortune cookie or in a fortune telling novelty machine or even a greeting card. Remember when postcards used to have brief descriptions on the back as to what was on the front of the card? Those made for some visual messages.

David Watts’ haikus are indeed image filled, pictures unnecessary. He has the gift of turning his words in a direction you might not be expecting or even if you are the language accents any pre-conceived notions from the reader.

From Page 24:
“sun slips under a cloud
think I’ll borrow an apple
off my neighbor’s tree”

Watts has earned many accolades for his haiku poems and is well-published. With these carefully crafted lines, it’s easy to see why.

He isn’t afraid to touch on any subject admirably succeeding in capturing life with a crisp creative style. These poems will maintain your attention as his voice as seen in the haikus never falters.

You may develop a deeper understanding of this fine type of poetry or at least have a satisfying read possibly looking forward to more haiku from Watts. His skills with using such a few words is delightful.

From Page 43:
“warm snickerdoodles
another kid comes down
from the tree”

Now what a refreshing way to write about cookies. Watts’ writing is simply like that, like tasting the first or second cookie from a fresh batch right out of the oven. His words bring seriousness, joy, all types of emotion.

Once you read this book of haiku, you’ll very likely want to read more. Well done!

“The Incense(d) Heart” by Maha Zimmo

“The Incense(d) Heart”
not another poetry collection
indeed another poetry collection
By Maha Zimmo
94 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-700-2
Copyright 2020

Review by LB Sedlacek

Although the subtitles of this new poetry collection from Maha Zimmo might indicate a very light fluffy book of poems, this is exactly a book of poetry that is not anywhere near greeting card verse sweetness. The poems herein are untitled, but contain a last line that gives you an idea and feel of what the poem’s meaning was sort of like a hashtag or categorization. It could detract from the poem, but it does not – it adds to it. This style of poem classification I’ve noticed is often used on social media. More and more often, a lot of big poets have become just that from their online presence and posts.

I am unaware of Zimmo’s social media, but she may be one such poet or not. Her poems are serious and often touch on social, gender and cultural injustices.

Lines from Page 27:
“be careful what you look for
in case
you see what isn’t there
just to prove you were right
to look for it in the first place.”

Sample of one of the end lines, Page 29:
“- burn your magazines | us, beautiful ghouls”

These poems are a celebration of Zimmo’s writing strengths. Her lines are suspenseful catapulting the reader into thoughtful action. This is high-octane poetry because you can’t simply read it and forget it – the poems are going to seep into your brain. Each page stands on its own, but yet they all seem to weave together with a clarity of voice.

From Page 49:
“footsteps like rose-petals
you stepped out from shadow
and i saw moonlight
festival of lights
all lanterns’ glow moisten your hair.”
The tag line for this poem is: “- the (missing) magician”

The poems in this collection are gripping but sometimes dizzying because you don’t know where the lines will take you until you get to the end of the poem. And that is the best kind of poetry and poems because you as a reader should not want to know the ending before the poem begins. Her poems are thrilling, compassionate and insightful.

Poems like these make you want to meet the author and sit down for a cup of tea to discuss everything that’s inside each poem. These are poems you will soon not forget.

Lines from Page 54:
“you are choking
raging through salt-water.”
This poem is about being lost at sea, or so the tag line says. It’s a perfect mix of love and hate, war and peace with poems you will hang onto from page to page.

This is Zimmo’s second collection of poems. Her first book was entitled “rose-water syrup” and was published in 2019.

“The Beasts that Guide Us Home From Memory” by Sean Lause

“The Beasts that Guide Us Home From Memory”
By Sean Lause
78 pages
ISBN: 978-93-88319-85-0
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Sean Lause is a professor of English at Rhodes State College with widely published poems and several Pushacart Prize nominations. With the poems in this collection, it’s easy to see why is work is so well accepted.

The first line in the first poem (“January 6th, 2021”) of his book is: “I watch the chaos shimmer / from my television / like Martian cancer. You know with this start, he has something to say. And that’s the best kind of poetry where there’s meaning behind the verses.

From the poem “The Others”:
“A cat approached me
with a note on her paw
that read “cat.”
That was sound advice,
made more sense than my “philosophy,”
yet still I craved for more.”

Where you think the poem may go in “The Others” it definitely doesn’t! Two more of the lines further in the poem is: ““I weave death from sunlight, / and I am the silence the grass keeps.” Poems that take a different turn than you the reader expects are welcome. This is not greeting card variety poetry.

Lause’s lines are realistic and laced with more than a few unexpected twists. You will feel like you are right there in the Captain D’s or walking the streets experiencing these images as they come together with a bang in the middle, the end, or somewhere in-between. Suspenseful, entertaining and real poems are what you will find inside this new poetry book.

The poems have beautiful lines with a nonstop momentum which adds dimension to each verse. If you’re looking for some perfection in poetry, this is it.

From the poem “Kindred Spider”:
net of thinking,
like an old woman’s face.
The spider’s legs move
like silent syllables.”

These poems lead readers into a tantalizing and powerful poems. Fun, and high quality you will connect with these verses.

From the poem “Deer-haunted through the Alice woods”:
Deer-haunted through the Alice woods,
secrets from a magical mirror
tell a fawn’s reprieve from fear,
where a single word spells time’s return,
and the end of Summer’s dreams.

Lause proves he’s willing to take on a variety of subjects from nature to stories to cow tipping. He writes in a wide range of style including haikus contained in this collection.

In “Coyote Vision” he follows the path of one of these howling creatures. In “My final Halloween” he talks of unmasking the monster. These poems will coax you into a thundering motion.

It’s refreshing to read poems that contain an originality to them. The way Lause writes adds dimension to each verse.

My favorite poem in his collection is “The secret dinosaurs” where the narrator tries to save them by hiding them in the basement. If only! Here are some lines from the poem: “That left the huge, unholy monstrosities / trapped in time like aging poets, / susceptible to blood and meteors / yet determined to endure till the end.”

The last poem which is the title poem bids you to “watch gently from the nearing stars” (in the poem the word “watched” is used instead of “watch”). You will open this book expecting gentle poetry and while some of the lines are such these poems are an unveiling of dimensions and ones you’ll have fun reading!

~LB Sedlacek is the author of the poetry collections “I’m No ROBOT,” “Words and Bones,” “Simultaneous Submissions,” “The Adventures of Stick People on Cars,” and “The Poet Next Door.” Her first short story collection came out last year entitled “Four Thieves of Vinegar & Other Short Stories.” Her mystery novel “The Glass River” was nominated for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. You can find out more about her at www.lbsedlacek.com

“And Still I Had These Dreams” by Ann Christine Tabaka

“And Still I Had These Dreams”
By Ann Christine Tabaka
80 pages
ISBN: 9798684031267
Clarendon House Publications
Copyright 2020

Review by LB Sedlacek

What I like most about Ann Christine Tabaka’s poetry is that it has a clear meaning and it’s enjoyable to read. Poetry can be many things, but it isn’t much of anything unless the poet presents a consistent voice.

In this collection, she writes about origins, coffee shops, death, her garden and editors to name a few of the subjects. Tabaka, an accomplished poet and writer, is gifted with her verses and lines.

In “Sinful Indulgences” she compares broken love to a box of chocolate donuts. In “Straws, and Bottles, and Bags, Oh My!” she makes a case for preserving the environment likening plastic to god. She writes about such things as time and anxiety with a poetical style that would appeal to most anyone whether they like poetry or not.

She captures her subjects with such heart. Her poems are lyrical, seamless, and breathtakingly beautiful. There’s a good poetical essence here. Tabaka’s poems leave you with a sense of awe.

~LB Sedlacek is the author of the poetry collections “I’m No ROBOT,” “Words and Bones,” “Simultaneous Submissions,” “The Adventures of Stick People on Cars,” and “The Poet Next Door.” Her first short story collection came out last year entitled “Four Thieves of Vinegar & Other Short Stories.” Her mystery novel “The Glass River” was nominated for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. You can find out more about her at www.lbsedlacek.com

“Crop Circles” by William Heyen

“Crop Circles”
By William Heyen
75 pages
ISBN: 978-81-8253-697-5
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

From the opening line of the very first poem in this new collection by William Heyen you know you’re in for something different. The whole time I’m reading the poem, I’m thinking (a) this poem sums up my life (and most everyone else’s) at some point and (b) what a jolt! He doesn’t put you to sleep with the next poem, either. Nope! With a title like “Fentanyl” this poem mirrors a few real life tales I’ve heard about at the hospital, but have never ever dared to write about myself.

The next one, “Dracula,” is a blood boiling poem – you will feel like you are right there in the fanged ones shoes. More deep, sharp, skin prickling poems follow.
From the poem “The Banker”: When the banks opened their doors again, I was there at mine, /

surged in // with all the others to empty my account before whatever happened / to money happened // to mine, but we were all days late & dollars short—no tellers, / no managers, // the cash drawers empty, vault door open to vacant space, deposit boxes / empty, even.”

An experience probably had by more than a few readers. Except, in these poems you can expect the unexpected.

His writing style is connected, but yet not. It will lead you one way then quickly take you another. With lines like this “A Girl Scout came to my door selling brains in old milk bottles / from my childhood” from the poem “The Promise” come a unique point of view that makes you stop, think, and read some more.
These lines are tantalizing. They say what you might think, but would never say out loud or express to anyone else.

Heyen’s voice is exactly original. There are no similarities here, and that’s a good thing. I like to read poems that jump out at me, that leave me wondering, that are not like everyone else’s with a completely original point of view. Heyen’s verses will set your mind on fire and then some!

Here’s another great line from the poem “The Poet”: “I was thinking of scalping a sonnet.” I won’t tell you what the poem is about, you’ll need to read the book for yourself.

Iconic ironic lines flip back and forth from the mundane to the surreal to the macabre and back again. Heyen is a prolific writer and author of many books. With clever poems like these, it’s no wonder.

In my daily poetical work (teaching, critiquing, editing, etc.) I often hear folks taking up issue with how unexciting poetry is. “Crop Circles” though will stop your heart, bleed your mind and maybe just maybe make a poetry lover out of you if you aren’t one already.

~LB Sedlacek is the author of the poetry collections “Words and Bones,” “Simultaneous Submissions,” “The Adventures of Stick People on Cars,” and “The Poet Next Door.” Her first short story collection came out last year entitled “Four Thieves of Vinegar & Other Short Stories.” Her mystery novel “The Glass River” was nominated for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. She writes poetry reviews for “The Poetry Market Ezine” http://www.thepoetrymarket.com You can find out more about her at http://www.lbsedlacek.com

“Septuagenarian” by Sherry Quan Lee

Love is What Happens When I Die
By Sherry Quan Lee
102 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61599-568-4
Modern History Press
Copyright 2021

Review by LB Sedlacek

Sherry Quan Lee has put together a unsettling yet brilliant juxtaposition of sweet and sad, love and anger that will hit you right at your emotional core. The collection feels almost like heartfelt portraits of pain, disconnection, and strength all rolled into one.
Her poems, though, delve deeper beyond emotion presenting lines that achieve poignancy with their build-up. Context is important with any poem and Quan Lee achieves that. Her poems are fulfilling and real.
Her approach is straightforward. Poems examining her life till now offer personal and compelling details. She invites us to participate in her struggle, her internal voyages throughout the years. Her descriptions are vivid and they allow us to see beyond the setting into her internal strife.
Each poem stands alone, but each poem complements the other poem before it. Same with each section of the book. The author doesn’t let you forget that she is human and willing to bare her soul within her verses.
It’s a well-crafted book. Her words will seep into your heart and then some.

“Snapshots” by Bee Parkinson-Cameron

By Bee Parkinson – Cameron
Copyright 2021
26 pages
ISBN: 978-93-90601-51-6

Review by LB Sedlacek

An artist that works in pictures, a poet who writes poems in snapshots both seem to go together. Do you remember the Polaroid camera and others like it? That camera was intended to take pictures, nothing more much like Parkinson-Cameron seems suited to write these verses that fill these pages.
Her poems illustrate bits, snippets of the every day realization of how different one looks with aging, unpleasant relationships, beauty and more. Each line takes time to develop much like one of those cameras that takes pictures and you have to stand around flapping the paper as you wait for the image to appear.
From the poem “A Stranger Sky”: “You look at the dark sky / and see an absence of stars, / no glittering diamonds / embedded in the shawl of night.” A rich tapestry of words encompasses these lines. It makes me wonder if I should take more time to look at the night sky than I do.
From the poem “Be Brave”: “Be brave even when you feel the anxiety twisting like a snake in /
your belly.” Parkinson-Cameron gives us lines with a twist unexpected. It’s hard to read this and not think of a snake crawling around inside your stomach.
Her poems hit to the heart of the matter attempting to make change, to enlighten to re-frame things so that they are better. These poems give you the feeling that sometimes those who seem unlikely to do well will get that opportunity if they simply persevere. From the poem “Conform or Die”: “There are the ordinary people / They are all around you / So stand up, don’t be shy now / Come on and take a bow. In the court of average living / Standing on display like a prize fish / Your oddity is catch of the day / On the menu, you’re the main dish.”
These poems have a heart pounding tone while reminding you how fragile humans really are. The array of images is vibrant and full – she uses the kind that make you stop and think, and then think some more.
There are some sentimental poems in this collection, too about motherhood, walking in the sand and also for the sun rising. For instance, she tends to hit right at the heart of the subject with a poem all about how cell phones are used for everything but as a phone, which of course is so true Do you use your cell phone as a phone very often? Her poem on this very real dilemma is called “Hey xxx.” Clever title.
Parkinson-Cameron has created a enthralling collection complete with poems that make an impact, and fun poems as well. Always authentic, I like the way her poems tackle the beauty in life, but also how they show the underbelly to things that aren’t so great as well.
Take the poem “Memories Box” for example. It is a cautious poem. One can easily imagine sitting there along with the narrator opening this box of memories.
There is purpose to her poetry. There are also significant words, lines, and verses. She has chosen her poems well to put in this scrapbook that makes up her poetry book.
Parkinson-Cameron has had work published in anthologies. This is her first poetry collection.

“Smart Pills” by E. Martin Pederson

“Smart Pills”
By E. Martin Pederson
Copyright 2021
26 pages
ISBN: 978-93-90601-11-0

Review by LB Sedlacek

“Smart Pills” is a new collection of haiku poetry. Each haiku is contained on its own individually, but easily fits along with the others. There are three haiku per page. If you enjoy this shorter traditional form of poetry, you will find much to like about Pederson’s poems.

From page 9: “television is on us / as smallpox blankets / to native tribes.” He uses no capitalization and sparsely uses other punctuation throughout the poems.

The cover photo of a seaside at sunset incorporates the author’s photo as if he’s floating in the surrounding clouds. It’s quite a striking effect drawing the reader to it.

In the opening to his book, Pederson declares that you the reader need to take a smart pill every day to become smart unless of course you don’t believe in them. It gives quite the introduction into the thought producing poems on the page.

From page 10: “artists intrigue / by hiding the I am / under layers of color.” He skillfully presses you into thinking more, producing that a-ha moment when a line really gets to you.

Pederson is originally from San Francisco, but he has lived in Sicily for the past several years. He teaches English there at the University.

With these haiku he delves into the pitfalls of money, drugs, deadlines and marriage, puppies, ointments and more. His poems stay to two to three lines, each line containing minimum syllables. Many of the poems could be quoted on those ever popular Quotes sites online or on social media. Several of them sound like good solid advice someone might give you, perhaps even a professional. Pederson is definitely trying to up your intelligence with these poems.

Here’s one about a vegetable you may or may not eat, from page 18: “artichokes – two hours to prepare / ten minutes to eat.” Of course the poem is talking about cooking and eating an artichoke, but such as this layered plant looks is their more beneath the surface?

Haiku can be unique with its ability to articulate simple things or moments. These types of poems can bring quick pointed enlightenment with only a few words, syllables and lines. In this book, Pederson’s haikus become experiences that cause us to ponder, to pause, or maybe to become passionate about all at the same time. He may speak of the everyday, but he does it in such a way that it uncovers what lies beneath.

Pederson presents 66 haiku in this collection. With them he shows creativity and perception while exploring the world all around us. It is a tapestry of flowing thoughts and words punctuated by the enlightenment they bring. Simply put, this is a harmonious group of poems and yes you will feel a little bit smarter after reading them!

Pederson is quite a noted author. He also has another poetry collection available entitled “Bitter Pills.”

“In My Eyes” by Juelz

In My Eyes
Street Poetry
By Juelz
Copyright 2010
60 pages
ISBN: 978061542407
Juelz Publishing

Review by LB Sedlacek

Juelz put together this book of poems as a way to reach out to youth like him. He starts off this collection with a poem about growth. He follows that with a poem about being chosen by God and what his purpose should be. He has set himself the task of inspiring others from the start and he has done that so well.

From the poem “When my star dropped”: “I stared into the night time sky, I guess wondering why. No / tears, my eyes dry, wondering who we are, then I looked / over and noticed a star.” Juelz writes in a completely modern relatable way. His words are like a chorus of real life plus hope. Every line sizzles with good intentions.

From the poem “Struggle”: “My life is a struggle and I eat off my hustle. The concrete / I walk on is as hard as the souls of the youth.” His poetry obviously means something to him and he wants it to mean something to his readers, too.

The book is divided into 5 chapters. Original photos of the author are interspersed throughout.

From the poem “Violence and Guns”: “Five bullets, stuffed snug in a cold clip, compressed into a / handle with a comfortable rubber grip. The pain this can / cause is more than you can imagine, our young left dead.” Juelz’s poems cut right to the heart, his words are meant to touch and to transform.

These poems dwell on suffering, but also encourage change. He forces us to see for the first time maybe things we wish to avoid or pretend aren’t really happening. Each word has purpose.

The poems are mostly written in free verse, prose with some rhyming. They are well suited for most all ages. Plus they are relatable poems you can understand.

Juelz inspires with these poems with a message that is loud and clear. He brings the verse home, and that’s not always easy to do.

“In My Eyes” is his first poetry collection. “In My Eyes II” and “In My Little Eyes” are the follow up books.

“A Martian Sends a Postcard Home” by Craig Raine

“A Martian Sends a Postcard Home”
By Craig Raine
Copyright 1980
46 pages
ISBN: 019211896X
Oxford University Press

Review by LB Sedlacek

I discovered Raine’s title poem and after reading it I decided to read the whole book. Copies are not easy to come by at least I couldn’t check it out from my library locally or statewide. I had a hard time finding a copy online and finally settled on a good used copy.

The cover of this slender book of poems is startling. There’s a face right on the cover. The illustration is titled “Head of a Young Pierrot” a drawing from 1912 by Paul Klee. It really fits. The book opens with the title poem. It presents an unusual assessment of planet Earth from a different point of view. The poem itself won a prestigious award.

The rest of the poems in the book, though, are not all about Mars or aliens or even science fiction in theme. Subjects range from churchgoing with mother, a baby girl, sex couplets (indeed the poem is called “Sexual Couplets”), flooding, mortuaries, Greece, Karma, shallots, dandelions, dressmaking, the dark, lighthouses and so on. It’s a wide ranging compilation. It leaves one in anticipation of turning the page to see what’s next in a good way.

His form seems to stick to two line or four line verses for the most part throughout the book. Some poets write in strict forms, some come up with forms of their own. The best poets probably come up with their own versions of how their words align themselves.

Back to the title poem, it’s so remarkable how he has the alien viewing adults dealing with babies calling them ghosts, and calling going to the bathroom the punishment room with only water and different smells. Raine is the author of some other poetry books.

Of course with this title poem and book, it’s easy to see why Raine is most closely associated with Martian poetry. This type of poetry was a minor movement in the late 70’s and early 80’s in British poetry. In it, poems have everyday things or human behaviors described in an unusual or strange way sort of as a Martian might describe it if he/she/it were visiting Earth and didn’t understand what they were seeing.

The rest of the poems in the collection, though, aren’t authored from a Martian point of view that I could tell. Each one stands well on its own.

These were good poems. I savored each one. I’ll be looking around to find some other works by Raine to read as well.

“Selected Poems” by Steen Anderson

“Selected Poems”
By Steen Anderson
Copyright 2021
70 pages
ISBN: 978-93-90601-15-8

Review by LB Sedlacek

Steen writes gripping, thrilling poems in this thoughtful collection. It’s everything you’d want in a poetry book. His lines get under your skin as if he gets how you really feel.

The book is divided into 8 poem sections. Each one seems to build on the last, but each one also stands on its own. His words draw you in, he writes with a unique voice and sense of self.

From “Islands”: “Headstones glitter in the sun / there was never a church over there / the dead are in a place where they didn’t belong….” Those are the lines that start off the island poems. From a graveyard, to flowers, to boat travel, to the sea, the horizon – Anderson expertly navigates each page into a poem of wonder, adventure and compelling verse.

“Insomnia is insistent here,” “Pictures arrange themselves on the walls,” “To chase the day, that’s their constant saying,” “The lines and colours of the map are just an image” are some of the delicate lines you will find in these poems. Each poem draws you in.

My favorite poem was from the “Boundaries” section. Here are the beginning lines: “She’s close to the painting / as if she wants to breathe in the smell of oils / to return to its making….” These lines are full of possibilities such as being in an art museum, speaking to a stranger, speaking the person in the painting, and so on.

Anderson has an authentic way of writing. His is an essential voice. This is a good book of poetry.

“Shadows” by Alexandra Grant and Keanu Reeves

by Alexandra Grant and Keanu Reeves
Copyright 2016
96 Pages
ISBN: 978-3869308272

Review by LB Sedlacek

This is a neat idea for a poetry book. I love the concept. Poetry doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be illustrated with words and pictures. Don’t just read this book because of its famous author, read it because you enjoy a different kind of poetry.
I would love to be able to read Reeves’ other poetry book, “Ode to Joy,” but alas I cannot find a copy to check out, borrow, and due to its rarity it’s too expensive to buy. One day, maybe!

“Ignition Point” by Gary Beck

“Ignition Point”
By Gary Beck
Cyberwit Press
116 Pages
Copyright 2021
ISBN: 978-93-90601-02-8

Review by LB Sedlacek

Beck’s passion for poetry leaps off the pages in this new poetry collection.  Each poem covers a real life event, observation or emotion.  The words are vivid and raw, but also soothing.

From “Last Resort”:  “I lost my job / when they hired a kid / at half my salary.”

From “To the Fires”:  “Combustible materials / frequently fall / into the wrong hands.”

You feel like you are a part of his poetical world as you read each poem.  The poems wash over you with feelings of relating to the situations in them or they come at you in a hurry making you really think about things.

From “Purchase Power”:  “persistent to obtain / the promised land, / denied entry / by callous servants / of the lords of profit,”

My favorite poem from the collection was “Renewal.”  Lines from the poem:  “Magnolias briefly bloom / dazzling the eyes / with elegant beauty, / intoxicating the  nose / with nature’s finest scent / never duplicated / in contrived laboratories.”

What ease I felt reading this poem and imagining the giant magnolia trees in my back yard where I grew up. 

Life in the big city (NYC), cell phones use, and so many other interesting views fall into the rest of the poems that round out this collection.

From “Purchase Power II”:  “Patrons of the art world / bid at auction / competing for masterworks / against rival appetites, efforts rewarded / by acquisition,”

There’s so much to feel, think and absorb here.  This is a must have collection for your poetry shelf!

“Refusing Heaven” by Jack Gilbert

“Refusing Heaven”
by Jack Gilbert
Alfred A. Knopf
92 Pages
Copyright 2005
ISBN: 978-0-375-71085-8

Review by LB Sedlacek

I recently read a poem by Gilbert, so then I went searching for his full-length collections. I decided to start with this one. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.

These poems are what I’d call urban, and remind me of some of Carl Sandburg’s Chicago poems. I feel the intensity in each word, the build up with each line. There’s nothing held back in his writing. I like poems like that – ones that encourage you to go up to the edge, tiptoe up to it, barely look over, then get even closer until you are almost over on the other side … or not, your choice.

He’s not afraid to rhyme, throw in some Beat verses, and write completely original lines however he wants. That takes an indie spirit and heart. It’s the kind of verse we need, especially these days.

I’m glad I discovered Gilbert. I’m glad to find a poet who thinks outside the box, like me.

Overall lots of imagery and provocative thoughts here. This is some fine poetry.

“Trio” by Karla Huston, Ellaraine Lockie, and Connie Post

by Karla Huston, Ellaraine Lockie, and Connie Post
The Wapshott Press
ISBN 9781942007340
89 pages
Copyright 2020

Review by LB Sedlacek

The three voices in this collection by three female
poets work perfectly together. Each section
perfectly blends with the next, or the one preceding
it. It’s almost as if all three of these poets wrote
side by side.

Each set of poets and poets focused on a theme:
mothers and daughters, chronicling life, and
water. It’s a resounding and striking set of poems.

All three poets are quite accomplished and it
shows in these poems. The poems seem to have
a rhythm all their own, a poetical melody. For
instance, Lockie’s poem “Seattle’s Rite of Spring”
begins “Hardly Stravinsky’s riotous fling / of jarring
rhythms and dissonant notes / That offering to the
gods of spring….” While in Huston’s poem “How I
Remember It” starts with “I watched my mother
can green beans, / while the kitchen filled with a
dizzy yellow light. / Sugared tomatoes puddled in
her white bowls;….” In “Before” Post’s poem
jumps right in with “I am the tsunami / before it
hits….” Three gifted voices contrasting with one
another while complementing each other all the

This book was a pleasure to read. I savored every
minute of it.

“Defense Mechanisms” by Jessica Goody

“Defense Mechanisms”
by Jessica Goody
Phosphene Publishing Co.
ISBN 978-0-9851477-7-8
Copyright 2016
114 pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

The first poem “The Mermaid” that opens
Jessica Goody’s poetry book is a frank look
at turning a mermaid into a human. It’s a
captivating poem, chock full of startling
images of what would most likely happen
to a real mermaid on land. It’s a stark
welcome to a world of poems that touch
on many different emotions, circumstances
and experiences with varying approaches.

Other poems in Part One (Being Handicapped)
are exact looks at real life in poetical form:
From “Drawing Blood” – “I feel the pinch
and snap of the sterile / tourniquet clinching
my flaccid bicep,” and from “Extraction” –
“They don’t look like they belong in the
body, / but are foreign objects meant to be
removed. / My swollen cheeks are soft and
foreign to the touch.”

The poem “Awakening” compares puberty
to the tale of Rip Van Winkle. “Fog People”
melds a fog like existence to dealing with
the outside world and physical limitations.

In Part Two (Green Sentinels) of the book,
the poem “Suicide Methods” is a poignant
take on a razor/bathtub death presenting it
in such a way that it almost seems okay.
“Fallen Apples” turns harvesting apples
into a soft subtle memory and a real
experience almost like being there. Read
this poem and it will make you crave an
apple. From “Ode to a Sea Lion” –
“Your cough-like back warns / he is unwelcome
on your turf. / It is a gang war, bull versus
bull.” This is a poem that will make you
channel just that, a sea lion!

Part Three (Other Voices) seems to head
into a kind of gray area almost like
a meditative chart. From “The Color of
Rain” – “…The damp concrete glints,
bathed in the afterglow / of a passing

Goody’s work is just like a storm –
it starts slowly, grows large and
powerful then subsides. You’ll be
glad you read it if you pick up this

“Appearances” by Michael Collins

by Michael Collins
Saddle Road Press
ISBN 978-0-9969074-5-3
Copyright 2017
83 pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

The opening poem, also the title poem in
Michael Collins’ “Appearances” lets you
the reader know what you’re in for – a
rich symphony of woven words and
flowing images. From “Appearances”:
“sky, wind, unbreathable / in graves of
language / almost enough ….” The next
poem is just as powerful – “Poem For a
Predator” with the narrator as a wolf on
the beach of everyday existence. There’s
more to the message in this poem,
“Creatures preying on one another / for
no good reason, only instinct, living / and
dying out ….” “Winter” evokes images
of playing in the snow, making snow
angels, what the world looks like that
time of year. “Creation” is another
winter like poem as it talks of the
uniqueness of snowflakes: “seem to
have been made / in the image of a
paper weight.” “Fall” is another
season poem where the narrator
becomes a leaf.

“Fog” is set on the beach, near the
sea and in this poem Collins
examines his own images,
spaces, how the poem is being written –
an interesting and thought provoking
choice. “Do I have a right to these
images, / to lyric the space between
me and / my vision? ….” (From the
poem “Fog”). “Negatives of Soul”
continues in the beach / seaside
theme contemplating herring feeding
near the dock, fish in the sea and
how they exist without knowledge
of us. The words, phrases, verses,
spaces in this poem flow like ocean
or lake water back and forth lulling
in the reader into a peaceful journey.
“Matins” is another lulling poem –
you will be pulled in by the strong
images and lines such as “I wear
into the plastic world, the fog /
my destiny. The landscape permits
this, /”.

Poems are vital to society. Poets
come to us from diverse backgrounds
providing us with unique works and
that’s what Collins has done with
this collection. He is a poet of
remarkable range and skill, his
poems are observations of the
shared essence of nature, man
and their struggles, strengths
and vulnerabilities. In these poems,
he has put together an admirable

“Parabola Dreams” by Silvia Scheibli and Alan Britt

“Parabola Dreams”
by Silvia Scheibli and Alan Britt
Bitter Oleander Press
ISBN 978-0-9786335-9-2
Copyright 2013
113 pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

“Parabola Dreams” is divided into two parts –
the first part is by Silvia Scheibli, the second
by Alan Britt. The poems while written
separately seem to complement each others.

In Scheibli’s “Parabolas (For Alan Britt),” she
writes of two selves, the physical and the
spiritual while conjuring up poetical connections
from Knights, Taoists, Rumi, Mira Bai,
Shakespeare, Rilke, etc. of why poets write poems.
In “En El Dia de los Muertos – Nogales, Sonora,
Mexico” she talks of death drinking cappuccinos
at a bar. Her poems take on nature, dreams,
soccer, stockings, Kokopelli, the lack of rain,
ironing – a cornucopia of subjects.

Britt continues with poems that join forces,
so to speak, by tackling subjects such as
Maple seeds, Spanish wine, heat waves,
cucumbers, dreams, Langston Hughes, and
hanging drywall.

In “Picking Cucumbers” the imagery
Britt uses makes the reader feel as if they
are in the garden with him. “Nuns” is
a fun poem totally not about what you
think a nun may be normally doing (let’s
just say it involves a 1956 T-Bird). “Ode
to 1958” is about a teacher at a county fair
or is it? It turns into a poem about poetry
and polo playing and the Lobster Man!

These two authors/poets write differently,
but their poems balance well with each
other because there’s so much imagination
so much good language dripping with
visuals that what’s on each page is
something to savor.

Britt and Scheibli have joined words,
joined forces in a very powerful way!

“Reality Check” by Ricky Rapoport Friesem

“Reality Check”
Word Sonnets
by Ricky Rapoport Friesem
Kipod Press
ISBN 9789659097128
Copyright 2012
73 pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

When I opened Ricky Rapoport Friesem’s
poetry book, the first line I read was
“*Fourteen line poems, with one word per
Line” underneath the title. Immediately,
I wondered how would this be accomplished
and couldn’t wait to turn the pages. One of
the neat things about poetry is brevity!

“Arrival” is the first poem and it welcomes
you (the reader) while setting the stage for
a poem of oh there you are oh well kind of
relationships we can all relate to. The next
poem, “Booby-Trapped” talks about taking
the train to Tel Aviv. “Closing Bell” is
about school ending for the day. “Confession”
goes into the anxious wait for someone to
come home.

More poems delve into the cosmos, cats,
what we do to please others, Auschwitz,
loss of a loved one, hotels, jam sessions and
more. Speaking of jam sessions, these poems
could easily be set to music or at the very
least performed as spoken word.

From “Penguins” – “See / them / waddle /
flap / flap / gather / then / they / scatter, /…”

Each poem is a 15 maybe 20 second
departure into the words for the reader. The
poems are fun, make you think, a great intro
to poetry for non-poetry readers and a quick
tap on the forehead or heart into what makes
a poem or poet tick.
This collection by Ricky Rapoport Friesem is
a keeper – you’ll want to keep it on your
bookshelf to read again and again!

“To the Dogs” by Roberta Gould

“To the Dogs”
by Roberta Gould
Flame Tree Press
44 Skea Rd.
West Hurley, NY 12491
ISBN 978-0-6925-8875-8
Copyright 2016
70 pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

Delightful dog (and sometimes cat) pictures
are scattered throughout Gould’s book of
poems about dogs we love. In “Scanning”
she describes dropping a plate of food on
the floor and a dog checking it out.
“Compensations” talks about a guide dog.

The poem “Dog” is a poem devoted to a
day in the life of a dog.

“4. / Teasing the cat in the morning. /
her growl is feigned /
all teeth and delight”

“12. / “Get off!” you command, /
she circles the linoleum /
noisy nails scraping and sliding”

Gould examines the many ways dogs
are a part of our lives in this collection.
The poems have the voice of an animal
lover and an observer of dogs in action,
in everyday life and living with humans.

From “Does a Dog Have Buddha Nature?”
The Master Asked
“I process minerals / develop a gizzard /
and robots do my work”

From “Viet Nam”
“A dog stalking the wreckage /
a genocidal pilot /
trailing white clouds of silk”

Gould’s poems will make you want a dog
(or maybe to volunteer and work with dogs)
if you don’t have one already!

“Splitting an Order” by Ted Kooser

“Splitting an Order”
by Ted Kooser
ISBN 978-1-55659-469-4
Copyright 2014
Copper Canyon Press
87 Pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

Ted Kooser writes easy to understand poems
that float in and out of the mind with
such eash you may not even realize you’ve
just read one of his poems. In this
latest collection, he covers every day
subjects and happenings such as a visit
to Arby’s, bad news, running errands, etc.

These poems make me think of snapshots
of life, things that any reader of this
book could or may experience. In “A
Meeting after Many Years” this poem takes
us to that awkward moment when you run
into someone you used to know. “In a
Gift Shop” is all about a young lady
helping an older lady pick out cards.
In “Two” the poem drifts around passing
a father and son dressed in ties and
shirts looking so much alike.

The tone of these poems is warm. The
words are plain spoken. Kooser takes
the smallest details and makes the
reader want to read about them.

The final poem, “At a Kitchen Table”
printed also on the back cover sums
it up the best likening a warmly lit
kitchen table with everyone gathered
around listening to and telling
stories. Kooser tells stories in his
poems whether you care to hear them
or not.

The Poetry Market Ezine was published from Sept 2001 – Dec 2020 by Poet, Author, Publisher, Editor, & Poem Critic, LB Sedlacek

LB Sedlacek