Welcoming in the Starry Night… by Karen Holman

Welcoming in the Starry Night of the Lightning Bees is the third short book in the fourth volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Karen Holman is a social worker in Detroit whose clients include the mentally ill. In the final poem to Saint Dymphna, patron saint of the mentally afflicted, the speaker tells us, “Those afflicted in their minds collect and assemble the words they hope will save them. Their sentences tangle but I have a knack with ciphers. In response to their pleas I weave tapestries of words. Speaking plainly to you now is luxurious.”

Holman does employ plain speech. The opening poem admires the onion for its “frank gaze.” Like Acts of Contrition, the poems in this collection touch upon the relationship between mother and daughter — allegorically through the myth of Persephone and Demeter, and directly through narrative poems like “No Mood” and “Arguing With My Mother Over My Father’s Ashes.”

Holman also questions the trustworthiness of plain speech in this collection. “After the Ark” is an experimental prose poem that employs the strike-through to convey the impact of narrative revisionism:

I walk backward and drop a shawl over my mother’s nakedness. My mother is being beaten. I cover her nakedness. My mother is left for dead. I cover her nakedness. My mother runs away from home. Mother on the day father died in the house. I cover her…

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Books Are Here! (Human Shade)

About fifty pounds of books traveled over 2,500 miles to arrive on my doorstep today. I am deeply grateful to Marvin Bell, series editor, for selecting my collection Human Shade as part of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series, to Valentine Freeman and Jensea Storie for writing the other two fine short books in this collection, and to Christine Holbert of Lost Horse Press for producing such a beautiful book, and being so gracious throughout the process. A labor of love on many fronts is bound up within these pages.

I am off to the office supply store now to get prepared to sign and ship out books this weekend. As a special thanks to everyone who ordered directly from me, I am also including an audio CD of me reading all of the poems in my collection. I only have a handful of copies left from this first shipment, but will be ordering another box from the publisher shortly, and taking additional orders as soon as I can. Meanwhile, it is a thrill to hold in my hands such a beautifully-produced book of poems, and know that many others will do so shortly. [UPDATE: I am taking orders again. Details here.]

Votes of Confidence

After I finalized the manuscript for Human Shade, my debut short collection appearing in the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series, I gave friends, family, and co-workers the opportunity to pre-order the book. The response has been unexpectedly wonderful.

Each order that has come in so far has felt like a small vote of confidence in my work. Collectively, they represent a substantial community of encouragement and support. By taking and fulfilling these orders myself, I feel personally connected to readers. I can also see where the books are going, as shown on the following map:

(Drag to move; double-click to zoom.)

The first two boxes of books are scheduled to land on my doorstep on Thursday, and nearly all of them already have homes. Almost as soon as they land, I will need to request more books from the publisher in time for my readings in March.

This, to me, is the best the Internet can offer — a sense of personal and meaningful connection to a global community of support. Prior to this experience, if you had asked me to name fifty to a hundred people who would be willing to pay good money to make extra sure they got a signed copy of my book, I’d be hard pressed to name them. Now I know who you are.

I look forward to shipping out books this weekend.

Return of the Fist by Amy Lingafelter

Return of the Fist is the third short book in the third volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Illinois-born Lingafelter flirts with deeper human concerns through surrealism, holding up, as she writes in “Holoblastic,” “a mirror / in the bathroom of the party.” The speaker goes on in this poem to admonish those on “the road to Recovery” through cleverly spring-loaded syntax that “you’ll never always be wanting / just one thing.”

Indeed, Lingafelter never gives the reader “just one thing.” It is from “Days of Grace” that the theme of the title emerges, through an extended metaphor comparing ear-nibbling “Mike T.” to the speaker’s own animalism, indecision, and inability to avoid returning to “the fist.”

This signature combination of absurdity and pathos, dealt like a one-two punch, culminates succinctly in “My Cousin,” where we learn:

…My cousin was kicked in the face by a horse,
pregnant, indoctrinated, working at a Dollar Store,
in the Air Force, naked behind a shrub,
pregnant, married for three weeks,
when all of a sudden, she evaporated into a POOF! of tiny spores
she rode the wind southeast,
searching for the right conditions under a tree, a large stone,
to mold on, groove on, get kicked in the face by a horse,
pregnant, promoted and given a key,
felt up by a doctor, pregnant,…

The two most startling elements of this poem, that the cousin is “pregnant” and “kicked in the face by a horse,” recur and interweave through a series of believable and unbelievable “facts,” juxtaposing the plausible and tragic (“felt up by a doctor”) with the equally-shocking, but clearly surreal (“she evaporated into a POOF! of tiny spores.”)
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Death Song for Africa by Victor Camillo

Death Song for Africa is the third short book in the second volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Connecticut-born Camillo’s poems are set in the landscape of the American Midwest, with reference to many countries, cultures, and religions.

The opening poem, “Bar Mitzvah for Seth,” reminds me of the celebrated Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai in its ability to confront the weight of history through striking imagery:

My son does not know
That he is the oak outside the window
Whose leaves are blowing away,
That he is a raindrop,
A word someone might say,
That his name is not written
In any of the prayer books that his visitors
Pick up in the outside hall,
That the Jewish dead,
Lost on their way to Israel,
Are burrowing into the Synagogue walls.

Many of the poems in this collection are haunted by the past. The dead, skulls, and the skeletal recur, as does blood. In “The Monster of the Dead,” the speaker tells us, “At night the water in the tire tracks beside my house / Becomes my blood.” And in “The Disappeared,” the speaker admonishes himself, “I should remember that the pencil I put on an empty page / Is a thin finger of some anonymous starvation.”

Other poems are haunted by the present. Continue reading…

Liminal: A Life of Cleavage by Lisa Galloway

Liminal: A Life of Cleavage is the third short book in the first volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Indiana-raised, now Portland-Oregon-based Lisa Galloway believes that “poetry should be a shock to the senses, it should evoke something and it should leave you with something.” In poems about love, sex, drugs, and family dynamics, these poems look you straight in the eye.

The collection involves frank depictions of lesbian culture and sexuality. It is also laced with double entendres. The title itself depicts an irreverent attitude — since one who feels cleaved could be said to reside in a liminal space, neither fully inhabiting one part or the other; and also “a life of cleavage” carries all the intended sexual humor of a low-laced Renaissance Fair bodice. Throughout this collection, Galloway turns philosophy into wit, and draws the deeper philosophy and pathos out of seemingly glib word-play.

In “I Want to Shake You,” the speaker addresses a cared-for bereaved, and the futility of getting through to her:

…like you
are in Plato’s cave chained,
you can’t turn around to see
that the road does go on,
and there is more to life than shadows,
even though the buildings
are all wrong angles.

Sometimes you stay
because you’re still searching
for the words that should have been
her suicide note.

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