Arnold Skemer’s ZYX magazine has reviewed 7 KSE chapbooks from late 2007/early 2008 in the new issue #48. Send Mr. Skemer five or ten dollars in cash and ask for however many copies of ZYX that buys. Besides featuring always-interesting poetry and essays, ZYX presents some of the most spot-on reviews you’ll find. Mr. Skemer does what the best criticism always does: he brings an open and well-read mind to a piece, seeks to understand the piece and what it’s trying to achieve, and analyzes how well it succeeds at that. He’s one of the rare critics who is pushing no literary “School” and who could not care less about “hipness”. Here are the reviews in the order they were presented in ZYX #48:
SHORE ACCESS, Bill Shute (KSE #91)—-Poetry with a strong sociological and economic vector. The cooks, dishwashers, and wait staff at River City Grille in Lake Marble Falls, Texas, review the world that surrounds them and sum up their social and financial positions. Money, or the lack of it, determines their destiny. A dishwasher with fingers numb from grabbing flatware straight out of the dishwasher, who slaves to keep his red Mustang repaired and insured, the cook who aspires to rise up to a top tier Dallas restaurant, their lives all limited by pecuniary determinisms, squeezed into miseries, enduring the degrading, the unbearable passage of time. An interesting viewpoint, a cogent angle of poetic exploration.
LUNA AMERICANA, Bill Shute (KSE #88)—-We’ve received quite a lot of anti-war poetry here. 90% of it is tiresome junk but this is clever and funny. Thus in “Waning Gibbous Moon”: “With a national case of erectile dysfunction/the motions are gone through/the images visualized/the Boy King inflates/ his Mister Freedom blow-up doll/and commands us to watch/a one-man dry-humping party.” Five pages for five phases of the moon. In the last phase described, “New Moon,” “America struggles to rise to/ its feet / enduring yet another round / pummeling itself / in the ring.” Alluring poetry that makes the reader do some thinking to arrive at a meaning.
KEEPERS OF SILENCE (for Luis Omar Salinas), Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal (KSE #82)—-Seven poems in tribute to Salinas. Cuauhtemoc reveres him greatly: “I read two poems at his/birthday party. I said to many I would/never read for anyone/but Luis Omar asked me/to read. How could I say no?” The final poem in the collection is “Cuauhtemoc, the poet.” He really hits the emotional pressure points: “I think of long lost girls/who I wanted/to kiss/my loneliness/made me a poet…/I am heartbroken and alone/and I make up songs/about my unresolved dreams…” For those who live by a code of emotional self-restraint, it is difficult to emote over so self-revealing a poetic voice. Cuauhtemoc is as far from clinical detachment as it is possible to be.
RIMBAUD IN THE CITY: 10 SNAPSHOTS, Glenn W. Cooper (KSE #83)—-Rimbaud lives, and walks the streets of today’s world: “In the midnight/rain through newspaper/strewn alleys and/dirty black streets/the stray dogs barking/the dark fists of night/and his loneliness gets worse/than absinthe poisoning.” And “when she stares/into his stricken eyes/the famous blue irises/of his youth dissolve and/hot grey ash pours out/onto the pink bed sheets.” An interesting poetic idea achieved masterfully.
VISITATION, MK Chavez (KSE #90)—-Describing the visit of the poet to her mother in a state mental hospital. There is a monster lurking in her psyche and she is continually confronted by manifestations of it: “the darkness from the hallway/would pour/into the waiting room.” The monster has devoured her mother and has “left me bleeding.” She wishes to excise it but “there’s no way to avoid/losing the meat that surrounds/the wound.” Mental illness runs in the genes. This is the burden that hangs over the poet.
NEXT EXIT: SIX, K.M. Dersley and Adrian Manning (KSE #80)—-Decidedly a different style from the American-based “Next Exits.” These British exits are mannerly, sedate and gently reflective, instead of bleak and pessimistic, much as Miss Marple differs from Sam Spade. An American reviewer gravitates towards the raunchy bits such as in “Ipswich, Suffolk” where “gypsies dug a great hole/and dropped six or seven different/colors of shit there/you had to be careful/not to make the mistake/of walking into that crater.” In “Wigston, Leicestershire,” the poet revisits the High Street of his youth and reflecting on the mutability in the town “growing as I have grown/becoming older, worn and/lacking that shine/that was there before time began.”
37 PSALMS FROM THE BADLANDS, Hosho McCreesh (KSE #85)—-37 images of the land, an indelible portrait of life and the raw indifference of nature: “Cow skull/picked clean by/hungry beetles…/…tumbleweeds/blow through these/haunted ol’ bones” (#14) . “Echo of a train whistle/trails off the red bricks/& out into the canyons” (#27). “Triangular black stamen of Trinity site,/a trintite caldera, fire-petals long withered–/a terrible flower in the desert,/ pollen still taking seed” (#31). Succinct, laconic, eloquent, clear and very much to the point, McCreesh etches a portrait of the West in all its manifestation, burning it into the reader’s mind. Not a word is wasted. Probably the best of the seven chapbooks.
—-reviews written by Arnold Skemer, from ZYX magazine #48, December 2008
Alas, all of those books are now sold out, but Luis has two chapbooks available presently (NEXT EXIT: SEVEN, written with Ronald Baatz, and GARDEN OF ROCKS), MK will be appearing next month in NEXT EXIT: NINE, and Adrian Manning will have another as-yet-untitled KSE solo chap coming later this year or early next year. And MK, Luis, K. M. Dersley, and Adrian will be part of the KSE POETRY YEAR 2009 project, each of them having solo chapbooks in ’09 as part of that series. As for me, I’ve got QUARTET: IMPROVISATIONS ON THE MANDUKYA UPANISHAD and FACE TO FACE presently available, and I’ve been working with A. J. Kaufmann on a collaborative chapbook of meditations based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.