The following is my book review of “California” by Jennifer Denrow, posted on 06/09/11.

I had no expectations going into this, and have been rewarded. Her writing style is very direct, almost like poking a stick at your eye. What is most different, compared to the many poetry books out there, is her form and layout of the words on stanzas on the page. Overall a great, and fresh collection of poems.

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The following is my book review of “Versed” by Rae Armantrout, posted on 06/09/11.

There are a few things to like in these poems and a few things that leave me puzzled and unable to get an accurate glimpse inside Rae’s mind, or my own for that matter. In the abstract, sparse stanzas, I was challenged to form an image and take away my own experience. I may have been looking at a painting, but the light was wavering, the image cloudy. It is not obvious at first what direction a poem has taken or what the inspiration may have been.

Divided into two sections, titled “Versed” and “Dark Matter”, this collection feels like a snapshot where random quips are thought and written down. Unlike John Haines, whose poems are nature based, with a simple form where each word has a purpose, Rae’s are about the everyday life, headlines and news flashes across the Internet. The moments that occur and the feeling that follows, almost the knee-jerk reaction, are quick, raw, and unorganized.

A few poems are direct commentaries on pop culture (Anna Nicole Smith, Iron Man) and the way social media specifically, and technology in general are consuming and taking over our lives, trading the real for the digital.

Overlaying this collection is Rae’s experience with cancer, and an attempt to seek out and bring to light the unknown and invisible, the dark matter.

Favorite stanza, from “Missing Persons”, page 89:

“A thin old man in blue jeans,
back arched, grimaces
at the freezer compartment.”

The use of punctuation, in particular periods, is interesting. Most of the poems, especially in the first section “Versed” do not end with one, even when the proceeding stanzas do. The last stanza does not. I have not figured out why, or the purpose, or even a pattern. I thought maybe is it is a convention where the previous poem ends, but as an overall flow continues with the next poem’s title or first stanza. Reading the poems consecutively with this in mind, it is not consistent enough to carry through the entire book.

Some notable poems: “Amplification”, “Heaven”, “Just”, “Dark Matter”, and “Missing Persons”, “Birth Order”.

Another interesting fragment of each piece is the title, which the majority of them a single word. Over the years I have also favored a shorter title. It gives little away to the reader and lessens the preconceived notion they may have about a poems topic or direction. In my recent poems, I have gone with numbers and/or colors, matching what Jackson Pollock decided to do in his later life and paintings.

Rae’s poems are sparse in their words, creating images not obvious at first. Each word serves as a guide, a sign-post if you will. Where I was being led, I do not know. Overall, I felt the effort was lacking and the poems suffered from oversimplification at the hands of a decision to be abstract for its own sake, and a form and writing convention that made no sense.

In response to the latest Northography stimuli titled “Sunbaker”:

http://www.northography.com/responses.php?stimulus_id=250

Dear earth, can you hear me?
It’s me, John.
Listen, that glowing orb
is particularly hot today
and my Swedish skin has
turned brown and crispy.

Do you mind if I lay
here for awhile?  This sand
is soft and comfortable
reminds of childhood
on laundry day – mom washed the bedding
early in the morning
afternoon westerly wind
uninhibited sun took their
time with a simple task
and I ran through open fields
and Indian grass, chased by
the neighbors dog until we hit
one last target, ending in a ball of
lemon verbena sheets.

We lay there until we fell asleep…

Welcome to the new blog for William Ricci and Proven Life.  As time, life, and everything moves forward, it is important to take stock of my surroundings, my place in this world, and my purpose.

If that is true, I would like to give thanks: to the universe for allowing me to be here and write, to the previous lives providing experience and never-ending energy, to my family, brother and parents, to Patricia for belief, and uncompromising love.

If we wake tomorrow in the same shell, there is work to be done.

Judgment Day should be a time of reflection, and judging how we are toward each other, the community, ourselves within the community, and judging our self within.

What can we do to be a better person? What can we do to bridge so many gaps and chasms separating us from each other, and further isolating people physically, emotionally, and intellectually?

Through pen I hope to bridge the spiritual gap regardless of one’s belief in how we got here, what exists out there. Spending time worrying about the things we cannot see, the things beyond, take away from now, from what is here, what is within. We each have our own field with things growing and obstructing views over the plains into the sunrise and sunset. Now is the time to cultivate this field. Cut away the layers suffocating the being within, the weeds, and obstacles blocking the path, that you chose time ago, and are now ready to walk upon.

There is definite turmoil in this world as things fight for power and fight back against what oppresses. The world, the community, is seeking to rebalance and find some type of peace, a coexistence that stops the ripples across the matrix. Nature, the environment we walk within because she allows us to, seeks a balance where we respect what she is, what her role is. We seek balance to define what our role is and find a purpose, to make something of the life and time given to us now.

Whatever you want to call the event that triggers a pause, a moment of reflection (Judgment Day, the shift, 2012), it is important to know that what we need is within, that each of us has our own unique power and instincts, and it is an extension of the universe, that space we float within and without, travelling from dark corners across light-years over all time. The energy we possess that causes each cell to vibrate, never dies, and can never be distinguished. It will re-disburse to another time to reemerge as another being whatever you choose that to be. It is your choice.

I will end this with a quote from the poet and essayist John Haines (“Fables and Distances”), who passed away earlier this year:

“We speak of nature, of the natural world, as if that were something distinct from ourselves and the social world we appear to have made, seldom noticing that we are in nature and never out of it…”

Disillusioned is the title we take
my generation fighting back against
the call and allure of profits
at the expense of identity and the land
our tears fall upon.

We will not hide, we will not
keep quiet, our voice will reach
each darkened corner, each soul
pushed aside, left within the cold
confines of shelter lacking heat.

We raise our fists in unison,
the call of those aware and not afraid
to voice disgust against this glorious land,
a land shattering as divides grow, weaken
solidarity upon which it rose from the ashes.

The wasteland grows each moment
when left unattended.  The red, white and blue
replaced with the green, black and gold.
Our country, our land is slipping
from our grip, falling into other hands
with other purposes, other agendas.

We raise fists into the air.  Our march
our voice crawling across the land, we will find
you, that which takes away our freedom,
our frontier, the terra we cherish,
the life we long for, the fairness,
the equality our classrooms taught us.

We are here, you cannot quiet us, we
will conquer.  Many voices, many hearts,
many souls connected, the same vibration
growing louder, you cannot ignore the harmony
and peace, the unification, the one voice
standing up, conquering and exposing
the disease spreading into our water, the air,
the ice, our minds.

A mouth of one is too quiet, too mumbled
to reach those in high places,
beyond the clouds and air we breathe.

Discontent is the chant we take
with fists thrust high in the air
we march down your main street
in front of white picket fences, manicured lawns
and the mansion never slept in.

Went to TSO concert last night. Not enough words to convey the music, energy, and chaos of lights – beautiful. To finally hear Sarajevo 12/24 live is one step closer to a more peaceful existence, and the empty fields.

Monday evening at the Guggenheim, NY
Blustery wind from the North, cloudless
Sky hours before the lunar eclipse,
Trees in Central park prostrate themselves,
Yellow cabs line Fifth Avenue.

Gathering in the rotunda
And continuing up and through the
Spiral walkway four floors, people
Two and three deep hush as the
First trumpet emerges from the bass section.

Frank Sinatra stands beside
And allows the solo tenor to
Croon “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”
And the six floors leading to the dome
Are awash with a spirit regardless
Of belief and roots and for a few precious
Seconds I am empty.