Out from Calaboose is an ambitious work, rich with mythology, politics, ecology, and psychology. The book moves through darkness and light, trauma, loss, desire, pain, but also, and always, leaning towards freedom from these things. One gets the sense that this freedom lies almost entirely in the power of words – the poems themselves are the keys.
I am a firm believer in craft and study. We can all benefit from workshops, retreats, formal and informal study, as well as constructive criticism from our peers. Magnesium is not a bad book, it’s Ray Buckley’s book. Perhaps, Buckley would have given this reader a different experience had he focused on developing each poem and letting the reader in.
The poems in Elvis Alves’ new chapbook Ota Benga have a rhythm that is almost performative. Most of the poems have a subtle rhyme scheme that, when enriched by a modern undercurrent of political anger, comes across with a slam aesthetic. They work particularly well when spoken aloud, with the rhythms of a New York vernacular. Throughout the collection there is a common theme of enslavement versus freedom.
The editor of Metaphor Issue 5 has succeeded in assembling a group of fine poets. Poets representing a volume of diverse voices. Poems in this volume are varied. Some are philosophical, addressing social justice and others speak to our daily lives and myriad experiences. The writing is esthetically rich in content and well crafted.
Ben Berman’s Figuring in the Figure offers a window into his personal life. In reading the poems, we learn that Berman is a young father and that he is a wizard at word play, among other things. The poems are written in the terza rima form, a rhyme scheme of Italian origins and used by Dante Alighieri. This form allows Berman to showcase is proficiency as a poet.
You might not want to read Karina Bush’s Maiden unless you like lewd literature. She presents poetry in a frank way. This moves away from the subtleness that some have come to expect and appreciate in the art of poetry. This is not a case for the censoring of Karina’s work or works like hers. In some ways, her writing reminds us that the world is not monolithic when it comes to the subject of sex.
Cynthia Manick’s Blue Hallelujahs is an impressive debut poetry collection. Manick’s talent shines here. Her poetry is like a good meal, worth savoring. She describes small things in big ways. This approach draws the reader into the landscape of her poetry. In The Shop Washington Built, laughter is described as “the size of two small ships” (8) and strength is the ability “to hold lightening inside/grow daughters among/shifting currents” (Things I Carry Into The World, 16).
Jen Karetnick’s Brie Season reminds us that food is life and life is food. The pages of this collection is littered with odes to the art of cooking and eating. The poems remind us of the joy that is food. Karetnick reinforces this understanding by aligning food with mundane items. In this way, we become aware of the specialness inherent in what we eat.
Bulletproof is all about mortality and the poems develop like a verse novel as they attempt to come to grips with the inevitable that waits for us all. Despite the morbidity, the poems are never maudlin. In fact, they’re almost cheery, in a grim black sort of way, effectively giving the middle finger to death. How very Lemmy, though he wasn’t immortal after all.
She does her part in feisty, tender, wild poems, in music, song, turning and building or sharing spaces for others to express. Tanya Evanson, in full flight, on stage and in interview, is a physical thrill. “Sometimes on stage, between offering the work, I turn into the audience too, I say, ‘It’s ok. Ok. Put your phone down. Just rest a while. Close your eyes.’ That can feel dangerous to some of us, but here is the secret language, and thirty seconds of sweet nothing can provide wonderful things.”