Leaving Garden Court by Ira Schaeffer

It was spring, when tulips
show their pretty colors
and robins make nests
for small blue eggs.
I was ten, feeling cozy
on the sofa, leafing through
Mad, when comic book violence
came alive.

Driven by another fierce defense
of some imagined line crossed,
my parents had attacked
our upstairs neighbors.
Shrieks and pounding
clashed up and down
our common hall.

Our door slammed shut.
I didn’t want to but saw
my mother’s harrowed
face and arms,
my father dripping sweat
and his panting like a dog.
There was no place to hide.

For days, a strange quiet,
my parents were like ghosts.
A letter arrived,
then the cardboard boxes.
Books and jeans were packed
along with scars and ruin.
We were moving to a smaller flat.

On the way we passed a cemetery
with branches of dark trees
hanging above rows of stones.
I pictured myself underground
My stone said something sad;
most of the letters were faded.

After we got to the new place
I thought of surprising my parents
with something funny.
I crayoned a sign, making a blue
R.I.P., black for my name and dates
and red for birds in each corner.
I held the cardboard to my chest,
stretched out on the floor—
shut my eyes and waited.

Ira Schaeffer is a poet who reads his own poems and those of professional writers in various public venues throughout Rhode Island. His poetry has been published in a variety of small presses.

Rick Mulkey’s “Ravenous” Book Launch, Hub City Book Store

Ravenous CoverOn Thursday, August 28 at 7:00 PM, the Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, S.C. hosted a book launch for poet Rick Mulkey’s newest collection of poems, Ravenous: New and Selected Poems. On hand to read poems from the collection and celebrate Mulkey’s fifth publication were literary friends and notable poets Tom Johnson, Angela Kelly, and Claire Bateman as well as composer Scott Robbins and award-winning fiction writer Susan Teculve. Light refreshments of soft cheese, hummus, table crackers and a variety of wines were provided for guests attending the standing-room only event.

Hub City Executive Director, Betsy Teter, offered a warm, heartfelt introduction to the evening’s event and expressed gratitude for Mulkey’s considerable contributions to Spartanburg’s literary community. In addition to writing poetry, Mulkey happens to be the director of the Converse College Creative Writing MFA program, also in Spartanburg, and participates in writing groups as well as promotes writers, publishers, and artists in the area. After a generous and deserving applause, audience members settled into their seats just as the setting sun cast an ambient glow through the plate glass window.

Mulkey took the microphone first to thank everyone for coming and explained that the evening’s guest readers had been asked to read their favorite poems from the collection. A happy challenge, according to the readers, who each admitted to having had a difficult time narrowing their choices down to just one poem.

The first of Mulkey’s literary friends to read was poet and visual artist, Tom Johnson, who read “Blind-Sided.” A discursive narrative weaving memoir-like reflections triggered by the poem’s epigraph about the only known incident of a person being hit by a meteorite, “Blind-Sided” presents scenes in which the speaker or other characters of the poem are taken unaware, or literally “Blind-Sided” by the kinds of bizarre events the universe and its inhabitants have a way of throwing at individuals. Both corporeal in its acknowledgement of the pure weirdness of being human and existential in its incorporation of heavenly bodies (such as meteorites), “Blind-Sided” is as satisfying in its lyrical story-telling when read aloud as when read silently. It’s easy to understand Tom’s choice and his flawless recitation was appreciated. As an aside, Johnson has a book of poems just out with 96 Press and an exhibit of his visual art, “A World of Readers,” is on display from September 6 through November 13 at the Pickens County Museum of Art & History in Pickens, S.C.

Next, poet and author of Voodoo for the Other Woman, Angela Kelly, read “Outlaws,” a short poem that she said appealed to her for its subject matter – moonshine. It begins “My father ran moonshine, corn whiskey, / white lightning, Devil’s Rum, from Bramwell / through Bluefield to Bland” (1-3) and contemplates how possessing an “outlaw” gene might nuance the speaker’s life. Kelly’s spunky reading suggests her appreciation for self-sufficiency and her selection provided another facet through which to view Mulkey’s style.

Poet Claire Bateman chose the poem “Music Theory,” one of Mulkey’s newer poems. In it, the persona marvels at his son’s ability to play the bass “with so much passion the framed family portraits / in the room beneath his grind against walls” (1-2) and suggests that, on his journey out of the underworld, “Orpheus didn’t look back in doubt, but in amazement, / that…one tuned string…/ could make us believe all would be right” (12-14). Bateman’s soft, lyrical voice had the added benefit of making audience members sit very still as they leaned forward and listened in anticipation.

Scott Robbins, a bit of a rule breaker, read two selection: “The Well-Tempered Clavier” and “Sontagmusick,” from Mulkey’s quartet of poems about Fanny Mendelssohn titled “The Invisible Life.” Robbins began by apologizing in advance should he start singing his selection as he previously set the entire quartet to music so remembers them as song. The first poem of the quartet, written from Fanny’s perspective, evokes a youthful confusion over what she wishes to be versus what she is expected to be: “As father said,” the poet writes, “femininity alone is becoming in a woman. / Yet this morning I woke to write a lied, and last week / finished another” (6-7).  Robbins’ second selection, and fourth section of the quartet, depicts Franny as a successful composer within the salon concert culture, or “Sontagmusick” (despite her father’s avid discouragement). This section contemplates things overlooked, including “the Prussian peasant, the exiled virtuoso, / the swallow’s cry” (6-7) and asks “What story aches behind the tongue?” (10). The entire quartet is a haunting and empathetic study into the fleeting nature of creativity and life, and as apt as Robbins’ rendition was, justice for the entire poem would be hard to capture on such occasion, causing this review to insist readers of this blog read the poem for themselves. While at it, they should explore Robbins’ compositional work of Blue Ridge A Capella.

Fifth to share their reading talent was Mulkey’s biggest fan, and wife, Susan Tekulve, who began by humorously admitting to liking Mulkey’s poems about herself most. As an act of resistance to her preferences, she chose to read “Hummingbird,” which begins “Imagine each liqueur-soaked rose as a potential love affair / on this capricious tour of blossom-scented air” (1-2) and evokes a plethora of sensuous images throughout, illustrating yet another facet of Mulkey’s poetry; and if it were not already clear to anyone who knows Rick and Susan, Teculve’s fondness for her husband and his poetry certainly came through her reading of this poem.

At last, Mulkey returned to the microphone and once again thanked his audience and literary guests before bringing denouement to the event in the very best way possible: by reading his poetry. Included in his selection where “What Superman Feared Most,” which contemplates the daily worries of the average American, “Cheese,” celebrating the working class, and “Earning a Living,” an unflinching look at mediocrity. Concluding his “set” was the deeply touching “Why I Believe in Angels,” a poem that simply has to be among Susan’s favorites.

Ravenous is described as a collection of stylistic variety and deep concerns. This reviewer would add that within these pages readers will also find empathy and irreverence, contemplation and assessment, lyric moments and engaging narrative, prompting me to wonder why you are still sitting there – go buy a copy now! In the meantime, here’s a selection of Rick Mulkey’s poems for your reading enjoyment:

Insomina, at Verse Daily

Betrayal, at Serving House Journal

Connecting the Dots  at Valparaiso Poetry Review

Bluefield Breakdown,  at The Writer’s Almanac

Ravenous: New and Selected Poem
Rick Mulkey
Serving House Books (June 24, 2014)
ISBN-13:
978-0991328147
$12.00

Available at Barnes and Noble.com

A Classification of Poets by Roy Beckemeyer

All those poets, with their delicate
faces, the rote way I relegate
their taut verses : Alluvial traces,
Marsupial purses, Tightly coiled cases.

Their animal hands, their angelic minds,
the various cants of their labored lines.
I draw from this strange sonnet’s brevity
a taxonomic range of verse levity.

Roy Beckemeyer, from Wichita, Kansas has recently published in The Midwest Quarterly, The North Dakota Quarterly, Nebo, Straylight, and The Bluest Aye. His debut collection of poetry, “Music I Once Could Dance To” is available from Coal City Press.

Friday Poetry Prompt

Read the poem “Bound” by Aline Murray Kilmer at Poets.org:

If I had loved you, soon, ah, soon I had lost you.
Had I been kind you had kissed me and gone your faithless way.
The kiss that I would not give is the kiss that your lips are holding:
Now you are mine forever, because of all I have cost you.

You think that you are free and have given over your sighing,
You think that from my coldness your love has flown away:
But mine are the hands you shall dream that your own are holding,
And mine is the face you shall look for when you are dying.

Write an eight line formal poem that begins with “If I had love you,”

OR

write an equally haunting poem that is concerned with war or loss.

Voice and Technology: A Brief Meditation

Vocal communication is one of the most ancient modes of technology still utilized in modern times. It is the mode by which we first learn to persuade others to see our point of view and call them to act, and it still holds great power and rhetorical value today. More than engaging the intellect through well-chosen words, the voice is the body’s singular channel for connecting with others and conveying emotional meaning through intonation, stressed syllables, meter, rhyme, and volume. Poetry, with its attention to sound and sensuous appeal, naturally evolved from the human need to remember and convey oral histories. Combining the technology of written expression with the oral tradition of story-telling, poetry expands the limits of language to engage the listener’s soul. We can say, then, that poetry is a technology older than the iPad, the laptop or the analog phone. Older still than cave-dwelling drawings or the written word; older even perhaps than prose.

While poetry continues to evolve in response to new theories on form and function and even in response to historical upheaval that would require it to conform, it still resists and overcomes language barriers, gender perception, and political influence. Read or spoken aloud, poetry continues to be one of the most effective means of conveying emotional truth today.

Quatrina by Neil Fulwood

A half halved. A quarter moon. The Sign of Four.
Two slices across the pie chart. I’m sorry; let
me start again. I’m talking about dividing or
multiplying by four, the answer or image you get

by quartering or quadrupling. Or what little you get
from a quick trawl of the library shelves: The Four
Feathers, Four Past Midnight, Four Quartets, and let
us not forget Four Children and It. Why do five or

seven get the better deal? Enid Blyton and the rich ore
of children’s fiction, that’s why! If it’s not Five Get
Kidnapped by Somali Pirates then it’s Seven for
the Cup, Good Show, Hooray! Give me a break. Let

me disentangle from their tea-time adventures, let
the tomboy and the girly-girl get better acquainted, or
the dog make a break for freedom, run wild, get
its Jack London funk on. Let anarchy come to the fore

and words give numbers what for. Yes! And let
no quarter be asked or given. And let the reader forget.

Neil Fulwood was born in 1972 and got involved with poetry at an impressionable age. His interests include visiting inns and taverns of architectural interest. Some people confuse this with pub-crawling.

New Submission Opportunity: South 85 Journal

Also, check out the summer 2014 issue: http://south85journal.com/issues/spring-summer-2014/