Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Sparkling Dirty Magic in the Winter Light"

Love Songs & Laments - Poems by Matt Reeck
Review by Missy McEwen

Love Songs & Laments by Matt Reeck is a chapbook. One of my favorite poems in this collection is Fantasy of the Day; it starts off tender and dreamlike, "I'd like to be with you where the river meets the/river..." and then turns real: "...when the winter sunlight/meets the river down from the sewage plant, where the sewage meets the river, pumped into the river..." This poem seems to be a love song and a lament. The river is filled with sewage, but it's "...sparkling dirty magic in the winter light." Matt Reeck makes dirty sound delightful.

Another favorite of mine is Some People and Jane. This poem is witty and catchy. If it were an actual love song, you would hear it on the radio station that plays Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan records:

"Some people have IQs of 180 and are featured in newspaper[s], but I don't read
them because I am kissing Jane..."
His poems have love song like titles -- Conversations Beneath The Moon-Filled Sky, for example. Before I read the poem I thought it was going to be about conversations with a lover beneath the moon. Wrong. This poem is made up of conversations. I don't know if one conversation is going on or many, but I wonder where Reeck was to hear talk like this:

"The queen was robbed by her soldiers"

"I swallowed the poison to
learn its secrets"

Matt Reeck's sixteen poems are well written. I enjoyed reading them and while reading the table of contents, I am reminded of another small book -- Howl by Allen Ginsberg. Even though the style of writing is different, the titles sound like something a songwriter would use: Ginsberg's In The Baggage Room at Greyhound and A Supermarket in California and Reeck's A Conversation on the Street Corner and Portrait of a Navigator could be part of Bob Dylan's catalog.

Published by GOSS183::CASA MENENDEZ (2008). For more information on where to purchase this book, stop by

Ocho #6 Should Have A Cult Following

Ocho #6 - Published by Didi Menendez

Review by Missy McEwen

Don't let the size (ten pages long) fool you, this issue is filled with poems by heavy hitters like Lorna Dee Cervantes (her poem Shelling the Pecans won a Pushcart Prize), Diego Quiros, Lyn Lifshin, Grace Cavalieri, and John Korn.

Ocho #6 is like an underground 'zine you would come across in a small bookstore. You would buy it because of the cover (the cover is hot!) and you would keep it because of the poems and because of the way the pages are numbered in Spanish: pagina 1, pagina 2, and so on. You'd feel special and privileged to have stumbled across it. Like a phenomenon discovered, you'd want to show it off and share it with friends. So I am sharing.

The poets in Ocho #6 each have their own style and voice, yet this issue is not choppy. Some of the poems can be grouped because of similarities, but still no poem sounds the same. For instance, a few of the poems evoke the magical, sensual feeling that only summer nights can bring. The two poems by Lyn Lifshin are good examples:

From Champlain, Branbury, The Lakes at Night:

"always women in the

dark on porches talking

as if in blackness their secrets

would be safe....

Night flowers full of things with wings,

something you almost

feel like the fingers of a boy moving...

under sheer nylon...

in the dark movie house..."

From Middlebury Poem:

"Milky summer nights,

the men stay waiting...

as they have all June evenings of their lives....

Miss Damon...

hurries to unlock the library, still

hoping for a sudden man to spring tall from the

locked dark mysterious card catalogues..."

In Groovy Mortimer y Su Lepista Nuda written by Lorna Dee Cervantes, "It was a black beans summer night/...and you could smell the tamale pie in the avenues/coming from the curtained backs of the bodegas..."

While other poems in Ocho #6 explore darker topics. For example, Michael Parker's A Difference Between Us:

"You sip war like a glass of red syrah…

Consider I told you: I lost my soldier-son from

a bullet to the head, execution style

in front of a mosque."

Even in Lyn Lifshin's Champlain, Branbury, The Lakes at Night, there is a sense of something brewing:

"something miscarried

that maybe never was.

The mothers whispered

about a knife, blood…"

In Reyes Cardenas' Running Away, Running Away:

"somebody please pull this rearview mirror

out of my head and the reflection

of the city I am leaving behind.

No, not that homeless beggar,

let him fend for himself.

No, not that dead prostitute,

it's too late for her."

I like Reyes Cardenas' style. In fact all the poets in Ocho #6 have an enviable style, so it is hard to pick a favorite. All these poets, these notable poets, in one issue makes Ocho #6 something like a collector's item.

Published by GOSS183::CASA MENENDEZ (2006). For more information on where to purchase this book, stop by

An Anthology of Lovemaking and More

Alchetry - Poems by Diego Quiros
Review by Missy McEwen

"For five years I filled a light green
three ring binder with poems about you...
Poems describing stares, kisses
and the taste of sweat. An anthology
of lovemaking" -- From Black Rings

And that is what Alchetry is -- an anthology of lovemaking, even though Diego Quiros has a poem titled I Will Not Write About Love. That poem is even about love. And love is a good thing. This book is full of thighs, kisses, touches and love: beautiful love. Everything about love is beautiful in Alchetry. "Heartache is beautiful," Quiros writes in Déjà Vu and it is his language that makes it so. I would love to hear these poems read aloud by the author, although I can hear the music in lines like these even when reading them to myself:

"It is always the tropics
in my heart regardless of season
when I speak your name." - From Mantra

"...round little vowels
that ooze from your lips
like sweet ripened fruit…

My ears can see your face by the roundness of your ohs." -- From Ohs

" blew a kiss...
out the car window
towards where I stood.

It went in my mouth and rolled down my throat like moonshine." - From Keepsake
The language in this book is sweet -- not sappy, not sentimental -- but sweet and pleasing to the ear.

Sometimes, though, a line, a verse, would take me by surprise:

"Ass not flat...." -- From Rubbing Sticks

"It was you that bounced
on my hips in the darkness
but someone else's name that I called out." -- From Equestrian

"Hips imitate the hammering of molten metal
heads titled back, mouths shaped like howling." -- From Rubbing Sticks

"She asked me to make love to her and
reach...spiritual ecstasy.
We did, and it was ecstatic, but I dismissed it
as good sex because good sex is ecstatic." -- From An Overdue

After reading those lines, I smiled to myself, because after all, underneath it all, Diego Quiros is still a man.

Not all of Quiros poems are about women, however. In Mango Tree, for example, a "child [holds his] grandfather's hand [while] standing by a mango tree in a small Caribbean town."
"[Grandfather] points to the fruit and asks:
'Would you like one?'
I answer: 'maybe tomorrow or the day after.'
How was I supposed to know there would be neither one."

In Young Man on the Bus Bench, Quiros paints a picture of the man for us:

"His face is smooth and thin
paralyzed with a tenor's expression.
His skin the shade of autumn skies."

Diego Quiros is a painter as well as a poet and I wonder if he has ever painted the picture equivalents of his poems because I can see Mango Tree and Young Man on the Bus Bench as paintings. Diego Quiros' work, whether it be poems or art, are vibrant with color and beauty.
Published by GOSS183::CASA MENENDEZ (2008) and may be purchased from Amazon or stop by

Saturday, September 27, 2008

These Poems are Fantasy, but seem oh so Real

Anna Nicole -- Poems by Grace Cavalieri
Review by Missy McEwen

At the beginning of the book, these words: "These poems are fantasy." I had to keep reminding myself of that when reading Grace Cavalieri's Anna Nicole because I found myself believing every word and forgetting that this is all imagination -- that is how real these poems are. It is as if I am reading a memoir written in poem form.

In Anna Nicole, Anna is not two-dimensional. She is alive and breathing again. Cavalieri gets into Anna Nicole's head like how an actor prepares for a role and she pulls it off. I can hear Anna Nicole's voice while I am reading these poems. I can see her in the scenes and situations in which Cavalieri has placed her. And I keep reminding myself over and over again -- these poems are fantasy. But it seems as if Grace Cavalieri followed Anna Nicole around and studied her.

"Once she heard on TV that if a man rapes you,
he steals your soul…
That's why she always gave in to men,
so she wouldn't have to be raped,
so she could save her soul."
-- from Negative Capability

I had to ask myself, did Anna Nicole mention this in a magazine or television interview? Or is this all in Cavalieri's imagination? And If so, what an imagination she has. Even though this is fantasy, Cavalieri gives the reader authentic Anna Nicole. She shows the reader an Anna Nicole confused about her role in life (in real life Anna Nicole often seemed confused). In Cavalier's Anna Nicole, Anna Nicole seems to be confused by this: should she be the religious-do-right-by-God woman or be the Hollywood sex symbol? She tries to convince herself that Hollywood is the way to go and others try to convince her that Hollywood is the way to go:

"Trusting a stranger because he said
The Good Lord can't see what happens in
Hollywood." -- from Anna's Estate
"The counselor said…
creation is a divine collaboration with God." -- from Negative Capability

However, Anima, Anna Nicole's Alter Ego, tries to talk her into doing "God's works," but "Anna knew only God could do God's works,/and said so." (House of Strings).

In Narcissism Spring, Anna Nicole asks: "What religion overcomes suffering?" It is as if she is doubting religion or looking for a new religion altogether. In Anna Nicole's eyes, Hollywood is a religion. So Anna Nicole turns to Hollywood and fame and success, but even "Success cannot/kill grief, just the body." (Betrayal All Around Her). However, death does not scare Anna Nicole. She welcomes it:

"Death would be so nice,
something all her own
like a baby or the
Academy Award." -- from Tinseltown

"Hollywood is where you
go to die." -- from House of String

dying on the
toilet, oh,
so beautiful to die like that, expressing yourself." -- from Didn't She Almost Have It All

"She wasn't afraid to die.
She'd get some delicious morphine at the end." -- from No More
Lapdancing With The Stars

I believe Anna Nicole would think like this. Once again I have to remind myself that this is fantasy, but it seems so real. Even the other characters in the poems, Rescinda (Anna Nicole's maid) for example, seem as if they really exist. "Anna knew full well…Rescinda would spit/in her coffee" if she touched her man. Luis, another character in this book, is Rescinda's man. We get a glimpse into their lives as well and I find it hard to believe that these people do not exist.

The poems in Anna Nicole remind me of the poem My Date With Elvis: Cybil Shepherd, 1973 by Sandra Yvonne. In the poem, Sandra Yvonne writes in first person as though she is Cybil Shepherd and describes her date with Elvis at the movie theater. Poems like these give poets freedom and let them use their imagination. While reading Anna Nicole I am also reminded of the book M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A by A. Van Jordan about the first African-American girl to make it to the final round of the National Spelling Bee. A. Van Jordan gives her a back story and gives her a voice, gives her life again just like how Grace Cavalieri's Anna Nicole gives Anna Nicole a voice and life again.

Published by GOSS183::CASA MENENDEZ (2008) and may be purchased from Amazon or stop by