Tuesday, August 04, 2020

New Poetry by Ian Ganassi

Test Pattern

Watching the cold brittle mountains devolve into memory,
It wasn’t much of a leap from one side to the other.

The other was significant in making two,
And then a third was on the way. 
It was a miracle, breathing in

And out. Up and down. The song went on from there.

The sky flinging rain around like confetti
Was better than a downright deluge.

I had just called the anxiety taxi,
And there it sat,
Waiting for the time to break down.

Daylight savings:
We lost an hour, but before long
We didn’t even miss it.

I’ll pick you up in 20 minutes he said. 

“Ever do much boondoggling?”
Check your racing form. 

“There’s something dashing about it.”
Dashing to the hospital. Dashing to the morgue.

“Which way to Sloan Kettering?” asked
The Marlboro man, from the saddle.

But let’s not break our arms
Patting ourselves on the back. 

“I’ll say,” she used to say, “I’ll say.”

- © Ian Ganassi 2020

Ian Ganassi's work has appeared recently or will appear soon in numerous literary magazines, such as New American Writing; BlazeVox; Twisted Vine, Manhattanville Review, Visitant, and The American Journal of Poetry, among many others. My poetry collection Mean Numbers was published in 2016. My new collection, True for the Moment, is forthcoming from MadHat Press. Selections from an ongoing collaboration with a painter can be found at www.thecorpses.com.

Monday, August 03, 2020

A New Appreciation of Craig Powell's "Music and Women's Bodies"

Craig Powell, Music and Women’s Bodies

Five Islands Press, Wollongong, 2002, 68pp
ISBN 0 864187769
RRP $26.

A review by Rebecca Kylie Law

 In admiration of Powell’s poetic oeuvre, I reached out to him recently via email unaware an accident of 2010 had left him brain-damaged and crippled.  My enquiry asked if he would consider contributing some comments towards my new, forthcoming collection of poetry with Wipf & Stock. He wrote back to express his regret at being unable to accomplish such a task but was flattered that he had been considered. Mortified by the news and the gall of my proposal, I quickly wrote back a letter of apology. Yet Powell persisted in making things well again, writing again and again with anecdotes of his poetic life, of insights into what was fast becoming a succinct biography of his life. We exchanged books and on receipt of Music and Women’s Bodies I was so stirred by its beauty that I approached Powell for the permission to write a review. It was granted and this is the product: for Powell and eternally, his readers.    

 There is something heavy, dark and immense in the early pages of this collection and like a world it shifts its weight to sleep with the moon or grow under the sun. True to its cover image “Artist and the Muse (Rembrandt)” by Gary Shead, Craig Powell’s Music and Women’s Bodies seems inspired by a wooden doll-like female marquette of a real women, shy to the light, sweet to the knowledge of touch and  brave to the new. Just as Shead’s doll comes forward out of the shadows, her hand touching the side of a supposed artist’s easel, Powell’s poems reveal truths of love that seem so honest they could be majestic – indeed, the doll’s dress is majestic in the silkiness of the fabric, the tones of lavender purples, smudged pastel pinks and moon dusted whites. Her silver drop earring adding class to her exposed shoulders and arms. The picture and the poetry collection speak of the same muse, that drifting presence of the beloved that is sometimes hiding but inexplicably devoted. This is the slowness that anchors Powell’s poems although the gaze is unapologetically male.

 Born in Wollongong, Powell’s male gaze finds its place in a rural landscape fraught with opposites, life versus death, pain versus happiness, the visible versus the invisible. So that, visiting his brother’s dairy farm in the first poem “The Calves”, Powell is witness to an experience he can never bodily know and the atmosphere is tense with pragmaticism and empathy. It is October and in “the paddocks one/by one the nubbly shadows stagger up from/ the soil” and calves are born of their “Ayreshire/ mothers”. Two days later, in the “wooden feeding pens”, there is a mess of life as the vigorous newborns clamour for the milk of “the whole herd, a blind blurring of mothers” poured out in buckets; whilst out of “the spring light”, on the “earthen floor of the barn”, his brother’s daughter “holds a bottle to a calf too frail to suck” and cradles it to its end. “She’ll keep cradling it”, announces Powell, asserting the maleness of his gaze and the marvel of the opposite sex. Yet the pain doesn’t stop there,  the mother cows in the closing stanza crying “noisily for the calves taken away” into the evening whilst inside the house, the human family share  “wine” and “a meal of male calf”. Powell’s gaze, pragmatic and empathetic empties itself into the landscape of his surrounds, gazing out at a moon rising behind a distant hill and drinking in its outpouring of light – “white as the ash of ancestors”. A communion of sorts, the timeline from birth to midnight and the end of the day is newly recognised by the late hour of their meal and the exaltation of the moon so that “they eat more slowly”. 

 There are four sections to Music and Women’s Bodies and the division considers the same landscape from different vantage points. In Section I, Powell is child and man, brother and grandson, son and nephew, husband with wife and in these guises is always the non-judgemental watcher, the human with feelings who suspects right and wrong but is never an outsider of a group experience. When a child, in “Die Zauberflote” for instance, he plays a tune about a “bird-man” wanting “a maiden or little wife” and announces only “grown-ups…/ knew about things like that”, deciding later in the verse, he wants “not to know”, for the world instead to be made up of fiction, of “stories”. Recognising difference, the “grown-ups” are still the same people that “take me home with them” and in this way, Powell unifies with the family unit. In Section II, Powell leaves the present landscape of his own birthing, youth and adulthood to visit the landscape of his father in c.1912 and 1922.. He describes the Australian landscape his father is born into, the disputes between Aboriginals, an Afro-American working for a “Chinese Market gardener AhSoon, known as ‘Smiler’  and police. There are violent mobbings and deaths not only racial but also territorial as Powell tells us in the end notes of the collection: “local aborigines were kept out of town and not allowed to camp on Crown land”. The two poems here, wedged between Section I and Section III become the understory of the first incarnation of Powell’s existence and the third incarnation of Powell’s existence as a poet and orator of difference, otherness and truths. Translating select poems of Sydney-based Russian migrant Yuriy Mikhailik, Powell fills the pages of Section III with a sense of a universal pastoral dreaming. So that the gaze of Milhailik across the Australian landscape meets the gaze of Australian born Powell and  nature, event and human sentiment are non-conflictual: “the moon glares in my eye, it scorches my heart,/ it chills memory”. There are “Hay-stacks… quiet/ where the sky’s edge is found” and “the evening star” dances “over the world’ as if it is “forever”. Section four becomes then, a celebration of “coming back” from the “world” to the place of childhood; and only then, being the adult with a past. Replete with memories of past girlfriends, the loss of a child, a rat surfacing to the sun from a basement, Music and Women’s Bodies is a child’s drawing of relationships between image, fact and music. Hearing music from the radio his Aunt tells him is Tchaikovsky, a boy peers out of her lap to better espy her newspaper and a “lingerie ad” of  “a woman in a petticoat” as “he’d once seen his mother”. Yet the adult Powell, imagining this scenario is smiling “at the boy” and his confusion and acknowledging what can be known is sometimes: “Just that, maybe. All he held against death./ Music and Women’s bodies. Just that.” 
 Concluding with the poem “Garden Spiders”, Powell’s journey across the vast landscape of his mind, heart and soul fixes on a garden time has left to grow wild, on a garden which “becomes truthful, a green/ wildness with no lawn or flower-beds”. And although Powell has told us earlier in “All you Know” that there is no God, the spiders in this honest garden are “angels” or “garden sprites” or even “the ghosts of ancestors” and that dark, heavy immensity of our world is given the breath to suppose it unfathomable. Which is, more exactly, Powell’s majestic muse, his opposite attraction; and that which brings the music of love but can never be known like the word. 

- © Rebecca Kylie Law 2020

Rebecca Kylie Law holds a PhD from UWS. She has published five collections of poetry with Picaro Press, Interactive Publications and Ginninderra Press and another is forthcoming with Wipf & Stock. Individual poems, reviews, interviews and articles have been published in numerous journals Australia and overseas. She works as a freelance writer and teacher.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

New Poetry by Patricia Carragon

Having a Party
Anna had a good time   grooving to Sam Cooke on the radio 
time-traveled back to when she   a teenager
teased her hair   wore pencil skirts   twisted to 45s 
put popcorn on the Formica table   drank Cokes from the Frigidaire
chatted to friends about Johnny   the bad boy from Glenwood Road
her American dream resided in expectation
the princess wedding gown   the white picket fence around a Flatbush Victorian 
the family genes to be passed on
no matter how hard she tried   Johnny left her for Sally
other men kept their distance   
& early menopause called her instead
her wedding dress burned   her unborn kids buried   
her Victorian house sold to developers 
for a lifetime of work   a meager social security check    EBT benefits
& a cramped one-bedroom apartment with her tabby    Jenny
a cracked mirror meant 7 more years of bad luck 
& further decline in her reflection
she lived in quarantine before it became mandatory   
held on to her past in boxes   shopping bags   & 45s
the song ended   & Anna felt dizzy 
on her torn sofa   she thought about Johnny   Sally   & what transpired
with eyes still open   her head rested on the frayed throw pillow
Jenny tapped Anna’s shoulder   sniffed under her nose & mouth
realized that she was not responding

- © Patricia Carragon 2020

Patricia Carragon is the author of several books of poetry and fiction.  Her most recent poetry collections are Meowku (Poets Wear Prada) and Innocence (Finishing Line Press). Her debut novel, Angel Fire, is forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press. Patricia hosts the Brownstone Poets reading in Brooklyn and publishes an associated anthology annually. She is also an executive editor for Home Planet News Online.