Thursday, November 30, 2006

Two Poems: Paul Hostovsky

Poetry Unit

We had a substitute teacher today.
He did this weird thing with his mouth.
Like he mouthed the words before he said them.
Like he was rehearsing them or something.
We didn’t like him. He didn’t tell us
why Miss Schluger was out. He just
shows up in the middle of our poetry unit
moving his mouth and mouthing the words
and writing something illegible on the blackboard
and holding the chalk like a pen so it makes this
sound like oh my god please stop and no one
can read it because it looks like algebra
or something. So CeCe Santucci
raises her hand and asks him what it says
and he does the mouth thing and says it says
What is the smallest unit of poetry?
like it’s math or science or something.
So Caroline Coakley raises her hand and says
in a voice that says she’s got the right answer,
the smallest unit of poetry is the stanza.
But he shakes his head no and opens his eyes
wide like he’s looking around for something
he’s already got and wants us to give it to him.
And someone says it’s the line, and someone
says it’s the word. And now my stomach is
making these sounds like oh my god please stop
and I look around and up and there’s Robert
Frost smiling down at me from his high
horse and snowy woods on the bulletin board
and someone says the rhyme and someone says
the foot. And I could care less because I hate
poetry now and this weird guy with his mouth
and his word problem like math in the middle of
poetry. Then suddenly it grows silent like everyone
is stumped or dumb or dead or something, and even
my stomach has stopped like it’s listening hard, and the sub
tilts his head like he’s listening hard too, and he’s smiling
like there’s something funny in the air. But
there’s nothing in the air but silence. And air.

* * * * *


You’re alive and riding your bicycle
to school and I am worried about you
riding your bicycle all the way to school
so I get in my car and drive like a maniac
through the dream over curbs and lawns
sideswiping statuary and birdbaths along
the way frantically seeking you everywhere
the rear wheel of your bicycle disappearing
around the next corner and the next and then
I am riding a bicycle too and sounding
the alarm which sounds like a bicycle bell
so no one believes it’s an alarm and I pedal
faster and faster my knees bumping up against
the handlebars which by now have sprouted
ribbons with pompoms and a basket attached
with your lunch inside and I’m pedaling to save
my life and your life and finally when I find you
in the dream you aren’t dead yet you’re alive
and a little angry and embarrassed to see me
all out of breath on a girl’s bicycle holding
your lunch out in my hand trembling with joy

~ Paul Hostovsky's work appears in Shenandoah, Carolina Quarterly, New Delta Review, Poetry East, and others. He has two poetry chapbooks, Bird in the Hand (Grayson Books) and Dusk Outside the Braille Press (Riverstone Press).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Two Photos: Tomas Kaspar


"Indian Beach"

~ Tomas Kaspar says this about his art: "If anything, the camera has taught me one thing about nature and that is there is a lot more to discover than what first meets the eye. " You can find more of his work at his online gallery: Kaspar Gallery. Look for more of his to appear on this site.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Two Poems: Kyle Torke


You wake one morning, the snow pressed atop the iris,
Their swollen heads bent in prayer,
And realize you’ve trespassed in joy, and the muscular pleasure
Will soon arrive to pluck your collar,
Drag you across the street, and deposit you with the other waste
In a canal whose ice is mushy
And provides no solid footing; your shoes fill with water.

If you make it back to your little room,
Regret will be waiting, leaned against the wall in a shadow,
A pistol across his lap, smoking,
And he will say, “You should have gathered the harvest
When the mice were resting,”
And you’ll wince and know all four legs will touch the floor.
Your memory is the bullet.

The next winter, your wound heals and you stretch to break an icicle,
But loneliness calls from an alleyway
Where a policeman beats an addict, the needles spread around them
Like casings from a fire-fight, and you
Choose not to snap, the finger of light a harbinger, a tiny connection
To a spinning planet that bucks and whimpers
And tries to throw you; the alley stretches before you like a dirty river.

You wake in the morning with a needle
In your arm and the iris announcing a thaw, small drips of water like blood
Filling your socks, and joy blocking the light
At the end of the cardboard box, each flower in a pot, and the sun streaking
Through small holes, incisions teeth might make,
And she says, “I wish the trees with deeper roots would tap, tap, tap
And dance with me”; and you can only smile.

* * * * *


A fog has settled on your garden,
The tumultuous tomatoes unevenly
Spaced like beating hearts keeping
Many souls alive, and your memory
Is a pasture the builder scraped
Two weeks ago, layered concrete
Around rebar and smoothed
The walkways that will, eventually,
Lead somewhere; already, before
The saplings settle in place, before
The flower beds sprout ordered life,
One row of xenias, two of marigolds,
On the edges of the white stone
And between the bricks where bits
Of sand blew (from the neighboring
Fields where the cows low and stare),
The green tendril of volunteer clover
Thinks about exploding purple
And attracting bees, about reaching
Toward the light, waiting for rain,
And spreading kin into a long, sweet
Swath of purple and green lovely
As fresh turned soil and equally full
Of the life the tilled earth will bring.

~ Kyle Torke teaches writing and literature courses at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Gorsky Press released his first full-length collection of poems, Archeology of Bones, in June 2001. He has poems in Perigee, Wild Goose Review, Tar Wolf Review, and poems forthcoming in Karamu. A group of five poems was a finalist in the New Letters Poetry Competition.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Review: The End of the Poem by Paul Muldoon

This is from The Guardian (UK), which inspires me to wonder why US newspapers never really review poetry books. Hmmm.

The reason behind rhyme

Paul Muldoon's Oxford lectures, The End of the Poem, offer a trenchant and clever analysis of the power of poetry, even finding space to salute Christ as a 'great punster', says Peter Conrad

Sunday November 19, 2006
The Observer

The End of the Poem by Paul Mundoon
Buy The End of the Poem at the Guardian bookshop
The End of the Poem: Oxford Lectures
by Paul Muldoon
Faber £25, pp432

Paul Muldoon's premonitory title does not mean what it seems to say: these lectures, delivered during his time as professor of poetry at Oxford, are far from being an obsequy for the art. Poems, if they are good, need never end. A poem, as Auden said when explaining how one was written, cannot be finished: it is simply abandoned by a poet who can add no more to it. The reader then takes over and, with luck, discovers another kind of endlessness: reading leads to rereading, as the words are coaxed into releasing subtler, richer meanings, dilating into ever ampler contexts.

Unlike many of his predecessors, Muldoon chooses not to generalise about poetry. Instead, he explicates individual poems, one per lecture. The procedure demands close attention, but the results are revelatory. Reading here is a collaborative recreation and, at their best, Muldoon's interpretations - sometimes whimsically tenuous, often breathtaking in their intellectual boldness - are like improvised, free associating poems.
Read the rest of the review.

You can find the book at Amazon for $19.80, which is much less than the $30 cover price.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Two Poems: Jennifer Hill-Kaucher

The Alphabet Backward

Soon snow will cover everything
and the body will forget
the bruise of spring, melted wax
of summer. The world slings
into itself, cuts its grooves – an almanac.
Soon snow will cover everything –
fenceposts wear hats, trees are furred
in white – the landscape reversed as a layette.
Memory falls to collect at the feet in a blur
and the body will forget.

* * *

Lovely Boat

A girl folds a red lotus, centers a candle
and floats it downstream. As it passes the bridge
a man with a net scoops it out. This is tourism
in China. She has creased hundreds of prows,
but never diced a sheet for confetti to throw,
or to tuck into an envelope with a letter.

In Philadelphia’s Chinatown, my daughter and I
sit under the gold dragon at a restaurant
where shrimp crawl and curl their last in a tank
by the door. The instructions for the Jongie Nara
“Lovely Boat” origami are all in Chinese.
We puzzle it out through the images and laugh –
Start with a rectangle, turn it into a tricorner hat
and bend, twist, writhe? Our wonton soup
grows cold. When our first boat forms,
a shiny blue miniature among the gargantuan
tassels and murals of spring, I want to find a river
and let her watch the water whisk it away, too fast
for any hands to catch.

~ Jennifer Hill-Kaucher is the author of four books of poetry: “Questioning Walls Open,” from Foothills Publishing in 2001, “Nightcrown,” a crown of sonnets in a limited edition lotus book in 2003, “Book of Days,” from FootHills Publishing, 2005 and "A Proper Dress," 2006. Her previous poem in ETR appeared here. She also edits Paper Kite Press.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Three Photos: John Craig




Artist's Statement:
I raise the camera to my eye and I look through the viewfinder. I go into a place of silence, a place of inner stillness. The room could be filled with noise and rumblings of a passerby or I could be in the forest sitting next to a raging stream. At that instant of composition I go into stillness. Letting my conscience evolve into the environment that surrounds me. Next I move into a moment of unearthing discovery, looking to see the unseen to find the spark where God lives and art grows. Following that I move into the “yes of the blessing” when I capture that sacred frame that lived only for that finite second of stillness. To conclude I move into the point of celebrating the gift, that presence of grace that I alone was able to see, experience, document and share with the world.

~ John Craig is a frequent contributor to the Elegant Thorn Review. He is a Pittsburgh, PA based photographer with a B.A. in communications and over 15 years of experience. You can find him at his blog, Craig Photography.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Two Poems: Lyn Lifshin


paint chips slowly.
It’s so still you
can almost hear it
pull from a porch.

Cold grass claws
like fingers in a
wolf moon. A man
stands in corn bristles

listening, watching
as if something
could grow from
putting a dead child

in the ground


SEPTEMBER 26, 1996

this morning the pond
looks like marble. Rose
and charcoal dissolving
to dove, to guava, rouge.
Only mallards pushing
holes in the glass, so
unlike the pond, deep in
trees, almost camouflaged,
startling as coming upon
your reflection in a mirror,
just there under trees and
the wooden bar and the
driftwood benches blackly
jade with pines dripping
into it, shadows close to
my hair. What I didn’t have
blinded me so I hardly saw
the small birds, blue,
pulling out of moss and
needles as if reaching into
the dark for their color

~ Lyn Lifshin is one of the most widely-published poets in America. You can find her at her website.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Two Poems: Tim J Brennan


there are other women
out there i could love

but will never
meet in the places
where i’m going

where i’ve been
has led me to you

just as certain words
remain unread, so
do i remain lost
in your throat

my fingers reading
your open spine

you touching the dark
places between my stars


Dreaming of Emily Dickinson

i sometimes dream
about Emily Dickinson,
her seemingly stoic allegories
speaking of lost love

flies buzzing, yellow halos,
unblossomed thighs,
apple orchards,
new shoes in Eden

she was a woman
i loved even though
she didn’t know,
wouldn’t acknowledge,
wouldn’t have known what
to do even if she had known

she was my home town,
all my favorite streets,
elm lined lovers’ lanes

i would have died
for her Beauty,
instead i died
for her Truth

today i saw a woman
who reminded me of her

i wanted to tell her it was
she who once touched
my face and found me there

~ Tim J Brennan hails from southeastern Minnesota. His poetry continues to be a work in progress.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Two Photos: Whiter-Shade

"Nature's Sculpture"


~ Jim (Whiter-Shade) lives in Canada. He often gets comments that his photos look like paintings. He doesn't reveal how he gets that effect, but the images are amazing. You can see more of his work at his homepage. Look for more of his work to appear in this space.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Two Photos: Aeterna Doloris

"The Empty Bench"

"Broken Window II"

~ Aeterna Doloris is 19 years old and lives in Portugal. More of her work can be found at her homepage.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Poem: Margaret James

not far from the tree

I say, “I will hang upside down for your fruits,”
like the small gray and black birds with the jay caps,
those creatures who flutter so joyously
on the other side of the window, on the other side of the fence.

Dozens of beating wings -
sideways, frontwards, upside down wings
beating for green, blue, purple berries.

You are this tree with the gradually changing leaves
near the black crow who sits laughing
at all of us little birds.

And I repeat, “I'll hang upside down for your fruits.”

But you ask me for patience and a quiet tongue,
alien acrobatics that I am not so eager to attempt.

~ Margaret James lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is working on a degree in comparative religion. You can read more of her work on her blog at Zaadz. I am pleased to say more of her work will be appearing here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Poem: Jennifer Hill-Kaucher

Birds of North America

"What you see in a guide is what you see in nature."
~ The Golden Guide to Field Identification, North American Birds

My mother watches families of wrens
move in and out of the birdhouse,
names the chickadees and titmouse,
curses the sharp-shinned hawk that lurks
on her fence. The shrubbery, full of finches,
holds its breath. Even the squirrels, doves
and chipmunks that pick at the dropped seed
are invisible. The hawk cranes his neck
at every rustle. A yield light eye
hones in when the first finch darts out
and his movement is one quick mechanical
drop and lift into the air, a light brown pennant
against the blank sky.

A common yellowthroat circles the room of light
beamed into the sky by the World Trade Center.
Disoriented, it flies into the glass and falls, stunned.
A woman on a scooter zips by the perimeter of buildings,
brown bags and labels the dead or dazed.
The dead are frozen. The dazed are freed.

All three outbuildings burned down,
the one closest to the house filled
with partridges, quail, doves and a peacock.
He kept his shop in there, sanded tops and ships
between the coo and guttural warbles.
There was nothing to do. She watched from her dishes
at the kitchen sink. In the morning before sunrise,
ash scent and birdsong crisscrossed in the fields.

~ Jennifer Hill-Kaucher gave me no biographical information, but this is her first appearance in Elegant Thorn Review. Look for more of her work in the future.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Poem: Jennifer M. Wilson

Pesky Angels

The dead walk these hours
ruling the living with their imperfect recollection.

I beat away the angels with my stick
as they flock like gulls over my head,
begging for bread and attention.

Around me people prostrate themselves on the sidewalk
crying for mercy at the gate of their own soul’s mansion.

~ Jennifer M. Wilson holds a degree in Communications and Comparative Religion from Ithaca College. You can read more of her work at her website.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Two Photos: Päivi Valkonen

"Two Seasons"

"Campus Area III"

~ Päivi Valkonen is from Finland. You can see more of her amazing photography at her homepage.