This novel is back from a bit of a hiatus with a considering publisher; it’s now back on this site again with the other 8 (the 7 in the same series plus the standalone novel The Declensions of the Wild Wood). Feel free to dip into it at your leisure. It like all the others is copyrighted. Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett) 2/12/2023
The Problem With Ursula (The Story of the Cuffs)–A Novel
An Audio Recording in an Amateur Reader’s Voice of My Short Story, “Catamite, Catalyst, Catamount”–copyright Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/15/2022
Short Story: “Catamite, Catalyst, Catamount”–An Intended Source of “Queer Joy” for Those Affected By the November 2022 Shootings at a LGBTQ Nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado (People, the World is More with You Than It Might Appear)–story copyrighted by Victoria Leigh Bennett on January 15, 2022, All Rights Reserved with the exception of Fair Use Policy (short quotes in reviews/articles/essays)
“The Declensions of the Wild Wood”–A Novel About Ecology, Friendship, Immigration, the Russian War on Ukraine, and Many Other Things
This is my long-awaited (by some) and much worked-upon (by me) 9th novel.. It is the 9th one I’ve written, though it is not continuous with the other 8, nor is it a part of their series, which was thematically inspired by the I Ching. This novel is perhaps my most ambitious so far, as it deals with topics, several of them, which I have never attempted before. To the end of accounting for some of these things, in case my handling of them should seem irregular, I acknowledge the previous work, which I have read about, of Peter Wohlleben, Suzanne Simard, “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” and “The Smithsonian Magazine.” As well, I beg the indulgence and tolerance of the Canadian Ministry of the Interior and the Toronto Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Division: I have taken what are perhaps gross liberties with the little amount of research I was able to do online about their operations, and have more or less fantasized about what it might be like to become a Canadian citizen from a previous situation of overwhelming stress and difficulty. Though I would at one point have very much liked to have been a new Canadian, I was there in Toronto in a relative situation of ease. Though often short of funds, as most graduate students are from time to time, it was for education I was there, and I enjoyed many privileges thereto. I have written partly of locales and businesses past and present of which I was aware, but there are others which again are totally made up from a sort of composite knowledge of some situations in large cities in general. Toronto is without doubt a world-class city, and so I have made bold to assume that it must have many of these same characteristics as other world-class cities. This is all really, except to perhaps apologize for my heavy reliance on Google Translate for what I wanted to have my characters say in Ukrainian and Russian: I doubt it’s all perfectly accurate, but I have taken care to add nearby English approximations so that if a closer translation ever becomes necessary and possible, I myself will at least remember what I was trying to have my characters say. Finally, but not the least, I offer my welcome and hope that any Eastern European readers from any country following this story will forgive me if it seems to them at all inaccurate or unfair in any way. Years ago, I lived along St. Clair West in Toronto, as I had lived also in other locales there, and I was surrrounded by a largely Eastern European culture. I have borrowed what I remember of their speech patterns and their ways of dealing with each other, and I hope I have done so fairly accurately and not unjustfiably, though I know many things may have changed. I have been following the course of the Russian attack and war on Ukraine, and many may wonder why, if I am in basic sympathy with Ukraine, I made my main character only half Russian and half Ukrainian. It was definitely more of a challenge. But at the time when I started the novel, in Fall of 2021, I had less than no idea that Russia would be attacking, and I was writing purely from a standpoint of an interest in what had been said variously about the United States and more Northern climes in relation to ecological concerns. The novel was started in Fall of 2021, and then suddenly in February 2022, when Ukraine was attacked by Russia, it became necessary somehow to reframe my chapter on “wilding” in Russia a different way, and so I waited from February until October 2022 finally to finish the book. I feel that things have come to such a pass that the book requires to be complete and to find friends now, and to find friends for the right causes, and that a just and fair peace for the sovereign land of Ukraine is one of the morally ecological issues involved. So, I have thus written, and as I have ended my novel at a non-finale point, it bears the legend at the cessation of text: N’EST-CE PAS FIN. Possibly bad or incomplete French, but the thought is there. And so I hope it is, that this bizarre old world goes rolling on for many a millenium to come. Best, Victoria Leigh Bennett (Shadowoperator)
My Short Novella (58 pp.) from February, 2022, “Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris),” [in English], originally published by The Alien Buddha Press, with cover and artwork by the Editor, Red, and a blurb by Katy Naylor
Hello, fiction and reminiscence fans! This is my novella, which is only recently out-of-print and which therefore I am putting up here. I still have 3 copies paperback to sell, if you want you can DM me at my Twitter account @vicklbennett for instructions and cost. But this is my opportunity to make it available as a work of CNF (creative non-fiction, i.e., memoir) to a wider audience. I hope you will enjoy it, and will simultaneously consider of the adventures recorded within that I was only seventeen years old. With no further ado, here it is:
A New-to-My-WordPress-Website Collection of Short Fiction from My First Mature Writings, Entitled “Sympathy and Centripetal Force, and Eight Other Young and Early Stories”
September 26th, 2022–Hello, Readers, Writers, Poets, and Meanderers! Finally, I’m able to share with you these stories from the days when I was first seriously pursuing a writing career. They are in some cases more extremely professional-seeming and complicated in ethos, structure, and compositional traits than ones I’ve written since, and are, I think, still very much worth reading. They show me as I was when I had first absorbed the so-called “rules” of writing good fiction (and we all know there really are none but just what happens to work). As a result, they may seem a little precious or pretentious to some, but to others will seem better than much more recent things. To quote briefly from my author’s bio found on this site, “[they] concentrate on giving pictures of different kinds of individuals in different walks of life, with all their foibles, prejudices, and suppositions about life intact. It is not a book which focuses much on providing the author’s own insights, ideas, or feelings, but upon showing these character types with all their thoughts, experiences, and interpretations of these experiences exposed.” That’s enough of a prelude, I think. I hope you will enjoy them! Victoria Leigh Bennett (shadowoperator)
Two Books of Traditionally-Shaped Petrarchan Sonnets on Home and Empire With a Contemporary Ethos and Twist–by Alex Guenther
Today, I am going to do something I rarely do, and review two books at once. They are by the same poet, Alex Guenther, a force to be reckoned with in the poetic world and widely known and celebrated on Twitter and other social networking sites for his poetic acumen. Being by the same author is not normally or naturally a reason to put them both in the same review, however, except that by that means I can best compare and contrast them for the reader, and hope to convince the astute consumer of good poetry that though they have certain distinct similarities, they are different enough for anyone to want to own both of them. They are available from various subsites, and as you can see from the image above, one need only go to bitly.com/sonnets2021 to locate these sites. But first to the conviction that these books are worth investing in for the small cost and the large satisfaction to be gained from reading them through.
The two books are respectively “the heave” and “the deodar seeds,” and they were simultaneously released. According to the author, they were begun during the original lockdowns of the first Covid period, which seems to have been a period of intense reflection and soul-searching by the author. The lack of capitalization in the words, according to Alex, a witty and intensely erudite soul, was due to the fact that they were composed on a phone, which called for easy manipulation; later, though still not due to any e.e.cummings-like assumptions of manifesto, this form of writing became preferred for its own sake, possibly a result of the poet’s self-aware but unassuming modesty. “the heave” is a book written more in reference to modern-day life in cities, particularly Eastern cities, as the author and his wife have resided for many years now in the East, and are now resident in Bangkok, Thailand, where Alex teaches and writes. “the deodar seeds,” in contrast, is a book about exploration, conquest and empires, and has a quite broad scope, treating not only of Eastern conquerors, explorers, and literary figures/saints, but also of a few Western or European ones.
Both books are Petrarchan sonnets, being fairly standard in rhyme scheme and meter, except for the odd sound effect or forced rhyme and an occasional extra syllable. Their style is similar, yet in both cases, the rhymes are often quite unique and highly imaginative, with a standard, expected rhyme being quite rare. As well, and this is a major and particularly attractive quality, the enjambment–or carrying over of meaning from the end of a line and resolving the thought with a portion of the next line instead of using end-stopped lines–the enjambment! It produces something of the juggling and oftentimes jarring rhythms of contemporary daily life, and prevents the poems from having a quality rhymed poetry is often criticized for, that of sounding jog-trot and bouncy, too unintentionally comic. Though Guenther has a succinct and piercing wit in the literary sense of the word “wit,” he is never foolishly comical or silly. In fact, though there is no pomposity about the two books at all, it is impossible to read them without reference to the intellectual qualities of the bright and far-reaching examinations of the poet’s chosen topics. In both books, there are many, many words and concepts introduced which would at first be quite foreign to an uninformed or not widely traveled Western person, but there is no reason at all to fear the encounter with these perhaps previously unencountered concepts or facts: Alex is always a good poetic host, and uses such words and concepts in a self-explanatory way, without being condescending.
Now, to the differences: though the two books, “the heave” and “the deodar seeds” are very alike in sonnet paradigms and generally in style, yet the pace of “the heave” is quicker, possibly to convey the haste and scramble of modern life, whereas the tempo of “the deodar seeds” is slower, more considering of all the explorations, discoveries, pilgrimages, and empires discussed. “the deodar seeds” deals with various colonial dreams, and the explorers, artists, holy figures, conquerors, and victims of these imperialisms. “the heave,” on the other hand, deals with the modern streets, shades of experience, and mental and emotional states of contemporary empires, the fragmented, dissonant, sometimes nightmarish echoes of contemporary personhood. There in fact is more of a personal, intense quality of reflection in “the heave,” for a total of 54 sonnets, whereas the 108 sonnets of “the deodar seeds” are personal mainly in the way Alex offers some of them as imaginative explorations of interior states of mind of various world-famous figures, a sort of dramatic monologue in sonnet form.
As a final means of making my points, I would like to offer two sonnets through “fair use” form of quotation, one of my favorites from each book. First, from “the deodar seeds”:
alaric on the walls let oil-black plumes of mingling smoke arise; the visigoths are taking rome. we've won mere plunder; little justice has been done. The vaunted roman dream, we've learned, applies to citizens deemed worthy in their eyes-- not streams of stateless refugees who've run to seek asylum from encroaching huns. they turn us back, and teach us we're despised. they mock our leather trousers and our shoes; we lead their armies; still they keep us down, and gothic blood has often stained these streets; we sought security, and were refused. we tried our best to serve the roman crown; perhaps they will respect us in defeat. The genius of the above is that without distorting the historical element, Alex Guenther has driven home the universal and topical elements of Alaric's discourse. Now, from "the heave," one of the resolving and latter sonnets: to a lotus o beautiful, for doubly floating; no-- say triply; rising from frog-spawn and mire, then hovering as pale empetalled fire on slender stem, amid the ukiyo or shifting world of transitory show in which we swim suspended, where desire breeds pain--where we, until our cells expire writhe blindly as the tadpoles down below. impossible, since nothing is beyond or separate from matter's pulsing swarms; impossible, since all is baited bluff, this apparition from a fetid pond; your gently glowing, pale empetalled form is floating briefly, beautiful enough.
This second sonnet of my quotation is consonant with the Buddhist view of life, which Alex is conversant with and which he avers is his preferred outlook. Nevertheless, he is not morose or gloomy, but instead maintains a humorous and gentle persona. He appears on Twitter on Thursdays at @PoetsCornerALW, curated by another poet whom I have recently reviewed–Arthur L. Wood–and also contributes tweets of the occasional haiku, which can be found on his profile timeline, or on your own timeline feed. Also, he is available for converse on two other sites: http://www.facebook.com/alex.guenther.104, and http://www.instagram.com/guentheralex. And, if after you have read the books, you would like to contribute further to a fine poet who clearly knows poetry, history, and human nature, you can do so at http://www.paypal.com/paypalme/guentheralex.
Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)
PLEASE READ (AND ENJOY, IF POSSIBLE) MY COMIC POEM ABOUT LOVE, BODY IMAGE, OVID, AND ALEXANDER POPE ABOUT IN THAT ORDER–SENSE OF HUMOR REQUIRED FOR UNDERSTANDING
HELLO, READERS #POETRYTWITTER, #WRITINGCOMMUNITY, FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS, ALL AND SUNDRY! ANNOUNCING THE SELF-PUBLICATION OF A NOT-THAT-LONG POEM (WELL, OKAY, SEVERAL PAGES, BUT I PROMISE NOT WITHOUT DRAMATIC INCIDENT). THIS POEM IS ONE I WROTE AT A TIME WHEN I WAS MYSELF STUGGLING WITH LOVE LOST, WITH INSECURITY ABOUT BODY IMAGE, AND WHEN I AT LAST RESOLVED THAT TO LAUGH AT MY OWN TROUBLES AND INVITE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME WAS THE ONLY SOLUTION. EDITORS DO NOT LIKE THIS POEM AND WON’T PUBLISH IT. SOME I KNOW HAVE SPACE LIMITATIONS OR DON’T PUBLISH COMIC POETRY, OR HAVE TOO MANY DEMANDS UPON THEIR ATTENTION, BUT OTHERS I SUSPECT OF BEING WHAT USED TO BE CALLED “GRIM SOBERSIDES,’ WHO ARE AFRAID TO LAUGH AT ANYTHING NOT STRICTLY ON THE APPROVED LIST OF TOPICS LEST IT COME BACK TO BITE THEM. THIS IS MY POEM, ABOUT A CONFLICT OF MY OWN, SO I CAN PUBLISH IT WITH IMPUNITY; NO ONE WILL INTERFERE WITH MY LAUGHING AT MYSELF (AND MOCKING ALEXANDER POPE’S “THE RAPE OF THE LOCK” AND OVID’S “THE ART OF LOVE” AT THE SAME TIME, BOTH OF THEM REAL MISOGYNISTIC TEXTS, THOUGH THE FIRST WAS MEANT FOR HUMOR AT WOMEN AND THE SECOND FOR MALE EDIFICATION ABOUT WOMEN. LAUGH ALONG WITH ME THEN, AND MY JOG-TROT RHYMES OF NON-SERIOUS VERSE, IF YOU DARE).
Arthur L. Wood’s “Scarlet Land”–A Poet’s Development from Being Mainly a Love Poet to Being a Diagnostician of the Poet’s Landscape and Condition
Copyright 2021, Arthur L. Wood, Cover design, Hugh Rochfort
Having read Arthur L. Wood’s first collection of poetry, Poems for Susan, with its tender strains of love poetry and its far-reaching set of influences, one might be at least partially prepared for his second collection, Scarlet Land. Here also, there is sometimes tenderness of language, and the influences, both submerged and spoken of directly, are equally far-flung. But the tenderness here is more tempered with a certain cynicism, an acquired knowledge of more of the world in the tone, a certain sated weariness from time to time in the language, which yet does not make the poetry dull-witted with rancor or wearisome to read.
In Scarlet Land, the poet as a figure has not only the topic of love to contend with; he is also embattled in that same sensation of love, embattled in society, in poetic invention, in many things. And of course, in the background lurks always the awareness, like Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire, of being a poet in a condition or time of disease: just as in 2020, Covid appeared in Poems for Susan overtly, here it appears more insidiously, in the background as one is aware of the unhealthy influence. There are songs of dismay at modern conditions:
I cannot find my England. Does she lie in dust I sweep, Does she hide away in sunshine, in darkness does she creep, Does she hum a pagan melody and converse with the stars, Is she frightened by the madness and the music from the bars? I cannot find my England.
There are poems investigating or betraying to view a poet’s states and choices:
What more can I do? I've channelled the poets, I've died so many times, Yet so few are listening; I've written ten thousand Miraculous rhymes-- What more can I do? ************************** So many great poems! What more can I do? Tell me, would you please tell me, Because I haven't a clue-- I get up each morning, I shower and dress, Then die many times; Another call centre Awaits me, I guess. ************************* Or, taking a line through Milton, more affirmatively: ************************* Let my body starve! Let my soul rejoice! I cannot fail my task, I must be precise! I'll reinvent the songs With the trumpet of my voice, And pave the path of poesy That leads to paradise!
Raymond Keene, OBE, comments in his Foreword to the book that this is “fraught territory,” and indeed, in this book, the poet allows himself to be used nearly as the canary in the coal mines is used, who is the barometer (if he lives or if he dies) of whether or not there are unseen and dangerous substances being breathed by those around him. It is certainly in Scarlet Land a more “fraught” mental and moral landscape than in the previous book.
As to the structure of the poetry, Wood has always been good at achieving a sense of closure of the poetic material, regardless of whether the poem ends on a refrain, on a variation of a previous statement, or even if the contained sentiment diverges from the poetic shape by not being conclusive. He has also not disappointed in continuing his genius with metering and rhyming, though there are herein a bit more of poems in blank verse.
Sprinkled throughout, though not devoted to any one individual love by name as was the case in the previous book, there are still some hopes given out for the persistence of human love. The characteristic love poem here now occurs in spite of negative conditions, not so much in the absence of them as was the case in Poems for Susan:
While We Love
The world of raging fire, The cold and dark abyss, The fluctuating chasm, Are nothing while we kiss. The lake of burning sinners, The acid in the sky, The hole within the middle, Are nothing while we sigh. The steel-whitened seaweed, The limping one-eyed dove, The corpse upon the mountain, Are nothing while we love.
All in all, though the poetic voice is often strained here, the poet frustrated in the extreme to the point of sketching it all out for the reader, we see here a more complicated and mature poetic schema than before. Poems for Susan was an astounding and magnificent book, but it was the poet’s courtship of his subject and his talent; Scarlet Land is the beginning of his alchemical marriage to the same.
Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)
“Poems for Susan” by Arthur L. Wood–A Poet’s History of a Love in the Years ‘Round 2020, in Resounding Verse
Arthur L. Wood is a young poet from the U.K., residing near Winchester, Hampshire, who is generously sharing his first collection of poems, Poems for Susan, which was written in a few short months’ time in the warm season of 2020, some of his poetical recitals of his poems being on YouTube. But more about that later. He is a widely versed poet (to make a true pun), whom the notable writer of his Foreword, Raymond Keene, OBE explained, has written a work which bars the progress of the destruction of intellectual civilization. This may sound hyperbolic, yet if you’ll indulge me with this post, and try the young man’s poetic skills for yourself, you’ll see that it’s only perhaps a bit overgenerous. In this sense, we wait for what more he will do, because he has made such profit of his early opportunities, that now he may be the only person who can live up to them. As Raymond Keene notes, he has been under the influence of “Baroque and Metaphysical verse,” and Marlowe, Shakespeare, Byron, Blake, Yeats, Eliot, and others. Sometimes, Wood alludes to these poets outright in the verses of his book, sometimes he seems to have swallowed them whole and digested their substance, then integrated it into his work wholesale, a good thing, as it proposes a tradition of continuous poetic involvement. The quality I find most enchanting, however, is the sheer intoxication of words, which to me of all the influences named is the most like Shakespeare at his heights, in the use of sometimes startling verbal inexactitudes which then become new and vibrant precisions for the reader, which is the way true poetry works.
The book begins with “A Preface in Seven Parts,” followed by 70 separate poems of varying meters, rhymes, and subjects, though the overwhelming number are devoted (and I stress that word, devoted, or consecrated, perhaps) to one main subject, the subject of a young love. It is organized and passes through easy stages of poetic awareness, though a careful editorial process seems to have shaped the work into a whole, as if the poems are all parts of one long poem.
Now, just to give a bit of a tempting taste of the treats in store for the reader: The gradually evolving subjects are these:
Of youth and friendship, sometimes under the influence initially of drugs and alcohol;
On those first drugs I ever took In fields with friends when I was young With dances of delight and song And shimmers by the aching brook. That long and weary journey through A world of new sensations sweet Nervous in the dizzying heat Obliterating on the dew. Of the threat of madness or emotional instability; And twice or thrice, I oft forget I held a knife and slit my arm, I longed for some enchanted calm And shook in midnight's fearful sweat. I struck in anger, sunk in fear And said, "My life is overworn I wish I never had been born I wish to easily disappear. Of Byronic, Romantic idylls in foreign lands; I found my soul in lands forlorn Saw noises in the slow retreat Of day and grasslands good to eat And those enlightened fields of corn.... Of the intoxicating influence of love; I am possessed by something new A glimmer like that youthful day But stronger with a brighter ray And my beautiful Love is too.
Of the depths of love, as eternal; "And I can feel the holy hours Build with restless ecstasy And thus it feels, thus I am free! And love in life in death is ours!" ********************************** A wealth of poets throned above Gaze upon our fledging love, They gaze, they nod, and wisely see How love grows to tranquility. Of the awareness of mortality and potential aging playing against that eternity, signs and portents; If you look you too will find, You'll dream the year that you shall rot You'll see the end of your sweet mind You'll see the end of your sweet lot. ******************************** I went to the forest to weep, Then on to the meadow to cry, Then on to the hillock to sleep, Then into the grasses to die. For my Love was an angel I hurt. I didn't know wherefore or why. My passion belonged in the dirt. So I went to the forest to die. Of the coming of war and Covid, and yet....; I turn inside. I turn inside. India and China go to war And my dear friend to Covid died. The world is rich, the world is poor. I think that every genocide Was born like this and I can see And so I'd rather turn inside, These savage brutes do not hear me. ************************************ I end my sleep Despite my better judgement And the pleading of my eyes. Upon my street three emergency vehicles Six emergency personnel One man dead. Well, everybody dies. *********************************** Come my way and I will rest Come my way and I will lie On your million-pleasured breast With coolest fingers round your thigh, And like an olive softly pressed Above your touch my swelling chest Come my way and we will rest Come my way and we will die. Of how other realities impact upon love's legislations; For evil eyes announce that death is slicing soon Then move with me in passion round this Moon And fear the loss and fear the fading flame. ******************************************** Of Blakean-style hopes for a fairer world; When work is a toil for goodness And food is not murder or theft And peace and religion are partners Providing the starving bereft, When beings of blood are the mirror And fear and unusual sight Then I will walk easy in daytime Then I will sleep easy at night. Of partings, at first temporary, then appparently more lasting; My life I cannot lose but moan For times to come now thou art gone I lost thee yet we meet again When there is no more grief or pain When night exhales the dawn. Of a final dedication of the poems in the verse; Our flesh may travel on apart Our hearts may proudly flee the Will But where I go, whoe'er I know I will love you still. **************************************** The ghostly God is calling me Clouds are bursting on yon hill Although I go away to rove I will love you still. ************************************** ************************************** When you gaze with a wonderful glee At Time's mysterious view Then all your thoughts are with me And all of my thoughts are with you. And at last, a sort of realization, hard-won, about the infinity of all beings: Today is the last of the dancing, Sigh on, sigh on. To wherever are we advancing? Zion, Zion.
This gives only the general outline of the whole volume of poetry; there is so much more in the entire book. At some moments, it’s hard to realize, by the very depths of awareness, of the intensity of successfully communicated feeling, of the intoxication of having so many influences thoroughly combined into a neat whole, that the poet is a younger poet, with much time ahead of him still to compose. True, he has another book out already published in 2021 (which book will be reviewed on this site as soon as I finish reading it, I hope over the winter holidays). It’s a bigger book, which focuses more on the development of the poet, with all his generous, gentle, scintillating and perceptive poetical tentacles out during the world’s ongoing Covid pandemic. The title of that book, in case you want to order the two at the same time, is Scarlet Land. Just to give you a short taste of the continued loveliness of his work, here is one of the short poems therein:
Untouchable Hand All nations go to the dogs, The oceans size up the land, The eyes are desolate nerve endings, The rocks are grinded to sand. The winds are endlessly blowing, My heart is still overflowing, And those joyous embers are glowing In your warm, untouchable hand.
As an added attraction to this book of poetry, Poems for Susan, you can listen to a YouTube audio recording for free of the poet, who is marvellously trained as a reader, reading some of the key poems. This is the link: YouTube.com/playlist?list=PL2z5ZyeiuCJTM3XyTzrQyKx4T1EI9qaVM. Or, if you’d like to hear this same poet read not only from some of his own works but also give his considerable talent to the deliverance of other poets’ works, you can seek him online at Poetry from the Shires. If you wish to contact him, you can email at email@example.com. Last but not least, the shop address you correspond to online if you want to order either one or both of his books is:
May all my and Arthur L. Wood’s readers have a wonderful season this year. Some of us have already celebrated an early Hannukah this year, but there are still Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day/Kwanzaa, and New Year’s to follow. Please enjoy yourselves sensibly as regards not only your indulgences, but also your Covid precautions, so that as few of us as possible have things to regret when the season is over. Be Happy!