Category Archives: Poetry and its forms and meanings

“Poems for Susan” by Arthur L. Wood–A Poet’s History of a Love in the Years ‘Round 2020, in Resounding Verse

Poems for Susan in a seasonal bouquet, Copyright Arthur L. Wood, Cover illustration by the author.

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 arthurwoodpoetry@gmail.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: 

https://ko-fi.com/arthurlwood/shop

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!

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Filed under Poetry and its forms and meanings, poetry as bardic speech, Topical poems--Covid-19, What is literature for?

Todd Dillard’s book “Ways We Vanish,” and How We Can Find Ourselves Again in Its Pages

Todd Dillard’s book “Ways We Vanish,” published by Okay Donkey, Cover Art: Sarah E. Shields

One of the hardest things for a reviewer to do is to select out the particular and most essential things which set any work apart from others within even just our own memories, or to perhaps find adequate words to paint pictures of words, not to mention taking account of any that others we’ve read might have isolated for attention.  So, reviewers may decide that a particular line or phrase, an image or even a whole poem deserves to be quoted.  Gven my own lack-and-well-a-day penchant for the hauntingly and suddenly rhymed, pointed line in a piece where nothing else rhymes, I could select lines from Todd Dillard’s book Ways We Vanish such as the final lines from “If You Are What You Eat Then Today I Am a Flood on My Mother’s Death Anniversary”:  “I too have let a child splash in rising waters/just to watch them run home, shivering, to me./I too have left the front door open and invited in the sea.”  Or, eschewing that tactic, I could pick the whole of the poem “Scratch Offs,” in which the governing metaphor is that of scratch off tickets, and the poem covers the track of time, of birthdays and whether and how much things from year to year change or stay the same.  But this work–though it comes in two separate books, and there are differences between them–functions moreso than some as a whole on the single topic of a life celebrating, coping with, and sometimes intensely grieving, family love.  There are more incidental poems, but they seem to operate as isolated moments, moments of freedom from the overwhelming, moments of curiosity about the outside world which can be spared from family life only occasionally.

First and foremost, this is a book of much spiritual and psychological cleanness, not versus being dirty or underhanded, but in the sense that it has a very special sort of subtext.  Usually, when people say “This has a subtext,” they often mean “This has an ulterior motive,” or “This has an anterior, hidden meaning,” and often they also mean “which I don’t entirely like.”  Others simply assume that everything has some sort of hidden/dishonest subtext.  Here, however, if Ways We Vanish has a subtext, it is an exciting one, for poetry, because the “ways we vanish” are ghostly in the sense of  being “ways we manifest,” the “ghosts” not being only the beloved dead and the past and gone moments that are manifested, but the living and present and in so far as the future is spoken of at all, even that.  All are luminous with their own manifestation.

The ghosts are very alive here, because the beloved ones always have a place, whatever pain has gathered about them as they lived or are living, and though I wouldn’t like to suggest something possibly sentimental or maudlin about a book which has such a clean, tight texture to its poetic stories, there is the same sort of sense in it of the dead persons as well as the dead moments still having a place in one’s contemporary history as there is in Wordsworth’s poem “We Are Seven.”  The difference being, of course, that here the voice speaking is one of an adult who knows the reality of death, not that of some “simple” country maid being interrogated in the Romantic haze of an elderly statesmanlike poet.

One of the poems I liked the most from the book is “Love Poem to My Brother As He Gives Our Father a Shave,” a poem which pictures two brothers with their father in a hospital room.  There is a comparison made about the sound of the scraping blade on the father’s cheek which is one of the loveliest and most touching I have ever heard:  “..that sound,/follicle scraped from flesh,/like tearing open/an envelope–its letter/good news–it says/you are alive/and the ones who love you/most are here, touching/your knuckles, wrist,/as if there grows on the body/a kind of Braille–“.

In fact, in general, the book is even at its most intellectual moments not a hidden text which one must decode and decode again; rather, it is a rough wolf’s tongue lick to its cubs and its mate as a sort of vade mecum into the true realm of poetry, the interior places where grows the root of poetry:  fellow feeling, family feeling, and creature feeling, such passages as those sharing tears and laughter with a small child: “my laughs love and mourn and see/they are like living that way.”  Here is a poet who is not afraid to say such things in the poetic voice, because they are from the excavations of the sometimes long-buried human voice, and he knows it.  And in reading this book, we too can find ourselves and our loved ones again, however long and away the time has been since we last were able to think in this way and say these things ourselves.  Rather, here Todd Dillard says them for us, in the saying of them for himself.

Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)

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The Taut Exactitudes of a Lyric Welsh Poetry–Matthew M.C. Smith’s “Origin: 21 Poems” and a Study in Poetic Opposites

Copyright Matthew M. C. Smith, 2018, 2019, Black Bough Press in association with KDP Ltd.,

Matthew M. C. Smith, the editor of Black Bough Poetry in Swansea, Wales, has reissued his 2018 book of poetry, the modestly entitled Origin:  21 Poems.  It is his first collection of poetry in a long life of working on poetry and studying poetics.  One of his first contributions to the body of work on literature is his doctorate at the University of Wales, a thesis on the poetry of Robert Graves.  Currently, Matthew divides his time amongst a career in work on anti-poverty, education and welfare work; an editorship at Black Bough Poetry/Barddoniaeth Y Gangen Ddu, and a new volume of poetry, all of which makes him truly a Renaissance man.

When I had finished reading Origin:  21 Poems, my first thought was that if I weren’t talking about poetry, I’d say that each of these poems is clinically exact, except that I am talking about poetry, and “clinically” is the wrong word; these are poems rich in feeling, fellow-feeling, and emotional wealth, and here the poetical indirections are made in short, minimalist code of metaphor and description, which perhaps has confused my own non-minimalist poetic practice.

This poetry is definitely something to learn, and to know how to do, for the beauty of the sometimes staccato revelations is extreme, the phrasing a sort of condensed shorthand on the road to perfect portraiture, to individual epiphanies, to separate visions.

The book Origin:  21 Poems is entirely situated around family situations, cultural ones, and  natural/mythological/religious ones (all those things in life that are so much bigger than we are), sketching a line from belief and belief systems through the societal structures and remnants of ritual our civilization has left us with to family and celebrations of family and faith, the most personal of all.

There are careful pairings of poems back and forth, weaving, knitting a net to catch us in, with the warp in one poem being a salute to air travel, to being a soldier, either modern or ancient, and the woof of the next poem following being a loving meditation dedicated to a child’s birth or to play with children, or, one of the most moving poems, a poem on the death of the poet’s father, containing some of the implications of his life.  There are poems on prophets and guardians and “prodigal” women, nature poems filled with the beauty of winter or the symbolic natural growths of the seasons, and the book ends in a tribute poem to another Welsh poet, Alun Lewis, who died in WW II.  There is no accident here in these weavings of opposites, because they not only thus form Smith’s dedication to being a participating witness in all the doings of life, but they also invite the reader to select favorite and most resonant phrases, to read aloud, and then willy-nilly, to be led into a different experience, just as life itself would demand.  Here are some of my favorite lines and their topical sources:

the birth of a child:  “You belong to the world/to rose-red rivers dipped by the sun/to the white path of light in darkest night/ to frosts of fire beyond our dawn”

the death of a father:  “No cry, nor whisper, a cross shape/near crested roar and the people you love/carried you from the shore”

“After Man”:  “The fern, the ivy/the circle of oaks/were fast losing names given…our time was terribly mocked”

the modern soldier;  “Men of arms…frame-ache, sting of sweat/body-rack past forest tracks/where whippet-lads lead/and bigger lads wane”

“The Moment”;  “cycles of sun and/nights of stone//Picasso/his sorrow of shadow/is cast across/a frieze of terror”

the poet’s homage to another poet:  “your words grow old/but dare not fade/I heard they took you/in feathers as light as snow/and in that whirling flight/as words exhaled/they kissed your fading glow”

Here, the taut exactitudes I have spoken of in my title are from line to line, but blossoming forth in between are the pictures, the images, bodied forth in and contained by the lines themselves.  The overall effect?  Almost a contradiction in terms, the lyricism of the burgeoning phrases, held firmly in the short precision of the actual words.  Thus, it should be no guess that the preference at Black Bough Poetry is for short, imagistic poems of 1-10 lines, and that the devotion to the human equation has produced a sense of community for poets of every stripe, who are regularly invited to participate every Tuesday online through Twitter, tweeting to Black Bough Poetry, in #Top#Tweet#Tuesday, a rollicking, fun-filled poetic experiment in exposing poets from all areas of the globe to the work of other poets of all kinds and schools.  As well, there are occasionally special seasonal contests and participations, such as the recently closed one for Hallowe’en 2021.

As a final and defining note about this poet’s, Matthew M. C. Smith’s, contribution to the world poetic community, I would like to call attention to his election this month (November 2021) to be Broken Spine’s #Writer of the Month.  Already, he has participated in more than one poetic activity in this position, all of which information is available to the interested follower on Twitter.  If you are not yet familiar with Smith, his book is available on Amazon, and for all the many poets the world over who are already friends, admirers, and poetic colleagues of him and his welcoming, modest and self-deprecating humor, let’s give him another round of applause, and keep reminding him we are eagerly and a bit impatiently waiting to read his next book.  I mean, for a man who has so little else to do!  Seriously, though, be watching for Matthew M. C. Smith’s next volume of poetry; to judge based on this one, it’ll be another wonderful poetic experience.

Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)  

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C.T. Salazar’s “American Cavewall Sonnets”–Or as William Blake Would Say, “Hear the Voice of the Ancient Bard,/Who Present, Past, and Future Sees…”

With cavewall sonnets, it is necessary to speak of an ancient bard or ancestral voice intoning rich, mysteriously rich and tantalizing if sometimes evasive syllables. My feeling after reading through C.T. Salazar’s book American Cavewall Sonnets several times is that I will have to live a long time with this book before I feel I really understand these poems at all as thoroughly as they deserve; but don’t understand me to be complaining. From the beckoning and lush art of the front cover–what one has come to expect from Bull City Press’s chapbooks, here the cover art being Wildstyle Still LIfe by Collin van der Sluijs–the story of the poems is one of equal lushness, richness, elliptical at some points, but a straightforward celebration and reveling in language. If you’re expecting the rhyme or meter of a traditional sonnet, don’t: though some of the lines have distinguishable meter, it is intermittent and tends to occur in first lines where it does. The main sonnet constraint (and here, in the glory of the unrestricted experiment it would be a constraint to expect a formal sonnet) is that each poem is 14 lines long, 8 lines followed by a separate 6, and in one case, a visual poem of two recurring words, even that form isn’t strictly adhered to. But trust me, if you give these poems your time and heartfelt participation, it won’t matter a jot to you if the traditional sonnet is left totally in the dust for this spell of poetry.

Thus, formally speaking, this book of poetry is not a docile housemate, though sometimes a frenzied one; it is never reallly indecorous or disrespectful, however. It respects first of all the internal distances between reader and poet, and negotiates them without rapine or plunder of the reader’s resources. What do I mean by all that? Here’s an example:

"The rifle scope was a failure indeed
of the imagination--look through there
and everthing becomes           a target."  (p. 13). 

From this, one can see that while the poet has no intention of allowing his poems to be the target, to succumb to facile interpretation, the reader is welcomed into the lovely disorder and chaos that do aim towards meanings, but multiple meanings, as toward multiple–no, not targets–but caresses of the imagination. These are gentle, yet serious touches on the reader’s arm and consciousness.

The moments of darkness are not denied, the ones that keep humans sheltering in their illusions rather than facing what confronts them. “I never talked about what I saw in the river: /the humans who drowned.” The “mosaic” of our moments of darkness and also of belief is the mosaic “made from the salvaged chips of empire.” (p. 10)

And the force of memory in this consciousness, one which the poet tries to bring the reader to expand and to share with him, takes its turn too in the book–thus not only the target has been magicked away, but time cannot lose its soul to passing, and permanence becomes conceivable as more than a dream:

"This room was no longer, so I put it
back together/I put it back in my
mind/I put it in the back of my mind....
At the end of the world I'm told
a prayer could harden into a full
moon bright enough to guide our fathers back."  (p.27)

It’s not a matter of self-deception, though. In the ellipses I have placed above, the fragility of a broken vase is mentioned, and in the following line just below, we are told: “Even a whisper can bruise.” In such a world, wherein the poet must mediate and (once again) negotiate for himself and others, Salazar positions the poet in the most human and resonant of places: in the juncture between fragility and breaking and constancy and wholeness, we are finally told, as the summation of that sonnet and the book, “love, touch me.” And that sense of trust in our human capacity amid the challenges which may overwhelm us at any moment is a sense of trust in the bond, too, the compact, between poet and reader.

Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)

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“What Pecan Light”–A New “Song of the South” Arises in Strict Self-Examination and the Protestant Confessional Tradition of Witnessing, Through the Medium of Poetry

Just this year, the editor/teacher/professional poet Dr. Hannah VanderHart has given us a monumental though deceptively short book of poetry on Southern life, thought, and tradition which belies the suggestion that a book need be long to achieve a worthwhile thesis and goal. The book is What Pecan Light. While the book goes from picture to picture of Southern life, and growing up in a family tradition of ownership of a chicken farm and farming in general, using images of food, daily habits, work forms, recreation times and religious traditions to which the South remains committed, the past with its Civil War history and history of slave-owning is never only a part of the background, but informs in its seriousness and rhetoric the whole.

The lovingly executed papier-mache in the photograph from the front cover with its mythically descended formation of human silhouettes-becoming-trees (by Rachel DiRenna) is a sort of key to the structure of the book as a whole: I too have had Southern relatives wondering what possible shape the South can take next, if it continues to change so much in its traditions and reverences, and being caught up in false notalgias, false because betraying of basic humanity.

Others such as Jessica O. Stark and Joy Katz on the book’s back cover have communicated at succinct and short length the cultural and societal aspects of this book. Though brevity is often said to be the soul of wit, sometimes a book merits greater length and remark where possible, and it is to this end that I devote myself today, while calling to the readers’ attention their deservedly appreciative remarks.

The book is one of tightly woven individual poems taking place in a loosely put-together structure which allows for visiting and revisiting, layering and relayering, of themes and motifs. The traditions and culture of the Southern United States in the states with which the poet is familiar are examined in an elliptical slide going from facts to Southern topoi and from Southern topoi to facts. “Topoi,” of course, in Greek, or “loci” in Latin, are rhetorical places, places where things happen and where facts may or may not reign. Here, the topoi are richly illustrated by Southern images and lifestyle portraits of the daily life of a family whose past is affected by the ancestors whom they have been taught to reverence, but whom more recent documents or examinations expose as flawed by slaving. This experience, when one thinks of it, is a universal experience in the sense that an appreciation of the facts portrayed and the reactions of the present-tense family committed to a more just existence are experienced by anyone who has imperfect human ancestors (which is all of us). That slavery is the issue here in this book makes it particularly rich for an American audience trying to heal the deep divides of our time, many of the roots of which are buried in older times.

VanderHart’s book is a deeply and seriously wrought picture of a family whose traditions are in the process of renovation despite their otherwise deep Southern ties, as the mother-figure in the poem teaches the newest members about the slave-owning past and the attitudes of prejudice, the practices of repression, that have been perennial in the world every time a subject people have sought freedom and self-determination. Thus, the poetic voice throughout, while not denying some degree of nostalgia but treating it both with reverence and due suspicion, makes from her own consciousness a critical voice arising from the midst of these traditions and cultural ties. She examines them both as they stand separate and apart from the greater life of the whole United States, and as they form the source of the root of Southern loyalty to the whole, where it exists.

For Southerners–and this was true in my childhood in the not-quite-South also, in West Virginia where people regularly divide themselves according to whether they have Southern loyalties of a traditional sort or Northern loyalties of the “West Virginia went with the North” sort–loyalty to the United States has in the past been first and foremost loyalty to a Southern-style home atmosphere, welfare, and traditions unless one is a social critic as for example VanderHart is here in her role as poet. Thus, this “monumental” work, as I called it once before, is a new sort of Southern monument, a Southern testament, a testifying of a religious sort, as poetry always has been, of a word structure rather than a stone or metal structure, but in the public forum just as a literal statue of a Confederate general or widow would be. And it is both long overdue for all of us, Northerners and Southerners alike, and most welcome in its overwhelming gift of a new language plinth to stand in our mutual public square.

This book is available from Bull City Press, at 1217 Odyssey Drive, Durham, NC 27713, http://www.BullCityPress.com . It is also available from Amazon.com.

Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)

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Filed under Articles/reviews, lifestyle portraits, Poetry and its forms and meanings, poetry as societal witnessing, What is literature for?

When Does a Textual Riddle Seem to Have a Personality (and When Is a Person Like a “Problem in the Text?”)

In this poem from my book “Poems from the Northeast,” I consider one of my favorite moments in literary classes (and simultaneously an application of textual analysis to psychology): that moment when the professor frowns, pushes his/her/their glasses up on their nose, coughs, then says: “in this passage, there is a problem with the text.”

IN THIS PASSAGE, THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE TEXT
I am a problem in the text
     That has never been resolved
A hint, a monstrous suggestion
     Which cannot be confirmed
I trouble the mind that wants
     To settle like a hen over eggs
I ruffle her up, she clucks uneasily
     And pecks at where she thinks I am.
In August, I am an unexpected wind
     That hints of winter
I do not answer, I ask.
     Always I bring them to the question
With troubled faces, angry expressions;
     People clumsily resolve me
To this or that
     Proving their points with good evidence
Which they have misinterpreted.
     The pages around me
Pose no problems--
     My commentary
Is relegated to a footnote here or there,
     A short section in the appendix.
With so much else decided,
     One word or phrase cannot trouble overlong--
They forget me.
     They are happy with the story being told.
But still, inconveniently, I come back,
     I perplex, I mock without mockery;
There may be some treasure in me.
     They think I have a purpose
But they don't know what it is,
     Feeling, suspecting,
That if they did it would make
     All the difference.
And I ask,
     What difference would it make?
I am the corner you didn't turn
     When you could
And couldn't turn when you would,
     Because I too exist,
And not only for the greed and delight
     Your mind has in pictures.
I have the right to live
     Not simply as a point in space
But as myself at that point.
     Yet attack the point how you will,
When you come there
     I am gone and you know nothing.
I evaporate, I drift away
     And you can stand all day
Like a lovelorn schoolboy
     For the date who didn't show up.
You let me be at peace
     And I am with you;
You gain confidence,
     You think this means
That now you will know all--
     You chase and I evade.
You punish and I bow to punishment.
     You walk away in anger
And I go back to what I was doing.
     You have lured me to interpretation
And I have been lured,
     But more and more
I see the trap
     And am impatient with such stupidities.
You always think you know me,
     And even when it seems so,
I slide from your mind,
     And you grope
And reach for the light,
     And wonder what I meant.

Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)

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Today’s the Day! “Now is the hour/Of our great content/Made uproarious self-advertisement/By this client of WordPress.”

“Wha?” say you, the innocent reader, stepping into the maelstrom of glee and self-congratulation.

Well, the misquote from Shakespeare’s Richard III above is only to confirm and announce that my 334 p. book of poems, “Poems from the Northeast,” about which I’ve been babbling for a few weeks now at least, was in fact released today, amid much hoopla by me and celebrations in a minor way.

The cat (Lucie-Minou, my heart’s darling) started it off today at 2:30 a.m., by agreeing to partake of a Fancy Feast broth to join in the day. Then, at 7:30 a.m., she had her breakfast of Fancy Feast chicken and tuna feast with all sorts of special (read: expensive) stuff in it.

Then, my mom and I ate some ice cream. And I guess, really, that wraps it up for the actual celebrating, but the mood was festive, anyway. So, just posting to let all my readers know that the book has now been released. If you’re wondering where to find it, it may be available in a lot of different places soon, but if you’re looking for a quick copy, try your local Amazon platform, the publisher’s (olympiapublishers.com), or Book Depository.

And share it with someone. Poetry is always better when shared.

All the best, and thanks for your support. Let me know your comments here, if you have any you would like to make to me directly, or if you would like to ask any questions about any of the poems you find in the book.

Namaste, Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)

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Part II–“Poems from the Northeast”: A Short Reading

Dear WordPress and Twitter followers, today I offered the first part of a two-part short reading from my new book which is coming out on August 26 from Olympia Publishers, “Poems from the Northeast.” This is now the second part, assuming that the first part was something you liked and found sympathetic. So, without more ado, here goes (this part is about 16 minutes long, whereas the first was 9 minutes or so, giving you roughly 20-25 minutes total). I hope you enjoy it. Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)

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Filed under Full of literary ambitions!, Poetry and its forms and meanings, What is literature for?

Part I–“Poems from the Northeast”: A Short Reading

Dear WordPress and Twitter followers, I may be able to offer you here a short video from my new book (if successful, Part II to follow immediately afterwards). I’ve upgraded from http://www.creativeshadows.wordpress.com to having my own domain name, because this was the most economical way of doing two things at once, for WordPress, and for Twitter. My new domain name is: creative-shadows.com . Please enjoy both parts of the reading if you have time (for a total of 20-25 minutes). Best regards, Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)

Coincidentally (and I’m just sayin’, I mean…), I started my site with my old name of https://www.creativeshadows.wordpress.com in July of 2012. Today, when I upgraded my site, I found that someone named Paulina Steele had started a media site in 2015, named creativeshadows as well. Later than. After. I mean, were there no other good names around? Just sayin’…

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“The Pearl”–Fawziyya Abu Khalid and Predicting the Future of Arabic Women

In the midst of so much controversy in the contemporary world about what to do to help people, both women and men, to achieve their rights and to be treated equally by their societies and fellows in those societies, it is refreshing and uplifting to read a poet who has a whole-hearted belief that things can only improve, though she is not incognizant of the problems to be faced, it is clear both from her political involvements as they are reported in her brief biography1 and the determination in the forward-looking tone of her poem, which I will comment on here (it is not possible to print the whole poem, even though it is relatively short, because it is not in the public domain. Brief quotes only are allowed.)

As we are told in the biographical paragraph itself, “Fawziyya Abu Khalid was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [in 1955]. She studied in the United States, taking a degree in sociology, and has been teaching at the Girls’ University College of King Saud University….Her work celebrates the strength and abilities of women, as well as indicating her commitment to political concerns.”1

In her poem The Pearl, Abu Khalid compares the legacy of generations of Arabic women to the physical legacy of a pearl, handed down from grandmother to mother to her, to her own daughter (or niece, etc., it isn’t quite clear). “The three of you and this pearl/Have one thing in common,” she says, “simplicity and truth,” making the two terms one in a touching poetic figure which conquers ordinary language usage. As she predicts in her poem “The girls of Arabia will soon grow/to full stature.” She further notes that they will find their predecessor’s traces and will say “‘She has passed by this road,'” which in her view, by the end of the poem, leads to “the place of sunrise” and “the heart’s direction.”

Though this more or less fairly reports the entirety of the poem’s movement in time and space, it cannot fairly represent the poem’s delicacy and beauty, as fine as a pearl of great value itself. It is humbling to realize that even though women all over the world are still having major problems getting recognized for their contributions and accomplishments, that a woman in one of the perhaps harder places to achieve this feat is so hopeful and so full, again, of strong determination, both for herself and for others to follow her. We all should have such inspiring and leading women in our lives, and she is one not only for Arabic women, but for women of the world.

This poem can be read in its short but lovely entirety in English translation (performed by Salwa Jabsheh and John Heath-Stubbs) on page 508 in the same volume which I mentioned in my last post just above, for which, see below:

(1In this case, both the poem and my biographical data are drawn from the large compendium text of world literature which I have now had occasion to mention several times on this site: Modern Literatures of the Non-Western World: Where the Waters Are Born, edited and compiled by Jayana Clerk and Ruth Siegel, with study questions and suggestions for further research. It was published by HarperCollins College Publishers back in 1995, and is still valuable today.)

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