W.F. Lantry’s poetry collections are The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012), winner of a 2013 Nautilus Award in Poetry, The Language of Birds (Finishing Line 2011), and a forthcoming collection The Book of Maps. A native of San Diego, he received his Maîtrise from L’Université de Nice, M.A., and PhD in Creative Writing from University of Houston. Honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize, Crucible Editors’ Poetry Prize, Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (Israel), and the Potomac Review and Old Red Kimono LaNelle Daniel Prizes. His work has appeared widely, in journals such as Asian Cha, Gulf Coast and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He currently works in Washington, DC and is an associate fiction editor at JMWW.
Click on a title to read an author’s work(s) and bio. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page and on Twitter using #BlueLyra. Also, consider leaving a comment for everyone to read. Eugene H. Davis | Howl No More Charles Baudelaire | The Clock | **Lola Haskins **Indicates Translators
(Guest Edited by Judy Juanita)
Arika Elizenberry | Red Summer, 1919
Bridget Gage-Dixon | Hew Paints Crickets
Gail Goepfert | Revivify *runner up in our 2014 short-ish poetry contest*
Karen Greenbaum-Maya | My Uncle the Perfectionist
Kamden Hilliard | Hong Kong, Summer
Lowell Jaeger | A Salesman’s Song
David Kann | The Language of the Farm *runner up in our 2014 long-ish poetry contest*
Issa M. Lewis | The Catacomb Saints
Joel Lewis | Looking For Soup
Noorulain Noor | Chronology of Evil Eye
Jennifer Raha | Perennial | Resupination
Maryann Russo | Joe Redota Trail
Eva Schlesinger | With You in Hildesheim
Benjamin Schmitt | We were radicals
Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong | Mother | A Day in British Hong Kong
Cyrille Fleischman | Monsieur Lekouved’s Revolt | **Lynn Palermo
Imanova Günel | Untitled | **Arturo Desimone
Marcel Lecomte | The Schoolmaster | Number | **K. A. Wisniewski
Eugene H. Davis | Howl No More
Charles Baudelaire | The Clock | **Lola Haskins
Special Focus on 10 Singapore Poets
Guest Edited by Jee Leong Koh
Click on a title to read an author’s work(s) and bio. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page and on Twitter using #BlueLyra. Also, consider leaving a comment for everyone to read.
Yeow Kai Chai | The Ghost Writer | From Z to A, a Zoetrope with Spiracles | From A to Z, a Glamorous Zoetrope Names Parts of Singapore’s Latest New Town via Gemstones, Female Singers and Outer Space Phenomena
Tania De Rozario | Red
ESSAY | Jee Leong Koh | New Poems by Ten Singapore Poets: A Postscript
Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine
edited by Mari L’Esperance and Tomás Q. Morín
Prairie Lights Books, 2013
Distributed by University of Iowa Press
ISBN: 978-0-9859325-2-7, 194 pages, paper
When I read Coming Close, a collection of essays written by students from Philip Levine’s poetry workshops, I felt like I had met Philip Levine forty different times. These are like love letters of appreciation.
Levine is a master poet who, during his fifty-year teaching career, won just about every literary award, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for The Simple Truth. More recently, he served as the country’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2012.
Many celebrated poets who have studied with him frequently associate the word “generosity” with his teaching. Whether meeting Levine as a young poet sitting in a room permeated by the smell of fertilizer from the fields outside California State University in Fresno, encountering him later in his life as the Distinguished Poet in Residence at New York University, or intersecting with him at points in between, all of the writers said his teaching changed them.
Many writers, such as Aaron Belz, maintained a correspondence with Levine long after he had left the classroom. Belz shares some of Levine’s advice that was helpful to his own career:
“You asked for detailed advice on how to deal with taking yourself seriously as a poet & yet not puffing yourself up & at the same time believing in yourself as a poet. I can tell you this: long before I believed in what I was writing I believed in myself as a poet, believed I had something to say but had not yet found out how to say it. I suppose I was saying to myself, Philip, you are a person of intelligence, feelings, wit, some charm, you have as much right to this poetry thing as anyone else, though it is obvious that some others are more gifted (Hart Crane, John Keats, Wilfred Owen, etc., I was not yet 25), so stick at this thing & see what happens. No harm will come from this doggedness…”
There are other glimpses into student letters and notes that provide a fuller picture of Levine, a man who set an example not only by his passionately lyrical poems, but by his devotion to his students. He was not all sweetness and light. Levine had a reputation for eviscerating his students’ poems (but not the poet), and once, on the first day of a class, felt obliged to disavow a story of tearing up a poem into scraps before its author’s eyes. On the other hand, that quality of “no bullshit” was why so many of his students held him in high esteem. Paula Bohince writes:
“…he wanted to see us develop, caring enough to push us as we would have to push ourselves when our program ended.”
Others acknowledge that his tough feedback was tempered with outrageous humor so that, as Shane Book says, “you could take it because he made you laugh; the alternative was to weep. Levine wanted us to know how tough it was to write well.” Another student shares how his grading system was based on the OK system – decent stuff merited an OK+, the mediocre, OK-, and the truly awful won a low growl of argh!
Levine encouraged his students to reconnect with their own fractured memories and to allow imagination, as Colin Cheney says, “to give new life to what can’t be restored.” By giving the Detroit working class a face and a life in poetry and later broadening his work to encompass the nature of democracy in the United States, Levine’s poems encourage others to be truthful to material from their own lives.
All of the writers share an admiration for Levine’s work. Blas Manuel De Luna says:
“He was a model. If you tried to be like him – if you took your craft as seriously as he did, if you took the work as seriously as he did, if you took your life as seriously as he did, if you believed in poetry in the way that he believed in poetry – then you had a chance to make work that could last.”
Each essayist shares a facet of Levine, a man who appeared to David St. John as a cross between “Woody Guthrie and Paul Newman.” Nick Flynn recalls a time when Levine explained, “If you had remained an electrician, you would know how to get the lights to come on, but you are now a poet, and each day you must invent the world. Not the world, but your place in it…”
All of these women and men knew that they were studying poetry with someone whose work mattered and, like Ishion Hutchinson, wanted to be “owners of his myth.” Mark Levine recounts the poet saying, “There’s only one reason to write poetry. To change the world.” Included here is an earlier essay written by Larry Levis, a beloved student and friend of Levine’s. When Levis died in 1996 of a heart attack, Philip Levine edited Levis’ last collection of poems, Elegy.
The editors of Coming Close have done a masterful job of pacing these essays to build a pathway toward discovering Levine and his influence on several generations of poets. L’Esperance and Morín both have essays included in this collection. Read the book to meet Philip Levine as a teacher, and the students who found what they needed in his classroom to become successful in their own work.
Written by Lenore Weiss
Her work has been widely published online, in journals, and anthologies. West End Press published her full collection of poetry, Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Island. She serves as the copy editor for The Blue Lyra Review.
Grace Marie Grafton’s newest book, Whimsy, Reticence and Laud/unruly sonnets, came out Spring 2012 from Poetic Matrix Press (www.poeticmatrix.com). Her book of prose poems, Other Clues, 2010, was published by Latitude Press (rawartpress.com). A chapbook, Chrysanthemum Oratorio, 2010, is available from Dancing Girl Press. Her poetry has won first prize in the Soul Making contest (PEN women, San Francisco), in the annual Bellingham Review contest, and was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poems recently appear in Volt, Prism Review, Ambush Review, The Offending Adam, Theodate.
plain, open clearly visible to the eye or
obvious to the understanding
to reveal, show, exhibit, display, declare, discover
What could be more plain? We are a secretive species. Does that come from hunting? The best hunter gets the most meat? Or were there tribes where, no matter which one brought more, all was equally shared? Ah, anthropology, archeology. Long after the fact, we search and dig, want everything revealed, displayed. Fascination with museums. And then, there’s pornography. Why do we hide the genitals? Given our taste for secrets, it must be about power. Make a thing secret, concealed, and the one to whom it must be shown gets power and privilege. Trophy wife, arm candy, “I’m the one she takes her clothes off for.” Wouldn’t work if everyone went naked. Hidden treasure. The dragon guards the gold. The dragon who’s more than human, who has “powers,” who’s the warrior beast but also ethereal. And long-lived. Damn! If only we could know what God knows. If only we could know God. Naked. Revealed.
to set off or apart, to separate, segregate
to withdraw, to seclude
In the very center, the dark. “Rest here,” whispers the something-that-cares and you remember your request: to avoid the queer feeling in the gut, whirligig that threatens to hurl you off the edge. What to believe in when they say the world is round? The dark seems to hold no sharp angles, no gagging smells of motor oil or rotting flesh. No smell at all, nothing to see. When you enter, what will you let fall away? Your quest for acceptance, your need to be a seer? The future, a dark you do not want to enter without overcoat, boots or parasol. A contrary dark. The whisperer says, “Don’t worry, it’s not the same, let’s stay here at the center and let the spokes radiate out, not close in.” That voice is useful, though some would say, “Beware, ere those who can’t hear dub you already over the edge.” Hold yourself by the arm, set down your wigs and make-up case, set down your diamond tiara (or your wish for one). Soon you’ll be able to see the stars. And the world’s turning won’t nauseate you.
to allure, to lead on by exciting hope of reward or pleasure
The tablecloth is orange. Some would say silk, some would say oilcloth, some would say it doesn’t matter. Beautiful. The sunset sky, sound of laughter. Just the right amount of alcohol in the drink. Lift, not fly. What is the music? It wouldn’t be Miles’ “Sketches of Spain” with its sorrow undertones, its images of walking slowly down stone steps. Alone. No, more Vivaldi or Ellington, red Italian poppies or tuxedo and smooth cravat. Still, maybe more innocence than Ellington. Not suave but not ingenue. A purposeful choice to eschew cynicism but still, awareness that this is incredibly lucky. War being always, as it were, just around the corner and the offered release in the mind, release from guilt’s clench, will be time-limited. But oh, what a gift, we’ll take it. Slipping off the formal shoes, we choose the Hungarian fiddle player, hot feeling floods our blood, we’re wearing just these thin wraps, we’re moving over damp, tamped ground and our bodies are our friends.
Poetry Only & Turkish Poets Issue
Guest Edited by Lenore Weiss
Click on the author’s name to read their work(s) and bio. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page and on Twitter using #BlueLyra. Also, consider leaving a comment for everyone to read.
Poetry: Karen Craigo | Neither Created Nor Destroyed | Naming What Is
Lyle Daggett | The Greig Concerto | Apparition
Jim Davis | Fair Season, 1993
Grace Marie Grafton | Manifest | Sequestor | Entice
Julie Kane | Something Like A Telephone | Runner
Adrian C. Louis | Xmas At Wakpamni | Shadows | Gaudeamus Igitur 2.0
Florence Miller | Forebears
Garrett Murphy | Check, Please Don’t | The Adventure of Blackhoodlum, Chapter Umpteen or Whatever |
Melinda Palacio | When She Calls | When They First Come | Wet Mask
Evelyn Posamentier | I Am Ferminita | I Am Nikki Don’t Tell
Yiskah Rosenfeld | Four Klippot | Naamah | How The Sun Makes Love To The Moon
Nina Serrano | The Angel Of Death | 56th Birthday Insomnia
Genaro Smith | View From The Veranda Grasping | Grasping | Propaganda | A Museum Of Trees
Elaine Starkman | At A Russian Circus, Sochi, On The Black Sea, 1990 | For Sarah Simmons 1921-2013 | Day Of Atonement for Leon
Gary Turchin | The Poet’s Laureate’s Bald Spot | The Thicket
Karen Craigo | Neither Created Nor Destroyed | Naming What Is
Translations: Gülten Akin | Spring
Haydar Ergülen | Lost Brother
**Arzu Eker Roditakis and Elizabeth Pallitto
Ana Minga | I Have Sought The Dead Among The Living
Murathan Mungan | In A Way
**Gökçenur C. and Mel Kenne
Hasan Ali Toptas | from Loneliness #5
**Mel Kenne and Sehnaz Tahir Gürcaglar
Guven Turan | San Gimignano
Zeynep Uzunbay | Wet
**Arzu Eker Roditakis and Elizabeth Pallitto
Gülten Akin | Spring
Translator’s Note on Alisa Velaj’s Work:
Alisa Velaj is a prolific Albanian writer and poet who received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tirana, College of History and Literature. An accomplished teacher of Albanian, Velaj has received a Master of Arts degree in literature from the University of Tirana. Her graduate thesis was entitled “The Catharsis in Mitrush Kuteli’s Prose” (Discussions on the Intertextual content of Kuteli’s prose). Alisa Velaj is a Ph.D. candidate of Albanian literature at the “Blanzhe Koneski” University in Skopie, Republic of Macedonia. She is fluent in English and Italian.
Velaj has published two volumes of Poetry: Foundations of Wind (Ideart Press, 2006), and Around the Flames (2011). She has also written a foreword to Godot is not Coming, 2010, a poetry volume by Ndue Ukaj, translated in English and Spanish by Peter Tase and published in the United States by Lulu Enterprises. Alisa Velaj regularly participates in regional conferences on comparative literature, and Albanian language and professional writing seminars. Her verses of “A tale of pilgrims” is published in the October, 2012 issue of Enhance in the United States, translated by Peter Tase. Velaj’s poems are translated in Portuguese by Fernando Dias Antunes and printed in his magazine which is published in Lisbon, Portugal.
Peter Tase (translator) received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Italian Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, United States (2006) and is a graduate of Marquette University, Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington, D.C. (2006). Tase has translated more than ten fiction and poetry volumes by Albanian writers, from Albanian to English and Spanish. Tase is the author of Simultaneous Dictionary in Five Languages (2010), and editor of El Idioma y Cultura Guarani en Paraguay (2011), a volume of essays and research articles written by David Galeano Olivera, president of Ateneo de Lengua y Cultura Guarani, Paraguay. For more information see, www.petertase.com
I ate Manna
at Zacharia’s home.
and two grilled fish.
Later was upset with my mother
who would never cook tasty food
just like grandma Rachel.
Many years went by,
but myself, a kid,
still cherish that sweet flavor
every time I see fish,
as they’re fed with coins from worshipers,
there, at the river near a synagogue…
Vogëlushëve hebrenj të fëmijërisë time
Une hëngra mana
në shtëpinë e Zakarias.
Mana të ëmbla
dhe dy peshq të pjekur zgare.
Pastaj u zemërova me nënën time
që s’gatuante kurrë ushqime
si të gjyshe Rakelës.
Kaluan shumë vjet,
ruaj ende atë shije të ëmbël
sa herë shoh peshqit,
tek ushqehen me lëmosha besimtarësh.
atje, në lumin pranë një faltoreje…
Patty Seyburn has published three books of poems: Hilarity (New Issues Press, 2009), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002) and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998). Her poems have recently been published in Minnesota Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Zocalo Public Square. She is an Associate Professor at California State University, Long Beach and co-editor of POOL: A Journal of Poetry (www.poolpoetry.com).
As witness, the amateur
hazards the first
photograph of this
the first phenomena –
what other tool would
the Great Cleaver wield
to separate firmament
from earth? The man
reveals the supposed
serrate closer to a straight
line or curve: ribbon
or random pattern
instead of jag, famed
zigzag, switchback –
the art of electricity
scissoring the dark –
the eye, ever-deceived.
Grievous the world
broken in two: fabric
of matter rent and
stitched by the Holy
Tailor with thread of
ether, needle of storm,
so seamlessly the seam
denies its existence:
you must have imagined me.
Judith Skillman’s forthcoming book is Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry, (Lummox Press). Her poems and collaborative translations have appeared in Poetry, Cimarron Review, FIELD, Ezra, Seneca Review, The Iowa Review, and numerous other journals and anthologies. Recipient of an award from the Academy of American Poets for Storm (Blue Begonia Press); two of her collections have been finalists for the Washington State Book Award. For more information visit www.judithskillman.com, or see her blog on techno-bling: abricabrac.com
The magician exists, of course,
if only in her imagination.
She’s the one who created him—
a daughter always makes her father
see with one eye. The other?
It’s gone white as dawn
in an overcast version of Paradise.
The white of an egg
pulled down beneath the lid.
Blindness frightens her, she tries
to make him see
it’s only wiles and guile,
a kind of feminine virtue
known and ignored.
He struts the sand like a bird
too sturdy despite the green toes.
He talks history, of the days
before this day.
Toward evening his apology
grows long as a shawl
of prayers, a foam rope.
She’s the one who must
reach farther in, find
the play within the play.
Without her probing
who would know the vagaries
of his latest illness?
Who plays the scamp,
the scalawag, that rapscallion
bound to haunt the waterfront?
Steven Sher is the author of fourteen books including, most recently, Grazing on Stars: Selected Poems (Presa Press, 2012) and the forthcoming The House of Washing Hands (Pecan Grove Press). He moved from New York City to Jerusalem one year ago with his wife. Find more information about his writing at stevensher.net.
A Lesson in Extending Compliments
for Rabbi Yehoshua Safrin
I told him he looked well today and he responded
that the surface of a man can be deceptive
and one’s health is in the hands of Hashem .
So then I added that his looking fine on the outside
was because the inside was so pure
and what was good came shining through.
Here he didn’t dispute what I had said
but nodded as if I had handed him a gift
that he couldn’t possibly accept,
yet he let it stand as he tugged on his coat
and turned up the collar, then swung the scarf
around his neck, fixing it like a mask over his mouth
up to the bridge of his nose—perhaps to trap
the warmth each deep breath garnered
as much as to keep the cold from his weakened lungs.
When next he pulled his black fur hat
down around his ears, as much to guard against the wind
that would slap his face once he stepped outside
as to strengthen himself against the doubts
that test a man before the door where he dons his gloves,
his mind was wrestling with new questions—
heavenly messengers, unseen by me,
now sent to lift him by his arms if they should drop
and raise the ground to meet his step.
William Shumway’s Painting Of A Rose
*(this poem is only available in our first print anthology)
Joy Ladin is a Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University, and author of six books of poetry: The Definition of Joy, Coming to Life, Transmigration, Alternatives to History, The Book of Anna, and Psalms. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a finalist for a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, and a Forward Fives winner. She is also the author of a book-length study of American poetry, Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry (VDM). Her work has appeared in periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review. Ladin’s work has been recognized with a Fulbright Scholarship.
Letter to Jonah
It must be cozy there, in the belly of the whale.
The whale knows you aren’t the end of his world,
his enormous heart pumps unbroken in the dark.
God reverberates quietly inside you,
a psalm you sing as you dissolve
in his gastric juices.
Dissolving is safer for all concerned
than growing into who you are.
And aren’t you really closer to God,
there in the cozy belly of the whale,
dissolving into gratitude and krill
and a story sailors tell
about a man who slept through a man-killing storm
and when they woke him up to pray
said “Throw me overboard.”
Martin Willitts Jr. retired as a Senior Librarian in upstate New York. He is a visual artist of Victorian and Chinese paper cutouts. He was nominated for 5 Pushcart and 2 Best Of The Net awards. He has 23 poetry chapbooks and 2 full length poetry books including recently How to Find Peace (Kattywompus Press, 2012), Playing The Pauses In The Absence Of Stars (Main Street Rag, 2012), and No Special Favors (Green Fuse Press, 2012).
R Is For Radiobroadcast
Issue 1.1: Summer 2012
Click on the author’s name to read their work(s) and bio. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page and on Twitter using #BlueLyra.