Review of infant*cinema by Barton Smock ~Emma Hall

++++How do we face a world where our experiences and their impacts do not hold the necessary weight? Having read the poetry of Barton Smock for a few years now, this is a question I find myself repeating each time I return to his works. My own poetry has been shaped by experience and the shapes that response takes, so when I discovered Barton’s work, I was (selfishly) most interested in discovering someone speaking in the same language. Barton is a poet who self-publishes several collections a year. The subject matter seems to press itself into the fabric of daily life in the same way as time itself- creating a space that keeps moving away against our will. I understand this, and appreciate the dedication it takes to keep up the momentum that allows for such expulsion of energy through language. Seeking a way out of the mind to scatter toward the sky like so many murmurations of starlings.

++++I was reading recently that perhaps Shakespeare can be blamed for the presence of starlings in the United States. An unqualified statement that can nevertheless drum up a great deal of subsequent speculation. But, when I think about the idea of creativity, consequence, and the reach of human thought, I think there’s something magnificent in the idea that a small statement can lead to another world of unsubstantiated idea. Maybe that statement seems foolish in light of the recent U.S. election and the apparent role of speculative news in the outcome, but as with all things, I think there are always at least two possible outcomes. As such, we have to accept the good with the bad and move forward against, or in tandem with, the consequences of history and try our best to bring something brighter to the fore. I think Barton Smock’s work is an attempt at this kind of reparation. I say this, also, without qualification beyond observation, but each volume of his poetry seems a reaching toward some greater future where understanding finally takes grip of the land.

++++In his first volume of poetry published by Dink Press entitled infant*cinema, Smock’s signature economy of language is showcased to the effect of creating an environment where the dream mind dominates and the reader must orientate herself to a world without absolute realities. Like the ability of Shakespeare’s work to reach across centuries and change local ecosystems, Smock’s work, in this collection, offers a world of malleability where circumstance itself alters the viability of reality while also stamping itself on the future. The future is the consequence of the past, the poems seem to say, but not only, and in recognition and acceptance, it appears possible to forge through the darkness of negative circumstance to land somewhere more solid.

++++The book is trim, and filled with short, mostly paragraphed, often untitled poems which offer a sense of reading a collection of aphorisms or journal entries. There’s something deeply personal, but also distant about this that allows the reader to enter the action while remaining aloof. In the third poem of the collection, there comes a request that “god save the translucent.” In many ways, the supplication of this line sums up Smock’s poetry for me: the mythic conversation between humanity and the other; the lowercase god and the marginalized man locked in a constant refrain. At bottom, I would say that there’s a sense of seeking justice and reconciliation for Man as an entity, while also recognizing the sanctity of the specific.

++++Following this line of appeal, there is the stark sentence: “the abused are never more alone than when their abusers get help.” And, in this sentence, I am struck by the all-encompassing nature of the struggle, as a species, to both come to terms with what we are presented with, while also not losing sight of the importance of our own humanity. The marginalized remain marginalized and perhaps become further alienated in the struggle toward growth and survival, but that is not all. From the search for reconciliation, or the introduction of a new element, the story grows, perhaps more difficult, but there is flux, and in flux, there is possibility. Whether that possibility leads to redemption seems to be a question for the individual, and perhaps even a challenge as evidenced in other poems.

++++While much of the book comes back to the macro, the archetypal brother, mother, father, son, and so on, these characters and themes encourage the careful reader to read with both an inward and outward gaze. There is a plea at the heart of everything. A plea, again, for recognition of the particular and how it relates to the universal. The poem that begins: “I am on vacation and this dead body is kind of amazing,” offers the aforementioned distance coupled with the modern ironic tone of the social media socialite. There’s the temptation, at times, to read the ambiguous tone as social commentary, but the poems always manage to bring things back around to the rending reality of the human condition. The realization that distraction is only a temporary condition which will be alleviated like all things are with time.

++++The juxtaposition presented in the poem and others between elements like the light ‘kind of amazing’ and the weighty ‘dead body’ can make it difficult to navigate the world of infant*cinema. This difficulty is apt considering the emotional landscape of the poetry itself. The poem goes further to say, “brother, god is only the end of the dream. I dream the / ocean is a doll that comes to my knees. suicide has a room all to itself. can / narrate what I’m saying,” and the reader is drawn deeper into the world of opposing forces. Whether it is man against god or god as nature against all of time, we are never sure, but the need to find a ground to stand on that will support the questioning and need for accountability reverberates through every line.

++++Like Smock’s other collections, I believe infant*cinema is best read as an entire collection rather than as a book that is flipped through for a one or two poem fix. The power of the collection is most fully realized in its totality as each poem builds on the ideas of those that came before it. There is a context that brings the work together into something meaningful that may not be fully realized in parts. I would recommend the time spent.

 

 

infant*cinema is available at Dink Press. You can find out more about Barton Smock at his website kingsoftrain.

Fight by Young Deuces

 

The great thing about the internet is the way it allows people to connect. Not just to friends, but to ideas. For us, Forage is a testament to the connective power of the internet as it is simultaneously maintained from two continents. One of the great aspects of being an international publisher is that we become well-versed in the ways we are different, but also in the ways we are the same. Does the state of the world seem tumultuous at present? Yes. But, also, there’s a kind of grounding in recognizing that we can have allies wherever we reach out, and that we can lean on one another collectively to try and come to a place of understanding. We believe that the internet has a positive power that can match whatever negative power it might wield as a medium.

As such, we would like to share something that was passed to us this week in the spirit of seeing through those things that might divide us into the humanity of each. In light of the news out of the US this week, the poem is very apt. We enjoy the passionate potential of spoken word and when it comes together to offer an urgent and necessary message for understanding, we are glad for the opportunity to share something essential with those who would stop in to read. By way of an introduction from the artist:

In Milwaukee, WI  a black male by the name of Jay Anderson, was shot & killed by the police while sleeping in his own car at night. The officer involved was not convicted, the video/audio was not released for the public, and the official statement is “The officer feared for his life.” In light of that and everything else that is going on, Milwaukee emcee, Young Deuces , took to his pen to express his frustration, thoughts & concerns in a video entitled “FIGHT!” #Justice4Jay”

Young Deuces can be found on Twitter @Young_Deuces and on  Facebook 

 

Zoom In (There’s Life Here), by Bruce ‘AllOne’ Pandolfo

Occasionally we receive submissions which, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, we can’t share within a specific issue. Even though it wasn’t a part of the issue we have something we think is very special and fits the current Poetry of Place theme perfectly. While we don’t claim to be music experts, we love music as much as we love poetry, so when someone marries the two together it’s bound to capture our attention. And that’s exactly what happened with the following piece of genre-crossing art. We’ve been humming it since we heard it, so we hope you’ll listen to “Zoom In (There’s Life Here)” by Bruce ‘AllOne’ Pandolfo – via bandcamp

Just in case you’re like us and enjoy a singalong, here are the lyrics:

Zoom In (There’s Life Here)

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
struggle as sun rays peering through the choked black smog
great plumes of gray fumes the smoke stacks cough
a melancholy mushroom, hunched to hold back God

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
it’s a frostbitten gloomy little Kodak shot
haunting windows grin those toothy broke glass boxes
when all is food stamps and cold snaps the romance stops.

This town’s cold nature has given these old faces
perpetual rosacia, weathered and broke neighbors,
the howling wind whistles, whips until your hope melts,
as it to tourniquet your warm soul’s wellspring with this snow-belt
It’s as though people bound in this petri-town are trapped
the crystal minutes in this snow-globe hourglass
imprisoned in this withered Alcatraz
a rural farmers’ almanac
cultivating power-plants
sour glances, bitterness in their faces, red/read
bitter winter, Lake Effect,
overtly drafty strain and stress
overdraft in the negative
break your neck to make a check
to pay the rent and never save a cent
break the bank breaking bread,
the writings on the wall
but it ain’t been read
(as the literacy percentages are less
than the frigid obscene temperatures).
Making a living?
it’s either a criminal record
or juggle odd jobs for minimal compensation
at literal “mom N pops” with pitiful
improbable odds of making it.

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
struggle as sun rays peering through the choked black smog
great plumes of gray fumes the smoke stacks cough
a melancholy mushroom, hunched to hold back God

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
it’s a frostbitten gloomy little Kodak shot
haunting windows grin those toothy broke glass boxes
when all is food stamps and cold snaps the romance stops.

There’s a novelty charm in the touristy parts
but the marveling is sparse at the poverty charts
if not for school founding and student housing
financially they’ve be through the ground
while locals loathe those SUNY crowds,
swallow pride,
tune them out, they’re a revenue source,
they all imbibe
silver spoon in mouth, scheduled course
in life parents off to buy them a new Porsche
meanwhile bouncers close their eyes
from fake IDs otherwise
they’re getting the boards,
close shop, nail the X on the door
since the rent ain’t secure.
Department stores implement
art of war avariciousness
carnivores in a monopolistic malicious sense
starving artisans and small businesses
peddle edible plastic provisions
sweat shop fabric fashion gimmicks
to a desperate demographic that can’t afford Christmas gifts
Thanks to Walmart competition things aren’t at all optimistic
although there are promises of jobs for opportunistic
single moms though no one to watch the solemn kids
as the somnolent pops are off dismissive
gone to pop prescriptions or dodge addictions,
through all of this they trudge along,
acknowledging there’s something wrong
locked in like a rusty cog
’til reapers scratch their numbers off.

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
struggle as sun rays peering through the choked black smog
great plumes of gray fumes the smoke stacks cough
a melancholy mushroom, hunched to hold back God

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
it’s a frostbitten gloomy little Kodak shot
haunting windows grin those toothy broke glass boxes
when all is food stamps and cold snaps the romance stops.

Don’t get me wrong, the summers are immaculate,
stunning and fantastic yet, three quarters of the year
this habitat is crushing to inhabit!
Moreover, addicts battling the ugliest of habits
in morose dilapidated poor prone homes
more over the border of foreclosures
shrug worn shoulders observing as their neighbors kicked out
on the outskirts of town are domiciles isolated by miles of acreage
drive through, take your pick and take a picture,
little story of a rural house,
mountain backdrop with a forest crown
their obligatory abandoned barn falling down
photo bombs the foreground.
But when offered,
the smiles aren’t faked a bit,
hospitality and politeness made with childish gracefulness
gruff and earnest dedicated mom n pop services
hardworking over decades endured and heard
the modest monetary amounts moving through their till
mandatory to stop in to know enticing local diner smells
coffee grinds and food on grills, perched on a stool instilling
gossip eavesdropping on rumor mills
social butterfly on the wall absorbs sounds
dialing in the talk of a small town,
admiring it despite the flaws I’ve poured out
and faults I’ve scrawled down…

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
struggle as sun rays peering through the choked black smog
great plumes of gray fumes the smoke stacks cough
a melancholy mushroom, hunched to hold back God

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
it’s a frostbitten gloomy little Kodak shot
haunting windows grin those toothy broke glass boxes
when all is food stamps and cold snaps the romance stops.

social butterfly on the wall absorbs sounds
dialing in the talk of a small town,
admiring it despite the flaws I’ve poured out
and faults I’ve scrawled down,
astounded appalled how
there’s little to applaud now
with condescending piteousness
I marvel amazed reminiscing,
I can not explain the nostalgic aches
when visiting such a city as this.

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
struggle as sun rays peering through the choked black smog
great plumes of gray fumes the smoke stacks cough
a melancholy mushroom, hunched to hold back God

There’s life here, zoom into this road map dot,
it’s a frostbitten gloomy little Kodak shot
haunting windows grin those toothy broke glass boxes
when all is food stamps and cold snaps the romance stops.

allone

AllOne is an experimental hip-hop lyricist, performance poet, singer/songwriter, author, beat-boxer. He molds a brain into the shape of a heart and squeezes it onto a page to write thoughtful and sentimental lyrics laced with tight knit wordplay, rhyme patterns and poetic devices. Utilizing any genre and any musical means to make a genuine and meaningful conversation with you, the appreciated listener.

You can find him in all of the following places:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AllOneVoice
BlogSpot – http://allonenetwork.blogspot.co.uk/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/AllOneVoice
ReverbNation – https://www.reverbnation.com/AllOneVoice
SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/AllOneVoice

On Mona Arshi’s Small Hands ~ Emma Hall

I am a poet, though to call myself a poet feels somehow unnatural. It is not my occupation but rather a part of me that weaves through everything. I believe it was Robert Frost who said, “to be a poet is a condition, not a profession,” and I often think of this when I am compartmentalizing the pursuits of my life. It is easy for me to say, I am a mother, because this is something I act out daily and see the physical reality of manifesting in all that I do. To be a poet, however, is a different story.

Mona Arshi’s debut collection Small Hands, winner of the 2015 Felix Dennis prize for best first collection, in its own way gets at a bit of this. I won’t say that I feel this is her intention, but that I found, woven among her eclectic mix of poems, a thread that led me back to that place in myself where I struggle to realize the expression of different aspects of self-hood and how that conflicts with both outer expectations and inner dialogue.

My first introduction to the collection was through a friend who shared the poems ‘The Lion’ and ‘What Every Girl Should Know Before Marriage,’ and through these two poems I noticed a lovely diversity in voice. The mythic obliqueness of ‘The Lion’ provided an interesting contrast to the immediate, whimsical, sometimes burdensome observations of ‘What Every Girl Should Know Before Marriage.’ Arshi has a voice that branches, aiming to explore female existence not from a fixed position, but from a world in flux. What might seem commonplace to the opening voice of the collection in ‘The Lion’ who says “Although / you can never master the deep language / of Lion, I am made dumb by the rough / stroke of his tongue upon mine,” might become something of curiosity or triviality to the woman suffering the loss of her brother in ‘In the Coroner’s Office.’ Yet there is a tenderness and vulnerability about the collection as a whole that brings the differing elements together.

A personal favorite poem of the collection was ‘The Gold Bangles’ where Arshi explores familial connection and the female position in the world among other themes. Like other familial poems in the collection, the poem explores two important cultures present in Arshi’s consciousness, the English and the Punjabi, and shows how those two existences transfer not only for the woman telling the story, but for the subject of the story as well.

There is a sense of culture and tradition, but also a sense of impending change and a need to preserve things of importance in the midst of the inevitable alterations of living. The poem begins with: “In my bedroom dresser, in a little red box / sit two gold bangles. / They are pure yellow gold / and the pair are a set, though I believe / they once belonged to part of a bigger set.” And the plays between past and present, between inheritance and ownership, between generational acquisition and first hand understanding are placed at the forefront. We do not experience things through our own senses alone, but through all that we accumulate through the act of living, and these poems act as a reminder of that.

Arshi’s poetry is full of this sense of the communal intersecting with the personal. How death brings us deeper into the fold of our close circles, how the imaginative vision of our families shapes the way we interact with the world, and how the world itself, in all of its mystery, beauty, and foreignness can lead us into places we never expected. And while I am never fixed on my position of poet in my constantly shifting life, I find small bits of comfort in recognizing, in the poetry of others, that I am not alone in my wanderings.

What we’re reading

We, like many of you, have been keeping a close eye on the presidential race in the US and the political and economic climate in Europe with a focus on the ongoing humanitarian crisis. With that in mind, we thought this essay by Jaswinder Bolina was particularly important, and offered an intelligent and enlightening perspective on politics, race, poetry, and culture that deserves consideration.

The Sonnet and the Golden Ratio ~ Michael Rush

Our poetic tautologies – those little sonnets and jingles of ours that seem to do no more than bite their tales – only appear redundant to those unpoetried individuals incapable of viewing the vertical axis: they see us return to the same point, but don’t see the ascension in pitch. – Don Paterson

 

While we created our sonnet themed issue with an open mind about how poets might approach the idea of its form, we were still delighted with the submission from Chris Macalino which approached it from a completely alternative direction. We’re big believers in the potential for art to do that; to see a form as an opportunity rather than a constraint. We never expected to be shown a link between poetry and pottery, but we were thrilled that it happened.

That set us thinking about other unexpected links to the sonnet. One of our favourite poets, Don Paterson, also has some interesting thoughts on the form. In his introduction to 101 Sonnetshe even goes so far as to cite the Golden Ratio of 8:5 as one of the reasons for the sonnet’s comforting familiarity on the ear. This mathematical phenomena is present in numerous manifestations in the natural world, as well as in the creative and practical constructs of man including the sonnet.

We can almost hear you in the background pointing out that the sonnet isn’t split into an eight and a five, because that makes thirteen lines, not fourteen. Undeterred by that Don offers a persuasive argument for why the sonnet could, and maybe should, be thirteen lines long. One and thirteen are actually the same number! Think of two significant things which are sectioned into groups of twelve; the clock and the months of the year. So the thirteenth instance of something actually brings us back to the position of the first, one rotation later. Or as Don would have it, “The thirteen line sonnet is symbolic of both transformation and unity: we’ve returned to precisely the same point as we started, but have ascended in pitch or moved forward in time” (xvii).

So, is the fourteenth line of a sonnet a wasted breath? For those who use the Shakespearean version, could they consider the heroic couplet as a singular thought and the thirteenth instance of their movement? As the form has been viewed by some as an internal debate chamber, there’s something satisfying about the idea of that debate lasting for a long time, but always returning back to the opening movement which seems familiar to us.

 

Paterson, Don. “Aphorisms.” Strong Words. Ed. W.N. Herbert and Matthew Hollis. Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2000. 282-86. Print.

 

Paterson, Don. “Introduction.” 101 Sonnets. Ed. Don Paterson. London: Faber and Faber, 1999. ix-xxiv. Print.

Thoughts on the Sonnet by Michael Rush

So, the Sonnet; fourteen lines, cross or envelope rhyme, heroic couplet and job done, right? Some would say that is indeed a Sonnet, others might even say you don’t need any of those ingredients to make one. I think there’s more to it than those nuances of form although as a bit of a traditionalist I like to see some formal elements on display.

A turn, or volta for those of Italian persuasion, is an element of the form I often see ignored by writers. Aside from the dramatic appeal of a change in direction – and, be honest, we all love a bit of drama – there’s something appealing about slowly easing the reader in one direction before dragging them kicking and screaming in another.

The Shakespearean version of the Sonnet should be the mode of choice for all rational thinkers out there. Three quatrains with a closing summation screams thesis, antithesis and synthesis to me. How about prosecution, defence and verdict for those familiar with the court process?

There are, of course, other variations on the Sonnet form. The Spenserian one presents an extra challenge to your rhyming composition and the Meredithian variety has the nerve to extend to sixteen lines!

I think the appeal of the form runs a little deeper than all of that, and at times it’s hard to explain why. Iambic Pentameter is usually the meter of choice and the reassuring heartbeat it provides isn’t even necessary these days, so I can’t attribute it to that. Perhaps it is as described by Stephen Fry, a ‘Goldilocks’ form, and just right in a way that some other forms are too much or too little.

I believe there is great pleasure to be found in writing a Sonnet and for those who haven’t yet attempted it I would highly recommend it. I feel the last word belongs to Don Paterson, a fine poet who knows his way around a Sonnet – read his ‘Mercies’ for one example – who says:

‘Poets write sonnets because it makes poems easier to write. Readers read them because it makes their lives easier to bear.’

If there was ever a worthy aspiration for poetry in any form, I think that would be it.