Vallum Poem of the Week: “In a House of Fire” by Dee Sunshine

In a House of Fire

Away from the scorched sky
In the entrails of this cave
Even the darkness is red
Jewels fade into bloodless flowers
And the strange stench of fathom-deep places and fear.

Tensing a calloused hand
The sense untouched
Tongue cleft and parched
Utters cursed penitence
For a cloudburst.

The acrid soil, I spill
The split seed tumbles yellow
Brittle dust scratches
Retinal fireflashes
Scours the sad skin
Withered and vacant

Dee Sunshine is the author of three poetry collections – The Bad Seed (Stride, 1998), Dropping Ecstasy With The Angels (Bluechrome, 2004), and Visions Of The Drowning Man (Skylight Press, 2012) – and one novel, Stealing Heaven From The Lips Of God (Bluechrome, 2004).  He edited the charity poetry anthology, The Book Of Hopes And Dreams (Bluechrome, 2006).  He edited The AA Independent Press Guide (1998-2011).  His website is at www.thunderburst.co.uk  His audiobooks are available from https://deesunshine.bandcamp.com

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “To my mother, aloud” by E. Canine McJabber

To my mother, aloud

Send your snail mail and I’ll hide the table salt.
When I stamped my last mail-order
bride, she threw the book at me.
Her velvet twinset in divorce court
the only good pairing that came of our match.
Now, I work hotlines pushing human tissue
samplings: primed for fucks or transplants.
Do not apply my transferable skills
to mucous membranes. That beefcake
of the week, he wracks my hunger pangs.
Give me your food, give me your meat—
yours, the second best fit to my lips.
I’ll take you in like homeopathy, knowing
you’re likely quackery. I’ll swallow
what feels good, if it comes free.
Let me blow your Venezuelan
vuvuzela, watch me put my stops
in all your holes. Oh, player, wind
me up. Sight-read my crotchets.
Let me cut my bold italic
on your thigh. Will you blurb me,
if I read your novelty? If I compliment
your margins, will you press them
to my letter? I can’t seem to get my head
out of your gutter. Remember,
a prose is a prose apropos.

E. Canine McJabber has published poems in several journals and zines across Canada. A travelling salesperson by day, they live and write between Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Their travel entourage consists of their two pups, Bonnie and Clyde. This is their first award-winning poem.

E. Canine was the first place winner of the 2016 Vallum Award for Poetry, to view submission guidelines for the 2017 Vallum Award for Poetry click here!

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “Her First First Nations Boyfriend” by Sue Reynolds

 

Her First First Nations Boyfriend

That summer
she saddled a cabin of tank tops and shorts
and rode them every day.
But at night, the counsellors collected elsewhere.
She spent her time speculating:
which cigarette liked which scrunchie?
The older blonds, coasting
between semesters of limestone,
got claimed pronto.
The juniors breathed in almost
any smoke that drifted their way.
Herbie floated toward her.

Stablehand Herbie unafraid
of hooves and teeth,
impervious to blowflies and gelding,
tentative with the scrunchies,
and why not?  His absent front teeth
emitted words with the gees scraped off.
She knew he was puckered for her.
At fifteen, any cigarette
was better than none.
She didn’t understand the Mexico that lay
between them until fall, when
they each returned to their bricks or boards,
promising to write.

His first alphabet arrived,
the address barely readable,
the letters scattered stars
absent of constellation.
Inside, also, a gift,
a flat and patterned necklace.
As she decoded
the few words on the page
she understood his Mexico
was a land of longhouses,
an ocean away from her settled existence.

His grandmother rattled the seed pattern.
Her grandmother drank from handpainted bone.
His wrong alphabet spelled the gulf
between his hooves and her feathers.
She delayed answering.
What would she say?
Eventually she forgot to alphabet him back.

Sue Reynolds is a writer and psychotherapist whose area of interest is writing for therapeutic benefit. She has won awards for her YA novel, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. She teaches writing in various settings and has led writing workshops for inmates at Central East Correctional Centre for 12 years.

Sue was an honourable mention for the 2016 Vallum Award for Poetry, to view submission guidelines for the 2017 Vallum Award for Poetry click here!

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

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Featured Literary Event: Knife|Fork|Book at Monastiraki

Knife|Fork|Book at Monastiraki

Reviewed by Kian Vaziri-Tehrani

On Saturday June 25th, Monastiraki held the Knife|Fork|Book poetry chapbook launch of Jeff Kirby‘s She’s Having a Very Doris Day and Jonathan Garfinkel‘s Bociany (Storks) which featured readings by the two author along with poet David Bradford.

Walking into Monastiraki (for the first time I might add) I was struck by its quaintness and the subtle elegance of what it had on display, with a vintage Conan the Barbarian comic and a How do You Say it in Chinese? guidebook particularly catching my attention. It wasn’t long before a few familiar faces popped up, like fiction writer Guillaume Morrissette and poet Klara du Plessis. But of course, the afternoon belonged to Kirby, Garfinkel, and Bradford, who were making the rounds through the shop, mingling and chatting before their readings.


David Bradford

Kirby first introduced David Bradford, who read a handful of poems, some of which appear in his chapbooks A Star is Boring and the upcoming Call Out (Knife|Fork|Book, October 2017). Bradford read in a slow and purposeful tone, one which demanded precise attention to every single spoken word. This was most apparent as he read “Why Can’t We Live Together”, with peculiar and striking lines like:

“…Black squirrels sparkling
like warm steak knives for my twix bars”

and

“Wheezy stardust sucking on gold cellophane
where they buried the garrison in a gravel pit”.


Jeff Kirby

Next up was Kirby himself, who, before even beginning to read seemed overjoyed to share this moment with the standing crowd of smiling faces. His excitement was infectious; his voice, resonant. Kirby’s selected reading from She’s Having a Doris Day was inviting, warm, and eye-opening. Each spoken verse carried the emotions of the poet. His work explored themes of gender identity, homosexuality, love, and loss. Heavy stuff, admittedly, but the personal struggle was counteracted with just the right balance of biting humour. His shortest poem, entitled “Pink,” simply read:

“Why not orange?”


Jonathan Garfinkel

Finally, it was Jonathan Garkinfel‘s turn, and with two amazing readings preceding him, my expectations were high for the poet and playwright. As he delved into his past experiences travelling far across the globe, particularly of the time he lived in Poland, Garfinkel spoke and read in a tone that lingered, much like the lingering images of the human condition he paints in his poems. The last poem Garfinkel read from his chapbook, entitled “Bociany (Storks): After Chełmoński,“was featured in Vallum’s 14:1 “Evolution” issue. Combining the mystical with the concrete, the final lines of the work are haunting, beautiful:

“He believes in proximity, worms
piling off the highway.
He coalesces dreams of black turtles
swimming in fetid waters.
He wants them to call him.”


Lovely Knife|Fork|Book Cake

Of course, the real star of the show was this cake that I happened to be standing next to for the entire reading. Though it was calling to me incessantly, with it’s shiny green frosting and red gum-drops, I left before having a slice…

To read or hear more about these fine chapbooks visit Knife|Fork|Book’s website.

Find Jonathan Garfinkel’s poem in Vallum 14:1 “Evolutution” here.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “Dietary Restriction” by Catriona Wright

 

Dietary Restriction

At night I dream of performing polygraph tests
on pomegranates. By day I watch Tampopo and think slurp, slurp.

Poco a poco I even begin to feel the miso-loaded mist on my face,
to taste the universe distilled to a rococo so-and-so of noodles and beef.

I can’t even seek the brief, shame-inflected relief
of bragging. The whole point of this penitence is to be humble, humbled.

When I visit my ancestor’s shrine I find it closed
and encased in a giant yellow dome. No note. Nothing to explain

why my past has been replaced with a Cyclops’ lemon drop.
My strength is diminishing fast. I ask a four-year-old girl to eat

a blueberry muffin in front of me and describe the sensation.
When she says yummy and sweet, I slap her,

then fall to my knees and beg forgiveness, kissing
her feet and relishing the coconut sunscreen sting

on my lips. Bit by bit the hunger lessens. Water’s subtleties
reveal themselves and I stop picturing the gods

wearing aprons. Of course I slip up from time to time, peruse
the latest reviews of it-joints, read the menus,

all those menacingly homespun promises: Drones deliver
skewers of pork honk and yolo yam slammers to your table.

Meals come with sides of triple-fried panopticorn fritters and grits.
After a self-flagellation quickie, the drool dries

and I can return to prayer. As my bones rise to the surface
I receive compliments, envy, concern, then threats

to shove a feeding tube down my throat,
just like they did to my Aunt Gertrude

or was that Eleanor? I don’t, can’t remember
anymore. Boredom and doubt and history, invasive beetles,

have bored out my family tree, and now the only thing tethering me
to this life is self-discipline, this devotion to hunger. I am still impure

but improving my ability to discern the saints who deserve songs
from those who deserve slaps. I must admit that

if butterscotch rained from the skies, I would join the riots
and streak down the street, syrup,

hot and thick and fawn-coloured, speckling my shoulders.
I would roll in the gutters

until every inch of skin
was covered in stiffening sugar.

 

Catriona Wright is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her poems have appeared in PRISM International, Prairie Fire, Rusty Toque, LemonHound, Best Canadian Poetry 2015, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor at The Puritan and a co-founder of Desert Pets Press, a chapbook press. 

Catriona was an honourable mention for the 2016 Vallum Award for Poetry, to view submission guidelines for the 2017 Vallum Award for Poetry click here!

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.

Featured Review: Inclinations, Preoccupations, and Obsessions: A Review of Klipschutz’s “THIS DRAWN AND QUARTERED MOON” by Bill Neumire

Inclinations, Preoccupations, and Obsessions: A Review of Klipschutz’s THIS DRAWN AND QUARTERED MOON (Vancouver, BC: Anvil Press Publishers, 2013, $18.00, 96 Pages) Review by Bill Neumire

In an interview with Canadian poet Jon Cone, Klipschutz (the pen name of poet Kurt Lipschutz) confessed, “I’m a frustrated playwright, essayist, short story writer, pundit, Casanova, cultural anthropologist…the list goes on. Which leads to a crazy quilt of approaches and subject matter: it all gets poured into poems. There are no conscious themes, just inclinations, preoccupations, obsessions.” This assessment is pretty quickly confirmed as one reads his latest poetry collection, This Drawn & Quartered Moon. It’s a real buffet of form: erasure, rhymed quatrains of iambic tetrameter, ghazal, free verse lyric, epistle, prose poem. There are nonce forms and flash-fiction-esque pieces, and sometimes, as in ‘Elvis the First,’ the poet changes forms within a single poem.

This Drawn & Quartered Moon charts the collision of a nostalgic American past with the personal ‘eternal present’ of the speaker (a speaker who, in most cases, seems to be the autobiographical lyric I of the poet) and the complex comingling that follows. The poet’s father was apparently Elvis’ doctor, a point that serves as his portal to cultural commentary, sketches of characters from his life and times, and riddling songs of interior monologue. Klipschutz centers his book on a poem titled ‘Elvis the First,’ about which the poet explained, “The poem is ‘about’ Elvis Presley, but also about my family, and reaches back to some rough times, when the ’60s were just kicking into high gear, when my siblings and I were starting to do drugs, and my parents didn’t have a clue how to handle us. Then my dad became Elvis’s doctor. … the poem gave me a way to write about family.” Indeed, the collection mixes a sense of history and nostalgia with the eternal present of the speaker’s self, his running interior monologue, even as the markers of his past fall away and his anxiety heightens: “Don’t mention the old days. / You’re talking to yourself again”.

The boo’s most engaging moments are in its formal amusements and its profiles and vignettes of quirky characters. Take, for example, Oliver Othello King, Jr., a Viet Nam vet the speaker met on public transportation:

Double O. King, that’s what they call me … Airborne Rangers, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. How many people you suppose you can kill in two years? … Death from the sky. Just so you can stand here.

When these poems fail, they come across as nothing more than reportage, a workshop word wielded when a writer writes without depth and craft to transform an event or experience into something more, but when they succeed the “reportage” serves to erase the speaker and transport the reader into different eyes; this happens no doubt most frighteningly so in “Slab of Consciousness,” a poem for which the form emanates naturally from the content: it’s stilted, with periods after every word or couple words. It’s truncated life. It cuts out the speaker, makes the experience blunter, sharper, more painful:

The facts. It’s gone: Her future. Bright. The town. On it. At the Bubble Lounge. Outside. A fare like any other. Dumped. The body. Him. Her ATM … Results. Still inconclusive. Weeks away. Semen. And if so? … Breathing. She stopped breathing. People do.

It’s like the coldly clinical diction and syntax of an autopsy. The language can be fresh and arresting, witty and satirical, as in “I shall not want / for the Lord is my Home Shopping Network” or poignantly discomforting, as in “Winter passes like a meal / that sits and hardens in this sewer of stopwatch light”. In another impressive moment from ‘The Red Wheelbarrow of Fortune,’ we get expected language and the slogans of contemporary poetry, but the language is then deployed unexpectedly such that it creates tension between the lazy comfort of the phrases and the crafty new rearrangement and juxtaposition of them, all of it preceded by that image—an impactful discomfort and surprise—of the children:

Children cheer a flag of fire
A car commercial ends
Hearts of darkness fill with light
The wind is up—so much depends…

One can almost hear that “depends” slip into “deepens” at the end of the stanza, which is exactly what this strategy does: it deepens the shallow catch phrases by juxtaposing them in intriguing ways and adding that sonically pleasing yet topically disturbing “Children cheer a flag of fire.”

Alas, this self-amused collection frequently provokes a groan like a bad pun. The speaker actually verbalizes an anxiety about this cheeky cleverness (the contradictory self-referential anxiety can admittedly be funny and interesting at times), which creates a sense of self-criticism that makes this a bit of a therapy session as the voice can even get defensive: “Okay, so my ad libs are scripted. / Like you’re never wrong. / Try running a 10k in my teeth. / Go drown your lawn” (88). But sometimes the language downright slips into abstraction and sentimentality, as in “Love lusted for Itself, pent up inside the prison of the heart”. The poems are formally diverse, but as often as individual pieces feel well-formed, the whole ends up feeling purposelessly diverse and perhaps unprofitably too long.

These poems as independent units are not Steven’s poems that “resist the intelligence almost successfully,” but rather they are, to use the controversial term, accessible. That may be part of the poet’s “street sage” mission, as Klipschutz has been in the news for such public displays of poetry as reading poems to taxi cab passengers. Like most choices, though, this one to be a sort of self-proclaimed laureate of San Francisco carries a price, the price of coming across as watering down the poetry to make it easier to understand. The flipside is that it is a poetry that is approachable, that invites a broader audience than stuffy, draconian reviewers like me, a poetry that laughs and shudders, reminisces and opines. It’s a poetry that swallows history into its eternal present, the speaker’s consummate offering to the reader.

Bill Neumire‘s reviews regularly appear in Vallum, and his poems have recently appeared in American Poetry Journal, Istanbul Review, and The Laurel Review. His first book of poems, Estrus, was published last year. He lives in New York with his wife and two daughters.

This review was published in issue 11:1 Thresholds. To see more from this issue, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “What to do if your friend says they are the messiah” by Jeffrey Mackie

 

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Ferry” by Shawn Fawson

Ferry

I’m hoping you’ll be on the Skuuna.
I’m hoping you’ll notice the sand
between the children’s fingers, how
they’ve held on in a wind that blows
constantly here, and the necklace
I’m wearing, how the green curve on
the Alaskan trade bead reflects the cedars’
horizon and hides no other edge. I’ll want
to show you the agate on the beach,
how the light laps through and creeps back
up the hill. Anything you put your hand

on—the fronds, the red huckleberry along
the hedge, even the cockle shells—will open
after the slightest doubt. The loose herds
of Sitka deer drift across the only road.
Sometimes you’ll have to stop traffic to let
them pass. When they congregate in front
of the car, I’ll show you how to pretend not
to feel love when you do. The Haida say
heaven is an enormous plank house where
the sun enters through the front door each
morning and leaves by the back door

each night. Ravens flowering out of trees
are souls in secret, their wings blackened by
somebody’s smoke. It has been said something
shines out from every darkness. But here
on the platform, I stand still. I haven’t learned
how to move with the sun and burn slowly
as something else. It all looks mist to me—wings
blur with the sky, branches make their own
on the water. There’s no need to worry.
You’re not on the ferry.

As a poet, Shawn Fawson hopes for change and the courage to confront structures of injustice, intolerance, and privilege. She aims to stand in compassion and resistance with the marginalized, to impede violence, and engender collaboration. Her MFA is from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her book “Giving Way” won the Library of Poetry Book Award, was published by The Bitter Oleander Press in 2010 and went on to win the Utah Book Award for Poetry in 2011. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Religion with an emphasis in Poetics at the Iliff School of Theology/Denver University Joint PhD program. She works as a hospital chaplain during the summers.

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Stylus” by Jean Eng

 

Stylus

At the gallery, a visitor remarks
that my painting of a pen
looks quite phallic:
the lines shown scribbling out
from underneath the nib
obviously a reference to pubic hair.

How could you not
make the connection, she insists.
I want to buy her a shovel or
extend an invitation to
dig in her own dirt.
All I see is pen. And ink.

Instead, I curtain my
face and flip through
memory’s catalogue for
instructions or suggestions
on how to validate
different ways of seeing.

Jean Eng is a visual artist and writer from Toronto, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in journals across Canada. They include Canadian Literature, Contemporary Verse 2, The Dalhousie Review, The Nashwaak Review, The New Quarterly, Room of One’s Own, and WomenArts Quarterly (U.S.). Her paintings have been exhibited in Canada, the U.S. and Japan. They are also housed in several private collections as well as the Government of Ontario. She also works as a library technician at the University of Toronto.

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.