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!

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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!

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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.

Featured Interview: George Elliott Clarke Part 2

George Elliott Clarke (Part 2)

by Henry Kronk

The 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15) and the 7th Parliamentary [National] Poet Laureate (2016-17), George Elliott Clarke is an Africadian (African-Nova Scotian). A prized poet, his 14th work is Extra Illicit Sonnets (Exile, 2015), an erotic verse narrative. Now teaching African-Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, Clarke has also taught at Duke, McGill, the University of British Columbia, and Harvard. He holds eight honorary doctorates, plus appointments to the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada at the rank of Officer.

This interview is part 2 of 3, to listen to the whole interview please download the FREE APP and get the latest issue of Vallum on your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.

Vallum magazine is available as a digital feature with additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!

Vallum Poem of the Week: “A Philosophy Lesson” by Joseph Hart

A Philosophy Lesson

When I was young I took a college class
In philosophy. Another student
Said she thought that people were not selfish.
I said suppose her father was a golfer.
I said suppose for Christmas she had planned
To give her dad a club. And then suppose
He received the club from someone else.
Would she be as happy? He would have
The club although it had not come from her.
I was very dumb. The teacher told
Us all to write a paper. How we thought
Children should be educated. He
Said this paper would not get a grade.
I gave him my opinions. And he wrote
That clearly I knew nothing about children.
Then I dropped the class. But I withdrew
Properly. There should have been no grade.
I later found that he had given me
An F for the semester. So I had
A lesson about life. Philosophy.
But I learned nothing. I went on believing
In the goodness and the honesty of men.

Joseph Hart began trying to write poems after reading “The Highwayman”.  But it wasn’t until he found Keats that he actually tried to do something.  His favorite poets are Keats, Millay and Brooke.  He has a BA, but didn’t finish a Masters.

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: “The Geographical Tongue” by Howard Wright

068

 

The Geographical Tongue

Maybe an infra-red satellite surveillance photograph
of watersheds and catchments where the words are hidden
in soft crevasses, bunkers and mass graves, war crimes
balanced on the tip and beginning to slip, sliding to the edge

down the jagged river, the rocky road of powdered steel
and shredded tyres, toppled walls and shattered basements
to well-earned oblivion. . . Enough said, so use it sparingly
to taste the air or lick stamps, or better still not at all, put it away,

roll it under wraps, only emerging for those essential syllables.
Even then, most likely I’d grab it and drag it out of you
like an admission or denial, or let you, in everyone’s interest
including your own, bite it off, no questions asked.

 

Howard Wright lectures in the History of Art and the Applied Arts at the Belfast School of Art, Ulster University. Blackstaff Press published King of Country in 2010. Blue Murder published by Templar Press/ Iota Shots followed in 2011. He has won the Frogmore Prize twice. New poems recently appeared in Agenda, The Dalhousie Review, Cyphers and Magma; others are due for publication in Stand, The North and Honest Ulsterman.  Notwithstanding the demands of poetry, he has returned to painting which excites and thrills as much as a successful poem.

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.

poem

The poetry you’ve long forgotten, the window of isolation
Going into narrow spaces, my words written in tears
Not understood by a hardened heart

You were never near, you are hard
I misunderstood, and your rejection of my rejection…
Only my small space does not involve the world.
I tried for a moment to be famous, to “connect”
But this is only something you can do, and you do it well.

It is not another lover that I was torn about.
It was only the thought that one day I would slip, all alone, in my tub
Or that I would fall dead down the stairs
And nobody would know. it was a fear of perpetual loss.

The things I said were true. You scoff in your fancy pants
And can only act cool, because this is all you are now
Such a sense of justice.

I am glad you are the judge you always wanted to be, and it seems
You have tried many cases, and your hate towards me is the flip side
Of the love you never truly trusted or believed in.

e. zisimatos

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “Shedding Skin” by Iggi Zhou

iggi-zhou

 

Shedding Skin

16,000 kilometres, 16,000 more
reasons to be away.
With every breath
the world grows smaller,
each tender tendon,
aching muscle
screams: inertia!
becoming mildew.

Acrid smells remind,
memories served cold,
a cautionary tale.
The universe, it grows
wider still.
You an I farther removed,
you, black hair, my face,
a pathway towards never-ending possibilities.

No forks in my road, just
a beaten old track, bracken encroaching,
boulders for clamouring,
blackened space for grey matter,
silhouettes for friends.
As one dies quietly on a hospital bed,
another leaps feet first
into that deep unknown,

I dream of cells rejuvenating,
gardens growing,
shedding skin.

Iggi Zhou is zine-maker, writer of poetry and short fiction based in Melbourne, Australia.  Her work has appeared in Vallum Contemporary Poetry, Flash Frontiers Journal and The Red Corner.  She is also the creator and producer of Colour Yarns Podcast, an audio platform of stories by people of colour.

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: “At Water’s Edge” by Jan Jorgensen

At Water’s Edge

Let still water be your mirror
and noonday clarity frame your face

breathe according to the slow rhythm
of butterfly wing— closing, opening

let water trace the outline of your body
as you slide through it—

notice
past infiltrates present—

cup the water, redolent of leaves
in a curve of cheek,

blow it back into the water,
scattering your memories.

Founder and host of the lawn chair soiree and editor of sitting duck press, Jan Jorgensen is grateful for the opportunities that bring people together to share their challenges and delight in crafting poetry and prose.  Her poems have been published in Vallum, Reflections, Twigs & Leaves, Les poetes du couloir cultural de Griffintown/Poets in the Griffintown Cultural Corridor.

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.