Vallum Poem of the Week: “Logistics” by Leland James

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Logistics

On a transport ship
out of Chesapeake Bay
bound for Sicily
— the Big War —

a box
mislabeled
“Projector Parts”

contained
40,000 Purple Hearts.

Leland James is the author of four books of poetry. He has published over 200 poems in journals and magazines worldwide including The Lyric, Form Quarterly; The South Carolina Review; The Spoon River Poetry Review; New Millennium Writings; HQ The Haiku Quarterly, and The London Magazine. He was the winner of The UK’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, The Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize, and the Writer’s Forum short poem contest. He has received honors in many others competitions and was recently nominated for a Push Cart Prize. www.lelandjamespoet.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: “How It Ends” by David Solway

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How It Ends

I think of my uncle Aby,
Him bad with women,
felled by domestic spats,
had a stroke and babbled sound.

What’s left to do? Hey, be
irony’s companion,
turn your sharps to flats,
act like a mangy hound

when she leaves and maybe
by deferral you can spin
a barbarous congrats,
and be by nature crowned.

So this is what I’ll say: “Me
unlettered beast, of bastard kin.
Me grammar not so good.” That’s
why rifts and rows abound.

And: “Me have the rabie.
Me can’t win.
Me upside-down like bats.
Me run into the ground.”

Well, it’s how we may see
the act of deprecation,
last resort of eroticrats
who lose what they have found.

David Solway is a poet, essayist and songwriter/singer living in Lansdowne, Ontario. His latest volume of poetry is Installations (Signal Editions, 2015) and his most recent prose publication is Reflections on Music, Poetry & Politics (Shomron Press, 2016). A CD of  original songs Blood Guitar appeared in 2014. A regular contributor to American political sites such as PJ Media, American Thinker, FrontPage Magazine and WorldNetDaily, he is currently working on a collection of political essays called Crossing Jordan.

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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Featured Review: Mosaic Orpheus by Peter Dale Scott. Review by James Edward Reid.

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Mosaic Orpheus by Peter Dale Scott (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009, $16.95 CDN, 182 pp). Review by James Edward Reid.

Mosaic Orpheus extends the concerns and achievement of Peter Dale Scott’s Seculum trilogy. Coming to Jakarta: a Poem about Terror (1988), Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse (1992), and Minding the Darkness: A Poem of the Year 2000 (2000) demonstrated that both deeply personal and politically engaged poetry is possible. It is also a welcome antidote to the prevalence of navel gazing and politics of rage. The trilogy was composed in tercets, whose modest forms opened themselves to reveal a combination of the tenderness and biting laceration that recalls Dante’s limpid terza rima. In this book, poetic forms also ranges from densely packed quatrains to the celerity of two line stanzas. Other relatively free stanza forms engage with the challenge of sorting through the proliferating acceleration of information and disinformation.

Scott is a former Canadian diplomat who was appalled by the cover up of the American supported genocide in Indonesia, and wrote about it years later.Coming to Jakarta: a Poem about Terror, examined real terror, before “terror” was degraded to a cliché to justify the indefensible. Although the trilogy felt complete in 2000, Mosaic Orpheus is hopefully, not a coda, but a precursor to more poetry.

Scott’s new book opens with the memories in “Seven Canadian Poems.” The quotidian delight in the first poem (“Aunt Mary backing up the car”) was so utterly Canadian in the gentle unwinding of its humour that I found myself laughing. I tried to remember the last time I laughed out loud at a poem. But the true weight of Mosaic Orpheus rests in maintaining a balance between personal experience and knowledge of the Dickensian mills of the political world. Mosaic Orpheus looks back more than two decades to the frisson in the opening stanzas of Coming to Jakarta, “Mosaic darkness/ constellations… Why are you here?/ Have you something to tell me?”

Scott does have something to tell us: “the problem has always been/ how do we live with evil?” In addition to examining it, and sifting what truth he can from confusion, his poetry touches on the spiritual- distinct from the religious. One of the spiritual interests is Buddhism. From the evidence here, the advantage of a number of Buddhist practices is that they do not require conversion, only commitment to concentration. Possibly resembling the commitment to writing a good poem. “First Retreat: Fire Tending in the Land of Medicine Buddha” from Minding the Darkness pointed forward to “Commuting to the Land of the Medicine Buddha” in Mosaic Orpheus. Medicine Buddha practice tries to relieve the suffering of the sick and the dying. Both poems are remarkable for their honest portrayal of the discursive thoughts that surface when meditation attempts to clam the mind. In the former poem, Scott recalls “watching my mother/slowly fulfill her resolution/ to die.” In the latter he is “plotting/my early escape/ to Denise’s private memorial.” She is Denise Levertov, a fine American poet, and a good friend.

Clarity might be easier to achieve in personal poems, than in Scott’s densely argued political poetry, permeated as it is with a profound sense of history. To help the reader in both the Seculum trilogy and in Mosaic Orpheus, he provides notes and references. These notes link to Bibliographies that follow each section of the book. Notes to poetry? It makes sense- especially if you’ve ever staggered from pillar to post, trying to discern, for example, what John Ashbery’s multiple narrators are going on about.

The notes and four page Bibliography are especially helpful for “The Tao of 9/11.” This remarkable poem is the book’s sustained and ruthlessly reasoned centrepiece. It grapples with the slippery nets that entangle American Foreign Policy, the international  illicit drug trade, Al Qaeda, the Far West consortium, and possibly the worst thing Dick Cheney attempted while he was in power. And Cheney’s worst is an alarming accomplishment.

A few pages after the conclusion of this unsettling poem, Scott reminds us of Dante’s and Milton’s wager on how to live, “that to live in hope/ we must let go of our torments.” In the face of looming torments that Scott tackles head on, letting go and choosing to do what we do best, may be best. Consider his response when he returned home after one of the California fires burned his house to the ground. The fire destroyed a library built over half a century, as well as decades of writing and translating. Here is the equanimity of his response: “and the thick layer of ash/ Could this be all our books?” Peter Dale Scott’s choice to attend closely to the world, and present his experience of it, also echoes Dante’s long journey in the Purgatorio: “When Love breaths in me, I take note…and set it down.”

James Edward Reid‘s essay on Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn appeared recently in The Sarmation Review. His poetry has been published in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

 This review was published in issue 7:1 Luck. 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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marginal prints, by philip miletic

 

marginal prints by Philip Miletic is an accomplished book of avant-garde-type poetry that engages the reader fully. With expert control of his words, Miletic opens an exciting world to us, a world of spaces and meaning, couched within the avenues of a relationship. His poetry has a shifting range of forms, moving from poems like:
15
eyes erred
and edged;
soft-spoken script,
whispered periphery

to:

I thought of the passage
I thought of the passage in relation to you
I thought of the passage in relation to me
I thought of the passage and our shared conversation
I thought of the passage and our shared sense of ecstasy

marginal prints is a chapbook worth reading. Philip Miletic lives in Kitchener, ON and his book is published by above/ground press (2017).

–Eleni Zisimatos

 

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “A Chant for the Opening of the Third Eye” by Susan McCaslin

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A Chant for the Opening of the Third Eye

If your eye is single, then your whole body will be full of light
 – 
Matthew, 6:23

open the portal just above the eyes’ yes
where nothing is withheld

you who know
this weary fluttering mind

play on the double-fretted board of the forehead
where two solid vertical bars embed themselves

fill in the trenches where war’s worries
march their forced march through sand

neither botox, nor surgery, nor peels appeal,
but only old stirrings, fiery tinglings

just beyond the centerpoint of the brow,
past the portal where angels post
and nothing holds itself apart

Susan McCaslin has published fourteen volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Painter, Poet, Mountain: After Cézanne (Quattro Books, 2016).  Previous volumes include The Disarmed Heart (The St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2014) and Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press, 2011).  The latter was short-listed for the BC Book Prize (Dorothy Livesay Award) and the first-place winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award (Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award) in 2012.  Susan has written a memoir, Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga (Inanna Publications, 2014). She lives in Fort Langley, British Columbia where she initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project as part of a successful campaign to protect an endangered rainforest along the Fraser River. “A Chant for the Opening of the Third Eye” also appears in The Disarmed Heart.

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

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “The Word ‘Future'” by Guy Ewing

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The Word “Future”

About water at the fall’s edge
nothing is known, current becoming plume
or mist or pounding into earth.

About these fingers tapping out words
nothing is known, their history enfolded in a
brain, the brain unsure.

So what is “future” then? Desire
skittering in our throats.

Guy Ewing apprenticed as a poet in the LINK Poetry Workshop in Toronto in the 1970s.  He is the author of two books of poetry,  Hearing, and answering with music (The Mercury Press, 2009) and Earth Becoming Sky (Teksteditions, 2012), as well as a chapbook, In this light (Puddles of Sky Press, 2016).

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: Monica McClure

Lilac Painted Walls and Black Fabric: A Conversation with Monica McClure
Interview by Jay Winston Ritchie

(Excerpted)

Jay Winston Ritchie: When did you start writing poetry?

Monica MM:: I always wrote poetry…I remember covering my lilac-painted walls one day with black fabric and writing very disparate poems on the walls. One was an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem that was about the death of a friend, and not accepting that death. I loved the brazenness of it. It goes: “You have gone to feed the roses so elegant and curled but I do not approve.” I can’t remember the title. I liked that because I had just lost my friend, sometimes boyfriend, love interest, someone who I loved very much, when we were sixteen.

JWR: So you saw your own experience in the poem.

MM: I saw my own experience in that poem. Then I found e.e. cummings. I must have had a collection of modern American poetry somewhere in the house. We had books like that. I really liked “anyone lived in a pretty how town” so I wrote that on the wall. Tacked up my paintings and stuff. But before then I had been really into Percy Bysshe Shelley and I memorized parts of “Ozymandias”. Gerard Manley Hopkins. You know, I was that kind of a kid. I was nerdy but also a cheerleader.

JWR: Nerdy cheerleader. I don’t even know if that’s a stereotype.

MM: I don’t know. I don’t think so. Though there was that girl in One Tree Hill who was a cheerleader who was kind of weird. I was like her but actually very weird.

JWR: Do you think that support from older people, specifically parents and teachers, is an essential thing for young people? In order to feel talented and motivated?

MM: Absolutely. Too much of it is bad, too, because it contributes to this sense that you already have when you’re a tortured writer that you’re really special. I think at times I had a lot of that, because where I grew up the public school system was really bad. There was not a lot of literacy. I think some people graduated from my high school not really knowing how to read. And so by comparison, because both my parents had gone to college, which was rare in that community, I was a really good writer and a  really precocious student. I already had this sense of feeling really special and people would always praise me. That helped for sure, but it also maybe spoiled me a little bit and I didn’t push myself to actually become a great writer.

JWR: How old is the oldest poem in the book? How far back does it stretch?

MM: Not that old really. It happened really fast. Mood Swing is in here, most of it, and I started writing that the same year it was published. It came out in like six months, this very big, very playful burst of energy. They’re very easy to write, those poems, because once I’d…it was a very contagious voice once I had figured out this – because they’re persona poems, really – once I had figured out this highly stylized, highly synthetic tone that I wanted to write in, it just felt like, OK, now I can start plugging in the ideas, the themes, the concepts that are really dear to me that I had been trying to write about in grad school but had felt very limited by the way I was supposed to be writing them. Mala happened pretty fast too, all of those – well they’re long poems so there aren’t a lot of poems, there are four, now five – those also happened the same year they were published as a chapbook. The oldest poem is from 2012, probably.

JWR: One of the themes in this book, which I’m clued into through your internet presence as well, is an appreciation and knowledge of fashion. How does fashion play into Tender Data?

MM: I don’t know if I’m that knowledgeable about fashion anymore. It’s now just more of a love of fashion, and an appreciation for how personal style is empowering, how street style is influential. Couture has been so market-driven for so long that I’m not really inspired by it anymore, the big fashion houses. I mean I am, I love Comme des Garcons and John Galliano as much as the next person. I guess I’m more interested in street style and how when the styles trickle down they get worn in unexpected ways that then find their way back up to the runways. That cycle is fascinating to me. I think of the Tumblr girls a few years ago who are writing Chanel on their t-shirts with Sharpies and you started seeing Chanel imitating them.

JWR: Everyone seems to think that Tender Data has a lot of humour, but no one can really pin it down. On the Asian American Writers’ Workshop website you and Jenny Zhang talk about the search for decolonized jokes. Is humour a useful tool for dismantling oppressive power structures? Is it a coping mechanism?

MM: I think it’s both. I think a lot about how to beat the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy to the punch, by anticipating their jokes that would belittle me as a woman, as a person of colour, and so I think there’s power in saying it first. It also belies that power though, too, to be in the position where you have to laugh, or you have to make a joke, if you think about how so much pain gets turned into humour. Dave Chappelle is a good example of someone who does that.

JWR: I always think of Richard Pryor.

MM: Love him. It’s tricky. When you’re in a stand-up audience, you’re very much captive to the performer. You have two choices: you laugh, you don’t laugh. I think people are very excited by that feeling of powerlessness, but it can be bad. There’s nothing like that feeling of being suddenly the butt of the joke and looking around and seeing everybody laughing at this really racist, sexist joke and just feeling totally powerless. When you’re writing it’s easy to be as loud as you want because you don’t have to deal with the consequences of it there, on the spot.

JWR: Until somebody brings it up later.

MM: Right, until you’re doing an interview.

JWR: The book ends with “Novelistic Discourse”, which is a long prose poem.

MM: Yeah, and nobody wants to talk about this.

JWR: Really?

MM: No one has written about it or asked me about it yet.

JWR: It’s the most exciting part of the book for me. How did your approach to writing “Novelistic Discourse” differ from the rest of the poems?

MM: I started reading The Dialogic Imagination again, by Mikhail Bakhtin, and I had been wanting to write something that was truly polyglot for a long time, something that would use all this material I had been saving for essays or short stories, things that might find a more expansive form. It’s sort of screenplay-ish. The experience of writing it was very manic. To unpack it a little bit, there’s some thoughts on religion, humanism, the ironization of my own Marxist politics. I feel like talking about the themes is maybe not useful here.

JWR: Can you read it?

MM: “A little girl with my last name fell into a dream. Be a ramp to your sisters. All the stores were closed the next morning and we went out, you and she and I, into a circular Google, where each woman’s question was the other’s top hit. I’ve known a country without commerce, ghosts feeding on cured meat. It’s all about the libidinal relationship between objects, you know, like Katherine Mansfield, David Lynch. To a disappointing lover dripping syrup from my jaw to the white, white petals of male intellect, I say this: I watched Barack Obama get elected a second time. He could be the child of ASAP Rocky and Lana Del Rey, and he is. Angels made love with humans and made giants that made him, but all of them drowned in a great flood.”

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Vallum’s summer  intern, Jay Winston Ritchie talked with McClure over Skype about her beginnings, her writing process, and the use of humour in her highly-acclaimed first collection.

JAY WINSTON RITCHIE is the author of poetry chapbook How to Appear
Perfectly Indifferent While Crying on the Inside (Metatron, 2014) and the
short story collection Something You Were, Might Have Been, or Have Come
To Represent
 (Insomniac, 2014). His work has appeared in The Puritan, Spork,
Vallum, Glittermob, Matrix, Joyland, and other places. He is Assistant Editor for
Metatron.

MONICA MCCLURE is a poet and performer living in New York City. She has
published two chapbooks, Mood Swing (Snack Press, 2013) and Mala (Poor Claudia, 2014). Her first book of poetry, Tender Data (Birds LLC, 2015).

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To view other content 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 is now accepting original and previously unpublished chapbook submissions for the annual Vallum Chapbook Award 2017. For more information and guidelines, visit the Chapbook rules page

“Frederick Douglass” by Robert Hayden

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Frederick Douglass

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

 

Robert Hayden (1913-1980) was an American poet, essayist and educator, and the first African-American to serve as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. “Frederick Douglass” is taken from The Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, (Liveright, 1997). Copyright © Robert Hayman, 1966.

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: “Ariadne’s Thread” by Jim Johnstone

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Ariadne’s Thread

At ten feet, the white oak’s boughs begin
their reach, parse Niagara’s brow
with lines of Morse: long dashlong dash,
sky–our limbs twinned with snow
at each iamb’s incline. Designed to set,
to confound shadow like a nascent thrush,
light sweeps into the wind’s rough socket.
Our pact: to climb against winter’s rush–
mad, uncoupled–fighting the advance
of latent incantations. Such is our mutiny
less smirk than shitface grin, less stance
than having failed to plant our feet.
Rewind and we descend like ticks wrenched
away from blood, from alveolar branches.

Jim Johnstone is a Toronto-based poet, editor, and critic. His most recent books are The Essential D. G. Jones (The Porcupine’s Quill, 2016) and Dog Ear (Véhicule Press, 2014). In 2016, he was awarded Poetry’s Editors Prize for Book Reviewing.

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: “Travelling With Books Could Save Your Life” by Helen Tzagoloff

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Travelling With Books Could Save Your Life

Drafted to fight the Nazis, my father took a suitcase
full of books. The war would end in a few weeks,
at most a couple of months, said Our Father in the Kremlin.
Among the books was a German grammar.
Learning languages was a lifelong hobby.

Preparing for a month-long trip, I fill my suitcase
with Martin ChuzzlewitThe Italian Renaissance,
A Sportsman’s SketchesAn Anthology of Sonnets,
The Iliad, the last four issues of The New Yorker.
I remove Martin Chuzzlewit, and A Sportsman’s
Sketches. 
Not The Iliad. Just bought a new edition.
Should I reread Confessions of Felix Krull?
(Is it time for rereading, when there is so much still unread?)

What other books did my father take? Some in French,
I’m sure. The poets Tiutchev, Lermontov, Pushkin.
I see him reading after a day of manning the cannons.
Learning German to read Goethe, Mann, Schiller
in the original when he returns.

The Battle of Stalingrad over, the surviving soldiers were
ordered to assemble 300 miles north. One night my father,
worn out, hungry and resigned to dying in the freezing cold,
was asked by an officer if he could speak German.
Luck and God were with him that night.
After questioning the terrified young German soldier,
my father asked if he could stay overnight in the dugout.
With The hell with you! he was motioned to a corner.

Like my father, I do not travel without books.

Helen Tzagoloff was born in Moscow, the former Soviet Union. Her poems and short prose have been published in, Barrow Street, Blueline, Poetry East, the anthology Interpoezia: A Stranger at Home, and other literary journals. She was a first place winner of the Icarus Literary Competition, in honor of the Wright Brothers. A book of poems, Listening to the Thunder has been published by Oliver Arts & Open Press.

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.