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Jason Allen—A Meditation on Fire Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2016 Page Length: 71 Retail: $14 Poems of Survival: A Review of Jason Allen’s A Meditation on Fire Jason Allen’s debut full-length collection of poems, A Meditation on Fire, reminds me of what remains in a boxing ring after the final round. The poems spin tales of mental and physical bruises, blood, scars, and shadowboxing. Yet, even in the most confessional, sobering work, poems that speak to addiction and sobriety, the book is not without its humor and salvation. Several of the poems are so visceral that we feel what the speaker feels as we thumb through the collection. The opening poem, “Blues Before Sunrise,” for instance, loosely plays with the blues form, namely the repetition, not the rhyme scheme [...]

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(For Alfred) Edgar Allen Poe, Oh-Poe is established as foundational in American literature, as a classic of the New Voice that has hallmarked the reverberative roar of American artistic influence, but his legacy is one that is gravely compressed: most textbooks will feature a work of prose and a poem--usually "The Raven"--and texts for the lower levels will also feature illustrations that are as lurid as 1950s science fiction cinema posters. Instructional editions for secondary education put more emphasis on an unfortunately short life than they do on brief comments reducing Poe's work to that of America's brief Gothic tradition. Although Poe still appears in classrooms, his is a legacy that is now a cliché of corvids and black lipstick, an autumn lesson that is augmented by store displays for [...]

Chapbook: My Bedside Radio  Author: Anthony Cappo Publisher: Deadly Chaps My Bedside Radio is a chapbook written in narrative form. The reader follows the narrator from childhood to young adulthood struggling to understand a seemingly contradictory and fearful world. It touches on themes such as sexuality, war, racism, social scripts and paternal abandonment. These poems are deceptively simple; they aren’t laden with metaphor or high diction and the lines rarely have more than five words in them. It’s as if the poet made a compromise between the complexity of life and the simple-hearted perception of a young person, as if Cappo told the young narrator, “Yes, I know how to write about your confusions, about your realizations, about your awe and loneliness and if you let me do it, I [...]

A Railroad Puja In the stampede at Godhra, the first child is trampled. The Sabarmati Express stalls at the platform like a suitcase bursting. The bogie’s coupling is cut, the railcar isolated, sprinkled with kerosene. Look what happens. When we collide a struck match drops. Our arms flail from shattered windows. Charred chappals graze the rails. Dusty pant legs flutter, brimmed with flames. Our mouths gasp small choking o’s. Now the whole city smells like paan, a gritty red splatter on gravel-strewn sidewalk. We know we are too many. When the burnt bodies are swathed in faded salwars, tossed in the bed of a rusted pickup, and carried to the Ganga, we want only the warm silt of flour dusted over a chapatti. We turn the fan on high, cup [...]

During 2016, the Spotlight Series has (usually) focused on the work of (approximately) two poets per month. This month's second poet, whose feature concludes this series, is Raena Shirali.   Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Raena Shirali: Much of my motivation on a poem-by-poem basis comes from a resistance against silence, as well as a desire to enter into and provide a new understanding of various psychologies. I first fell in love with poetry because of persona, because it provided opportunity to escape my own thoughts (at least, that’s what [...]

Maria Mazziotti Gillan— What Blooms in Winter NYQ Books, 2016 Page Length: 116 Retail: $15 The last several months have been trying as an American citizen. Donald Trump’s candidacy has used xenophobic rhetoric to demonize minority groups and immigrants. In these times, Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s body of work, which often focuses on her Italian-American family heritage and celebrating the immigrant experience, is especially relevant. Her newest collection, What Blooms in Winter, draws on the deeply personal to vocalize her story and also give praise to the melting pot aspect that has always been a foundation of American culture. Gillan’s latest collection continues to draw on the narrative form, and most of the poems use personal memory to address broader issues, including the immigrant experience, climate change, and global terrorism. The [...]

Cannibal Island Housing Everyone who moves to Cannibal Island is given a house. The houses are okay. On one hand, the houses all have Thermo-Twin windows, which are very expensive and come with 3 full pages of warranties. On the other hand, everyone who sleeps in the houses on Cannibal Island has nightmares in which their fingernails fall off and there is a dead ferret under the sofa in the living room that they can’t seem to remember to call animal control about. But it’s all right, because every Tuesday the cannibals go door to door handing out cake! Cannibals make very good cake. Surprisingly, (and no one ever believes this at first), the cake is vegan. The cannibals also have excellent memories because if a non-cannibal expresses that they [...]

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s first poet is Margaret Bashaar. Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Margaret Bashaar: As far as I can recall I’ve always been driven to create—I think most people are, honestly, it’s just a matter of cultivating that drive. I’ve created in a lot of different mediums—I used to sing for many years (I took voice lessons for almost 10 years), I played the violin when I was younger, I used [...]

In Christopher Morgan’s Fables with Fangs, (Ghost City Press, 2016) a micro chap of eight poems delivers us into the inner workings of the home, the symbolic place of safety, but there are no picket fences here. Morgan’s poems weave surrealism, fear, and humor into a classic tapestry that reveals how  unsafe we all really are. The definition of a fable is a concise tale that intends to reveal a moral lesson by the end. Morgan tips his hat, signs off a good luck in those dark woods, friend, and leaves it at that. The lesson learned is watch out. In the poem, “The Bear,” A bear literally walks through the hallways of a home, pauses outside a sister’s room, her door ajar.  Morgan writes:   “I’m opening my door [...]

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Musings o​n​ maneuvering through the rapey ol’ patriarchy. Margaret Bashaar’s newest chapbook hits the ground in heels kicking for the artery.

        Yolanda J. Franklin’s work is forthcoming or has appeared in African American Review, Sugar House Review, Crab Orchard Review’s American South Issue, and The Hoot & Howl of the Owl Anthology of Hurston Wright Writers’ Week. Her awards include a 2012 and 2014 Cave Canem fellowship, the 2013 Kingsbury Award, two nominations from FSU for Best New Poets (2013 & 2014). She is the recipient of several writing retreat scholarships, including a summer at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Squaw Valley Community of Writer’s, Postgraduate Writer’s Conference Manuscript Conference at VCFA, the Callaloo Poetry Workshop in Barbados and Colrain’s Poetry Manuscript Workshop. Her collection of poems, Ruined Nylons, was a finalist for the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Award. She is also a graduate of Lesley University's MFA Writing Program and is a third-year PhD student at Florida State University.

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s second poet is Yolanda J. Franklin.   Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Yolanda J. Franklin: I am not motivated to write poems. It’s more of a luring, calling, or purpose. I live poems and life is unwritten poetry. Being a working poet, for me, is more about establishing and cultivating friendships with other poets, celebrating their successes and cultivating with a community of writers who are dedicated to developing [...]

Saba Syed Razvi is the author of In the Crocodile Gardens (Agape Editions, 2016). She is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX. Her poems have appeared journals and such as The Offending Adam, Diner, THEThe Poetry Blog, The Homestead Review, NonBinary Review, 10x3 plus, 13th Warrior Review, The Arbor Vitae Review, and Arsenic Lobster, among others, as well as in anthologies such as Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War Faith and Sexuality, The Loudest Voice Anthology: Volume 1, The Liddell Book of Poetry, and is forthcoming in Political Punch: The Poetics of Identity. She has been honored by James A. Michener, Fania Kruger, and Virginia C Middleton Fellowships. She earned a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing in 2012 at the University of [...]

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s first poet is Saba Syed Razvi. Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Saba Syed Razvi: Every person alive experiences the world according to his or her own unique circumstances, resources, inherent dispositions, and choices—and, yet, our societies and our media often paint what is seen as successful in narrow and limited terms. Measuring life’s experiences by its successes can be misleading, especially when so much of life’s appeal comes from [...]

Dappled Sunshine in the Forest   These days of summer fading into autumn mark the perfect moment for readers to enjoy Ariana D. Den Bleyker’s chapbook The Peace of Wild Things (Porkbelly Press, 2015). These, natural, purposive poems feel as if Den Bleyker has briefly emerged from years living in a forest, to whisper to us about the subtle violence of nature, crafting an ethereal environmental exchange between a woman and deer, swans—even the wind—that will make eager readers out of many.   In “The Future is an Animal,” Den Bleyker’s speaker dreams of transforming into a wolf. The resulting epiphany at the end of the poem that is most unsettling:   “My legs push, muscles scream against my own shifting imprints, stirring layers of ankle, flank, shoulder bones, knuckles, [...]

James Galvin – Everything We Always Knew Was True Copper Canyon 2016 Page Length: 75 Retail: $16   How is it possible for the work of James Galvin, the face of the most famous poetry program in the world, to be so wildly underappreciated? One could spend a lot of time trying to understand this: is it because of his association with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop that critics have largely ignored his work, especially over the last twenty or so years? Or is it because his style walks so boldly in the footsteps of the many celebrated American poets who have taken as their central subject the natural world, and have done so with a language we can loosely call “plainspoken”? A combination of these theories would view Galvin as [...]