“Donating the Heart” by David Hernandez (Pearl, 2001)

In Donating the Heart, David Hernandez reveals further proof of his talent as a poet. Published in 2001, just one year after Man Climbs Out of Manhole, it is nevertheless crucially different from his debut collection.

Here there are the specific characters and unique settings that we have come to know as Hernandez’s ploy, except here there are events that really could take place, instances that actually occurred at one point, and have been superbly captured by a very deserving poet.  Split into two parts, the second also provides insights into the poet’s life and history, as well as some amusing and moving escapades.  Donating the Heart serves as a welcoming follow-up to Hernandez’s debut.

Originally published on February 25th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Man Climbs Out of Manhole” by David Hernandez (Pearl, 2000)

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There comes a time when you read a novel or book of poetry and you will love every single word of it, as you turn each page; when you finish it you will realize that it is only a small publication, and the entire world doesn’t know about the beautiful words and sentences you just read.

David Hernandez is clearly one of those authors (along with his wife, Lisa Glatt), and this is made clearly evident in his first chapbook, Man Climbs Out of Manhole.  There seems to be little of David Hernandez the person and history in this book, and yet between the lines of a stanza everyone once in a while one will wonder if one hadn’t just read a piece of Hernandez’s life.

Every poem is different and unique, with a new character and totally new setting, and it will be unlike anything you have read.

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Originally published on February 25th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Shelter” by Lisa Glatt (Pear, 1999)

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With her second book of poetry, published in 1999, Lisa Glatt has come a long way since Monsters and Other Lovers.  The first book was one of release and admittance; in Shelter Glatt has a lesson for you, and the moral of the book is read and learn.

In every poem there is a message to be read and understood: in some cases it is a warning, in others a piece of info you can either accept or ignore.

Within these sixty pages is also a collection of “if you” poems: “If You Have Sex With a Married Man,” “If You Have Sex With a Man Ten Years Your Junior,” “If You Have Sex With a Graying Guy,” and “If You Have Sex With a Stranger With One Ball.”

Emotions are alive in this book – there is laughter, but there is also pain.  While Shelter is not as dark as Glatt’s first book, it is in no ways inferior, revealing her further talents as a poet.

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Originally published on February 25th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Monsters and Other Lovers” by Lisa Glatt (Pearl, 1996)

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You need something vibrant yet compelling to kick-start a career in poetry, and with Lisa Glatt’s debut book, she has done just that.  If you know Glatt pretty well, Monsters and Other Lovers will scare you; if you don’t know Glatt at all, the book will still scare you.

Published in 1996 and written over a period of many years before that, Glatt writes about what she knows and has experienced, albeit sad and horrifying in a mundane sort of way, it remains true and real.  Split into four parts that loosely tie in with significant changes in her life – her mother’s breast cancer, Glatt’s own accident as a young girl, her move to 69 Rose Street.  She even has some advice for impoverished writers with “I am Weird to the New Boys”: When you write for a living/and no one buys your words/canned food grows appetizing.”

Glatt is a fresh voice in this turbulent world of anger and pain, and she reminds us that even though life may be going to hell in a hand basket, there is still hope.

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Originally published on February 28th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Drive Through the Blue Cylinders” by Ed Friedman (Hanging Loose Press, 2001)

A graduate of UC San Diego, Ed Friedman has lived most of his life in New York.  His work has appeared in New American Writing, The World, Hanging Loose and Conjunctions. With Drive Through the Blue Cylinders, we do not have your garden-variety poetry style, but it is presented more in the form of prose, each piece consisting of a single paragraph, along with a could that are pages long but can still not be considered stories.  There are no limits for Friedman and he’s going to take you anywhere and everywhere, even if you don’t want to go.  While of a style of  writing that comes off as deep and complex and sometimes confusing, Friedman spirals in and out, up and down, and if you hold on tight, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

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Originally published on December 3rd 2001.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The History of the Invitation: New and Selected Poems, 1963-2000” by Tony Towle (Hanging Loose Press, 2001)

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This is Tony Towle’s tenth book of poems: a collective history spanning from the beginning of his career to the present.  A New Yorker, Towle was born in Manhattan in 1939 where he spent most of his life and currently resides in Tribeca.  The collection is divided into eras: 1963-65, 1965-69, 1970-79, and 1980-2000.  If you’re a fan of Towle or you want to find out what his poetry is like, then this is the book.  It encompasses a complete range of Towle’s abilities as a writer and poet, delving into his experimental styles and imagery.

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Originally published on December 3rd 2001.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Borrowed Coats” by Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (Hanging Loose Press, 2001)

Having published three other collections of poetry, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel returns with new talents and new insights into the world of poetry.  Of German, Irish and Cherokee extraction, and having crossed over from the Dustbowl of the 30’s in Oklahoma to the “Pastures of Plenty” in California; McDaniel has a world of knowledge to draw from, in which she can never repeat a story or retell an old one.  Each thought she draws from is as fresh as a spring flower, taking to  you levels and dimensions you didn’t know existed.

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Originally published on December 3rd 2001.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Electric Light” by Seamus Heaney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001)

Heaney’s New Poetry

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After last year’s bestselling success of Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, renowned author Seamus Heaney now brings us his latest collection of poetry, entitled Electric Light.  The collection is split into two sections: a) sweeping poetry, starting off in Heaney’s homeland of Ireland, and then traveling all over the world, from Belgrade to Greece, and b) moving poetry dedicated to those who have passed away like Ted Hughes and Joseph Brodsky.  Offering fresh language, as well as plenty of his own style, Heaney takes the reader on a most unique journey.

“At Toomebridge”

Where the flat water
Came pouring over the weird out of Lough Neagh
As if it had reached an edge of the flat earth
And fallen shining to the continuous
Present of the Bann

Where the checkpoint used to be.
Where the rebel boy was hanged in ’98.
Where negative ions in the open air
Are poetry to me.  As once before
The Slime and silver of the fattened eel.

“To the Shade of Zbigniew Herbert”

You were one of those from the back of the north wind
Whom Apollo favoured and would keep going back to
In the winter season.
And among your people you
Remained his herald whenever he’d departed
And the land was silent and summer’s promise thwarted.
You learnt the lyre from him and kept it tuned.

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Originally published on October 8th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Sally’s Hair” by John Koethe (Harpercollins, 2007)

Sally's HairStarStarStarStar

John Koethe, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and the first Poet Laureate of Milwaukee, returns with his latest poetry collection, Sally’s Hair, now available in paperback.  This slim but poignant collection takes you on a journey through Koethe’s past and present, his thoughts and philosophies; it also discusses and questions the fundamental nature of humanity’s existence: what’s it all for?  Koethe is somewhat unique in being both a philosopher and a poet, where he is not only a master of the writing craft, but also the contemplative craft, presenting wonderful poems that also make you think and question your own reality.

The 96-page book is split into four definitive parts.  The first part makes one feel as if they are sitting in a comfortable chair on a deck, the gurgling of a calming river in the background, as Koethe takes you through nature and its beauty, but also through the kaleidoscope of his life, his past, and what it means to him now.  “To see things as they are is hard,/But to leaving them alone is harder;” he writes in “Morning.”  In “Piranesi’s Keyhole,” Koethe leads you through his imagination, and what it means to have an imagination, to be able to disconnect from reality, but it leaves one vulnerable to questioning what reality is and how different it is from imagination?  On this journey through the psyche, it is easy to get lost along the way, but Koethe guides the reader on through to the end where there is no definite answer, but a longing questioning which the reader is left with.

The second part consists of a single, extending poem called “The Unlasting,” where Koethe relives the important moments of his life, and he looks back on himself, questioning what it means.  With this, he also discusses the meaning of death, the meaning of the end, questioning the different beliefs of people, their faith in the end that will supposedly continue with something.  It forces the reader to not only enjoy this poem of Koethe’s life and eventual death, but their own, as they wonder philosophically what the end really means, when considering the whole from the past to the conclusion.  Again, there are no answers, but merely thoughts and ideas to expound upon.

In the third part, Koethe questions his life up to now, as he grows older.  There is the discussion of age and the concept of accomplishment from a philosophical standpoint.  While he never outright says it, he is ultimately asking: what does it all mean?  This is best revealed in “Aubade”:

“It’s early, but I recognize this place.
I recognize the feeling, after an endless
Week of mornings in America, of returning
To the home one never really leaves,
Mired in its routines.  I walk to what I try to
Tell myself is work, entering at the end of the day
The same room, like the man in Dead of Night
The dinner, the DVD from Netflix,
The drink before I go to sleep and wake alone
In the dead of night like Philip Larkin
Groping through the dark at 4 a.m. to piss,
At home in the reality of growing old
Without ever growing up.  I finally get up
An hour later, run, eat breakfast, read and write –
A man whose country is a state of mind,
A community of one preoccupied with time,
Leaving me with nothing much to do
But to write it off to experience – the experience
Of a rudimentary consciousness at 5 a.m.,
Aware of nothing but the drone
Of its own voice and a visual field
Composed of dogs and joggers in a park.”

With this discussion of age and time, the change from then to now, in the last few poems of the section, Koethe inevitable discusses the Iraq war and the pointlessness in its death and destruction.  From “Poetry and the War”: “Some wars are fantasies.  The bombs and deaths are real,/Yet behind them lies an argument played out in someone’s mind.”  It is clear where Koethe stands on this point, but it also fits in with the questions he is asking when one reaches middle age in our current time.

In the final part of this collection, Koethe has traveled through his history, relived his past, and there is now an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia.  The moments of the past are over, never to be replayed, but to be mentally relived.  In the title poem, “Sally’s Hair,” Koethe relives a chance encounter with a girl when he was young, which resulted in a one night stand that was fully enjoyed on both parts.  “And then I never heard from her again.  I wonder where she is now,/Who she is now.  That was thirty-seven years ago . . .”

Sally’s Hair is a collection of poetry not to just be enjoyed, but to awaken hidden and oppressed feelings of nostalgia and remembrance of the past, to force the reader to “take a trip down memory lane,” but to also question what they have accomplished so far, where they stand, and how they see their lives from beginning to eventual end.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on June 1st 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.