Wednesday, December 21, 2016

TODAY'S BOOK OF POETRY - 4th Annual Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize

Today's book of poetry would like to announce the winner of the

4th Annual
Kitty Lewis 
Hazel Millar 
Dennis Tourbin 
Poetry Prize

Stuart Ross, A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent. A Buckrider Book.  Wolsak and Wynn.  Hamilton, Ontario.  2016.

To see Today's book of poetry blog/review of  
A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent

Image result for stuart ross poet photo
Stuart Ross


Today's book of poetry would like to thank Christian McPherson and Cameron Anstee for their generous assistance and support.  Today's book of poetry would also like to thank every poet and publisher who sent us books, that's what we live for.

It's been a curious year, our staff has increased in happy size and we would all like to wish you the very best for the holiday season.

Our readership has grown.  Last month we had 20,000 readers.  Today's book of poetry has now posted 536 blogs/reviews.

The winner of the Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize is invited to have dinner at the home offices of Today's book of poetry.

Past winners of the Prize:
2013 - Nora Gould, I See My Love More Clearly From A Distance (Brick Books)
2014 - Kayla Czaga, For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions)
2015 - Eva H.D., Rotten Perfect Mouth (Mansfield Press)

We will return in January fully rested and full of piss and vinegar.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes - Cheryl Dumesnil (Pitt Poetry Series/University of Pittsburgh Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes.  Cheryl Dumesnil.  Pitt Poetry Series.  University of Pittsburgh Press.  Pittsburgh, PA.  2016.

Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes (Pitt Poetry Series) by [Dumesnil, Cheryl]

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Cheryl Dumesnil must have all the patience in the world at her fingertips to get to the clear water she shares with us in Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes.  

We are a big fan of good titles for books of poetry and Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes is an absolute classic.  We knew it was going to be almost impossible not to like a book with this title and a juggler without hands on the cover.  We were right.

Dumesnil starts this collection with a quote from our old buddy Lao-Tzu and ends the book at "Lake Dharma" and along the way we see/hear Dumesnil fight the good fight (as John Hoppenthaler suggests), set that good example.  These very human poems remind us all of what we require of love, what it takes out of us.

That I Could Keep You Like This

That you were
           falling, we all knew.

                  How sound travels across
                                a morning lake is how

                  I hear voices calling
                                always -- that's what you

                  need to remember about me.

That you have fallen
is a fact the water

will neither swallow
nor erase.

                    Trust this: You will
                                 not understand me

                    when I stitch sound
                                 in the language of my mind.

The last time you left,
          I carried your glass

to the sink, dunked it
          in soapy water. That your

fingerprints sifted upward
          like lace is what I imagined,

that I could pinch them up
          off the water's surface,

press them to my lips --

                    A distance, by definition,
                                  cannot be closed,

                    not even by sound.

              -- is what I dreamed.


Today's book of poetry has been distracted this past week.  A series of heavy snowfalls, the death of a family friend and a big old 750 page What About This - Collected Poems of Frank Stanford  (Copper Canyon Press, 2015) have kept me from due diligence.  I'd purchased the Stanford book several weeks ago and had gone through it lightly but hadn't had a chance to dig in.  Well Frank Stanford is an astonishment and What About This reminded me of how exciting it was to discover a new poet I admire.  

Same thing with Dumesnil.  From now until the end of time I will automatically pick up anything with her brilliant name on it.  Why?  Same reason as Stanford.  Poems about the lives we live that are so full of wonder and new reason that you don't want to finish.

Cheryl Dumesnil's Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes is just the excellent vehicle needed for Today's book of poetry to get back on track and everyone at this morning's read seemed to agree. Dumesnil's San Francisco birds enthralled Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, "Love Song for the Drag Queen at Little Orphan Andy's" did the trick for Milo, our head tech.

At the Reunion of Lost Memories

High School snorts Ritalin in a bathroom stall,
smears lipstick across the back of her hand,

snags her stiletto in her skirt hem, tears it
while slam dancing with the custodian's assistant.

Streamers droop from the ballroom ceiling,
crepe eels lolling in the fan breeze.

Fifth Grade hocks a loogie in the fruit punch
while College works hard to recall names,

anyone's names. Who painted Air Force insignias
on his '64 Mustang? Whose kiss felt like

a dead slug in her mouth? Which sorority
sister got caught poaching care packages

from the dormitory mail room? Nothing
to worry about, Old Age whispers, this is just

how it goes; even the good ones get lost --
the midwife who caught your first baby,

the coworker who let you sleep on her couch
after your divorce.  At the podium, Midlife

taps the microphone, clears her throat -- this was,
after all, her idea: the chicken croquettes,

the all-star band. She wants to explain why
she's called everyone here, but before she can speak,

Etta James saunters onstage, croons, At last...
In a botched confetti drop, ripped-up secrets

flutter down, accumulating on the polyester rug,
like the snow that fell and fell that one spring day,

cloaking all the cars, covering their tracks.


Dumesnil is funny when she wants to be but Today's book of poetry was swayed by some deeper force at work.  Dumesnil wants us to see through the veneer of our lives.  Reading Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes was like having a freight train pull into the yard, car after car, solid as a rock, each one as dependable as the last and the next and each filled with its own necessary and perfectly delivered cargo.

Melodrama of the Suburban Kindergartener

You would think I had asked him to swim
          naked across an alligator-spiked swamp,

my son whom I have sent walking across
          a flat acre of asphalt, to his classroom,

alone. though I pressed language
          into his hand: this feels scary, but it's not

dangerous; you are taking one
          for the team, twenty-five yards in,

he looks back at me and melts his face
         into a tragedy mask. This morning

his aunt is losing her breasts to cancer.
          He doesn't know. This morning Cairo

has erupted into chaos. He has
no idea. How many kids ate hunger

for breakfast? In the car, his sick brother
          coughs spit into a cup, while I watch

my blond boy shuffle away from me,
          molasses pace and sobbing. This is where

survival begins: that boy finally crossing
          his threshold, this mom letting him go.


Cheryl Dumesnil's ferociously smart poetry is exactly what Today's book of poetry needed on this cold, cold Monday.  Survival songs for the new age.

Oh yes, Cheryl Dumesnil is a lesbian and it is clear a lesbian is the narrator of some of these poems. Today's book of poetry is often confused about how big of an issue this is.  To ignore the obvious might imply some sort of negative implication, and to point it out sometimes implies the same.  Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes rattled my cage in the best poetry ways possible, Cheryl Dumesnil meets every criteria we have.

Cheryl Dumesnil

Cheryl Dumesnil's books include the 2008 Agnes Lunch Starrett Poetry Prize winner, In Praise of Falling, the memoir Love Song for Baby X: How I Stayed (Almost) Sane on the Rocky Road to Parenthood, and the anthology Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos, co-edited with Kim Addonizio.

“Cheryl Dumesnil transforms the seemingly useless—the discarded, the broken off, what we keep in the kitchen drawer—into proof of our humanity, asserting that it’s to the things of this world, whether they be oil-slicked puddles, cathedrals, tampons or Pink Floyd, that our lives are anchored. These poems are as tactile as that kitchen junk drawer and just as rewarding to rummage through. Each poem begs to be picked up, turned over in the palm.”
     —Dorianne Laux

“Dumesnil’s precise observations, vivid images, deft humor, and brave willingness to invite in the whole of life, makes for a poetry that’s rich and meaningful. This collection gives us the world with its beauty and love and the loss that always hovers close.”
     —Ellen Bass

“Dumesnil navigates the hallways of illness and childbirth with grit and grace. She offers us soaring birds, revolutions and plums. This is a book full of the love of women and sons, drag queens and last calls, and always the gospel of the body, and its constant prayer of falling.”
     —Sean Thomas Dougherty, author of All You Ask for is Longing: Poems 1994-2014
“What the poet knows is this: there are no lost causes. There is loss, of course, but to love enough to take up a cause is to keep faith. Dumesnil’s collection is the good fight in miserable times; it is how we endure knowing that part of us always / stays back, while the rest marches on. This fabulous book is the part marching on.”
     —John Hoppenthaler

Cheryl Dumesnil
at Radar Reading Series
Video courtesy of San Francisco Public Library


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Look At Her - Vanessa Shields (Black Moss Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Look At Her.  Vanessa Shields.  Black Moss Press.  Windsor, Ontario.  2016.

Two years ago this month Today's book of poetry raved about the bawdy, brawny and bold I Am That Woman (Black Moss Press, 2013) by the incandescent Vanessa Shields.  We are back for round number two.

You can see what Today's book of poetry had to say about I Am That Woman here:

Look At Her, Shields second book of poems, picks up the torch exactly where she left it, scorching.

Only this time Shields is struggling to come to terms with a body that is changing/changed and challenging our notions of what is sensual/sexy.  We find Shields firmly in the school of loving oneself and she does it well.  Not through ego or narcissism but acceptance and a wicked sense of humour.

When Yelling At My Kids While
Bike Riding Could Be Sexual If
I Changed My Voice And Said
The Words To My Husband
While We Were Making Love

Slow down
It's not safe!
Look where you're going!
I'm here
I'm here
Slow down!
It's not a race!
Don't get so close!
Turn right here
Good job!
Okay, you can speed up a bit but stay close to me
Be careful!
You have to listen to me!
Turn here!
Now wait for me
I'm coming!
I'm coming!


Shields works us over with her sense of humour and then works on our reason.  Motherhood to her seems as difficult and surprising as it is rewarding and Shields is candid about it, about motherhood and then about the beating of her carnal heart.

Sure, Vanessa Shields writes about Dionne Brand's hair, reads Sylvia Plath and worries about being a good mother, as many of us do, but the fireworks start loud and concussive with poems like "In My Next Life" which made Today's book of poetry howl with laughter.  Our Foreign Correspondent Luba hasn't read "In My Next Life" yet but we already know it will be one of her favourite poems.

In My Next Life

I will be a slut

A fun-loving
Kinda slut

A by-choice slut because
Sex is fun and feels good
And makes me feel alive
And I want to feel alive with as many
People as I can
As often as I can

I won't be prejudiced or picky
Prudish or proud

I will French kiss until my lips
Bleed and bruise
Because the world needs more kissing

I will bring back foreplay
I will embrace pleasure toys
I will spin in the lace of expensive lingerie

I will be a jazz singer and
Wear long red gowns with no underwear
My vagina will be at my command
As I splay on piano tops in basement bars
Smoky with lust and lies

I will be a jazz singing slut

And I'll wear wigs to match my moods
And heels to match the colour of my soul
And I'll dance every day not on a stage or with a pole
But in the moments before I spread my legs
Over under up and down
Across the slut-studded universe

When my body gets tired
When my heart gets weak
When my vagina gets dry
Because it will
It will

I'll shut down my slut-dom
Look around and find my true love

He'll be old but I'll be old too
And when we hit the sack for afternoon naps
After we put our dentures on the bedside tables
I'll fuck him like the slut I was.


Today's book of poetry thinks that Vanessa Shields is all about empowerment and Look At Her is her latest installment.

A quietish day in the Today's book of poetry offices so far, our morning read was slightly muted by the shovel-weary demeanour of all present.  It snowed all day long yesterday here in Ottawa, that was after snowing all night long the night before.  We shovelled the lane way four times and swept it once yesterday.  But the poetry of Vanessa Shields sure did get our blood flowing.

Shields can sound like she is just celebrating sex, and she is, but only after she champions family, self-awareness and self-empowerment.  This isn't a Kama Sutra but a primer on how women learn, mature, experience and dance with desire.  And so on.

All that and Vanessa Shields even managed to work in a list poem.  Bless her cotton socks.


I vacuum to avoid doing laundry.
I change the bed sheets to avoid vacuuming.
I fold clothes to avoid doing dishes.
I do dishes to avoid putting the folded clothes away.
I visit family to avoid doing groceries.
I do groceries to avoid cleaning the house.
I text to avoid talking on the phone.
I talk on the phone to avoid visiting someone.
I send emails to avoid making a phone call.
I read a novel to avoid writing one.
I write in my journal to avoid writing poetry.
I write poetry to avoid telling the truth.
I tell a lie to avoid feeling scared.
I eat chocolate to avoid feeling sad.
I pretend to sleep to avoid having sex.
I have sex to avoid doing laundry.


Vanessa Shield's Look At Her leaves no doubt about the promises made by I Am That Woman, here is a celebratory poet we can look forward to.  Shields is a realist and pragmatic too and as unafraid of her passion as Eros.  

As Dexter Gordon would have exclaimed, "she can cook."

Vanessa Shields

Shields has made her home, her family and her work life flourish in Windsor, ON. Her passion for writing was discovered at a very young age through the vein of writing in a journal. Her first book, Laughing Through A Second Pregnancy – A Memoir, was published by Black Moss Press in 2011 to rave reviews. In April 2013, Shields edited Whisky Sour City, an anthology of poetry about and for her hometown city of Windsor. I Am That Woman, her first book of poetry, was published in November 2013. Her poetry, short stories and photography has been published is various literary magazines. She mentors, guest speaks and teaches creative writing, and she also created Poetry On Demand, on-the-spot poetry that helps make poetry fun and accessible for all. She also created and hosts Mouth Piece, a reading series created in an effort to bring people together in story. Her latest work Look At Her was launched by Black Moss Press in the fall 2016.

"With Look At Her, Vanessa Shields rightfully holds her place as a Canadian poet to watch. Fiercely honest, tender, and wrenching, Shields treads into the secrets that so many of us would prefer to keep to ourselves. Unapologetic and unforgettable, Shield's voice can't be ignored."
     - Liz Worth, author of No Work Finshed Here: Rewriting Andy Worhol 

"There is humanity in her work that is genderless. This work is about who we have all been, are, and may someday be. Shields invites you to 'look at her'. Accept the invitation."
     - Christopher Lawrence-Menard, author of Whatever It Was,and The DRAG Trilogy

"Look At Her is not a gentle read. Vanessa Shields' blistering honesty and raw unapologetic use of language marks her readers and leaves them blinking hard against the harsh, brilliant light. She tears down the comforting image of the silent, sexless female, with no opinions, no voice, nor even the desire to speak. Instead, she compels her readers to deal with the love and hate, pain and pleasure, doubt and heroism, the comples, contradictory, unresolvable mystery that is Woman. In short, Shields commands us to Look At Her, and when we do, dares us to try and look away."
     - Penny-Anne Beaudoin, author of holy cards: dead women talking

Vanessa Shields
"I Am That Woman"
Video courtesy:  Black Moss Press



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Can I Ask - New and Selected Poems 1975 - 2014 - Elana Dykewomon (A Midsummer Night's Press & Sinister Wisdom)

Today's book of poetry:
What Can I Ask - New and Selected Poems 1975 - 2014.   Elana Dykewomon.  A Midsummer Night's Press & Sinister Wisdom.  Sapphic Classics 96.  New York, New York.  2015.

The Jewish lesbian-feminist activist poet with the extraordinary name of Elana Dykewomon brings a myriad of irons to the fire, isms, movements, belief systems and survivalist strategies.  They are all welcome.  Today's book of poetry is here to champion Dykewomon's persuasions with all the respect we can  -- but it is only because we like the poems that we are here.

Intelligent passion is always a good way to go and Elana Dykewomon is all over that.  These poems are a rebuke to a culture that has yet to embrace women as equals in every way.  Today's book of poetry read What Can I Ask with reasonable diligence and we can say that Dykewomon never asks for anything, she's long past that, the women in these poems are making demands, living with strident purpose, 

my mother used to have that dream

We were standing in her kitchen
the kitchen of the womon who
had been my lover
I was trying to leave
She didn't want me to go
I didn't want to go 
but I could see no other
way to be
She could not move toward me
she was crying
she said it wasn't that she
didn't want to, she didn't know
what stopped her
my need wasn't strange or
unreasonable to her still
she could not respond to me
unless we were having this scene
she said she dreamed she could not
move,     she opened her mouth
and no words came out
I said
my mother used to have that dream
she was standing on a beach
watching her children drowning
swept away on the surf
and she couldn't move to save them
she opened her mouth, like you
but she could not scream

I am my mother's daughter
I am out beyond the breakers
in dangerous water
the womon on the beach
sees me go down
tangled in kelp, exhausted
or a huge wave
catches me in its break
I see her standing there
fixed       unable to swim toward me
unable to make a sound,
neither cry for help nor encouragement

I have been lost at sea
to many womyn in just this way
including my mother
one minute they are thinking
everything is well with us
and the next
I'm a ghost

What they never see is how I
surface on the other side
of the wave
paddling slowly
for another coast


Remember that Today's book of poetry has no agenda other than poetry and frankly we tread with some trepidation when venturing into Dykewomon world.  Elana Dykewomon is writing for an audience of women/womyn and doing so without apology.  

Today's book of poetry wants to be clear that when we see the big hearted, big loving, big eating, big thinking poems Dykewomon has hammered out over the years we are filled with admiration.  But how does a sixty year old straight man, a product of a patriarchal culture and of Protestant/Catholic heritage and culture write glowingly about a Jewish lesbian activist and her poetry?

I went outside a few minutes ago to take a break and have a smoke.  I always have a celebratory smoke between finishing writing the blog and actually typing it out to post.  I write the blog by hand, usually on lined paper folded in half lengthwise.  It is very cold here in Ottawa this morning, -11 C. So, I'm outside for my smoke and our newest staff member Odin was with me.  He doesn't say much most of the time and he wasn't saying anything this morning.  But Today's book of poetry remembered that Odin, more than anyone TBOP has ever known, greets every single person he meets with the same gracious and open welcome and we remembered that is why we love him, that excellent example.

The lesson here, Today's book of poetry doesn't want to try and mansplain Elana Dykewomon or her very powerful What Can I Ask.  But we certainly encourage you readers to enjoy it.

We change each other

I am a womon of opaque windows
set at oblique angles
a face in each one
covered in nylon stocking or gray crepe.
You know
this image.
I close the shutters of my body
one by one
-- let no light in this house
and don't poke around in my vagina either.
You refuse to take it
Suddenly I turn a corner
in the twenty-fourth corridor
where all the windows are made
of polished black amber
and the sills are volcanic ash.
There you are
you've brought your bright red pillow
you've got your feet up against the window
and have hung your god dam plants.
Doesn't that look nice?
No    I say   get out
I may love you in meadows
but this is queer palace
no room for two.
Effortlessly you unhinge the locked blinds.
There that's better these vines need sun.
Come on now -- we have to live where we can.
I start to weep
and you pull me to your breasts
with tough hands


Elana Dykewomon is writing for womyn but I doubt she she'll mind that there are men who admire her poetry.  

Our morning read was an all women affair today.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, thought it only right and proper that these poems be read by women so she brought in two friends.  Sally and Jody were a hoot and good readers to boot.  They were also wearing two pairs of cowgirl boots between them, one from each pair on both of their feet.

A fool for love

It's harder now, to organize,
than in my 20s.  Then
when I said I wanted to do it for lesbians
if there was a question
the question was
why do it for lesbians, who are they?
I was sure of my answer
of my love and pride
my pride in love

But now I fear
when I say I want us
who so clearly need each other
to speak every phrase of that need --
I want journeys with womyn
I can depend on, who can depend on me

I fear
the answer will be:
o that old thing

And no one wants to be a fool for love

Redwoods gutted by fire and ax
still grow
Where one redwood is destroyed
a ring of young trees sprout
redwoods have shallow roots
they need these circles
where root holds fast with root

after everything that's happened
because of everything that's happened
I want to imagine a world
in which we thrive
where difference engages us
and root hold fast with roots


Today's book of poetry thought Elana Dykewomon's What Can I Ask - New and Selected Poems 1971 - 2014 was properly incendiary.  This book brims with brave and honest poetry.

Image result for elana dykewomon photo
Elana Dykewomon

Elana Dykewomon is a Jewish lesbian activist, award-winning author, editor, and professor. Her first novel, Riverfinger Woman, published in 1974, was selected for The Publishing Triangle’s list of 100 best lesbian and gay novels. Best known for her Lammy winning historical novel, Beyond the Pale, Dykewomon was also awarded the 2009 James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist’s Prize. She was the editor of Sinister Wisdom from 1987 to 1994 and currently lives in Oakland, California.

Elana Dykewomon’s poems are reminders not to take anything for granted: to listen to the messages embedded in others' silences, to look beneath the rubble of violence, and to value the pleasures of intimate loving. Presenting the poetry written over the past four decades, What Can I Ask is wise, passionate, and inspirational. I so value this work and always keep it close to my heart.”
     --Irena Klepfisz, Author of A Few Words in the Mother Tongue 

Here is a video of Elana Dykewomon in Belgrade, the video is courtesy of Konsultacije zaLEZBEJKE



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация - Moez Surani (Book Thug)

Today's book of poetry:

ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация. 

Moez Surani.  Book Thug.  Toronto, Ontario.  2016.

Moez Surani does a couple of things in ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация that go entirely against the grain of Today's book of poetry Poetry Belief System.  Today's book of poetry generally disapproves of introductions in books of poetry where the introduction is explaining how or why the poem works.  It is like muddying the water before you can get your feet wet.  But there are always exceptions and ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация is an exceptional exception.  In this particular case the introduction is a necessary part of the whole.

Turns out ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация may also be the mother of all list poems - and you know how we love those here.  Max, our Sr. Editor has taken a dislike to the list poem in his tired dotage but we love him anyway.  This morning we pushed a saucer full of shortbread cookies and another saucer full of scotch under his office door.  With any luck at all that will mollify, read sedate, his ire.  


Burnt Cork
Grapple M
Repack II
Vague II
Hotfoot/White Star
Jumelles (Binoculars)


Not to give away the plot but ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация is a found poem constructed from the list of military operations undertaken by member states of the United Nations between 1945 and 2006.  This poem is a haunting indictment that opened Today's book of poetry's eyes.  How dare these military operations have humour, irony, wit and pathos amongst their names.

We owe Moez Surani a great debt for his research and diligence in creating this highly disturbing and menacingly masochistic nihilist literary stream of conscience gem.  Exactly what Mr. Surani intends to say with Operations will be sorted and discussed by higher authorities than Today's book of poetry but we are honoured to look at it here.


Keystone Owl
Prek Ta
Eastertide: Quang Tri
Freedom Train
Eastertide: An Loc
Bullet Shot
Constant Guard I
Constant Guard II
Eastertide: Kon Tum
Keystone Pheasant
Pocket Money
Linebacker I
Constant Guard III
Keystone |Wren
Pacer IVY / Pacer Inventory
Keystone Pelican
Constant Guard IV
זעם האל [Wrath of God] / Bayonet
Linebacker II


ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация is way outside Today's book of poetry's usual bailiwick of narrative, descriptive and casually accessible poetry, way outside. This book is a challenge but that is not an obstacle, it is an incentive. Surani has written the best sort of anti-war, anti-violence tract possible, it hoists these nations by their own petards with clarity and conviction.


Noble Response
Solar Sunrise
Excite / Hilti / Prone
Bevel Incline
Shakti [Power]
Chagai - I
Chagai - II
Safe Departure
Shepherd Venture
Determined Falcon
Joint Forge
подкова [Horseshoe]
Resolute Response
Infinite Beach
Shadow Express
Eagle Eye
Sovereign Legitimacy
Badr [Full Moon]
Joint Guarantor / Determined Guarantor
Fuerte Apoyo [Strong Support]
Rivibala [Rivi Force]
Desert Fox
Climate Change


This morning's read was a steam-roller that barely paused for breath. ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация is a military fugue where the volume and beat have been pumped up until it makes you catch your breath. Surani has discovered what sweet horror we casually inflict upon the world and has made poetry out of it.

Image result for moez surani photo
Moez Surani

Moez Surani has travelled, studied, and worked in countries around the world. His writing has been featured in numerous publications, including the Best Canadian Poetry (2013 and 2014), The Walrus, The Globe and Mail, Harper’s Magazine, and PRISM International. His first poetry collection, Reticent Bodies (Wolsak and Wynn), was published in 2009. In that same year, he won a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, and later, attended artists’ residencies in Italy, Finland, Latvia, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Canada. His second poetry collection, Floating Life (Wolsak and Wynn), was published in 2012. ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行动 Oперация, Surani’s third book, was a finalist for 2014 Les Figues Press Book Prize.

“Words, first, then evidently turning into names, but names of what? Racking up four thousand military operations by United Nations member states since 1945, Moez Surani’s list is far from simple. Who knew that the UN was writing a long poem? Or that this particular long poem would resound in the mind like Pound’s Cantos, that ‘poem including history’? A stunning compilation of linguistic fertility—and fertilization— courtesy of a political organization listing in the wind over half a century. But it takes a listener to detect that shiver in the atmosphere, and this astonishing book is deep listening through and through.” 
     —Jed Rasula, author of Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth                                 Century

“Morning light. June dawns. Moonbeam. Bumblebee. Wren. Tulip. The code names of military operations conducted by the United Nations mark and disguise the costs of war and humanitarian interventions, like modest arrangements of flowers at unseen necropolitical funerals. ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行动 Oперация appropriates these code names without deploying the arsenal of juxtaposition, displacement, and framing conceits. It is a stark, stripped down, relentless list poem that organizes and recognizes the many faces and names of historic international cooperation. Surani’s new book reimagines appropriative writing as an “inadvertent collaboration” between nations. It documents the civilian and ecological devastation of collaboration and divests idealism from the notions of “agreement” and “co-production” between imagined and real communities. It is appropriative writing that queries how language is resignified and renovated for artful and affectively profitable cooptation by the state. And, true to the project’s claims, the book eschews the pleasures of euphony, pursuing instead a terrifying cacophony between sound and sense. An unnerving, frightening book that calls for expansive and paratextual reading.”
     —Divya Victor, author of Natural Subjects

Moez Surani reads from Floating Life
Video: Wolsak & Wynn



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
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Monday, December 5, 2016

Tiller North - Rosa Lane (Sixteen Rivers Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Tiller North.  Rosa Lane.  Sixteen Rivers Press.  San Francisco, California.  2016.

Rosa Lane's Tiller North makes Today's book of poetry think of Alistair MacLeod's short stories in marvels such as The Lost Salt Gift of Blood and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories if they were written by a woman of equal power and persuasive gifts.  Or Michael Crummey's stunning novel Sweetland.  These poems feel like they are familiar, like they take place on or near the same water.

Today's book of poetry says this because these poems are big, they feel like stories, fill up the space and imagination just like a big novel.  These poems situate you in a rural/remote fishing community surrounded by sea and brush.  You are in the kerosene lit kitchen, you are in that death-watch bedroom.

But most certainly, you are there.  

The natural path Rosa Lane pushes you down in these poems is strewn with hard work and calloused hands, hard living and some hard luck.  Yet there doesn't seem to be much complaint, this is reportage using memory rendered poetic.  Lane isn't asking for any empathy, her heart is full to bursting with memory.

June Bugs

Electricity buzzes the yellow bulb
in Maine's humid heat. June bugs bomb
the porch light with spiny legs -- date-colored
and oversized.
                        Spring peepers pin the night,
pitch a universe in my mother's kitchen, except
I have not yet occurred to her. She is sixteen,
and I will be hers in less than a year.

Supper's on the table for the boy who will be
my father, his nineteen-year-old body big
and husky. He rinses dried splashes
of work from the day's ocean into a small
blue basin, enameled and filled
with hand-pumped water drawn from the well.

Fireflies light the field aflame. Conceived in the heat
of summer, I appear a small spark of night
planted in the deep crevice between them.


Lane takes the reader to a time and a specific place in these poems.  We'll never truly understand the life of a small and remote fishing village but we certainly understand more now.  We can't smell the kerosene or the fish but Lane gets us there, we are on the coast of Maine gazing west towards civilization.

Today's book of poetry was terribly enamoured reading Tiller North, Rose Lane has that steady Andrew Wyeth gaze and hand, and it would appear some of his same ideas about story, narrative and how to make the heart arc.  Many of Wyeth's paintings seem stark but in fact they never are, Rosa Lane has that trick finessed. There are some hard moments in Tiller North but a warm and tempered heart is leading the way.  Tiller North is coming of age poetry writ large over the working class background of a young woman in a remote place.  

Tiller North

Take Route 130 nine miles
where it dead-ends at the coastal tip,

keep your eye on the spire,
how it peaks above ragged pines

torn from a small length of ocean:
shingled shacks drunk with fog,

the mouth of John's River, a bar
of khaki sand, a stand of piers rusted

in salty air, Dora's cow pasture blurred
with brutes down meadow. How the fog

dampens fisher boats wedged at the wharf,
arched glass stained with light on the hill.


Households begin at the Point,
where fisher boys drive

their cars fast to the cliff,
test their brakes, scare

their girls, who squeal and dive
for safety into dangerous

arms. Tongues of the bell buoy
bang a rhythm of ocean in backseats,

when sixteen-year-old bodies grow
pregnant, birth armloads that suck

tiny breasts, unready. The young stumble
along a path of church bells calling them

to kneel Protestant pews and swallow
white wafers of a single mind.


Fisher boats named women wait in the cove,
anchor lines tied at the nose, nets piled

in the hold. Our father stands there waving
across the salt air, our mother at the shore

squinting the sun, seaweed floating
her black hair across the surface ahead

of winter already moving in. The three of us
run to the school bus each morning.

Our father's fingers, cracked with cold, count
singles laid on the kitchen table at night,

our porch lights lit proof of survival at the edge
of the harbor we are damned to leave.


No guests for this morning's read as Ottawa was covered in snow this morning.  A number of our staff didn't make it to our digs on Dagmar.  I was out shovelling snow for over an hour earlier this morning and will go back out when it stops snowing altogether.  Milo, our head tech, and Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, both made it through the snow, they live close by and walked.  The three of us batted these poems around until we reached shore.

Today's book of poetry really liked the tone Lane establishes from the start, she has such confidence and is so self-assured that you feel like some of it might rub off, a little osmosis through hard living.


Lucy's shack sat on cinder blocks
pressed into peat near the bog,
a piece of real estate
no one wanted. Saturday night
down at the hall,
she laid navy beans
on numbers, played six cards,
won a few coins
on the left straight.
                                She drives
headlights up the throat of driveway
pounded hard by the last rain. Trees
crawl across the face
of the house. Her porch light
burns a small hole at the door.
Her boyfriend can't wait up,
he said -- her daughter's silhouette
in the upper window riding horseback
on a horse she never sees.


Rosa Lane's Tiller North is the 37th title from San Francisco's Sixteen Rivers Press.  Lane joins a fraternity that includes Nina Lindsay, Stella Beratlis, Ito Naga and Beverly Burch, very fine company.

Today's book of poetry thinks you should join Rosa Lane on her journey back to the Maine of her youth.  Lane's Tiller North imparts a portrait of family and community, loss and found, in one elegant nostalgic yawp.

Rosa Lane

ROSA LANE is a native of coastal Maine, with familial and ancestral roots steeped in lobster fishing. She earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of the poetry chapbook Roots and Reckonings(Granite Press, East, 1980). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including The Briar Cliff Review, Crab Orchard Review, New South, and Ploughshares. After earning her second master’s and a Ph.D. in sustainable architecture from UC Berkeley, Lane works as an architect and divides her time between coastal Maine and the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her partner.

“Tiller North ends with the word sing, a final act in a volume of poems that narrates sorrows and pays tribute to the Maine people Rosa Lane comes from. She offers scenes looked over carefully, as everyone takes their place at the table. She tells of making it through a sense of unbelonging, imprinted by rejection based on class and cut-off dreams mitigated by fierce love, hard work, and constant relation to family, place, and the rules of the season.”
     —Beatrix Gates, author of Dos and In the Open

Rosa Lane’s poems in this remarkable volume are reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop’s in the author’s fierce dedication to craft….Lane’s poems build through the architecture of the image; the texture of physical detail; and a sparse, understated language that resonates a profound love of humanity, an embrace of the people around her, and a deep, inward movement of the poet’s imagination.”
     —Stephen Haven, author of The Last Sacred Place in North America and Dust and Bread

“In Tiller North, Rosa Lane gives us a world—not just one compass point, but all of them. In poems as lyrical as they are narrative, she presents a family and a landscape with precision and compassion. Her writing is as sharp as her heart is full. Tiller North is a moving and accomplished book.”
     —John Skoyles, author of A Little Faith and Permanent Change

Rosa Lane’s poetry reminds us why, at a certain time in our lives, we’ve had enough of innocence. Here is a compendium of those so crucial, chronology-defying self-revelations that we only know through our skin….Each poem is a skiff sculling through sounds almost Hopkinsesque, each measure of music anchored by the ground base we feel more than hear.”
     —Jeffrey Levine, author of Rumor of Cortez and Mortal, Everlasting



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.