A Book Review of “Against the Woods’ Dark Trunks” by Jack B. Bedell reviewed by David L O’Nan

A review of Jack B. Bedell’s “Against the Woods’ Dark Trunks” from Mercer University Press (2022)

I rarely find a poet out there that is truly an original. I become envious as a poet myself, to the marvelous observational style poetry that Jack paints with his words. Jack takes everyday life (not just the mundane, but just observation of nature, of travels) and creates a masterful poem out of something you didn’t know was able to be observed in so thoroughly.

Jack’s work also makes me miss the traveling aspect of life. He is obviously well read and very educated when it comes to poetic forms.

He isn’t just rambling out sentences. He is a deep thinker. He is very cognizant of reactions. A listener, an observer. Jack will take you to the swamps of Louisiana into the caves of Tennessee. He will haunt you with some findings, he will make you smile with the next. His family is a deep influence on what he writes. And what else would you expect from a former poet laureate of Louisiana. A state I spent a little time in. He’ll take you through Louisiana even if you’ve never put a boot in muddy swamp marsh.

We begin with Another Night, Just, easing into Until the Rice BoilsSunlight would turn the kitchen-counters honey gold, and all clanks would make song” Yes, Yes We DoThe Metallic taste of snake’s blood must surely dance on his tongue like the sweet dervish of revenge” Bill Evans on Kind of Blue Reeds take flight any time his line flicks near their feet. And always the glow of the trumpet rains down on everything in warm bursts, sometimes a bath, sometimes a wave...”

Mil Mascaras growing up and still a wrestling fan some of these poems about wrestling feel like they were written for people like me in mind. “I am Mil Mascaras, a man with a thousand holds in my arsenal. I do not need a partner to face down their tag team, only a constant glide from suplex to boston crab…”Iapetus (for Robbie and Cathy Wallace) brilliant writing “She wants to dram of serpents’ coils rolling just under the water’s surface…Amano (for Frank Relle Gallery, NOLA) ” Even what’s left of this broken cypress tree hasn’t given up reaching for the sky” All Spirits Must Take a Name (Adams, Tennessee) this one resonates with me since this cave in Adams is haunted as hell. My mother broke her leg at home at the same time we were lingering this cave. “Even if you were not Kate alive, take that name to twist your scream into voice. Use it as an answer when they beg to know who’s poisoned John Bell”

Six More Weeks (Bonnet Carre Spillway, May 2019) “With such a death grip on our land, guarding it against the river, can we help but squeeze out ghosts?” Serpents and Insects, 1647 based from an oil on canvas, Otto Marseus van Schrieck, New Orleans Museum of Art. “White moths hover in spare light and snakes coil around mushrooms growing at the base of this tree” Gougou (Gulf of Saint Lawrence) “She pulls scales from her hips, frees them to float in the water like manta raysBurn, Hollywood, BurnHe snips out one side of the box for a picture window, lines the inside edges with gold satin for drapes, but he can’t find an image of a fiery field anywhere…Memory: Unsorted is a poem about his father and his intrigue with boxing growing up. WendigoWhen you speak his name a second time, do not grin. His spirit will slip past your teeth into the core. All light will wane from your eyes,…”DisparationNo more shuffle of slipper across wood, no smell of onions sweating in a skillet”

GrassmanHis smell still there, always, sticks thick to the grain like disease armadillos sprayOf Proxies and Moonshadow first of all genius title of a poem “The way a stab wound smiles when the skin around it shifts, how nineteen of those wounds sing like a choir when the girl bleeds herself across the forest’s floor...” P.V. O’Neill’s Grave (Oakland Cemetery Shreveport, LA) “No roots left from the falling, though, and even fewer signs it matters” Three Steps Off the Ropes another wrestling poem bringing up the legendary “Silver King”, Just Another Day in November (List Murder House, Antieau Gallery, NOLA)How ordinary would a house have to be to hold an entire family dead, zipped up in sleeping bags on the living room floor for a solid month before any of the neighbors, or teachers, or police thought to ask”

Window with Ladder-Too Late to Help (Leandro Erich, 2006 New Orleans Museum of Art) , The Pale Man’s Eyes Never Leave the Horizon -(Lake Champlain) “When a wave rolls up out of nowhere, do not look down, It is my body shifting under the surface” “I sharpen each night, waiting for the crunch of bones you are” Dusk, MeditationSometimes the truth hides in the wide open of a shorn cane field and no matter how you stare its lines will refuse to define themselvesAugury -Queen Bess Island “The cadence of their lives tells stories in flattened shore grass, single eggs in sand-movement and birth and loss”

New Beach, Elmer’s Island -Caminada Headlands 2018, Beached Whale, Terrabone Parish, 2016How golden it would be if the whale’s old kin walked past trees like ours into their first salt water” Marsh Horsesby marsh grass rising out of the lake, ghosts of a full coastline reaching out into the open pass” La LechuzaFrom the moment you hear her cry, only dead things will hold beauty for you. At some point during every conversation you have with a neighbor, or mailman, or lover, their flesh will melt away” Pecan Grove with Body Farm, The White Alligator – For Emma “What more could his slow smile want” City of Nature – Kotea Ezawa, 2011, Black RushMy father told us about a shadow in the marsh that could see inside anyone it came across” Memory: BatsThey held each other close, blinked their eyes against the harsh light as if the plague of morning had come upon them early”

Death Comes to the Banquet Table, ca 1630-40 from oil on canvas, Giovanni Martinelli, New Orleans Museum of Art “The last grain of sand drops to the bottom of the glass and it simply does not matter that desert has barely suffered touch” Goujon – after Mai Der Vang’s “Phantom Talker”The Old men will tell you, I am the dark thing with gaping mouth waiting deep in the silt under still waters” Rolled Over Into Waves -White River, 1915, Voucher “Like in 1933, at six, how he had to walk downtown one day with a voucher stuffed in his pocket that would get his family one cooked goose, or two liveTraiteuseAlways a fever the wild kicking of legs and tears to tend. Her soft prayers fill the room to overflowing Memory: Touch “and others I cannot touch but feel nonetheless, or would touch given the chance” St. Lucy Led to Her Martydom – Bernadino Fungai, circa 1490, LittoralIn the space between water’s edge and forest, the shoreline blooms with thimbleberry and clover-sunlight, mist off reeds, and my back flat against the dew

Stink – Henderson Swamp “The swamp smells heavy like a soul tethered to the heat dripping down every windowSometimes the Alligator Gets to Write the EndingThe alligator is not compelled to carry the opossum safely to the other side of the bayou” Sometimes You Get the Bull, Sometimes – Angola Prison Rodeo, 2013 “There’s got to be a moment when the inmate clown wants the bull to stomp him out, that long second when the dust kicked up from the bull’s charge rises toward heaven…”Q&A – For Thomas WhiteThe other side of sickness or pain is heaven, and that last much longer than it takes to empty your stomach”

Owl-and Wolf-Infested Lands -after Bachelin “bent away as salt water creeps in through the canal” Like Asin at the Edge of the WoodsIt would not matter there’s no undertow, not with catfish or copperheads pressing bellies to the mottled bottom” La Llorona Rests Her Feet in the CreekThe Mountain lions always come to me in pairs at night, heads low, with ears peeled back, contrite” There is No Train but the Tracks Will Lead You There -Honey Island “No need for maps or guides to find the swamp’s heart” There is WindYes, there is wind. And waves. For now, the ghost of trees and lines of reed remain” In the Open Space of a Crawfish Pond, PresageI’ve had old people down the bayou tell me animals carry all the truth” The News, AgainI tell her all hope can swell to fit our idea of God. She wants to know if that hope dies, too, if we don’t take care of it”

ConflationHis socks were filthy from the slogging through the Quarter during the morning’s flood. As hot as it was, those socks must have felt divine on his feet, like a river of cool breeze…” Neighbor TonesEven when scales cannot reconcile themselves geometrically, we can choose to hear them together”

Bio: Jack B. Bedell is a Professor of English and coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in dozens of journals. His previous collections include No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018), and Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, 2021), He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate, 2017-2019

Pandemic Love & other Affinities from Icefloe press an anthology

Please check out this wonderful anthology from Ice Floe Press in Canada. Edited by Moira J. Saucer, Robert Frede Kenter, Anindita Sengupta & Jakky Bankong-Obi. Cover design by Robert Frede Kenter “Pandemic Night” is a mixed media painting of aquarelle pencil & watercolours by Moira J Saucer

This book has over 130 pages of pandemic-era based poetry & art from poets around the world who are at the top of their game.

This book is also dedicated to poets lost during that time including Ice Floe Press contributors Cathy Daley and Kari Ann Flickinger. It is dedicated to everyone who lost loved ones, family members & friends during this ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic.

Poetry from Ewoenam Akahoho: little esinam (she left the world her beautiful crayon sketches) “and now, I have become the man who lights his cigarettes with the sun”

Roseline Mgbodichinma Anya-Okorie: A Function of Spaces “When we laid on green…looking up to the fogginess of blue…between dusk & dawn – When we clasped our fingers together & whispered “It’s two of us against the world…”

poetry from Akesha Baron (Mr. Duarte Mr. Rubin), short story from Ronna Bloom (Fall, Falling) Poetry from Yasmine Bolden (May Your Blessing Be Your People) “The Answers, the ‘unity’. Outside the sky bled sorbet orange” Poetry from V.B. Borjen (The Kites) “…counting bell chimes off the cathedral tower and the uncovered mouths of passers-by sharing booze in plastic bottles and flasks” Poetry from Paul Brookes (Is It Love To Be Glad You’re Dead), photography/art from Barney Ashton-Bullock, story by Matthew Burnside (Ramshackle Heavens), poetry from Sue Chenette (Etienne Brule Park, Sunday October 18, 2020), poetry from Marian Christie (Rapunzel in the time of Covid) “She braids and unbraids her lengthening hair, combs out the knots to feel pin-sharp tugs of pain. To feel” poetry story from Defne Cizakca (I Woke Up One Morning and You Were Not There), poems by Geraldine Clarkson (Raoul, Raoul) “who’d nuzzle the padlock on my tongue try to glean corn thoughts from my blank blue eyes tickle the nape” (Mannequin, with the melancholy gaze -) “Though you never look at me directly, I always wake to your pale blue eyes, raking the air just above my head,“Pandemic Paintings by Cathy Daley, Poetry stories from Nabina Das (How to Undo a Love Story 1 & 2) Poetry from Shome Dasgupta (The Dance of the Wayfarer) “Under a fresh beam of moon, a broken root, severed and twisted – a frozen echo waiting screaming to be released” poetry by Satya Dash (Accrual) “always to be seen smeared like a sun with its back turned, blemish conspicuous even when the page is turned over” poetry from Martins Deep (as i lay forget-me-nots on your side of the bed) “to an orchid growing in a vase filled with the humus of decomposed dreams”

Poetry by Peach Delphine (within this thicket of scar) “Tongue of shovel, bone of splitting, this body a basket of spark and cinder, when you hold me smoke lingers in your hair your hands come away with ash...poetry by Steve Denehan (Someday) poetry by Olga Dermott-Bond (Skin hunger) “Standing down river, I flinch at the hours, days, weeks we have lost to this iced babble; the hush of us grazes my skin-“ poetry by Chelsea Dingman (Valence) “Again, I ran past the lake this morning, trying to figure out why I run the same route, expecting to find myself anywhere else” Poetry by Damien Donnelly (All the Other Things that were also Alone, On the List) Poetry by Birgit Lund Elston (Were There to be a Choice) “and the fox with her playful kits in the woods at the back, how could I ever leave” poetry by K. eltinae (ms.call/) Poetry by M.S. Evans (Months as Worry Beads – A Suite of 3 poems), Poem by Sue Finch (A Peacock Butterfly Dries its Wings) “From the sink I have been watching them cast silhouettes like bats”

Poetry by Kari Flickinger (that’s why I came back to you) “after weeks of fearful quarantining in a hotel on the blazing outskirts of some California desert. You hear that mission bell?”Poem by Suchi Govindarajan (An old quarantine) poetry by Catherine Graham (I Ask, Can We Be Civil?) “Leathery wind pushes the mystery flowers my name; a stem when light opens a dress-carriage for my heart” (Parts of the Song Where the Dead Come From) & (Hold the Dark), poem by Roger Hare (Pandemonium), poem by Matthew E. Henry (split screen), Poems by Elisabeth Horan (Soft Ghost Sonnet) “may it bring more joy than I’ve become -myriad cut & stab of blood, wears it thin; surely becomes woven thread of skin…” and (Twentieth Anniversary) Poem by Rahma O. Jimoh (Pandemic Soulmates), Story by Silas Jones (Heading Out), Poem by Agunbiade Kehinde (Love Poem with Shakespearean end) “Who would have thought colours and cologne could change the images of a lover in your head – like a damning art”

Photo by Robert Frede Kenter (Lock Down #24) and poetry (Pandemic Moon: A Love Poem) “Sirens accidents red lights elevators of claustrophobia run through the skin of the city” photo/art (The last of it) Poetry by Rose Knapp (Daemonic Queer Club), Poetry by Laurie Koensgen (The Conjunction: December 21, 2020) “Let’s say they’re us, those silver pinholes in the sky becoming one blurred puncture” story by Henneh Kyereh Kwaku (There Was a pandemic & I wanted to be touched & you were about to be married-), Story from Emma Lee (Failing to learn life lessons from penguins) Photography by Robynne Limoges (Surrender), (Hospital Corridor #2 & #3), poetry by V.C. McCabe (Frostbitten & Faunal) “I miss you every breath. Aromatic snow, your skin & winter catapulting us under blankets, the choice to roast in your eyes…” story/poetry by Spangle McQueen (Perhaps Love: How to have your mother’s funeral in a pandemic), poetry by Jenny Mitchell (Mother of Pearl) “She is still in the coffin. I thought she would rise like a hymn, voice soaring up to the vaulted ceiling”

Poetry by Hasan Namir (2020 Was Before) (Growing up in 2020) (Wake: The: Fuck: UP) Poetry by Marcelle Newbold (Transient Comfort) “signifier of a storm, a gentle stroke to my skin each drop a universe, a meal to a whale” and (Dwelling), Poetry by Twila Newey (Common Light) and (Natural Selection), Story by Lizzie Olesker (Block), poetry by Charlotte Oliver (Pandemic Packing) “each colour sharpening the other, first Spring petals cried from blossom trees now shrivelled grey reminding me that all will pass and memories hold beauty safe...) poetry by Niall M. Oliver (Heart) Poetry by Bola Opaleke (Rind of a Pandemic) ” A mother feels the hurt of her baby’s flowering teeth on her breasts, but welcomes the pain as a penultimate symbol of motherhood” & (Before & After the Flood), poetry from Kunjana Parashar (To My Sister, Stuck in Another City), poem from Serena Piccoli (Foam) Poem by Maria S. Picone (We Should Not Forget) “should not discount the taste of slow times fabulized in romantic paintings-should not untie silence & sorrow

Poetry by Kushal Poddar (Ring,Ring, Round and Round) “It is not really a beast-a shapeshifting leaf bearing the unbearable isolation of the early spring and falling into the deserted lanes of pandemic…It is not a real leaf” (Comorbidity) “The Winter thaws. Streets squiggle in the mud”poem by Lee Potts (A Concise History of the Wind) “Countless threads crossed above and beneath us The same blue as oceans You’d find on antique atlas showing the ends of the earth” art by Whiskey Radish (A Sortie), Poetry by Khalisa Rae (This Sounds Like Leaving) “Searching for replicas of our past with subtle differences thinking the subtle will wake us up from this looping nightmare” poetry by Vismai Rao (After my death by staring too long at the sea, I rebirth as mango seed) “with the barest of things: sunshine, water, unlimited oxygen. A hit of warmth and my body cracks open to shatter & dissolve” poem by Larissa Reid (The Mythologies of home) “That day, hear heart felt like paper. It had lost its shape, its weight, its very structure. It drifted lightly against the inside of her ribs” poetry from Monty Reid (from The Lockdown Elegies) Poetry by Andres Rojas (Time) (One)

Art/poetry by Moira J. Saucer (Myra: The Bitterroot Suite), Poetry from Anna Saunders (All the Fallen Gold) “I will keep this precious leaf until the underworld gods call for alms” poem from Preston Smith (Quarantine Love Poem) “I’ve found that growing flowers is hard in the Anthropocene. There is Tinder and there is tyranny, and they are both tired-“poetry/story from Ankh Spice (Here is the toll) “Yes, the bail, yes the scoop, I was and am still, now scooping the soft from myself to caulk the blistered wood.” poem from Alina Stefanescu (Imbibet) “The constraint lies on the bed with one head hanging off the edge” Poem from Samuel Stathman (For Archie) poetry by Claire Trevien (Or another exit door), poetry by Bunkong Tuon (No One Asked but They Did it Anyway, Visual poetry from Margaret Viboolsittiseri (a love letter to me (b&white version), (intent)

Book Recommendation: Written in Lagos by Abuh Monday Eneojo

Abuh Monday Eneojo

Monday is a Nigerian poet, podcaster, teacher and blogger. Born in 1995, Ilorin, Nigeria. He expresses in words his thoughts in his poems which talks about things that affects him. Things like solitude, family, life, fame, love and a whole lot of other things that can affect a young adult male. His poems have been aired on national TV in his country, Nigeria.

Author of The World Within, Piary: Diary of a pensive poet, and Pieces of the confluence. Published in 2018 and 2020 respectively. He looks forward to sharing more of his anthologies and fiction in the future.

Links on Amazon:

Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09P6NKWD1/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0


Written In Lagos is a compilation of Short Stories by Abuh Monday Eneojo. It comprises of six stories that span from the writers imagination and experiences. The first story, Black Sheep, in the book exposes the tumultuous ordeals of humans who try to survive the excesses predominant in Lagos State, a State known for its myriad business opportunities. It also brings to light the after effects of the popular End SARS protest in Nigeria.

Enjoy Abuh Monday’s work in Fevers of the Mind at the links below:

Poems from Fevers of the Mind Anthologies by Abuh Monday Eneojo

the Fevers of the Mind General Interview with Abuh Monday Eneojo