Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Blog

Our twitter is @feversof eic @davidLONan1 Facebook Group: http://www.feversofthemind.com Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Arts Group

Paypal & Submissions e-mail: feversofthemind@gmail.com 

HARD RAIN POETRY: POETRY & ART INSPIRED BY BOB DYLAN *OUT NOW* Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Anthology available today!

*UPCOMING ANTHOLOGIES*

BARE BONES WRITINGS (taken from web post contributions and open submissions)

People listed as Wolfpack Contributors will be so until the end of July.

We are unable to provide compensation at this time contributors. We have to reach out through the year for donations just to keep the site going. This is for the art of poetry, music, art & other creatives.

Some poetry/art published on this site will periodically be taken down if space is running low. Pieces that are up for Best of the Net Nominations and other award nominees will remain on the site longer. You will be guaranteed at least 6-8 months exposure on our website. No promises after that and don’t take it personal.

Submissions open for online and or Print Anthologies (please specify in email if you prefer only print submissions): Looking for Poetry for Adhd Awareness, Mental Health, Anxiety, Culture, History, Social Justice, LGBTQ Matters/Pride, Love, Poem series, sonnets, physical health, pandemic themes, Trauma, Retro Pop Culture Music & otherwise.

Each contributor to Anthologies will be given a free PDF and then there will be an option to order copies when I supply links to the books.

Submissions could include Poetry, Art, Book Reviews, culture pieces, rants, pre-published poetry from self-published materials, defunct lit mags, pieces from other lit mags/books/blogs with permissions.

All submissions with bio. Please let us know if something has been previously published, we will make a judgment call on whether able to include.  For Bare Bones Anthologies I’d accepted I will let you know within 1 month of email submission. I have RSD and don’t love the idea of sending rejection letters.  If you don’t receive acceptance assume we passed up this time and send something else. If you have simultaneous submissions out there, please keep this in mind. If not accepted at first Just try again…We will not accept pieces that we deem racist, sexist, homophobic, or have pornographic themes, photos, or any type of nudity in submissions.

Please donate to our paypal at feversofthemind@gmail.com if you enjoy this site and our anthologies. Anything helps. Thank you!

About Editor David L O’Nan

https://feversofthemind.com/2022/03/15/before-the-bridges-fell-by-me-david-l-onan-poetry-book-is-out-today-on-cajun-mutt-press/

Bio: David L O’Nan is a poet, short story writer, editor living in Southern Indiana. He is the editor for the Poetry & Art Anthologies “Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art. and has also edited & curated other Anthologies including 2 inspired by Leonard Cohen and Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan inspired by Bob Dylan. He has self-published works under the Fevers of the Mind Press “The Famous Poetry Outlaws are Painting Walls and Whispers” “The Cartoon Diaries” & “New Disease Streets” (2020). A compilation of 4 books “Bending Rivers” a micro poem collection “Lost Reflections” and new book “Before the Bridges Fell” (look under books tab in Amazon) under Cajun Mutt Press & “His Poetic Last Whispers” (2022) David has had work published in Icefloe Press, Dark Marrow, Truly U, 3 Moon Magazine, Elephants Never, Royal Rose Magazine, Spillwords, Anti-Heroin Chic, Cajun Mutt Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Voices From the Fire. Twitter is @davidLONan1 and for the book @feversof  Join Facebook Group: Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Arts Group . Facebook Author page DavidLONan1 and goodreads page is https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18366060.David_L_O_Nan

https://www.amazon.com/Bending-Rivers-Poetry-Stories-David/dp/B09QFF55K3/ref=sr_1_1?crid=25YEZAM5Y4EGO&keywords=bending+rivers+david+l+o%27nan&qid=1642523310&sprefix=bending+rivers+david+l+o%27nan%2Caps%2C128&sr=8-1
(c) Geoffrey Wren art




Review: Cancer [+Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric (review by Colin Dardis)

Cancer[ + Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric Reviewed by Colin Dardis

Given the ubiquity of cancer in our lives – we all know someone who is being treated for it, survived it, died from it, or indeed we may be dealing with it ourselves – it is natural that poetry should attempt to make sense of it. Of course, it is often not the disease itself that we need to try and understand, but the impact of it on our lives.

The tone in this, the debut pamphlet from working class poet Dean Rhetoric, is all at once challenging, unaccepting, disbelieving and mocking, running a gamut from “Define inoperable”, to “Meet the lump in combat” to a quickfire list of contemptuous comparisons of ‘fighting’ cancer to various styles of wrestling. Rhetoric’ poems encapsulate the sheer helplessness that cancer put us through; that whatever we do or say in our offers of help, it is not enough, was never enough to keep someone alive. As the title Cancer [+Pop Punk] suggests, dripping down through all of this is a litany of cultural references and quotes from various pop punk bands, plus a healthy dose of REM. (this reviewer will leave it to others to debate if the mentioned bands are indeed pop punk, given the preciousness of some gatekeepers in the punk community; this is a literary review, not music journalism.)

The music being the formative connection between the author and the deceased in question, Rhetoric weaves the narrative of loss and vulnerability through allusions to Green Day, Weezer, Dillinger Four, etc. Such is the lasting impact of their songs, that it takes over the form of the work. There is not so much a lyricism in the writing here, as a song-like structure, the poems presented visually on the page between musical staves. This presentation bleeds over, threatens to take over the poems, morphing lines into sing-along chorus with plenty of fa fa fa, la-la, doo doo, di da chanting. This is a defence mechanism: if we can express our distress and despair as quasi-nursery rhymes, perhaps the truth will not hurt as much.

Fruits and vegetables
seeds and antioxidants

[her stomach line tore though, fa, fa, fa!]

The smell of shampoo makes
her cry uncontrollably

[the cancer took her hair away, fa, fa fa!]

Similar to the Internet myth that Emily Dickinson wrote all her poems to fit the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, Rhetoric pushes the reader into singing along with his work. Those of a musical slant will be tempted to reread the page and attempt a tune of their own. Yet despite all this music, all this setting of song and lyric, there is much left unsaid. The unease of not knowing the perfect words; “specific words you need to avoid | to not talk about the cancer”; the ever-presence of someone’s absence: “It’s getting loud outside and your silence has everywhere to be.” Pop punk fills these silences, but music can only achieve so much. Rhetoric realises their shortcoming, listening favourite songs that are “always accusing me of changing the subject”. Parallel to all of this, the trials of cancer continue without words.

        under neon lights where halos
        hang their laurels
        onto IV drips
        as mothers scream
        and swallow truths
        as hard to chew as hospice food
       and stumble out of swaying rooms
       no medicine improves
       and if these walls could talk
       they wouldn’t.

 We find out in the closing sequence that takes a trip through REM’s Automatic for the People that sixteen years have passed between the initial acquaintance and the death of the friend. The reader is never quite sure to the extent of the pair having been romantically involved or not, merely because the author appears unsure as well. This is not to stray into the realm of the unreliable narrator; rather the work is also a study in the uncertainty and tenderness of teenage relationships. There is already much fragility at play: the consensual removal of clothes, and then later, a kiss unrealised; the admission that “you hated me towards the end”. What seemed possible in 1998 is repeatedly cut off by the brutal reality of 2014’s treatment and subsequent funeral. It is only then that we find out that the death of an ex-partner of nine years is “not a good enough excuse to leave work”, the poem hitting us with the simple facts: no window dressing, no persiflage, just like news of a diagnosis.

All author royalties from the sale of the collection go to WAY (Widowed and Young) for the bereavement support of others, so you can be assured that with your purchase that you are supporting a worthy cause. The quality of the poems, Rhetoric finding an original and engaging way to approach and navigate anguish, is a bonus worthy of applause.

Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available from Broken Sleep Books, pp42, ISBN 978-1-915079-87-9
https://www.brokensleepbooks.com/product-page/dean-rhetoric-cancer-pop-punk



Anushna Biswas Reviews “The Elixir Maker and Other stories written by Ajanta Paul”

AJANTA PAUL’S RAINBOW COLLECTION OF STORIES

REVIEWED BY ANUSHNA BISWAS

The Elixir Maker by Ajanta Paul is a compendium of twelve short stories. Each short story is written with contemporary sensibilities. The author leaves a nice caveat for the readers to note. Though art, in all its wealth, variety and boundlessness is grounded in life, in reality, the author considers art a part of that reality, as an embodiment of its essence by the human mind and thus is a certain sense actuality rising above reality.

Storm is a metaphoric digesis. Satyen, a man of Jadavpur, now living in New York. He is a geologist and teaches at the University there. He has recently visited the dense Peruvian jungle researching his latest project. He is a product of migration. In his recollection Satyen remembers crumbling arched-windows of his grandmother’s musty old house in East Pakistan by the side of Kirtan Khola river. .He and his youngest cousin sister Jhuma always accompanied their Grandma Shanti Devi. He has two aunts Lila and Khuku. One day women of the family were enjoying their afternoon. Suddenly a big gale lashed the house violently. Lashes of heavy rains and howling storms blew everything with its tooth and claw. Shanti Devi and others strove to save the crumbling house but instead lost one of her sisters, she being washed away by the dashing flood, never to be found again. This pathetic episode reached Satyen and with it came the bad news of separation with his wife and daughter. This pitiful state of his mind merges into the pathetic story of his defeated grandma.  In parallel, his tale smacks of his grandma’s fall and Satyen crumbles like that of their ancestral house in East Pakistan. The author shows the nature’s fury, remaining out of reach of man. The storm stands out as metaphor here.

Author Ajanta Paul in her story Glass deals with the ambivalence of marriage. In the story the author examines whether in reality marriage means equality, liberty and freedom between the sexes. The “Second Wave feminist literature” in the West has opposed marriage in their writings panning the discrepancy of the sexes that exist in marriage. The story has Sulogna and Indra who are happily married couple with a son. They are a upper middle class urban family living in luxuries. including holding occasional parties at home. The narrative displays “complete foundation of each self” and how much Indra and Sulogna’s marital life is cosy. Angana, Sulogna’s sister, a fashionable woman, lives life in her own terms. Incidentally, a party is arranged drawing a flock of people of various hues. Sulogna is face to face with the guests. When Manish offers drink to Sulogna, Indra’s faith on Sulogna falters.
However, for the first time one realizes women’s freedom of choice and integrity is questioned. Incidentally, feminist Critics argue that “marriage continues to remain “an institution which contributes to the maintaining of traditional gender roles, thus preventing women from achieving social equality, and reinforcing the idea that women exist to serve men, which in turn increases the abuse of women”.

The Silenced Bell is another engaging story explored with logical trains. The story narrates the tale of a Bell in an old temple in a village. Sasanka Babu  is the feudal lord of the old village. Nirmala is his wife who bears many children most of them girls. But Sasanka kills her girl children by thrusting “guava” into the children’s mouth which is caught by Nirmala. She protests against this brutality; since Sasanka Babu is a patriarch and feudal lord, he in a flare up throttles Nirmala. Following this ghastly event, the Bell of the old Temple stops ringing to the surprise of the villagers. The author takes a stand against “patriarchy” and notes the protest of time and Nature against the feudal lord making the Bell silent for ever. One gets a hint of a parable of sort, strong and ruthless.

In the story Fat Mamma, the author Ajanta Paul addresses the serious problem of “gendering” or gender bias in corporate sector with a touch of wit and humour. The story is a pointer to the fact that in Indian subcontinent gender discrimination is practiced not just in the family or the micro level of our society but such differentiation is also carried out in the society at large or to be evident at the macro level. The narrative of Fat Mamma not only fulminates tenebrous social parameters regarding women’s ability to compete on equal basis in social ambience but also considers it to be found in male bastion. In Fat Mamma’s office various male employees try and accommodate themselves mutually. Here the author reflects “boys will be boys”, despite the comfort and the fruit of their work that they enjoy. Manik is a catalyst out of the three main characters along with Mohan and Ashwin who can ballast topical reality in the narrative and make Fat Mamma look more humane and a person with empathy. The reader has a feeling that Ajanta Paul is writer with accurate insight and resilience and this makes her stories illuminating.

The next story Lawsuit brings us face to face to a crumbling of small family headed by Rana.  Rana works in a multinational Company and his financial position keeps his three daughters and wife Deepu in upper-middle class luxury, But this state of smooth sailing gets disturbed due to Lawsuit brought against Rana by the cartel of big Barons of the company as he refuses to side with the big bosses in their corrupt deeds. He does not capitulate to threats. Under legal pressure, Rana loses his job; at the same time his wife Deepu gets  alarmingly sick due to fluid in the heart. In the meantime, Rinki, Chumki and Mimi grow up and Chumki in particular graduates into lawyer and vows to help the poor being trapped in false court cases. Chumki in remembrance of her father Rana, takes up defense council to intricate the poor and helpless people trapped in false cases. Ajanta Paul as always stands by the defeatist and Chumki represents the author with ethics and legal insight that makes the Lawsuit a humanitarian tale of generation.

Author Ajanta Paul in her story Freedom upholds the tragic fate of people in partition between India and Pakistan and its cruel aftermath.  But when it comes to India the freedom came with lot of bloodshed. During British imperialism, freedom achieved at the cost of communal loss and gory bloodshed. However, when in 1947 India gained freedom from the British empire, little did people know that post independent India would have to see many other divisions, intercultural and inter-caste conflicts. This partition could be said to be the greatest political upheaval in the political history of India. The critic and author Butalia recounts her experience; “thus memories of Partition, the horror and brutality of the time, the harkening back to an—often mythical—past where Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs lived together in relative peace and harmony”.  Priti’s story falls in the same category. A quiet peaceful life suddenly succumbed to the evil forces of partition in the name of freedom and Priti’s personal loss of her son and brother-in-law while escaping from Pakistan to Delhi as refugees. Priti and her husband and daughters here confront a bizarre situation: In the ocean of milling crowd Priti lost her brother-in-law and her son Ravi. She is uncertain whether they could at all get off the train. She has strong surmise that mishap is in view and is tormenting, She happens to believe her accepted current life: “We settled in Delhi, made it our home..The girls grew up, married and now settled in the US”. The author traces the partition and its trauma with authentic tenacity.      

In the Wayfarers the author follows a quaint narrative with a theme of journey in a bus full of passengers headed to Nityanandapur..In a crowded bus seats are filled. Samar by fluke gets a seat by the side of a co-passenger. Suddenly Samar starts spinning out tales of absurd nature acting a a rich baron. He fabricates absurd snippets of possessing wealth, money, big business and factories etc. While listening the phantasmagoric tales, the bus suddenly faces break down in the dusk. The passengers get frightened and disperse for shelter. Samar gets down and the co-passenger being jolted seeks help from Samar. He follows Samar for a night stay.. Being convinced Samar takes him and ambles a zig-zag stretch in the dark and reaches his oldish, broken hut. The co-passenger now realizes what Samar has narrated is only a fictive reality and gets disillusioned. The author presents a cacotopian mental state of the protagonist that not only engages the readers but also reveals how a penniless man could manufacture illusory tales to amaze us in a ruthless reality.

The story Escape narrates  the life of Binu, a young boy. He assists his uncle Nandu in a tea stall on regular basis. It is by the side of Rly station at gate Seven.Trains arrive and leave as natural going of each day. The passengers arrive and many of them drop at the tea stall to sip, read newspaper and then drop out as always. Binu dislikes the job and often runs aways to travel in trains that arrive and leave. His uncle is not happy. One day Sarita, a teacher, arrives at the stall and she is requested by Nandu to give her nephew a fresh life. Sarita agrees and picks Binu for  a new abode, a school. Binu who enjoys journey to explore people, nature and sights of wonder suddenly feels caged and his freedom to journey is cut off. Binu's life freezes into still. The writer quaintly explores the green mind of a boy for wonders in journey, arrival and departure of trains, is shown finally chokes and his desires stifled. It hints at our poor social system where desire to fly or ride on a journey gets stymied.

In Elixir Maker we get for the first time a tinge of “magic realism” from the author  Ajanta Paul.  Alok, painter by profession, discovers in the market how multiple kinds of scented juices allure people and affluent. On picking scented juice of bizarre kind, Alok feels wafted to the old mythic era in a flight of fancy, an era of rich Zamindars. He is enthralled by the sights, sounds and smells and changes to a queer person. The painter as an artist provides to a chieftain’s daughter scented potion/juice to relieve her father. To the contrary, Alok often receives sweet and cold water that slakes his thirst and puts him on different terrain. As a famous painter his works decorate many quarters in social platforms. In an illusion Alok visualizes Era, his wife, to offer him water in his exhausted state of wandering, tired, distraught, clapped out, and breathless.
The story in its meandering blends physical and fictive realties making it true in form. The author subtly has used her intellect and artistic resilience to make Elixir Maker, a work of “stream of consciousness” to provoke her readers to get the drift of meaning as hidden in the structure.

In her story Misunderstanding, Sheena takes the centre of focus for her undue misunderstanding of her husband Ravi. She grows skeptic about Ravi as he is often found talking over phone secretly that Sheena deems a rupture in relationship. Her doubt triggers separation in marriage. Days go by. In such manky doubt lies a greater truth unknown to Sheena. One day, Sheena comes to know that their baby is alive with “Musculoskeletal” abnormalities known as Crouzon syndrome. Such baby normally lives short. But in her case, Ravi clandestinely handed over the baby to a hospital for care and medical remedy. The baby is still alive and the truth is brought into light through a search of medical reports kept hidden in Sheena’s almirah. Both Sheena and Ravi curiously turn alive to the big revelation and the couple gets united due to “misunderstanding”. The way the story is sketched, it heightens the suspense and finally a great relief. The author has used her sharp insight to reveal a strange truth, very topical and alive.

The story Shifting narrates a little complex life of Mallika who is fed up with her seedy, musty house that belongs to her late father. Being Claustrophobic for a long space of time, She decides to shift from the very old house as she is sick of rusty memories of the past that makes her nearly frozen. Mallika seeks a new vista in her life and hence gets determined to purchase a new flat which she does.

Shifting involves a lot of labour and toil in the shape of loading unloading old furniture, junk domestic uses and sundry other things making it heavy for Mallika. In the Shifting Sanwar, the painter friend, introduces his artistic eye, colouring Mallika's flat with absolute mastery.  Because of Sanwar, a painter of walls from village, makes the rooms look, vibrant, live and have a shade of chiaroscuro. All rooms breathe a fresh air and rhythm into Mallika's life. She is much enthused that she is able to accommodate Mahdi’s curlicued furniture made by him before he makes his departure for Middle East. Sharmistha and Mahdi friends of Mallika, separates after co-habitation for some time... While.Sharmistha goes to US to complete her PhD, Mahdi leaves for the middle East.
In a jumble of kicks, now Mallika re-discovers the meaning of life once she lost out of boredom and sticky anguish.

Chair is tale of multiple illuminating memories and nostalgic events, good bad and lustrous that hold the eminent academic institution ie the Women’s College its students of past and present are proud of. Incidentally, Chair represents the author herself, insightful, dynamic, innovative, creative marked by a halo of high, useful pedagogy; the process is that of teaching and learning. Nisha in her capacity sits in the Chair and navigates all official, educational activities, and governmental directives checking papers, documents, notices, letters of complaints and sundry other matters related to the College, Nisha presides over.

It may be mentioned here that this Chair has nothing to do with The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco, the famous French absurd playwright.

In the centre of focus stands out the Principal who is also required to guide the students to hold festivals galore: these are of various interests and being pursued till they pass out.  Women’s College may not have glossy peels or gorgeous surface yet its eminence out-tops many in the field. Chair made of teak wood and Mahogany accommodates Nisha and inspires her to confront all challenges including bouquets and brickbats with equal ease.
The structure is set in a nifty reflection of the author through whose eyes the readers feel a kind of identity and wisdom of enlightenment never to fade out. A powerful short story that harks little but suggests much.

Poetry Reviews from Broken Sleep Books: Simon Alderwick

Sometimes I write poems & sometimes I write poems is the first English translation of poems from the young Mexican poet Martin Rangel, translated by American writer, poet and translator Lawrence Schimel.

Aside from a few poems which have appeared in Spanish in the collection Luna Hiena, the majority of poems are new. As with all Broken Sleep translations, the original Spanish appears alongside the English translation.

The collection is at points pretty meta – the first poem ‘I translate to steal’, being read as a translation, is itself full of lines worth stealing (or at least be inspired by). “I translate to steal / and I let myself be translated to be stolen”.

Rangel’s poems read like a self aware dark night of the soul, bouncing from sharp insight to bleak truth, helped along by vivid images and killer line after killer line.

“My love dresses in black 
and goes out into the street 
with a pistol in each hand 
ready for everything” 
(life is prey)

“Of all things i’ve forgotten over time 
how to live is the one I miss most” 
(“time passes slower when you can’t sleep” science confirmed)

The title poem requires you to turn your head sideways to read it (if reading on a computer screen) and might just flip your mind upside down. 
“sometimes I weep when I write poems by hand but I only do so when I don’t like them / and I want the ink to blur.” 
If you wonder why some people (perhaps even you reading this) are drawn to write poems, Rangel has as good an explanation as anyone: “Sometimes I write poems about things I feel and sometime I write poems / in order to feel things”. 

Several of the poems are dark and introspective, almost depressing, but still full of insight “You discover that life doesn’t wait for you” laments Rangel in here’s a blood animal that snores within my chest before asking out to the sky to 

“explain to me now 
everything 
I shall die 
without knowing”
(birds like suicidal arrows)

“We keep writing poems” returns to the poetry about poetry theme that Rangel does so well. Having survived his dark night of the soul, lines like “we keep writing poems against everything” cut deeper. 
“We keep writing poems and find all the doors are closed” until “everything becomes poems”. 
Rangel is not afraid to expose himself, to show his emotion. He is proud to be a poet, to see poetry as a vocation, and keep at it despite everything. 
“While we dream / while we are alive… we keep writing poems” 

These are poems for poets. Poems to inspire poetry. Poems to translate and steal. 

Liam Bates’ Monomaniac features 20 poems, all of which have ‘mono’ in the title. The poems themselves sometimes seem a little removed thematically from the titles although I did find it helped my understanding of the poems to look up some of the titles in the dictionary.

Titles range from monosaccharide (any of the class of sugars (e.g., glucose) that cannot be hydrolyzed to give a simpler sugar) to monody (a poem lamenting a person’s death) but the poems themselves have several circular themes, including a huge monolith, daffodils and some kind of doctor prescribed pills.

Bates’ poems are accomplished and he has created a complex, believable world where things are not quite how he expects them to be. And for that matter the speaker’s behaviour is equally surreal. Indeed we are never quite sure if it is the speaker or the world that is at odds with the other.

As in all of Bates’ work, his use of enjambment is at the top of the game, giving double meaning, causing uncertainty and raising a smile.

“I’d like to leave my own body
of work beside these giants
of toilet wall artistry”
(monogragh)

Monosyllabic, as the title suggests, is a poem made up of one syllable words. For some reason I particularly enjoyed this piece.

The acknowledgements name Andrew McMillan, Caroline Bird and Roger Robinson as having helped Bates develop his unique style. His poems inhabit a similar universe to Kafka, Simic, Ian Seed and Msilocz, but he undoubtedly has his own voice, which he uses to create a world that is definitely worth your time to explore and get lost in.

Dirt by Dominic Leonard was the hardest of these pamphlets for me to get into. But I’m glad I stuck with these poems that are full of rich language and hyper real imagery. These are well constructed, thoughtful poems to be savoured, and I’m still getting to know this behemoth of a collection.

Early favourites include O, Enemy of the State, Death Poem and Whether Mortal Men May Attain True Happiness.

Leonard is an Oxford graduate with a love of medieval poetry, inspired by the likes of Chaucer and Biron. Leonard is clearly a well read guy and it comes across in this work.

There is a lot of meat packed into each poem. The work inhabits a world of kings and empires, of bloodshed and magic, in which Leonard is a sorcerer with a huge canon of classic poetry and literature at his fingertips.

One of my early favourites in Dirt is O, where Leonard seems to speak directly to the reader; where the world of the poem seems more like our own, and Leonard himself seems vulnerable and searching.

“i know the rooms within a scar…

its nights like these that make me wish i could do your cold job

for you . keeping the sky upright , washing the heavy hills.”

Similarly, in Whether Mortal Men May Attain True Happiness, Leonard seems to be in the modern world asking timeless questions

“I bite ice-cream with my
 front teeth & collect badly
 bound books because danger
 I adore you”

Dirt encompasses a range of topics, themes and styles, each poem existing in its own universe with its own rules, which is partly why it was initially difficult to find an anchor whilst reading through. But slowing down and taking on the poems one at a time, coming back to them several times, has been infinitely rewarding and enjoyable. The more time I spend with Dirt, and with individual poems within it, the more I am getting from it. These are poems which reward repeat visits. Poems which are mysterious to the point of being esoteric. Poems full of history, blood and horror.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who will feel a buzz of excitement as they open Honey Monster by Bobby Parker for the first time. Following on from 2018’s masterpiece Working Class Voodoo, Parker delivers a whopping 132 pages of his trademark kitchen sink surrealist beatnik stream of hollowed out thoughts. Where Working Class Voodoo dealt with Bobby’s personal and domestic demons (divorce, fatherhood, addiction and mental illness), Honey Monster seems to take on a more ethereal and worldly view. The poems are still confessional, personal exorcisms and tales of the tilted, jilted and heavily sedated, but at points Parker elevates out of his own predicament to speak truths about the human condition, our society and our species as a whole. It’s not glamorous or hopeful but through the sheer brutality and unreservedness of the text, as well as the zany humour and the surreal otherness of Parker’s view on life, it’s as enjoyable and exciting as any other poetry being written today, and the truths Parker imparts are just as hard hitting and head shifting as any other poet, shaman or seeker out there. Rather than quote particular lines or passages, I thought I’d give a few sample of first lines – partly as they stand as great lines in themselves, particularly in terms of immediately drawing you in, but also as the beauty of the poems is how Parker leads you through his nightmarish altered reality – I don’t think quoting last lines or lines midway through the poems will really do them justice.

“Six months before my daughter was born, my doctor/ introduced me to Benzodiazepines.” (Floating in the Harbour)

“The girl who raped me had a really nice mum…” (Spooky Jeans)

“What kind of hell planet is this?” (Sticky Legs)

“Depression is a bit like Tom Hanks” (I’m Going Over the Fence)

“The sausage looked so lonely in the chip shop window.” (Come Down (Three Bad Dreams))

“The bus is on fire again. I watch it burn as I make tea.” (A Haunting in Kidderminster)

At 132 pages the collection could be a bit tighter, but the ‘filler’ material is in a sense light relief from the intensity of the more stand out sections, and more poems just means you get to spend more time in Bobby Parker’s head, getting more value for money.

It’s not often a collection includes helpline numbers and a disclaimer warning. I’ve not really gone into how serious some of the topics are – I’d be here all day if I listed them out – but these topics are dealt with by someone who has experienced them first hand, speaks from his heart, and somehow creates beautiful, chaotic works of art out of the darkness. I hope he finds some light in his life and I hope he continues to create beautiful poetry for a long time, that all of us can appreciate and enjoy.

A book review of S.J. Fowler’s “Sticker Poems” review by Samuel Strathman

Sticker Poems by SJ Fowler

S.J. Fowler
STICKER POEMS
Trickhouse Press, 2021
Paperback, 126 pgs.

S.J. Fowler’s visual poetry collection, Sticker Poems (Trickhouse Press, 2021) is any childhood sticker fan’s dream.  The book is a compendium of our favorite stickers, as well as crafty new creations.  There are also many statements within the pages that are meant for humor as well as deeper thought.  A sticker book could not be a sticker book without repetition, but Fowler makes the repetition meaningful in the only way that a vispo (visual poetry) master can. 

The book has a lot of mixed media which helps to elevate the story told within its pages, and unlike his earlier book, Crayon Poems (Penteract Press, 2020) he keeps the mood light.  This is done through using bright visuals as well as different hypnotic mediums that help elevate his sticker world.  This would be considered an adult book by all accounts since there is cursing and violent language used in good fun, not to mention the grammatical errors which are not errors if they are done for creative purposes.  “for here. come I! to kiss arses” or “cuddliest & killingest…the great bear” being some of what is used.  These are short lines of text are oftentimes original as well as paying homage to many of the positive messages used in stickers.  “Make good use of Today” being one of them.  Many of the stickers like the menacing “Zero Medo” are rather menacing and add flavor and contrast to the child friendly stickers. 

Some of the new and exciting stickers that Fowler has created are new troll-like creatures, “Garbage Pail Kids,” colorful blot patterns, and other new and animal felt stickers.  Many of these images we would like to pick from the pages, and fortunately for us Fowler does allow us to take a few off the pages.

The trouble of being an amateur reviewer doing his second review is trying to decipher a storyline within “Stricker Poems.”  Visual poetry, like paintings or other artwork, is often more of a statement than a storyline to me.  After reading the essays by S.J. Fowler and David Spittle, I find that I have more questions and even less answers.  Besides using mixed media, drawings, and repetition I’m unsure as to the technique used here.  In the end, I rather not to try and evaluate the author’s school of thought.  It is better to sit back and enjoy the ride, and a wild one it is.  

Reviewer Bio

Samuel Strathman is a poet, visual artist, author, and custodian.  His poetry has appeared in Pulp Literature, I-70 Review, and Prole.  His debut poetry collection, “Omnishambles” is forthcoming with Ice Floe Press (2022).

%d bloggers like this: