NEWEST RELEASES FROM THE BITTER OLEANDER PRESS
Ancient Maps and a Tarot Pack by Serena Fusek ($15.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-5-1
Winner of the 2018 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA)
Serena Fusek was born in New Jersey. When she was a child her family moved frequently, which gave her a sense of wanderlust. Her travels have taken her to Europe and across the United States and Canada. Some of the miles were traveled on the back seat of a motorcycle. She has been part of the small press scene since the 1980’s, publishing in such magazines as Poetry Motel, Impetus, Poet Lore, Semi Dwarf Quarterly, Chiron Review, The Bitter Oleander, Star-Line and Mythic Delirium among others. Twice she was nominated for a Rhysling, awarded by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Slipstream Press published her chapbook The Color of Poison and her first full length collection of poems, Alphabet of Foxes, was published by San Francisco Bay Press). In addition she has had several chapbooks from Skiffs Creek Press, including Miles Melt Like Winter and The Bike Let Loose about her motorcycle adventures. She served on the editor’s side of the desk with both Orphic Lute and Proof Rock. For Proof Rock she also wrote reviews of poetry publications. Today she co-hosts a poetry workshop and teaches a continuing education class in poetry. She is an amateur photographer. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, John, two cats and shelves crammed with too many books.
Alan Britt, who judged BOPLOPA-2018, commented: Creative minds experience resistance and encounter turmoil when trapped inside the confines of a utilitarian culture. Universal harmony suffers. So, what do some imaginations do? They write poems. Commenting on her poems in this book Serena Fusek confesses "a sense that there is something—perhaps something important—right next to me that I cannot see." She adds that her poems "rise as obsessions with ravens and angels," plus “how the light falls and stains the world with shadows." In short, Fusek, disenchanted with the status quo, rejects the mundane: "the sick snake of traffic / crawling slow as a clogged drain" and "in the attic, / chained to the rafters, / the angel screams / without sound" in favor of harmony with nature: "Here is my bed / with its rose quilt / and headboard woven of thorns. / I wander the deer trail." Her diction is sensitive when she says "eyes blue / as arctic snow at twilight" and "we sat by the window / watched petals brown / and curl / like burning paper." Along the way she wows with penetrating imagery: "shocks of light / sizzle down air / that stinks of incense / and iron." Fusek’s language is an electric current flowing beyond the profane and into the sacred. How apropos she ends her poem, "Prayer for Raven’s Return," with "I listen / for Raven's call / hoarse as the rasp / of an old man / spilling a lifetime's secrets / summoning me / to the blood feast / of poetry." Ancient Maps and a Tarot Pack is a sensitive and image rich journey through a private but shared universe. What a wonderful ride it is!
Forty-One Objects by Carsten René Nielsen ($18.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-4-4
translated from the Danish by David Keplinger
Carsten René Nielsen, born 1966, is a Danish poet and author of ten books of poetry and one book of flash fiction. His first book published in 1989 was awarded the Michael Strunge Poetry Prize. The prose poems Cirkler (Circles, 1998) won him critical acclaim throughout his native Denmark. Recent collections include the prose poems Enogfyrre dyr (Forty-One Animals, 2005), Husundersøgelser (House Inspections, 2008) and Enogfyrre ting (Forty-One Objects, 2017). He has won several fellowships from the Danish State Foundation for the Arts. In the United States two of his books in translation have been published: his selected prose poems, The World Cut Out with Crooked Scissors by New Issues in 2007, as well as the prose poems House Inspections, by BOA Editions in 2011, both books translated by David Keplinger. In 2014 a selection of Nielsen’s poems was published by EDB Edizioni in Italy under the title 8 animali e 14 morti. He lives in Aarhus, the second largest city of Denmark.
In his introduction, translator David Keplinger states that "it should be of little surprise to us that Nielsen's strangeness has been embraced—perhaps more than in Denmark—in the United States. His books have found a following here where a cerebral, Pythonesque silliness stands a chance to draw a crowd. Nielsen's archeological excavations, with its grown men in baby carriages, spider theaters, and sneezing trumpets, serve as antidote where politics have sickened us: the delusion of self-importance is momentarily washed away, and a clown sings from inside his barrel, rolling down a dark and lonely street."
Here's a most insightful review by John Tipton in the current issue (#98) for October 2019 of Plume:
The Stella Poems by Duane Locke ($14.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-3-7
Duane Locke was born in 1921 on a farm near Vienna, Georgia. His undergraduate work at the University of Florida led to his Masters studies on John Keats and set the foundation for his Doctoral thesis on the poetry of John Donne and Andrew Marvell. He received a PhD in English Renaissance Literature in 1958 and was Professor of English and Poet in Residence at the University of Tampa for over twenty years. At the University of Tampa, he edited three critically acclaimed journals of poetry, Poetry Review (1964-1971), UT Review (1972-1982), and Abatis (1983-1986). He taught courses on every period of poetry ranging from Old English to contemporary, with a concentration in contemporary European and Latin American poetry. Locke's poems have appeared in such journals as American Poetry Review, The Nation, The Literary Review, Kansas Quarterly, Black Moon, Ann Arbor Review, and The Bitter Oleander to name but a few. He has published over 7,000 different poems, 36 poetry collections, and appeared in numerous anthologies. He is listed in the Marquis Who's Who in America. He won four Poetic awards in one year: The Edna St. Vincent Millay award for the best sonnet of the year, the Charles Agnoff award for the best poem in Literary Review, Walt Whitman award issued by Poetry Society for best poem on Walt Whitman, and was awarded by a Swiss university for the best poem on Europe. He has also served on the Board of Directors of COSMEP; he was elected by nation-wide vote of poets to serve on CCLM Grants Committee. He is also a Nature Photographer and a visual artist. His work in is the permanent collections of museums, has been in hundreds of exhibitions and over 300 magazines as well as many book covers.
Still writing well beyond his 96th year, Duane Locke's most recent collection, The Stella Poems, invites the reader to accompany him through a thoughtful though sad journey across the landscape of our current trends and the reactions these trends have on our relationships not only with other human beings but with the wide-open natural world as well. As always, there is an impeccable imagery as Locke guides us through this natural world and we see for the first time what was right in front of us had we only opened our eyes. Which is also why we can always expect to be amazed. Though a twist on Sir Philip Sydney's Astrophel & Stella, Locke's ability to make contemporary the kind of love it takes to exist in this world is, as usual, exceptional.
The Little Book of Passage by Franca Mancinelli ($16.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-2-0
Translated from the Italian by John Taylor
Franca Mancinelli was born in Fano, Italy, in 1981. Her first two books of poetry, Mala kruna (2007) and Pasta madre (2013), were awarded several prizes in Italy. In 2018 appeared the original Italian edition of this new collection of prose poems, Libretto di transito. The Little Book of Passage represents the first appearance in English of writing that has made Mancinelli one of the most compelling voices in contemporary Italian literature. Her writing has been translated into Spanish, Arabic, and Slovene, and her first two books have been recently reprinted as A un’ora di sonno da qui (At an hour’s sleep from here) by Italic & Pequod..
The Little Book of Passage is the story of the crossing of an inner fault line, a travel diary through the territories of the psyche: presences close to disappearing and dreamlike atmospheres act as a deforming mirror in regard to the gestures and happenstances of everyday life. Allusiveness and precision, density and evanescence, are juxtaposed and integrated in this continuous attempt to focus on and pronounce the world. As in a rite of passage, Franca Mancinelli, who lets herself be visited by shadows, recomposes the fragments of an open identity, which has never abandoned the origin.
Remembrance of Water / Twenty-Five Trees by John Taylor ($21.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-1-3
In collaboration with the paintings of Caroline François-Rubino
John Taylor, born in 1952, is an American writer, critic, and translator who has lived in France since 1977. His most recent books of poetry and short prose are If Night is Falling (Bitter Oleander Press), The Dark Brightness (Xenos Books), and Grassy Stairways (The MadHat Press). As a translator, he has won grants and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sonia Raiziss Charitable Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets. In 2015, his translation of José-Flore Tappy’s poetry (Sheds, Bitter Oleander Press) was a finalist for the National Translation Award of the American Literary Translators Association. For the Bitter Oleander Press, he has also translated generous selections of the poetry of Jacques Dupin (Of Flies and Monkeys, 2011) and Pierre Voélin (To Each Unfolding Leaf, 2017). His other recent translations include books by Philippe Jaccottet, Pierre-Albert Jourdan, Pierre Chappuis, Catherine Colomb, Georges Perros, Alfredo de Palchi, and Lorenzo Calogero.
The poetic sequences in this book have all stemmed from collaborative projects with the French artist Caroline François-Rubino. As with our earlier books, sometimes a sequence of poems has stimulated a series of drawings; at other times, it is a series of paintings that has provoked poetic responses.
Moreover, some of our joint efforts originally appear in unusual handmade forms. A few poems in this book were first used, alongside an ink drawing or a watercolor painting by the artist, as "livres pauvres," an international project conceived by Daniel Leuwers and associated with a special collection at the Pierre de Ronsard House near Tours. As to the sequence Remembrance of Water, it was conceived as a "livre unique," in other words a single book consisting of both poems and original drawings. In some cases, we have initially agreed upon a general theme: "trees," for instance, with the result that, in this book, the poems are often (but not always) linked to my American childhood memories, whereas the drawings take their inspiration from the artist's own emotions about trees intimately related to her life in France. Trees, like some of the other subject matter dealt with here—water (and memory), the haunting word "ever," or a "last" element of nature: to wit, another tree—provoke thoughts and feelings which may differ in their sources but which ultimately enter into dialogue.
Whatever the impetus of the collaboration, our goal is indeed dialogue, not illustration. Whence the underlying wish that these poems and images be appreciated on their own terms as well as in their interrelation.
Night Farming in Bosnia by Ray Keifetz ($12.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-0-6
Winner of the 2017 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA)
Night Farming in Bosnia is Ray Keifetz's first collection of poetry to be published in a standard edition. This year's judge of the competition, Silvia Scheibli, remarked: Ray Keifetz obviously has a great passion for language, image & depth perception. His ability to maintain intense feelings throughout his poems & yet bring some restraint to his language in order not to give in to the all encompassing terror he could have written is amazing. He uses nature to make his suffering bearable, yet it is just this insight into nature which makes his language so poignant. In fact, every poem starts with a light observation of some daily occurrence yet this immediately falls under his spell. His mature use of language is evident in every line. Everything around him bends to his vision. Incredible talent. I am impressed with his strength of words that invoke his suffering, yet not make it his goal. The poems stand above his suffering.
Starting in the Northeast, Ray Keifetz has crisscrossed the country multiple times and currently resides in Northern California. Along the way he attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, lived in Italy for a year, took up furniture building, and fell in love with words. His poems and stories have appeared in The Ashland Creek Press, Bitter Oleander, Briar Cliff Review, Kestrel, The Louisville Review, Other Voices and more and have twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. "Night Farming In Bosnia", his first poetry collection, grew out of the calamitous ending of the 20th century and the equally dark beginning of the 21st.
Keifetz’s precise, straightforward language articulates without usurping the voices of suffering, bewildered people who pay "the unbelievable price" for others' everyday privileges. In an era of staggering cruelty, these gentle lyrics celebrate bravery and compassion: "We must follow in full light/ or no light/ the gaze of the trees/ down to the river," the final poem admonishes. The natural world still offers lessons for the sorrowing "of their vaunted patience,/ that resignation of... rootedness"; cycles of loss and resilience demand our sensitivity but need no further drama. With patience and sensitivity, Night Farming in Bosnia tenderly enlightens us that knowing and caring about others isn't only an obligation; it's also our reward.
--—Elizabeth Savage, author of Idylliad
Kissing the Bee by Lara Gularte ($14.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-7-5
Kissing the Bee is Lara Gularte's first and long overdue collection of poetry to be published in a standard edition. To gain access to the significance of her poetry requires an understanding of the poet's cultural heritage out of whose true diaspora of Portuguese and Lusophone speaking people molded her perception as a poet. Born in 1947 in San Jose, California where she grew up, her family came from the Azore Islands to look for gold in California during the 1800s and 1900s. Failing to find gold and "strike it rich," her family turned to ranching to make a living. Her great, grandmother Maria Cabral-Neves, came to Fort Jones, California as a mail-order bride during this period, and today her homestead, remains a local landmark. Lara has memories as a young girl of her great grandmother telling her stories about the old country. As an adult she became curious about her heritage and explored family history. In so doing, she used the writing of poetry as a means to express what she learned about her family and culture.
Lara is a member of a Facebook discussion group called Presence/Presença. Named by Frank X. Gaspar, the group formed in June 2011 at the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal, in response to the relative absence of Luso-American voices in contemporary letters. Presence/Presença provides a community for North American writers of the Portuguese and Lusophone diaspora. This diaspora includes those with roots in Lusophone countries such as Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau, and Galicia, as well other regions where Portuguese have migrated. Lara's poetic work depicting her Azorean heritage is included in a book of essays called Imaginários Luso-Americanos e Açorianos by Vamberto Freitas. Her work can be found in The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. She was a resident poet at Footpaths to Creativity Writer's Residency and Retreat on the island of Flores in the Azores, where her maternal grandfather was born.
Lara earned an MFA degree from San Jose State University where she was a poetry editor for Reed Magazine, received the Anne Lillis Award for Creative Writing, and several Phelan Awards. She was a second prize poetry contest winner for Empirical Magazine's 2012 contest, and nominated by Bitter Oleander Press to Best New Poets 2010. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Bitter Oleander, California Quarterly, The Clackamas Review, Evansville Review, The Monserrat Review, Permafrost, The Water-Stone Review, The Fourth River, The Santa Clara Review, and she has been published by many national and regional anthologies. She is currently an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine.
Reading Lara Gularte's poetry is to be aware of how thematic and formal consistency creates a personal canon, becoming then part of a language and cultural heritage of the country from which it comes. This is a poetry testifying our perpetual search for self, and also an eloquent voyage in search of inner liberation as it gathers or recomposes our own past. Her poetry is consistently one of great erudition, sensuality, and Catholicism’s role within the Portuguese-American presence in the United States. It is at times an excavation of a cold and frozen terrain, an attempt to reclaim all the homelands of our historical destiny.
--Vamberto Freitas, University of the Azores
Wondering the Alphabet by Roderick Martinez ($30.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-9-9
Like every alphabet, the origin of ours is vast and complex. It has grown from a determination of grunts and yelps of joyous wonder, through hollow reed pens pressed onto delicate papyrus, rubbed in ink across wood block carvings, shuffled around moveable type, all the way up to how our current hand-held devices and their design applications deliver us a constant barrage of typefaces, fonts and spatial designs. This book was written with that in mind as well as from a perspective of those writers, readers and designers who have spent their whole lives, in one way or another, focused on all the alphabet provides. Not only is there a chronology of our alphabet tracing graphically its changes over time, but this text also includes and combines tanka poems by twenty-six credited poets, each facing a visually translated composition of their work graphically rendered in full color by Roderick Martinez. In addition to these texts and graphics, every poet included has written his or her subjective thoughts about a specific letter assigned to them totally by chance. The beauty of these visual translations face to face with each poem, creates a most unique and heretofore unseen correspondence between both art forms. Each enhances the other, becomes a part of the other, allows for all ends to open up and flow between the two. Possibilities become infinite and Martinez's vision along with these twenty-six gracious poets, is both a sight to see and read!
For more information, go to wonderingthealphabet.com
Roderick Martinez has a MFA in graphic design from the Rochester Institure of Technology where he studied under R. Roger Remington. He has worked as a corporate graphic designer and creative director/designer for agencies in New York, before starting his own visual communications firm in 1998. His designs have won regional, national, and international awards. He has taught graphic design, advertising design, and psychology of advertising at Cazenovia College and is the current program coordinator and tenured associate professor of communications design at Syracuse University. He has served as faculty advisor of the Syracuse University AIGA (American Institite of Graphic Arts) student chapter. He has lectured on a range of design topics both regionally and nationally. Martinez has been awarded several Chancellor's Awards for Public Engagement and Scholarship. These awards recognize that his classes exemplify the highest ideal of sustained, quality engagement at Syracuse University. Roderick is a wonderer.
Shatter the Bell in My Ear by Christine Lavant ($18.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-8-2
translated from the German by David Chorlton
Born in 1915 on July the fourth, Christine Thonhauser (Lavant) was the ninth child of a miner, Georg, and his wife, Anna, and grew up in poverty. While the poetry she was later to write contained the language of spirituality, the pain she described in it came from actual conditions which she suffered: scrofula and tuberculosis of the lungs. Being disadvantaged in health also meant she could not complete her education as intended. Unable to do hard physical work, she earned a living with knitting and weaving until she gained a reputation as a writer. Along with these health problems, she had depression to endure. Poor hearing or blindness in her poetry were not conjured metaphors for a general condition. For example, the first stanza of a poem from Spindel im Mond:
Shatter the bell in my ear,
slash the knot in my throat,
warm my strangled heart
and ripen my eyeballs.
——David Chorlton, from his introduction
As with Rilke and Dickinson, Lavant addresses herself only to the highest tribunal. In her dark night, she lays bare what is most essential and most human. In this way, her work exists outside of time, and is always heralding the news of our raw incarnation. Written at the advent of an uncertain age, Lavant continues to accompany us with her fierce interrogations—which will also endure long after us—in these elegant translations by David Chorlton.
--Ellen Hinsley, Update on the Descent
To Each Unfolding Leaf by Pierre Voélin ($25.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-6-8
translated from the French by John Taylor
This book offers a representative selection of Pierre Voélin's poetry, ranging from his early books Sur la mort brève (On Brief Death, 1984) and Les Bois calmés (The Calmed Woods, 1987) to recent works such as Y. (Y., 2015) and Des voix dans l'autre langue (Voices in the Other Language, 2015). In other words, since La Nuit osseuse (The Bony Night) section of On Brief Death was written during the years 1976-1980, this Selected Poems spans four decades and reveals the Swiss poet's recurrent themes of amorous exaltation (and loss), an individual's relationship to nature (and especially to a rural environment), the possibilities of a spiritual quest in the contemporary world, as well as the writer's role (or vulnerability) with respect to political iniquity or persecution. Up to now, Voélin has remained very little known in English-speaking countries.
Yet he is one of the most important figures in contemporary Swiss francophone poetry. Born in 1949 in the village of Courgenay and then raised in the nearby small town of Porrentruy, both of which are located in the hilly Jura region of Switzerland, Voélin is a key poet in a generation that also comprises Frédéric Wanderlère (b. 1949), François Debluë (b. 1950), José-Flore Tappy (b. 1954), and Sylviane Dupuis (b. 1956). It is a generation that has sometimes chosen thematic directions differing from those taken by their Swiss mentors, namely Anne Perrier (b. 1922), Philippe Jaccottet (b. 1925) and Pierre Chappuis (b. 1930), and that has conceived new poetics to continue to question man's place in the cosmos.
——John Taylor, from his introduction
Call Me When You Get to Rosie's by Austin LaGrone ($12.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-5-1
Winner of the 2016 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA)
Winner of the 2016 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA). Call Me When You Get to Rosie's by Austin LaGrone is a small package of poems which exudes a swollen intensity towards life and how it's immeasurably encountered the poet. Everything is in play for LaGrone, as in the back-cover comment by the poet Ronnie Yates: "These poems—an efflorescence of rogues, carnies, workers and mystics, all brandishing the ordinary talismans of the last junk shop in the Marigny, poems, which, as Austin once told me, he writes then whittles down to chicken bones—speak in the tongues of men and angels and strumpets in kimonos patrolling sun-lit prison yards, poems which radiate, rot and stink sweet among their reedy contemporaries. Austin tells us where we can find him, he's with her 'in the back pocket of the Oldsmobile.' 'I want to poke her with a cheap umbrella,' he admits, 'beneath a mutual communion of stars.' He'll poke you and you'll look up to receive the bread of the body and sidereal wine."
Puppets in the Wind by Karl Krolow ($21.00) ISBN # 978-0-9883525-7-5