Monday, August 29, 2005


Thomas Fink contributes some terrific shaped poems.
--Tom Beckett on SPORE

Thomas Fink is among the poets in the new SPORE edited by Crag Hill.

The poets in this issue of textual writing and visual poetry are:

Nico Vassilakis
Peter de Rous
Jukka-Pekka Kervinen
John Viera
Jnana Hodson
Rob McLennan
Andrew Topel
David Nemeth
Mike Basinski
Geof Huth
Jim Leftwich
Greg Evason
Guy Beining
Dan Waber
Harry Stammer
Mark Young
Bob Grumman
Tom Beckett
Tim Gaze
Harlan Ristau
John Perlman
John M. Bennett
Marton Koppany
Donna Kuhn
Reed Altemus
Jay Thomas
Thomas Fink
Delia Tramontina
Gustave Morin
Steve Dalachinsky
Harvey Steinberg
Arnold Skemer
Jilly Dybka
Josh May

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Marsh Hawk Press thanks ONE TRICK PONY for permission to reprint Frank Allen's review of three books by Rochelle Ratner, as follows:

ONE TRICK PONY Number Eleven: Winter '05
By Frank Allen


Practicing to be a Woman by Rochelle Ratner. Poets Now 2. Scarecrow Press. 1982. n.p.

Someday Songs: Poems toward a Personal History by Rochelle Ratner. BkMk Press. 1992. $9.50.

House and Home by Rochelle Ratner. Marsh Hawk Press. 2003. $15.00

These quiet complex poems don't seek the truth; they seek different kinds of truths. For Ratner varieties of truths are modes of self-expression, ways to articulate relationships between explicit surface and elusive depth, what is said and implied, how one connects to seashore or farmhouse, locale and heritage, "house and home."

People pass between stages of life, from birth, youth, adolescence, and sexuality to troubles of maturity to age with its health problems and finally death. Excitement of youth becomes obsessive memories as these narrators (Ratner's poems utilize diverse voices) bear witness to loss and time's ravages. Practicing to be a Woman is alive with youthful, transformative images. Someday Songs re-examines ceremony's mingled religious and social meaning. It's a book of family and divine "commandments" and exploration of the sacred in a secular society. In House and Home fragments of narratives, intercutting city and country locales, depict characters drawn between love and doubt. Practicing to be a Woman is a starting point for what terminates in Someday Songs, and events in House and Home are superimposed over Practicing to be a Woman. Rituals and family relationships of the later poems (more than twenty years separate the volumes) help us to fill in gaps between enigmatic lines of Practicing to be a Woman.

One kind of truth is where we begin. Practicing to be a Woman is a book about growing up in Atlantic City and along the New Jersey shore. Poems in the four collections in this volume, utilizing energetic and restless imagery, express Discovery of selfhood and an inventive inner life:

The most tender birthday
Begins fairly close to a forest...
Excited lobsters move on cardboard walls.
She would curl like a seagull in rain-clouds
But she hasn't been told about wetness.
Her hands bend in steam.

Despite excited movement of "lobsters," other poems, peering through "steam," try to get into focus constantly changing emotional distance between herself and others. "Person with a Mask On," purporting to be a sequence of childhood memories, describes the way an event takes on "distorting shape and form:"

I brought you're here
To show you parts of things.
We never think about landmarks.
Or if we do
We want them to be
The way that waves are.
Distorting shape and form.
Always of interest.

Ratner brings the reader to a locale or situation and shows "parts of things." Joining place and a relationship, a poem becomes a way of examining one's life, reaching a clearer understanding of the actuality of consciousness. Emotional landmarks, "always of interest," both explicit and illusionary, are, in fact, "the way that waves are./ Distorting shape and form." Family "landmarks" (weddings, anniversaries, reunions) become a starting point for many poems in House and Home. In the conventional sense a landmark functions like something by which we gain stability. Ratner overlays this surface meaning with an ominous awareness of change, of displeasure and indecision, so that a landmark takes on a divided association both tender and rough, receptive and diminishing. This duality is a central consideration in House and Home. Practicing to be a Woman explores meanings of gender ("I am caught in the act/ of being female," she says in "The Captive.") The idea of "practicing" suggests making rough drafts, revising and renovating, both life and how one writes about it.

Someday Songs presents another kind of truth, a relationship with tradition, one's family and ethnicity. Poems in this eloquent, somber volume strive to understand relationships embedded in ritual and family heritage. ("We were taught the rituals/ before we could understand them.") She seeks to redefine ritual so it can be adapted to critical needs of modern life. On one level Someday Songs, an introduction to celebrations of Judaism, expresses Ratner's response to ritual and text, Tevye's "the good book." Someday Songs (echoes of "Song of Solomon?) focus on crises of spirit of family and friends. ("I promise a poem for the healing/ but always something goes wrong," she says in "Sympathetic Magic"). The first part (ritual) and the second half (family) become a meditation on harvest, offerings, and sacrifice. ("The Shohet," about a ritual slaughterer, is a brilliant combination of surgIcally accurate description and compassion for victims.) These bittersweet "songs," like contemporary blessings, celebrating involvement with ancient ritual, comprise a poetic midrash, empathetic commentary on tradition, a re-imagining of ritualistic acts.

House and Home, another kind of truth, "building a life," depicts where we end up. ("House vs. home" might be a more appropriate title.) Going beyond disturbed imagery of Practicing to be a Woman and comforting ritual of Someday Songs, it explores significance of house (place) and home (family). Dark and troubled, unhappy narrators, starting and stopping abruptly, seek elusive fulfillment. The central idea is the way that place, rural or urban, influences and defines a family while a family endows place with emotional associations. Speakers try to live in the country or on a farm but are dismayed by rigors and sadness of the isolation of country life or they live in apartments which recurring imagery of looking out windows: "windows in this new apartment/ overlook an alley/ and it's mostly pitch dark/ even with the curtains open." City life is stimulating but, like the country, filled with distance between people and obstacles to love. Narrators, like people in an Edward Hopper painting, seem to be suspended in a void of self-absorption that is half contemplation and half loneliness. A house is a metaphor for selfhood; home is a metaphor for family bonds. As a house is held together by beams, rafters and walls, family is held together by celebrations. Renovation makes the old made new; destruction is what time inevitably does. In theory a way of establishing permanence, renovation, always unfinished, becomes an attempt to ward off confusion. Each poem is a miniature step in the arduous process of seeking to know one's self.

Many of Ratner's poems are about our emotional memory, half dream, half actuality, the clutter of consciousness. Immersed in privacy, characters or voices of characters, isolated from a locale but depending on it for emotional support, express painful ambivalence toward others: "I feel weightless, frightened,/ joyous. All these years/ I've felt my body split in two." Antagonism and hostility blend into friendship; lovers are companion and stranger, even rivals. In House and Home a couple (couples?) meet, fall in love, marry or live together and seek confirmation of a midlife relationship by counting anniversaries. Memory telescopes events so that they echo or re-create others as one apartment is superimposed over another. For example, in "Kitchen Window" two different apartments overlap twenty-five years apart. Although its surface content is something as simple as the desirability of having a window in a New York apartment, the implications of the imagery take an ominous turn:

... I notice the cord;
On our new maroon wood blinds
Is all tangled
Leave it be, you say,
We'll call someone to fix it
Almost daring me
To get it right, :
To salvage something of this day,
This week, this month
Between Mother's death and her birthday.

The "tangled" cord of the new blinds suggests tangled relationships and the way that awareness of loss becomes intertwined with places we live in. "To get it right" applies not only to the cord but the need to come to terms with a flux of emotions. "To salvage something of this day," what many of these poems confront, follows the motif of "practicing," or renovation, putting fragments into usable form in writing and one's life.

There is a "dream" of holding a life together, making it comprehensible, seeing implications of events separated by time. The "self" of these poems, often in solitude, never gives up on family, spouse, or love. These bonds guarantee nothing, but there seems little else to turn to — certainly not naive love of nature. Ratner seeks neither escape nor redemption. What has disappeared retains inescapable reality. The object of emotional attachment ("all that caring") seems to be to what's not present. To fill in blanks between lines and between poems, as it were, would be coercion of language and emotion. The goal is to "get it right," to "salvage" what is "old and abandoned, misleading." Still, as she concludes in "Months Along the Road," about living in the country and bearing witness to death, "I can't help dreaming, wanting more."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


The public is invited to the Bay Area Marathon --

TIME: Readings begin at 7pm
PLACE: The Lab, 2948 16th Street, San Francisco
(16th & Mission BART stop, then one block east on 16th)

READERS (listed alphabetically, not in order of appearance):
** Amber DiPietra, Geoffrey Dyer, Thomas Fink, Aaron Kiely, Kevin Killian, Standard Schaefer, Kish Song Bear, Tyrone Williams **

For more info, contact Donna de la Perriere & Joseph Lease at baypoetrymarathon@juno.com.

Friday, August 19, 2005


You are invited to:

The Marsh Hawk Press Launch for Fall Authors and Titles:




7-9 p.m.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Poets' House
72 Spring Street
New York City

Refreshments will be served.

(Thanks to Poets House for the use of the space as part of a special rental agreement)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Denise Duhamel To Be 2006 Marsh Hawk Press Contest Judge

Denise Duhamel will be judging the 2006 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Contest. Previous contest judges are Marie Ponsot and Gerald Stern.

Denise Duhamel's most recent poetry titles are Two and Two (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Mille et un sentiments (Firewheel, 2005) and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001). Her other titles include The Star-Spangled Banner, Kinky, and three collaborations with Maureen Seaton: Exquisite Politics, Oyl, and Little Novels. A winner of an NEA Fellowship in poetry, Duhamel is an associate professor who teaches poetry at Florida International University in Miami.


We thank Allen Bramhall for his recent notice of Eileen Tabios' Marsh Hawk Press books at his Tributary blog:

"I've been reading Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole by Eileen Tabios. a good sign with any poetry book for me, that the reading makes me want to write. not a competitive thing; rather, the reading opens up something for me. this book has made me want to join that energy to mine. the book also makes me want to write about it, e'en tho I've not read a great deal of it. I like rushing my reflections, like smearing the first layer of dirt off a dusty window. I see a lot of address in Eileen's work, and that includes in her blog, which I think I can say everybody has noticed, about her blog, that is (community as working structure of acceptance rather than the name of the angry dilettante (famous examples supplied on request)). she enters, endures, and gives forth. I find the writing adventuresome. this book is pretty chunky, to the tune of 120 something: well and good! her latest book, I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved is 500+ pages. for me, that is a hell of a selling point. I love big books!!! I recently wrote of Tom Beckett's minimilist proclivity, which I admire tho so foreign to my own floodgate pleasure of writing it all out. and my teacher, closest to a living mentor that I ever came to, Robert Grenier, tended toward smaller and smaller. even Eileen herself, with her hay(na)ku, shows willingness to pare to minimum. but I have a taste for expanse, not that it's a matter of choosing sides. and Eileen cranks it. I think maybe-ish of Bernadette Mayer, who spurs her writing energy forward in a particular trust of experiment. for that matter, Virginia Woolf's novels, each one a clearly defined what if I?. I don't know where I stand in the Official Standing of Experimenters, but I am at least conscious that something ought to keep moving. I mean you know, there's enough writers who think, what if I do this again and again, world without end?. I picture Eileen running to different wells, the attention of discovering furthermore. so here's just the mere alert of having read some of her book."

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