Poets Wear Prada is a poetry publishing house with excellent poets and affordable books with beautiful covers. Have you had your poetry today?--Meredith Sue Willis, Books for Readers * * * Stylistically, these beautifully designed and produced chapbooks bear their own distinctive signature.--Linda Lerner, SMALL PRESS REVIEW

Friday, December 1, 2017

2018 Pushcart Nominations


C/O Roxanne Hoffman
533 Bloomfield Street, Second Floor
Hoboken, New Jersey 07030
201.253.0561

November 30, 2017

PUSHCART PRESS
P.O. Box 380
Wainscott, NY 11975

RE: Nominations for the 2018 Pushcart Prize

Dear Bill Henderson:

Here are our six nominations for the 2018 Pushcart Prize:

Author / Book

Title of Poem / Story / Chapter

Daniela Gioseffi
Waging Beauty: As the Polar Bear Dreams of Ice
Vases of Wombs”
Daniela Gioseffi
Waging Beauty: As the Polar Bear Dreams of Ice
Some Slippery Afternoon”
Jason Morphew
what to deflect when you’re deflecting
Evangelical Christianity”
Iris N. Schwartz
My Secret Life with Chris Noth: And Other Stories
The Light Show”
Iris N. Schwartz
My Secret Life with Chris Noth: And Other Stories
My Secret Life with Chris Noth”
Patricia Carragon
The Cupcake Chronicles
Saturday After Midnight, August 5, 2023”



Thanks for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,


Roxanne Hoffman, Publisher/Editor

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Appel à textes poétiques : Poésie de l’amour et de la paix


533 BLOOMFIELD STREET, SECOND FLOOR — HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY — TELEPHONE 201.253.0561

Appel à textes poétiques : Poésie de l’amour et de la paix
Echéance : 15 mars 2018

Hoboken, le 15 Novembre 2017

Messieurs et Mesdames les Poètes de la France;

Les éditions Poets Wear Prada, maison dédition américaine, lancent, sous la direction de John Edward Cooper, un appel à textes poétiques écrits par des poètes de la France sur le thème de lamour et de la paix. Les poèmes sélectionnés seront publiés en français avec traductions en anglais américain dans une anthologie bilingue, en ligne et imprimée, pour le public américain.
Pour commencer, nous vous invitons à vous exprimer sur le 1er sous-thème « l’amour n’a pas de frontières ». Dans les mots de William Butler Yeats : « Il n’ya pas d’étrangers ici mais simplement des amis
» que vous n’avez pas encore rencontrés. »
Ouvert à tous les poètes de la France. Les contributions doivent être rédigées en français. Oeuvres non publiées uniquement. Envoyer un maximum de trois poèmes. Les poèmes soumis ne doivent pas dépasser 40 lignes. Les contributions doivent être accompagnées d’une note biographique d’environ 100 mots. Ne pas oublier votre nom et vos coordonnées : prénom, nom, adresse postale, mail, et téléphone. Et éventuellement votre nom d’auteur (vrai nom ou nom de plume).
Toutes les contributions devront être envoyées pour le 15 mars 2018 à John Edward Cooper (jack@poetswearprada.com) et Roxanne Marie Hoffman (roxy@poetswearprada.com) avec pour sujet
« Soumission : + votre nom de l’auteur ».

Consignes :
  • Chaque poème devra être transmis sous format .doc, .docx, .odt ou .rtf exclusivement, et comporter obligatoirement un titre.
  • Police Times New Roman, taille 12, interligne simple, marges de 2 cm partout.
  • Au début de chaque poème soumis, indiquez : votre nom d’auteur (vrai nom ou nom de plume), vos coordonnées (adresse postale, mail, et téléphone), le titre du poème, nombre de signes (espaces compris).

Il est demandé une exclusivité de soumission, c’est-à-dire que les textes qui seront soumis à cet appel ne devront pas être proposés à d’autres supports (concours, revues, anthologies…), tant que l’auteur n’aura pas reçu de réponse à sa proposition.
Les auteurs gardent les droits et la propriété intellectuelle des textes publiés. Les auteurs ne sont pas rémunérés pour leur contributions. Ils recevront un exemplaire gratuit et bénéficieront également dune réduction sur chaque exemplaire acheté (jusqu’à dix exemplaires par auteur.)
Alors, à vos plumes et claviers !

Mme. Roxanne Marie Hoffman
Rédacteur en chef

Friday, September 15, 2017

Praise for Have You Seen CindySleigh? by Diane Stiglich

Reprinted from Mom Egg Review, Book Reviews, August 26, 2017 



Have You Seen CindySleigh? & Other Stories by Diane Stiglich


Review by Lara Lillibridge


Diane Stiglich, a writer and painter in Hoboken, New Jersey, captivates readers with her debut novel. A quick read at 134 pages, it is officially three interconnected stories, but they flow into each other so seamlessly that it feels like one continuous tale.

A dreamlike work of magical realism, Have You Seen CindySleigh? takes us down many unexpected paths, filled with randomly appearing bottles of champagne, iPods, and a truck named Karen. We encounter a priest, gods, demons, and shape-shifting animals. In what feels like a dream within a dream, The Author herself appears to defend Cindy from El Diablo. “I, like you, sir, have no actual spoken name. I am referred to as the Author” (53).

It is as if we have entered a painting and it has come alive:

In her mind, she creates a drawing, a self-portrait, graphite on paper: in a frontal stance, perfectly calm and normal, although her chest is open to expose her heart. No bone, muscle, or skin protect it from all of the feelings and emotions that spin around her like a whirlwind. This self-image make sense. In it, as throughout her entire life, her eyes are askew. (25)

This feeling that we have wandered onto a canvas is refined as the chapter progresses: “Details of Van Gogh paintings have been recreated on each wall; Starry Night swirls across the ceiling” (27).

This is reinforced again further on: “The empty space with a moving shadow, so much like a moving painting. Sand made a great negative space for the shape and figure of Cindy’s shadow as she danced in the desert” (55).

It is a story of transition, acceptance, and desire. As CindySleigh tells Mephistopheles,

I am a virgin of sorts, for no matter how many lovely, sordid sexual things I have done in this lifetime, I could never create a child…Vases are beautiful in and of themselves, but there is something so much better when they are filled with flowers: even one flower would make all the difference. (60-61)

CindySleigh is given a demon child, called D.C., whom she tries to love into domesticity, but he is feral, shape-shifting and untamable. Yet the fulfillment of this desire is not the end of the story, but rather only one path it takes.

The book is a dream-like art-come-to-life world, where there are truths that are as immutable in this reality as in the one on the page, and stumbling across these truths is as if we find something solid to hold onto—grasping a rock after clawing at clouds:

One conundrum in life is that one can simply not go back. You can never go back to the way anything was, and what you remember rarely ever proves to be what was, anyway. (64)

This loss cannot be found; this loss cannot be replaced. When you feel this non-feeling, your body takes on a surreal lightness. That is the numb. Yet, there also is a deep heaviness that gives all movement the sensation of stretching limbs though earth rather than air. (86)

I don’t read much magical realism. I found the story hard to describe but achingly beautiful: “Pieces of pain were scattered about in the form of a broken mirror” (116). I felt a connection to CindySleigh as if I had entered someone else’s dream and dreamt it myself—the swirls of emotion and imagery lingered long after I closed the book.

Have You Seen CindySleigh? & Other Stories
by Diane Stiglich

Poets Wear Prada, 2016, $20.00
[paper] ISBN 9780997981117
134 pp



Lara Lillibridge recently won both Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest and The American Literary Review’s Contest in Nonfiction. Lara’s memoir will debut in fall of 2017 with Skyhorse Publishing. Some of her work can be found on her website: http://www.laralillibridge.com/.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Praise for Daniela Gioseffi and Waging Beauty: As the Polar Bear Dreams of Ice

Reprinted from Washington Independent Review of Books, Poetry Reviews, June 23, 2017


 



June 2017 Exemplars: Poetry Reviews by Grace Cavalieri

A monthly feature that looks at books of and about poetry.


The Best Poetry to Begin SUMMER
The Half-Finished Heaven, Selected Poems by Tomas Tranströmer, translated from the Swedish by Robert Bly. Graywolf Press. 118 pages.
Scribbled in the Dark by Charles Simic. Ecco. 72 pages.
Miss August by Nin Andrews. Cavankerry Press. 105 pages (with a kick-ass writer’s note at the end).
Resurrection Biology by Laura Orem. Finishing Line Press. 56 pages.
Inside Outside by Sue Silver. New Academia Press. 52 pages.
Waging Beauty: As the Polar Bear Dreams of Ice by Daniela Gioseffi. Poets Wear Prada. 38 pages.
Getting Ready to Travel by Llewellyn McKernan. Finishing Line Press. 33 pages.
Just Universes by Diana Smith Bolton. L+S Press. 31 pages.
The Apollonia Poems by Judith Vollmer. The University of Wisconsin Press. 88 pages.
Plus: Best Anthology, and Seven Other Books of Poems on June’s Best-of List.

+++++++++++++++++


Waging Beauty: As the Polar Bear Dreams of Ice by Daniela Gioseffi. Poets Wear Prada. 38 pages.

Gioseffi was marching, protesting, fighting and writing ever since people were painting pickets. She’s always used her ability to activate and stimulate. This book is no disappointment in her long canon of work. People need their history and Gioseffi has dedicated her life to making that an honorable one. More than ever, she shows that political writing is lyrical, imagistic and vulnerable. Far from the rant attributed to words that want to make change. “Big Hearted, Witty, and Wide Eyed” ends, “paint, sing, taste everything lawfully possible, / and help save the kids from Climate Crisis, / because you still have some hours left.” The poem “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” credits its folkloric origins in a high-flying poem that pierces the facade of a Pop Culture that kills instead of cultivates. In a standout stanza, Where have all the young girls — young boys — / gone? / In uniform / everyone?” Gioseffi proves her emotional connection to the future, in poetic structure, from a lifetime of good writing.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Praise for The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost by Michael T. Young

Reprinted from Entropy, May 31, 2016

The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost by Michael T. Young

The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost by Michael T. Young
Poets Wear Prada Press, 2014
88 pages – PWP / Amazon

by Therése Halscheid
 

Titles lure us to books. They serve as a grounding cord, to situate us in a particular location or overarching theme. They establish a mindset to navigate content. This is what happened to me while reading Michael T. Young’s collection: The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost.

In Young’s title, the abstract noun lost is concretized in poems that depict the poet as a wanderer in both familiar and foreign locations. The poem “A Method of Escape” exemplifies this:
Whenever we go for a walk you ask
where we are going and I think, 
Eventually, where we started.                                         
Young then encourages us to step off the cyclical path. He invites us to get lost during walks in a familiar place. For the poet, spontaneity reveals unexpected treasures. “Never let the usual expectations plot the course,” he writes.
… let the time between be unplanned,
as uncharted as the charted urban streets we allow….
In other poems lost represents a psychological state as in lost in thought, the meandering mind. Or lost in the sense of questioning who we are. Lost turns to loss when it captures the powerlessness one feels when confronted with illness and the death of a loved one, or events over which we have no control.

And there are other meanings, unusual interpretations for lost, such as becoming lost through language, through something as miniscule as a six-letter word. In the poem “The Word ‘Anyway’” the poet examines how “anyway” works as a detour, which sets him off course: “like a ramp off the highway leading me somewhere else,” which inevitably takes him “in another direction, though not, / necessarily, in a better one….”

The second abstract word in Young’s title is beautiful. For me, the word is representative of the poet’s consciousness. It is not the journey itself, but the way he sets off through uncharted terrain that is reflective of an enlightened mind. For the poet, lost paths are meaningful if we remain open to what they present. In this sense lost is what happens, but beauty is the approach. This is this writer’s path, when exploring themes of life and death, physical and mental landscapes.

Young is a lyric poet. He is adept at image making. The “oak’s bare branches lurch / into the winter air” while “puddles release their smallest / reflections.” Certain images act as a gong. They reverberate long after our eyes move on, to another page, as in these lines of “Random Note”:
… where I sit on the bench, shade slips over me like a hood,
and I’m whisked off, abducted by the day’s closing minions….
What I also admire about this collection is cadence. Many poems share a rhythm of ease that leads us from one moment to the next. It is obvious that Young is a careful crafter. Poems are mapped out using intentional line breaks — end-stopped or enjambed. And this creates a steady walk through words. Even the overall tone does not carry the voice of someone frantic and lost. Instead the poet winds his way through endless territory, skillfully as his use of enjambment. He speaks of this in “The Continuous Thread” when he writes: “One thing leads endlessly to another. / Even if this street is a dead end, / it will continue in a different fashion…”

Young’s book holds to this premise: where one is led to, one is led to observe. In his signature poem “The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost,” he addresses this: “The secrets of a place are in its small streets, / its narrow passages…” (49). Traveling like this, even that which we tend to avoid can seem profound. As in the poem “Slug”:
Watching his deliberate movement, I forgot
he was a name we give each other in contempt.
What I noticed was his strange beauty and slow power,
and what in me refuses to be rushed….
Moving purposely, willfully, the poet remains a lifelong voyager but without a definite map. What he encounters he accepts. In “As Is” the poet shares “even before I recognize these things / for what they are, /everything is / as it should be.”

In “Eyewitness,” while crossing the Hudson River on a ferryboat, he ponders:
… I would like to think, in spite of it,
that my inner vision is sharper
as if age alone could teach me the apostle’s words
to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’
This is what Young aspires to. Faith is required to journey in ways that are foreign. Faith helps us move through the unfamiliar — that we might come out of it, changed. In his poem “Directions” the poet relies on this belief:
Our heads tilt in a slow nod or shake;
our eyes cross figures in the air
writing a tenuous language that seems to say
there is no backward or forward,
no behind or ahead, only movement
from character to character, from stop to stop,
in books, on trains, in memory….
This is the message that Young leaves us with. The poet is first lured into the world “thrilled by the risk and uncertainty.”  He then gathers strength, as he says, “from the pleasure / of wondering if I would make it home.”



unnamedTherése Halscheid’s latest book Frozen Latitudes (Press 53), won the Eric Hoffer Book Award, Honorable Mention for Poetry. Other collections include Uncommon Geography,Without Home and a Greatest Hits chapbook award. Poems and essays have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Tampa Review, Sou’wester, Natural Bridge, among others. Recent awards include first in Welcome Table Press’s Creative Nonfiction contest. By way of house-sitting she has been writing on the road for several years. Her photography chronicles her journey, and has been in juried shows. Poems in Frozen Latitudes recount her time in the Arctic north where she lived with and taught the Inupiaq of Alaska. See www.ThereseHalscheid.com.

Book Reviews: Patricia Carragon reviews Carol Wierzbicki’s Top Teen Greatest Hits for GLR



 

Reprinted from Gently Read Literature, January 1, 2010

The Regrettable Passage: Patricia Carragon on Carol Wierzbicki’s Top Teen Greatest Hits

Carol Wierzbicki, Top Teen Greatest Hits, Poets Wear Prada Press


For me, adolescence was the regrettable passage from childhood to the demands of hormones and higher education. For Carol Wierzbicki, it became the Top Teen Greatest Hits, an intriguing collection of poems published by Poets Wear Prada Press (2009). Ms. Wierzbicki is tough and sensitive. She writes as if she were an observer during her rite of passage, even stepping back when she was five and six, taking in situations and translating growing pains into mini stories. Mundane occurrences, whether sad or funny, are refreshing to read, filled with insight and lessons.
For instance, in New Name (for Mom), the six-year-old Carol requested her mother to call her Lisa. Her mother said:
Would you like a glass of milk … Lisa?Are you going outside now … Lisa?
And Carol wrote:
Mom gives me time to chafe at the name
that has begun to rub spots on my psyche
raw. She doesn’t quit
until I tell her to abandon it.
Her mother was teaching her the value of being at peace with one’s name and self, which is not an easy lesson for either child or adult to absorb. Carol writes this without being sentimental or coy. Her words are simple and her metaphors work. You feel the harsh rubbing on her psyche’s sore spots—a lesson being learned.

Another example is the poem, "Dorothy’s Poem (for Dorothy Friedman). " Although this excellent piece was dedicated to Ms. Friedman, Carol makes you feel it’s universal. I can relate to this. We, in many ways, are little amputated people walking around and the past is not black-and-white nor sepia tone. But the train is our home—life moves to the next station and we learn to laugh or cry at the passing scenery, knowing that rules make no sense.

Carol Wierzbicki’s Top Teen Greatest Hits is a big hit. In each of her fourteen poems, Ms. Wierzbicki mastered the technique of storytelling through perception and simplicity—her rite of passage to be read and shared by all.




* * *

Patricia Carragon is a New York City poet and writer. Her publications include Poetz.com, Rogue Scholars, Poets Wear Prada, Best Poem, Big City Lit, CLWN WR, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Clockwise Cat, Ditch Poetry Magazine, Mobius the Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly, Marymark Press, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. Patricia hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of the annual anthology.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Praise for Simon Perchik and The B Poems



Reprinted from Sentinel Literary Quarterly, April-June-2017, p. 70 - 71

The B Poems
Author: Simon Perchik
Publisher: Poets Wear Prada
ISBN: 9 78 - 0692450697
Reviewer: Mandy Pannett

In his article "Magic, Illusion and Other Realities," published in Sentinel Literary Quarterly, October 2016, Simon Perchik offers a definition of poetry as "words that inform the reader of that which cannot be articulated ... Text need not always have a meaning the reader can explicate ... it informs, as does music, without what we call meaning." In The B Poems we see this philosophy put into practice: the book is non-linear, the poems may be read in any order, there is no apparent direction or meaning, everything is "Just below the surface" as we sense " the endless under and under." These are ideas that particularly appeal to me. I love the concept of the poet’s subconscious interacting with that of the reader. It feels similar to Emily Dickinson’s maxim "Tell all the truth but tell it slant" -- but with Simon Perchik there is no "telling." He allows words to align, associate , suggest, juxtapose, connect themselves to an infinite variety of emotions and experiences. As he says in the poem B6, "the earth leans against you / from inside, starts its turn / hand over hand." There are many examples of associations and juxtapositions in The B Poems. Some I particularly appreciate are:

"the way every star / smells from dying winds and grass"

"the way this tiny rock / is pulling you closer / wingtip to wingtip / is swallowing you / as if one by one / its feathers had opened"

"what makes the door shriek / is just its darkness reaching out / for crumbs, hungry, terrified"

Then there is this verse which I’ll quote in full:

Its ink is heavier at night
though you can still hear the hum
from some sea already faint
when sunlight too was blac
lost, floated lifeless


Associations in this collection interweave, repeat and echo. Through all the poems there are images of rain, tombstones, dirt , graves, circles, arms, lips, wind, waves, sky, sun , blossom and shadow -- a great deal of shadow. There is a sense of something incomplete, reflected, glimpsed and soon vanishing. Here It is "half nightfall, half / no longer warm"; we learn that "you die / in two places at the same time"; in an image of rowing a boat one is moved "left, right, swinging your arms / half moonlight, half almost makes out / the words rising from empty shells." This shadow is constant and always "half/reaching out, breaking loose."

Simon Perchik's poems strikes me as exceptionally original. Not only are they written without a narrative or apparent theme but, apart from the enigmatic Bs, they have no titles to lead the reader in a predetermined direction. In his other collections verses form an even looser sequence, delineated only by asterisks. The writing is seamless, musical and rhythmically hypnotic, syntactically ambiguous and sounds intriguingly out of kilter to the ear:

... and what you swallow
is already shoreline

huddled around this table
and your lips in the open
the way small stones are left
to help the dead wander back
as the dim light they make
and any moment now.
The mood is sad in The B Poems. There is grief at "your mouth / no longer lit for kisses / and songs about nothing" and the bleakness of death surrounds everything in "a mist / half ice, half crushed between/the first caress and darkness."  There is such poignancy in the scene where "after the funeral / you drown in the row by row / where each photograph is overturned / shaken loose from the family album." These are the dead who don’t know they are dead who are still "holding hands / and what’s left they share / as memories ... for the grandchildren you almost forgot ... they mix up dates and places ... form a circle / as if they still expect to sing out loud / and you would hear it ..." Yet these are visionary poems which of fer the chance to repair, and heal, to make whole. At the end, the poet suggests, the unfinished will be made complete in ‘that slow love song/ from before the sun grew huge’ and there will be a reuniting with the other half, the double, the twin --

... in the darkness
that belongs to you both.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Praise for Your Infidel Eyes by Brant Lyon

Your Infidel Eyes 
by Brant Lyon
Poets Wear Prada ($12)

Poetry can be a very ephemeral business. That’s why it is a pleasure to see a tenth anniversary edition of Brant Lyon’s chapbook Your Infidel Eyes from Poets Wear Prada.

It is also quite poignant, since Lyon died in 2012, after putting out another fine poetry collection called You Are White Inside. He was also an influential poet and editor on the New York City scene, helping to launch several anthologies for Uphook Press and to start the group Great Weather for Media.

He was an excellent poet, too, as can be seen by the 14 poems in Your Infidel Eyes, and quite a traveler, as this chapbook has poems set in Mexico, India and Egypt. The poem “Illusion” actually describes himself as starting out as a prisoner of a “stupid” jailer. When he swipes the jailer’s keys and frees himself, he opens the way to go traveling, both physically and metaphysically.

I’m not sure Lyon would relish being called a romantic poet, since the book describes many of the aspects of pain in “I Ching” and compares truth to a spoiled child in the opening poem, “Truth.” And the rain in Mumbai (in “Homesick”) is “poison and its own antidote / As pain is to love, and love to pain.”

Yet You Are White Inside ends with quite a romantic deus ex machina, and I was on the lookout for a similar one here. Even the poisoned rain in India is leavened by the sweet flute music of “a blue skinned god / (who) learned compassion for every living thing.” In “Quang Tri” he remembers that a sick friend’s sketchbook contains images “not (of) grenades but pomegranates.”

There is a poem at the end of this book that give me the romantic denouement I’ve been looking for. It is called “An Outlaw Sura” and it is an exceptional poem, starting “Mine is not a book free / of doubt and involution.” And he realizes in it that while he has made “my devotional obligations” he will always be an infidel, in both physical and metaphysical ways, even though “I have not denied / but been led astray / obeying the forbidden / dictates of my heart.”

And this poem of self-realization, faith and hope ends “In the name of ever-merciful love / I have come to cherish love’s / most benevolent blasphemies.”

Now that’s romantic. And I think there are very few poets who aren’t filled by “doubt and involution” and wouldn’t love to think that by going through the process they might end up with “ever-merciful love.”

So it is a mercy, a tender mercy perhaps, that Poets Wear Prada has chosen to re-issue Lyon’s first book (and, their own first book). A world of pomegranates is infinitely preferable to a world of grenades, and the words of someone who thought so are well worth preserving.

Mark Fogarty’s poetry has been published in Hawaii Review, Viet Nam Generation, Journal of NJ Poets, Exit 13, Unrorean, Eclectic Literary Forum, Cokefishing in Alpha Beat Soup, Footwork, The Brownstone Poets Anthology, The TEA Newsletter, Gallery and The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow. Mark, also a musician, is the author of three poetry collections from White Chickens Press, Myshkin’s Blues, Peninsula and Phantom Engineer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Praise for School for the Blind by Daniel Simpson

School for the Blind
by Daniel Simpson
Poets Wear Prada, 2014

 

Reprinted from Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry,  Volume 8,  Issue 4,  December 2014, Book Reviews.

Book Review: School for the Blind (Daniel Simpson)

Reviewed by Kathi Wolfe

"I sat on a broad stone/And sang to the birds/The tune was God's making/But I made the words," Mary Carolyn Davies wrote in "The Day Before April," her poem from her volume Youth Riding (The Macmillan Company, 1919). In 1925, The Macmillan Company reprinted the poem in the popular children's reader Silver Pennies: A Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls.
It's superbly fitting that Daniel Simpson quotes this stanza from Davies' work in the poem "The Call of Poetry" in his stunning debut collection School for the Blind (Poets Wear Prada, 2014). With the musicality of a modern-day Homer and the wisdom of a contemporary Tiresias, Simpson in this slim, yet powerful volume takes us with him on his odyssey from "jumping on our twin mattresses" at four with his twin brother to being "left tonight/with his twin brother/at the boarding school" (a school "for the blind") to his musing, as an adult, "I don't know what a rainbow looks like/or that my life would be better if I could see one."

Simpson, a poet and musician, and his identical twin brother David were born blind in 1952. Dan attended the Overbrook School for the Blind from 1956 to 1966. After that, he became the first blind student in his Pennsylvania county to attend public school before earning a B.A. in English and music from Muhlenberg College, a master of Music in organ performance from Westminster Choir College and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
Making up words — "Lickington, Waggington…/names I made up/for the houses I passed" —enables him to both cope with and chronicle his institutionalized life — away from his family and home in the "school for the blind."
Chair, bed,
dresser in a dorm:
keep the rhythm running,
get from Sunday to Friday,
Simpson writes in the poem "The Call of Poetry" in the deceptively simple, short lines that so effectively evoke the homesickness, starkness and dehumanization of spending one's childhood in even the best "school for the blind" or other institutionalized setting.
It's not that all schools for blind people were bad, or that students who were blind couldn't live happily and prosper academically in such places. I have friends, who attended schools for the blind in the mid-20th century, and look back upon this as one of the happiest periods of their lives. In the late 19th century, Helen Keller, who was deaf-blind, was saved from ignorance and isolation by her education at Perkins School for the Blind. Today, most blind and visually impaired children and teens attend the same schools as students without disabilities. Most schools now serve students who are not only blind but who also have other disabilities.

This having been said, many who grew up in schools for "the blind," (which were often state run and/or poorly funded) experienced stark living conditions as well as, at times, verbal, physical or sexual abuse. I know someone who, to this day, hates oatmeal because he was forced to eat it, at age 10, at a "school for the blind."

Too often, able-bodied people, even self-identified progressives, most likely out of ignorance, romanticize institutional settings for people with disabilities. Perhaps, they can't envision what it would be like to be taken from their home as a toddler and placed in such a setting — because this hasn't happened to them. Or, they assume that everyone who works in such places, is kind and caring toward those under their care.

Political poetry is so often devalued that I almost hesitate to say this: Simpson skillfully writes what Carolyn Forche has called "the poetry of witness." In poetry that calmly, but vividly packs a narrative punch, Simpson bears witness to the longings, betrayals, sadness and, at times callousness, of the school for "the blind." There is the misperception that political poetry is merely polemics dressed up as poems. As Simpson's work makes clear, this is far from the truth. In the hands of a talented poem, such as Simpson, the political begins with, and is entwined with the personal.

Take the poem "About Chester Kowalski I Don't Know Much." I don't want to reveal too much about Simpson's arresting, engaging, at times heartbreaking narrative. But these seemingly plain-spoken lines from the poem, mirroring the drabness of the school's dormitory and reflecting the rhythm of boys speech, tell more than any rant or policy paper about life at the "school for the blind":
…at night we breathed
the same fetid air of the open dorm
with thirty other eight to ten year-olds,
boys with healthy, shallow lungs who had played full tilt,
then said their prayers by rote —
"Now I lamey downda sleep."
One of the most harrowing stories of the impact of power, abuse and vulnerability is told in the prose poem "When the Chips Were Down." With a less skillful poem, this poem might have been a dull exercise in didacticism. In Simpson's telling, a lunch time hassle over potato chips is a quietly devastating tale of deprivation and cruelty. "What else they served for lunch that day in the boys' dining room, I can't say, but, dollars to doughnuts, whatever they passed off as nutrition was anything but," the narrative begins, "It could have been their infamous sausage that greased your shirt…Whatever it was, we'd have to count on the community bowl of potato chips…to carry us to dinner."

Only one staff member, Mr. G, tries to intervene with the powers that be when the supply of chips on the dining room tables runs out. "It wasn't life or death. After all, it was just one replaceable man taking a losing and inconsequential stand," the narrator says after Mr. G. fails in his mission to replenish the chips.

Poetry is profoundly of the body, and the bodies of children, particularly, kids with disabilities, are vulnerable to sexual and other types of abuse. Several of the poems in School for the Blind speak to this. "A long day of hiking, and now the man/rubs alcohol on the backs of the boy's legs," Simpson writes in the poem "Boy Scout Friend," "…The boy can't sleep;/it's those kisses on the lips."
If a person is blind, people frequently think that they want to be "healed" or that they spend all of their time lamenting that they can't see. As someone who's legally blind, I've often encountered (usually, well-meaning) people who believe that, if I pray more, in the after-life, I'll, at last, be happy, and have 20/20 vision. Simpson deflects this trope with wit. Without being anti-spirituality or against religion, he wittily offers a new vision of God and of eternity.
I'm thinking the next time I see Aunt Polly,
I'm going to tell her about my new vision:

"It's really going to be something," I'll say.
"In Heaven, you'll finally get to be blind."
Without being sentimental or white-washing the darkness of life at the "school for the blind," Simpson's work displays generosity and compassion toward those who were mean-spirited or behaved inappropriately. In the poem "The Luxury of Being Children," the narrator recalls Miss Walters, a cold-hearted dorm mother who "…when we said, 'Good morning,' …responded, 'What's good about a morning with you!'"

Yet years later, after he'd left the school for the blind and was in his senior year in high school, his hateful feelings toward Miss Walters, who'd retired, evolved. "A friend called to ask if I'd heard the story: / in a cheap apartment, alone, she froze to death."

School for the Blind is filled with the sexual and romantic yearnings of the narrator as he emerges from boyhood to adolescence and into adulthood. But, the most heartfelt love story in the collection is that of Simpson's love for his brother. "Sometimes as you well know,/I still can plow ahead, forget to call you,/but then something slaps me up against your absence,/and I'm stopped, that newborn baby boy again,/listening for you," Simpson writes in the touching conclusion of the poem "A Letter to My Twin Brother."

Simpson is an emerging and important voice that brings new vision to the disability poetics movement. School for the Blind is a stirring book that will become an indelible part of your memory and DNA.

Kathi Wolfe is the winner of the 2014 Stonewall Chapbook Competition. Her chapbook The Uppity Blind Girl Poems will be published in 2015 by BrickHouse Books. Her chapbook The Green Light was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Wolfe was a finalist in the 2007 Pudding House Publications Chapbook competition. Her chapbook Helen Takes the Stage: The Helen Keller Poems was published by Pudding House in 2008. She is a contributor to Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, an American Library Association Notable Book for 2011. Wolfe's poetry has appeared in Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and other publications.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Praise for Remembering Chris by Rosalie Calabrese


 Reprinted from ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS NEWSLETTER, Issue No. 90, September 2015



ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS NEWSLETTER

Gloria Mindock, Editor   Issue No. 90   September, 2015

 

BOOK REVIEWS

Remembering Chris
Rosalie Calabrese
Poets Wear Prada - Hoboken, New Jersey
ISBN: 9780692303795
2015

      "Huddled onshore while the waves churn
      as if coming and going at the same time
      I remember how my stormy Chris
      broke water breached against the tide
      and how resistance to the natural flow of things
      can cause more turbulence than one might expect."

Calabrese's poems are about memory. She weaves her son Chris's life into the present with strong threads a pattern forms. The poems clothe us for life is often as deep and blue as any mourning. "your shadow lingers like the scent of mint." Each word relates what we grieve in our own lives. Traveling from birth to death the poet carries her verse and offers the reader simple courage about loss and comfort, comfort spread out on a solid ground we partake and are filled by the poetic flow.

      "...an easy separation of rendered parts
      that once made up a whole.
      No, not so fast, not yet,
      if ever..."

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor: Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer: Cervena Barva Press

Friday, July 15, 2016

RZ Wiggins Reviews Remembering Chris by Rosalie Calabrese for MER Book Reviews

Reprinted from Mom Egg Review, Book Reviews, June 21, 2016


BOOK REVIEW: Remembering Chris by Rosalie Calabrese.  Review by RZ Wiggins



Remembering Chris
by Rosalie Calabrese
Poets Wear Prada, 2015, $12.00 [paper]
ISBN 9780692303795

Review by RZ Wiggins

Mothers are simple, complex, opaque, vivid, loving, distant, devoted, and neglectful, all in a lifetime. From its first pages, this slim volume overflows with the above and with a mother’s abundant love and commitment. Rosalie Calebrese’s chapbook Remembering Chris is a memorial to a lost son. But the collection also shows the many sides to mothering through a voice that is at once surprisingly pragmatic and refreshingly honest.

Aside from “Mixed Emotions” (3) which centers on mothering concerns (how many mothers haven’t felt these?), Remembering Chris’s poems ring with joy at both motherhood and grandmotherhood. Given the absence of any mention of siblings, it appears that Chris, the collection’s focus (a boy who loved his Lionel trains), is an only child.

The poems explore a mother who dutifully nurtures her son and teaches him what is needed. There is the heartfelt sting of sternly eradicating obscene words and gestures and the angst of removing the stowaway from the back seat to again deposit him at sleepover camp. These are a mother’s duties that must be done even though the heart is heavy.

I wanted more glimpses into this bond, more details of days spent together in the boy’s younger years, his falls and scrapes, more about his young mother. What were their rituals? Cozying together reading books in bed? Baking cookies on stormy days? Whispering to a favorite teddy bear in the dark?

Where the boy is absent, there is much of the mother: a divorced parent struggling to adjust to her new single status; a woman juggling work commitments and the coexistent guilt: 
…I ran the shuttle
between career and motherhood.
So often, our line of communication
filled with static − almost disconnected;
I feared you’d lose your way. (16) 

In addition, there is the struggle to hold onto some of herself, to be the woman who can go to Europe without her son while carrying a mother’s guilt.

The woman inside these poems finds it difficult to tell her granddaughter “what Jewish people believe in” (19) and instead defers to the Internet.  Yet, Jewish heritage bleeds across the pages, particularly in one of Calabrese’s most poignant poems:
A Memo to My Son

You had no bris,
And you had no bar-mitzvah,
But make no mistake, my son:
You are the flesh of my flesh,
And the blood of my blood:
When all the scores are tallied,
You will still be a Jew. (8)
Time and again Calebrese reminds us that mothers must be many things: loving yet stern, strong yet fallible. They must bend to meet life as it arises before and after their children are born and especially after a child sadly passes on too soon. Without a doubt, the essence that shines through these poems is of the richness and devotion of a mother’s love despite all of life’s varying circumstances. They remind us that mothers never let go, not when they send you to summer camp, nor when career demands intrude, nor when you get married and move into your own home. Mothers swell up with joy and hold on forever— “I reach for your hand/and hold the memory” (24).


RZ Wiggins is a reformed lawyer who has been writing since she was a wee child. She is working on a collection of memoirs about 9/11 from outside NYC and WDC and on a novel about a summer in Africa. She is a researcher at the Yale School of Management.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Poets Wear Prada at NY Rainbow Book Fair

www.RainbowBookFair.org

Boutique publishing house Poets Wear Prada is pleased to announce that we will be tabling  with Eggplant Press at the eighth annual New York  Rainbow Book Fair and that several of our authors will be reading for the event.  The Rainbow Book Fair is the largest LGBTQ book event in the United States. The 2016 fair will be held on Saturday, April 9th from 12:00pm to 6:00pm at John Jay College of Criminal Justice located at 524 W. 59th Street (just west of 10th Avenue) in Manhattan. 

Our authors will be reading at two different readings at the fair.  Here's a list of the readers and their scheduled time slots. (Please note that this schedule is subject to change.)

2016 COME HERE! Poetry Salon hosted by Regie Cabico and Nathaniel Siegel


12:10-12:15pm  Geer Austin
01:05-01:10pm  Austin Alexis
01:20-01:25pm  Michael Montlack
01:30-01:35pm  John J. Trause
05:00-05:05pm  Joel Allegretti


2016 Main Reading Event

01:00 - 01:20pm  Chocolate Waters
04:00 - 04:20pm  Roxanne Hoffman


Roxanne Hoffman founded Poets Wear Prada in 2006 with the release of  a limited edition of B.D. Lyon's debut poetry collection, a chapbook titled "Your Infidel Eyes." From the press's  inception, it editors have continued to seek out the works of queer writers, women, and people of various ethnicity and cultural backgrounds as it strives to introduce unique and exceptional emerging writers and promote diversity to mainstream audiences with well-edited and beautifully designed volumes.  

Poets Wear Prada is proud to have published debut and early collections of Jee Leong Koh, John J. Trause, Austin Alexis, Michael Montack, Joel Allegretti and Geer Austin. In  2011 Poets Wear Prada in conjunction with Eggplant Press published groundbreaking feminist lesbian writer Chocolate Waters's first new book in over three decades, "The Woman Who Wouldn't Shake Hands." Hoffman co-edited "Pears, Prose and Poetry: Anthology of the 9th Annual Fresh Fruit Festival Poetry Event," also published in conjunction with Eggplant Press.

Founded in 2006 in Hoboken, New Jersey, birthplace of Frank Sinatra and professional baseball, Poets Wear Prada is a boutique book publisher devoted to introducing and promoting emerging writers to the mainstream audiences with beautifully designed volumes of well-crafted poetry and prose.