Thursday, April 26, 2012

Georgia Jones-Davis's "Blue Poodle"

      A poet's task, among many others, is to trace back the thread/map the events that have shaped her into the person she has/will ultimately become. Georgia Jones-Davis's chapbook, Blue Poodle (copyright 2011, Finishing Line Press), accomplishes this feat with a solid, visual gathering of narrative poems that explore her familial history as well her love of other poets.
      Jones-Davis, a literary journalist and former book reviewer, has put her talents to good use. Each poem in Blue Poodle is carefully crafted, and, surprisingly honest, with a balanced mix of photographic language, tight verse, and fierce truths. The end result of Blue Poodle can be compared to a poetic short film festival with enough variety to keep the reader engaged: familial disappointment and dysfunction (“Wave Drag,” “Put Me Away,” and,“Your Father”); the lasting damage of historical events on a family's legacy (“Emily at Auschwitz”); seminal events of the author's youth (“Night of the Nightmares,” “Missing Don Ho,”and, “The Visitors”); and, poetic homage (“Keats,” “26 Piazza de Spagna,” and, “Listening to Anne Sexton”).
     There are also a handful of short, but lovely “in the moment” pieces, where Jones-Davis shares an ephemeral and highly personal glimpse into her private world, as in the poem, “The Day Tumbles Away Like a Butterfly”:

The day tumbles away
like a butterfly
hard pears rest
in a stoneware bowl

trees sing
in the nervous November gusts
as the air shudders
in gaudy light

wind chimes
hold a breath                 hesitate
then their jangled music

hold a breath                hesitate
while the pears
in the stoneware bowl

     Jones-Davis's biography mentions she started to write and publish her work work at a young age, but, in her college years, was diverted by a discouraging poetry workshop. So, she spent the next couple of decades writing literary criticism, living life, and raising a family – which, in my opinion, was the right thing to do. The result is Blue Poodle, a triumphant return for Jones-Davis The Poet, and a literary gem for poetry lovers.

Blue Poodle (copyright 2011, Georgia Jones-Davis, Finishing Line Press,, ISBN 978-1-59924-7724, 27 pages, $14)

article and photo copyright 2012 marie lecrivain

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

poeticdiversity: call for submissions for new anthology

poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles ( is accepting for submissions for an anthology of poetry, prose, and essays on the topic of ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION in Los Angeles.

  1. Alternate Transportation: walking, bicycling, rollerblading, taking the bus, or taking a cab.
  2. Three poems (50 lines max), two prose pieces (1,200 words max), one essay (2,500 words max), along with a bio (100 words max).
  3. Artwork: B & W illustrations or photos, in jpeg format – no more than 5 per submission.
  4. Deadline: May 15, 2012.
  5. Payment: 1) an honorarium between $1-3 per piece, 2) an ebook copy of the anthology, 3) a 50% discount on print copies.
  6. Anthology will be published through Sybaritic Press (
  7. Send submissions/queries to


Marie Lecrivain
executive editor/publisher

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Loud Gray Bird's "Fad"

Only cool people can understand what's cool.” - Fad

     I like the weird and the strange, especially, when it comes to books. Fad: Poetry by a Loud Gray Bird (copyright 2012 A Loud Gray Bird), looks like a small, unassuming chapbook... or is it? Fad tells the story of a moment in time, a universal moment of crisis: that of identity: The Poet... who is he? Is he a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, or is he nothing more than an amalgam of different personalities pieced together from bits of electronic media and pop culture?
      At first, Fad comes off as a short read, with a handful of verses surrounding a longer stream of consciousness poem, in which the poet starts, as best as can be described, “cast out” the confluence of information – 21st century images and phrases - he's been forced to ingest from the Information Age; a self-exorcism, where, at the end (8 pages later), he's restored his “Command of Language.”

Trounced by subliminal tides
I'm a peanut
Between continents
On this clueless raft
With no language
To salvage my tongue
Or give condolences to its mother
I'll raise its bastard son
To be my superficial lover
And fuck its lifeless
Under this relentless sky
Burnt and starving (or just hungry?)
I surrender
My tears
To this desiccate sea

Its a (Disney) pirate's life for me

      This is where the poet now stands, alone, naked, with a decision – to escape, or, again, embrace/internalize the never-ending flow of information that overcomes every human being on the planet?
    Truthfully, every artist, at some point in his/her existence, will find him/herself in this position. The idea of asking, “Who am I?,” is not new, but Fad has found a different answer to his question, one which I will not reveal (spoilers).
    Suffice it to say, reading Fad feels, and IS subversive, which, as any good poet will tell you, is the end goal, which Fad has accomplished successfully. Is Fad cool? I believe so, but I leave it to each reader to determine that for herself.

(Fad: Poetry by a Loud Gray Bird, copyright 2012 A Loud Gray Bird,, 26 pages, $3 – can be purchased at Skylight Books, )

(words and photo copyright 2012 marie lecrivain)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review of David McIntire's "Exit Wounds"

     There are academic poets, slam poets, and everyone in between. In my opinion, poets should not be categorized, but, unfortunately, the human mind needs to assign names to everything and everyone. There are poets who defy being pigeon-holed, and David McIntire is, as some would say, “Such a One.”

     His newest chapbook, Exit Wounds (copyright 2012 IBW Press), is an intense collection of poems that reiterate, passionately, and unforgettably, his views on love (“Whiff”), pain (“Unlimited”), death ((“September 17, 1988 (The Child Who Never Was”) and “Not Enough”), and the censure of art and civil liberties (“Fuck the Poets,” and “Occupy This Poem”). There's a lot of angst in McIntire's work, but it's intelligent, in repeated memorable phrases, and, in swift, though, sometimes sloppy flowing lines. The poems themselves come off like a series of punk-rock boleros, each one rising higher and higher until the reader is in synch with the rhythm, in the heart of the idea channeled straight into the mind, as in the poem “Pain Takes”:

the pain takes her away from me
in drabs and bits
in pieces and bits
in tongues that slip
on words of frustration tumbling from lips
the pain slices our days
into bloody bite sized pieces
some of which get lost in the haze
of the means and ways
of excruciating creases
that folds our time
in half again

and again in half
the pain diminishes our vocabulary
sometimes to grunts
and prescriptions
and brutal descriptions
to half-spoken understandings
and daily reminiscences
“like the last time
yes, just like it... only different”

the pain takes her away from me
but never all the time
the pain takes her away
but I won't let
the pain takes her away
but only until I take her back

     David McIntire writes from the heart, without apologies, without the dross that makes most confessional poetry so dismal to read. David McIntire is a poet. What “kind” of poet he is doesn't really matter. He's a genuine pleasure to read.

Exit Wounds, copyright 2012 David McIntire, IWB Press,, 52 pgs, $5

words and photo copyright 2012 marie lecrivain

Monday, April 9, 2012

National Poetry Month: Now is a good time to support Independent Bookstores

I spent Saturday afternoon wandering the Venice Boardwalk. Amidst the cacophony of street performers and tourists, I almost missed my planned visit to Small World Books, one of the few independent bookstores left in L.A. I walked in, and went to the poetry section, which was well stocked with titles from both national and local authors. Small World Books has always been a strong supporter of poetry, whereas chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble will put up a display for 30 days, and then, come May 1, take down the display and put the titles back in the obscure section of the bookstore.
Independent bookstores have a strong tradition of supporting poetry, both in books sales and hosting readings. For the poetry lover, here are a few recommendations:

Small World Books, 1407 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA, 90291 (310) 399-2360.

Best qualities: the poetry section is located in the front right hand side of the store, flush with the wall, with several well-stocked shelves of local, national, and international poets. Recommendation: Building the Barricade and other poems of Anna Swir, translated by Piotr Florczyk, copyright 2011, Calypso Editions, ISBN 978-0-9830999-1-8, 53 pgs, $15.

Vroman's Bookstore, 695 East Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, Ca 91101 (626) 449-5320

Best qualities: so many, including the fact that Vroman's holds many in-store events for local authors. The poetry section is located on the first floor, right hand side, several free-standing bookshelves filled with poetry anthologies, collections, chapbooks, etc. Recommendation: Vroman's is the only bookstore I've found that still carries Dover Thrift editions. For $1-$3, one can pick up some great classical works.

Skylight Books, 1818 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027

Best qualities: book recommendations from the staff, monthly poetry readings and writing groups. The poetry section is located in the center back half of the store (the last time I checked), and is always well-stocked with a variety of contemporary and classical poetry. Recommendation: Skylight stocks a fair number of art and literary 'zines, and I've always found something cool to take home.

Beyond Baroque: 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA 90291 (310) 822-3006

Best qualities: Just read the mission statement: “A place dedicated to the possibilities of language.” Beyond Baroque is ALL ABOUT POETRY! The bookstore was recently rededicated/ renamed The Scott Wannberg Bookstore and Poetry Lounge, to honor the memory of one of L.A's seminal poets. The bookstore is full of poetry books, literary journals, and portraits of the best of L.A. literati. The hours are limited, but it's still worth a visit. Recommendation: a yearly membership comes with a 10% discount on most items. The membership is tax deductible.

(article and photo copyright 2012 marie lecrivain)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jan Steckel's "The Horizontal Poet"

The Horizontal Poet (copyright 2011 Zeitgeist Press), a wonderful new collection of poems by Jan Steckel, provides readers with what I consider to be the best qualities of post modern poetry: a commitment to unvarnished truth, lyrical craftsmanship, and humor.

In Horizontal, Steckel boldly invites the reader to actively take part her colorful, multifaceted life: her years as a doctor with the patients under her care (“Dios de bendiga”); her complex and deeply loving relationships with both women and men (“Metamorphosis,” “Fourteen Crossings”); her struggles with her own physical limitations (“The Lake Bed”), hence, the title, The Horizontal Poet, along with a beautiful portrait of the author on the front cover, painted by Deborah Vinograd.
As with her previous offerings, The Underwater Hospital (copyright 2006 Zeitgeist Press), and Mixing Tracks (copyright 2008 Zeitgeist Press), Steckel holds nothing back; she IS the lens through which the reader is able view an ungainly and uniquely beautiful world. Steckel successfully invokes empathy for the pain all of us feel - the pain, that to an artist like Steckel, becomes both healer and muse, as in the poem, “Water and Salt”:

All the water and salt I wasted
bawling in bed could make a sea
and raise the bed-frame like a ship.
The wind I squandered in argument
would fill its sails, keep it skating
over whales and under terns.
In Antarctica I'd find a land
frigid as the heart I couldn't move.
In the Sahara I'd feel a desert
more desolate than I was left.
I'd harness dolphins to pull my sea-car,
write my plaint in giant squid's ink.
I'd send it by seahorse to my agent,
become a famous maritime author
who noted the tide, caught the wave.
Then you'd be sorry.

To understand the impact Steckel's words hold over an audience, I took her book with me to a local poetry open mic. I read the title poem, “The Horizontal Poet,” a brilliantly funny narrative of how Steckel (an activist for bisexual and disability rights) was admonished by a prudish woman for needing to perform her poetry feature on her back, on a mat, which the woman felt would interfere with the filming of the poetry reading about to take place. As I read the lines out loud, I found myself cheering Steckel's bravery in confronting the moral censures inflicted upon artists, especially those who fight to transcend their limited mobility. The further I got into reading of the poem, the more smiles I saw appear around me – everyone GOT it:

The way she said it, you'd think
I'd asked to have sex in the front of the theater,
all through the reading, my legs in the air
(my favorite position),
the persistent thump, thump, thump
of my pumping and humping
rattling the floorboard and shaking the camera
my caterwauling cries obliterating
the other poets' readings,
my juices a river flooding the floor
and soaking the shoes of the audience.

I'll lay down on my job, nice lady
I'll do it on the hand-hooked Turkish rug
at the by-invitation-only living-room poetry salon.
I'll do it on the independent bookstore's hard wood.
I'll get Berber carpet burns in the library lecture room,
I'll make listeners hear the person next to them breathe.
I'll make your husband unbutton his top button
and loosen his tie. I'll make you,
sitting properly in your chair,
begin to squirm, then writhe and gasp.
I'll wave my round heels
right in front of the camera,
and I'll always be in the picture.

I'm happy to report that Steckel's poem was awarded with a resounding round of applause. I wish my own poem afterward had been met with equal enthusiasm, but that is a valuable lesson to me, to keep pushing the envelope, and proof, again, that Steckel is well on her way to becoming a master poet.

The Horizontal Poet has been nominated as a finalist for the LAMBDA Literary Awards. I hope it wins. You can vote for her book at the LAMBDA website. In this age of censure, it's essential, now more than ever, to listen to voices like Steckel's, to keep the truth in the spotlight, and to support the right for artistic freedom on all levels.

The Horizontal Poet, copyright 2011 Jan Steckel, Zeitgeist Press (, 87 pgs, ISBN 978-0-929730-943, $14
copyright 2012 marie lecrivain

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Review of Peggy Dobreer's "in the lake of your bones"

I've read, published, and listened to Peggy Dobreer's poems for over ten years. Her first collection, in the lake of your bones (copyright 2012 Moon Tide Press), offers readers a first-class opportunity to explore the ephemeral elegance of both the poet and her work.

lake is divided into three sections: “in the silt,” which presents her more concrete, narrative poems; “in the marrow,” which draws the reader into deeper aspects of love and desire, central themes of Dobreer's work; and, “in the water,” with poems, like a series of lovely pebbles, skip across the surface of one's mind to gently sink, and then germinate in the unconscious.

At first, the poems appear top-heavy, loaded with mercurial rhythms (Dobreer has a background in dance and experimental theater), contemporary language, and mythical imagery. But - this is where Dobreer shines. With the right amount of restraint, she keeps the work timeless, a difficult task for most post-modern poets who prefer to confess instead of extoll. The poems remain fresh and vital, as well a genuine pleasure to experience, as in the poem, “First Love”:

The rhythm of my blood
beats along the river of my being.

The joy of motion lifts my leg
and tosses it into the air,

follows the sensation of each foot
on the ground. Gravities embrace.

Tears must roll down cheeks
for spirits to lift again. And arms,

they are lifted into gesture. Look!
It's Lord Shiva swaying to the spin

of Earth on her axis. Rise up. Hear
voices of angels. Rise up. Set yourself free.

Feel sun on your face and wind at your heels.
Know that when you hold your lover in grass

at dawn, you can gaze into the soil, hear fossils
breathe. Here is the now and forever. Here

is the falling into grace. Here is the rapture of
a poem as it moves across my face.

According to academics, there are poetry schools/movements (Imagists, Beats, New Formalists, etc.). Dobreer belongs to the most successful school; the Alchemists. Poetry, as I have often said, is an alchemical process. With in the lake of your bones, Dobreer has given the world a philosopher's stone.

in the lake of your bones, copyright 2012 Peggy Dobreer, Moon Tide Press,, 69 pgs, ISBN 978-0-9839651-2-1, $15.00

Note: Dobreer will be reading/signing on the following dates: Sunday, April 10, at 7:30 pm., with Eric Morago at Skylight Books (1818 n. Vermont Ave, L.A., 90027); Sunday, April 29, at 4 pm at the G2 Gallery (1503 Abbot Kinney, Venice) with Mariano Zaro, Sarah Maclay, and Brendan Constantine.)

copyright 2012 Marie Lecrivain