Poetry Roundup 2014 | Books & Authors | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Madonna Comix
Dianne Kornberg & Celia Bland, foreword by Luc Sante
F8 Franklin Beedle Press, 2014, $75

Upon a ground of erased Little Lulu cartoons, Kornberg's luminous images of the female body come alive, each sensual curve precisely drawn, then "muddied" for emotion. The smart-alecky '40s Little Lulu is an unexpectedly apt adolescent Madonna, a figure who, in Bard professor Bland's startling poems, ages into Everywoman, her voice surreal, funny, heartbreaking. As object: "... quick tug / of these yellowing knobs....Ka-ching! / Sweet contraction and release, then a book of matches..." As mother: "...the crown/ of his head peaks then slips back / from the eyelid of my gate...He blinks / He blinks / But it is me who cries." In loss: "...getting down the body, unhooking his hands / like drapes from a rod..." Visually and verbally, an extraordinary achievement. —LG

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My Clone
Will Nixon
Post Traumatic Press, 2013

Dusted with surrealism, personal history shades into a love letter to late-20th-century suburban pop culture in Woodstock poet Nixon's latest outing. Against a backdrop of disco balls and "Farrah Fawcett curls," a chronicle of "firsts" unfolds, from apartment rentals to meals eaten in fish joints. A witty ode to "driveway basketball" dribbles nearby the "strangely American" sighting of "Hoboken Rimbaud," embodiment of the rags-to-riches creed. Equally mindful of an autumn leaf destined "to become parchment, / a curled shingle in the roof," or given to birding on walks from the commuter train, our narrator doubles as "Registered Pagan," one who "voted for campfire sparks / flocking to replenish the stars." —PU

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Niagara Transnational (2013 Michael Rubin Book Award)
Sarah Heady
Fourteen Hills, 2013, $13

A time capsule preserving a fading Americana, Sarah Heady's volume tilts and whirls like a traveling-carnival ride. Crisscrossing vacationlands—tawdry yet redeemed—stretching from Honolulu to Lake George, it forms a series of outrageous postcards, featured attractions including "Mackinac fish with four heads" and a biblical wax museum where "Job is covered in open boils leaking cheesy pus." The Beacon native's staccato phrasing is interspersed with lettrisme refashioned for the emoticon age as words jump their tracks mid-line or punctuation marks are reduced to visual encounters, as with an asterisk-spangled page. The book's motto, "take your stand or lose your reputation as a tourist," dares readers onward. —PU

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No Passing Zone
Donna Reis
Deerbrook Editions, 2013, $16.95

Warwick Valley poet Reis begins this indelible book by recalling the stillness after a near-fatal accident: "I want snow / to light on my face / the way it did as I lay / that night like a fallen tree, / an ailing wolf," ending with the "spiked beauty" of loosestrife. In between, a home is repainted and sold, a marriage dissolves and another begins. It's a saga of surviving with humor intact, full of phrases that startle and glint. On the way to a funeral in Texas, "Parched prairie grass / flutters along highways like mourners. / A crow whines from a steeple-top"; at home, "There is always a reason not to sleep. / Eyelashes net the sky. Nails pop / from walls like typos." Yet despite life's hardships, "There's no use in stopping. / I will make up for my husband's fallen life / by loving someone else." —NS

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A Splendor Among Shadows
Michael Perkins
Bushwhack Books, 2013, $14.95

Lines from its opener, "Like Russian dolls, / We slip inside our ancestors," encapsulate how greater wisdom nests within koan-like imagery throughout Woodstock walker Michael Perkins's new collection. Sparse yet profound, conceived "To show us how / Change may flow," this meditation on mutability brims with self-awareness gained from aging, as assuredly as an oak may furnish "a century of acorns." Hiking Ohayo Mountain and beyond likewise has provided graceful impressions, as in: "Deer leap in flooded meadows / Like spectral dancers at dawn." Perkins boldly confronts mortality, "Beyond the certainty of loss / And the hope of resurrection." —PU

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Waiting at the Dead End Diner
Rebecca Schumejda
Bottom Dog Books, 2014, $18.00

In her last book, Cadillac Men, working-class shapeshifter Schumejda celebrated the denizens of a down-at-heels Kingston pool hall. Now she turns her empathetic eye to the everyday extraordinary lives of diner workers and their "Counter Congregation." You just have to dive in /with your heart first, a veteran waitress tells a trainee. These compact poems do that and more, distilling whole lives in incisive, deft strokes: the hothead cooks, the owner's vile wife, a devout Pakistani dishwasher and his starry-eyed son, a flotilla of struggling waitresses. If you've ever done restaurant work, you'll recognize the constellations of Schumejda's grease-spattered universe. If you haven't, this book will make you a better customer. And that is high praise. —NS

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