An Interview with Guest Editor Alice Kociemba

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CCPR is pleased to announce Alice Kociemba as the Guest Editor for our third issue. Alice is the author of the chapbook Death of Teaticket Hardware, the title poem of which won an International Merit Award from the Atlanta Review. She is a member of Jamaica Pond Poets, a weekly collaborative workshop, and directs Calliope, a monthly poetry series, and its winter craft workshops. Her recent poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Cape Cod Poetry Review, International Psychoanalysis, Main Street Rag, Off the Coast, Slant, and Salamander. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and her full-length collection of poetry, Bourne Bridge, is forthcoming from Turning Point Press.

CCPR: What brought you to poetry?

AK: I credit Emily Dickinson with saving my sanity after I suffered a severe head injury in 1986 and couldn’t read, drive or work for six months.  Shortly thereafter, I wrote”seizure” my first (and only) poem, about that experience.  Someday I may write a chapbook about MTBI (mild, traumatic brain injury) and how it has changed my life (hopefully for the better).  I no longer shop in malls, for instance. People have commented on how “organized” I am.  I had to be.  I have simplified my life in order to focus on what is really essential.  I did not have a great interest in poetry before my head injury, but reading and writing poetry is, for me, a spiritual practice in the art of paying attention and distilling what is precious.

CCPR: Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s been like to direct Calliope?  What started it and what has it bloomed into?

AK: I have met so many amazing poets and wonderful readers and teachers, both on Cape Cod and throughout Massachusetts because of Calliope.  The series began in January 2008 and at the time, there was no poetry series on the Upper Cape!  I regularly attended two Boston poetry venues and “borrowed” the best of both formats: three featured poets and a limited open mic (one poem of one page.) In 2008, the other Cape Cod series had a longer open mic, and either one feature or an “opener” for another poet, or an all open mic venue with both musicians and poets.  I have often been asked, “Why three features?”  And the answer is because there are so many incredible poet-readers (often with award-winning, new books) and I hoped that Calliope could create “a community for poets.”  Four years ago, Calliope began a series of winter craft workshops (low-cost, easy to fit into busy schedules) to enhance expertise in poetic craft for both experienced and novice poets.  Six years ago, I began a monthly poetry discussion group, which involves people (not necessarily writers of poetry) who want to deepen their appreciation and understanding of contemporary poetry.

As we close our eighth season, Calliope is in a growth spurt!  Heidi Stahl and Rich Youmans have come onboard as Calliope’s director and associate director, respectively.  And Kathleen Casey will continue in her role as social media director (the look and creativity of Calliope’s Facebook page is due to her talents). I will stay very involved, as “founding director,” (which makes me feel as old as Benjamin Franklin).  We are planning to add an outreach element and our new name/tag line is: Calliope: Poetry for Community.  On an annual basis (to start) Calliope will organize a fundraiser for a non-profit so that our poetry is in support of the larger Cape Cod community. Stay-tuned for a new look, and revitalized series.

CCPR: What do you think is unique about poetry on Cape Cod?

AK: What is unique about poetry (independent of place) is that poetry, through its use of language, image, metaphor, music and story,  transforms the unique into the universal.  I am reading Jane Hirshfield’s new book, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World.  And I agree with her, that poetry’s work is to expand compassion by increasing an identification with others whose experience differs from my own.

Poetry on Cape Cod is special when it celebrates the outer and inner landscape of its people and preserves the legacy of those who came before us.  Just as someone like Philip Levine or Ted Kooser captured the essence of the urban and rural landscape, with its people, Brendan Galvin, Marge Piercy, Mark Doty and Mary Oliver are poets whose work I turn to again and again, when I want to cherish and remember Cape Cod’s character and community.

CCPR: What are you looking for in a submission?

AK: First of all, I am so delighted to read all this incredible writing without knowing who wrote what!  We have a rubric to evaluate the submissions (merit, integrity – i.e. well-written, diversity – which includes risk and innovation – and importance to the reader).  I would say what I am looking for is fresh images, lively language, engaging topics – how well-written, from title, beginning-to-middle-to-end a poem is.  I am also committed to the issue of diversity of voice and style, as well as risk and innovation.  Those of you who know both John Bonanni and myself, could say we represent diverse styles in our own poetry.  I may lean toward the lyric narrative poem.  I do appreciate a well-written formal poem as well as a collage poem. Think of the work of Terrance Hayes, for example, or Reggie Gibson. So I appreciate variety as long as the writing  is both excellent and accessible. I probably don’t appreciate what Tony Hoagland calls, “The Skittery Poem of the Moment.”  It may be entertaining, but like junk food, isn’t nourishing. Cape Cod is not experienced in a one-dimensional way, so the Cape Cod Poetry Review editors will hopefully construct a three-dimensional jig-saw puzzle with a thousand pieces that will ultimately result in a portrait of our community of writers.

CCPR: What poets would you cite as your primary influences?

AK: This is like asking a grandparent (see I am feeling like Ben Franklin) who is your favorite?  If I think of poets I turn to often, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jane Hirshfield, William Stafford, Mark Doty come immediately to mind.  Right now, I am under the spell of Charles Wright’s poems.  His use of imagery, language, lineation (white space) enchants me.  And Seamus Heaney has a musicality that always sounds right to my ear. This year at the Mass Poetry Festival, I heard Richard Blanco read. WOW.  And last year, Carol Ann Duffy’s poems were so witty and wise (at the same time).  Also, I had the good fortune of hearing Philip Levine read some new and some iconic poems, right before he died.  I frequently return to Natasha Trethewey’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Native Guard, which  is so well-written.  When AWP was in Boston, I heard Terrance Hayes and Jorie Graham read together.  Both so innovative and such dynamic energy in their poetry.  Both are bright lights to follow.  At the poetry discussion group, we read Lucille Clifton and Derek Walcott’s work, back-to-back.  Another contrast in diction and style, I so enjoyed.  And I could go on endlessly!

CCPR: I understand you have a book coming out soon.  Could you tell us a little about it?

AK: In January, 2013, I began putting together a full-length collection, Bourne Bridge.  After two manuscript consultations, and over 40 rejections, Bourne Bridge will be released in March, 2016 by Turning Point (the narrative imprint of WordTech). Then we party! The book is divided into three sections: marrow which are mainly narrative poems about family and growing up in Boston, stone which is about entering the world of work (as a psychotherapist) and experiences beyond my “little” life. The third section, marsh, are poems set on Cape Cod that celebrate its seasons and people.  Each section has humorous poems interwoven with the elegies, hopefully to create an experience of the joy and revitalization that is on the other side of grief.  Probably the book was organized to give voice to the experience of losing a parent as a child.  There is an old psychoanalytic paper which states when a child loses one parent to death, he or she loses the other to mourning.  Just as with my head injury, the transformation of trauma and grief into survival and joy is what prompts most of my poems.  Humor is one of the methods to connect my experience to those of others.

Breathing Lessons 101 by Darlene Anita Scott

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There is often a stigma regarding self-published work. I am not ashamed to say that I read it, if it looks interesting. After all, I read junk emails that catch my attention, as well as every cereal box that sits at the breakfast table. The ones worth savoring and recommending – those emails that make you “lol” – are sent on to friends as an endorsement. The book I am considering here is worth far more attention than a silly email. Walt Whitman published his own (multi-versioned) Leaves of Grass. Robert Browning, Carl Sandburg, and Gertrude Stein published at their own expense as well. In that spirit, indulge me in pointing out things worth noticing in a recent book by a delightful new African-American poet.

Darlene Anita Scott’s Breathing Lessons 101 is actually a bit of a teaser. It is a hardback 8 x 8 coffee table book of 20 unnumbered pages, containing the title poem of a larger collection that she is working on. It can be ordered from the author at darleneanitascott@gmail.com for $20. I have heard her read her poetry at festivals and have read some of her work in manuscript. She is a poet I will watch expectantly.

The “breathing lesson” of this book is a metaphor for living in a troubled and confusing world. The poem is laid over photographs by the author to create a synthesis of eye and mind. The first line (and page) – “This is your liver on Heineken” – references the photograph behind it, which is a close-up of a woman’s torso, showing the bare skin from the navel stud to the hip. It is not the liver (thankfully), but it represents anatomically where the liver is located in one’s body. It is a literal representation that Scott turns playful on the next (black) page when she adds: “and when the boy’s buying: Guinness.” What began sounding like a cautionary public-service announcement becomes a commentary on beer economics and male-female relationships.

The book is made of a series of “This is” statements, concerning “the girl,” whose body “turn[s] itself Legend,” who deals with sadness, renewal, scars, and, ultimately, the language that we become in that meditation.  This meditation moves the reader through a series of images both literal and mental. Nearness and distance are fused in “a brown body orbiting / dangerously close to your prudence.” As the imagery moves from cosmic to linguistic, the you named in the poem grapples with syntax to the point that, in the final this-is statement, “you conjugate the verb to fit your longing.”

The structure of the book, separated into small thoughts – zero to thirty-three words per page – facilitates the meditative mood. These thoughts are joined with images on which the words rest, or sometimes an image is presented alone, as reinforcement or exemplification of the line preceding. Some of the photographs are body parts, as mentioned earlier, some are landscapes, some abstract; but all are integral to the message of the poem. The synergy of word and image makes Breathing Lessons 101 a pleasant, thoughtful book, one that leaves a reader wanting more.

–Stan Galloway

Stan Galloway, author of Just Married (unbound CONTENT, 2013), his first collection of poetry, is the organizer of the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, scheduled for January of odd-numbered years. His reviews of poetry have appeared such places as Christianity & Literature, Paterson Literary Review, and Referential Magazine. He teaches English at Bridgewater College, in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Reviewing the Review

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“For every poem which almost rockets to the eternal sky of words, there are many mixed in inspiration…”

Our first review for Volume II, written by Lee Roscoe of The Barnstable Patriot, can be found here.

Representating Cape Cod Poetry in Mashpee

The Cape Cod Poetry Review was recently mentioned in a write-up from the Cape Cod Wave, Cape Cod’s online magazine. Read the full article here.

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It’s Here!

ccpr2Cape Cod Poetry Review Volume II features cover art from Suzanne M. Packer and new work from Marge Piercy, Kathleen Spivack, Jane Wong, Hannah Oberman-Breindel, Maria Nazos, Alice Kociemba, Kathryn Kulpa, Ryan Butler, Chuck Madansky, Alana Folsom, Barry Hellman, Maggie Cleveland, Katy Sternberger, Lorna Knowles Blake, Deirdre Callanan, Rosanne Shapiro, Elaine Cohen, B.T. Lamm, Janet Gardner, Rachel Baird, Robin Chapman, Timothy Gager, Brian Folan, and Jason Curzake.

Copies are available for $12.00 via postal mail (email us at capecodpoetryreview@gmail.com) and through the following local bookstores:

Market Street Books in Mashpee, MA

Cultural Center in South Yarmouth, MA

Brewster Bookstore in Brewster, MA

Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham, MA

Titcombs Bookshop in Sandwich, MA

Orleans Booksmith and Musicsmith in Orleans, MA

Provincetown Bookshop in Provincetown, MA

Wellfleet Marketplace in Wellfleet, MA

Symposium Books in Providence, RI

The Counting House by Sandra Ridley

Sandra Ridley’s The Counting House (BookThug, 2013) is a powerhouse collection, establishing its tone within very first words: “A husha. A husha” (“A General Tale”). The poetry is an ekphrasis work of artist michèle provost’s installation piece ABSTrACTS/RéSuMÉS: An Exercise in Poetry. The ekphrasis is mixed with a bit of plunderverse to create a loose narrative that spans throughout the four poems. The essays given by provost—Michael Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and the Roud Folk Song Index—offer a lens that spurs on the other three pieces as well. Readers can understand the lens through these basic points: Ridley draws mainly on the idea of panopticism from Foucault and its concept of self-imposed discipline; this is then paired with de Beauvoir’s feminist critique of women as “Other” in a Subject (Man) – Other (Woman) dichotomy, in which women will never be seen as equal partners as long as they are socialized to believe in femininity as inadequacy, with male traits as the definition of strength and power.

The first poem, “A General Tale,” centers largely on the Roud Index, working with the haunting repetition of folk songs like “Ring Around the Rosie.” Ridley grabs onto phrases like “a husha,” “fall down,” “blackbirds,” and “posy” to embed a tone of imminence. “Lax Tabulation,” the direct ekphrasis piece, is styled like an accountant’s tabulation, each part constructed with phrases pulled from provost’s provided essays. The spaces between lists create caesuras that further play with space on the pages as breath-markers. Even more curious—the poems can be read horizontally or vertically, resulting in two voices. The third and fourth poems, “Testimonium” and “Luxuria,” heavily allude to the Foucault and de Beauvoir essays. Ridley takes up Foucault’s discussion of pancopticism and sets the speaker as the guard figure in the concealed tower, observing prisoners in the surrounding cells. The subject—“my Darling”—becomes one of these prisoners, which is where Beauvoir’s Second Sex comes into play; the Darling, as woman, is trapped in this cell of domestic household, disciplined by her supposed lover, whose “Affections will become more harmful” (“Testamonium”). The woman, always under the gaze, slowly becomes “Other,” just as de Beauvoir’s essay theorizes, through almost animalistic (and abused) imagery of “bitten hands” and “bitten lip” as well as through the constant interruption made by the second person pronoun that addresses the lover (and reader).
Ridley’s style is what brings the ambitious collection its success. Her choice to play with space, as if scoring the poems herself, creates a rich duality between pauses and punctured fragments—in this collection, her periods work more as commas, but provide a stilted rhythm that is essential to the tone. Her consonance of d and t throughout also add to the sound of stuttering as well as implications of violence and discipline. The rhyme throughout is subtle; slant and internal rhymes work as indicators to the reader—in fact, the major shift in Darling’s narrative is signaled with internal rhyme, falling on “reward” and “accord” in XXVII of “Testimonium.”

Slap-dashed versus reward.

She shall decide how long this will last and conclude.

Her own accord.

This shift characterizes the return of agency to Darling, the rebellion of de Beauvoir’s second sex. Asides work positively as insight into what isn’t said, perhaps due to an implied oppression. The collection—which begins with the words “A husha”—begs to be heard in its silence, within the white spaces of the pages.

The Counting House’s final lines are no less satisfactory, as its words are left to echo in readers’ ears when it pleads for something that can be believed in: “Rain. // Grief. // Skin.” (“Luxuria”). This sentiment then reappears on the final page in a slab poem of three new repeated words in various orders, inciting the effect of a tombstone to mark the collection’s end. Whether or not readers are interested in the greater philosophy of the pieces, Sandra Ridley’s strength in tone and the ways in which the mood—formed within the first four words—is built and maintained, should be entertainment enough to keep the pages flipping.

– ML Wolters

Parades by Sara Deniz Akant

I received Sara Deniz Akant’s Parades (2014) at the perfect time—just days before Halloween. I’m not sure if this was the solid marketing of Omnidawn Publishing, or mere coincidence, but this chapbook will haunt you, not only with images of ghosts speckled from the first page throughout the book but also with remnants of dead white men whose metered verse feels fragmented, torn, and echoing.

Not that this is actually their metered verse, as one might get with an actual erasure collection, but one can pick up on traces of Poe here—the “scratching wall” in the poem “Mark,” and the line “no it’s not so very raven, such thin walled bones” (“Finga”), or even Twain when describing “Sawyer gadgets” in “Machines on the Move.”

Winner of the Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Competition, one of the many feelings left upon the reader will be that of frustration. What’s experimental about it? The bizarre forms, the abandoned syntax, some foreign languages here and there, a more challenging demand for comprehension, and an extra use of keyboard symbols. What wasn’t? The rhythm, the rhyme, the strange lurking of late Romanticism and the occasional return to formalism and syntax. As is the case with most experimental poetry, we won’t “get” all of it. Oftentimes, I felt like I was reading an erasure poem—except that it often bounced with metered rhythm and rhyme. Poems like “The Baboon,” while skating across the page looking fragmented with all its chunks of white space, at the same time, sounded quite villanelly.

Admittedly, some of the typographical choices that have become set within the poetry felt to me a little gimmicky—meant more for ornamental decoration than to enhance some of the poems. This was the case with poems like “Uptron,” “Itgara 2.0,” and “April Ltd.” In one case, the poem “^ Wilbaso ^” felt successful with all of its bizarre carrots, inching the eyes upward in verse “half-trolling^the eies,” and certainly much of the forms used by Deniz Akant felt new, straying from your typical Academy tercet/couplet into centered, justified wide margined prose pieces, followed by less marginalized prose poems broken with repetitive hyphens (which just look like really long lines). Essentially, Sara Deniz Akant is reworking what we know of the prose poem in many of these pieces, but much more fragmented, and a lot more caesuraed. Comprehensively, the collection moves from what feels like an establishment of setting, piecing itself together through a collection of character-driven poems marking the dead from abandoned spaces, and turning on itself in dystopian machinery. At least for me.

–John Bonanni

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