A Bounded Space, by Ralph Stevens

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A Bounded Space by Ralph Stevens 2

Ralph Stevens’ poems are lessons in mindfulness, of paying attention to the world within and without. So the poems are about looking out—often a window, literal or metaphorical—and taking in what nature unfolds, its story, as well as the people who glide by. The way his images pile up is lovely–a deep contemplation–and sometimes painterly, like when he describes how the winter light turns a room with its sandwich plate and apples into a Vermeer still life. There is a sense of reverence, not just in nature, also in old things, like old houses or barns. The poems are expressions of gratitude in the being and the living, before the dying.

Seer, by Emil Sinclair

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Seer is Emil Sinclair’s imaginary Hero’s journey, following in the footsteps of Odysseus, but more metaphysical. Taking on the mantle of an epic journey–which is art translating vision into form–the hero is another reiteration of Tiersias. It weaves parapsychology and mythology, is a love story, and ultimately a quest, a soul’s journey. It can be read as a story of human suffering and redemption. It is nothing more than a fable. After all, we’re fabulous creatures, aren’t we, in a story of becoming. Until that happens, we’re blind and incognito, relying on intuition, wit and courage in our quest.

The Aftermath of Everything, by Irene Toh

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the aftermath of everything by irene toh 2

It’s possibilities dimmed, yet
as you practiced drawing in air,
a frank serious blossoming.

After shit happens, what then? Does one become a kind of translator looking through the detritus of life? In The Aftermath of Everything, these poems live in that sort of landscape. In looking back to a past that’s forever gone, does one’s scavenging turn up treasures, mere debris or a mix of both? Is there a loss or increase in faith? If loss is muteness–as one remembers and then cast off everything–what happens in this space? Is this a space in which one–everyone probably–inhabits after living through life’s many seasons? For Irene Toh, in this space she tries to carve up something, and that is somehow predicated on the art of story-telling.

We Will All Fly, by Christopher Hileman

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…that my words might mean a thing/for once, and maybe/appear soaring with/
the flock of full-fledged word birds.
–“Not This Time”

Christopher Hileman’s poems are typically brief. So condensed but they pack a punch, stir a cauldron brimming in love and sorrow, hope and despair, in equal measure. You will be carried away by tiny details of observation, in precise language; immersed in intimate imagery of the soul, beautiful like a shoreline. Of his persona, you will be moved by an abjection of his body throughout and a concomitant tenderness; captivated by the rhythms of a domesticated life populated by a dog, a cat and chickens; held by his dream songs of flight and magic. His muse is the Goddess, always. You wonder if it’s real—it feels so grounded—accept that he knows it’s only art, his ruse, a fiction so “divine” that it counts as perhaps the purest art. In his poems, you constantly find a devout seeking of truth, in her. You sense a spiritual rootedness and also a pulling away, in the abiding reality of a deep winter.

Ars Poetica, by Karla Linn Merrifield

ars poetica by karla linn merrifield

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sing to me as you pass through me, all
of me, my ten-thousand thoughts
of wishful thinking
we could be anything
—“ Tonight I Wish Of”

Karla Linn Merrifield’s poems are thoughts about thoughts put into poetic form. When you summon thoughts, you are making a different sort of reality that exists in your mind, your imagination, your reality. Hers lean toward meta poems. Birds figure often in her poems as physical and metaphorical imagery. Her metaphors are exquisite—see how she writes about grief in “Lode”. What stands out also is her fervour for female empowerment. There is a Dionysian spirit which she situates within form—a dialectic between spirit and form. She celebrates love, music, the human spirit, and poetry, in spades.

Twilight Fox, by Robert Walton

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The current’s curves
And star-polished boulders
Blend with the ease
Of long acquaintance—
So our friendship
Has flowed years long
—“Tuolumne Solitaire”

Robert Walton’s poems regale us with his mountain-climbing experiences. They speak of snow, cliff, lake, river, mountain, boulders, clouds, stars as unyielding but spiritual presences. His sight of the fauna and flora is on offer—fox, falcon, owl, hummingbird, sage, pine, lupine. His subjects shimmer with light. His language is like delicate paint-strokes. His astute metaphors mesmerise you. Nature’s beauty and spectacle is melded into personal witness and memory as he scales the summits.

Earth Bound, by Alan Toltzis

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earth bound by alan toltzis

Here the task is harder:
look deeply and learn
the true nature of trees,

judge the strength
and weakness of people,
feel the promise of the land,

while squinting into the glare
of proximity
just beyond the horizon.
—“140,000,000 Miles Away ”

Alan Toltzis’s poems explore different aspects of the nature of the universe. They are close examinations, interrogations and extrapolations. His stories are earth bound. Nature, whether it be birds or trees, is transfigured by his language. The moon appears a lot in his poems too, as a dream motif, or perhaps a quest. Or a prayer. He brings the ordinary (such as forays into supermarket aisles) into grand narratives. In doing so he grounds us. He engages with the universe in both small and big ways.

Little Popple River, by Jeff Burt


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little popple river by jeff burt

Some of us are meant to launch into the air
screaming as we head to who knows where.
–“Somewhere, Anywhere”

Jeff Burt’s poems are about journeying; what is gleaned from these journeys—both within and without—are learned, so every poem is perspicacious, is wrought with intertwined meanings, is a bridge between the past and the present. They contain passages of time. Such learning often takes place in the landscape of mountains, creeks and forests. The imagery of tools is ever present—trestle, ramp, tomahawk and so on–and language is also a tool, for bridging inner and outer worlds, between history and the present, animal and human, the dead and the living. His poems reflect empathy for the enslaved, the poor, the hungry, animals, mothers. So richly textured are they that they lead to crossings, epiphanies, transcendence.

Nothing Stays Here Long, by Martin Willitts Jr

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I am alert to what makes the silence/silent
–“The World Is Alert In Its Silence”

Martin Willitts Jr’s poems are a deep meditation, each one of them exceptional in their truth-telling. These are what may be called leave-taking poems, and how the poet does it is in capturing stillness and movement, expressed in quiet narratives and nature imagery that is absolutely lyrical. Above the noise, the poet looks for silence. In his poems, silence is the motif–if you’re as alert, his poems will speak to you through the imagery and move you with their eloquence. His brilliant poems reward close reading — read quietly and feel the resonance in his language.

Growing Together, by Mark Tulin


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My dreams are like flowers
of Emerson and Frost
that suddenly appear
from my lips
in unexpected places
—“Sunflower Poetry ”

Mark Tulin’s poems celebrate hopes and dreams, divine blessings, simple joys under the California sun. His stories follow the adage of looking on the brighter side of life, thriving on growth and enjoyment. The simple life is the charmed life. And you’ll be charmed too, by the vistas of sandy beaches, the oversaturation of sun warding off winter, a sense of well-being and freedom not so often portrayed in poetry.