Kevin Hughes on Free Verse
Poems of Witness by James K. Zimmerman
Creation - a poem by Gabriel Guerra
Meteor Shower by Anne Whitehouse - a Review
Tribute to Omer Hadžiselimović by MiloradPejić
Protest Series - David H. Rommereim
Skaidrite Stelzer, Digging a Moose from the Snow. Finishing Line Press, 2021. $14.99 U.S. 38 pages, paperback. ISBN: 978-1646624553
Reviewed by Tija Spitsberg
In the poetry collection Digging a Moose from the Snow by Skaidrite Stelzer, the speaker ultimately draws the conclusion that we are all animals participating in shaping our shared landscape and seeking solutions to secure our survival. The opening poem serves as a preamble introducing the speaker of the poems by recalling a warning she receives from the “Pirushke lady” – a wise old sage who predicts the “fatal decline, spiraling toward death...In a few years your arches will fall/your feet grow hooved/toes become turtles/your husband will leave.”
What follows is a series of poems, each describing the trajectory from birth to death, linking our demise to the universal experience of all creatures; but there are glimmers of hope, especially for our children who approach the world with optimism. In “Cicada Shells,” “the granddaughters string them into long necklaces before they learn their fear of bugs, predicting the inevitable end of innocence.” The closing poem, “The First to Die,” suggests that we are losing the battle, yet also clings to possible redemption in the next generation, our children. “The forest now a pile of tender sticks/All color lost, white bone beneath the sea/Still children look for stars within the rifts/The first to die will be the coral reef.” This, however, is undercut by the final line, dictated by its form, the Villanelle, where the repetition of the final line is determined by its form: “The first to die will be the coral reef.”
Death comes to all of us, but we struggle to evade and delay its reality. In the title poem “Digging a moose from the snow” the struggle for survival is explored through the personification of the moose who “now knows we are animal/surviving/all of us/as best we can.” A “moose in a snowbank” emerges as the central symbol for our struggle to survive. This image solidifies the position the speaker of the poem takes in regard to the human condition: “the world is cruel/a world that will kill us (it’s true.)” But like the moose, “we must move against the snow banks/dig deeper than we believe…surviving all of us as best we can.”
These poems contemplate death and loss, as well as displacement and the salvation and pain of memory. Stelzer nimbly navigates this terrain as she explores these challenges through the use of fantasy, humor and sudden bursts of surrealism to deftly explore the natural world.
Copyright©2021 by Tija Spitsberg All Rights Reserved.
“I have known Kriben Pillay my entire life. He was a storyteller through his writing and teaching, an avid seeker through his study, research and spiritual quest for understanding and self-mastery. He is my mother’s eldest brother and I have watched him since my own childhood in the 70’s, when South Africa was a battleground, as a student, as a teacher, as an activist, as a rebel. The rules seemed to stretch to fit where he was headed. He travelled the world, met with luminaries such as J. Krishnamurti, wrote books and songs, mounted plays and productions, mentored artists and academics.
When days were darkest, with violence in our home, uncle Kriben made it his responsibility to be present. He was a family man and a connector of people and stories, which became apparent at any of the gatherings that he would orchestrate or preside over, a master of ceremony and a Joker extraordinaire.
Articulate and intelligent, his wit belied his consummate readiness to be silly
and to enjoy above all the company of children (I was the first, and my own
daughter the last in the family to know this)
We riffed together on many ideas and worked together on writing and productions and performances, and I feel that I had a glimpse into every facet of his diamond personality – vast, containing multitudes. He pointed me to Whitman, amongst many things.
Let me point you to him now, his award-winning poetry and writings, his legacy as a teacher and learner, his indelible influence as a father, son, brother, uncle...friend.”
“Owed to uncle Kriben”
you were always there
like how the moon is
together we did not grow up
though you could play the part quite convincingly
you always let me inside the story
I feel we were always in mid-conversation, few conversations at a time
sometimes few words
looking for a laugh with no excuse
- that irresistible one -
like when a plastic patio chair breaks in super slowmo, delivering a chunky challenger to the ground
or a piece of snot pokes impertinently out of a sincere testimonial’s nose
or, indeed, when a man of esteemed physical prowess trippingly flails his arms at the edge of a wedding stage like the Warner Bros coyote, very nearly almost regaining balance
before taking an almighty backward swan-dive into the grassy deck below, feet in the air.
I wish I could see you watch that moment, because watching you really laugh was a pleasure of the most involuntary proportions and the definition of giddy
We all laughed when you laughed.
by the way, everyone is still amazed by you.
Even if they think they knew the punchline. It hasn’t quite stuck yet that you are light years inside of us now
you always hinted at that
times are hard and the chocolates have gotten smaller
and we saw some of the very worst together, arm in arm
father and son sometimes brothers sometimes
but you snuck magic into the jail and it disappeared in the most impossible times
but now is a time for gratitude
as the Phoenix durga rides her tiger into victorious battle against the demon lord and all odds
as the Twofold Tamil Rule in a just world mind rises
as the Cosmic Koeksuster improbably holds to its celestial choreography
and we realise our captaincy
you introduced me to the harmonica and telling stories and mastering the Forces
I do these things now, singing my song
they call me uncle someplaces
I was once the apprentice to your sorcery, sir
seeking and taste for truth we shared
that blossoms in me and I’m addicted to its fragrance
you still learn me to see
Like the moon
you are still here even when the sun is out, besieging
dispelling the darkness
when the cool night comes
aum namah shivaya, you’re in our songs
aum namah shivaya, you’re on your way
aum namah shivaya, your turn to play
Cherish the Invisible Mind: A Plan to Heal Humanity by Defeating Narcissism andNeurosis. Damian B. Kim, M.D. Braugler Books. ISBN: 978-1970063837. $19.99US. Paper. 142 pages.
Dr. Damian B. Kim is a healer, and his words of wisdom in his new book Cherish the Invisible Mind offer sound guidance in our age of mental health crises. The book is excellently written, engaging, and well organized. Drawing on a number of scientific studies and psychological theories, as well as his own vast clinical experience, Dr. Kim tackles a range of problems and offers a number of solutions. For instance, narcissism and ego-centrism found among many younger Americans is leading to high expectations unfulfilled, competitiveness, and hence loneliness, depression, and even acts of suicide. Overall, Dr. Kim’s book is a succinct but commanding appraisal of and relevant response to a host of mental health disorders, ranging from anxiety and depression to drug abuse and violence, plaguing the American mind today.
As a highly-trained psychiatrist, Dr. Kim sees that some neuroses can be cultural; that is, mental health can be negatively affected or triggered by social conditions immersing people, often unwittingly, in a materialistic and power oriented society. This predicament is then compounded, Dr. Kim goes on, by professionally trained counselors who miss the cues or provide a failing treatment. With a focus on millennials, Dr. Kim’s head and heart are in the right place: he cares about the future of Americans and the U.S. This honest approach has not, of course, been embraced by all his peers, as he is the first to admit.
In an age of rampant psychiatric medications, Dr. Kim believes the source of people’s problems should be treated using psychotherapy whenever possible. A major concern of Dr. Kim is the rise of suicide rates in the U.S., perhaps because, not to oversimplify, the comfort of the body (using medicines and technology) has taken pride of place over the health of mind (using talk therapy). So Dr. Kim, as implied in the title of his book, seeks to penetrate and renew the unconscious mind which can often take a pernicious grip on one’s life with baneful results. This is more of a qualitative rather than a quantitative approach and hence, today, often ignored by many professionals though quite useful. At the same time, the unconscious mind can be a wellspring of sustenance if properly recognized, gently cared for, and ably negotiated. That’s the area of Dr. Kim’s expertise.
Dr. Kim rightly draws an analogy between the deteriorating and widespread harms of neuroses to a pandemic virus spiraling out of control, also unseen and destructive. Oddly, part of the cause for the spread of neuroses, he suggests, is capitalistic technology meant to make life easy and enjoyable, since it draws people apart and distracts them away from mindfulness and empathy. This book is a profound assessment of the current and at times superficial practices of psychiatry and yet an eloquent antidote to this profession’s shortcomings. Dr. Kim’s emphasis on character (using theory from Karen Horney) and interpersonal relationships correctly asks that contemporary people, especially the younger generations who will eventually be in control of government and the economy, engage in self-discovery. Some people might require professional therapy to do so, but the investment in self-understanding in a community of others is of paramount importance to Dr. Kim.
How do we solve these individual and social problems? There are some remedies that don’t require medication: education to increase knowledge of neuroses; meditation to help one come to grips with the self and comprehend the inner experience; psychotherapy, if required. In other words, answers to these problems are not necessarily in technology, more possessions, or competition among others but in acceptance and understanding of the unconscious mind. I found this book easy to read, enjoyable, and informative; it provides valuable guideposts to the future, and I recommend it to all students of psychology.
- Gregory F. Tague, Ph.D., professor, departments of Literature, Writing and Publishing / Interdisciplinary Studies, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, N.Y.