by Miles David Morre
The Word Works (Capitol Collection) ©2004 68 pages $10.00 ISBN: 0-915380-56-0
Children of the Moon
by Sonja James
The Argonne House Press 45 pages $8.00 ISBN: 1-887641-17-3
by Tammy Vitale
Xlibris 70 pages $10.00 ISBN: 1-4134-4522-5
The Word Works is a Washington based press that remains hard at work since 1974. In 2004 “Word Works” boasts 53 titles plus anthologies, national prize winning editions and the Capital Collection featuring excellence in the DC area. Its newest volume is Rollarcoaster by Miles David Moore.
Miles makes us laugh and cry as the same time he helps us to brave life’s many humiliations of the spirit. His poems, social commentaries, are marshmallows with a razor blade inside, delicious, with a Yeatsian sense of lyric. There are three sections to this book: “Wheels Grinding” “ Monsters” “ Turbulence.” And in each we find more than one poem to remember, to return to. Moore’s humor, his love, his incisive analysis of our complicated world is fresh programming in poetry.
“Evenings With the Dictator’s Wife” is a 7-page poem in 4 parts. Remindful of Carolyn Forche’s The Country Between Us, we see the tragedy in the undertow of a culture gone wrong. Here is Part 1.
Evenings With the Dictator's Wife (pg. 16)
Thursday afternoons from four to seven
are devoted to Her salon. The palace
becomes a prodigy of lace and cakes,
Her sanctum sanctorum festooned with gladioli,
Royal Doulton, mid Laura Ashley.
The warring perfumes of gardenias and Earl Grey
waft about Her as She, a vision in taffeta,
through constant mouthfuls of eclair and jammed scone,
expresses Her views on literature and art
to a circle of rapt, hushed listeners
from Her nation's artistic elite. The trouble
with Orwell (She intones in a voice
like Eleanor Roosevelt's or Margaret Durnont's),
besides his relentless focus on ugliness,
was his unrealistic, unwholesome portrayal
of O'Brien's relationship with Winston Smith.
How could any sane person accept that O'Brien,
a man of power, culture, and influence,
would waste so many words, ideas, rats,
indeed any more than a bullet to the brain
on a meaningless cipher like Winston Smith?
Indeed (and here Her Belgian lace kerchief
becomes soiled with mascara and justified tears),
why can't so‑called literary artists like Orwell,
who win the pig‑ignorant world's applause
for writing sordid lies, instead validate
the simple beauty of truth as revealed
in a flower or a drop of water or a star
or the Great Age of Justice begun by Her Husband,
Who is surely The Greatest Man of All Time? …
Moore is unafraid. This is what is needed. Always a gentleman, his work swashbuckles away at the ignorant and the cruel among us; He is a one-person organization, seeing the silly and the inhumane, writing as if he could save us all by naming it.
One name outstanding is the personal “Fatslug” (which has garnered Moore national recognition in the winning DC Poetry Slam among others competitions.) Fatslug, the author claims, is the poster boy for low self-esteem; and it is with eloquence and charm that we enter into a life with all the benign degradation of a Charlie Brown. Love is at the heart of his disappointment.
Fatslug Plays the Lottery (pg.37)
Each week Fatslug buys an indulgence.
For a dollar offering, he gets
the emblem of his faith‑a slip
of paper bearing six numbers gleaned
from the most sacred fortune cookies and ordered
according to the doctrines of the prophet Fatslug
He binds the ticket lovingly
in the same wallet‑leather as the Devil's signs ‑
credit card receipts, bank withdrawals,
deposits as paltry as widows' mites.
He holds them all in his holey pocket,
the angelic forces of potential wealth
battling the demons of poverty.
So why does every Sunday morning
arrive to answer another's prayers?
Fatslug puts down the paper announcing
six winning numbers heretically wrong
and lifts his eyes unto the Heavens.
How long, 0 Lord, how long?
Just as with William Meredith’s “Hazard the Painter;” John
Miles David Moore is the author of two previous books of poetry. His poems are featured on the CD FATSLUG UNBOUND, read by 14 other poets. He hosts the Iota Poetry Series in Arlington Virginia; and he works as a Washington reporter for Crain Communications Inc. He is one of the treasures of our nation’s capital.
Tammy Vitale’s first book Shiftis a blueprint of her journey through social change to self-actualization. It is a triumph over dark forces and the internal quarrels that eventually turn into strength. Women’s self realizations are surprisingly the same: Mainstream, women poets live through a sense of isolation, guilt, then the powerful current of hope that uplifts the poem from the page.
Tommorow I will be (pg. 65)
Wind remembering desert,
how sand speaks to itself
thinking no one can hear, sheds
tears which are not wet.
Yesterday I was
Water dreaming of my mother ‑
a yellow comet that turned
from ice to snow to sea.
Once I was
Stone; but it took too long
to say my name‑so I dissolved,
became Dust, Storm‑learned
to see possibilities.
Sometimes I am Sun kissing Wind
hot against soft skin, and
Sometimes I am
Moon singing secrets,
Tasting darkness, reflecting
in things with shiny eyes.
Responsibility, moral obligations make the female gender a lost generation until she leaves everyone else, just long enough to find her own soul of pleasures. This is what some people call “self.”
Tammy Vitale’s poems are details of color for Vitale is a consummate artist of the “plastique” arts of paint and clay. The book is alive with the visualized rainbow of thought and spirit. It is mythic in its proportions, and wild at times, quiet at other times. To read it is to become part of some ancient female ritual where primal beings take shape and change shape into mind, heart, thoughtforms.
From Epistle (pg. 45)
Your sisters sit in a circle, can you see them?
One is dark as night, her eyes are stars; comets
fly from her mouth when she speaks. One
has fire for hair – she dances among us, lighting our clothes
with red flames. One sits in the center blindfolded. She wishes not to be
We form a wall around her; sing a song whose
meter makes new meaning from old words.
This is a slender book. Its poems are not verbose, words are carefully selected, the verbiage is crystalline, delicate, yet powerful as a honed piece of steel that moves in the wind. If you read this through, you will enter the forest, receive blessings and enchantments, and come out of your own wilderness into light.
The book is dedicated to “Women everywhere/be they already Wylde/or/working on it or/dreaming about it/or/just wondering what it means:/may your feet find their path/ and your heart its home.”
Red (pg. 69)
I am red
refracting ruby and garnet
by dragons breathing fire;
sunset and rich wine I
bite going down.
I am red
watermelon full of juice,
spring strawberries running
down your chin,
vine ripe tomatoes‑come
salt me and taste.
I am red
color of church candles blessed
flickering in corners
calling you to your knees;
heat to ward off cold and
warm your hands.
I am red
enchantment and dreams
stinging ants and anger
satin sheets and passion.
I am red
I am red
Are you ready?
These are not the words of a timid heart. Every poem in this book can stand alone as memorable. Can you think of another book in recent time like this? It was culled from 100’s of pages until the kernal of a massive manuscript was preserved for us in form. Tammy Vitale takes a thrilling stance as a poet with her first book.
Sonja James is the author of one previous book Baiting the Hook
(The Bunny and the Crocodile Press.) Her poems have been accepted by 11 literary magazines and journals during the past 12 months. Prolific? Productive? Passionate? Sonja is a daily practitioner of her art, working fulltime within the poem. This book lives to tell of it.
Most critics would call James an imagist:
From Hummingbird (pg.20)
Hovering above the fragrant cluster of lilac,
That hummingbird is light
As a halved strawberry….
Some see her as a philosopher
Crone (pg. 10)
At the edge of the forest the old crone lurks
she signals to the nymphs as she begins to laugh
first she laughs at the gathering clouds
then she laughs at the era of the gods
who brought the nymphs into being
she can’t stop the outburst doesn’t want to
hysteria mounts as she goes on laughing
then a final guffaw turns the sky red
& all the nymphs disperse like leaves
turning in a solemn respectful wind
(and the end verse)
the crone rejoices in the crimson air of victory
knows she has brought about the death of myth
the nymphs are gone & she had won a heart
without resorting to trickery or charm
how soft her voice is how shapely her hands.
In “The Star Elf” (pg. 12)
the poetry turns to metaphor and one could imagine the star elf as the poet.
Who dares to touch the stars? Perhaps an ambitious elf
with chistled fingertips hard as a diamond in the rough
& luck as bland as a figure eight. Does not one notice…
And the title poem “Children of the Moon” has the same magic. In it the creator who has the world from a window, but only she sees what others do not notice. The artist is awake at all times, and to the artist will come sight. We do not always know what to make of it, but the gift is there
Children of the Moon (pg.17)
He rose from bed with a little cough.
More like a sputter.
His nose hurt.
And he was hungry.
He opened a window and looked out.
The moon was half hidden behind a cloud,
and he was pleased by the sight of it.
Then he saw the children
dancing in the moonlight.
There were five of them,
all the same size. They wore tunics like the ancient Romans,
and they held hands as they danced.
He wanted to cry out to them: "Not so fast. Wait for the dawn,"
but his voice stuck in his throat.
He had to be patient.
He wanted to be kind.
He had no desire to disturb their rhythm.
How often do five children
dance in the moonlight?
This is a fabulous poem, as is “Snow White” pg.39, but I do not want to lead you into thinking these poems make up the genre of the book. Not by far. I see Sonja James as a spirtual and political poet, fathoming extreme contours of the world, seen from a high landscape, somewhat a high priestess who can transform all poverty into pearls and brutality into beauty.The Schizophrenic in West Virginia (pg. 9)
To rest here, I mimic the cry of Galileo.
It moves, I shriek
and that's why I must be still.
Like Goya's Maja
I recline nude upon the sofa,
wondering at the change in my visage
when I decide to become fully clothed.
Double my heart,
and I'll make a red fist of Being,
existence blunt and total.
The church hides nothing.
Carnivores and penitents emerge with equal tenacity.
God knows my dream of the broken chair,
once a throne to Cleopatra.
What class do poets inhabit, I wonder. Surely not the ruling class, perhaps not the underclass. Is there a regal class? There should be a crystal class. Poets make all things clean and new. Sonja James is a beautiful snowfall covering a ghetto at night.
Argonne House Press continues to produce quality books and has become a mainstay in small press publishing, now moving to full-length books, it has more than 37 chapbooks still in print, a credit to the poetry scene.