Poetry Reviews: J Matthew Waters, AshiAkira, Laura Grace Weldon

“I believe the role of the poet is to reflect on human experience and the world we live in and to articulate it for oneself and others…. I think that the poet can write forcefully, using a different approach from a journalist, about subjects such as climate change, violence, abuse and mental illness and that this is meaningful to others. I very much believe too that poetry is a way of celebrating life. I think it deserves a central place in our world.”  A Life Immersed in Poetry: Myra Schneider, Celebrating Over 50 Years as Poet and Writer (link to Jamie Dedes)

By Lara
Howdy! …just so you know, I have always had more poetry books (and history books) on my book shelves, and these three brilliant poets never cease to amaze  and fill me with wonder and deep thoughts.  Poetry does deserve your time, too, so brace yourself, this is a long post…

First up:

J Matthew Waters, and his 2015 book Forty-Five Revolutions Per Minute (ISBN: 978-1-5197-2802-9)

With four poetry collections published, JW writes a daily poem on his blog  jdubqca , and it’s extraordinary he can keep up this writing schedule since it appears he also has a job in the financial sector in Iowa!

(below) Read RUNNING ON EMPTY! I’ve earmarked his book, and have so many post-its – it was very hard to choose just one but WOW –

A man who can write with such madcap vision with a dash of the esoteric and gravity of love, he’s grabbed me so many times with his poetic brilliance, I am simply in awe of this man.  JW has composed over 700 poems since 2011 (and blogs as he writes them).  It all makes sense to me –JW can’t help himself – he is an artist (of words.)

theory of a black hole

birth is like a microscopic bang
transmitting near-silent primal waves
quickly creating its very own tiny galaxy

struggles elapse in the background
ongoing and inaudible to the human mind
unmistakable to the almighty creator

to what degree the energy advances
is an invaluable period of time
[no matter the linear length]
from the very start to infinitesimal finish

(may 30, 2019)

++He makes an audio file so you can hear him read which is also genius! Visit JW on his poetry blog HERE:  https://jdubqca.com/

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by

The news of heat strokes

Never been so hot in May

Or people getting weak?

AshiAkira is a skilled master of Haiku who lives in Tokyo, Japan. I wrote an earlier review of his work here (when he was 79 years young).

He has since published a second collection Haiku Poems II (LINK: available on Lulu.com) with over 500 poems, in the five-seven-five syllable pattern.  What I long for when I read his work is to feel what he feels as he walks the places he knows so well in Japan, and learn about his culture a half a world away.  After hearing about yet another earthquake, I waited to see what he’d write.

526

After the earthquake

Sit in a mess of strewn books

Thinking of reading.

 

527

Cascade of spring light

The resurrection of the earth

After the earthquake.

AshiAkira (his penname) wishes to emulate the haiku poets of old.  It’s so difficult for me to write (and think) in three sentences but he’s a master:

Red-and-white plum trees

Innocently in full bloom

Amid snow forecast

In the book introduction he writes about how he came to be a poet:

Thanks to retirement, I became free.

Having worked as a news reporter,

I have seen the pretentious faces of people in many walks of life,

Politicians, bureaucrats, businesspeople, showbiz celebrities,

preachers, and priests—- All wade through their lives

with business smiles and political gestures.

I was one of them.

When I found myself free, the first thing I did was take a walk.

 

His third collection is delayed: he wrote me his hospitalization in 2018 prevented him from publishing “Haiku Poems III” and right now (May 2019) he is recovering from pneumonia and was in hospital again.

In an 2018 email exchange, I asked AskiAkira how he’s doing: “I’m feeling all right, and I can walk about 100 meters now.  I’m sure I can regain the strength enough to complete the third book for publication soon.  I post haiku every other day now (on my blog), and I imagine about a couple of thousands from which to select for the next publication.

“The basic spirit of haiku writing is to follow the law of nature above and before all other things especially dictatorship or any other political oppression. When the ordinary people lead the world, peace will be on Earth,” AshiAkira wrote.

I urge you to visit and follow his blog and see for yourself what a gift this beautiful man is to the world and to HAIKU poetry…

HAIKU II (ISBN:  978-1-4834-7596-7 ppbk)

He posted an introduction to Vol III here: https://ashiakira.wordpress.com/2019/03/11/march-10-introduction/

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Let me share just a few 5 STAR reviews on Amazon for BLACKBIRD: (ISBN: 978-0999432761 ppbk)

This book of new poems by Laura Grace Weldon, titled Blackbird, is a gem. Her imagery is grounded and evocative. Real life unfolds here in ways that give poignant hope to the paradoxes of our lives. These truth-telling poems of tender scenes will stay in the memory for years to come.

This book is a pergola–you walk through it, to find a green and wholesome space

   By turns this collection made me laugh, feel wistful, get in touch with half-forgotten memories, and at one point, I just set the book down, completely gob-smacked. I LOVE poetry, but I have little patience for poetry that makes me feel stupid. Laura’s poems never do that. They have a fresh straightforwardness that makes them relatable, and at the same time they have multiple layers to dive into. Here’s an example of one that grabbed me from the first line.

  In “Assembly Required” the poem opens with “I just need a new body / my mother used to say / as if she could unscrew her head…”.  How can the reader not keep reading?  Where is this one going?  Well, with this poet, it will be somewhere interesting, thought provoking, wonder-full. The whole book is worth owning just to read (and re-read) “Compost Happens”. That was the gob-smacker for me.

SOOOO… yes I took my time with Blackbird, and wrote a few pages of notes which became this review on Amazon:

Playing Blackbird

The world needs a big dose of Weldon’s poetry right now

May 17, 2019

Her poetry takes raw courage. My dictionary is open on my desk to play BLACKBIRD (her poem and book title) as instructed in the beautiful new poetry collection by Laura Grace Weldon. (I found a word, eyes closed, my finger blindly choosing the word itinerary. The word perfectly fits her new book: a record of a journey.) 
Her book breathes; Blackbird beats in my hand. Whoever said, “Poetry is a language unto itself,” this is utterly true of her work. (I always look forward to her musings on her website, too.)
Without a doubt, her poetry is code. Not everyone feels poems are a form of writing they can understand. Laura doesn’t write difficult or obtuse. She writes “REALLY REAL, deeply.” Her words rush tears to my eyes. So I pray she makes time to write volumes more… and allow us access to her universe, embedding word-poems for those of us wise enough to realize true beauty when we see it… if only us humans could only crack open and think with open hearts.
“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth… When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” – JFK
The world needs a big dose of Weldon’s poetry right now. As Laura writes in Earthbound:
“We want to get past/ greed, suffering and war, enough already./ And death? That’s awfully primitive for souls with so much left to learn./ That said, this planet does a lot right./ Birds, for one./ Water in all its perfect manifestations./ Those alive poems called trees. ”
God, I want what she wants. Time travel would also be nice. 🙂

 

Ah… the beauty of her writing is in full bloom here:  https://lauragraceweldon.com/

Laura is also the author of Free Range Learning and an earlier poetry collection Tending.

**** (one last thing)

Why has noone produced reality show about poets??? I know plenty!

J Peter Moore wrote: How can it be, with streaming services and cable channels engaged in an all-out arms race for our so-called “entertainment” dollars, that no one has produced reality show about poets???

Magdalena Zurawski’s recent book of poems The Tiniest Muzzle Sings Songs of Freedom, offers a glimpse into what this duality might look like:

“So that my best poems disappeared just as I began to dream. I know I was their only audience, but I am sure they were my best work. If only I know how to retrieve them, know where they were stored.”

GREAT REVIEW: Poems About Unending Displacement and Mobility

 

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If I have not said it to you bloggers, I mean this. You mean the world to me. There are so many of you who I treasure when I read your posts, though I don’t always comment or say something nice or witty. You have made me a better writer and reader.  Thank you ALL!

I have a new doctor for my thyroid issues (hyper-thyroid) and he is young and talented and of course holistic. I will be following a new regimen the next 30 days or so and will report back how I’m doing in July.  The other bigger issue: uterine cancer was surgically removed and is gone. I’ll be around much longer we hope!

 

Top photo:

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Indian Country: The Art of David Bradley continues at the Autry Museum of the American West (4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles) through January 5, 2020. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology (Santa Fe, NM) and circulated through Guest Curator Traveling Exhibitions.

Source: Santa Fe Through the Eyes of a Minnesota Chippewa Artist

Eliminating the Human | The amazing Laura Grace Weldon

A View from David Byrne

I have a theory that much recent tech development and innovation over the last decade or so has had an unspoken overarching agenda—it has been about facilitating the need for LESS human interaction. It’s not a bug—it’s a feature. We might think Amazon was about selling us books we couldn’t find locally—and it was and what a brilliant idea—but maybe it was also just as much about eliminating human interaction. I see a pattern emerging in the innovative technology that has gotten the most attention, gets the bucks and often, no surprise, ends up getting developed and implemented. What much of this technology seems to have in common is that it removes the need to deal with humans directly. The tech doesn’t claim or acknowledge this as its primary goal, but it seems to often be the consequence. I’m sort of thinking maybe it is the primary goal. There are so many ways imagination can be manifested in the technical sphere. Many are wonderful and seem like social goods, but allow me a little conspiracy mongering here—an awful lot of them have the consequence of lessening human interaction.

I suspect that we almost don’t notice this pattern because it’s hard to imagine what an alternative focus of tech development might be. Most of the news we get barraged with is about algorithms, AI, robots and self driving cars, all of which fit this pattern, though there are indeed many technological innovations underway that have nothing to do with eliminating human interaction from our lives. CRISPR-cas9 in genetics, new films that can efficiently and cheaply cool houses and quantum computing to name a few, but what we read about most and what touches us daily is the trajectory towards less human involvement.

Note: I don’t consider chat rooms and product reviews as “human interaction”; they’re mediated and filtered by a screen.

We are beset by—and immersed in—apps and devices that are quietly reducing the amount of meaningful interaction we have with each other.

the downside of technology

Social networks are also a source of unhappiness. A study earlier this year by two social scientists, Holly Shakya at UC San Diego and Nicholas ­Christakis at Yale, showed that the more people use Facebook, the worse they feel about their lives.  While these technologies claim to connect us, then, the surely unintended effect is that they also drive us apart and make us sad and envious.

David Byrne is a musician and artist who lives in New York City. His most recent book is called How Music Works. A version of this piece originally appeared on his website, davidbyrne.com.

A MUST READ: Eliminating the Human – MIT Technology Review

***From L/T…

I do not spend hours on Twitter or Facebook like I used to.  Teaching about social media and blogging, I’m not doing that anymore.  In my own research/work at the moment… I can tell you that some of the greatest minds in the world are sharing generously with us… on blogs… on twitter… and on other social media.  Like David Byrne (read his thoughts above)… Just like so many of you amaze me each week on your blogs.

My online friend, the author LAURA GRACE WELDON has some of the MOST amazing Tweets!  Last week I tried to pick a few you might like 🙂  (One of the nice things about Twitter is you can go back and read all the tweets – and even go back months!)  Please follow her if you are on Twitter.

This is her:   Writer, editor, farm wench, wonder junkie, awkward empath, aspiring hermit.

 Laura has built a treasure on her website and in her poetry and in her books.  (top photo)  Please do this for you and go visit her website this winter.  She’s been such a gift to me.

There were so many great tweets, it was hard to pick!   See you all next week.