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Posts Tagged ‘Ruth Berman’


Don’t know that I’ve blogged an F&SF mag before, and this will be a short blog, as there is only one poem in the current issue, “Spacemail Only,” by Ruth Berman, a fun poem, extending the idea of the post office into the future: “The new commemoratives are / For Spacemail only.” It is amusing to think how stamp collecting will be affected by interstellar mail. “The Post Office / Promises delivery within the century…” Ouch. Another little bit I really enjoyed: “They’ve issued / Many attractive sheets of sf writers…” Well, and when they do, I hope Ruth is one of those honored.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

P.S. My eBook of love poems, Against The Night, is available widely, including on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/AgainstTheNight

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Tales Of The Unanticipated came out with a new issue after several years on hiatus. I’m glad these poems got to see the light of day.

Ruth Berman gives us a fun poem, “Witches’ Checkout,” concerning all you may buy “At the Witches’ supermarket.” “enchanter’s nightshade, /poisonous mushrooms canned or dried…” the list goes on, as the poem features Berman’s dry, amusing tone. “Variety meats move fast.” And a fun ending.

October Avalonne contributes “Sleeping Beauty In Red Stilettos.” “In our dimly lit prison / we spin for them.” A reasonably creepy poem: “I weave / with bolts of skin, skeins of tresses…flirt with a golden tanned man…” that goes off in an unanticipated direction, as I suppose it should: “But sometimes / when she spins with me, / her long hair sweeps across my arm…”

F.J. Bergmann gives us a fun, complex poem, “Alpha Centauri,” that isn’t quite an abecedarian: “A peels an instrument panel from the wall…Shrieking, B hurls it to the floor.” The letters of the aphabet get mixed up, drift out and back in, and generally contribute to the fun.

The last poem I’ll discuss is Kristine Ong Muslim’s “Resurrection Of A Rag Doll,” another poem shading from sadness towards horror. “My button eyes itch / in their nonexistent sockets….Girls like me live much longer / when we cannot see.” Powerful.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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This season’s Plainsongs boasts poems by several seasoned poets. Let me start with Ruth Berman’s “Flawed X-Ray” — “The diamond ring is dark / Upon the bones…” a properly spooky start to this quick little poem, and the shiver continues throughout “…spread forever on the film…” to a powerful ending.

Just beneath this on the page is Lyn Lifshin’s “Emily Dickinson,” which does not pay direct homage through rhyme schemes and short little verses. Instead it portrays her almost in movie terms: “moves past the mirror / that’s mostly black… A dark splotch gulps even the / amber in her eyes…” Strong images that build to a satisfying conclusion.

Another strong poet in this magazine is Ed Galing, who gives us “First Born,” a touching description of the narrator at his son’s birth, fears and all: “i had the feeling that / it was all wrong / i wasn’t meant to be a father…” with the deft contrast to everyone else in the room being evidently thrilled “all smiling / shaking hands…oogling the little / brat” that last word like a slap. Then we go on to a second poem, “My Son At Sixty” for a second look at the relationship between these two people: “his hair is thinning / on the sides…I look at him / curiously / thinking…he /resembles my own / father…” Note the subtle use of enjambment, line after line ending at a precipice, we don’t know where the poet is going with his next word, the work winding down the page like the reflections of the poet himself. A great loss when this poet passed. We’ll miss him.

“Cocoa,” by Anne Knowles, is a very enjoyable poem, the nitty gritty of a dignified, working life. “the cocoa / yielding to his ministrations / as to a sermon.”

Finally, JW Major gives us “Jump,” which starts as a portrait of a fascinating man. “his comedy deadpan, bulgy-eyed…smiling / like a cheap-made devil.” My wife and I once bought a work of folk art in Santa Fe, a woman being whooshed off on the back of a bicycle, the devil at the wheel. This poem starts us off with that same slant humor, but then the poem goes deeper: “I turn sunshine gray, he said….Now he’s not here but is here more than before…” and slowly we realize the poem isn’t about him at all, but about her: “I’m on the condo pool deck, the widow, / character from a movie with the old lady hair-do” and the skilled turn makes this a tremendously powerful poem, with an ending that takes your breath away.”

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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In the February 2013 issue of Asimov’s (don’t know why they like to count a month ahead) Ruth Berman’s “How Many” is a fun little derivation from the phrase how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  “Well, it depends. / Self expression, / Room for one’s plenty.”  Then she reviews what happens with two angels, all the different dances one might see in that case, then keeps increasing the number, eight, nine, reaching ten “Chagalling overhead / To make up the minyan, /The angel with the fiddle.”  Kind of a cerulean square dance, I guess.  ;->  I liked it.

Bruce Boston outdoes himself this month, with “Curse of the Procrustean’s Wife,” turning the old Greek Procrustean myth into a modern fable of emotional abuse.  “She was once a woman / of moderate size…with moderate / needs and desires.”  It develops in a compact, powerful manner: “the longer / she stays by his side, / as he delimits her needs and defines her…”  The abuse, of course, increases, and the result, at the end, is devastating.  A great poem.

Finally, Robert Frazier gives us “7:17 AM, June 30, 1908, Central Siberia,” which title gives the time and location of a meteor (?) striking the earth.  He distributes eyewitness quotes to lay the groundwork: “the sky split in two” “fire appeared high and wide” then discusses how investigators, decades later, could not find the spot, and speculate on why this might be: “‘no crate site revealed’ by the aerial survey of 1938.”  Meteor?  Spacecraft?  You be the judge.  Kind of an interesting review of what-ifs and what-might-bes.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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