It’s been clear, after the last couple of years, that poetry is needed here. Most important, though, is poetry that defies and challenges convention, and I don’t mean in the hip, cool, socially accepted way of challenging convention.
So, the good news is that—unlike with toilet paper—this decade hasn’t created a shortage of poets and poetry, online or otherwise. The bad news? Angsty, bored teens have raided the pantry and are TP-ing the world.
The flipside of having no “hoops” to jump through as a poet, along with an instant way to “publish” one’s own work, is the world of online poetry has no real filtering process, no dynamic curators, except, of course, the poets themselves.
Even I’ve been guilty of falling prey to the gushing excitement of posting what I thought was a polished work, only to realize later that the poem was still forming, changing, growing in its cocoon stage, not yet ready to gnaw, squirm, break its way free into the ether.
Thank goodness for the ability to edit and/or delete.
*Digression #1: I want to note here that while there were voices in the past that were quashed based on everything from race, ethnicity, creed, gender, age, and/or (dis)ability—and I don’t just mean physical or mental disabilities. I mean voices trapped under everything from economic weight ( ie: my older brother, explaining to me that writing was a nice hobby, but as a single mother…) to health/mind/body constraints that keep voices we’ll never know or hear because things beyond their control disallow their words even the chance to be read.
These things and more, above, have robbed the world of something vital, unique, and important and the voices mentioned, above, have historically been marginalized through the same social constructs that divided Bukowski from Andrew Hudgins.
Sadly, and particularly the latter, continue to be kept from even walking into the room for the lack of metaphorical ramps, seeing/hearing aids, and/or curators willing to step out of their pleathered comfort zones and this is because one thing remains a constant:
Today’s arbiters of taste, those now making the literary “call” on who is heard, published, and given the chance to learn the secret handshakes to enter the “Still-Alive Poets Society” are the ones paradoxically making the most noise about being silenced. And before panties get too knotted up, I’d like to remind the umbrageous that the current system to which you belong or adhere is the same system responsible for marginalizing voices in the past–poets, writers, and artists deemed unworthy because they wouldn’t play the right iambic fiddle, game, or couldn’t pay the entrance fee via tuition.
Even more distressing, as voices are still silenced and quashed, the system continues to close ranks under the umbra of expansion, inclusion, and diversity and I call bullshit on that.
Finally, newsflash: no one has cornered the market on pain and trauma. What makes us human is acknowledging our own pain and transforming it. What makes us human beings is the ability to honor other people’s pain and help them transform it through hearing it, honoring it, and giving it a space to be and breath. And if you can’t bother doing that without comparing who hurts more? Maybe just… hush up. *End digression.*
All that said, I’m so glad Casey Renee Kiser forged her way into this world of literature and poetry and in this collection of poems, Will to Flutter, I found some seasoned voices, some brand new ones, and some in the middle looking for airholes, but emerging, nonetheless.
And this is why collections like this deserve our attention. Because it’s in these voices we hear the thunder of raw emotion and raw talent, devoid of handlers telling them where to sit and stay that we find true innovation.
Okay. Now the review.
I recognize some names thanks to Arthur Graham’s HSTQ, a mag that’s given the world poets with a penchant for old-school vices with a spit shine and a dark, tech-aged edge. A lovely mingling of fluids with a hint of crazy that speaks to my inner madwoman.
In Will to Flutter, we have something divergent than HSTQ—darker, uncompromising, and void of any “trying too hard” edge.
Bondage of Perceived Limitations is the first section, and of course it begs the poets to lay it out for us, and they do. John D. Robinson takes his narrative poetry up a notch, and the end surprises and satisfies as Robinson’s poetry always manages to do.
Poet and Associate Editor of HSTQ, India LaPlace revisits some of her Sad Discoveries poems in this collection, and that review can be found here. Her poems remain a visceral tug for anyone who’s found themselves face-down on any carpet at any point in their lives. LaPlace’s mother poems dig their heels in, hard, as usual and while the words resonate, I find myself going beyond them, hoping redemption is around the next heartache bender.
Curator of the collection Casey Renee Kiser has been hand-coloring outside her 3-dimensional lines for some time now, and in this collection, it’s clear that while her touch has gotten lighter, her cuts are cleaner, deeper, more precise.
Her poetry has always had teeth and claws. The fangs are new, and they suit her. There’s a touch of ‘crazy’ that comes with her emotive imagery that brings it to panting, moaning, screaming life. “Ballad of The Gas Station Check-out Girl” and “Mimosa with Persephone,” both deserve their own little frames behind cracked glass.
“I Don’t Live in This Body” shines, but so do most of the pieces she has here, and her work, while dominating the collection, feels like essential, weaving pieces throughout. These lines:
I don’t count like change.
And I am not soft and simple like lint.
…So, go away. You’ve done enough.
Tell the flowers I said hello ~
“I AM The Goddess of the 3 a.m. quill.” You might very well be Casey Renee.
Lovely poetry and prose by Dana Jerman in, “A Map of My Dreamtown” and…
*Digression #2 – a little about how I read poetry sometimes.*
Much of the time, I don’t read titles until the second read-through. I do that for a couple of reasons, but I’ve had people get hopping—hopping—mad at me for not reading the title first (or telling them that I don’t) because “that’s not how you’re supposed to read it.”
Well my dears, hate to break it to you, but you don’t get much of an option once you decide to share your words with the world. Just wait until someone reads a novel of yours and doesn’t actually read it and then gives it a shit review, mischaracterizes it to the point of absurdity. You can’t just defend yourself and your work with a, “You didn’t read it, did you? Did you?!?!”
Or maybe you can, now. Who knows. I’ll have to revisit that one. *End digression #2*
Anyway, it’s fascinating, how titles read after the piece totally change, deepen, and transform it in ways you’d otherwise not expect. Especially with this trend in post-modern poetry focused on the inner, oftentimes painful lives of the poets.
In “A Map of My Dreamtown,” I read it as a less-than realistic prose piece, but the last two lines—
The urge to notice average
magic has returned
And I am not a
These felt like a gong in me and so when I went back to re-read, with the title this time, it sincerely moved me in a way that’s hard to put into words—like a lost dream, a dark, frightening trip, a resurrection, a centering, and coming into one’s own power. Jerman’s poem, “Total Honey” was stunning, is stunning, and the title, one again, added layers that forced me to re-read more than twice, and each time, it got deeper. Dana Jerman, whether an established poet or not (I haven’t done any “Googling” yet and I haven’t read bios, that’s cheating IMO), is a poet and storyteller with some chops.
I laughed out loud at Andy Seven’s “Suburban Adam and Eve,” a sensually vivid ride that sometimes fell prey to easy clichés, he redeems it with tiny shocks like a peach as “bleeding fruit.” I laughed because if the word “delicious” made a sound other than itself, it would be a laugh. But also, there’s more to this narrative poem that speaks to a deep understanding of the human experience—echoes going deep into anyone raised with this origin story embedded into their culture and consciousness. I think this story, among others, hold rich and endless permutations that will likely never get exhausted by writers, poetry, or art—not ever.
“Crooked Deer Horn,” by Juliet Cook, was engrossing and lovely and chilling in places, but I think it needed a “word winch,” my term for a good line edit and a bit of a tightening, but no matter. The raw stuff was there, and it was, all in all, an engaging narrative piece with some stellar lines.
E.A. Bleak’s “Welcome Home” hits close to home for more reasons than I can write here. As biased as I am, she’s someone who must write poetry, period. I hope we see a lot more from her.
Suffice to say, I was the young mother, once, singing James Taylor to my strawberry-haired little girl. That’s our jobs, to sooth our children before bed and then warn them, in the light of day, that monsters are everywhere. Unfortunately, if all you seek are monsters, it’s all you’ll find. And sometimes, Life doesn’t give you any other options.
Bleak’s next poems in the following sections, “Flying Things,” and “Time Traveler” shows her versatility when contrasted with the former. Her words give us a glimpse of her inner steel, and everything she writes, no matter how dark, retains dignity by staying far away from self-pity.
And this is where it gets tough to review, read, honor, “hear” a poet’s intention through words, because poetry from trauma is a tough balance—how to redeem the irredeemable? How to write about being victimized without sounding like a victim? Too many poets think spitting blood and nails is the way you do it. Sometimes it isn’t.
Other tactics used by poets is to try and distance themselves from the traumas because they must in order to try and create meaning out of the pain, art from the ugly, and make some sense of the wreckage.
Some of the poets do it well, others don’t because if they can’t pull us into the pain with them, then maybe they aren’t ready to transform that pain for whatever reason. Or they’re ready but they don’t know how.
Will to Flutter contains the guts and blood and soul and hunger of some talented poets. These poems are part of a larger whole in that they represent the pain-cry of a generation, and in that way, they are holy and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, or at the very least a nod of appreciation.
The artwork was at times fun, others, simply engaging, and I wish there had been more, but I get why there wasn’t. All and all, yeah, this is a book I’m glad I spent the day with yesterday, and I hope I get a hard copy in my collection. Mostly, I hope there are many more to come from any or all of these emotive, hungry, talented writers.
Since the book is unavailable for now in print form, see if the digital copy is for sale and also, check out the work of the poets with other publications. Support indie pubbed books and presses, please. They are the reason I didn’t need to link to Bukowski (above). We know who he is, and that’s what this thing is about, isn’t it? How wide the reach, and how strong the impact.
Je te vois, and as always –
I wrote the review before Googling or reading bios. It struck me as odd, even chin-rubbing, that Casey Renee used a coloring metaphor, just as I did, in her bio. And…that’s really the only conclusion I came to about that. Cheers!