Cleveland Wall’s “Primer”

I recently came across a sewn microchap set aside in a pile that I brought in as samples of chapbooks for students, to show some examples of handmade poetry books that might inspire their own.

Cleveland Wall’s “Regarding Certain Stalwart Integers: A Primer” is an understated, simple book no more than four inches tall without images or color. We have her text, and an emphasis on the numbers she celebrates. The poems are short, but clever:

41

Very European. Striped, ticking and brisk. 

Or this whimsical ode to 79: The warped glass in leaded panes is like a dream. A cat lives here.

This book is one of those cool gems that you’d like more copies of to share. Cleveland Wall is playful, whimsical, but her words have an academic density- they bear weight. 

Her poems reveal a fascination with quirky subjects. Her creative use of language is often humorous while somehow elegant at the same time. 
Wall is a poet with roots in the Lehigh Valley area, where she performs regularly and more recently, her sets include the musical accompaniment of her husband, musician Michael Wall.

 

 

Check out their performance at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton, as part of the Perspectives poetry event: 

 

 

“Bulletproof”, by Wolfgang Carstens

Cover of the poetry book "Bulletproof" by Wolfgang Carstens. “Bulletproof” is the newest book of poetry by small press veteran Wolfgang Carstens, printed in 2017 by grey borders books and available now. Carstens is the frontman of Epic Rites Press, an unrepentent Canadian with front row seats to the latest American shit show. He has published many of the familiar poets we love at Crow: Zarina Zabrisky, Bill Gainer, John Dorsey, and more. 
        The first thing that you will notice is the art work on the front and back covers and interior by Epic Rites go-to artist Janne Karlsson who has rendered the poet in a cool ink punk comic style, with scattered bones as he’s walking the tightrope of death. Dig that for a few minutes, then jump in.
Despite the whimsical tone, your heart will quickly get heavy. 

Like here:
“my father spent / the last days / of his life / asking / to see / me

which / is ironic / because / I spent / the first years / of mine / asking / to see / him 
“Bulletproof” is both funny and sober, approaching themes of death from many directions: regret, denial, defiance, inevitability. Carstens also focuses on the evolving way that people view death and regret during the lifespan, from taking life for granted to rethinking choices to accepting lost opportunities. The poems are at times tribute, at times lamentation. The poet has to reckon with death around him and the spectre of his own. Nobody is bullet-proof, after all: 

in a drunken stupor,
clawing my way 
across the floor
on my hands and knees
like a wounded animal,

i started thinking
about great exit lines-

something
worthy of a tombstone.

ultimately,
all I could come up with 
was:

surely,
one more
won’t kill
me

He touches on the inevitability, and the small negotiations with mortality. How “clean” do we want our lives to be, how many things do we forgo to gamble on bought time? Do we rationalize our choices in the name of living on our own terms, and will we regret it? 

Even though there are lines and lines about human loss, the poem that hit that nerve for me was the poem about putting a dog to sleep: “when she slumped in my arms”.  Shit. 
It reminds me that we can read poems, read lines, read about awful things- but certain lines, certain images can just stop us in our tracks- and damn if it didn’t make me go hug the hell out of my dog and throw treats at her. You never know what will hit you, or why, and that is part of the experience of poetry. It happens like that- that wave- from some words on a page, something resonates. Certain things like this just stick and that is a powerful thing. You can’t blame people for wanting to do it, right? Of course we argue that people NEED to be doing it. 

Carstens is able to do this with brevity, saying a lot in a small space. This is one of the notable features of the poetry that I have read by him to date: succinct, choppy, but linked and cohesive taken together. 
I agree with what Wayne F. Burke had to say about the book: 

“In BULLETPROOF Wolfgang Carstens uses terse language of an exactitude unsparing inessentials to make a defiantly unsentimental last stand. Like a Daniel Boone of poetry—stoic yet capable of deep emotion—Carstens acknowledges brute existence, but does not give in to it, exults even, in his (and our) continuance, and with mordant wit, skewers vicissitude.”
—Wayne F. Burke, Dickhead

And Magdalena Ball:

“BULLETPROOF is a short, punchy and powerful collection of poems. Carstens looks death in its blackest eye, with anger, sorrow, and humour, and emerges victorious.”
—Magdalena Ball, The Compulsive Reader

“Short, punchy”. Yes. If you are new to Wolfgang Carstens or Epic Rites Press, check out his site here.  

Information about “Bulletproof”:

BULLETPROOF

23 pages
Perfect bound
ISBN: 978-1-897180-80-8
​Grey Borders Books, 2017
www.greyborders.com
 

“What We’re Reading”, Full Of Crow Press, edited by Elynn Alexander. 

“Fireball”, by Charles Joseph

I met New Jersey poet Charles Joseph when we read in the Lehigh Valley Vanguard’s event “Explorations Of Identity” at a new space in Easton, 719. He is a founding publisher and editor of Indigent Press, a relatively new small press based in Montclair. His chapbook “Fireball” (Or 12 Quasi-Epic Poems of Cheerful Doom and Gloom) is one of their offerings, with an initial print run of 100 limited copies.

The first poem, ‘The Return of Kid Lightning”, introduces the speaker as a poet who struggles with self doubt after “years of sluggin’ it out with the blank page.” He has made a connection with a reader in Texas, who has provided encouragement, now: “the blank page better watch its ass.”  Continue reading

“Stay Afloat Inside”, by Cord Moreski

“Stay Afloat Inside” Poetry by Cord Moreski, published by Indigent Press in 2016. Posted by Elynn Alexander for Full Of Crow Press.

We all have a floor
                   to rise from

Cord Moreski is a New Jersey Poet, host of Words On Main in Asbury Park and a frequent performer who brings a balance of power and composure to his readings. He is forceful, passionate, he throws himself into the delivery- but he is also a laid back, unassuming guy. He is, in person, like his poetry. His poems are straightforward, but read them twice.  This poetry chapbook from Indigent Press is white, stark, with a simple sketch. And a simple mantra: Stay Afloat Inside. 

Cord Moreski's Poetry Chapbook "Stay Afloat Inside"

Many of these poems return to themes of rebuilding, recovery, pushing through and kicking off from the past and making sense of the walking present with reminders of the people and places of steps past. 

flying back to four years ago

where if I close my eyes
I can still picture
those nights

The poet remains humbled by the past, the vulnerability, vigilance. He can’t go back. He has to confront his choices in the present. In one poem, he chooses club soda and lime instead of a drink:

We all have a floor
       to rise from
I place the sour fruit wedge 
between the blades
of my teeth,

bite down,
and sip the bitterness 
from the pith,

chewing
on what’s left
until I break the rind.

Continue reading