“The Horizontal Poet” by Jan Steckel

Jan Steckel’s The Horizontal Poet is an award-winning collection of poems published by Zeitgeist Press with cover art by Deborah Vinograd. This review appeared at Litseen, (link) a bay area event and lit site organized by Evan Karp, in October, 2012. Elynn Alexander

The cover of The Horizontal Poet features a supine female form, vulnerable, trusting but not submissive, open but not fully revealed. It is suggestive of a vulnerability shared by choice, not taken. She is at ease with her nakedness, calmly bold. Her hands are at rest, not a figure in waiting but suggesting serenity, contentment.

For these reasons, the cover struck me and became a recurring image throughout the collection, a presence that, like the subjects in the poems—“Wake,” especially—lifts up and transforms the reader. You can’t come away without feeling you’ve experienced something of this woman. Continue reading

"(Neocom)muter",Paul Corman-Roberts

Neocom(muter) is the newest book of poetry by Paul Corman-Roberts, published by Tainted Coffee Press. (2009) The cover art by Andrew Lander is really the first thing that will grab you about this book: the figure on the front is confronting you, stopping you dead in your tracks. You’re being urged to take pause: Just Stop. Step away from the treadmill, life is happening while we are too busy living, as they say. And to me, that is what Corman-Roberts is talking about here but he takes it a step further. We’re not just “commuters” moving back and forth in the business of living, we are becoming so consumed with the process that we are almost detatching, not fully participating. The new kind of commuter is living to serve the rat race, not participating in the rat race so he may live. It is this difference that Corman-Roberts seems to explore, here and there in his work, but quite directly in this collection.

Cover of (neocom)muter, Andrew Lander

Cover of (neocom)muter, Andrew Lander

What’s Corman-Roberts doing here? What is he setting you up for, confronting you with?

Everything. He’s packed the world into the trunk of the Corolla, a mix of things- some pretty heavy baggage. It starts off with damage: “charred satellites”, near-misses, the fallout from choices, being products of the past.

“Beach Secrets” was a strange choice for me, in it’s placement as the second poem. It seems like a departure, with it’s ocean smell radiating like radio waves from some epicenter on the shore. The untreated sewage in the face of such a calibrated society- is he reminding us that there are still organic elements, byproducts of living, that have the power to come back at us? There’s something in the organic that often refuses to be denied, from the septic to the decomposing, life remains a part of life for the commuter. Like the figure on the cover, it will confront you on the platform. You can run, travel arrogant on your rails, but you can’t hide from truths like mortality, like stench, like “dried blood”, bitterness, like the pets that make a mess of the morning commute. (continued) Continue reading