“White Vases” by John Swain

“White Vases”, John Swain. Discussed by Elynn Alexander for Full Of Crow Press.

Poets navigate with labels. It is just a part of the deal as people try to make sense of their associations and perhaps figure out their own sub-sects. What we find, however, is that poets surprise us and like all artists, poets evolve. We have to challenge ourselves to suspend the need to define one another because when we do, we stay open to a fuller catalog.

To put Swain’s work into a box (nature) is to minimize what he is doing, what poets do, and doesn’t speak to the question of WHY he brings up nature or birds or anything else.  It ignores the scope of what he accomplishes, and constitutes a cherry picking of themes that is a common practice with poetry and poetic criticism, this pursuit of labels and categorization.  It keeps the reader in periphery, and ultimately leads them away from “White Vases”.

As a reader of John’s work for years now, I would like to encourage people that read his work to resist the temptation to typecast him and to force associations.  I hope that I can at least make the case for the rewards of digging deeper, as there are few poets on my radar that bring me to the point of study the way he does. The beauty of his writing makes me want to sit with his poems; their resonance makes me want to understand why they touch me. Their brevity fools me into thinking that they are simple and then I embark on an experience that becomes more layered with each read and with each book I find myself taking what he is willing to share and adding it to the experience of him, and when you have that relationship with a poet’s work it is an appreciation that is difficult to convey.

I may lack the words to convince you, but I won’t stop trying. Continue reading

Watch The Doors As They Close, Karen Lillis

‘Watch The Doors As They Close”, a novella from Spuyten Duyvil, by Karen Lillis. Discussed by Elynn Alexander for Crow Reviews. 2012. 

If you don’t know about Karen Lillis, then let me take a few lines to introduce you because she is somebody that you will want to keep an eye on, and you can do so here at her blog: Karen The Small Press Librarian. 

Karen is a writer, of course, but also an advocate and community builder among those who find themselves drawn to the small press. It would take pages to do her efforts justice, and I hope that it is sufficient to say here that Karen represents the kind of inclusive advocacy and defense that we need and her efforts to organize, facilitate, and indeed- make the case for small press- have not gone unnoticed by many of us. We are honored to have her latest novella in our hands here at Full Of Crow and wish only the best for the talented and respected Karen Lillis as she continues on her tour of readings and appearances. This represents another achievement in her writing career, and she has reason to be proud of it. Many of our readers recall that she was nominated for the Pushcart by our editors for her fiction pieces in one of our quarterly publications, Blink Ink.

Watch the Doors as They Close is a new novella from Spuyten Duyvil Press, distributed by Small Press Distribution.

The narrator writes about Anselm, struggling to process not only the experience of being with him in the context of her own expectations and version of love, but in so doing- tells the story of a relationship and that interface where two people with disparate histories attempt to connect. We know that they do connect, but their lives don’t seem to integrate. They spend their time together parallel, unable to push any closer to intimacy, and in the end they part ways rather easily. Or so it seems. The narrator has taken to analysis, assembling facts and observations to more fully understand the relationship, sketching Anselm as subject.

She seems more capable, though appearing nameless and fleeting, even in her own story, recollections less their combined experience and more his past brought full circle to the present where she tries to make sense of the man she meets from her sketch of the man he was. She is like an ethnographer, gathering information to create a context for what she has observed in their time together. It doesn’t come across as sentimental or the fixation of a woman unable to let go, but rather, as the insight of an observer who, through love, has taken the time to transcribe her observations. In a sense, she honors him, and it is a story of “him” far more than “them” in the end.  Continue reading