Posted in Reviews

The Seventh Quarry Issue 24 Summer-Autumn 2016 and my poems

Mirrors to the other side

rio_negro_floodplain_patagonia_argentina_2010-01-04_lrgThe Twenty-Fourth issue of The Seventh Quarry magazine edited by Peter Thabit Jones flowed like a meandering river. One turn of a page reflected the previous one. Themes sank in and resurfaced further downstream.

For instance, Bill Wolak interviewed William Heyen. William Heyen’s poems were followed by a photo of William Heyen and Stanley Barkan. and the poem “Who is Stanley Barkan?” by James Palmer. An interview with Dileep Jhaveri is preceded by Bill Wolak’s poem “After a Photo of Dileep Jhaveri.”

One theme that resonated with me kept emerging in this issue’s interviews. It was the idea of poetry as a portal into the timeless, a key to the transcendent.

As Dileep Jhaveri put it:

“The role of the poet is to take the reader along to discover spaces where this magic is innate. [The poet] then becomes a mirror or a river for the reader for a similar adventure.”

And then further along:

“The poem comes from where time and space do not exist. The poem is an encounter with eternity. [] You know the universe, and simultaneously you don’t know it. [] Poetry comes from within you, and it comes from nowhere.”

I let this idea in and it turned out that the poems I liked the most in this issue actually took me to a space beyond the concrete and the individual.


childhoodThe issue is also rich in poems about childhood, a theme close to my heart. One, “Bottles” by Tim Gardiner has this strange trope: an adjective reflected back from one object to another.

“A carefully sculpted oyster//held in a boy’s soft hand”

I got this very clear feeling of the oyster’s softness, as well as the boy’s hand. This sensation was enhanced by fact that the poem mentions glass shards of bottles immediately beforehand.

Another poem that took me into my childhood was Gareth Culshaw‘s “Butchers”. I clearly remember a similar sensation to

“I always stood behind, half seen, unheard//brown paper bags swung by finger and thumb,//the firm press and hold of a butcher’s hand.”

The various colours of meat mentioned in the poem seemed a bit “workshopped” to me though (my pet peeve of workshop poems). For me, it is smells that launch me into the past most easily. However, no denying that it can be colours for someone else.

There is this simple yet elegant sequence about early childhood in Siân Northey‘s “Shoes”:

“I barely remember my barefoot days
before the stories
before my soles in my cradle
had walked a step.”

The breath of poetry

Branch Path Trail In The Forest Autumn Tunnel
Branch Path Trail In The Forest Autumn Tunnel

“Laces” by Siân Northey struck me with the deep breath of the rhythm: “hand in hand under branches//and twigs and darkness” – through which appeared a particular tunnel of shrubs and a particular pair of hands from my past. The beginning and the end of the poem form a perfect circle, reflecting the topic: laces. It starts with stating a mystery of laces, and ends with the statement that the mystery is

why one side, at the end of every day,
is always, no exception ever,
slightly shorter
than the other side.”

I would not be able to say exactly what that means. However, it simply worked as a reference to something being off in life.

As always the case with The Seventh Quarry, there was an unexpected find from the distant shores, this time from Albania. Alisa Velaj‘s “Still” translated by Laureta Petoshati invites a gentle trance through repetition of a few key words around “Sleep” and its assonances: soul, lily, sweet, sing, flee. The mention of “his Madonna horizon” sent me to not one by two references from my personal life.

February and very early spring is one of my favourite seasons. I felt it in Kristine Doll‘s “Green” with its line “a green not yet determined.”

I liked “Marriage” by Michael Graves: a goth-flavoured incantation in the spirit of Corpse Bride, until the very end, when it turned out it was about a man. That rang a little bit alien to me.

Grant Tabard‘s “Fairytale of a First Christmas” brought about those feelings of a young unkempt ragged love affair, the feeling of being out of parental nest and finding your own relationships for the first time.

Survival Now

saveearthAs usual, the paintings of Carolyn Mary Kleefeld are lovely, charming in their sincerity and directness. I thought Carolyn Mary Kleefeld’s “Our Higher Conscience” is a bit on the nose. Having said that, its message of the current need for character, integrity and measures to save the planet is so urgent that it is worth not only reproducing in poetry magazines, but even writing on each wall in every city on earth.

Matt Duggan‘s “Zombie Land” tackles, in a more playful manner, some of the same topics: the dullness of existence in modern capitalist world, which runs on exploitation and offers the phantom release of celebrity or admiration for celebrity.

William Heyen in his interview for this issue said: “The poet is the one who integrates, who makes us realize that we of all cultures are in this together, that the bell tolls for all of us, that all is One, in the end, as we move toward our common death.” Our goal for today has to be for this death not to coincide with the extinction of humanity.

The Murky Reflection of the Shining Past

A poem about the destructive effect of industrial capitalism, “Whistle-Stop”, also by Grant Tabard has this powerful refrain: “In twenty years it would be black with mould.”

Red Pepper Magazine Advertisement by Mayakovsky and Stepanova
Red Pepper Magazine Advertisement by Mayakovsky and Stepanova

This referred me directly to a widely known in Russia poem by Vladimir MayakovskyKhrenov’s Story of Kuznetskstroy and Its Builders.” (Unfortunately, I was not able to locate the English translation.)

This poem by my favourite poet (who, incidentally, inspired my poem published in this issue) has the refrain: “In four years there will be a Garden City here.” It describes the difficulties of building Novokuznetsk Iron and Steel Plant. The striking difference between the two poems reflects the opposing goals of a capitalist and socialist society. In the former, the aim is profit. In the latter the goal is decent (in all senses of the word) life for everyone.

How unlikely is this, that not one but two poems in this issue reminded me of Mayakovsky’s poetry? Gabriella Garofalo‘s “Look, Don’t Kid Yourself” is another dark distorted reflection from our despair of global capitalism back into the explosive and visionary start of the 20th century. “Stars can’t welcome revolution” – says Gabriella.

if stars are lit
it means – there is someone who needs it.
It means – someone wants them to be,
that someone deems those specks of spit

– shouts Mayakovsky in his “Listen“.

“Stories have an happy ending, after all,//Just think of films and soaps,” – says Gabriella.

And overwrought,
in the swirls of afternoon dust,
he bursts in on God,
afraid he might be already late.
In tears,
he kisses God’s sinewy hand
and begs him to guarantee
that there will definitely be a star.
He swears
he won’t be able to stand
that starless ordeal.

– exclaims Mayakovsky.

Stars are dim nowadays. When people had a worthy goal to live for, to work for, they did not need to seek solace in soaps. Films were being made about them, and poems written.

Cross culture

The Seventh Quarry is a truly international magazine. Not only does it include poems from around the world, it also contains poems that cross international borders within themselves.

I liked “Ganesh” by Mark Floyer because it describes exactly what normally happens: an English prepschool pupil seeks protection of a Hindu God. I remember visiting a temporary exhibition on Ganesh in the British Museum. I am sure by the end of it the statue was worn from all the visitors’ touching it. And in my special Humanities high school in Russia girls wrote poems dedicated to Ishtar.

magpieAli Pardoe, (whom I also mentioned in my review of an earlier issue of The Seventh Quarry)  in his “Magpie” blends traditional beliefs about the bird from the English, Chinese and Ancient Greek cultures. As for me, however much I can speak and write in English, in my head I still call animals by their Russian names. And these can be feminine and masculine. So, to me, a mole or an eagle is always a “he”, whereas a squirrel or an owl is always a “she”, and so is a magpie.

I got two poems in this issue. “Lips” is inspired by a line from Mayakovsky‘s long poem “Cloud in Trousers

but you can’t, like me, turn inside out entirely,
and nothing but human lips become!

I put a different translation, by Andrey Kneller, as an epigraph. As a second epigraph, I used a piece of dialogue from Despicable Me:

– What about the air?
– Yes, you can touch the air.

My second poem in this issue has a long title: “The Way Through Tomsk Inspired by The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling.” The poem by Kipling tells a story about a road through the woods that “they shut”, but which still can be discerned by a careful observer. I premiered this poem at Geneviève Walsh‘s Spoken Weird event in Halifax.

I took these “they” and wrote 3 stanzas about what they shut in my home town, which happen to be a sweet shop, a book store and a swimming pool. I took the final line of the original poem “But there is no road through the woods” and applied it to every of the objects that were dear to me from my childhood. I read this one at Gaia Holmes‘ spoken word event in Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge.

Posted in Reviews

The Seventh Quarry Issue 23 Winter-Spring 2016

Rigveda_MS2097Issue 23 of The Seventh Quarry had an Indian flavour. It featured interviews with not one but two renowned Indian poets: Hassanal Abdullah (by the Editor Peter Thabit Jones) and with Dr. H.K. Kaul, by Mandira Ghosh. Both poets earned my admiration with their lofty goals and their understanding of the role of poetry in modern society.

Both amaze with the scope of their work. Hassanal Abdullah wrote 29 books, among which is a 304-page epic about relations between people and the Universe. Dr. H.K. Kaul is the President of the Poetry Society (India) and his 200-page long poem Firdaus in Flames deals with political and social upheavals in India’s recent history.

One cannot help but be amazed by these two poets, who confess in their respective interviews that it is the highest aspirations of human spirit that are worthy writing about and that poetry can and should change society for the better. This, at the time when most English language poets normally reach as high as the attic, for a box marked “Grandmother”, in order to commit to poetry an old glove.

ShellsI was taken by the unassuming elegance and light-hearted wisdom of a three-line poem “Intimations of Immortality on the Beach” by Ellen Pickus. It captures perfectly the moment of surprise and delight you feel when you see something you thought was inanimate nature move on its own accord.

“Looking in to… the space” by Jonathan Beale had a line that made me wonder about composition of a poem. It read: “Two people. Genders unimportant.” The line actually made to start imagining these people and precisely in relation to their gender. So I concluded that perhaps when you want your reader to think about something, state in your poem that this something is unimportant.

Italy’s Domenico Iannaco‘s series of poems explores cohabitation within one person of a number of cultures and collaboration of different languages within one poet. Iannaco is exploring the roles what exactly countries and languages can mean to the person in which they all live. “How can I call you stranger//If we quarrel in the same language,” – quite rightly he notes.

Egypt_dauingevektenScott Thomas Outlar from America made my heart sing with his poem “Weighing it out”. It deals with the heart, to be precise, with its weighing after its possessor’s death, according to the Egyptian mythology. It is good to know that Ancient Egypt still lives.

My favourite poem from the whole magazine was “Kerouac Heart” by Mark Elias from Wales. It is a rhymed poem written in quatrains. Furthermore, alternate stanzas have “his” at the beginning of each line, and “my” opening each line. All that together creates dynamics and tension, which whizzes the reader through the poem. At the end of it, I would not be able to say exactly who “he” and “I” or relationship between them was. Nevertheless, I loved the roller-coaster.

Wellsboro_Diner_interiorAmerica’s Stanley H. Barkan contributed “The Waitress at the International Delight Cafe 1”, full of ironic descriptive lists. I loved the line “The International Delight Cafe offers everything” followed by a long list of Americanised world dishes of the lowest common denominator. Menu items like chili and cappuccino are recognised by people around the world, thus making us partake of a global faceless culture, which, nonetheless, gives us a sense of belonging.

“Patriots and Apostates” by Craig Kurtz from America is long. Surprisingly, I could not put it down. It grabbed me with its uncompromising language and anti-capitalist stance. It is not often that Western poetry engages in critique of earth-destroying and soul-destroying practices of the Global North.

I liked “A dream of dark wings” by Monica Corish from Ireland for life truth that I recognised in it: that is, the healing power of even the darkest dreams. It ends with “Whoever it is, however it is: when I wake,//my week-long hammering headache is gone.”

Waves_in_pacifica_1Ian Griffiths from Wales crafted his “Siren Song” so that it appears on a page like one swelling wave surrounded by smaller wave crests.

England’s Ali Pardoe wrote “the kitchen//where potatoes gently knock the side of the pan”, which makes me, a potato aficionado, immediately get the sense of “Homecoming,” the title of the poem.

Posted in Reviews

The Seventh Quarry Poetry Magazine, Issue 22

Peter Thabit Jones, Editor of The Seventh Quarry
Peter Thabit Jones, Editor of The Seventh Quarry

I enjoy reading The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine. One of the reasons is that it unapologetically publishes poets from around the world, including many for whom English is not their first language. Issue 22 for example, features poets from India, Bulgaria and Canada. Lolita Ray from Sweden saw two of her poems published in Swedish, without translation.

But more than that, I like The Seventh Quarry because there I find poems which are firstly, about something and secondly, written with considerable thought to the form, much more often than in other publications – paper or online.


Peter Thabit Jones interviewed a poet and a philosopher Christopher Norris for this issue, who talked about high-class poetry journals, “where review-articles are often much better written – even at times more poetic – than the sorts of poetry they typically publish.” [p.23] I found so many times that, after reading a poem and a short description by an author, I think, “Yes, this description is so interesting and poetic. Why did you not say precisely this and in this way in your poem?” It’s a bad sign for poetry when reviews and descriptions are better than the poems themselves.

kalashnikov-296478_960_720Christopher Norris’  “The Beauty of It” explores the thoughts and feelings the creator of Kalashnikov, Mikhail Kalashnikov, might have had about his creation. The poem is composed in rhymed couples of iambic pentameters. This adds an imitation of machine gun fire: ta-Ta-ta-Ta-ta-Ta-ta-Ta-ta-Ta to the iambic pentameter’s repertoire.

Jane Blanchard definitely writes about something. Her “Encounter” is enchanting both for its elegant form and for its subject matter: an encounter with a moth and wishing it well.

This is a stance poets often have to take in life: noticing little things – so that there is stuff to write about. But how about noticing a whole person, yet walking past him because of his unsightly look and unpleasant smell? “scabbed with dirt, sores, pus,/other excrescences” This is “Squalid Sights” by Gary Beck, a mercilessly accurate observation of contemporary society.

VenancioMolaCloseupI liked Maria Mazziotti Gillan‘s poem “Gray Clouds” for its optimism, which is expressed in detailed and sensual description of colours and textures of her clothes, namely – the move away from the gray wool shawl to multicoloured, multi-textured garments. The coloured drawings on Gillan’s website are just as lovely and life-affirming.

“Revenant” by Jenny Hockey caught my eye because I am currently reading a book about vampires (not in the gory-fictional sense, but to find out the origins of many folklore and mythological beliefs about evil spirits). The two long stanzas of sometimes loosely rhymed, lightly rhythmed lines kept holding my attention. Partially it was due to the clever use of line breaks, which took me to the next line. Moreover, the flow of narrative of tense and mesmerising – which made this poem stand out for me.

BookPoolSue A’Hearn’s poem “Anyway” delighted me with its bravery and freshness. The text emulates everyday speech of working class people and features the refrain “Anyway”. The feeling I had reading the poem brought me to a conversation I had long ago with a friend, when it struck me clearly that my friend was not in control of the words she was saying, but rather they drove her.

My friend was using some sort of a staple, like “Anyway”: perhaps “You know what I mean”. I remember realising that she did not actually mean what she was saying, but was producing the words automatically, and every time she did, the conversation took a new predicted turn. This is similar to what happens in “Anyway”.

Furthermore, the use of this street lingo brings home the conundrum of reading a poetry magazine of writing for it. What words do we use as poets and as citizens? For whom do we write poetry?

I mentioned Carolyn Mary Kleefeld in my previous review of The Seventh Quarry. In this issue, her poem “Plowed by the Love of You” touched my heart with its direct joyful abundant images of universal love. Both the love of this kind and its reflections in poetry are rare these days. The poem is accompanied by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld’s illustration done in Persian style.

adeste-fideles-872317_960_720The poem by Adam Szyper (who, incidentally, speaks Polish, English, Hebrew, Russian and Esperanto) “Father of mine behind great waters of time” lifted my spirit by its simple yet lofty message. The lyrical hero simply asks his father to give him strength, so that he “can ascend the rest of my life with dignity,/Proud among stars and columns of clean air.”

Amen/Amen/אָמֵן/Аминь and amen to that!







Posted in Poems, Reviews

My poems are in The Seventh Quarry, Issue 21, pp. 50-51

TheSeventhQuarry21FrontI was so honoured when Peter Thabit Jones accepted two of my poems to be published in The Seventh Quarry poetry magazine. Peter Thabit Jones’ poetry is one of these rare phenomena nowadays. It is sincere, it is about something, and it is masterfully done. “Harry Pushed Her” makes me shed tears from my softening heart. And yet it is written with such a light touch, down-to-earth language and elegant, subtle rhyming.

Water Lilies by Claude Monet
Water Lilies by Claude Monet

His Lavacourt, Winter 1881: A Painting by Claude Monet is a gentle exploration of relationships between art and life, between colour, seasons and states of mind. In it, Peter Thabit Jones demonstrates his interest in interweaving images and words, which most recently manifested in the book Immagine & Poesia – Images and Poetry, in which Peter Thabit Jones is one of the contributors.

Issue 21 of The Seventh Quarry magazine also contains a review of The Divine Kiss by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld, where each poem is illustrated by the author. I must say, the paintings look gorgeous, reminiscent of Klimt and Chagall. EnchantedForestThe Seventh Quarry magazine is famous for its international content. It publishes works by poets literally from around the world. Reading it for me was so refreshing: I never knew what was coming around the next corner, and each poem was like another curious tree in an enchanted forest.

I found Johnmichael Simon‘s (Israel) poem “End Game or Beginning”, about a human chess master defeating a computer by sneezing, amusing and encouraging. I know it’s not rational, but I have always felt sour about a chess computer beating Kasparov. I know that the computer simply has more computing resources, but still I want the human to win.

The poem “Listening to the Trains” about Nelson Mandela’s death by Merryn Williams (England) appealed to me if only for the fact that it is difficult to find published contemporary poetry dedicated to political issues which matter to people. Merryn Williams’ other poem, “Australia” is accessible and sincere: it is about a Mother in the days of old who has not heard from her son for 15 years since he had gone to Australia.

The Seventh Quarry published a selection of poems by Aura Christi from Romania, translated by Olimpia Iacob and Co-translator Jim Kacian. Her poem “Ah, the Naked Trees” is like one of those paintings, where contours of objects only barely peek through delicate coloured mist. It did not capture me by its subject, but by its atmosphere which was unmistakably tangible, rising from the page and grabbing you. Really well done.

Aura Christi’s poem “Winter Pastel”, a surrealist painting this time, is even titled in visual terms. And her “How Large the Eye Is” is philosophically brilliant – and very akin to Victor Pelevin’s latest book The Love for Three Zuckerbrins, which has been occupying my thoughts and colouring my aesthetic perceptions recently.

ChanukahAda Aharoni‘s (Israel) “After Thirty Years” literally reduced me to tears – and in a public place, too! I was waiting for my child while she was in one of her clubs, when I came to this poem in the magazine. It is a story of a Jewish person returning to her house in Egypt, abandoned 30 years ago and meeting  the present occupier, an Arab woman. What follows is an object and sense-filled story of sharing food and a Hanukkah miracle – when Monira gives the protagonist the Talit and prayer shawl of her Father, preserved in her grandmother’s velvet bag, which this Arab woman had stored for 30 years. Beautiful.

I liked both poems by Annabelle Moseley (America) very much. For one thing, she carefully constructs them using regular rhyming stanzas. So I just respect the work and care that went into the poems. The first poem “The Scapegoat’s Dream” is a take on epic poetry and reflects on the story of Joseph and the scapegoat tradition. I feel that we need more of these well-written, narrative and mythological poems nowadays that matter to community.

Marionette_Deutschland_19._JahrhundertThe other poem by Annabelle Moseley entitled “The Marionette’s Manifesto” is equally well-crafted, with each stanza’s last line repeated as the first line of the next stanza, each time in a different context and with a slightly different meaning. The first line of the whole poem and the last line are the same: “I’d like to shake your hand. Come, pull my string.” (p. 40 and 43) The whole poem is a delightful, light philosophical treatise on causes, conditions, and creating art within constrictive circumstances. Very Buddhist. Expertly done.

The magazine contains an interview with Kyung-nyun Richards, a Korean poet and translator by Peter Thabit Jones, which I read with interest. Kyung-nyun Richards writes poetry both in her native Korean and in her acquired English – similar to my situation with Russian and English. She translates her poems back and forth for a bilingual edition of her book of poetry. By now, I have written more poems in English than in Russian, and the tendency does not seem to be changing in the near future.

Hangugeo-ChosonmalI appreciate the differences between languages, which Kyung-nyun Richards mentions. For instance, I feel the same way about English as Kyung-nyun Richards, when she says that “it has a wealth of verbs and abstract nouns, and conceptual words that cover large semantic areas”. And by a strange coincidence, I feel that Russian, like Korean “is more descriptive having a wealth of adjectives and adverbs of manner and quality.” (p.11) In addition, apparently, Korean is an infective language, just like Russian.

So crafting a poem using English for me is like building with Lego, whereas using Russian is more like sculpting with multicolored play dough.

Kyung-nyun also says she does not like to think that things are lost in translation. In my life, wonderful translations into Russian of Alice in Wonderland by Nina Demurova, Winnie the Pooh by Boris Zakhoder, and much of Shakespeare and English folk songs by Samuil Marshak played and are still playing a huge part. The magazine also contains a review of a lovely international and poets/artists collaboration Immagine & Poesia – Images and Poetry, available from this website – a genuine treat for poetry and art lovers.

TheSeventhQuarry21BackI got two poems published in this issue of The Seventh Quarry. “Genesis of Frost” could only have been born in North England where I live, where matters of moisture and cold are closer to our hearts than almost any others. “Promise” is a desperate love poem to Crimea, now annexed by Russia. I was lucky enough to visit two years prior to that event and fell in love instantly. I end the poem with a paraphrase of the last lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (obviously).

Posted in Reviews

Radio Series “Citizens’ Advice: the Making of a Documentary”

English: Israel curbing water Artist's Comment...
English: Israel curbing water Artist’s Comments According to recent report of Amnesty International, Israel is denying Palestinians access to adequate water while settlers “enjoy lush lawns and swimming pools”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recommend this radio series: funny, poignant and political

Citizens’ Advice: The Making of a Documentary

It will be broadcast on Bradford Community Broadcasting 106.6FM for 6 consecutive Mondays starting 25th March (midnight) 12am.

Here it is on Soundcloud.

Geoff Winde’s radio series “Citizens’ Advice: The Making of a Documentary” announces its domain from the very first seconds. It is language and accents – or, culture and identity. “Just pretend your English is not very good. You are from Yorkshire, after all”.

Geoff Winde’s satirising does not take prisoners. The author uses play of words, the dry language of regulations, and misunderstandings in order to point to listeners the injustices present in our world. Geoff Winde incorporates an Amnesty International case study from Israel into the story.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though: cats falling on ice-cream vans, job meetings in a cupboard and taking cows before European court brighten up the scenery.

The format of the series is brave: dialogues between characters are interspersed with automated message reciting options and prompting a listener to wait. An extract from ‘Sprinting Gazelle‘ by Reem Kelani, a Palestinian musician, plays in the finale. The series is produced to the professional standard (thanks to Sam Stocks and Beech Pilkington), and the multi-cultural cast are excellent.

The voices: male-sounding, female-sounding, British-sounding and foreign-sounding come and go. This effect becomes background for the series – and a reminder to us that we live in a multivocal world.

What do we, citizens of the Global North, do at this time of earth’s history? Which button do we press? What are our options? “Citizens’ Advice” urges us to make the right choices. After all, “If there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel, it would be a hole in the ground”.

One of my favourite story lines is the mystery of Mrs Patel. It is endlessly entertaining and haunting, surreal and even sci-fi. To see if you can solve it – listen to Geoff Winde’s “Citizens’ Advice: The Making of a Documentary”.

Geoff Winde promotes this website. This is a site with a lot of bloggers and Tweeters concerned with Human Rights and Justice for Palestinians.