The 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.
Issue 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. Continue reading “The Seventh Quarry Issue 23 Winter-Spring 2016”→
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.
Christopher 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.
I 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.
Sue 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.
The 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.”
I 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.
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. The 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.
Ada 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.
The 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.
I 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.
I 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).
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”.