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.”
With “My Sherlock” we arrive at the end of the 11-poem odyssey that is Sherlock Suite. It is a quiet good-bye to the era of black doors, black cabs, black coats and dark turns. It is a quiet sigh as you glance for the final time from Euston Station to the right, where North Gower Street is more Baker than Baker street ever was.
Good-bye, magical and cruel London.
Rene Sens wrote the most melancholically-Russian of tunes for this poem. You can almost see the birch trees behind the crystal stream of notes. He called the track Next week.
And he is right. Good-bye, Sherlock. Next week, there is always another obsession waiting.
There is one hidden reference to the BBC series Sherlock in this poem. Write in down in the comments section if you know what it is.
I used a change of rhythm in Alternative Route. It can be frowned upon (by poetry writing manuals, if they could frown). However, in this case I feel it’s justified. The regular structure of the first part of the poem reflects the orderly exercise it’s about – meditation – and the calm breath that underlies it.
The second part of the poem is about things that take you off-track, like Sherlock. The flow of the poem becomes more free and sometimes there are bumps on the way. Or maybe it is not so much off track as an alternative route to something.
Rene Sens‘ musical track called “Sketchy Monk” for this poem is truly groovy, with hypnotic percussion and mesmerising flute inviting you into the world of mind – or heart, if you prefer.
You know when you have a thought so great that you just have to write it down, for posterity, and put it on the fridge? I have lots of those. Find three such ground-breaking insights in the poem “Notes on the Fridge“.
Listen to the soundtrack to the poem by Rene Sens called “Ring a Bell” here. The tune is appropriately drone-like and cyclic.
This poem does not have hidden reference to the BBC’s Sherlock series. Instead, it contains a hint on two filmmakers who butchered not one, but two great fantasy novels. Your guesses are welcome in the comments box below.
The gentle, yet to-the-point track “Rain” by Rene Sens perfectly captures the atmosphere of this poem: uncertain light shining through moist air of a November afternoon in North England.
“In-laws came and took husband and child for a drive” is set during one of these late autumn days when the light seems to be hiding, but then spring out on you unexpectedly: from a yellow birch tree, from a reflection on your coffee pot, from your laptop screen with Sherlock on…
This poem is basically Sherlock to the rescue out of a “Red-out” that can happen to some mothers with some babies and some husbands. One of those situations they do not prepare you for among all these caramel-coated pictures of Motherhood mostly involving green grass, Mother’s shiny curls and baby’s shining smile.
I am not saying these do not happen in real life. I am just saying that red-outs also happen. However, when they happen, all you need to do is slide a disk of Sherlock into your preferred playing machine or click a Sherlock button on your preferred streaming service and voila – you are good as new. Womb sealed. Nipples pink. Mind clear.
Rene Sense wrote a thoughtful, electric guitar-strumming piece with electronic blues trumpets for this one, called “Evening“. I promise this is the most melancholic musical score and the darkest poem in Sherlock Suite.
Rene Sens wrote a most amusing soundtrack for the poem “How To British” for my Sherlock Suite. Listening to it, you can just see a rare sunny summer day in a park. Children, adults and dogs enjoy ice-cream from a tacky ice-cream van. And of course, out there in the distance, a brass band on the proverbial band stand is puffing away the dreams of Britishness.
I talked to my Russian friend who had moved to Spain after 13 years in the UK. He said he found it difficult to adjust to Spanish life, with all his Britishness.