Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Winner, Poem of the Month, by John F. Walter


Freezing In Phantasmal Light, by John F. Walter

Throw away mousepads, wolfman gone to snow! Blood moon glows
with a crispness not envisioned in virtual risings ever displayed.
Nocturnal light was shunned a century ago, yet the lunatic mood
persists in you. Resist that urge back onto neverland's screens.

When did you last to real window steal? Once upon a frozen fall?
Dim subjects swoop into the room: the mind maps a wife, a child--
their own ghost-boards held in hand, happiness' geiger counters.
La luna llena, te espera.... but a report zooms into upper left corner:

news coming in from an iceberg sighting--LIVE ICEBERG CAM--
as a frigid voice like a slur swings by, no longer language.
She's turned on an ambient strobe, the baby wails on the patio;
time to nosh a midnight nano snack cast rudely on the keys.

No "Tranquility Sea" frees your gaze from this fractal flicker. Choose.
Shall love return, the iceman thaw, or baby take chill in our winter?

This visual poem, with its sweeping horizontal lines, expressive tone and chilling admonitory language, serves up an icy warning to the present age of video voodoo, internet idolatry and the ever-pressing urge toward Virtual. Walter presents, in sonnet form, a one-act play where you are the central figure and the setting is under a blood red moon that glows ‘with a crispness not envisioned in virtual risings ever displayed.’ Up close and personal, the narrator cautions the reader to resist the lunatic mood that wants to replace real light in favor of a transmitted image, on ‘neverland’s screens.’ The poem begins to turn on the question posed in S2, “When did you last to real window steal?” and rhetorically answered, “Once upon a frozen fall?” The icy metaphor is adroitly carried throughout the poem (iceberg sighting, iceberg cam, frigid voice, iceman thaw). We are led into a mini-vision where ‘dim subjects swoop into a room,’ and we imagine a wife, a child, with their happiness toys (ghost-boards, Geiger counters), simulating a world in miniature, focusing and displacing attention away from the present and into a phantom zone of flickering larval images and thoughts... into phantasmal light. And yet, there is still a moon that awaits you, written in Spanish, to reinforce the symbol of pristine beauty. Is the moon, an essential icon of reality in the poem, real; and better, is it lovely? The vision is interrupted with news coming from a remote camera on an iceberg; a ‘frigid voice’ communicates something ‘no longer language.’ Here is the full immersion we’ve been waiting for, the slip past surreal into the non-real, with time pixilated by an ambient strobe… inopportunely and rudely interrupted by a glimpse of reality: the baby cries, get a snack, keep it moving. Inevitably, the poem ties its own knot, as do we. There is no exit from this virtual panacea, no beautiful moon photo of a real sea on a real moon. Not in the simulacra we forge. Interestingly, Walter slips in the nudge, ‘CHOOSE’, as a stand-alone entreaty, dangling, as it were, at the very end of the penultimate line. The message is clear: it’s not too late. But change demands decision. Personally, and outwardly, to a culture ramrodding through a virtual hole in the cosmos. In the stunning couplet to end, there is a fascinating tone shift in the question, “Shall love return?” It turns out what the poet is speaking about refers as much to real love and adulation for real things, as it does in perception or consciousness. A brave new notion for a modern world distracted by the ‘fractal flickers’ of the virtual world.

Here is a quintessential ‘pre-Simulationist’ poem that addresses key notions that engage artists and writers today. Even if we think we live in a Platonic Cave, or feel left for dead by Descartes and his little demon, our common sense experience of the natural world still tells us that this amazing cosmos we take in through the senses and map our way through is infinitely superior to any 'copy' or perfectly realized simulacra we can fabricate, invent or google our way towards. While our imagination has genuine intention (it is always about real people and real things in the world), and even when we choose to mediate with symbol, word, icon, or even a 3D virtually rendering between our consciousnesses and that cosmic awareness, we never match or even awkwardly approach the Real. On the other hand, the poem seems to indicate, we more easily fall into serious dysfunctional delusion. A clever semblance, perhaps, but still virtual and fabricated. Do we want an Absolute Fake of a moon that we can grasp with phantom tentacles, or a real moon that we can contemplate in the sky, land upon, and dream our way toward the stars from? Can we hold the moon and its double in our gaze at the same time, and if so, do we remember to love all the ones under the sublunar reflection it returns? And does the apprehension of real things affect our art, our understanding, and our appreciation for the world around us? -EDN

Brief Bio
John Walter is a U.S. citizen writing in beautiful Granada, Spain, where he splits his time with his theatre productions in LA and wandering the subterranean mazes below Granada finding fodder for his novel on Al Qaeda and Sufi mysticism (ANNIHILATION). He is an accomplished poet working on his first book of poems, a noted playwright with plays produced off-Broadway, SOHO, SF and often in LA. Walter co-founded the ‘pre-Simulationist Movement,’ (along with the author of this article and several other artists/writers), an artist’s movement that is finding new ways to surpass the exhausted postmodern epoch and its errant constructions of language and thought.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Winner, Poem of the Month for May


Flying, by Susan Budig
Tu ne seras pas oublié.

You were not ready when you flew from earth,
snatched, like a bird in a storm.

Now I sit at your desk writing the last words in your journal.
I pour out your shampoo, sudsing my hair twice a day
until there is nothing left.
I paint my nails mismatched colors while emptying your chic bottles
of Le Rouge Foncé and Rose Scintillant.

Birds feast on your half-eaten bag of Cheetos that I shake,
salting the wind.
I burn your cinnamon candle down to a nub,
leave on your night-light until the bulb burns out,
open to your bookmark, finishing Baudelaire’s final verses.

Then I lay my head on your pillow,
inhaling your lilac memory,
pull up the yellow cotton sheet,
and dream your last dream.

My aching heart hears you whisper
Allez à Paris.

When I land at Charles de Gaulle
every face I see is yours—
the blue-gray eyes
the chestnut hair
fair face dotted with freckles.

And then I see him:
the Frenchman in your dream.

He smiles at me, steps forward.
His cheeks press mine,
right and left.
I feel the rasp of his peppered beard.
But I know you want more.

Standing on tiptoe, my arms wrapped around his neck,
I look into his brown eyes, pleading
Une fois plus pour Jacqueline?
I hold my breath.
“Avec le plaisir,” he replies.

And we kiss like old lovers,
lingering on
until the taste of his lips cannot be forgotten.

Susan gives the following short bio and addendum to the poem:

I decided when I was eleven years old after winning a Scholastic Writing Contest that I wanted to be a writer. I can't remember when I didn't write poetry, but for the past five years I've written as a journalist and music journalist, freelancing for two newspapers (Mshale and Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder). A couple of years ago I was included as a finalist for Minneapolis' Loft Literary Center's poetry mentorship program, but haven't made much more headway into the world of poetry than that. This poem, Flying, began in my head in January, 2003, but wasn't finished, as if that's ever possible, until I actually went to France early in May, 2008. I stood in the airport for over an hour, people streaming by me, and simply envisioned the scene in the dream segment of my poem. I revised that section while flying over the Atlantic ocean.

Explication by Edward Nudelman

This free-verse narrative poem is very nearly two poems melded into one. Seamlessly. Flying is a poem of loss evincing a strong depth of love which the narrator emphasizes in the cataloguing of objects left behind from a very close and recently deceased female friend or relative, named Jacqueline. Using emblems that jog the memory, objects that were shared by both individuals, the narrator reminds herself (and us) what must be lost to lessen the anguish of loss. The narrator affirms her anguish in the untimely passing (‘you were not ready’) by over-stressing what must be jettisoned from sight and sense in order to assuage the grief: shampoo, chic bottles of nail enamel, a half-eaten bag of Cheetos, cinnamon candle, and even her night light. So much of working through grief is taking action; and conversely, so much of love is clinging to every last vestige of love- even when it is physically impossible.

There is a brilliant transition into the second section of the poem in the quartet,

Then I lay my head on your pillow,
inhaling your lilac memory,
pull up the yellow cotton sheet,
and dream your last dream.

which helps build energy and anticipation into the middle and ending sections of the poem. At this point of transition, the poem changes palpably in tone and we are introduced to an intimate and chance meeting as the dream of a dream unfolds: to visit Paris. It is true, the narrator cannot extricate herself from the memory of her loved-one, even after clearing the house of every reminder. ‘Going to Paris’ (perhaps an alternate suggestion for the title), is her dream, and one obviously never realized due to her early death. So the narrator must go there for her; and once there, the delineation between dream and reality become a little fogged. We find a reference to 'the Frenchman in your dream,' a clever construct to further magnify the illusory tone. The two phrases following consecutively, 'I feel the rasp of his peppered beard,' and, 'but I know you want more,' join the displaced lovers together in place and time with only imagination left as the final barrier. Cleverly, though we know the narrator is the stand-in, the scene is evocative of much more, a kind of transference of passion. We understand and see the meeting that could never occur, now fully realized. She melts into his arms, pleading, 'once more, for Jacqueline?' 'With pleasure,' he responds, and they 'kiss like old lovers.' Time has been erased from the equation. Finally, two lovers meet in the body of a poem, that were prevented from meeting by an early passing. The poem is an emotional release, but more than mere catharsis, it creatively describes an illusory representation of love that enacts a service of ultimate value, the resolution of a life-long dream.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

American Poet Portraits, by Didi Menendez


I am very proud to be included in a one-of-a-kind series of portraits of contemporary poets, an idea crafted and executed by Didi Menendez, poet, founder of MiPOesias Poetry Magazine, Oranges and Sardines, and many other ground-breaking forums for poetry both online and in printed form (Menendez Publishing).

You can find the complete set of paintings hosted by Didi on her blog here:

link to American Poet Portraits.

I hope you'll have a look; to my knowledge, this is the first series of such portraits for contemporary poets and one that will, in my humble estimation, find its way into the annals of art and poetry history.