Book Review: Blood Work by Kisha Nicole Foster

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Blood Work by Kisha Nicole Foster is a thoughtful, moving collection of verse from one of Cleveland’s many great poets. Since her first collection was published, her style has evolved to become more visual, more elegant–relying less heavily on sound and more on the written form. Metaphors rather than multiple rhymes.

These are poems about family: specifically her father and son. However, the loss and regret felt over interactions with family are universal and relatable. The visceral connections of blood are used, as the title implies, as well as other metaphors. For example, she speaks about wooden roller coasters in both “Wooden Siamese Cats” and “I Smiled Back.”

[from “Wooden Siamese Cats”]

A wooden roller coaster

you and I

looping through air.

An unauthorized aerial act

of understanding.

She also references testimony in “Forcing Smiles” and (again) “I Smiled Back”, two complimentary poems placed next to each other in the collection.

[from “Forcing Smiles”]

you said whether you lived or died

you would be testimony

and

[from “I Smiled Back”]

When we talked on the phone,

he told me that this thing was life or death.

That if he lived he was going to be a testimony

and if he died he was going to be a testimony.

I wanted to overlook the death part.

I didn’t really need those words in my ears.

The shared use of key words and images makes the entire collection stronger. All the poems are so connected, each one feels like part of a larger narrative. Her streamlined approach uses straight forward language to eloquently convey deeply felt emotions. I know I felt emotional reading her words, especially the ones about her father, since it connected me to my own father’s loss a couple years ago. It’s beautiful.

So if you are a fellow poetry lover, I suggest you get this book immediately. If you are lucky enough to live in the Cleveland area, you can purchase it from Kisha Nicole Foster directly at a poetry event; otherwise, you can contact her through her FaceBook page. I’m sure you will enjoy these verses as much as I did.

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Book Review: CHAPTER ELEVEN by E.F. Schraeder

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E.F. Schraeder‘s Chapter Eleven poetry collection links both the financial and political aspects of health care and other industries with the real people that are effected. Poems like “Stopwatch Medicine” illustrate how healthcare feels like a churning machine to the doctor forced to ration time treating each patient. “For These Reasons” continues the thought of people being treated as cogs in a machine, with brilliant lines like:

Every aisle a staggering surprise of

consumer options that tie my hands

with dish rags (10 for $1!)

to women 12,000 miles away.

The poems within this deceptively thin book detail personal loss, health scares, education, the decline and deaths of loved ones–as well as biting social commentary. She even uses the ready-made metaphor of Humpty Dumpty for her purposes on more than one occasion. For example, in “Almost OK — for Humpty” she turns the nursery rhyme’s disturbing imagery into insights on living as a damaged person:

A certain light still reveals

the shadows of the cracks.

My only regret about this poetry collection is that I can’t give you a direct link to buy it from any of the big bookstore sites.. You can, however, order it directly from Partisan Press, or if you are lucky enough to live near Cleveland, pick up a copy at Mac’s Backs  or Visible Voice  bookstores! Trust me. It’s worth the trip.

POEM: Haiking Haikus

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Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum

“Haiking Haikus”

In the forest, the

illusion of loneliness

is overwhelming.

I lose the Spring in

my step somewhere along the

Emergent Tower.

Towering among

the forest canopy, its

wooden bones reach out.

White smoke rises from

above and beyond the tree-

tops: Nuclear steam.

The world sways beneath

my feet. I know it’s better

to bend than to break.

*image taken during the Haiku Hike on May 6th, 2018 at Holden Arboretum

POEM: License, Insurance, and Registration

police-car

“License, Insurance, and Registration”

 

Please.

 

Shiny black cop cars

compact fuel economying

across city streets and

highways, two counties

wide. An assault of vehicles

by sheer numbers on an

otherwise uneventful day

–no holiday traffic,

no special events,

no reason apparent

for the barrage of Blue

all burnished and new.

 

Bright blue lights

spiral drivers to

the edge. Must be the day

the new patrol cars arrive

begging to be driven,

needing validation

by way of speeding tickets

and arrests, my taxpayer

dollars paying for each

glitzy new vehicle

to slow traffic,

raise my insurance,

and justify the expense

of shiny black cop cars.

 

I hand over my papers,

look the cop in the eye and tell her,

 

You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

Upcoming events:

April 27th

Akron Nervous Dog Poetry Night from 6pm-9pm. I will be reading for about twenty minutes, so I hope to see you there!

April 28th

Western Reserve Writers’ Conference(9am-430pm) If you get a chance to attend, it’s definitely worth the trip!

 

*This poem was inspired by the day 18 prompt for National Poetry Month, courtesy of Cuyahoga Library combined with an oddly high number of police vehicles in my area the previous day.
*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

 

Current Events: April 2018

Every April is National Poetry Month, as decreed by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. One of the things I love most about living in northern Ohio is the writing community. Cuyahoga and Cleveland have two of the best public library systems in the entire country–for very good reason: both support their writing communities with literary events and outreach programs, public readings, open mics, and free workshops and classes.

During the month of April, for several years now, Cuyahoga County Public Library has celebrated National Poetry Month each April by giving the community a month of daily poetry. If you sign up for their email reminders, each morning you will wake up to a new poem, a poetry recommendation, and–my favorite part–a writing prompt for the day! I can’t recommend this enough; it’s one of my favorite things about this time of year!

As if that isn’t enough, there are tons of poetry events throughout both Summit and Stark County. I’m going to share a few with you, and I’m really excited to be reading at some of them!

Saturday, April 14th, 1030am-1230pm: (free) Literary Cleveland Poetry Workshop
@ Cleveland Main Library
–bring 10-15 copies of a poem you would like to workshop

Saturday, April 14th, 11am-2pm: (free) Local Author Fair
@ Massillon Library This will be my second appearance at this Local Author Fair. I hope you will stop by and discover some great local talent!

Sunday, April 15th, 2pm-4pm: Foolin’ Around with Poetry
@ South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of Cuyahoga Library
Meeting Room 162 (20)

Saturday, April 21st, 1pm-230pm: (free) Open Mic Poetry Featuring CSA Student Poets
@ Cleveland Main Library
Literature Dept
2nd floor

Friday, April 27th, 6pm-9pm: Nervous Dog Akron Poetry Night
@ Nervous Dog Coffee Bar
I am thrilled to be reading some of my poetry at this event!

Saturday, April 28th, 9am-430pm: (free) Western Reserve Writers’ Conference
@ South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of Cuyahoga Library
If you are not lucky enough to live in Ohio, you can still check out your local libraries to see what events they host during the month of April. And email knows no state boundaries, so you can still sign up for the Read Write Poetry emails from Cuyahoga library. No matter what you choose to do, I wish you a happy April!

POEM: The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge

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“The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge”

 
In a netherworld of eternal nights,

The Dead Celebrity Cocktail Lounge sets

within its murky depths, the stage for yet

another act beneath its neon lights.

 

Nina Simone’s piano they replace

with guitars and mics; her solo ended.

It’s hard to run a lounge that’s attended

by those who nightly drink and also grace

 

that same stage–yet it works. Jimi and Jan

tend bar; there are drinks passed round. Martinis

and shots-they disappear like Houdinis,

as Hendrix holds the mob’s attention span

 

with variations on his famous tricks,

Joplin adjusts her maladjusted bun

of stringy brown hair, not to be outdone

by his performance–she chews swizzle sticks

 

as his feet perform feats unhygienic;

they mix drinks, change place settings, and break through

a new status quo. A bar so strange. Who

thinks it’s sanitary? Cacophonic

 

sounds echo meanwhile from the abandoned

stage. Audio being tested, Janice

eyes the mic just like a Praying Mantis

eyes its prey. Soulful melody unplanned

 

erupts as she leaps across the bar, not

waiting for the test to be done, and she

shakes her hair loose, and runs onstage–a bee

to honey. Jimi knows tonight’s her spot

 

anyway. Tomorrow is his solo

with his guitar. They will do a duo

afterwards, no hard feelings. Their pseudo-

rivalry lost to time, tunes, and tempo.

 

Smoke clouds drift, generated throughout the

room by the exhalations of humans

from every era. Through the haze, fuming,

each cigarette, each pipe, each cigar a

 

glowing red eye in the dimness. No one

seems to mind as long as the speaker works.

Janice dances with twirls and whirls and jerks;

she’s heedless, unworried that it’s been done

 

before. What’s more, when they hold Poetry

Slams, the Shelleys hold hands, recite their planned

rhymed words without one cough; a promised land

found within their eyes. Ingenuity

 

not confined to poems alone, but drinks

as well. Alcohol and opium mixed

–laudanum–preached to each free love amidst

the hungry, thirsting crowd. And Mary winks

 

to her freethinking spouse. It’s rather sweet

that after all their years together, they

still have magic. A marital display

when tending bar, moving to the quick beat

 

of words and sound, orders filled, they’re thrilled to

be around each other. Mistakes have been

put behind. Other times, the darkened den

silences them into wild watching who

 

next mounts the stage. A young man, blonde D.A.

haircut pulled smoothly back from his high cheek-

bones and blazing eyes may begin to speak

on The Method and acting in a play.

 

A full-lipped platinum blonde beauty with lips

the color of rose, may rise singing, her

voice ringing loud and long. A performer

in a billowing white dress onstage, hips

 

swaying softly as she exits to read

Shakespeare by the flickering candlelight

at her table. There, her companion’s white

hair seems to fly from his scalp at full speed,

 

the shimmering lights caught in each stray hair.

Each wrinkle he wears deeply cut within

his paper skin, yet a great youthful grin

begins, while watching her his old eyes flare.

 

As Jan finishes her set, the quiet

descends upon the crowded room. Silence

falls like a heavy curtain. The giant’s

midnight mane, baby blues, and a riot

 

of rhinestones adorning his sparkling

outfit–outshine shining spotlight. The King

has arrived. Rhythm rings, he starts to sing

Hound Dog. He sways his wide hips, hearkening

 

to the voices of his fans. He shakes and

quakes, his own voice quivers as he croons Love

Me Tender. Smiles and tears. He stands above

his audience as a man, proud and grand.

 

So many more mount the stage, work the bar,

so far beyond our home world. The artist

once known as Prince, and Bowie, guitarists

and comedians taken past our star,

 

its yellow glow- dim memory in this

land filled with neon twilight, ignited

by dreams–the only starlight provided

by its denizens. Replicators hiss,

 

create doppelgangers complete in each

detail–except for the spark of new life–

Explain their unexplained removals rife

with Why. Their originals forced to reach

 

a darkened sphere light-years away. No day

everyday, just night, they perform before

an unnoticed audience evermore

of little green men, -women too, who pay

 

to view the highlights of our alien

culture. An extraterrestrial zoo

to educate and entertain them too,

no politics, just delights mammalian.

 

They are cast into a forever lime-

light, each one a cultural icon of

their generation. Their sublime fans love

to mourn their loss on Earth, but they’re in prime

 

up there, these famous homo sapiens.

For all this artificial world’s a stage,

its eternal players forever share

spotlight within this enclosed stadium,

a neverending audience to rage

before, away, and with those stars up there.

 

 

 

*Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed my scifi stretched sonnet!

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/