Through Celtic Eyes: Patricia Carragon on Susan Maurer’s Maerchen


Maerchen, Susan H. Maurer, Maverick Duck Press, 2008

Mythology, colored by Druid shamans, inspired Susan H. Maurer to document her poetic journey, Maerchen. Like a Celtic design, Maurer’s thirteen poems weave the past into the 21st Century. Her fascination with Celtic history began in the basement of the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village, New York, where she read about the Celts and Druids in The Encyclopedia of Religion. Although the facts of this edition of The Encyclopedia of Religion were questionable according to a revised edition, learning about the myths and poetic traditions sent Maurer on her Celtic quest.

While sitting on a porch in Kennebunkport, Maine, Maurer meditated on the music of Brahms and the rustling branches of a two-hundred-year-old tree. Mesmerized by music and Nature, she heard her muse calling. On her return trip to New York, Maurer transformed her magical experience into Maerchen. As you peruse her words, you will understand Maurer’s love of trees and her dislike of cutting them down for religious celebration. She writes:

Good things push up from the earth to feed us…
The seasons, barbarically waste pines to decorate
Them, tarting them up in the process
Making them ugly which they were not in the forest
Where we still worship
Rockefeller Center’s shed on
Needles from a silenced giant god

According to Celtic legend, trees were a vital part of their tradition, and thus sacred like poetry and music. The two-hundred-year-old tree and the music of Brahms are protagonists here, as well as the author’s need to relive her journey through Celtic eyes. However, you will soon learn that Maurer’s quest is not for religion, but for respect of Nature without succumbing to myth or dogma. She is a modern woman with a desire to question and a need for reason, balancing intelligence with artistry. We do not know the actual identity of Maurer’s muse. But in Nemeton, she hints that the tree back in Kennebunkport might be it:

I could consider
I am steadied by the
Broad-based Giant beside me.
There may be some similarity in
Our patterns of respiration.
I may feel we breathe in time. The tree may not.
Its leafy reach four stories high
Exceeds my grasp. The tree may be
Telling me this story.

Susan H. Maurer transcends mythology and breathes reason and drama into Maerchen. Maurer is an enlightened storyteller and the tree back in Kennebunkport must have told her these stories.

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Patricia Carragon is a New York City writer and poet. Her publications include Best Poem, BigCityLit, CLWN WR, Clockwise Cat, Danse Macabre, Ditch Poetry, First Literary Review-East, Inertia, Lips, MÖBIUS The Poetry Magazine, Marymark Press, Maintenant, Mad Hatters’ Review, The Mom Egg, New Verse News, The Toronto Quarterly, Word Salad, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. She hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of the annual anthology. Her latest book is Urban Haiku and More (Fierce Grace Press).

Loss Will Become Insignificant: Patricia Carragon on Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s Because All Is Not Lost


Because All Is Not Lost, Sweta Srivastava Vikram, Modern History Press, 2010

Because All Is Not Lost: Verse On Grief, published by Modern History Press (2010), is one woman’s celebration of love for those she had lost, but whose influence continues to touch her life. Ms. Vikram’s twenty poems do not dwell under the mourning veil. They speak of never-ending life in memories, hope, and inspiration, even skeptics, like myself, can appreciate and respect. The deaths of Sweta’s paternal grandfather, Dada, and her mother’s elder sister, Mausi, have deeply influenced the author and her writing. She says, I feel my Dada and Mausi’s absence every single day… But these two losses have taught me that their time had come. And that life is about celebrating those alive.

Her prose piece, A note to the biggest thief in this world, resonates with me the most. It protests against loss. Its universality of words goes beyond loss through death. It can also relate to those who have suffered from any situation beyond their control, whether human or nature related. But the message here is the same – the transcendence of suffering through hope and Sweta does it eloquently throughout, and especially in her final paragraph:

There will be silver rain. Frost will flow. The apple tree will bloom.
And you, ‘loss,’ will become insignificant as our hearts and minds hold
you by the toes and toss you – far away from the lantern of hope, so
you don’t regenerate like a lizard’s tail.

In The myna, Sweta shares a lesson of hope that can be told to either child or adult. The poem, set in a parable-like fairy tale, depicts the wisdom of the myna, an Asian bird known to mimic human speech. The bird tells the author not to hide in a state of unhealthy thoughts, but to seek out solutions instead:

The myna told me:
What you have here
is unhealthy. You can’t live
in the woods. Not like this
where you hide when the trees
make serpentine movements
and the night tip-toes to the winds.

The myna said:
The moon sings a ballad,
hoping one of the jackals
might be a good germ.
Dig a way out
of the tunnel. Find
the frog, yes frog,
who might just be your prince.
The night does not have to smell
of burnt pork when there is honey.

Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s Because All Is Not Lost: Verse On Grief shares her personal loss and, in return, comforts the reader. Her beautifully crafted poems take the reader on a voyage that “has to be undertaken by each of us individually.” Life must ‘live on’ – the fabric of memories and hope is woven in love, as long we surmount the negative aspects of loss. Because there is hope, death cannot win and this is the biggest lesson we all can learn from the author.

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Patricia Carragon is a New York City poet and writer. Her publications include Poetz.com, Rogue Scholars, Poets Wear Prada, Best Poem, Big City Lit, CLWN WR, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Clockwise Cat, Ditch Poetry Magazine, Mobius the Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly, Marymark Press, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. Patricia hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of the annual anthology.

Dreaming in Haiku: Karen Neuberg on Patricia Carragon’s Urban Haiku


Urban Haiku and More, Patricia Carragon, Fierce Grace Press

Anyone familiar with the poetry scene in New York City and its environs is very likely familiar with Patricia Carragon, whether through her two highly respected and well-attended Brownstone Poets reading series, her own featured readings at myriad venues, her participation in open readings, or her generous support of other poets on and off the ‘circuit’. Her latest chapbook of poetry, Urban Haiku and More; Haiku, Senryū, Hay(Na)Ku, and other Unrhymed Tercet Poetry, may well provide her with an even larger audience of admirers. One is always surprised and never disappointed by the range and style of Ms. Carragon’s writing.

Urban Haiku and More is a fun read, with serious undertones. As with her earlier book, Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press, 2005), the images are sharp and pulsing:

love
decides to
take the subway

and gets screwed
in the
tunnel

your
MetroCard is
not his E-Zpass

Urban Haiku and More begins with a nod to Matsuo Bashō, who broke from some strict rules of court poetry of his time and wrote clear and brief – and often humorous – haiku, and to Jack Kerouac, who is often credited with creating an Americanized haiku form. Carragon sets us up at once by defining her intentions:

When Bashō wrote
the sound of the pond
was heard

5 – 7 – 5
too tough when done in English
thanks Jack Kerouac

Carragon begins with an ancient form which has changed over time, while paying respect to the original concept and tradition. By including Hay(Na)Ku, she uses a 21st century form, which some sources credit as being officially introduced on the Web on 6-12-2003. The word is a Tagalog word translating roughly to mean “Oh” (or in Spanish, “Madre Mia”). The form is a tercet with a total of six words: one in the first line, two in the second, and three in the third with no restriction on syllables or rhymes. It can also be done in reverse and is often, like other tercet forms, chained to make a longer poem:

I
douche my
drain with Drano®

she
does hers
with Liquid-Plumr®

The poems on these 37 pages run the gamut of observation. Love, anger, and cynicism, and the guts to say it like it is, are side-by-side with more meditative musings that turn, in what I think of as ‘vintage’ Carragon, into a moment of shocking reality, which can offer a more meditative read as well:

dreaming in haiku
reflections
in a raindrop

as the lotus opens
she meditates
on the universe

he throws out
the garbage
before Zen enters

The poems are also loosely arranged in a seasonal/holiday order beginning with a range of emotions around Valentine’s Day. For instance,

Valentine’s Day
the heartache
of an empty life

Valentine’s Day
chocolate tastes better
than sex

Several ink-brush illustrations by artist William L. Hays gently enhance the poems and keep with the Japanese ‘feel’ of the volume. One of my favorites depicting a small, perched, feathery bird makes the third tercet of this chain all the more surprising, and ironically funny:

feathered troubadours
outside my window
sunrise serenade

birdsong will be heard
before dawn passes
through the sycamores

tree and flowers bloom
robins and thrushes fly by
crap on windows.

The collection ends with the close of the year, adding a sense of poignancy and a touch of hope:

the year ends
a prayer for peace
at midnight

What might appear to be a simple little read, surprises and engages us again and again. I thoroughly enjoyed Urban Haiku and More and think you will too.

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Karen Neuberg is a poet and writer living in Brooklyn, NY and in West Hurley, NY. Her chapbook, Detailed Still, is available from Poets Wear Prada Press. Her poetry has appeared in Barrow Street, Boxcar Poetry Review, decomP, Ditch, PoetryBay and elsewhere. She’s a Pushcart nominee, holds an MFA from the New School and is assistant editor of Inertia Magazine.

The Protagonist Rides On: Patricia Carragon on Peter Dugan’s Members Only


Members Only, Peter Dugan, Devine Madness Press, 2008

Cowboys never die. They live on as legends. They’re the dreamers and rebels on horseback – rugged individualists – gritty and tough like their terrain out West. But on Long Island, they ride motorcycles on asphalt. They wear black leather. They’re America’s heroes who refuse to conform. Peter V. Dugan’s Members Only is a coming of age exploration into Long Island’s maverick culture of bikers and scooter tramps, rock and roll and beer, scars and tattoos. Peter’s poems take us to a higher level. We learn that Walt Whitman does ride a Harley. In “My Reason,” Dugan writes:

I write for the musician, the artist and the poet,
those who don’t want to go with the flow
of music.

I write for the outlaw, the outcast and the
outlandish. But they are not out of touch.
They are what they are and I am what I am.
I am a poet. I am on the outside looking in.

Poets, musicians and artists suffer the consequences for being different in thought and attitude like the outlaws, outcasts and the outlandish. Dugan’s poetry speaks for them. His poems convey respect and dignity for them since he is one of them. And this theme is consistent throughout his book.

In The Gray Pilgrim, Dugan takes us on a journey with an aging renegade, born and bred on Long Island, but born to ride across the nation. As you read on, you sense a legend is being born. You hear the Harley groan. You smell the grease. You see a bandana covering the veteran biker’s gray hair. In spite of his weathered face, he is ageless – a pilgrim searching for stories. He must be a poet. Yet some see him differently:

To some he is an eccentric renegade filled with
purposeless wanderlust.

But Dugan rebels and continues his saga. His protagonist rides on. The author concludes his piece, using words that create a legend:

The fringes of his jacket gave the appearance
of wings, an eagle gliding on the wind.

Walt Whitman rides a Harley Davidson.

Peter V. Dugan’s Member’s Only is a no holds bared peek into the world of bikers. Past the grease and grit, his poetry travels towards life and people. Walt Whitman does ride a Harley. And bikers, like cowboys, are living legends, and Members Only is worth the ride.

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Patricia Carragon is a New York City poet and writer. Her publications include Poetz.com, Rogue Scholars, Poets Wear Prada, Best Poem, Big City Lit, CLWN WR, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Clockwise Cat, Ditch Poetry Magazine, MÖBIUS, the Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly, Marymark Press, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press) and Urbane Haiku and More (Fierce Grace Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. Patricia hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of its annual anthology.

Eloquence in Detail: Patricia Carragon on Karen Neuberg’s Detailed Still


Detailed Still, Karen Neuberg, Poets Wear Prada Press, 2009

Detailed Still, published by Poets Wear Prada Press (2009), is a sensitive journey into Ms. Neuberg’s past. From her first poem to her last, Karen Neuberg entwines the book together using her memories as a common thread with the craftsmanship of a master weaver. For instance, in Science, Karen writes:

Science recalls an evening. The trajectory
of memory rehydrates the event, pulling it
out of an older faith, shaped like a set of
urns aligned upon horizon’s ledge.

Science’s memory is exact. The human memory “rehydrates the event,” permitting emotion to reshape it—“as anything more than an old coat that either still keeps you warm, or not.” Reading this poem, one sees two points of view: both intriguing and beautifully versed.

In The Bird, Karen takes us back to her childhood—she’s ten-years-old, and it’s spring. A bird falls from the white oak. Karen rushes outside to save it. Like a doctor, she checks the bird for signs of life and descriptively tells us what she does. But her emotions set in to prevent a burial:

Out from within
what had been breast
a mass of maggots crawled.
Backing away, I fled.
I did not bury it.

Touchingly, the acceptance of death doesn’t set in until years later, as stated in her last line; “Burying was something I learned later.”

Karen Neuberg’s Detailed Still is a provocative masterpiece of eloquence in detail. Her eighteen poems take the reader through a tapestry of logic, perspective and language, rarely seen in modern poetry. She observes and writes with a perfect balance between her analytical and artistic abilities. Detailed Still is a must read on everyone’s book list.

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Patricia Carragon is a New York City poet and writer. Her publications include Poetz.com, Rogue Scholars, Poets Wear Prada, Best Poem, Big City Lit, CLWN WR, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Clockwise Cat, Ditch Poetry Magazine, Mobius the Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly, Marymark Press, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. Patricia hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of the annual anthology.

The Regrettable Passage: Patricia Carragon on Carol Wierzbicki’s Top Teen Greatest Hits


Carol Wierzbicki, Top Teen Greatest Hits, Poets Wear Prada Press

For me, adolescence was the regrettable passage from childhood to the demands of hormones and higher education. For Carol Wierzbicki, it became the Top Teen Greatest Hits, an intriguing collection of poems published by Poets Wear Prada Press (2009). Ms. Wierzbicki is tough and sensitive. She writes as if she were an observer during her rite of passage, even stepping back when she was five and six, taking in situations and translating growing pains into mini stories. Mundane occurrences, whether sad or funny, are refreshing to read, filled with insight and lessons.

For instance, in New Name (for Mom), the six-year-old Carol requested her mother to call her Lisa. Her mother said:

Would you like a glass of milk … Lisa?
Are you going outside now … Lisa?

And Carol wrote:

Mom gives me time to chafe at the name
that has begun to rub spots on my psyche
raw. She doesn’t quit
until I tell her to abandon it.

Her mother was teaching her the value of being at peace with one’s name and self, which is not an easy lesson for either child or adult to absorb. Carol writes this without being sentimental or coy. Her words are simple and her metaphors work. You feel the harsh rubbing on her psyche’s sore spots—a lesson being learned.

Another example is the poem, Dorothy’s Poem (for Dorothy Friedman). Although this excellent piece was dedicated to Ms. Friedman, Carol makes you feel it’s universal. I can relate to this. We, in many ways, are little amputated people walking around and the past is not black-and-white nor sepia tone. But the train is our home—life moves to the next station and we learn to laugh or cry at the passing scenery, knowing that rules make no sense.

Carol Wierzbicki’s Top Teen Greatest Hits is a big hit. In each of her fourteen poems, Ms. Wierzbicki mastered the technique of storytelling through perception and simplicity—her rite of passage to be read and shared by all.

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Patricia Carragon is a New York City poet and writer. Her publications include Poetz.com, Rogue Scholars, Poets Wear Prada, Best Poem, Big City Lit, CLWN WR, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Clockwise Cat, Ditch Poetry Magazine, Mobius the Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly, Marymark Press, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. Patricia hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of the annual anthology.