Note: The link to the review is below
An extremely rare and wonderful moment in my journey as a writer has occurred: a five-page review of my full-length collection Jugularity. The review is a tremendous morale-booster, much of it focused on sensitive analysis of individual pieces, which makes me feel like I’ve been truly heard, my muses exquisitely engaged and heralded through the internet. I can count on one hand the number of people who have made me feel so validated as an artist (my wife, though, gets a whole separate hand of her own!). Adding to my enthusiasm, the reviewer is Karla Lynn Merrifield, a fantastic poet , wilderness bard, and magnetic leader. Moreover, the review takes place in one of my favorite journals, The Centrifugal Eye, edited by the impeccable Eve Anthony Hanninen.
Over my eleven years of writing, Merrifield’s review stands out as a cherished nonpareil. Many seasons ago Lissa Kiernan (of Poetry Coop fame), reviewing my chapbook “Gordian Butterflies,” said, “It just might become a collectors’ item someday.” This brought me great courage to persevere. Now, I have another source of vitalization, based on a much larger selection of my work.
If you read the review (link below), you will see why I am so touched. There are many stunning compliments. I don’t want to wallow in transfixion, like some absurd mirror-dweller, but I would like to mention one point that particularly intrigued me: Merrifield said I might have created “a new kind of nature poetry.” This is heartening, for I have been worried about my connection to the Earth, and whether my attempts could be original and raw (hopefully shamanic).
I am also grateful to Merrifield in that she saw past the ambient agony of Jugularity, discovering its tender and even humorous sub-motifs. However, the general thrust in Jugularity fosters a harsh and treacherous psychological terrain. This relates in part to the publisher, Stonesthrow Press, which is affiliated with Danse Macabre Magazine, and its alarmingly morbid yet excellent editor, Adam Henry Carriére. Indeed, Jugularity contains distilled fugues taken from my dark side’s raves and howls. It would be understandable for any reader to shy away from this demanding collection. Merrifield dares to pursue all angles, while remaining intrepid and alert.
Regarding that alertness, it is honest as well as fearless. Merrifield is not altogether full of praise for my artistry. She suggests some style tweaks, such as indenting some of the lines for emphasis. More telling, in my regard, are her suggestions about phrase length, how I kept it “shortish” to maximize a compelling aesthetic/semantic sorcery, and yet thereby avoided certain modes of conversational tone. This much-appreciated appraisal brings up personal questions -- about how I sing out my passion--and why. Perhaps painstaking effort and relentless redaction have given my verbal brush a streamlined strictness, an efficiency that caters to certain kinds of flight (or submarine depths).
Merrifield is also insightful when she refers, near the end of the review, to my style as “hermaphroditic”; but I am not a fan of that particular word as a precise description of my oeuvre. It is true, I summon many voices through my pen, and they sketch various facets of psyche, both male and female. But “hermaphroditic” is too clinical-sounding for me, too neutralish, too mathematically balanced. There is also a stigma associated with this word in another context (not used in the review). This stigma uncovers trouble with its useage in general:
On the masculine and feminine: as a feminist, I have come to find the traditional gender roles oppressive. Modifying and transforming their respective elements is necessary for finding one's voice. We all can do this, and probably should, if we are to truly know ourselves. Toward this end, everyone must find their own path.
Confusion comes from stepping away from social programming, but also liberation. Artists, especially, need to walk through the firewall of cognitive dissonance--that uncomfortable feeling that arises from uncertainty--and dare to wander on the other side, where there are no simple anchors, though knowledge awaits.
Ultimately, I think of myself as primarily masculine; but the definition of “masculine” encompasses a range far broader than the old macho trope. I do not want to deny, nor should any writer who speaks through empathy, care, and openness, a strong feminine aspect in my being. I like "bisexual" as a descriptor better than the institutional "hermaphroditic," but even that term is not specific enough, not even close, to capture a single person's vareigated personality. “Bisexual” is also, of course, primarily a term of sexual preference; but I am talking more widely, about female and male characteristics in general, and the need to blend them to find one’s one unique being.
As you can see, Merrifield’s review elicited much reflection in me as well as joy. For both reactions, I am exceedingly grateful. And, again, I marvel at her bravery. Even I shy away from Jugularity, but she took the plunge.
I do have another full-length collection, a complement, which celebrates and fascinates on life. It is called Escape From the Orchard of Wheels. It remains unpublished, but I haven’t put much time into a sales pitch. I’d rather focus on creating new poems and attempting to learn from the many I edit. Also, the inevitable gamut of rejection is a draining time-eater, especially for a highly reactive introvert like myself.
Fortunately, wonderful people like Merrifield exist, those rare powerhouses who manage to turn their brilliant light inward and yet also shine it magnanimously on others. Such folks are most exceptional and precious, and those of us who they put on stage would do well to remember how we got there.
Thank you, Karla!!! You’ve added a permanent layer of subcutaneous bliss to the alloys in my soul.
PS: The link to the review is below. And of course you can purchase Jugularity, now, for only $2.95 at Amazon. Thank you for stopping by and reading!!
To see the review:
(1) go to:
(2a) Click on the cover and flip (click) to page p.74. Done!
or, optionally, to navigate through the pages faster:
(2b) Click on the two opposed arrows in the black rectangle near the bottom right of the screen. This brings up advanced navigation.
(3) Five thin white bars appear at the very bottom of the screen. Click on the fourth bar (pages 60-79)
(4) Now Pages 60-79 will emerge in miniature at the bottom of the screen. Slide your mouse pointer over them until p.74 is indicated. Click to open p.74. You’re there!