Poetry by Christopher Bernard

Rag Elite

Ah, it’s hard to be an elitist,
and not be a defeatist,
in this populist purgato-ry.

You’ve got to feel swell
even as you go to hell,
and remember most of literary
his-to-ry:

there was Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky,
Flaubert, Balzac, Chernychevsky,
Baudelaire and Mallarmé,
frenzied, tragic, or blasé;

there was Thackeray, there was Dickens,
Eliot, George, and no slim pickin’s,
all those Brontes and Jane Austen,
witty, goth, and little costin’,

Lord Tennyson paired with Browning,
Lord Byron and Grace Abounding,
and, not taking up the rear,
the one and only Will Shakespeare,

raving Homer about that roamer
and the burning of Ilium,
Virgil, Dante, Poe, Cervantes,
Aeschylus and Sophocles,
and that ancient Grecian tease
we all know as Euripides,

there was Faulkner, there was Joyce,
there was Hemingway and Stein,
and no writer worth his voice
could refuse the heady wine

of Spencer, Milton, Shelley, Keats,
young Rimbaud and old man Yeats,
and even though the fates
were or-ne-ry,

they’re now Famous and Admired
by librarians and graduate students and professors and junior high school English
teachers and the lame and the retired,
and will be for Eter-ni-ty.

Christopher Bernard is a widely published writer, critic, playwright and poet, co-founder of the literary and arts magazine, Caveat Lector (www.caveat-lector.org), and author of the novel, A Spy in the Ruins. Contact Bernard at christopherwb@msn.com.

Book Review: Just J’Rie, poetry by J’Rie B. Elliott

[Reviewed by Michael Widman]

A pink rose on the glossy cover on Just J’Rie, poetry by J’Rie B. Elliott, leads my mind to matters of romance, but that rose deceives by its looks. Likewise, the backside text on the little booklet from PublishAmerica that I keep on my desk since yesterday speaks about style (romance to patriotic with rhyme and rhythm, it says), but these assurances bear little meaning to me since I don’t buy books to satisfy my need for style.

In contrast, the message and the literary devices by which Elliott conveys it, matters more. I am therefore glad to find that Elliott’s poetry instantly connects to me. I have never come across any other poetry like hers. Her honest and straightforward presentation speaks to my simple mind in spite of the fact that I’m a man, who is only moderately interested in romance.

Elliott practices a sort of poetic reasoning that impresses me as clever. Her ways with words interest me much more than any experimentation with style would because she reasons about what it means to love.

Romance in Elliott’s hands calls the needs of the heart rather than the needs of romantic style.

I wish to expose below Elliott’s reasoning a bit since I believe her words can be of value for all kinds of readers.

A caveat: Elliott’s book reflects religious beliefs, but your reviewer is not a particularly religious man. Fortunately, religious faith is not required in order to enjoy Elliott’s poetry, although faith in humans helps. Anyway, beware that my personal opinion is imperfectly informed in religious matters.

I have read every one of Elliott’s fifty-six poems. Together they illuminate from different angles the needs of the heart. Serious reflection on the needs of the heart and the mind excites me.

Michael Widman may be reached at widmanm5@comcast.net.

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Book Review: Boneyard, by Dee Allen (Reviewed by Floyd A. Logan)

[Reviewed by Floyd A. Logan]

Boneyard begins its’ dialog with you immediately, through the cover art and layout. The shape of the book; an elongated rectangle, monolithic, tombstone like. The photograph of a sealed  mausoleum is the main feature. This fortressed mausoleum sitting on smooth manicured cemetary lawns is bathed in sunlight, is held in the palm of deep cool shadow, as one would see at the beginning of dusk. It is a metaphoric depiction of Dee’s book in some respects; with head and face exposed , vulnerable in the bright lights of present existence, with soul and body resting deep, still and dormant, as with the bulb of a spring flower now in repose.

There is a reflecting pool in front of the structure. A reflecting pool, displaying an inverse perspective of life, only slightly distorted. How telling that there appears to be more animation and movement in the distortion than in the true subjects.

Acknowledgments: Dee gives thanks to his many sources of inspiration, which includes friends, other poets and professional connections. Dee goes on to speak of the betrayal and abandonment he experienced through some of these same friends. He then describes how this all came to be viewed as part of the necessary process of an artist. Very little is forgotten, even less is forgiven. In spite of (or perhaps because of) this bitterness, Dee feels that he has developed as an artist, and learned how to discern what is worth holding onto.

Floyd A. Logan may be reached at floydalogan@gmail.com. Reviewer’s note: Some (not all) of Dee‘s poems in Boneyard are contained in this review.

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Poetry by Cynthia Lamanna

Once upon a time, a boy with love enough for all
Put his hand in mine, and said he loved me so,
And now he loves me even more-
Far from this earths shore

Once upon a time
A boy with curls like golden spools
Came into the world
With eyes like big black pools
Though this was once upon a time
It wasn’t very long ago

Once upon a time
Most every single night
I sang because “He lives”
It made his young heart light
Though my arms reach out for him
My soul will leap again

Once upon a time the water turned to wine
The boy- now a young man
had burning amber eyes
We scarce could take all of him in
Once upon a time-

We are smarter than we were
Yet in heart- broken as in half.
He taught us how to cry
And he taught us all to laugh
Yes this was once upon a time
And now that day has passed

The Lord makes His greatness known
He gives me joyous dreams
Skipping with my son
Our tears will soon be gone
It will be even greater than
In paradise with Him

Rejoicing all the days
We have found Jesus in our midst-
He will not leave us here
As orphans in the snow
May we come to love him more
On our faces may it show!

Though it seems once upon a time
A garden flourished- vibrant green-
His Kingdom is within
And His Kingdom soon will come-
Church, let us not be unaware-
He is our one and true Bride-groom

Cynthia Lamanna may be reached at cynthialamanna@yahoo.com.

Book Review: The Jade Rubies, by Valerie Lee

[Reviewed by Jennifer Harbourn]

It’s all too common for a reader to find themselves snuggled cozily in their home, under blankets within the safety of their predictable world. It’s in such cases that the juxtaposition of a novel such as Valerie Lee’s The Jade Rubies truly shakes the reader. As I watched a tale of two innocent Chinese girls unfold, I became self-aware; knowing that I would never have to endure the trauma that these girls lived for 251 pages was both a relieving and guilt laden experience. This isn’t the first time that I’ve experienced this particular set of emotions, as I’m often drawn to stories concerning the multicultural plight of women.

Set in 1915, we’re introduced to two sisters, Sulan and May. In a whirlwind fashion, the girls are torn away from their mother after being sold to a child broker and then to a wealthy couple who takes them on a life changing journey to the New World. Once settled into Vancouver with their master and mistress, the sisters fall into a routine of abuse at the hands of rich sadists and drug traffickers.

Valerie Lee shows us by way of sights and the imagery of scents that a deep mystery is set to unfold by the end of the book. I found myself deeply invested in the kindly characters and equally critical of the villains. I think she found her voice as a writer and used it well.

Jennifer Harbourn may be reached at jharbourn@gmail.com. Check out her blog, Haute Whimsy.

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Book Review: Home Made Hell, a Mystery, by J’Rie B. Elliott

[Reviewed by Bruce Roberts]

We are all works-in-progress. Every writer, for example, has to start somewhere—and get better. It’s a craft open to development, to improvement, sometimes over an entire lifetime, as the tools and thoughts of a creative writer evolve and mature. And I doubt any writer in history has been absolutely satisfied with “finished” products. Swirling around in a writer’s head are better words, better descriptions, wittier dialogue, stronger scenes, etc., even after the work is published and up for sale. “If only I’d said…”

I was thinking of this as I read Home Made Hell, a mystery by J.B. Elliot. The plot revolves around an interesting idea that is well within the genre of mystery: a sex and power-crazed man, who speaks with an alter ego in his head, has stalked a young girl for years. However, when she matures, falls in love, and marries, he snaps. Convinced that the husband has seduced her, and that she really loves him—the stalker, he plots kidnap and murder, and revenge.

So this is a book with definite possibilities. However, those possibilities are severely undercut by the writer’s skills-in-progress. Ms. Elliot needs a refresher course in basic English—vocabulary, punctuation, verb agreement, sentence sense, voice and tense consistency, etc. The spelling is not bad—though not professional—but she likely depended on Spell Check, which of course won’t distinguish between “hear” and “here,” or “to” and “too,” to name a few examples.

Bruce Roberts is a poet, retired teacher, and ongoing Synchronized Chaos contributor. He may be reached at brobe60491@sbcglobal.net.

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Book Review: House Arrest, by Ellen Meeropol

[Reviewed by Martin Rushmere]

Moral and criminal crises abound when a pregnant spiritual cult member, under house arrest following the deaths of two children at a secret solstice ceremony, draws a homecare specialist into her web.

An engaging plot is subverted by a whirlpool of ethical and emotional heart-twanging that surrounds the otherwise absorbing tale –spina bifida, child neglect, anti-Vietnam protests, accidental deaths, communism, the KKK, family breakups .

The controversial issue of religious and spiritual cults needs to play a much bigger role. Jonestown and Waco, Texas are the images that, understandably, spring to mind when cults are mentioned.

Ellen Meeropol is careful to avoid mentioning them and is equally careful to be impartial about the subject, which is a big disappointment. And she becomes timid. It’s just a small, family cult; so no great harm to society done there – except that this raises the specter of Charles Manson.

No explanation is given for the deaths of the children at the ceremony to honor the Egyptian goddess Isis which, as is the usual pattern, is an orgy — drugs, dancing, drinking and plenty of sex, mostly with the leader.

To balance this, the pregnant Pippa is portrayed sympathetically, exuding engaging charm. Yet, the children should not have died – the central indictment that cannot be escaped but which is tiptoed around.

Martin Rushmere may be reached at martinzim@earthlink.net.

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