Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


book review

Drive-By Self Interview Book Review “So Sad Today” Melissa Broder

MGM’s Drive-By Self Interview Book Review of “So Sad Today” by Melissa Broder


Q.     How much did you love this book?

A.     I loved it with the intensity of a thousand blazing suns.

 Q.     To whom would you recommend it?

A.     Curious readers with a capacity for self examination, an appreciation for existential absurdity, willingness to experience things from a deeply personal perspective other than their own and any reader who loves poetic prose and damn good writing.

 Q.     What did you learn from reading “So Sad Today?”

A.     How everyone we meet is fighting their own personal battles, inner demons and hidden insecurities, no matter how much it appears they may have their shit together. Also how little I know about Twitter and that I’m a really lame tweeter. I also learned some texting shorthand, although I had to Google some of it. I also realized that I am sexually repressed Catholic schoolboy.

Q.     Would you compare Melissa Broder’s style as an essayist to any other authors whose work you enjoy reading?

A.     I like David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson (“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”) for similar reasons. I think Melissa Broder is a brilliant humorist and a keen observer of human nature and commentator on social norms with a stunning command of the English language. She pulls no punches and writes with astonishing candor.   

Q.     You’ve been described as a gushing fanboy. How do you feel about that?

A.     I am absolutely, without a doubt, 100% a gushing fanboy. I totally OWN that shit. As a middle-aged, mediocre monogamous white male, I might be a bit of an outlier from the rest of her fan base, but that’s never stopped me before from going out on a limb. A limb that may snap at any moment, and send me crashing to the cold, hard ground.

Q.     Why are YOU so sad today?

A.     Because I finished reading “So Sad Today.” NOW what the Hell am I supposed to do?     

Q.     How would you describe “So Sad Today”?

A.     I am a raging adjective/adverb abuser in recovery, with a touch of OCD, but here are a few descriptors off the top of my head. I had listed one for each year of my life in alphabetical order in two columns, but WordPress doesn’t DO that kind of formatting, and now I’m REALLY so sad today! Damn it Jim! I’m a DOCTOR not a code writer!

acerbic       addictive          beautiful          brilliant            brutally honest   candor     compassionate      compelling       courageous      creative     dead on      dead serious       delightful   erotic   excavation       excoriation       existential     exorcism    experimental extraordinary   fascinating  funny  genius  happy  heartbreaking  hilarious    hot      humanistic       humane   humble    humorous   hungry    imaginative  in-your-face     insightful     inspiring          instructive       intense    interesting      off -beat    off -kilter   painful   playful    poetic      poignant           provocative     redeeming        resilient      revealing      sad   seductive   self-effacing     sexy     spiritual  straight-up  strong  thought-provoking     titillating   trenchant  truthful  uncommon  unflinching   unique  uplifting  voyeuristic   witty

Q.     We’re just about out of time. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

A.     Yeah. What are you doing just sitting there? Go out and get this book and read the Hell out of it. Then, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll go out and buy any and all of her four poetry books you can get your hands on because  that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to do.

About the Author:

Melissa Broder is the author of four poetry collections:  LAST SEXT (Tin House, 2016), and MEAT HEARTWHEN YOU SAY ONE THING BUT MEAN YOUR MOTHER. She is also the author of the essay collection, SO SAD TODAY (Grand Central, March 2016). Poems appear in POETRY, The Iowa ReviewTin House, Guernica, FenceThe Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, Washington Square ReviewRedivider, Court GreenThe Awl, Drunken Boat, et al. You can read the online ones HERE. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and her MFA from City College of New York.  By day, she is Director of Media and Special Projects at NewHive. She lives in Venice, CA.


About the Drive-By Reviewer:

Michael Gillan Maxwell is a visual artist, author, and teacher. The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction For Beginners, a hybrid book of images and prose, was published by Unknown Press in 2015. Prone to random outbursts, Maxwell can be found ranting and raving on his website:


Book Review “Cinnamon Girl” by Lawrence Kessenich

Book Review  Cinnamon Girl by Lawrence Kessenich

North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.  Fiction 233 pages


Cinnamon Girl, the debut novel from award winning poet and playwright, Lawrence Kessenich, is a poignant and compelling story about a young man and his group of friends as they come of age in the American midwest during the height of the Vietnam War era.

John Meyer, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is fighting his own war on an asymmetrical front. He is in the process of leaving the halcyon days and secure cocoon of his conservative suburban family. Meyer questions his entire belief system, as he finds himself drawn into the radical politics of the anti-war movement, new friends, a love affair, experimentation with drugs and a new lifestyle. He struggles to come to terms with the plethora of choices he must make in the face of events that occur at a dizzying pace.

Kessenich skillfully and accurately depicts a thoroughly engaging, nuanced and multi-layered story of a classic love triangle. the overwhelming rush of first love and an impossible relationship all set against the backdrop of social unrest, political upheaval and the tumultuous events of the times.

He writes through a lens of adult wisdom about a much younger version of himself and the dynamics of Meyer’s family life, and his relationships with parents and siblings while they all struggle to maintain balance as the once secure ground is shifting underfoot.

Kessenich’s skill as a story teller is bolstered by his ability to vividly describe events and carefully develop multidimensional characters with the keen eye of a realist. I became so enamored of the characters and so engrossed in what was going on in their lives, that I did not want the book to end.

I connected with Cinnamon Girl on a deeply personal level because of my own life experiences and familiarity with the history of that specific time and the location of the events depicted in Kessenich’s novel. However, given the current political climate and the societal divisions that exist, protagonist John Meyer serves as an Everyman whose story could just as well be happening right now. I think Cinnamon Girl is a story for the ages that examines universal questions about growing up and awakening, adult decisions where nothing is black and white, the responsibilities that come with freedom; and the insecurities, moral conundrums, and choices a young person faces as they move into adulthood. Cinnamon Girl guides the reader through a twisting, turning, up and down journey of self discovery, triumph and defeat, and ultimately redemption. It’s a thought provoking and emotional read; a trip down a rabbit hole that eventually leads back out into the warm sunshine.

About the author:

Lawrence Kessenich has written in a variety of genres, including poetry, plays, short stories, novels, screenplays and essays. He won the Strokestown International Poetry Prize in Ireland in 2010. Other books include Age of Wonders, (Big Table Publishing, January 2016) Before Whose Glory, FutureCycle Press, 2013) and Strange News, (Pudding House Publications, 2008) Lawrence Kessenich lives and writes in Boston MA.


Drive-By Book Review “Spent” by Antonia Crane

Spent by Antonia Crane

Published 2014,  Rare Bird Books, A Barnacle Book

Spent cover

I just finished reading Antonia Crane’s gripping memoir Spent, and I realize it happened again. I fell hard for a book. After inevitably coming to the end, I am, once again, left wondering “Now what in the Hell am I supposed to do?” I end up doing the only thing I can do in a case like this. I talk about it. I used to write book reviews, but it’s something I really don’t do much anymore. However, there are times when a book really lights a fire and truly captures my interest, and the best way for me to process what I’ve just read is to talk about it, and sometimes rant and rave about it. That’s what’s happening here. To be clear, I am not even attempting to write a piece of serious literary criticism. This is just me responding, reacting, processing. This is me just sayin’: “You gotta read this book!”

 Spent gathers early momentum with a depiction of Antonia Crane’s childhood in coastal northern California, the disintegration of her family life and her coming of age in a small town that just doesn’t offer enough to keep her there. She moves to San Francisco and later to LA, where she supports herself by stripping. She lives a bohemian, alternative lifestyle, hits bottom doing hard drugs, but finds connections that lead her to sobriety. She becomes a powerful political activist within the sex worker industry, earns an undergraduate degree and enrolls in graduate school. Crane’s reconnection with her mother is heart breaking as it occurs just as her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. At a new low, with no other resources, Crane returns to sex work which leads to an arrest. This serves as a clarion call to change her life. At the risk of sounding trite, the old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” seems to apply here. While the sex industry is the setting for Antonia Crane’s journey, on a deeper level, it is a memoir about the human condition, the search for meaning and finding one’s purpose, and the importance of connection through family and community.

Every so often I’m lucky enough to come across a book that is so well written, so personal, so honest and unflinching and so compelling that I never want it to end. I just want to go on and on, living with those characters in that world. I wish I could say that about all the books I read, but I can’t. It’s not to say that they are not good books or well written, but, for whatever reason, they just don’t command my attention and engagement the way this one does. Spent is a special book, a searing memoir that got under my skin in a serious way and left me hungry and longing for more.

Antonia Crane is an articulate and vibrant story teller and a force of nature as a performance artist. I’ve had the good fortune to actually see and hear her read selections from this book on two separate occasions, once in Boston and again in Seattle, shortly after publication. I was a participant in the reading in Boston. It was my first public reading and I was nervous. There was a timer on the podium to help us keep our readings to the allotted four minute limit. Ironically, it looked like a dildo and started blinking red to signal 30 seconds to wrap things up. I was on the schedule immediately following somebody I’d never heard of named Antonia Crane. The author hosting the reading called her name and I watched as she emerged from behind a pillar across the room. She was tall, blonde, athletic looking, dressed in black leather, with muscular tattooed arms. She approached the podium looking like some kind of Viking warrior goddess and delivered a reading about rough gay bondage sex fueled by crystal meth. She had the audience enthralled. The timer started blinking at the 30 second mark and Crane quickened her pace, picked up the timer and held it aloft as if she were the Statue of Liberty, dramatically finishing her piece just as the timer went off. She tore it up and brought down the house. It was unquestionably the best reading of the event. And there I was, holding a crumpled piece of paper with my staid, little poem, dressed in my tweed jacket with patches on the elbows and I had to follow that. It was like the teeny bopper pop group, The Monkees following a mercurial guitar player named Jimi Hendrix. I’ll never forget it.

Everyone has some kind of story to tell. But not every story is worthy of a written memoir. Memoir writing takes a very unique and special kind of skill. It requires an almost mystical legerdemain to put the reader inside the author’s head and Antonia Crane totally pulls it off. Spent is a memoir right up there with the very best. It goes toe to toe with some of my favorites such as Kate Braverman’s Lithium For Medea and Frantic Transmissions To And From Los Angeles , Ghost Bread by Sonja Livingston, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Just Kids and M Train by Patti Smith, Things I Like About America and 501 Minutes To Christ by Poe Ballantine and Chronicles by Bob Dylan. These are the Titans of Modern Memoir in my world and Antonia Crane is right up there on Mount Olympus with the rest of them and the best of them.

Antonia Crane is an author, writer and teacher. She has worked as an adult dancer and performer. Her writing has been published in The Rumpus, Black Clock, ZYZZYVA, Slake, Smith Magazine, and The Los Angeles Review. She received her MFA in creative writing at Antioch University. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers Program.

Find links to her publications at

Also listen to a wonderfully entertaining and informative interview with Brad Listi at

Drive-By Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Gary V. Powell

Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Gary V. Powell

2015 Fiction 121 pages

I tend to like flash fiction and short stories in general, but I am absolutely knocked out by the flash fiction and short stories in Gary V. Powell’s gem of a collection Beyond Redemption. I wonder if Gary Powell’s training in the law helped him to develop a disciplined approach to writing in such a powerfully concise style that gets straight to the point. He knows exactly how and where to pack the power in his punches. His prose is lean, compact and taut, yet lyrical and poetic enough to be powerfully evocative and compelling. It takes great skill to compress all of the necessary story elements into this kind of short form and Gary Powell does it with aplomb.

Beyond Redemption consists of 20 pieces, 18 of which have previously appeared in various literary journals, and every one of them is a winner. If this were an old school record album, then this could easily be a collection of his greatest hits.

Beyond Redemption explores the struggles of adolescents to assert themselves, young people coming of age, middle aged couples coming to grips with broken dreams and broken relationships, laid off factory workers, patients in a psych ward, people struggling to reconcile dreams of the past with the reality of the present, and people bumped, bruised and dinged up by life, but who find a way to dig deep and muster the resolve to keep on keepin’ on. Conflict lies at the heart of each piece and creates the tension that drives it. However, these are not depressing stories. Each one of them is, in some way, about resiliency of the human spirit.

Powell demonstrates an impressive ability to drop the reader into a specific time and place while wearing the character’s point of view like a second skin. He is not constrained by age or gender. Powell writes just as convincingly from the point of view of an angst ridden teenage girl looking for acceptance as he does from that of a disaffected middle aged man plodding through an unrewarding corporate career.

Many of the stories are colored by a very recognizable regional mid western flavor with references to Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and the Great Lakes. However, Powell writes just as convincingly about the deep south and the bayou country of Louisiana. Gary Powell is a great story teller who is, in my opinion, in the same league as widely recognized contemporary masters of the form including Tobias Wolff, Amy Hempel and Ann Beattie. Beyond Redemption is a collection well worth reading and my only regret is that I came to the end of it.

About the author:

Author photo

Gary V. Powell’s stories and flash fiction have been widely-published in both print and online literary magazines including most recently at The Thomas Wolfe Review, Fiction Southeast, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Best New Writing 2015.  In addition to being the winner of the 2014 Gover Prize for short-short fiction, several of his stories have placed in other national contests including The Press 53 Prize (2012), Glimmer Train (2013) and The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2014).

His first novel, Lucky Bastard, was recently published by Main Street Rag Press.

For this, and more of his work visit

Book Review: F250 by Bud Smith

Book Review: F250 by Bud Smith

Piscataway House Publications 2014

Fiction 230 pages

“It’s a novel about a noise band, some car crashes, kids with bloody faces, strange loves….” Bud Smith on F250

Thus reads Bud Smith’s hyper minimalist synopsis of his own novel F250. While this does summarize some of F250’s plot points with hilarious, deadpan understatement, needless to say, F250 is much, much more.

Set against a backdrop of the Jersey Shore somewhere around 2003-2004, the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Lee Casey, plays in a noise band called Otter Meat. The band teeters on the edge of either breaking big or breaking up and the dream of moving to LA beckons like some sort of mythical land of Milk and Honey. Lee works a day job as a stone mason. He hauls rocks, gravel and cement, his scant personal possessions, musical equipment, and his friends in his F250, a battered old workhorse of a truck that seems to crash into things like a heat seeking missile. Lagoon House is the dilapidated house in the process of being systematically demolished that serves as living space, party house, crucible and metaphor for a colorful and motley cast of characters going through life’s momentous changes together.

F250 depicts a group of friends whose lives are changing and evolving into something new as their old lives fall away. Preconceived notions of personal identity morph and grow into something new. It’s a story of farewell to youth and coming of age into adulthood and a story of self examination and self realization. F250 celebrates synchronicities and the peculiar kind of ephemeral magic that occurs as peoples’ individual orbits briefly come together before once again separating and twinkling into the heavens like the Perseid meteor shower. It’s about how the flash of one monumental event can change everything forever. F250 is about coming to grips with mortality and human frailty as we learn to understand our own individual gifts and strengths. F250 is about learning to forgive and to accept ourselves for who we really are and others for who they really are.

Some passages of descriptive prose are pure poetry.

“Outside, everything flickered like the world was film being fed through an 8mm grindhouse projector. Splatters of light struck everywhere reflective, creating a slowly rotating light show – glass and high sheen metallics caught the last rays of the falling sun. Reality was exaggerated. Colors were over-saturated: thick green, gold, plum.”

With references to regional cultural icons like Kiss, Bruce Springsteen and Thunder Road, Seaside Amusement Park, beaches, boardwalks, the Pine Barrens, Jersey salt marshes and 4th of July on the Jersey Shore, Bud Smith captures a unique slice of life and a snapshot of Americana at a particular time and place with lyrical agility and an unflinching eye. The book is also an exorcism, Last Rites, Kaddish, a memorial, and a celebration of life and love for each other.

With F250, Bud Smith has written his own “Moveable Feast” of sorts, with reflections based largely on his life as a younger man on the Jersey Shore; woven into a realistic work of fiction that is a totally enthralling and enjoyable read. With passages of cinematic prose and dialogue that captures moment to moment banter in spot-on colloquial fashion and characters large as life, Smith weaves a tale that is so engrossing and compelling that you won’t want to come to the end of it. At least I didn’t. It’s one of those books I could have devoured, but took forever to read, because then what the Hell was I going to do? It was like saying goodbye forever to my best friends.

F250 is a great book and Bud Smith is a hopeless romantic, which is a great thing to be in this fucked up world. I hope that Bud Smith revisits these characters in a future novel. The potential is there, and I would very much like to reconnect with these old friends as our lives once again intersect at some point down the road.

About the Author

Bud Smith is the author of the novel Tollbooth,  the short story collection, Or Something Like That, and the poetry collection, Everything Neon. He works heavy construction, lives in New York City and has a pet jackalope.

F250 Bud Smith

Guest Review: Delicious Little Traitor ~ A Varian Pike Mystery by Jack DeWitt ~ Reviewed by AJ Sabatini

Your Own Back Yard is delighted to welcome Guest Reviewer AJ Sabatini aboard with his review of Delicious Little Traitor: A Varian Pike Mystery by Jack DeWitt


Delicious Little Traitor: A Varian Pike Mystery by Jack DeWitt

Fiction ~ Black Opal Books, 2015      Reviewed by By AJ Sabatini

The settings and landscapes of Jack Dewitt’s Varian Pike mystery, Delicious Little Traitor, range from the small cities and sparse back roads of Connecticut to New York City and the outskirts of Philadelphia, circa the winter of 1953. This was an era when most ordinary Americans were settling into ways of living after the trauma and disruption of World War II. But the country itself was changing politically with The Cold War underway. Its dark winds chilled the pursuit of comfort as power hungry politicians, federal agents and ambitious government bureaucrats schemed to take control of the government and make life miserable for those who they accused of being “Un-American.” Although Varian Pike doesn’t bargain for it, he is thrown into the muck of vicious political intrigue almost from the moment he tries find out who killed a nineteen-year-old University of Connecticut college student, Lara Greenbaum. And why.

Pike, basically a loner, is a combat vet from the European theater with an acute sense of pain and human self-deception. He also has a low attention span for bullshit and thinks of himself, he tells us, as being part of a larger world, He talks about politics, jazz and painting, but also plays cards with his buddies and keeps up with baseball and boxing. After a poker game, one of his friends approaches him about the disappearance of his niece over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. Daughter of a Jewish dentist, Lara Greenbaum had an independent, intellectual streak about her and she was also alluring and sexy and knew it.

Pike meets with Lara’s parents and immediately takes the case. It is near Christmas and he drives up to for grey, frigid college UConn campus in what was a farm town then, Storrs. Pike is pretty frustrated by what he hears from a boyfriend, campus cops, Lara’s roommates and an edgy English professor who is frightened that his relationship with Lara and his political opinions could put him in danger. Varian checks out Lara’s room and steals her diary, only to find out that it is written in code. What did she have to hide? Within days, her naked and apparently tortured body turns up outside of Philadelphia in Abington, Pennsylvania. No arrests were made.

Lara, it turns out, was deeply involved in politics and had done research on a right wing, Communist hunting U.S. Congressman, Lindzey Hall. Even before Pike can track him down, so called Federal Agents start tracking him and telling him to lay off. The official story is that Lara was a rape victim, but no one can tell him why she was near Philadelphia. As Christmas nears and Pike wants to avoid everything to do with good tidings and the endless Crosby and Sinatra tunes on the radio, so he makes his way to Abington. A Happy Holiday does not ensue.

It is cold and dreary in the Northeast and everything Pike uncovers entangles him further in a sordid conspiracy which eventually brings him in contact with a handful of cleanly drawn though mostly unsavory characters. Some of them are helpful, a few try to kill him, he sleeps with one and has long, in depth conversations with others. Most of them have too much ego and something to hide. Louis, a friend of his, seems to have ties to the Mob, or worse. He lives alone in a modern style house in the woods, drinks French wine and owns abstract geometric art works. As Varian learns more from him and tries to get a handle on everyone’s motives, suspicions rise that Lara is not innocent in the dealings that surround her.

With a sure knowledge of American life in the 1950s, DeWitt drives the narrative from city to country, from a private Boy’s School to college campuses, to law offices, police stations and hideaways. Everyone Varian talks to seems to know something, but the whole picture never coheres. He does his best to stick to his code and find out the truth, but the Congressman and his goons play hardball and are not afraid to spill blood. But, through it all Varian is haunted by death of the smart, young woman and his obligation to her parents.

Varian drives a Chevy and finds radio stations that play his favorite Charlie Parker tunes, which give the reader the sense that the world is unpredictable and moving fast. His affair with a war widow throws light on women’s lives in post-war America. He and Louis ruminate about the real story behind ex-Nazis in America, spies and the Rosenberg trail and execution, the OSS, CDA, COS, FBI, Herbert Hoover and Joe McCarthy. What could being a “delicious little traitor” mean? Varian realizes he could care less about men in power, but is the murder of a young girl ever justified? And who knows the truth and who keeps secrets when it comes to historical and political machinations?

My guess is that DeWitt has more Varian Pike mysteries to write. The book has the feel of a serious novel of ideas, if not a movie. DeWitt, who has published several books of poetry and a study of hot rod culture (Cool Cars, High Art), knows the 1950s. I doubt Varian will start listening to rock and roll, though he might wind up reading Beat poetry and go on the road in a better car.

 About Jack DeWitt


Jack DeWitt’s new novel, Delicious Little Traitor A Varian Pike Mystery (Black Opal Books), is the first in a series. His study of American hot rodding, Cool Cars, High Art: The Rise of Kustom Kulture is included in the Street Rodder Hall of Fame. For three years he wrote the column, “Cars and Culture,” for the American Poetry Review. One of the columns was chosen as a notable essay in Best American Essays 2010. Almost Grown, his latest book of poems, is about growing up in Stamford, CT. For many years he taught in the Liberal Arts Division of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

 About AJ Sabatini

 AJ Sabatini is a Philadelphia –based writer and an Arizona State University Associate Professor of Performance Studies. For other reviews, see his entries at

Bud Smith reviews Kevin Ridgeway’s “Riding Off Into That Strange Technicolor Sunset” for MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews


I am very pleased to welcome Bud Smith on board as a guest reviewer for MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews with his insightful review of Kevin Ridgeway’s “Riding Off Into That Strange Technicolor Sunset.”


MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews: Tollbooth and Everything Neon by Bud Smith


Reviews of two books by Bud Smith, his novel, Tollbooth and poetry collection, Everything Neon are LIVE on MadHat’s Drive-Bye Book Reviews. Drop by and check ’em out!



Book Review ~ Beautiful Rush by Marc Vincenz

Beautiful Rush by Marc Vincenz

Unlikely Books ~ 2014 ~ 88 pages ~ Poetry

Marc Vincenz brings us his sixth collection of poems with Beautiful Rush, an elegiac, poignant and sparkling collection of twenty seven lyrical poems that seduces, tantalizes, mystifies, testifies, and transmogrifies. Symmetrically balanced and impeccably arranged, this subtly complex book is organized into three nearly equal sections: A Bitter Taste Of Midnight, Voices Breaking, and How To Die Of Beauty; with two of my favorite poems, Not the Last Word and Cassandra’s Smoke serving as a prelude to the first section. Kimberly L. Becker provides the Foreword and j/j hastain, the Afterword. Exquisitely restrained cover and interior art (Moth) is rendered by Inga Maria Brynjarsdottir.

The sections are linked by a titular series of six poems, Beautiful Rush (I-VI) that appear in each section. The mysterious muse, Cassandra, also unifies the collection with appearances at the beginning, the end and at various places throughout the book. Repeated references to a lost daughter leave me wondering and aching with a vaguely definable and tender sadness.

Marc Vincenz invokes the spirits of other poets, philosophers and places through various poems in the collection; August Kleinzahler and William Burroughs in Small Change, Emily Dickinson in Cassandra Knows How To Die Of Beauty, Joseph Campbell in A Bitter Taste Of Midnight; and dedications to Katia Kapovich and the city of Zug, Switzerland in Rembrandt’s Last Fruit and Almost Tax Free, respectively.

The poems in Beautiful Rush are part celebration, part excavation; ode to beauty and contemplation of the temporal through the inexorable passage of time. They are spiritual litanies and totems of rag and bone, evocative of the shaman’s rattle and drum. “Ancient bone music/ skin songs/ and marrowed incantations.”

The poems in Beautiful Rush are sometimes not of this world and at others very much of the earth; with sensory language that sets the imagination soaring ~

(from) A Bitter Taste Of Midnight

The resonance of reality.

                        The rapture of being alive.

                                    The meaning of a flea.

                                                A moth without a light bulb.

                                                            An aphid without a rose.

                                    What can’t be known.

 (from) To Watch A Flower Bloom

To watch a flower bloom

or a cloud fatten may nearly impossible

but how do you distinguish movement away

from or toward the growth of billowing form

and, at other times, leaves your toes rooted firmly in the ground.

(from) Cassandra’s Smoke

            in a park,

                        where old fools battle

                                    crickets and compare,

                                    bird feathers

where dogs shit and rut,

            where artists seek the ears

of trees and pansies

            and crumbling brick –

(from) An Abundance Of Islands

–a language called stillness, a child

called language. Grandfather’s war scars.

Mother’s tuberculosis—coughing at the edge


of the bed, a jackknife, stray sock, a cup

of ice cold tea. Lemon rind. And she, paper,

the ancient carbon backbone crumpled.

This may sound naïve, but, until recently, I never truly appreciated, or really tried that hard to understand the various ways poets experiment with formatting their poems as they appear on the page. I thought it didn’t matter that much. If the poems were meant to be read aloud anyway, then the visual effect of the formatting seemed to be a moot point. However, lately, my thinking has really changed. I think my attitude toward this has changed perhaps most significantly while reading Beautiful Rush.

Beautiful Rush is a beautiful book to read. The poems in Beautiful Rush are meticulously and deliberately formatted and arranged. Words, phrases, idioms and lines all dance around on the white space of the page. The intentional formatting affects how the poem reads off the page, enhances its timbre and rhythm and brings it closer to the way it might sound when recited aloud by the poet. Enjambments and line breaks play a critical role in both the visual and aural effect, like sight reading musical notation.

Beautiful Rush is not a “one and done” read. It actually has kind of an operatic quality. It reminds me of listening to an album (we used to call them that back in the day) over and over. It takes a few times through for the music, lyrics and meaning to really start to sink in. The poems do not reveal their meanings on the surface. They are multi-layered, multi-textured and subtly nuanced. An invitation to a personal scavenger hunt for classical and linguistic references that challenge and stretch the imagination.

Poetry is a multi-faceted thing. It’s about language and meaning, song and music, image and interpretation. Poetry offers the reader a glimpse inside the head and heart of the poet, but also an invitation to look inside one’s own head and heart. A good poem leaves room for interpretation and the opportunity to make that poem one’s own. And, like climbing to the top of a hill, the more you see, you realize the more there is to see. The poems in Beautiful Rush deliver on all counts.

“you hear voices

in hard labor,

and behind closed rooms,

you hear something like knowledge,

clearing its throat.”

 Marc Vincenz ~ Biographical Information

Marc Vincenz, born in Hong Kong, is Swiss-British. In addition to Beautiful Rush, his recent collections include: The Propaganda Factory, or Speaking of Trees (Spuyten Duyvil, 2011); Gods of a Ransacked Century (Unlikely Books, 2013); Mao’s Mole (Neopoiesis Press, 2013), and a meta-novel, Behind the Wall at the Sugar Works (Spuyten Duyvil, 2013). A new English-German bi-lingual collection, Additional Breathing Exercises was released by Wolfbach Verlag, Zurich (2014); a book-length poem, This Wasted Land and its Chymical Illuminations, annotated by Tom Bradley is forthcoming in April 2105 Lavender Ink; and a new collection, Becoming the Sound of Bees (Ampersand Books, 2015). He is the author of several chapbooks, has been published in dozens of anthologies and journals and is also the translator of numerous German-language poets. Marc Vincenz is Executive Editor of MadHat Annual (formerly Mad Hatters’ Review) and MadHat Press, Contributing Editor for Open Letters Monthly and Coeditor-in-Chief at Fulcrum: an anthology of poetry and aesthetics. In addition, he is Director of Evolution Arts, Inc. a non-profit organization that promotes independent presses and journals.

As always, I encourage you to go directly through the publisher.

Available from Unlikely Books at

Cover of Beautiful Rush

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