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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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book review

Review of Cinéma Vérité: poems/sketches/parables by Sam Rasnake

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My review of Cinéma Vérité: poems/sketches/parables by Sam Rasnake (A-Minor Press 2013) is up on MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews.

http://madhatarts.com/madhatreviews/review-of-cinema-verite-poemssketchesparables-by-sam-rasnake/Review

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Book Review: Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental Illness By Heather Fowler

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New Book Review: Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental Illness by Heather Fowler

On MadHat’s Drive-By Book Reviews

http://madhatarts.com/madhatreviews/book-review-elegantly-naked-in-my-sexy-mental-illness-by-heather-fowler/

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New Review on MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews

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My review of “If I Had Wings These Windmills Would Be Dead” is now live and in person on MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews

http://madhatarts.com/madhatreviews/if-i-had-wings-these-windmills-would-be-dead-by-chuck-howe/

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Book Review Before Whose Glory by Lawrence Kessenich 2013 FutureCycle Press

Book Review Before Whose Glory by Lawrence Kessenich  2013 FutureCycle Press

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Lawrence Kessenich’s Before Whose Glory is his first full length collection of poems, published in 2013 by FutureCycle Press. Kessenich writes about time and space, people and places, unfathomable mysteries and the beauty of nature, the human condition and the experience of being alive. Before Whose Glory is a collection of beautifully crafted poems, each one a story, each one its own self contained universe.

To say that Kessenich’s poems are accessible is not to say that they are without depth. The poems in this collection are deceptively complex, intricately layered and subtly nuanced. Each poem offers a clear path through the piece without obfuscation, needlessly difficult arcane references or unintelligible abstractions that might otherwise leave me bewildered and wondering if I’ve missed the point. These pieces are compelling and evocative. They insinuate their way into my subconscious and run through my head like my favorite songs. They are poems I find myself going back to and noticing something new with each reading.

Kessenich’s poetry is narrative and reflective and the artist’s sensibilities are pervasive throughout the collection. His understated, gently ironic humor and sense of the absurd comes through in the pieces based on true stories ripped from the news that are stranger than fiction. Other poems are poignant and compassionate reflections on relationships and family life written from the perspective of being the Devil himself, a kid with a paper route, a son, a lover, a husband, a father, or a citizen of planet Earth.

With this collection of symmetrically crafted poems, Kessenich demonstrates a dazzling ability for juxtaposing the mundane with the sublime. Some pieces begin in a very ordinary setting and end in reverent contemplation of the spiritual and metaphysical and sometimes it’s the other way around. Either way, the poems in Before Whose Glory give me cause to pause; stop what I’m doing, question, reflect, appreciate and remind me to be grateful for life and all its blessings.

Book Review: Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits by Robert Vaughan 2013

Cover DTDL Robert Vaughan

Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits

Stories/ Robert Vaughan 2013

Published by Deadly Chaps ~ Joseph A. W. Quintella, Publisher

Robert Vaughan is a busy man with a lot on his mind, and an incredibly prolific writer. I don’t know how or when he even finds time to sleep. Author of hundreds of published stories and poems, Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is his second release in 2013, with more on the way. Don’t take your eye off the ball or you’re likely to miss the next pitch altogether. This chap book contains many of his best known pieces and is a little like a greatest hits album, in all the best possible ways. Notable pieces include “10,000 Dollar Pyramid” which was a finalist in the Micro Fiction awards 2012, “Ten Notes To The Guy Studying Jujitsu,”finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award 2013 and “Gauze, a Medical Dressing, a Scrim” 2nd Place in the Flash Fiction Chronicles String-Of-10 Contest 2013. It also contains some of my personal favorites which include “Seven Shades of James”, “Going to Reseda On The 405” and “Mother/Father/Clown.”

Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is a marvelously crafted collection with moving parts that work beautifully together. At times deep and dark, then light, playful and mischievous; the pieces are written in beautiful prose that moves the reader through surprising and unexpected journeys. Robert Vaughan’s work is characterized by his playful use of alliteration and eye winking references to icons, titles and phrases in the lexicon of popular culture. His capricious imagery and surprising, cleverly placed internal rhymes create pieces that are at once rambunctious, mischievous and somehow, gently subversive.

Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is crafted from lush poetic prose. On one hand some pieces are abstract, cryptic and disturbing; while on the other hand, others are humorous and totally straight forward, without any artifice, tricks or distractions that might dull the edge or detract from their power. Vaughan’s stories are often poignant, tender and compassionate without being too sweetly sentimental. In almost every case, any one of the segments of a diptych or triptych could easily serve as the foundation for its own expanded story.

Hats off to publisher Joseph A. W. Quintella for a beautifully designed and produced book. It’s a wonderful chap book and a piece of visual art in and of itself.  Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is an enduring body of work. Woven from gorgeous, rich, lyrical language and imagery, it’s right up there with the very best. Available from the publisher, http://www.deadlychaps.com and from Amazon. It’s also listed on Goodreads. If you are not yet familiar with the writing of Robert Vaughan, then this is the perfect place to start.

Book Review Tollbooth Bud Smith Piscataway House Publications 2013

Book Review

Tollbooth 

Bud Smith

Piscataway House Publications 2013

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Bud Smith’s 2013 release Tollbooth is one of the most entertaining, refreshing and compelling novels I’ve read in a long time. The protagonist, Jimmy Saare is a toll collector on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. It opens with Jimmy saving the lives of a mother and daughter by pulling them to safety from the flaming wreckage of their vehicle after a horrific accident. It’s Jimmy’s second day on the job.  Although this is a real event in the life of Jimmy Saare, toll collector, it’s also an important piece of metaphorical foreshadowing.

The story takes off from there like a bull exploding out of the chute at a rodeo, twisting, turning, bucking wildly and it doesn’t stop until it’s over. Tollbooth takes the reader on a wild ride through the interior psychological landscape of Jimmy, his hallucinatory break with reality, a marriage in the midst of crashing and burning, an impossible obsession with a nineteen year old sales clerk and his involvement with a bizarre cult and the exterior physical landscape of the Garden State Parkway, coastal New Jersey, strip malls, Iceland, and a commercial fishing trawler all the way to the gates of Hell and back again on an unexpected path to redemption.

I think Tollbooth is a wonderful book. The voice and writing set the stage for an effortless and compelling read. It’s also totally original and just plain brilliant. There’s humor, mystery, eroticism, the good, bad and ugly of human nature, mysticism, magic realism, characters I care about and “diamonds in the rough” passages of absolutely gorgeous, lyrical, poetic prose.

Although the book is an acrobatic mash-up of different genres including realism, magic realism, absurdist black humor and surrealism, none of those labels really do justice in accurately describing Tollbooth. For all of the twists and turns and forays into other worldly realities, it’s also a classic love story and solid, old school storytelling. But don’t just take my word for it. You really should see for yourself.

Book Review: Microtones by Robert Vaughan Červená Barva Press 2013

Microtones by Robert Vaughan
Červená Barva Press 2013 Gloria Mindock ~ Editor and Publisher

Robert Vaughan’s 2013 release, Microtones from Červená Barva Press contains two dozen prose poems of varying lengths and a variety of rhythms and structures. From the shortest, just four lines, to the longest, going on two pages; Vaughan’s poems are like songs with a hook that make you want to hear them again. Microtones is like a hand carved box filled with little treasures, a leather album with photographs of people and places you want to know more about, or a double record on vinyl with 24 three minute songs you play over and over.

From the opening piece, The Outlaw, right through to Wrestling With Genetics, the poem that closes the book, the arc and flow keeps the reader moving from one poem to the next. However, you can also pick any poem at random and it shines just as brightly on its own.

Vaughan’s writing is deep and nuanced and evokes both a visual and a visceral response. The poems flow with an ease and grace that is musical and lyrical, in language rich with unexpected images and surprising passages that stop you in your tracks and make you slow down, go back, and read them again.

You hang mid-air, arms akimbo, glance askance. Resigned. Jubilant.
As we are when any end is imminent.”

Robert Vaughan is a keen and compassionate observer of humanity; his writing, at times, tender, poignant and sad, yet unsentimental and tough when it needs to be. There’s also a healthy dose of irony and humor and a playfulness with language that is unique and refreshing.

“He’s the tetherball attached to my pole, the flying trapeze of my soul.”

You slide into each poem with so much ease, that, before you know it, you’re off and running. Microtones celebrates the predicaments of the human condition and the ephemeral quality of human relationships, and mourns their passing, while at the same time, still holding hope for the future.

Though Microtones is work from a seasoned author, it is also fresh and exciting new work from a writer just really hitting his stride, an artist who speaks to us, in full, with a vibrant voice, and whom we can expect to hear from again.

Microtones is available from Červená Barva Press
http://www.cervenabarvapress.com

Robert Vaughan’s website is http://www.robert-vaughan.com

Microtones

Flash Fiction Fridays

Flash Fiction Fridays

Flash Fiction Fridays

Hi there boys and girls! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell bringing you another book report from the Alice B. Toklas Book Journal. Writer, author, teacher and radio personality, Robert Vaughan has delivered the goods with his sparkling debut anthology: Flash Fiction Fridays. Robert Vaughan is the host of the innovative monthly radio show Flash Fiction Fridays, which airs on Milwaukee Public Radio’s WUWM Lake Effect and has put together a truly delightful anthology of 34 stories from local and international authors whose work appeared on its namesake radio show each month during 2011.

I am a Milwaukee expatriate, born and raised there, now living in exile in upstate New York. However, I’m still a hardcore fan of most anything that comes out of Wisconsin, except for the current governor. So soon as I heard that Robert Vaughan had put together this collection of short fiction I ordered it immediately, not only to support the home town team, but also because I knew it would be great. A prolific writer and accomplished author in his own right, Robert Vaughan is on his way to being one of the preeminent authors of flash fiction today. In this anthology, he has assembled a collection of some of the best flash fiction written by the rising stars working within the context of this genre.

Dynamite

Don’t let the label “flash fiction” fool you into thinking that these pieces are like light snacks without substance. Brevity is power. This is the undiluted stuff. Each piece is a little package of dynamite, full of vivid imagery, emotion and humanity. Flash Fiction Fridays is available on Lulu.com and Amazon.com. The physical book is a slick and professional, aesthetically pleasing, high quality volume and it was on my doorstep within three business days. If you want to read some of the freshest contemporary flash, this is a must-have book for your library. It will leave you wanting more. I can only hope that Robert Vaughan is already working on this year’s collection because I’m already looking forward to Flash Fiction Fridays: Volume II, and I think that you will too!

Flash Fiction Fridays

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