Three From Tu: Tupelo Press of North Adams Releases Three New Books of Poetry.
Three From Tu: Tupelo Press of North Adams Releases Three New Books of Poetry.By J. Peter Bergman
The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez by Iliana Rocha. 100 pages. $18.95
City Scattered by Tyler Mills. 28 pages. $15.95
April at the Ruins by Lawrence Raab. 91 pages. $18.95
Tupelo Press of North Adams, MA specializes in new poetry and, often, new poets. They help to create and continue the publication and publicity of people writing poetry from around the nation and around the world. These three books exemplify that work. These are unique voices writing what is often obscure and difficult poetry that, at the same time, amuse, inform and inspire more new poetical expressions from people like me; I’ll explain that comment at the end of this article.
Only one of these artists was at all familiar to me, Lawrence Raab. I have two of his earlier collections in my library:”Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts” and “The History of Forgetting.”This new book presents poems arranged into five groups of eight provocative poems each. Group 2 opens with My Expedition which begins “And so the ashen moon and the cold stars/burned on the lake beyond/the glow of our fire/Soon I thought//We had come too far to fail...” Throughout the book Raab’s intense imagery almost sings itself into the room. His natural sense of speech infuses his poems with a personal honesty that the reader cannot escape. What I like about this new collection is the author’s integrity. He never loses or confuses his readers with anomalies. He is honest to the end, even if his work is not a picture of his actual experiences.
For instance, in group 4, the book’s title poem includes “Just look around and see/what you could have been/if only you had waited//But who speaks /to the flowers these days?” Phrases like that in the middle of describing a place seen and felt at a particular time of day and year would be special by themselves alone, but Raab makes them moreso by applying them almost as intakes of breath. Read that out loud to yourself, for poetry is best when spoken aloud.
That is particularly true in Iliana Rocha’s “The Many Deaths of Incencio Rodriguez.” This lengthy volume gives us looks at eventualities in both traditional and non-traditional forms of poetry including prose poems. Not a traditional narrative poem it provides the reader many chances to find new beginnings and endings for the demise of its title personna. The Table of Contents gives us a first hint of what’s to come. Divided in three sections, Bad Hombre, In the Place of Guesswork, Hoax the author ushers us into her world; a place of Hispanic John Does whose lives are lost without consent, without celebration of any sort.
She writes of one of them: “I was laked by enlightened flies - dead mans float.” The one line poem demands a pause, a read aloud to hear the words and not merely imagine the sound of them linked together. The book constantly demands these analytical pauses, determined stops in her narrative style. The author clearly wants her readers to put together the missing histories of her dead men. In fact, her style demands it. This book, I warn you, take time to read because it, and the author herself, insist on engaging both your mind and your soul.
“City Scattered” is the shortest of the three new books. It is a bok of contrasts, right from the beginning. Tyler Mills, the poet, uses discordant imagery to draw the reader’s curiosity and hold it. The opening line of her first poem, for example, reads: “I wake, put on a silk slip, a wool shirt, and cut/past the building bombed to rubble/in the war. Rain sculpts the air. . .” It’s the sort of opener that causes the reader to wonder, instantly, where this will lead. Mills manages this sort of question throughout the book.
The book is written in four voices, each different from the others. There is ’I/Self?Woman in Berlin,” “Chorus,” “The Study,” and “Interlocutor.”As the book progresses each has unique opportunities to express something personal and yet reflective. The previous quote is from the first poem belonging to “Woman in Berlin” in 1930. Later, also in 1930, she related “A spotlight blackens the brick wall/An aura The lit-up bricks somewhat personal/ Nipples and aureolas.”
Earlier as Chorus Played on a Victrola she writes “I try to learn magical properties/To open the gates “nice” “friendly”/Like an actress who portrays elegant/Villains.” Throughout this slim volume the poet plays with her four voices keeping them true to themselves and exploring the vague narrative that drives the book forward.
These three poets and their books give us all the incentive to express ourselves in word patterns that express us and what interests us.
This month, April, for thirty consecutive days I will participate in the Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge, writing thirty new poems and publishing one each day on their fund-raising website. I will be one of eight poets from around the country participating. It is my third time doing this in an effort to raise money to support the work of this publishing company. With one poem each day it is difficult to refine and rewrite and so the raw material is what you get to read. Follow me daily, donate in my name, and keep new poetry alive and in the
hands of the fine people at Tupelo Press. And buy their books.