Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cool Announcement: A New Release, Takeout

My Dear Readers:

I'm happy to share with you this exciting news: NeverEnding Story contributor Jack Galmitz published a collection of "minimalist poems of the everyday and its relationship to the uncanny,"  titled Takeout (Impress, 2015).

 About the Author:

Jack Galmitz was born in NYC in 1951. He received a Ph.D in English from the University of Buffalo.  He is an Associate of the Haiku Foundation and Contributing Editor at Roadrunner Journal.  His most recent books are Views (, 2012), a genre study of minimalist poetry, and Letters (Lulu Press, 2012), a book of poetry, and yards & lots (Middle Island Press, 2012; see my in-depth review here). He lives in New York with his wife and stepson.

Selected Poems:

what remains
my mother's birth
her sister's lock of hair

I have become
arranged on a page

sometimes I'm so angry
that my teeth show
an old language
that I know

picking from a cherry

passed out drunk
a father sleeps on the couch
his daughter's doll crushed

Note:  Jack's yards & lots is one of my favorite books, and I particularly like his haiku about "9/11 ,"  "yards" and "lots." Below is excepted from my book review, which was first published in A Hundred Gourds, 1:4, September 2012:

... Of the six sections of haiku, I like the opening section, titled "memorial stones," the most in terms of formal, stylistic, and thematic elements. It starts with the following heartfelt haiku beautifully crafted in the traditional style – three lines, 5-7-5 syllables, with a caesura/cutting after the second line emphasized by a dash.

two light beams shining
where there were once twin towers –
my son, my daughter

The first two lines delineate the most significant memoryscape in the first decade of the 21st century, where the present encounters the past and both reflect upon each other. In L3, the thematic focus is shifted from the socio-cultural/public to the personal-relational/private. It indicates that redeeming hope of the future begins with the generational basis of remembrance of things past. And the psycho-sociopolitical significance of number two stirs the reader to further ponder past trauma, present reflection, and future hope.

To continue exploring the theme of remembering, the second poem, written in the contemporary style with syllabic asymmetry, begins by evoking the horrific image of United Airlines Flight 93 crashing in an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania ("in a field somewhere/a plane went down"), and it concludes with a heartfelt plea – "remember us" – from the deceased passengers who fought fearlessly to take back their plane in an effort to stop a 9-11 terrorist attack. Out of the four hijacked planes, Flight 93 was the only one not to reach its target.

Turning to the third haiku, I am surprised to find that there is no human figure or voice, and that there are two blank lines used to separate the two parts of the poem. 

in Bryant Park
2,753 empty chairs

not a breath of air

The first two lines refer to a sea of empty seats, 2,753 in all, flooding the lawn of Bryant Park in surging waves of loss and grief on Friday, September 9, 2011, two days before the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. This unforgettably poignant exhibition used one empty chair to represent one 9/11 victim at the World Trade Center, and 35 rows of empty chairs completely covering the lawn faced south towards the fallen Twin Towers. The third line in the poem painfully evokes a persistent absence, indicating that this haunting exhibit was a visual reminder of the loss. Galmitz's thematically effective use of blank space adds emotional weight and psychological depth to the poem.

Further exploring the theme of loss and remembrance, the fourth poem, written in the shasei style, keenly captures the most moving moment in the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony: each and every one of the names of the dead read aloud at Ground Zero by fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, siblings, and coworkers, some choked with emotion ("the names of the dead/ read at ground zero"). The opening line ("the end of summer") successfully sets the scenic and emotional context for the poem, signifying the beginning of the process of decline that is initiated by Mother Nature....

... In reviewing Jack Galmitz’s book, I am reminded of Haruo Shirane's insightful essay, titled "Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku Myths." In it, Professor Shirane suggests that since most of haiku poets now live in cities, they should "[write] serious poetry on the immediate urban environment or broader social issues. Topics such as subways, commuter driving, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc., while falling outside of the traditional notion of nature, in fact provide some of the richest sources for modern haiku."  One of the most exciting aspects of reviewing Jack’s book is that there are two sections, "yards" and "lots" from which the title is drawn, dealing mainly with everyday urban space.

Structurally speaking, the one-line haiku with opening words "the yard" are divided into two parts by the use of a colon. The first part, "the yard," sets up an urban social space upon which the second part acts/performs. The second one is further divided into two subparts by the use of a comma. Through the juxtaposition/collocation of these two subparts, the possible meanings/connotations emerge from the reader's observations of/reflections on daily encounters with his/her urban surroundings. The haiku regarding "lots" are similarly structured, except that they are two-lined with "an abandoned lot:" as the first line. Below are my favorites:

    the yard: a pile of tires, a baseball

    the yard: a birdbath, a chainsaw

    an abandoned lot:
    weeds tall as men, a shopping cart

    an abandoned lot:
    Trees of Heaven, auto parts

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