2015 Poetry Recap plus Review – Haiku of the Dead

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 brings you all good things! Besides good poetry that is!poetryy

2015 was a very tumultuous year for me. My family and I moved from France back to Germany (where we’d lived prior to moving to Paris) and our son started the first grade. We also came about “this close” to my husband accepting a job in Italy, which would have necessitated another international move at the end of the school year. But, even though it would’ve have been exciting and a pleasure (probably) to live in Italy (my husband is Italian), I’m glad we’re not going. At least not now. At any rate, now I can relax and get on with things!

Because our lives were in such flux, I took an extended hiatus from all things poetry. I was also suffering from a bit of poetry burn-out and needed to take a break. I read NOTHING except fiction all summer and into November. As a result my recap of 2015 is pretty brief. I reviewed 11 collections and one book on poetry. I interviewed Steve Sneyd, who has, in the interim, become an SFPA Grandmaster of Poetry. I did 3 Round Ups, two of which I am extremely proud of: Haiku and Women Destroy Hard SF Poetry. The found of the SFPA, Suzette Haden Elgin, passed away in 2015 and I wrote a tribute, as well. You can find all of these posts on my author page here at Amazing Stories. I’m shocked to discover that I produced exactly one Poetry Planet, my podcast which runs on StarShipSofa.com – it was the 2014 Elgin Award Showcase.

I hope 2016 will be a bit better! We are staying put in Germany and I’ve already got 5 or 6 reviews at least half written (!) and of course, I have an ever growing back-log of collections to read and review. These poets just keep writing! So far this year you can look forward to reviews and audio poetry by Ann K. Schwader, Octavia Cade, Sara Krueger, Popcorn Press, Jennifer Crow, Marianne Dyson, Yann Rousselot, Noel Sloboda, Ursula K. LeGuin, Callista Buchen, Wade German, Mike Allen and Rose Lemberg. Just to name a few. I’m also closing in on finishing the next themed Poetry Planet (Animals and Creatures). This is sure to be a happening place, if I can just learn to be brief!

* * *

Haiku of the DeadAnd now to a review – Haiku of the Dead, edited by David Nell from Dreamscape Press.

I wasn’t actually going to review this anthology, because I honestly can’t recommend anyone purchase it, but then I thought, if I only publish positive reviews, people will start to wonder. It is my aim to find something positive to say about all the collections and anthologies I review, because, after all, poets work hard for very little return, and I want to support them and help increase their exposure. And I’ve been extremely lucky, in that I have been asked to review very few collections that I just didn’t like. In this case, my lack of enthusiasm is not so much for the poetry itself, but for the anthology as a whole and for the editor and Dreamscape Press.

I think it was Amazon that recommended this anthology based on past purchases. It was relatively inexpensive and I could purchase it on the German Amazon site, thus taking advantage of my Prime membership and save shipping. This is also the reason why most of the books I buy these days are Kindle versions. But that is a tired story and one you might be familiar with. At any rate, I was excited by this because it was nearly completely full of unknown poets (to me) and I was unfamiliar with the editor.

I read the anthology the same day I received it, in one sitting – the time it took to drink a cup of coffee, because I was excited to finally get it. However, it was just OK, entertaining for the span of 20 minutes, and I was disappointed that it was so brief.

The anthology itself is a slim, perfect-bound paperback. The paper is heavy and it is an attractive production, but it really should be a sort of brochure and in many ways feels more like a teaser than a full-fledged anthology. 34 pages of 34 poems. Yes, one haiku per page, in huge font. Each haiku comes complete with a title, even if it’s just the first line, which is then repeated. I couldn’t help but feel cheated a bit.

In preparation for this review I looked up the press and the editor. I went to the Dreamscape Press website and to GoodReads. The publisher has several anthologies of both fiction and poetry in its archives. I remember stumbling upon this press about a year ago and enthusiastically tweeting the calls to several cool poetry anthologies the editor, David Nell, had in the works, only to have it pointed out to me that these calls were from 2014 and marked with a closing date only a few months later. I couldn’t find any mention on the website that these anthologies were, in fact, ever coming out – the last entry of the blog being from January 2014. It seems as though the press, the publisher and the editor (probably all just David Nell) have dropped off the face of the earth. I certainly hope that nothing horrible has happened to him. If it has, it would at least go a long way toward explaining, why he should just abandon so many great projects. Otherwise, I would just be annoyed. Besides, the whole enterprise seems just a little exploitative. The contributors don’t (or didn’t) receive any more compensation than a contributor’s ebook copy.

At any rate, the haiku isn’t even all that great. They all diligently adhere to the 5-7-5 or 4-6-4 syllable conceit, but not to any of the other guidelines, which make haiku so special. No twist or juxtaposition of opposites. Here, the best ones are the humorous ones and those that make fun by comparing Zombie actions to live human foibles. Here are my favorites:

Undead Longing

Empty neighborhood.

Your face appears before me,

grey moon veiled by clouds.

By Sarah Winn

***

Dead Soles

My right heel sloughed off,

now I’m losing all my toes.

Can’t get my footing.

By Jessica McHugh

***

A Better Man

Zombification

made me evolve as a man.

Now I love your brains.

By Clarice Radrick

***

Date of the Dead

Lurch with me, lover –

we’ll do the zombie shuffle,

then dine on exes.

By Cathy Bryant

* * *

So, there you have it! Stick with me and hopefully I’ll be able to entice you to buy a few poetry collections this year!

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