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Gloria Mindock, Editor   Issue No. 103   January, 2021




Cervena Barva Press January Newsletter, 2021

Happy 2021 to all of you. What a year 2020 was for all of us! It is close now to 11 months since the Cervena Barva Press/The Lost Bookshelf space has been closed in the Armory. I know we will go past one year of the space being closed. Thank you to everyone helping us get through 2020.

Last year we published 17 books. It took a lot of work to get these out. I would like to thank Steve Asmussen for his help with four of the books. He has two right now that he will be working on. Thank you to all the Cervena Barva Press staff for all they do for the press. Bill and I are so very grateful to you all.

Here is a look at what we published last year.

(To help support the Press click on a book image or title to order a book!)

Escape from Crimea
A Collection of Short Stories

by Svet DiNahum

The Adventures of Camel Jeremy Eros
by Corey Mesler

Tales from the Teacup Palace
by Karen Friedland
(Poetry Chapbook)

A Name for Everything
by Mark Fleckenstein

Wild Wreckage
by Charles Cantrell

The Bitter Kind A Flash Novelette
by Tara Lynn Masih & James Claffey
(Flash Fiction)

Leaning West
by Michael C. Keith

Lavinia & Her Daughters
A Carpathian Elegy

by Ioana Ieronim

Winter Journey El Viaje Del Invierno
by Alicia Aza

Get Up Said the World
by Gail Goepfert

The Snow Dead
by Marc Zegans

by Susan Tepper

by Ned Randle

Momentary Turbulence
by Brad Rose

Asking the Form
by Hilary Sallick

Fly Fishing in Times Square
by William Walsh

Little Brown Mouse
by Jack Mindock, Gloria Mindock,
and Kellis Mindock Dryer


Dancing Around the Edges
Review by David Cappella (Guest Reviewer)

Dancing at Lake Montebello: Poems by Lynne Viti
Apprentice House Press, 2020
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-62720-280-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-62720-281-7

It's safe to assume that a solid manuscript of poems should have, at its minimum, two necessary attributes for it to achieve a modicum of success. First, there should be a strong voice inherent in the work. The second attribute, and a little tricky to nail down, is this: there should be a thematic quality inherent in the text. ('Theme' is a slippery topic when discussing a poetry manuscript and best left for another time.) These two qualities guide me when coming to terms with a volume of poetry.

I'm pleased to note that Dancing at Lake Montebello, Lynne Viti's latest volume of poetry, more than succeeds in meeting these two criteria. The book is an excellent read, an evocative volume of poetry. The underlying trope threading the book the coming of age in Baltimore. Yet the book is about so much more than that. It is divided into three sections: Girls, Love Drunk, and More Dangerous for All of Us. These subtitles, in themselves, set the tone and the direction of the volume's voice and theme.

In the leadoff section, "Girls," Viti's voice begins strong and remains solidly steady. Her voice is acute, no nonsense, and sincere. She knows what she knows without hesitation. The sharp details of her images add to the strong voice. She begins immediately, in her opening poem "Biography," to set the scene of her early growing up:

          Separate movie theaters, separate stores, I graduated from saying
          colored people to Negroes, still, everything stayed separate.
          Brown-skinned bus drivers, trash men, busboys, day cleaning ladies.
          White teachers, doctors, priests, Girl Scout leaders, hairdressers.

"Parrot Jungle" describes a young girl on holiday who lies in bed with her parents downstairs. Viti captures both the salient details and the essence of the moment:

          The night was full of the sound of ice rattling in cocktail glasses.
          My brown-skinned baby doll lay abandoned by the palm tree.
          I dreamed of lizards racing across the cracked pavement
          to the underside of the bungalow, cool and dark as a starless sky.

In both poems, a naïve, but busy and imaginative world appears, a world that will unfold into its complexities soon enough. In the sections title poem, "Girls," the apparent naivete continues in a more pointed manner, undercut as it is by race and politics:

          We thought the woman who came five days out of seven
          to do our wash, clean bathrooms, cook our meals

          was like family - we never asked why she never married,
          lived downtown in a cramped apartment we visited only once.

The book's title poem sits toward the end of this first section. It captures the joyous naivete that is in stark contrast to the previous poems and the ones that follow. The first line announces a breathless freedom: "The road at night was ours." And celebrates how "we first saw the world/splayed open before us."

In the second section, "Love Drunk," the voice maintains its candor, but it has matured considerably, the naivete having slowly melted way. The narrator informs the reader that "I roll my eyes at this farm kid from the west/who thinks he's cool, …" In the poem, "Preparations," Viti blends second and the third person voices, allowing the reader an insight into the narrator's observations. The narrator captures her own attitude at this important moment in her life. The girl, commenting on her own action with the 'novice lover,' adds wearily,

          ...And after, when the thing was done
          she was done, with him as well.
          It was more or less a disappointment, ...

In the section's title poem, "Love Drunk," doubts abound in the last stanza, confirming the sad realization that when we are newly adult, we do not listen to ourselves. The narrator starkly remembers little, but what she remembers is detailed and electric, since it hints at so much more:

          My memory's blurry, vague, with necessary omissions
          Except I remember the tart, crisp champagne,
         &nbs;pour rich wedding cake, devil's food iced with buttercream.

          the cool sheets on our first marriage bed,
          waking up and staring into your ice-blue eyes,
          knowing we couldn't turn off that road we'd set out on.

These stanzas, blending images with a fresh insight, reify what the narrator only knew in "Started Wedding" - the bald fact that "some people get married for the wrong reasons."

This pivotal middle section concludes with a bittersweet hopefulness. Viti ends the poem "Ghazal: Returning" with a look back on innocence now lost, observing how easy it is to

          Recall when all was bright before us, all was fresh,
          vows not yet made or kept or broken, as today,

          Memories of youth infuse this hour -
          yesterday, the future, evade our reach - we grasp today.

Then, in the last poem in this section, "Shades at the Reunion," once again, the bittersweet past blends with a hopeful present. Friends gather around a table, "...drinks in hand, raising toasts, ..." But the narrator notices that "in the back of our minds, always are the ghosts:/the cousin who died at forty, when the cancer flared." Even so, there is more than a hint of hope as the final stanza demonstrates:

          Knowing all this, we sit on the cool air,
          September sun on our faces,
          hearing the songbirds carry on
          like Yeats' miracles in Byzantium.

However, in "More Dangerous for All of Us," the final section of Viti's book, we as readers do not sail directly to Byzantium. Rather, we meet head on life's vicissitudes. Viti confronts the adult world in a more somber, sometimes ironic tone but as directly as ever. And themes deepen. Whether discussing the death of a former English teacher ("...I wish I knew/what happened to her, before/her short ticket was punched") or in "Eve's Diary" describing her seduction by the serpent in terms of morning talks about flowers over the fence to a neighbor who liked gardens, Viti's poems contemplate the evolution of a psyche in a rapidly changing world.

In "Weeding the Bittersweet," the narrator finally has had enough of the plant. It's unique beauty no longer appeals to her, relentlessly having taken over the yard and garden. She "pulled up the stuff by the roots,/...Tomorrow, for this interloper, it's the trash./ You fooled us into thinking your orange-and-yellow/was harmless, was innocent." Such is the end of what was once used as a decorative November wreath. But agitated states are followed by quieter moments, too. The poem "Last Sunday in July" ends with a small miracle of peacefulness:

          Not much to do save
          listen to Bill Evans ply the piano
          wrestle with the crossword.

          Turn off the phone. Dream.

There are other moments, contemplative moments, as in the poem, "The Shadow of the Lost Object Falls Across the Ego," times where "...what once seemed so present/sucks the breath away, you gasp for air -" These moments, when "Nothing is as it should be, or as it was.", reveal the sense of loss, bear the weight of memory. Viti ventures further into various aspects of life, from comparing making love to peeling an onion (Making Love to You Was Like Peeling") to the mysterious night sound of prey being caught (More Dangerous for All of Us"), where the following morning, the narrator notes, "I find nothing, no clue of violence." In "Deep Winter After-Party," sitting in the kitchen, we are left with a basic realization that always hits hard: time passes. It is a stark reality:

          It made me wonder at how time
          had moved up so fast on us, how
          we ignored it as long as we could.

Whether Viti captures a reminiscence of her home city Baltimore in "Charm City" or ponders Christmas holiday residue in "Leftovers", her poems focus on the emotion of the moment which elicits a deeper concern for memory in the reader. In "God's Thief," the book's penultimate poem, the narrator, convinced that God is watching, carries stones from the seashore. The narrator decides, "If it's against the law to carry these rocks home/to my garden, well then, I'm God's thief." God remains silent, of course, but the narrator finds a sign from God nestled in the garden - "...a perfect rose, then another, /a summer of roses, safe behind a wall of sea-smoothed stones."

The last poem in the book, "Walking at Day's End," aptly recapitulates various thematic strands, but also reinforces the strong, worldly voice of the entire book, a voice that arises from the urge to rely on language. The narrator's mature voice, fully cognizant of the profound effect of memories, of lived experience (including family, race, friendship, politics, love), hints at larger issues that have been implied throughout the book. She yearns for answers: "Explain to me how the sea puts parentheses around the years." She yearns to apprehend:

          Show me why the sea is so much like
          old words on the page,
          why I can read and reread a poem

         &nbs;pits meaning constant
          text embedded deep in my neurons
          though life whirls me

Finally, the narrator arrives back to the fact of her own life:

          from single to married
          childless to primigravida to mother of two
          to mother of two grown, off into the world.

Thus, for Viti, it is the language of poetry that elevates the intellectual and emotional effects of memory, that deepens and elevates personal experience. Her mixing of free verse with other forms, such as the sonnet and the Ghazal, undergirds her use of language.

Lynne Viti's Dancing at Lake Montebello is a thoughtful read, a book of poems that ostensibly appears to explore childhood and growing up memories but, in fact, only uses these memories as stepping stones to explore emotional moments, moments that explode into questions of spirit, of the effects of the natural world on the individual, of the meaning of race, politics, and friendship in the course of a life during a pivotal time in America. In a clear, confident voice, Viti explores the underlying intensity that fuels us all as we ponder "- what we live for, who we are."


Barista by Nick Pearson
Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater

Barista by Nick Pearson
Offa's Press, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-9996943-3-3

Nick Pearson is a Forward Prize nominated poet whose work has been widely published in anthologies and magazines both at home and abroad. Based in Telford, Shropshire, England, and a longstanding member of Bridgnorth Writers, he is a regular performer at regional live literature events and festivals across the West Midlands. 'Barista' follows on from his earlier collection 'Made in Captivity', (Offa's Press, 2011), which was well received.

Pearson draws inspiration from many different places, but is particularly interested in the culture and rituals of work, visual media, rural and urban environments, and personal landscapes of disconnection. In the present collection, we read about subjects as varied as a coffee shop manager, the Great Auk, a scratch card woman, an American geosocial networking and online dating application, imaginary scenes from the literary work of Raymond Carver, 'found poetry' drawn from lines written in articles culled from a West Midlands regional newspaper, a garden shed and a space probe that ended its twenty year mission by crashing into Saturn on 15 September 2017.

The noun 'barista' denoting a bartender in a coffee shop has been in English usage since 1992 having been borrowed from Italian where it is said to have derived originally from the English noun 'bar'. It seems as if this particular word and its meaning have now come full circle. Pearson's poem sequence 'Barista Manager Life Posts' which is divided into 15 sections gives us a glimpse of a modern day barista's life both in and out of the coffee shop. Touching on topics such as inductions and appraisals, the daily commute to and from work, time in the gym and reflections on the back room dishwasher, there is no shortage of variety. References to Miley Cyrus, 'Done up to the nines, / she's still wearing a short silver sateen dress / from the night before…Lips redder than red' spice up the daily routine together with the barista's choice of a 'Fruit Coolers Polo Shirt':

          She chooses yellow because she likes
          the colour of rapeseed fields in spring
          and it's better than the other option,
          which reminds her of a vitamin lozenge.
          She measures the shirt against her chest,
          recalls how a clever boy she once liked
          told her that nothing rhymes with orange.

Pearson clearly knows better than the 'clever boy'. His language is taut, full of observation and served up with wit and panache.

One of Pearson's many strengths is his portrayal of the urban scene. In 'Blue Plaque' he focuses on the ordinary, mundane events of families who have inhabited a particular place: 'In this place families made do, / People slept after long hours of work....Pebble dash was added, / an outside toilet was taken away. / A man forgot his key and broke a window.' It is the complete antithesis of what a blue plaque is for: the commemoration of a link between a location and a famous person, event, or former building serving as a historical marker. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives matter.

'Airbnb, Sector One, Bucharest' is all about atmosphere and observation. It opens with the narrator watching a young woman crossing the street below with a child. She has a cigarette and both are smiling. In the middle stanzas the focus of attention moves indoors, first of all to the stairwell and then to a second floor apartment where the narrator thinks about those who once lived there:

          how they may have paced or lingered
          next to where a family table stood
          or in front of this side sash window,
          unsure whether to leave or stay,
          rehearsing what was left unsaid,
          tall grey nets sieving a low grey sky.

In the final stanza, Pearson brings the past into the present while still retaining that sense of suspense that he has successfully built up in the previous stanzas:

          There are no cars moving outside,
          the street is silent in its cold graffiti,
          and when they come into the room
          her hair will smell of night and smoke.

Pearson's ability to conjure poetry out of the most ordinary things is very much apparent in 'Scratch Card Woman' which takes on an irony all of its own when one remembers that a real shamrock has only three leaves and, in Irish folklore and many other cultures, the number three is considered to be very lucky. Here is the poem quoted in full:

          Each lunchtime
          s;he leaves
          her excoriated duds
          in piles
          on the coffee shop's chairs
          decks of ruined shamrocks
          their silver ash
          of loss
          waiting in the grain
          of tables
          to be blown away
          by strangers.

Although most of the poems in this collection are grounded in the urban scene, Pearson is equally at ease when writing about the natural world. Whether we are reading about wasps 'woken by a deceiving March sun,' or the Great Auk on Facebook 'unapologetic for being unable to run,' Pearson's sharp observational skills coupled with his wit are there for all to see. The urban and the rural scene come together in the aptly titled 'Crossings' where a person on his way to work 'could have set his watch / by the passing animal wagon / as he raced from the car park / with only minutes to spare.' With more questions than answers, the poem has an air of mystery about it that lingers in the mind long after it has been read. Like many of the poems in this volume, it is visual in its approach, spare with its language and rewarding to read.


Fiction Review by Renuka Raghavan

Bezoar: And Other Unsettling Stories by Guadalupe Nettel /Translated by Suzanne Jill Levine
Seven Stories Press, 2020
96 pages

In Bezoar: And Other Unsettling Stories, author Guadalupe Nettel, composes six short stories with startling notes on obsession and humanity's imperfections. All told through candidly unique first-person perspectives, each narrative showcases anomalies of human behavior that leaves a lasting impact as readers become the purveyors into the lives of these characters who are as individual and disparate as the setting of their stories.

In the introductory, "Ptosis," a Parisian photographer becomes infatuated with what is arguably the most unnoticed part of the body, a woman's eyelids. Through the narrator's unflinching observations, "Exposed one moment, hidden the next, it forces you to stay alert for something that's really worth the effort. The photographer has to avoid blinking at the same time as his subject and capture the moment when the eye closes like a teasing oyster," the old adage about eyes being windows to the soul, truly takes on a whole new meaning. When the object of the photographer's affection opts to surgically enhance her eyelids, the narrator admits, "I kissed her eyelids again and again, and when I got tired of that, I asked her to keep them open so I could enjoy that fraction of an inch of maddening sensuality." "Ptosis" is an exploration on the fragility of beauty and ultimately, solitude.

"Bonsai" stood out as one of the most prominent stories in the collection. It shows us how a seemingly innocuous hobby becomes the catalyst for change. Plants become metaphorical stand-ins in a wider, more universal, garden of life. If someone classified you as a plant, what would you be? A climbing vine like the narrator's wife, Midori? Or a simple, but prickly cactus, like the narrator, Mr. Okada? The organic beauty of a Tokyo garden serves as the quiet stage where the narrator's discomfort and aloofness slowly grow, ultimately leading to a life-altering realization, "I remembered the longevity of the cactus: eighty years or more in dry, coppery earth."

Another slow burn, is the final and titular story of the collection, "Bezoar." Historically, a bezoar is a magical stone or a mass of organic material which held the power to cure any malady. In the story, written as journal entries, the narrator addresses her therapist, as she recounts how her obsession with hair transformed to an all-consuming compulsion to pluck out each and every strand. "It was a way of disconnecting from the world, of turning my back on the life in which I definitively did not want to participate." She chronicles her lifelong traumatic habit, her failed modeling career, and eventually how she came to love someone who becomes an equally binding obsession.

Translated into English by Suzanne Jill Levine, Bezoar: And Other Unsettling Stories, questions society's ideals of love, beauty, and loneliness through the voices of six distinct and unforgettable narrators. While I didn't find the stories "unsettling," per se, I did find myself thinking about each one much after I had finished reading the book. Nettle's characters are pitiful, disturbing even, and yet so close to our own personalities, it invites an unwelcomed level of unease.

Renuka's Bottom Line: I enjoyed reading this collection. While the pace of a few stories felt languid, this minor flaw was easily overlooked and compensated by gripping characters and evocative language.

Looking forward in 2021

We have a YouTube Channel thanks to R. J. Jeffreys. The readings from our anniversary readings will be posted soon. All Zoom readings this year by the press will be recorded and posted. We all are excited about that! Soon, Cervena Barva Press will have an interview series on Zoom and we also will be sponsoring an interview series. More information soon. Finally, in time, we also will have a Podcast series. We will be focusing on many international writers. Cervena Barva Press, as you can see, is extremely active. Again, none of this would be in the works if it wasn't for the wonderful staff we have.

I would like to thank Joanne Leu and Brittany Shipman, my two interns from Lesley University, for all their work from September-December. You both were wonderful and put in many hours helping the press.

We are slowly getting the used books online in the Lost Bookshelf. We will start to put them up when we have enough done. Our top priority is getting Cervena Barva Press books done. We have many coming out this year. Please be patient.

Cervena Barva Press Readings will start again in February.

The First and Last Word Poetry Series has resumed and will be on Zoom. Join Harris Gardner and I.

Here is our schedule through May:

Tuesday, February 16th, 7:00PM EDT/Zoom
Jennifer Barber and Charles Coe
Q & A to follow
No open mic

Tuesday, March 16th, 7:00PM EDT/Zoom
Danielle Legros Georges and Lloyd Schwartz
Q & A to follow
No open mic

April 20th, 7:00PM EDT/Zoom
Kevin Gallagher & Afaa Michael Weaver
Q & A to follow
No open mic

May 18th, 7:00PM EDT/Zoom
Rhina P. Espaillat, Alfred Nicol & Paulette Demers Turco (Powow 11 Anthology)
Q & A to follow
No open mic

To attend, email the authors, Harris or Gloria and we will send you the Zoom info to log in.

Thank you and see you in February with more news,

Please help support the press by making a donation.

Click here to donate to Cervena Barva Press!

Cervena Barva Press Staff

Gloria Mindock, Editor & Publisher
Flavia Cosma, International Editor
Helene Cardona, Contributing Editor
Andrey Gritsman, Contributing Editor
Juri Talvet, Contributing Editor
Renuka Raghavan, Fiction Reviewer, Publicity
Karen Friedland, Interviewer
Gene Barry, Poetry Reviewer
Miriam O' Neal, Poetry Reviewer
Annie Pluto, Poetry Reviewer
Christopher Reilley, Poetry Reviewer
Neil Leadbeater, Poetry Reviewer
R. J. Jeffreys, Associate Editor, Web Development
William J. Kelle, Webmaster

See you next month!


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