Chapbook Review – “El Valle,” by Esteban Rodriguez

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Mapbook: El Valle
Author: Esteban Rodriguez
ISBN 978-1-910289-54-9
£4.99 (approx. $6)
Published by The A3 Press, 2019

Esteban Rodriguez

Review by Ryn Holmes, April 2020

The use of mapbook form for Esteban Rodriguez’ nine poems was a perceptive choice. With El Valle, he shares his struggle to accommodate the language and customs in border towns on both sides of Mexico and the United States, specifically in and around South Texas.  Having grown up in Southern California, I know those border towns where gringos and Latinos have an uneasy truce.

Beginning with “Weslaco,” the reader is pulled into that life, also getting a sense of the author’s belonging and displacement, the familiar and the alien, of one torn between two cultures “…the sky struggling…less than the street corner,…” never quite fitting in either. “Mercedes” salutes and mourns the changes coming to the town, the neighborhood, the home, “…not the families moving in and out, in and out …can remember the past….” He recalls boyhood with an innocent sentimentality, acknowledging the local agriculture and reminiscing about an old fashioned, derelict Carnival that purveyed cheap excitement for a boy “…in the center doused in laughter and ready as the deep-fried darkness thickens….”

Growing up, we join him in “East Juarez High,” an outsider as student. He empathizes with his mother’s limited command of English and compares it to his own deficiencies in Spanish. “…the border of your mouth”…”imposter pretender … student who despite attempts to memorize phrases…can’t speak enough Spanish just like his mother…couldn’t answer the questions….” in English from her own teacher when in school. Here, the devastation to the self-esteem is clear in “with a pen was shown the ways language can be carved on flesh.” “Progreso” takes them both across the border to her former home in Mexico, his mother too poor to afford necessary dental care in the states, opting instead for what she could find there. He again sentimentalizes as a town “…rose into view like a lost civilization…cars parked…sunburnt and abandoned…stands before the bridge…that sold pottery…piñatas…car parts, jewelry….” To the author as child, it was fantastic, “…shells were really bones…the woman who owned the stand wanted…to show herself that the dead could be resurrected…if we believed they could.”

They again return south in “Nuevo Progreso,” a journey for his mother to reassure herself that she can manage okay being away from her home town. They have returned as displaced and miss the “belonging.” He sets the scene with “…cross-legged women in sarapes begging…boys selling candy chiclets…legless men in wheelchairs shaking their cups on the corner mumbling….” She is trying to convince herself that “the bed rest Sprite and prayers worked and the expired pills she took…made the coughing go away….” This brings the reader to “Falfurrias.”  This time, a checkpoint crossing with his father has the potential to turn into a crisis when a border agent orders him to “…pull over step out go into an office…” while the author with limited command of English is directed to remain outside. Uncertain and worried his father may be detained, he tries to guess “…they suspect he forged his documents…he is not who he says he is….”  He notes his father’s subdued demeanor and relief when permitted to leave. His father is “…sure that when he crosses the checkpoint again he’ll be whoever they expect him to be.”

“Donna” returns the child to his hope to us as he looks beyond bleak environment to the tawdry glamour of a cheap circus, overlooking the mundane to reach the fantasy “…smudge the haze off the edges of a scene…the world beyond a circus a three-night extravaganza…he must have….”  Desperate, he wheedles and negotiates with his mother, Donna, to win the prize: “…be good…won’t ask for candies toys….” He holds on to the possibility of future self-transformation, “…be someone else.” That wish comes true in “Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle.” He leaps ahead as he did in “East Juarez High,” mildly dislocating the reader with a changing chronology. The destruction of the church by a plane crash stimulates a discussion with an uncle. The writer is on the eve of flying to college and shall leave all he knew to experience a “…sea of chicks the parties…” He will be where few look like him or carry familiar surnames. His poignant response comes with his epiphany of “…once you leave…no part of you can ever return.”

This brings us to what I believe is the final piece (they are not numbered), “McAllen.”  Rodriguez is on the cusp of age fifteen and teases the reader with a hint of gender fluidity. He is in town with his mother and cousin shopping for her Quinceañera dress, a concoction of elaborate femininity meant to represent her budding womanhood. A joke made by his mother to the writer asking “…if I want to shop for my quince too…” gives him pause. He has an epiphany that when his age turns, “…I’ll want the gown the ballroom the gathering of family and friends the dance with my father….”  Again he seeks a transformation, a ceremony, to mark his coming manhood, “…to feel like someone else.”  He wonders if he “…will have his cake and eat it too.”

Rodriguez writes with insight, sensitivity and sentimentality. The reader is privileged to transition with him through various stages of his young life and attempts to reconcile his culture with that of the larger population of gringos.  He uses themes of alienation and transformation to tell his story. 

 

“Paper” is the Theme for Issue 15

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We’re pleased to announce that for Issue 15, we’re seeking works related to paper. We will interpret the theme broadly and encourage your imagination, wandering, and unpredictability.

Submissions are open until Sunday night, 22 March at 11:59 pm US Central time. Please submit ONE document with no more than 3 pieces to www.panoplyzine.submittable.com/submit. We do not accept previously published work, and we ask that you remove any identifying information from the submission. We read submitter-anonymous. Submittable provides a space for your third-person bio (no more than 60 words, please) and any cover letter. For prose, limit your word count to 500 or less. (We have outright declined many prose submissions that do not comply with the word-count criterion.) We have posted a full list of submissions criteria on the Submittable page. 

According to Wikipedia, “The pulp papermaking process developed in China during the early 2nd century CE, possibly as early as the year 105 CE, by the Han court eunuch Cai Lun, although the earliest archaeological fragments of paper derive from the 2nd century BCE in China…n the 13th century, the knowledge and uses of paper spread from China through the Middle East to medieval Europe, where the first water powered paper mills were built.] Because paper was introduced to the West through the city of Baghdad, it was first called bagdatikos. In the 19th century, industrialization greatly reduced the cost of manufacturing paper. In 1844, the Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty and the German F. G. Keller independently developed processes for pulping wood fibres.” (The editor remembers a class on Hawthorne, which included a short story of his, detailing the spread of processing as a metaphor for the industrialization of the US. He also notes that the inventor is cited by many as one of the 10 most influential people in history.)

More from wiki: “Before the industrialisation of paper production the most common fibre source was recycled fibres from used textiles, called rags. The rags were from hemp, linen and cotton.A process for removing printing inks from recycled paperwas invented by German jurist Justus Claproth in 1774.Today this method is called deinking. It was not until the introduction of wood pulp in 1843 that paper production was not dependent on recycled materials from ragpickers.”

So then, we exhort you to applying your perspective and creativity to this noble invention. Sadly, we do not accept hard copy, paper submissions! Still, we imagine many of you continue to draft and even edit using paper.

Thanks for thinking of Panoply.

Please Consider Making a Donation

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We love working on Panoply, receiving and sharing such wonderful work to and from lovers of the written word. It enriches us, as does the lovely feedback we receive from contributors and readers. We’re now about to complete our fifth year! We couldn’t do it without you.

But “bandwidth ain’t cheap.” We have to admit it. We have three ways to pay for our bandwidth and submissions portal:

  • Our own pockets
  • Funds raised from contest entries (We do not charge for submissions for regular issues.)
  • Donations

Please consider helping us by clicking the PayPal donations box on the right. That generosity helps ensure we are able to share our love and that of our contributors, to a “wide array” of fine poetry and short prose.

We thank our most recent donors:

  • Betsy Mars
  • Linda Muhlhausen
  • Robert Hoeppner
  • Anne Clark
  • Greg Friedmann
  • Bruce RobinsonLook for Issue 15, a themed issue, in early May. Our call for submissions will open in just a few weeks.

Thanks again for your support of Panoply!

Best wishes,

Andrea, Jeff, and Ryn, Editors

Editors’ Choice, February 21 – 27, “Refugee/fugitive,” – Sean Urbina

In this fine debut piece by Sean Urbina, we learn how dialogue and interpretation bring richness and meaning. We feel the what and the why.

Rain collects on thatching,
             runs down in little puddles

& everything left untended
overflows eventually.

Remember little fugitive.

All things driven from your shelter
still require a place.

                      *

A fever is a closing wound
my fever is your asylum.

Even sickness serves a function.

Turns out sorrow is recursive.
               Love is as well,

it’s just harder to solve.
Better to leave the variables undefined.

                      *

One drowning refugee says to another
               Let’s save each other.

Let’s make ourselves an ark
of every sunken ship.

Even this is beautiful.
Looking through ripples from
the underside’s surface
Eventually little fugitive,

We tear up everything
not nailed down &
let God have his flood.

 

Sean Urbina is a healthcare worker and student, living in Austin. Bilingual/biracial. He’s always had his foot in two worlds and has a passion for poetry and prose.

Editors’ Note: This is Sean’s first publication.

To read earlier Editors’ Choices, please visit:
Endurance – Molly Fuller
Sarabande – Robert René Galván
an excerpt from “A Place, A Feeling, Something He Said To You” – Alexandra Naughton
Finches Prefer Chopin – Raymond Byrnes
Lines Composed on First Regarding Godzilla after An Uneasy Serenity of Fifty Years – Bruce Robinson

Issue 14, Winter – 2020

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Photograph © 2019 Ryn Holmes

Welcome to Issue 14. For those of you returning, we thank you for joining us once more. For you first-timers, we hope you enjoy what you find here. One special feature of posting an issue just after New Year’s Day is that we compile it over the holidays, smack-dab in the middle of the season, our spirits growing and flowing. It’s a gift to and from so many, and the warmth it brings to us is one of the highlights of the holidays.

You may have noticed we switched our masthead theme from flowers to abstract photography by Co-Editor Ryn Holmes. Pardon the plug, but it’s fascinating, innovative stuff. You’ll see more of these as the issues continue.

Meanwhile, Issue 14 should keep you artistically occupied and satisfied. We tend to see motifs from issue to issue. One of this one’s is women’s experience and consciousness, particularly as girls become women. Not all is princessing, it’s clear. But the art is just as sparkling. Naturally, the fine work here covers a, dare we say it, panoply of subjects, something for everyone.

We must admit that due to a glitch in our submissions process, we received far more submissions than usual, a good problem to have! That helps explain why we’ve included more contributions than usual. They’re all so deserving and gleaming.

Thanks again for your support and attention. 

Best wishes,

Andrea, Jeff, and Ryn, Editors

Table of Contents

2059: Cut Off – Alan C. Smith
Airness – Pablo Saborío
Apollo 11 – Sharon Scholl
Augury – Greg Friedmann
Being Made Ready – Maria Berardi
Beneath My Feet – Sarah Valeika
The Birds – Ian Ganassi
Borrowed – Sean Bolton
A Child Says Morning – Max Heinegg
Civilized – Daniel Edward Moore
Crumbling – Stephen Ground
Dawn By The House of Stone That Jack Built – Vassilis Zambaras
The Days We Meet – R.T. Castleberry
Dying in Paradise – Christy Bailes
Endurance – Molly Fuller
Exit Wounds – Andy N
Feeling Empathy Outside of Santa Maria del Fiore – Adam Webb
Fell in Love with You – John Grey
Finches Prefer Chopin Raymond Byrnes
Half Light – Doug Bolling
Hard Jazz – DS Maolalai
He’s Dead – Patricia Walsh
Heather in Bloom, Morning – Gerald Kells
A House of Your Own Making – James Diaz
In Line at Banco Central – Tim Hawkins
In Memory of An All-Girl Band (A Cento) – Andrew Sunshine
In the Fog – Steve Klepetar
Is Your Forgetfulness Normal? – Barbara Daniels
Kitsch – George Franklin
Last Days of JuneCorbin Louis 
The Last Voyage – Howie Good
Leave-takings – Robert Nisbet
Lines Composed on First Regarding Godzilla after An Uneasy Serenity of Fifty Years Bruce Robinson
Lullaby for a Politician – Jennifer Bradpiece
The Made and the Unmade – Carolyn Adams
The Music at Montreaux – Matthew James Friday
My English Teacher – Michael Minassian
My Mother’s Ghost Knits a Scarf of Chain – Robert Okaji
Mystery Confirmed – Megan Wildhood
Near Salt River Road: An Elegy for S.D. – Rita Chapman
Nectar – Christopher Wilson
No end to wonder – Hugh Anderson
Pantoum of the Thoughts That Have Been Turning Over in My Head Since I Moved Out a Month Ago – Jacob Bennett
Pareidolia Megan Merchant
Parallax View – Betsy Mars
Pathing – Vivian Wagner
Patriot’s Chain – Anthony Dennis
peace has its season – Disha Trivedi
Pink Bee – Cliff Saunders
an excerpt from “A Place, A Feeling, Something He Said To You” – Alexandra Naughton
Playing Guitar at Ritter Park – Ace Boggess
[A position we’ll all get] – Blake Francis
Praying Mantis – Penelope Schott
Raven – Kathryn Jordan
Record Low – Russell Rowland
Refugee/fugitive – Sean Urbina
Salsa – Jacob Butlett
Sarabande – Robert René Galván
She Takes a Taxi – Gemma Cooper-Novack
Shifting, Too Anxious to Be Fully Aware – Jonathan Yungkans
That Other Guy – Lenny DellaRocca
This can’t be right – Giovanni Mangiante
Time Flies – John O’Hare
Tuesday in the Home Town – Tom Willemain
Two – Nitya Gupta
Vasculitis – Jared Pearce
Violation – Claire Massey
Warren’s Weathered Barn – Keith Moul
We’re Just Talking – Melissa St. Pierre
What Jesus did do – Dennis Finnell
What Words Cost – Sandy Coomer
When a ’54 Fender Stratocaster Becomes a Fetish – Karla Linn Merrifield
When Coburg Lake Became a Kyrenia Wedding – Angela Costi
Wildfires in Iraq – Sarah Mills
You Cannot Strike a Bargain – Nancy Levinson

Review of MOURNING AN INTERIOR COUNTRY, By Aaron Dargis


Finishing Line Press
ISBN 978-1-64662-063-0
Price: $14.99
34 Pages

Submitted by Andrea Walker
October 25, 2019

Aaron Dargis’ opening poem “The Garden, Ars Poetica” in his chapbook, Mourning an Interior Country, draws the reader in with its beauty and stark contrast between parched dry crops and living green weeds. In his collection of thirty-two poems, he describes interior countries of geographical as well as psychological landscape. Just as the “ear is to the soil listening,” readers will attentively listen to the voice of this poet with acute awareness, a recurrent theme throughout his poetry.

The terrain of northern Michigan, Lake Superior, Keweenaw Peninsula, Au Train River serves as backdrop. The reader feels the cold in “wind cuts wool and cotton to bone.” In this fierce climate, the poet questions the purpose of memory, the past, and fear, yet dives into those areas as surely and fearlessly as he “dives into the lake.” Repeated imagery of tangled reeds, lily pads and brambles suggest a tone of fear and being trapped, then again diving into the thing one fears.

Written in first person, the poems reveal a speaker who is on a painful journey to the interior country of self where the often stark terrain serves as metaphor. The speaker searches the past, revisiting places of childhood, towns, neighborhoods, homes, admitting he’s searching in “Map as Self-Portrait.”

I’m learning to remember lost time–
Those lakes of the mind have dried, filled
my reservoir of loss.
Rivers cut deep. I’m trying to find places
I haven’t been. Where deeper into
interior country is now foreign–
what leads the heart to such depths?

Though the mood is often solitary, and the journey is within, the reader is grateful the speaker is not always alone. One first meets the other in a pair of companion poems “Kitchen Sink” and “Mourning an Interior Country.” A woman waits patiently for him to come home, “fiddle the doorknob– liquored, speaking gently for my body,” and he does, knowing someone awaits, “I fiddle the doorknob, shoulder into the kitchen.” She appears throughout the collection smoking, unpacking, comforting in various ways.

All the poems are meditative, but it’s apt to have a group of small poems entitled “Meditations,” ten concise powerful moments reminiscent of the brevity of haiku minus the form. Repeatedly, we read a comparison of wind and the past, for example, in “Painting Au Train,” “Winter Meditations in a Cabin V,” “An Oak, Ars Poetica.”

The poet uses contrast effectively by moving among seasons and place randomly, including the occasional hot day or poem about a southern state, and although the pace is mostly slow, even a surprising allusion to violence, “I fired into a frozen pond.” The reference to the gun, although infrequent, suggests the conquering aspect of nature. The brutal image of a dead swan accompanied by paw prints of a coyote reminds the reader of nature’s violence. In contrast to contemplation, the matter-of-fact admission of drinking a fifth of whiskey one day, drunk howling at the hot day, or hungover give the reader a glimpse of a man with (forgivable) flaws.

The interior of Northern Michigan is populated with birds of every feather; the speaker observes, and describes the red-winged blackbird, grey partridge, grouse, robin, finch, among others, noting their behavior, sometimes envying them. The lush landscape is home to calves, a doe, and salmon, carpeted with grass, moss, ferns, and stone, canopied with leafy trees and clouds. It is blanketed with snow, and its thirst is fed with lakes and rivers.

The stark interior of the mind is painted with questions: somber, dark, lonely and mournful. The speaker expresses himself quite well even as he questions his ability to express his feelings. With one vivid phrase and image after another, Aaron Dargis pays a haunting tribute to memory and time in the gorgeous fertile setting of Northern Michigan.

Aaron Dargis grew up in Michigan and lives in the foothills of South Carolina. His poetry has appeared in catheXis Northwest Press, UpNorth Lit and Panoply Magazine. This is his first publication.

To read other chapbook reviews, please visitPrevious Chapbook Reviews

Pushcart Prize Nominees for 2019

Please join us in congratulating this year’s nominees. We hope you have and will enjoy their work as much as we have. Check them out – we’re sure they have plenty of additional fine work. 

Being a Bishop – RC deWinterRC DeWinter

At The Scottish Gallery a Baobhan Sith Takes a Pass on a Local Vicar – Linda KennedyLinda Kennedy

Bottled Ship – Aris KianAris Kian

Artisan – Karen McAferty Morris Karen McAferty Morris

Lazarus Explains – Bruce McRaeBruce_McRae

What a Middle Name Is – Liam Strong Liam Strong