The Riddle of Longing

The Riddle of Longing

i Nov 3rd No Comments by

Faisal Mohyuddin

In form and free verse, Faisal Mohyuddin delivers truth on behalf of the displaced. In The Riddle of Longing polished and powerfully controlled poems make you want to scream in frustration at the unjust world, but they also enlighten us.

ISBN: 978-0-9994659-0-5
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The Ocean Between Us

i Nov 3rd No Comments by

Beatriz Fernandez

Beatriz Fernandez artfully weaves together dazzling imagery and alluring sounds to create concrete visions of Puerto Rico, Florida, and a geography of loss. With the ability to use the perfect words to describe imperfect times, she poses questions that pierce the human spirit.

ISBN: 978-0-9994659-1-2
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Drapetomania

i May 5th No Comments by

Cynthia Parker-Ohene

Like a traditional griot, Cynthia Parker-Ohene creates a world of wonder(ment). “Core Black Lives” are depicted in striking images that highlight places and pieces of history. The poems in Drapetomania are composed of a lush, crisp language that allows the reader to inhabit lands where “sons will not be stopped by 5 0” and where “dna leaches into birchbark.” Raw and polished, truth and sardonic, these poems unabashedly shine “in the stubborn light.”

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-9-1
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Memory of a Girl

i May 5th No Comments by

Aozora Brockman

In Memory of a Girl, memory loss is magnified through narrative poems wrought with intimate, familial Japanese terms & cultural customs. There’s the anguish of witnessing and caring for someone losing memories, but along with despair and frustration, Brockman extols the grace, bond, and strength that lingers through debilitation. She is an elegant storyteller.

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-7-7
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Strange-tongued Names

i May 5th No Comments by

Aaron Counts

With big guts Counts writes poems that are vivid—the language, sometimes a distinct mixture of empathy and gore. On subjects of hip-hop influence, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and his sparse Central District “Love Story” postcard poems, he is resolute in his depictions and accounts of dearth and inner-city blues. Strange-tongued Names represents an eloquent reflection on urban life.

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-8-4
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7 x 7 kwansabas

i May 5th No Comments by

Tara Betts

7×7 kwansabas brims with flashes of imagery. Words slam into each other as if in a race against time to define the characters she embodies her poems with. She primes her pen, revealing intricate details into the lives of the famous. The likes of Katherine Dunham, Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan rise up on the page, allowing the reader to discover and rediscover them.

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-4-6
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Laundry

i May 5th No Comments by

C.P. Mangel

Laundry is a stunning poetry chapbook, filled with memorable characters and tons of artful turns of phrases. The narrative language never stops short or becomes laborious to read. Mangel has chosen a difficult subject matter to explore––prison life, and in particular, she deftly delves into the nature of hate crime within the prison system she imagines. She does so with aplomb, never resorting to cliché.

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-5-3
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In the Land of Tropical Martyrs

i May 5th No Comments by

Dariel Suarez

Though In the Land of Tropical Martyrs is a chapbook, it has the heft and authority of a full volume of poetry. Each of these poems is rich with the ache of urgent memory, living memory, memory that sings as the opposite of nostalgia and wakes us more fully to our own lives. ~Michael Hettich, author of Systems of Vanishing and The Animals Beyond Us

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-3-9
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Sea Island Blues

i May 5th No Comments by

Tyree Daye

…Daye writes of his home in the south, his family, his loves and losses, all with a grace and accuracy of image and language. Daye sings of hurricanes and hydrangeas, pond fishing, sun tea and the North Star, “that doesn’t lead to freedom anymore/ but you can follow it and still get killed.” ~Dorianne Laux, author of Facts About the Moon and The Book of Men

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-2-2
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Trace Particles

i May 5th No Comments by

Allison Joseph

…poems that are both smart and sensitive, Joseph sings of America’s promises, those broken, those kept, and
those just recently made. These are the poems of America’s heartland and America’s heart. ~Gerry LaFemina, author of Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist.

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-1-5
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Affairs With Men In Suits

i May 5th No Comments by

Eric Tran

With exquisite wit, Eric Tran turns the dirty secret of being in thrall to the creepiest guys into a wrenching meditation about power and its inexhaustible allure. ~Paul Lisicky, author of Unbuilt Projects

ISBN: 978-0-9915514-0-8
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2016 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize Winner

i Apr 4th No Comments by

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 4th Annual Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize. Our final judge, Reginald Dwayne Betts selected:  Ode to the Barbershop by Malcolm Friend. See his comments below:

“In these times of turmoil – maybe I should just say in America – the experience of black folks has often been relegated to one extreme or another. But the barbershop has always been something different: motley. Political and humorous. Dangerous and attentive to our vulnerabilities. Ode to the Barbershop captures that: “Call it oxymoron where to shed means to gain.” You hear that and recognize it, remember your last cut – maybe check your line up out in the mirror and make a point to visit the shop again soon. ~ Reginald Dwayne Betts
Ode to the Barbershop

call it oxymoron      where to shed    means    to gain

dead weight      of curls

falling to floor in waves—

this be baptism    by blade   or maybe phoenix reburst

birth by burn      of razor    and astringent            where astringent means

               yeah, your ass needed a cut   and      fuck happened to your line nigga?

thrown     from seller     to customer     and

first time I sat in the chair      was summer      freshman year of college

I didn’t know      the name of the haircut      I wanted

stuttered something vague       about taking it low       and nodded

at everything Tony said       in response       hoped he wouldn’t

fuck me up       would keep me fresh    and fitted       place where fitted

just means       fitting in       means       what won’t I do       for the benefit

                       of a lineup?           means       I knew I belonged       when I said nigga

and didn’t choke       on this this mutt blood       where this mutt blood

means       one time       a barber laughed

nigga your light-skinned ass must be swimming in bitches       where nigga

means       I swallowed my tongue     in response

and the bubbling in my throat    matched the hum   of the razor

Malcolm Friend is a CantoMundo fellow originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a 2014 recipient of a Talbot International Award for writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including La Respuesta magazine, the Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Alicante’s Información, Word Riot, The Acentos ReviewConnotation Press: An Online Artifact, and Pretty Owl Poetry.

Review: When Kerosene’s Involved, Daniel Romo

Review: When Kerosene’s Involved, Daniel Romo. Black Coffee Press; 2012.
by Kate Marchetto

The paragraph structure of a prose poem gives the semblance of narrative, whether narrative is intended or not; the reader’s expectations can direct the tides of creation. When Kerosene’s Involved, a collection of prose poems, seeks to subvert that—Daniel Romo’s poetics are ones of difference, of variation, of multiplicity.

Here is where I reveal my flaw as a reviewer. I don’t much read the works of any cultural diasporas. I read what’s on my bookshelves, what my friends recommend, whatever on my list I can get at my local indie book store or—in a pinch—Barnes & Noble. I am a white girl considering the book of a Latino man. From it, I can tease out some markers of Latino culture—Grandpa Manuel, Pancho, “…Chivas (which means goats in English)”, “…Baby Joker, just released from jail, thought I looked like a rival who hit on his heina.” Throughout the collection, however, the reader encounters the Spice Girls, The Young and the Restless, Cliff’s Notes, the Millennium Falcon, Rice Krispie Treats, and Hoarders. There is so much variety in the book’s tropes and figures that I do not read When Kerosene’s Involved and think, Latino poems! Done!

In Kerosene, I read Daniel Romo on every page. The narrative underpinning this collection is one of loyalty and honesty to the varied worlds from which the self originates and the multitudinous experiences that comprise and distinguish the self. The imaginative work in each poem shows a willingness to extend the boundaries of that self to explore other experiences and lives, or simply to create them for fun; Daniel Romo inhabits them all well and completely.

In the poem “Word Problem #37”, there is Daniel-Romo-the-high-school-teacher:

Train A departs Duluth at 7 a.m. traveling 20 miles per hour faster than train B, which departs from Sheboygan at 6 a.m. The conductor of train A is drunk. The conductor of train B is asleep. … There will be an explosion. Everyone will catch on fire and die. How far will the charred limbs fly when the trains collide head-on and create algebraic wreckage? Show your work.

The teacher appears also, enmeshed with the Latino, in the “Pancho” poems; these pieces are imbued with the sadness of the marginalized status of most Latino-Americans, a situation to which most American citizens would not admit. Consider “Pancho As Show Not Tell Mini-Lesson In The High School Creative Writing Textbook”:

Examples:

He is dirty.

Pancho’s pores hold filth hostage. His skin is a grimy husk.…The ringworm on his back keeps growing and laughs at this attempt.

His clothes are ugly.

Pancho’s wardrobe consists of holes that house bits of fabric. His shirts were too small two years ago. His pair of pants can also function as shorts. His sandals are held together by masking tape and a miracle.

Pathetic Pancho stands in for the plight of many poor Latino-Americans, and the precision in Romo’s detail makes many of the poems vivid, poignant, and sad.

Elsewhere, there is Romo-the-satiric-philanthropist (“Donation”: “My almost dollar a day saves a starving Somalian. The pocket change jingles in Samboobwa’s bloated belly. Sam for short.”), Romo-the-Dodgers-fan and Romo-the-high-school-student (“Direction”: “I had no sense of patriotism but I was loyal to my Dodgers, and lab partner, Debbie. Even though she scribbled she loved someone not me all over her Pee Chee.”), and Romo-the-academe (“Thesis”: “She wrote comments on my eyelids in red ink. Ultimately I failed, but appreciated the feedback. Sometimes when I’m reading Cummings in the library, I drub my fingertips against my lips feeding myself the commas on the page…”).

Even when the poems do not speak in the voice of Daniel Romo, they are informed by his identity and his experiences, and When Kerosene’s Involved is all the stronger for it.

Wendell Ottley

Won’t Be There

At 8, I want to be him,
wear his billowy coif
sheened, picked,
smidgeon smaller than his black halo.
Like him, I perform when prompted by adults
equally desirous of amusement
as I, attention,
do his signature spin,
the robot,
wail his wail,
imagine I was born in Gary,
goin’ to Kansas City
as if I could spin there from Queens,
easy as 1, 2, 3 – I’ll be there.
I stop, look over my shoulder honey –
Grandma’s tenement building still rises behind me,
reaches vainly for heaven.

Preacher Preached
~for Richard Pryor

You didn’t tell jokes,
held up mirrors –
a comedic Langston
flaying souls
revealing beauty,
ugliness.

Profanely profound words
touched our core –
prophet’s parables
converted congregations.

Centuries-old aches
breathed through laughter,
healed.

Wendell Ottley is originally from Queens, NY, but currently lives in Durham, NC with his wife and three children. He has bachelor degrees from Shaw University in English and Accounting. He is also a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective, and his work has been published in African American Review, BMa: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review, Black Arts Quarterly, and Rhapsody in Black.

Diane Judge

Packing Up
~After Vanessa

I seal my pain
in a cardboard box
stripe tape over it
in double layers
put it in the attic
under old clothes
and Christmas decorations
let it thicken
the air up there
so that I can breathe
more freely
down here

Diane Judge resides in Durham, North Carolina. She is a member of the North Carolina Poetry Society as well as the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. Her work has been published in Black Magnolias Literary Journal, 34th Parallel, Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora, Frogpond, Remembrances of Wars Past (an anthology edited by Henry Tonn) and Poetry South.