Wednesday, March 7, 2007



The motorcade rounded the corner
Jackie so sharp in pink
and pillbox
The President smiled and waved

We headed up the hillside
the day after--the grass
was yellow and dry
leaves off the shrubs

The killer raised his rifle slowly
aimed long I carried
my shotgun in front
of me, safety on

He waited for the perfect shot
I instinctively leaned
forward, bringing shotgun
to shoulder My aunt and uncle fired

but missed the rabbit that sprang
across my range, kept bounding
after the blast
my uncle’s beagle in pursuit

The President lurched, jerked again
secret service men hopped aboard
the motorcade sped off
the dog dropped the rabbit at my feet

identifying me as the killer, blood ran
out of its ear; Jackie smeared
with her husband’s blood
I never went hunting again

--Richard Wilhelm



saddam hussein
was lynched
for his crimes,
for bush and
cheney’s sins

cowards need
cowards to die

he was never
tried for using
chemical weapons
given him by
britain and the u.s.

when he was our man
using them on iran

this occupation--random
detention, torture
now lynching,
america becoming
its own assassin—

just cracks the mullahs up

--Richard Wilhelm


By Lo Galluccio

Lo Galluccio’s “Poems For Dave Tronzo” is a small, self-published chapbook containing nine poems. (There is no price listed on the book.) The no-frills design, the typeface and its spatial relation to the page give the poems a sense of intimacy and immediacy even before reading. The line lengths vary in the poems, some lines ranging five to seven beats, some four or less. Galluccio lets the content give form to the poems, which adds visual as well as poetic spice to the book.
It would be helpful to the general reader if there were a title page with some mention of who Dave Tronzo is (an acclaimed New York-based guitarist known especially for his slide work, hence the cover photo) and perhaps why the book was “for” him. Beyond this minor quibble, this reviewer found the poems bursting with arresting imagery. From “The Color of January” we find:

Sometimes you say I’m a hot hot star in your bed. “What color would
you like me to be?” you ask. I say, “Blue.”

Galluccio’s images and language suggest a vision of poetry that is Rimbaudian and Orphic. She pushes her language. The language takes risky leaps, pushing off like a ballerina performing a tours en l’air and landing like a kung-fu fighter inches from your face.
Here are the first three stanzas of “Itinerary”:

Past castles in Brabant. Thirsty I drink a sweet dream of union.
My horse, a thief

In Gent. Pale fish serve as my communion. As symbols
go in eyes streaming where they went.

A hell topless and civilized extremely like Paris,
a cabdriver screws off his head.

Like I said, Rimbaudian; the imagery is surreal, dreamlike and haunting, as in “A Terror In Spring”:

I believed in silence but you
Kept opening up my mouth.
When your tongue finished foraging,
Words fell out like old shoes.
These words put tracks on your

The poem ends with these tasty lines:

Levitation is not the same as resurrection.

It takes faith.

I’m nobody,
and I use a pen.

This reviewer particular enjoyed “Your Amsterdam”, a poem more compact but no less charged by elevated language. Here it is in full:

I think I thought
I lived there
In a courtyard with pink
Flush egg lights
Where birds
Erupt at looping

Barbed wire

And finding you
at a table—
alabaster face
risen over a grey bowl

My penitent kiss
to your forehead

gets pierced.

“Poems For Dave Tronzo” is a chapbook to savor. To cop a line from the speaker of “Three Dollar Poem,” you will come back and say yes, baby, yes.

--Richard Wilhelm
Ibbetson Update

Sunday, February 18, 2007


CATCH THE LIGHT: Selected Poems (1963-2003)
By Douglas Worth
Higganum Hill Books; 2004

Reviewed by Richard Wilhelm, Art Editor, Ibbetson Street Press.

During the course of a reader’s life, she or he may come across a handful of books that have such a transformative effect that one remembers them the rest of one’s life, often giving them multiple readings. Such books are remembered because they have made a reader see the world differently, understand things in a new way. They may be works of fiction, non-fiction, drama, or poetry. Douglas Worth’s CATCH THE LIGHT is a marvelous book and I suspect not a few people will remember where they were living and what they were doing when they first encountered this book. And for those readers who have, thanks to the academics and language poets, written off poetry as incomprehensible jottings of those with too much time on their hands, Mr. Worth’s book will serve as an elixir.
Forget for now his astounding craft and control; these will be apparent. Look instead at what these poems actually bring to the reader. Mr. Worth gives his readers food for the senses and the soul. And like Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, to name a representative few, Mr. Worth offers “soul food” to his country, not that many of the gang of cretinous thugs currently running the country would have much of an ear for what Mr. Worth or anyone of any real spiritual depth has to say. And Mr. Worth has real spiritual depth. But he has great analytical depth as well. He addresses, in the poems of his 1987 collection, ONCE AROUND BULLOUGH’S POND, the primal trauma that, along with slavery, gnaws at the core of the American psyche: the genocide of the Native people. But he takes on his subject imaginatively, eschewing political rants and instead showing contemporary readers what America has really lost by allowing this tragedy to occur and then repressing the guilt as we continue to do. In the poem dated (titled really; all of the Bullough’s Pond collection have dates as titles, as if they are journal entries) “February 27“, Mr. Worth muses about the pond:

I wonder what its real name is--or the one
it had for thousands of years before we arrived
with our charters and wigs and arrogance and ambition
to build a new town and put Newton on the map--
Great Spirit’s Eye? Gull’s Wing? Kingfisher’s Mirror?

The Bullough’s Pond poems develop a narrative of sorts whereby the early poems describe Mr. Worth’s library investigations of indigenous American culture and his musings about the natural landscape before him. Then the magic begins as Mr. Worth, like a poet-shaman, conjures up from his imagination Native characters who speak to us of their lives and the values they hold. This reviewer is not qualified to speak as to the anthropological veracity of his depictions, but as poetry and as myth these poems give us much to savor and meditate upon. “March 19” is about one’s relationship to the animal that is killed for meat and will be familiar terrain to readers of Joseph Campbell. The poem talks about the solemnity and respect that indigenous people had (have?) for the animals they kill. The last tercet reads:

A curse upon him who slaughters with pride for sport
lugging the head home, leaving the carcass to rot!
Come, we will eat you now, properly, with respect.

“March 7” begins

Sometimes I imagine someone running before me
ahead a few paces, and a few hundred years,

The poem goes on to imagine

--people living more simply in a time
when humans were closer to birds and trees and water
and profits were edible, and bits of seashell
were crafted and strung in patterns as gifts to wear:
wampum, before we dulled that term with trade.

Mr. Worth’s work has many tender moments especially in poems dedicated to lovers, family and friends. In “A Purple Rose”, he tells his lover:

No one before ever lay with me all morning
naked, belly to belly, mouth to mouth
without thinking it must be time
to turn away to more important things--
the news, pilling bills, the phone,
brushing their shrill urgency aside
for some future Now,

Many of the poems in the book find Mr. Worth outdoors, contemplating nature. Like most writers of the Romantic-Transcendental tradition, Mr. Worth finds in nature a keyhole through which we, if we are quiet and focused, can catch a glimpse of divinity. But divinity is not seen as a force that always looks approvingly on all that has been wrought by the species that views itself as the crown of creation. In “Osprey”, a poem from the 2003 book ECHOES IN HEMLOCK GORGE, Mr. Worth describes an encounter with an osprey. The final stanza reads:

I stood for a while
eyeball to eyeball with Nature,
then slowly backed off, turned
and came away
with his message concerning
this fisher king’s toxic wasteland
and his question for all of us:
What’s keeping Galahad?

CATCH THE LIGHT features selections from seven of Mr. Worth’s books, the first OF EARTH, having been published in 1974 (though some of the poems from that collection apparently were written as early as 1963) and the most recent, ECHOES IN HEMLOCK GORGE, came out in 2003. Mr. Worth’s books of poetry have garnered praise from the likes of Denise Levertov, Richard Wilbur, and A.R. Ammons. Poet-activist Daniel Berrigan has said that that “Like good wine, Douglas worth excels with age.” Historian Howard Zinn has called him “a visionary dream-weaver of the future global tribe.”
There are many fine books of poetry out there for poetry lovers to spend their money on. CATCH THE LIGHT is a superb volume that represents 40 years of Douglas worth’s poems. But this book is something more than just a lot of good poems. It is a visionary work, or more accurately, a selection from seven visionary works of art and it is a book that will astound and inspire readers for many years to come. Perhaps other readers will find themselves rushing into another room, looking for a spouse, paramour, or roommate, as I have during the course of reading this book, startling my wife, crying, “Oh my God, oh my God, let me read you this poem!”