Lyrics of Mature Hearts by Bob McNeil – Poetry Anthology

In his landmark Surrealist novel Nadja, Andre Breton said, “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all.” This sentence perfectly conveys our involuntary attraction to both the Romantic and the macabre. It speaks to the love that exists in all things, whether it’s our treatment of life or the subject of death.

It is impossible to write anything of merit that does not acknowledge, in one way or another, the inevitability of decay. Humans, like all other species, are built for obsolescence. Still, this is a fact which is difficult for modern writers to confront and even rarer for readers to embrace.

This explains why older characters have become a bit of an endangered species in contemporary fiction. It also explains why everyone should pay attention to the new anthology from Bob McNeil and Gordon P. Bois.

In Lyrics of Mature Hearts, an independently-published collection of poetry, McNeil and his authors candidly deal with the issue of adulthood in various poetic variations.

The genesis of the project demonstrates the unpredictable paths that life takes us on as the sand passes through the hourglass. About a year ago, McNeil was approached by a talented Chicana poet on Facebook. She proposed a collaboration in which the pair would use Elizabeth and Robert Browning as sources of inspiration.

Although initially intrigued by the offer, McNeil ultimately thought it odd to express adoration for someone he wasn’t intimately familiar with. After giving the idea some more thought, he proposed they work on an anthology on life and love by older people.

The poet agreed, but eventually quit after the project became too difficult. McNeil was, by now, so committed to the project that he carried on without her. Soon, he and his colleagues had filled nearly 70 pages with lyrical works about the growth and growing pains of getting old as well as the prevailing love many of us carry, for life and for each other.

If all of this sounds somewhat maudlin consider this: Bob McNeil has penned some of the smartest short horror fiction of the 21st century; his work has appeared in several print anthologies from Deadman’s Tome, among others. Lyrics of Mature Hearts is more than just poems about the aging because McNeil is more than just another Poe wannabe.

Check out the book here.

The Gleaming Crest by Brandon Adamson – Chapbook Review

by Ben Arzate

Arizona poet Brandon Adamson is the author three prior poetry collections. The Gleaming Crest is his fourth, though technically his first as it’s a re-release of a handmade chapbook created in 1995 when Adamson was still in high school. It’s even designed to resemble the original chapbook with its typewriter font and the intentionally crude looking hand drawings by Mark Shoenecker.

Personally, I want every single poem I wrote in high school to be burned and the ashes buried six feet deep. However, Adamson had some of these poems published in literary magazines at the time, so it seems he was farther ahead in his writing abilities than many other high school writers. Reading the chapbook, I can confirm that’s the case.

Some of the themes of nostalgia and futurism that appear in his later collections are here as well. For example, “Computer Animated Glass Sphere” is a mediation on a commercial for an IBM Aptiva commercial. Specifically, about a young man wearing a beanie who briefly appears in the titular glass sphere in it. It reminds me of the hope for where technology could take humanity which ran throughout his later collection Skytrain to Nowhere.

Some of Adamson’s poetry here is pretty mature for having been written by a high school student. For example, there are poems here about drifting away from friends which are neither whiny nor place any blame. “Three Year Reunion” is in the form of phone conversation. One person calls the other with the intent of reconnecting after years of not seeing each other.

However, it’s clear the person he’s calling has too much going on in their life to be able to take the time to reconnect. This is also the theme of “Cereal Boy,” where Adamson describes meeting an old friend who’s changed a lot as being “like a bowl of ‘Alpha-Bits’ cereal that no longer contains alphabet letters.” It describes these feelings of loss without delving into overbearing angst as many lesser high school poets do (ahem).

There still is, however, an aura of juvenilia around much of the book. “Diamond Poems” is a set of three poems shaped, as the title suggests, like diamonds that are little more than word associations. Some of the rhyming poems, like “The Lonely Beach,” read like the lyrics to a not particularly great song.

The Gleaming Crest does show that Brandon Adamson had talent from a young age. However, this book is really only for those who’ve already read his other works. I would recommend his poetry collections Beatnik Fascism and Skytrain to Nowhere first. If you find those compelling, then pick this one up.

India LaPlace’s Sad Discoveries: A Review

Sad Discoveries

Good poetry, especially in the small press world, is difficult to come by. I don’t intend this as an attack on small presses in any way; take it as a testimony to the difficulty of writing poetry that truly resonates with readers. Poetry requires more than mere images. The image, after all, doesn’t bubble up from a vacuum; it is inherently mediated by language, and language is a rather tricky medium. It resists direct communication between image and audience, since what language renders is closer to thought than a snapshot. Perhaps this is why poetry seems closely related to music. Thought is whisked along by emotion, since there must be an impetus for reflection to occur. If this is the case, language, particularly poetic language, is primarily a vehicle of emotion.

The difficulty of poetry is the communication of emotion. Communication, as Bataille points out, is violence, while emotion is like a leaking cask filled with precious liquid. How difficult it is to splatter even a small quantity across the page before the supply runs dry! The poet might sacrifice communication to abstraction, or she may find herself lacking the skill to take cautious aim with her limited resource. Poetry, in other words, tends to try too hard, or not hard enough.

India LaPlace’s short collection from Analog Submission Press, Sad Discoveries, might look like a case of the latter at first flush. With its colloquial language and well-worn themes of heartache, depression, and the struggles of parenthood, it might prove tempting to accuse it of amateurism. Give it a chance, however, and LaPlace’s unadorned narrative voice is bound to draw you in with its confessional authenticity. Yes, I brought up “authenticity,” that frustratingly ambiguous yardstick–what else can you call the pleading inertia of guilt in “They’ll Say it was Postpartum Depression,” or the dejected anger of “Illinois”? As much as I dislike to think in terms of “authenticity,” I can’t deny that poetry, as an art form, trades in artifice. The difficulty of poetry is finding the point of trade between communication and artifice that proves most beneficial. By declining to hide behind what we could charitably think of as poetic pretension, LaPlace doesn’t pull any punches. As LaPlace warns us in “Emotions,” “I am not the kind of girl / Who will lie about my feelings / To spare yours.” And thank God for that.

This little book is truly a gem for readers who are seeking a poetic intimacy that may get a little uncomfortable. Moments of conversational discomfort–and these poems really are quite “conversational”–are also the moments in life you are least likely to forget. Sad Discoveries hovers in the melancholy warmth of a good cry in a stranger’s arms, or in the sudden blush of affection filling the gashes left by harsh words. LaPlace’s reader sinks into the dreary no man’s land of dull pain and small comforts. This is not a place for overblown sentiments. Sad Discoveries is the drama of everyday life, rendered in an offhand verse tempered by a natural flair for form.

While “authenticity” (whatever that means) wouldn’t be quite enough, and atmosphere might have been, LaPlace’s true victory resides in her keen eye for detail. Throughout her collection, understated moments of symmetry drift quietly to the surface of her free verse. The impact of these moments is only enhanced by their modest refusal to call attention to themselves. Take the following lines from “Depression,” in which LaPlace deploys a well-worn cliche:

“You work your way up.
You work hard.
And then you retire.”

The way first line ends on the stressed syllable, “up,” contrasts the wilting iamb “retire,” guiding the reader through a microcosm of the occupational rise and fall most of us are doomed to regard with familiarity. Better yet, both lines are separated by the three-stress march of “you work hard.” Here, you can feel the dumb drumbeat of a billion footsteps, marching in unison to their cubicles, a march synchronized to the beating of a heart, and equally inevitable. I said it was a cliche, and LaPlace doesn’t shrink from using more; a cliche beautifully rendered, however, can hardly be accused of remaining a cliche at all.

One of my favorite stanzas is the third of “Her”:

“She doesn’t lose her temper with me.
She watches me with those
big blue eyes
filled with worry,
filled with love.”

The iambs of the leading tetrameter and trimeter are magnificently broken here by the relatively stressed, consecutive syllables of “big blue eyes.” This metrical rift places an emphasis on the child’s blue eyes that holds throughout the stanza. How could one more effectively establish the centrality of an image in verse than this? It’s as if the considerations of the preceding iambs collapse before the sovereign gaze of innocence; the world of lost tempers and daily frustrations vanishes in a shade of blue that certainly occupies much of a narrator’s ruminations. The double trochees on “filled with worry” invert the iambic pattern, creating a thick tension that gently resolves with soft stress of “love” in the final iamb.

Love. Worry. Hate. Desire. It’s far from a fault of LaPlace that her approach to these all-too-human concerns is, despite its nakedness, fraught with a care that comes from a true appreciation of their raw power. Of course, there is room to grow (when is there not?) but I, for one, am confident that Sad Discoveries is the inauguration of a poetic voice destined to find its way into the hands of poetry lovers. I will be looking for more from LaPlace, and I hope that her courage, both in composition and in the face of the difficult situations that have inspired these discoveries, never abandons her.

Justin A. Burnett

India LaPlace is: 

Writer. Feminist. Sunshine person. Associate Editor at Horror Sleaze Trash. Former priestess on the Isle of Avalon, current swamp witch, aspiring Queen of the Underworld. Grit, grace, and ganja in the SL,UT. Mother of a child who has far more patience for my subpar parenting skills than I have for most things. Generally pleasant, naturally cynical. Easily won over by a good book and a twisted sense of humor. I’m kind of like if a dive bar and a dumpster fire had a human baby. I’m also currently balls deep in a newfound Morrissey obsession and I don’t care how you feel about it.

I can be found frequenting the farmers market on Saturday mornings in the summertime in Salt Lake City, avoiding parties I had previously agreed to attend, and on Facebook, 

Time Keeps on Slip’n: A Poem

By Josh Darling


Do, do, do, doot…

It starts in a grocery store.

You’ll be standing there,


trying to figure out:

Colgate or Aqua Fresh,

and in the periphery,

time travel happens,

lurking like a rapist with an erection at a playground.

Do, do, do, doot…

Steve Miller.

He knew what he was doing,

with his space/time,

continuum propaganda.

You don’t know who he is?

He’s the man who knew time was circular,

just like his song,

a never-ending circle jerk of slipping in to the past of the future.

Do, do, do, doot…

The music keeps slipping into the past.

And why fly like a greasy eagle?

They’re slow compared to jets.

Do we have to glide into the future,

as a semi endangered species?

And why to the sea?

“‘till [you’re] free?”

Because time keeps slipping into delicious 2% homogeny.

Do, do, do, doot…

Feel that awesome groove, man?

The capacitor doesn’t need flux,

or 1.21 gigawatts.

The secret to time travel,

is in the band’s (grape) jam,

and listening to the Steve Miller Band,

you can travel,

aging like cheese and slipping into the future of suburban utopia.

Do, do, do, doot…

To fold time and space,

you must be omnipresent,

Steve Miller knew this.

His work as a quantum physicist

focused on plurality.

The Steve Miller of March ‘77,

travels to grocery stores

throughout America, haunting them like a taco fart in a car.

Do, do, do, doot…

There is no escape from his,

slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, slippin’,

whispered in your ear,

like an Imp,

trying to convince you to go all in

on a suicide pact,

while deciding:

original or crispy flavor, with wings or without, razor blades or hollow points.

Do, do, do, doot…

Keyboard solo out.

The Pussy Men: A Poem

by Josh Darling


pussy men talk about their
pussy war, with their
pussy guns, loaded with
pussy bullets, and they’ll use their
pussy knives,
pussy tanks,
pussy aircraft carriers,
pussy submarines,
pussy rockets,
pussy bombs,
pussy ICBMs, and
pussy nukes, to kill like
pussies for the
pussy they want to fuck, they’ll wear their
pussy uniforms in camo pink with their
pussy helmets, and talk about their valiant
pussy actions and how they miss their
pussies at home while they get
pussy medals, for their
pussy bravery. They’ll play first person
pussy shooter
pussy games while waiting for rotation back into the
pussy shit where they won’t shoot at any real
pussy. Returning home, they’ll drink
pussy drinks to forget all the
pussy things they did, while the
pussy in the other room is afraid of the next time the
pussy man has flash backs to the
pussy things he did for his
pussy country, and he becomes a violent
pussy all over again.