“deja vu, with amnesia, one more time…”

THE DAY AFTER THE LAST ELECTIONS

for Pablo Neruda

Four more years doing time in the Big House
of the Amerikan Corporation,
Bossman Presidente holding the rifle and the dogs…

There’s a new sheriff in town—
identical, in fact, to the old sheriff,
resurrected in a fresh slogan
from the Boot Hill of legal banditry
and duded up in the erewhon drag of intolerance.

Here he comes,
riding over the cries of the Innocents
with an Old Testament fury—
a rootin’, tootin’, six-gun totin’ bottomliner,
with a duty to the Stockholders
to make the world safe for Apocalypse.

Yes, the People have spoken—
but in their sleep, hind legs kicking
like Ol’ Shep chasing dreamrabbits
through 3rd, 4th and 5th world alleys.
The nation is still apologizing to Custer
for having Unions—

meanwhile: the eyes of Saint Elvis float
above billboards advertising the cola
that leads to the method of true smiling.
Waiters jostle with sharks and orchids.

While nobody was watching,
while nobody was listening,
while everybody was ordering another round
of blood on the rocks,
they changed the monkey again—

deja vu, with amnesia, one more time.

from The Big Job by Robert Edwards (Red Dragonfly Press, 2016)


9781945063008Obviously (and unfortunately) this collection of political poems remain as relevant as ever. If you’re feeling low after the last election, perhaps this is just the book to get you “active” once again.

Robert Edwards is originally from northern Minnesota. He attended Moorhead State University where he studied poetry with Thomas McGrath. His books include Rumors of Earth, Transparencies, Radio Venceremos, and American Sounds. Founder and editor of the magazine Pemmican, Edwards lives in the state of Washington.

The Big Job: Poems 1978 – 2004 by Robert Edwards (180 pages;9781945063008) is available from Red Dragonfly Press and Small Press Distribution.


Comments on The Big Job

The Big Job is filled with exclamations, high-spirited imperatives, and raucous hilarity in poems that are linguistically and formally adventurous without being coy and vague. All of these qualities make them highly unfashionable, but we would do well to read them and see what we’re missing in so much contemporary poetry that works so hard to say so little. In ‘Manifesto #94,’ Edwards wrote the following lines, committing to political action: “Now is the time / to set the wind free in the house. / Now is the time / to unsheathe my tongue / and take the safety off my hand.” Now is still the time. – Jonathan Andersen

Where are we in history? What have we lost? What have we become? That’s what Robert Edwards asks in this vast and decades-spanning book of lyrics and narratives and rants and homages—asks and sometimes answers, but never in a simple way. These are poems in love with, and deeply disillusioned by, America. Unapologetic, partisan, political, urgent, furious, The Big Job is also celebratory as it moves, in its own words, “among the sirens, in the American dark.” The truth is, some books can’t help but be hopeful, because they are so full of decency and real thinking. “Bring everything you have,” writes Edwards. “We need it all / because it is ourselves we make.” – Daisy Fried

Part retrospective, part poetry manifesto, part call to action, behind Edwards’ “Big Job” is a big idea: the need of working people to abolish the stranglehold rule of the rich and powerful and construct the foundations of a new egalitarian society. If Edwards’ allegiance to the working class harkens back to such midwestern literary ancestors as Tom McGrath and Meridel LeSueur, his rich imagery, surprising leaps and turns of language, and creation of a unique poetic voice are as accomplished as any poet writing today. The result of over forty years of writing, The Big Job is a triumph for Edwards, as well as for a growing movement of writers seeking to create socially conscious work on behalf of the 99 per cent. – Christopher Butters

Many a poet envisions him- or herself as a courageous figure, toiling steadfastly, crafting poems in, and despite, the Great American Wilderness. But it’s rare to find a poet who will say, “Now is the time / to make a few enemies.” And actually do it, with passion and joie de vivre. Such is the joy awaiting the reader of Robert Edwards’ The Big Job. – John Bradley

Though we are living through dark times, politically and existentially, we have Robert Edwards’ The Big Job to remind us of what it was like when the passion for justice was strong voiced and packed the streets. In these poems, Edwards brings us an archive of protest from 1978 to 2004 and with masterful poetic voice, he honours his contemporaries and those who have gone before. There is anger here, but also humor and biting satire as he skews those who stir his contempt, from Reagan and Bush to Enron bullies exulting over their exploitation of Grandma Millie. Now, this history of rebellion is more timely and needed than ever. – Marilyn Zuckerman

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New Publication: A Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen

Cohen_cover(April27-2016)I’m pleased to announce the publication of  A Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen. Winner of the 2015 David Martinson—Meadowhawk Prize, this collection takes on profound questions in language that catches the ear and the imagination. Arising out of wild fires and ash, birds and shadows, deaths in the family and lives in the natural world, these poems investigate what perishes and what might remain.

Susan Cohen is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, a non-fiction book, and Throat Singing, a full-length collection of poems. She was a newspaper reporter, professor at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism, and contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine before receiving a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1998-9, where she divided her time between studying poetry and bioethics. She lives in Berkeley, California.

A Different Wakeful Animal (85 pages; 9781945063015) is available from Red Dragonfly Press and Small Press Distribution.

Comments on A Different Wakeful Animal

“There are pleasures in almost every poem in Susan Cohen’s excellent A Different Wakeful Animal, pleasures that arise out of an alertness to the natural world, and the original phrasing she seeks and regularly finds. Her descriptions constitute what I want to call intelligence — someone in the act of getting the world right, making it ours as well as hers. In her “Ode to the Brown Pelican,” she writes, “…today I catch you/on your own swimming the air / with the equanimity of a leaf, / immune to high ambition, / but alert to small, / quick opportunities.” Such opportunities, taken advantage of, are Cohen’s achievement, which is considerable, and, dare I say, give “high ambition” a good name.” – Stephen Dunn
“A clear, distinctive voice and developed imagination leads us through Susan Cohen’s A Different Wakeful Animal where she works her way into loss with the movement and song of the many creatures she evokes. There are birds innumerable and arrayed, dragonflies, and frogs, but the speaker, too, is animaled, as are we all. We are reminded of this truth by death and desire, which is to say hunger, and this very human speaker who cannot give in or doesn’t totally trust this animal-side. This tightly-knit collection of poems asks us to interrogate our humanity, looking to find what has become taloned, what has become plumed.” – Dorianne Laux
“A sense of just proportion distinguishes the best writers, and Susan Cohen, a poet with a world view and a firm and unassuming vision for our place within it, demonstrates that sense. No matter where her vision alights, she illuminates a scene; whether it be the irreparable damage of a firestorm that consumes her family’s world, or the eeriness of a southern California night that skulks her north, she shadows her curiosity to the place where the unknown opens, if not to clarity, to fruition. Refusing to lead her reader into the dark basement of poetry to aimlessly wander by association, she composes with such precision that the deepest mysteries of contemporary life become companionable, and the companionship becomes that of a wise and trusted friend.” – Sandra Alcosser

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New Publication: swift, bright, drift by Diane Jarvenpa

swift, bright, drift by Diane Jarvenpa

swift, bright, drift by Diane Jarvenpa

This new collection of poems by Diane Jarvenpa, with line-by-line luxuriance of language and attention to the natural world, is the perfect way to begin a new year of poetry at Red Dragonfly Press.

swift, bright, drift is about the legacy of our wilderness, how we walk within it and around it and are still mystified by it. It is about being in the woods, observing, listening and sitting inside its luminous silence. There’s a legacy here of a father to his daughter, how he taught her the sacred aspects of the forest and its waters and how she wishes to pass this down to her daughter. There’s a phenology here as well, that is the humble desire to record the changes of the earth, how we can feel illiterate in the face of nature and yet grateful for its adaptability, delicacy, rebirth, and the chance to learn. Here are the opening stanzas of Jarvenpa’s ‘Illuminated Manuscript’:

Old-growth forest totems preach a thousand birds
along the unscrolled slender river
as you follow the skittish comma-heads
of quail, chirographic-antlered deer leaving dust trails,

tiny green and sapphire damselflies,
proverbs among the watercress.

It is one more sand hill penned with flowers,
inkstone thunder clouds over rye fields,
ravens black-stroking their book of haiku
above the black spruce.

swift, bright, drift ($11; 46 pages; ISBN 978-1-937693-83-1) is published as a perfect-bound chapbook, available at Amazon or by special order through your local independent bookstore.

Diane Jarvenpa is the author of Divining the Landscape (New Rivers Press), Ancient Wonders, the Modern World (Red Dragonfly Press) and The Tender Wild Things (New Rivers Press) which received the Midwest Independent Publishers Association book award in poetry. She has received artist initiative and fellowship grants in writing from the Minnesota State Arts Board. She is a singer-songwriter who records under the name Diane Jarvi (http://dianejarvi.com/).

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2015 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 David Martinson – Meadowhawk PrizeA Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen.

The language, the word choice, the pattern and overall, well-wrought texture of these poems, caught my ear early and made this collection a pleasure to read and re-read. From wild fires and ash, birds and shadows, deaths in the family, trees and artwork, from all these facts Cohen fashions “something natural.” This is a solid, remarkable collection. I like it a lot and think you will too. Look for the published book around April of next year. Meanwhile, here’s a poem to hold you until then:

Nothing Roughly Useful like Oats

I get lost in poems—their lilac
smoke, their bitter mirrors.
I love a poem’s sealed chamber
at 3AM when mine’s the one
lamp shining. I’ve been lost
in Lisbon with Pessoa, and
under Lorca’s murderous
New York City sky. One year,
I wandered Andalusia lost,
and climbed into a pasture.
A stallion galloped at me; spooked
us both. Poetry’s the kind of map
that gets you lost and lets you
stay there, a black horse tumbling
towards you huge and fast—
your right arm flying up and out—
as if you could stop a horse
who swerves only when it’s close
enough to see you carry nothing—
leaving you its gallop as a gift.

Susan Cohen is the author of two poetry chapbooks, a non-fiction book, and Throat Singing (WordTech;2012), a full-length collection of poems. She was a newspaper reporter, journalism professor, and contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine before winning a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1998-9, where she divided her time between studying poetry and bioethics. Since then, she’s won awards from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the National Association of Science Writers, as well as numerous poetry prizes, including the Acorn-Rukeyser Chapbook Award, New Millennium Writings Best Poem, Rita Dove Poetry Award from the Center for Women Writers, Anderbo Poetry Prize, Literal Latte Poetry Prize, multiple Atlanta Review International Publication Prizes, and the Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Prize from Harpur Palate. She has an MFA from Pacific University and lives in Berkeley. To learn more about Susan Cohen and her poetry, please visit her website: www.susancohen-writer.com

Thanks are due, also, to the many other poets who submitted manuscripts this year. The abundance of well-written and profound manuscripts makes the task of reading enjoyable and rewarding, but it also makes the final choice of a single manuscript a serious undertaking. I was so impressed by the submissions, I decided to name finalists this year: Heartwood by Mary Logue; Burning Windfall Branches by James Silas Rogers; In and Out of Rough Water by Jayne Marek; Faceted by William Greenwood; Sawhorse by Tony Barfield; and The Dream about Farming by Knud Sørensen (translated by Michael Goldman).

Manuscripts for the 2016 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize can be submitted April through August, 2016.

Scott King

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2015 Emergence Chapbook Series Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Emergence Chapbook Series PrizeClear Day in January by Mark Maire of Duluth, Minnesota. The poems in this collection explore the seen and unseen in the boreal landscapes of northern Minnesota. Look for this chapbook to be published about April, 2016.

Mark’s poetry has appeared in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. A past Pushcart Prize nominee and, recently, one of four finalists for the Codhill Poetry Award, Mark is a retired reference and technical services librarian who’s lived in Duluth for most of his adult life. To hear him reading one of the poems from this chapbook, follow the link: ‘Distance

I also wish to thank the other poets who submitted chapbooks; the range and accomplishment of the entries, all from Minnesota, continue to impress. Manuscripts for the 2016 Emergence Chapbook Series Prize will be accepted beginning in March 31, 2016.

Scott King

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Dave Etter (1928 – 2015)

Dave Etter – author photo from Electric Avenue (Spoon River Poetry Press, 1988)

Dave Etter – author photo from Electric Avenue (Spoon River Poetry Press, 1988)

Dave Etter, one of the great and original poets of the midwest, died Friday, July 10th. His funeral will be held in Lanark, Illinois, on Wednesday, July 22 at 2:00 pm, reception to follow.

I met Etter for the first time October 13, 1995 in Marshall. Following his reading, he signed a copy of Alliance, Illinois — adding “on a fine afternoon in Minnesota.” Later, that same fine day, I’d get a glimpse of Etter seated next to Bill Holm at the Silver Dollar bar, an iconic memory.

A second meeting came years later. In September, 2012, I drove to Lanark to deliver copies of Etter’s Blue Rain. What a memorable visit that was — meeting Peggy, scratching Georgie the cat under the chin, listening to Etter talk and tell stories.

Publishing Dave Etter will remain one of the great privileges of my life. A lasting regret will be not following through on plans for another visit to record Etter reading a selection of his poems. I don’t shed too many tears, but a few fell this morning as I paged through a few of my favorite books and read some favorite poems. This poet was one of a kind, and will be missed.

RED BEARD

The warm sun shines
on the courthouse steps,
on the water tank,
on the Dream Cafe,
on the fire station,
on the grocery store,
on the railroad tracks,
on the senior center,
on the high school.

For eleven days
the sun didn’t shine
and the town went gloomy.
But it shines today,
and oh so brightly,
on the thick red beard
of the sickbed barber
who has not been outside
for fourteen weeks.
So see him now,
with a green John Deere cap
on his bald head,
puffing his new pipe
in his wheelchair,
in his pajama pants,
in his orange sweatshirt,
in his unlaced shoes,
in the red-bearded sun.

The warm sun shines
on the Brethren church,
on the gas station,
on the post office,
on the Prairie State Bank,
on the library,
on the barbershop,
on the antique store,
on the graveyard.

– Dave Etter, from Blue Rain (Red Dragonfly Press, 2012)

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Summer Celebration of the Arts

Saturday, July 11, the Anderson Center in Red Wing will host its 16th annual “Summer Celebration of the Arts” from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. This is one of the premier arts festivals in the state and showcases the work of more than 100 local and regional artists, craftspeople, writers, and musicians. Work featured includes paintings, pottery, furniture, weavings, jewelry, wood carvings, photographs, textiles, stained glass, and much, much more.

As part of this celebration, Red Dragonfly Press will be hosting poetry readings by three, prize-winning poets.

  • 2:00 pm Joseph Rios will read. Rios is a current Anderson Center resident 2015 John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship
  • 2:30 pm Francine Sterle will read from What Thread? (2014 David Martinson–Meadowhawk Prize)
  • 3:00 pm Justin Watkins will read from Bottom-Right Corner (2014 Emergence Chapbook Prize)

Admission to the Anderson Center celebration is $3.00 for adults, $1.00 for students, free to Anderson Center members.

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