Search This Blog

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Review of My Report from the Uwharries

 Ranging over and through the world of the imagination, gathering details, and illuminating the poetic high ground found between the unfathomable and the understood is no mean feat. In her newest collection of poetry, My Report from the Uwharries, Irene Mitchell leads us along the ancient paths of mood and metaphor finding, of all things, a wry, contemplative vision of harmony. For more of my review of My Report from the Uwharries go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/12/my-report-from-uwharries-by-irene.html

3 New Poems just Published by Lothlorien Poetry Journal

Three of my poems were just published by Lothlorien Poetry Journal: Bypassing the All-Souls Lounge, Ash Wednesday at the All-Souls Lounge, and Boethius Has Second Thoughts at the All-Souls Lounge. My thanks to the editor, Strider Marcus Jones. Here is the link: https://lothlorienpoetryjournal.blogspot.com/2022/12/three-poems-by-dennis-daly.html

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Sunken Boats

My daughter drives us through the old delta, past the fish sign, into the town. The sea has receded one hundred miles. Pathetic man-made canals scar the foreground, reach outward to bring the waters back. 

Splotches of gray-green weed angle up through the pesticide poisons, search for the scorching sun.  We walk into the great basin, pace off distances between sunken boats, rusted hulks settled on an ancient seabed once busy with numinous fish, nibbling in amazing multitudes—a different time, a time of believers, when clouds and rain and children’s shallow splashing limned this Eden. 

Beyond the horizon, Resurrection Island, a facility for biological evil, no longer quarantined by water, issues its next weapons-grade plague, oozing ever outward to what once was the mainland, to a tangled remnant of human kind, hardened, awaiting new horrors.

A truck in a dust cocoon squeals to a stop on the access road, next to our car. Two men jump off, inspect their tires, all the while sizing us up, smelling for weakness fifty yards away. I’m walking towards them fast. I try to look unhesitant and threatening. They decide to leave, disappear, dust and all, into the sea’s desiccant fathoms.

Everyone is sick in Muynak: anemia, tuberculosis, cancers. Their future, like their sea, has ebbed away. People speak of death as a wandering friend, now returned, welcomed. Government officials, we’re told, arrive in packs almost monthly, wring their hands, and write reports that detail another five year plan.

The river that fed this sea and awed Alexander the Great, the Oxus, once mighty, dies in a desert hole, its strength siphoned by cotton crops: its former dreams of hurricane swells no longer viable. A river paradise turned phantom.

There used to be canning factories on the bluff, overlooking the harbor. Industry and the fish-harvest defined all the geography that mattered.

We pass beggars and street children losing color, depth; half wraith, they wave or beckon or both. It’s as if hell cannot maintain its solidity.

 A sand storm follows us south through Nukus: our windows sealed to no avail. Wild camels cross the road. They are cooked locally and eaten here by inhabitants of yurts.

 The momentary ado of an accident appears on the road. Someone has been killed. Hit and run, I think. We ease by.

First Blogged 2013

Monday, December 5, 2022

Waiting for the Suicide Bomber

Wais, the bartender and part owner of the Hotel, waves his Glock in the air like a blessing. On cue, four beefy men, two on each side of the bar, pull their weapons out, check their magazines, compare. The men, all in their mid-thirties, all wearing jeans, are contractors, probably. Wais’ dum-dum bullets impress, carry the day.

I grab my draft beer and pretend to sneer at the Yankees fan beside me. Mid fifties I’d say, quieter than the others, except when pontificating on his favorite sports team. He heads security at the airbase, or so he says.

Can I get through the Salang tunnel? I ask out loud. Wais thinks so. All four of the contractors agree. Opium trucks queue up all day long, at about ten thousand feet. They let them through at night, after the construction workers leave. Concoct some story and stick with it; they’ll let you through too.

Last week I drove up there, says Wais. Didn’t get through, but I had a woman with me—a reporter.  Tried to impress her; it wasn’t my day. The warlord Fahim runs things up there.

I hold up the palm of my gunless hand to interrupt and tell Wais I had dinner with the UN people last night, mostly Irish and Aussie. They tell me they can’t go overland, it’s too dangerous. They fly up to Mazar or over to Herat.

Jack, the drunk on my left, calls for another beer and tells me some bullshit story of his heroics in Bosnia. Then he says, let me ask you something. When you drive around a bend in the mountains and three AKs are pointing at your windshield, what are you going to do? Maybe you better ask your driver. I don’t like this guy, but he has a point.

A German in his late twenties sits across from me. A motorcyclist, reckless and robbed twice, he tells us his story. His government, he says, pulled strings to get him across the Friendship Bridge up north, after he had camped out there for a week, embarrassing the Uzbeks. He whines: they stole everything. He orders a beer and pays in cash.

I’m not leaving, says a defiant Wais to no one.

Past a gaggle of heavily armed, turbaned guards in the lobby—not one under fifty, I walk outside for some air. A line of black SUVs are parked in front of the hotel, bumper to bumper. The guards had just come. I hadn’t noticed the SUVs earlier.

Evening grays gather, soften storefront shapes in moonlight. Dust tamped down below the mountain tops and usual stars. The air better now, breathable.

Tomorrow I’ll walk away from this, down Chicken Street, past the antique shops, while men are pushed against mud walls and packages are pawed open and gun turrets turn accusingly in green armored vehicles.

 I go back in. My place held by a near-empty beer mug.

-- Took place in 2003
-- originally blogged January 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Pushcart Nomination


Thank you to the editors of Ibbetson Street-- poetry editor Harris Gardner, as well as Lawrence Kessenich, and Ravi Yelamanchili, for nominating me for a Pushcart Prize for a poem published in 2022. The award is actually made in 2023. The other nominees are Charles Coe, Claire Scott, Joyce B. Lazarus, Ruth Hoberman, and Deborah Leipziger. Here is the link: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/11/ibbetson-street-pushcart-nominees-for.html

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Veterans Day


Veterans Day 2022

Veterans Day 2022



My Boy Jack  -- by Rudyard Kipling


'Have you news of my boy Jack?'
Not this tide.
'When d'you think that he'll come back?'
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
'Has anyone else had word of him?'
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing and this tide.

'Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?'
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind-
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Labor Organizer


Apropos of Nothing

My will is easy to decide
For I have nothing to divide
My kin don't need to weep and moan
Moss does not cling to a rolling stone

My body? oh, if I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would soon rise up and grow green again
This is my last and final will
Good luck to all of you,
                        Joe Hill
Labor organizer. IWW Wobbly.
Executed in November of 1915, Salt lake City, Utah. 
Claimed he wouldn't be caught dead in Utah.  

Friday, November 4, 2022

Three Untethered Psalms Composed by John Faustus and Playing Pinball at the All-Souls Lounge Published

 Two of my poems, Three Untethered Psalms by John Faustus and Playing Pinball at the All-Souls Lounge have just been published by the Lothlorien Poetry Journal. Much thanks to the editor, Strider Marcus Jones.  Here is the link: https://lothlorienpoetryjournal.blogspot.com/2022/11/two-poems-by-dennis-daly.html

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Review of Annapurna Poems by Yuyutsu Sharma

Are poets good for nothing? Plato certainly didn’t trust them. He believed that poets make things happen, but they are immoral, specializing in the pleasure of illusion and falsity. Mimesis (imitation), poetry’s stock in trade, moreover, corrupts society’s youth. For Plato philosophy (truth-telling), rather than poetry is the real deal. On the other end of the spectrum Archibald MacLeish, taking his cue from Aristotle, argues in his Ars Poetica that “A poem should not mean/ But be.” He believed in the aesthetic value above all, art for art’s sake.

 Between these two extremes of active ethical change and passive aesthetic stasis there is a third possibility—poets, through poetry, guide their readers to rarified perceptions of existing phenomena and, through them, unlimited, sometimes prototypical, potentialities. For more of my review of Annapurna Poems go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/10/annapurna-poems-poems-new-and-collected.html

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Review of Even on Parnassus by Lawrence Cottrell

“Make it new,” “make it new” the modernist critics and poets admonished their contemporaries and successors. Pound with his Chinese ideograms and imagist poems, Yeats with his Rosicrucian metaphors, Ginsberg with his countercultural and beat sensibilities, Elizabeth Bishop with her polished, somewhat distant take, Robert Duncan with his field philosophy of language, and arguably Gerard Manley Hopkins (who predated the rest) with his sprung rhythm did. Others, interpreting “new” as prose-like or accessibility, opted for the confessional angle (think Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath) or the immediacy of the famous (some would say infamous) Iowa Writers Workshop, which in the persons of Donald Justice, John Berryman, or Rita Dove championed stylish plain-spokenness in both formal and free verse.

 Occasionally, a book of poetry materializes out of today’s ether that appears to be genuinely “new” with attributes not often glimpsed in this elitist, ever-dwindling, literary society. Even On Parnassus by Lawrence Cottrell is such a book. Cottrell’s eccentric individualism seems to drive this collection with a unique diction, which surprises, and with unusual wordage stirred into the fast-flowing cadences. For more of my review of Even on Parnassus go here:  http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/08/even-on-parnassus-by-lawrence-cottrell.html 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Review of Far Cry Poems by Tom Daley

Mischief meets elegiac mournfulness in Tom Daley’s new chapbook, Far Cry, in which the poet summons up the ghost of a close but estranged gay friend and searches through evocative imagery and shared memories for an understanding, a resolution, and, most of all, a final embrace. Unexpected religious and erotic juxtapositions deliver both edgy wit and good-natured humor.  And, most impressively, throughout this poetic sequence, Daley utilizes impeccable word choices that result in very high-level, almost objectified, confessional pieces. In short, Daley’s diction sparkles. For more of my review go here:  http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/06/far-cry-poems-by-tom-daley.html

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Review of The Wild Goose Poems by Kevin Gallagher

No writer distills history utilizing the form of poetic narrative better than Kevin Gallagher. In his latest effort, The Wild Goose Poems, Gallagher delves into Irish Americana, its background, and its sources. He uses a first-person sequence of poems on the rebel Irishman, then iconic Bostonian, John Boyle O’Reilly as the centerpiece of his collection. The poet leads into that sequence with a retelling of Celtic myth and finishes the book with a combination of classical myth and both local (Southie) and family lore. Think beginning, middle, and end. And that’s the way it reads. For more of my review of The Wild Goose Poems go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/06/the-wild-goose-poems-by-kevin-gallagher_14.html

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Review of Time Is A Mother by Ocean Vuong

Decadent. Robotic. Thinly constructed with self-indulgent metaphors. No, I do not like Ocean Vuong’s new collection of poems, Time Is A Mother. In fairness, I am biased and motivated because of a breathless, over-the-top review of Vuong’s first book, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, published in the New Yorker in 2016. That hyperbolizing reviewer claimed that Vuong would somehow “fix” the English language. Nonsense.

 However, Vuong, an American poet, born in Vietnam in 1988, did, as the inside flap of his new hardcover book reminds us, win the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T. S. Eliot Prize, and a 2019 MacArthur Genius Grant. For more of my review of Time Is a Mother go here:  https://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/05/time-is-mother-by-ocean-vuong.html

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Review of On Earth As It Is by Michael Steffen

Matter-of-factness takes center stage in Michael Todd Steffen’s magnificent collection of poetry entitled On Earth As It Is. Acceptance, albeit with enormous curiosity, seems meted into each poem’s very marrow and, with it, the poet’s cogent observations. No confessional spattering here. Only hard detail, telling irony, and all-weather humor.  

Steffen’s objectivity stems from an apparent deep-seated stoicism not unsimilar to the rather dry meditations left by Marcus Aurelius (Consider Aurelius’ belief that externals do not enter a person’s essence. Quite the opposite.). The complexity of this book is evident even in its title, which exhibits a connection to the Lord’s Prayer and brings with it another meaning entirely. For more of my review of On Earth As It Is go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/05/on-earth-as-it-is-by-michael-todd.html

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

My chapbook Alcaics for Major Robert Rogers Published

My chapbook Alcaics for Major Robert Rogers, published by Wilderness House, has just arrived. It is now available at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop (6 Plympton St., Cambridge, MA, (617)- 547-4648) and will be at other independent book stores soon after. 

I'll also sign copies at the bi-weekly Saturday meetings of the Bagel Bards in Porter Square, Cambridge.  It is available at Lulu today and will be available at Amazon in four or five weeks. Here is the link for Lulu. https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/dennis-daly/alcaics-for-major-robert-rogers/paperback/product-qmdj5v.html?page=1&pageSize=4

The chapbook includes one poem of 72 stanzas, a prologue and an introduction, as well as notes, a map, Rogers' Rules of Ranging,. some historical pictures, and a bibliography.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Two of my Poems, Ode on Today's Canonization of Jacinta and Francisco Marto & At St Mary's Monophysic Church in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Published in Wilderness House

Two of my poems, Ode on Today's Canonization of Jacinta and Francisco Marto & At St Mary's Monophysic Church in Diyarbakir, Turkey, were just published by Wilderness House. They are part of a manuscript entitled Odd Man Out currently seeking a publisher. Thank you to editors Steve Glines and Ravi Yelamanchilli. Here is the link:  https://www.whlreview.com/no-17.1/poetry/DennisDaly.pdf

Friday, March 11, 2022

Review of No Time for Death by Harris Gardner

 “Oh death, where is thy sting?”  1 Corinthians had it right. So does Harris Gardner in his affecting affirmation of life, fittingly entitled No Time for Death. Slicing through humanity’s Gordian knot of denial, Gardner confronts mortality with memory and poetic craft, assisted by a large dose of wit. His stratagems are nothing if not down-to-earth and sensible. The collection’s three subtitles convey Gardner’s personified logic: An Argument with Time, Contemplating Mortality Instead of My Navel, and Negotiating for an Afterlife. For more of my review go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/03/no-time-for-death-by-harris-gardner.html

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Covers of Alcaics for Major Robert Rogers

Here are the covers of my new book, Alcaics for Major Robert Rogers. It consists of one poem with 72 stanzas in Alcaic meter, an introduction, a prologue, notes and a selected bibliography. It should be out by mid-April or thereabouts.

Thank you to Wilderness House Press and its editor Steve Glines for his excellent design and placement of historical pictures within the collection.

And also, thank you to poet Ed Meek for his kind words on the back cover.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Review of The Star of Dazzling Ecstasy by Alexander Pushkin, Translated by Philip Nikolayev

Most English translations of Alexander Pushkin convey facets of the poet’s singular, Russian genius, but never give the full sense of it. Even Vladimir Nabokov’s attempted literal translation of Eugene Onegin seems to fall flat. One exception to this is Charles Johnson’s impressively formalist translation of Eugene Onegin and other longish Pushkin poems. Now we have another exception, and an extraordinary one at that, Philip Nikolayev’s new bilingual book of selected Pushkin poems, entitled The Star of Dazzling Ecstasy.

 Nikolayev’s translations mimic the Russian originals, using English rhyme and meter, to create accurate versions of Pushkin’s pieces. This translator-poet sets up 79 of Pushkin’s lyrical poems in chronological order, brilliantly exhibiting both range and elegance. For more of my review go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/02/the-star-of-dazzling-ecstasy-79-poems.html

Saturday, January 22, 2022

The Limits of Minimalism in Poetry

Steven Ratiner recently published an interesting and thoughtful argument in the Red Letter Poem Series (found on Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene (http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/01/red-letter-poem-94.html) exploring minimalism and concreteness in poetry, especially as it applies to poet Aram Saroyan. Ratiner quoted Seamus Heaney and tapped into the opinions of such poets and non-poets as Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms. Below is a brief, humble, and somewhat incomplete answer to Ratiner’s arguments.

 Minimalization in its extreme ends in madness. Seamus Heaney was right to suggest that poetry is born out of superfluity, but it is a superfluity of verbiage choices, not exactly an extra of unproductive oozing. This extra may still exist after the fact of composition, but then the writer or the editor will, we hope, trim it. Play-words used by Saroyan, such as lighght, or j;u;n;g;l;e, or picassc, or an “m” with three humps, no matter how rich  the interpretation, or how many awards they receive, are not poems. They are sources of inspiration, poetic matter, and possibly a part of some artistic whole. Saint Therese of Lisieux once claimed that everything is grace. Well, in a theological universe, maybe. But poetry, derived from craftsmanship, does not have universal pretentions.

 I am never comfortable playing gatekeeper. God knows, there are always exceptions to each zealous and seemingly dogmatic statement. Poets do push boundaries and play with their creations. Much of art is childlike, however, it usually portrays a seriousness of beauty and an objectivity of delight. Think of Pound’s In a Station of the Metro,

 The apparition of these faces in the crowd:

Petals on a wet black bough.

 Here meaning charges the language and the poet and his muse invent an unforgettable image. The muse or the miscellaneous other or the objective correlative share the authorship. The lines derive from a collaboration of sorts, not merely the confessional. It is more than just a child finger painting or a poet-baby spitting up sounds or words that are intrinsically important or beautiful. We could take any word in Pound’s poem and infuse it with imagination and possibility, but it would still not be a poem. Our mental inspirations gleaned from the word may tickle us or lead us down unexpected paths, but the word itself is not a poem. If one considers it a poem, than everything is a poem. Sounds nice! But instead of beauty and metric, one earns only chaos without real craftsmanship.

 (If you’re thinking about the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri in the movie Amadeus, don’t. It never happened that way. Mozart was not the crude child to the studied artist Salieri. If anything, a sophisticated but playful Mozart owed much to his crafty teacher and was supported by him.)

 Mr. Ratiner touches upon the problem and the perception of elitism. This is indeed a problem, which affects the “willing suspension of disbelief” and, ultimately, the size of the artistic audience, which the poet is preaching to or trying to touch in some way. Often, I’m sure, the would-be audience thinks they are being conned by art. They think everything is a Jackson Pollock redo. No, I am not on the same side of Ronald Reagan or Senator Jesse Helms but (in the context of federal funding)… they did tap into the absurd nature of artistic extremism. Some poetic pretentions derive from a profound self-centeredness, not unlike a young child. We admire, and should admire, the awe and fascination that a child’s eyes exude, not the babe’s innate selfishness which, by necessity, begets attention. Yes, to wonder. No, to elitism.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Review of Millrat by Michael Casey

Once upon a time multileveled manufacturing plants with attached smokestacks, called mills or factories, grew like mushrooms around waterfalls and river bends. They attracted the able-bodied, both men and women, who sought financial independence and dignity. What these seekers found instead in this soot-filled urban culture was a rite of passage for some, a technological trap for others, and a graveyard or graveyard road for the unlucky remainder.

 Humor often got one through the interminable repetitions and the real dangers of modern machinery and toxic chemicals. Michael Casey knows this and nails the details of mill culture in his classic collection of poetic narratives entitled Millrat, which is being republished this year as a 25th Anniversary Edition by Loom Press. For more of my review of Millrat go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2022/01/millrat-poems-by-michael-casey.html

Friday, January 14, 2022

Shield Wall on sale at Grolier


My newest book, Shield Wall, now on sale at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, 6 Plympton St., Cambridge MA 02138. (617-547-4648).

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Review of The Album by Peg Boyers

Never have I read ekphrastic poems so undetachable from the sources of their inspiration. It is as if Peg Boyers in her new collection, The Album, wrote within the individual art objects, delivering fresh, insightful, versicle pieces, birthed out of the same aesthetic DNA. Boyers and the editors of Dos Madres also deserve not a little praise for publishing this year’s most beautiful book of poems.

 La Tempesta (after La Tempesta by Giorgione, 1504) opens Boyers’ collection with its symbolic inferences. This painting was George Gordon Byron’s favorite because of its magical ambiguity. Some art historians believe that the painting was a warning to Venice to avoid war with the Pope’s threatening army. Boyers, however, has a more versatile approach. Her protagonists are art aficionados, who have just purchased a tie, adorned with the lightning bolt from the painting, from the museum shop. The lightning bolt is the demarcation between the lush foreground with a young woman nursing her infant and a young man eying her and an urban background. Previously these art connoisseurs have focused on this foreground ignoring the darker rest, including ruins and an impending storm. For more of my review of The Album go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2021/12/the-album-by-peg-boyers.html

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Review of City of Stories by Denise Provost

While reading Denise Provost’s new book, City of Stories, I marveled not only at her well-wrought pieces, but the witty, contagious joy pooling in each one, which charmingly overflows and inevitably drenches the reader in its artistic charm. Sure, there are moments of sorrow and maddening dysfunction in her observations. Hope, however, and the poet’s offbeat stoicism always seem to save the day.

 “What oft was thought, but ne’re so well expressed” said Alexander Pope, in describing wit. Provost’s formal poems fit that description entirely. She often takes pedestrian observations, gives them context, and decks them out with agreeable and sometimes laugh-out-loud meaning. For more of my review of City of Stories go here: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2021/12/city-of-stories-by-denise-provost.html