Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bird Effort by Ronald Baatz & a "Hot August Night"

Cover art by Henry Denander

There are so many wonderful small presses out there, doing all manner of work, in all manner of styles. One of the finest operations around is Kamini Press out of Sweden. The quality and care put into their books is obvious even before you hold one of their books in your hands: they are, as the cliché goes, a sight to behold.

Once in hand, first impressions are confirmed: the cover, the art, the paper, and the overall production is outstanding. Their statement of intent from their website says it all. Respect the poetry with the highest quality production possible, the rest will follow. It makes those of us on the lower end of things hang our heads in shame.

All this before even arriving at the first words. The poetry itself.

Bird Effort by Ronald Baatz is No. 4 in the "Kamini Press Poetry Series" and here are two little gems that open the volume:

When the stream overflowed
the long grass
is combed close to the earth

You sing to the bird in me
I sing to the bird in you–
an effort
we love to face
each dawn

There is a depth of feeling in these poems delicately hinted at, subtly revealed:

Leave me bread
at least a few slices
leave me your voice
at least a few words
to go with the bread

Snow this morning
when I part the curtains
after getting out of bed
one rib
at a time

A sudden shift in perspective, and the introspective mode becomes all-embracing:

winter is losing its grip-
in my sleep
I hear the pond's spine

hanging off the hook
in a phone booth
hanging off
the earth

And again:

her canary's grave
she catches the reflection
of lovely orange feathers
in the spoon

The old die old
sometimes the young
die young
and the little we know
the harsh winds blow

This beautiful little book contains 50 small poems, many 5 lines each, all tankas in their mood and construction, beautiful in their revelation. There is a simultaneous sadness and acceptance, a joy tempered by the real, a resonating wisdom. I can't resist - here is one more:

So many crows-
as though the earth
is turning black
from so many bones
buried in it

Can't blame the crickets
for crying out hour after hour-
summer having lied about
how long
it'd stay

This is the small press at its finest, the quality of work matched by the quality of the production, a beautiful reflection of life, work, dedication, and truth.


This Saturday night, there will be a reading sponsored by Six Gallery Press at Modern Formations Art Gallery here in the Burg. There are some mighty fine people reading that evening and so, if you are in the area, stop by. 14 writers for $5, it doesn't get much better than that. It will be my first public reading in over 20 years and will be a mixture of Lilliput work, in celebration of the 20th anniversary, and my own poems. A number of folks, including Kris Collins, Che Elias, René Alberts, Jerome Crooks, and John Grochalski have managed to drag me out of hiding after all these years and I have to thank them all for helping re-energize an old fart. Fortunately for me (and everyone else), there are so many folks reading that our time will be necessarily brief.

We'll see if I'm into this poetry thing after all ...


This week's featured issue of Lilliput Review ,#165 from November 2008, is so new it's still not in the archive. Enjoy.

Autumn's vibrant hues
or is it we who vibrate
in vivid rhythm
Harry Smith

lotus blossom
------evening twilight
M. Kei

no one

Ed Baker

He was a Japanese tourist.
At the checkout
they had to take his check
without proof of signature.
For all they knew
he might have written:
In the eastern garden
on the late chrysanthemums.
David Lindley

cultivated chrysanthemums
translated by David G. Lanoue


NB There were a number of transcription errors, along with one factual, in the original version of this post, which have been corrected. Thanks very much to Ronald Baatz for pointing this out and for his sympathetic understanding. My apology has been most graciously accepted.


Charles Gramlich said...

The small and private press has definitely been the saviour of poetry. I think, at least.

jay said...


Good luck. Wish I was at the reading to see it, not to read, of course.

Jim H. said...

"We'll see if I'm into this poetry thing after all..."

That little aside made me smile ('cause we all know the answer and are glad of it).

Have fun!

Ed Baker said...


after the reading...

I'll 'spring' for the beers!


last time that I read to an audience was in 1977 or so..

spent more time in the bathroom before reading than reading and I 'performed' for about 20 mins


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks Charles, Jay and Jim.

Ed, there are so many people reading that we all are given about 8 minutes. Over before you know it. I'll have to remember to leave time to throw up.

Reading a mix of Lilliput and a few of my own. Should be fun.


Grant Hackett said...

Don, Baatz is glorious...Thanks for bringing his poetry to us...