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                                                                                                Gary Blankenship


Poets Worth Your Attention

Dave Ruslander, Voices in My Head, DSC Publishing, 2005,

Alex Stolis, Playing Cards with Houdini, Pudding House Publications, 2005,
IBSN: 1-58998-342-4

John W. Sexton and Gabriel Rosenstock, Shadows Bloom (Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth),
Doghouse, 2004, 0-9546487-4-9

John W. Sexton, Vortex, Doghouse, 2005, IBSN: 0-9546487-6-5

We are approaching a golden age of poetry, partially due to the Internet and partially because of the freedom poets fell they have to experiment with long established poems, producing truly revolutionary poetry. The explosion means, however, there are a great many fine poets who will never receive the attention they deserve. Alex, Dave and John may be among those lost in the haystack.

But not if I have anything to do with it. Dave and Alex are published in the winter 2006 edition of www.mindfirerenew.com. John will be part of the spring issue.


Dave Ruslander suffers from an affective disorder, which he has labeled the “black dog”. Voices in Our Head allows us not only to get acquainted with Dave and his poetry, but with the disorder. From “Rapacious,” the first poem in the book:

          Funny how the black dog glows
          carrying his quarry.
          When the game turns,
          He will nip at our heels
          and we will be the hunted.

These are intensely personal poems, which demand we pay attention to Dave’s Voices and teach us about the disorders.

Dave lives in Virginia. His poetry is strong with natural images of the country around him. From “Great Blue Cinquains”:

          Blue Heron
          Focused statues
          Silver rapids shoot fish
          Down stream anglers anticipate

Voices in My Head is a full color publication. Dave’s poems are married with great artists, such as David Philpott, Mia, Laryalee Fraser, the author and his wife, Barbara. (If I have any complaint it is that the volume does not list the artists.)

This full color book has a retail price of $29.95. If you care to purchase the book at the retail price, $10.00 will be donated to Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Voices in My Head is available through Dave for $20.00 plus $3.00 s/h. You may purchase through PayPal by submitting funds to his account, daveruslander@direcway.com or send check, cash, money order to:

Dave Ruslander
PO Box 584
Quinton, VA 23141


Alex Stolis does something in Playing Cards with Houdini that is not done enough. He tells a story – adventures of the poet traveling around the Southwest with his lovers, Romona and Juanita, perhaps as he is writing the book.

I heard her sing in Spanish once, soft but slightly off key, eyes closed and head tilted to the left as if listening for the music. That’s how everything began –  with a whisper not an explosion or any expectations and that was when I realized there was trouble.

With sixteen chapters, the chapbook is well worth the price of $8.95. From “Distance Equals Rate Times Time” (Chapter IV):

          She slips from her strapless dress,
          the tangled mess of hair is smoke
          from a filterless cigarette, mistakes

The story is tough, uncompromising and at times raw, but you will be carried along until you read the last lines

          bullets glint seductively
          on linoleum as moonlight
          cuts a halo over her head.

Playing Cards with Houdini is available at www.puddinghouse.com.


There is nothing quite like finding treasure. John W. Sexton’s Shadows Bloom is such a find. John’s book is modern haiku, that is haiku that abandons the 5 7 5 form common in Japan (and rightfully so, English is a different language). But there is more. The haiku are translated into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock, poet and teacher, as Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth. Picking a couple of my favorite subjects:

          a good game
          but shadows of crows
          are too fast to catch

                      ach bíonn scáthanna na bpréachán
                                   róghasta le breith orthu


          black cats
          sip shadowed milk

          glioscarnach na réaltaí
                      blaiseann na cait dhubha
                                  den bhainne scáthach

Several of the poems are accompanied by illustrations by Lynda Horgan, making this a special publication. In addition, in several appendixes, John outlines his journey through haiku from the traditional 5 7 5 through rhymed and ballad haiku to the modern form.

As John states in his introduction, “ There are certainly three languages here… Three separate visions of the same environment…”

John has a newer collection of free form poetry, Vortex, published by Doghouse in 2005. An example, from “game of the sacrificed lovers”:

          twenty-four people are in the garden, two are hidden

          one is hidden as the bud of a rose;
          one is hidden as a blade of grass

          five young men stand to the east
          with five more pretending to be thrushes

and from “Foxman versus The City of The Men-Men”:

(1)   The pipe from the Misery Works leaks its greasy waste into the waters of the canal.  Its enormous chimneys smother the city with smoke.  Pregnant women with grey skin enter its gates at dawn.

 The poems have been described as quirky, I would call them as approaching the fine edge of madness and an outstanding read.

Both volumes are available from doghouse312@eircom.net. Inquire as to price.

Three poets who will make you think and be glad you live at the beginning of the Golden Age of Poetry.

                                                                                                © Gary Blankenship


triple rule

Loch Raven Review Spring 2006 — Vol. 2, No. 1
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