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Book Review: The THIRD Voice by Eric Greinke

A Gyroscope Review Review:

The THIRD VOICE: Notes on the Art of Poetic Collaboration
by Eric Greinke
Presa Press, 84 pages, $13.95
Date of Publication: November 1, 2017


If a poet has lost the joy of wordplay, I suggest that a lively collaboration may be the antidote.

-Eric Greinke

Did you ever sit at the feet of someone, say a grandparent or some other elder in your life, who shared stories of their long life/career/travels, bask in their memories, and perhaps learn from them? That was the feeling I had throughout my reading of Eric Greinke’s new book, The THIRD Voice: Notes on the Art of Poetic Collaboration.

Greinke’s poetic career reaches back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when he was, as he writes, part of  “the local poetry avant-garde in Western Michigan” (p. 11). His poetry output skipped several years when he focused instead on his social work career, then picked up again in the new millenium with the publication of  Selected Poems 1972-2005 (Presa Press, 2005). Collaborative work was, and is, an enormous part of Greinke’s poetry.

In The THIRD Voice, Greinke looks back on his collaborations with poets Harry Smith, John Elsberg, Hugh Fox, Glenna Luschei, and Alison Stone. In language that borrows from both literary theory and the social work/therapy realms, Greinke deconstructs those collaborations so readers understand how they came about, how the work grew out of his relationship with each poet, and what Greinke ultimately learned about poetry and the art of collaboration. He shares pieces that were written in those collaborations as examples of how two different voices may come together in a third, new voice. He also discusses the many ways poetic collaboration can be structured, beginning with dialogic collaboration, which is “a form where poets write whole poems independently but in specific response to each other’s poems” (p. 17). He later segues into collaborations in which poets alternate writing each line, where the process grows organically into invented forms and sequences, and exercises where one poet might write the first, last, and title lines while the other poet writes three lines to fill in the middle of the poem. He discusses haiku and tanka sequences as collaborative projects, and the invention of one-line poems in response to a title. He explores how collaboration may be influenced by gender and age differences, and relishes balancing differences with commonalities.

Greinke’s interest in collaborations was first influenced by the 1967 publication Bean Spasms (Kulchur Press), which was a collaboration between the writers Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett, with a little help from their friend, illustrator Joe Brainard. As Greinke sees it, Bean Spasms gave permission to have fun with poetry. And perhaps this idea is one of the biggest take-aways of The THIRD Voice. Poetry can be a lot of fun, word play is truly play, and who doesn’t like to have fun playing with others?

Poetic collaboration is more than play, of course. It offers poets so many opportunities for expanding their work and for working through tough topics. Greinke’s collaboration with his friend Hugh Fox offers a beautiful example of collaborating through grief; the two of them spent a year writing poetry together while Fox was dying of cancer. One of the resulting poems, Beyond Our Control, was constructed a line at a time, Fox and Greinke each composing every other line. Greinke considers this his best collaborative work. The poem, a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee, illustrates how two poets might turn their grief into art and blend their voices into a third voice that good collaboration makes possible.

Overall, this gentle, nostalgic look at the poetic collaborations Eric Greinke has enjoyed over his writing life offers one of the best incentives of all for poets who are considering their options: joy. Collaborate with another poet, let it evolve organically, and reclaim the joy of word play that called to you the day you first fell in love with a poem.

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Notes on Enter Here: poems by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Enter Here poems by Alexis Rhone FancherEnter Here: poems by Alexis Rhone Fancher. Published by KYSO Flash Press, Seattle, 2017. Soft cover, 112 p., $18.00.

In January of 2016, Gyroscope Review published an interview with Los Angeles poet and photographer Alexis Rhone Fancher. Rhone Fancher’s unapologetic, sharp work graced the pages of our issue 16-1 and I’ve been enchanted with her ever since. When I read that her new book, Enter Here, was available, I ordered it immediately.

My fascination with Rhone Fancher’s work holds because of her strong voice and her willingness to take on the sordid details that many keep secret about sexuality in all its nuances, power between women and men, abuse of power/sexuality, what women learn from an early age, the joy of being a dirty girl, the dangers of being intimate. And, as I read the poems in Enter Here, I was overwhelmed with my own reactions to the work. This book is explicit. It is not for everyone. But it is well worth stepping outside of whatever your comfort zone may be as it nudges the reader to consider the power structures that constrict us even at our most intimate level.

I decided the best way to share this with you is to offer my raw notes about this book. You’ll see why. Stay with me.

 

1. The photo of the turnstile at Pershing Square Metro Station that kicks off the poems in this book – Okay, I’m ready to go for a fast ride beneath the surface of things. Do I have enough tokens to ride to the end?

 

2. Complicated. Complications. These poems are one, filled with the other. When they rocket me back to the ugly uncertainty of female adolescence with all that attention from others who want to claim my body, I’m not sure I like it. Funny, I sometimes liked it back then, when I was naïve. See: Daddy’s Friend, Stan, p. 18-19

 

Shhh! he soothes when I whimper,

afraid he’s gone too far.

 

He thumbs the fabric instead of me,

whistles the theme from

Mission Impossible.

 

3. These women who only seem to do what men want – they’re playing them as much as they’re getting played. See: Spreading My Legs for Someone (Posing for Pirelli), p. 25-26.

 

I slipped off my dress.

Kept my stilettos.

 

Why don’t I own stilettos? Oh, yeah. They hurt my feet if I try to go anywhere. Might be handy as an ice pick.

 

4. I don’t use the word pudenda enough. It’s meaty. It makes me purse my lips. See: Tuesday Nights, Room 28 of the Royal Motel on Little Santa Monica, p. 29-30.

 

5. There! The book title is buried in the poem Tattooed Girl in a Sheer, White Blouse (Sushi Bar Fantasy) on p. 31-32. It takes a while to figure out where to enter anything. Figures this line that finally says enter here is in the middle of everything. Figures the entrance it refers is hidden, private, capable of great things, desirable. Is that tattooed girl the same one in the following poem? Does it matter? What about the one in Tattooed Girl: Slice/Shokunin on p. 59? I’m a slightly tattooed girl. Hmm. This fascination with tattooed girls – is this about the willingness to put so much right on the surface? Or is it the way the skin is covered up even when clothes are off?

 

6. In Tonight I Dream of Angelica, My First Ex-Girlfriend, Who Taught Me the Rule of the Road… on p. 38, I zero in on this:

 

I admit, I’ve always been driven to sin.

 

And yet it’s all for love, we later learn. But love for whom?

 

7. Boy toys, sad waitresses, sisters. From For the Sad Waitress at the Diner in Barstow, p. 44-45:

 

the cruel sun throws her inertia in her face.

this is what regret looks like.

 

Regret haunts us, slowly kills us, doesn’t it? How do we forgive ourselves let alone anyone else?

 

8. I was right about stilettos having other uses. See: Stiletto Killer…a Surmise, p. 48.

 

9. See: Tonight I Dream of My First True Love (Ménage à Trois), p. 53:

 

I see what I’m not meant to see: I am disposable, nothing more than a deep hole.

 

Oh, I love that the narrator saw is what is eventually going to save her. Get out now!! If only we could teach our daughters how to see like this and redefine themselves as a result, be Wonder Women.

 

10. A nod to Joan Didion – what Los Angeles writer would miss the opportunity? Nice to see you here, Joan, in the cento, Play It As It Lays, p. 60-61. You’re still relevant.

 

11. Ex-husbands and ex-lovers: what have we learned? See: Tonight I Dream of My Second Ex-Husband, Who Played Piano Better than Herbie Hand-Cock, p. 67:

 

Why does the fantasy always best real life?

 

See also: Out of Body, p. 68:

 

Riddle: when is a promise like a bayonet?

 

And then see: Because He Used to Love Her. A Story in Photographs and Senryu, p. 69-73:

 

her hair like a whip

torturing him now, but once

he did worship her

 

All of it cuts our hearts out. All of it leaves big fat scars.

 

12. For Lynnie in the Dark, p. 76-77: Required reading. The abrupt ending that defines an abusive relationship.

For Lynn Cutolo who was murdered on October 3, 2007, by her husband. See: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/latimes/obituary.aspx?n=lynn-cutolo-richards&pid=96516634

 

13. I Was Hovering Just Below the Hospital Ceiling, Contemplating My Death, p. 79. Not sure what got to me more about this poem – the way the poems talks about unexpected loss and the unwillingness to let go, the author’s note on the next page that explains the poem’s origins, or the author’s statement that this is the first time she’s gotten this story right. Car wrecks and their aftermath are not something you can neatly tie up and put away. The last line will take your breath away. No spoilers here.

 

14. This book moves from being a young girl to a woman with ex-husbands, back to the young girl memories, zooms back up to womanhood, back and forth, forward and backward, rocking/rocky rhythm. Lovers of all types. And then there’s Housekeeping, p. 85:

 

I love you like the Swiffer loves

the dust, deeply, with an

electrostatic charge.

 

Not the memory of an 18-year-old. But this funny little piece is the perfect spot for timid romantics, who aren’t sure about explicit poetry, to enter this collection. You, buttoned-down person, this is your door. Get on board.

 

15. Osculation – another word I never use. Why is that? Kissing, after all, has been overdone.

 

16. And the light slips away as the train nears the end. We exit with this small rain (no title case intentional) on p. 100-101. We all search for salvation wherever we can:

 

this small rain kamikazes

in the gutter

suicides on summer sidewalks

dreams of a deluge

that overflows the river banks

washes L.A. clean

 

Power. Abuse. Sex. Why are they so intertwined for humans? Savvy girls learn early how to navigate their way among them as a means of survival, how to wield their own power when they can. Sometimes joy and respect are elusive, knocked out of reach by other things that masquerade as the same. How long that road is to genuine love.

How well Alexis Rhone Fancher splays out, in all their raw and messy explicitness, the deceptively tempting detours.

Be brave. Step into this book.

– Kathleen Cassen Mickelson, Co-Editor, Gyroscope Review

 

If you are interested in hearing some of these poems as well as pieces from other books by Alexis Rhone Fancher, visit http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com/audio/ .

To order a copy of Enter Here, click here.

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