“Coastal Shelf”; “Speaking Parts”; “Erotic”

Zebulon Huset, a widely published poet who lives in San Diego, recently launched an on-line literary magazine, COASTAL SHELF. According to the editor’s note in issue number 4, which was published this month, over 3000 submissions arrived for this issue’s consideration. I feel fortunate to have survived the winnowing process and to have one one of the dozen poems in the magazine, which also includes an animated poetry feature and three piece of fiction. Of the other poems that I’ve read so far, my favorites are: “Ducks, Cheese, and Anxiety” by Cathy Bryant, “Another World the Equal of This One” by Roy Bentley; and “A Water Boatman the Size ofa Peppercorn Uses its Penis as a Fiddle to Attract a Mate” by B.R. Dionysius.

You can find the entire issue at:

Issue 4: Cover

The title of the magazine, by the way, is a reference to an image in Larkin’s “This Be the Verse.” The opening lines of Bryant’s poem certainly reinforce the trope:

“I’ve been scrambling my brains all morning,
not to think of a particular thing but just to stop
the whole castle sinking into mud”

We know the feeling all too well, I’m afraid, though it has helped me considerably to be in the company of six dozen serious working poets this week. I’m attending the “Community of Writers” that has met annually near Lake Tahoe for over 50 years, though due to the pandemic’s impact on planning, the conference is taking place online. So far it is going very well. The level of writing is far above what one might expect at such a gathering. Although I was never enrolled in the Idyllwild Poetry Festival as anything other than a featured reader at the culminating event on Saturday afternoons, I did spend what time I could get off from teaching a fiction writing class in the summer at Idyllwild to attend various events, including the student readings. The level of work by those in the workshops was fairly uneven, though one of the aspiring poets who attended Idyllwild has recently had a break-through debut publication.

Beth Ruscio’s “SPEAKING PARTS” is one of the best books published in the past several years, and I am happy to report that sales of the book are affirming my estimate of the quality of the writing. Paul Vangelisti, whose efforts on behalf of other poets never cease to amaze me, has written a review of Ruscio’s book that appeared in a recent issue of Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB).

“Beth Ruscio’s first book-length collection, Speaking Parts (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2020), is a significant addition to Los Angeles poetry written by and about actors and acting (Harry Northup and Michael Lally readily come to mind). There’s both energy and precision in Ruscio’s verse, as she approaches her avocation as a poet with the same determined play she practices as an actor.”


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The other book that equally deserves your attention right now is Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “EROTIC: New and Selected Poems” from New York Quarterly Press. That, too, has just been reviewed. Here are some of the most pertinent of Ann Wehrman’s comments, which I fervently endorse.

Reflecting on erotic experiences as an adult and reaching back into girlhood, the narrative and prose poems chronicle passionate encounters and relationships in vignettes that sizzle with sensory detail. ….. The poems in Erotic explode with life force, raging against restriction, while the speaker is simultaneously subdued, almost as if wearing an emotional ankle monitor. In poem after poem, the apparent realization that uncensored license has resulted mostly in suffering, not happiness or lasting love, reminds the reader of the unresolved ethical dualism with which society oppresses women and with which women oppress themselves.
….. Erotic speaks directly, claiming the right to voice the power of sexuality that arguably belongs to all people …. Despite the frequent bleakness of the poems, Fancher also seems to suggest that as long as living hearts beat, chances for healing remain.

Alexis Rhone Fancher’s Erotic: New & Selected, Reviewed by Ann Wehrman

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