Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Review of PURSUIT in Home Planet News Online, Issue 7

  G. E. Schwartz / Review
                                             PURSUIT: by Karen Neuberg, Kelsay Books Inc. (2019)
                                                                   80 pages: $16.00

The epigraphs to a poetry collection are a good place to judge its seriousness. I always have a fondness for those that mix high culture and low: Doctor Faustus and the Vengaboys, William Carlos Williams and Bruce Springsteen. Karen Neuberg’s new collection has two: Virginia Woolf and Alice Notely.

Serious whole cloth, then. Committed. Not afraid to invoke the essentials of our canon.

Then turn the page and receive the first offering, “Aesthetics”. Not just poetry, but admonition — to “Leer,/ show teeth-/ or budge that fat ass/ click your doudy heels;/ pyrotechnics turn a mirror/ to a moon.” --a slice of life, like a saucy message channeled from the ancients.

To read these poems is to be instantly, wondrously infected with perplexity. These poems make us look for what, inside language, we may have not necessarily known what we are looking for. In each poem, precariously poised as Neuberg is between syntactical newness and each free act of the mind, she purges us out of our anticipation of what the creative act is. Thus, as in the same manner as Susan Howe, John Ashbury and Barbara Guest, poetries of vibrance, meditation and great music, Neuberg’s poetry reveals itself behind the multiple (and often embedded) levels that reality for her, from one poem to the next, takes on. This is how we find a poet writing always amid the flash point of creation and re-creation, identity and non-identity, a poetry testing itself perilously at the frontiers of both verbal experiment and perception.

                                                   The door to the endless (quoting in full):
Is closing! Must run!
Will I? Won’t I?
Something’s going

Quick enough to measure.

I rush to keep what’s left
Of what’s leaving.

Neuberg’s words cascade from night branches straight into our weltered bedclothes, each phrase a bobbling surprise, light and dark and more astonishment, and at times hilarious too, until all a day-dreaming and lucid dreaming are tucked in snug.

The poems never lose the intensity of personal speech, never take on another voice or mask, but they also touch on the existence, both positive and sometimes fraught, of our lives, the things we shy away from and hate to revisit. Regrets. The hard business of living. The Finite. And Faith. They remind me throughout of Colette’s advice to a young writer: “Look for a long time at what pleases you, and longer still at what pains you.”

They are worthy of a good long look.



Sunday, January 19, 2020

Review of "the elephants are asking"

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Poem366: “the elephants are asking” by Karen Neuberg

the elephants are asking by Karen Neuberg, Glenview, Illinois: Glass Lyre Press, 2018

Unrelenting. That’s a good word to describe Karen Neuberg’s chapbook the elephants are asking, a collection that sounds a clear alarm about the environmental catastrophe that some refer to as “looming,” but that is clearly happening all around us.

The title poem lays the responsibility for addressing the issue squarely at the feet of the reader. It states,

the elephants are asking—

and the bees and the bats, the prairie dogs, the lemurs, the dolphins—one in six species—asking!

And the coral reefs, the rivers & oceans, the islands & shorelines—asking!

The poem goes through a longer list before nothing that the baby, with wiggling toes and plump arms, is asking. “Even God is asking,” Neuberg writes. With urgent work to be done, these animals and babies are asking us what we plan to do about the situation, and maybe why it exists.

The poem I liked most in the collection is called “Information,” and it starts with an epigraph by Gertrude Stein: “Everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” It’s a powerful indictment, I can say after noting that I have been on phone or internet this entire day as I write this. It’s no wonder the environment has gone to hell; its caretakers are asleep at the wheel. Writes Neuberg,

I see another spectacle blocking my view,
another fad slipping into my bed.
The cave walls are filled with conflicting shadows
demanding attention in urgent & dazzling tones.
How small respect has become. …

The poem points out that a barrage of information is “burying us beneath ourselves,” and perhaps there is such a thing as “TMI.”

Look, it’s not an optimistic collection, and the keening, desperate feeling of those who care about the world is summed up in “Occupy Today.” “I have seen falling / continue to increase its pace,” the poem states, and continues,

Some days I want only
my mother. Some days I want to wrap
my arms around the world. I see
the future falling at accelerating speed.

But there is one beautiful poem that does offer a glimmer of hope, and in fact it reminds me of the folk song “If I Had a Hammer”; written in an era of tremendous turmoil and struggle, that anthem acknowledges the power of one person to make a difference. So does “If all I have is a teaspoon,” located near the end of this chapbook:

If all I have is a teaspoon

and if there’s a calamity; say, a raging fire,
then I’ll carry my teaspoon
filled with water and I’ll pour it on
the raging fire and I’ll go back and get
more water and that’s what I’ll do …

The poem describes a small act—an act so small that it feels inconsequential—but any act is better than none at all, and there remains a hope that thousands or millions or even billions of others will add their own teaspoons, and together we might find salvation.

Review by Karen Craigo (Karen KC on FB) on her blog 
Better View of the Moon Poem 366 at

About Karen Craigo

Karen Craigo is the Poet Laureate of the State of Missouri. She is also the editor of The Marshfield Mail newspaper in Marshfield, Missouri, as well as the author of the poetry collections Passing Through Humansville (Sundress Publications, 2018) and No More Milk (Sundress Publications, 2016). She writes here regularly about the writer's spirit.

Would you like to submit a poetry book for essay consideration? Feel free to send a hard copy to Karen Craigo, 723 S. McCann Ave., Springfield MO 65804. Books should be from 2018 or later.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Review of PURSUIT by Ellen Pober Rittberg in Poetrybay's January 2020 Roundup


Pursuit, by Karen Neuberg (Kelsay Books, 2019)

Karen’s Neuberg’s book of poems Pursuit seethes simmers shimmies
professes analyzes questions confesses whispers and each poem
works its power in such a satisfying way. It’s mastery of craft
coupled with knowledge, insight, intensity and yes, a wisdom 
that age and intellect have conferred about the human mind 
and soul, and how she — and we — think, experience, live.

Such freshness of expression! Just a few examples — there are so many, how to choose? —

In her opening poem Aesthetics part 2, she begins with: “Amber plum over the soul”
and ends with, “let moon return to gong.”

or in Blue Whispers: “lake soul reflecting sky bone.”

Neuberg uses the natural world in such a fresh, invigorating way. In Companion,
she writes: “what pours from the soul/ of the world, those parts/ under stones
on the silver/ side leaf shows to rain, /the rain itself.” 

In her prose poem Couldn’t Be More she writes: “Even a flower couldn’t be more open.”

Not only is she especially adept at the short poem, she demonstrates equal
proficiency of the multi-part poem, the prose poem and erasure. In what seems to be
the logical conclusion to her erasure poem, Cache: the end note reads:
Erasure of my entire chapbook Myself Taking Stage

Her poetry has power not only in its bowl-you-over individual lines but in its unerring
ability to be satisfying wonderfully crafted wholes that end with a crescendo that affixes
the poem in the mind and soul.

Let there be no doubt that in her poetry, age has conferred wisdom. 

The concluding stanza of Bridges reads:
“Y of center span-latest years./How can we say our particular accumulation?
What can we say without it crumbling?” 

Or in How This Hour’s Raw Beauty Came to Enter Without Leave — what a great title!—
she writes: “Had I known before hand,/I still could not/have foreseen
what emptying/leaves room for.”

Need I say I highly recommend this?

--Ellen Pober Rittberg

see: https://www.facebook.com/notes/poetrybay/a-january-poetry-chapbook-round-up/2816521578398772/

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Abbreviated Review of PURSUIT

With thanks to Gerald Schwartz. Full review is forthcoming.

Karen Neuberg
Kelsay Press
To read the poems in this collection is to be instantly. Wondrously infected with perplexity. These poems make us look for what, inside language, we may have not yet necessarily known we were looking for. In each poem, precariously poised as Neuberg is between syntactical newness and each free act of the mind, she purges us of our anticipation of what the creative act is. Thus, as in the same manner as Susan Howe, Marie Ponsot and Barbara Guest and Martha Collins, poetries of vibrance, meditation and great music, Neuberg’s poetry reveals itself behind the multiple (and often embedded) levels that reality for her, from one poem to the next takes on. This is how we find a poet writing always amid the flash point at frontiers of both verbal experiment and perception.
The door to the endless (quoting in full):
Is closing! Must run!
Will I? Won’t I?
Something’s going
Quick enough to measure.
I rush to keep what’s left
Of what’s leaving.
* * *


Huge thanks to Patricia Carragon for this review of "the elephants are asking" and to John Murphy, editor of The Lake, for publishing it. What a happy start to 2020. (There's also a link to the Glass Lyre website to purchase the book!)

Karen Neuberg, the elephants are asking, Glass Lyre Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-941783-43-6. 38pp. $12.00

The call to activism is apparent in the Age of Trump and in Karen Neubergs latest chapbook, the elephants are asking, from Glass Lyre Press. With the escalating destruction of the planet and wildlife, Neubergs poetry has taken a new direction. The rising oceans are dying in a sea of plastic and fossil fuel. Trophy killers smile for selfies. The air is unfit to breath. Rainforests make way for humans, sending the original inhabitants into extinction. Ice caps are melting, and the last polar bears and penguins will die in captivity. If bees wont be around to pollinate, humankind will disappear, a prediction given by Albert Einstein.

In Part I, Neuberg introduces the ecological emergency and describes its heartbreaking effects. Her poem, Evidence, tells of the wisdom of the oceans accrued over time. However, time is running out for the oceans. She alerts the reader that observation and tears aren’t enough:

Evidence is crude
& wide. Watch & watch more.

No time for complacency. Weeping
is not sufficient.

Her message intensifies in Climate Lag Time.” This poem is more than excerpts from reports. Neuberg strings them together, word by word, into a visual necklace, camouflaged as a noose—a warning for the human race to take heed:

Another oil spill/pipeline rupture
Coral reefs dying around the world
Red algae in the arctic snows
Bees and other flying insect populations declining worldwide
Nuclear and methane leaks
Hottest days on record . . .

Her warnings are also for our future generations. Her poem, Perpetuity, predicts what children might have to face a hundred years from now. The fish would not be told, nor would the birds be warned that the water would be radioactive. The children wouldnt be able to imbibe milk. Fathers would weep, as mothers place masks on their children. The final words, scarier than science fiction:

 . . . Whoever remains
will hear the stories,

which will grow like cancers.
Whatever remains
will glow in the dark

bone by bone.

Her poem, the elephants are asking—,” sums up what Neuberg means by “asking.”
The repetition of asking with exclamation marks, clearly expresses the urgency of the ecological crisis. From the elephants, bees, bats, dolphins, coral reefs, rivers, oceans, redwoods, rainforests, and more— “asking! Even a babys toes, chubby arms, cheeks, and eyes are asking! The ending touches on a religious perspective: “. . . Asking! Even God is asking.”

In Part II, Neuberg focuses more on the consequences of climate change. She begins with “Old Game,” a poem about the last children on earth playing a game that was passed down from their parents. They pretend that they are animals—walk on all fours, jump, leap, snort, flap arms, and make animal-like sounds—recite each animals name. But this is not a happy game, because they are in mourning:

And with each name said,
a child raises an arm.

And this is the old game the children play.
And its name is Sorrow.

The poem, If all I have is a teaspoon, is perhaps the most ominous or hopeful piece in the book. Neuberg is trying to put out a raging inferno with a teaspoon of water. The ecological crisis is a wildfire that has gone global. She knows a teaspoon of water wont halt or terminate the flames, but persistence is her goal:

unless I find a bucket to fill and pour,
or a power hose to flush it all away,
and I will never stop helping
the greening to return.

Karen Neubergs poems are touching and gut-wrenching, as well as compelling and educational. the elephants are asking is a call to activism. The environmental fire rages on, but watching the flames and crying isnt going the solve climate change. Address the problems, even with a teaspoon filled with water. The author is asking!

 Patricia Carragon

To order this book click here


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Happily came across another brief review of "the elephants are asking" in misfitmagazine. Thank you Alan Catlin, Editor.
Karen Neuberg, the elephants are asking, Glass Lyre Press, www.glasslyrepress.com, 26 pages, 2018, npl
This is a small book with a big message: save the planet before it is too late. Each small, well- wrought poem, beseeches the reader to consider that it is not enough to understand species are being made extinct, climate change is real, the environment is being fouled: “While it is still possible/ to choose to not look/ it is impossible to continue/ to not see.” Alas in the age of Trump, where the secretaries of all the agencies that oversee these problems are chosen specifically to exacerbate these disasters for the good of all corporate kind. To Neuberg’s lasting credit, she refuses to give up. These poem are not mere diatribes or polemical dissertations, but a barely suppressed cry for reason and common sense, tightly written and of the highest artistic merit. When it comes to planets, there is no Option B.