The Powow River Poets Anthology II
Edited by Paulette Demers Turco
172 pages ~ 111 poems
Price: $22.95
Publisher: Able Muse Press
ISBN: 9781773490755 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781773490762 (ebook)
To Order:

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

The dedicatory poem for The Powow River Poets Anthology II is “The Effect of Hearing
the Sublime,” by David Berman. The penultimate phrase is Steer toward the music.
Berman, who channels figures from Homer’s Odyssey alludes to the power of poetry to
move life irresistibly toward the sublime. Poetry elevates the ordinary to the
extraordinary; the soloist telescopes into an ensemble, the ensemble into an orchestra.
The artist creates, through his poems, shelters where fortunate readers may process their
feelings, reaching new levels of praise about how good it is to be alive. Berman, though
no longer with us, still speaks with a voice not to be ignored.

Twenty-seven members of Powow River Poets contributed a variety of poems which
comprise the volume. While free verse poems are salt and peppered throughout, the
majority of poems are formal verse. I compare the poems to an orchestra with many
different instruments all of which contribute to the symphony.


Any symphony needs a theme. While many poems would qualify for this foundational
role, Powow River Poets’ cofounder Rhina P. Espaillat’s beautiful villanelle “Guidelines”
definitely sets the tone:

       Here’s what you need to do, since time began:
       find something—diamond-rare or carbon-cheap,
       it’s all the same—and love it all you can.

       It should be something close—a field, a man,
       a line of verse, a mouth, a child asleep—
       that feels like the world’s heart since time began.

       Don’t measure much or lay things out or scan;
       don’t save yourself for later, you won’t keep;
       spend yourself now on loving all you can.

       It’s going to hurt. That was the risk you ran
       with your first breath; you knew the price was steep,
       that loss is what there is, since time began

       subtracting from your balance. That’s the plan,
       too late to quibble now, you’re in too deep.
       Just love what you still have, while you still can.

       Don’t count on schemes, it’s far too short a span
       from the first sowing till they come to reap.
       One way alone to count, since time began:
       love something, love it hard, now, while you can.

Indeed, if art isn’t about love, what then, is art about? In his sonnet “Dawn” David
Davis loves early morning’s “flaring of the skies,” and “wonders what advantages we gain,”
in his “convoluted brain, / [as] the neurons fire, the sweet endorphins flow.” In “Winter Boats,”
Jean L. Kreiling, loves the simple task of stowing a skiff away for the winter, leaving “her high
and dry /and heavy with a longing for July.”


The music slows down a bit, courtesy of Joan A. W. Kimball’s “Rhymes from a River”

       A stream so blue it mimics the sky,
       A dawn, a golden scar.
       A chain of mallards drifting by,
       A chain of geese afar.

Kimball steers toward the music as three subsequent stanzas of interlocking rhyming
lines create a lovely contemplative mood.

In “Burial for a Stray,” Don Kimball brings to mind the love we have for pets:

       Two dogs and a cat who knew you best
       came by and sat as I dug a hole.
       Azaleas bloom there where you rest.
       Two dogs, a cat, who knew you best,
       keep vigil here: at whose behest?
       Torn ear, one eye: life takes its toll.
       Two dogs and a cat who knew you best
       came by and sat. I dug the hole.

With Espaillat’s “love something, love it hard, now while you can,” in mind, we glide
into movement three with an uptick in tempo.


Here, readers encounter that for which Powow River Poets are best known: poetic
craftsmanship. These poets write accessible poems that reveal exceptional artistry. Terza
rima, sonnet, villanelle, triolet, heroic couplet, blank verse, and sestina highlight the list.
Like a woodwind ensemble, we enjoy the harmony of skill and thematic depth brought to
the page.


This deceptively simple French form requires true poetic craftsmanship; Anton Yakovlev,
is our teacher.

       Ask anyone who lived in Soviet times.
       It was at night that people went away.
       Faint blood in basements. Vague rumors of crimes.
       Ask anyone who lived in Soviet times.
       Quiet black Volgas gliding past stop signs.
       Limbs sticking out of trucks at break of day.
       As anyone who lived in Soviet times.
       It was at night that people went away.

In a series of complete sentences Yakovlev, stays faithful to the ABaAabAB rhyming
requirements of the triolet, as the form itself is indispensable to conveying the harsh
socio-political realities of life during Soviet times.

Terza Rima

If you’re a fan of this form, check out Anton Yakovlev’s "Peter’s Denial". It is a haunting
poem that may surprise one’s usual assumptions about subject matter. Yakovlev skillfully
uses the form’s aba/bcb/cdc rhyme scheme to weave a powerful common thread.

However, as I studied this poem and consulted with editor Paulette Demers Turco, a
fascinating mystery came to light. As the poem opens, a quick look at the stanzas and
rhyme scheme seem to be that of a terza rima, but the split on line four, and the next four
lines in the stanza, calls this into question and reveals a different rhyme scheme. "Peter’s
Denial" is actually a sonnet: the volta is classically, after line 8 and the rhyme scheme is
revealed at line six and following as: aba / bcdcd / efe / fgg. The stanza breaks,
appropriately placed for the meaning of the poem as the narrative unfolds, hide the
classic abab / cdcd / efef / gg for a Shakespearian sonnet. Look for this remarkable poem
on page 131.


Paulette Demers Turco’s "Singer," brings the reader into her mother’s sewing room, where
she paints a vivid picture of love expressed through unparalleled sewing skills. A
daughter’s touching tribute to:

       The last time mother closed her sewing machine,
       she’d sown my sister’s gown of silk and lace,
       a veil with pearls, fulfilling her own wish.
       The house, now her own space, would have no hum.
       She’d reached the private goal she’d set herself:
       to dress each daughter till her wedding day …

Turco sustains the emotional momentum, without flagging, through the six sestets and
ending tercet … this is a creation you won’t want to miss.


Your reviewer has been lifted emotionally and intellectually by these superbly crafted
poems. As the curtain begins to fall … it seems fitting to end with Kyle Potvin’s poem
“Love Note:”

       Unseen, she tucked it in her lover’s coat
       while he was busy packing up his clothes
       and laptop for a week away. The note
       might be discovered on the plane. Who knows?
       Or still much later in a hotel room
       before he settles into bed alone.
       Alone. She feels a sudden sense of doom
       about things left undone and things unknown.
       What if the letter falls out like a glove,
       lost in a crowded airport ticket line,
       then stamped by ruthless heels that can’t feel love?
       She wishes she had sent a clearer sign—
       concealed her words where only he could see,
       tattooed beneath his skin, indelibly.

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