Thursday, August 24, 2017


Chris Rice Cooper 

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**Contact BoSeon Shim at

BoSeon Shim’s
Someone Always In The Corner Of My Eye
“The Pile of Communion”

During life I scatter my bits of my soul here and there,
on every side of night, in all the corners of day
lest anyone should rake them
into a pile again.

--Excerpt, “The Soul Between Two Trees”

On October 18, 2016 White Pine Press published Someone Always in the Corner of My Eye http://www.white
com/boseon.shim.1 as part of its Korean Voices Series (Volume 22); translated by YoungShil Ji & Daniel T. Parker;; with cover art “Revert 14” by Hyung Sook Oh

There is story that each embryo has an angel teaching them all the wisdom of the world.  Just before birth the angel lightly taps the infant's upper lip (which creates the philtrum) to erase all the secrets the infant knows in order to prevent the infant from disclosing those secrets. (illustration of baby attributed to Mark Anderson)
There is a debate of how this story originated  - some say through Jewish Mythology and others say it originated from screenwriter Richard Brooks who was ordered by director John Houston to rewrite the play Key Largo for the big move screen version by the same name.  

In the poem “Scratching My Philtrum” an angel visits the fetus with a message to forget everything it has learned.

You should begin your life as a very empty thing.
Finishing the remark with Shh, forget,
She gently touched my face
and a philtrum formed above my upper lip.

Boseon Shim described “Scratching My Philtrum” as the most compelling poem (from the collection) for him to write:  “I felt like there’s everything in it. Time, Space, human suffering, relationships, despair, hope.” (far right Boseon Shim)
In “Necessary Things” the speaker of the poem explains the importance of the angel’s message.

It’s necessary that the past remain a riddle.
That way, only one moment’s necessary
for everything to be understood,

The speaker of the poem in Someone Always In the Corner of My Eye tries to rediscover the secrets through the process of communion, which is defined as the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level. 
       He regains the knowledge by asking questions in the poem “Questions.” (above painting attributed to ShinYun bok)

I enjoy
questions that are heavy and subtle as coffee at a funeral home:

       In “To My Dear Words” he views words as messengers, which could be interpreted as the same angel sending a message of approval to the speaker of the poem and his lover. As a result he proclaims:

I’ve lived a life filled with joy.
(above painting attributed to Hyewon-Wloha Jeongin)
  In the second stanza he is in a cemetery reading the names of the tombstones of deceased people he loves.  In the last line of the second stanza he proclaims:

I’ve lived a life filled with sorrow.

In the next stanza he tries to find the right message or the right philosophy to include both joy and sadness. (painting Aroma of the Mind)

someday I’ll knead the shadow-fragments I’ve gathered in my life
and shape one huge word.
One word to fit perfectly
into the gap between joy and sorrow.

       In “Foreigners” he is able to commune with his father through his father’s journal, where he reads: My father wrote, “During a trip, you will certainly cry at/ least once.”  He then observes a blind foreigner who is lost, causing him to meditate on his father’s death.

I have been blind about my father
for a long time.
Because he died and is dead
I’ve been living and am alive.

He then goes to an art museum only to find it closed.  He tries to conjure up tears to exemplify his father’s statement but he is unable to; instead, he cries out a prayer of abandonment. 

Here no one knows
that I secretly pray for hope
that I am by nature an expert on redemption
that my name is
not Pei or Watanabe, or Thomas
that at present I’m
a nationless orphan
who has just been abandoned by the past.

In  “The Humor of Exclusion” James Joyce communes with the him by becoming his muse making him feel needed and accepted.

He spoke to me, almost whispering
“The Humor of Exclusion-
It’s the title for your nest poem;
write whatever you want with it
You don’t need to say I gave it t’you
It’s my special gift t’you.”
Mr. Joyce threw a wink at me.

      In “Open Friendship” the speaker of the poem communes with his own self through poetry:

You’re writing it with your own hand.
You endure,
your transparent hand throbbing endlessly.

  In “A Boy Answers His Own Question” the man is communing with the boy within who asks him a question.  Before the man can answer the question the boy must go on a journey of becoming an adult, but even then that will not make him wise. (right, The Dancing Boy attributed to Danwon-Mudong)

Cross this forest
and on the other side I’ll give you an iron answer,
but the person who answers isn’t wise.

In the last stanza he tells the boy that his satisfaction will be found in the big questions and not the small answers.

Boy, you hurl a question
that is the crumb of a bigger question
Cross this forest
and on the other side I’ll give you a fireball answer,
but it won’t be the gift you expect.
It will only be one sentence

In “the Soul Between Two Trees” he experiences abandonment because the sinner within him is at war with the child within him. 

With a timid sigh
I whisper, Where is my guardian angel?
Perhaps when I was born an angel shouted “Hurrah!”
then choked on a cloud, and fell     

  In “A Heart Gives Birth to a Future” the speaker of the poem counts each hear beat as he communes with Prometheus via the pages of a book. (Prometheus Brings the Fire attributed to Heinrich Friedrich Fuger)

Perhaps Prometheus’ descendant.
The dream that forged the corners of the book
still sears my fingers.

In the fourth stanza communion takes place between branches and flowers of nature. (right, attributed to Nam Gye-U)

Spring days, when a branch forms a green cross with another
a flower whispers secret flower language to another flower,
       He then sees a woman whom he describes as an emissary carrying the book of Prometheus in her hands.

she comes toward me, a flaming book in her hand.
When she reaches me, I’ll embrace her!


In “Fascination” the angel delivers a different message to the broken hearted lover.

the angel draws near the one in sorrow
because in love there must
be an angel to whisper Don’t forget.
       He also will do as the angel did – forgetting just enough to learn more secrets as excerpted from the poem “Time of Transformation”

Each night a burnt offering
As I placed flowers, incense and candles upon time’s grave,
Burning the memories of a hundred days.

       The one thing that Shim can never forget is the cosmic reason why he writes: “It’s more about transforming the memories to a sort of universe that would register to the senses of both me (the writer) and others (the readers).”

Based on the previous quote, it seems fitting to end this piece by the quoting the lines from the poem “Love Is My Weakness.”

A poem where a world of sorrow my language can never reach
spreads vividly, like a constellation across the night sky. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Analysis on John Gallaher's prose poem IN A LANDSCAPE . . .

Chris Rice Cooper 

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is. identified beneath the individual photo.

John Gallaher’s
In A Landscape
“The Problem With Happiness”

On October 14, 2014 BOA Editions, Ltd published In A Landscape by John Gallaher as part of its American Poets Continuum Series (No. 146.); cover design by Sandy Knight; and Interior Design and Composition by Richard Foerster  

                               John Gallaher

                                  Sandy Knight 

                                            Richard Foerster 

Gallaher’s other poetry collections are:  Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (With G.C. Waldrep)(BOA Editions, 2011); Map of the Folded World (University of Akron Press, 2009); The Little Book of Guesses (Four Way Books, 2007); and Gentlemen in Turbans, Ladies in Cauls (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001)

       Gallaher wrote In A Landscape between 2009 to 2014 detailing his past, his present family life with his young daughter Natalie and son Elliot and his wife Robin; broken relationships; death; his struggle with identity at being adopted at age three; violence; the difference between time and eternity; and the impact famous singers and poets have on his life.
  In A Landscape is a long prose poem that encourages a conversation with the reader; Gallaher in this conversation doesn’t scold or lecture but asks questions and these questions make the reader ponder the mundane as well as the large things in life.   
In the first stanza of “1” Gallaher presents us the reader with the problem of happiness:  Are we happy?  And what make us happy?

“Are you happy?”  That’s a good place to start, or maybe,
“Do you think you’re bappy?”  with its more negative
tone.  Sometimes you’re walking, sometimes falling.  That’s part
of the problem too, but not all of the problem.  Flowers out the window
or on the windowsill, and so someone brought flowers.
We spend a log time interested in which way the car would
best go in the driveway.  Is that the beginning of an answer?
Some way to say who we are?

Gallaher considers the possibility that in order to be happy one has to be ignorant about certain things

                                                          or knowing something
I didn’t want to know, as knowing things
brings a certain responsibility. 

In “XI” Gallaher questions the relationship between happiness, getting things done, and being nice.

We do, as we say, what has to be done.  The way things
are often, as we also say, at an impasse – when there’s no way to go
but through another person
in much the same predicament.  Does being a nice person
help?  And have I been a nice person?

In “XX1” Gallaher considers Kurt Vonnegut’s view of Heaven.

In heaven, according to Kurt Vonnegut’s
Play Happy Birthday, Wanda June, you are
Whatever age you were your happiest.

In “XX111” Gallaher once again relates ignorance to happiness in this conversation he shares with reader.

One of the best things about life
is that you don’t have to understand it
to catalog it.  It’s another part
of our conversation about usefulness.

In “XL11” Gallaher describes heaven as having the same smell as an airport (that heaven will smell/like an airport.); he then is on an airplane in flight and describes the landscape he sees below as sheets of music (I had an idea, looking down,/ that we’re living across a large score.); and then all of a sudden he hears music
(I swear I can hear music, sometimes quite loud, orchestral/ and oscillating); and soon he can hear the same music in other places such as the shower.  He is back on the airplane and has fond memories of his father who was a pilot; and then in the last one line stanza he contemplates the music, and the memories it has bought and he has only one question:  What’s not to love above this world then?     
 In “LXX” Gallaher responds to those great questions:  (What does a person need, finally?  What, specifically,/ do I need, beside water, air, and food?  “I have this/ and need nothing else.”  Or, as Thom Yorke has it, “I’m/ an animal/ trapped in your hot car// . . . I only stick with you// because there are no others.”)

Gallaher experiences happiness twice– the actual experience he writes about in the below verses; and the actual writing of the same verses.

                          This morning I’m sitting in my pickup
in front of the gym, drinking my coffee.  My door’s open
in the present tense.  (And now there’s a second now,
two hours later typing this up.)  And I have this feeling of complete happiness.

       In the next lines Gallaher tells the reader what is making him experience happiness.

                                                     I know where everyone is,
and everyone’s OK.  A song is playing on the radio,
“Exhaustible,” by DeVotchKa, that I like.

       In the next stanza Gallaher tells a story about a man who makes a deal with the devil – the devil will give him a watch if he promises to stop time when he is completely happy.  He is never completely happy and therefore cannot stop time.  He eventually dies, and is riding the train to hell when the Devil claims the man’s soul and the watch.

Perhaps the reason the man never experienced complete happiness is because he was looking for the magnificent when he should have been looking for the mundane.

We’re always happiest between things:  the rush, the
whoosh the empty space, the impossible
to estimate.

       Gallaher then looks on his own life and comes to the conclusion that he could push the button.

                                                       So, yes, the guy
pushes the button right there on the train, as I
should be pushing the button right now, I guess, only
there’s no button. 

Gallaher then blames art for giving us this falsehood that there is a button. 

                   It’s another of the ways
art tricks us, how we might think there’s a most

The last lines of “LXX” Gallaher reveals to the reader that happiness is not what we should be searching for.

And “happy” isn’t the right word.  The right word
is “Landscape,” or “I feel I’m on a train.”    

   In the last poem “LXXI” Gallaher tells the readers that we have more things in common than differences: we all have to live with one another, regardless if we are small or big; we are all on this search; we all have our own landscape; we all desire an “inner calmness”; we all want to matter; and we all are on our own journey of the individual landscape that begins with life and ends with death.

                                                              So we ask ourselves
what’s left there, and we don’t know.  But we start off anyway,
Because that’s what we do. And then one day we just stop.