Books

Ice Mountain: An Elegy

cover of Ice MountainPhoenicia Publishing, 2017. PRINT: 132 pages, $14.95.

A poetic diary of linked verses chronicling the slow end of winter in a warming world.

Dave Bonta asks in Ice Mountain: An Elegy, “What else have I failed to notice?” And like the best elegies, it’s in Bonta’s close, daily observations that we are instructed in what still remains and what has gone missing. With spare language and his instinctive use of metaphor, Bonta demonstrates a consciousness willing to do battle with those who have, as he writes, pinned down Ice Mountain “with turbines / like a felled mammoth / the spears still quivering.” We should be thankful for such poems that remind us of the precious offering the world makes. I can’t think of anything better to do this winter than to follow this poet’s counsel and “get a bowl of fresh snow / not to eat but just to admire / like cut flowers.”

—Todd Davis, author of Winterkill and In the Kingdom of the Ditch

Breakdown: Banjo Poems

cover of Breakdown: Banjo PoemsSeven Kitchens Press, 2013. Number Nine in the Keystone Chapbook Series. PRINT: 26 pages, $9.00.

A series of poems exploring the fraught history and often contradictory associations of that most American of instruments.

These captivating poems unfurl from associative narratives about banjos, yet the series far exceeds merely clever variations on a theme. Since no instrument can choose its player, music connects humanity at its most diverse, and these poems take full advantage of that simple truth. Through unusual settings, believable personification, and strong movement, these banjo poems invite us to consider the origins of the instrument and its history, the diversity of its players, the politics of race and religion, and a great deal more. It’s a concert that’ll make you say, ‘Oh yeah’ and ‘Wow.’

—Sascha Feinstein, author of Misterioso and Adjanta’s Ledge

Twelve Simple Songs

Twelve Simple SongsA free, multi-format chapbook of love poems.

The long A of your name
had sounded in my ear for years.
I looked for you in leaves
& found you among needles.
I looked for you on foot
& found you among the bees,
golden with the dust
of unseen blooms.

Odes to Tools

Odes to Tools coverPhoenicia Publishing, 2010. PRINT: 32 pages; $6.95 | EBOOK for Kindle or EPUB readers, $2.99

These poems represent an attempt to come up with a lyrical critique of teleology — the belief that nature or history can be explained by some sort of ultimate purpose or design. Sometime in my late teens, when, like a lot of earnest young people, I was wrestling with questions about the meaning or purpose of life, it occurred to me that that line of questioning itself might be flawed, because it assumes that we are somehow tools, products of a toolmaker — someone with an ultimate plan for us. This notion, comforting as it may be to some people, fills me with dread: to think that your role in life is intrinsic, unalterable, utilitarian!

But then with these poems, I was asking, what if one actually is a tool? Doesn’t a favorite tool often become more than just an instrument of the worker’s will? Doesn’t every successful tool in fact acquire a bit of an aura, sometimes even a personality? The more I worked on these poems, the shallower my original insight seemed. How well do any of us really know the tools we take for granted? All that said, these are pretty straight-forward poems, I think. (Read sample poems at Via Negativa.)

Words on the Street

Words on the Street coverBauble Tree Books, 2011. PRINT: 224 pages; $15.46 | Kindle, $0.99; ePub for Nook, iPad, etc., $1.54

109 satirical cartoons. Years before Twitter, there was Words on the Street, originally an almost daily feature and still a regular source of LOLs at Via Negativa. Street-wise and laconic, Diogenes is a mendicant and social commentator who literally sleeps on everything he writes. “Bonta’s words are given another layer of meaning by their fixed context, the unchanging homeless character whose placard they grace. “Friend Me” takes on a completely different significance seen here, as opposed to on one’s favorite social networking site. Each page I flick to raises a smile and then asks me to come back to it and think, and then to think again. In this book Dave moves towards cementing his reputation as satirist and as an important contemporary gadfly.” –Kaspalita Thompson, Pureland Buddhist priest and ukelele player

The Book of Ystwyth: Six poets on the art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins

The Book of Ystwyth coverCarolina Wren Press in association with Gray Mare Press and the National Library of Wales, 2011. PRINT: 96 pages; $15.95

All eight of my poems written in response to Clive’s “Temptations of Solitude” paintings are included, with gorgeous, full-color reproductions of details from the paintings on facing pages. And I’m in great company, including Marly Youmans and the incomparable Callum James.

Stories of saints and beasts, dark worlds of folk tradition, inanimate objects as actors on a stage, other-worldly landscapes — all these tumble from the drawings and paintings of Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who has been described by Simon Callow as “one of the most individual and complete artists of our time.” Over the past dozen years, many writers have been prompted to give word to the unspoken narratives in Hicks-Jenkins’ images. This beautifully produced poetry book offers twenty-seven poems, many published here for the first time, placed alongside 35 images that inspired them or reflect them. Experiencing these images and poems together will take readers on imaginative journeys of their own, reflecting on the rich themes running through the pairings.

Shadow Cabinet

Shadow Cabinet coverFree, Creative Commons-licensed online collection

83 poems written between 1995 and 2007, most of them since I began blogging.

Living under a rock, you won’t have heard
anything from the digital revolution.
But voices sound so much better
for traveling down through the body
& coming out the delicate bones in the feet.
Words sound like the thoughts that bore them,
grave & resonant.
“Advice for Prospective Troglodytes”

Spoil: selected older poems

Spoil coverFree, Creative Commons-licensed online collection

56 poems written between 1987 and 2005, gathered into five short cycles: poems from my time in Japan, persona poems, narratives from Plummer’s Hollow, five responses to passages in the Bible, and nine sketches, ending with a “Self-Portrait at Birth.”