Monthly Archives: December 2021

Poetry Review — Selected Poems by Herman Gorter


Selected Poems by Herman Gorter (translated by Lloyd Haft) is a collection of poetry from The Netherlands greatest poet, and presented for the first time in English. Gorter was a Dutch poet and socialist. He was a leading member of the Tachtigers, a highly influential group of Dutch writers who worked together in Amsterdam in the 1880s, centered on De Nieuwe Gids. Haft is an American-born Dutch poet, translator, and sinologist. He has been living in the Netherlands since 1968. Haft was educated at Harvard College and Leiden University.

This is a bit like an archeologist discovering a new civilization or physicist discovering a new particle. Gorter has been mostly hid from the non- Dutch world until recently. The reason for his obscurity is because of the language he wrote. The Dutch language is filled with words that have multiple meanings (that can play on each other) and don’t readily translate into English. If that is not difficult enough Gorter also liked to distort his own language to make things fit. Haft explains this in great detail in the introduction to the poems. He also tries to capture the original intent of the poems at the price of rhythm schemes. Haft also gets creative with English words that actually expand their meaning.

This collection comes in three parts outside of the introduction. The first part is from Gorter’s Verses (1890). The second section is from his political work Pan. The final section in titled Lyrics. Verses provides a welcoming introduction to Gorter’s style of poetry. The words paint a complex picture of the poet’s experience. Here, the reader, will see the difficulty of the task that Haft faced in this undertaking. Like Gorter, Haft had to become creative with his language. The result amazing. Haft pulls out archaic words and when that fails, he makes a few of his own — clingleafed up and down, her golden eyes of daydawning, and the twigtrees draw back to their meager leaning. The newly coined words are poetic in themselves.

Gorter is also a man of themes. The word gold (as a metal or meaning precious) is used fifty-six times in the collection. Eyes are also used fifty-six times in the collection. The “all of All” appears twenty-five times in the collection, and has several forms but mostly it is light or the divine.

Someday you’ll be one
with the all of All,
your golden limbs extending through the knowledges of all the

This is a collection of poetry that the translator must be given a great deal of credit. It was said translating Gorter wasn’t difficult, it was impossible. Gorter’s words of nature and self are incredible and relayed to the reader in what must be a near perfect experience. When Gorter turns to Marxism the change is as sudden as a gunshot:

You died, And why? because you were murdered by capital
But by the workers
Who left you alone with your attackers.

Gorter also has a softer side for revolution. In a long four-part poem Rosa Luxembourg is Beatified in verse that rivals the Assumption of Mary. For poetry lovers looking to discover something new that rivals the greats of the past look to Gorter.

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Book Review: Science Goes Viral: Captivating Accounts of Science in Everyday Life

Science goes Viral by Dr. Joe Schwarcz is a pop science book for the masses. Schwarcz is Director of McGill University’s “Office for Science and Society” which has the mission of separating sense from nonsense. He is well known for his informative and entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the chemistry of food to the connection between the body and the mind. Recently the Office has focused on trying to unravel the mysteries of COVID-19.

Schwarcz covers two areas in this book. The first section exhaustively covers COVID19 and examines the science and disinformation that has spread with the virus from vaccines to home remedies. Schwarcz uses the Spanish Flu for a comparison and shows similar reactions of the general public. His tone and demeaner are straight forward and in a way the successful popular pop science “stars.” There is a bit of Bill Nye, James Burke (Connections), and bit of “dad” in the form of his jokes ending each chapter.

The remainder of the book goes into modern science, disinformation, and old wives’ tales. The topics range from ginger ale, Plexiglas, selenium, Red Die #2, tobacco, and essential oils. All topics are easy to understand by the non-science reader. Some topics come from the recent news like the woman who mistook Gorilla Glue for hair spray to the more historical like Red Dye #2 which many my age will remember. There is even the unexpected story like how an American became a Hero of the Russian Republic and the Andromeda Strain.

Science goes Viral is easy to understand and listen to. The narrator, Raoul Bhaneja, does an excellent job at reading. He is confident and comfortable in his delivery, so much so, that I kept thinking the narrator’s voice was the author’s voice. A listener can tell when the narrator is unfamiliar in the subject he or she is reading. The author and narrator compliment each other well in Science Goes Viral. Well worth the read for those with an interest in science, but not necessarily the background.

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Book Review — A Coin for the Ferryman

I am just getting back into the swing of reviewing again and was looking for something fairly light and interesting after reviewing two poetry collections. I majored in history as an undergraduate and enjoy science fiction, so this seemed like a good pick. The premise of the story sounded solid so I gave it a chance. My willing suspension of disbelief is rather well developed. I know the transporter in Star Trek is beyond any scientific plausibility, but it does speed the story along. I know wizards and dragons don’t exist, but they do make an interesting fantasy story. The same goes for time travel. Other than looking at the night sky and seeing a star as it was millions of years ago, you aren’t going to jump in a machine and travel into the past…but it does make a good story. H.G. Wells and others have used a time machine in their stories quite successfully.

That being said, for the amount of detail given to the characters, more could have been done explaining the science (fiction). Caesar didn’t seem too fazed to be ripped out of his time and pulled into the tail end of the twentieth century. Seeing cars as horseless chariots without giving them another thought was a bit bothering. Also driving in Las Vegas didn’t cause a mild panic attack on a person who never even experienced a light bulb. If the characters had a desire to know more about Caesar, why not go themselves into the past and document it?

The story was read by Mark Ashby who is known for his documentary style reading. Ashby does have a good voice for documentaries. He sounds like a national news reader from the 1970s (level with minimal emotion) but with a slight Jimmy Stewart twang. His style however does not mesh well this type of story. At first, his voice seemed to work, reporting the background, but reading characters voices in that same manner just didn’t seem to work.

A Coin for the Ferryman has the potential to be an interesting read, however, it needs more work and help in keeping the story line on track.

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Book Review — A Sibil Society

A Sibil Society by Katherine Factor is the poets first published collection of poetry. Factor is an editor and educator that has read poems at the Nevada Test Site. She earned her MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa and has held writer-in-residence positions at Idyllwild Arts Academy and Interlochen Arts Academy.

First off this is not an easy collection of poetry. It is not “Instagram poetry.” That being said, the reader should also know that is not this is not traditional lyrical poetry either, although it does contain some lyrical aspects in places. The alliteration is amazing. It connects words and ideas, that many times would not seem to mesh, seamlessly. I also enjoyed the touch with classical Greek mythology intermixed in with modern texting shorthand: something very traditional with something very new — Delphi Selfie.

The writing style brought to mind some of the AI generated text to image pictures that I have seen. At first glance, everything seems normal and expected, but on closer examination nothing is as it seems or even describable. The poetry has the same effect at times. As in the poem “Pleasure Centaur,” the reader is forced to pay attention to the smallest details or miss the bigger meaning.

Factor is also not afraid to use words that, I expect, many others do not know. I found myself reading the dictionary almost as much as I read the poems. Factor also likes to use words that almost mimic what we expect to see. Even the title works this pattern. One would expect “Civil Society” rather than “Sybil Society.” We expect to see “we travel the countryside,” not the author’s “we travail the countryside.” Other times phrases take on deeper meanings. “Lady with the Lamp” uses fire throughout, but one line caught my attention — “Fire of the destroyer, welding this war.” Fire is destroying but it holds together war by joining the opposing sides in conflict.

While much of the poetry would be considered experimental, it is approachable for those with patience to get lost inside the lines. It is not literal poetry but poetry that encourages thinking and embracing the abstract. A well done and complex first work from the author.

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Book Review — Outrage: Level 10

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Outrage: Level 10 by Lucy Leitner is a novel of a possible future. Leitner is a journalist and advertising writer from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She holds a master’s degree in journalism but has turned her interest to writing. Leitner has written several books, including Working Stiffs, and also had her shorter works published in anthologies and at

In Leitner’s future a revolution changed America. Like so many revolutions, it was based on ideals, fairness, equality, and the good of the people. What happens after the revolution, like so many other revolutions, is vastly different from the original goals. The goals are still there but corrupted. It happened throughout history in the French and Russian revolutions, for example. What started as healthcare for all, an end to violence, and offensive behavior ends in mob rule egged on by key figures.

Several modern themes are carried to their limits: the role of the police, sensitivity/offensive names and behaviors, ending violence, our attachment to social media, and what Rousseau would call the general will. An interesting theme that is lightly played throughout the novel, and perhaps explains how society evolved into chaos, is the people’s lack of understanding of history. The people know the Holocaust and Tuskegee but don’t grasp the details or make the details fit their thinking.

At first, I thought this novel may have been a little simplistic on details, but I quickly came to realize that it was part of the satire of the new society. Leitner combines a unique type of humor in a dystopian society that seems to lift the reader above the harshness of the society. The characters are well developed and believable as well as the general plot. Leitner takes the seeds of today and lets them thrive in an uncontrolled environment of tomorrow. Thomas Jefferson said, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” Leitner shows us a democracy that rests on the foundation of an emotional electorate. Well Done.

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