BURN BABY BURN Paperback – April 20, 2022
Publisher : Cyberwit.net (April 20, 2022)
Language : English
- Paperback : 98 pages
- ISBN-10 : 8182539145
- ISBN-13 : 978-8182539143
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.25 x 8.5 inches
Life and the world with all its flaws portrayed through art.
A review of Roger Aplon’s collection – “Burn Baby Burn”
Poetry, in company with all art forms, has often been seen as a powerful means of expressing dissent or providing a critical commentary on current events and society as a whole. Percy Bysshe Shelley in his excoriating poem “England in 1819”, castigated the British Monarchy and their representatives following the massacre at Peterloo, while in similar vein a hundred years later, W.B. Yeats launched a verbal attack on those who resorted to violence to put down the 1916 easter rising. Both recognised the power of words to effectively express the mood of the day and thereby extend their following.
The Spanish civil war, portent of the far greater conflagration that followed in its immediate aftermath, led to the production of some of the most significant art of the twentieth century, from Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, through the novels of Ernest Hemingway and Arturo Barea, the memoirs of George Orwell and Laurie Lee, the photography of Robert Capa and of course, the poetry of Antonio Machado and Miguel Hernandez. These artists each continued a long-established tradition of commentary on critical events impacting the world, and in particular its most vulnerable inhabitants; a process continued today through the creative endeavours of artists such as Ai Wei Wei and the poets Franny Choi and Dorianne Laux who have focused on the destruction of the environment and its impact upon all life forms.
The critical analysis expressed through much of this latest collection from the American writer Roger Aplon is immediately evident through much of the work it features. As such it builds upon the inheritance of earlier artists such as those mentioned above. From the opening declaration of outrage against the macho posturing and environmental vandalism of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro in the titular piece ‘Burn Baby Burn,’ which mourns the loss of the precious fauna and flora of the Amazon, it is possible to discern a writer whose anger is palpable. Though this is not intended to suggest that the obvious angst within the work is not founded upon a reasoned response to the world. Indeed, the craftsmanship evident throughout the book provides adequate evidence of a considered interpretation having been given to both current and recent events.
The initial Opening pages of Aplon’s collection can be read as a litany of grief for those who have suffered war, persecution and environmental degradation. All of this interspersed with a healthy scepticism about the ability of politicians and leaders to accept responsibility for the chaos that has come to characterise the early years of the twenty-first century:
The bearer of the cup cannot be trusted.
Who will nurture the buds of spring?
Aplon poses an apt question to which you may rightly anticipate he does not expect an immediate answer.
Some of the finest writing in this collection references the work of artists, and in particular those who witnessed and reported the suffering caused by war and natural disaster. This book builds upon an earlier collection ‘After Goya’ (Cyberwit 2021) but has a more dystopic feel that perhaps reflects a growing mood of despondency in the writer. The prose poem ‘After Otto Dix 1891 – 1969, An Exhibition,’ captures both the mood and the style of the troubled German painter and print maker. In language that is often visceral he aligns himself with the obvious distress that pursued Dix throughout much of his life. As he states in reference to the exhibition:
Dix is busy here & his collection growls & grows. He’s
added an oil of the dancer Anita Berber with her sable wrap, pet monkey
& a silver brooch packed with cocaine & another, the desecration of
Flanders, where the dead float in stagnant pools & the living resemble
Aplon’s reflection on the work of artists is present elsewhere in this book (for example “Ask De Kooning). I recall seeing the Glacier Melt series of pictures by the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson at Tate Modern in London a few years back. I was not surprised to find Aplon expressing empathetic words for Eliasson’s commitment to recording the erosion of northern landscapes. I am far less familiar with the work of the American avant-garde composer George Crumb and perhaps this is in part why I found the Makrokosmos series to be the most challenging read in this collection. The piece feels experimental (and there is nothing wrong with this) and at times I felt similar to when I have explored the works of Ezra Pound, who I must confess to finding particularly difficult. It is clear that Roger Aplon enjoys playing with both imagery and the imagination, falling into passages in a form of stream of consciousness admired by the twentieth century modernists. There was much I found to be of interest in the structure of Makrokosmos, a piece to which I am sure I will return.
A series of poems under the sub-title “Origins, Epiphanies & Reflections” presents a more eclectic range of poems. The change of seasons has inspired many poets from Keats to Ted Hughes and Aplon’s ‘Summers Fade to Fall . . .’ which opens with the lines
There’s the eternally surprising eruption of the Tulip tree’s aptly named
blossoms, the bellicose trumpet vine that erupts in a cacophony of wasps
& bees, that tense but tender liaison with Jolene in the hayloft all
mascara, semen & Eau de Toilette.
appears almost wistful, with a sense of longing for what might have been lost in a significant relationship and the good times past. This mood is continued in ‘From My Terrace’ and ‘Swallows’ in which I sense the writer finding security in the familiar with his descriptions of the seemingly commonplace expressed with imagination and affection.
If I was asked to identify a favourite piece from this collection, I would probably nominate ‘Woman of The Woods.’ Once again inspired by the work of an artist, in this case the sculptor Maria Lago, Aplon deftly interprets the mood of the image of a woman created by the artist;
She seems to wrestle with the risk something or someone
will come to challenge her dedication.
Some antiquated shame
has her bent, incites her hair to mask the geography of her face.
A disguise? Or, is it muffled pride, a reflection
of a sacred oath she’s made?
In the final section, “Escapades,” the writer returns to prose poetry to explore ideas and interrogate the events both commonplace and exceptional that challenge what it means to be human.
If there is a thread that runs through “Burn Baby Burn,” it is a declaration of both the frailty of mankind and the ability to rise above the chaotic world that we seem to have created. Readers in search of a comfortable read may chose to ignore Aplon’s collection. Those who decide to venture into the pages of this volume will be challenged to question much of that which may commonly be held as true. Therin they might well find their reward.
(Richard Rose’s collection of short stories and essays from India, “Breaching the Barriers” was published by Cyberwit in 2022)—
Burn Baby Burn by Roger Aplon
Review by LB Sedlacek
Roger Aplon’s new collection is divided into five sections. He begins his unique poetry compilation with a poetic explanation of the book’s title and dedicates it to all those who’ve devoted themselves to the survival of our endangered planet.
The first section of the book contains poems dealing with war and conflict. He writes as if a correspondent delivering the news in the form of a poems.
** From the poem “The Builders of Bombs & Lies Connect Each Wire:”
“After struggling through smoke & grit for most of the day, he finds an /
armored truck in place of his house. After scouring the grounds he /
realizes his family had been taken & there are no stars to keep him on /
His words illustrate the horrors of fighting, the grief, the disbelief and the emotions that war generates. He douses the reader with his powerful images.
The second section is written in a stream of consciousness-like prose. It’s inventive and on the surface seems to deal with relationships and struggles. There’s quite a bit more going on beneath the text.
**Here’s a sample – from the poem “Makrokosmos II:”
“Twinkle-Twinkle. One step at a time. The / stars align. Just so. Yes. I can feel it. That cosmological stuff. Those / songs among the stars. One day at a time. & Now we know . They / came to destroy & they’re doing a pretty good job. A penny for your / winking – thinking.
Aplon gives the reader a surprising eruption of free verse and prose. He slices out the fluff, satisfying the poetry lover’s appetite for words.
The third and fourth sections of the book contain reflections, origin stories and escapades, among other things. He gives us lines such as “his thoughts like a monkey studying Shakespeare or a cowboy whistling / Dixie” (from the poem “Once,”). This poem is a rather unique take on Sunday choir. It is an invitation to open your mind and enjoy the way he harnesses his verses.
The “Homage to a Widow” is the final section. It contains several poems of a widow’s experiences.
**From the poem “The Widow Paints”:
“a ladder to the stars or is it a crowd that crafts a castle of their bodies, /
arm by knee by foot by . . .”
Here he is able to capture the anxiety and suffering one might feel with a loss, and also of how to continue on without a loved one. It’s a difficult process no matter the circumstances, and Aplon finds a way to put these feelings into these poems.
He catapults his collection with intense and often welcoming verse. He takes moments and turns them into poems of rescue, promise and pain, poems of wonder, grief and chaos. There’s a bit of magic in the way the book is put together – a terrific language jolt to the reader as this is not any ordinary poetry collection – there’s a lot-of-good in that.
Mustering What’s Left – Selected & New Poems – 1976-2017
The publication of Roger Aplon’s “Mustering What’s Left: Selected & New Poems 1976-2017” allows us to experience the evolution of a major American poet whose work has always been on the cutting edge. Aplon’s poetry is not for the faint of heart; he wants to provide a visceral experience, and the reader is frequently taken on wild, lurching roller coaster rides through the darker places of human experience. At other times he strikes a sudden blow to the solar plexus. And yet, there are also poems of great tenderness. The imagery and language is frequently shocking, bizarre, disorienting, hauntingly poignant, and suffused with themes of loss, guilt, order zithromax the evanescence of human relationships, brutality, loneliness, and the relentless march toward death.
A hallmark of all of Aplon’s work is his utter fearlessness (the book cover of a man running with the bulls is very apt). He inhabits a wide range of protagonists with authentic voices, allowing the richness of his unconscious processes to emerge. Free association is tempered by his poetic gift. He is willing to face anything, and punctures our tendency to deny. The challenge of seeing is frequently depicted in his use of the symbol of the eye. Eyes are often present—at times damaged, single, or absent in a face.
Throughout the decades of Aplon’s poetry, he has sustained a rhythmic drive, improvisatory quality, and boundary stretching that has a close affinity to jazz. And perhaps, as it is often the case for maturing jazz musicians, Roger Aplon’s evolution has involved an ever- deepening understanding of the geology and expanse of the terrain he is exploring.
With the publication of “Mustering What’s Left” Unsolicited Press has fully accomplished their stated mission of finding “astonishing and vibrant poetry.”
Roger Aplon’s poems never disappoint. Poems of history and mystery. Poems of the lyrical and the minimal. This poetry, gleaned from forty years of writing and publishing, does something remarkable, it yields a language that is archetypal, deepseated in the brain waves, something from cave walls and sides of mountains. It provides a snake chain of images, rhythms, ideas, stories. It is the pulse of what a poem should be. An experience. An innovation. A transcendence. Something that gets in the blood. Something that leaves you transformed. It’s akin to one of Aplon’s metaphors: wrestling alligators. It’s about the body. It’s about the skin. It’s about the senses. It’s about struggle. It’s about the shift of power from individual to individual.
Take the titles these poems come from: Stiletto, By Dawn’s Early Light At 120 Miles Per Hour, It’s Mother’s Day, Barcelona Diary, The Man With His Back To The Room, Intimacies, Escapades, After Goya, Improvisations, Homage To A Widow, It’s Only TV, and Improvisations – Poetic Impressions From Contemporary Music and you get the sensation of movement, the journey away and the return to reflect and record. “I wonder how long it will take/ to walk this block with its 17 people that I know,” and we take the walk with him from neighborhood out into a wider radius on each circle of the block, and as the circles get farther from home “I listened for some echo of a cantor’s lilting/ chant & murmurs of those great debates which shaped the visions of/ Kabbalah, today/ there was only the clamor of gulls chasing the tide.” This is a strong collection by a poet whose work has held its vigor through the decades.
It’s quite a ride you take us on across the decades in your workâand it feels like that: an extended road trip through many places, some familiar, some foreign, and with many people, some familiar and inviting, some we wouldn’t particularly want to know, led by a tour guide with a keen eye and keen empathy for what he’s witnessing. I hope you will take it as a compliment, as I mean it to be, when I say I’m reminded of Anthony Bourdain’s vision. Here is an observer with a keen passion for life in all its variety, who drinks it in. Your collection celebrates that passion. I feel very much at ease in these poems, even through the most intimate moments, and there are plenty of those (“A Dressing Gown” is one of my favorite of the erotic poems). Some writers would make me feel like a voyeur or like they are asking some reaction from me, and I’m not sure what they want. I don’t have that feeling at all reading your work. Just the opposite. I relax, I trust the poet; he wants to show me what’s going on in his world without asking anything from me except that I pay attention. Sometimesâin some of the narrative poems–I am not altogether sure what is going on exactly, how we’ve gotten here, even where we are, or why, but I am caught up in the narrative, nonetheless, intrigued by it, as in “October 14, 2000.” I don’t need all the light switches turned on. The mystery enhances the tension. I think good poetry works inferentially. It asks the reader to participate in the poem. Your work does that. There is also, what should I call it, a clarity of voice. Too many poetsâand prose writers, too, for that matterâthrow up a metaphoric mesh like a net they want to catch you in, want to overwhelm you with their oh-so-clever wordplay. Not so here; you are working to achieve lucidity. Images are chosen not to impress but to clarify. On top of all this, I much enjoy the bawdiness and sense of humor in your work.
William Luvaas: Latest book: “Welcome to Saint Angel”
Poetry so consistently up close and tight you can taste it….
As you turn a page there is always a surprise, always startling; raw realism, exhilarating exuberance of cascades of words – to me, a waterfall of sound words make. Heartwrenching honesty of emotions, of life experience, of what he sees, hears, feels. This publication is a masterful recap of this artist’s creations. Astonishing wordcraft!
When I say Roger Aplon’s poetry is sensational, I mean just that. The reader sees, hears, feels and tastes. The poet’s delight, alarm, fear, anger, wild imaginings invade your head. heart and gut!
Carol Brennan carolbrennan.net
Improvisations – Poetic Impression From Contemporary Music
Improvisations: How appropriately named. Spontaneous, surprising, not knowing what to expect next…and yet so fluid, like a well worked out serial melody of Schoenberg or Webern. Its like listening to Keith Jarrett improvising on the piano in front of thousands.
Powerful, strong, edgy, conversations with self looking in the mirror, recalling scenes from his past, blurring the line of memory and fantasy. And yet, a trace of a romantic?
I close my eyes and listen…well, not much progress reading with eyes closed. So I open them and keep reading. Extraordinary work! Congratulations!!!
Michael Lebovitch . . . April 2016
Music and poetry are such good therapeutic resources and Roger definitely captures both of these in his book. I found myself completely glued to this book, the author’s voice and message is very powerful and it definitely got my attention! I received this book in exchange for a honest review. I will be using this book for not only my research in recreational therapy, but also for my own pure enjoyment. This author definitely keeps his audience glued to his poems.
TDC – Book Reviews (5/2016)
It’s Only TV
A new Roger Aplon book of poetry is always an event to be celebrated. And so I am celebrating IT’S ONLY TV, Aplon’s selected poems, 2005-2011. Roger Aplon never disappoints. His Surrealistic stories. His astonishing use of language. His superb irony. All are in play in the title poem, “It’s Only TV.” And what a beautiful metaphor! When reality and fantasy are intertwined, one inseparable from the other, what better metaphysical humor than to say, “Let it go…It’s only TV.” Aplon’s poems read like Surreal reality TV. The section “It’s Only TV” gives us an old man in the poem “Across the Street” where “Nothing is as it seems.” The section also gives us “The Man Who Lives Underground” “excavating vein-by-vein, what’s left of his salvation – his brief refuge & his/silent hell.” And also “The Part of The Gypsy Girl” which “will be played by her twin, the one with one brown eye & one blue.”
Along with his Surreality TV, Aplon’s lines are individual poems in themselves. Aphorism builds on aphorism to give us a story which is both told and interpreted by the reader, or re-created by the reader. “The Woman Who Sleeps With The Devil” is a good example. “The Usual Suspect” is another favorite. Aplon’s prose poem, “I Saw Her Through The Mist” is incredible. It’s like a novel told in several lines. The wonderful thing about a Roger Aplon book is experiencing a rare adventure: finding poems you can really get inside of.
Tony Moffeit: Editor, Writer & Poet – March 2013
This is an amzing collection. It illustrates Aplon’s creativity and imagination and no one, absolutely no one has a voice like his.
Not for Everyone . . . it’s anything but mainstream, but those who do find it and are willing to turn themselves over to the logic of these stories, and the wonder therein, are in for a memorable ride!
– Judy Reeves: Author
A Writer’s Book of Days
The Man With His Back To The Room
The Man with His Back to the Room is a collection of poems that captivates the reader with its unique style of free verse and touch of avant-garde.
“The arms that wave from the windows are black& the cats that roam the street are black & there are black beards & black hands & black market toys& you’ve blackened the windows & shut my eyes…”
Down to earth and expressive, these selected poems bring reality and life (which reflect his Barcelona setting) through dynamic images and language.
“The man in the gray hat
has a pawn ticket in his pocket & a memory of suicide.
In winter he carries a gun & news of religious sacrifice.”
For lovers of modern free verse with a fresh approach—you can’t go wrong with this one.
Wayne Adam – Curl Up With A Good Book
For me the “daybook” pieces are like a surreal diary of anguished grief. Some of the images almost make one cringe. Very, very powerful. . . Many of the others . . . are a descent into an inferno that makes Dante’s journey look like a summer picnic.
Ron Offen – Editor & Publisher: Free Lunch
Last Book: Off-Target
Many of these poems deal with painful and shadowy material.
Some feel improvised and pulled toward the disparate and wild. Yet Aplon unifies them with a wave-like pulse, often stretched and held, an audible unevenness that comes alive as one reads.
The images don’t slow and regard themselves; rather, they keep moving, like field binoculars surveying a scene. Phrases that end with the & (the ampersand) push forward with renewing energy—the way a dream unfolds by attaching new, more complicating strangeness.
And, while some of these poems relate to, and delight in, the tangential, they don’t appear random. I especially like those that turn and discover themselves and their meanings at the end—like the exquisite title poem. This is a book to treasure.
– Thomas Larson – Author: The Memoir and the
Memoirist: Reflections on a New Literary Form
Ohio University Press / 2007
“. . . a read tour de force of craft and care, with an ear honed to the sharpness of sounds and an eye absolutely focused.”
“…a marvelous book of marvels and luminous moments…a flowering of intelligence and experience.”
“.[Aplon] gives us the ‘place’ of the place, so that it becomes a world in us.”
– Joe Stroud
Last book: Below Cold MountainÂ
“. . . you can open it to any page and find something unique and evocative…the book is a classic.”
“I just opened it to #80 ‘Albrecht Durer: An Exhibition’ and find the piece to be incredibly provocative: a creative writing teacher could use [it] as a beautiful model.”
– Tony Moffeit
Last book: Billy the Kid & Frida Kahlo
“Its vigor and range so engage me . . . in proximity, or taken together, they [these ‘entries’] form a kind of ‘Song of Myself,’ a grand forum that contains observations, feelings, memories and their interpretations – [all] influenced by [its] music.”
– Merrill Leffler
Poet, Editor, Publisher & Co-Founder of Dryad Press
It’s Mother’s Day
“Poems like…’The Woman Whose Skin’s’ represent some of the most engaging of Aplon’s work. They borrow certain elements of primitive mythologies, and so doing, take one to levels of intellectual and poetically formal excitement that one always wishes for in writing of any kind, but especially in poetry.”
“. . . there is life in these poems. It’s an eventful ride from beginning to end.Â The detours are compelling (‘O Yeah!), the tolls worth paying (‘I Carry the Dead’), the rewards genuine (‘Means’).”
“. . . poetically dynamic, it leaves one, ultimately, spinning [and] that’s the idea.”
– Mike Amato, Editor: No Exit
By Dawn’s Early Light at 120 Miles per Hour
“A homage to the power of the imaginative mind.”
“There is a playfulness with the language, a reality in which art and experience are inseparable pieces of an aesthetic.”
“The book is a symphony of Americana.”
-Â Shelby Stephenson
Southern Pines, North Carolina Â
“. . . the single most striking fact about this book is the range of its voice.”
“. . . themes of destruction, survival, transformation, and escape.”
“. . . the danger of By Dawn’s Early Light is that the poems are so seamless, so carefully composed, that the reader will be insulated from the violence that lies (along with love) at the heart of Aplon’s universe.”
“. . . there is a tremendous kinship with and affection for the reader.”
-Â Edward Smallfield Â
Small Press Review
“Lust and love to save the best in us (the life in us) from the economic, military and legal systems we die from.”
“. . . tough exactness about the mixed pain/pleasure of this survival life.”
“. . . a sense of truth, unglamourized menace, intensifying lust/love/life and truth = Stiletto.”
“Admiration for the book.”
– Milton Kessler
State University of New York at Binghamton
Department of English Â
“In Stiletto we encounter an art based in head on collision.”
“As with all good jazz, these poems put you in strange places, and the only true measure is the music as it passes through you.Â I recommend this book to everybody, but don’t blame me if your own language tastes strange after you read it.”
“. . . some of the best political-surrealist writing of the sixties and early seventies.”
– Edward Smallfield
Small Press Review
“Aplon, who has a particular gift for enjambing images and using line-ends as devices to modulate velocity, is primarily concerned with commonplace items, which makes this book somehow deceptive; the poems work almost mnemonically; one remembers how they ‘feel’ much more than what they say.Â Stiletto represents a poetic maturity, almost a phrophesy.Â Read it.”
– Denis Boyles
North East Rising Sun
Cherry Valley Editions Â