The Skinny Poetry Anthology
by Rosetta Codling, Ph.D.
The Ski NNY (2019) is the latest issue from Cherry Castle Publishing. It is, by far, the most lyrically aesthetic from the house of Cherry Castle. Truth Thomas is the creator of the Skinny genre. It is, perhaps, an urban haiku, framed in eleven volcanic lines which surge forth. The eleventh line and the last line must be repeated using the same words from the first and opening line. The composer, Truth Thomas, does lend liberty to rearrangement. But the second, sixth, and tenth lines must be identical. Thomas, also, stresses that: “All the lines in his form, except for the first and last lines, must be composed of a single word.”
Does this all sound daunting? Yes. Is it difficult to achieve? Yes. However, the subjects of these harmonious creations are the more tedious to bear witness to. Yet, the poets in this collection do so fearlessly.
“the glint of gas oven or America’s Concentration Camps” (with acknowledgment to “who” by Sylvia Plath) is the opening ‘sonata poem’ of this collection. This poem is disarming and starkly real. Debasis Mukhopadhyay is a poet true to his mentor Sylvia Plath. The words drip and drape across the page conveying the erosion of the human spirit. In short, terse, verse, America is indicted for crimes against humanity on a single page of history.
“Jail Cell Diaries” is an entry in this collection that invades the soul in variation mode. This poem is a chronicle of 21 days of unjust incarceration. The varied repetition of words, in each stanza, are branded upon the page for the reader. “Freely…free…delirium…cry…sleep…dropped…guiltocent…dropped” are the words which descend upon the reader, slowly. Jen Schneider, the poet, paints an image that lingers long after the cell doors…open and close, again.
But, this collection is not without wit. Pam Desloges’ “Skinny Skinny” reminds the reader what lies beneath the meter and the meaning of a poem. She entreats us to explore the “nouns” and “bony verbs” absorbed in a text. She uses food imagery to aid in our envisioning of “low-carb adjectives” that are consumed in sectional, lean forms.
This collection is a whole. This collection is in harmony. This collection stands alone. Thank you, Truth Thomas, for delivering truths in many lyrical tones.
Rosetta Codling is a freelance literary critic. She has written reviews for the Ama Books, the Manhattan Book Review, the San Francisco Book Review, the Journal of African Literature, Autres Modernites, and Examiner.com. She has obtained scholarships and fellowships from Queens College (NYC), Teachers College/Columbia University (NYC), and the Open University (UK). She retired (in 2006) as a secondary school teacher and Adjunct Professor of English for over 30 years in New York. However, she attends global conferences and continues to write professionally. In addition, she now is an Adjunct Associate Professor of English at Herzing University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Frank Thomas Rosen’s
auschwitz of the digital age and other poems
by Holly Bowers
Since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville, America has relied on the perspective of outsiders to reveal our nation as it truly is. Frank Thomas Rosen is another voice that we should add to that list of valuable perspectives. Rosen, who grew up in East Germany and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall before moving to Ohio, is an observer both inside and outside the country. By his own description, he is “an east-german poet / tasting the bark of / american poetic diction.” Who better to interrogate the great American experiment of democracy?
And that’s just what Rosen does in his new collection from Cherry Castle Publishing, auschwitz of the digital age and other poems: new cognitive poetry. He dives into what Stephen Delbos describes as “the quotidian horrors of 21st century America”: sexual violence, opioid addiction, climate change, the healthcare crisis. My favorite poems—and the ones that affected me the most—deal with gun violence in schools. Consider the heart-stopping last stanza of “my brief american eternity,” for instance: “i can’t clean this hand / of dope, money, and nails / laying minors to rest.” “american blank” and “local discount news” similarly took my breath away.
If there is one overall subject that Rosen addresses in this collection, it is our dependence on digital technology. The title poem, “auschwitz of the digital age,” confronts readers immediately with the opening lines “heaven’s odor / username:” for instance. Rosen plays with online conventions throughout this collection. He eschews capitalization just like we tend to do online and in text messages. The poems themselves are short—many are only a few lines long—seemingly made for our tiny digital attention spans.
But it’s here that Rosen challenges those digital tendencies. His poems are short, but they’re arresting. Tara Betts calls them “taut,” which is exactly right. They thrum with an urgent, demanding energy. Rosen, after all, writes cognitive poetry, which uses the principles of cognitive psychology to elicit a response in readers. He wants to make us feel something.
And the poems in auschwitz of the digital age will wrench feelings from you. Rosen does this through diction, through juxtaposition, through establishing and breaking patterns, and through playing with rhyme. These poems pack a punch. Each one seems to grab you by the collar and force you to face its subject matter; the only respite is in the space between the poems.
Perhaps this is exactly the point. In a collection that takes on the dangers of our digital dependency, these (often tweet-sized) poems force us to engage with them, not just scroll mindlessly by. They demand that we linger over them, stare at the words and turn them over on our tongues to find the meaning in them.
There is much in auschwitz of the digital age for readers to discover, and then to think about long after they’ve put the collection down.
Frank Thomas Rosen’s collection auschwitz of the digital age and other poems: new cognitive poetry (2019) is available from Cherry Castle Publishing. Rosen has another collection, scratches (2003), published in English and German as part of the Ohio Arts Council – Dresden Artist Exchange program.
Holly Bowers is the incoming online editor for the Little Patuxent Review. She is currently a student in the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University, where she is focusing on creative nonfiction. Holly also works as the copy and content editor at DuckerFrontier, a global research and consulting firm located in Washington, DC.