Red Alder Review is now open to submissions for Issue No. 2 (Spring/Summer).
Deadline: April 30, 2021.
For this upcoming issue, the focus is on any and all poetic modes of writing. Formally speaking, this includes poetry, fiction and CNF. In this sense, it is fair to consider this issue as having an open theme.
In addition to this broad call, haiku and tanka, epigram and other related short forms are welcome as part of the second issue. Send 3 micro/haiku pieces for consideration. Please use the subject line beginning: “Haiku Issue 2” when submitting your work.
For further details, please visit and consult the Submissions page.
Red Alder Review strives to be an online publication and community of inclusion, welcoming writers of all backgrounds to submit. This includes, but is in no way limited to BIPOC writers, writers with disabilities, LGBTQIA2S+ writers, and writers from other marginalized groups.
Ted Goodden and Cornelia Hoogland, Cosmic Bowling (Guernica Editions, 2020)
Review by Patrick Burman
(Images have permission of Guernica Editions, and Ted Goodden, Artist)
Cosmic Bowling is a book whose left-side pages have sixty-four images of generic human figures carved from clay holding a bowling ball in various positions, sculpted by Ted Goodden. On the right-side pages are sixty-four six-line poems written by Cornelia Hoogland. Each pairing is meaningful, taking into account the texts of the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching (Bollingen version, R. Wilhelm and C.F. Baynes, trans.). At the end, an essay by Goodden shows the influence of the I Ching on their approach to the hexagrams.
Goodden relates that, in life circumstances of confusion and stress, he had come to trust the I Ching to show pathways to safer ground. “The open-weave of the sacred text”, he writes, “allows your wise self to speak through metaphor to your anxious self.” The lack of familiar cultural associations of this thousands-years-old Chinese wisdom book helped him focus on the archetypal human condition “situated within the larger cycles of the natural and the social worlds“. It may have shaped the “everyman” design of the sculpted figure with his bowling ball.
The most important influence was Taoism. The dialectics of Yin and Yang, always in motion, each bearing the seeds of its counterpart, permeates the book. He saw the alternation of growth and decay in his own compost heap and garden. “Who can really understand how potato peelings combine to form the soil that grows more potatoes, or how those potatoes, when we eat them, become a thought …“. But Taoist dialectics and its path which seeks to restore balance and an ethos of stewardship faced many challenges today. The propulsive hubris of corporate capitalism and consumerist excess has no grounding in or even plausible future for our life on earth, where we are close to environmental catastrophe.
Notwithstanding the influence of the great wisdom book, these works of art draw from the artists’ life histories and long practice to make their own “music” together. In Hexagram 5, “Hsu, Waiting”, the poet writes “Light emerges out of these sculptures. / They have their own pulse … / The sculptor releases beauty; it will return in another creation. …” On the facing page, Figure squats attentively as if he were taking in the poem in his compact posture of waiting.
I look at three hexagrams where the interaction of form and content between sculpture and poem is particularly striking. In Hexagram 29 Ka’n, The Abysmal, a prostrate Figure wraps his shoulder, head, left arm, and left leg around the ball. The uncomfortable stretch of the left leg suggests strain from an onerous burden. The sculptor has made us feel the space above pressing Figure’s body into its bowling ball. The commentary of the I Ching points to an objective situation, not a subjective attitude, portending danger and possible catastrophe. It is like a person trapped in the same pass as water in a ravine. Water is always true to itself and finds a way out, and the self likewise must find the truthful sincerity of mind to gain mastery of the situation and escape.
The Poet starts with the voice of an employee who, reaching a crisis with the boss at work, considers the risky option of abruptly quitting. But this poetic subject draws back from the precipice: “What if I gained distance?”, to find lucidity in the situation. There is the image of water entering and escaping through “the hollow between ribs of sand”. Is “the tide retreating?” The poet offers a metaphor suggesting that correct perception and cautious action helped turn the situation to safety. The poet has moved from a colloquial expression of a modern subject – “I’m outta here” – to echoing the imagery of a wisdom book thousands of years old, in six lines. Her shift to the universal and generic on line 2 is not too sudden, as the sculpture image of Figure groaning under its burden on the facing page gives warrant to ascending the conceptual plane.
On the left page of the 17th hexagram, “Sui, Following”, the Sculptor has Figure inclining his head and looking right, allowing him to view both ball and environment peripherally. His posture, with ball behind his right foot and his arms bowed, has a solicitous oval shape that suggests a caring leader. This is not a person annoyed at the loss of freedom from the “ball and chain” at his feet; mindfulness about those who follow produces serenity. The I Ching commentary offers a normative model of the good leader who has consistency in doing right. The follower is safe with such a leader, who has had experience serving as well as leading, and never has lets his ego or self-interest cloud his judgment. The sparely dressed, ego-less Figure conveys the nobility of such a leader.
The poet adapts the notion of “following” as metaphor for the natural world. Following the sun, the snake, iris, and sunflower unfold their biological designs, described beautifully: “Sun compels snake from under the rock, raises the flag iris / at the pond, and — sunflower in tow — wheels / across the sky”. She tightens the focus to her senses which, in a Copernican earth that is a mere follower of the sun, will never align with the centre. She switches dramatically to the Aztecs who tore out people’s hearts in gratitude to the sun. My early readings saw this as a discordant note at the end of a six-line poem, departing from her focus on nature’s followings, as well as the sociological commentary about leaders and followers in the I Ching. But we have learned from our own time the extremes to which followers can be incited by the visions of their leaders.
In the 24th hexagram, Fu, Return, Figure’s head is tilted upward in this longest night during the winter solstice, as though looking trustingly for the slow return of light. No need to rush anything: change will come at the appointed time. “This is the meaning of heaven and earth”, says the I Ching. To reinforce Figure’s harmony with the cosmos, the Sculptor has Figure cradle his earth-ball with his two arms orientated in opposite directions, as if to say: This is my natural home which I respond to and care for. This beautiful sculpture honours the human being by having Figure seem to burst the walls of his case and stand tall, feet planted, in the cosmos.
The I Ching offers comment on the returns, not just of the seasons, but of human beings who need to restore balance and health after an illness or an estrangement. Success is not guaranteed but can properly pursued by avoiding trivial excuses or hasty decisions. One must treat circumstances with care and tenderness, and examine oneself, in order “that the return may lead to a flowering.”
The Poet’s six lines has cosmic, seasonal, and personal elements. The first three lines, starting with granular observations — “Sap ruddies the bare dogwood, the hillside turns purple …” and moving to an image of the narrowing of light in the solstice itself. A beautiful line, “A procession of choristers carry the candled dark” suggest the Christmas season, but she writes of personal change as well. Parts of her have been neglected and now “take on a burnished glow”. They are returning to her in her current life.
There is a small number of poem/sculpture pairings that are less sure-footed. The essay’s exegesis of Hexagram 18 (Ku, Work on What’s Been Spoiled) is profound and generative, but the sculpture/poem do not measure up. We are not sure what Figure is doing, holding the ball down in front of him. The sense in which Martha Stewart “answers the riddle of a cluttered life” is puzzling. The last three lines speak eloquently of the quiet that “music tends toward” but is unclearly linked to the theme. As well, the poem in Hexagram 21 (Ho, Biting Through) does express the theme viscerally with the eating of different cuts of meat, but then glosses the poem “I know this poem sounds pathetic, but its refusal to suppress …”. Figure’s body is bent backward over the ball in agony, suggesting the existential struggle of imprisonment. But the associated poem, by minding how it might sound to the reader, reduces its focus on the thematic of the hexagram.
The vast majority of poems and sculptures give the reader pleasure and illumination. We learn of the refugee and his family, the thinning atmosphere, the tiny wonders of nature close at hand, the hard-won pride in one’s gifts – reading like a poetic journal. Cosmic Bowling is a true Vade Mecum, that you might toss into a bag (along with the I Ching perhaps). We should be grateful for this flowering of their art in these pages.
Patrick Burman co-founded the 2 Susans Poetry Circle in Montreal. Born there, he went to Concordia and the University of Notre Dame. He taught sociology at university in London Ontario for 35 years, publishing on unemployment and poverty. Writing and reviewing poetry is the work and joy of his retirement.
And the sun, dissolved, dusted in shards over snow. Broken harmony–
Julia Retkova is a King’s College London graduate student with two degrees in Literature and Digital Studies: she’s currently working on her dissertation while running a small literary journal. She was born in Ukraine, but grew up in the south of Spain. She loves reading books in the sun and writing when everyone’s asleep. Her writing has been previously published in Storgy, Literally Stories, Masque & Spectacle, Sublunary Review, the tide rises, the tide falls, and is forthcoming in a few others.
It is colder here than anywhere else, promise. Frozen lake of toes.
Megan Cannella (@megancannella) is a Midwestern transplant currently living in Nevada. For over a decade, Megan has bounced between working at a call center, grad school, and teaching. She has work in or forthcoming from @PorcupineLit, @dailydrunkmag, @VerseZine, @TBQuarterly, and @perhappened.
David Watts’s literary credits include seven books of poetry, three collections of short stories, two mystery novels, seven western novels, a Christmas memoir, and several essays. He is a physician, musician and past Radio/TV personality. His haiku have appeared in Hedgerow, Modern Haiku, Creatrix, The Bamboo Hut and Akitsu Quarterly among others.
bare-armed trees rowdy hoarfrost stars fierce garland
Ren Pike grew up in Newfoundland. Through sheer luck, she was born into a family who understood the exceptional value of a library card. Her work has appeared in Train, NDQ, IceFloe Press, and Pithead Chapel. When she is not writing, she wrangles data for non-profit organizations in Calgary, Canada.
From heaven snowflakes descending one million tiny graces
Brian lives in north-central Massachusetts where, when not biking or walking its country roads and woodland trails, he consults with young entrepreneurs and writes fiction and poetry. He can be found at www.brianschulz.com.
Snow falls shadowless, sweeps the reeds on frozen ponds. Jammed ice moans and sighs.
U.S. writer Nancy Cook lives 475 kilometers from the Canadian border. She runs the “Witness Project,” a series of community writing workshops designed to enable creative work by underrepresented voices. Some of her newest work can be found in The London Reader, Raven Chronicles: Art Against Hate. and the Michigan Quarterly Review.
frilly flakes sashay from on high Moose plods through
Darrell Petska is a retired communications editor, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Journals that have published his poetry include Muddy River Poetry Review, Modern Haiku, Chrysanthemum, Shamrock Haiku Journal, Failed Haiku–Journal of English Senryu, and many others (see conservancies.wordpress.com). Forty years a father (eight years a grandfather), and longer as a husband, Darrell lives outside Madison, Wisconsin.