A Review of Periscope Heart by Rich Boucher

A Review of Periscope Heart

by Rich Boucher



Right off the actual bat, I should quasi-recuse myself and say that personally speaking, poems and books of poems that mostly address the notion of love for another generally don’t do anything for me. It’s just a taste thing. So with that context understood, Periscope Heart, Kai Coggin’s first full-length collection of poems (and the twentieth publication from the marvelous Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC) really had its work cut out for it. No joke; I’m being serious. I have read and heard a lot of poetry that addresses some kind of romance/desire with the big R, and much of that just makes me really tired really fast. Maybe I’m not mature enough – who knows? Hand me another beer, love.


But the thing is this: I just haven’t got tired yet; in fact, the work found in Periscope Heart is at times stimulating, energizing and enervating, surprising even me. I stroll on the paths in this book and frequently some soft tendril of very, very careful neologism and pun-craft loops around my torso, and I can’t move. I think Kai Coggin knows this. At some points in this book I’ve suspected Coggin of witchcraft. Kai made a believer out of me and believe me, something in me resisted. Love just isn’t in my wheelhouse; on any given day I’d be more given to burying myself in poems about fetishizing panties and hails of gunfire. And many of the poems (not all) in this volume carry the love as their banner into battle. And I found myself right beside Coggin and marching along.


I’m going to take the magnifying lens to a small handful of poems in this review, but I want you to get this book and sit with it on either an early Saturday morning or a late Sunday night. And I’m being serious about that, too. Maybe you don’t like being told what to do. I feel for you; I really do, but I’m telling you what to do anyway. And I’m the one holding the riding crop. My eyes got pulled to the title “Alchemy” right away, as this is a kind of pet favourite subject of mine. Coggin here gifts us with powerful turns of phrase (“…my tongue knew of only churches inside you…”) and takes the notions of fusion and dissolution and mutability and cleverly finds their examples in this examination of attraction and desire (“…only a touch of alchemy in my bones remains/because you have loved me to earthen clay in your hands….”). Any book that contains a poem that closes with the standalone line “I have turned into gold” is worth both the price of admission and its own weight in the precious metal.


“Planting Stars” is just one of those quietly glorious poems that founds itself upon an arresting image (“…I buried a handful/of stars deep into the soil…”) but it’s more than just one of those glorious poems, because where another, lesser poet might dally too long, fascinated by their own scintillating creation, Coggin takes only the amount of time necessary to bring to our line of sight what she sees, leaving us to choose how long and how often we’ll gaze upon such a pretty, miraculous concoction. As it turns out, we keep coming back to it over and over again.


Some poems, only the real good ones, can mimic the soul and feel of music, of a song that’s both sad and up in one measure, and “Siren” satisfies this tall, tall order very nicely. I think of lines like this one from “Siren”: “…wanting nothing but homecoming/nothing but a respite on the open shores of someone’s thighs…” and I know without a doubt that where the casual reader will silently gape, the reader who is also a writer will gasp at the easy, unhurried majesty found in Kai Coggin’s poetry.


And not for nothing, but this poet knows how to top off her poems with titles that pull you and tease from the tableau of contents (“That Day I was Jesus Christ (Total Eclipse of the Heart)”, “This is how to eat your past:”, “Willing My Body Parts”), and in a nice reversal of a coup de grâce, Periscope Heart comes to you wrapped up in a very handsome, deep-blue package featuring some captivating cover art by Arkansas artist Joann Saraydarian. There are fifty-four poems in this first volume; think of yourself as truly getting away with it when you buy this book.


Visit Kai’s website to order a book straight from Kai, or pick one up on Amazon today.


Now Available: …but my friends call me Burque

Burque…but my friends call my Burque
Poetry by Manuel Gonzalez
Available at Amazon and Createspace for $10.95.
Available at SwEP events at discount pricing.

About the collection:

The first complete collection from beloved New Mexico poet Manuel Gonzalez contains many of his most popular performance pieces along with poems he has used and shared in classrooms throughout the state.

Manuel states:  “I’m proud to be from New Mexico, and to me it’s more than just green chile and desert. It’s seeing the value of famila and respect. It’s the Rio Grande valley and Santuario de Chi-mayo. It is feasts, dance, poetry and prayer.”

This collection honors New Mexico, her traditions and her beauty.

Manuel González

Manuel González

Mannie PicManuel González is a performance poet who began his career in the poetry slam. He has represented Albuquerque many times on a national level as a member of the Albuquerque poetry slam team. Manuel has appeared on the PBS show, Colores, in “My Word is My Power.” He was one of the founding members of the poetry troupe The Angry Brown Poets.

Manuel teaches workshops on self-expression and poetry in high schools and youth detention centers. He also works with an art therapist to help incarcerated young men express them-selves. He was also one of the coaches and mentors for the Santa Fe High Poetry Slam team from 2006-2010. Manuel is from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

His mother’s family is from Barelas. His father’s family is from a small town in Northern New Mexico called Anton Chico, and his father was the lead singer of the band Manny and the Casanovas. He identifies himself as being Chicano. The history, culture, and spirituality of his people are among his inspirations.

BurqueHis connection to his culture helps him connect to his students. Manuel teaches poetry as a means for self-expression. Looking within oneself and examining ones roots is the essence of the type of poetry he works with emotions, feelings, experiences, and prose in an historical and cultural context is the goal of his workshops. Self esteem, finding something to say, figuring out how to say it eloquently, and letting your voice be heard are just some of the benchmarks in Manuel’s workshop. Manuel resides in Albuquerque, NM with his wife and children.

For information on booking a workshop and/or performance, please send inquiries to: xicanopoet@yahoo.com.

Manuel’s publication: …but my friends call me Burque, is now available from Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC.

“I’m proud to be from New Mexico, and to me it’s more than just green chile and desert. It’s seeing the value of famila and respect. It’s the Rio Grande valley and Santuario de Chi-mayo. It is feasts, dance, poetry and prayer.”

Now Available: Of Small Children / And Other Poor Swimmers by Brian Hendrickson

Of Small Children

Of Small Children / And Other Poor Swimmers

Poetry by Brian Hendrickson

Available on Amazon and Createspace for $12.95

Of Small Children / And Other Poor Swimmers is centered in the push-pull of place. Hendrickson wants to leave behind his Florida childhood, where every memory is still moist, but he continues “calling on the voices” and crossing back, wading into love, loss and danger with vivid imagery.

— Lauren Camp, author of three collections of poetry, including One Hundred Hungers, and winner of The Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press)

Brian Hendrickson demands the inclusion of the real press of the discursive and meditative into his poems, by juxtaposing multiple levels of diction, and by frequently shifting between the anecdotal, the essayistic, and the lyrical. Through his careful use of these techniques, Hendrickson is able to achieve James Sculley’s ideal of “audacious speaking”: he refuses to capitulate either to the lyrical moment or the abstraction, and so his poetry exists and persists as an urgent place for utterance of consciousness.

— Don Winter, author of seven collections of poetry, including Saturday Night Desperate

Brian Hendrickson

Hendrickson Bio PicBrian Hendrickson’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a range of publications, including Indiana Review,North Carolina Literary Review, and New York Quarterly.

For his poetry Brian has been nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net award, recognized as a 2013 finalist forSmartish Pace’s Erskine J. Poetry Prize, and awarded a 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for appearing in Beatlick Press’ La Llarona anthology.

Since earning an MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage, Brian has taught and tutored writing at colleges and correctional facilities in Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, and now New Mexico, where he is currently pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing. Brian’s scholarship focuses on the role of writing in social movements and student activism.

Brian Henrickson’s collection of poetry, entitled Of Children / And Other Poor Swimmers, will be available from Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC in September 2014 and will be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other on line distributors, as well as local bookstores.