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Review – We Are The Underground: Poems by Israfel Sivad

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I would love to meet Israfel Sivad one day, although he lives in America, I’m in the UK… I think we’d have a lot of things to chat about over a glass of something. I find that a lot of poetry doesn’t speak to me because it’s too emotional. This book, We Are The Underground, is a rare find where the poetry can be enjoyed as art, not just feelings put in to words. Each piece is very creative. Having said that, I think those who enjoy poetry for the reasons that I don’t would also enjoy Israfel Sivad’s work. So, really… it’s for everyone.

Israfel sent me a copy of this book to review because I featured one of the poems, A Straight Line Runs Through It All, last year. I have also reviewed two more of his poetry collections, The Tree Outside My Window and Indigo Glow, as well as his outstanding novel, The Adversary’s Good News.

More than a simple collection of poems, We Are the Underground delves into Israfel Sivad’s psyche to inspire you to liberate your own. With each carefully defined section, you’ll explore inner worlds and find the keys you need to unlock hidden truths. For, as Israfel Sivad demonstrates, it’s when we enter our own personal depths that we find true freedom. This poetic journey is your invitation to go deeper than you ever have before. Don’t remain content staring at what the rest of the world has already seen. Look through these inspired poems. Unravel Israfel Sivad’s “Zodiac Cycle”, which contains one poem for every astrological sign in the Western and Chinese zodiacs. Enter the underground, and discover this hidden revolution of souls. – Blurb, Goodreads

 

THE DEPRAVITY OF ETYMOLOGICAL SCAVENGER HUNTS by Colin James

THE DEPRAVITY OF ETYMOLOGICAL SCAVENGER HUNTS



                                      I was doing the driving.
                                      Implications was the first clue
                                      written on a crumpled envelope
                                      full of thistle and dandelions.
                                      I saw the word, payed no attention
                                      to the envelopes contents.
                                      We were the first out
                                      and my partner was anxious,
                                      a stickler for propriety.
                                      Our car was soon passed by competitors
                                      dangerously on a narrow road
                                      with high hedges and ivy hues.
                                      Let’s go to a pub, rent a room
                                      enjoy the afternoon sensibly,
                                      for I have smelled the Spring lilacs
                                      and a little sweat emanating from
                                      a crevice I could never shun nor eschew.
Colin James has a book of poems, Resisting Probability, from
Sagging Meniscus Press. He lives in Massachusetts.

Two Significant Moments

Here is one of my chance poems. I hope you enjoy it. I use chance methods to create my poems, drawings and paintings. I’d love to hear from you if you do the same!

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Two Significant Moments

by JayS

 

I have one of his and now the tattoos of hers are brighter than mine and sparkle as the new sun once did. I avoided getting it on my palm as there were his marks there

Author Interview: Israfel Sivad

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What cultural value do you see in writing?

In my opinion, writing is the foundation of human culture. As one of the earliest means human beings created to launch their thoughts into the future, there would be no cultures on this planet today without writing. However, writing is no longer the sole means of spreading stories and knowledge. With the 20th century advent of film and television, the idea of telling stories through writing is perhaps even the most archaic form of writing today. However, there’s a magic that still exists, for me at least, in a written story. I remember as a younger man thinking that I wanted to develop a form of writing that couldn’t translate to film, that had to be read to be understood. I wanted to expose what language alone is capable of being. It’s an internal experience rather than an external experience. That’s what I want to capitalize on in the stories I tell: the fact that they exist solely in the space between my mind and the reader’s. And therein, for me, lies the current cultural value of writing—that space between the writer’s mind and the reader’s and how it allows one person to comprehend another’s unmediated, unadulterated thoughts. There’s no actor to interpret. There’s no vision to see. There’s only one mind reaching out to another.

Well said, Israfel. I love a good film, but nothing beats the connection we get to a book and its author.

 

What was the hardest part of writing your books?

The hardest part of writing my books has always been getting the words to form themselves right on the paper. Stories come to me quite often and quite easily and relatively fully-formed. The act of sitting down to write is something I enjoy. I often put on music to keep myself still and simply stare at a blank computer screen or piece of paper until the words come out. However, getting those words shaped into the vision I want others to see, that’s a painstaking process. As I wrote many years ago in my poem “Break Through” published in my collection At the Side of the Road—“Words come too hard to mean nothing.”

Quite. I get a little put off when I read that an author has released seven books in a year. I want to read a craft, not a formula.

 

What inspires you?

My greatest inspiration over the years has always been my own memories. My muse is an internal one. I look back over my life and wonder if all the twists and turns really lead back to here, to this theme that recurs, that creeps into my head, that plays its twisted chords of gunfights and shootouts, of falling, laughing back into bed with someone I love tight in my arms. That’s from a poem of mine as well, “Saint Annie” in The Tree Outside My Window. I never thought of it as being a simple synopsis of what inspires me, but as I contemplate this question, I’m coming to believe it is.

I loved The Tree Outside My Window. Read my review here.

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How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I prefer reading physical books. They’re comforting. They remind me of childhood and running away from my daily cares, hiding in my bedroom from the rain outside. For me, ebooks don’t carry that nostalgia, but I believe they very well could for future generations. I also prefer my books to be read in print form for two reasons. First, I love the new covers coming out for the second editions of my works (and future first editions)—I only have three second editions currently available: The Tree Outside My Window, Indigo Glow and The Adversary’s Good News. I want these books to exist physically for people to hold and see. Second, a physical copy of my book is launched into the world. Who knows where it will land. Who knows who will discover it. As far as alternative vs. conventional publishing. I’ve never gone the conventional route. I’ve always enjoyed the control I exert over my product as a self-publisher. Friends of mine who have entered the traditional publishing world have rapidly lost control of their words. I’m very afraid of that. However, I’m also aware certain avenues are closed to me for marketing as a result. Personally, I feel it’s the writer’s choice how she wishes to proceed. Neither seems to me to be inherently superior to the other.

I agree, Israfel. I think it’s the author’s choice to publish in their preferred format(s). But, I love that I can lend a finished paperback to someone. I can read it in the bath without fear of the financial consequences. I can donate it to a charity shop and wonder where it will end up and who it will influence.

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What is your role in the writing community?

That’s an interesting question. As a young man, I would have said my role was to be the greatest writer in the English language of this day and age (laughs). However, today, I believe my role in the writing community is simply to expand genres, to push others to see that there is more we can do as authors. We don’t have to follow existing conventions. We can create new ones, new stories, new languages. To quote myself yet again, from the story “Catatonia” in Psychedelicizations, I want to write stories that a giant can fit in, to challenge artistic barriers and reveal how they can be overcome.

I’m surprised by this answer! I know that Israfel is active in the poetry community and works hard to promote/work with others, so I thought this would be his answer. I’m inspired by his big dreams though.

 

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

I think the most interesting book I’ve ever read is Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. It tells a powerful story in a fascinating manner. It’s thoroughly intriguing to me. I don’t understand it, and I don’t want to. I simply want to experience it again and again. I love the ideas of this book, the tone of this book and the language of this book.

Oo, I will look out for this.

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Where can we learn more about you?

The easiest place to learn more about me is by reading the books I’ve written. It’s the only place I’m truly comfortable revealing myself. And in reality, my books reveal more about me than I ever intended.

 

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The shortest amount of time I’ve ever worked on a book was a year. The longest was ten years. I don’t know if there’s an average amount of time. Different projects require different investments.

I think this comes across in the author‘s writing. It’s honed, it’s considered. It changes as a person changes over a period of years.

 

If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?

Well, since I’ve never made a living as an author, I’ve done a number of things to make money, everything from construction to copywriting. I think if I could choose any one thing to do for a living other than writing, it would be teaching philosophy, which I was setting myself up to do at one point in time. However, life didn’t unfold in that direction for me.

I hope that life allows Israfel to dedicate more time to his writing. The world needs authors like this!

 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I like writing with the lights off.

Enough said.


I have reviewed Israfel Sivad‘s poetry books and his excellent novel, The Adversary’s Good News. View all of his books here.

Poetry by Israfel Sivad

Indigo Glow and The Tree Outside My Window are two poetry anthologies written by Israfel Sivad. He also wrote a truly excellent novel, The Adversary’s Good News, which I reviewed a while back.

Israfel Sivad is the founder of Ursprung Collective, which has been referred to as “fantastic brain food” on ReverbNation. His first novel, “Crossroads Blues“, has been compared to the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky (Palmetto Review).​​ His second novel, “The Adversary’s Good News“, was a finalist for the 2016 Chanticleer Paranormal Book Award. His stories and poems have appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, The Stray Branch and Badlands Literary Journal. – Goodreads

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The poems in both books cover the themes of romance, drugs & alcohol, supernatural beings, angst and religion. I believe Indigo Glow was released prior to The Tree Outside My Window, but I actually read both at the same time, leaving each book in a different room to dip in to when I fancied a read.

To me, The Adversary’s Good News is a much more mature piece of writing. I feel that anyone could enjoy it and gain from it. These poetry collections are perhaps a little more niche. I would recommend them to teenagers and twenty-somethings, or those still struggling with the general themes of life, looking for others to relate to.

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5 Days of Oscar Wilde – 3: The Tomb of Keats

THE TOMB OF KEATS

(Irish Monthly, July 1877.)

As one enters Rome from the Via Ostiensis by the Porta San Paolo, the first object that meets the eye is a marble pyramid which stands close at hand on the left.

There are many Egyptian obelisks in Rome—tall, snakelike spires of red sandstone, mottled with strange writings, which remind us of the pillars of flame which led the children of Israel through the desert away from the land of the Pharaohs; but more wonderful than these to look upon is this gaunt, wedge-shaped pyramid standing here in this Italian city, unshattered amid the ruins and wrecks of time, looking older than the Eternal City itself, like terrible impassiveness turned to stone.  And so in the Middle Ages men supposed this to be the sepulchre of Remus, who was slain by his own brother at the founding of the city, so ancient and mysterious it appears; but we have now, perhaps unfortunately, more accurate information about it, and know that it is the tomb of one Caius Cestius, a Roman gentleman of small note, who died about 30 B.C.

Yet though we cannot care much for the dead man who lies in lonely state beneath it, and who is only known to the world through his sepulchre, still this pyramid will be ever dear to the eyes of all English-speaking people, because at evening its shadows fall on the tomb of one who walks with Spenser, and Shakespeare, and Byron, and Shelley, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the great procession of the sweet singers of England.

For at its foot there is a green, sunny slope, known as the Old Protestant Cemetery, and on this a common-looking grave, which bears the following inscription:

This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English poet, who on his deathbed, in the bitterness of his heart, desired these words to be engraven on his tombstone: HERE LIES ONE WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN WATER.  February 24, 1821.

And the name of the young English poet is John Keats.

Lord Houghton calls this cemetery ‘one of the most beautiful spots on which the eye and heart of man can rest,’ and Shelley speaks of it as making one ‘in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place’; and indeed when I saw the violets and the daisies and the poppies that overgrow the tomb, I remembered how the dead poet had once told his friend that he thought the ‘intensest pleasure he had received in life was in watching the growth of flowers,’ and how another time, after lying a while quite still, he murmured in some strange prescience of early death, ‘I feel the flowers growing over me.’

But this time-worn stone and these wildflowers are but poor memorials {3} of one so great as Keats; most of all, too, in this city of Rome, which pays such honour to her dead; where popes, and emperors, and saints, and cardinals lie hidden in ‘porphyry wombs,’ or couched in baths of jasper and chalcedony and malachite, ablaze with precious stones and metals, and tended with continual service.  For very noble is the site, and worthy of a noble monument; behind looms the grey pyramid, symbol of the world’s age, and filled with memories of the sphinx, and the lotus leaf, and the glories of old Nile; in front is the Monte Testaccio, built, it is said, with the broken fragments of the vessels in which all the nations of the East and the West brought their tribute to Rome; and a little distance off, along the slope of the hill under the Aurelian wall, some tall gaunt cypresses rise, like burnt-out funeral torches, to mark the spot where Shelley’s heart (that ‘heart of hearts’!) lies in the earth; and, above all, the soil on which we tread is very Rome!

As I stood beside the mean grave of this divine boy, I thought of him as of a Priest of Beauty slain before his time; and the vision of Guido’s St. Sebastian came before my eyes as I saw him at Genoa, a lovely brown boy, with crisp, clustering hair and red lips, bound by his evil enemies to a tree, and though pierced by arrows, raising his eyes with divine, impassioned gaze towards the Eternal Beauty of the opening heavens.  And thus my thoughts shaped themselves to rhyme:

HEU MISERANDE PUER

Rid of the world’s injustice and its pain,
He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue;
Taken from life while life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian and as foully slain.
No cypress shades his grave, nor funeral yew,
But red-lipped daisies, violets drenched with dew,
And sleepy poppies, catch the evening rain.

O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O saddest poet that the world hath seen!
O sweetest singer of the English land!
Thy name was writ in water on the sand,
But our tears shall keep thy memory green,
And make it flourish like a Basil-tree.

Borne, 1877.


keats-deathbed

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

John Keats was a poet.

He inspired the film, Arterial.

Known for Endymion (1818), The Eve of St. Agnes (1800), and many more.