Flight of Honey
Dianne Borsenik has long been one of my favorite living writers. Every new book of hers is a treat and a revelation. In her latest and perhaps best, the compelling Flight of Honey, Borsenik demonstrates her mastery on numerous levels, exploring love, marriage, joy, struggle, rebirth and the precarious state of our world with compelling storytelling and a lush rhythmic undercurrent. She seamlessly blends narrative, form, humor and keen observational acuity into a poem sequence that pulls you in, makes you ache, gives you hope, broadens your perspective and rewards repeat reading. Unequivocally, a modern masterpiece!
—John Burroughs, U.S. Beat Poet Laureate, author of Rattle and Numb (Venetian Spider Press, 2019) and The Wrest of the Worthwhile (Far Queue Press, 2023)
Once when I was little and very frightened, I was handed a jar of honey and a spoon. I closed my eyes and tasted beams of sun. Dianne Borsenik’s Flight of Honey reveals the bitter sweetness we discover in dark moments and closes its eyes to taste the moments of love we return to comfort in. There’s a new discovery in each taste from this collection. From the stark “Up the Mountain” through the inquisitive romp of the title poem to the introspection of “Knotted Together,” Borsenik sets us on a beeline path through her gracious mind with all of the wry humor and thoughtfulness we expect from this poetic trailblazer. In life, “blood doesn’t always call to blood” but this collection, like honey, beads warm amber and asks you simply to slow and savor.
—Jonie McIntire, Lucas County Poet Laureate, author of Semidomesticated (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2022), winner of Red Flag Poetry’s 2020 Chapbook Contest
For something so sweet, honey has a surprising depth of flavor, secret floral notes buried under waves of fructose and glucose. Similarly, the poetry of Dianne Borsenik will surprise you if you let it. There is joy and tranquility here that sometimes bubbles with mad effervescence, but also darker currents as she explores rustbelt landscapes, the Appalachian diaspora, the daughter-of-a-daughter-in-law’s blues, and her own mortality. Like the “flight of honey” in her title poem, she follows the seasons, tasting deep and mixing poetic forms to find her buried treasures. You will find haibun, ekphrastic poems, words on the wings of an unknown bird, and Jesus traipsing into Walmart. Much to love and wonder over!
—R. C. Wilson, editor/publisher of Last Exit Press, curator of Last Exit Open Poetry Readings in Kent, OH
Flight of Honey is a cabinet of memories, like the music and dinosaurs of childhood, or the accidents of place, an Appalachian hollow of unloving grandparents or a working-class town outside of Cleveland in the turbulent ‘60s. I love this voice, the stories, sometimes told in haiku and haibun, but feet sunk in the soft ground, narrating the quotidian of construction, stray cats, the lifelong love of James. Borsenik’s word play is delightful; for example, consider Flight of Honey. It could be a flight of honeys like a flight of microbrews, slow sips before swallowing. Or the way the elements of honey fly in on fuzzy legs, “sugar bombs” for the hive. Or the way the sweetness of life is fleeting, as in the birthday poem that closes the collection, naming the years the poet has lived longer than her mother lived, “still hungry for the good stuff.”
—Karen Schubert, Founding Director of Lit Youngstown, author of The Compost Reader (Accents Publishing, 2020)
Borsenik’s new collection of poems is a lyrical journey through a year of experiences that mirror the changing seasons. In free verse poems, haiku, and haibun, Borsenik explores the tensions of life’s highs and lows. One moment we can relish a “golden weekend” with days like honey, “richly aureate,” and the next, we hunker down, struggle amid the booms and busts of history. Through it all, there is plenty of music, a soundtrack in language and in images—from a grandfather strumming a dulcimer somewhere in a West Virginia hollow to Aretha Franklin belting out her classic “Respect,” to the music of the universe, “one giant composition plucked out / on a cosmic guitar.”
—Chuck Salmons, author of Patch Job (NightBallet Press, 2017) and Stargazer Suite (11thour Press, 2016)
With her feet planted firmly in Elyria, Ohio, Dianne Borsenik's exuberant, musical poetry casually toys with the stars. She is entranced by the common strings of life—force of rain, warmth of a hand, the sensory swarm of honey—and strums them into startling immediacy. These are lyrics that slow our furious roll, bring perspective to the daily scuffle, and invite us to share a new awakening, a "bubble in time," with her.
—Christine Howey, author of I Have a Poem About That (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2023)
What life-affirming music is to be found in these meditations that travel from “a glass of ice cubes” all the way to “the solar lux.” The Flight of Honey is graced by jays and bees, by the sweet honey of breath, “look at how the bodies touch” this book asks and hands us the spirit that rises on wings with each blessed passing day.
—Sean Thomas Dougherty, author of Death Prefers the Minor Keys (BOA Editions, 2023)
In this sweet collection, spiked with the poet’s desire to live longer than her mother did (“genetic advantage/is not in my charts,”) we have zany moments where Jesus roams the Walmart parking lot, sixties lyrics zing, and birds and feral cats screech in Midwest intersections. But the poems revel also in serious seasons of honey tasting, including the latter days, “the best of all,” as Borsenik fills her hive with finely realized echo puns, ekphrasis, haiku, haibun, and many free-verse form explorations. We usually say this about fiction, but I have to say about this book of poems: I couldn't put it down.
—Diane Kendig, author of Woman With a Fan: On Maria Blanchard (Shanti Arts, 2021)
In poet Dianne Borsenik’s new book Flight of Honey, the sounds of music, homages to visual art, maps of family geography, interactions with nature, and married life and related concerns, combine in a poetry collection that is as satisfying, fluid, and sticky as the titular sweetener. If ever a writer deserved to be Poet Laureate of Ohio, it would be Dianne Borsen
—Gregg Shapiro, author of Refrain in Light (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2023)
Raga for What Comes Next
This collection is organized around the idea of traditional music of India, but like all traditions, is thick with our collective pasts and presents. When they zoom out, the poems engage world religions, arts and sciences to frame our experience; then they zoom in on a Paul McCartney look-alike, a glass eye, the saltiness of skin and butter. Borsenik’s lifework in medicine informs the language of the body: “Jutting outline of scapula,/geometry of muscles rising/to meet fire-branded hair.” These meditative poems are part directive, part observation, part instruction manual, part call-and response. They breathe human life into the loneliness of a planet, and draw a line from the paleontology of dinosaur bones to the contemporary struggle. The emotional range of the collection is vast, from existential sorrow, “Each Man/dies so alone. The origami/of orrery, of living” to fierce validation, “When the son of a motherless goat/tries to silence you, go full-throat,/full-throttle, head high and balls out.” With wordplay, humor and witness, Borsenik offers us a brave plan: “Me? I’ll barefoot the rails/after they’ve cooled,/a balancing act of foolhardiness/and faith, caution left hanging/in the long morning, distant/whistle moonlighting as map."—Karen Schubert, Director of Lit Youngstown
Musical and mystical, often in the same poem, Dianne Borsenik has penned a series of bluesy ragas full of moons, Quentin Tarantino, hot rods, mass murders, dust, the Dog Star, the Weather Channel, and us as “paper lotuses,” cross-stitched with a series of precise ekphrastic poems derived from different forms of art. This is a book that moves easily between forms and worlds, sometimes with full declarative clarity, sometimes in more opaque lines that resist easy explanation. For in the end, this is a book of celebration, for language, for life, for all that can be seen and unseen: “This is the music of love. Grandsons, / morning raga. Grandfather, evening raga. / Maybe waiting is just a word for the raga that plays in between. — Sean Thomas Dougherty, author of The Second O of Sorrow
In this magical, musically-inspired collections of poems, Dianne Borsenik carves thoughts and orchestrates observations with the precision of a master. From seeing Scooby-Doo in a rust fragment to musing on shocking deaths imposed by man and nature, she strips away pretense and predictability. And in the end, Borsenik proves that while “sometimes, ordinary isn’t near enough,” her pungent words are more than enough to reshape and refurbish the head space you occupy. — Christine Howey, Former Exec. Director of Literary Cleveland, writer/actor, Exact Change
Dear reader, if you have come to these pages for sweet tales and harmonious endings, then you have come to the wrong place. Dianne Borsenik has a penchant for tart language, a luscious way with metaphor, and is not above making outright rowdy proclamations. “I’ll barefoot the rails/ after they’ve cooled… go full-throat… full-throttle, head high and balls out.” Every line of this improvisation of texture, taste, sound and smell is Dianne Borsenik, laid bare, then gathered, framed and hung out so the sun shines all over it, “a radical art form… a special breathtaking.”— Kari Gunter-Seymour, author of Serving, former Poet Laureate of Athens, OH, currently serving as Ohio Poet Laureate
Ragas, jazz, Dylan, Björk, oxygen, Japanese legends, Lennon, McCartney, origami, Tarantino, Michelle Obama. I could go on in listing the inspirations Borsenik provides, tied together in four parts, each one an instrument that contributes to the rhythms. From the sitar to the tabla, the poems read like a double album, one you will play many times, finding something new with each listen. As Borsenik concludes, “the real prize is not knowing.”—Puma Perl, poet, author of Retrograde, recipient of the 2016 Acker Award for Writing
Dianne Borsenik’s Raga for What Comes Next really is a raga: improvisations from set patterns. Through kinetic, metaphor-crackling couplets, ekphrastic poems that blow the frame off the genre, and reverberations of her rock and roll influences, she makes a ringing music both delicate and terrible; as in her poem Tides that weaves political slogans, the Greek god of dread, and the gracious power of natural phenomenon to create what comes next, “At the crest, / one wave merged / from many, resolute.”—Ray McNiece, author of Our Way of Life and the forthcoming New Haiku, currently serving as Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate.
Dianne Borsenik’s Raga for What Comes Next offers a framework of poems that burn with wit and wisdom. We learn to rely on the improvisational style of these poems: their turns, their moments between moments where – upon a closer look – empty is not so empty. Even a discarded bottle has “a shaft of sunlight” to refill it. Borsenik shows us how we all have an “unspooling of identity,” both individually and as a community. But she also reminds us – with sharp imagery and musical riffs that lift from the page – that we return to ourselves and must wait for what comes next. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait in the unknown alone. We have these poems – that sing with music, art, and pop-culture – to show us the joy, beauty, and fun that exists in our waiting.—Nicole Robinson
Dianne Borsenik is the true underbelly of the river, her words always flowing into the sort of gritty waterways that few writers ever have the guts to venture toward. Borsenik is a river of caring and craft, a river of experience and youthful innocence. Her words are what comes next, they offer a wisdom that goes on forever, yet somehow, they are timeless.—John Dorsey, Author of Letting the Meat Rest
I have been enjoying the poetry immensely.... i started plowing through Sitar... then went back and read things slowly and digestively... more often than not I found a sequence of words would stop me and i would think "Oh, my... this belongs in a song"... or find myself daydreaming a whole storyline from that snippet. It is truly an excellent, excellent work... full of insight, passion and humor combined with the integrity of a poet who celebrates the human condition with every syllable. BRAVO!—Alex Bevan, singer/songwriter, “Skinny Little Boy from Cleveland Ohio”
Super proud and excited for my friend Dianne Borsenik and her new book of poetry! Perhaps what makes me appreciate Dianne’s poetry the most is the way it turns me inside-out with reflection. It’s as though I'm time traveling through my memories and experiences with each line of prose. — Ringo Jones, madanthonyband.com, ringo-jones.com
Age of Aquarius
"Everybody Must Get Stoned"
—Bob Dylan “Rainy Day Women”#12 & 35
It’s time to turn it on time to rock hard rock solid rock steady rock-a-bye baby time to rock out with your cock out rock and roll rock around the clock throw away the rocking chair and move it like you mean it time to rocket to the moon to mars to a comet to an asteroid they’re just bigger rocks anyway don’t take this time for granite
—Sean Thomas Dougherty, author of The Second O of Sorrow (BOA Editions, 2018),
from A Poetry COMPENDIUM: A Couple of Books of Poetry I Blurbed and Many Other Books Big and Small That Found Their Way to Me That More People Should Know Because These Books That Aren’t Banned Not Yet Dear Lord They Aren’t Banned But Didn’t Win Any Big Awards Just Might Get You Through These Difficult and Dangerous Times We Live In
Age of Aquarius
"Flower Power in Verse!
you make me see the stars of you
the pluck the strings of my guitar of you
the lick my mind and suck my diction
sense of humor, fact and fiction
As I read most of these poems, I found my face aching from smiling, and when I read "HardDrive/SoftWear" I laughed out loud:
oh, link to me
with your hard
with spurts of spam
IM me, befriend me
and send me
with kicks from your
Yet there is a lot of strict form poetry, acrostics among the favorites, as well as some startlingly lovely poetry responding to other poets, such as in "Antiphon for Winter Solstice":
Be fierce--squeeze the fruit,
spike the juice, and garnish with rind.
if winter comes, can spring be far behind?
She is obviously a master of her craft with a gift for startling and perfect word choice. I most happily recommend this book to any poetry lover."— Catherine Russell
“What a magnificent book, with Bad, Inc. as the title poem and first poem: the poem itself so great and here the way it is laid out makes it even more irresistible! And the fascinating layout continues and enhances two more gems: Pink Hell and Beat Nix. And then again the structure of the poem makes for a brilliant and innovative statement in Intimacy. Another favorite of mine is Moan Light Drive: love it as right justified! And your ending poem, Sugar, Spice, and Everything Twice is a fine jazz/blues riff! Thanks again for the astonishing ride of these poems!” — Tony Moffeit, co-founder of the Outlaw Poetry Movement, winner of the Jack Kerouac Award for his volume of poetry, Pueblo Blues
"These poems are a delight — full of delight, energy, variety, warmth and wit and joy in living. There is a Mae West-Molly Bloom openness to life, a thrill in the senses, the body, in the smallest things: "picking up a new lipstick-/a shade of "sheer dusty rose" tagged "Dolce Vita"— and thinking it is, it's a sweet life where you/ can smear velvet on your lips and/kiss the man you love with them." A favorite is "Hairy Situation." "If you've never kissed with your fingers/tangled in a man's long hair, you don't know the/unbridled glory of unbound, unbraided, free free-flowing /aphrodisiacal keratin filaments sticking to your lips..." — Throughout the poems the speaker wants to savor every drop of living, each lick of Dolce Vita, the sweet life. "Nothing is worse than going halfway then stopping. She doesn't want to look back and have regrets over things (she) wishes she had done. This energy and excitement engages us totally as she takes us along with her to the 60's — to all kinds of places and times she's never been and out of the prisons for our taste buds, our lives, to new and exciting delicacies where no palate has gone before. She is going to see this party thru to the end" and she doesn't let us not go with her." — Lyn Lifshin, the Queen of the Lit Mags, subject of the award-winning documentary, Not Made of Glass
"Over the years, it has been a joy to sit, ponder, and absorb the poetry of Dianne Borsenik, both on the page and on the stage. Borsenik's latest collection is both funny and sensual while keeping its finger on the pulse of Modern American pop culture and the ever-beating human heart. This is a life well-lived, with an open mind and a healthy dose of laughter."— John Dorsey, author of Appalachian Frankenstein, a two-volume collection of poetry
"Cities have souls" and in Dianne Borsenik's two-part "Fortune Cookie" she explores "The City," "The Soul" and the myriad ways in which they interact. Although universal in appeal, several of Borsenik's poems are centered in Cleveland, its past and its present, good and bad. Consider these lines from "Cleveland Spelled Backwards Is:"
. . .revealing a ceiling
Borsenik also deals effectively with self and soul, when to be cool, when to "Howl" with a capital "H" and what to do "When It Doesn't Add Up," that perfect storm "when the world of even / meets the world of odd" and "the earth shifts / uneasily."
Borsenik's syntax has a rhythm all its own, fueled by a judicious use of repetition and internal rhyme. It sweeps the reader irresistibly from line to line, starting with "Got Soul?" a brilliant, metaphor-driven catalog of cities ending in her own city and then progressing through a cathartic journey from "Doubts and Redoubts" to "Thaumaturgy."
This highly recommended collection surges with a poetic form of kinetic energy, but if you find yourself too intoxicated from "a sip or two / of the strong stuff," don't worry. Just "fasten your "seatbelts" and enjoy the ride." — J.E. Stanley, author of work appearing in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, The Rhysling Anthology, and many other publications
Grabbed Fortune Cookie to read while I waited...at the airport this morning. It's really high energy and well written! And kind of positive/negative at the same time. Recommended!— Mike Finley, award winning writer, poet, videographer, author of Yukon Gold: Poemes de terre (Kraken Press).
"As usual with Crisis Chronicles Press founded by its editor, John Burroughs, this hand-produced chapbook is gorgeous as a physical object—comprised of a crisp cover design with original artwork, front and back, a cardstock interleaf with appropriate floating fans, thick ivory paper, and a well-chosen font. Borsenik’s “little” book of “little” poems is told in haiku form in a series that seemingly floats like the Asian fans of the interleaf. With no capital letters aside from proper names nor punctuation between poems, two haiku per page except for the last poem, these postmodern fragments weave a delicate whole. Borsenik welds the typical haiku subject of nature with the urban details of the twenty-first century: “the only cloud / in this perfect sky / nuke plant’s vapor[.]” Like graffiti, these poems write themselves onto the man-made landscape: “origami: backhoes folding, unfolding / atop the debris[.]” The last poem leaves the series in thin air to direct the reader into an ellipsis of the unknown of sorts as well as back to the beginning of the collection to reread: “no guardrail / between us / and the[.]” This chapbook is a pleasure to read over and again."— Krysia Jopek, author of Maps and Shadows
"Blue Graffiti rocks. I like the fact that you mixed traditional and modern haiku. It lets the poems be what they should be, rather than forcing the poems into a form which may or may not suit them. Your use of metaphor is extremely effective in this collection ("dry riverbed rocks flowing between the trees," "watching darkness / bleach minutes into day," "laughter showing in the air" and too many more to mention). Too many favorites to list, but "favorite" favorites are "dry riverbed rocks...," "bonfire" and the chilling "no guardrail." And, by the way, "Blue Graffiti" is a perfect title for a book of haiku. Excellent work!!"— J.E. Stanley, author of work appearing in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, The Rhysling Anthology, and many other publications.
"Forget what you thought you knew about haiku. This is a beautiful book filled with haiku that are beautiful, unexpected. Even my daughter now loves and is writing haiku. Crisis Chronicles Press makes lovely books by terrific poets. Dianne Borsenik made even a humble dairy queen poetic. Buy this book!" — Chandra Alderman, photographer
backhoes unfolding, folding
atop the debris
"Possibly my favorite of this collection. Strong visual and very accurate. Great eye...I dug a pond once on Forest Hills Blvd. with a backhoe, and I could feel my fingers pulling the levers as I read."— Stephen Bellamy
Thunderclap Amen"What an amazing read, Dianne. Loved it."— Victor Clevenger, author of In All These Naked Pictures of Us.
About "Polar Vortex" — "As I sit here with my responsible thermostat setting, freezing my clenched ass off, I find myself bellowing the lines of this wonderful poem with increasing marcato emphasis to show my extreme dissatisfaction with snow and cold."— Stephen Bellamy