Illustrations by; Junyoung Kim

The Last Alchemist

Michael Kriesel

tumblr_n02fm2gtdM1togqjho1_1280The Last Alchemist

I wake up dressed in my soul's suit of light.
It's like I'm a sailor again, my dress whites
flying a crow on one sleeve, above
a quill and scroll and three dark chevrons.

My hat's on the doorknob, a Frisbee halo
that I'll throw, spinning, out the bus window
or give to the girl with red hair sitting near,
or toss in a drawer and forget, depending which year

my soul slipped into this morning. Every morning
I die into my life—alchemy's happy ending,
years later. All my selves have mixed:
sailor, writer, warlock. Past tense relaxed.

On the way to work it starts to snow.
I honk and salute a navy blue crow.

(Issue 297.2 Spring 2012)

Several themes thread through my poems: a decade as a navy journalist; a few years studying and practicing various forms of occultism; a lifelong love of comic books; and the Wisconsin farmscape where I’ve lived most of my life. Much of my work merges formal structures with pop culture, resulting in a zombie sonnet (entitled Zonnet) that appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review; a sestina spliced with lines from a non-existent Conan the Barbarian story that landed in The Writer’s craft column; and an Aleister Crowley lipogram which received NAR’s 2015 Hearst Prize.

The Last Alchemist was my first sonnet, written in my late 40s. I found rhyming couplets easier to achieve, and as a result, I unwittingly wrote a Clarian Sonnet (after English poet John Clare 1793-1864). I unaware of this until Vince Gotera’s From the Editors comments in the Spring 2012 North American Review, where the poem appeared.

I’ve written nine sonnets to date: two Miltonic, two Shakespearean, and five Clarian. After The Last Alchemist, which uses all hard rhymes, I employed softer end rhymes in later efforts. The Clarian’s strength is that it allows the use of subtle slant rhymes, which the listener can still pick up, since the two end words are so close together. I employ a hard rhyme in the final couplet, for a stronger sonic emphasis to re-enforce the poem’s conclusion.

Though it lacks a sonnet’s turning point between lines eight and nine, The Golden Age of Comics illustrates the Clarian form’s strength.

The Golden Age of Comics

All through World War Two a Jewish
kid named Alex Schomburg drew
obsessively-detailed comic book covers.
Caped heroes killed Hitler over and over.
After the war, Captain America retires,
becoming a teacher named Steve Rogers.
Schomburg’s post-war covers glow
like airbrushed animation cels:
Princess Pantha scampers in her leopard bikini
to save Safari Steve from pygmies in Tahiti;
a cop issues Wonder Woman a ticket
for parking too close to a fire hydrant.
Russia has yet to become the Red Menace.
On newsstands Batman and Robin play tennis.

Michael Kriesel: Winner of North American Review’s 2015 Hearst Award, and President of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, Michael Kriesel, 53, is a poet and reviewer whose work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Antioch Review, Crab Creek Review, Rattle, Small Press Review, Library Journal, Nimrod, North American Review, Rosebud, and The Progressive. His manuscript Forgiving the Grass was a finalist in the ABZ Press 2014 First Poetry Book Contest. He served on the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission 2006-2008 and was the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Conference Coordinator 2006-2012. He’s won the 2012 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Triad Award, the 2011 Wisconsin People & Ideas Poetry Contest, the 2009 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Muse Prize, and the 2004 Lorine Niedecker Poetry Prize from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. He was featured poet for the 2010 Great Lakes Writers Festival. He also judged the 2014 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring Poetry Competition. Books include Chasing Saturday Night: Poems about Rural Wisconsin (Marsh River Editions), Whale of Stars (haiku) (Sunnyoutside), Moths Mail the House (Sunnyoutside), and Feeding My Heart to the Wind: Selected Short Poems (Sunnyoutside). He has a B.S. in Literature from the University of the State of New York, and was a print and broadcast journalist in the U.S. Navy 1980-1990. He’s currently a janitor at the rural elementary school he once attended, and also works as a security guard.

Michael Kriesel has poems in an upcoming Crab Creek Review, and the forthcoming Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology, Minor Arcana Press. He’s also in the Dwarf Stars 2015 anthology, Science Fiction Poetry Association; Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books, Minor Arcana Press 2014; and in issues #51, #59, #76 #78, #83, #84, #86 of the excellent electronic journal for short poems, Right Hand Pointing. Micheal will also be featured in issue 300.2 as the 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize Winner. Michael Kriesel was last featured in Issue 300.2, Spring 2015

Illustrations by; Junyoung Kim. Junyoung Kim is an illustrator, cartoonist, and printmaker based in New York. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in illustration.Her works are featurd in various magazines including the Visual Opinion, GrowerTalk, and Green Profit magazine.
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