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“I have been an admirer of Peter Mladinic’s poetry for forty years. The narrative elements appeal to me, and many of these poems are inherently dramatic. But what excites me even more is his beguiling language and imagery, the unpredictable nature of his fertile, mysterious imagination. This rich collection represents a first-rate poet at his very best. What a beautiful book.” –-Steve Yarbrough.
Steve's Yarbrough's novel The Unmade World won the 2019 Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction.
"The title says it all. This is a book of poems by a poet who is a skilled storyteller, but where the poet takes us in the poetry of this book is not necessarily where we expected to go. Knives and tables are commonplace facts of daily life and Mladinic takes us into the lives of ordinary people who become extraordinary in moments and happenings. Just as knives on a table are rife with metaphor and edgy multi-connotations, so too are the narratives Mladinic has crafted into the fine poems of this substantial volume."—Glen Sorestad,
from 2000-2004 Poet Laureate of Saskatchewan.
"In this richly varied collection, Peter Mladinic’s myriad voices reveal his extraordinary gift for lyric storytelling. The speakers in his fresh and unexpected dramatic monologues populate a universe of recognizably American experience, telling of joys and horrors, childhood memories, murders committed, lovers desired and lost, lives fractured, heartbreak endured and survived (or not). An always believable surrealism of the everyday sometimes takes us into the dream life of families, births and deaths, moments full of illumination and love, sorrow and exhilaration. Mladinic’s poems are all about the inescapable reality of others whom he fully imagines in all their unforgettable poignance and irrepressible vitality. His disciplined, energetic, highly pressured free verse and brilliant attention to local detail celebrate life—its tragedy, its comedy, its romance and abundance—all the while taking into account, with the deepest compassion, the relentless passage of time. "--Elizabeth Frank.
In 1986 Elizabeth Frank won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Louise Bogan: A Portrait(Knopf, 1985).
Knives on a table is a collection of poems that span a good part of my writing life, from about 1985 to 2021. The earliest poems were written in the 1980s and the latest at the start of 2021. It is a book of free verse and loose blank verse. What distinguishes it from prose is its primary linguistic unit, the line. Some poems are autobiographical, their genesis being events from my life; others are a response to social events and cultural entities, with some spoken in a persona, a voice not my own but someone else's.
My aesthetic in Knives on a Table is three-fold. While many of these poems consist of sentences, the main thing is the line: poems are written in lines. Secondly, anything can be a poem, if it's good. Lastly, each poem is a fiction.
A brief reading and book signing from his new book of poems Knives on a Table
Peter Mladinic answering questions from Jim Harris about writing and publishing
6:00 to 7:00 PM Thursday, Dec 9th 2021
Lea County Museum Commercial Hotel Lobby103 S. Love (across from the Courthouse)
more info: Lea County Museum 575-396-4805
San Francisco Creative Writing Institute:
Write from the Gut Dec 11th 2021
The Alchemy Spoon Issue 5 Launch
Dec 18th 2021 at 7:30 pm
The Flow Chart Foundation
Speak the Word Jan 22nd 2022 at 11 PM MST
John Doe Virtual Launch Party with Kassie J, Runyon
Tues. Jan. 25th 2022 4:00PM-5:00PM MST
Philly Poetic Resistance Poetry Sharing Circle
Wed. Jan. 26, 2022 5:00PM-6:30PM MST
Philly Poetic Resistance/ February/March poetry circle/ Wed. Mar. 2nd, 7 PM.
We’re singing “Don’t Play the Game.”
Our choir director Tanner Wilkins looks
straight at me at our rehearsal
for Sunday service when somebody
who looks like my sister Judy will stand
in the baptismal font above the pulpit
so people in pews can see the person,
dunked by Pastor McCall, come up wet,
and, at the service’s end, stand while
the faithful form a line and one by one
shake the baptized person’s hand.
When that happened to me, earlier
that day I fell and scraped my hand,
playing tennis with Kayla, my and Judy’s
roommate. The faithful shook my hand
and it hurt, but I had this glow, a halo
about me in my mind and in theirs.
Pain, that night, was nothing. I was saved.
Tonight Tanner looks daggers at me.
We’re singing “Don’t Play the Game.”
Look at Kayla, I’m thinking, who’s not only
not in the choir but also not saved, though
she looks saved, like a PTA treasurer.
Behind her closed door she likes it
when Andy, her boyfriend, calls her names.
Her face flushes, her breaths quicken,
she told me. She doesn’t tell all, but
who does? Tanner has two daughters.
Jimmie, the elder, I heard talk about
one night in George’s Beer Garden.
Three guys one table over from mine.
Jimmie this, Jimmie that. I’m sure
it was Tanner’s daughter. So, look at her,
look her in the eye. Don’t play the game!
published in Ariel Chart 2021
Knock on Wood
The silver transistor at Dunn’s feet blared
“If I do I would surely lose a lot.”
Dunn, a bear of a man, teased
staccato rhythms from the radio.
“I’m not superstitious..”
Camp Tien Sha was low white buildings,
a swath of trees, at the end
of an unpaved road Monkey Mountain
greener than Dunn’s fatigues as he
danced on the walk outside the barracks
that Sunday night in August.
“Think I better knock, knock..”
Dunn’s big dark body tiptoed, slid,
shuffled, swayed to the music. In Viet Nam
I paced in the dark, and sat
in a shack walled by sandbags
with an M 16 near at hand. I turned twenty.
People passed by: Dunn, the heavy dancer;
Tan, the guard we “caught” squatting,
his feet on the commode lid, his way
different from ours, we Americans;
Moore, the young Californian Rorie
and other New Yorkers wanted to smack,
because of where he was from.
I liked the motion of riding in an open Jeep,
hard yet soft, casual.
I saw the dull green of the Jeeps,
their sides filmed with dust;
wood slats of a barracks,
its balcony’s long wooden rail;
lines of men with silver trays
in the mess hall; faces:
Mai, the laundry girl’s round pale face,
her short permed hair; the long brown face
of Ackles, a GI from Pittsburgh.
An early Sunday night, mountains
behind us, Dunn, big and very dark,
danced on the walk
in front of our barracks, danced
in his light green fatigues.
His body moved gracefully.
He can dance, I thought.
I watched him all of thirty seconds.
published in Offcourse 2021
The above is a link to Christie Keele's review of Knives on a Table in The Compulsive Reader.
The above is a link to David Reich's review of Knives on a Table in Offcourse Literary Journal.
Also, see David Finger's review in Goodreads.