Blurbs: Cardamom Cravings

[So far, all of my books have taken their titles from one of the poems in the book. Here is the title poem for this book:]

When my friend Ed and I worked at the University of Houston, we started going to lunch off campus every Friday, to blow off steam, discuss some common “concerns,” and buy lottery tickets (you’ve got to win some time, right?). One Friday, he called to confirm our regular lunch date and asked if we couldn’t go to a buffet with a wait staff of young, handsome 20-something men from India called Taj Majal, remarking slyly, “I’ve got some cardamom cravings.” I had this silly poem ready by lunch.

Cardamom Cravings

Seeking Sikhs for amorous weeks
And sultry sub-continentical nights,
Or men from the Hind’ blow by warm monsoon wind
And a taste for Kama-Sutrical delights.

Cardamom cravings! Cardamom cravings!
My eyes get so drunk on those beautiful men.
My heart is a cart of dark Krishnan slavings,
A juggernaut jingling with zils of desire
On the road to Nirvana; so let me begin:
Set my cardamom cravings on fire.

Oh you can keep your pedantic Vedantics
And lock you strict Moguls from view.
Just give me the son of Sri Rama–
With a callipygian tush from the Hind’-Indian Kush,
And the marigold-leid lingam of Shiva–and
I’ll use him all up–as would you!

Cardamom cravings! Cardamom cravings!
My eyes get so drunk on those beautiful men.
My heart is a cart of dark Krishnan slavings,
A juggernaut jingling with zils of desire
On the road to Nirvana; so let me begin:
Set my cardamom cravings on fire.

Cardamom Cravings, Notes for an Autobiography (Sergent Press, 2012, 192 pp., $15) An anthology of lyrics about growing up gay in the second half of the 20th century.

Mike Albert’s Cardamom Cravings is a rich, satisfying tour de force, an emotional roller-coaster ride, with writings that are sad, poignant, hilarious, clever, heartfelt and always real. A theme of many of these poems, songs and essays is being gay in the world, but there is so much here that is universal and that anyone can relate to. We are in the hands of a master of the sounds and sense of words, who captures feelings and objects precisely and perfectly. We ache with his finely drawn depictions of loss and take joy in the poet’s undying zest for the pleasures of life. If I did not already know (and love) Mike, I would come away from reading this book with the strong feeling, “This is a mind and personality I’d like to know. It would be an honor to have his friendship.” Don’t miss this book.
Alice Persons
, editor and publisher, Moon Pie Press

I have had the pleasure and privilege of reading the bulk of Mike’s poems. The ones that I see have found a home in this volume work a similar, breath-taking magic as others collected elsewhere. They pair a photographic eye with a keen awareness of the unseen—memories, ghosts, human behavior, unspoken undercurrents, desires, longings and emotions too enormous to constrain with labels. Mike crafts a vignette that freezes time and draws the reader in; then voila! he pulls back a curtain, shines a light or whispers a minimalist hint (no excess in these lines!) that reveals the unseen. At which point he departs, leaving an audible intake of breath in his wake. Sometimes I laugh too.
Kathy Biehl
, Attorney, Astrologer and Tarot Master

I became a gay man in part through Mike’s friendship. He taught me about gay life—art, community, history, politics, sex—through the type of both matter-of-fact and wonderful (“full of wonder”) storytelling on display here. So, reading Mike’s gay poetry today feels like a great visit with an old friend. Over a couple of bottles of wine, we reminisce about who we were 20 years ago, laugh through tears remembering crazy exploits of lost friends, and catch up on where we are today and the journey from there to here.
Troy Christensen
, Administrative Assistant
I am always amazed by Mike Albert’s intriguing ability to make language seem completely new. Perhaps it’s the creative way he uses details. He not only helps me want to pay attention but he teaches me to care about things I have never considered. And I love the vulnerability that fills these pages. The honesty, the humor! Cardamom Cravings is simply a feast. Enjoy!
Lindsey Coombs
, Pet Portraitist, Nanny Extraordinaire and Doting Grandmother

Sometimes five senses are insufficient to take in the world—or more precisely, the full presence of those who inhabit it. There is a layer that requires a second sight, hearing new dialog behind more easily detected words, smelling wafts of other or earlier life. These granular tales strip just enough of the five basics from a moment that we notice those other senses and what they reveal. Some demand to be shouted or sung (and, indeed, have been). Others want never to be heard aloud. All bring something fresh. How enriching to have a master observer as our guide!
Rex Gillit
, Computer Programmer

The poems in John-Michael Albert’s Cardamom Cravings carry me back to the years in Houston when Mike spent hundreds of hours schooling me in classical music, nonprofit management, politics, religion, literature, poetry, and the mysterious ways of men. These poems—beautiful gems of compassion, optimism, sex, gratitude, pain, love, and humor—bring me to the surprising and delightful realization of how much of him I still carry around in my head and my heart.
Edward F. Gumnick
, Writer and Designer

i’m sure there are lots of big words i could use to describe this book, but i don’t know any. But i do know Mike Albert and his is one of the most beautiful minds of any man i’ve ever known. Mike exposes a world that so many of us living a “straight” life remain blissfully ignorant of. With wisdom and humor his words render the surface of what it means to be gay transparent, allowing us all to see much deeper.
Mike Nelson
, Heating Technician

The art of uncovering is a poet’s art. The art of deception has often been a gay man’s art, one he refines in different guises and by discovering that, the more he hides from the world, the more he suffers. I know that well. In these pages, I felt the tender hand of the poet pulling back my cover, revealing the delights I still feel in looking—just looking—at a lovely man and, equally, the old agonies of loss, of lovely men who died in the 1980’s and of sad men who lived their whole lives hiding from their attraction. But, mostly, I feel as if I’m in a comfortable room with a wonderful soul letting me listen to the delights of being gay.
Bruce Spang
, 3rd Portland (ME) Poet Laureate; High School English Teacher

Mike Albert’s poetry is haunting and, at once, joyous. Reading his collection reminds one of two men dressed as a horse. True enough, these are two beings. One relays humorous stories using raccoons, Santa Claus, or the like. The other espouses these gorgeous lyrics using the same tales to relay truth and pain, but will make you smile at the sentiment in the end. It is in the synergy, the point where these two beings connect that we find our horse. And Mike is one fine, fine horse. He’ll make you smile from your soul and ache from your heart.
Tim Veilleux
, Accounting Clerk

Mike has this incredible gift of taking everyday, ordinary events in his life and turning them into art, either by music or poetry, or just story telling. From something as harsh as the subject of suicide to the gaiety of some ceramic reindeer in a store window, or merely watching (not hearing) a conversation between co-workers, he can recount the story in a way that makes it feel as if you are there. Such a gifted and talented man, and a good friend.
David Weber
, Computer Programmer/Analyst

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *