Steve Isaak reviews “The Zar Tales”

Steve Isaak has reviewed “The Zar Tales” on his website: .
Steve is a writer in San Francisco who has just published his first book:  “Can’t Sleep”: Poems from 1987-2007, by As soon as I receive his ordered book, I will read and review. But knowing Steve’s writing… least the last 3 years of it….it’s going to be quite an adventure.  I  don’t always understand his poetry, but he certainly takes me places I would have never gone.  Someone asked me to describe him once….as a writer:  I saw a Hindu-God with machine guns/Temple bells/fireballs and other goodies.  And the musical stream of anything Joan Osbourne.
Reading Steve is like jumping feet first into an active volcano.  Intense.  Cleansing or die.—2007/

Lady Nyo

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Zar Tales, by Jane Kohut- Bartels

(pb; 2010: poem/story/novella anthology)

Overall review:

This anthology focuses on the concepts/forms of the Zar.

In her introduction to one of the stories, “A Turkish Tale,” the author writes:

“The Zar is a number of things in Middle Eastern and North African societies. It’s a ritual of extracting a Demon (a Zar) from the possessed, placating and then restoring them to the host body. A Sheikha gives it new marching orders. . . Hence, a Zar is also a Demon or Djinn. The Zar is a bonding or ritual dance among women, The Zar dance is also a form of Hyperarousal Trance, distinct from meditative trances.”

Kohut-Bartels has matured as a writer.

Her first anthology, A Seasoning Of Lust, is as masterful as a multi-cultural anthology can be. By telescoping her creative visions onto a specific culture/theme (in this case, the Zar), she’s taken her writing to a new level. (We, as artists and writers, can always get better, with time, work, the right subjects, and patience.)

Expect more great things from this author. Own this anthology.

Review, piece by piece:

1.) “Wrestling With The Zar” (poem): A woman, set to be possessed by a Zar, sends a message to her lover.

2.) “The Troupe” (poem): The power-dynamic between a restless Sea and its followers is addressed in (mock?)-sacrificial dance.

3.) “Goddess Nut” (poem): Sensual poem about the all-encompassing deity.

All of these poems written in a ritualistic-symbolic-formal tone; they, like the rest of the pieces in this anthology, are tightly-written, concept-centric, effective, wise, intriguing and educational. They transported this reader, in dusty whirlwind fashion, to alien locations and pasts, and their relatable characters.

4.) “Ali Baba And The Four Thieves” (story): A woman revels in her ancient, yet socially progressive role, amongst her desert brothers.

This story was originally published in A Seasoning Of Lust. Given its subject matter it’s a logical addition to this anthology.

5.) “Ahmed Is Dying Of Love” (story): A kind-hearted American belly dancer in Turkey gains a “much-younger” male admirer, a flute player (Ahmed). Sweet-natured, smile-inducing piece.

6.) “A Turkish Tale” (story): Ali, a Demon, sows seeds of unrest between a recent young bride (Aya) and her husband (Ahmed, presumably from “Ahmed Is Dying Of Love“).

A Sheikha (Wise Woman) named Shakira confronts the source of Aya and Ahmed’s discord, so that Ahmed and Aya may be rid of it.

Practical, tastefully erotic, excellent.

7.) “The Desert Zar” (story): Cinematic swoop-shot of a Zar possession ritual. This sensory-rich piece made this reader feel like he’d been immersed in this intense tableaux.

8.) “The Zar Tale” (novella): Southeastern Turkey, the 1980s. An Islamic mayor (Mazud Nageesh), threatened by the Zar possession rituals enacted by Shakira Arsan (from “A Turkish Tale“) and other village women, sends for three Mullahs (Islamic priest-judges), so that the Mullahs may end the outlaw/pagan meetings.

Shakira hears about Nageesh’s actions. She implores her lover-Zar (Ali, also from “A Turkish Tale“), a former “Berber chieftan of the Turaregs,” to head off this life- and sanity-threatening danger to her and the women.

Suspenseful, plot- and character-wending work that ends on a cliff-hanger-ish note. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

9.) “Explanation of Hyperarousal Experience” (essay): Subtitled “Hyperarousal Trance, Belly Dance, And General Creativity,” this brief essay is exactly what its title says — an explanation of hyperarousal experience, from various points of view (drum beat patterns, scientific, et cetera). Solid, fascinating stuff.

The Zar Tales can be purchased from

Posted by Steve at 12:57 AM

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2 Responses to “Steve Isaak reviews “The Zar Tales””

  1. Margie Says:

    My copy is on it’s way – I can hardly wait!


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Marge.

    Bill Penrose and I are doing an interview of me…..about the origin of the novella…”The Zar Tale”. Hopefully it will give a base for people understanding this story. It’s a bit quirky, but I think this is mostly because of the alien culture, and in particular the Zar ritual.

    Probably other things, too, but I have faith in readers coming to their own conclusions.



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