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Disinheritance by John Sibley Williams

Source: the poet
Paperback, 77 pgs.
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Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams seeks to address the natural privilege of passing down traits, memories, and more to another generation in light of recent deaths and miscarriages. But we can take solace in that things that happen to us now have happened before. Like the narrator says in “Salmon Run,” the salmon are moving upstream toward places that their great-grandfathers had gone, which he says is a “temporary holiness of knowing” that “all my mistakes have been made before.”

From "A Dead Boy Martyrs His Mother" (pg. 32)

With a sanctified blade
to behead or slip between
ribs like a love letter
returned to sender.

Many poems use elements of nature — animals in particular — to illustrate the absence of connection or connections that are denied. Williams’ verse will leave some readers agape, like in “I Sit My Grandfather by the Mouth of the Columbia River,” in which the narrator says, “I remember the cornfields as so far from here,// the flat, arid valley that drowned us/and for which we drew blood,/how full a silo feels when emptied of everything but our bodies.” It’s as if the flesh of bodies is inconsequential to what is locked inside them — the memories, the soul. To lose these at once or gradually is disheartening to say the least. In “A Room for Listening,” there are echoes reverberating throughout the stanzas, like the echoes of lives that almost were or that are no more. Williams’ lines are vastly haunting.

There is a sense of longing and deep sadness in these poems, and through this darkness, the narrators attempt to name what is missing even though it cannot be named. Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams is deeply affecting.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Controlled Hallucinations (2013) and Disinheritance (forthcoming 2016). A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the American Literary Review Poetry Contest and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, december, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod International Journal, Hotel Amerika, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Mailbox Monday #383

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Mr. Darcy’s Refuge: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds purchased from Audible.

Trapped for three days by a flood, and trapped forever by society because of it….

The river isn’t the only thing overflowing in Hunsford when a natural disaster forces Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to work together. The residents of flood-stricken Hunsford, seeking refuge in the parsonage atop the hill, are unaware they are interrupting Darcy’s disastrous proposal. Even worse, the flood has washed out the only bridge to Rosings Park, stranding Darcy with the woman who has just refused his offer of marriage. But it may already be too late to redeem Elizabeth’s reputation….

In this Pride & Prejudice variation, the lane dividing the Hunsford parsonage from Rosings Park has been replaced by one of the flood-prone Kentish rivers. The storms are real – the spring of 1811 was remarkable for numerous thunderstorms in Southeast England.

Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams for review in September.

A lyrical, philosophical, and tender exploration of the various voices of grief, including those of the broken, the healing, the son-become-father, and the dead, Disinheritance acknowledges loss while celebrating the uncertainty of a world in constant revision. From the concrete consequences of each human gesture to soulful interrogations into “this amalgam of real / and fabled light,” these poems inhabit an unsteady betweenness, where ghosts can be more real than the flesh and blood of one’s own hands.

“In John Sibley William’s “amalgam of real /and fabled light” one is able to believe again in the lyric poem as beautiful-if difficult-proof of private space. Disinheritance contends intimately with loss, to be sure – but it also proposes the poem as a way to remember, to persist, to be oneself, to believe. And to persist when belief may not be possible within the bounds of the shores the seas impose upon us.” -Joan Naviyuk Kane

In Remembrance of the Life by Jane Rosenberg LaForge for review from the poet.

A chapbook by Jane Rosenberg LaForge. 25 elegiac and unflinching poems that harvest a transformative beauty from the fields of memory and loss. “Rosenberg LaForge points toward the beauty of inevitability; death is less an end than a step toward ‘the infinite, and you can/ no longer resist the distance.’ Reading these poems is often akin to “diving into a rainbow of saffron and petrol,” where the choices one makes may not be choices at all.”

What did you receive?

Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams

Source: John Sibley Williams
Paperback, 78 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams is a debut collection that breaks down the barriers between reality and fantasy in ways that will remind readers of Salvador Dalí and the surrealists one moment and a spiraling, broken hearted romantic, the next.  These poems are equally raw in emotion and imagery, like in “XXXIX” (page 49), “The knives I display in this poem/cannot even cut an overripe fruit.//When I thrash them wildly/to hold them to your throat, or mine,/when I threaten an old enemy/with a few unsharpened words/”  Violence only appears in some of these poems, but it is never gruesome or overly graphic.  One main technique used throughout the collection resembles slipstream combining the familiar with the unfamiliar.

XII (page 22)

I would like to crochet a mitten
for my future child,
       to warm another's hands
       with the work of my own.

I would like to build a house for someone,
       anyone,
       a stranger,
       from foundation to wafting chimney,
and then smile at the pain
of pressing on the bruises
left from making.

But all I have is a song to lean on,
       an eager voice,
       a white cane
       related to me as stone is to moss,
and I am hoping
this simple attempt at light will suffice.

Unlike unbidden hallucinations, these poems carefully unravel in slow movements to serve as a reminder to the reader that their own lives can and have spiraled until they were pulled back.  Even as movement speeds up in some poems, there is always a moment where that movement stops, providing a perspective for the reader to examine.  Williams’ poems have the aim of making the untranslatable translatable, and the poems draw parallels between each poem’s narrator and the reader’s world.  “IX” (Page 19) seems to partially showcase the need for control in love, but how equally painful trying to keep control can be: “The paper cut on my palm/runs parallel to my love line./They taper off at the same spot,/under my thumb//” evoking the image that control can smother love.

 From "XLV" (page 55)

Let's be moths together
circling the bright eye,
circling and trying to enter,
then retreating as far as darkness allows.

There’s a constant struggle in these poems from the choices made and the choices that could have been made.  Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams peels back the skin to reveal what’s underneath, but then veils it with sheer fabric to obscure its harshness.  Some of these poems can be puzzling, requiring a couple of reads, while others seem contrived or unfinished.  Overall, the collection is engaging and accessible for more patient readers.

About the Poet:

John Sibley Williams is an award-winning writer of fiction and poetry. He works as Book Marketing Manager of Inkwater Press, as well as a freelance literary agent, and lives in Portland, Oregon. John is the author of Controlled Hallucinations (forthcoming 2013 by FutureCycle Press), as well as seven chapbooks. John is the winner of the 2011 HEART Poetry Award, and finalist for the Pushcart, Rumi, and The Pinch Poetry Prizes. He has served as Acquisitions Manager of Ooligan Press and publicist for various presses and authors, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing and MA in Book Publishing.

This is my 64th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

 

 

 

This is my 27th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Mailbox Monday #221

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. May’s host is 4 the LOVE of BOOKS.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received for review:

1.  Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams, which I received from the poet.

Filled with impassioned logic and musicality, John Sibley Williams’ debut collection strives to control the uncontrollable by redefining the method of approach. In these compact poems, so edged in dark corners and the strenuous songs of beauty and identity, Williams establishes a unique world of contradictions and connections that bridge the foreign and the familiar. Moving through art and history, through apocalyptic visions and family, into and back out of the paradox of using language to express languagelessness, Controlled Hallucinations weaves universal themes and images with the basic human reality of touch, word, and what is lost in their translation.

What did you receive?