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Beautiful Justice by Brooke Axtell

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 241 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

“Although approximately one in six women will be sexually assaulted, more than 90 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.” (pg. XI)

Beautiful Justice by Brooke Axtell will inspire those who have been abused, trafficked, and left feeling unworthy to rebuild their self-esteem, create their own sacred places, and heal from their abuse. Axtell’s memoir is more than a look at her life and recovery, it is a call to those with similar stories and experiences.

She asks nothing of them but to care for themselves, to rediscover their own worth, and to find a community that can support them in that endeavor. Throughout the memoir, she offers poems she wrote throughout her experiences as a way to speak about the suffering and long road of recovery.

“Beautiful Justice is the art of taking back our lives and reclaiming our worth after abuse. It is a form of Justice that does not depend on what happens to our perpetrators. It is centered on our recovery as a creative process.” (pg. X)

Axtell’s recovery from abuse and trafficking was a long one. But with the help of her parents after a tumultuous time, she had two champions for her self-worth. At one point, her father praises her and reaffirms her as an intelligent young woman, while her mother helps her find places to seek out the help she needs. Even as she succeeds in some areas of her life, she is still battling demons.

“I strive for perfection in every dimension of my life — my dance, my studies, my spiritual path. I want to shine so brightly the shadows cannot consume me.” (pg. 16)

Axtell does not dwell on the horrors she experienced, but on the emotional trauma, the PTSD, and the dark shadows that follow her. Her recovery also provides lessons in how you can fool yourself into believing that all is right with your own world, even when you have not resolved the darkness that follows you. She offers moments of joy, her struggles, and her poetry in an effort to demonstrate the hard road of recovery but also the hope that can be found around you, if you are willing to ask the right questions of yourself. What makes you happy? How can you reclaim your life? How can you rebuild your worth without connecting it to what happens to the perpetrators of your abuse?

We are the untamed.
We are the unashamed.
We are beautiful justice
Just watch us rise. (pg. 143)

In addition to her story, she offers journal prompts in the back to help other survivors get started on their own recoveries, she provides them poems of strength and hope, and she provides mantras they can use to reaffirm their own worth. While she speaks a lot about how her ties to Christianity helped in her recovery, she also cautioned readers on how some doctrine and those who offer it can lead you away from your recovery journey. Axtell says that you need to find your own touchstones and paths to recovery, and many of the answers are within yourself. Self-reflection, self-care, and creativity can help those in recovery blossom and rebuild their lives. Beautiful Justice by Brooke Axtell is a journey of reclaiming self-worth and identity, while manifesting the beauty inside in the form of art and celebrating the value we bury inside.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet and Author:

Brooke Axtell is the founder and director of She is Rising, a healing community for women and girls overcoming rape, abuse, and sex-trafficking. Her work as a human rights activist led her passionate, widely talked-about appearance on the 2015 Grammy Awards. Brooke’s story has since been featured in a wide range of outlets, including Salon, Slate, Washington Post, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, and Fox News. This is her first book.

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim by Walt Whitman

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim
by: Walt Whitman

A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.

Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray’d hair, and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?

Then to the second I step—and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?

Then to the third—a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you—I think this face is the face of the Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.

Today’s Poetry Activity: Haiku

You knew it was coming. At least, you should have. I love writing haiku, so it seems fitting that we try to make our own today.

In short, haiku is a Japanese three-line poem that juxtaposes two images or ideas and “cutting word” between them — something that signals a moment of separation — as well as 17 syllables total in a 5-7-5 pattern spread out over three lines.

From Matsuo Basho:

The old pond-
a frog jumps in,
sound of water.

Here’s one of my urban haiku published at Better Than Starbucks:

Black gloss screen holds tight,
Slack jawed stare, eyes wide open,
Empty sockets filled.

Please share your favorite haiku or write one of your own in the comments. Here’s a Haiku Generator if you want some help.

Mailbox Monday #528

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Apprehension and Desire by Ola Wegner, a Kindle freebie.

What if Elizabeth Bennet had agreed to Darcy’s marriage proposal offered to her at Hunsford parsonage, sincerely thinking it was the best thing she could have done in her situation? As his fiancée and later wife, can she fall in love with Fitzwiliam Darcy who is still very much arrogant, rude, and not reformed man? Will she be able to look over her own prejudice and apprehension, and see a worthy man who loves, and desires her?

The Passion According to Carmela by Marcos Aguinis, translated by Carolina De Robertis, a Kindle freebie for World Book Day.

It is a time for upheaval in Cuba: the time to build a new society. Even from her position of privilege, idealistic divorcée Carmela Vasconcelos sees the waves of uprising and is caught up in the excitement. Persuaded by her brother, Lucas, she flees her wealthy home to join Fidel Castro’s rebels.

In the mountainous jungle of the Sierra Maestra, Carmela meets Ignacio Deheza, a charismatic Argentinian socialist fighting on behalf of the insurrection. On the training fields of a revolution, they bond in the cause—and in a blind passion that stirs their blood and soul.

As Carmela, Ignacio, and Lucas navigate increasingly dangerous political waters, their personal fates become inexorably tied with that of their country. But when the rebellion succumbs to corruption and disillusionment, they’ll find their dedication to the movement tested. For Carmela and Ignacio, they’ll soon discover that it’s their commitment to each other—and the choices they must make to survive—that will be the greatest challenge of all.

Go: A Coming of Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro, translated by Takami Nieda, a Kindle freebie for World Book Day.

As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.

One night, after being hit by personal tragedy, Sugihara reveals to Sakurai that he is not Japanese—as his name might indicate.

Torn between a chance at self-discovery that he’s ready to seize and the prejudices of others that he can’t control, Sugihara must decide who he wants to be and where he wants to go next. Will Sakurai be able to confront her own bias and accompany him on his journey?

What did you receive?

YouTube Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

Forgetfulness (listen here)
by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Via Poets.org

DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry and More

This National Poetry Month, I was finally able to make it to the local reading at the Gaithersburg Public Library for the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg monthly poetry reading and open mic. It was amazing to hear Lalita Noronha, Marianne Szlyk, and Henry Crawford live. All three were fantastic, with Szlyk reading a poem about Worcester, Mass., which is near where I lived as a child. Crawford has a riotous presence at the mic and captivated much of the audience. Noronha was engaging as well, though I was a bit late to the reading and did not hear all of her poems (which made me a bit upset).

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman also came to speak about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which many of you already know is one of my favorites. It happens every May, and it is free and family friendly. Kids activities, writing workshops, books, authors, and tons more. Ashman spoke about some of his favorite books and authors featured this year, as well as the National Poetry Month proclamation received by DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg founder Lucinda Marshall.

During the full open mic set, I was able to read one of my poems in the Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens. Check that out below:

Lastly, the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg event will be moving in the fall to the Quince Orchard Library. Readings will resume in September. Here’s the schedule, but keep in touch with schedules, etc. at the website:

  • September 8
  • October 13
  • November 10
  • December 8

Hope to see you there or at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 18, 2019.

Just Universes by Diana Smith Bolton

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Just Universes by Diana Smith Bolton, which won the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Chapbook Series from L+S Press, is an exploration of the universes we immerse ourselves in as children, the moments in time that etch themselves on our psyches, and so much more. It is a collection that speaks to the immensity of moments in our lives and the connections we feel and lose, but also the longing we have for moments that have passed long ago. “How to get back to you, Barcelona,/to nineteen years old, to fervent and pious trust/” the narrator laments in “To Barcelona”.

Time can pass quickly in some of these poems, like in “Mrs. Stockwell” where as a girl she watched the antics of boys dismissively only later to become a first grade teacher. Her universe became that school yard she remembered as a girl, and she lives her life there.

Bolton encapsulates moments in her poem that are chock full of emotion and wonder, as if she is gazing at the vast, starry sky trying to puzzle out the constellations. Just Universes by Diana Smith Bolton is a powerful chapbook collection. Don’t miss it.

RATING: Cinquain

Today’s Poetry Activity: Limerick

When I hear the word Limerick, I suddenly see Irish dancers, leprechauns, rainbows, and Ireland.

But Limericks are poems written in an anapestic[1] meter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA, in which the first, second, and fifth line rhyme, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme. I’m not great at writing poems with rhymes or in certain meters, but I do love a good limerick, especially when they are humorous. Sometimes, they can be rude.

Here’s one of my favorites from John Updike:

There was an old poop from Poughkeepsie,
Who tended, at night, to be tipsy.
Said he, ”My last steps
Aren’t propelled by just Schweppes! ” –
That peppy old poop from Poughkeepsie.

If you’d like to share your favorite limericks in the comments, I’d love to read them. If you’re daring enough, maybe you’ll write your own and share it.

Here’s something I used the generator for:

There once was a man who liked weddings.
He said, “See the great beheadings!”
His name was sarge.
He found the brush discharge.
And he couldn’t resist the telecharge.

To help those who want to write their own, there’s this cool Limerick generator.

Mailbox Monday #527

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely, narrated by Zachary Webber and Andi Arndt, from Audible.

I’m breaking up with setups. No more “you should meet my son, nephew, grandson, the butcher, the guy down the street who mows my lawn.” People mean well, but machines know better, so I’ll rely on the great dating algorithms of the web to find my ideal man, thank you very much.

Soon enough, it looks like I’ve found him – his screen name is Lucky Suit, and he’s hilarious, quick-witted, and full of heart. But when we finally get together in person, I have the distinct feeling I’ve met him before. Funny enough – he says the same thing about me.

Turns out, there’s something fishy about our meetup, and when we find out what truly brought us together, all bets are off as to whether we can trust our hearts over our heads. Can you fall in love with someone you’re not sure you really know?

For Every One by Jason Reynolds, which we purchased for our daughter. Here’s the review.

For Every One is exactly that: for every one. For every one person. For every one who has a dream. But especially for every kid. The kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to imagine. Kids who are like Jason Reynolds, a self-professed dreamer. Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. Then eighteen. Then twenty-five. Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them: All the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguishes—because simply having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith.

Spirit Riding Free: Lucky’s Guide to Horses and Friendship by Stacia Deutsch , which we purchased for our daughter.

In this must-have guidebook, Lucky Prescott and her friends teach readers about the things they love most of all: the small frontier town of Miradero, all things horses, and the fun that comes with being with best friends! The PALs and other key characters from the hit Netflix show guide readers through pages of interactive quizzes about which of the PALs they are, recipes for horse-friendly cookies, easy-to-make crafts, and so much more! With nonfiction elements about horse care and plenty of playful games and activities, this guide is the perfect gift for Spirit Riding Free fans.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman, which we purchased for our daughter.

Based on the New York Times bestselling book and the Academy Award–nominated movie, author Margot Lee Shetterly and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award winner Laura Freeman bring the incredibly inspiring true story of four black women who helped NASA launch men into space to picture book readers!

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai, which I purchased.

In her powerful new book, Nobel Peace Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author Malala Yousafzai introduces some of the people behind the statistics and news stories about the millions of people displaced worldwide.

Malala’s experiences visiting refugee camps caused her to reconsider her own displacement — first as an Internally Displaced Person when she was a young child in Pakistan, and then as an international activist who could travel anywhere in the world except to the home she loved. In We Are Displaced, which is part memoir, part communal storytelling, Malala not only explores her own story, but she also shares the personal stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her journeys — girls who have lost their community, relatives, and often the only world they’ve ever known.

In a time of immigration crises, war, and border conflicts, We Are Displaced is an important reminder from one of the world’s most prominent young activists that every single one of the 68.5 million currently displaced is a person — often a young person — with hopes and dreams.

Olivia Otter Builds Her Raft by Dara Kass and Jessica Piazza, which I purchased.

Olivia is a very strong swimmer and is doing fine on her own, until one day a big storm shows her that there is more to life. Travel with Olivia as she builds her raft of amazing otters who face adversity, support each other, and learn to believe in themselves and the power of teamwork.

What did you receive?

YouTube Poetry: Allen Ginsberg’s America

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters

Source: the publisher
Paperback, 154 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters, a collection of prose and poetry, is an exploration of the soul, a look at a soul struggling to love itself. This self-discovery journey travels from trailer parks to Paris and more internal worlds of faith, love, and self-confidence. Some of the poems exploring faith were meandering, like most journeys of faith can be, and often lost me on where they were going or what they wanted to say. But there are poem that read like confessions in personal journals and diaries. Some are incredibly raw and those are the poems that spoke the loudest about the pain of the journey and the sense of loss. Like in “AWOL Icon: A Love Song Without Music” (pg. 15), the narrator says, “Thunder breaks something and it’s not just the sky.”

From "Luster (Less)" (pg. 29)

Bad whiskey tastes sick sweet
like     forgetting
and that's enough to make me
              suck
      it
down.

Waters’ daughter, Desiree Wade, illustrates a few panels of comic like prose poems and the images are just as jarring and heartbreaking as the poems themselves. This team has great potential if they work together again on a graphic novel or another poetry collection.

These poems are fierce, particularly “Labor Pains,” which speaks about a mother’s fierce love and need to protect her child from the world. It’s beautiful and desperate and loss because as mothers we all know that our powers of protection are limited — inside and outside of the womb.

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters looks to foster self-love and faith and explore those concepts through religious-like experiences as told through poems and illustration. There is a lot to digest in this collection, but it is a journey worth taking. You may learn something about yourself along the way.

RATING: Quatrain