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Iron into Flower by Yvette Neisser

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Iron Into Flower by Yvette Neisser is a journey into memory and identity shifts, following the passing of loved ones and divorce and even the journey of motherhood. In her opening poem, “The Arc of the Sun,” a mother takes a trip to Mexico and comes back changed, full of stories she didn’t want to share, and a new perspective, living life moment to moment. Travel can do that to us, inform our perspectives, shift our beings, and move us into a place where we are changed.

Travel weaves in and out of these poems like a teacher providing new perspectives and changing people profoundly. In “Compass Points,” the narrator stumbles “into adulthood,/veering from crevice to crevice,/scraping for my own space,/” reminding us that to traverse the world is to find oneself, carve out our own spaces, while being rooted in family and home like the rings of a tree — “the years … etched rings around my life/first with you, then without you.”

In “Nonfiction,” readers will learn how memory can be parsed out to new generations, even if the entire past is held back. A grandmother shares Holocaust through songs sung in barracks, but she also instills a mantra of “Never again” to the generations that follow. The narrator asks, “Have I borne it well?/Should I wield it/or hide behind it?” only to remind us “It’s not easy, you know,/clamping the lid/on the revolution.//”

By the final section of the collection, Iron Into Flower by Yvette Neisser, the poet has traversed through memory, history, culture, and so much more, to emerge into the flower she is today.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Yvette Neisser is the author of Grip, winner of the 2011 Gival Poetry Prize. Founder of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT), her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri and Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio. She also contributed to the anthology Knocking on the Door of the White House: Latino and Latina Poets of Washington, D.C.

Yvette has taught creative writing, poetry translation, and literature at numerous institutions, including the George Washington University, Catholic University, and The Writer’s Center (Bethesda, MD). She has lectured on translation at venues such as the Library of Congress, the Embassy of Argentina, and Georgetown University. For several years, she was a roving “poet in the schools” in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

Her passion for international affairs and cultures has been a driving force in both her writing and her professional career. After studying in Egypt and Israel, her work in international development and research has taken her to Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Europe.

Book Launch: I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir by Fran Abrams on Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md.

I am honored to help Fran Abrams launch her first poetry book, I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir, into the world on Dec. 4, 2022, at 3 p.m. at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD.

I hope that you’ll join us as Fran reads from her collection, and I pepper her with questions about her work and her thoughts about the second wave of feminism.

Books will be available for purchase and, of course, Fran will autograph them for you! Refreshments will be served. Don’t miss out on that!

We do ask that you register for this FREE event. You can do that here.

I can’t wait to see everyone.

Watchman, What of the Night? by W. Luther Jett

Source: the poet
Paperback, 46 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Watchman, What of the Night? by W. Luther Jett is a collection that records events as they happen, yet asks the reader to consider what could be done to modify current outcomes and change fate. Opening the collection with “The Builders,” Jett reminds us of all those who have come before us, who have build the societies in which we live and who have left us now responsible for its direction. We cannot simply be the watchman on the sidelines; we must be active participants.

Yet, even in the early poems, like “With an Army at Our Gates,” Jett points to those who still maintain their routines even when things are dire: a mother calling children in to lunch, someone running to the subway, and a man washing his socks. It is to say that life continues on as it has even when danger is ever present. Is this our way of ignoring the danger? Coping with it? These are just some of the questions we should consider.

A War Story

Here is the book
with torn pages.
Only half remains
to be deciphered.

And here is the house
with burnt rooms,
and a few fading photos
scattered across the floor.

And here, here — Forgive me
but these are my bones.
This is the face I was using
Wrap them all tenderly.

Sing of me as you sleep.

There is much to lament in this collection, but there could be hope at the edges that we can change and move in a better direction as a society. This is particularly evident in “Promise” when the snow falls and covers “all that was” and a “a new world/revealed.”

Watchman, What of the Night? by W. Luther Jett traverses history and the present, outlining the struggles of people and even though they may not impact us directly, they are a symptom of societal neglect. Like watchman we stand too idle on the sidelines (complaining, shaking our heads, etc.) and doing little to effect change. Perhaps we need to step down from that watchman’s post and into the fray.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

W. Luther Jett is a native of Montgomery County, Maryland and a retired special educator. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, such as The GW Review, Beltway, Potomac Review, and Little Patuxent Review as well as several anthologies, including My Cruel Invention and Proud to Be. His poetry performance piece, Flying to America, debuted at the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C. He has been a featured reader at many D.C. area venues. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father, released by Finishing Line Press in 2015, and Our Situation, released by Prolific Press, 2018. A third chapbook Everyone Disappears is now on sale, to be released in late November, 2020. Kelsay Books will be releasing Luther Jett’s fourth chapbook, Little Wars, in June 2021.

Enter the Giveaway:

Leave a comment with your email by Dec. 4, 2022, for a chance to win 1 copy of Watchman, What of the Night?

Mailbox Monday #710

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 its 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.

Thank you to Velvet for stepping in when Mailbox Monday needed another host.

Emma, 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 for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration:

I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd by Dominic “Nerd” McDonald from Day Eight Books.

Dominic “Nerd” McDonald, the 2022 DC Poet Project winner, is the author of, I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd, a memoir-in-poems that fearlessly details the author’s intersecting experiences of repression and self-development. The intersecting worlds of hip hop, higher education, and literature combine in this book as an anthem for nerds everywhere.

“McDonald shines brightly and lights the path for those who will walk it next.” – Susan Scheid, author of After Enchantment

Breaking the Blank by Dwayne Lawson-Brown and Rebecca Bishophall from Day Eight Books.

Breaking the Blank is a spirited dialogue between poets—and a meditation on love, parenting, gentrification, money, and the literary life. In accessible free verse, haiku, sonnets, and other forms, Dwayne Lawson-Brown and Rebecca Bishophall honor the African American experience, make sacred the ordinary, and remind the reader of the marvelous in the everyday.

I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir by Fran Abrams from the poet.

I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir is an autobiographical story told in poetry through the eyes of a woman whose life paralleled the second wave of feminism, a movement that began in the 1960’s and focused on equal opportunities and equal pay for women.

The second wave changed the expectations of women from the homemakers of the 1950’s to career women. The author was a freshman in college in 1962 determined to enter the workforce in a professional position. After completing her graduate degree in 1969, she was rebuffed in job interviews by men who assumed she would leave her job soon after she married and had children. She accepted a job in an office where she was the only professional woman. She married in 1970, had her first child in 1976 and her second in 1984. She worked for 41 years, retiring in 2010.

Placing her story in the context of women’s marches and feminist goals, the author tells how she grew up in a world that expected women to become homemakers and how she combined her desire for a professional career with marriage and motherhood at a time when mothers with careers were just starting to be accepted in our culture.

We by Sarah Freligh from Small Harbor Publishing.

This me-too guide to We takes a deep dive into golf greens, mom & pops, cornfields, & figure salons to rescue the wreck eons of Kingship has wrought on everyone from the school shooter to Cassiopeia & the holy roller girl. Freligh’s voice is fresh & flagrant, tender as it is Olympic, the curse that works its own godspell—& this book broke my heart open.

—Jane Springer, author of Dear Blackbird and Murder Ballad

Slowly/Suddenly by Allison Blevins from Small Harbor Publishing.

“If I can give myself anything, let it be a way into anger,” a reasonable creed for navigating a life continually demanding passivity toward the violence and loss it inflicts. Allison writes the plights of mothers, daughters, lovers and spouses in a voice that endures scars and calluses but refuses to accept them as necessary. “Some unbecomes happen slowly.” This book provides precise detail of ascendance above survival.

Handbook for the Newly Disabled by Allison Blevins from Small Harbor Publishing.

“Allison Blevins’ lyric memoir, Handbook for the Newly Disabled, is a whirlwind of stunning and startling reflections on the body, disability, memory, and motherhood. Nostalgia blends with the present, a self trying to make sense of pain. ‘What is left in my body to confess?’ she asks. Those of us who have lived chronic pain and illness will find ourselves understanding all too well. Those who haven’t will gain new insights into what a disabled life can feel like. ‘All of us will never be something we might have been. You see us smiling in our chairs, leaning on canes in commercials for pills and infusions. To love me, put your legs in ice.’ Spending time immersed in the world of this book helped me, as a disabled person with chronic pain, feel seen and less alone.”

—Alana Saltz, author of The Uncertainty of Light and editor-in-chief of Blanket Sea Press

Handbook for the Newly Disabled is a beautiful lyric memoir of disability: of the dailyness of grief, parenting, queerness, and pain in the setting of navigating illness. Allison Blevins writes gorgeously around, inside, and through illness, welcoming and challenging readers on every page, in every lyric turn.

—Krys Malcom Belc, author of The Natural Mother of the Child

For a very long time we have needed Allison Blevins’ lyric memoir, Handbook for the Newly Disabled. The lyrics are in quintets with titles such as “Brain Fog” and “My Neurologist (Who Doesn’t Have MS) Explains Pain Is Not a Symptom of MS.” For a very long time we have been reading books by physicians instead of books by disabled poets. “This is the chapter about hope. Fuck him,” one line reads. “I’m alive in Missouri,” another line reads. Blevins’ lyric memoir expertly talks back to medical ableism and, more than that, makes self-determination into an art.

—The Cyborg Jillian Weise, author of Cyborg Detective and The Amputee’s Guide to Sex

Ladies’ Abecedary by Arden Levin from Small Harbor Publishing.

An abecedary, or alphabet book, teaches letters, the primary pieces of language and of story-making. In Ladies’ Abecedary, each letter is a woman, each woman is a poem, and each poem is a narrative of female identity. These micro-biographies-in-verse present a series of anonymous characters (historical and mythological, contemporary and composite, unique and universal) in a collection that reveals “the diverse and complex nature of women’s interior and external lives.” Letter by letter, Ladies’ Abecedary “exemplifies the importance of the project to reclaim voice, agency, and equality for women,” and raises a remark about how a woman’s story is told.

What did you receive?

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together and share their gratitude.

Sway by Tricia Johnson

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 108 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sway by Tricia Johnson is best read a few poems at a time, dipping in and out of nature’s changes and seasons. Johnson’s poems are primarily focused on nature and the narrator is caught up in all the beauty. She’s distracted by it, enthralled by it, and in awe of it – as it should be. In “Nestle,” readers are invited to meet the narrator “in the tall grass/We will settle in its hidden places/Nestled with mother earth” (pg. 12)

Readers will feel like they have fallen into the natural world, where the sun and moon enchant the walk. The narrator is asking us to stop with her, take a breath, and observe … be in the moment. Each season is give its due and Johnson knows how to describe each well, making readers feel like they are there. I don’t think that these poems necessarily depict only Pennsylvania, but they could be in other backyards. Reading the poems in succession can get a bit monotonous. But there are those moments where you fall right into the poem.

Walk (pg. 31)

...
The smell of fall
Warm air out
The chill felt through fabric
Move to sweat along the back of a scarf wrapped neck
Wink (pg. 34)

One red leaf on my maple tree
Winked out as I walked by
I said hello, introduced myself
Thanked its crimson glow
A nod toward change
A season swooping in
The center glimpse of rose
Wrapped in the nature of green

My favorite poem in the collection has to be “Pumpkin Latte” where deer are the night raiders cannibalizing her pumpkin decorations. It reminds me of the family of deer in my own yard and how they will nibble anything they can. Fruits and vegetables are their favorites, of course.

Sway by Tricia Johnson calls to us, guides us to an appreciation of nature. She’s providing us with paintings and an atmosphere where we can just be and breathe.

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Tricia Johnson is a poet wishing to share her work with others, by using the written word to embrace one another’s humanity.  She is a retired teacher.  She lives in the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons.  Published work includes the poem “Living with Lupus” which appeared in Still You Poems of Illness & Healing, Wolf Ridge Press 2020.

Accomplished by Amanda Quain (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Accomplished by Amanda Quain, narrated by Deva Marie Gregory, focuses on high school-age Georgiana Darcy who is struggling to find herself after Wickham entangles her in his drug-dealing scheme at her private school.She is a bit dramatic, probably too many regency romance shows for her.

Gregory is an excellent narrator for this young adult’s redemption story. She provides different voices for Georgie, Fitz, Avery, Wickham, and others.

Georgie is crumbling under the pressure of the Darcy name and its expectations. She’s unsure of who she is and unable to rectify her reputation at the private school where everyone hates her for taking away their best trombone player and drug dealer, Wickham. Even though she had nothing to do with the drug dealing and her room was all Wickham needed, her brother is severely disappointed and ramps up his helicopter parenting.

Georgie, on the other hand, is eager to get out from under the glare of her classmates, Wickham’s threats, and her brother’s oppressive supervision. Her lavish family lifestyle is something she wants to get past but even those around her see her like her ancestors and even her brother — untouchable, able to throw money at problems, and so many other privileged trappings.

Accomplished by Amanda Quain, narrated by Deva Marie Gregory, is a charming story of a young woman looking for herself as forces outside of herself try to force her to be someone she isn’t. She’s artistic, musical, and creative, and clearly not the business/medical mold of the Darcy legacy. While Georgie is a bit obsessive and full of anxiety, which can get tiresome, her gradual evolution in this story is delightful, even when she stands up to her brother, not quite in the most rational or tactful way. Quain is a talented writer, and I look forward to others in this series.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #709

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 its 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.

Thank you to Velvet for stepping in when Mailbox Monday needed another host.

Emma, 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:

Above Ground by Clint Smith for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Clint Smith’s vibrant and compelling new collection traverses the vast emotional terrain of fatherhood, and explores how becoming a parent has recalibrated his sense of the world. There are poems that interrogate the ways our lives are shaped by both personal lineages and historical institutions. There are poems that revel in the wonder of discovering the world anew through the eyes of your children, as they discover it for the first time. There are poems that meditate on what it means to raise a family in a world filled with constant social and political tumult. Above Ground wrestles with how we hold wonder and despair in the same hands, how we carry intimate moments of joy and a collective sense of mourning in the same body. Smith’s lyrical, narrative poems bring the reader on a journey not only through the early years of his children’s lives, but through the changing world in which they are growing up—through the changing world of which we are all a part.

Disbound by Hajar Hussaini for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Hajar Hussaini’s poems in Disbound scrutinize the social, political, and historical traces inherited from one’s language. The traces she finds—the flow of international commodities implied in a plosive consonant, an image of the world’s nations convening to reject the full stop—retrieve a personal history between countries (Afghanistan and the United States) and languages (Persian and English) that has been constantly disrupted and distorted by war, governments, and media. Hussaini sees the subjectivity emerging out of these traces as mirroring the governments to whom she has been subject, blurring the line between her identity and her legal identification. The poems of Disbound seek beauty and understanding in sadness and confusion, and find the chance for love in displacement, even as the space for reconciliation in politics and thought seems to get narrower.

Sound Fury by Mark Levine for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

The Pause and the Breath by Kwame Sound Daniels for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Kisses at the Espresso Bar by Anita Nahal for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Accomplished by Amanda Quain, purchased from Audible.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year—at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

  • Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
  • Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
  • Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

What did you receive?

Fixed Star by Suzanne Frischkorn

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Fixed Star by Suzanne Frischkorn is an amalgam of found poetry and structure poems mirroring the culture and identity that many of us have over time. We find that there are fixed points in our culture and identity and that there also are found parts of those segments of ourselves that we incorporate willingly. There’s a deep restlessness in each of these poems as they deftly move from one to the next, when reading in succession, and it is a skill to be admired.

Frischkorn’s opening poem, “Cuban Polymita,” begins the collection with: “Birth cleaved me in half” If that line alone doesn’t give you a sense of restlessness, the rest of the collection certainly will. It is from this instant of birth in which the narrator begins to move away from her origins: “A lace dress. A first language./All myths once we move north./” (“II”, pg. 2) In these earlier poems, the narrator is looking for the truth in those myths, unraveling the mystery of her heritage. But the narrator is keenly aware that to unravel these hidden pasts is also likely to reveal “what is tarnished,” and to question is it worth the risk?

Once I Dove Into the Caribbean Sea (pg. 36)
Isla de Cozumel, ’93

Cuba, its tide strove to draw me towards you and failed. I departed with a smooth shell and wisps of surrogate sky. How cool marble caressed my bare soles, how heat plied my skin bronze. Not until I slide the silver bracelets from my wrist will the strains of your shore ebb.

Frischkorn’s Fixed Star is an attempt to excavate the movement from past to present to pinpoint the evolution, to understand something that was lost. In that adventure toward discovery, a restlessness propels each of these poems forward and back into the past again, signaling the push and the pull of who and what has birthed us to who and what we become.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Suzanne Frischkorn is the author of Fixed Star (JackLeg Press, September 2022) as well as the books, Girl on a Bridge, and Lit Windowpane (both from Main Street Rag Press), and the chapbooks American Flamingo, Spring Tide, Red Paper Flower, Exhale, and The Tactile Sense.

She is the recipient of The Writer’s Center Emerging Writers Fellowship for her book Lit Windowpane, the Aldrich Poetry Award for her chapbook Spring Tide, selected by Mary Oliver, and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

Guest Post: Daydreaming Is the Thing by Mary Salisbury, author of Side Effects of Wanting

Today’s guest is Mary Salisbury, who has a new book out from Main Street Rag. Let’s learn about Side Effects of Wanting:

Side Effects, Mary Salisbury’s impressive debut collection, introduces a writer whose voice compels and enchants, its quiet and subtle vibrancy pitch perfect, story after story, and intensified by the quietness that surrounds each. Stories of love, longing, and loss, and behind each the writer’s charitable heart, and an observing eye that misses nothing. ~Jack Driscoll, author of The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot

Compelling and remarkably honest, Side Effects of Wanting investigates the sharper edges of our unique emotional landscapes in a series of exciting, accessible stories that explore both the strengths and frailties of the human condition in its varied aspects—personal identity, grief, fractured relationships, the ghosts of the past, transformation, and slowly mending hearts. Weaving together small-town stories filled with secrets, hardships, and that ever-present ache of almost becoming the person you want to be, Mary Salisbury tenderly renders heartbreaking narratives in which characters reach out to be loved, to be understood, and to finally feel safe. ~John Sibley Williams, author of As One Fire Consumes Another

Mary Salisbury’s stories are infused with the precision of a poet and the wisdom of a deep thinker, amounting to some of the best stories I’ve read about milestone matters of the heart, everyday regrets with life-altering outcomes, and the painful nuances of long-haul love. Side Effects of Wanting not only invites us in, it lets us laugh and cry while we watch on the edge of our seats as lovers, siblings, parents, and co-workers face private, universally relatable conundrums head-on. ~Katey Schultz, author of Still Come Home

Thank you, Mary, for stopping by today to share your thoughts on the creative process.

Daydreaming is part of writing to me. When I was young I climbed trees on our elm-lined street in Flint, Michigan, and hid so I could daydream in peace. My secret dream was to be a songwriter or a back-up singer.

Music was what captivated me, the music of the mid-60’s—Motown was the thing. In my Catholic school it was all plaid skirts and white shirts and daydreaming was not considered a prerequisite to good writing or to singing. But I knew in my heart that it was.

I read the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. I found the poetry of William Carlos Williams, and more, as I grew into my teens. I began to write poetry of my own, and I continued to write poems and stories as I got older and raised children and worked as a registered nurse.

No, I did not become a back-up singer, but I’d still like to be one. My love of music and my love of reading allowed me to enter the world of other worlds and I kept writing so that I could be there, in those other worlds.

As an adult I worked and lived in a small town in Southern Oregon and absorbed the life and natural world around me. I witnessed the act of quiet heroes—people who got out of bed every day and did what was necessary, despite their troubles. These are the people who populate my stories.

I wrote in the car, waiting for my children’s soccer, baseball, or basketball practice to end. I wrote in the library, or early in the morning before the day began. That’s the thing about writing—you only need a notebook and a pen.

I had my first book of short stories published two days before I turned seventy. Writing has sustained me through loss and love. If you love writing, if you need to write, keep writing, and always keep reading. They go together like lyrics and melody.

About the Author:

Mary Salisbury’s short fiction has been published in Cutthroat’s Truth to Power, The Whitefish Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Salisbury’s essay on writing was featured in Fiction Southeast. Two of Salisbury’s chapbooks, Come What May, and Scarlet Rain Boots, were published by Finishing Line Press, and her poetry has appeared in Calyx. Salisbury is an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship recipient and a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA in writing program.