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Mailbox Monday #654

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.

Velvet, 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.

This is what we received:

Kaddish by Jane Yolen for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited in a time of deep sorrow. In it, the sacredness of the Almighty One is affirmed. In her new gathering of sixty poems, award-winning author Jane Yolen gives us a feminist view of Biblical themes and personalities such as Eve, Sarah, David and Goliath. The poems then morph into those about the Holocaust and after. Yolen’s unflinching and stark record of the many death camp horrors serve as reminders of that era’s brutality and the unrelenting suffering visited upon an innocent people. “Knowing means remembrance,” Yolen writes–as each poem becomes a memorial, a teaching, a warning for our and future generations. Her book concludes: “… no Jew truly escapes/that time, those places,/unscarred, unscathed./I have no numbers on my arms,/But I have studied the charts,/the cities, the deaths,/till I know them by heart.”

Inheritance of Aging Self by Lucinda Marshall, which I purchased.

Lucinda Marshall’s debut poetry collection, Inheritance Of Aging Self, explores our inherited understanding and experience of illness, death, grief, and sense of place.

In poems that she began to write during the final years of her parents’ lives, Lucinda Marshall’s debut poetry collection, Inheritance Of Aging Self, is an exploration of aging, illness, and death, as we witness them in the lives of our elders and loved ones, of grieving and ultimately the impact this heritage has on our sense of identity and place as we in turn age.

The title poem of the collection was included in the Maryland State Arts Council’s “Identity” exhibit in 2021 and “Winter Beach” was the first-place winner in Montgomery Magazine’s 2019 “Montgomery Writes” contest.

When Your Wife has Tommy John Surgery by E. Ethelbert Miller for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Much-honored Washington, D.C. poet activist E. Ethelbert Miller delights and surprises us with his deft imaginings and portraits. Ethelbert’s poems play out in baseball rhythm and express the joy of living, despite the bitter challenges in today’s world. These poems define our time and allow us to see ourselves as human through the lens of baseball, family and music.

When Your Wife Has Tommy John Surgery and Other Baseball Stories is Miller’s second book of baseball poems. Here he touches new bases. There are poems about Marcel Duchamp and Ornette Coleman as well as Whitey Ford and Don Larsen. Miller’s poems move the outdoor game indoors where there are moments of disappointment and despair. Baseball can be a blues game. Tommy John surgery is a way of holding onto hope. Many of these poems were written during the Covid pandemic. They beckon fans back to the ballpark. They remind us to enjoy a game that is precious  and maybe even essential to our wellness. Coming after If God Invented Baseball, Miller seems to emerge from a literary dugout after a brief rain delay, ready to celebrate the American pastime again.

What did you receive?

Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King

Source: Poet
Paperback, 40 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a powerful chapbook that tackles fatherhood, family demons and traumas, and finds the bright light in the darkness. What King always does well in his verse is to find the hope even in the darkest moments.

In the opening poem, “In Your Dreams,” the young man is dodging not only physical blows from his father and trying to sway away from his emotional jabs. He reminds us that those traumas are the past and in our reliving of them, we can change the ending and manifest that in our own, true lives. King uses these boxing metaphors in a few of the poems and it serves as a way to remind us that life is not a straight line journey from point A to point B — there are a lot of curves and turns along the way.

When the chapbook shifts to his own journey as a father, the light of hope shines brightest. I absolutely loved “The Light Inside.” It’s such a beautiful poem in which the poet is watched as he contemplates “the country of fatherhood,/where experience alone won’t grant you citizenship.//” He’s folding onesies and waiting for his daughter to arrive where “Everything hangs, waiting for you to fill them/the way your mom and I waited for you//” and “patience is the currency/of anything worth having.//”

Parenthood is a tough state but absolutely worth it for those committed to doing it and nurturing young life. And yes, like King says, “parenting is like gardening.” But in that effort, we also have to tend to our own scars and past traumas so that they don’t poorly influence how we tend our own gardens. Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a love letter to his family, his children, and his own past, as he moves forward as a father and a more whole human being. Love and hope are in every corner of this collection, and there is a push for more out of life and a recognition of simplicity, beauty, and importance.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, who lives with his family in Bowie, MD. He writes about art and domestic issues on this blog. He’s a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal.

King is the author of POINT BLANK (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and DRIFT (Aquarius Press, 2012). King’s honors include fellowships from Cave (cah-veh) Canem (cah-nem) and Voices of Our Nations Arts (VONA) Foundation, three Pushcart Prize nominations as well as three nominations for Best of the Net selection.

He’s a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. His poems and short stories appear in various literary journals, magazines and are featured on public radio. Visit his website, Facebook, Twitter, and on YouTube.

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 101 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc is a collection that will floor you with its emotional heights and its stunning imagery. The collection’s sections — “This Is What Women Do,” “All I’ve Swallowed,” “Mouthing Your Memory,” and “Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart” — tackle larger issues facing women today in not only patriarchal society but within our own strictures that we adopt to define who we are. I love that LeBlanc opens this collection with “Autobiography of Eve” because she sets readers up for a great unfolding, demonstrating how women have been conditioned into thinking one way about love, marriage, and how the world works, as well as our place in that world. “Now that the sticky juice/of knowledge ran freely down my chin/” — isn’t the truth always a little bit sticky?

I’m going to try not to gush about this collection, but there are so many poems I love from “We Carry” where women are burdened with keys and households as well as the comments of others, the groceries, the organization and schedules, and the weight of abuse when it happens to “Alternative Names for Woman” where LeBlanc begins with those harsh truths about what we earn, how we’re perceived by others, and what we could become despite those misconceptions and putdowns.

LeBlanc talks to the women who have held onto their trauma, to those who re-traumatize themselves, to those experiencing serious heartbreak, to those who feel lost and she holds out her hands to them, hoping they will take that leap of faith for themselves – to become their true selves in spite of it all. It’s hard work this transformation, but she shows you the way in her poems. The road will never be smooth, but in the end, it may be a journey worth taking to be free and to be your unapologetic self. From “Gasoline,” “I’m peeling/back my skin/revealing/the flint of a match/crawling through my blood/my bones/I’m ready/to burn/this fucking frat party/this America to the ground.//”

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc is an evolution of love and self. In her last poem, “Eventually Evolution,” she reminds us that change takes time, even if it seems like love can strike in a few seconds of meeting someone.

This is the second book I’ve read by LeBlanc and I have loved both of them.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat, July 2021),  Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, March 2020)The Violence Within (Flutter Press, 2018, currently out of print), and All in the Family (Bottlecap Press, 2016, currently out of print) , and a Pushcart Prize  and Best of the Net nominee. She has an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Visit her website, Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and her publishing house, Riot in Your Throat.

Other Reviews:

Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 11+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen, narrated by P. J. Ochlan, is an exploration of the lasting impact of war on individuals and the memory of war long after it is fought, incorporating the role of governments, individual and national ethics, and the media and film industry, as well as novelists, etc.

The narration of this book doesn’t do much for the dry academic text, which made this a harder read than it probably would have been in print. I definitely do not recommend this audiobook. The narration is dry and lifeless. With that said, if you are looking for a dynamic look at the Vietnam War and memory, this is more speculation, analysis of previous thoughts on memory and ethical remembering, as well as a look at how the entertainment industry in the United States shapes the views of war over time.

In some ways, Nguyen takes on too many subjects in this book. I feel like the whole section on first-person war-based video games could be a dissertation or a book in itself with data on the impact of these war video games, etc. This happens with other topics as well. This was far too academic and focused on theories and philosophies with little data, which was a drawback for me. I would have preferred more dynamic text and narration, as well as some data to back up some of his arguments.

My overall takeaway from Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen, narrated by P. J. Ochlan, is that to remember war, we need to remember the good and the bad on both sides, not just the humanity of one side and the inhumanity of the other. We need to recall that all actors in war are culpable to some extent and that they are all round “characters” not flat. Humanity is not something that only applies to the righteous or the just act, especially as my grandmother once said, “there is always more to the story than you know and there is no one person at fault.” We all need to be better at accepting our inhuman actions and the humanity of those we do not know or understand well.

RATING: Couplet

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #653

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.

Velvet, 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.

This is what we received:

The Storyteller by Dave Grohl, which my mom bought me the hardcover of since I couldn’t find it. I’ll take Halloween gifts any day.

So, I’ve written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do four hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to tell these stories just as I have always done, in my own voice. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.

In Essentials by Helen Williams from Meryton Press.

Five months after Fitzwilliam Darcy’s disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, he discovers that the woman he ardently loves is suffering from a grave illness.

Despite an affliction that has left her altered, Elizabeth is still the same person in essentials: witty, sanguine, and obstinate. However, her future is uncertain, and she struggles to maintain her equanimity—especially when Mr. Darcy returns to Netherfield and seems determined to improve her opinion of him. Now she must decide whether she is brave enough to trust him and embrace happiness—however fleeting it might prove to be.

What did you receive?

Riffs & Improvisations by Gregory Luce

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 36 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Riffs & Improvisations by Gregory Luce opens with an apt quote from Wallace Stevens, in which he says music is a feeling, not sound. Luce moves through the music of his collection like a man in love. He loves not only the music, but the music of love.

In the opening poem, “Music to It,” he reaches us through our souls, those moments we all remember when we wanted the music blaring as we moved through our day. He sways and glides on the Metro to an unheard music strumming through his headphones, and he’s unable to stop moving and tapping. Isn’t this why we all love the music we do? Because it moves us, even when we’re in public and perhaps shy about our love of music.

Luce pays homage to what I’ll call “music memory.” In “An air that kills,” he says, “I hear/you whisper underneath/the song, a memory/that pricks without/the power to console.//” Each of us has those songs or riffs of music that recall memories. I cannot get past a song without recalling some memory or moment or loved one who has passed away. There are so many songs that call to us for its melody, its lyrics, its rhythms, but they also are tied to our lives by memory.

From John Coltrain to Richard Strauss, Luce’s improvisations can leave you breathless, swimming in a sea of bourbon and memory swirling in a glass and chinking ice. And you know that there’s a playlist on Spotify for this collection — how could you not have one! I will definitely be listening as I read this collection again. The delightful rhythm of Riffs & Improvisations by Gregory Luce will carry you away, allowing you to lay your head down and dream away in the “light of a love supreme.”

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Gregory Luce is the author of five books of poems: Signs of Small Grace, Drinking Weather, Memory and Desire, Tile, and Riffs & Improvisations (forthcoming in 2021). His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Innisfree Poetry Review, If, Northern Virginia Review, Juke Jar, Praxilla, Little Patuxent Review, Buffalo Creek Review, and in several anthologies. He recently retired after 32 years from National Geographic and now lives in Arlington, VA. He is a volunteer writing tutor and mentor with 826DC.

Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 228 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun, is a bilingual collection of love poems in Spanish and English that touches the passionate hearts of us all. It is a love letter to lovers, friends, ourselves, and human kind. Amirthanayagam opens the collection with “On my Body,” exploring the weakness of the body to be fooled by love, whether that is the desire of the body to get close to another only to find out it is not love or a person who tattoos their body for love and be stuck with the reminder that it is a failed relationship. Love in this opening poem is both bliss and pain. How true that is.

I love that this collection is both in Spanish and English. It allowed me to reach back into my memory to find those Spanish words I recall from high school and attempt to live in the language Amirthanayagam wrote the poems in. While my translations did not always match what was written in the English poem, the feelings evoked by the poems were the same. The beauty of language is that it can transcend the barriers we have to create connections, much like love can connect us to one another.

There is a deep longing in Amirthanayagam’s poems. His poems are short but full of poetic longing – to embrace those who have moved, those who are no longer with us, the lovers we remember fondly despite the pain of those relationships ending, and even those we have yet to meet.

Keys (pg. 105)

I would have liked to have taught you
to drive, share the stage
when you presented your first book,

write its prologue. Your poems
accompany me to the rhythm of my pulse.
Cars will become more electric

and I will continue loving what
we could have accomplished
in that other time that was within

our reach and is still present,
an open-ended invitation,
the car ready to start.
Llaves (pg. 104)

Me hubiese gustado enseñarte
a manejar, compartir la mesa
cuando presentabas tu primer libro,

escribir el prólogo. Tus poemas
me acompañan al ritmo de mi pulso;
los autos se volverán más eléctricos

y seguiré amando lo que
podríamos haber logrado
en aquel otro tiempo que estaba

a nuestro alcance y sigue presente,
una invitación sin fecha de caducidad,
el auto listo para encenderse.

In “Between Google and Face, a Letter,” Amirthanayagam speaks to the digital distance many of us face now, making love or the cultivation of love more difficult. “Now when I surf the internet/I see that face like a country/behind the Iron Curtain/that’s now rather digital,//bytes of ones, zeroes and light blocking/Cyrano from his beloved. Who will become/his postman and who will make peace”

One of my favorite poems in the collection comes in the back third, “Sustainable Love,” where the longing is ever present from the man who will not cry for his love or clean the office or check the email hoping for messages, as the oceans continue to erode the shore and the man has little choice but to get back to life and his work. “To Wake Up with Moon and Sea” also explores this longing, but instead of another person, there’s a longing for a home country left behind.

Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun, pays homage to love’s beauty, its heartbreak, its longing, and its desire. Fall through Amirthanayagam’s ventana azul and revel in the beauty of love. A collection you’ll turn to in times of sadness and in celebration.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Indran Amirthanayagam is a Sri Lankan-American poet- diplomat, essayist, translator and musician in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. A member of the U.S. Foreign Service, he is currently oa a domestic assignment in Washington D.C. Amirthanayagam has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), when he was eight years old Amirthanayagam moved with his family to London, England, and at age 14, he moved again to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he began writing poetry. He studied at Punahou School in Honolulu and played cricket at the Honolulu Cricket Club. He then studied English Literature at Haverford College where he also captained their cricket team during his last year. He has a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. Amirthanayagam writes poetry and essays in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. His Spanish collections include Lírica a tiempo (Mesa Redonda Editorial, Lima, 2020), En busca de posada (Editorial Apogeo Lima 2019), El Infierno de los Pájaros (Resistencia, Mexico City, 2001), El Hombre que Recoge Nidos (CONARTE/Resistencia, Mexico, 2005), Sol Camuflado (Lustra Editores, Lima, May 2011), Sin Adorno, lírica para tiempos neobarrocos (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Mexico, 2013), and Ventana Azul (El Tapiz del Unicornio, Mexico, 2016). His first collection in French, Aller-retour au bord de la mer, was published in 2014 by Legs Editions. Legs also published Il n’est de solitude que l’ile lointaine in 2017. Sur l’île nostalgique was published by L’Harmattan in Paris in 2020. His works in English include BLUE WINDOW (VENTANA AZUL) (DIALOGOS/Lavender Ink, 2021), THE MIGRANT STATES (Hanging Loose Press, 2020), UNCIVIL WAR (Mawenzi House/TSAR Publishers, 2013), THE SPLINTERED FACE: TSUNAMI POEMS (HAnging Loose Press, 2008), and THE ELEPHANTS OF RECKONING (Hanging Loose Press, 1993). Check out The Poetry Channel he runs.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Helen Williams, author of In Essentials

Welcome to today’s guest Helen Williams, author of In Essentials: A Pride & Prejudice Variation. She’s going to share some of her favorite fall recipes with us, but let’s check out the book.

Synopsis:

Five months after Darcy’s disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, he discovers that the woman he ardently loves is suffering from a grave illness. Despite an affliction that has left her altered, Elizabeth Bennet is still the same person in essentials: witty, sanguine, and obstinate. However, her future is uncertain, and she struggles to maintain her equanimity—especially when Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to Netherfield and seems determined to improve her opinion of him. Now she must decide whether she is brave enough to trust him and embrace happiness, however fleeting it might prove to be.

Please welcome, Helen:

Thank you for hosting me at Savvy Verse and Wit, Serena. I’ve really enjoyed my blog book tour for In Essentials, but particularly writing this post, as books and food (and rugby!) are my great loves in life.

Anyone who has read any of my previous stories will know that I have Welsh roots. My Dad’s family are from Wales – a little village outside Cardiff called Tongwynlais – and I always include some sort of Welsh reference in my stories. In Essentials was no different. Dydd gwyl dewi hapus (Happy St David’s Day) was the first thing I learnt to say in Welsh, so it seemed fitting that Darcy would do the same. I can also sing the National Anthem quite well, but couldn’t think of a plausible excuse for Darcy to learn it…

Anyway, I digress. Serena asked for me to write a post including my favourite fall recipes that also tied in, if possible, with the era and story. Immediately I knew what I had to write about – Bara Brith!

Google tells me that the origins of Bara Brith may trace all the way back to the 600s but that “modern” Bara Brith comes from the 1800s. Bara Brith means “speckled bread” as it is spotted with fruit, and it is a true Welsh classic. Made with dried fruit, sugar, spices and tea, it is utterly delicious and a real, warming treat on a cold day. I love it with melted butter but my Dad likes his plain and dunked in a mug of tea!

The recipe below is my grandmother’s and has been passed down our family tree for generations; I’m very happy to share this slice of Welshness with you.

Ingredients

  • 300ml hot tea (make it strong, probably at least three teabags)
  • 400g mixed fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currants)
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg

Method

1. Mix the tea and fruit together and soak overnight, or at least six hours.
2. Mix in the sugar until dissolved, then the egg, spices and the flour (you’ll probably want to sift in
the flour). The mix will resemble a thick cake batter.
3. Pour into a prepared standard loaf tin and cook for an hour and fifteen minutes at 150C.
4. Enjoy!

If Bara Brith isn’t quite your thing, I’m sure everyone loves a bit of cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit is the undisputed king of cheeses on toasts.

According to legend, the name is a sort of pun – everyday Welsh folk could not afford rabbit, and so used cheese as a substitute. No-one knows exactly when Welsh Rabbit became Welsh Rarebit, but the name has stuck. Rarebit has been around since the 1500s and if you’re from the United Kingdom or have visited, you may have seen Rarebit on the menu of a couple of traditional pubs. It’s comfort food at its best and perfect on a cold day.

Ingredients

  • 250g cheddar cheese – you want it strong enough to stand up to the beer and mustard
  • 70ml ale or beer
  • 1.5tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 20g unsalted butter melted
  • 1tbsp English mustard (or Dijon or wholegrain – up to you!)
  • 4 thick slices of bread, toasted

Method

1. Mix together the grated cheese, beer or ale, butter, Worcestershire sauce and mustard.
2. Spread over each slice of toast, ensuring it covers the crusts too.
3. Transfer each slice onto a baking tray and place directly underneath the grill for five minutes or so, until golden brown and bubbling.
4. Carefully remove from the oven, cut each slice in half and serve hot.

So there you have it, Bara Brith and Welsh Rarebit – two Welsh classics that were both around at the time of Jane Austen and are still loved today. Can you imagine Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy tucking into a slice of Bara Brith and practising their Welsh pronunciation? I can!

Thank you, Helen, for sharing these recipes with us, and what a treat to know a bit of the history. My husband loves cheese on toast, so we’ll be trying Welsh Rarebit!

About the Author:

Helen lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom, where she works for the University of Cambridge. She has been writing as a hobby for around 15 years and has written several novel length stories based on the work of Jane Austen. Helen has Welsh roots so her stories will often include a couple of references to the land of her fathers, in addition to her two other loves – dogs and rugby. In addition to writing, Helen’s hobbies include cooking, hiking, cycling and campaigning for green initiatives. Having been diagnosed with pituitary growths in 2015 and 2020, Helen is also an active member of the Pituitary Foundation and her experiences with chronic illness inspired her latest story. Visit her Facebook page.

GIVEAWAY:

Meryton Press is giving away 6 eBooks of In Essentials.

Enter through Rafflecopter.

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Abstract blue background

Mailbox Monday #652

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.

Velvet, 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.

This is what we received:

Riffs and Improvisations by Gregory Luce, which I purchased and is possible candidate for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Music’s ineffable power has never been so lyrically rendered as in Gregory Luce’s new collection. Erik Satie, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, Charles Mingus, Richard Strauss, Nick Cave—such masters and many more appear here. Luce’s carefully crafted poems are as elegant as the songs which they so deftly capture. – Nathan Leslie, Author of Hurry Up and Relax, Sibs, and Best Small Fictions Series Editor

“That torpedo had our names / on it from the start,” Gregory Luce writes at the end of “Improvisation: Sunk,” one of many urgent and poignant poems navigating to the tune of destiny and knowing loss in Riffs & Improvisations. This wondrous collection gifts us inspired poetic “riffs” infused with musical sensibility, “cascading like / notes,” off the page “like Trane / soloing filigrees.” He paints vivid internal and external lyric landscapes: hospital waiting rooms, dance floors, and transports us to Paris 1920 with a breeze that “wafts over the piano.” Luce plunges into language with an arsenal of truths composing a score from the muses of lived experience—a luminous book propelling a voice we crave. -Ava C. Cipri, Author of Leaving the Burdened Ground and Queen of Swords

The stunning poems in Gregory Luce’s Riffs & Improvisations know ecstasy. They pulse, ache, and rejoice. These poems live in kitchens, juke joints, symphony halls, and most importantly, the human heart. Luce conducts masterfully. We feel the beat in a crowded Metro Station, we dance, mistaking our breathing for another’s. These poems take us into the marrow of music, where rhythm recognizes its relatives in our bones. These poems take us into cold purgatory and a river of bourbon. Luce gives us Coltrane, and much more, which means, his poems save us. – Joseph Ross, Author of Ache and Raising King

The Storyteller by Dave Grohl, purchased on Audible, though I still want the actual hardcover. I couldn’t find the book at the local Target, which said they would have it.

So, I’ve written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do four hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to tell these stories just as I have always done, in my own voice. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.

What did you receive?

COVID Chronicle #6

It’s been since June I’ve written about the state of things here in Maryland.

The first weeks of school really had me stressed. After a short week one, my daughter’s entire grade was quarantined and learning from home as a staff member showed symptoms at school. We were not required to test her and she never showed symptoms, so we were relieved for that, but the week of at-home learning was chaotic and the teachers had little time to prepare. It showed, but it went as well as it could as not only teachers and students had to adapt.

The second week of school, the fourth grade class was quarantined, similar reason. When my daughter returned to school, the only kids at the bus stop were her grade, first, second, and third grade. Kindergarten and fourth grade were out for another week. It was an exhausting start to the year. Now, it seems everyone is doing well and only a few kids are home and quarantined at a time, and yes, my daughter had her first COVID test as one of her best friends in the neighborhood passed a viral infection to others (not COVID).

I’m simply exhausted.

My office is still not required to be back to work because of D.C.’s different restrictions, but our counterparts in Chicago are back to the office at least once per week. It seems as though things are returning to normal, even with Delta around. I’m all for normal. I crave being able to do things we normally do, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can do something for my daughter’s favorite holiday, Halloween. No word on Trick or Treating as yet, but the school is planning their annual Trunk or Treat.

BEYOND this angst and exhaustion, I do have some GOOD News to share (if we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this already):

  • My poem, “In the Distance” published in Mom Egg Reviews premiered on The Poetry Channel as a precursor to my first in-person reading in a long time at Poetry at the Port in Silver Spring. Great little restaurant!
  • 3 of my poems were published in Bourgeon Online.
  • You can view part of the in-person reading. and this one here.
  • Forthcoming reading with This Is What America Looks Like Anthology poets at Cafe Muse on Oct. 20 over Zoom. If you’re interested, I can email you the zoom link or you can catch it on Facebook.

I hope you’ll share your good news or latest up dates. I’d love to hear from you.