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And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, which was our book club selection for March, is narrated by Kate Reading and is the first in a series of Lady Emily mystery novels set in Victorian England. Lady Emily is a woman ahead of her time, interested in being free to do as she pleases without the constraints placed on her by society. Her marriage to Philip, the Viscount Ashton, comes quickly as she locks horns with her mother, who like Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice is eager to marry of her daughter to a man of great fortune.

Following her husbands fatal trip to Africa on safari, Lady Emily finds herself engrossed in his journals, learning more about her husband than she did during their short courtship and marriage. She’s fallen in love with him, as she never expected she would, but what she discovers could render his reputation and hers asunder. She embarks on an unconventional journey to uncover the truth, even if it means her husband is less honorable than she believed.

Alexander’s historical fiction is delightful with its colorful characters, red herrings, and societal constraints. Lady Emily has more wealth than other women would at this time, and her antics are a little less shocking in Victorian society than they otherwise would be, though her mother would disagree with me. The allusions to Mrs. Bennet are strong, but not quite as funny as the Mrs. Bennet in Austen’s novel. Lady Emily’s mother is a bit more grating on the nerves, but probably because she is only seen from Lady Emily’s point of view.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander is engaging, and I’d be interested to see what happens to Lady Emily in the second book and whether she warms up to marriage again later in her life. Living a life of independence, however, is something she’s not likely to let go of without some serious incentive.

Book Club:

Unfortunately, I missed the meeting for this book, as I had not finished it in time and have found myself extraordinarily busy with work, moving, and adjusting to home life changes.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

The daughter of two philosophy professors, Tasha Alexander grew up surrounded by books. She was convinced from an early age that she was born in the wrong century and spent much of her childhood under the dining room table pretending it was a covered wagon. Even there, she was never without a book in hand and loved reading and history more than anything. Alexander studied English Literature and Medieval History at the University of Notre Dame. Writing is a natural offshoot of reading, and my first novel, And Only to Deceive, was published in 2005. She’s the author of the long-running Lady Emily Series as well as the novel Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 44 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee, who read at the fourth DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, is a short collection that explores the nature of family and how oftentimes as children we can feel like we’re on the periphery of others’ lives. Even as the narrator in these poems laments the life and relationships that she did not have with her father and sister, for example, it is clear she still views them as positively as she can.

From "Taraxacum" (pg. 19)

the passenger window of a police car
three little girls innocently giggling,
talking to someone who's vowed to be impartial,
to defend, nothing menacing in that scene,

I felt afraid. At that moment I remembered
being nine or ten, learning that to some
I was cute for a brown girl and to others
I was no more than a weed needing to be pulled,"

Through juxtaposition of innocent scenes, she clings to the good, but the darker memories of hate and racism creep in. The narrator also strives to remember relatives as they would like to have been remembered if war had not harmed their psyches — a war in Vietnam and a war with drugs.

“Elegy for My Sister” is a poem that will evoke deep sadness. The narrator’s sister, an artist who captured faces in charcoal beautifully, realistically, is dies long before she ages. “But somewhere deep in the District/my sister haunts hallways and vacant lots,/never taking flight,” the narrator laments after watching red birds fly. A moment she wishes her sister could have. She also speaks of a father who was proud of her as the new beginning he almost made. The narrator is “almost” invisible in her own life with these larger than life relatives, but she also is a reluctant pessimist.

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee is a daring and deeply emotional collection of poems that lament what was, wishes for a better beginning, and has made peace with how it has arrived. Lee has a strong voice that echoes throughout the shadows of the District.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Kateema Lee is a Washington D.C. native. She earned her M.F.A in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland at College Park. She’s a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, and she’s a Callaloo Workshop participant. Her work has appeared in anthologies, print, and online literary journals, including African American Review, Gargoyle, Word Riot, and Cave Canem Anthology XIII. When she’s not writing, she teaches English and Women’s Studies courses at Montgomery College.

Mailbox Monday #477

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, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Ten Women by Marcela Serrano, a free Kindle.

For nine Chilean women, life couldn’t be more different. There is the teenage computer whiz confronting her sexual identity. A middle-aged recluse who prefers the company of her dog over that of most humans. A housekeeper. A celebrity television personality. A woman confronting the loneliness of old age.

Of disparate ages and races, these women represent the variety of cultural and social groups that Chile comprises. On the surface, they seem to have nothing in common…except for their beloved therapist, who brings them together. Yet as different as they all are, each woman has a story to share.

As the women tell their stories, unlikely common threads are discovered, bonds are formed, and lives are transformed. Their stories form an intricate tale of triumph, heartache, and healing that will resonate with women from all walks of life.

The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen, a Kindle freebie.

For his whole life, the boy has lived underground, in a basement with his parents, grandmother, sister, and brother. Before he was born, his family was disfigured by a fire. His sister wears a white mask to cover her burns.

He spends his hours with his cactus, reading his book on insects, or touching the one ray of sunlight that filters in through a crack in the ceiling. Ever since his sister had a baby, everyone’s been acting very strangely. The boy begins to wonder why they never say who the father is, about what happened before his own birth, about why they’re shut away.

A few days ago, some fireflies arrived in the basement. His grandma said, There’s no creature more amazing than one that can make its own light. That light makes the boy want to escape, to know the outside world. Problem is, all the doors are locked. And he doesn’t know how to get out…

The Question of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak, Kindle freebie.

In this sweeping saga of love, loss, revolution, and the resilience of the human spirit, Amba must find the courage to forge her own path.

Amba was named after a tragic figure in Indonesian mythology, and she spends her lifetime trying to invent a story she can call her own. When she meets two suitors who fit perfectly into her namesake’s myth, Amba cannot help but feel that fate is teasing her. Salwa, respectful to a fault, pledges to honor and protect Amba, no matter what. Bhisma, a sophisticated, European-trained doctor, offers her sensual pleasures and a world of ideas. But military coups and religious disputes make 1960s Indonesia a place of uncertainty, and the chaos strengthens Amba’s pursuit of freedom. The more Amba does to claim her own story, the better she understands her inextricable bonds to history, myth, and love.

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan, Kindle freebie.

The Gray House is an astounding tale of how what others understand as liabilities can be leveraged into strengths.

Bound to wheelchairs and dependent on prosthetic limbs, the physically disabled students living in the House are overlooked by the Outsides. Not that it matters to anyone living in the House, a hulking old structure that its residents know is alive. From the corridors and crawl spaces to the classrooms and dorms, the House is full of tribes, tinctures, scared teachers, and laws—all seen and understood through a prismatic array of teenagers’ eyes.

But student deaths and mounting pressure from the Outsides put the time-defying order of the House in danger. As the tribe leaders struggle to maintain power, they defer to the awesome power of the House, attempting to make it through days and nights that pass in ways that clocks and watches cannot record.

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin, a Kindle freebie.

As the daughter of one of Turkey’s last Ottoman pashas, Selva could win the heart of any man in Ankara. Yet the spirited young beauty only has eyes for Rafael Alfandari, the handsome Jewish son of an esteemed court physician. In defiance of their families, they marry, fleeing to Paris to build a new life.

But when the Nazis invade France and begin rounding up Jews, the exiled lovers will learn that nothing—not war, not politics, not even religion—can break the bonds of family. For after they learn that Selva is but one of their fellow citizens trapped in France, a handful of brave Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to spirit the Alfandaris and hundreds of innocents, many of whom are Jewish, to safety. Together, they must traverse a war-torn continent, crossing enemy lines and risking everything in a desperate bid for freedom.

The Great Passage by Shion Miura, a Kindle freebie.

Kohei Araki believes that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years of creating dictionaries, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Along with an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the words that connect us all.

Still Waters by Viveca Sten, a Kindle freebie.

On a hot July morning on Sweden’s idyllic vacation island of Sandhamn, a man takes his dog for a walk and makes a gruesome discovery: a body, tangled in fishing net, has washed ashore.

Police detective Thomas Andreasson is the first to arrive on the scene. Before long, he has identified the deceased as Krister Berggren, a bachelor from the mainland who has been missing for months. All signs point to an accident—until another brutalized corpse is found at the local bed-and-breakfast. But this time it is Berggren’s cousin, whom Thomas interviewed in Stockholm just days before.

As the island’s residents reel from the news, Thomas turns to his childhood friend, local lawyer Nora Linde. Together, they attempt to unravel the riddles left behind by these two mysterious outsiders—while trying to make sense of the difficult twists their own lives have taken since the shared summer days of their youth.

The House by the River by Lena Manta, a Kindle freebie.

Theodora knows she can’t keep her five beautiful daughters at home forever—they’re too curious, too free spirited, too like their late father. And so, before each girl leaves the small house on the riverside at the foot of Mount Olympus, Theodora makes sure they know they are always welcome to return.

Having survived World War II, the Nazi occupation of Greece, and her husband’s death, Theodora now endures the twenty-year-long silence of her daughters’ absence. Her children have their own lives—they’ve married, traveled the world, and courted romance, fame, and even tragedy. But as they become modern, independent women in pursuit of their dreams, Theodora knows they need her—and each other—more than ever. Have they grown so far apart that they’ve forgotten their childhood home, or will their broken hearts finally lead them back again?

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa, a Kindle freebie.

Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. His father, himself a Korean national, was lured to the new Communist country by promises of abundant work, education for his children, and a higher station in society. But the reality of their new life was far from utopian.

In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life. A River in Darkness is not only a shocking portrait of life inside the country but a testament to the dignity—and indomitable nature—of the human spirit.

The Phantom’s Apprentice by Heather Webb, which I purchased.

Christine Daaé sings with her violinist father in salons all over Paris, but she longs to practice her favorite pastime—illusions. When her beloved Papa dies during a conjurer’s show, she abandons her magic and surrenders to grief and guilt. Life as a female illusionist seems too dangerous, and she must honor her father’s memory.

Concerned for her welfare, family friend Professor Delacroix secures an audition for her at the Opéra de Paris—the most illustrious stage in Europe. Yet Christine soon discovers the darker side of Paris opera. Rumors of murder float through the halls, and she is quickly trapped between a scheming diva and a mysterious phantom. The Angel of Music.

But is the Angel truly a spirit, or a man obsessed, stalking Christine for mysterious reasons tangled in her past?

As Christine’s fears mount, she returns to her magical arts with the encouragement of her childhood friend, Raoul. Newfound hope and romance abounds…until one fateful night at the masquerade ball. Those she cares for—Delacroix, the Angel, and even Raoul—aren’t as they seem. Now she must decide whom she trusts and which is her rightful path: singer or illusionist.

To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all.

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee, which I purchased.

When I say that Kateema Lee’s work is illuminating, I mean that it is conveyed with an impeccable ear for sound and sense. I mean that her poems foreground what are often the least looked-upon flowers: veterans and addiction and working hands and women. I mean that they bear witness in the tradition of women who used their voices to establish that what seems almost invisible to much of the world merits recognition as a world itself.

—Keith S. Wilson

Kateema Lee’s poems hit hard where poetry matters most, in the gut. The music of her poems is personal as speech, the toughness of her outlook made keener by her tenderness. Unpretentious, genuine, full of life and its sorrows, her vision has breadth and breath, a measure which tracks the distance between the street and the sky. What do we ask of poetry, of art, if not to put us in actual touch with the difficulty of human existence? Kateema Lee’s poems answer that need with craft & cunning; how I admire what they offer us.

—Joshua Weiner

The irony of the title of Kateema Lee’s remarkable chapbook, Almost Invisible, is immediately apparent as a reader finds herself in a world, made visible, of blue eye shadow, Jehovah’s Witnesses, a grandmother’s garden, a kitchen beauty shop, and a father’s war stories, all of which Lee renders with a compassionate but unforgiving eye in a taut and supple free verse.

—Michael Collier

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White, a blog win from Diary of an Eccentric.

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women….

What did you receive?

#FridayFinds in Poetry

Sometimes as a parent you have to choose between your child’s soccer practice and a poetry event that is bound to be spectacular. Lucky for my girl, I can resist seeing her at practice and doing her best, even if an evening of poetry is preferred.

Last evening, I was unable to attend a reading at Curious Iguana in Frederick, Md. However, I was able to see the video of their event on Facebook. Alan King, whose poetry has been reviewed here, was reading, as was the delightful Reuben Jackson. Nancy Pearson also read, though I’m not familiar with her work.

If you’d like to hear some great poetry from your home, check out the video.

Curious Iguana has been mentioned on the blog before, even though I have yet to go. I’m really looking forward to my visit in May when Sweta Vikram is in town, and then I can check out this independent bookstore for myself.

I long for a closer bookstore, an indie store with author events closer to where I live and maybe I’ve held secret dreams of opening my own. But that all requires money, which I have little of.

In writing poetry news, I have 4 completed poems near final stages. Three are on one topic, which never happens for me. I tend to write randomly. I’m happy to have written just the four, though I wish I had more time this month to write poems.

If you’re looking for an interesting note about poetry and protest, check out this article in The New York Times. I agree with Audre Lorde; poetry is vital.

Ache by Joseph Ross

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

Ache by Joseph Ross, one of the readers at the fourth DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, is a collection that will gnaw, get under the skin, and force readers to review the world around them through new eyes. Whether taking on the persona of Nelson Mandela or John Coltrane, Ross has a knack for demonstrating the persistent, dull pain alive in this country and throughout the world. It is not just the pain of racial bias, but also the pain of immigrants searching for better lives and crossing hell to get there.

from "Nelson Mandela Burns His Passbook, 1952"

You thought you might eat
its ashes for dinner. The blue

flame, tiny and cautious at first,
crawled up the paper like a 

well-dressed thief, about to steal
what is already his.

Ross demonstrates a deep empathy with his subjects and begs readers to understand the point of view of others, even if they are vastly different from their own. He pinpoints the absurdity of violence that erupts from fear and the lasting ache it leaves behind for not only mothers and siblings, but for those yet to come into being. The history of their lives informs our present, and should be remembered.

from "When Your Word Is a Match"

When your word is a match-
head, hissing into flame,

testifying aloud but blown
out as soon as you speak.

Ross leaves readers with powerful images that speak for historical figures, those lynched in Birmingham or bombed in a church or even those who merely followed their dreams to make music. Listen. Can’t you just hear the Coltrane in these lines:

from "On John Coltrane's 'Lush Life'"

A saxophone needs
supple, lush. When human

breath swims through its
golden canyons it sings

only if the player bends.

Ache by Joseph Ross is a balancing of both sides of ache — a deep-seated, persistent pain — running through the country’s past, present, and future. Unless, we’re able to absorb the beauty around us, forget the misconceptions we use as shields for poor decisions, and move forward and “believe everyone/deserves forgiveness.” (pg. 89, “For the Graffiti Artist Whose Tag Covered the Last Cool ‘Disco’ Dan Tag in Washington, D.C.”)

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry Ache (2017), Gospel of Dust (2013), and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Southern Quarterly, Xavier Review, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Sojourners. His work appears in many anthologies including Collective Brightness, Poetic Voices without Borders 1 and 2, Full Moon on K Street, and Come Together; Imagine Peace. He recently served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, just outside Washington, D.C. He is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee and his poem “If Mamie Till Was the Mother of God” won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 199 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace is a debut collection from another Instagram poet, but unlike the poems of Rupi Kaur, Lovelace’s poetry is more like the diary entries of a teenager or merely the instant reactions and out bursts of a teen who has access to social media.

This is not to say that her poems do not seek to empower young women with self-esteem issues or those who have been abused and are feeling emotionally drained. They do those things in a simple way, but the lines of verse lack the imagery and substance of Kaur’s poems. Even so, this collection does have some poems that will have readers staring in awe at the “drop the mic” moment.

sticks & stones
never broke
                 my bones,
but words
made me
starve myself
until
                 you could
                 see all of them.
-skin & bone.
i was the one thing
he had to deny-
the beautiful truth
within his
terrible lie.

-who knew such a young heart could shatter?
when your mother
begins to forget
your name,
you begin
to wonder
if you exist
at all.

-stage 4, terminal

On the other hand, taken as a whole, Lovelace is telling a story and it happens to be in a form that straddles verse and prose in a way that captures the readers’ attention. The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace is a product of today’s social media 24/7 world. Whether or not it is your cup of tea, it is good to see that poetry is gaining attention.

RATING: Couplet

About the Poet:

growing up a word-devourer & avid fairy tale lover, it was only natural that amanda lovelace began writing books of her own, & so she did. when she isn’t reading or writing, she can be found waiting for pumpkin spice coffee to come back into season & binge-watching gilmore girls. (before you ask: team jess all the way). the lifelong poetess & storyteller currently lives in new jersey with her fiancé, their moody cat, & a combined book collection so large it will soon need its own home. she has her B.A. in english literature with a minor in sociology. the princess saves herself in this one is her debut poetry collection & the first book in the women are some kind of magic series. the second book in the series, the witch doesn’t burn in this one, will be published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Insomniatic by Valerie Fox

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

Insomniatic by Valerie Fox is a unique chapbook in which readers are subject to a disjointed world where reality creeps into dreamlike sequences and hallucinations. An insomniac generally does not get a lot of “good” sleep, and these poems illustrate that electric energy of someone on the verge of exhaustion and their scattered thoughts. These thoughts are sometimes dark, but also playful and absurd, pushing readers to wonder if one could get addicted to such oddities of sleep deprivation.

From "Incorruptible" (pg.24)

On nearby Hanover Street a once inviting and
cared-for house has been recently demolished. An upright
piano stands slightly elevated at the top of the front
steps. Someone should remove it, but it looks nice there,
surrounded by blue skies and summertime.

Fox crosses the line between wakefulness and dreaming and re-crosses it again and again. A bewildered reader needs to commit to simply being along for the ride, rather than parsing out reality from dream. Insomniatic by Valerie Fox is a search through the dreaming wakefulness that is playful and disconcerting all at once.

Some recent poems can be found here.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Valerie Fox’s books of poetry include The Rorschach Factory (2006, Straw Gate Books) and The Glass Book (2010, Texture Press). She co-wrote Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets with Lynn Levin. Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (2011, Texture Press) is a collaborative book with Arlene Ang. “Scarecrow Lists of Failures and Grocery Items” (a collaboration with Ang) may be found here, at Thrush.

Her work has appeared in many journals, including Thrush, Painted Bride Quarterly, Hanging Loose, Apiary, West Branch, Sentence, and Qarrtsiluni. Originally from central Pennsylvania, she has traveled and lived throughout the world, and has taught writing and literature at numerous universities including Sophia University (in Tokyo) and currently at Drexel University (in Philadelphia). Visit her at Texture Press.

Mailbox Monday #476

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, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild, narrated by Suzanne Toren from Audible for Book Club — I missed this one in February.

In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country – a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets, among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident – people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream – and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: Why do the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea?

Georgia Darcy: A Venetian Romance: A Contemporary Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella by Charlotte Kingsley, a Kindle freebie.

In this companion novella to “Senator Darcy,” we get a glimpse of Georgia Darcy’s life in Venice.

Far away from home at her exclusive boarding school, Georgia Darcy is swept away by the romance of Italy, and the attentions of a handsome young man. But after her ill treatment at the hands of George Wickham, she has trouble trusting strange men who might only be after her money or her brother’s influence.

What did you receive?

On That One-Way Trip to Mars by Marlena Chertock

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 102 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

On That One-Way Trip to Mars by Marlena Chertock is a collection of poems broken up into sections named for the planets and the sun in the solar system. Blending scientific fact about the planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto — and the Sun, and grounding it into a more personal experience is a balancing act that Chertock does well. But her poems also have a child-like wonder and humor to them that many can appreciate, especially as she tackles some tough issues.

From "70 Million Years Ago" (pg. 10)

The Milky Way spat out 
the Smith Cloud
from its edges,
a brussel sprout it couldn't swallow.

Now that unwanted green
is on its way back, a giant fart
of gas hurtling towards the galaxy.
From "Find Us" (pg. 19)

When they find us
we'll be long dead.
When they find us,
the chosen or rich frozen,
faces intact,
they'll wonder why
we're a people that don't move.

From those who were split from families by an invisible demarcation line after war in “An invisible middle” to a struggle with prematurely decaying bones in “Short curve II” and others, Chertock inserts wry humor to ease the hurt. In “On that one-way trip to Mars,” the narrator speculates about how to apply to become an astronaut and turn her disability of decaying bones into an asset:

"Don't worry
about my bone deterioration rate,
I had arthritis at 13. Walked like an old lady
at 20. It'd be nice to float
and give my bones a break." (pg. 42)

On That One-Way Trip to Mars by Marlena Chertock begs readers to look beyond the visible to see the potential inside. Remove the bias that comes with the outer surface of someone and rely instead on the inner strength and power of the person. Chertock’s poems explore both inner and outer space; take a trip on this rocket — you won’t be disappointed.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized (Unnamed Press, 2017) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press, 2016). She uses her skeletal dysplasia and chronic pain as a bridge to scientific poetry. She regularly moderates or speaks on panels at literary conferences and festivals, serves as a judge or reviewer of creative work for contests, and reads her own work at open mics and reading series. Find her on Twitter and on Instagram.

Thursday’s Poetic Thoughts #2

Thanks to everyone who has shared poetry-related posts this month.

Jill at Rhapsody in Books always has a string of #NationalPoetryMonth blog posts, and I love that she highlights children’s books that are poetic.

Catch her reviews of The Watcher by Nikki Grimes and Enormous Smallness of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess.

Cummings is one of my favorite poets and one of his poems was read at our wedding by my friend, Anna. The illustrated book about Cummings is going on my list for my daughter.

Jeanne at Necromancy Never Pays shares her new kitten adventures and a poem for Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Naida of the bookworm shares a spot of Anne Sexton‘s poetry.

In other poetic news, I read a poem at the last open mic, attended by the mayor of Gaithersburg, and I’ve written 3 poems this month. One poem is still a work in progress, but that’s ok.

LOCAL EVENTS (MD/DC):

For upcoming local events, check out the Split This Rock Poetry Festival which starts today in Washington, D.C.

Additionally on April 22, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can attend Kensington Day of the Book. Some poets like Luther Jett and Don Illich, who read at the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading Series, will be there, as well as Nancy Naomi Carlson and Indran Amirthanayagam. There also will be young poets and storytellers. Although I will be unable to attend this year due to a prior engagement, this is a local event you won’t want to miss, Marylanders.

Also on April 19 and 20, The Bethesda Urban Partnership is hosting its annual literary event with winners of the Poetry and Short Story/Essay contest. Find out more about those events here.