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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.

Mailbox Monday #708

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:

Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air by Afeefah Khazi-Syed, Aleena Shabbir, Ayse Angela Guvenilir, Maisha Munawwara Prome, Mariam Eman Dogar, and Marwa Abdullhai for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air brings fresh voices of poignancy and a much-needed representation in modern poetry. From the scents of a bustling street market in India to the warmth of stories rooted in Venezuela to snippets of college days shared at MIT, the poetry in this book features an ache for grounds no longer walked upon. With a range of distinct styles and voices, the poets’ nuanced self-expression amounts to a piece that is both a prayer and a rebellion. Their words, introspective and reminiscing, witty and thoughtful, are an ode to that which makes them who they are and where they come from. Simultaneously, their voices are a rejection of dangerous stigmas, cultural taboos, and oppressive systems. In both verse and image, Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air is a bold and unfiltered collection recounting moments, tears, and dreams that have been generations in the making. The poems in this collection are accompanied by full-color illustrations and photographs.

Harbinger by Shelley Puhak for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

From “Portrait of the artist, gaslit” to “Portrait of the artist’s ancestors” to “Portrait of the artist reading a newspaper,” the poems in Harbinger reflect the many facets of the artistic self as well as the myriad influences and experiences that contribute to that identity.

“Portrait of the artist as a young man” has long been the default position, but these poems carve out a different vantage point. Seen through the lens of motherhood, of working as a waitress, of watching election results come in, or of simply sitting in a waiting room, making art – and making an artist – is a process wherein historical events collide with lived experience, both deeply personal but also unfailingly political. When we make art, for what (and to whom) are we accountable? And what does art-making demand of us, especially as apocalypse looms?

With its surprising insights, Harbinger, the latest book from acclaimed poet Shelley Puhak, shows us the reality of the constantly evolving and unstable self, a portrait of the artist as fragmentary, impressionable, and always in flux.

Some Days the Bird by Heather Bourbeau and Anne Casey for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Throughout 2021, as COVID and climate change battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of the world, American poet Heather Bourbeau and Irish-Australian poet Anne Casey engaged in a poetry conversation back and forth across the globe, alternating each week, to create 52 poems over 52 weeks. With poems anchored in their gardens, they buoyed each other through lockdowns and exile from family, through devastating floods, fires, wild winds and superstorms. Some Days The Bird, a collection of internationally recognized and award-winning poems, is the result of their weekly communiqués from different hemispheres (and opposing seasons) in verse.

Origami Selected Poems of Manuel Ulacia, translated poems of Manuel Ulacia by Indran Amirthanayagam for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Manuel Ulacia (1953–2001) was born in Mexico City, grandson of Manuel Altolaguirre and Concha Mendez, members of Spain’s “Generation of ‘27.” Altolaguirre and Mendez became refugees of the Spanish Civil War, residing first in Cuba and then in Mexico. Manuel gained recognition for his own poetry early, studying architecture as an undergrad, and then a Master’s and PHD in Hispanic literature at Yale, specializing in Luis Cernuda. He then returned to Mexico where he taught at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, became a confidant and protégé of Octavio Paz at Vuelta, and engaged in political action on behalf of persecuted writers as president of PEN’s Mexico chapter. Books include Origami para un día de lluvia (Origami for a Rainy Day) (1990), one of the great long poems of the Spanish language, and El plato azul (1999), another brilliant long poem. Other books inclue La materia como ofrenda (Matter as Offering) (1980), El río y la piedra (The River and the Rock) (1989), Arabian Knights and Scottish Mornings (unpublished until it was included in Poesia, published posthumously by Fondo de Cultural Economica). Manuel also wrote a definitive critical study of Octavio Paz, El árbol milenario: Un recorrido por la obra de Octavio Paz (The Thousand-Year- Old Tree. A Voyage Through the Work of Octavio Paz) (1999). Manuel died, at the height of his powers, at age 48, beyond the Buenavista beach, 30 kilometers from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, pulled out to sea by a riptide.

What did you receive?

Veterans Day 2022

Today is the day we honor those who sacrifice so much when entering military service. While we may not agree with every war, military action, etc., please remember that our military goes where the government tells them to go and they serve with honor and many with compassion.

Our veterans often come home battered and mentally affected by the battles and war zones they find themselves in. Many are forever changed. They are no longer who the were.

Consider donating your time, your money, or your skills to the following charities that help veterans impacted by their work for our nation:

I’m not endorsing any of these organizations, so please do your own research, but I wanted to share some of the organizations that are doing good work for our veterans, too many of whom are left on the sidelines of domestic life because of how war impacts them mentally or physically.

Mailbox Monday #707

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:

Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker, illustrated by Paran Kim, for review from Media Masters Publicity.

As one girl watches her mom battle illness, she sees Mom being strong, brave, and fierce on both good days and bad ones. Mom is fierce as she catches and wrestles a fish and brave as she endures needles from the doctor. The girl wants to be brave like Mom! As she worries about her mom’s health, the girl realizes that bravery comes in many forms and that she can be brave too.

A poignant and sensitive story about a loved one living with a chronic illness, and an important lesson about how being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared.

Call Me Spes by Sara Cahill Marron for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

An operating system falls for its user. It waits, a journey not unlike Dante’s Inferno, from factory to glass face. Strangers, friends, lovers, predators, kin, all translated through the operating system’s code. Each voice, a whole character the system struggles to make sense of, held by a human hand. This device logs your locations even when you don’t ask. Undeniably, these actions lack all conditions, a form of loving.

Call Me Spes lays bare these overheard voices— tenderly, voyeuristically, a perpetual ride-along. The device deepens its relationship with its user, learning and updating with the solitary goal of closeness. Pressed against a page, these poems are siren songs marching through Inferno to the promised Heaven we scroll to attain, some kind of progress.

Common Grace by Aaron Caycedo-Kimura for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

In 65 lyric poems organized into a triptych, Common Grace offers an important new lens into Asian American life, art, and love.

Part 1, “Soul Sauce,” describes the poet’s life as a practicing visual artist, taking us from an early encounter with an inkwell at Roseland Elementary in 1969 to his professional outdoor easel perched on Long Island Sound.

Part 2, ‘Ubasute,” is named after the mythical Japanese practice wherein “a grown son lifts / his aged mother on his back, / delivers her to a mountain, / leaves her to die.” This concept frames a wrenching portrayal of his parents’ decline and death, reaching back to his father’s time in the American internment camps of WWII and his mother’s memories of the firebombing of Tokyo. It also anchors the 2 outer parts in the racial trauma and joys passed down from his parents.

Part 3, “Gutter Trees,” gives us affecting love poems to his wife and the creative lives they’ve built together.

Ranging in scope from private moments to the sweep of familial heritage, Caycedo-Kimura’s poems are artful, subtle, but never quiet.

Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe by Wayne David Hubbard for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

In his debut poetry collection, Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, Wayne David Hubbard illustrates journeys through physical space and abstract worlds of emotion.

Combining choreological precision with playfulness, readers enter the mind’s eye of a poet standing along the shoreline of powerful forces that shape all lives: time, place, and love.

Written over a ten-year period, the collection calls to mind the poetry of Lorine Niedecker, Rae Armantrout, Larry Eigner, and Carl Phillips. Importantly, these poems resist thick, impenetrable themes, instead celebrating ordinal wonders of life that are hidden in open view. This spare book offers strong, memorable imagery and questions that will delight thoughtful readers.

What did you receive?

Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker, illustrated by Paran Kim, is a story of two young girls whose mom is battling cancer and her girls see her as strong and brave. They want to be like her and not shed tears. But these girls are strong when they strive to climb walls, ride horses, and so much more. But their mom reminds them that it is ok to be scared and to cry.

Acker does a good job of showing how mom is brave for her girls, but also how neighbors, their dad, and others help her every day. What the girls see is the actions of their mother, not the helping hands. The illustrations are simple and colorful.

What I wanted was less telling and more showing of this relationship between the kids and the mother and the family in general. Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker, illustrated by Paran Kim, does have a great story with advice for young children of parents struggling with illness.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Monica Acker is a writer and educator. She holds a BA in creative arts and a MAT degree in childhood education. Monica is a member of SCBWI, 12×12, and Children’s Book Insider. She lives in Reading, Massachusetts, with her family.

Why We Never Visited the Elms by Marianne Szlyk

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 37 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Why We Never Visited the Elms by Marianne Szlyk are poems that explore what could have been to what is now. Each poem is a journey, a microcosm of the larger journey the collection takes the reader on. The journey begins with the narrator and her mother and why they never visited Our Lady of the Elms, where her mother went to college. She reminisces about the stories she heard and how the college was nestled into a neighborhood. There’s almost a romanticism in these stories, but Szlyk reminds us that not all is rosy in that past, just like it isn’t in the present. “Every Friday the cafeteria would serve/slices of greasy hamburg pizza/that Mom would have pretended to eat//had we stopped by her old school.//” (pg. 3-4)

Just as in “Fishing,” the narrator says, “The surface hides mud, weeds, a murder victim./No one fishes now …” (pg. 5) We look back on our own histories with fondness, even if there is darkness in those old streets and rivers. We can look at those places now with a distance, glossing over a darkness and lifting out the good parts. Szlyk has a knack for exploring the what ifs and that what weres and the what ares. Time slips easily in these poems, and readers can slip behind the curtains to explore places in different times to see change and what stays the same.

Why We Never Visited the Elms by Marianne Szlyk is a time slip. Readers will love the optimism Szlyk imbues her poems with, reminding us that we should focus on the light we have and not the darkest parts of our lives.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Marianne Szlyk’s most recent book is Poetry en Plein Air (Pony One Dog Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in Verse-Virtual, the Red Eft Poetry Review, the Trouvaille Review, and other journals/websites. Some poems have been translated into Polish, Italian, and Cherokee. She lives in the D.C. area with the wry poet and flash fiction writer Ethan Goffman and their elderly cat.

Mailbox Monday #706

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:

Fixed Star by Suzanne Frischkorn, which I purchased.

The opening poem, “Cuban Polymita,” from which the title Fixed Star arises, serves as the scaffolding device for Frischkorn’s manuscript. Like the beautiful painted snails it references, the book, too, is a series of spirals: mainly, a pair of sonnet coronas whose recursive lines twine through the manuscript, both framing and bracing it. Navigating splits in language, geography, government, culture, and family-Frischkorn guides us through poems that are, contrapuntally, both luxuriant and lean. Swirling through this compact, honed manuscript is a series of citations (Shakespeare, John Cage, Muriel Rukeyser, John Keats, Normando Hernández González), and geographies (Cuba, Spain, Florida, Pennsylvania) that create transit across decades and differing terrains. Constellated with Latin jazz, jasper, sea glass, bougainvillea, contradanza, and coral reefs, Fixed Star is a brilliant treatise on violence, division, loss, longing, and the search for song. Simone Muench

Country of Glass by Sarah Katz, which I purchased.

Country of Glass is the debut poetry collection from Sarah Katz, who offers an exploration of the concept of precariousness as it applies to bodies, families, countries, and whole societies. Katz employs themes of illness, disability, war, and survival within the contexts of family history and global historical events. The collection moves through questions about identity, storytelling, displacement, and trauma, constructing an overall narrative about what it means to love while trying to survive. The poems in this book—which take the form of free verse, prose poems, sestinas, and erasures—attempt to address human fragility and what resilience looks like in a world where so much is uncertain.

Taste: A Book of Small Bites by Jehanne Dubrow, which I purchased.

Taste is a lyric meditation on one of our five senses, which we often take for granted. Structured as a series of “small bites,” the book considers the ways that we ingest the world, how we come to know ourselves and others through the daily act of tasting.

Through flavorful explorations of the sweet, the sour, the salty, the bitter, and umami, Jehanne Dubrow reflects on the nature of taste. In a series of short, interdisciplinary essays, she blends personal experience with analysis of poetry, fiction, music, and the visual arts, as well as religious and philosophical texts. Dubrow considers the science of taste and how taste transforms from a physical sensation into a metaphor for discernment.

Taste is organized not so much as a linear dinner served in courses but as a meal consisting of meze, small plates of intensely flavored discourse.

What did you receive?

Live Encounters 13th Anniversary Edition Is Out

Check out my latest poems in Live Encounters: 13th Anniversary Edition. I’m on pg. 140 or so.

Love the Dark Days by Ira Mathur

Source: the author
Paperback, 232 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Love the Dark Days by Ira Mathur is a surreal memoir that weaves between a distant past in post-colonial India and ancestral stories and a married woman looking for guidance on writing her own memoir. The narrative digs deep into the past of her ancestry pulling the thread of pain forward into her present. Mathur says in more than one place that she doesn’t feel like she belongs. She’s looking throughout the memoir for her place in the world.

This sense of drift carries readers through the memoir, which reads like a nightmare in places. Her grandmother Burrimummy has fits of anger and sadness, and her rages seem like a woman battling mental illness, though that isn’t outwardly articulated. Shifting from India to Trinidad and other places, Mathur is weaving place with family history, much of it violent and abusive. Whether subject to emotional abuse and dejection or the physical abuse her mother felt as a child at the hands of her own mother, these instances reverberate throughout the female line in the family. These women are damaged and traumatized, but it is unclear if these women  ever sought help or tried to break the cycle.

“When she is angry like this, I don’t know what to feel. I hate it when she thrashes me but am sadder when she doesn’t notice me at all.”

“The servants, sensing my lower status, are careless with me.”

“I’m too dark, too rebellious.”

Mathur’s view of herself is skewed from an early age, and she carries that doubt with her as she matures. She is never good enough. She even says, “Twenty-four years, and in some ways, nothing had changed for me.” But later as she’s seeking to understand this generational violence and neglect, she absolves everyone of responsibility.

“They are like Russian dolls. I understand now. Mummy blames Burrimummy for being unkind. Burrimummy blames Mumma for ill-treating her, and Mumma blames Sadrunissa for thrashing her. They all took out whatever anger they felt over their own lives on their daughters. no one is responsible.”

The sections when Mathur is interacting with poet Sir Derek Walcott are overly long and fawning of a poet whom she admits was accused of harassing women. Her admiration of his poetry is clear, and she does recognize his faults, but if these scenes were meant to tie in with her family’s saga, they did not fit seamlessly into the narrative. They often pulled me out of her story and made me wonder when she would get back to her family. When she does get back to her family, there are still questions that linger about her husband’s behavior, his family’s acceptance/rejection of her, and her relationship with her own children that remain unanswered. Perhaps that’s a future memoir?

In many ways, this memoir is about a woman still coming to terms with her trauma. Intimate, harrowing, and sad, Mathur’s memoir reminds us that “when brutality is normalized, it is passed on, like a legacy, like DNA.” Love the Dark Days by Ira Mathur is most engaging when she speaks about her family and its legacy and its impact on her as a woman and successful journalist.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Ira Mathur is an Indian born Caribbean freelance journalist/writer working in radio, television and print in Trinidad, West Indies. She also is currently a Sunday Guardian columnist and feature writer. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here by Sara Cahill Marron

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

Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here by Sara Cahill Marron is a collection that explores the need to mark our presence in this life, even as we know that it is all impermanent and often fades.

The opening poem “The Three Shades” reflects this impermanence and the unpredictability of what stays and what fades into the dark. Amid the detritus of modern life (Styrofoam cups et. al.), there is still life here, and we are watching it fade, struggle, and die. It’s a sad emptiness to see life dissipate even in anonymity.

The pandemic clearly influences many of these poems and the desire to save others is prevalent in some, but there’s also this commentary on the disconnect from others. “Please/please stay … drown out news,” the narrator in “An Infant Died Today in Illinois” says, but it is clear that the news cannot be ignored and the inevitability of death is ever present.

Marron is exploring the disconnect between us during the pandemic in the tension with our need for connection. Whether it is an overly sharing email to a hiring manager or an imagined conversation with our eavesdropping cellphone (which I suspect sent her on a journey that culminated in her newest book, Call Me Spes), Marron gives readers a lot to think about in terms of the inevitability of death, our desire for connection and to be seen, and the absence of humanity.

Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here by Sara Cahill Marron reminds us that many times “the enemy is internal,” whether it is the virus that can infect and kill us, the inequality we propagate, or any other selfishness that infects society and its ability to grow and evolve together in divine love and connection. There is so much to love about this collection.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Sara Cahill Marron, native Virginian and Long Island resident, is the author of Reasons for the Long Tu’m (Broadstone Books, 2018), Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here (Kelsay Books 2021), and Call Me Spes (MadHat Press 2022). She is the Associate Editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and publisher at Beltway Editions. Her work has been published widely in literary magazines and journals; a full list is available here. Sara also hosts virtual readings for Beltway Poetry Quarterly with her partner in poetry, Indran Amirthanayagam and teaches poetry in modern discourse programs for teens at the public library in Patchogue, NY. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.