Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams

Source: John Sibley Williams
Paperback, 78 pages
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Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams is a debut collection that breaks down the barriers between reality and fantasy in ways that will remind readers of Salvador Dalí and the surrealists one moment and a spiraling, broken hearted romantic, the next.  These poems are equally raw in emotion and imagery, like in “XXXIX” (page 49), “The knives I display in this poem/cannot even cut an overripe fruit.//When I thrash them wildly/to hold them to your throat, or mine,/when I threaten an old enemy/with a few unsharpened words/”  Violence only appears in some of these poems, but it is never gruesome or overly graphic.  One main technique used throughout the collection resembles slipstream combining the familiar with the unfamiliar.

XII (page 22)

I would like to crochet a mitten
for my future child,
       to warm another's hands
       with the work of my own.

I would like to build a house for someone,
       a stranger,
       from foundation to wafting chimney,
and then smile at the pain
of pressing on the bruises
left from making.

But all I have is a song to lean on,
       an eager voice,
       a white cane
       related to me as stone is to moss,
and I am hoping
this simple attempt at light will suffice.

Unlike unbidden hallucinations, these poems carefully unravel in slow movements to serve as a reminder to the reader that their own lives can and have spiraled until they were pulled back.  Even as movement speeds up in some poems, there is always a moment where that movement stops, providing a perspective for the reader to examine.  Williams’ poems have the aim of making the untranslatable translatable, and the poems draw parallels between each poem’s narrator and the reader’s world.  “IX” (Page 19) seems to partially showcase the need for control in love, but how equally painful trying to keep control can be: “The paper cut on my palm/runs parallel to my love line./They taper off at the same spot,/under my thumb//” evoking the image that control can smother love.

 From "XLV" (page 55)

Let's be moths together
circling the bright eye,
circling and trying to enter,
then retreating as far as darkness allows.

There’s a constant struggle in these poems from the choices made and the choices that could have been made.  Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams peels back the skin to reveal what’s underneath, but then veils it with sheer fabric to obscure its harshness.  Some of these poems can be puzzling, requiring a couple of reads, while others seem contrived or unfinished.  Overall, the collection is engaging and accessible for more patient readers.

About the Poet:

John Sibley Williams is an award-winning writer of fiction and poetry. He works as Book Marketing Manager of Inkwater Press, as well as a freelance literary agent, and lives in Portland, Oregon. John is the author of Controlled Hallucinations (forthcoming 2013 by FutureCycle Press), as well as seven chapbooks. John is the winner of the 2011 HEART Poetry Award, and finalist for the Pushcart, Rumi, and The Pinch Poetry Prizes. He has served as Acquisitions Manager of Ooligan Press and publicist for various presses and authors, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing and MA in Book Publishing.

This is my 64th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 27th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer

I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because it works! Have you tried it?

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 92 pages
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Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer is the debut collection of a poet who has spurred inspiration virtually for many years as part of the Writer’s Digest team, and as a debut, it oozes deconstruction, construction, and reflection in each poem’s white spaces in ways that are thought-provoking and eye-opening.  There are love poems, break-up poems, and get back together poems, but the overwhelming theme seems to be that love is the great connector of us all — no matter how successful the relationships ultimately are — and the poet seems to postulate that love can “solve the world’s problems.”  While some of these poems have a pessimistic hint in them, they are balanced with a certain amount of light.

From "Matters of Great Importance" (page xv-xvi)

poets consider which chair
                is going to inspire them
                                  to write the poem

that inspires other people
                  to build chairs and
                                    drive trucks and write poems

Within each poem there is an expansion, an expanse left open for the reader to explore and think about on their own.  While these poems cover well-worn territory at times, each line break and word choice makes them crisp, inspiring the reader to look at the subject anew.  In “worried about ourselves,” the narrator talks of how the moon was once something godly and now is just a chunk of rock floating in space, but toward the latter half of the poem, the new perception is turned on the reader, examining the never-ending analysis of ourselves to the point we begin to believe our own perceptions about reality are true, even when they are not.  Some of the best lines are the simplest, like in “I think the world is a pin cushion” (page 48):

there's a space between everyday matters
that makes someone feel every day matters

But there are more serious moments, moments in which social issues are addressed, such as global warming in “one day we looked for the snow” (page 49) and living in a fast-paced modern world where appearances matter and wars are inevitable — “why I never mention the traffic report” (page 52).  But more interestingly, there is an exploration of the modern world and the perceived increase in connection between humans, but the reality is that we seek these outlets to distance ourselves from one another — walking out the door has never been easier when face-to-face takes a back seat.

Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer is a chance to find ourselves reflected in ourselves and the world around us.  From “the noises that scare us” (page 30):

to uncover and hope no shots are fired
we're not here to find something new        we want
reminded of who we were when the birds

first spoke  our wings dissolve as we age   and

About the Author:

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor for the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. He edits books, manages websites, creates electronic newsletters, crafts blog posts, writes magazine articles, participates in online education, and speaks nationally on writing and publishing topics. As a poet, Robert was named Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere in 2010, has been a featured reader at several poetry events around the country, and is the author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

This is my 63rd book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 26th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen

Source: Academy of American Poets, part of the membership benefits, with no expectation of review
Paperback, 64 pages
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Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen, 2012 winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and recently added to the National Book Award 2013 long list, could not be more aptly named.  The light passing through this dark hole is that of the narrator’s brother when he commits suicide, forever changing his family and yet changing nothing in the wider world.  There is a balance Rasmussen tries to strike here between the irrevocable change the family, and in particular the brother, feel and the lack of change outside of their microcosm, even in nature where the hunters and sportsman arbitrarily continue to shoot clay pigeons or deer.

From After Suicide (page 4-5)

I wanted to put my finger
into the hole

feel the smooth channel
he escaped through

stop the milk
so he could swallow it

There is a deep sadness in these poems, but also a sense of confusion and desire to understand, even when understanding is beyond our capacity because we are not those who have taken their lives.  We have different experiences and different perspectives, and while we have the capacity for empathy, that is oftentimes not the same — or enough.  The narrator of the poems even acknowledges this when he says in “Elegy in X Parts,” “There is no refuge//from yourself.” (page 36)  It is because we are trapped with ourselves that suicide may seem like the only solution, especially if we are unable to see solutions outside of ourselves.

Rasmussen has some stark images, haunting pictures of death and lifelessness.  There is an emptiness in those vivid moments, which the poet captures with so few brushstrokes.  As the past slips further away, people and moments fade, but their impressions are still felt — as personified by “Monet as a Verb” (page 19).  And although a tragic loss can be scarring, scars fade and heal.  Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen examines the light that leaves our lives in a flash, often unexpectedly and without reason, and how we sometimes grieve for long periods of time afterward and in some cases, even want to follow our loved ones through the same dark hole to find peace, understanding and closure.

About the Poet:

Matt Rasmussen’s poetry has been published in Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, H_NGM_N, Water~Stone Review, New York Quarterly, Paper Darts, and at Poets.org. He’s received awards, grants, and residencies from The Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, The Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN, and The Corporation of Yaddo. He is a 2014 Pushcart Prize winner, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College. His first book of poems, Black Aperture, won the 2012 Walt Whitman Award and was published in 2013 by LSU Press.

This is my 25th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 59th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young

Source:  Purchased from Novel Books
Hardcover, 44 pages
I’m an Amazon Affiliate

A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated Ed Young, is a collection of poems and illustrations about animals that live in harsh environments and have adapted to their conditions.  The poetry forms include free verse, cinquain, haiku, villanelle, sonnet, and others that give young readers a brief look at the animals in their habitats from the Humboldt penguins that live in the warmer climates of Chile and Peru to the blind cave fish that live in the dark deep.  Included in the poetry book are at times abstract looking pictures of the animals or their habitats, though the images resemble collage techniques that incorporate various mediums.  The book also includes a break down of what poems exemplify which form and end notes that give a little more information about each animal.

Dry as Dust

They can deal solo
with dryness, but give them rain
and then: toads explode.

For my little girl, who is age 2, this book was a little too old for her.  She couldn’t pay attention long enough to get through the entire book, but she loved the pages with the snow monkeys in “Think Heat.”  There are a lot more questions than answers, and kids who are older are likely to want more information about each animal and habitat.  For younger kids, there’s just enough in each poem to mirror their own wonder, including them in the wider questioning of these animals’ lives.

A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated Ed Young, is a little too old for my little one, but if she retains her love of animals, she’ll likely enjoy this more as she gets older.  I found the poems a little too simple, and some did not have enough information about the animals or their habitats, but the end notes did offer a bit more information.  As a jumping off point, the book will spark questions from younger readers, and it could inspire a mother- or father-child exploration of these harsh habitats and adaptable animals.  Singer offers a special thanks at the beginning of the book to several people and museums, which seems to be where she obtained some of the information for her poems.

About the Poet:

Marilyn Singer was born in the Bronx (New York City) and lived most of her early life in N. Massapequa (Long Island), NY. She attended Queens College, City University of New York, and for her junior year, Reading University, England. She holds a B.A. in English from Queens and an M.A. in Communications from New York University.  Visit her Website.

About the Illustrator:

Caldecott Medalist Ed Young is the illustrator of over eighty books for children, seventeen of which he has also written. He finds inspiration for his work in the philosophy of Chinese painting.

Young began his career as a commercial artist in advertising and found himself looking for something more expansive, expressive, and timeless. He discovered all this, and more, in children’s books.  Visit his Website.


This is my 38th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.



This is my 24th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick

Source: Wordtech Communications and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 96 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick is a slim volume of poetry that is broken into three sections.  Although there is a deep sense of anger and hurt over current events and the rape of the world by humanity, many of these poems also have a personal side to them — deep personal losses of friends and family.  At times, the narrator is baffled at how some things come to be, like in “Millennium” where the narrator is left with an altar in a room flooded with light.  “How did I come by this altar,/these windows of stained glass?/When I meet the fox again,/I set her free./The meadow she finds/is neither desert nor glacier.”  (page 11)

Kirkpatrick wonders about the connections between humans and nature, particularly animals.  She postulates in “At the Turkey Farm” whether we absorb the loneliness and longing of turkeys when we eat them during holidays, but at the same time she talks about their only solace as being able to stand in the fading light in their own poop.  At the heart of the poem, the narrator is exploring the existence of these animals as walking corpses and ghosts haunting the farms but not really living.  In a way the poem itself is haunting, forcing readers to contemplate these farms where animals are bred to be something other than themselves, serving mostly as food.

Strange Meeting (page 22-3)

Is this how an animal feels
on the other side of a human eye?

I was a woman speaking
to men I didn’t know.

Large and strong, they
knew about power
in ways I may never

I sat framed and assessed
no threat a square jaw decided
negligible bent knuckles said

I looked back through my animal
eye, saw

the slit throat of the cow
in the leather shoe

the poisons deep in the soil
where the cotton grew

the felled trees
of the papers stacked

the mountains leveled
in the electric hum of light and heat
where we sat.

I saw clearly
all they had done and would do
to make a world we’d be losing fast.

I saw why it was lost.
And I saw how we would lose it.

In some poems, Kirkpatrick weaves in the teachings of Buddhism, but in some instances, those teachings cannot stop the suffering. “After Zazen” explores the many forms of suffering facing humanity, including accidental swallowing of stones to cause near suffocation and death and the invasion of one country into another. Raising questions about suffering on many fronts, the narrators are searching for ways to end it or at least ease the pain. Meditation may not be the best solution or it could be. Beyond these moments of suffering, the narrator blur the lines between animal and human to find the similarities of feelings and behaviors, but to also outline the loyalties that have been forgotten, like that of a dog and master. Perhaps that loyalty should be expanded to include other aspects of nature.

Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick offers a wide range of poems for discussion in book clubs, focused on the impact of human activity on the environment and the changes that are possible if we just think outside the box.  What are the ways that we can brainstorm to feed ourselves and continue to live and grow without harming other animals and nature.  While the brown of the cover is a bit off-putting; the shoe seems out of place on the wire fence, though that may be on purpose given the sometimes out of place nature of our own existence in the world.

About the Poet:

Raised in the nomadic subculture of the U.S. military, Kathryn Kirkpatrick was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and grew up in the Phillipines, Germany, Texas and the Carolinas.  Today she lives with her husband, Will, and their two shelties in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and she currently holds a dual appointment at Appalachian State University as a Professor in the English Department and the Sustainable Development Program. She has a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Emory University, where she received an Academy of American Poets poetry prize.

Giveaway:  1 copy of Our Held Animal Breath

Want to win a copy of her book?  Leave a comment below with an email

I’ll contact the randomly drawn winner, who must be age 18 or older and live in US or Canada as the publisher is sponsoring the giveaway.  Deadline to enter is June 17, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST

This is my 23rd book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.




This is my 35th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin

Book Source:  Poet provided me with a copy
Paperback: 58 pages
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Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin reminded me of the comic book character Plastique in that many of the female narrators in this collection are very explosive. And the cover of this collection is very ironic, with the sweet looking Barbie doll decked out in a corset-like shirt and chain necklaces, giving a hint of her edginess.  In one of the first poems, “Miss Plastique,” Levin references the explosive nature of C-4 and how it must be handled with care, much like the narrator. Levin examines the notion of judging a book by its cover, and how something that doesn’t look dangerous can be exactly that.

Some poems have a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, like in “The Foundations of Poetry,” the narrator recounts some advice from an English teacher long ago, “‘You should expose/your thoughts and feelings/when you write poems,’ taught Mrs. Hay./’In verse, a little thigh is fine/and you may dream your truth into your lines./Only do not lie to yourself.’//”  (page 16)  These poems contain material that can be explosive if not handled with care, but in Levin’s hands the tension in the poem is sometimes just enough to sustain it without a bomb going off, but in other poems, there is just no other way to express the emotion that has been building.

A selection from: Please Understand (page 39)

I love to say your name, it's like candy
in my mouth.  I love to say your name,
it's like saltwater taffy.
When I steal a look at your eyes
it's like I'm shoplifting in a jewelry store,
and my heart's arrested
when you catch me.

Levin has a gift in that she knows precisely when to change the mood in the poem, turning the tables on the reader, who thinks there is a love sonnet but realizes soon enough that the object of the poem is no longer a love interest but someone who has spurned the narrator. In the latter section of the book, Lilith appears — a long used symbol of rebellion for feminists — and she alongside Eve stands tall and ready to act, rather than simper and wait for things to change.

Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin is about taking charge, being a force to be reckoned with, and standing tall in the face of adversity — whether its a mundane as a dilemma as choosing the best outfit or as dire as escaping a violent relationship.  But there are moments of vulnerability in these poems as well as explosions.  These poems will make sure readers are kept on their toes.

This is my 22nd book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Trace by Eric Pankey

Book Source: Purchased at Novel Places
Paperback, 68 pgs
I am an Affiliate of Amazon.com

Trace by Eric Pankey, published by Milkweed Editions on 100 percent post-consumer waste paper, is a melancholy collection of poems that explores faith and the vacillation between believing and not.  Combining science and philosophy with observations of nature, Pankey examines the impact of life upon life, memory, and the other.  “If all matter is constant, what can one add to creation?”, the narrator of “A Line Made While Walking” asks.  What are these lines that we draw between our past and present, God and ourselves, and even between one another — are they not just arbitrary demarcations.  Like in “Out-of-the-Body,” the narrator watches the river otter and wonders if the animal is at play or working and whether even such distinctions enter into his thoughts while he’s busily breaking up the ice.  And if the otter does not make these distinctions, why do we, especially when we lie awake at night.  If only we could watch ourselves from outside of ourselves, what would we see?

Pankey’s preoccupation with death and its ultimate push to think about faith in something greater than ourselves permeates each and every poem in the collection, though some more intensely than others.  “All of winter, like a suppressed yawn, wells up inside me” is just one line from “Cogitatio Mortis” or I think of death (a rough Latin-to-English translation).  Death is never far from us or our thoughts, especially in today’s media hyped up world in which news from across the globe reaches us in seconds and wars continue to break out across the world.

Edge of Things

I wait at the twilit edge of things,
A dry spell spilling over into drought,

The slippages of shadow silting in,
The interchange of dusk to duskier,
The half-dark turning half-again as dark.

There:  night enough to call it a good night.

I wait for the resurrection, but wake to morning:
Mist lifting off the river.
Ladders in the orchard trees although the picking's done.

There are moments of hope in the collection, as Pankey’s poems discuss the death of the body, but not the soul. In “The Place of Skulls,” the narrator talks about the millstones and the hauling down of the bodies, but that the tree continues living and bearing fruit. Whether this is a poem about reincarnation, the absorption of the soul into the tree, or the mere image of saplings that have grown up and bear their own fruit after the sire has passed on does not matter because there is hope that life never just stops.  Faith is at the edges of these poems and underneath them, but on the surface, there is death, loss, and memories of all that has passed, even if those memories are faded and carry different emotional context than they did in the moment of creating them.

Trace by Eric Pankey is a collection focused on faith and passing on and what one wishes to leave behind, compared to what is actually left behind.  It is about the struggle to continue to get up every day and face it head on, even if death is closer than ever.

About the Poet:

Eric Pankey is the author of nine collections of poetry. TRACE, published by Milkweed Editions this year is the most recent. Two new collections, DISMANTLING THE ANGEL, and CROW-WORK are forthcoming. He is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University.

He’ll be at the May Gaithersburg Book Festival for “Poetry in the Afternoon” moderated by me!



This is my 21st book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 32nd book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith

The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith, published by Milkweed Editions on 100 percent post-consumer waste paper and who will be at the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival) allows nature to run rampant through the poems, lifting up the reader and at the same time opening the door to reality.  While we strive to compartmentalize our lives to the before, during, and after of pivotal moments, the reality is that these moments are not separate and cannot be separated.  This analytical approach to our very journeys runs contrary to the emotional and experiential ways in which we live.  The struggle between the logical part of the brain and the emotional part can be seen in every poem, but it is particularly pronounced in the poems “Providence,” “Knot,” and “Crane.”

Keith’s use of nature elements, especially wind, provide readers with not only emotional cues to the state of things, but also paints vivid landscapes that evoke emotional responses.  In each poem, there is a longing for the past and what was, but it is not so overwhelming that the present moment nor the emotional memory of the past is lost.  While facts play a key role in grounding some of these poems, behind the scenes Keith weaves a narrative that haunts each poem with a depth of emotion and progression toward the realization of one’s own mortality and its nearness at all times.  “What is Nothing But a Picture,” is a prime example of this technique as the narrator paints a mural of seascapes and battles in the past, while examining the past, present, and end.  Like with many artists, there is a restless to the narrative, and this restlessness becomes overwhelming by the end of the poem when “The dogs’ hot breath hits in gusts./Clouds thicken.  Clouds splice/down far-off mountainsides no one sees./The surface of the ocean is heavy./The surface is a ruin that breathes./”  (pages 27-42)

For Example (page 52)

The pale undersides of sycamore leaves, knocking
at seed pods hanging in brown bunches

so that they helicopter down.
Slag heap, mad slack, taut song:

Which morning am I making up now?
Somewhere wild animals are seeking cool hollows

in which to lay themselves down.
A wall of cotton disperses in the wind.

Keith references the great battles and losses of Achilles and Hector on more than one occasion, and it would seem that these references point to a kinship between these heroes and the people of today, although the losses may not achieve the same legendary magnitude.  The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith explores not only the facts of matter, but also the emotional ties that bind us and the art that is born out of those experiences, which can never truly capture those moments in the same way that they were lived — a kind of existential examination of grief and mortality.

About the Poet:

Sally Keith is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Design, winner of the 2000 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Dwelling Song, winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series competition. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, New England Review, and elsewhere. Keith teaches at George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC.

This is my 20th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 30th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




She’ll be at the May Gaithersburg Book Festival for “Poetry in the Afternoon” moderated by me!

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey builds on the poet’s exploration of popular myths and legends centered on women, only unlike Becoming the Villainess (my review) where the characters become vengeful, these characters are striking out for parts unknown, examining their legends, and telling the real tales behind the fairy magic.  From Jack and Jill who vowed to stay together against all odds who find themselves in Ohio to Alice in Wonderland who merely gets lost in a coat closet, Gailey is poking fun at the fantasies that rely on women being beautiful and little else to prove their worth.  These heroines are set free, and outside the confines of their tales, they are able to contemplate their past choices and their futures in ways they never though possible.

She Had Unexplained Fevers (page 3)

some nights she just wasn't
herself, skin pale and damp as a child's
they lay her in a glass coffin
told me there was something in her throat
and I said yes we've all swallowed a lot of crap
choked down broken promises like apple.

In looking at these tales, Gailey is not only calling into question their validity but also their impact on the generations that have read them. Are women supposed to be only beautiful and only want that prince to come rescue them? And by the end of the collection, the poet asks readers to think about how much has changed even in the modern world. May be there are few princes with castles and white steeds, but don’t they have other “enticements” like good paying jobs and the house in the suburbs that women continue to gravitate towards as safe and what they should want from their lives?

Like “Alice, Through the Looking Glass,” there are poems that are more universal and do not stick as closely to the stories as some other poems do, and in these poems, Gailey raises questions about body image and the prevalence of women in advertising to not only sell products, but also to sell an idea of what beauty is and should be for every woman. The narrator in “Alice” asks, “What am I doing here in this white room/with no smell but dust and soap//” Meanwhile, Snow White asks the reader in “I Like the Quiet: Snow White” to get her out of our own looking glasses — break free from the need for a certain appearance — readers would see their true selves and who each of us really is and how we matter without the constant need to live up to a beauty standard. Snow White is just like all of us, wanting to spend time alone, wanting space to decide the course of our lives, wanting not to rush into a marriage even with a prince, and all the trappings and decisions we make in our lives.

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey easily parallels the myths and stories we’ve read and memorized as children with the current modern lives we lead.  Though lest you think all of the poem narrators are female, there are male narrators, including one knight who did not get the fairytale ending he was expecting.  In this way, Gailey is calling into question the fantasies that men are fed as children as well; must they be rescuers and be the strongest and bravest to get the girl?  A phenomenal collection from beginning to end — one that has a permanent place in my library, right next to her others.

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the Poet Laureate of Redmond, WA and the author of Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers, available spring of 2013. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner. She teaches part-time at National University.

This is my 19th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust edited by Harold Augenbraum

The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust edited by Harold Augenbraum includes not only the original French alongside the English translations of the poems, but also detailed notes on the various references and historical context for each of the poems at the end of the collection. As an interesting addition, there are a few of the original drawings that Proust sent along with the poems in his correspondence.  Proust is generally known for his prose, and most people don’t know that he wrote poems.  (While I’ve read some of his poems before, I have not read his prose.  I’m a bit out of the norm.)  “The poems were composed from when Proust was seventeen to when he was fifty,” says the introduction on page xvi.  That’s a long period of time, and there are a great many poems.  How many of these poems were written down in one moment or revised is unclear, but some of these poems clearly were further along in the process.

Proust’s poems range from witty to plainspoken and sarcastic.  Some of his poems about love border on the edge of passion and hatred, and there are moments in certain poems that may remind readers of the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Proust’s poems celebrate not only art, but also music, language, and friendship — even those relationships that sour.  Many of these poems were untitled.

Poem 9 (page 27)

Madame, it's possible that I have forgotten
Your divine and birdlike profile,
That I have pushed past my own madness
Like one jumping through a hoop,
But always still your eyes will shine
Like bright chandeliers on the ceiling of my mind.

His poems are playful and cutting at the same time, and his grasp of language and all its capabilities is astounding. Readers will wonder about the subjects that are not clearly named, but at the same imagine their own obsession or loved one in their stead. Even without knowing the subject of poem 9, the reader can gather that the woman once held an esteemed place in the poet’s heart, but has now fallen into disgrace in his eyes. And yet, even though the love affair has gone downhill, she still is remembered fondly but will remain in the past.

From the traditional forms of sonnet to the less-than-traditional prose-like poetry in the collection, readers will get a sense of Proust’s evolution as a writer and his experiences as he saw them. The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust edited by Harold Augenbraum has a lot to offer readers, and while it is not necessary to read the French, those who can will have a richer experience.

About the Poet/Author:

Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental novel In Search of Lost Time. It was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927.

This is my 18th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 29th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Thievery by Seth Abramson

Today marks the end of National Poetry Month, and I hope that you found some great poets and poetry collections to try this month. I’m especially pleased that we had so many participants for the Friday activities. See all of you next year for another blog tour of poetry, but I hope you’ll stick around for the rest of this year too. If you missed some of the posts this month, just click here and scroll through.

The action of the poems in Thievery by Seth Abramson, published by the University of Akron Press, occur in between the silences and the pauses of each line break and each trick phrase, highlighting the theft of what has been stolen.  From the innocence of our children to the rallying of small towns around their own even when the most horrifying things occur.  Abramson performs a sleight of hand in his poems, changing their trajectory at a moment’s notice, calling attention to the illusions that are around us everyday.

From "Chronophrenia, Part VII"

At the end of traveling
I wear the road.  Within my skin it is bad.
It's worst without --
the particulates of being nowhere entirely.
From "Chronophrenia, Part VIII," the poet asks:

Do you pay
for each silence, and if so
why start.  Can I admit this thing,
can I clothe myself
in something like it, is it time now.
Does the time come.  Does it ever.

Are we too afraid to speak up or to change the world around us and make it better, or have we just become too complacent.  This silence and complacency is a pervasive problem Abramson tackles in his poems and what the possible consequences of that silence is.  In “Only,” “If it moves/I see it coming, sometimes I do/I swear.  I have been in the places things/were coming true/that were unwanted, in places/things went/unwell, where things went and went//”  (page 37)  There is an unraveling that these poems want to bring into the light for closer examination, though it could be the unraveling of our morality or our societies — with some poems being more ambiguous than others.  Additionally, there are several poems that focus on the abuse of men at the hands of women, like in “Hometown Courage” where the man is held down by women and in “Poem for Battered Man.”

From "All You Ploughboys":

I am sure
to do something horrible.  Half the wood is
halfway there.
And half this town is half in love with itself,
but me I go all the way.

Thievery by Seth Abramson is subtle, and at times too much so, in its exploration of change throughout society and within individuals as it asks readers and others when is the time to stand up and to create change for a better world. When is the time for us to stop the thieving from others and ourselves? These are questions that should be asked and should be met with action.

About the Poet:
Seth Abramson is the author of The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009). In 2008 he was awarded the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize by Poetry. A former public defender, he currently attends the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Please check out his blog.

Please click the image below for the latest tour stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour!

This is my 17th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

This is my 26th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

night thoughts: 70 dream poems and notes from an analysis by Sarah Arvio

Click the image above for today’s National Poetry Month tour post!

night thoughts: 70 dream poems and notes from an analysis by Sarah Arvio is a poetry collection that defies convention in its cathartic purpose as a series of free-association dream poems with accompanying notes on those dreams from the poet at the time she was tackling some serious trauma.  It is more than a collection of poems and notes about those dreams they capture, it is a memoir written as she uncovers some deeply traumatic events in her childhood as she was on the cusp of womanhood.

“It’s easy to forget how complex and intense are the thoughts of children, and how everlasting.  I mean that the thoughts last in the mind, enacting their meanings, even when they seem to be forgotten.”  (page 132)

Arvio’s notes are essential in many ways to the understanding of her dream poems, which are often surreal and disjointed.  The notes help carve out her images and how they associate to one another and which dreams came to her in the same span of time.  She breaks down her word choices for lines in the poems, the origins of words and how their meanings are uncannily related to the trauma she experienced and subsequently forgot.  She also provides insight into the artwork that she saw and that reminded her of the trauma and how certain colors appear and reappear in her poems because of their relation to the trauma.

watermelon (page 19):

in the brightwhite kitchen a tiny pink
watermelon lies on the pink counter
or white it may be white by the fruit
is pure pink flesh I take a bite of it
then I recall a photograph of me
standing & biting the watermelon
in the newspaper that was black & white
though I know my shirt was white & pink
at the fair on something hill (named for
a fruit) where my father bought me a book
that was called something hill something that meant
flesh & then I knew it was fanny hill
the place was strawberry hill & little 
me as francesca seduced by a book

Arvio utilizes repetition of color and words in her poem to illustrate the remembering of a dream while awake, as the mind filters through the image details to carve out the truth of the events. Her poems read like dream interpretations without the conclusion, and in this way, she leaves the poems open to interpretation until the reader gets to her notes section. While these are dream poems, the images and actions will likely make some readers squirm and look away, particularly with the maiming of animals, among other things. These poems are stark and sometimes profane, much like the shame and the trauma explored in the dreams.

night thoughts: 70 dream poems and notes from an analysis by Sarah Arvio is poignant, frightening, and “super real.” Start with the notes at the end of the book, if you want background on her dream poems before you read them, or hold off and read them at the end to get a richer experience. This memoir/poetry collection is meant to disturb.

About the Poet:

Sarah Arvio is a poet who has lived in New York, Paris, Caracas, Rome and Mexico.  For many years a translator for the United Nations in New York and Switzerland, she has recently also taught poetry at Princeton.

Her poems are widely published, in such journals as The New Yorker, The New Republic, Literary Imagination, Boston Review, The Kenyon Review and Poetry Kanto and in many online reviews.

Composers have set her poems to music:  Miriama Young set “Cote d’Azur” as “Inner Voices of Blue”; Steve Burke set “Armor” for the song cycle “Skin”; and William Bolcom set “Chagrin” for the song cycle “The Hawthorn Tree.”

She’ll be at the May Gaithersburg Book Festival for “Poetry in the Afternoon” moderated by me!

This is my 16th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

This is my 25th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.