How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Source: Wunderkind PR
Paperback, 100 pgs.
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How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is emotionally arresting and a love letter to the past and the passing of a mother. How many times have we said, “I’ll get back to that in a few days” or “It’s only for a year.” Many of us have said these things and others when speaking with friends, parents, and others. In this busy world, we often forget to go back to those events or people. This leaves an emptiness. How do you deal with that emptiness or learn to love that emptiness?

In “My Mother Wants to Know If I’m Dead,” Aptowicz’s narrator finds an email from her mother asking if she’s died because she has not let her know that she’s arrived safely. These are real life situations that come to life in poems throughout the collection. She points out the inanity of these emails if the receiver is in fact deceased, but she also acknowledges the sentiment and the anxiety and the worry behind the contact. These are moments we all can relate to, understand, and lament.

“Rabbit Hole” is the poem in this collection that brings the whole together. It hammers home the connections between the poems and the struggle with emptiness.

Holding your mother's hand
while she is dying is like trying to love
the very thing that will kill you.

Similarly, “Text From My Sister, June 2015” expresses how this loss that seems so singular is broader and encloses everyone who was connected with her mother.

Definitely have had lots of
sadness lately. The passenger
seatbelt in Dads car smells like
her. But the house is starting to

There are days when there is a hole in our lives that doesn’t seem like it will ever be full again. How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is not as tough to read as you’d expect. It’s funny, it’s witty, it’s sad, but it’s also content in the empty moments of life.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a New York Times bestselling nonfiction writer and poet. She is the author of six books of poetry (including Dear Future Boyfriend, Hot Teen Slut, Working Class Represent, Oh, Terrible Youth andEverything is Everything) as well as the nonfiction books, the >Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which made 7 National “Best Books of 2014″ lists (including Amazon, The Onion’s AV Club, NPR’s Science Fridays and the UK newspaper The Guardian, among others) and Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.” On the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) podcast Art Works, host Josephine Reed introduced Cristin as being “something of a legend in NYC’s slam poetry scene. She is lively, thoughtful, and approachable looking to engage the audience with her work and deeply committed to the community that art (in general) and slam poetry (in particular) can create.” Cristin’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (2011) and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013, and would go on to win the Writers’ League of Texas Book of the Year Award for Poetry (2013-2014). Her second book of nonfiction, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, was released by Gotham Books (Penguin) in Fall 2014, debuted at #7 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Books about Health.

Daphne and Her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Source: the poet
ebook, 86 pgs.
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Daphne and Her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge begins with the dancing tree on the cover. It sets the tone for her latest collection, as Daphne was a nymph turned into a tree as she sought to escape Apollo. She uses the tree and the myth to explain the flexibility of being a woman with responsibilities, but how that flexibility can have its limits in “My Mother the Tree.”

LaForge explores motherhood, being a daughter to a harsh father, and a sister in her poems. Readers are taken on a journey in a myth as it is made and as the narrator is transformed and relationships are modified. In “Goddess of Water,” she says, “We are bodies of water so of course/What controls the tides/Conquers us.”

There are juxtapositions between Christianity and her Jewish heritage as she speaks about the Christmas tree business her father owned. She speaks to the past, the present and the rest, and how it is internalized to generate new growth if we allow it and do not hinder it with our own doubts and criticisms and dwelling upons.

Daphne and Her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge is a woven history and myth rolled out over several poems. She re-engages readers with old myths to create new ones. Not to be missed.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s poetry, fiction, critical and personal essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry Quarterly, Wilderness House Literary Review, Ottawa Arts Review, Boston Literary Magazine, THRUSH, Ne’er-Do-Well Literary Magazine, and The Western Journal of Black Studies. Her memoir-fantasy, An Unsuitable Princess, is available from Jaded Ibis Press. Her full-length collection of poetry, With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women  was published in fall 2012 by The Aldrich Press. She is also the author of the chapbooks After Voices, published by Burning River of Cleveland in 2009, and Half-Life, from Big Table Publishing of Boston in 2010. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Said Not Said by Fred Marchant

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 78 pgs.
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Said Not Said by Fred Marchant differs from his previous collections that focused heavily on the Vietnam War and the effects of war on soldiers and those nations caught in war. His poems here tow the line between direct speech to the reader and remaining deafeningly silent, requiring the reader to parse out the meaning of his lines and over-arching themes. In this collection there are poems about the Vietnam War, the Benghazi issues, and the deterioration of his sister.

The poet is both witness and subject, and Marchant has an uncanny ability to not only empathize with “the other” but to inhabit their suffering in a way that makes it his own and requires the reader to take their own ownership of that suffering.

“Twin Tulips” is particularly powerful as the narrator is running his finger down the stem of tulips painted in watercolor that falls down the page like tears she shed as she struggled to hold onto her memories and herself even as her mental faculties stripped them away. There is significant beauty in the sorrow, but there is a longing that remains with the last words — “as long as” — because we often feel the same. We want to hold on as long as we can, even though we know that time in finite for each of us.

This theme is carried through the collection and appears in “Forty Years”:

How the sound of the rust-bucket trawler named Memory followed her
wherever she went, its torn nets dragged across the floor of her being, the
silt clouds and debris fields, a stern winch sounding a lot like pain.

Said Not Said by Fred Marchant is wonderfully rendered and deeply emotional. It tracks the sorrow tied to mortality, but it also demonstrates the connection we share as a humanity. This connection needs to be cherished and never forgotten no matter how we age. It is this connection that imbues us with empathy and understanding — something we need more of in modern society.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Couldn’t resist sharing this old gem.

About the poet:

Fred Marchant is the author of four books of poetry, including Full Moon Boat, The Looking House, and his most recent collection, Said Not Said, all from Graywolf Press. His first book, Tipping Point, won the 1993 Washington Prize from The Word Works, and was recently re-issued in a 20th Anniversary Second Edition. House on Water, House in Air, a new and selected poems was published in Ireland by Dedalus Press. He is the editor of Another World Instead, a selection of William Stafford’s early poetry, also published by Graywolf Press. With Nguy?n Bá Chung, he co-translated From a Corner of My Yard, poems by Tr?n Dang Khoa, and published in Hà N?i. Emeritus Professor of English at Suffolk University in Boston, Marchant is the founding director of that school’s creative writing program and Poetry Center. He lives in Arlington, MA.

PoeTRY Something New 2018

2017 got away from me at the end of the year, but I wanted to get this post up early for those interested in continuing their poetry reading in 2018.

I love seeing which books others read, and I often add new books to my ever-growing TBR list of poetry books. I’m sure 2018 will be no different.

If you’re interested in reading poetry this year, challenge yourself to try something new. Read a single volume of poetry outside your comfort zone.

If you normally read classic poetry, read a contemporary volume.

Another challenge would be if you read from a book at home, go to reading instead and hear a poet read live!

Sign up here in Mr. Linky to join the challenge and link all your reviews (if you do them) in the linky too:

Happy reading!

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) by James W. Gaynor

Source: the author
Paperback, 208 pgs.
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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) by James W. Gaynor is an ambitious undertaking in which the poet takes the first lines of each of Pride & Prejudice’s chapters and turns them into a haiku that reflects not only the first line, but major happenings within the chapter.

Chapter 2:

In pastoral terms,
Bingley was breakfast for the
Bennet early bird.

Gaynor provides the first line of each chapter as written by Austen and his haiku on the following page. It is a labor of love for him to incorporate her wit into his haiku and still maintain the main highlights of each chapters. I can only imagine how long it took to get each haiku to fit not only the form, but also the intention of the project. In many of these haiku he succeeds well in highlighting ironic twists within Austen’s chapters in just one line of verse. In the back, Gaynor also includes a summary of each chapter in the back of the book to highlight the what, the where, and the when that are on display in his preceding haiku.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) by James W. Gaynor is a fun collection of haiku for poetry and Jane Austen lovers alike. It’s size even lends itself to the stocking stuffer gift for your literary friends and relatives.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet: (#HaikuJim)

Author of Everything Becomes a Poem, James W. Gaynor is a poet, artist, editor, and writer. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lived for years in Paris, where he taught a course on Emily Dickinson at the University of Paris, studied the development of the psychological novel in 17th-century France, and worked as a translator. After returning to New York, Gaynor worked as an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, Cuisine magazine, Scriptwriter News and Forbes Publications. His articles, book reviews, poems and essays have appeared in The New York Observer, OTVmagazine.com, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, and The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. As #HaikuJim, Gaynor publishes a daily haiku drawn from current newspaper headlines and is the creator of Can You Haiku? – a corporate communications workshop based on using Japanese poetry techniques to improve effective use of today’s digital platforms. He recently retired as the Global Verbal Identity Leader for Ernst & Young LLP. A silver medalist in the 1994 Gay Games (Racewalking), Gaynor’s found-object sculpture has been exhibited internationally. He is a member of the Advisory Board of New York’s The Creative Center at University Settlement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the creative arts to people with cancer and chronic illnesses (thecreativecenter.org) Gaynor lives in New York City with his canine companion, Emily Dickinson Gaynor, and the cat who oversees their entwined lives, Gerard Manley Hopkins Gaynor. #HaikuJim jameswgaynor.com

Kin Types by Luanne Castle

Source: gift
Paperback, 30 pgs.
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Kin Types by Luanne Castle, which is touring with Poetic Book Tours, is more than poetry. It is a breathing history of ancestors and how their lives impact the present long after they have left the earth. The poet opens the collection with “Advice from My Forebears,” in which readers are greeted with much the same advice they probably heard from grandparents and others about not spending what you do not have, etc. And much of this is advice about risks we may encounter in life and it sets the tone for the collection. It demonstrates how the past can inform the present and even guide it toward better decisions, but it also calls to the rebels within us who want to go against even good advice.

Castle’s narrative poems leave the reader with a sense of the past, and through detailed accounts, she places us where she wants us to bear witness to the hard lives of these ancestors. Many of these people are immigrants leaving their homes for a better life, or at least what they believe will be a better life. But not all that befalls these men and women is good, and not all of it is bad.

From "New Life, New Music" (pg. 15)

The boy in knee pants didn't notice
the many wrinkles
or if he did they created that comfortable
space between his own raw starch
and her eyes and smile that were only his.

Like us, there are dreams held close by these ancestors. They may have a sense of loss that these dreams were not achieved or even lost, but they never let that stop them from living their lives. In “What Lies Inside,” Castle asks how well we really know our closest family members and speaks to the secrets we hold unto ourselves, as a self that we protect from the outside hardships of our lives. It is one of my favorite poems in the collection, with this haunting line: “If I don’t have this one space, where can I go to protect this self/kept inside only by my thin twitching skin?”

Kin Types by Luanne Castle is haunting and deeply emotional, allowing readers to wander off and discover their own ancestral stories. Perhaps they too will re-create the past and see how it mirrors the present or has shaped who they are.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne Castle‘s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Grist, Copper Nickel, River Teeth, Glass Poetry Press, Barnstorm Journal, Six Hens, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, and many other journals. Published by Finishing Line Press, Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest.

Luanne has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside. She studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside (Ph.D.); Western Michigan University (MFA); and the Stanford University writing certificate program. Her scholarly work has been published in academic journals, and she contributed to Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers for Adults, edited by Betty Greenway. For fifteen years, she taught college English. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina. Visit her website.

As Close As I Can by Toni Stern

Source: publicist
Paperback, 85 pgs.
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As Close As I Can by Toni Stern looks deeply into what it means to live, presenting the reader with both the good and bad. She begins her collection with “Hwy 154-Between Two Fires” to demonstrate the in between, first calling to mind the adage that “a man alone is in bad company” and juxtaposing it with “hell is other people.” This initial set up allows Stern to call acute attention to appearance of the now versus the individual reality of now.  Like the “towhee” that tweets a song that is enjoyable to the listener, who may find it beautiful, but the listener is unaware that she is a widowed bird longing for someone who has left this life.

Stern has a wry wit, which appears in a number of her poems. I loved the wit on display in “Pine Sol.” Each poem showcases how our life experiences shape us as people, and how not all of these experiences necessarily are good. The title poem speaks of a mother making room for her child in her full life, carving out a space for this young person whose name is like music.  From our first moments, we are given a name, and even just this name and its sounds will shape us.

As Close As I Can by Toni Stern is a collection of life’s beauty, the tarnished and the shiny.  There is life in between those moments that is lived, and those in-between moments are just as precious as the others that are burned into our memories.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs of the late ’60s and early ’70s, most notably “It’s Too Late,” for the album Tapestry. The album has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and received numerous industry awards.  In 2012, Tapestry was honored with inclusion in the National Recording Registry to be preserved by the Library of Congress; in 2013, King played “It’s Too Late” at the White House. That song and Stern’s “Where You Lead” feature in the Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  “Where You Lead” is also the theme song for the acclaimed television series Gilmore Girls.  Stern’s music has been recorded by numerous artists throughout the years.

As Close as I Can is her second volume of poetry.  She lives with her family in Santa Ynez, California.  Her website is https://www.tonistern.com.

Killing Summer by Sarah Browning

Source: the poet
Paperback, 100 pgs.
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Killing Summer by Sarah Browning begins in the heat of summer in which a woman walks her neighborhood and does not cross the street because there is a black man there and there is a man stabbing women on the loose.  But look closer at “Pentworth, Early Evening” and you see a narrator who thinks about doing just that, who has fear deep down that she’ll be a victim of violence by a black man.  Like her, we want “to tear history” from us, free ourselves from that ingrained habit that those unlike us are something to fear.

From “Flag of No Walls” (pg. 93)

I want the flag of talking,
of sitting on the disintegrating
wall and gabbing, gossiping,
negotiating, waving that flag
of no walls. That flag.

Through Browning’s open endings, her poems seek change and there is a glimmer of hope that changes are coming and that transformation could be for the better (at least for those who come after us).  Her poems are ripped from the headlines, but they also are reflective of the past — a societal angst that was gone and has returned.  From an adolescent student seeking the courage to be seen by the boys in the courtyard to the pull between the ingrained fear and the inability to reconcile an ancestry of slave owners, there is a tension throughout the collection that simmers, wearing us down.

From “The Blueberry Seasons” (pg. 77)

I can’t stop admiring you, how you run
like that, bring your bucket now to show me.

Summer is often referenced as a time of being carefree, and there is some of that here in poems such as “The Blueberry Seasons,” but Browning is quick to remind us that life is not carefree for everyone — not the amputee, not those touched by foreclosure, and not those falsely imprisoned.  Her poems ask us to view ourselves and our actions through the eyes of others, to see how we are perceived and to begin again and become better, more compassionate, and connected.

Killing Summer by Sarah Browning reminds us that even in the most turbulent political times, we should not be blind to our roles and we should not passively watch or read. We must act if we hope to make change.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Sarah Browning is co-founder and Executive Director of Split This Rock. She is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and a featured writer for Other Words. Author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry Press, forthcoming 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007), and coeditor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology (Argonne House Press, 2004), she is the recipient of artist fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, a Creative Communities Initiative grant, and the People Before Profits Poetry Prize. Browning has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and POETRY magazine. Since 2006, she has co-hosted the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. She previously worked supporting socially engaged women artists with WomenArts and developing creative writing workshops with low-income women and youth with Amherst Writers & Artists. She has been a community organizer in Boston public housing and a grassroots political organizer on a host of social and political issues.

Story Problems by Charles Jensen

Source: the poet
Paperback, 39 pgs.
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Story Problems: Poems by Charles Jensen, the winner of 2017 Palooka Press Chapbook Contest, is a chapbook written in a composition exam book style, complete with prose and sample questions for the reader. It’s interactive like all forms of poetry, seeking the readers’ input and self-analysis or even quirky responses to strange questions.

I remember these composition exam books fondly (I’m probably the only one) because I could write out my answers as completely as I wanted and there was no anxiety of speaking in front of the class in a presentation format. There also wasn’t the dreaded multiple choice, on which I always second guessed my answers and changed them, inevitably, to the wrong one.

Jensen’s perspective on grief and loss is as infinite as the universe. Imaging an “Origin Myth” of yourself and then the loss of a parent, how could someone so small in comparison to the rest of the universe contain an entire universe? But isn’t it true that our family is often a universe to us and when it disappears through death or other means, we are drifting and empty?

From “2. The Water Cycle” (pg. 7)

“Breath and words a latticework of ruin.”

From “6. Journey to the Center of the Earth” (pg. 11)

“I told people later grief is the absence of hope, but even then I knew it wasn’t true. Grief is when you have hope, and then hope leaves you.”

From “14. Temporary Death” (pg. 19)

“To watch a loved one breathe out without breathing in makes you stop breathing. There’s a long moment that follows in which no one watching is really alive.”

The prose poems are only as complex as the reader who reads them. With its simple language and in some cases platitudes we’ve all heard before, Jensen is able to pull forth the more existential questions self-actualizing humans find harder to deal with and answer. In this composition exam, the reader is asked to dig deeper into what they know of themselves, their religion, their whiteness, their losses and more to see not only the futility of some of our actions but also how identity is a construct that very few of us understand. He leaps from the broader universality of the human condition to the immediate “you” that we are trapped inside with his probing questions and fanciful instructions.

Story Problems: Poems by Charles Jensen is a chapbook with unending possibilities for the reader.  Self-examination and world examination at its best.  Jensen is becoming one of my favorite poets.  His work is unique and universal, but it also challenges the reader to become more than the passive observer.

RATING: Cinquain

Photo: Philip Pirolo

About the Author:

Charles Jensen is the author of six chapbooks of poems, including the recent Story Problems and Breakup/Breakdown, and The First Risk, which was a finalist for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award. His previous chapbooks include Living Things, which won the 2006 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award, and The Strange Case of Maribel Dixon (New Michigan Press, 2007). A past recipient of an Artist’s Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, his poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Bloom, Columbia Poetry Review, Copper Nickel, Field, The Journal, New England Review, and Prairie Schooner. He is the founding editor of the online poetry magazine LOCUSPOINT, which explores creative work on a city-by-city basis. He lives in Los Angeles.

Where Is North by Alison Jarvis

Source: Mary Bisbee-Beek
Paperback, 83
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Where Is North by Alison Jarvis, winner of the 2015 Gerald Cable Book Award, asks readers to think about where their own “north” is — where is their home or where do they feel most at home.  Many of us will conjure up memories of our mothers and fathers, siblings, or just the best friends we ever had.  There are some of us who have lived most of our lives alone, until we meet that special someone who becomes that home we’ve longed for.  Jarvis reaches out through her poems to remind us of these connections and their importance to our own well being and happiness, even as connections end or become distant.

Skaters (pg. 33)

We belonged to snow and ice,
to Dodd's Pond at Christmas, released
from classes, shining our way
through the morning dark, 
like miners.  We'd skate out
together, alone, to astonish ourselves;
past lunch, past supper
past any possibility
our numbed fingers could ever
untie our laces.

In “At the Diebenkorn Show Without You,” the poem speaks of the rural person eager to get out, to move beyond the prairie and its empty roads to a place that is bustling like California, but as it turns, the reader notes a redirection, attention called to the now, to the foreground, to the moment at hand.  Like the poem, the narrator has to self-correct, to refocus and be in the moment, rather than always looking out and at the distance.  Much of the collection moves like this — back and forth — between the now and the future or the now and the past.  In “Daylight Savings,” the changing of the clocks is a reminder that soon a spouse will not be there reminding the narrator not to be late, and in “Ask Me,” love is the actions we take for one another — the small and large — and when you can no longer be asked, how do you make those connections again? In this case, the narrator tells stories.

Time moves on and things change like the farm purchased in “Dakota” for the “young/To begin their purposeful suburban lives.”  It is easy to “map our love with loss” says the narrator of “75 Marshall Avenue,” but it is better to act with love and engage in that dance of life.  Where Is North by Alison Jarvis is the bumpy ride we all take and the love that we leave behind and are given along the way.  Not all of the journey will be good, but we need to remember that home is where the love is.

RATING: Quatrain

Read some of her poems:

About the Poet:

Alison Jarvis was born in Canada and grew up in Minnesota. She is a recipient of the Lyric Poetry Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Mudfish Poetry Prize, the Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review, and a Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. Her work has appeared in Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, New Ohio Review, Notre Dame Review, Seattle Review, upstreet, and other journals and anthologies, including Best Indie Lit New England. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has been a practicing psychotherapist for 30 years.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

The Nightlife by Elise Paschen

Source: Mary Bisbee-Beek
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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The Nightlife by Elise Paschen is a collection of poems that blurs reality, dreams, and fantasies in a way that requires the reader to parse out the truth from between the lines.  It’s a collection into which the reader will likely stumble into the darkness of an abused woman’s life and fail to leave or fall into the bed of an adulterer, only to take the misplaced shame of faulty perception with them.  “Picnic Triptych” illustrates these blurred lines very well in which the reader is introduced to the “Small Brown Notebook” in which a tall man is found — a stalker of sorts.  Is the narrator dreaming of an encounter with this man, who resembles an artist in a painting by Manet, or is this something more?

Like Manet, Paschen is building an impressionist painting with words: verse by verse, page by page.  Night can make the world a bit more mysterious, and it can encourage the mind to conjure dangers from nothingness, a mind playing tricks on the narrator or the reader, sometimes both.  Like in “Of Mice,” where the narrator and the reader must “fear the carving knife” of “the farmer’s wife”, placing ourselves in the position of the mice — an older nursery rhyme — only to have our world upended and the mice are really escaped prisoners tunneling through the earth toward their own freedom.  Or are we all of these things, trapped inside our own prisons and eager for escape, with only fear keeping us huddled inside?

From “Of Mice” (pg. 32)

the penitentiary.
We lock all doors,
and, when the wind

hurtles umbrellas
against the deck,
we hide.

Paschen’s poems are riddles inside of riddles, dreams and nightmares wrapped inside wonderfully painted landscapes and portraits.  The Nightlife by Elise Paschen should not be missed; it is full of word artistry and surprises.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Poet and editor Elise Paschen was born and raised in Chicago. She earned a BA at Harvard University, where she won the Lloyd McKim Garrison Medal and the Joan Grey Untermeyer Poetry Prize, and went on to receive a PhD in 20th century British and American Literature at Oxford University with a dissertation on the manuscripts of poet William Butler Yeats. During her time at Oxford she also co-founded Oxford Poetry.

Home No Home by Naoko Fujimoto

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 48 pgs.
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Home No Home by Naoko Fujimoto, which won the 2015 Oro Fino Chapbook Competition, has deep silences that activate the reader’s mind, which turns each moment over and over to make sense of the devastation. From the deadly tsunami in Fukushima to more subtle moments of broken lives, Fujimoto takes on a first-person narrative in these literary poems to draw readers into that sadness, that loss, that emptiness, the silence to render grief alive.

In “Japanese Apricot Wine,” we see a child left behind by a mother after a long illness, which is likely cancer, and we see the shadows of those last days through the eyes of the narrator. “I open her last bottle. The sweet/smell spreads in the room like a cloudy//green nebula” … “The half eaten apricot is//brown.//She leaves it behind.//” There is a glimmer of happiness in the beginning with a memory of making apricot wine in April, and her mother’s continued love for it even in hospice, but it is clear the narrator’s train of thought will be dragged into sadness until the reader becomes painstakingly aware that her mother is gone.

It is life as it is lived within these pages, and the first-person narratives bring that home in a way that is even more devastating. How do you reconcile the happiest moments, the homes you have with their ultimate loss. When a mother departs from this world, it can leave you unmoored. Do the happy memories serve to remind us of home or their loss? Like many things that would depend on perspective; how far are you from the moment of loss?

Home No Home by Naoko Fujimoto is a stunning chapbook of poems that will touch readers deeply. The poems in these pages will leave an indelible mark upon you, one that you should wear as a badge of honor.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Naoko Fujimoto was born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. She was an exchange student and received a B.A. and M.A. from Indiana University South Bend. “Home, No Home” is her first chapbook.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017