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Where the Wolf by Sally Rosen Kindred

Source: the poet
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Where the Wolf by Sally Rosen Kindred has a Grimm’s fairy tale feel in which the wolf features prominently, looming over each poem and jumping in unexpectedly. In “First Night,” the wolf can only find the narrator and her family because of the dark, a darkness caused by deep despair, desperation, and the over consumption of alcohol. It is clear that the relationship between the narrator and her mother is broken and by the time the book ends it cannot be repaired as her mother is deep in Alzheimer’s.

Although there is darkness in this collection, it is an exploration of what connects us to our family despite those secrets and dark moments. In “Is She,” “You think this is a poem where the wolf./The forest, after all, is a sleeve of glass daggers./You: the girl. Cold throat, wet shoes./Wolf is the ghost of a hurt remembering itself. Is She. You can hear Her between the trees./” (pg. 10) Readers will fall into the forest with the wolf as she stalks the past, looking for answers that don’t materialize. It’s more about the journey and accepting the past for what it is, how it shapes you, and how you move into the future with it.

The Grief Dress (pg. 38)

....
Could I have asked

for mercy then, forgiveness, could I have
unfastened the buttons of my breath?
....

Isn’t this what happens when we finally learn to let go of grief, loss, and pain? We unbutton ourselves, give ourselves permission to breath again and release all of that pressure inside us. Kindred takes us and herself on a journey through the dark forest and some of her darkest dreams to release the pressure she’s been carrying. Where the Wolf by Sally Rosen Kindred is harrowing in its exploration of memory, grief, and the passage of time, but it is redemptive in that it allows readers to see the poet make peace with the past.

RATING: Quatrain

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs

Source: the poet
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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***full disclosure: Jeanne and I have been poetry blog buddies for a long time.***

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs is a travel story in verse, a journey of self-discovery, reflection, and enjoyment. It was no surprise to me that her collection begins with a quote from “Ulysses.”

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move."

This is the perfect quote for this collection. It is a movement to places, while at the same time a separation from those places and experiences into a moment of now, which is fleeting and yet becomes part of not only the reader but the poet herself. I loved that each page resembles a postcard back with a name and location, and the poem on the opposite side, providing the reader with a person that the poem is speaking to (not just the reader). This dialogue makes each poem unique. I would loved to have seen the actual images of each postcard, though Griggs does provide enough description in her poems to put you there, holding that card as she writes her short missives.

From "Postcard with a piece of the Berlin Wall" (pg. 7)

...I received
a broken-off piece from
the Berlin wall, the world was
Safe, we could retire
in the countryside.
Now our kids have moved
away but we're still here
where our neighbors just
voted to build a border wall.

Griggs is candid and uses her wry humor to highlight the ironies of our world. An America a little less concerned with freedom and more consumed by fears. While some of her poems speak about the wider world, they are often grounded in the locality where she is. These poems also examine what it means to grow into adulthood and to age beyond where we believe ourselves to be mentally. From “postcard of Niagara Falls,” “I missed you,/….wishing I could watch you/see this, wondering if I left/you alone too much, pursuing/your own course around/me,…/” (pg. 34)

There are so many good poems in this collection it is hard to pick a favorite, but for fellow bibliophiles, “postcard from Cape Cod” (pg. 38) will speak to you:

we could live like in the books,
without any of the fuss
of having to sustain anything
except ourselves, making meals
of little dishes on trays,
the wine we brought poured
into an endless line of glasses.

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs is a delight to read. These are poems I will read again at the beach or on a vacation (should I ever take one again). There is so much light in these poems. It made my spirit lighter as I read them. We all need that these days.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Jeanne Griggs is a reader, writer, traveler, and ailurophile. She directs the writing center at Kenyon College, plays violin in the Knox County Symphony, and reviews books at Necromancy Never Pays.

When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer

In simplified terms, symptoms of endometriosis may include: excessive menstrual cramps, abnormal, or heavy menstrual flow and pain during intercourse.

Endometriosis affects an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 40. Go here for more information on Endometriosis.

Source: the poet
Paperback, 118 pgs.
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When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer is a collection that will open your eyes to what it is like to be chronically ill and to struggle to find not only a diagnosis and treatment but also acceptance among friends, family, and loved ones when you cannot even get out of bed some days. This collection also includes some information about online support groups and places to seek out information on this baffling ailment that can sometimes take more than a decade to diagnose.

From "2020" (pg. 2)

But all the laughter
Has been compressed out of me

Chronic illness can be debilitating, so much so that Bowyer says, “It’s like once I was done healing/I ceased to be.” (pg. 4) Bowyer not only tackles the exhaustion and pain of the disease in their poems, they also tackle misconceptions about endometriosis in “Dirty Girls’ Disease.” Readers can expect to take an emotional roller coaster ride with Bowyer, who speaks in verse about their experiences, emotions, and emptiness of battling the disease alone.

From an untitled poem (pg. 24)

I am a kitchen
Without plates,
Pots,
Pans.
I can burn
Pain into
My skin
On the burners;
I can gut myself
With utensils
That seem to serve
No other purpose.
What is the point
Of a kitchen
When my home
Has been destroyed?
Pain Erases People (pg. 51)

There are versions
Of myself
I will never recover,
Stolen by moments
I will forever remember.

This collection will shed light on an illness not many people know about and even fewer understand. This collection spoke to me among the many pitches because it is something a family member has dealt with and others have dealt with in the past. While I do not have it myself, it was important to me to learn more about how this illness affects others, especially those in my family. When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer can provide others with greater empathy and provide a cathartic experience for those with the disease, demonstrating that they are not alone in this battle.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Maggie Bowyer (they/them/theirs) is a poet and the author of The Whole Story (Margaret Bowyer, 2020) and When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis (2021). They are a blogger and essayist with a focus on Endometriosis and chronic pain. They have been featured in Germ Magazine, Detour Ahead, Poetry 365, and others. They were the Editor-in-Chief of The Lariat Newspaper, a quarter-finalist in Brave New Voices 2016, and were a Marilyn Miller Poet Laureate. Visit their website.

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss (giveaway)

Source: Graywolf Press
Paperback, 152 pgs.
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Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a collection that, at times, tried my patience with its contradictions. But isn’t that what life is — a bucket of contradictions? She says in one of her opening sonnets: “The problem with sweetness is death. The problem/with everything is death. There really is no other problem/” Death is a final stop, and it toys with many of us, taking our friends or family too soon, putting us in situations where death could take us but doesn’t, and it looms in the close distance for us to get there.

Seuss pulls no punches in this collection and remains forthright in her depictions of giving birth, aging, abortion, abandonment by a drug-addicted son, and so much more. Aging is a central theme, even when she speaks of her childhood self. Poetic subjects waste away with AIDS, fade into the distance of space or recollection, or remain behind the larger death that pierces the happiness or contentment she seeks. She explores the falseness of faith in Catholicism, the nationalistic scourge that America finds itself consumed by, and the undercurrent of poverty and it’s traumatic scars. She sees the “undershirt” of it all.

“We all have our trauma nadir,” is the sonnet that guts us. We are her and she us. We all have trauma; we are told to lock it away (get over it); but what place is big enough to hold all of that trauma away so that it will no longer affect us? She adds in a later sonnet, “I can’t live up to normal.” Isn’t normal a fallacy? What exactly is normal and how can you be expected to achieve it when no one knows what it is? Despite these dark topics, it is clear that to live is to live with “sharp things.” Without these traumas and disappointments, where would we be?

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a winding trail of darkness that teaches readers about the beauty in that darkness. It is an exercise in owning our own disappointments and traumas and learning how to let them go and move forward with our lives. It is a tough medicine to take, but Seuss is confident that we can take it or nearly die trying.

RATING: Quatrain

To Enter the giveaway: Leave a comment with your email address by June 30. Must be age 18+ and have a U.S. postal address.

a more perfect Union by Teri Ellen Cross Davis

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 70 pgs.
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a more perfect Union by Teri Ellen Cross Davis opens with “The Goddess of Blood,” a poem emerging from the blood of birth and death, much like a nation ripping itself from it’s parent nation. Davis’s collection doesn’t directly make these parallels but much of it is implied, and the subtlety of it can be overlooked as you get lost in the sensuous language of being a woman, birthing children, and much more in the opening poem. “my sacrifice, a carmine current soaked/the delivery bed.” (pg. 4)

In her narrator’s journey from Washington to Ireland to Kenya, we see a woman who is cognizant of how color is perceived in different situations — the blackest of the blackberries and the darkest current being the sweetest while teasing out deeper tones of darkness in Kenya in the sun is something never considered in the United States. Readers will note in “Black Berries” that there is this sense of forbidden, but we must stop and ask ourselves why is it forbidden when the blackest of berries yields the sweetest, most pleasurable taste?

From "3939 Strandhill Road, Cleveland, Ohio"

. . . Grief unravels

my tightrope. I rage at seeing the ground
rush up, my center of gravity gone.

Davis’ poems leave readers tumbling at times, hearing and seeing the past and the grief, but also the rage at what transpired. It is an anger that boils beneath, and there is a strong sense of family throughout the collection. It is of the utmost importance, so much so, there are gods among us. Stories we haven’t heard. “Baby Girl” is one of the most powerful poems I’ve ever read, and while I don’t want to spoil the read for you, I will say that it could be triggering for those who have experienced sexual assault and other similar traumas. Davis does not shy away from the big issues facing our children today, especially Black boys. In “Knuckle Head,” she takes them head on: “My son cannot continue this path. Black boys/can’t lose control at twelve, eighteen, even forty-three./they don’t get do-overs.”

In the second part of the collection, we’re taken not only a musical journey, but on a journey that creates for us new gods and goddesses — ones that speak the truth no matter how difficult and ones that see sexuality as freedom. “The First Gospel of Prince,” speaks: “The air sears between hips, this melody/is a startled beauty – breathe in halting sips.//” These poems are a musical treat, a homage to musical gods, and a look at how sensuality and sexuality don’t have to be hidden or set aside as we age.

One of my favorite poems, “This Poem Suggests Revolution,” speaks to the America we’ve seen — the one that is asleep at the wheel, coasting along the road with its eyes closed, only startled awake by the “occasional” beeping horn. “If the pursuit of happiness,/life, and liberty came from the creator, she is/about to backhand you in the face.//” We see that anger against an America that is willfully blind to its past and its continued faults. It seethes, but there is still a sense of hopefulness in a “rewriting” of the American story, a move toward an America closer to its ideals. The road is harsh, but the poet, the narrator, and the reader will come away believing in “a more perfect Union.”

a more perfect Union by Teri Ellen Cross Davis was a roller coaster of emotions, as it should be. It begs readers to see the America we are from the perspective of someone we are not (or even may be) and whose history we do share (even if we ignore it) in order to elicit empathy and action. We’re beyond the platitudes here. We are in the thick of the struggle, and we are called to action.

RATING: Cinquain

Don’t forget to check out my interview with Teri.

About the Poet:

Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of a more perfect Union, 2019 winner of The Journal/Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize and Haint winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She’s a Cave Canem fellow, member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective, and lives in Maryland.

love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley

Source: GBF
Paperback, 68 pgs.
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love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley is like a letter to her children and the family who have passed on too soon. These poems weave through the grief and out of it, plunge into it, and emerge from it, but at the root of that grief is love. The poems are like stories told through a lens of motherhood.

From "untitled mom" (pg. 26)

I almost facetimed you this morning
I'd cut my hair to donate it...

but then I remembered
and sobbed

We can experience that grief because we have felt it. The time you forget your friend is no longer here to reach out to, even if you haven’t spoken in many years or the mother you feel with you even though she has passed away. There are other days in grief that we feel ourselves falling into darkness, a darkness we know will be hard to get out of once we’re down there. And mothers also know that they cannot be in that dark place too long when they have children to care for. Bradley takes us on this journey acknowledging the struggle and the sorrow, but also the love and the unexpected joys.

Sunfall (pg. 18)

sunfall
snowfall
moonfall

don't fall

love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley is a very intimate collection of poems, mirroring a memoir. For me, the collection was more like reading an diary of moments, but the poems seemed rough or unfinished in some places. In others, I felt the poems resembled those that are popular on Instagram these days. While these poems were less polished, they do provide a look at the roller-coaster of grief.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Kelly Bradley is a tech writer and Sr. Product Manager in the Washington DC area where she writes stories and creates apps based on data. She wrote her first poem in Second grade, a requiem to her cat, Petey. Her first collection, “love, loss and the enormity of it all” addresses themes of grief, joy, love, heartbreak and perseverance. When not working or writing poetry, Kelly writes songs and rap lyrics, dances to electronic dance music, and hikes year-round with her dog, Winter.

Tidal Wave by Kofi Antwi

Source: GBF
Paperback, 18 pgs.
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Tidal Wave by Kofi Antwi is a slim chapbook that explores themes of identity and the drowned out voices of society. The art work is superb — the cover itself speaks to the power of words in this collection as they rise like a tidal wave.

The opening poem “Out of the Wreckage” sets the stage of loss, with a brother gone and “a belated shower/of roses” — signifying a posthumous recognition of a wrong done to the departed, but it comes too little too late. It mirrors the recent reactions of society when racially charged killings by police occur against Black men across America and as a society we only rise up after the fact before the anger/rage fades and little is done to correct the system.

 from "Sundays" (pg. 6)

the harbor is burdened land, tampered
sea - a ripple in the
current halts it's viability.

at bay we, mourn our past, balance
tomorrow's deficiencies,
dashes of mint dove

Antwi’s poems are mournful but full of hope, a dichotomy that mirrors the society that welcomes all to be free without actual freedom to be themselves. We are burdened by the past and mourn it, but we continue to move forward to balance the good with the bad. However, some of these poems feel rough and unfinished, like there’s something hidden beneath the emptiness and the words chosen haven’t carried the full meaning the poet wishes to convey. This could be intentional, but it didn’t work for me in many instances.

But the strongest poems in the chapbook come at the end from “all hail the city of doom” and “tidal wave” to “birth into a nation” and “recollections of the Gold Coast.” This is where Tidal Wave by Kofi Antwi shines in its analysis of what it means to be an American immigrant full of hope but stepped on and cast aside as a silent minority while chasing an American dream.

RATING: Tercet

Made of Air by Naomi Thiers

Source: GBF
Paperback, 58 pgs.
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Made of Air by Naomi Thiers pays homage to the courage of the feminine — from the woman who’s daughter is disappeared in “Lions” to the woman in “A Kind of Prayer” who hopes her poetry will help tell her intricate story.  In “All or None,” Thiers speaks of Carolyn whose “rays of joy” refused “to leave anyone in shadow.” Each of these women seem to be like the air around us, lifting up others, struggling to survive, pushing back against the heaviest burdens and losses. Their spines may bend from time to time under the weight but there is an internal courage that lifts them higher.

Fear is in your bread
an you must choke it down.
(from "Refugee, 15")
snatched a Sun Chips
and whirled back to her perch,
one crossed leg
bouncing.
Her eyes never lifted.
(from "Feral")

These two poems provide different perspectives on survival. Both are eating with the fear of starvation at their backs, but while the refugee seems to have hope on the horizon despite fleeing the home they know, the feral girl has closed her off to possibility. Thiers work is as complex and as simple as the lives lived around the globe, with the common threads of courage, grief, and perseverance threaded throughout.

Made of Air by Naomi Thiers reminds us that our lives are briefer than we think but as we age, the realization comes more quickly that our time is fleeting. Our mark is made on those lives we touch, the courage we muster when needed, and the love we share together. “The sky and seasons inch the same as in 1976,/as if I’ve stood still while decades slid past,//and I savor the sense of timelessness,/this gem I never knew hid inside my bumpy life./For I feel my own 16-year-old inside, humming/eager, terrified–real as the slow/rain of wild and gentle losses.//” (“The Pearl”).

RATING: Cinquain

Check out her appearance with Jane Schapiro and Miles David Moore at Gaithersburg Book Festival:

Man on Terrace with Wine by Miles David Moore

Source: GBF
Paperback, 90 pgs.
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Man on Terrace with Wine by Miles David Moore reads like the title sounds — a selection of poetic ruminations on life. But these poems are never far from humor or pop culture. Moore has several poems that will make readers stop for a moment to consider — what would it be like if Elvis were in heaven and Hitler was in hell? There are complex emotions explored and the section titles should give you some inclination of what is on the mind of the man sitting on that terrace with win — “It Serves You Right,” “There’s No Crying in Baseball,” and “To Live Completely and a Thousandfold.”

In the first section, Moore’s poems reflect on the idea of “perception,” like what we perceive to be true. A prime example of this is in “A Taste to Die For,” after a quote about Americans’ love for soda and Afghanis love for death. The poem deftly points out, “The man who took aim at you thinks he knows/the things he loves, and the things you love.//” But reading to the end of the poem, it is clear that neither side really knows or understands the other — there is a significant breakdown of communication in favor of perception. In “The Good Fight,” Moore again tackles perception in a reflective piece regarding WWII. The soldier is brave and strong, but in the present, the soldier must relearn how to lace shoes, walk with a cane, and more. “The sky is hazy above you,/a fog of dreams and memories./The decades are your backpack now./” and the soldier must not “look down” or “slip” but for a far different reason today than on the battlefield.

In the second and final section, Moore shifts away from perception into reality — the reality of hurricanes, pop culture (as real as that can be), and so much more. One of my favorite images in these sections comes from “Grandma and the Hurricane” (pg. 41), “The wind is so strong that it blows the constellations around in the sky. Never losing their shape, they are cookie cutters tumbling against each other.” But even in these reality-based poems, there is a nod to the idea of perception — like in “Tom Hanks Was Right,” where the narrator is found thinking about the past and what should have been said and then the narrator is talking to themselves in public. Haven’t we all caught ourselves doing that these COVID days?

Man on Terrace with Wine by Miles David Moore invites readers to be entertained, contemplative, and enjoy life as it comes. This collection is by turns witty and serious, but Moore continues to ask his readers to perceive reality in a way that not only brings joy but also satisfaction. Holding onto reality with a singular perspective can not only be boring, but also limiting.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Miles David Moore is a Washington reporter for Crain Communications, Inc. He is founder and host of the Iota Poetry Reading Series in Arlington, VA, a member of the Board of Directors of The Word Works, Inc., and administrator of The Word Works Washington Prize. He is the author of three books of poetry: The Bears of Paris (The Word Works Capital Collection, 1995); Buddha Isn’t Laughing (Argonne Hotel Press, 1999); and Rollercoaster (The Word Works Capital Collection, 2004). With Karren LaLonde Alenier and Hilary Tham, he co-edited Winners: A Retrospective of the Washington Prize, published in 1999 by The Word Works. Fatslug Unbound, a CD of Moore’s poetry read by himself and 14 other poets, was realeased in 2000 by Minimus Productions. His review/essays on the poet John Haines have appeared in The Wilderness of Vision (Story Line Press, 1996) and A Gradual Twilight (CavanKerry Press, 2003).

Check out his appearance with Naomi Thiers and Jane Schapiro at Gaithersburg Book Festival:

Warbler by Jane Schapiro

Source: GBF
Paperback, 57 pgs.
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Warbler by Jane Schapiro is a poetic song of loss, a call to grief and acceptance and to memory. When we lose someone grief can take hold of us and keep us still, but the memories are what move us past the sorrow and into the light. Schapiro is well acquainted with this journey, and the light song of the warbler enables her to travel beyond the swirl of sadness.

Schapiro plays with poetic form in this collection, creating the shape of cracking porcelain as loss becomes a reality — fragmenting her lines and spacing them like so many shards on the floor — in “Porcelain of Loss.” In this poem, the narrator loses a friend, but the last words they speak are not understood because they must be translated from their native language, but it is not this moment that leaves the narrator shattered, it is the loss itself. The feeling of being unmoored continues in “Gravity,” as the narrator drifts titleless at the funeral — not a relative, not a spouse, not quite a friend because of the age difference — these are the feelings of those left behind. Loss and being lost at the same time. Change is incredibly difficult to handle, especially when it is irrevocable.

Erosion (pg. 49)

happens so slowly
    you don't notice
you're dozing
    earlier each night,
settling deeper
    into your chair.
Between now
    and your youth
a canyon
    has formed. From
above you
    see only tiers
switchbacks
    curving. Too tired
to hike
    (your knees the heat)
you scan postcards
    look for freshwater.

Warbler by Jane Schapiro is reflective of loved ones, of time’s passage, and of the gulf between where we began and where we are as we age and move through life. Her verse is beautiful and meditative, allowing the reader to take the journey with her narrators and experience the shock of unwelcome diagnoses and unexpected death.

RATING: Quatrain

Check out her appearance at Gaithersburg Book Festival with Miles Davis Moore and Naomi Thiers:

 

Made to Explode by Sandra Beasley

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 88 pgs.
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Made to Explode by Sandra Beasley begins its exploration of American life with the poem, “Heirloom,” which conjures all kinds of sentiments in American thinking. It sets the stage for Beasley’s unraveling of culture taken for granted — the past passed down from one generation to the next (sometimes, it is scrubbed a little cleaner and the dark truth of it requires some digging). In these early poems, Beasley is uncovering the roots of her heritage, a father who was deployed and tries to connect with her but fails to see how she’s grown into a young woman in “Elephant.” He collects things from American icons in places of war, like Hard Rock t-shirts, while she strives to connect with him buying things at a Ranger Surplus store. Despite being family, there is a disconnect between them, they are blindly bumbling through the motions of connection. Isn’t this how many of us feel about our parents — those who have lived longer, different lives from us but have not spoken candidly of that life? A mystery to solve?

"The Conversation" (pg.10-2)
....

                 This
is how history claims us:
not in the gesture of one but
in the conversation of many,
the talk that gets the job done.
....

Without these interactions between ourselves and others that lead to action, aren’t we all forgotten as the present moves on without us? Our moments are so fleeting in the grander scheme of time and history. Beasley is picking through history and uncovering things she didn’t know, like a band in “Nostalgia” that had a name to honor Emmett Till, but spelled the name wrong. In her memory, she recalls the joy of their music, but they kept spelling the boy’s name wrong — this does not sit well.

Beasley’s examination of the past and culture expands to include monuments and figures from history, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. She speaks to his “benevolence” regarding his slaves but it is clear that “kindness” extended only so far. Each poem in the collection builds onto the next in a crescendo of unraveling histories, culture lost to a country burying it’s own truth, until a reckoning is all that can be left. She reminds us in “Einstein, Midnight” that “Anything, in the right hands, can be made to explode.”

The final poem echoes C.P. Cavafy’s “Ithaka,” in that Beasley’s journey will be and has been taken through the past, into the present but this journey is not over. Like life and its various moments, we are Made to Explode. Poke into the past and what you thought you knew about yourself and others will definitely be altered, but to blithely live one’s life without examining actions, reactions, past, and present is to have lived a hollow existence without growth, love, loss, and understanding. We cannot build conversation and change without it.

RATING: Cinquain

Check out her panel discussion with Kim Addonizio, Katherine E. Young, and moderator Reuben Jackson at the virtual Gaithersburg Book Festival 2021:

Woman Drinking Absinthe by Katherine E. Young

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Woman Drinking Absinthe by Katherine E. Young is a visceral collection that explores female sexuality through fantastical elements and realistic situations from a woman chained to a bear to a woman dealing with the phantom limb of heartbreak. Young has crafted an emotional roller coaster that is both visually unsettling in places and emotionally scathing. Readers will become voyeurs as the musician plays his muse in “Interval,” imagining the notes one body can play. But at other times, readers will be thrust into the comfort and pleasure of a balanced relationship and a oneness in “Euclidean Geometry.”

If There Is a Hell (pg. 27)

it resembles this street in shadow, this street
and this streetlamp, where you and I cling
Soul Food (pg. 44-45)

That first time when you hit me,
I marveled at the crack

your hand made as it struck
flat against my face.

I should have known right then:
we were headed straight

Young doesn’t just plunge readers into relationships in motion, but those that are over, on the side, breaking apart, and being observed from the outside (like “Calculus”). Nothing is taboo in this collection. In “Place of Peace,” Young reminds us “All my life’s been lived in shadow, pattern/pieced by someone else: daughter, mother//lover. Whore. …” and “So many battles are accidental.” (pg.49-55)

Woman Drinking Absinthe by Katherine E. Young leaves us with the question of what do you do when the wildness is within us? How do we let it free to feel the wholeness of ourselves without causing deep grief and a sense of loss? Is it all just illusory? Young leaves us with a bunch of existential questions, but her language will haunt us, causing us to return to her poems again and again.

RATING: Cinquain

Check out her panel discussion with Kim Addonizio, Sandra Beasley, and moderator Reuben Jackson at the virtual Gaithersburg Book Festival 2021: