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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 337 pgs.
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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, a National Book Award Winner and Newbery Honor Book, is a coming-of-age novel in verse that is fresh and child-like in its perspective.  Jacqueline Woodson clearly bases her novel on her own experiences as a young black girl who grows up in a home with a single mother and older siblings.  Moving from Ohio and her father to Greenville, S.C., in the 1960s to live with her mother, siblings, and grandparents, Jackie is too young to understand the breakup of her family and remember her past.  Running in parallel to the Civil Rights Movement, young Jackie learning her letters and trying to keep up with her older siblings.  As she finds she doesn’t measure up to her smart sister in the classroom, she also learns that each sibling may have hidden talents, like her brother’s singing voice.

From "February 12, 1963" (pg.1-2)

I am born in Ohio but
the stories of South Carolina already run
like rivers
through my veins.

From "My Mother and Grace" (page 25-26)

Both know that southern way of talking
without words, remember when
the heat of summer
could melt the mouth,
so southerners stayed quiet

Jackie is a young girl finding her way, looking to be strong, but also learning to listen to her elders and to others influencing the civil rights movement. She hasn’t made up her mind, but she’s learning piece by piece what it means to be a young black woman in the south and how that differs from being black in New York.  Woodson’s style is frank, but firmly rooted in the point of view of a young girl who observes both the benefits of the movement and the drawbacks of fighting for what you believe in.  Along the way, she becomes friends with Maria whose mother cooks the best Hispanic food, and they do everything together, including swap dinners in the stairwell.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is a journey of a young black woman growing up in the 60s and 70s and serves as an excellent introduction to not only the time period, but also the struggles of black in the south and in the north for those ages 10 and up.  There are moments in which the author relies on a dream-like quality to present her narrator’s ideals, but at other points, it is very clear cut what has happened.  In many ways, this rendition is a mere outline of the harsher parts of life and it is reflected well through a child’s eyes.

About the Author:

Jacqueline Woodson is an American writer of books for children and adolescents. She is best known for Miracle’s Boys, which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2001, and her Newbery Honor-winning titles Brown Girl Dreaming, After Tupac & D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way. Her work is filled with strong African-American themes, generally aimed at a young adult audience.

For her lifetime contribution as a children’s writer, Woodson won the Margaret Edwards Award in 2005 and she was the U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2014. IBBY named her one of six Andersen Award finalists on March 17, 2014. She won the National Book Award in 2014 in the category of “Young People’s Literature” for Brown Girl Dreaming.

 

 

 

 

 

Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Source: Sourcebooks/Shelf Awareness
Hardcover, 40 pgs
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Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow is gorgeously illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke, and the 28 poems are divided into seasons to reflect the title.  This collection is published posthumously, poems her daughter calls clean and clear about what changes and what stays the same.  The collection opens with “Changes” that talks about the differences between the seasons but that they always come around the same time each year, even though the narrator has changed through the years.  These verses are fantastic for little kids, projecting images that are complemented by the illustrations and allowing them to visual nature and the seasons.

These poems read as if told from the perspective of a child who stares in awe at the birds in the sky, the birds flying by, and all that surrounds them.  From the cool breezes of spring and the budding flowers to the salty wind of the sea in summer on vacation, children will see the fun and get absorbed in the costumes of Halloween, the beginning of school in the fall, and the winter wonders of snowmen and the first snow.  Beeke’s images are reminiscent of the whispy-ness of water color images and pastel smudges.  Zolotow clearly has a firm grasp of the wonder most children have when they are young; they are curious and inquisitive, but there also are some who are contemplative.  Read aloud these poems create a new world of rhyme and lyrical verse for children.

Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke, is a great collection to start young readers with the wondrous world of poetry.  The illustrations are well matched with Zolotow’s lines.  My daughter and I have read this collection several times, and she often asks what season we are in when we read the poems.

About the Author:

Charlotte Zolotow—author, editor, publisher, and educator—had one of the most distinguished careers in the field of children’s literature. Born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1915, Changes: A Child’s First Collection of Poetry is published on the occasion of Charlotte Zolotow’s 100th birthday.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 169 pgs
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The power of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine makes me wonder what the winner of the National Book Award could have written to outshine Rankine’s words in 2014.  In her collection of essays, poems, and vignettes, Rankine points: “‘The purpose of art,’ James Baldwin wrote, ‘is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.'” (page 115)  She took this to heart when writing this collection because she raises up those questions about race in America and brandishes them like a flag.  That is not to say that racism is something that is wholly owned by just white people or white police, but that it is perpetuated by the actions, behaviors, and assumptions both races make about one another.  What does it mean to be American? Does it mean as citizens we brush aside these issues and move forward? Does it mean that we must embrace all of this darkness into ourselves and find solutions that may not work for everyone? Or does it mean that we must take a more internal approach and remedy that which we do to perpetuate those wrongs around us?

from page 135:

because white men can’t
police their imagination
black men are dying

What is engaging about Rankine’s work is that she blurs the lines between the you, the I, the she, the he, to make it less clear cut who is being discriminated against and who is suffering. In this way she takes the time to juxtapose the traditional black victim of white racism formula with a less black-and-white distinction, and it’s done with purpose.

“In any case, it is difficult not to think that if Serena lost context by abandoning all rules of civility, it could be because her body, trapped in a racial imaginary, trapped in disbelief — code for being black in America — is being governed not by the tennis match she is participating in but by a collapsed relationship that had promised to play by the rules.  Perhaps this is how racism feels no matter the context–” (page 30)

Lest you think this book is about racism only through the lens of the victim, it is not.  There a great deal to discuss about racism, its roots, its ignorance, and its pervasiveness in American society.  While many, if not all, the references are contemporary, they could have been pulled from many times throughout history.  Book clubs could discuss this collection of essays and poems for hours.  I cannot explain to you how deeply affected by the book I have been.  I will likely read and re-read this book many times.  I may even put it forth to my book club as a suggestion.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is essential reading for every American — young or old, black or white, Hispanic or Asian; it is the beginning of a dialogue that is desperately needed in this country where the presumption of ignorance or incivility is based upon a skin color rather than an individual’s actions and behaviors.  While discrimination against “other” continues, it is not merely one-sided, and until we are able to break down those walls to the truth of our humanity, discrimination and racism will always exist.

***Best of 2015 — not a contender, firmly on the list***

About the Author:

Claudia Rankine was born in Jamaica in 1963. She earned her B.A. in English from Williams College and her M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University. She is the author of four collections of poetry, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf, 2004); PLOT (2001); The End of the Alphabet (1998); and Nothing in Nature is Private (1995), which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize.

Rankine has edited numerous anthologies including American Women Poets in the Twenty-First Century: Where Lyric Meets Language (Wesleyan, 2002) and American Poets in the Twenty-First Century: The New Poetics (2007). Her plays include Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, commissioned by the Foundry Theatre and Existing Conditions, co-authored with Casey Llewellyn. She has also produced a number of videos in collaboration with John Lucas, including “Situation One.” A recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poetry, the National Endowments for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation, she is currently the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.  (Photo credit: John Lucas)

 

 

 

 

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 48 pgs
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Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is a collection of some of the most recognizable poems, including William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow, for readers ages 6-9. Most of these poems are short and fit the theme of each season — winter, spring, summer, fall — but even younger readers will enjoy these poems as they are read aloud by their parents. The illustrations are colorful, and the vibrant images perfectly capture the mood of the season.

While some of the concepts in these poems are a little above where my own daughter may be cognitively, she still enjoyed listening to me read them aloud.  I also made sure to denote which season was depicted by each of the poems in the section, and had her point to images in the poems that she found in the illustrations, which kept her attention focused.  For instance, for Raymond Souster’s poem, “Spring,” the illustration depicts the roots of the flower and the beets on the page and the flower and leaves above.

Spring

Rain beats down,
roots stretch up.

They'll meet
in a flower.
The Island

Wrinkled stone
like an elephant's skin
on which young birches are treading.

elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For “The Island” by Lillian Morrison, my daughter looked for the elephant talked about in the poem, and quickly found that he was the island with the trees on top. It became a word game for us, and while some poems don’t lend themselves easily to these kinds of games to keep a toddler’s interest, my daughter also loves the sounds of words, so she would often just sit and listen to me read the poems.

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, contains not only those well-loved and classic poems from Williams, Dickinson, and Frost, but also poems from more contemporary poets, like Ted Kooser, Hughes, and Crapsey. Such a wide variety in a collection of poems about the seasons offer a great deal of teaching tools for young readers, from learning new words and how language works to what happens in each season scientifically.

***I first saw this book reviewed at Rhapsody in Books.***

About the Editor:

Paul Bryan Janeczko is an American poet and anthologist. He has published 40 books in the last 30 years, including poetry compilations, non-fiction guides for young writers, and books for teachers.

About the Illustrator:

Melissa Sweet has illustrated nearly 100 children’s books from board books to picture books and nonfiction titles. Her collages and paintings have appeared in the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Madison Park Greetings, Smilebox and for eeBoo Toys, which have garnered the Oppenheim and Parents Choice Awards.

Ohio Violence by Alison Stine

Source: Poet Alison Stine
ebook, 80 pgs
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Vassar Miller Prize winner Ohio Violence by Alison Stine, which I received long ago from the poet (forgive my tardy review — as this was long before I had an e-reader and the file was lost in my inbox), juxtaposes the quiet, pastoral landscape of the Midwest United States with hinted at depravity, overt violence, and speculation.  Her narrator in “Ohio Violence” will tell you a story that is not hers to tell, and while this story begins with dismembered deer parts, but its really about the power of murderous jealousy and violence: “We measure our places in blood,/ bones in weeds, the buried well./ Each brick brought a message in her/ fifteen-year-old fist.” (pg. 18)

Stine’s lines often build from small pieces — whether tiny pieces of an image or situation or emotion — into a crescendo that will hammer the reader when they are least expecting it.  These surprising lines and poems will never be far from the reader’s mind, especially as they continue with the poems that follow.  Each of these poems looks at violence and the secrecy of violence in a new way.  There are missing women, there are violated women, there are those slight indications of inappropriate intimacy, but at the root is the unexpected nature of the violence and the cover-ups that fail to hide the damage done.

School

All winter we sat blind, I next to the girl   
who loved her scabs, the blood shields   
her head gave up, her face a sun of blank   
amazement. She drew. This means love:   
a circle with a line through it. More work:   
a cross. More crosses. Ice sloughed   
through fields. Ice river, the pages   
of our notebooks. Outside: limbs and roads   
and wires. Outside cracked with force   
and turning. Our poems filled with salt.   
He took me to his bed.   
The writer never speaks. The writer speaks   
in details, the sateen lining of my coat,   
the star point of tongue kissing. The winter   
speaks in the whip. Runoff nixed   
with ash. I spilt water on my notebook.   
Words went back to ink; paper back   
to ruffle, pulp. You smell like dog, the girl   
said. You will be left like the winter.   
Little sputter in the car’s craw. Little   
crevice in the pavement. Ice reminder.   
He took me to his bed, saying: Ali,   
Ali, tell no one. I told the girl, a sore   
gathering, another skin to pick and worry.

Ohio Violence by Alison Stine carries with a heavy burden, but it is a burden that is borne well and with tenderness and homage to those who have been victims.  But do not be fooled that these poems are all tender in content because there is a brutal-ness to the images presented, searing heartbreak and horror into the minds of the reader.  They shall never forget the tales Stine is telling.

About the Poet:

Alison Stine is a 2008 winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship. She was born in Indiana and grew up in Ohio. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she is the author of the chapbook Lot of My Sister, winner of the Wick Prize. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Kenyon Review. This is her first book. She lives in Athens, Ohio.  Her new novel, Supervision, was released April 2015.

 

 

 

 

The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise

Source: Academy of American Poets membership benefit
Paperback, 88 pgs
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The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2013 and the 2013 James Laughlin Award, is a collection of poems that highlights the power of goodbye and how it can free us from limitation.  Whether those limitations are self-imposed or imposed upon us by others or the outside distractions that keep us locked in place.

There are several poems in the collection about laws against the disabled being seen in public and the societal burdens that come with those medical miracles — prosthetic legs, for instance — and how those “norms” are meant to weigh down the potential of those human beings. While these “norms” must be recognized to be overcome, it is a big obstacle to overcome, especially when those limitations or “norms” become self-imposed limitations on the self. Saying goodbye to those can be a hard process to perform and a distance that can be difficult to maintain, but there is an inherent power in saying goodbye to those things.

Goodbyes (pg. 50)

begin long before you hear them
and gain speed and come out of 
the same place as other words.
They should have their own
place to come from, the elbow
perhaps, since elbows look
funny and never weep. Why
are you proud of me? I said
goodbye to you forty times.
I see your point. That is
an achievement unto itself.
My mom wants me to write
a goodbye poem. It should fit 
inside a card and use the phrase,
“You are one powerful lady.”
There is nothing powerful
about me though you might 
think so from the way I spit.
I don’t want to say goodbye
to you anymore. I heard
the first wave was an accident.
It happened in the Cave 
of the Hands in Santa Cruz.
The four of them were drinking
and someone killed
a wild boar and someone else
said, “Hey look, I put my hand
in it. Saying goodbye is like that.
You put your hand in it and then
you take your hand back.

Weise touches upon the hardships and the freedom of goodbye, but she also talks about its empowering nature. There is a willfulness to when we choose to make those breaks, and there are many of those moments in this collection.  The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2013 and the 2013 James Laughlin Award, offers a great deal to discuss, and would be an interesting selection for a book club discussion.

About the Poet: (Photo credit: Guillermo Morizot Hires)

Jillian Weise was born in Houston, Texas, in 1981. She studied at Florida State University; the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow; and the University of Cincinnati.

Weise is the author of The Book of Goodbyes (BOA Editions, 2013), which received the 2013 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, which recognizes a superior second book of poetry by an American poet. Her debut poetry collection, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex, was published by Soft Skull Press in 2007.

 

 

 

 

Lost and by Jeff Griffin

Source: NetGalley
eBook, 170 pgs
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Lost and by Jeff Griffin, published by University of Iowa Press, feels more like a scrapbook than a poetry collection, and while there were poems included, most everything in the book are scraps he gleaned from his travels into the desert. Some of these pieces are lists, photos, and other scraps, including a letter from a woman to her alcoholic partner. While these items may reflect communities that have once thrived in the desert and are now abandoned, the collection is not what most readers would expect and there is little to link these pieces together.

From GoodReads:

Ever since he was a child sitting in the back of his parents’ car, Jeff Griffin has been taking explorative journeys into the desert. In 2007, as an art student, he started wandering the back roads of the Mojave Desert with the purpose of looking for a place to reflect in the harshly beautiful surroundings. What he found were widely scattered postmodern ruins—abandoned trailers and campers and improvised structures—whose vanished occupants had left behind, in their trash, an archaeological record.

While Griffin’s efforts to create an artistic rendering of these emptied communities, trailers, and lives, the pieces could have been better tied to one another with some text, explanation, or other commentary from Griffin. In many ways, the collection could have benefited from a demonstration of how Griffin was influenced or inspired by these pieces to create his own art — though the book itself is his modern art from those journeys into the Mojave Desert. Lost and by Jeff Griffin, published by University of Iowa Press, just didn’t work for me, but perhaps I’m not the target audience for this one.

About the Poet:

Jeff Griffin is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an associate at Griffin Moss Industries, Inc., and he operates the publishing house Slim Princess Holdings. He lives around Nevada.

Pride & Prejudice: Retold in Limericks by Seamus O’Leprechaun

Source: Borrowed from Diary of an Eccentric
eBook, 65 pgs
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Pride & Prejudice: Retold in Limericks by Seamus O’Leprechaun is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Limericks! Yes, you read that correctly.  When Anna told me she had something I could read for 24-hour Read-a-Thon, I was all over this one.  I LOVE Limericks!

O’Leprechaun, which clearly has to be a pen name, captures the wit and tension between the characters so easily in just a Limerick.  It was highly appropriate that I read it for the read-a-thon and National Poetry Month.

From "Chapter Six":

Now Darcy has altered his drive.
What haunts him? A pair of dark eyes.
     The girl he rejected
     Now leaves him affected
Liz Bennet - he years for this prize.

From "Chapter Seven"

Jane Bennet, meantime, has caught cold,
Through a rain-soaked contrivance most bold.
     Now she must stick around
     At the Bingley compound,
Where Liz waits as the symptoms unfold.

The machinations of Mrs. Bennet to ensure that her daughters are married off before her husband dies, and her anger at Lizzy for turning down Mr. Collins also come off as ridiculous as Austen intended.  O’Leprechaun uses his skills well in these poems to flesh out the novel in poetic form.  Many of these poems will make readers laugh out loud, giggle, and shake their heads in amusement.

From "Chapter Fifteen"

But this Collins has come for a wife -
Either Lizzy or Jane will suffice.
     And as Jane is bespoke,
     Looks like Lizzy's up, folks,
To be wed by a blockhead - that's life.

Pride & Prejudice: Retold in Limericks by Seamus O’Leprechaun is just so much fun, and totally worth the short time spent reading it, reliving the best moments of Austen’s book. Also, it’s a great way to celebrate poetry.

Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy

Source: Milkweed Editions
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is a curious exploration of figurative and literal transformations from adolescence into adulthood, and it examines the malleability of our identities.  Many poetry readers have witnessed the retelling of fairy tales, like that of Cinderella, but not many poems — if any — deal with Nancy Drew and her identity, particularly in “The Case of the Double Jinx” (pg. 6) and the doppelgänger.  Nancy is hot on the case and observing this imposter has her doubting herself and her value.  Even though she knows that this imposter is not like her, she still fears she could lose Ned and her edge.

Reddy explores standing on the outside and the envy that can engender in “Understudy” (pg 10).  “You’re the other//woman, stranded just offstage,/mouthing the words you’ve learned/by heart.  At dress rehearsal you were costumed/as your better self.  Now she’s the critics’ darling and you’re//a cast-off prop,” the narrator says.  This persona takes on more and more of the starlight’s mannerisms, make-up rituals, and more until she mirrors that star in the hope that by becoming other than herself, she will be seen.

As the collection progresses, the poems seem to take on a less literary and artsy subject matter to look at the average person’s identity and how that changes over time.  “Big Valley’s Last Surviving Beauty Queen” (pg. 18) explores the effects of aging on a former beauty queen and how that effects her own perception of herself.  The accolades she sees and experiences are false to her when she returns home.

Genealogy (pg. 39)

My father's father was a woodstove.  He snapped and
  roared.

He crackled in the basement.  They fed him
so they wouldn't freeze.

While these perceptions of identity are explored again and again in a number of contexts, Reddy also explores the perceptions of men. But these perceptions of men also can affect how women identify themselves.  There are a number of these poems, which explore violence and addiction.  Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is fascinating and multi-layered in its examination of identity and perception, particularly among young women and adult women.

About the Poet:

Nancy Reddy’s poetry has been published in 32 PoemsTupelo Quarterly, and Best New Poets of 2011(selected by D.A. Powell), with poems forthcoming in Post Road and New Poetry from the Midwest. She lives in Madison, where she is a doctoral candidate in composition and rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke

Source: Meryl L. Moss Media Relations
Paperback, 93 pgs
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Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke explores the changing fluid world in which live and the fluidity of the relationships we have with one another.  Like in “Then and Now,” it starts off simply discussing how when we are young, we can shoot baskets and drink soda, but when we age we cannot.  But he goes deeper to suggest that as we age we tend to close ourselves off to new experiences and relationships, but also to even those relationships and experiences we already find ourselves in.  “You used to keep going./Now you stop.//We’re here for the moment./No one knows/how long you stay open,/when you close.”  (pg. 3)

Life is full of potholes, those moments where things are thrown off track.  Wenke is adept at twisting subtle insults and jabs into something that can be admirable, like being considered “Choosy” which means the narrator had the fortitude to choose the partner he’s with and calling him choosy.  Wouldn’t you want some who is discerning pick you?  Many of these poems lack a sense of regret, but applaud the sense of acceptance and living in that moment and making it the best.  “Lying Liars” is a poem steeped in irony, with the liars continuing to spin their tales to your face and behind your back because that’s all they know how to do.  But the rub is that the people they speak to don’t believe them, and the liars end up deceiving themselves.

The Stranger (pg. 33)

Last night
we saw each other
for the first time
in years.
My fears
of an epic confrontation,
an ugly conflagration
sparked by a chance encounter -- 
the accidental meeting
of two people
who once loved
but then profoundly
hated each other --
were unfounded.
You look at me
for just a moment 
with no change in expression
or sign of recognition
that I could see.
Then you turned away
from me
and walked on --
as if you were
a total stranger.

Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke is a little bit more serious than Free Air, but these poems are still infused with wit and satire.  The turns of phrase can sometimes catch readers off guard as well, but these poems are well worth the read.

About the Poet:

DR. JOE WENKE, an outspoken and articulate LGBT rights activist, is the owner and managing partner of Xperience, a multi-million dollar marketing communications and production company with offices in New York, Boston and Detroit. He is also the founder and publisher of Trans Über, a publishing company with a focus on LBGT rights and promoting freedom and equality for all people.

He began his career as an editor at the Foundation Center in New York City. He was a speechwriter at Avnet for Tony Hamilton, the founder of the global electronics distribution industry, and wrote speeches for George Conrades, the head of IBM US. As a senior vice president at Caribiner International he served as the company’s lead communications strategist and head of global accounts.

Wenke received an M.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Connecticut. He is a regular columnist in the Huffington Post. His books look into the religious underpinnings of LGBT discrimination in America, including YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING! The Cultural Arsonist’s Satirical Reading of the Bible. His next book, PAPAL BULL: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church, will be published later this Fall. He is also author of “Mailer’s America” about the lifework of Pulitzer-prize winning American author Norman Mailer.

 

 

 

 

 

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight with charcoal drawings from Terrence Tasker

Source: Altaire Productions & Publications & TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight, with charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker that resemble the one on the cover (who may be is Antigone), is unique in that it is inspired by the Sophocles play but that it is not explicit in its references.  Antigone is the third in the Theban plays written by Sophocles and she was a very stubborn character who fought for her familial duties.  She is not only stubborn but very passionate about her beliefs.  The Antigone we meet in these poems is very passionate and very torn, but there also is an underlying darkness to her actions.  Slaight brings out her inner fears of death, which she believes is imminent even as she continues to defy the authorities and the gods with her actions out of duty.

Slaight employs some fantastic imagery, like “If this perfume doesn’t burst/It will twist into venom.” (pg XVII) and “Silence and decline/And a veil of grey descending.” (pg. LXXIII)  Coupled with the stunning charcoal drawings from Tasker, which remind me of the Greek masks worn when the old plays were acted out, the collection evokes deep sadness, turmoil and concern.  One of my favorite images is a side profile in which just the face is shadowed on a cream background and the hair is left without definition.  There is a fierceness in the woman’s brow and chin, but sadness can be found in her down-turned mouth.

From pg. LVII

Carver
Twist
You mark
In flesh.

Sculptor

Smash
This stone
In death.

Your anguish sought this blackened veil.
Your anger wrought this iron hell.

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight, with charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker, is a fascinating collection of passionate and terrifying poems depicting the inner turmoil of Antigone, who fought for what was morally right and what she thought of as her duty to her brother.  She gives up everything with her battle to bury her shamed brother, including her betrothal to the prince of Thebes.  Slaight has a deft poetic hand when it comes to this tortured and head-strong character.  Her poems are cryptic, but infused with strong emotion.  Some surface background on the character of Antigone may be needed to fully grasp these poems, but on the surface, they could be spoken by any such woman or man.

About the Poet:

MARIE SLAIGHT (1954-) has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer, and performer. Now based in Sydney, Australia, her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company, which has been involved in such films as the award-winning documentary Bury the Hatchet, Kindred and Whoever Was Using This Bed.

About the Illustrator:

TERRENCE TASKER (1947-1992) was born in Saskatchewan, Canada. Raised in rural western Canada, he went on to become a self-taught artist and filmmaker. He co-founded and built the original Studio Altaire, a 90-seat theater and visual art gallery that also ran after hours jazz concerts in downtown Montreal. He worked as a set builder as well as working in construction, mining, finance, industrial installations, taxi driving and film projectionist. He created the artwork for The Antigone Poems in the 1970s, while living in Montreal and Toronto.

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Remember the Sun: Poems of Nature and Inspiration by Melanie Simms

Source: The poet
Ebook, 35 pgs
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Remember the Sun: Poems of Nature and Inspiration by Melanie Simms, published by Sunbury Press, features poems and Lawrence Von Knorr’s photographs of Sunbury, Pa., and other local areas in the region.  In many cases, the photographs give additional life to the poems in Simms’s volume, but in others it is unclear how the poems and the photos connect.  Despite that, the photos are gorgeous, particularly the local shops and the pictures of the Susquehanna River.  Simms’s poems are chock full of imagery from ghosts harkening back to the past journey of Edison to the shadow puppets on the walls, but her verse examines not only the natural world, but the relationships between mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and lovers.

From "Mother's Ashes" (pg. 7)

I love Emilio
for driving the long way
He doesn't have to do this.
"She's your mother," he says.
"We have to honor her spirit."
(I'd kept her ashes for years
in the cupboard in the kitchen).
I don't want to let go.  I wanted to
wake up each morning, knowing
some part of her remained.

Don’t we all want to keep a piece of our loved ones close, and we often very rarely realize how selfish that is. Is it better to honor their wishes or to keep them close? We all struggle with this dilemma at one point or another. Simms’s verse is historical and modern, and it is emotional and contemplative. There is something for every reader in this collection. Her collection also contains quite a few poems in which journeys are made — journeys to bury the dead, journeys away from and returning to loved ones, and journeys of emotion. When readers talk of place as a character in novels, there are moments like that in this collection as well, like in “Beauty and Magic at Barone,” about the Barone Beauty Academy in Sunbury.

From "The Suitcase" (pg. 3)

I watch you leave, but as the evening falls I imagine you
back in your chair.
I imagine that you have only stepped out for an evening walk.
How has it come to this?
All our dreams
packed away into one little suitcase
and carried off so easily?

Remember the Sun: Poems of Nature and Inspiration by Melanie Simms is a satisfying collection of poems and photographs that breathe life into the activities of a small town.  These people are no different than those that live in big cities; they still have dreams and big loves, and devastating losses.

 

About the Poet:

Melanie served as the Perry County Poet Laureate from 2005-2006 and has published in over 180 newspapers, magazines, and poetry journals; her poems have been featured on state and local television shows and over fifty poetry radio programs. She has been a featured artist at various Pennsylvania colleges, high schools, and landmarks including but not limited to National Poetry Month at the Degenstein Community Library with presentations by State Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver and Sunbury mayor David Persing.  Her awards include a Sophie Award, Finalist in the Richard Savage Poetry Award (Bloomsburg University), Perry County Poet Laureate (2005-2006), a Vermont Writers Studio Award, a Pushcart Prize Nomination, Marquis Who’s Who of The World, Cambridge Who’s Who of Women in Publication, Poet of the Week (Poetry Superhighway), and an Evvy Award nomination for Waking the Muse (best self-published book in the poetry category).

She is a President and Founder of the Association of Pennsylvania Poet’s Laureate (founded 2006) and a member of the World Poetry Society and The Daughters of the American Revolution.  To learn more, visit her Website.