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Mailbox Monday #719

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Mount Fuji: 36 Sonnets by Jay Hall Carpenter for review.

Jay Hall Carpenter’s homage to “36 Views of Mount Fuji” by Katsushika Hoskusai. These Shakespearean sonnets discuss family, nostalgia, love, death, and more.

Dispatches from Frontier Schools by Sarah Beddow for review.

Dispatches from Frontier Schools is a collection of poems that pulls the reader right into the brutalities, and beauty, of teaching in a struggling charter school. With humor, wit, tears, anger, exhaustion, elation, and a refusal to give up, these poems highlight the struggles of a teacher trying to maintain her dignity and her identity and do right by her students and her own children—while being pulled apart by a system that doesn’t support or defend teachers. More than just an anthem for teachers, however, this collection is a cry for all women who try to give all they can to everything and everyone.

Her Whole Bright Life by Courtney LeBlanc for review.

A collection that weaves together the trauma and exhaustion of life lived with disordered eating and the loss and grief of the death of the poet’s father.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #718

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Lilies on the Deathbed of Étaín and Other Poems by Oisin Breen for review.

“Oisin Breen is writing at a pitch few other poets of his generation can muster. The dynamism and control of register, rhetoric, rhythm, is consistently a marvel. These are tremendously exciting poems. The work here is strange and startling – you are never sure where you are, or what is coming next. The poems stretch on to widen the possibilities of what a poem can be. Yet there is a grounded authenticity and emotional surge to the writing. They sweep you up in their flow, in their swerves, in their arch playfulness, in their abrupt intensity. The effect is invigorating and deeply affecting. Lose yourself in these poems and you will not forget it.”

– Alan Gillis, Poet, and Professor of Modern Poetry at Edinburgh University.

“Oisín Breen’s collection honours the tradition of Irish poetry. He weaves lyrical beauty through mythology and nature, presenting compelling poems which are both intelligent and emotionally charged. A powerful and intense use of language challenges and delights. Breen harnesses the craft of imagery to impressive effect.”Róisín Ní Neachtain, poet, artist, and editor Crow of Minerva.

Refugees in their own country by Sunayna Pal for review.

75 verses, on the 75th anniversary of Partition, provides a chariot for anyone, across generations, who wishes to step into Sunayna Pal’s time machine and experience those lost moments, painful moments, moments of truth, which she has magically recreated.

“This is an evocative and energetic collection of poems. It takes the reader through a trajectory of Partition events and experiences. If one wants, many of the poems can be linked to the events of Partition, but they also carry the emotional weight and understanding of what Partition would mean to all of us from South Asia.” –Dr Amrita Shodhan, faculty Partition studies at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #717

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Hunters Point by Peter Kageyama for review in January from literary publicist Stephanie Barko.

SAN FRANCISCO, 1958. World War 2 veteran, Katsuhiro, “Kats” Takemoto is a Nisei, second generation Japanese American and the private detective for those who don’t get noticed by the police or get the attention of traditional private eyes. The city is exploding with population growth and creative expression as the Beat poets and artists fill coffee shops and galleries. When a young Beat poet enlists Kats to keep his family from being pushed out of the Bayview Heights neighborhood by a shady developer, Kats learns that the conspiracy to take over the land around Hunters Point runs deep into Cold War fears and politics. Kats takes on the US government, the Navy, unscrupulous businessmen and the west coast mafia as he and his friends race to find the truth.

Award winning author Peter Kageyama’s debut novel brings the post-war San Francisco scene to life with historic characters including Jimmy Stewart, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Alfred Hitchcock and Shig Murao, along with the dynamics of racial identity for Japanese Americans finding their footing again in America following the war and internment.

Lo by Melissa Crowe, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize for review.

Lo maps the deprivation and richness of a rural girlhood and offers an intimate portrait of the woman—tender, hungry, hopeful—who manages to emerge. In a series of lyric odes and elegies, Lo explores the notion that we can be partially constituted by lack—poverty, neglect, isolation. The child in the book’s early sections is beloved and lonely, cherished and abused, lucky and imperiled, and by leaning into this complexity the poems render a tentative and shimmering space sometimes occluded, the space occupied by a girl coming to find herself and the world beautiful, even as that world harms her.

In Kind by Maggie Queeney for review.

Part wunderkammer, part grimoire, Maggie Queeney’s In Kind is focused on survival. A chorus of personae, speaking into and through a variety of poetic forms, guide the reader through the aftermath of generations of domestic, gendered, and sexual violence, before designing a transformation and rebirth. These are poems of witness, self-creation, and reclamation.

Sex Work & Other Sins by Julianne King for review.

Unapologetic and honest, King once again forces forbidden topics to the forefront as she grapples with defining morality in the light of survival. Family, poverty, desperation, and humanity are laid bare in this unflinching journey. King returns with writing that is brutal and evocative in its honesty as she drives toward blistering indictments of herself, her family, and society as a whole. Sex Work and Other Sins holds up a mirror to the reader and asks: What would you have done?

Women & Other Hostages by Laura McCullough, purchased.

Poetry, “If you, like the speaker in Laura McCullough’s poem, ‘Almost Nothing Something [stars / plates / cells]’ have grown ‘tired & suspicious of poetry’ WOMEN AND OTHER HOSTAGES will absolutely revitalize you. These are riveting, wholly moving narratives of a life lived. Out of sorrow McCullough invokes a stunning grace where ‘What is stripped from you’ becomes a gift because ‘what’s left behind is all your own.’ Women of all circumstances inhabit these poems. They shed their skin like snakes, ‘memory in flesh,’ and consider the bones of what holds us together in these divisive times. This beautiful book will knock loose what is lodged in your heart.”–Suzanne Frischkorn

What Follows by H.R. Webster, purchased.

“What a lively, funny, lacerating book of poems from this “gutsy little zombie,” H.R. Webster, who knows the world through direct, often brutal, experience, and ravishingly, through the senses. Here is a poet who knows “(t)he refrigerator warm with the animal smell / of butter,” “the shy hysteria / of doves,” “(h)unters storming through the gum trees like house cats / cut from their bells,” and “the dick velvet of the apricot under a thumb,” and also the reality of factory work, “those efficient little gestures, the left hand ready for what the right hand wrought,” that “don’t belong in a poem,” but here they are. Here it all is, trauma and the genius of survival via the genius of imagination married to the genius of truth-telling. There is so much muchness in What Follows–I must follow it.”–Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets

“Whether trafficking in the dark, alluring ambages of personal and cultural sexual powerplay, confronting the brutal indifferences of the body (and of what Roethke called “great nature”) to human volition, or boldly protesting all manner of crimes against the humanimal,  the arresting poems in H.R. Webster’s debut collection dare the reader to turn away from their gorgeously rendered, fearless and feral forays into one writer’s intense, perspicacious sensibility. “All else dims before agony,” Webster writes, and What Follows is part hagiography, part reliquary of a cosmos of beauty, want, and hurt. These poems will draw you into their experiences of the world and show you “desires [you] have failed to imagine.”–Lisa Russ Spaar, author of Madrigalia: New & Selected Poems

“H.R. Webster writes: “It’s the end of the world and we can’t stop saying the word tender.” Every poem in What Follows is both a beautiful and brutally honest account of what follows the end of love. Tender “is the only language left for flesh, for helplessness,” she writes. But Webster’s stance is far from helpless; this book is a brilliant, inventive, and deeply felt exploration of loss. It’s an image-rich catalogue spiked with concise, often painful wisdom that makes me catch my breath. Horses, calves, dried snapdragons, milkvetch, snakes with their “delicate purses of venom,” bees pouring from a breast, wolf spiders, a bus “kneeling like a girl,” and flowers “petaling themselves monstrous” weave an escape plan in the heartscape of longing, translating precisely what it means to inhabit a female body. Densely sonic, often in sonnet form, these poems are so sharp, smart, and vulnerable that I feel forgiven for every wrong I don’t even realize I’ve done. “Beauty opened a door, what tethered me back?” the poems ask, and this book provides an answer. An incredibly redeeming, courageous debut that through its incantations pulls back the curtain on our shared human suffering and offers hope for us all.”–Sarah Messer, author of Dress Made of Mice

Department of Elegy by Mary Biddinger, purchased.

Part post-punk ghost story, part Gen-X pastoral, Mary Biddinger’s poetry collection DEPARTMENT OF ELEGY conjures dim nightclubs, churning lakes, and vacant Midwestern lots, meditating on moments of lost connection. With the afterlife looming like fringe around the edges of this book, Biddinger constructs a view of heaven as strange as the world left behind. These poems escort us from forest to dance floor, bathtub to breakwater, memory into present.

“In DEPARTMENT OF ELEGY, Mary Biddinger examines the hot pink ignorance of youth and the equally vulnerable present. These thrillingly nimble, funny poems empathize with hunger and long for longing.”–Jennifer L. Knox

“Mary Biddinger’s seventh poetry collection guides readers across the dangerous terrain between memory and chaos with confidence, bravado, and–ultimately–hard-won expertise. The speakers’ words themselves sustain a series of exquisite and delicate tensions between utterance and erasure, between form and improvisation, anchored throughout by a series of “Book” poems (“Book of Hard Passes,” “Book of the Sea,” “Book of Misdeeds,” “Book of Transgressions,” “Book of Disclosures,” “Book of Mild Regrets”). The emotional undercurrent of this collection samples such a wide range of life and existence that we are left wondering where time goes and why so quickly, from the ritualistic taste of the insides of gloves, to the realization that once ‘…your friends have perished under tragic circumstances / eventually they become like beloved characters from books.'”–Erica Bernheim

Always a Relic, Never a Reliquary by Kim Sousa, purchased.

WINNER OF THE 2020 ST. LAWRENCE BOOK AWARD

In her debut full-length poetry collection, ALWAYS A RELIC NEVER A RELIQUARY, Brazilian American poet, editor and abolitionist Kim Sousa interrogates inheritance by reaching both backwards and forwards: backwards towards her father’s first border crossing and forwards past her own. Centered around a specific personal trauma, a later-term miscarriage, the poems also contain collective trauma: they ask what it means to live in the United States both as immigrant and citizen, addressing State terror and violence as if by megaphone at the protest line. In Sousa’s poems, the personal is political: they are anti-racist, ecocritical and proletariat. She sings diasporic resilience as both a horror and celebration. The poems are haunted but hopeful; here, there is always hope in rage and resistance.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #716

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Spare by Prince Harry The Duke of Sussex from Audible.

It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow—and horror. As Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest, billions wondered what the princes must be thinking and feeling—and how their lives would play out from that point on.

For Harry, this is that story at last.

With its raw, unflinching honesty, Spare is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.

Grip by Yvette Neisser, which I purchased at her reading at DiVerse Gaithersburg.

Praise:
“From the horrors of the Holocaust to the grace of plié, from the pyramids of Egypt to her father’s passing, Yvette Neisser Moreno’s noble voice in Grip explores the ‘arc out of thinking’ between a dawn that ‘trembles with faint prayers’ and death like a ‘fluidity of grain.’ Neisser Moreno’s yearning for comprehension and her pristine sensitivity ‘grip’ the reader from the start. In her delicate poems she reminds us that strength rises from understanding and that poetry, at its core, is always a way to ‘untwist language from dreams.’ Enter the ‘stillness before snow,’ the compelling landscape of this extraordinary collection.”–Clifford Bernier, judge and author of The Silent Art

“’Some of us live at a slant’,” the poet Yvette Neisser Moreno writes in Grip and then proceeds to show us how, in language soothing and startling, both. The poems are ‘a slow plea/for the beating of human hearts,’ whether among the conflicts and struggles of the Middle East or within a single family or a single one of us wrestling with her grief. These are poems of great humanity. Read them for their crystalline truths and for the joy they find in our difficult hearts.”–Sarah Browning, director of Split This Rock and author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden

“Yvette Neisser Moreno’s poems shimmer in that mysterious space between rib and spine, body and sky, farewell and departure. This is where she seeks equilibrium. “–Barbara Goldberg

“With quiet precision and evocative narratives that take us from lovely Hussein smoking a sheesha after losing his sight to an inner landscape of the Great Pyramid and a passage into eternity with its endless, circling shades of deeper blue, Yvette Neisser Moreno takes us on a journey where the senses are the compass for being present in the world. This fine first book of poems takes us along the uncharted spaces between the body and the experience of the world, calling us into its winding, into the warmth and joy of its eloquent movements. The poet draws us up close and releases us into our own bodies, our own mindful breath.”–Naomi Ayala

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #715

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss, which I got as a gift for Christmas from Anna.

A city bookshop owner heads to the English countryside for a holiday reunion—only to face her childhood enemy.

Elinor Noel—Nory for short—is quite content running her secondhand bookshop in London. Forever torn between her working-class upbringing and her classmates’ extravagant lifestyles at the posh private school she attended on scholarship, Nory has finally figured out how to keep both at equal distance. So when two of her oldest friends invite their whole gang to spend the time leading up to their wedding together at the castle near their old school, Nory must prepare herself for an emotionally complicated few days.

The reunion brings back fond memories, but also requires Nory to dodge an ill-advised former fling. When she falls quite literally into the arms of Isaac, the castle’s head gardener, who has nothing but contempt for the “snobby prep school kids,” the attraction between them is undeniable. And as Nory spends more time with Isaac during the wedding festivities, she finds herself falling hard for the boy she used to consider an enemy. Nory and Isaac explore their common ground, but pressures mount on all sides, and Nory must decide what kind of life she wants to live and what sort of love is worth the risk . . .

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #714

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received as Kindle freebies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #713

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Good Night, Irene by Luis Alberto Urrea for review.

In 1943, Irene Woodward abandons an abusive fiancé in New York to enlist with the Red Cross and head to Europe. She makes fast friends in training with Dorothy Dunford, a towering Midwesterner with a ferocious wit. Together they are part of an elite group of women, nicknamed Donut Dollies, who command military vehicles called Clubmobiles at the front line, providing camaraderie and a taste of home that may be the only solace before troops head into battle.

After D-Day, these two intrepid friends join the Allied soldiers streaming into France. Their time in Europe will see them embroiled in danger, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of Buchenwald. Through her friendship with Dorothy, and a love affair with a courageous American fighter pilot named Hans, Irene learns to trust again. Her most fervent hope, which becomes more precarious by the day, is for all three of them to survive the war intact.

Taking as inspiration his mother’s own Red Cross service, Luis Alberto Urrea has delivered an overlooked story of women’s heroism in World War II.

Swallowing the Light by John Schneider for review.

If one of the aims of poetry is to condense our vast, contradictory, beautiful world into the briefest of songs, Swallowing the Light stands as a testament to its possibility. In these vibrant poems of landscape, family, societal violence, and both personal and cultural identity, Schneider exhibits a true talent for imbuing natural, experiential detail with authenticity, layered meanings, and lyricism. But Swallowing the Lightis so much more than that; it’s also brimming with potent meditations grounded in the familiar that eventually open us up to something far greater. It takes risks by exploring sincere, often harsh realities through rich, accessible language. These poems are intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging, written by someone with clear eyes and an open, curious heart that shies neither from the darkness nor the light that, together, define the human condition. John Sibley Williams, Author of Scale Model of a Country at Dawn

Songs in E by Dan Brady for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

To create SONGS IN E—- , Dan Brady ran Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese and Robert Browning’s “One Word More” through an unreliable internet translator into Portuguese and then back into English. The resulting raw material was reshaped into the two poem sequences that make up this strange and startling collection.

“The poems in Songs in E—- are love missives, meditations on mortality and desire, at once elegiac and playful. Dan Brady writes about love and conscience and forgiveness through the lens of a philosopher and then creates such beauty by turning everything upside down and looking at it again. Section by section, poem by poem, line by line, these poems reimagine and dismantle what it means to love each other in multiple voices. ‘Heartbreak makes adults of us’ Brady writes, and this book is going to grow us all up.” –W. Todd Kaneko, author of This Is How the Bone Sings

“This is a book wonderfully out of time. With its 19th century sensibility, it takes on the world of today, compressing eras into devastating and yet deeply pleasing clarity. Dan Brady speaks through poets of the past, through reverse translations, through persona, and through ego because his subjects–love and death and faith–require all of it. Through this generous, multilayered seeing, Brady refreshingly stabs at the biggest of concepts to expose their hidden, tender revelations.” –Jennifer Kronovet, author of The Wug Test

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #712

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration:

Steel Valley Elegy by William Heath for consideration for the Gaithersburg Book Festival

On Night Moves in Ohio
These narratives are by turns poignant, funny, and starkly realistic. They are the human stories of the mid-twentieth century industrial mid-west. The honest sentiments of these poems remind us how a centrality of setting, as much time as place, form our experience into themes. Every poem is engrossing, teeming with fascinating storyline detail and imagery. —William Hathaway, author of Dawn Chorus: New and Selected Poems

In this remarkable collection, William Heath mourns and celebrates an almost vanished way of life: sometime brutal yet intensely human. A world that, tough as it is, is consistently shot through with its own wry, mordant humor. These poems are savvy and lively, as exact as a high jumper’s focus, quick and accurate as a tennis player’s eye, wrist, ankle. Night Moves in Ohio is Heath’s own remembrance of things past—an autobiography in rapt miniature of his unforgotten early life, mercilessly but compassionately lit by the laser-light of memory. —Eamon Grennan, author of Out of Sight: New & Selected Poems

On The Walking Man
William Heath is in my opinion one of the most brilliantly accomplished and gifted young poets to appear in the United States in quite some time. I am especially moved by the delicacy and precision of the language, which indicates a distinguished intelligence, and by the purity and depth of feeling in all of his poems. —James Wright, author of Above the River: The Complete Poems

For Review:

Dust Child by Nguyen Phan Que Mai for review in March 2023.

In 1969, sisters Trang and Quỳnh, desperate to help their parents pay off debts, leave their rural village and become “bar girls” in Sài Gòn, drinking, flirting (and more) with American GIs in return for money. As the war moves closer to the city, the once-innocent Trang gets swept up in an irresistible romance with a young and charming American helicopter pilot, Dan. Decades later, Dan returns to Việt Nam with his wife, Linda, hoping to find a way to heal from his PTSD and, unbeknownst to her, reckon with secrets from his past.

At the same time, Phong—the son of a Black American soldier and a Vietnamese woman—embarks on a search to find both his parents and a way out of Việt Nam. Abandoned in front of an orphanage, Phong grew up being called “the dust of life,” “Black American imperialist,” and “child of the enemy,” and he dreams of a better life for himself and his family in the U.S.

Past and present converge as these characters come together to confront decisions made during a time of war—decisions that force them to look deep within and find common ground across race, generation, culture, and language. Suspenseful, poetic, and perfect for readers of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, Dust Child tells an unforgettable and immersive story of how those who inherited tragedy can redefine their destinies through love, hard-earned wisdom, compassion, courage, and joy.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #711

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration:

Why We Never Visited the Elms by Marianne Szlyk

Why We Never Tried to Find the Elms gathers strands of poetry to weave them into a tapestry of memory and imagination. This whole includes a glimpse beneath a mirror that once appeared to show everything so clearly. Two examples are the title poem and “The Roadrunner,” poems that grew out of conversations with others about what they themselves remembered about the incidents depicted. The tapestry includes cultural and historical context as in “Woolworth’s, 1970,” a meditation on the absence of people of color in my memories of the small New England city where my mother grew up, and “Frida without Arms,” an imagining of Frida and Diego as young squatters in 21st-century Detroit. This tapestry contains not only my parents’ beach house in Maine or the Willow jazz club in Massachusetts but also Food Lion and Tippecanoe Mall as these too have been part of my quotidian. But the tapestry goes beyond myself and my perspective (and corrections to it) as later strands like poems inspired by Hung-Ju Kan reveal. Some say that the chapbook is best at presenting variations on a theme. However, even a chapbook is a whole world peopled by more than the poet.

Realities and Alternatives by Ethan Goffman

Ethan Goffman is an acrobat of the imagination who pirouettes in this collection of stories from alternative realities to quasi-realistic alterities, leaving his readers alternatively baffled, amused, and edified. Possessed of an equally wry and bizarre touch, Goffman is a twenty-first century Maupassant, a dreamweaver who ranges widely across science fiction, utopia, and fantasia. This volume represents a welcome invitation to accompany our author/narrator on these alternatively whimsical and somber journeys without and within. Each of them is an eccentric little adventure whose meanderings leave us startled to discover anew how sheer quirkiness yields hard-won nuggets of sharp and sometimes bitter insight.

–John Rodden, author of The Politics of Literary Reputation and more than 20 other scholarly works and editor of The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell

Ethan Goffman is a gifted and multi-faceted author. For years, my own understanding of the human condition has been enriched by his scholarship on the literature of Black and Jewish relations, his thoughtful journalism on the environment, transportation, and urban planning, and his witty and insightful poetry. Here, Ethan showcases his skills as a story-teller. What I admire most, as in all of his writings, is Ethan’s empathetic imagination. Writing in a plain style, with clarity and precision, Ethan represents ordinary people who encounter all too human struggles for dignity, but who also aspire to transcendence through music, community, and spiritual revery. Ethan uses language as a window to let us see the world outside ourselves as it is, but also uses language as a lamp to illuminate the unseen and unseeable parts of the world. Goffman’s stories get to the heart and soul of quotidian hardship.

— Daniel Morris, Professor of English, Purdue University and editor of the Cambridge Companion to Twentieth Century American Poetry and Politics

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #710

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Thank you to Velvet for stepping in when Mailbox Monday needed another host.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration:

I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd by Dominic “Nerd” McDonald from Day Eight Books.

Dominic “Nerd” McDonald, the 2022 DC Poet Project winner, is the author of, I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd, a memoir-in-poems that fearlessly details the author’s intersecting experiences of repression and self-development. The intersecting worlds of hip hop, higher education, and literature combine in this book as an anthem for nerds everywhere.

“McDonald shines brightly and lights the path for those who will walk it next.” – Susan Scheid, author of After Enchantment

Breaking the Blank by Dwayne Lawson-Brown and Rebecca Bishophall from Day Eight Books.

Breaking the Blank is a spirited dialogue between poets—and a meditation on love, parenting, gentrification, money, and the literary life. In accessible free verse, haiku, sonnets, and other forms, Dwayne Lawson-Brown and Rebecca Bishophall honor the African American experience, make sacred the ordinary, and remind the reader of the marvelous in the everyday.

I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir by Fran Abrams from the poet.

I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir is an autobiographical story told in poetry through the eyes of a woman whose life paralleled the second wave of feminism, a movement that began in the 1960’s and focused on equal opportunities and equal pay for women.

The second wave changed the expectations of women from the homemakers of the 1950’s to career women. The author was a freshman in college in 1962 determined to enter the workforce in a professional position. After completing her graduate degree in 1969, she was rebuffed in job interviews by men who assumed she would leave her job soon after she married and had children. She accepted a job in an office where she was the only professional woman. She married in 1970, had her first child in 1976 and her second in 1984. She worked for 41 years, retiring in 2010.

Placing her story in the context of women’s marches and feminist goals, the author tells how she grew up in a world that expected women to become homemakers and how she combined her desire for a professional career with marriage and motherhood at a time when mothers with careers were just starting to be accepted in our culture.

We by Sarah Freligh from Small Harbor Publishing.

This me-too guide to We takes a deep dive into golf greens, mom & pops, cornfields, & figure salons to rescue the wreck eons of Kingship has wrought on everyone from the school shooter to Cassiopeia & the holy roller girl. Freligh’s voice is fresh & flagrant, tender as it is Olympic, the curse that works its own godspell—& this book broke my heart open.

—Jane Springer, author of Dear Blackbird and Murder Ballad

Slowly/Suddenly by Allison Blevins from Small Harbor Publishing.

“If I can give myself anything, let it be a way into anger,” a reasonable creed for navigating a life continually demanding passivity toward the violence and loss it inflicts. Allison writes the plights of mothers, daughters, lovers and spouses in a voice that endures scars and calluses but refuses to accept them as necessary. “Some unbecomes happen slowly.” This book provides precise detail of ascendance above survival.

Handbook for the Newly Disabled by Allison Blevins from Small Harbor Publishing.

“Allison Blevins’ lyric memoir, Handbook for the Newly Disabled, is a whirlwind of stunning and startling reflections on the body, disability, memory, and motherhood. Nostalgia blends with the present, a self trying to make sense of pain. ‘What is left in my body to confess?’ she asks. Those of us who have lived chronic pain and illness will find ourselves understanding all too well. Those who haven’t will gain new insights into what a disabled life can feel like. ‘All of us will never be something we might have been. You see us smiling in our chairs, leaning on canes in commercials for pills and infusions. To love me, put your legs in ice.’ Spending time immersed in the world of this book helped me, as a disabled person with chronic pain, feel seen and less alone.”

—Alana Saltz, author of The Uncertainty of Light and editor-in-chief of Blanket Sea Press

Handbook for the Newly Disabled is a beautiful lyric memoir of disability: of the dailyness of grief, parenting, queerness, and pain in the setting of navigating illness. Allison Blevins writes gorgeously around, inside, and through illness, welcoming and challenging readers on every page, in every lyric turn.

—Krys Malcom Belc, author of The Natural Mother of the Child

For a very long time we have needed Allison Blevins’ lyric memoir, Handbook for the Newly Disabled. The lyrics are in quintets with titles such as “Brain Fog” and “My Neurologist (Who Doesn’t Have MS) Explains Pain Is Not a Symptom of MS.” For a very long time we have been reading books by physicians instead of books by disabled poets. “This is the chapter about hope. Fuck him,” one line reads. “I’m alive in Missouri,” another line reads. Blevins’ lyric memoir expertly talks back to medical ableism and, more than that, makes self-determination into an art.

—The Cyborg Jillian Weise, author of Cyborg Detective and The Amputee’s Guide to Sex

Ladies’ Abecedary by Arden Levin from Small Harbor Publishing.

An abecedary, or alphabet book, teaches letters, the primary pieces of language and of story-making. In Ladies’ Abecedary, each letter is a woman, each woman is a poem, and each poem is a narrative of female identity. These micro-biographies-in-verse present a series of anonymous characters (historical and mythological, contemporary and composite, unique and universal) in a collection that reveals “the diverse and complex nature of women’s interior and external lives.” Letter by letter, Ladies’ Abecedary “exemplifies the importance of the project to reclaim voice, agency, and equality for women,” and raises a remark about how a woman’s story is told.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #709

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Thank you to Velvet for stepping in when Mailbox Monday needed another host.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Above Ground by Clint Smith for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Clint Smith’s vibrant and compelling new collection traverses the vast emotional terrain of fatherhood, and explores how becoming a parent has recalibrated his sense of the world. There are poems that interrogate the ways our lives are shaped by both personal lineages and historical institutions. There are poems that revel in the wonder of discovering the world anew through the eyes of your children, as they discover it for the first time. There are poems that meditate on what it means to raise a family in a world filled with constant social and political tumult. Above Ground wrestles with how we hold wonder and despair in the same hands, how we carry intimate moments of joy and a collective sense of mourning in the same body. Smith’s lyrical, narrative poems bring the reader on a journey not only through the early years of his children’s lives, but through the changing world in which they are growing up—through the changing world of which we are all a part.

Disbound by Hajar Hussaini for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Hajar Hussaini’s poems in Disbound scrutinize the social, political, and historical traces inherited from one’s language. The traces she finds—the flow of international commodities implied in a plosive consonant, an image of the world’s nations convening to reject the full stop—retrieve a personal history between countries (Afghanistan and the United States) and languages (Persian and English) that has been constantly disrupted and distorted by war, governments, and media. Hussaini sees the subjectivity emerging out of these traces as mirroring the governments to whom she has been subject, blurring the line between her identity and her legal identification. The poems of Disbound seek beauty and understanding in sadness and confusion, and find the chance for love in displacement, even as the space for reconciliation in politics and thought seems to get narrower.

Sound Fury by Mark Levine for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

The Pause and the Breath by Kwame Sound Daniels for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Kisses at the Espresso Bar by Anita Nahal for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Accomplished by Amanda Quain, purchased from Audible.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year—at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

  • Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
  • Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
  • Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #708

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Thank you to Velvet for stepping in when Mailbox Monday needed another host.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s What I Received:

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

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

Harbinger by Shelley Puhak for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did you receive?