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Footprints in the Forest by Jeannette Katzir

Source: giveaway win from Diary of an Eccentric
ebook, 247 pgs.
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Footprints in the Forest by Jeannette Katzir, which I received from a giveaway and is an advanced reading copy, tells the tale of Chana Pershowski a young girl not yet fifteen who’s family is forced into a ghetto in Poland during WWII. Her brother Isaac loses his new wife and child, and that becomes a catalyst for the life they eventually live among the partisans. Fleeing Poland has to be the hardest decision Chana is forced to make, though she really doesn’t make it. As a young girl, she has little choice but to follow the orders of her mother and follow her brother into the wintry forest.

Her brother vows to protect her, as does his childhood friend Saul, who Chana views as strong. She’s had a crush on him for a long time, but he sees her as a little sister, and nothing in the forest is certain when the Nazis are looking for you. Running under cover of night and breaking camp when the Russian partisans decide to whether or not everyone is present makes life unpredictable at best. Being sent on missions when you don’t know how to shoot or make bombs can be deadly, even when you have protectors around you.

“I worked with gunpowder and straw, and was amazed to find how fearless I felt.  In a strange way, putting together a bomb reminded me of making sugar cookies with Mama.”

Katzir takes the reader on a journey through the forests with Chana the partisan and in the United States after the war with Chana the young woman finding her way in a world she still fears. Paranoia left over from the war threatens to keep her from happiness, and readers will wonder how far her PTSD will hinder her. Along the way, she learns to trust some of the partisans even against her mother’s ingrained advice, and she even learns to love.  But the war is far from done with her, and she needs to prepare herself for the ultimate sacrifice.  Chana is equal parts strong and weak, child-like and mature, and it is her makeup that leaves her at the mercy of others on a few occasions, especially when she makes rash decisions.

Three things bothered me to prevent a 5-star review: one that she wore a red coat in the snow-white forests when more than likely it would have made her a target, the resolution at the end seemed too rushed, and I’m hoping that many of the typos and grammatical and story line errors I saw were corrected in the final book.

Footprints in the Forest by Jeannette Katzir provides readers with a well-rounded look at what life in the forest during WWII looks and felt like for a young girl who hasn’t had time to find herself, let alone dream of how she wants her life to be in the future.  It also doesn’t gloss over partisan life and how women were perceived in those freedom fighting bands.

RATING: Quatrain

 

 

 

 

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth by Jennifer Joy (audio)

Source: Giveaway Win
Audible, 8+ hrs.
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The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, is the second of Meryton Mysteries and while you could read it alone, it would be best to read The Honorable Mr. Darcy first.  Darcy and Elizabeth may have successfully helped solve the murder of Lt. Wickham and come to a tenuous understanding in the previous novel.  However, despite their continued miscommunications and misunderstandings, they are again forced to face forces beyond their control.

In the latest mystery, a secret held by the ladies of the town leads to the ultimate tragedy, devastating the Bennet family.  Adding to their pain, Lady Catherine makes an appearance in Meryton, and she has quite a bit to say about Darcy’s duty to her daughter and Miss Bennet’s place.  In a war of words, she makes bodily threats to one of the Bennets, but Darcy cannot merely dismiss his aunt’s concerns given the state of his cousin Anne’s health.

As the magistrate, who has a tumultuous past with Lady Catherine,  investigates, so do Darcy, his brother, and Elizabeth.  Amidst the sadness and fear, however, the Bennet family has something to look forward to, a wedding for one of the youngest Bennets.  Joy has crafted a twisted mystery that will leave readers guessing for the better part of the novel, but she doesn’t skimp on the romance and tension of those uncertain in the feelings of the other.

The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, shows Elizabeth at her strongest, even in her most darkest hour.  and it is through this dark time Darcy learns how to support her without taking control.  He grows into more than just an honorable society gentleman; he becomes a man that any lady would want by her side when tragedy strikes.

**I cannot wait for the next book in this mystery series.**

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

When Jennifer isn’t busy dreaming up new adventures for her favorite characters, she is teaching English, reading, perfecting her doughnut recipe, or going to the park with her family. She currently lives in Ecuador with her husband and 2 beautiful kids. All of them are fluent in Spanglish. Visit her Website.

The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy (audio)

Source: Giveaway Win
Audible, 8+ hrs.
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The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, begins with a whodunit — who killed Lt. George Wickham?  Was it Mr. Darcy? A man he owed money to, or something far more sinister?

Pride & Prejudice is beloved by many, and many more have written spinoffs or re-imaginings or continuations of Austen’s work.  Joy’s version is part re-imagining and part mystery, with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet playing amateur detectives to uncover the truth, especially when they both know that Mr. Darcy did not do it.

Joy’s characters stick to their conventional roles in society for the most part, with a bit of leeway, but what’s most interesting is how Elizabeth uses her position in Meryton and as a woman to learn more about those she suspects are involved in the murder of Lt. Wickham.  Mr. Darcy finds that his role as detective is suddenly hampered when he’s arrested for the crime.  As the two work together to solve the crime, prejudices are washed away and pride is worn down.

Nancy Peterson is a wonderful narrator of both men and women in this tale, and it is clear that she has a love for Austen’s work as well.  The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, is a wonderful addition to this Austenesque world, and readers will be hard pressed to see how Darcy can remain honorable and protect the honor of Elizabeth Bennet at the same time.  Joy has crafted a whodunit that will keep readers guessing until the very end, and there are even more secrets to be hand than just the unveiling of the real killer.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

When Jennifer isn’t busy dreaming up new adventures for her favorite characters, she is teaching English, reading, perfecting her doughnut recipe, or going to the park with her family. She currently lives in Ecuador with her husband and 2 beautiful kids. All of them are fluent in Spanglish.  Visit her Website.

New Authors Challenge

New York City Haiku illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock

Source: Library of Clean Reads
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
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New York City Haiku illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock is a compilation of haiku from readers that were solicited by The New York Times in 2014 during National Poetry Month.  Haiku were guided by the terms “island,” “strangers,” “solitude,” “commuting,” “6 a.m.,” and “kindness.”  Respondents wrote poems on the subjects of living, commuting, working, and enjoying New York City.  This is just 150 of the more than 2,800 submissions and, no, not all of the haiku are from only residents of New York City.  Some come from as far away as Ireland.

(I will caution that I, too, submitted haiku to the Times, but none of mine appear in this collection)

As we leave for work
Youngsters head home from parties.
Eras intersect. — Amparo Pikarsky, Edison, N.J.

These haiku are by turns serious and humorous about life in the city from a sketch artist on the subway willing sleeping commuters to remain sleeping to people jammed together and yet alone on the train.

Hidden among the
sleepwalking, caffeine zombies.
A morning person. — Aimee Estrada, Hyde Park, N.Y.

These writers clearly know the city and all of its nuances, as well as the rote behavior of commuters. It’s wonderful to visit the city in haiku form and see it from a variety of perspectives, including those who have a sense of humor about it all.

Dollar pizza joint
An oasis in New York’s
Harsh desert of cost. — Dennis Francis, Manhattan, N.Y.

New York City Haiku illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock provides a wide view of the city and commuting. Some seem to express personal experience, while others are more social in commentary. Each haiku displays a sense of humor and love for the Big Apple. Such a fun collection of poems, which would be easy to dip in and out of on a commute into the city or sitting in a good chair.

RATING: Quatrain

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Essential Readings & Study Guide by K.V. Dominic

Source: Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
Paperback, 284 pgs.
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Essential Readings & Study Guide: Poems about Social Justice, Women’s Rights, and the Environment by K.V. Dominic is a compilation of Dominic’s published poetry to date. It includes three books of previously published poetry and some unpublished poetry in one collection, as well as discussion questions at the end of each poem for those who want to go deeper into the meaning of the text. In “Helen and her World,” we’re introduced to a child whose light shines bright, but she cannot see the light herself. “She is the light of the class,/light of the family,/light of the village,/but alas the light never sees itself” Her blindness does little to impede the hope that she exudes to those around her. And like in “A Nightmare,” Dominic juxtaposes light and dark, as a lavish wedding feast is held while girls outside are fighting with dogs over trash to eat and sustain themselves.

Dominic’s poems use simple language and imagery pulled from the news or events around him to draw larger connections with others. Rather than divide by declaring someone or something other, he strives to bring together people around common causes, such as ending poverty.

Hunger’s Call (pg. 122)

A startling news with
photos from Zimbabwe!
Carcass of a wild elephant
consumed in ninety minutes!
Not by countless vultures
but by avid, famished
men and women and children.
Even the skeleton was axed
to support sinking life with soup.
Impact of globalization,
liberalization and privatization?
Or effect of hyperinflation
and economic mismanagement?
Billions are spent
by developed nations
on arms and ammunitions.
Isn’t poverty the greatest enemy?
Why not fight against it
and wipe out destitution,
pointing guns, rifles and missiles
at the chest of the poor?

While plain-spoken, Dominic also employs sarcasm to get his point across. From class struggles and poverty to global warming and globalization, Dominic seeks a greater balance, a world in which we care for the world that sustains us without succumbing to the greed of materialism and capitalism. But it doesn’t stop with how humans treat one another and instead continues to evolve this notion of balance and care to all living beings. Essential Readings & Study Guide: Poems about Social Justice, Women’s Rights, and the Environment by K.V. Dominic is a comprehensive collection of poems that speak to our maternal instincts and our desire for belonging and balance in the modern world.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Internationally acclaimed poet Prof. K. V. Dominic (Kerala, India) is the author of three major volumes of poetry about the natural world as well as social and political commentary: Winged Reason, Multicultural Symphony, and Write, Son, Write.

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Impertinent Strangers by P.O. Dixon (audio)

Source: the author
Audiobook, 5+ hrs.
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Impertinent Strangers by P.O. Dixon, narrated by Pearl Hewitt, revises the time line of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice quite a bit. Elizabeth Bennet is visiting Charlotte Collins at Hunsford Parsonage when she meets Mr. Darcy, and both view the other’s behavior as impertinent. Through quick assessments, Darcy and Miss Bennet have decided the other is not worthy of notice, and Elizabeth takes particular dislike to being told to warn her family against Mr. Wickham, whom she still holds in high esteem even though he abandoned her in pursuit of Mary King. Despite overhearing Darcy speak of her as merely “tolerable”, Elizabeth vows to be civil to him. Over the course of time, both begin to admire the other, but how can they bridge the gap that their earlier perceptions have wrought?

Hewitt is a fantastic narrator for this type of fiction. She does an excellent job voicing different characters so that they do not get confused by the reader, and her accent is spot on. Dixon’s story is surprising in how the original timeline is played with, which made the story enjoyable. However, the only drawback here is that the story seems rushed at the end and the description of the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth could have been fleshed out more with body language cues, etc., particularly in mixed and restricted company.

However, these do not detract from the overall story in which Darcy and Elizabeth must come together, learn to see past their own per-conceived notions, and dare to dream for a marriage that society would deem inappropriate at best. Impertinent Strangers by P.O. Dixon, narrated by Pearl Hewitt, is lovely and unique, especially as Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves able to get to know one another in unusual circumstances — on long walks from Rosing to Hunsford and in the east library at Rosings.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

P.O. Dixon has authored several Jane Austen “Pride and Prejudice” adaptations, all written with one overriding purpose in mind—falling in love with Darcy and Elizabeth. Sometimes provocative, but always entertaining, her stories have been read, commented on, and thoroughly enjoyed by thousands of readers worldwide.

Darcy At Last: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jane Grix

Source: Giveaway Win
Paperback, 68 pgs.
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Darcy at Last: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Jane Grix is a short story that closely follows the original written by Jane Austen. Grix’s tale re-imagines what happens after Mr. Darcy’s terrible proposal at Hunsford in a way that is unique. Darcy realizes that he’s left evidence of his letter to Elizabeth in his room at Rosings, and he must turn the carriage around to retrieve lest some servants learn the particulars of his dealings with Wickham.

The tension and animosity between Darcy and Elizabeth is similar to Austen’s original until she meets with an unfortunate accident. Darcy’s heart clenches in his chest as he sets about with a clear head to make sure she is cared for well, despite his aunt’s bellowing. It is clear to everyone that Darcy is engaged and cannot leave without knowing Elizabeth recovers. Colonel Fitzwilliam comes to his rescue, and with the help of Mrs. Collins, Darcy is able to set her on the path to recovery. However, her subsequent amnesia presents him with a dilemma — should he tell her all that has transpired or he should begin again as though his proposal never happened?

Grix knows Darcy and Elizabeth well, and it shows. Readers will love to see this softer Darcy, one who is confined by societal norms and is frustrated. Because this is a short story, it moves fast, a little too fast. It’s almost as if the author bit off more than could be tackled in a short story. The plot moves very fast and the interactions between the characters are few, which makes the evolution of emotions a bit rushed and hard to believe. Darcy at Last: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Jane Grix is a delightful take on Austen’s original work and a satisfying variation involving amnesia and second chances.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Jane Grix is a pen name of Beverly Farr, author of clean and clever contemporary romances.

 

Dogs and Their People by Barkpost by Bark & Co

Source: Giveaway Win
Hardcover, 272 pgs.
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Dogs and Their People by Barkpost by Bark & Co. has the funniest pictures of pooches around, and the stories in these pages are endearing.  They even brought to mind some of my own dog stories.  From the pictures to the stories and the checklists and recipes, this book is a must have for any dog lover.

One great story: Natalie builds her dog Perrin race tracks in the snow during winter blizzards, which can mean that she digs them several times over the course of a storm, especially in Massachusetts.  Then, of course, there’s Denise, Theo & Desna – Theo the husky practically ate all the furniture and Desna decided that her favorite perch was the kitchen counters and Denise had to puppy-proof the entire kitchen.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love dogs, and while my current dog does not have her own Instagram account — she does make appearances — we love her to bits.  She’s my daughter’s sibling — they’ve grown up together.  We adopted her when our daughter was about one.  She’s a husky mix and she can be a handful, but at least she hasn’t eaten the furniture.  We do have a zillion nicknames for her, with my daughter recently referring to her as Woofie.  Nicknames are terms of endearment for animals, I think, and I’ve given multiple names to my pets for many years.  Who can stop themselves when they are so cute!

My previous pooch went everywhere with us — camping, to see Santa, to restaurants and stores — and he got into mischief.  He loved to eat things he wasn’t supposed to.  That dog would unwrap bubble gum, eat glass to get at the bacon grease, and get his head stuck in cardboard boxes if he thought there was a morsel of food to be had.  One of my favorite stories was when we were camping — by this time he was elderly — and we decided to take a “short” hike, according to the map.  Well, that hike ended up being way longer than the map led us to believe and the dog just refused to move.  He sat down and that was it.  My poor husband had to carry this 45-pound dog over his shoulders (much like Bryan in Colorado), and would you believe that people on the trail thought our fluffy dog was a deer.  Ridiculous!  They even brought out their cameras to take a picture.  People are sillier than dogs sometimes.

Now that I’ve been on my own for a long time, I’ve noticed that my parents have started treating their dogs like children.  They have seat belts and clothes.  One of their dogs used to have a leather hat and coat — she looked like a mean biker with her Peek-a-Poo underbite.  It makes me wonder why the dogs even put up with humans — oh, right, it’s the treats, toys, and warm beds.

Dogs and Their People by Barkpost by Bark & Co. is just a delightful and fun book.  There are recipes for dog biscuits and more.  It would make a fantastic gift for those dog lovers in your life — you know the holidays are coming faster than you think!

RATING: Cinquain

Check out BarkPost!

Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid

Source: giveaway win
Paperback, 200 pgs.
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Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid is set after Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley leave Netherfield never to return and Mr. Bennet reveals to his favorite daughter, Elizabeth Bennet, that his doctor believes his heart is weaker than first thought and that he could die soon. With this knowledge, Lizzy must decide whether she can accept her lot and accept the proposal from Mr. Collins, even as he is utterly ridiculous and clearly is not in love with her. What choice does she have with the estate entailed away and her sister, Jane, still heartbroken over Bingley’s leaving? She accepts and tries to put aside all thoughts of her upcoming nuptials.

Although Mr. Darcy does act out of character in this novel, given the situation and his realization that Lizzy is the only woman for him, it makes perfect sense for him to find a way to covertly separate her from Mr. Collins. He abhors deceit, but he must do what he can to free her from the shackles of the parsonage and her irritating betrothed. Even though his aim is to improve himself in her fine eyes and win her hand, he is willing to let her go if only to see her away from Collins who cannot make her happy.

“‘I have heard that your estate at Pemberley is very grand. How many windows do you have at the front?'” (pg. 35)

Elizabeth might have encountered more awkward situations in her life before, but she would have been hard-pressed to think of one at the moment. Attempting to put some space between them, she took several steps backward until she bumped against the door. Undeterred, Mr. Collins shuffled forward on his knees until he was again crouched right at her feet.” (pg. 169)

Kincaid has taken the abrasive character of Lady Catherine and used her very well in this story, and Darcy is clearly a strategist, even if he prefers to do most things above board. When his plan backfires, he is perfectly contrite as he should be, and it is clear that his love of Lizzy has changed his views. He thinks beyond his own desires and determines how best to amend the wrongs he has wrought.

Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid is a glimpse at what a more impulsive and head-over-heels in love Mr. Darcy would look like. He’s still awkward and he still bumbles about in his conversation with Elizabeth, unless they are matching wits, but he clearly values her and she is hard pressed to ignore his desire for her good opinion. Kincaid’s book is delightful and will have readers cheering Darcy on in his endeavors to win Lizzy’s hand.

***The action and tension in this one kept me reading into the wee hours, and I finished it in one day!***

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner

Source: Giveaway win from JAFF Event
Paperback, 347 pgs.
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Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner is a hot, modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Gardiner writes steamy romance really well, and the fire crackles between this Darcy and Elizabeth like a gunpowder trail to a pile of dynamite. Set in Virginia and Asheville, N.C., it was the perfect getaway novel for vacation, especially since we would be in the same area at the Biltmore estate! Gardiner knows the area well enough to write about the former plantations in a way that makes it believable that Darcy of Pemberley would be a wealthy landowner whose past has pushed him into the military and the world of black ops, while Lizzy has remained at Longbourn beneath the guilt of her mother’s exit from their lives.

Unlike Jane who left the home shortly after Mrs. Bennet to seek freedom, Lizzy stayed behind to care for their father and the repairs of an aging estate. Despite working for the Department of Defense, they are unable to keep up with the costs of the repairs, and without intervention soon, they’ll have to sell off some acreage to keep afloat. While Lizzy is forced to decide between her freedom and saving the ancestral home, her father has other ideas about how to save the place — and these ideas get them both into deep trouble.

“‘Carinatus? In English, Darcy. Our Latin is restricted to the dance floor here.’
‘It’s a snake, Medusa, like the ones writhing on your head.’ Darcy smirked.
‘Screw you.’
‘We tried that; it didn’t work. Remember?'” (pg. 28)

Darcy has become a hardened man since the death of his parents and his Iceman persona keeps him safe from emotional entanglements as his work takes him all over the world assassinating evildoers. He’s turned into a leather wearing, tattooed biker in Gardiner’s modern tale, and he’s hotter than ever. He oozes charm and danger, something that draws Lizzy in, revealing a woman who wants to be free to pursue her passions and take on new adventures. Both emerge from their chrysalises renewed and engaged with life. There’s no going back, and those who want to stop them from being together better look out.

Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner explores how people fall in love and why, how that relationship can encourage each partner to grow, and how mutual respect can spur them to greater things. Living a happier and fuller life is something we all should aspire to, and while assassinating evildoers might make the world a safer place, its toll can be devastating. Living for others and denying oneself even the simplest pleasures can also be draining. Gardiner explores all of these themes and more in her novel. This one is hot, hot, hot!

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

Guest Posts:

***Cat Gardiner’s new WWII romance, A Moment Forever, is touring with Poetic Book Tours.***

About the Author:

Born and bred in New York City, Cat Gardiner is a girl in love with the romance of an era once known as the Silent Generation, now referred to as the Greatest Generation. A member of the National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and Tampa Area Romance Authors, she and her husband adore exploring the 1940s Home Front experience as living historians, wishing for a time machine to transport them back seventy years.

She loves to pull out her vintage frocks and attend U.S.O dances, swing clubs, and re-enactment camps as part of her research, believing that everyone should have an understanding of The 1940s Experience™. Inspired by those everyday young adults who changed the fate of the world, she writes about them, taking the reader on a romantic journey. Cat’s WWII-era novels always begin in her beloved Big Apple and surround you with the sights and sounds of a generation.

She is also the author of four Jane Austen-inspired contemporary novels, however, her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. A Moment Forever is her debut novel in that genre.

For more on her book, visit A Moment Forever.

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Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford 1937-1947

Source: Gift (Published by Graywolf Press)
Hardcover, 128 pages
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Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford 1937-1947 edited and introduced by Fred Marchant, which was our June book club selection, is a collection of mostly never before published poems by William Stafford while he worked with the Civilian Public Service (CPS) after becoming a conscientious objector of WWII.  While it is a collection of poems by a young poet working in camps on civil service projects who felt exiled within his own country for being a pacifist, these poems also represent a poet searching for his own voice and style.  There are variations in tone, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as a wide use of the em dash.

The Prisoner (page 26)

Touched the walls on every side again—
Obsessed with prowling thoughts of free live men.
He heard when guards had slammed the outer gates,
How suddenly like wool the silence waits.
Resigned, he sat and thought of all the dead.
"I'll soon wake up from life," the prisoner said.
                      c. Magnolia, Arkansas
                      [1942]

While Stafford was a conscientious objector, life in the camps was not easy going — it was hard work, and many might even characterize it as a punishment for those who objected to doing their soldierly duty.  While he seemed to know that he was a pacifist, he continued to struggle with what it meant to be a pacifist, and this struggle is evident in his poems.  Another running theme through the poems is a deep sense of loneliness, a being apart from the whole of society, and wondering how he fits into not just his pacifist society at the camps, but in the greater society outside of those camps.  In this internal struggle, Stafford writes about listening and observation and in many ways he takes these “passive” activities and makes them active inspection and cause for action.

From "Their voices were stilled..." (page 24)

Their voices were stilled across the land.
I sought them. I listened.
The only voices were war voices.
Where are the others? I asked, lonely
      in the lush desert.
One voice told me secretly:
We do not speak now, lest we be misunderstood.
We cannot speak without awaking the dragon of anger
      to more anger still.
That is why you are lonely.
You must learn stillness now.

I looked into his eyes, and they were a dragon's eyes,
      and I could not speak,
And we were as grains of sand huddled under the wind,
Awaiting to be molded, waiting to persuade with yielding
      the feet of the dragon.

                        Magnolia, Arkansas
                        May 1, 1942

Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford 1937-1947 edited and introduced by Fred Marchant explores the early writings of a national poetic icon, who stood behind his convictions even if it meant he was separated from society at large and required to work so hard it seemed like a punishment.  Stafford’s “deep listening,” as Marchant says, requires active participation on his part, he evokes pacifism in a way that will leave readers re-examining their own convictions where war is concerned.

***Disclosure, Fred Marchant is my former poetry professor from my Alma Mater.***

What the Book Club Thought:

The book club seemed to enjoy the poems, though there were a few members who found the poems in the end section rather odd compared to the others.  Once we got Skype going with the editor of the collected poems, several members were engaged in the conversation, poems were read aloud and discussed, and afterward, several said they would go back and re-read some of the poems now that they had more background on the poet and his experiences.  Having Fred Marchant join us engaged more of the members in conversation and reading of poems, and the background information seemed to help put the poems in perspective.  The poems were dated, so we could follow the historical time line, such as one poem written about the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  Members indicated they would be interested in another Skype session.

About the Editor:

Fred Marchant is an American poet, and Professor of English and Literature at Suffolk University. He is the director of both the Creative Writing program and The Poetry Center at Suffolk University. In 1970, he became one of the first officers of the US Marine Corps to be honorably discharged as a conscientious objectors in the Vietnam war.

38th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

21st book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

Book 19 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

13th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen

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

From After Suicide (page 4-5)

I wanted to put my finger
into the hole

feel the smooth channel
he escaped through

stop the milk
so he could swallow it

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

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

About the Poet:

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

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

 

 

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