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If It Bleeds by Stephen King (audio)

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If It Bleeds by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton, Danny Burstein, and Steven Weber, is a collection of novellas, with Holly Gibney reappearing in the title novella.

The opening novella, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, is reminiscent of a young boy coming-of-age story in which Craig befriends Mr. Harrigan right as cell phones start providing information at our fingertips, including newspapers and stock information. This friendship, of course, takes a darker turn. I enjoyed this piece, but wanted more development and a longer story.

The Life of Chuck, set in Boston, opens with the end of the Internet, but there’s billboards everywhere with Chuck on them. Who was this man that no one seems to know, but who is loved enough to be on a billboard? The ghosts of his past provide us with a glimpse of this finance man and how he did indeed “contain multitudes.” The best part of this story is when Chuck begins dancing on Boylston Street in Boston to the beat of busking drummers. But it is also about that age-old question of whether we would want to know when we’re to die? Would we use the time wisely? Would we while it away. This story was not as engaging as the others, at least not on audio.

Holly Gibney returns in If It Bleeds to find herself in a similar situation as to when she was in The Outsider (my review). It helps if you have read the previous novel where she appears because it is referenced, but I don’t think it is necessary, as King provides enough background for readers to follow along. Gibney is a spitfire who is overcoming her own self-esteem issues, and I absolutely love revisiting this character. This was my favorite novella.

Rat is the final novella in the collection and reminded me of King’s earlier works involving writers – Secret Window, Secret Garden (which became a movie with Johnny Depp), The Dark Half, and The Shining. But don’t expect that rat to appear until midway and do expect a Faustian bargain to occur. This one was a traditional horror yarn. It was definitely a solid story, though I didn’t like Drew Larson much.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King was a bit hit-and-miss for me, but there’s definitely something for everyone in these pages. The best of these for me was If It Bleeds, though Mr. Harrigan’s Phone was a close second for me. Each of these deal with our sense of mortality and how knowing the end is near or even possible can impact how we act or don’t.

Funnily enough, the bookworm also posted her review of this collection, so check it out!

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies

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Paperback, 175 pgs.
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The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies examines revision holistically through examples from published literature and revised stories over time from writers like Raymond Carver and his editor Gordon Lish, Frank O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, and others, as well as a look at popular cinema, such as Terminator, and its revisions.

The crux of this craft book is: “The truth is that while our own ability to make new stories, and remake old ones, ends with us, life continues to revise us. Life in some sense is revision, and revision a measure of how alive a story continues to be. (pg. 171) Throughout, Davies examines his own work on The Welsh Girl and a story from his own past in which his father intervenes to save a Sikh boy from being beaten.

While this reference book is focused on short stories and novels, it’s takeaways regarding revision and our “darlings” can be applied to poetry. “Revision is very much a process of close reading ourselves and our work,” he says. (pg. 14) In a way it is not about the cutting or the reduction of the text all of the time, but the expansion and contraction of text to find the meat of the story and the truth of it. “I suspect a guiding principle of early drafts might be better phrased as ‘Write to know,‘ and of revision, ‘Revise to know more,” and of a final draft, ‘I’ve written what I now know.'” (pg. 36)

I’ve always loved the possibility of revision, but I’ve also cut poems down into enigmas and missed the points the poems were making entirely. I’ve played with words, phrasing, line breaks, and more to a point where the poem is even confused about itself. This book has helped me see that revision needs to be a little more focused, not targeted, but shining a light on the meaning/truth of the poem.

The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies is a nonfiction craft book I would highly recommend for poets, short story writers, novelists, and others. Davies is frank in his advice and his own limitations, but he also demonstrates that revision is a skill that can be learned, enjoyed, and even provide us with our own truth about ourselves and the stories that we are drawn to and must write on the page.

***Thanks to Melanie Figg for the recommendation.***

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Peter Ho Davies‘s most recent books are the novel A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself, long-listed for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and The Art of Revision: The Last Word, his first work of non-fiction. His previous novel, The Fortunes, a New York Times Notable Book, won the Anisfield-Wolf Award and the Chautauqua Prize, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His first novel, The Welsh Girl, a London Times Best Seller, was long-listed for the Booker Prize. He has also published two short story collections, The Ugliest House in the World (winner of the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize, and the Oregon Book Award) and Equal Love (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a New York Times Notable Book).

Davies’ work has appeared in Harpers, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The Guardian, The Washington Post and TLS among others, and been anthologized in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories. In 2003 Granta magazine named him among its “Best of Young British Novelists.”

Davies is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts and a winner of the PEN/Malamud and PEN/Macmillan Awards.

Born in Britain to Welsh and Chinese parents, he now makes his home in the US. He has taught at the University of Oregon, Northwestern and Emory University, and is currently on faculty at the University of Michigan.

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

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Paperback, 88 pgs.
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I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir by Fran Abrams is a unique look at what it was like to live in America gradually moving toward providing equality for women. While it is still moving toward equality, this memoir provides a perspective on how far the country has come. Unlike the first wave in which women fought for the right to vote, the second wave emphasized the need for equal pay and opportunity. “Before the Revolution” opens the collection, setting the scene in which women’s job opportunities and men’s job opportunities were separated by gender in the newspaper. Then came Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique.

Abrams’ memoir is divided into three sections and each provides a glimpse into this second wave pioneer’s life. Through her current perspective, Abrams provides a look at the children of now and the children of her growing up years and how things were less scheduled, more free. I can see how things have changed through her eyes. But don’t be fooled that America was equal for all, despite its laws, race and other topics were talked about in whispers, rather than aloud.

“A Girl’s Education” and “It Doesn’t Add Up” will bring to light just how long the phrase “boys will be boys” has been around and enabled young men to take advantage of girls and women alike. It’s a reminder that further education and change is necessary. Abrams’ poems are a story of her life, but they are also reflective of America’s continued struggle to live up to its credo of “Land of the Free.”

"Seeing Myself" (pg. 34)
....
The words typical and average
rattled around my brain like expletives.
I was studying art and architecture.
Being unusual, no, unique,
was part of my self-image.
I was not a typical co-ed!

Abrams reminds us that like children growing into adulthood, identity evolves and changes. Identity is multi-layered, nuanced. Like America, our identities do not have to be stagnant, they can change. I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir by Fran Abrams is a wave you’ll want to catch. Be sure to buy a copy for yourself and for someone who may need a reminder that freedom requires work. Complacency has no place in America’s revolution.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Fran Abrams lives in Rockville, MD. She holds an undergraduate degree in art and architecture and a master’s degree in urban planning. For 41 years, she worked in government and nonprofit agencies in Montgomery County, MD, where her work involved writing legislation, regulations, memos, and reports.

In 2000, before she retired, she began working as a visual artist. Then, after retiring in 2010, she devoted the majority of her time to her art. After attending a poetry reading in 2017, she realized she missed expressing herself in words and began taking creative writing classes at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, where she concentrated on writing poetry. In September 2017, she traveled to Italy on a poetry retreat that strengthened her commitment to writing poems. She now devotes the most of her time to writing poetry.

Since 2017, her poems have been published online and in print in Cathexis-Northwest Press, The American Journal of Poetry, MacQueen’s Quinterly Literary Magazine, The Raven’s Perch, Gargoyle 74, and others. In 2019, she was a juried poet at Houston (TX) Poetry Fest and a featured reader at DiVerse Gaithersburg (MD) Poetry Reading. Her poems appear in more than a dozen anthologies, including the 2021 collection titled This is What America Looks Like from Washington Writers Publishing House (WWPH). In December 2021, she won the WWPH Winter Poetry Prize for her poem titled “Waiting for Snow.” Her first chapbook, titled “The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras,” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her first full-length manuscript, titled “I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir,” is out now from Atmosphere Press.

Iron into Flower by Yvette Neisser

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Iron Into Flower by Yvette Neisser is a journey into memory and identity shifts, following the passing of loved ones and divorce and even the journey of motherhood. In her opening poem, “The Arc of the Sun,” a mother takes a trip to Mexico and comes back changed, full of stories she didn’t want to share, and a new perspective, living life moment to moment. Travel can do that to us, inform our perspectives, shift our beings, and move us into a place where we are changed.

Travel weaves in and out of these poems like a teacher providing new perspectives and changing people profoundly. In “Compass Points,” the narrator stumbles “into adulthood,/veering from crevice to crevice,/scraping for my own space,/” reminding us that to traverse the world is to find oneself, carve out our own spaces, while being rooted in family and home like the rings of a tree — “the years … etched rings around my life/first with you, then without you.”

In “Nonfiction,” readers will learn how memory can be parsed out to new generations, even if the entire past is held back. A grandmother shares Holocaust through songs sung in barracks, but she also instills a mantra of “Never again” to the generations that follow. The narrator asks, “Have I borne it well?/Should I wield it/or hide behind it?” only to remind us “It’s not easy, you know,/clamping the lid/on the revolution.//”

By the final section of the collection, Iron Into Flower by Yvette Neisser, the poet has traversed through memory, history, culture, and so much more, to emerge into the flower she is today.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Yvette Neisser is the author of Grip, winner of the 2011 Gival Poetry Prize. Founder of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT), her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri and Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio. She also contributed to the anthology Knocking on the Door of the White House: Latino and Latina Poets of Washington, D.C.

Yvette has taught creative writing, poetry translation, and literature at numerous institutions, including the George Washington University, Catholic University, and The Writer’s Center (Bethesda, MD). She has lectured on translation at venues such as the Library of Congress, the Embassy of Argentina, and Georgetown University. For several years, she was a roving “poet in the schools” in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

Her passion for international affairs and cultures has been a driving force in both her writing and her professional career. After studying in Egypt and Israel, her work in international development and research has taken her to Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Europe.

Accomplished by Amanda Quain (audio)

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Accomplished by Amanda Quain, narrated by Deva Marie Gregory, focuses on high school-age Georgiana Darcy who is struggling to find herself after Wickham entangles her in his drug-dealing scheme at her private school.She is a bit dramatic, probably too many regency romance shows for her.

Gregory is an excellent narrator for this young adult’s redemption story. She provides different voices for Georgie, Fitz, Avery, Wickham, and others.

Georgie is crumbling under the pressure of the Darcy name and its expectations. She’s unsure of who she is and unable to rectify her reputation at the private school where everyone hates her for taking away their best trombone player and drug dealer, Wickham. Even though she had nothing to do with the drug dealing and her room was all Wickham needed, her brother is severely disappointed and ramps up his helicopter parenting.

Georgie, on the other hand, is eager to get out from under the glare of her classmates, Wickham’s threats, and her brother’s oppressive supervision. Her lavish family lifestyle is something she wants to get past but even those around her see her like her ancestors and even her brother — untouchable, able to throw money at problems, and so many other privileged trappings.

Accomplished by Amanda Quain, narrated by Deva Marie Gregory, is a charming story of a young woman looking for herself as forces outside of herself try to force her to be someone she isn’t. She’s artistic, musical, and creative, and clearly not the business/medical mold of the Darcy legacy. While Georgie is a bit obsessive and full of anxiety, which can get tiresome, her gradual evolution in this story is delightful, even when she stands up to her brother, not quite in the most rational or tactful way. Quain is a talented writer, and I look forward to others in this series.

RATING: Quatrain

Fixed Star by Suzanne Frischkorn

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Fixed Star by Suzanne Frischkorn is an amalgam of found poetry and structure poems mirroring the culture and identity that many of us have over time. We find that there are fixed points in our culture and identity and that there also are found parts of those segments of ourselves that we incorporate willingly. There’s a deep restlessness in each of these poems as they deftly move from one to the next, when reading in succession, and it is a skill to be admired.

Frischkorn’s opening poem, “Cuban Polymita,” begins the collection with: “Birth cleaved me in half” If that line alone doesn’t give you a sense of restlessness, the rest of the collection certainly will. It is from this instant of birth in which the narrator begins to move away from her origins: “A lace dress. A first language./All myths once we move north./” (“II”, pg. 2) In these earlier poems, the narrator is looking for the truth in those myths, unraveling the mystery of her heritage. But the narrator is keenly aware that to unravel these hidden pasts is also likely to reveal “what is tarnished,” and to question is it worth the risk?

Once I Dove Into the Caribbean Sea (pg. 36)
Isla de Cozumel, ’93

Cuba, its tide strove to draw me towards you and failed. I departed with a smooth shell and wisps of surrogate sky. How cool marble caressed my bare soles, how heat plied my skin bronze. Not until I slide the silver bracelets from my wrist will the strains of your shore ebb.

Frischkorn’s Fixed Star is an attempt to excavate the movement from past to present to pinpoint the evolution, to understand something that was lost. In that adventure toward discovery, a restlessness propels each of these poems forward and back into the past again, signaling the push and the pull of who and what has birthed us to who and what we become.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Suzanne Frischkorn is the author of Fixed Star (JackLeg Press, September 2022) as well as the books, Girl on a Bridge, and Lit Windowpane (both from Main Street Rag Press), and the chapbooks American Flamingo, Spring Tide, Red Paper Flower, Exhale, and The Tactile Sense.

She is the recipient of The Writer’s Center Emerging Writers Fellowship for her book Lit Windowpane, the Aldrich Poetry Award for her chapbook Spring Tide, selected by Mary Oliver, and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

Why We Never Visited the Elms by Marianne Szlyk

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Why We Never Visited the Elms by Marianne Szlyk are poems that explore what could have been to what is now. Each poem is a journey, a microcosm of the larger journey the collection takes the reader on. The journey begins with the narrator and her mother and why they never visited Our Lady of the Elms, where her mother went to college. She reminisces about the stories she heard and how the college was nestled into a neighborhood. There’s almost a romanticism in these stories, but Szlyk reminds us that not all is rosy in that past, just like it isn’t in the present. “Every Friday the cafeteria would serve/slices of greasy hamburg pizza/that Mom would have pretended to eat//had we stopped by her old school.//” (pg. 3-4)

Just as in “Fishing,” the narrator says, “The surface hides mud, weeds, a murder victim./No one fishes now …” (pg. 5) We look back on our own histories with fondness, even if there is darkness in those old streets and rivers. We can look at those places now with a distance, glossing over a darkness and lifting out the good parts. Szlyk has a knack for exploring the what ifs and that what weres and the what ares. Time slips easily in these poems, and readers can slip behind the curtains to explore places in different times to see change and what stays the same.

Why We Never Visited the Elms by Marianne Szlyk is a time slip. Readers will love the optimism Szlyk imbues her poems with, reminding us that we should focus on the light we have and not the darkest parts of our lives.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Marianne Szlyk’s most recent book is Poetry en Plein Air (Pony One Dog Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in Verse-Virtual, the Red Eft Poetry Review, the Trouvaille Review, and other journals/websites. Some poems have been translated into Polish, Italian, and Cherokee. She lives in the D.C. area with the wry poet and flash fiction writer Ethan Goffman and their elderly cat.

Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here by Sara Cahill Marron

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Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here by Sara Cahill Marron is a collection that explores the need to mark our presence in this life, even as we know that it is all impermanent and often fades.

The opening poem “The Three Shades” reflects this impermanence and the unpredictability of what stays and what fades into the dark. Amid the detritus of modern life (Styrofoam cups et. al.), there is still life here, and we are watching it fade, struggle, and die. It’s a sad emptiness to see life dissipate even in anonymity.

The pandemic clearly influences many of these poems and the desire to save others is prevalent in some, but there’s also this commentary on the disconnect from others. “Please/please stay … drown out news,” the narrator in “An Infant Died Today in Illinois” says, but it is clear that the news cannot be ignored and the inevitability of death is ever present.

Marron is exploring the disconnect between us during the pandemic in the tension with our need for connection. Whether it is an overly sharing email to a hiring manager or an imagined conversation with our eavesdropping cellphone (which I suspect sent her on a journey that culminated in her newest book, Call Me Spes), Marron gives readers a lot to think about in terms of the inevitability of death, our desire for connection and to be seen, and the absence of humanity.

Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here by Sara Cahill Marron reminds us that many times “the enemy is internal,” whether it is the virus that can infect and kill us, the inequality we propagate, or any other selfishness that infects society and its ability to grow and evolve together in divine love and connection. There is so much to love about this collection.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Sara Cahill Marron, native Virginian and Long Island resident, is the author of Reasons for the Long Tu’m (Broadstone Books, 2018), Nothing You Build Here, Belongs Here (Kelsay Books 2021), and Call Me Spes (MadHat Press 2022). She is the Associate Editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and publisher at Beltway Editions. Her work has been published widely in literary magazines and journals; a full list is available here. Sara also hosts virtual readings for Beltway Poetry Quarterly with her partner in poetry, Indran Amirthanayagam and teaches poetry in modern discourse programs for teens at the public library in Patchogue, NY. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu (audio)

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It’s been a Grimm’s Brothers kind of month of reading for me.

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu, narrated by Jim Boeven, weaves in myth from Germanic folklore about wolves and sets it just nearing the end of WWII.

Even as Berlin tries to tell its people that the war is not over, even the villages outside the cities can sense the tide is not in the motherland’s favor.

Uwe Fuchs has always considered himself a weakling and unworthy as he was unable to serve for the Reich and stayed behind to care for his own ailing mother. Despite his lot, he cared for his daughter and loved to share with her the dark fairy tales of the wood and wolves, though he feared she missed the point that the wolves represented the bad in the world. But in many ways it seems he missed the point as well.

The narration by Boeven was a bit stilted in the audio, which kept me from really falling into Katsu’s story fully. That was a real drawback for me. But the story itself is definitely a reaction to the political climate we find ourselves in and how it mirrors that of Nazi Germany with its fervor and us vs. them focus. The story itself is a cautionary tale that has roots in reality.

Katsu has knack for creating characters who are flawed and find themselves in otherworldly situations. Uwe is definitely flawed and those flaws are amplified by what happens to him, especially when he takes matters into his hands with the village fighters against the Allies in an effort to be part of the community. Will he be a man who cannot return to his former life?

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu, narrated by Jim Boeven, is a short story set in a historical period that highlighted much of the worst in humanity from eugenics to mass extinction efforts. Uwe is a man who is struggling with his own place in society and his community until he finds his pack. But will his one decision to join those working against the allies at the end of the war ruin his life forever?

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.

Fairy Tale by Stephen King (audio)

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Fairy Tale by Stephen King, narrated by Seth Numrich and a bit by King himself, is a dark Gothic story in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm. In a parallel world beneath an Howard Bowditch‘s shed, Charlie Reade‘s worldview and his promise to be a better man if only his father would stop drinking alcohol. Reade’s blossoming relationship with Mr. Bowditch is touching and odd all at once, but I expect nothing less. But the fairy tale doesn’t begin until Reade learns about what’s in the shed and what it could possibly mean for the dog, Radar, they love.

In an adventure that Reade never expected to have when he sought to save the life of an old dog, he learns a great deal about human frailty and how dreams and ideals do little in times of crisis. Even Mr. Bowditch was aware of those failings, noting that cowards bring gifts. King is so adept at creating flawed characters and adventures to strange worlds where young men must test their metal against the deep dark evil of an unknown and scary place.

Reade comes of age in this story and he is not as too-good-to-be-true as he seems. He faces untenable situations and tough choices throughout his travels. I don’t want to give too much away, but the character not only evolves but even more clearly understands his own limitations. Dark and horrible things happen here, and are their moments of crassness from the evil characters that make you cringe, of course. These elements make this dark world seem even more real.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love reading Stephen King’s books. Not all of them capture my full attention, even if I love them. I even conned my friend Anna (aka Diary of an Eccentric) to read my favorite King book (IT) in a read-a-long. But some of King’s books have not totally absorbed me from start to finish like IT. Fairy Tale is an exception and has entered the pantheon of King favorites.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Rooted and Winged by Luanne Castle

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Rooted and Winged by Luanne Castle, on tour with Poetic Book Tours, speaks to the human condition, a need for feeling rooted to a home and the need to expand our wings and fly beyond what we’ve known and experienced. The tension of this is felt throughout the collection, but as the poems evolve there’s a sense that both things are possible even if we stay rooted in our families and communities.

One of my favorites in this collection is “How to Create a Family Myth” in which a grandfather seems like he’s larger than life building cities, but in truth, the narrator who looks like her great-grandmother is fascinated by a story in which she takes a whip from a man who is beating a horse and whips him. I love that there’s this magical quality of traveling through time to see this young, brave woman empathizing with the pain of the horse and teaching a man what it is like to be beaten. So many wider implications of this bravery, and how we all wish to be that brave in our convictions.

Birds are prominent as are the poet’s family members. The narrator is building her nest with these twigs of stories and she’s holding those ancestors close, even though many have flown away in death. Like these birds the saguaro is mentioned multiple times, and in reading these poems the candelabra shaped, tree-like cactus (mostly found in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert) is symbolic. It can be prickly, but it bears a sweet fruit, and isn’t that what family and family stories and memories are — bittersweet.

In “Why We Wait for Rain,” the poet says, “We wait to run through wet branches and shake/drops from our shoulders, caught/in the sharp unmistakable fragrance//wanting it to pool inside us in reservoir.” When looking back on the past, we can feel the joy of those moments running through rain with siblings or friends, but as life has moved forward, those memories also can be sad because they are in the past and perhaps we have lost touch with those we loved or they have passed away, or their loss is from some argument.

Whatever the loss may stem from, it doesn’t matter because our memories of them always speak to us from the deep well of our emotion. “if I haul memory from this grave/the transmigration into pulp continues” (“Into Pulp”, pg. 27)

Rooted and Winged by Luanne Castle is a gorgeous collection rooted in the Arizona desert and the past, but it also takes flight on the wings of memory and hope. Don’t miss this collection.

RATING: Cinquain

OTHER Reviews:

About the Poet:

Luanne Castle’s new poetry collection is Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line Press). Kin Types (Finishing Line Press), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Her first collection of poetry, Doll God (Aldrich), won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, Tipton Poetry Review, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Saranac Review, Grist, and other journals.

The New Gods by William O’Daly

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The New Gods by William O’Daly is as unpredictable as the ocean’s waves, as the poet pushes us to action and halts our momentum for moments of reflection. Opening the collection with “The Fire” readers are dropped into a glade of sorts where water is tumbling to a hot canyon, and it is clear that despite the destruction of the fires in the forest and the danger to the birds and horses, there is still beauty here. Does that beauty survive? It’s hard to say, but O’Daly makes sure we pause to see it.

Moving further into that opening poem, O’Daly shifts the focus to the tension and angst we create with our fire of invention and the risks it carries. The hail of spitballs in a classroom reminding the narrator of the nuclear fission that could rip them to shreds and render the world of friends and brothers, etc., into vapor. It’s again another familiar scene that many of us recognize that is destroyed by an outside force that could be of our own making. In the final lines, it is clear that we are all just on the cusp of a precipice.

O’Daly has a keen eye for detail in these poems, creating a world you fall into and instantly recognize. But he also asks readers why “we live far from ourselves and/each other…” (pg. 35, “The Unwritten Letter”) It’s like a bird’s call for us to slow down, pay closer attention, and learn from what’s around us, what has come before, and even the destruction we cause. There are lessons to be gleaned and beauty even in that darkness.

The Flag Is Burning (pg. 37-8)

We, friend, are the body of the country
burning in the street,
eyes open against the sky,
the child running,
the mother on her knees
reaching for the soldier aiming,
the village on fire -- the shrapnel littered ruins
...

It is in this poem where we are reminded of our place in society and a country and that we are responsible equally for its actions if we remain inert. O’Daly revisits this concept again in “Handout,” where a huddled figure in the fog is feared by the narrator rather than shown compassion until his daughter takes action with her hand out to him, an offering of food. The New Gods by William O’Daly spans a great many subjects, historic moments, but it is in its quiet moments where he’s at work, teaching us that we are the “new gods,” the ones with the power to effect change.

RATING: Cinquain

Photo courtesy of Kristine Iwersen O’Daly

About the Poet:

William O’Daly’s most recent book of poems, The New Gods, which includes these poems, will be published by Beltway Editions on September 15, 2022. O’Daly has translated eight books of Pablo Neruda’s late and posthumous poetry and Book of Twilight, the Chilean Nobel Laureate’s first book.