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Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 304 pgs.
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Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci is a delight in many ways. It’s food, family, friends, and humor. Growing up in New York State and traveling to Italy knowing little to no Italian was an adventure in itself, but Tucci has led a adventurous life in food and life. Don’t get me wrong, there are personal struggles and losses in these pages, and there is his diagnosis of cancer, but through it all, his love of food and how it brings family and friends together shines through.

I’m utterly delighted by his humor – it reminds me so much of my own father’s family. The devil-may-care attitude coupled with the traditional rules that cannot be broken — what in the world are you thinking? It’s a catch-22 kind of place to grow up. But the food. Italians love food, and I dare say that the Portuguese are the same. We’ve always come to the table ready to eat, course after course. While there is a great deal more pasta in this book, it was so delightful to read his take on how things taste. His descriptions will have you salivating, even as you are smiling and laughing along with him about some story on set, with his family, or on a press junket.

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci is a journey in food and it explores how food brings us together as human beings. Some of best times are around the table. Don’t be surprised if you end up hungry several times while reading this. There’s recipes to sate that hunger, if you are feeling adventurous.

RATING: Cinquain

the moon won’t be dared by Anne Leigh Parrish

Source: Poet
Paperback, 150 pgs.
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the moon won’t be dared by Anne Leigh Parrish opens “among the trees” where the forest is populated by trees in competition with one another, yet united in their need of rooting. Lydia Selk’s collage imposes a woman on the forest of birches in the dense foliage, lying with arched back and eyes closed. Here she seems at peace, but as onlookers (like the statue in the foreground), she’s aware of witnesses who may judge her for her sheer presence. This unique collection is not how art informs poetry like in ekphrastic poems, but how the art of Lydia Selk accompanying these poems is informed by Parrish’s words. But that is not all that’s going on in this collection.

Parrish is a great observer of nature and the world around her, and she invokes the power of that world to demonstrate just how insignificant we can be and how natural power continues regardless of what we think or feel. Like in “storm,” the clouds are gathering and rearranging, while the narrator is talking, but her conversation does nothing but bring noise to a building storm that breaks and drifts on a rush of wind.

Some of my favorite poems in the collection are in the mid- to latter-half. From “the plains, as seen from above” where a river’s curves are compared to a woman’s hips and the changes the world and the woman have endured over time to “tutelage” where a woman looks back on all that she’s learned from her mother and other peers in her life, only to find the teachings less than adequate and that she may have more to teach them.

the moon won’t be dared by Anne Leigh Parrish, which toured with Poetic Book Tours, is a journey into womanhood and nature that leaves you naked in the forest, but unafraid. Readers will see how the artist Lydia Selk was inspired by Parrish’s imaginative poems that reflect on what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated society and what it means to break free and to own who you are.

***Check out my interview with Anne Leigh Parrish***

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Anne Leigh Parrish is the author of nine previously published books: A Winter Night (Unsolicited Press 2021); What Nell Dreams, a novella & stories (Unsolicited Press, 2020); Maggie’s Ruse, a novel, (Unsolicited Press, 2017); The Amendment, a novel (Unsolicited Press, 2017); Women Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By the Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and All The Roads That Lead From Home, stories (Press 53, 2011). Visit her website.

Great Power, No Responsibility (Spider-Ham Original Graphic Novel) by Steve Foxe, illustrated by Shadia Amin

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Great Power, No Responsibility (Spider-Ham Original Graphic Novel) by Steve Foxe, illustrated by Shadia Amin, is classic Peter Porker! This Spider-Ham was seen in multiverse movie for the Spiderman franchise, and in this graphic novel, he is recognized by the city and the mayor gives him a key to the city in thanks. I was intrigued by this because I’ve loved comics since I was a kid, and Spider Pig, as I called him long ago before the Simpsons’ song, was a cartoon on television.

My daughter received this from her school’s Scholastic book club, and she was excited because Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is her favorite movie of late — she’s probably watched it about 10 times. She read this one on her own, but we did talk about what she read, and this story line was easy to follow for her.

Peter Porker has lost the key to the city. Has it fallen into the wrong hands? Of course, our favorite Marvel characters don’t look the same in this anthropomorphic universe — hulk as a giant green bunny? — but it made for some comical interactions. My daughter was often giggling while reading and pointing out some funny bits to me here and there.

Great Power, No Responsibility (Spider-Ham Original Graphic Novel) by Steve Foxe, illustrated by Shadia Amin, offers younger readers a fun story about responsibility with animal-looking characters they know from the Marvel universe. My daughter really enjoyed this book, and the illustrations are vivid and fun. The action scenes are easy to follow along, and she definitely recommends this to others.

RATING: Cinquain

The Extraordinary Life of Serena Williams by Shelina Janmohamed, illustrated by Ashley Evans

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Extraordinary Life of Serena Williams by Shelina Janmohamed, illustrated by Ashley Evans, is another nonfiction title for elementary readers that explores the real life of someone familiar to them. Tennis Star, entrepreneur, and mother Serena Williams. My daughter read this one on her own and was able to recount much of what happened to Serena in her life. She had no trouble reading the text – at least I wasn’t asked what’s this word.

My daughter loved the illustrations and how realistic they looked. This is a story about how dedication and hard work can help you achieve your dreams. There are little bubbles with word definitions, including “criticize.” This is a word that my daughter actually knew on her own, but I liked how the definitions were not too complex.

“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does,” Serena said.

There is a lot of detail about her home life, her father’s dedication to his girls tennis careers, and how they worked hard to get practice time. The book also doesn’t shy away from the violence in her neighborhood and the obstacles she faced. There’s a timeline of her life, as well as some items for young readers to think about.

The Extraordinary Life of Serena Williams by Shelina Janmohamed, illustrated by Ashley Evans, is a well-rounded story about a tennis great. I loved that this book kept my daughter interested and she learned a great deal about perseverance.

RATING: Quatrain

Kaddish: Before the Holocaust and After by Jane Yolen

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 88 pgs.
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Kaddish: Before the Holocaust and After by Jane Yolen is an exploration of loss that readers will be unable to turn away from. Readers must witness the devastating pain of the holocaust, but Yolen still holds out hope that violence is not the only solution to bullies and violence. In “What About Goliath,” Yolen explores David’s win over Goliath and asks, “Maybe there’s a better way/than slingshots, hot shots, mugshots./Better than becoming Goliath/ourselves.//” (pg. 7)

The poems in this collection explore generational loss and the brokenness that follows genocide. The stories of the dead are only kept alive by those who remember, but the perpetrators often have the luxury of seeing those stories as a past that they can rewrite or at least supplant with their own.

From "Holocaust Stories" (pg. 42)

...
We make it true again, truer,
because story sticks
when memory fails.
...

Yolen explores this in “Kristallnacht in Hamburg,” where her poem points out, “Not all Germans remember/this is the night./It is eighty years later,/their great grandparents’ sin,/only a story, a history,/they will have one of their own.// But still, we are all broken./But still, we are all glass.//” (pg. 25) We need to remember that we are all broken by violence. The people we thought our grandparents were when they cared for us, are those same people who harmed others out of hate. We are all part of that broken history. There is always that question in the shadows of how repairing what is broken will still show the cracks of the past.

Kaddish: Before the Holocaust and After by Jane Yolen is heartbreaking in its sincerity. Yolen’s poems provide a frank look at the Holocaust and after, particularly the absence of respect often shown at Holocaust remembrance locations, with teens smiling and laughing. The movement of time often makes memory hazy, which makes these stories all the more important. We need to hear these stories, feel the pain, and learn to move further away from the violence that leads to brokenness.

RATING: Cinquain

The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 366 pgs.
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The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi is such a fun debute novel. While it is marketed as a modern Pride & Prejudice, it really is so much more than that. The women of Bennet House at Longbourn University are like a family – EJ, Jamie, and Tessa. EJ is an ambitious Black engineering student, and Jamie, her best friend, is a transgender woman who’s studying French and theater. Tessa is a Filipina astronomy major with serious guy problems. Bennet House is full of empowerment for these women, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in need of support. EJ, in particular, is a young woman who had to give up her ballet dreams and has fallen into a career path she’s not exactly sure she wants. She’s a very serious student and a caring RA for other women in Bennet House, but she needs to let loose and find herself.

“It was a truth universally acknowledged that a black girl at a mostly white college, in an even whiter college town, must befriend someone who can do her hair.” (pg. 19)

When her friend Jamie falls for campus heartthrob and all-around good guy Lee Gregory, EJ finds herself thrown in the company of his arrogant friend, Will. Jamie is balancing her new identity with her rocky relationship with her mother since her transition and EJ is the one friend who has stood by her. Jamie has issues navigating her new life because there’s a lot of uncertainty in her relationships, but she finds that her core support is her friends at Bennet House.

EJ’s relationship with Will starts off with a bang of an insult and a horrible follow-up encounter at her favorite diner. These two seem to be like oil and water. But things take a turn they don’t expect.

This novel does not shy away from the obstacles faced by blacks in America, nor the struggles of LGBTQ people. I also loved that the author based her writing in places she clearly knows well. As a local D.C. area writer, it was great to see the city and its suburbs portrayed in a way that isn’t focused only on gun violence. EJ’s family is stable and supportive, her sister’s ambitions are realized but she never forgets where she came from, and I loved the talk EJ’s father gives Will.

Appiah-Kubi is a delightful writer who has a firm grasp of what makes any situation humorous. I loved that she took an Austen classic and made it her own. EJ is a strong character and so are her friends, and they face similar trouble that all college students do. How to find their place on campus, how to navigate their courses to plan their future careers, and even how to balance it all with jobs and love.

The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi should be on your holiday shopping list this year for the readers in your life who need a little hope, a little light, and some romance. This book was a read I couldn’t put down, and as many of you know, these last two years I’ve struggled with picking up fiction books and finishing them. I had no problem reading this book in just a few days.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Eden Appiah-Kubi fell in love with classic novels in fourth grade, when her mom read her Jane Eyre, chapter-by-chapter, as a bedtime story. She’s an alumna of a small New England university with a weird mascot (Go Jumbos!), and a former Peace Corps volunteer. Eden developed her fiction writing through years in a small Washington, DC critique group. Today she works as a Librarian and lives in the DC suburbs with her husband and hilarious daughter.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

Source: Gift
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl is more than just a memoir of music and the powerhouses in it. This is a story of one man’s complete awe of where his life has taken him and what drives him to keep going even when tragedy rocked his world and threatened to upend it for good. From Grohl’s opening line about aging — “Sometimes I forget that I’ve aged. — readers know they have found a kindred spirit. Aging is a process of time, and more often than not, we’re too busy living to notice that time has passed and we are no longer as young as our heads and hearts may still believe we are. I know I feel this way a lot of the time.

Grohl’s musical career began in his bedroom with a couple of pillows and a dream, but his love of music was with him since birth. From singing in the car with his mother to sharing punk band music with his cousin and taking drumming lessons from a Jazz legend, Grohl was on the path of stardom long before he realized it was his dream.

“At an early age, I started to play drums with my teeth, sliding my jaw back and forth and chomping up and down to simulate the sound of a drum set in my mouth, doing drum rolls and grace notes as if I were using my hands, without anyone ever noticing.”

If you’re looking for gossip of the nastiest kind, forget it. This is a story of hope, perseverance, hard work, and a ton of coffee. That’s my kind of person, though I admit I have never drank pot after pot of coffee and thought I was having a heart attack.

There’s so much memory in this book, and I remember the great Olsson’s Books and Records in Bethesda, so when I saw that in this book (but the Georgetown store), it brought back a lot of memories of my early days in the DMV. Grohl’s writing mirrors the old storyteller who begins a tale, takes a tangential side trip, and gets back to the main thread. But I absolutely loved all the meandering.

When you get to the part about Nirvana, you realize that many fans know him because of this band and its music, but really, Grohl had lived a full musical life before and after Nirvana. He often talks about how he was a nerd/geek and it was clear that the people who grew to love Nirvana over time were those that used to bully him as a kid. The chapter on his grief after lead singer Kurt Cobain’s death is some of the most poignant and real chapters I’ve read on grief. Everyone grieves differently and grief is not the same for each person’s passing.

Grohl may have passed one of the most devastating moments in his life, but he still carries that with him. There are a great may takeaways in this memoir, but one of the best is this: “Courage is a defining factor in the life of any artist.”

Definitely a book that will live on the shelf with my other Rock Stars. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl is one of the most open and heartfelt memoirs I’ve read in a long time. Would I fangirl if I saw Grohl in person – yes, yes I would. But I do that with anyone’s work I admire. Just ask all the poets I talk to and the ones I will meet someday into the future.

RATING: Cinquain

What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 36 pgs.
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What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf is a slim chapbook of the emotions we hold inside as mothers and women from our parents, our children, and even ourselves. She opens the collection with a mother’s caring hands, wishing to scrape away the plaque in the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and the dirt from the feet of children who are walking to the United States from Honduras. Each poem is searing with its heartbreak over things we cannot control and the truths that cannot be hidden for too long.

from "the cost of obedience" (pg. 3)

naked in a paper gown
I am without a voice
I nod and accept. I do not say no.
Nurses stare at monitors, their backs to me.

Miscarriages, infertility, and other heartaches are often internalized by women. Women are expected to hold these heartaches inside, especially the feeling of failure. In “Upon the birth of my daughter,” the narrator of these poems speaks to those early moments of birth. She says, “let me reclaim the first moment I held you,/handing you back so soon, arms too weak/let me reclaim, reclaim this passage/let me reclaim a tender moment/to remember to tell you again and again//”

In the title poem, Kropf speaks to what it means to protect our loved ones. How we sometimes push them away to protect them, but in some cases when we hide the truth, it’s only for a little while. There are moments when the truth has to be revealed. “as mothers have always withheld splinters of pain/unwilling to prick innocent skin/until the moment the child is ready to hold truth tenderly/,” she tells us.

The collection is not just about what we hold from our children, but also from ourselves. We withhold our dreams, put them off, waiting for that moment. But that moment is now. We need to learn to be more open, to break through the norms and anxieties that hold us back. What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf is less about what we withhold and more about what we need to break free.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Elizabeth Kropf earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is widely published in literary publications, including The Texas Poetry Calendar, The Penwood Review, and Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature.  A dream called her from California to Texas where she now lives with her husband and daughters.

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega, is a book for readers between ages of 7 and 12. My daughter read this one to herself over a week or so, and we’re using it as an experiment to check her comprehension when she reads on her own. After each reading session, I asked her about what she read. While there were occasions when she had to refer to the text, rather than remember it on her own, my assessment is that the book is written in a way that kids in her age group can remember what happened.

There are illustrations of Anne and her family, a map of the Frank’s journey away from Germany during WWII, and even an illustration of Hitler. The back of the book also includes a timeline exploring when Anne received her journal and its journey to publication, as well as a timeline of Anne’s life. My daughter enjoyed learning about Anne and even has asked about the diary, which is now a book. I told her that we’ll have to dig up my copy to read together.

We also loved the inspiring quotes that were pulled out into separate bubbles for your readers. They were positive and focused on the good things in the journey, rather than the bad. That is not to say that the author avoided talking about the persecution of Jews,the War, or even Anne’s death.

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega, is a great way to introduce young readers to Frank and her family. It will teach them about bigotry, persecution, Nazi’s, WWII, and more. The book also offers some things to think about or kids, though I wish at least one of those questions would have touched on what kids thought about the Nazi’s and their persecution of Jews.

RATING: Quatrain

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 12+ hours
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It is Veteran’s day in the United States, and to that we must not forget to remember that many of our veteran’s face psychological struggles in addition to any physical damages they may have sustained. In addition to honoring their service, we should consider honoring them with greater assistance and compassion.

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen, narrated by Francois Chau, really made me want to lock away all of these people. They are all broken, pessimistic, and full of debauchery. Does that mean they need to be locked away? Not necessarily, but I certainly would not want to spend any time with them.

Nguyen picks up this story from where he left off in The Sympathizer, so I would recommend you read these in order. The narrator and his blood brother Bon arrive in France in the early 1980s, but the journey in the boat is the most compelling part of this novel.

***May Be Spoilers Below***

Our narrator is still of more than one mind about things, and he pulls from philosophies and French culture while in France. Perhaps it is the influence of living in France with his fake aunt. There is still the tug between colonialism/capitalism and communism and a bifurcated identity that keeps our narrator drifting further into trouble as a drug-dealer.

I found this den of inequity unsettling, as you should, and even the narrator is left wiggling in his seat on more than one occasion. However, I felt that too much of the narration focused on nudity, body, sex, etc., rather than on the spy’s struggle to overcome his bi-racial identity and his re-education in the communist camps or the capitalist world he finds himself in. The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen, narrated by Francois Chau, is about his character’s inability to be committed and the existential crisis of his own making.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer is a New York Times best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Other honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, a Gold Medal in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association. His other books are Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction) and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His next book is a short story collection, The Refugees, forthcoming in February 2017 from Grove Press.

Other Reviews:

A Mother’s Tale and Other Stories by Khanh Ha (giveaway)

Source: the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours
Paperback, 150 pgs.
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A Mother’s Tale and Other Stories by Khanh Ha is a collection of stories that explore heartbreak, loss, and healing. Readers of Ha’s work will see some familiar faces, especially Mrs. Rossi, Nicola, Le, and others. These stories weave in and out of the jungles of Vietnam and elsewhere to untangle the unseen connections we have to one another. Some of these connections will not bring the best turn to some lives, while others will highlight the truth of people who are enigmas to us.

“She wondered where all the souls of the dead have gone. I told her perhaps the ghosts needed a medium to show themselves to the living, and the fireflies’ blue lights were that medium, just like earth, water, fire, and air made up the medium of living human beings.” (from “A Mother’s Tale”)

The ghosts of the dead and lost souls are never too far from these stories. They are hovering at the edge as the living try to sort out their lives and come to terms with the past. Some of the stories in this collection shed a great deal of backstory and light onto the story in Mrs. Rossi’s Dream, but I don’t think you need to have read that novel to enjoy these stories, though the stories did elevate my understanding of his multilayered characters in that novel. I particularly loved the insight into Mrs. Rossi’s adopted daughter, Chi Lan. In many ways, I would consider this collection a companion to the novel.

A Mother’s Tale and Other Stories by Khanh Ha offers an array of character studies that explore broken relationships, loss, the effects of war even generations later, but more than that, his work paints a picture of humanity that is at times beautiful as it is dark and traumatic. Once I started delving into this world, it was hard to come out of it without being changed. It was hard to look at life and not see the connections that propel us on our journeys.

About the Author:

Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, and Mrs. Rossi’s Dream. He is a seven-time Pushcart nominee, finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize, Many Voices Project, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and The University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize. He is the recipient of the Sand Hills Prize for Best Fiction, the Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction, and the Orison Anthology Award for Fiction. Mrs. Rossi’s Dream, was named Best New Book by Booklist and a 2019 Foreword Reviews INDIES Silver Winner and Bronze Winner.  A Mother’s Tale & Other Stories has already won the C&R Press Fiction Prize. Visit him on Facebook and Twitter.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

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Inheritance of Aging Self by Lucinda Marshall

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 66 pgs.
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*** full disclosure: Lucinda, who is a member of my poetry workshop group, is a great mentor and a golden angel to poets in the poetry community***

Inheritance of Aging Self by Lucinda Marshall explores what it means to age, to see our ancestors in the mirror, and to make peace with the life we’ve led, left behind for others to make sense of, and the life we have in the present. Life is just one patchwork quilt, isn’t it? Yes, Lucinda is a quilter, a natural puzzle maker.

From "My Grandmother's Tea Cups" (pg. 1)

...
I see the you in me
as I become the wearer
of your papery skin,
an inheritance 
with its own design,

Patterns and textures take center stage in Marshall’s poems, weaving together a quilt her family will cherish always. But there are the emotional ties woven in each square, from the anger at aging and loss of youth to the acceptance of the multi-faceted you, a beauty beneath the perception of who you were then, like in “Mirror Image.”

Marshall says in “Contemplation of Succulence in Sonora”: “I do know that erosion changes us–// a whittling away, until only bones and distillation/ remain to provide the grounding” Some of us take longer to find our grounding, drifting from place to place, family to family, friend to friend, but these experiences eventually ground us in who we are and who we are not.

In this effort, we also need to learn how to create our own boundaries to preserve our mental well-being, like Marshall’s “I Do Not Ask” and “Serenity Prayer For Singular Existence” remind us. Boundaries are necessary to ensure burnout is kept at bay, that we can be our best selves when others need us, and that we can fulfill our own desires and dreams, even if others don’t quite understand.

Marshall’s collection hinges on the title poem, which comes midway through the book. Where the narrator comes to terms with aging and the potential for lost memory, lost sense of self, fewer days ahead. It is an unsettling moment when age becomes a reality you can no longer ignore. “she wonders what it feels like to be ashes,// what part of who she is will be left/,” says the narrator of “What Remains.”

Inheritance of Aging Self by Lucinda Marshall is about the universal, solitary journey we all travel on. Don’t be mistaken, we are journeying with our past, present, and future side-by-side and no one can reconcile those facets of our selves but us. We must come to terms with all that we are and what remains, what we leave behind, how others will know us and remember us, and what pursuits will be of greatest importance in our waning years. That “Unicorn” is in the surf, it’s just out of reach unless we’re willing to believe and lunge forth toward it.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Jaree Donnelly

About the Poet:

Lucinda Marshall is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Inheritance Of Aging Self (Finishing Line Press,2021) and is available for purchase from Finishing Line Press, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Marshall is an award-winning artist and writer whose poetry has appeared in Global Poemics, Broadkill Review, Foliate Oak, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Poetica, among others, as well as in the anthologies “Poems in the Aftermath” (Indolent Books), “You Can Hear The Ocean” (Brighten Press), “Is It Hot In Here Or Is It Just Me?” (Beautiful Cadaver Project), and “We Will Not Be Silenced” (Indie Blu(e) Publishing). Her poetry has won awards from Waterline Writers, Third Wednesday, and Montgomery Magazine.

She lives in Maryland and is the Founder of both the DiVerse Gaithersburg (MD) Poetry Reading, the Gaithersburg (MD) Poetry Workshop, and has served as a volunteer mentor for the Gaithersburg Teen Writing Workshop, part of a program run by the Maryland Writers’ Association.