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Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King

Source: Poet
Paperback, 40 pgs.
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Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a powerful chapbook that tackles fatherhood, family demons and traumas, and finds the bright light in the darkness. What King always does well in his verse is to find the hope even in the darkest moments.

In the opening poem, “In Your Dreams,” the young man is dodging not only physical blows from his father and trying to sway away from his emotional jabs. He reminds us that those traumas are the past and in our reliving of them, we can change the ending and manifest that in our own, true lives. King uses these boxing metaphors in a few of the poems and it serves as a way to remind us that life is not a straight line journey from point A to point B — there are a lot of curves and turns along the way.

When the chapbook shifts to his own journey as a father, the light of hope shines brightest. I absolutely loved “The Light Inside.” It’s such a beautiful poem in which the poet is watched as he contemplates “the country of fatherhood,/where experience alone won’t grant you citizenship.//” He’s folding onesies and waiting for his daughter to arrive where “Everything hangs, waiting for you to fill them/the way your mom and I waited for you//” and “patience is the currency/of anything worth having.//”

Parenthood is a tough state but absolutely worth it for those committed to doing it and nurturing young life. And yes, like King says, “parenting is like gardening.” But in that effort, we also have to tend to our own scars and past traumas so that they don’t poorly influence how we tend our own gardens. Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a love letter to his family, his children, and his own past, as he moves forward as a father and a more whole human being. Love and hope are in every corner of this collection, and there is a push for more out of life and a recognition of simplicity, beauty, and importance.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, who lives with his family in Bowie, MD. He writes about art and domestic issues on this blog. He’s a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal.

King is the author of POINT BLANK (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and DRIFT (Aquarius Press, 2012). King’s honors include fellowships from Cave (cah-veh) Canem (cah-nem) and Voices of Our Nations Arts (VONA) Foundation, three Pushcart Prize nominations as well as three nominations for Best of the Net selection.

He’s a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. His poems and short stories appear in various literary journals, magazines and are featured on public radio. Visit his website, Facebook, Twitter, and on YouTube.

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 101 pgs.
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Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc is a collection that will floor you with its emotional heights and its stunning imagery. The collection’s sections — “This Is What Women Do,” “All I’ve Swallowed,” “Mouthing Your Memory,” and “Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart” — tackle larger issues facing women today in not only patriarchal society but within our own strictures that we adopt to define who we are. I love that LeBlanc opens this collection with “Autobiography of Eve” because she sets readers up for a great unfolding, demonstrating how women have been conditioned into thinking one way about love, marriage, and how the world works, as well as our place in that world. “Now that the sticky juice/of knowledge ran freely down my chin/” — isn’t the truth always a little bit sticky?

I’m going to try not to gush about this collection, but there are so many poems I love from “We Carry” where women are burdened with keys and households as well as the comments of others, the groceries, the organization and schedules, and the weight of abuse when it happens to “Alternative Names for Woman” where LeBlanc begins with those harsh truths about what we earn, how we’re perceived by others, and what we could become despite those misconceptions and putdowns.

LeBlanc talks to the women who have held onto their trauma, to those who re-traumatize themselves, to those experiencing serious heartbreak, to those who feel lost and she holds out her hands to them, hoping they will take that leap of faith for themselves – to become their true selves in spite of it all. It’s hard work this transformation, but she shows you the way in her poems. The road will never be smooth, but in the end, it may be a journey worth taking to be free and to be your unapologetic self. From “Gasoline,” “I’m peeling/back my skin/revealing/the flint of a match/crawling through my blood/my bones/I’m ready/to burn/this fucking frat party/this America to the ground.//”

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc is an evolution of love and self. In her last poem, “Eventually Evolution,” she reminds us that change takes time, even if it seems like love can strike in a few seconds of meeting someone.

This is the second book I’ve read by LeBlanc and I have loved both of them.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat, July 2021),  Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, March 2020)The Violence Within (Flutter Press, 2018, currently out of print), and All in the Family (Bottlecap Press, 2016, currently out of print) , and a Pushcart Prize  and Best of the Net nominee. She has an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Visit her website, Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and her publishing house, Riot in Your Throat.

Other Reviews:

Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 228 pgs.
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Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun, is a bilingual collection of love poems in Spanish and English that touches the passionate hearts of us all. It is a love letter to lovers, friends, ourselves, and human kind. Amirthanayagam opens the collection with “On my Body,” exploring the weakness of the body to be fooled by love, whether that is the desire of the body to get close to another only to find out it is not love or a person who tattoos their body for love and be stuck with the reminder that it is a failed relationship. Love in this opening poem is both bliss and pain. How true that is.

I love that this collection is both in Spanish and English. It allowed me to reach back into my memory to find those Spanish words I recall from high school and attempt to live in the language Amirthanayagam wrote the poems in. While my translations did not always match what was written in the English poem, the feelings evoked by the poems were the same. The beauty of language is that it can transcend the barriers we have to create connections, much like love can connect us to one another.

There is a deep longing in Amirthanayagam’s poems. His poems are short but full of poetic longing – to embrace those who have moved, those who are no longer with us, the lovers we remember fondly despite the pain of those relationships ending, and even those we have yet to meet.

Keys (pg. 105)

I would have liked to have taught you
to drive, share the stage
when you presented your first book,

write its prologue. Your poems
accompany me to the rhythm of my pulse.
Cars will become more electric

and I will continue loving what
we could have accomplished
in that other time that was within

our reach and is still present,
an open-ended invitation,
the car ready to start.
Llaves (pg. 104)

Me hubiese gustado enseñarte
a manejar, compartir la mesa
cuando presentabas tu primer libro,

escribir el prólogo. Tus poemas
me acompañan al ritmo de mi pulso;
los autos se volverán más eléctricos

y seguiré amando lo que
podríamos haber logrado
en aquel otro tiempo que estaba

a nuestro alcance y sigue presente,
una invitación sin fecha de caducidad,
el auto listo para encenderse.

In “Between Google and Face, a Letter,” Amirthanayagam speaks to the digital distance many of us face now, making love or the cultivation of love more difficult. “Now when I surf the internet/I see that face like a country/behind the Iron Curtain/that’s now rather digital,//bytes of ones, zeroes and light blocking/Cyrano from his beloved. Who will become/his postman and who will make peace”

One of my favorite poems in the collection comes in the back third, “Sustainable Love,” where the longing is ever present from the man who will not cry for his love or clean the office or check the email hoping for messages, as the oceans continue to erode the shore and the man has little choice but to get back to life and his work. “To Wake Up with Moon and Sea” also explores this longing, but instead of another person, there’s a longing for a home country left behind.

Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun, pays homage to love’s beauty, its heartbreak, its longing, and its desire. Fall through Amirthanayagam’s ventana azul and revel in the beauty of love. A collection you’ll turn to in times of sadness and in celebration.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Indran Amirthanayagam is a Sri Lankan-American poet- diplomat, essayist, translator and musician in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. A member of the U.S. Foreign Service, he is currently oa a domestic assignment in Washington D.C. Amirthanayagam has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), when he was eight years old Amirthanayagam moved with his family to London, England, and at age 14, he moved again to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he began writing poetry. He studied at Punahou School in Honolulu and played cricket at the Honolulu Cricket Club. He then studied English Literature at Haverford College where he also captained their cricket team during his last year. He has a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. Amirthanayagam writes poetry and essays in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. His Spanish collections include Lírica a tiempo (Mesa Redonda Editorial, Lima, 2020), En busca de posada (Editorial Apogeo Lima 2019), El Infierno de los Pájaros (Resistencia, Mexico City, 2001), El Hombre que Recoge Nidos (CONARTE/Resistencia, Mexico, 2005), Sol Camuflado (Lustra Editores, Lima, May 2011), Sin Adorno, lírica para tiempos neobarrocos (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Mexico, 2013), and Ventana Azul (El Tapiz del Unicornio, Mexico, 2016). His first collection in French, Aller-retour au bord de la mer, was published in 2014 by Legs Editions. Legs also published Il n’est de solitude que l’ile lointaine in 2017. Sur l’île nostalgique was published by L’Harmattan in Paris in 2020. His works in English include BLUE WINDOW (VENTANA AZUL) (DIALOGOS/Lavender Ink, 2021), THE MIGRANT STATES (Hanging Loose Press, 2020), UNCIVIL WAR (Mawenzi House/TSAR Publishers, 2013), THE SPLINTERED FACE: TSUNAMI POEMS (HAnging Loose Press, 2008), and THE ELEPHANTS OF RECKONING (Hanging Loose Press, 1993). Check out The Poetry Channel he runs.

Dialogues With Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon

Source: the poet
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Dialogues With Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon is a phenomenal collection and likely one of the best I’ve read this year. You probably won’t read on if that’s all you wanted to know, but please take the time to explore this amazing book with me.

I love that each section of this collection has calls to the sea from “cross rip” to “breaksea.” The opening poem, “Hunger,” calls to the changing tides with “We are all trying to change/what we fear into something beautiful.” There are so many things to fear in the world from the political climate to the climate’s rapid heating and change and the breakdown of society. How do we change our hunger into something beautiful? Agodon further explores this tension in “String Theory Relationships” in which she tells us what we all know — “everyone wants a window or aisle seat and no one wants to sit//in the middle. Call it deniability. Call it the flashlight you keep/by the door never works in emergencies. We are all connected//

Magpies Recognize Themselves in the Mirror (pg. 8)

The evening sounds like a murder
of magpies and we’re replacing our cabinet knobs
because we can’t change the world but we can
change our hardware. America breaks my heart
some days and some days it breaks itself in two.
I watched a woman have a breakdown
in the mall today, and when the security guard
tried to help her, what I felt was all of us
peeking from her purse as she threw it
across the floor into Forever 21. And yes,
the walls felt like another way to hold us
and when she finally stopped crying
I heard her say to the fluorescent lighting,
Some days the sky is too bright. And like that
we were her flock in our black coats
and white sweaters, some of us reaching
our wings to her and some of us flying away.

If this poem doesn’t scream America and humanity, I don’t know what does. There are all of us who watch and those of us who act, and those of us who fly away from pain, emergencies, and the struggle. But part of this stems from the fact that we cannot plan for the apocalypse, as Agodon so aptly notes comes to the party “uninvited with a half-eaten bag of chips.” (“I Don’t Own Anxiety, But I Borrow It Regularly”). These are all in the first section of the collection, and you’ll be floored by not only her imagery but her keen observation of human reactions.

Another powerful poem, “How Damage Can Lead to Poetry,” in this collection tackles a family history of suicide. “Damage creates the thought/of brokenness: my ocean never has enough/songbirds, my life never has enough//song. It’s morning and there’s a whisper in my family/history—I know the suicides, the stories/of strange deaths: brother choking/on a balloon, sister tripping on the church steps/and hitting her head so perfectly//her arteries became a celebration. Bastille Day, New Year’s Eve. And she was. And he was. Gone.//” (pg. 16) Agodon also tackles bigger questions like why we choose to kill what we do, whether that’s an animal, a person, a relationship, her lines boil it down to fear. Because as she says in “Hold Still” she would not kill a butterfly for a million dollars, but “things that frighten us/are easier to kill.”

Dialogues With Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon asks us to look closer at our own actions and reactions to buck social norms, like keeping our emotions tight to our chests, and reach out more often to those around us. We are all connected, we are all affected by the “rising tides,” and we all could use a little more understanding and love, including love of ourselves. This is a must-have collection.

Also, read “Queen Me” in The Los Angeles Review.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, editor, book designer, and co-founder of Two Sylvias Press, living in the Seattle area. Her collection of poems Hourglass Museum was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and was shortlisted for the Julie Suk Award honoring the best book of poems published by a small press. She is also author of the bestselling The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice, which she co-authored with Martha Silano. She was the winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award in poetry, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, New England Review, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is a co-director of Poets on the Coast, a writing retreat for women. Visit her website.

The Collectors by Alice Feagan

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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The Collectors by Alice Feagan is a delightful book about young naturalist explorers seeking the unique and extraordinary things in the forest for their collection inside a tree house. Winslow and Rosie are two young girls who love to explore and be outside. Winslow’s adventurous spirit is coupled with Rosie’s unique ability to describe and draw each forest find in her field journal.

The illustrations in the book are simple and focus on the girls as they take to the forest in search of their last greatest find. I do wish the colors were less muted. We loved looking through their treehouse collection of shells, butterflies, leaves and plants, and bugs. It is a vast collection — they need a ladder to reach the top shelves. My daughter took this book to her room, just to look at the pictures, and while it was published in May, she’s had a long time to linger over these images.

I love that Feagan is encouraging kids to explore the natural world, though my daughter’s first question is where are the parents. They should be watching their kids, especially since they explore so far from the treehouse. She was clearly worried for them. I told her it is fiction and you just have to imagine a world in which these girls know what to do and how to get home – I mean they do pack a compass, a field map, collection jars, and trowels, etc. in their backpack. These are young archaeologists in the making.

The Collectors by Alice Feagan was a fun adventure that shows kids that nature is something to be explored but also something to be cautious of, esp. when they encounter a not-too-happy bear. What these girls learn is that sometimes the extraordinary is not always far from home. Really enjoyable adventure for kids age 5-8.

RATING: Quatrain

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth

Source: the poet
Hardcover, 68 pgs.
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Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth is a collection with big aspirations, exploring where creativity comes from and how it evolves. It also pays homage to several important people in his life. The collection is laid out in chapters, not sections, much like a memoir would be. One drawback for me was the prologues of each section and the explanation of the poems in the sections; those would have worked better at the end. I prefer to read and reread poems to sit with them, suss out meaning, absorb the feelings they generate.

From Mom

...
Sometimes it's easier to step back and be right here
On the sidewalk
From Stronger

...
In the moment, it's not about the moment
Ghostly priors, messy entanglements
Hanging like links of a heavy chain

There are moments in the collection where the reader will be beside the poet and looking at their own life and the past that haunts them. These poems aim to provide a look at how those pasts can shape us but also at how we have to let them go. There are strong moments in many of these poems, but if the aim is to explore creativity, the strongest poem in the collection is “Framework.” Imagine a blank sheet of paper with a red dot: “I hold the framework in my hands/The framework embraces me in return/It is a portal to other lands/”

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth is a debut collection with big ambitions that fall a little short, but if the poet’s explanations and prologues were kept out of the collection or to the end of the book, the poems could have stood on their own. Some poems need to be refined. Rhyming poems are generally not something I enjoy, but in this case, Hudspeth does an admirable job. If you’re looking for a collection with heart, Hudspeth opens his to you.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Lee Hudspeth is an award-winning author and poet, musician, and fellow human being. Incandescent Visions is his first book of poetry. He is the co-author of ten nonfiction books in the field of Information Technology. He has written articles for professional journals like PC Computing and Office Computing. He is the author of over one hundred articles in the online magazine The Naked PC, which he co-founded and co-published. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two sons, and their cat. Find out more about Lee, his books, and his music at LeeHudspeth.com.

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry, illustrated by Finn Dean

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 96 pgs.
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The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry, illustrated by Finn Dean, and being published in September and is certified as climate neutral and FSC certified, is full of history and insight into the differences between labyrinths and mazes, includes fun experiments and exercises, and is beautifully illustrated. The first section explains both and their differences and offers a fun psychological experiment with a spiral. It’s a fun activity for the kids and parents.

In the second section, the book explores Labyrinths in history and myths. You can picture the Minotaur, can’t you? From Egypt to Europe and Asia, labyrinths have fascinated many cultures and have been used for different reasons. Some have been uncovered by archaeologists, while others are still a mystery and may not have existed at all. Kids will love the sample mazes and labyrinths in this section and be eager to try them out.

In the third section, the author explores mazes all over the world. Rulers often built mazes out of hedgerows as a form of entertainment for guests. The author elaborates more on the features of mazes. Throughout every section of the book, the author connects the love of mazes and labyrinths to the often winding journeys of our lives, and our need for patience to make enjoy the journey and take it one day at a time.

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry, illustrated by Finn Dean, is a delightful read that has a good deal of history, mystery, and fun activities for kids and parents. The illustrations are detailed and each page has tips and fun facts. There are instructions in how to draw your own maze, which is also a fascinating experiment for both parents and their kids. I see challenges in the future where we create mazes for each other. In the back of the book, there are a list of corn mazes and other ways to find modern mazes in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

RATING: Cinquain

The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 14 pgs.
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The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt, which publishes in early September, is a great introductory book for elementary school kids to learn about tornadoes, storms, drought, and more. Earthquakes are not touched on, but the author does speak to the benefits of storms and the destruction they can cause. Moreover, the pop-up storms are larger than life and well executed. The book opens and closes easily without any snags.

Younger kids may need help pronouncing some of the terms, but the explanations are on the right level for kids to understand. Older elementary kids will grasp these concepts more easily as they begin to study Earth science in school. This would make a great addition to any teacher’s library to provide students with visual representations. The author does make the push for a move toward renewable energy and more sustainable agriculture, but it isn’t overly preachy.

The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt is definitely a good starter book for kids to learn about their environment, natural disasters, energy use, and agriculture. Weather can be something that seems not only destructive but also magical, if you understand it.

Rating: Quatrain

Until the Right One Comes Along by Chris Haley

Source: Poet
ebook, 90 pgs.
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Until the Right One Comes Along by Chris Haley is a highly emotional poetry collection about the search for the right partner. With moments of shallow assessment of other men, Haley’s narrator turns those observations on himself and finds his own appearance lacking. At more than one moment in the collection, the narrator considers himself unworthy of love and unattractive.

“When living is the dynamic you question daily”

“And for so many years I had thought I was not much to look at
Not much to glance Or stare at…

This is less a poetic collection and more of a memoir about the struggle of finding love in a world where instant gratification is prized over longevity and loyalty. He uses prose poems and rhyming verse, though the rhyming verse worked less well when I read it. The prose poems were the stand outs in this collection.

This is journey to find love is full of ups and downs, meeting someone who is the right fit but at the wrong time because you don’t love yourself enough. Meeting many wrong men to find that they only want a one-night stand.

Until the Right One Comes Along by Chris Haley explores the harsh realities of looking for companionship and love in today’s world as a LGBTQ+ person, which makes it doubly hard. It’s an emotional roller coaster, but ultimately, the message is you must first believe you are worthy of love in order to find it.

Rating: Tercet

Where the Wolf by Sally Rosen Kindred

Source: the poet
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Where the Wolf by Sally Rosen Kindred has a Grimm’s fairy tale feel in which the wolf features prominently, looming over each poem and jumping in unexpectedly. In “First Night,” the wolf can only find the narrator and her family because of the dark, a darkness caused by deep despair, desperation, and the over consumption of alcohol. It is clear that the relationship between the narrator and her mother is broken and by the time the book ends it cannot be repaired as her mother is deep in Alzheimer’s.

Although there is darkness in this collection, it is an exploration of what connects us to our family despite those secrets and dark moments. In “Is She,” “You think this is a poem where the wolf./The forest, after all, is a sleeve of glass daggers./You: the girl. Cold throat, wet shoes./Wolf is the ghost of a hurt remembering itself. Is She. You can hear Her between the trees./” (pg. 10) Readers will fall into the forest with the wolf as she stalks the past, looking for answers that don’t materialize. It’s more about the journey and accepting the past for what it is, how it shapes you, and how you move into the future with it.

The Grief Dress (pg. 38)

....
Could I have asked

for mercy then, forgiveness, could I have
unfastened the buttons of my breath?
....

Isn’t this what happens when we finally learn to let go of grief, loss, and pain? We unbutton ourselves, give ourselves permission to breath again and release all of that pressure inside us. Kindred takes us and herself on a journey through the dark forest and some of her darkest dreams to release the pressure she’s been carrying. Where the Wolf by Sally Rosen Kindred is harrowing in its exploration of memory, grief, and the passage of time, but it is redemptive in that it allows readers to see the poet make peace with the past.

RATING: Quatrain

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs

Source: the poet
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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***full disclosure: Jeanne and I have been poetry blog buddies for a long time.***

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs is a travel story in verse, a journey of self-discovery, reflection, and enjoyment. It was no surprise to me that her collection begins with a quote from “Ulysses.”

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move."

This is the perfect quote for this collection. It is a movement to places, while at the same time a separation from those places and experiences into a moment of now, which is fleeting and yet becomes part of not only the reader but the poet herself. I loved that each page resembles a postcard back with a name and location, and the poem on the opposite side, providing the reader with a person that the poem is speaking to (not just the reader). This dialogue makes each poem unique. I would loved to have seen the actual images of each postcard, though Griggs does provide enough description in her poems to put you there, holding that card as she writes her short missives.

From "Postcard with a piece of the Berlin Wall" (pg. 7)

...I received
a broken-off piece from
the Berlin wall, the world was
Safe, we could retire
in the countryside.
Now our kids have moved
away but we're still here
where our neighbors just
voted to build a border wall.

Griggs is candid and uses her wry humor to highlight the ironies of our world. An America a little less concerned with freedom and more consumed by fears. While some of her poems speak about the wider world, they are often grounded in the locality where she is. These poems also examine what it means to grow into adulthood and to age beyond where we believe ourselves to be mentally. From “postcard of Niagara Falls,” “I missed you,/….wishing I could watch you/see this, wondering if I left/you alone too much, pursuing/your own course around/me,…/” (pg. 34)

There are so many good poems in this collection it is hard to pick a favorite, but for fellow bibliophiles, “postcard from Cape Cod” (pg. 38) will speak to you:

we could live like in the books,
without any of the fuss
of having to sustain anything
except ourselves, making meals
of little dishes on trays,
the wine we brought poured
into an endless line of glasses.

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs is a delight to read. These are poems I will read again at the beach or on a vacation (should I ever take one again). There is so much light in these poems. It made my spirit lighter as I read them. We all need that these days.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Jeanne Griggs is a reader, writer, traveler, and ailurophile. She directs the writing center at Kenyon College, plays violin in the Knox County Symphony, and reviews books at Necromancy Never Pays.

When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer

In simplified terms, symptoms of endometriosis may include: excessive menstrual cramps, abnormal, or heavy menstrual flow and pain during intercourse.

Endometriosis affects an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 40. Go here for more information on Endometriosis.

Source: the poet
Paperback, 118 pgs.
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When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer is a collection that will open your eyes to what it is like to be chronically ill and to struggle to find not only a diagnosis and treatment but also acceptance among friends, family, and loved ones when you cannot even get out of bed some days. This collection also includes some information about online support groups and places to seek out information on this baffling ailment that can sometimes take more than a decade to diagnose.

From "2020" (pg. 2)

But all the laughter
Has been compressed out of me

Chronic illness can be debilitating, so much so that Bowyer says, “It’s like once I was done healing/I ceased to be.” (pg. 4) Bowyer not only tackles the exhaustion and pain of the disease in their poems, they also tackle misconceptions about endometriosis in “Dirty Girls’ Disease.” Readers can expect to take an emotional roller coaster ride with Bowyer, who speaks in verse about their experiences, emotions, and emptiness of battling the disease alone.

From an untitled poem (pg. 24)

I am a kitchen
Without plates,
Pots,
Pans.
I can burn
Pain into
My skin
On the burners;
I can gut myself
With utensils
That seem to serve
No other purpose.
What is the point
Of a kitchen
When my home
Has been destroyed?
Pain Erases People (pg. 51)

There are versions
Of myself
I will never recover,
Stolen by moments
I will forever remember.

This collection will shed light on an illness not many people know about and even fewer understand. This collection spoke to me among the many pitches because it is something a family member has dealt with and others have dealt with in the past. While I do not have it myself, it was important to me to learn more about how this illness affects others, especially those in my family. When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer can provide others with greater empathy and provide a cathartic experience for those with the disease, demonstrating that they are not alone in this battle.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Maggie Bowyer (they/them/theirs) is a poet and the author of The Whole Story (Margaret Bowyer, 2020) and When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis (2021). They are a blogger and essayist with a focus on Endometriosis and chronic pain. They have been featured in Germ Magazine, Detour Ahead, Poetry 365, and others. They were the Editor-in-Chief of The Lariat Newspaper, a quarter-finalist in Brave New Voices 2016, and were a Marilyn Miller Poet Laureate. Visit their website.