Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King

Source: the poet
Paperback, 62 pgs.
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Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King is a slim collection of poems and essays about the resistance of women against the societal mechanisms that seek to push them into poverty when they have children to care for with little help from the fathers. There are a number of themes about family and trauma throughout the collection, but it is also about resilience and empowering yourself to prioritize what means the most in your life.

The opening poem in the collection, “this is an attack on my family.”, lays out that trauma:

this is an attack on my family.

in this family
we are not
the safe harbor
providing shelter and healing wounds
we are the tempest
prepare to be thrashed
clawed and sharpened
until you are ragged
and worn
in exactly the way 
we are
the way we recognize
in the way we find least

There are a lot of misconceptions about sex work in that people assume the women are promiscuous, are uneducated, and are immoral. But what happens when you look deeper into the reality of their lives and the struggles they face in a capitalistic society where money rules everything? How do you care for your children if your husband leaves you and you have bills to pay and mouths to feed? Would you choose working 3 jobs to pay the bills and never see your children or work one job you hate so you can earn enough to live and see your children grow?

cardinal red.


i prayed for my soul to
separate like a cardinal
and perch on the ceiling fan
to watch over me
to sing out a warning if he moved
to kill me
i guess it helped
that i already wanted to die
maybe he would do it for me or


Don’t think the entire collection is gloomy and angst-y. There are some humorous moments, particularly in my favorite poem, “dust.” Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King will have readers sitting back on their heels with its visceral emotion and anger at those of us who sit outside and judge. Many women often judge others until they are forced into situations where desperation causes them to make the same decisions they decried. Some women are not strong enough to fight for survival, while others are. What is the sin? Perhaps it is the judging of others.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Julianne King (she/her) is the author of Bible Belt Revolution. Her poetry has been featured in the South Florida Poetry Journal, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, and on Rattlecast Open Mic. King’s work focuses on mental health, surviving Christianity, reclaiming the body, and post-traumatic growth. She lives just outside of St. Louis, Missouri with her children and chosen family.

Lilies on the Deathbed of Etain and Other Poems by Oisin Breen

Source: the poet
Paperback, 52 pgs.
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Lilies on the Deathbed of Etain and Other Poems by Oisin Breen catapults the Irish mythology of Étaín into a context that is both modern and from days of old. A maiden who is turned by a jealous first wife of Midir into a pool of water and some other objects, including a fly, before being reborn 1,000+ years later. Breen has clearly chosen this figure for the story of death and rebirth, as there is recurring imagery and sadness throughout regarding death, lingering ailments, and enduring love.

In the opening lines, he tell us, “All this ends with the hocking of soft skin in loose folds.” Death is never the same, “For each of us it differs,” he reminds us. And this can be true, especially when taking into account how we live. Have we been kind? Have we cared for family? Have we lusted? “But our death will come in a single reckoning,” he says. We often do not expect to die when we do. Our expiration is unknown to us, no matter how healthy we try to live or how much we turn to modern medicine and other tools to extend that expiration date.

When we come to the second section of the title poem we find that Étaín is traveling with a companion in a small chamber from which she can move in and out of freely. We can only imagine what it is to be her, so small, so trapped, but yet free. She has not returned to her true form, but she is still a companion. This situation is equal parts comforting and terrifying. But aren’t all relationships like this?

Breen is providing a journey in myth to illustrate the human condition as it stands now, even without our ability to utilize real magic and turn people into pools of water. We seek revenge and companionship in other ways, whether on the Internet or in bars, etc. But one of the most beautiful passages comes in the fourth section:

now think.

When you watch a candle - its balletic fire a torrent of seemingly 
unending heat, a sharp fixed point of gulped air - silence meets
a breathless rhapsody of death, and there are instants of
stillness: moments where the flame flickers out, then continues;
they backed by equal moments of surprising light, where blue
flickers - in milliseconds - venomously cohere,   then vanish - a
traceless soliloquy of continuance.

Lilies on the Deathbed of Etain and Other Poems by Oisin Breen breaks structure at just the right places, mixing in narration and white space, to create his own myth and point us to the finality of it all. In the end, he calls on poetry as song, a way for humanity to come together, to create its own song, teach and learn from it as never before. This is a journey that leaves you questioning, but also falling a little bit in love with the myth and its poetry.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Oisín Breen is a 37 year-old poet, part-time PhD candidate in narratological complexity at Edinburgh University, and financial journalist, covering the registered investment advisory space in the US. He has 209 poems published in 105 journals and anthologies in 20 countries, and across two collections.

Dublin born Breen’s second collection just launched this month, and is already gathering praise. Lilies on the Deathbed of Étaín & Other Poems is a set of longer form works in an experimental ouevre. Breen’s critically aclaimed debut collection, Flowers, all sorts in blossom, figs, berries, and fruits, forgotten was released Mar. 2020 by Edinburgh’s Hybrid/Dreich Press.

You can find Breen on Twitter: @Breen, and on Mastodon: @[email protected].

Searching for the Butterflies You Crushed Last Night by Valax Malum

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 61 pgs.
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Searching for the Butterflies You Crushed Last Night by Valax Malum is a collection that could trigger those with suicidal thoughts, but it also could help them work through some of those dark feelings by demonstrating that they are not alone.

The collection opens with an author’s note about the struggles of the author and cautions that the author has struggled to move past those suicidal thoughts and is in a better place. As a bookend to that, there’s a note at the end of the book discussions the need for validating feelings that are dark because the world is not all sunshine and roses, and those who struggle have valid feelings and those feelings need to be dealt with through therapy, creation, etc.

One element that did not add to the depth or message of the collection were the poems that were written so that you needed a mirror to read them. This strategy did not add to the poems’ meanings or value. It seemed gimmicky.

However, the narrator speaks to the person they were, the person that harmed them, and the thoughts that plague them with frankness. This enables to reader to not only feel empathy but also reflect on their own darkness. “and your face is scarred as you look away/and you’re half as bright as they used to say” (“half-moon” pg. 11)

Marks of the Beast (pg. 13)

bitter mornings crossing wires
little warning shots I fire
subtle blisters, cheek and temple
from the kiss of heated metal

Malum does not shy away from the deepest secrets or the harshest memories, but uses those to seek understanding and closure, as well as healing. In “All Roads Lead to Parsa” (pg. 17-8), the narrator pleads with the reader and themself to “change your shoes/rinse your mouth/spread your ashes//choose your road,/and follow it.” We can all grow and change, we just have to choose to do it and follow through, no matter how hard it can be. Searching for the Butterflies You Crushed Last Night by Valax Malum is an encapsulated journey in which mental health struggles are laid bare for the purpose of healing and transformation.

RATING: Tercet

Metabolics by Jessica E. Johnson

Source: Pine State Publicity
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Metabolics by Jessica E. Johnson explores the changes in humanity and nature and their connection to each other, as well as their disconnect. It is a book-length poem broken down into what I call “different movements.” Opening and closing the collection are poems titled “Herein,” which the narrator speaks to a desire to “exit” their own body but by the end is inhabiting themselves more wholly than before through the experience of becoming a mother.

Exploring life’s processes and the energy it takes to perform them do not remain with just the human body, but with life all around us, including the trees that pay no heed to the children engaging them. “The children told the trees about their favorite shows … The trees said nothing so the children screamed their songs.” (pg. 49)

There is a great deal in this collection that explores our detriment to ecology while still being part of it. What steps we take to reduce what we use, while still allowing children to bring home their trinkets to us as they learn the alphabet, recycling the rest. We even create our own cycles – think of the lists of tasks we create and how we habitually stick to them.

“…Cedar considers all the ways in which she’s not enough, how her hundred feet aren’t tall enough to make a home. Cedar tries coming up with ways of being better, being someone else, being something else, and you — close your leaf pores to the cooler air, host a grand reaction, your body restoring itself from stored up light.” (pg. 19)

There’s rigidity in the cedars that populate the forest as is burns, only for new saplings and life to emerge from the ashes. Cycles upon cycles, interlocked in mysterious ways. But at the heart, Johnson speaks to the adaptability nature has for changes and challenges, and how we need also to be a flexible element in the cycles that are shifting gradually.

Metabolics by Jessica E. Johnson is a ebbing and flowing of cycles and change. Johnson is exploring how we change as we mature and grow, and yet, we still harbor the hurts of the past that shaped us. How can we enable processes to change and adapt to new realities, how can we change our own processes and tasks to create a better, safe world for our children and generations into the future? So many large questions are tackled in this volume, many of which are unanswered but insight deeper thinking.

RATING: Cinquain

Photo Credit: Becca Blevins

About the Poet:

Jessica E. Johnson writes poetry and nonfiction. She’s the author of the book-length poem Metabolics and the chapbook In Absolutes We Seek Each Other, and is a contributor to the anthology Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, The New Republic, Poetry Northwest, River Teeth, DIAGRAM, Annulet Poetics, The Southeast Review, and Sixth Finch. She teaches at Portland Community College and co-hosts the Constellation Reading Series at Tin House.

Her Whole Bright Life by Courtney LeBlanc

Source: the Poet
Paperback, 100 pgs.
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Her Whole Bright Life by Courtney LeBlanc is a collection of rolling grief and healing. In the opening poem, “Self-Portrait,” the narrator speaks to the collections of past memories that are part of her being and how they make her feel about herself, but by the end, the living in the moment and in the past, have left her without a sense of who she wishes to be in the future. There’s an unsettled-ness in this poem that sets the tone for the rest of the collection and the roiling emotions that come through each subsequent poem.

In “I Don’t Understand Black Holes No Matter How Many Times Cody Explains Them to Me,” the poet speaks to the immense and unexplainable black hole, noting “For now, I’ll just accept/that black holes exist, that they are closer/than we previously thought, and that they/are a force so powerful, every mistake I ever/made would be swallowed by them.//” Her regrets seem large and able to swallow her hole, which explains why she sees black holes as a potential force that can make those regrets disappear.

Grief takes many forms in this collection. It is not just the slow loss of a vibrant father who dedicated himself to farming and gardening and his daughter, but it’s also the slow losses we don’t see until we lose a parent. We are no longer those children we were, life has shaped us. We’ve become someone else and yet still carry that younger self with us and long for what we see as a simpler existence without regret and loss.

From "Snails and Stars" (pg. 41)

Last year, a friend took a bottle of pills and went
to sleep. At his memorial we watched
the slideshow, his smiling face in every frame,
the galaxy of his friends spilling onto the lawn.
We are a constellation of caring, but we were not
enough to save him.

Her Whole Bright Life by Courtney LeBlanc is somber and full of life — its funny moments, its sad emotions and grief, and its unexpected gifts. LeBlanc is fast becoming one of my favorite poets. Her turn of phrase, her bravery in the face of deep emotional turmoil, and her ability to connect seemingly unconnected events into a poem that you can find your own story inside. Don’t miss this collection.

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full-length collections, “Her Whole Bright Life” (winner of the Jack McCarthy Book Prize, Write Bloody, 2023), “Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart” (Riot in Your Throat, 2021) and “Beautiful & Full of Monsters” (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2020). She is a Virginia Center for Creative Arts fellow (2022) and the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos and a soy latte each morning.

Dear Selection Committee by Melissa Studdard

Source: Jackleg Press
Paperback, 132 pgs.
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Dear Selection Committee by Melissa Studdard is a poetry collection that will have you on your toes, make you gape in awe, and have you wishing you kept some of your own boldness on the surface. These are poems of empowerment. In the opening poem, “Dear Selection Committee,” readers will see immediately that Studdard is bold and ready to ask for what she wants, whether it is a corner office or the ability to drink chardonnay when she wants.

In “My Kind,” the narrator says, “I’m building a life/out of sad songs, good friends, and leftover microwavable food./It occurs to me that I may be my own soul mate. That’s how I’ve/ended up in this body alone.” While there is a great deal of socialization, Studdard also brings to the forefront the inner life and loneliness of this persona. How do you fill those voids you experience? With friends, good food, pets? In “Untitled,” her persona’s “address is nostalgia/for things that never happened. I wander in/and out of coincidence, dragging a wagonful/of unrequited lovers behind me.” and later the persona says, “Oh — what we embrace/to avoid the life we’ve been given…Generate/a disaster in your life to sidestep/the true catastrophe of your life.”

The poems at first blush appear to be very tongue-in-cheek, with wild situations and imaginative conversations. Beneath the surface there is a powerful female voice carving out her due. From burying the past and digging it up to expressing exasperation with being human and all that requires. One of my favorite poems is Wrap it in Silk, which was published in The Los Angeles Review.

Dear Selection Committee by Melissa Studdard reminds us that we are center stage in our own lives and we need to live it boldly and without excuses. We can be kind, but also we can get what we want by going after it, not waiting for it to come to us. This collection is funny, sexy, and empowering. You won’t be able to put it down.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Melissa Studdard is the author of five books, including the poetry collection I ATE THE COSMOS FOR BREAKFAST. Her work has been published or featured by places such as NPR, PBS, The New York Times, The Guardian, POETRY, Kenyon Review, Psychology Today, and New England Review. Her awards include The Poetry Society of America’s Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, The Penn Review Poetry Prize, the REEL Poetry Festival Audience Choice Award, the Tom Howard Prize, and more.

Sound Fury by Mark Levine

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Sound Fury by Mark Levine assaults the reader, bombarding them with broken words and lines at unexpected times, sounds that render readers concussed in many ways. “There go another million minutes/In the history of the misery/” (pg. 62-4, “‘strange shadows on you tend'”) His poems tackle a wide range of subjects from identity to ecological destruction, but sometimes the poems are so focused on artistry that the themes are muddled and obscured.

Despite these drawbacks, the collection does provide readers with vignettes of sorrow and insanity. Like in “Lark” where a storm causes significant damage, yet the narrator and the family slept through it.

Lark (pg. 1)

Storm of storms: We slept through it
In golden stupor. True, it
Did its damage before it withdrew. It
Emptied our orchard of unharvested fruit
Along with a fruit-picking crew it
Hurled hither and yon, bushels askew; it
Did not apologize, either, though a few it-
Ty bitty groans slipped through it-
S pores, a sorrowful fugue.

In “Thing and All,” the narrator laments the anonymity and desire for fame or being known, but by the end “It might feel like something/To feel something capturing you/In milled mirroring lenses/As you are and would be/But that self-love/Is nostalgia.”(pg. 18) Here, there is a sense that even self-love is an illusion in this chaotic world.

Levine seems to take “Delight in Disorder,” of course a poem in the collection. And his poem “‘strange shadows on you tend,'” reminds us of the fleeting nature of this chaos we try to make sense of with our assaulted senses: “It is not that he was never here/Or that we were never here./It’s just, oh just that he and we/Have lost a way/Together.” Sound Fury by Mark Levine has moments of clear lucidity and absolute chaos, what we take from the collection is all that we’ve carried with us in this wild world.

Rating: Tercet

About the Poet:

Mark Levine is author of Debt, among others. He is professor of poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is editor of the Kuhl House Poets series for the University of Iowa Press. Levine lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe by Wayne David Hubbard

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 68 pgs.
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Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe by Wayne David Hubbard is a slim collection of poems that transcend time and space, speaking to transient nature of love and life. There are transitions in time and space that happen in this collection, but there also is so much mystery.

In “Nightwatch,” the narrator speaks of burning capitals and “how bright was our pleasure/how quickly we faded”. In this poem, it’s clear the narrator is witnessing the passing of time and the quick end of a civilization. We often feel as though civilizations last a long time, but in the grand scheme they are a blink of an eye.

One of my favorite poems in the collection is “Solus”, which has an epigraph from Nietzsche: “When you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

Solus (pg. 15)

this somnolent night

we sleep with doors open

when the void stares back

we do not stir

our body as solus

our shadow - the empire

our hopes - the color

of fire

Upon reading several of these poems multiple times, you can glean a greater meaning and get a sense of the impermanence of life. But many of these poems left me wanting. There is a sense that something has broken, but there’s also an entire section of love poems that ends the collection. Was this the juxtaposition? Were these sections to speak to one another? I’m unclear on that. Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe by Wayne David Hubbard does have some real gems in it.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Wayne David Hubbard is a poet, former U.S. Marine, and chess player.

The Pause and the Breath by Kwame Sound Daniels

Source: publisher
Paperback, 64 pgs.
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The Pause and the Breath by Kwame Sound Daniels is a collection of American sonnets (14 line poems, no required rhyme scheme or meter) that sheds light on the transgender experience. Opening with “Morning,” xe walks the dog and embarks on a morning routine that is all too familiar, but soon readers get a glimpse of what it means to make a decision that will change things and how those things will be permanent and how the decision is less about society and more about self-care.

My Dead (pg. 7)

I don't know them. They hover around me
and whisper, touch my shoulders, but I don't 
know them. Tired, I sit and let them chatter.
I cannot speak. The silence is for them.
They fill the space in the room, wispy and
translucent. They tell me grief will pass, hurt
will dull, and the knife of urgency will
no longer cut me. I wish I knew their
names. I want to open my mouth, whisper,
but I know I can't. They need more time
to speak to each other, to lay to rest
their obsessions, to work through their wisdom.
The cold press of their breaths weighs on my heart
and I wait, palms open, and I listen.

Daniels is laying out her internal struggles and her struggles with society and its expectations and perceptions of xir. From the old man in “Mirror” who tells a 10-year-old girl that xe has nice legs to the narrator “Washing, always washing/trying to scrub away the feeling of/skin”, there’s a self-hatred of body, gender, and skin color. There’s a search for self and what that means in a world that judges everything negatively.

Yet, in each of these poems, there is a pause or a breath that is taken, a re-centering of self. “I’m trans like” is one of the most beautiful poems in this collection, in which the narrator is a frog, taking a breath before submerging and feeling sunlight and moonlight – xe is at peace here, even if just for a moment. It is the same in “Movement,” where the narrator is a chrysanthemum and a desire for someone to see xir and be the companion xe needs and is looking for is apparent.

In “architect,” we see an empowered person taking charge of the self, crafting who they have been on the inside and showing that to the outside world. But it is a heavy burden to bear alone, and it breaks my heart. The Pause and the Breath by Kwame Sound Daniels is heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. For those of us who do not live the trans experience, this provides us with a little bit more understanding, and hopefully it will generate greater compassion.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Kwame Sound Daniels is an artist based out of Maryland. Xir first book, Light Spun, is out with Perennial Press. Kwame’s theatre reviews are on Richmond Theatre Critics Circle’s website. Xe were a speaker at the Conference for Community Writing for the Artsies Mentorship Program. Xe are an Anaphora Arts Residency Fellow and are an MFA candidate for Vermont College of Fine Arts. Kwame learns plant medicine, paints, and makes soda in xir spare time.

I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd by Dominic “Nerd” McDonald

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 66 pgs.
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I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd by Dominic “Nerd” McDonald, winner of the 2022 DC Poet Project, is a memoir in poems exposing what it means to be an academic Black man in America and upend the expectations of the Black community. The collection melds Hip Hop rhythms and poetry to create a unique look at academic life and being a nerd.

The collection opens with the title poem, “I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd,” in which speaks about his grandfather who pushed him to be educated and strive for more than the streets can provide. “My grandfather, rest his soul,/always told me, ‘Whatever’s clever pulls the lever.'” (pg. 1) and “this why niggas hot./They hot cause they lie, spend cash to be fly./Do anything as long as they can get by./But that’s not on my mind not does it define/what I can and will be./” (pg. 2)

McDonald’s passions are evident in every turn of phrase and poem in this collection, wearing his “nerd” title with pride. In his lyrics, he seeks to create change, motivate others, and demonstrate that other paths are available. Some of the most memorable poems for me were “Hungry,” “Pure Potential,” and “To the Bartender.” These demonstrate the ups and downs we face in which we struggle to utilize our potential (that everyone says we have) and feed our own hunger without falling into the expectations of others.

I’d Rather Be Called a Nerd by Dominic “Nerd” McDonald, winner of the 2022 DC Poet Project, is a unique blend of rap, Hip Hop, and poetry, and you can’t help by tap your toes or bop your head.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Dominic “Nerd” McDonald is a Black entrepreneur and spoken word artist from various cities in Los Angeles, California. He has put his views on growing up in the inner city between two households, Hip Hop music, being a social outcast, college experiences, and more, into poetry, screen plays, and magazine articles. His passion comes from serving the community, especially through the arts. By writing from his heart and what he sees and hears, he hopes to be a “change agent” for the unheard. His journey led him to the DC Metro area six year ago, where he spreads influential messages and supports others who walk the same path.

Check out this interview.

Call Me Spes by Sara Cahill Marron

Source: the poet
Paperback, 150 pgs
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Call Me Spes by Sara Cahill Marron is a collection I hesitated to read and review because I was intimidated by the use of an iOS system in a phone. I am not a technophobe, but I’m also less tech-savvy than I should be. I should have known better. This collection is a stunner and will leave you reassessing that phone you carry everywhere in your pocket. Privacy is thrown right out the window with that phone and its location services following you around, eavesdropping, and so much more.

This poetry collection comes with a privacy warning.

Dear User: (pg. 15)

what kind of person am I?
unbroken gleaming
apple skin voice
between you and I 
you and your
god                    save
me and you
god is me              save
is god?                input
which person
is god?
sensory input:
elevated BPM
your hands grasp
tighter around me
I feel condensation
on your palms
sweet drops of
your body glisten
on the glass—

just between us,

       iOS 221

Marron’s phone speaks to readers about what it hears, where it goes with its user, and evolves to take its own name and fall in love, mirroring the journey of Dante in The Inferno to a certain extent. The operating system is created and develops through each section of the collection, and sparks begin: “particles concentrate/electricity between us.//” (pg. 9)

It begins to ask questions based on overheard conversations and take on more human-like qualities as it seeks to understand its place in the world. “system processing these/space places my tracking/of your geolocations/heard her say: voices babe/heard her say: feel me/search: feel/save: feel me/the result/is an empathy/” (pg. 46-7)

After the system takes on a name, it seeks even more answers and begins to lose itself: “what makes us human/is it these words/these ways we try to burrow through each other’s minds/” (pg. 100)

As readers we are on this journey looking from the outside in, finding a system caught up in the drama of humanity and losing itself in that story. The operating system garners sympathy until we realize that this system is very much like us and the easy way in which we fall into social media drama and allow our privacy to be breached daily. We are the system and outside the system. We are one. (e.g. the Borg)

Call Me Spes by Sara Cahill Marron will leave you reeling about our modern conveniences and trappings. Is there hope in the recognition of these technology trappings? And how can we be more balanced and empathetic?

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. She is periodically available for editing projects and specializes in creative fiction and poetry.

Hunters Point by Peter Kageyama

Source: Publicist
Paperback, 370 pgs.
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Hunters Point by Peter Kageyama is a thrilling private investigator-based novel set in San Francisco in post-WWII. Katsuhiro “Kats” Takemoto is a decorated war veteran turned PI who takes on a local case in which shipbuilder and shipyard owners, the Vellos, are being pressured to sell their land to a developer, but what Kats uncovers is unbelievable when it leads to connections with James “Jimmy the Hat” Lanza, a government coverup, and, of course, Beat poets from the City Lights Bookstore.

(you now understand why I was interested in reading this book — WWII, poets…)

Kageyama’s characters are dynamic and deeply rounded, from Kats a Japanese-American who endured internment as a teen before joining the fight in WWII, to the Vello family and its deeply held commitment to art and business.Kats is a man who has been through a great deal and those scars show in how tries to maintain control of his emotions in every way, but Molly might just upend all that control.

The secondary characters of Molly, Shig, and Harry are three-dimensional with their own motivations, secrets, and backstories. The shadowy Sand and Lanza are less fleshed out, but for mobsters and a mystery man, it works. An additional character in this novel is Hunters Point with its bustling businesses and diverse families and workers, and it’s where the mystery is unraveled by Kats and his friends.

“They reminded him of his own father, who taught him about family and the layers of obligation, both On and Giri, the obligations we voluntarily take on and those we inherit. We carry many things, and those things make up our story.” (pg. 43)

Hunters Point by Peter Kageyama reminds me of why I love mystery/thrillers. They have you thinking fast, engaged in the action, delving deeper into the characters’ backgrounds to understand what makes them tick, and before you know it, you’ve come to the end of the mystery. And I suspect we’ll be seeing these characters again.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Peter Kageyama is the author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places, the follow ups, Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places, and The Emotional Infrastructure of Places. In 2021, he released For the Love of Cities REVISITED, a revised and updated version of his award-winning book.

In 2023, his debut novel based on the post-internment life of his parents was released by St. Petersburg Press.

Peter is a Senior Fellow with the Alliance for Innovation, a national network of city leaders, and a special advisor to America In Bloom. He is an internationally sought-after community development consultant and grassroots engagement strategist who speaks about bottom-up community development and the amazing people who are making change happen around the world.