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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.

Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals Shells

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
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Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals Shells from National Geographic Kids is another stunning book from this publisher. The full-color pictures, the facts throughout the book, and just how the book is put together is fantastic. For kids who are curious about the world around them and pick up rocks and stick them in their pockets as they walk through the park, this is a book for them. This book will open their eyes to the wonderful world of rocks, minerals, and shells.

The introduction gives parents some basic information about how the book rolls out its information, from fact boxes to interactive questions for the kids and the parent tips at the back of the book. This book offers parents a starting point for exploring the natural world with their kids and rekindling some of the curiosity they once had as children. I remember taking earth science in school, but this rock cycle graphic is a great refresher about how all rocks can come full circle.

In addition to pictures of mountains and natural formations that are comprised of rock, the book points to man-made structures that use different types of rock. Kids will learn about rocks in their own backyards, as well as rocks they don’t see every day. I learned about rock that floats like an island in the South Pacific. The interactive map of rocks in different locations is a fun matching quiz for parents and kids alike.

Kids also will learn about shells and mollusks and turtles and so much more. Don’t forget about the minerals. We love discovering new minerals and the matching game where kids are asked to match minerals like topaz with their natural forms, rather than their refined gem looks.

My daughter has collected rocks for as long as I can remember and when we visited Myrtle Beach she started collecting shells. This book has so much information, you may get overloaded if you read it in one day, but as a resource you can come back to again and again, it is a gem of a book. We’re always amazed by how National Geographic Kids puts its informational books together and makes them interactive, and Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals Shells is no exception.

RATING: Cinquain

Go Wild! Sea Turtles by Jill Esbaum

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Go Wild! Sea Turtles by Jill Esbaum from National Geographic Kids offers a look at the sea habitats of sea turtles, including the leatherback, green turtle, hawksbill, and more. Like Go Wild! Pandas, this books includes vibrant photographs and a ton of facts about turtles. There is so much variety in these turtles and what they eat and where they live. The book opens with a beautiful photograph of a sea turtle gliding through the water and a child-like poem about turtles, the reptiles of the world’s oceans.

Turtles live in so many oceans around the world, except the Arctic. The book talks about the turtles’ anatomy, and you learn about how the leatherback doesn’t have a traditional shell and that sea turtles cannot retract their head and legs inside their shells like land turtles can. We learn about how vulnerable these animals are to our own trash, which are dumped in the oceans, as well as how we can help turtles recover and thrive by protecting their habitats and dimming city lights so the babies can find the sea. There are simple things each of us can do, including take a few hours to clean up our own waterways and beaches.

Go Wild! Sea Turtles by Jill Esbaum has a great deal of information about habitats, eating habits, dangers, and human interventions. Like the other book reviewed this week, this one offers tips for parents on how to engage their children in learning more about turtles from writing stories to holding plays. It also has a few games for kids so they understand what they’ve read. Definitely a book you’ll want for your little naturalist.

RATING: Cinquain

Go Wild! Pandas by Margie Markarian

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Go Wild! Pandas by Margie Markarian from National Geographic Kids is chock full of panda facts and vibrant photographs. Kids will open the book to find a panda hugging a tree, but when they turn the page, they’ll be greeted by the smiling panda face and a riddle. Kids will be learning in a fun and interactive way with this book.

We loved all of the facts, the pictures, the riddles, the quiz at the end, and the call to action on how kids and parents can help pandas. Pandas, as many know, are endangered and most of that is because their habitat is disappearing. There are also tips on how to engage your children in learning about pandas beyond reading the book. Some of the ideas include adopting a panda online, doing some math about how much pandas eat vs. how much the child eats, and putting on plays about pandas. The book also contains a glossary for words in the book from “habitat” to “reserve.”

Go Wild! Pandas by Margie Markarian is a great starting point for young readers interested in the natural world. From its interactive quizzes and riddles to its plethora of facts and photos, National Geographic Kids has created a book that can create a lifelong learner and spur kids to explore the world beyond the page.

RATING: Cinquain

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss (giveaway)

Source: Graywolf Press
Paperback, 152 pgs.
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Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a collection that, at times, tried my patience with its contradictions. But isn’t that what life is — a bucket of contradictions? She says in one of her opening sonnets: “The problem with sweetness is death. The problem/with everything is death. There really is no other problem/” Death is a final stop, and it toys with many of us, taking our friends or family too soon, putting us in situations where death could take us but doesn’t, and it looms in the close distance for us to get there.

Seuss pulls no punches in this collection and remains forthright in her depictions of giving birth, aging, abortion, abandonment by a drug-addicted son, and so much more. Aging is a central theme, even when she speaks of her childhood self. Poetic subjects waste away with AIDS, fade into the distance of space or recollection, or remain behind the larger death that pierces the happiness or contentment she seeks. She explores the falseness of faith in Catholicism, the nationalistic scourge that America finds itself consumed by, and the undercurrent of poverty and it’s traumatic scars. She sees the “undershirt” of it all.

“We all have our trauma nadir,” is the sonnet that guts us. We are her and she us. We all have trauma; we are told to lock it away (get over it); but what place is big enough to hold all of that trauma away so that it will no longer affect us? She adds in a later sonnet, “I can’t live up to normal.” Isn’t normal a fallacy? What exactly is normal and how can you be expected to achieve it when no one knows what it is? Despite these dark topics, it is clear that to live is to live with “sharp things.” Without these traumas and disappointments, where would we be?

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a winding trail of darkness that teaches readers about the beauty in that darkness. It is an exercise in owning our own disappointments and traumas and learning how to let them go and move forward with our lives. It is a tough medicine to take, but Seuss is confident that we can take it or nearly die trying.

RATING: Quatrain

To Enter the giveaway: Leave a comment with your email address by June 30. Must be age 18+ and have a U.S. postal address.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut & Giveaway

Source: Author/Publisher
Paperback, 34 pgs.
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(full disclosure: Kristin Ferragut is part of my poetry workshop and I was part of a workshop that helped her hone this story)

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, uses fairy tale-like elements to explain transgender to younger children. It’s an introductory story to help start conversations with kids about large themes, but at it’s core, this is a story about feeling comfortable in your own skin, loving yourself, and finding acceptance and love in your own family and friends.

The Wizard and their children, the Knight and the Dragon, are getting ready to trick-or-treat. When kids and their parents meet the Wizard and their family, they see a loving family eager to celebrate Halloween together. But kids will hear that the Wizard has an unspoken desire. With a quick costume change, the Wizard and their children are out the door. They are laughing and playing and magical things happen.

The streets may be crowded, but they are having a great time together, especially the Wizard. They receive compliments from strangers about their well behaved children, but many of them mistake the Wizard for a mom. Ferragut has created a magical way in which a transgender person finds not only their identity but peace in their own skin.

The illustrations by Ferragut’s daughter are colorful and expressive. The smile on the Wizard will make children smile. It just exudes such happiness. The final scene in the book is beautifully rendered. I look forward to more of her work.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, establishes a starting point for conversations about transgender and finding the home in your own skin and family. It will enable parents to talk to their children openly about their own identities.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut is the author of the poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021). She teaches, writes songs, poetry and prose, hikes, and participates in readings and workshops in Maryland, where she lives with her two creative, lively, and supportive children. Her work has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Fledgling Rag, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. For more information, visit her website: www.kristinskiferragut.com

About the Illustrator:

Coley Dolmance Ferragut is an animator, digital artist, and actor who investigates themes of class and social justice in her work. A high school senior, this is Coley’s first published book.

GIVEAWAY:

1 copy of Becoming the Enchantress to 1 U.S. reader.

Deadline to enter is June 15, 2021.

Leave a comment with your email so I can contact you if you’re the winner.

love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley

Source: GBF
Paperback, 68 pgs.
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love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley is like a letter to her children and the family who have passed on too soon. These poems weave through the grief and out of it, plunge into it, and emerge from it, but at the root of that grief is love. The poems are like stories told through a lens of motherhood.

From "untitled mom" (pg. 26)

I almost facetimed you this morning
I'd cut my hair to donate it...

but then I remembered
and sobbed

We can experience that grief because we have felt it. The time you forget your friend is no longer here to reach out to, even if you haven’t spoken in many years or the mother you feel with you even though she has passed away. There are other days in grief that we feel ourselves falling into darkness, a darkness we know will be hard to get out of once we’re down there. And mothers also know that they cannot be in that dark place too long when they have children to care for. Bradley takes us on this journey acknowledging the struggle and the sorrow, but also the love and the unexpected joys.

Sunfall (pg. 18)

sunfall
snowfall
moonfall

don't fall

love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley is a very intimate collection of poems, mirroring a memoir. For me, the collection was more like reading an diary of moments, but the poems seemed rough or unfinished in some places. In others, I felt the poems resembled those that are popular on Instagram these days. While these poems were less polished, they do provide a look at the roller-coaster of grief.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Kelly Bradley is a tech writer and Sr. Product Manager in the Washington DC area where she writes stories and creates apps based on data. She wrote her first poem in Second grade, a requiem to her cat, Petey. Her first collection, “love, loss and the enormity of it all” addresses themes of grief, joy, love, heartbreak and perseverance. When not working or writing poetry, Kelly writes songs and rap lyrics, dances to electronic dance music, and hikes year-round with her dog, Winter.

Tidal Wave by Kofi Antwi

Source: GBF
Paperback, 18 pgs.
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Tidal Wave by Kofi Antwi is a slim chapbook that explores themes of identity and the drowned out voices of society. The art work is superb — the cover itself speaks to the power of words in this collection as they rise like a tidal wave.

The opening poem “Out of the Wreckage” sets the stage of loss, with a brother gone and “a belated shower/of roses” — signifying a posthumous recognition of a wrong done to the departed, but it comes too little too late. It mirrors the recent reactions of society when racially charged killings by police occur against Black men across America and as a society we only rise up after the fact before the anger/rage fades and little is done to correct the system.

 from "Sundays" (pg. 6)

the harbor is burdened land, tampered
sea - a ripple in the
current halts it's viability.

at bay we, mourn our past, balance
tomorrow's deficiencies,
dashes of mint dove

Antwi’s poems are mournful but full of hope, a dichotomy that mirrors the society that welcomes all to be free without actual freedom to be themselves. We are burdened by the past and mourn it, but we continue to move forward to balance the good with the bad. However, some of these poems feel rough and unfinished, like there’s something hidden beneath the emptiness and the words chosen haven’t carried the full meaning the poet wishes to convey. This could be intentional, but it didn’t work for me in many instances.

But the strongest poems in the chapbook come at the end from “all hail the city of doom” and “tidal wave” to “birth into a nation” and “recollections of the Gold Coast.” This is where Tidal Wave by Kofi Antwi shines in its analysis of what it means to be an American immigrant full of hope but stepped on and cast aside as a silent minority while chasing an American dream.

RATING: Tercet

Made of Air by Naomi Thiers

Source: GBF
Paperback, 58 pgs.
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Made of Air by Naomi Thiers pays homage to the courage of the feminine — from the woman who’s daughter is disappeared in “Lions” to the woman in “A Kind of Prayer” who hopes her poetry will help tell her intricate story.  In “All or None,” Thiers speaks of Carolyn whose “rays of joy” refused “to leave anyone in shadow.” Each of these women seem to be like the air around us, lifting up others, struggling to survive, pushing back against the heaviest burdens and losses. Their spines may bend from time to time under the weight but there is an internal courage that lifts them higher.

Fear is in your bread
an you must choke it down.
(from "Refugee, 15")
snatched a Sun Chips
and whirled back to her perch,
one crossed leg
bouncing.
Her eyes never lifted.
(from "Feral")

These two poems provide different perspectives on survival. Both are eating with the fear of starvation at their backs, but while the refugee seems to have hope on the horizon despite fleeing the home they know, the feral girl has closed her off to possibility. Thiers work is as complex and as simple as the lives lived around the globe, with the common threads of courage, grief, and perseverance threaded throughout.

Made of Air by Naomi Thiers reminds us that our lives are briefer than we think but as we age, the realization comes more quickly that our time is fleeting. Our mark is made on those lives we touch, the courage we muster when needed, and the love we share together. “The sky and seasons inch the same as in 1976,/as if I’ve stood still while decades slid past,//and I savor the sense of timelessness,/this gem I never knew hid inside my bumpy life./For I feel my own 16-year-old inside, humming/eager, terrified–real as the slow/rain of wild and gentle losses.//” (“The Pearl”).

RATING: Cinquain

Check out her appearance with Jane Schapiro and Miles David Moore at Gaithersburg Book Festival:

Man on Terrace with Wine by Miles David Moore

Source: GBF
Paperback, 90 pgs.
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Man on Terrace with Wine by Miles David Moore reads like the title sounds — a selection of poetic ruminations on life. But these poems are never far from humor or pop culture. Moore has several poems that will make readers stop for a moment to consider — what would it be like if Elvis were in heaven and Hitler was in hell? There are complex emotions explored and the section titles should give you some inclination of what is on the mind of the man sitting on that terrace with win — “It Serves You Right,” “There’s No Crying in Baseball,” and “To Live Completely and a Thousandfold.”

In the first section, Moore’s poems reflect on the idea of “perception,” like what we perceive to be true. A prime example of this is in “A Taste to Die For,” after a quote about Americans’ love for soda and Afghanis love for death. The poem deftly points out, “The man who took aim at you thinks he knows/the things he loves, and the things you love.//” But reading to the end of the poem, it is clear that neither side really knows or understands the other — there is a significant breakdown of communication in favor of perception. In “The Good Fight,” Moore again tackles perception in a reflective piece regarding WWII. The soldier is brave and strong, but in the present, the soldier must relearn how to lace shoes, walk with a cane, and more. “The sky is hazy above you,/a fog of dreams and memories./The decades are your backpack now./” and the soldier must not “look down” or “slip” but for a far different reason today than on the battlefield.

In the second and final section, Moore shifts away from perception into reality — the reality of hurricanes, pop culture (as real as that can be), and so much more. One of my favorite images in these sections comes from “Grandma and the Hurricane” (pg. 41), “The wind is so strong that it blows the constellations around in the sky. Never losing their shape, they are cookie cutters tumbling against each other.” But even in these reality-based poems, there is a nod to the idea of perception — like in “Tom Hanks Was Right,” where the narrator is found thinking about the past and what should have been said and then the narrator is talking to themselves in public. Haven’t we all caught ourselves doing that these COVID days?

Man on Terrace with Wine by Miles David Moore invites readers to be entertained, contemplative, and enjoy life as it comes. This collection is by turns witty and serious, but Moore continues to ask his readers to perceive reality in a way that not only brings joy but also satisfaction. Holding onto reality with a singular perspective can not only be boring, but also limiting.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Miles David Moore is a Washington reporter for Crain Communications, Inc. He is founder and host of the Iota Poetry Reading Series in Arlington, VA, a member of the Board of Directors of The Word Works, Inc., and administrator of The Word Works Washington Prize. He is the author of three books of poetry: The Bears of Paris (The Word Works Capital Collection, 1995); Buddha Isn’t Laughing (Argonne Hotel Press, 1999); and Rollercoaster (The Word Works Capital Collection, 2004). With Karren LaLonde Alenier and Hilary Tham, he co-edited Winners: A Retrospective of the Washington Prize, published in 1999 by The Word Works. Fatslug Unbound, a CD of Moore’s poetry read by himself and 14 other poets, was realeased in 2000 by Minimus Productions. His review/essays on the poet John Haines have appeared in The Wilderness of Vision (Story Line Press, 1996) and A Gradual Twilight (CavanKerry Press, 2003).

Check out his appearance with Naomi Thiers and Jane Schapiro at Gaithersburg Book Festival:

Warbler by Jane Schapiro

Source: GBF
Paperback, 57 pgs.
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Warbler by Jane Schapiro is a poetic song of loss, a call to grief and acceptance and to memory. When we lose someone grief can take hold of us and keep us still, but the memories are what move us past the sorrow and into the light. Schapiro is well acquainted with this journey, and the light song of the warbler enables her to travel beyond the swirl of sadness.

Schapiro plays with poetic form in this collection, creating the shape of cracking porcelain as loss becomes a reality — fragmenting her lines and spacing them like so many shards on the floor — in “Porcelain of Loss.” In this poem, the narrator loses a friend, but the last words they speak are not understood because they must be translated from their native language, but it is not this moment that leaves the narrator shattered, it is the loss itself. The feeling of being unmoored continues in “Gravity,” as the narrator drifts titleless at the funeral — not a relative, not a spouse, not quite a friend because of the age difference — these are the feelings of those left behind. Loss and being lost at the same time. Change is incredibly difficult to handle, especially when it is irrevocable.

Erosion (pg. 49)

happens so slowly
    you don't notice
you're dozing
    earlier each night,
settling deeper
    into your chair.
Between now
    and your youth
a canyon
    has formed. From
above you
    see only tiers
switchbacks
    curving. Too tired
to hike
    (your knees the heat)
you scan postcards
    look for freshwater.

Warbler by Jane Schapiro is reflective of loved ones, of time’s passage, and of the gulf between where we began and where we are as we age and move through life. Her verse is beautiful and meditative, allowing the reader to take the journey with her narrators and experience the shock of unwelcome diagnoses and unexpected death.

RATING: Quatrain

Check out her appearance at Gaithersburg Book Festival with Miles Davis Moore and Naomi Thiers: