The Best of 2013 List…

In Descending Order (links to the reviews included):
  1. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
  2. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  3. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy
  4. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
  5. The Time Between by Karen White
  6. Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan
  7. Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  8. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
  9. Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer
  10. The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer
  11. The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
  12. Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More
Here are my honorable mentions for this year, in descending order (links to the reviews included):
  1. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  2. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart
  3. Joyland by Stephen King
  4. Seduction by M.J. Rose
  5. Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
What books made your list of favorites this year?

The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer

The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer, published by The Word Works in Washington, D.C., is a beautifully lyric collection of poems that explore the fine line between imagination/hope and reality, and on many occasions, Geyer’s poems end with an unexpected result.  In the first section, she explores the wonders of childbirth and miracles, but these poems also hover on the edge of death and the power that comes with bringing about the end.  In “Without Warning,” the onset of death is wrought with many to-do lists, but never on the list is what can be done with the last breath.  But in “After Having Been Distracted,” the narrator’s attention is called to the struggle for life of a cicada only to find that she must be the one to end it.  In many ways, these are poems about miracles, but miracles that don’t exactly have happy endings.

From "Afternoon on Portland Harbor" (page 18-9):

... Gravity tugs
us along the tilted deck -- our braced thighs hum

to the heartbeat of keel against water.
The crew feathers the sails to lessen the heel.

Hush the harbor soothes as we slow
to a near-stall.  Buoy bells toll

Geyer’s poems are musical and the rhythm transports her readers to that place she’s describing, like the boat in the poem cited above.  In the third section of poems, illusions — many of them held since childhood — are broken down, like the superhero hands of a mother being scarred and gnarled.  There also are poems that touch on the healing, or maybe numbing, effects of time, particularly its ability to make the hurt of abandonment not as fresh as it could be, like in Geyer’s “The Door.”  But then there is the silence of widowhood, which calls to mind Plath’s version of this topic in her collection Crossing the Water.  While Plath talks of widowhood as a crushing state for women who are overshadowed by their husbands even after death, Geyer’s poem speaks to the silent pride of the state and the perseverance it takes to keep moving forward.  And while there is a sense of loss in many of these poems, this section also speaks of hope — the unexpected still to come with renewal, particularly in “New Porch.”

Geyer deftly combines fairy tales with nature imagery and more modern situations and sensibilities in a collection that strives to sing the praises of restraint and letting go.  The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer explores the tipping point between expressing fear, anger, sadness, and other emotions at any moment and the decisions to remain silent and strong in the face of others and for others.  Like the scabbard that holds the sword from the fight or releases it, the throat becomes that scabbard to hold back or let loose the voice and emotion of these poems.  Another collection that has spoken and blow me away with its lyricism and poignancy.

This is my 12th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.




This is my 21st book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




About the Poet:

Bernadette Geyer is a poet and copy editor in the Washington, DC, area.  Geyer’s first full-length manuscript, The Scabbard of Her Throat, was selected by Cornelius Eady for publication in the Hilary Tham Capital Collection series of The Word Works. Geyer is the author of a poetry chapbook, What Remains, and recipient of a 2010 Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County. Her poetry has appeared in Oxford American, North American Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Verse Daily, and elsewhere.  Geyer’s non-fiction has appeared in WRITERS’ Journal, The Montserrat Review, Freelance Writer’s Report, World Energy Review, and Marco Polo Magazine. Photo by Emily Korff, Veralana Photography

Click the image below for today’s National Poetry Month Tour Post!

193rd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 193rd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2013 Dive Into Poetry Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please sign up to be a stop on the 2013 National Poetry Month Blog Tour and visit the stops on the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Today’s poem is from Bernadette Geyer:


                        ~  for Tammy Faye, 1942-2007

The longer I live, the less I believe
in the singular rightness
of what I have chosen to believe.

And I’ve begun
to believe in the rightness of belief,
in general.

I’ve begun to believe that, maybe,
I’ve been wrong
all along about Chaucer’s Pardoner,

his bags of stones
and sheep-bone relics. Maybe,
sometimes, the ends

do justify the means, and every falseness
has its moment—
however brief—of sacred truth.

Then again, maybe belief
in a “prosperity gospel” is simply easier
than belief in nothing.

So pardon me
as I gather my precious bones
into this bag

I call body. These penance-worn rags
no relics. And me?
No saint anyone should believe in.

What do you think?

Mailbox Monday #215

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Chaotic Compendiums.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.


Here’s what I received from my mom:

1.  Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson

Top plastic surgeon Elijah Creem is renowned for his skills in the operating room, and for his wild, no-expense-spared “industry parties,” bringing in underage exotic dancers and models for nights of drugs, champagne, and uninhibited sex. That is, until Detective Alex Cross busts one of Creem’s lavish soirees and ruins his fun. Now Creem is willing to do anything to avoid going to jail.

But Alex doesn’t have time to dwell on that case. A beautiful woman has been found murdered in her car, a lock of her hair viciously ripped off. Then a second woman is found hanging from a sixth-floor window with a brutal scar slashed across her stomach. When a third mutilated body is discovered, rumors of three serial killers on the loose send Washington D.C. into an all-out frenzy.

2.  Francona by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy

From 2004 to 2011, Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox, perhaps the most scrutinized team in all of sports. During that time, every home game was a sellout. Every play, call, word, gesture—on the field and off—was analyzed by thousands. And every decision was either genius, or disastrous. In those eight years, the Red Sox were transformed from a cursed franchise to one of the most successful and profitable in baseball history—only to fall back to last place as soon as Francona was gone. Now, in Francona: The Red Sox Years, the decorated manager opens up for the first time about his tenure in Boston, unspooling the narrative of how this world-class organization reached such incredible highs and dipped to equally incredible lows. But through it all, there was always baseball, that beautiful game of which Francona never lost sight.

3.  Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews

Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction….Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she’s made over the past decade of her life. Julia—whose caustic wit covers up her wounds—has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can’t hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life. And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is just what each of them needs. Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he’s hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he’s ever cared about. Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity. Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs? Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who each need a sea change, and one month that might just give it to them.

Here’s what I bought at AWP’s Writer’s Conference last week in Boston:

4.  Tipping Point: 20th Anniversary Edition by Fred Marchant

With his deft and timeless blend of the lyrical and narrative, Fred Marchant explores the wars inside us and the ones we wage in the world: spiritual, familial, political. Says Tom Sleigh, “In the spirit of Wilfred Owen, Tipping Point is a book seared by personal and historical fact.” This 20th Anniversary Edition, with a new introduction by Nick Flynn, celebrates what Sven Birkerts calls, “the larger contexts in which our deeds and gestures come to matter.” Flynn concludes, “Tipping Point arrives, twenty years or two thousand years later, eternal and utterly ever-present.”


5.  The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer

“The poems in Bernadette Geyer’s The Scabbard of Her Throat are saturated by touch: fingers on a throat, hand on a door, wasp, clasped to a cicada’s back, fever to bodies, daughters to mothers, mythologies to linoleum. Her lines soothed, they bruised, they entered my ear and held.” — Cornelius Eady, author of Brutal Imagination


Here’s my unexpected review copy:

6.  Midnight Sacrifice by Melinda Leigh

One by one, people are mysteriously disappearing from a small Maine town.

Four months ago, a ruthless murderer killed two people and kidnapped three more, including Danny Sullivan’s sister, who barely escaped. Unfortunately so did the killer, vanishing without a trace into the vast wilderness. When the police fail to find his sister’s captor, Danny returns to Maine to hunt him down.

He begins his search with another survivor, bed and breakfast owner Mandy Brown, but her refusal to cooperate raises Danny’s suspicions. What is the beautiful innkeeper hiding?

Mandy Brown has a secret. But sexy Danny Sullivan, his relentless questions, and the desire that simmers between them threaten to expose the truth. A revelation that puts her family in danger. As more people disappear, it becomes clear the killer is planning another ritual…and that he’s circling in on Mandy.

What did you receive?

Interview With Poet Bernadette Geyer

I’ve been working on a interview project with Deborah at 32 Poems magazine, and she kindly allowed me to interview past contributors to the magazine. We will be posting the interviews throughout the coming months, and our third interview posted on Deborah’s Poetry Blog of 32 Poems on Feb. 9.

I’m going to provide you with a snippet from the interview, but if you want to read the entire interview, I’ll provide you a link for that as well.

For now, let me introduce to you 32 Poems contributor, Bernadette Geyer:

1. Not only are you a contributor to 32 Poems, but you also have a chapbook of poems published, your own website and your own blog. What “hat” would you consider the most challenging to fulfill and why?

Before “retiring” to become a stay-at-home mother, I worked in public relations. So to me, the website and blog are fairly easy for me to keep up with when I think of them as marketing tools for my writing. The most difficult hat for me to fulfill is being a “writing parent” — it is challenging to find the emotional/psychic space I need to really get into the poem — or article-making frame of mind. I usually cannot create if she is awake and in the house. But I have developed some internal ways of keeping a “creative train of thought” active in my head even when I am doing something completely different.

2. What prompted you to start a blog? How active are you as a blogger? And what types of posts does your blog focus on? Also, do you believe a blog is essential to marketing your work or is the Web site more useful for that purpose?

I started my blog a long time ago, back even before I had “retired” from my full-time PR job. I think it was originally a way of engaging my mind by blogging about the poetic process during my lunch breaks. But I wasn’t a very active blogger. Even now I don’t consider myself very “active.” My posts tend towards the short side – thoughts on poems, references to interesting articles I read, news on my own writing, upcoming readings, or random tidbits I just feel like sharing. I do think a blog is an essential part of a writer marketing his/her work. A web site is a great tool, but very impersonal. I think readers find blogs give them a more personal relationship with a writer than just checking out a static web site. Blogs are great ways of building or broadening an audience for your work.

4. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott)

I have done all of the above over the past 10-15 years that I’ve been writing. Lately I find “how-to” books to be not very useful in inspiring my work. Exercises are sometimes useful if I just want to get the pen moving (In the Palm of Your Hand by Steve Kowit and The Practice of Poetry ed. by Robin Behn & Chase Twichell, in particular). I find articles, essays and books on poetics to be more inspirational to me in thinking about how I approach my own poems. American Poetry Observed (edited by Joe David Bellamy) was a book I recommend as a collection of poets discussing their own poetics.

I also enjoy and find useful the essays and articles in The Writer’s Chronicle. I don’t have a post-graduate degree in writing, so I try to read everything I can to educate myself. Workshops are not very useful to me anymore except that I have a few good friends who I trust to read my work and provide comments.

I’ve tried forming a writing group among local writing moms, but it’s been hard to keep a regular meeting pattern. I do teach poetry workshops in public elementary schools, and have found Kenneth Koch’s Making Your Own Days and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? to be very good reminders of how fun it can (and should) be to write for the love of words and language.

Check out Bernadette’s collection of poems, What Remains.

Want to find out what Bernadette’s writing space looks like? What music she listens to while she writes? Find out what she’s working on now, her obsessions, and much more. Check out the rest of my interview with Bernadette here.
Please feel free to comment on the 32 Poems blog and Savvy Verse & Wit.

***Here’s Bernadette’s recently published poem from 32 Poems, here, “Thumbelina’s Mother Speaks: To the Toad’s Mother.”

***Check out
The Bookword Game poll on Suey’s Blog***