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The Damage Done by Susana H. Case

Source: GBF
Paperback, 100 pgs.
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The Damage Done by Susana H. Case (on sale as of March 1 at Broadstone – click the image to save) is a poetic narrative that explores the covert, illegal projects of the FBI, including its counter intelligence program, COINTELPRO, which was used to infiltrate domestic political organizations like the Black Panthers, feminist groups, communist organizations, and others. Janey, a fashion model in the 1960s, and her fictional murder serve as a vehicle through which Case weaves her poetic narrative.

"Woman Identified" (pg. 12)

...Janey looks untroubled
and is running in a bold-patterned

dress past a bridge, debris in soft
focus piled off by the side.
The detective laughs about it later
with his buddies, a strange photo
to sell clothes you can't even

clearly see. Surrounded by rubble.
Painted-on eyelashes - as if
she's a child's doll - 
she looks as if she could blow
away. Part of her did.

Case’s voice reads like crime thriller and a noir detective tale in which a young lady is tired of her modeling life, falls into gun running and pill popping, even as her husband strives to place his heavy boot on her and rein her in. The collection opens with a dead girl in a car – Janey – and the detective on the case continues to face roadblocks to solving her murder. Is it easier to go along with the FBI’s theories or investigate a murder of a young woman. And how the decision weighs on the detective and pushes him further to drink and unravel himself.

The paranoid atmosphere infuses her lines in “The Psychiatric Institute”: “Janey thought the Feds were after her,/She was right. The cops/all agree she was a wacko.” Case has a cast of believable characters in her collection, and while it is poetry; it’s hard not to turn the pages to see what happens next, much like reading a thriller. It’s an examination of psychological motivations, an illegal FBI program that may still be operating, and the lives that it destroyed in the name of justice.

I could not put down The Damage Done by Susana H. Case once I picked it up. This is one poetry collection that will have you on the edge of your seat.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Susana H. Case, Ph. D., is the author of eight books of poetry. The Damage Done, from Broadstone Books (2022) is her newest. Dead Shark on the N Train, from Broadstone Books (2020), won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book, a NYC Big Book Awards Distinguished Favorite, and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. Drugstore Blue, from Five Oaks Press, won an Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY). She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes. Her poems appear widely in magazines and anthologies. Recent poems can be found in: Calyx, The Cortland Review, Fourteen Hills, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, and RHINO, among others. She has been published via translation into Polish, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Case is co-editor, with Margo Taft Stever, of I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe, Milk and Cake Press (2022).

Case is a co-editor of Slapering Hol Press and co-curates, with Lynn McGee (series founder), Sandy Yannone, and Carolyne Wright, the W-E (West-East) Bicoastal Poets of the Pandemic and Beyond series which features writers from both coasts and many other regions. She recently retired as Professor from the New York Institute of Technology in New York City, where she taught for thirty-eight years.

Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant by Indran Amirthanayagam

Source: GBF
Paperback, 90 pgs.
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Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant by Indran Amirthanayagam opens with the “Migrant Song,” part plea, part love song to those who have fled homes to make new ones. “We write/poems for our tribes, making one tribe of/every beating heart sending blood through/the veins of one earth.” (pg. 3) This poem sets the tone for the collection. While many of these poems tackle tough issues of racism, institutional racism, a presidential election that threw a country into crisis, and so much more, Amirthanayagam bears witness to it all, but unlike the journalist observing, he’s participating in change. He’s calling voters in conservative locations, speaking to them one-on-one, writing letters, trying to express a different view but always with an open hand and heart.

One of the most beautiful lines in this collection comes in “Soul Rising”: (pg. 25)

I miss you something fierce;
I have to tell my bones to
stop shaking, to calm
down, that there is something
called work, poetry, cleaning
the room, getting food
together, attending to mother,
reading fine print in polling,
picking up the phone, cold-
calling a Texan in the name of
participatory democracy, the
nation's and the earth's soul...

In this poem, about a third of the way through, it is clear that democracy matters and it should matter to all of us. We should be taking the time to speak to one another — face-to-face, phone-to-phone, video-to-video — anything to keep the democratic dialogue going. Like I said, more than poems of witness. These are poems of action.

From "Artist's Role" (pg. 47)

...Can we continue
to make light and gladden hearts while the virus kills
and one gang leader tries to steal the democracy, unmasked?

Despite the darkness we face in America — the something “too rotten in the fridge” and the “blackening hole” and the “spilling of blood” — Amirthanayagam is still hopeful. There is light in the ship that carries democracy in the hold and the crossing of John Lewis bridge, and the dermatologist who is able to freeze the blackening hole and removing it before cancer takes over. “Writing a poem is/the easiest option, the only one I can/imagine and control. Although war is/everywhere, and it is time to raise/our hands and say no, not past this line.//” (“Not Beyond This Line, pg. 58)

It may take 10,000 steps, but freedom and peace are worth every stone stuck in your shoe, every bead of sweat that falls, and every emotional emptying it takes. Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant by Indran Amirthanayagam explores the freedom of an open heart that allows us to “embrace the darkness and accept each other’s/absolute freedom to fly to the other end of the earth.” (“The Candle (Migratory Bird), pg. 87)

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Indran Amirthanayagam writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. He has published over twenty books of poetry, including Blue Window (translated by Jennifer Rathbun), The Migrant States, Coconuts on Mars, The Elephants of Reckoning (winner 1994 Paterson Poetry Prize), Uncivil War, and The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems. In music, he recorded Rankont Dout. He edits the Beltway Poetry Quarterly (www.beltwaypoetry.com); curates www.ablucionistas.com; writes https://indranamirthanayagam.blogspot.com; co-directs Poets & Writers Studio International; writes a weekly poem for Haiti en Marche and El Acento; and hosts The Poetry Channel (https://youtube.com/user/indranam). He has received fellowships from the Foundation for the Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The US/Mexico Fund for Culture, and the Macdowell Colony. He is a 2021 Emergent Seed grant winner. Forthcoming new books include Powèt nan po la (Poet of the Port) and Isleño.

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.

Mailbox Monday #640

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs for review.

In days before selfies and social media, postcards were a ubiquitous feature of travel, providing both means of communication with friends and family while away, and souvenirs of journeys once back home.

Even if not quite gone, they seem more than a little nostalgic now, as do many of the poems in Jeanne Griggs’ new collection, Postcard Poems. By choosing to present her poems as short notes that could fit on a postcard, she has opted for a formal brevity; and the conceit of holiday communication allows her to write both about place (so that her poems are often both ekphrastic and epistolary – a neat trick) and about the people in her life.

Travel, of course, is always a journey through both exterior and interior spaces, physical and mental, and we witness both in these often wistful poems. A visit on Cape Cod with friends, “women of a certain age”, affords an opportunity to “live like in the books, / without any of the fuss / of having to sustain anything / except ourselves.” Children grow up over the span of these travels, despite her wishing she “had caged” them, holding onto the past. A third visit to Niagara Falls is the first without her son – “the first time / you were too young to remember / and the second too old to want / to come along” – who is now far off in Siberia on travels of his own. Iowa is a place equally exotic, known only “from watching a baseball movie / … until we left our daughter / there”, and they drive long out of the way to visit the Field of Dreams site, “And it was there, / just like we’d seen it, / in real life.” Stopping “South of the Border” she buys “picture postcards of this place on the way / to where we’re actually going.” That’s a good description of the mosaic of life that is constructed out of these brief notes, a chronical of stops along the way until, in the final poem, “all future plans suspended… / we are / still saving up from our last trip.”

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, a gift from a dear friend and fellow poet.

A courageous testament, lush with startling imagery, Kristin Kowalski Ferragut’s Escape Velocity focuses on the personal in order to illuminate the universal. “Truth leaves words in shambles,” Ferragut cautions us. Nevertheless, “All the days in this long life / fill with such wonder of / words . . .” With each poem standing on its own as a singular story, taken as a whole, this premier collection takes the reader on an Odyssey, unsettling at times, tender at others, through memory and loss, forward with strength and resilience to confront “This love of what grows wild flowers . . . erratic, uncertain, hard to stare down.” The laws of physics cannot constrain this poet’s quest; the reader will be rewarded for accompanying her on the journey. —W. Luther Jett, Author of Everyone Disappears, Our Situation, and Not Quite

“I challenge you to / Unzip your skin and see / if you make it to the West Coast. / Exactly.” In Escape Velocity , Kristin Kowalski Ferragut invites us to experience the moments that make a life with finely honed wording and well-crafted stanzas that awaken every sense, often in unexpected ways. With deep compassion, she delves into relationships with family, loves and loves lost, the joys and sorrows that come with the bits and pieces that make a life and give us our sense of where we are in the world, sprinkled with delectable moments of wry humor. This exquisite debut poetry collection takes us beyond our usual understanding of self and place in a “rare conversation that matters.” —Lucinda Marshall, Founder and Host of DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Author of Inheritance Of Aging Self

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut sends us “Whirling / in our individual little confoundations,” as she reconciles the collective discord we face. She shoulders such universal themes as grief, love, and grace in a uniquely flawless dance. In “Unbearable Lightness” she muses, “We anchor ourselves in burdens, lost causes . . . to keep from floating away.” In lines like this, Ferragut startles us from our safe repose to experience the jeopardy and promise of motion; to believe in second chances and in our ability to “put the blood back / in the stone.” —Alison Palmer, Author of The Need for Hiding

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #622

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

The Elsewhere: Poems & Poetics by Philip Brady for review.

The Elsewhere is a new book with a long history. In a new arrangement of three books of poetry, a verse memoir, a poetic prose memoir, and essay collections on poetics, as well as new poems, The Elsewhere re-scores a life alert to the workings of line and sentence upon eye, heart, breath, and the world.

 

Usborne Illustrated Originals: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, which was a gift for my daughter’s birthday.

Anne Shirley, a mistakenly adopted orphan falls in love with Green Gables. Despite her hot temper, vivacious imagination, and gift of making amusing bobbles, she slowly wins the hearts of her adoptive parents. In this beautifully written and illustrated book, the reader is sure to be entertained for hours by Anne and her comedic conundrums. This version is complete and unabridged.

Usborne Graphic Classics: The Wizard of Oz by Russell Punter and Simona Bursi, which was a gift for my daughter’s birthday.

After Dorothy’s house is carried off by a tornado, she finds herself in the strange and magical Land of Oz. With the help of her new friends the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, she must persuade the Wizard of Oz to help her get back to Kansas. L. Frank Baum’s timeless fantasy is beautifully recreated in this enchanting graphic novel.

Real-Life Mysteries: Can You Explain the Unexplained? by Susan Martineau and Vicky Barker, which was a gift for my daughter’s birthday.

WINNER OF THE BLUE PETER BOOK AWARD 2018 – Best Book with Facts. Have you ever wondered what exactly does go bump in the night? From mysteries like Shackleton’s ghostly companion to the Loch Ness Monster and friends, read the amazing evidence about these mysterious cases and make up your own mind. Things are not always what they seem – until they are, then you might wish you had never asked!

No Worries! An Activity Book for Young People Who Sometimes Feel Anxious or Stressed by Dr. Sharie Coombes, which was a gift for my daughter’s birthday.

No Worries! Mindful Kids: The encouraging and simple activities and exercises tackle anxiety, sadness and stress; children will enjoy using their creativity to combat negative feelings, work out why they feel worried and how to put stress back in its place through writing, colouring, doodling and drawing.

Forensic Science by Alex Frith, Kuo Kang Chen, Lee Montgomery, Stephen Moncrieff, and  Sherwin Schwartzrock, which was a gift for my daughter’s birthday. 

Explains how forensic scientists use different evidence to solve crimes, and presents true-crime cases in comic book format.

Never Get Bored: Draw and Paint, which was another gift for my daughter’s birthday.

Discover how to doodle a sloth, turn pencil shavings into pictures and draw in ways you never imagined. Then try printing, spattering paints and painting with dots. There are ideas for portraits, patterns, optical illusions and more, so you’ll soon have enough artworks for your own exhibition — and this book will show you how to stage one too.

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, which was a gift for my daughter.

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon is the third novel in The Sinclair’s Mysteries book series by British children’s author Katherine Woodfine published by Egmont Publishing. The novel is the third book in a four book mystery-adventure series set in Edwardian England.

History Uncovered: The U.S.A. by Kristine Carlson Asselin, which was a gift for my daughter.

This stylish atlas features key moments of American history in an innovative format, with each die-cut spread building on the last as more states are added to the union, culminating in a modern-day map of America. From the 1700s through today — one layer at a time — it’s filled with dates, facts, and historical figures.

A Life Worth Choosing by Anngela Schroeder, which I won in a giveaway.

“You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.” Reeling from the unexpected rejection of his proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy prepares to quit Hunsford for London but not before he defends himself against Elizabeth Bennet’s accusations. He cannot forgive her harsh words; her assertion Mr. Wickham would have made a better son has cut him to the core. Suffering an accident while delivering the fated letter, he wakes to a world he does not know—and to those who do not recognize him. With a new life, a different name, and a fresh chance at winning the woman he loves, Darcy must decide which is “A Life Worth Choosing”––the past he remembers or a future he has created for himself.This Regency variation of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by bestselling author Anngela Schroeder, is appropriate for all who wish to lose themselves on another path towards Darcy and Elizabeth’s happily ever after.

What books did you receive?

Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya

Source: the poet
Paperback, 80 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya is an exploration of what if — the nature of the other and what it must be to immerse ourselves in those “other” lives. Would they make us long for our own lives more and appreciate them with grace? Or would an exploration of those lives lead us to make drastic changes in our own? These are just some of the questions that underlie these scenarios, ranging from the troubled house sitters in the opening of the collection to the forlorn lover at the end who is bound to make the same error again.

From "How to Leave Behind" (pg. 15)

She said the way to do it was
to look at a photo of them.
Look at it until their faces
melt away into lines,
until words like brother fall away

and swirl around the shape that's left.
To focus on the mouth,
then the eyes,
then the arms and legs as if they all belonged
to different people.

Kolaya’s poems are rooted in the possible lives we could have and allows us to examine the truth of those lives and the truth in our own lives. Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya answers our “what if” questions but leaves us with so much more. There’s a greater insight here hearkening back to the adage “the grass is always greener on the other side’ at least from where you are viewing it.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and fiction writer, author of Charmed Particles: a novel and two books of poems: Any Anxious Body and Other Possible Lives (forthcoming fall 2019). Her work has been included in the anthologies New Sudden Fiction (Norton), Fiction on a Stick (Milkweed Editions), and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems, as well as in a number of literary journals.

She has received a Norman Mailer Writers Colony summer scholarship, an Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies fellowship, a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Lake Region Arts Council, and the University of Minnesota. As one of the co-founders of the Prairie Gate Literary Festival, she worked to develop the literary arts community in rural western Minnesota. She now teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.

Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya

Source: the poet, Chrissy Kolaya
Paperback, 96 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya does not have the most eye-catching cover, but what’s inside will knock your socks off!  Beginning with what readers may see as someone who lived through the Great Depression when saving everything counted toward survival, Kolaya uses early memories and events overheard to not only connect generation to generation, but to weave a thread through each struggle and moment of unease and concern that each moment is fleeting.  Humans are in a perpetually anxious state, sometimes without knowing it, because our lives are finite and each moment has a beginning and end — often ending before we’re ready to deal with it.

From “Fired” (page 17)

His friend —
the one married just out of high school,
runs his eyes over you,
smoothing the skin over your bones.

Kolaya — using notes from a great grandmother who no longer can verbally communicate and a letter from her daughter — has a visceral sense of not only the human body and its reactions to touch, but also the emotional connections between family and lovers. Her verses are fresh and evoke a response from her readers immediately. While there is a sense of contemplation about life events and family connections, the poems also never forget to remind readers that too much thinking can prevent life from happening.

From “Polarity” (page 15)

She wants to talk about how it will work
and I think:
I will move toward you in a moment or two,
and you should do the same.

Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya has created a reflective collection of poems, a collection that requires the reader to listen to the voices, to the moments, to the memories, but more importantly to open themselves up to the experience.  Each poem’s voice changes perspective, providing readers with the fullest view of living as possible, and sometimes those perspectives can leave you squirming.

About the Author:

Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and fiction writer. Her short fiction has been included in the anthologies New Sudden Fiction (Norton) and Fiction on a Stick (Milkweed Editions). Her poems and fiction have appeared in a number of literary journals.

She has received a Norman Mailer Writers Colony summer scholarship, an Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies fellowship, a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Lake Region Arts Council, and the University of Minnesota. She teaches writing at the University of Minnesota Morris. Check out her blog and her Facebook page.

15th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

Book 9 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

 

 

For today’s 2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon tour stop, click the image below: