The Minor Territories by Danielle Sellers

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 85 pgs.
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The Minor Territories by Danielle Sellers explores the uninhabited emotional landscapes scarred by loss and trauma. Many of us live our lives as best we can even if the past haunts us, but those memory ghosts are not the places where we live in the now and they are not the places we choose to remember. These are the places that shape us into who we are, determine our strength, and force us to reassess our own outlooks and life paths.

From "A Photo of the Euphrates" (pg. 16)

Since then, his tongue has changed
the river's story. He's killed strangers
on its shore. I imagine him lying
on the dusty floor of a marble palace
at sundown, breathing red air,
waiting for the comfort night gives.
"When Asked to Say Something Nice About My Ex-Husband" (pg. 59)

I recall his chest, how sometimes he tolerated
my head on it, strong as a door
skimming the surface of a dark ocean.

In a deeply personal collection in which she shares words from her own daughter about her absent father, Sellers explores the pain deeply, attentively until a hope emerges, whether in the comfort of the night air in a war zone or the smell of yeast while baking bread and waiting. Her images are vivid and juxtapose the emotional ups and downs of being in love with a soldier and finding them changed after war. Mourning the loss of the person they used to be and yet loving them still. Moving forward in life without them because you must to emotionally survive. Sellers’ poems are love letters filled with heartbreak, love, and so much more — forgiveness.

The Minor Territories by Danielle Sellers is a story told through poems and like all stories leaves a powerful impression in the sand, but it is one that cannot be erased by the tides of time, only partially worn down.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Danielle Sellers is from Key West, FL. She has an MA from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MFA from the University of Mississippi where she held the John Grisham Poetry Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Subtropics, Smartish Pace, The Cimarron Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Her first book, Bone Key Elegies, was published by Main Street Rag. She teaches Literature and Creative Writing at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mailbox Monday #479

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

The Minor Territories by Danielle Sellers, which I purchased.

In Danielle Sellers’ The Minor Territories, a past has never really passed, it follows you from state to state and across continents; its memories are as fresh as the revelations of old love letters, those missives so full of missing. Every poem feels so rich with intimate potential, from the unspoken truths between two people to the most fragile details of a shared life—a spider’s silky filaments, peach tree saplings, butter coppering in a pan. This book manages to hold with an open hand all the loves I want and fear to lose—the ones who knew me, the one who knows me, the one who grew from the past into the brightest now.
—Traci Brimhal, author of Saudade

The Minor Territories, the second collection from Danielle Sellers, powerfully affirms the practice of keen and patient seeing. Time and again in these poems, life deals pain, but the poet pays attention until pain gives way to curiosity and curiosity to gratitude. Winter strips the willows, yes, but “through their bare branches / a church spire. Were it spring, I would have not seen it.” A little girl waits all day on a porch for her long-lost father. “He never returns,” but she does glimpse “three monarchs / and a praying mantis.” In one poem, the speaker says of her lover, “I wanted him / to see me. Really see me.” While the pain of going unseen racks the world of this book, Sellers takes care to see whatever has been missed, to really see it. To borrow a phrase from Yeats, everything here has been steeped in the heart.
—Greg Brownderville, author of A Horse with Holes in It

Danielle Sellers’ The Minor Territories is intellectually lush and emotionally resonant. Sellers is a born storyteller, and this book, in the end, is a succession of love stories that reveal, over its course, a deep, surprising, and complicated love between the speaker and the world she makes and remakes for herself. These poems are necessary, dynamic, heartbreaking, redemptive, and smart. They bring you in, hold you close, and tell the truth.
—Carrie Fountain, author of Burn Lake

What did you receive?

Big Thank You . . .

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who participated and commented during National Poetry Month. The blog tour was not as well organized this year given I’ve had a few life changes in recent months, but overall, everyone who participated did a great job and made me smile with each comment and contribution.

As a thank you, I’ve extended two poetry-related giveaways until mid-May. One is US/Canada only, the other is international.

Please feel free to check out the giveaways and spread the word:

******L.A. and Dog Years and I Can Be the One EP by Luke Rathborne; Deadline May 14 (US/Canada)

******Choose 1 of 5 poetry books to win; Deadline May 14 (Global)

You must enter through the links provided, NOT on this post.

Bone Key Elegies by Danielle Sellers

Danielle Sellers’ Bone Key Elegies is a collection of poems published by Main Street Rag Publishing as part of its Editor’s Select Poetry Series.  (You can check out my previous 32 Poems Magazine interview with the poet, here, and one of her poems in the 81st Virtual Poetry Circle).  Unlike eulogies that praise someone upon his or her death, elegies are a lament for the dead and are often mournful.  In this vein, Sellers excels at creating memorable elegies for her sister, a lost family, and happier memories.  However, many of these poems will deceive the reader at first, beginning with scenery or a happy moment in time before turning melancholy.  Sellers’ style echoes the turn of line expected in haiku or the final couplet of Shakespearean sonnets.

However, some poems, like “The Bridge Fishers” (page 16), are less full of despair than the other beginning poems in the collection and more mischievous, especially as the narrator drives away in a boat beneath a bridge where fisherman are waiting for their first bite from the fish, only to have the engine of the boat scare the fish away.  Sellers’ poems are filled with surprises:  some shocking, some full of dark humor, and some violent.  In “Welcome to my Father’s Showroom” (page 26), readers are given a quirky picture of the showroom as a sort of maze through which the father navigates or hides to peer at customers secretly, but in the final lines, ” . . . He watches them.  In case one should step out of/line, a shotgun leans against the metal filing cabinet.  On its shaft,/his hand-print is outlined in dust.” (please check out some sample poems).

What’s surprising is that each poem has its own depth of despair and melancholy, like an elegy is supposed to have, but the depth of that sorrow generally corresponds well to the connection the narrator has with each subject.  Losing a father can be very devastating to a daughter, but is it more or less devastating to a daughter who has seen her father cheat on her mother or leave her mother?  Losing a sister at a very young age can be tragic and life changing, but is it more or less life changing than if you were to lose a sister after having lived half your life with her by your side?  These are just some of the emotional questions tackled by Sellers’ poems, and Bone Key Elegies is an excellent examination of the various levels of melancholy and despair that individuals can experience at different intervals in their lives. It is clear that the poem about the death of a sister sets the tone for the entire collection, a tone that deepens and thins out in a see-saw of emotion.

Through rich language and vivid imagery from the Florida Keys, Sellers’ illustrates not only the brackish nature of woe, but also the desperate fight against that emotion — leaving readers breathless.


This is my 7th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 13th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.



***This is a part of the National Poetry Month 2011 Blog Tour.

Interview With Poet Danielle Sellers

Poet Danielle Sellers; Copyright Chris Hayes

On Feb. 3 at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Danielle Sellers was posted. She’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since we share a similar obsession with the soap opera, The Young and the Restless!

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

My mother loves to tell the story of me, age 4 or 5, called up with the other children by the preacher at Old Stone Methodist church in Key West. When I arrived at the front of the church, all the other children were already seated, the preacher had begun his sermon, and I interrupted with a big wave and an overly-enthusiastic, “Hi, Kids!” So once that would happen, what people would most likely find out about me is that I’m a single mom to a very silly girl, much like the one about whom I just told you. I’m a foodie, and a lover of animals. I do rescue work when I can. I am spiritual, but not religious.

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 been faithful to the workshop scene since college, but I find the readership of one or two close friends to be the best kind of intimate discussion. But it’s hard to find friends whose work you admire who aren’t insanely busy. I do have several good readers I’d like to keep in a brass bottle, to call on them whenever I wished. But then they’d be servants, not friends, and that would defeat the purpose.

In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

I’m sad to say my friendships have changed. I still keep in touch with pals from high school and college, but my fellowship with other writers is more immediate. It’s important to feel as though someone “gets” you. When I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, we had a very small, intimate class, and most of us were about the same age. We are still very close. I also made good friends with my classmates in the MFA program at Ole Miss, and count them as some of the most important friendships of my life. Friendships have also been made at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, which I’ve attended twice, once as a participant, and once as a scholar. Even for those who choose not to attend MFA programs, conferences like these are key to a writer’s development and socialization.

She also included a poem for readers to check out:


My daughter, alive only twenty months,

climbs up to the World Market

polished oak table, to rearrange

my fall tribute of gourds and maize.

She takes a withered husk

in her mouth, new teeth gnaw

the dry texture. Her fingers

grip the technicolor kernels.

I think of our Cherokee ancestors,

Georgia and Mexico, who married

young and hungry, forced

from the lush Smokies to the bluffs

of Cooter, MO. On the other side,

Stonewall Jackson’s a distant cousin.

She has his blue eyes, stubborn

streak, and the aptitude to shoot.

Senator-talk moves through the house:

immigration cases on the rise, the need

for an electrified perimeter, protection

from the outside. Now, my daughter

flaps her arms like a turkey, feathered

boa slung across her human neck.

Her father volunteered to kill

Sunni and Shiite men in war.

I married him for his blue-collar

arms, nimble hands

and thick cock. He liked me tan,

soft-bellied, full with child.

In the desert, he wrote letters

home, the squat script promising

me daughters. He delivered one,

but does not love her well.

–previously published by Old Red Kimono

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

81st Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 81st 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.

It’s a new year, and if you haven’t heard there is a new feature on the blog this year . . . my first ever, poetry reading challenge.  Yup, that means everyone should be signing up because all you need to do is read 1 book of poetry.

I’m going to highlight a poet I’ve interviewed for 32 Poems Magazine, Danielle Sellers, whose interview will appear on the blog on Feb. 9, from her book, Bone Key Elegies:

Elegy for a Living Girl (page 40)

She’s autistic, with thick glasses.
Her eyes are koi eyes under pond-sheet.

She earns a jellybean if she spells her name.
A-S-H-L-E-Y is rice glued to cardboard.
Her voice rises an octave on the Y.

She moves heavy fingers along the letters
as she says them. She likes pink jellybeans.
I persuade her to spell her name again.

Behind the curtain wall Miss Dapper plays
Für Elise out of tune for Wally.
The awful strains hang above our heads.

Ashley eats her prize. Hands, moving free
from her body, flutter against her face,
wave the air, telling me she’s happy.

Can you sing a song? I ask.
She sings second alto,
slow with effort: I can sing a rainbow,
sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow,
sing a rainbow…

She slaps me hard in the ear
and, like church bells, chants
God damn it. God damn, damn, damn, damn…

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions.  Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles.  It’s never too late to join the discussion.