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Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer by Kateema Lee

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 25 pgs.
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Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer by Kateema Lee speaks to the mind of a grieving daughter easing her sadness with popcorn thrillers, classics, and so much more. Characters pulled from Hitchcock to Kung Fu movies fill these poems with whimsy and darkness, but it is the gray areas that shine brightest. Lee has a knack for blending these iconic characters with real life memories and emotions. Imagine sitting alone in the dark watching late night movies, delving deep into the past and its tumultuous emotions to try to make sense of those disappointments to find peace.

From “Hiatus: Why I Bought a Mustang” (pg. 21)

like Steve McQueen in Bullitt, down sunny,
California streets; then busy streets changed to long,
tree-lined highways, windows down, air
blinding me in short bursts and celebrating
me at the same time. In the dream, my father
was the man he wanted to be, a military hero,

That’s the thing about dreams, we can be anyone we want to be. Much like when we watch movies, we can place ourselves in those alternate lives leaving our cares behind. Our fantasies can find us driving fast in a sports car or visiting different countries with people who have passed on. But there is that “buffering” that happens when our lives seem to be paused or stuck between what came before and what is to come.

Lee’s Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer is a meditative examination of one’s life and memories through the lens of the movie camera and the lens of our desires for different outcomes. But it is also a review of a life lived and coming to peace with what has passed in order to move forward.

RATING: Quatrain

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About the Poet:

Kateema Lee is a Washington D.C. native. She earned her M.F.A in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland at College Park. She’s a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, and she’s a Callaloo Workshop participant. Her work has appeared in anthologies, print, and online literary journals, including African American Review, Gargoyle, Word Riot, and Cave Canem Anthology XIII. When she’s not writing, she teaches English and Women’s Studies courses at Montgomery College.

Kin Types by Luanne Castle

Source: gift
Paperback, 30 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Kin Types by Luanne Castle, which is touring with Poetic Book Tours, is more than poetry. It is a breathing history of ancestors and how their lives impact the present long after they have left the earth. The poet opens the collection with “Advice from My Forebears,” in which readers are greeted with much the same advice they probably heard from grandparents and others about not spending what you do not have, etc. And much of this is advice about risks we may encounter in life and it sets the tone for the collection. It demonstrates how the past can inform the present and even guide it toward better decisions, but it also calls to the rebels within us who want to go against even good advice.

Castle’s narrative poems leave the reader with a sense of the past, and through detailed accounts, she places us where she wants us to bear witness to the hard lives of these ancestors. Many of these people are immigrants leaving their homes for a better life, or at least what they believe will be a better life. But not all that befalls these men and women is good, and not all of it is bad.

From "New Life, New Music" (pg. 15)

The boy in knee pants didn't notice
the many wrinkles
or if he did they created that comfortable
space between his own raw starch
and her eyes and smile that were only his.

Like us, there are dreams held close by these ancestors. They may have a sense of loss that these dreams were not achieved or even lost, but they never let that stop them from living their lives. In “What Lies Inside,” Castle asks how well we really know our closest family members and speaks to the secrets we hold unto ourselves, as a self that we protect from the outside hardships of our lives. It is one of my favorite poems in the collection, with this haunting line: “If I don’t have this one space, where can I go to protect this self/kept inside only by my thin twitching skin?”

Kin Types by Luanne Castle is haunting and deeply emotional, allowing readers to wander off and discover their own ancestral stories. Perhaps they too will re-create the past and see how it mirrors the present or has shaped who they are.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne Castle‘s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Grist, Copper Nickel, River Teeth, Glass Poetry Press, Barnstorm Journal, Six Hens, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, and many other journals. Published by Finishing Line Press, Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest.

Luanne has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside. She studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside (Ph.D.); Western Michigan University (MFA); and the Stanford University writing certificate program. Her scholarly work has been published in academic journals, and she contributed to Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers for Adults, edited by Betty Greenway. For fifteen years, she taught college English. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina. Visit her website.

Guest Post: What Shows Through by Poet Erica Goss

When you fiercely believe in a poet’s talent and their collection, you want to do everything you can to promote it and him/her to a wider audience.  You stick their book into strangers’ and friends’ hands and say, “Read this.”  Sometimes, that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but if you truly believe in a collection, you press onward.

Today, I’ve got a deeply moving guest post from poet Erica Goss, who I featured during the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour with a review of her book, Wild Place.  She will talk about the joy of publishing her collection, but also the deep sadness that came with it when her father’s body was discovered in the wilderness.

Following the guest post, I hope that you will enter for 1 of 2 copies I am going to giveaway to 2 lucky readers anywhere in the world.  Without further ado, please welcome Erica Goss.

On March 29, 2011, I checked my email late in the afternoon. The subject line “Chapbook Acceptance: Wild Place” caught my eye immediately. I opened the message and read, “Thank you for submitting to us. Your manuscript has been accepted for publication.” Blue capitals announced the sender as Finishing Line Press in Kentucky.

Finishing Line. I loved that name and its connotations: making it to the end and winning. But on March 29, 2011, “finishing line” meant something else. Three weeks earlier, some teenagers out hiking had discovered my father’s body in a remote part of Western Washington State. That was his finishing line: death from exposure, hunger, and thirst, brought on by dementia.

Over the following months, I struggled with grief and depression. Some days were simply too hard to bear. My friends congratulated me about the book, but I felt compelled to qualify their enthusiasm with reminders that I was grieving my father. As much as I wanted to shout with joy over the book’s imminent publication, I was unable to feel much happiness at such a time.

The book did give me some welcome distraction from dealing with my father’s death and trying to put his affairs in order. Choosing cover art, formatting the book, deciding which poems to keep and which to delete, absorbed many hours. At the back of my preparations, however, my father’s death lurked, a persistent ache in the pit of my stomach.

It took me some time to realize that I was living in one of those ironic situations that make good poems. The best poetry is tinged with its opposite emotion; to quote Chase Twitchell, “remember death.” As Linda Pastan writes in her poem “The Death of a Parent,”

Move to the front
of the line
a voice says, and suddenly
there is nobody
left standing between you
and the world, to take
the first blows
on their shoulders.

How often I wanted to share the news of my book’s publication with my father. In phone conversations, I’d told him about sending the book to various contests and small presses. The dementia that had been taking his brain away would lift for a little while, and he seemed genuinely interested. Then, abruptly, he would say, “Well, thank you for calling!” and hang up. When he did that, I knew that he had probably forgotten who I was, and ended the conversation to cover his embarrassment.

My father was never more attentive than when I read poetry to him. A former professor of German, he would fix his hazel eyes on me with the look he must have given his students when they mispronounced something, and listen intently. At the end, he would usually say, “Huh! Too bad he was such an ass,” or some other insulting remark about the poet. That’s when I knew my real father was back, at least for a moment. “Even jerks can write good poetry,” I would respond, hoping for his sudden laugh or the way he would smack the table, making us all jump. But more and more often, he would just look at me, puzzled, and turn back to the television.

My father loved run-down, decaying, decrepit places. This explains why he spent the last few years of his life, before his dementia worsened and he moved to Washington to live with his sister, in a tiny village in Northern California called Locke. Locke sits in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, where two of California’s largest rivers meet. Eleven hundred miles of poorly maintained levees protect Locke, the other small towns of the Delta, and its surrounding orchards and farmland.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, unruly by nature, seep under the levees, giving Locke and the whole area a lumpy, moldering appearance. Artists love Locke’s tilted buildings and its atmosphere of benign neglect (Locke is the setting for “My Father at Seventy,” one of the poems in Wild Place). The first few years my father spent in Locke were happy ones; he loved the small town vibe, the artists and writers who lived in ramshackle houses where the river bubbled up through the basements, and being so close to Nature. That was before he stopped calling, stopped paying his bills, stopped cleaning his house.

Wild Place’s cover photograph, taken by San Jose artist and architect Howard Partridge, shows a view of the Sutro Baths on the coast of San Francisco. It’s clear from the photograph that the Pacific Ocean is reclaiming that piece of land, wearing down the seawall and the surrounding cliffs. Here’s another place that water will eventually take back, just like in the Delta a few miles east.

Is this a metaphor for death? Maybe. But I’d rather think of it as a demonstration of Nature’s obdurate personality. As the French poet Saint-John Perse (Alexis Leger) writes: “In vain the surrounding land traces for us its narrow confines. One same wave throughout the world, one same wave since Troy rolls its haunch toward us.”

One same wave. “The Death of a Parent” gives us this image:

The slate is wiped
not clean but like a canvas
painted over in white
so that a whole new landscape
must be started,
bits of the old
still showing through.

It’s been over a year since that bipolar month of March, 2011. I’m learning what it means to grieve. Some days I feel my father’s loss as an acute pain; other times it’s heavy and dull, like an overcast, humid day. I have gotten better at allowing myself to feel unqualified joy at the publication of Wild Place. And I look for those places where the old bits show through.

Thanks, Erica, for sharing your story with us. I know that your father would be proud of you, no matter what. Also, please check out this poem she wrote in response to a prompt about what she would tell her 16-year-old self.

For those of you interested in this stunning collection, please leave a comment here about your own father. Deadline to enter will be May 31, 2012.

Wild Place by Erica Goss

Wild Place by Erica Goss is a chapbook, published by Finishing Line Press, examining the wild places within ourselves and our interactions with nature.  Wild and untamed, the verse sings the beauty in the blame as humanity encroaches on nature, sometimes leading to its destruction and at other times unveiling the beauty beneath the scars.  Goss has a talent for using few words to create a powerful and vivid image that sends a message to the reader about the wildness of nature and ourselves.  From “This Is a Wild Place” (page 10), “The little junk birds peck at foil,//and I am called away from my body/to forage for my life/out in the open.//” and from “New Colors” (page 16), “in an anonymous/coffee shop/a child waved/to me from//his father’s arms/fingers opening/and closing like/pink fronds//of a sea anemone.//”

Some poems are haunting, like “The Redwoods,” in which she compares the trees to whales sifting krill and how they sing in the windy darkness.  She tackles the fears of aging and clinging to the the past in several poems, including “The Redwoods,” but rather focus on nostalgic rose-colored images of the past, she highlights the splinters that gnaw at our sensibilities and the scars they create and how they shape who we become.  There is a certain wisdom that we all garner as we age, and rather than celebrate it, many times we are too focused on what might have been.

Although the California landscape and other West coast settings play a significant role in her poems, Goss also takes us out of our American element with poems like “Strange Land” and “Woman in the Berlin Airport,” in which she tackles assumptions of Americans about how foreigners act and react and how they see us.  From “Strange Land” (page 24), “America takes practice/mother prepares/our daily lessons//each morning we emigrate/our fermenting lunchboxes/ripe with foreign stink//the war of two languages/leaves us mute in school/speak up, the teacher says//”  Goss tackles the hardships of fitting in when one comes to America from somewhere else and the expectations that places on them and their children, but within the same poem, there is a nod to the past — in this case, WWII — and how it is best left in the past and not brought into the new “shining” future.

Even as Goss uses nature imagery to pull out her themes of aging, fitting in, and moving onward, she also does an excellent job providing breathtaking verse about mechanical objects, such as the airplane in “Leaving Frankfurt.”  Readers will rise and fall with the aircraft as it leaves one city for another and the narrator immerses herself in the experience.  Wild Place by Erica Goss is stunning to the point where readers will not look at the world in the same way; they will be forced to look further, to think harder, to accept more — broadening their perspective and horizons so that they become more conscientious about themselves and the world around them.

Poet Erica Goss

About the Poet:

Erica Goss is the winner of the 2011 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Contest. Her chapbook, Wild Place, was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press. Her poems, articles and reviews have appeared in many journals, most recently Connotation Press, Hotel Amerika, Pearl, Main Street Rag, Rattle, Eclectica, Blood Lotus, Café Review, Zoland Poetry, Comstock Review, Lake Effect, and Perigee.

She won the first Edwin Markham Poetry Prize in 2007, judged by California’s Poet Laureate Al Young, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010. Erica teaches creative writing and humanities in the Bay Area and is a contributing editor for Cerise Press. She holds an MFA from San Jose State University.  If you live in California, please attend one of her local events near you.

***For today’s National Poetry Month blog tour stop, please visit Indie Reader Houston.***

 

This is the 8th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

 

 

This is my 26th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.