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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 #637

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.

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:

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, which I purchased.

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

Where the Wolf  by Sally Rosen Kindred for review.

Sally Rosen Kindred’s third book, Where the Wolf, is a wood where a girl-turned-woman, a daughter-turned-mother, goes walking, searching for the warm fur, the hackles and hurts—past and future—inside her. These poems explore how stories—fairy tales, family memories, myths, and dreams—tell us, and let us tell each other, who we are, and what’s wild and sacred in our connections. From “the beast your mother made/ who scans hood and bed,” to the ghost-guard summoned by a child on the night her family fractures, to the teenage son who transforms into “beauty, his dread-body,” the beings in these poems are themselves stories, spells: alchemized through language, always becoming, bearing hope and loss. They fragment in anxiety, and form into new wilderness. They open themselves to reconstruction, redemption. Through it all, “Wolf is the ghost of a hurt remembering itself. Is She. You can hear Her between trees.” These poems are a calling out—through meadows, emptied houses, dark skies—to wolf and self, parent and child, girl and woman, love and grief.

What did you receive?

Made of Air by Naomi Thiers

Source: GBF
Paperback, 58 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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:

 

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett (full disclosure: we are in a poetry work-shopping group together) begins with “Recessional” a poem-like hymn in which a poet realizes that he works on a poem in night as many men before him have done and that they are all connected to one another in infinite time and space and that all of these poets are these poems. This poem sets up the rest of the collection’s theme of universality and how the little wars we wage with ourselves and others have come before and likely will continue, but for the hope that we can change and be more peaceful. The slivers of light, the blue of the sky, all of these images provide us the glimpse of hope on a distant horizon.

From "Storm Bear" (pg. 14)

...With great claws,
it scattered sand, wiped away the line
we'd drawn between desire
and circumstance. Roaring,
the storm fell upon us, ... 

Wars can begin just like that; a tipping point of rage that wipes it all away, moving into the unchecked desire (for more power, for revenge, etc.). The trembling of these battles whether in the past or far from us still can be heard, if we listen close, like the narrator of “Poppies” — the reverberations remain — the consequences spiral out and are an influence on today, this moment. “We didn’t know there are no/little wars–no distance/we cannot reduce to nothing.//” (“Vanishing Point/Ach Du” pg. 17)

And “A War Story” explains just how we, ourselves, can be reduced to nothing by war — the war itself may seem large and incomprehensible, but the impact is very real, very personal. “Epitaph,” which follows it, is equally devastating in its truth about praising the dead as heroes when they would more than likely prefer to be alive and left unpraised for doing simple things you’d do normally without war at your doorstep.

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett reminds us of all the costs of war and that “we choose” to make them. What would happen if we chose another path? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #630

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.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased from Kelsay Books.

You have in your hands poems of a mournful witness-nearly all evoke a tone of bitterness over the devastation and trauma of endless wars. The book’s ironic title is a purposeful oxymoron: “there are no / little wars-no distance / we cannot reduce to nothing.” Luther Jett’s poetry voices itself in precise diction and nuanced rhythms that grab hold of your attention and do not let go.

-Merrill Leffler, Author of Mark the Music

Compassion-both its presence and its absence-interests W. Luther Jett. His previous collections Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father and Our Situation explored trauma and healing. Little Wars digs for the roots of pain in the twentieth century’s geopolitical conflicts, from World War II to Bosnia. The people in these poems go about their daily lives as the bombs fall, trying-and too often failing-to retain their human connection, deepening “the wound we make of breathing.” Jett’s sorrow pours out in the tones of an Old Testament prophet or catches, choking, in his throat. In this raw-edged, lyrical collection, Jett absolves no one: the fault is ” . . . ours, ours, and ours alone, our making / because we refuse to make stars / out of the coals / that burn in our hearts.”

-Katherine E. Young, Author of Woman Drinking Absinthe and Day of the Border Guards , Poet Laureate Emerita, Arlington, VA

Little Wars is a moving and deeply disturbing series of poems. From the poppies symbolizing the dead soldiers of World War I to the destruction of the Mostar Bridge in the Bosnian War, Jett recounts “the cities leveled and the fields / upchurned” in war’s path. The ubiquity of current combat, ever rumbling, is in these poignant pages too, and the survivors always left “waiting / for the siren’s blast, the tramp / of boots along the stairs.”

-Kim Roberts, Author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC

My Audible Downloads:


What did you receive?

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 44 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee, who read at the fourth DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, is a short collection that explores the nature of family and how oftentimes as children we can feel like we’re on the periphery of others’ lives. Even as the narrator in these poems laments the life and relationships that she did not have with her father and sister, for example, it is clear she still views them as positively as she can.

From "Taraxacum" (pg. 19)

the passenger window of a police car
three little girls innocently giggling,
talking to someone who's vowed to be impartial,
to defend, nothing menacing in that scene,

I felt afraid. At that moment I remembered
being nine or ten, learning that to some
I was cute for a brown girl and to others
I was no more than a weed needing to be pulled,"

Through juxtaposition of innocent scenes, she clings to the good, but the darker memories of hate and racism creep in. The narrator also strives to remember relatives as they would like to have been remembered if war had not harmed their psyches — a war in Vietnam and a war with drugs.

“Elegy for My Sister” is a poem that will evoke deep sadness. The narrator’s sister, an artist who captured faces in charcoal beautifully, realistically, is dies long before she ages. “But somewhere deep in the District/my sister haunts hallways and vacant lots,/never taking flight,” the narrator laments after watching red birds fly. A moment she wishes her sister could have. She also speaks of a father who was proud of her as the new beginning he almost made. The narrator is “almost” invisible in her own life with these larger than life relatives, but she also is a reluctant pessimist.

Almost Invisible by Kateema Lee is a daring and deeply emotional collection of poems that lament what was, wishes for a better beginning, and has made peace with how it has arrived. Lee has a strong voice that echoes throughout the shadows of the District.

RATING: Quatrain

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.