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Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison

Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison is slim collection of poems that explore the Black experience from a spiritual perspective.  She has quite a bit to say about the struggles Black men have with confidence, kicking habits, staying with their women, but she also has a lot to say about her own experiences and even the civil rights movement.

“writing illuminates injustice
gives language to people’s pain
pictures to failing dreams” (From “Because a door in my soul opens”, page 5)

Broken into three sections — God Gave Me Words, Soul Clothes, and Divine Reflections — and the first section tackles wider societal topics of struggle and faith, while the Soul Clothes section tackles similar struggles on a more personal level.  In the final section, Jemison reflects on those struggles and what they teach each of us about ourselves and our place in the world, as well as how fleeting life really is.

“Civil rights activists told me to fight the battle

They didn’t tell me
I’d be weary, exhausted, disgusted, betrayed, disenchanted” (From “Hold on to God, a lawyer’s prayer”, page 7)

Some poems have an internal jazz-like rhythm with a message. However, this collection’s poetry is direct and without frills, and in many ways read less like poetry and more like sermons or pep talks.  All of these poems are direct and strive to get readers thinking about today’s world and the struggles of Black men and women.  Readers will enjoy her frankness, and her faith is strong.  Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison is a spiritual collection that strives to provide readers with an inside look at the Black experience and the strength of faith.

Since this was published in 2011, it is eligible for this year’s Indie Lit Awards.

 

This is my 71st book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

 

 

This is my 32nd book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a small collection of poems that draw parallels between nature and women.  Reminiscent of Ecofeminism, a political and social combination of feminism and deep ecology that draws parallels between women and nature and calls attention to the misuse of both by patriarchy, Vikram develops a dialogue about the harm done to nature and women across the globe.  Dominance of both by outside constructs — whether it is capitalism or man — has belittled the importance and strengths of both.  Rather than wallow in the pain and repression, Vikram’s verse strives to cultivate women and nature’s strengths to demonstrate there is a way to overcome the oppression.

"in colonies of Armani,
singing a sad melody, attracting worker bees and wasps

to give their friends honey, the walk on burning coals.
A trap before he shoots bullets" (from "It's a Man's World", page 4)

Specifically, Vikram discusses in the preface how there are parallels drawn between women and the eucalyptus tree, which were both once integral to society and are now thought of as commodities that can be replaced.  The collection is broken into two parts, with the first part seemingly more focused on the changing role of both women and nature in society and the dire consequences that occur because their worth is devalued, such as the displacement of birds and animals when the eucalyptus is cut down in “Eucalyptus Trees” (page 3).  Additionally, the poems in this section describe how women and nature are abused by society (not necessarily just by men), like in “Unholy Men” and “It’s a Man’s World” (pages 4-5).

In part two, the secrets held by women and nature are revealed — their strengths that must be hidden from society or be devalued outright.  Women and nature here are dichotomies in and of themselves in that they must present a strong front to the society that abuses them, while at the same time hiding their strengths and internalizing the devaluation of their gifts.

"Wearing a veil over my dilemma,
the skull of questions is hidden.

What was mine? Some could argue.
To make a point bland as sand, I say,

Ask the bird that lost its nest resting in the eucalyptus tree,
Mother nature faced irony with a damp silence --" (From "Silence", page 14)

Vikram’s verse is sparse and powerful, evoking reflection and a grander examination of the world around us. Beyond the Scent of Sorrow calls attention to the depravity of human action, but also to the hope that things can be changed if we have the will to change it.  Do not be fooled by the comparisons here in to thinking that men are the enemy because they are not; the collection is more about the decisions we make as humans and the consequences those decisions have on our world and ourselves.

Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is the third collection of hers that I’ve read, and since this was published in 2011, it is eligible for this year’s Indie Lit Awards.  It resonated with me for its references to Portugal, my father’s homeland, and for its echoes of a philosophy, social, and political movement I have studied and internalized over the years.

About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an award winning writer, a Pushcart Prize nominated poet, novelist, author, essayist, columnist, educator, and blogger. Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the steel city of Rourkela, the blue waters of North Africa, the green hills of Mussoorie, and the erudite air of Pune before arriving in bustling New York. Growing up between three continents, six cities, five schools, and three masters degrees, what remained constant in Sweta’s life was her relationship with words.

Check out Diary of an Eccentric’s review.

This is my 31st book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

 

 

This is my 3rd book and final book for the South Asian Reading Challenge.

124th Virtual Poetry Circle

Today’s Poem is from Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram (page 8):

Skeletons of Women

My feet were ticklish
from the acorns sneaking
inside the pockets of large rocks,
scratching them like a dog's belly,
that's what I thought at first.

But I was wrong.
Woodpeckers conspiring with moths,
mimicking chained cries
of stripped branches dying their own death,
were asking me to put a period, not a comma, in my steps.

Too late, the fire moaned.
With feet sinking like a widow's hopes,
I stepped on a cask of ashes
only to find skeletons of women with no fingernails.
Hunger ate them.

Welcome to the 124th 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 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions (please nominate 2011 Poetry), visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

So what do you think?

Guest Post: Victor Volkman Talks About Small Presses in the Modern Era

We’re almost midway through the month, and today’s guest post is from Loving Healing Press Inc.‘s Victor Volkman.  The press has been in operations since 2003, and is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The press also has a number of imprints, one of which — Modern History Press — published two volumes of Sweta Vikram‘s poetry, which I’ve reviewed and whom I’ve interviewed on the blog (click the links to read the reviews or interview).

I hope you enjoy today’s guest post from Victor.

Small Presses in the Modern Era: Loving Healing Press Inc.

My name is Victor R. Volkman and I am the president of Loving Healing Press Inc., which encompasses self-help and personal growth books as well as additional imprints like Modern History Press, which focuses on stories about the struggle for identity in contemporary times. Today I would like to address the question: “Why continue to struggle against mass market producers?”

That is a very good question and one which is germane to the reason why I founded LHP and its imprints. Specifically, there are important healing methods to expose and important stories to tell that are ignored by mainstream media. Specifically, there is only so much you can do with a website and if you want to engage someone in a meaningful discourse as opposed to topical news, opinion, or gossip, the longer format of the book is still the best way to go. In this guest post, I’ll highlight some specific books and why we continue to fight against the tide.

LHP addresses some very difficult topics that are rarely heard in the mainstream media, except with the perception that they are “terrible and nothing can be done about it”. This all started in 2003 with my first book at LHP, Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR), which highlights a brief therapy that can bring tremendous relief to sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) regardless of its source: combat, motor vehicle accident, domestic violence, rape, and so on. Best of all, it can be learned and applied effectively in a matter of a few weeks training. This is something the world needs now more than ever!

Getting further into trauma, we have a series of books about sexual abuse recovery from just such a survivor Margie McKinnon who has gone on to found a worldwide network of peer-support groups called “The Lamplighters.” Margie has written books for us which highlight a specific, seven-stage program called R.E.P.A.I.R. in different editions for adult survivors, children and adolescents, and even toddlers. Again, Margie’s vision of hope and recovery runs counter to the culture’s manifestation of victims being “scarred for life” with little chance of normal relationships.

Switching gears to our Modern History Press, we focus on books from people who have no access to ordinary media and are telling stories that you aren’t going to hear on the nightly news. For example, Issam Jameel’s Iraq Through a Bullet Hole: A Civilian Wikileaks is a highly documented factual account of his attempt to return to Iraq to resume a normal life after years of exile and the sheer chaos and mayhem of the new normal in Iraq. Shaila Abdullah’s Saffron Dreams (click for Savvy Verse & Wit review) tells the fictional story of a Muslim-American woman in the aftermath of 9/11 trying to make a new life while grieving her husband who as lost in the destruction of the World Trade Center itself. There’s a story you won’t find anywhere else! MHP’s “World Voices” series is focusing on English-speaking writers from around the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. MHP includes not only biography but also fiction and poetry as well. We’re anticipating the launch of new chapbooks by South African poet Nick Purdon and African-American poet Regina Jemison this spring.

Returning to the question, why struggle against mass-market producers? Because there is a whole world of stories out there to tell and with it the possibility of change for the better. Finally, with the mass-market acceptance of the eBook platform’s we’re seeing the last barriers fall between us and the conglomerates because the eBook has created a level playing field where no one may claim the “home court advantage!”

Thanks, Victor, for providing your thoughts on small presses in the modern era for the Indie & Small Press Celebration!

About Victor Volkman:

Victor Volkman is a Senior Software Engineer at UGS in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He writes for CodeGuru.com other print/online publications. Former part-time instructor at Washtenaw Community College, now serving on CIS Faculty Advisory Board.

He’s also webmaster for the Traumatic Incident Reduction Association (TIR.ORG) and the editor of Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction and several other books on TIR.  And is a features editor for TIR Association quarterly newsletter.

He’s the owner of Loving Healing Press.  Check out this interview with Victor.