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On That One-Way Trip to Mars by Marlena Chertock

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 102 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

On That One-Way Trip to Mars by Marlena Chertock is a collection of poems broken up into sections named for the planets and the sun in the solar system. Blending scientific fact about the planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto — and the Sun, and grounding it into a more personal experience is a balancing act that Chertock does well. But her poems also have a child-like wonder and humor to them that many can appreciate, especially as she tackles some tough issues.

From "70 Million Years Ago" (pg. 10)

The Milky Way spat out 
the Smith Cloud
from its edges,
a brussel sprout it couldn't swallow.

Now that unwanted green
is on its way back, a giant fart
of gas hurtling towards the galaxy.
From "Find Us" (pg. 19)

When they find us
we'll be long dead.
When they find us,
the chosen or rich frozen,
faces intact,
they'll wonder why
we're a people that don't move.

From those who were split from families by an invisible demarcation line after war in “An invisible middle” to a struggle with prematurely decaying bones in “Short curve II” and others, Chertock inserts wry humor to ease the hurt. In “On that one-way trip to Mars,” the narrator speculates about how to apply to become an astronaut and turn her disability of decaying bones into an asset:

"Don't worry
about my bone deterioration rate,
I had arthritis at 13. Walked like an old lady
at 20. It'd be nice to float
and give my bones a break." (pg. 42)

On That One-Way Trip to Mars by Marlena Chertock begs readers to look beyond the visible to see the potential inside. Remove the bias that comes with the outer surface of someone and rely instead on the inner strength and power of the person. Chertock’s poems explore both inner and outer space; take a trip on this rocket — you won’t be disappointed.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized (Unnamed Press, 2017) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press, 2016). She uses her skeletal dysplasia and chronic pain as a bridge to scientific poetry. She regularly moderates or speaks on panels at literary conferences and festivals, serves as a judge or reviewer of creative work for contests, and reads her own work at open mics and reading series. Find her on Twitter and on Instagram.

Mailbox Monday #475

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 Hunger by Alma Katsu, which I purchased from One More Page Books.

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

Ache by Joseph Ross, which I purchased.

“Walt Whitman writes: I am he attesting sympathy. Joseph Ross could say the same. The poems in Ache flow from a fountain of compassion for those so often denied these sacred waters: immigrants crossing the border at their peril, people of color murdered by police now and half a century ago, the martyrs whose names we know–from Trayvon Martin to Archbishop Romero–and whose names we do not know. In one breath, the poet speaks in the voice of Nelson Mandela, addressing the mother of lynching victim Emmett Till; in the next breath, he speaks of his own high school student, a young Black man spat upon by an officer of the law. In clear, concise language, Joseph Ross praises and grieves the world around him, the music as well as the murder. He also engages in prophecy: If you leave your country in the wrong hands, / you might return to /see it drowning in blood, / able to spit / but not to speak. Yes, indeed.” – Martin Espada

On That One-Way Trip to Mars by Marlena Chertock, which I purchased.

ON THAT ONE-WAY TRIP TO MARS is a version of the Voyager’s Grand Tour, if the spacecraft had skeletal dysplasia. It is a space journey that includes sexual encounters with astronomers, the increasing warmth of the sun, and zero gravity to give aching bones a break. These poems travel the solar system. Blast into orbit and head on that one-way journey with them.

Crumb-Sized: Poems by Marlena Chertock, which I purchased.

With frank humor, Chertock takes on varied and critical aspects of identity―femininity, gender, sexuality―as they relate (or don’t relate) to her disability, somehow succeeding in making them familiar and universal. Her poetry is one that challenges us to see our limitations, not as individuals but as people together, all of us, ultimately, crumb-sized. Born in 1991, Chertock’s is an exciting and contemporary voice―brutally honest, deeply humane and ultimately triumphant.

PR For Poets: A Guidebook To Publicity And Marketing by Jeannine Hall Gailey, purchased for myself since I was interviewed for this book!

PR For Poets provides the information you need in order to get your book into the right hands and into the worlds of social media and old media, librarians and booksellers, and readers. PR For Poets will empower you to do what you can to connect your poetry book with its audience!

What did you receive?

Crumb-Sized: Poems by Marlena Chertock

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

Crumb-Sized: Poems by Marlena Chertock, who read at the Fourth DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, is a short and powerful collection about body image, space, and pain, but it is also a collection of exploration. She explores the strength within herself to do more and cope with more, to “push” through the pain in physical therapy, and to stand tall among those in the forest who are “healthier.”

One of my favorite poems is “I am rotting log of wood,” in which the tree is rotting and seemingly weaker compared to the others in the forest, but the tree realizes she can breathe her own oxygen and feel the sunlight on her leaves — finding strength inside.

Through her descriptions, readers are plunged knee deep in the narrator’s pain. In “Rikkud,” the narrator’s health condition renders her on the sidelines of a dance while those her age continue to party. She says, “my hips and knees are kindling/and I can’t give them more air/or my bones become crisps –” Many of her poems explore debilitating pain and the absurdity of telling a narrator to push through chronic pain, Chertock forces the reader to not only empathize but to be in those moments and live them.

The poems are not all dark and many of them churn on a word or phrase in a poem. In “Application to NASA,” she explores how strong the narrator is despite being below the standards the space agency seeks in potential candidates. Chertock turns the negative into positive, takes a leap of faith into the unknown and creates her own nebulous reality where anything is possible.

Crumb-Sized: Poems by Marlena Chertock is the perfect combination of science and poetry. These poems are Earth-bound until they are launched into outer space to explore life beyond the pain.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized (Unnamed Press, 2017) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press, 2016). She uses her skeletal dysplasia and chronic pain as a bridge to scientific poetry. She regularly moderates or speaks on panels at literary conferences and festivals, serves as a judge or reviewer of creative work for contests, and reads her own work at open mics and reading series. Find her on Twitter and on Instagram.

4th DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading Recap

Unfortunately, I missed the 3rd reading due to other obligations.

However, this past weekend’s DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Open Mic at the Gaithersburg Public Library had a spectacular lineup with Marlena ChertockKateema LeeJoseph Ross, as well as special guest Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, who spoke about the upcoming Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 19.

Ross kicked off the reading with poems from his collection Ache, many of which are written in the voice of famous civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. The collection touches on a great need for empathy and highlights some of the most horrible events in recent history, particularly the murder of black young men. I did want to ask how much consideration he gave to the community he was writing about when writing in these voices, but I’m not one to start controversial arguments in public settings. I did enjoy what was read from the collection and thought it well done. One beautiful thing about poetry readings is you can directly buy books from the poets you hear — no waiting, no forgetting their names (I’m horrible at remembering names) after the reading when life gets in the way…

Marlena Chertock’s poems were definitely different in that they exposed pain and suffering with the help of science and space exploration. Her poems immediately reminded me of the science-based poems of Jeannine Hall Gailey and others. Chertock’s style carries a very personal voice, a perspective from a short woman with bones that are older than her chronological age. Crumb-sized: Poems was the collection she read from the most and her “Application to NASA” had me hooked. Even the cover suggests “space” or at least “planets.” (my review forthcoming)

Kateema Lee has a new collection of poems, Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer, coming from Finishing Line Press that I just pre-ordered on their website. Her poems from this collection really caught everyone’s attention, especially with her rhythmic lines and humor. She also read from Almost Invisible, her first collection, and these were more sobering poems about her relationship with her Vietnam War veteran father. I had hoped to speak with her about the collection and her father, as well as buy a copy but she disappeared before I got to it. It was simply a busy reading. I know that she and Chertock will be at the 2018 Split This Rock Poetry Festival April 19-21 in D.C., so perhaps I will run into her again.

Lucinda Marshall, who has been the point person for these readings, solicited ideas from the audience about how to spread more poetry to the community. My daughter even filled out her notecard. You can find those ideas here.

Some of them are already being used in D.C., and it would be fantastic to see some of them used in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

For the special Mother’s Day poetry reading, check out the 2018 calendar of events. See you at the next reading.