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So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters

Source: the publisher
Paperback, 154 pgs.
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So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters, a collection of prose and poetry, is an exploration of the soul, a look at a soul struggling to love itself. This self-discovery journey travels from trailer parks to Paris and more internal worlds of faith, love, and self-confidence. Some of the poems exploring faith were meandering, like most journeys of faith can be, and often lost me on where they were going or what they wanted to say. But there are poem that read like confessions in personal journals and diaries. Some are incredibly raw and those are the poems that spoke the loudest about the pain of the journey and the sense of loss. Like in “AWOL Icon: A Love Song Without Music” (pg. 15), the narrator says, “Thunder breaks something and it’s not just the sky.”

From "Luster (Less)" (pg. 29)

Bad whiskey tastes sick sweet
like     forgetting
and that's enough to make me
              suck
      it
down.

Waters’ daughter, Desiree Wade, illustrates a few panels of comic like prose poems and the images are just as jarring and heartbreaking as the poems themselves. This team has great potential if they work together again on a graphic novel or another poetry collection.

These poems are fierce, particularly “Labor Pains,” which speaks about a mother’s fierce love and need to protect her child from the world. It’s beautiful and desperate and loss because as mothers we all know that our powers of protection are limited — inside and outside of the womb.

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters looks to foster self-love and faith and explore those concepts through religious-like experiences as told through poems and illustration. There is a lot to digest in this collection, but it is a journey worth taking. You may learn something about yourself along the way.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #520

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.

Here’s what I received:

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters from the publisher and due out in March.

The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec from the poet.

“This engrossing hybrid collection of prose and poetry carves out a compellingly eclectic style of its own. In The Real Sky Fox adroitly employs dramatic monologues, testimonials and vignettes (among other forms) and uses imagistic and rhythmic language aplenty. The drawings by Jacklynn Niemiec help lend this fine chapbook an airy, almost whimsical quality. A must-read for fans of hybrid literature.
”
Nathan Leslie, author of Three MenRoot and Shoot and Sibs (Texture Press & Aqueous Books)

“Valerie Fox creates new spaces where words turn surreal and then back again, and narrative structures literally awaken the inanimate. Each page contains a surprise and a delight. Fox creates new pathways for language to shape our identities, while breathing life and a new power to transform bodies, flesh, bone, and spirit. These fresh new fictions are glorious, and beautifully accompanied by bright, evocative sketches by Jacklynn Niemiec.”
Susan Smith Nash, founder & managing editor, Texture Press

What did you receive?

 

Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen

Source: L. Shapley Bassen
Paperback, 194 pgs.
I am an Amazon Associate

Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen is an odd little short story collection in which the characters are hit with an unimaginable situation and they must cope with the ripples that disturbance creates.  Like many short story collections, some stories will resonate more easily than others.  The title story, Lives of Crime, has a surprise ending, while others are a little more predictable and some are cryptic.  Bassen provides a wide range of characters in a variety of dark situations, including one in which a student’s idea could be published under a credentialed professor’s name, rather than his own.

One of the best stories in the collection, Triptych, involves the restoration of artwork and the lonely life one restorer. Once she finds happiness with someone in her building and things seem to be going well, fate intervenes and turns her world upside down.  As echoes of the art world play out in reality, Bassen creates a series of devastating events that could leave some depressed in the corner.  However, like other stories in the mix, the reader is held at arms length from the characters by the narrative style.

Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen is a collection of vignettes in the lives of those who are unaware that their fate is about to be taken out of their hands.  Each story is intriguing, but many felt unfinished or like they had abruptly finished before the reader was satisfied.  However, the unique situations and characters do provide readers with a lot to ponder, particularly about how they would react in similar situations.

About the Author:

L. Shapley Bassen‘s half dozen plays include Atlantic Pacific Press’s 2009 prizewinner, a comedy, The End of Shakespeare & Co , directed by Pulitzer judge George W. Hayden (Audio excerpt published online). Two more prize winners, from the Fitton Center in Ohio, the one-acts Next of Kin and The Reckoning Ball (the day Brooklyn’s Ebbett’s Field was torn down), were produced in 1998 and 1997. Next of Kin has also been published twice recently in Prick of the Spindle and Ozone Park Journal and was produced in 1999 at NYC’s The American Theatre of Actors. Ms. Shapley-Bassen was a 2011 Finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, and currently (2013) she is Fiction Editor at The Prick of the Spindle. In 2009, she was on the team of the first 35 readers for successful start-up Electric Literature. She was co-author of a WWII memoir by the Scottish bride of Baron Kawasaki and won a Mary Roberts Rinehart Fellowship. Her stories, book reviews, and poems appear in many lit magazines and zines, including The Rumpus, Horse Less Press, The Brooklyner, Press 1, Melusine, New Pages, and Galatea Resurrects. She is a reluctant ex-pat New Yorker living in Rhode Island, now at work on a new play, Dramatic Anatomy.

Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin

Source: Valerie Fox, one of the authors
Paperback, 150 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin is a short book that guides readers through a series of poetry forms from writing fake translations to writing poems from mathematical sequences.  The guide offers step-by-step instructions on how to write these kinds of poems and offers practical advice on how to avoid over-thinking each attempt.  Rather than over analyzing how to write a fake translation, the authors suggest that poets take a poem in a language they do not know at all and look for patterns in syntax or line breaks or to take a poem in a foreign language they have some familiarity with but don’t know well enough to translate it word-for-word.

“Teachers and workshop leaders can use the get-to-know-you cinquain, a lighter form of the cameo cinquain, as an introductory exercise on the first meeting of a poetry writing class.  Put the class members in pairs, and then tell them to interview and observe one another for material to put in the cinquain.”  (page 17)

While each of the poem styles is explained and the poems included are designated by style in the latter part of the book, readers may have found it more helpful if the poems followed the guidelines and explanations of each style, rather than be in a separate section after all of the styles are explained.  However, other writers might prefer this organization as it provides them with the simple guidance they need to begin their own work without relying upon concrete examples that could rein in their creativity.

Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin is a new kind of guide that strays from the traditional forms of poetry, like sonnet, and demonstrates the variety of poems that can be created that still involve structure.  From advice column prose poems to the I-hate poem and the one based on phrases that catch a researcher’s eye, the book offers exercises that will expand any poet’s scope.

About the Authors:

Valerie Fox’s most recent book is Bundles of Letters, Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press), written with Arlene Ang. Previous books of poems are The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books) and Amnesia, or, Ideas for Movies (Texture Press). Her work has appeared in many magazines, including Hanging Loose, The World, Feminist Studies, Siren, Phoebe, Watershed, sonaweb, and West Branch.

Poet, writer, and translator Lynn Levin is the author of four collections of poems: Miss Plastique (Ragged Sky Press, 2013); Fair Creatures of an Hour (Loonfeather Press, 2009), a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in poetry; Imaginarium (Loonfeather Press, 2005), a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award; and A Few Questions about Paradise (Loonfeather Press, 2000). She is co-author of a craft-of-poetry textbook, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2013). Birds on the Kiswar Tree, her translation of a collection of poems by the Peruvian Andean poet Odi Gonzales, will be published by 2Leaf Press in 2014.

Book 3 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.