Mailbox Monday #247

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  November’s host is Rose City Reader.

Just a note to say that a poll about the hosting issue will be posted on the Mailbox Monday blog.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich from my mother.

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum knows better than to mess with family. But when powerful mobster Salvatore “Uncle Sunny” Sunucchi goes on the lam in Trenton, it’s up to Stephanie to find him. Uncle Sunny is charged with murder for running over a guy (twice), and nobody wants to turn him in—not his poker buddies, not his bimbo girlfriend, not his two right-hand men, Shorty and Moe. Even Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, has skin in the game, because—just Stephanie’s luck—the godfather is his actual godfather. And while Morelli understands that the law is the law, his old-world grandmother, Bella, is doing everything she can to throw Stephanie off the trail.

It’s not just Uncle Sunny giving Stephanie the run-around. Security specialist Ranger needs her help to solve the bizarre death of a top client’s mother, a woman who happened to play bingo with Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur. Before Stephanie knows it, she’s working side by side with Ranger and Grandma at the senior center, trying to catch a killer on the loose—and the bingo balls are not rolling in their favor.

With bullet holes in her car, henchmen on her tail, and a giraffe named Kevin running wild in the streets of Trenton, Stephanie will have to up her game for the ultimate takedown.

2. Tangle by Julie Cameron Gray from Tightrope Books for review.

Teetering on the brink of longing and the downtrodden, Julie Cameron Gray’s poetic debut explores isolation and the distance between human understanding and human experience. Her poems showcase the relationship between people and their work, urban living and the fringe existence of “wild” animals, the flaws that relationships tend to encompass despite best intentions, and the mysteries inanimate objects hold. Tangle is a verdict, a web of dysfunction, and an alibi.

3.  Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan from Tightrope Books for review.

Beginning with an epigraph by Robert Graves, which asserts that “woman is muse or she is nothing,” the poems in Muse explore the concepts of influence, creativity, and gender by evoking the tragic figure of Elizabeth Siddal. As a model, then pupil, she married the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and although an artist and poet in her own right, Siddal is best known as a Victorian muse and the inspiration for her husband’s paintings. In sensual and evocative language, Dawn Marie Kresan shifts voices and perspectives, from Siddal’s loss and heartbreak over her stillborn daughter to the poet’s lighthearted reproach of artist William Holman Hunt’s depiction of the Lady of Shalott.

What did you receive?

Come Late to the Love of Birds by Sandra Kasturi

Come Late to the Love of Birds by Sandra Kasturi, published by Tightrope Books, is a well-crafted collection about love and freedom from the bonds of illusion.  Kasturi uses bird imagery to explore ancient fairy tales and stories from the ill-fated flight of Icarus to songs like Sing a Song of Sixpence and the blackbirds confinement in a pie.  She takes these long memorized stories and songs and turns them upside down, revealing the twists and turns that these stories could have taken in a modern world.

From "The Evolution of Birds" (page 17)

birds knew of our coming;
could sense our soft limbs millennia ahead,

could sense our drab colours and dull teeth,
our nothing lives.

They dropped their scales, made themselves small,
grew into winged things, soft and bright,

Beyond these twists and turns, Kasturi also plays with the notions in the bird kingdom and the simplicity of their lives — categorizing things into those with and without wings and nothing more. In “One Red Thought,” the red-tailed hawk and the narrator encounter one another, with the narrator questioning, “He must be/tethered to something/because why would a hawk/sit so still, why would/a hawk let me creep/close as a cat, me/” and then realizing “For him–/there are no/cameras or shoes,/there are no ornamental/gardens or lawn gnomes/or pants that need to be ironed.// There are only winged things/and non-winged things.// Only himself and the sky,/the curve of the earth/tilting how he wills it.//  There is the simplicity of the encounter, coupled with the encounter during which the narrator finally understands the reality of the hawk’s world.

From "Crucible" (page 49)

I am curled under piecrust like a blackbird, trapped.
salted and basted and oven-ready.
The kitchen clock's tick settles around me--
keeping time over what's burned or broken.

Salted, basted and oven-ready
I've become claustrophobic and butter-heavy.
Keeping time over what's burned or broken,
my fingers push and dimple the roof.

Each of these poems surprises the reader either once or repeatedly, and Kasturi’s sensitive handling of birds and human motivations alike are musical and magical. With poems rendering a clear relationship between humans and birds to those that draw hopes and dreams from birds in flight and in trees, the collection also has poems dedicated to Bradbury and Neil Armstrong. Come Late to the Love of Birds by Sandra Kasturi is wondrous and lively, full of wit and cunning, and utterly beautiful with each verse and turn of phrase.

About the Poet:

Sandra Kasturi is a writer, publisher, book reviewer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. She is the co-owner of the World Fantasy Award-nominated press, ChiZine Publications. She managed to snag an introduction from Neil Gaiman for her previous poetry collection, The Animal Bridegroom (Tightrope Books). She lives in Toronto with her husband, writer and publisher Brett Alexander Savory.

This is my 13th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 22nd book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




Click the image below for today’s National Poetry Month blog tour post!

When All My Disappointments Came at Once by Todd Swift

When All My Disappointments Came at Once by Todd Swift, published by Tightrope Books, are poems about a series of mid-life crisis in literature and throughout history, with some less grandiose crises in the mix.  There are new takes on the midlife crisis, with the narrator in “The Shelf” trying to take on the life of another through their writing, only to find the words fit falsely and do not ring true.  But in others, like “Michael Kohlhaas,” reference the vengeful exploits that go off of the deep end to the point that the narrator cannot be brought back from the brink.  With a wide breadth of topics, Swift covers a lot of historic and emotional ground in his poems, though clearly some of these poems will require additional research into some of the historic and literary elements referenced, especially if they are not familiar.

From "In Memory of F.T. Prince" (page 15)

Desire ages, ages hardly at all,
Edges, like those of a book,
Curled at the beach, where waves,
Sent by the summer, brush

The salt away, finely-combed,
And it is homosexual love
That holds us in its palm,
That cuts and dries the hair

Beautifully rendered, Swift harkens to the original poem written by Prince about soldiers bathing in a river during World War II, but he also takes a new twist on the scene, pinpointing the desire that can rise up when all that surrounds you is death. Where is the beauty, where is the love — you find it where you can, at least to a certain extent. While some of these poems are dark and harrowing, others are sad, suspenseful, and heart-pounding as Swift takes readers on a journey through several devastating events in history and literature.

However, there are moments in the collection where Swift shows his humor, like using two rhyming lines in “Hunting Party” to make the celebratory scene after the hunt more comical, poking fun at the midlife crisis aspect depicted in the poem. In others, there is a ray of hope even as the narrator loses faith in God. These poems have a wide range of perspectives to offer, and Swift is masterful in some poems and cryptic in others. When All My Disappointments Came at Once by Todd Swift is an interesting examination of midlife crises, the emotions tied to that, and the rays of hope and comedy that can emerge from those incidents.

About the Poet:

Dr. Todd Swift is Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing, at Kingston University, London. He is Director and Editor of new small press Eyewear Publishing. Published by the age of 18 in The Fiddlehead, Swift is the prolific author of eight collections of poetry and many more pamphlets. He is editor or co-editor of a dozen anthologies, most recently Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam, with a preamble from David Lehman. His poems have appeared in numerous international publications, such as Poetry (Chicago), Poetry Review (London), and The Globe and Mail (Toronto). He has been Oxfam’s poet-in-residence, based in Marylebone, since 2004. His widely-read blog, Eyewear, has been archived by The British Library.

Please click on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour image for today’s tour stop:

This is my 7th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 18th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

191st Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 191st 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 2013 Dive Into Poetry Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please visit the stops on the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Today’s poem is from Todd Swift’s When All My Disappointments Came At Once:

Hunting Party (page 84)

A heart is sacred, a wounded hart;
Outrun the symbol in the wood.

Pluck out the arrows.  The head
Enters after having been shot through

The air, in order to hunt and halt
The glorious animal that will be eaten;

Flesh parts from pelt; horns rise on walls.
The hall hums with music's knowing.

This is the festival in the glade,
The pump-pump of the love brigade,

That process known as seasonal,
The turn from rose to worm, grass to spade.

What do you think?

Monster by David Livingstone Clink

Monster by David Livingstone Clink, published by small publisher Tightrope Books, is a collection broken into five parts and is dedicated to those who “dreamed of monsters under the bed.”  What an appropriate dedication, as there is an undercurrent of menace to some of these poems.  Beyond the shapeshifters, the aliens, and the other monsters that go bump in the night, Clink is drawing out the mischief and the darkness within each of us.  While we are human, there is a baser nature beneath the civility that he calls attention to, warning us to remain wary and yet accepting of that nature.

In “Pantoum for a Recent Kill” (page 36), the narrator highlights the need of humanity to categorize even dead bodies, to shape them within a context, providing them meaning even if no meaning exists.  While we want to examine these corpses (whether they are literal or figurative) in great detail and pose them as we see fit, we also shy away from the pleasure of it and of acknowledging this darker desire to get involved on our basest level.  “In putting an end to something braver than us/cut the corpse into small pieces.  Bury it deep/and turn away with relief that this isn’t you.//”  Additionally, readers may notice a slight disdain in the lines chosen by Clink; the narrator seems to be sarcastic about the actions of the denier who “buries it deep.”  Perhaps Clink is discussing the corpses of our past selves or the past selves mentioned throughout history and lore, but no matter which corpses he is referring to, it is clear that he wants to break through the fear of self-examination.

Above Us (page 50)
-after Julia Hartwig’s ‘Above Us’

Running until they are tired, out of space,
boys cast shadows in the dwindling light

of a vast square, the soccer ball bouncing,
ending this day with awe and consolation.

This completes another cycle in dying–
the boys turn home, talk excitedly,

the soccer ball having its own language
that had to be kicked out of it to be heard.

Moving through the parts of the collection, readers will note a progression in the narration from the fantastical to the more concrete, but even in these different poems the undercurrent of menace and darkness continues.  However, the narration changes from a questioning of its existence to a denial of its existence to an acceptance.  From “The Airships Take Us, Even as We Blow Out the Last Candle” (page 27), “The darkness did not come on like a tarantula./It was always here./It is penetrated by man-made machines/muscling into the night,/by two young women on a downtown bus/with blue streaks in their hair, whispering,/Calvary, and, Hosanna.//”

Through playful language and use of creative poetic forms (from pantoum to cross-reading — “Weathered Remains” on page 24 being one of the best cross-reading poems in the collection), Clink will make readers take pause to rethink each line and their own preconceptions about their humanity, while at the same time celebrating what makes us human in the darkness.  Overall, Clink’s use of language and poetic form in Monster creates a surreal malaise that readers will swim in, searching for an exit but enticed to stay to uncover the dark truth about themselves.  A dark truth that is worth knowing so that they can move beyond it to a more mindful life.  Another winner in poetry for the year.

David Clink; Copyright Geoff George

About the Poet:

His first book of poetry was released from Tightrope Books in the Spring of 2008. It is called “Eating Fruit Out of Season.”

David is a member of The League of Canadian Poets.  Check out his Website, Poetry Machine.




This is my 20th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.


This is my 13th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Guest Poet: Tightrope Books’ Halli Villegas Talks About the Fun of Small Press Publishing

Welcome to a post from Tightrope Books‘ Publisher Halli Villegas.  She’s going to talk about the fun behind publishing at a small press.  This small press offers a number of poetry books for poetry lovers like me, including one I recently reviewed, Open Slowly by Dayle Furlong (check out my review).

Without further ado, please welcome Halli:

Independent Publishing for Fun and Absolutely No Profit

Whatever possessed me? I often ask myself that, especially on days when the bills have piled up on the desk and authors are asking me if they can move the comma on their bio over one pica after the proofs have all ready gone to the printer, and the intern has lost the debit card for the fourth time somewhere between the post office three blocks away and the Kinko’s a block further, and I want to put my head down and have a good cry.

A real love of writing and reading, a frisson of excitement at the act of selling something I had been part of making, seeing a writer’s face when they first hold their book in their hands and knowing this was the closest I would ever get to making someone’s dream come true, this is what motivated me to start a press. Was it enough to build a life around?

It isn’t easy. No matter how many times you hear that from those who have published their own chapbooks, or some writing group that has put together an anthology of their own work; publishing professionally, more then a one off book for friends and family’s delectation, is not something that can be fit in between a full time job, family and socializing. The publishing itself becomes all those things and more. And it doesn’t pay. Not if you want to try to avoid publishing books such as The Seven Healing Crystals: Losing Weight the New Age Way and Five Minute Snacks for Feisty Kids. Which have their place and their market, but were never of interest to me.

So I juggle payments and bills, put money in that I earn at temp jobs, each dollar representing a latte made for some CEO, an endless afternoon answering phones in an office without windows and ask myself again: Whatever possessed me?

But then the day comes when the books are back from the printers, and the author and I open the box, breathing in the smell of new paper and ink. The author runs their hand across the cover of their book, as if touching the face of a long lost friend and turns to me and says, “Thank you, its beautiful.”

Thanks, Halli, for participating and celebrating independent and small presses.

About Tightrope Books:

Tightrope Books was established in January 2005 to bring a fresh take to Canadian literature by juxtaposing new and established writers, genres, and cultures to build an inclusive list that represents the vitality of current Canadian literature.  For more information, please visit the Web site.  Also visit the Tightrope Books Blog.