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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?

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett

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

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett (full disclosure I am in a poetry work shopping group with Luther), published by Finishing Line Press, is a follow-up to Jett’s previous chapbook, Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father.

The opening poem, “Nepenthe,” refers to the drug that banishes grief or trouble from one’s mind as mentioned in the Odyssey (yes, I looked this up). Our narrator runs through the poem, looking for those memories in every room, rifles through drawers, unseals books — trying to uncover who did die of starvation, but he has forgotten. This opening poem sets the tone for the collection. It is the search for memory, even the most painful and a wish to hold those tight to almost make the lost corporeal again.

In "Why the Ocean Tastes of Tears"

....
    The snow melts slowly.
Everyone disappears.
    when you want them to stay
everyone goes somewhere
    else and that is why
      the ocean tastes of tears.
It's the one thing you can count on
    when you close your eyes --
      you dream and if
anyone is still there when you wake
  you've witnessed a revolution.

We all cry oceans of tears for lost parents, siblings, friends, children, and that salt is bitter and if often taints our ability to see the joy in what we’ve had. But what a revelation it would be to bring them back to life, even for a moment. “There is no returning,/yet we are always looking back/” says the narrator in “Days Like This.”

There are so many somber poems in this collection — ghost towns of bones, a brother gone too soon, a mother crying, and others — but “Remembrance” is the saddest poem, yet with a sense of humor. It begins, “This is the suit/I only wear once a year.” But you know by the end, a memory will surface where this truth is no longer true and it will break your heart.

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett explores the saddest of truths with a sensitive hand and deep emotional root. His lines will lull you into a trance and gut you when you don’t expect it. But there is a hope, a “star’s kiss” that pierces through that dark shroud, and we shall not forget it.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #612

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 we received:

Carpe F*cking Diem, a gift from Anna at Diary of an Eccentric. (She seems to know me too well!)

A journal to stop the bullsh*t and seize the f*cking day―the perfect undated journal for every thought, list, note, or entry!

Packed with profanity and the IDGAF spirit, this is the perfect journal to say it like it is and get back to what matters. Finally ditch the anxiety, shake off the stress, and take a moment each day to focus on the number one f*cking person in your life―you! Based on the bestselling Carpe F*cking Diem Planner, this is the perfect undated journal to replace your tired old notebook and up your stationery game.

With journal pages, space for list-making, and laugh-out-loud swears, this is the journal that encourages you to embrace the c’est la f*cking vie attitude and focus on your happiness.

Hilarious and with a self-care attitude that tells you to take a damn nap and eat that f*cking ice cream, this is the perfect gift for the sweary person in your life and the ideal journal to carry with you all damn day.

Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker & A’Lelia Walker, a poetic drama by Roje Augustin, which I purchased.

Author, producer, and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter, A’Lelia. Rojé’s singular and accomplished work is presented through the intimate lens of the mother-daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric to haiku, blackout to narrative. (One poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.) Written in tribute to Walker, Out of No Way deftly and beautifully explores themes of race, motherhood, sacrifice, beauty, and the meaning of success in Jim Crow America.

Raising King by Joseph Ross, which I purchased.

Poetry. RAISING KING urges readers to walk beside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Montgomery to Memphis, past police dogs, mobs, and fire hoses. Listen to his thoughts, hopes, and fears. You’ll also hear from heroes including Abernathy, Shuttlesworth, and Coretta Scott King.-Joseph Ross

In his beautiful collection of poems evoking the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, Joseph Ross offers his readers hope and inspiration for our own difficult times. These poems call us to revive our courage, moral convictions, and belief in the ultimate redemption of humanity.-Susannah Heschel

Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001-2021 by Yusef Komunyakaa for review from the publisher.

New and selected poems from the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet

These songs run along dirt roads
& highways, crisscross lonely seas
& scale mountains, traverse skies
& underworlds of neon honkytonk,
Wherever blues dare to travel.

Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth brings together selected poems from the past twenty years of Yusef Komunyakaa’s work, as well as new poems from the Pulitzer Prize winner. Komunyakaa’s masterful, concise verse conjures arresting images of peace and war, the natural power of the earth and of love, his childhood in the American South and his service in Vietnam, the ugly violence of racism in America, and the meaning of power and morality.

The new poems in this collection add a new refrain to the jazz-inflected rhythms of one of our “most significant and individual voices” (David Wojahn, Poetry). Komunyakaa writes of a young man fashioning a slingshot, workers who “honor the Earth by opening shine / inside the soil,” and the sounds of a saxophone filling a dim lounge in New Jersey. As April Bernard wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “He refuses to be trivial; and he even dares beauty.”

The Gospel according to H.L. Hix for review.

Literary Nonfiction. Religion. First we have to talk about the elephant in the room–though that might not be the most polite term for Jesus! For many millions of people around the world, Jesus is the Son of God, the divine source of their salvation, his story told in the familiar four gospels of the Bible, and any tampering with that story understandably will be met with suspicion, distrust, even hostility. So let’s begin with what this book isn’t. H. L. Hix covers this in detail in his Introduction to “The Gospel,” but for now it’s enough to say that this isn’t Jesus Christ, Superstar, or The Last Temptation of Christ. Nothing in this Gospel secularizes or desacralizes Jesus Christ. You don’t get less of the divine Jesus here, you get more. That’s because Hix has gone back to the original source materials, both the canonical and noncanonical gospels and histories and stories of the life of Jesus, and created out of them a single, more comprehensive and nuanced narrative. A good analogy is to film editing. Most movie directors shoot more film than ever makes it into the version we see on the screen, film that ends up on the editing room floor, the result of commercial decisions often far removed from the director’s vision of the film. Occasionally the director gets the chance to re-edit the film to restore that lost material, producing a “Director’s Cut” that may be very different from the commercial film release. So we can think of “The Gospel” as an ultimate “Director’s Cut” of the story of Jesus, with all of those bits that didn’t make the official version (edited by early church leaders to serve a specific agenda) at last restored. Something for those enthusiasts who want to dig deeper, to know more. But that’s not all he’s done. Among other virtues of his “Gospel,” Hix has restored the meanings of essential words as they would have been understood by contemporary audiences when the source materials were first written, overcoming what he calls “translation inertia”, the tendency to retain a translation over time even after the sense of the word has changed for current readers. Thus “Lord” becomes “Boss”, and the apostles “apprentices”, changes that allow for a novel understanding of the role of Jesus and of believers’ relationship to him. Also of crucial importance, Hix has eliminated gendered language wherever possible, in the process inventing new terms that decouple our understanding of Jesus and divinity from the limitations of gendered human bodies and relationships. Thus “Son” becomes “Xon”, for example, a form of literary transubstantiation that renders the divine even more transcendent, in the process opening the Gospel and its promise of salvation to greater inclusivity. Gospel, of course, means “good news.” And the very good news of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO H. L. HIX  for believers and for non-believers alike, is that what has been called “the greatest story ever told,” the life of Jesus, just got greater.

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth for review.

Having written numerous works of nonfiction, this is Lee Hudspeth’s debut book of poetry. Incandescent Visions explores the meaning of the human experience, as the author encourages his readers to ponder the universe and their place within it and to catalyze their own creative potential. From the sublime shores of the Mediterranean to the majestic expansiveness of deep space, this book contemplates nostalgia, perspective and the gift of love. Through five short yet powerful, thought-provoking chapters of contemporary poems—and a dash of elegant, evocative haiku—Hudspeth takes his readers on a journey across the inner landscape of struggle, triumph, self-realization, and imagination.

Made of Air by Naomi Thiers for review.

The poems in Made of Air argue for a deeper, more woman-centric definition of courage, a courage borne of the long haul. There are poems on the deaths of loved ones and mothering a teenager. One remarkable sonnet relates how a mother makes a U-turn off a ramp just before a bridge collapses in an earthquake. These poems celebrate the lives of women and girls and commemorate the daily ways they navigate through potential disaster—and come through dancing.

Kim Roberts, editor of By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital and author of five poetry collections, including The Scientific Method

Naomi Thiers shows women and girls who hold things together. From the “cliff-high condo where we eat” to those sheltering in “a concrete pocket of unremarkable hidden things,” her characters emerge, vulnerable as a flame in a dry season. Like Thiers’ previous collections, her new work transfigures ordinary, “silenced people,” as Tillie Olsen called them, “consumed in the hard, everyday essential work of maintaining human life.” Can we bear to look at who we are now? Thiers’ poetry says yes—and we must, to help each other hold together.

Rose Marie Berger, Senior Editor, Sojourners magazine and author of Bending the Arch: Poems

Naomi Thiers’ Made of Air is a story of courage—or, more to the point, many such stories. It is a chronicle of endurance: the “ordinary women” in the book’s first section endure homelessness, illness, abuse, the murder of their children, and in doing so, become extraordinary. Thiers’ compassion and insight shine through in language that is vivid and luminous. The ending of her poem “Old People Waking” sums up the theme of the entire book: “And if everything hurts, it means / the current is flowing; we hiss inside: / Live. Live.

Miles David Moore, author of The Bears of Paris and founder of the IOTA Poetry Series

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased.

In this follow-up to his earlier chapbook, Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father (FLP, 2015), Luther Jett confronts the ephemeral nature of our lives, the process of grief, and the endurance of memory. Jett draws upon recollections of family, as well as historical events and forces to weave a tapestry of image and reflection. Loss “… comes with the ticking of clocks …” the author reminds us in his title poem, “… and that is why the ocean tastes of tears.” Jett writes of ghostly grandfather clocks that walk in the night, of forgotten toys scattered in an unmown lawn, of the importance and the hidden dangers of holding on to memory. “What can I sing to tell your feast?” Jett asks in the poem “Seamus”, adding in his later poem, “One by One”, “I chant the names of things long after they have gone.”

Maryland’s Poet Laureate, Grace Cavalieri says of Jett’s work: “[N]ever have the dead been more alive …. Subtle and intelligent stories, realized through the power of Jett’s voice, make life appear on every page.” In this time of world-wide pandemic and upheaval, “Everyone Disappears” may take on additional resonance as we grope for understanding in the face of tragedy and uncertainty.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama, which I received as a gift.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

What did you receive?

Our Situation by W. Luther Jett

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 27 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Our Situation by W. Luther Jett is a powerful chapbook in which the poet explores the uncertainty of not only the state of politics in the United States, but also events that jar us from our routine lives and remind us that trauma can occur unexpectedly. Despite the keening (there is a poem with such a title about a dying nation) in the volume, there are glimmers of hope to be had.

"Keening" (pg. 2)

My country is dying and I,
I am singing the night to sleep.

While fireflies rise from their
diurnal graves to torch the dark, I sing.

While the owl's great winds sweep
clean the sightless air, I sing.

From the mountains to the prairies
I sing, and from ocean to ocean, we weep.

We weep together for our song
is as much a lament as it is a battle-cry."

Jett’s imagery in these poems, like in “Spinning,” place the reader at the center of the action. Readers will feel the body in the air after the car makes contact, and the hot breath of the wolf at the narrator’s back in “Canary.” Many of these images are at first subtle until their power creeps up on the reader, and it is perfectly on display in “Canary” and many other poems.

Our Situation by W. Luther Jett does not strike heavily with its message about the current political and social situations we find ourselves in as a nation, like the narrator says in “Canary:” “A wolf is walking/down my backbone — and you don’t/believe me.” and “he’ll lunge and bite — and you/you won’t believe it’s happening/even as you watch me/disintegrate into a smear of viscera./” (pg. 5) And in many ways, Jett gives many the hope they need that we can recover from the darkness, like in “Love Song for A Dismembered Country:” “A voice you have forgotten/will return, wearing/night-colored slippers// Then these words at last/may roll the way honey does/over your parched tongue.//” (pg. 24) Don’t miss this collection.

**Note: Jett is part of a poetry workshop group to which I belong.**

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

W. Luther Jett is a native of Montgomery County, Maryland and a retired special educator. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, such as The GW Review, Beltway, Potomac Review, and Little Patuxent Review as well as several anthologies, including My Cruel Invention and Proud to Be. His poetry performance piece, Flying to America, debuted at the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C. He has been a featured reader at many D.C. area venues. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father, released by Finishing Line Press in the fall of 2015, and Our Situation, released by Prolific Press, summer, 2018.

Mailbox Monday #501

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 we received:

Our Situation by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased.

Couched as they are in exquisite hope (“the canticle of sparrows/ assures me we are constant as the grass”), we find in these poems “the trumpet’s blare” and … resistance. The range is wide.Yeats, Epimenides, the ancient prayer to do with the opening and closing of the gates recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, all make their appearances in this work, and somehow enter the context of our present lives — “small boat pitched/ on the dark sea—One child/cast up on the cold shore.” –Myra Sklarew, author of A Survivor Named Trauma, forthcoming

The palace is burning. My country is dying. As prophets of old, W. Luther Jett reveals in tones magisterial and lyrical our situation. Not your situation. Not mine. Ours. He asks us to consider what led us to Charlottesville, to Aleppo. Our failure is blindness. “If you don’t see the wolf on my back—how can I describe the wolf lurking on your own shoulders?” We are all in the same boat, “lost between ocean and sky with nothing to hold but each other.” These poems are meant to advise and guide us. Jett implores us to open our eyes. And listen. –Barbara Goldberg, Series Editor, International Editions , the Word Works

The anger pulls you in. Frustration holds you rapt. But, the balm of a promised dawn-view dandles you. Luther Jett’s Our Situation beautifully helps us hike up the current hard-rough trail, all with a whispered hope of vistas around the bend.–Hiram Larew

How do we name, process, and react to the perils of the world we live in and the constant barrage of troubling news? With fierce compassion, W. Luther Jett’s Our Situation impels us to do just that while reminding us of how much we have to lose should we fail. This is a collection that needs to be read. –Lucinda Marshall founder of the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading series

What did you receive?