Mailbox Monday #735

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 its 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.

Emma, 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 from Gaithersburg Book Festival:

Disbound by Hajar Hussaini, one of the featured poets.

Hajar Hussaini’s poems in Disbound scrutinize the social, political, and historical traces inherited from one’s language. The traces she finds—the flow of international commodities implied in a plosive consonant, an image of the world’s nations convening to reject the full stop—retrieve a personal history between countries (Afghanistan and the United States) and languages (Persian and English) that has been constantly disrupted and distorted by war, governments, and media. Hussaini sees the subjectivity emerging out of these traces as mirroring the governments to whom she has been subject, blurring the line between her identity and her legal identification. The poems of Disbound seek beauty and understanding in sadness and confusion, and find the chance for love in displacement, even as the space for reconciliation in politics and thought seems to get narrower.

Red London by Alma Katsu, one of the featured presenters.

After her role in taking down a well-placed mole inside the CIA, Agent Lyndsey Duncan arrives in London fully focused on her newest Russian asset, deadly war criminal Dmitri Tarasenko. That is until her MI6 counterpart, Davis Ranford, personally calls for her help.

Following a suspicious attack on Russian oligarch Mikhail Rotenberg’s property in a tony part of London, Davis needs Lyndsey to cozy up to the billionaire’s aristocratic British wife, Emily Rotenberg. Fortunately for Lyndsey, there’s little to dissuade Emily from taking in a much-needed confidante. Even being one of the richest women in the world is no guarantee of happiness. But before Lyndsey can cover much ground with her newfound friend, the CIA unveils a perturbing connection between Mikhail and Russia’s geoplitical past, one that could upend the world order and jeopardize Lyndsey’s longtime allegiance to the Agency.

Red London is a sharp and nuanced race-against-the-clock story ripped from today’s headlines, a testament to author Alma Katsu’s thirty-five-year career in national security. It’s a rare spy novel written by an insider that feels as prescient as it is page-turning and utterly unforgettable.

Breaking the Blank by Dwayne Lawson-Brown and Rebecca Bishophall, who were both featured poets.

Breaking the Blank is a spirited dialogue between poets—and a meditation on love, parenting, gentrification, money, and the literary life. In accessible free verse, haiku, sonnets, and other forms, Dwayne Lawson-Brown and Rebecca Bishophall honor the African American experience, make sacred the ordinary, and remind the reader of the marvelous in the everyday.

Breaking the Blank is a contemporary treasure.” —Sistah Joy, Poet Laureate of Prince George’s County, Maryland

“Crisp, riveting, and often tender meditations on love, parenting, and—to paraphrase the title of a National Public Radio program—This African American Life.” —Reuben Jackson, author of fingering the keys and Scattered Clouds: New & Selected Poems

Rebecca Bishophall and Dwayne Lawson-Brown met each other as juniors in high school in the late 1990’s and have been literary colleagues, and friends, ever since. Rebecca Bishophall has featured at Spit Dat, Afrocentric Book Expo, and others, and works in member services for a non-profit organization. She graduated from Trinity University in 2006 with a major in Communications. Dwayne Lawson-Brown, aka the Crochet Kingpin, is co-host of Spit Dat, the longest running open mic in Washington, D.C. Their poems were recently published in 2022 Pride Poems, they co-authored the Helen Hayes nominated play, From Gumbo to Mumbo, and they are an editor of the literary magazine Bourgeon.

Alchemy of Yeast and Tears by Patricia Davis-Muffett, one of the featured poets.

In her captivating collection, Alchemy of Yeast and Tears, Patricia Davis-Muffett lays bare the world of motherhood and daughterhood with a voice from the crossroads of these states. From what is passed “from hand to hand” across generations to choices that have no easy options, these poems offer us the compassionate and fiery voice of experience. These poems, like the leatherback turtle featured in “Never enough,” “plant hope” in the shifting sands of responsibility, love, celebration, and especially grief, in its multitude of guises. —Merie Kirby, Author of The Thumbelina Poemsand The Dog Runs OnPatricia Davis-Muffett’s Alchemy of Yeast and Tears is a self-aware collection that vacillates from yearning to wildness. These poems marvel through close attention. We are instructed about the tyranny of time. Loss interweaves with what it means to mother. There is an underlying theme questioning how we can hold our grief. From “Night Terrors”: “The person you were will die. / I hope the new one is strong, / fierce enough to survive.” How do we balance this desire to mend without letting slip the sacred remembrances of our past? The poet suggests what we can try to do. Because trying matters. —Mark Danowsky, Editor-in-Chief, ONE ART: a journal of poetry

Patricia Davis-Muffett dedicates this tenderly touching chapbook to a mother who taught her anything was possible. In “What to do with your grief III,” she proclaims: “I do what my mother taught me./Butter. Sugar. Flour. Salt./I bring this to you./….This piece of my day./I am doing what I know.” What the poet knows is that yeast and tears are inherent in all forms of mother/child relationships. Whether focused on a dying mother, the challenges presented by children, or the maternal impulses of leatherbacks, jellyfish, elephants, and orcas, Davis-Muffett’s poems are exquisitely rendered in language that touches the heart as it delights the mind. This chapbook is a gift to those who love authentic poetry. —Carolyn Martin, Ph.D., Poetry Editor, Kosmos Quarterly: Journal for Global Transformation

This Far by Kathleen O’Toole, who was a moderator of a poetry panel.

This collection offers a rich harvest taken from one season in the poet’s creative life. Like movements in a musical composition, these poems share leitmotifs  ̶  grief and the desire to honor those “saints” who have passed on; the sacramental power of nature; and, how works of art illuminate and console as they do. They point to the tension between the practice of monastic silence and the urge to bear witness, interrogating faith in the light of crises facing the earth and our human community. At the same time, the poet celebrates encounters that offer blessings of hope, inviting us to join her in a pilgrimage that leads us, with her, “this far,” and gestures to what lies beyond.

You Cannot Save Here by Tonee Moll, who was a featured poet.

Winner of the 2022 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, You Cannot Save Here is a collection of poems about how we live when each day feels like the world is ending. The poems ask what we do with the small moments that matter when so much around us-climate disaster, gun violence, pandemics, wars-makes these days feel apocalyptic. The book is a bit speculative and a bit confessional. It’s queer, punk, and woven tightly with cultural allusion-from visual art to video games, pop culture to counterculture.

Lo by Melissa Crowe, a featured poet.

Lo maps the deprivation and richness of a rural girlhood and offers an intimate portrait of the woman—tender, hungry, hopeful—who manages to emerge. In a series of lyric odes and elegies, Lo explores the notion that we can be partially constituted by lack—poverty, neglect, isolation. The child in the book’s early sections is beloved and lonely, cherished and abused, lucky and imperiled, and by leaning into this complexity the poems render a tentative and shimmering space sometimes occluded, the space occupied by a girl coming to find herself and the world beautiful, even as that world harms her.

In Kind by Maggie Queeney, a featured poet.

“This poet knows that to transform pain and anguish into words is to call on the ancient goddesses—earth women who spun new sources of nourishment, showing how to do the work that centuries of women poets, seers, makers, mothers, and wanderers would take up, take in, and become. How many ways can a poet invent to survive? Maggie Queeney shows us the old ways are infinite, umbilically connected to our now-howling, our new bodies beautiful amid the ageless brutality. No one can destroy this poet’s lived knowledge, though she speaks of destruction, because she also speaks of this regenerative line of women’s lived histories. In Kind is a book that mothers will relive, daughters will recognize, and the patriarchy will, if there is any justice of the kind Queeney imagines, shake in its boots. Shake then crumble, while Arachne spins triumphant.”—Brenda Shaughnessy, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize

Elegies for an Empire by Le Hinton, a featured poet.

Emily Dickinson is known for saying: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Le Hinton’s poetry is that poetry—what happens when words erupt from the spirit to physically, emotionally, impact us—edify us. His work in Elegies for an Empire is concussive with craft, timeliness, reverence for Black life, family—and for every being timestamped to our fleeting days. The picture of living is never removed from dénouement, although we are often loathe to face its inevitable frame. Hinton faces it with authenticity and grace. Moreover, a depth of concern over the state of our fragile planet is clearly evident in the layers of his poems. In that light, this collection carries the solemnity of prayer. Therein lies its hymnal-like  power, in any meaningful literary service. ~ Truth Thomas, Poet, Editor, Founder of Cherry Castle Publishing

String by Matthew Thorburn, a featured poet.

A book-length sequence of poems, Matthew Thorburn’s String tells the story of a teenage boy’s experiences in a time of war and its aftermath. He loses his family and friends, his home and the life he knew, but survives to tell his story. Written in the boy’s fractured, echoing voice―in lines that are frequently enjambed and use almost no punctuation―String embodies his trauma and confusion in a poetic sequence that is part lullaby, part nightmare, but always a music that is uniquely his.

Bookish People by Susan Coll, a featured presenter. Sadly I missed her signing due to volunteer obligations.

Independent bookstore owner Sophie Bernstein is burned out on books. Mourning the death of her husband, the loss of her favorite manager, her only child’s lack of aspiration, and the grim state of the world, she fantasizes about going into hiding in the secret back room of her store.

Meanwhile, renowned poet Raymond Chaucer has published a new collection, and rumors that he’s to blame for his wife’s suicide have led to national cancellations of his publicity tour. He intends to set the record straight—with an ultra-fine-point Sharpie—but only one shop still plans to host him: Sophie’s.

Fearful of potential repercussions from angry customers, Sophie asks Clemi—bookstore events coordinator, aspiring novelist, and daughter of a famed literary agent—to cancel Raymond’s appearance. But Clemi suspects Raymond might be her biological father, and she can’t say no to the chance of finding out for sure.

This big-hearted screwball comedy features an intergenerational cast of oblivious authors and over-qualified booksellers—as well as a Russian tortoise named Kurt Vonnegut Jr.—and captures the endearing quirks of some of the best kinds of people: the ones who love good books.

The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson, who was a presenter. Sadly I missed her signing due to volunteer obligations.

When Maggie Banks arrives in Bell River to run her best friend’s struggling bookstore, she expects to sell bestsellers to her small-town clientele. But running a bookstore in a town with a famously bookish history isn’t easy. Bell River’s literary society insists on keeping the bookstore stuck in the past, and Maggie is banned from selling anything written this century. So, when a series of mishaps suddenly tip the bookstore toward ruin, Maggie will have to get creative to keep the shop afloat.

And in Maggie’s world, book rules are made to be broken.

To help save the store, Maggie starts an underground book club, running a series of events celebrating the books readers actually love. But keeping the club quiet, selling forbidden books, and dodging the literary society is nearly impossible. Especially when Maggie unearths a town secret that could upend everything.

Maggie will have to decide what’s more important: the books that formed a small town’s history, or the stories poised to change it all.

What did you receive?

You Cannot Save Here by Tonee Moll

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 84 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

You Cannot Save Here by Tonee Moll, winner of the Washington Writer’s Publishing House‘s 2022 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize, opens with a quote from Ocatvia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which sets the stage for the whole collection. Moll’s poems are about every day moments that each of us can relate to, such as days in which we have little energy to perform even the simplest tasks or are exasperated with the search for love and acceptance. The collection points to the gradual wearing down of ourselves.

In the first poem, “You Cannot Save Here,” the narrator begins with “the first day of The End,” which sets up readers for the journey through the apocalypse of life. “I don’t do anything just/sit in the dimness of midday/room with unopened blinds” Think about it, would we really know when the end comes? Do we even know when our end is near or that death has come for us? Not usually. This theme of not knowing if it is the end permeates the poems in this collection where the narrator realizes in “If You See Me, Weep” that lyrics about the end of the world and it “being later than you think” have been sung for decades.

Not only is Moll calling us to task about our obsessions with the end of the world and the death of ourselves, but he also is urging us to “be a whole oak enveloped in kind potential.” (“Fruit of the Unenclosed Land”). Through the title poems (yes, multiple poems are titled “You Cannot Save Here”), readers are immersed in the apocalypses that populate our lives. Humans are such dramatic creatures. Moll is meditating on what it means when we’ve past the point of no return and how do we live with where we are. But don’t expect all of these poems to be dark and dreary, because they are far from that.

You Cannot Save Here by Tonee Moll is a light in the darkness, teaching us to see what we have and rejoice in that moment. The collection asks what is our potential and how can we achieve it, despite our apocalyptic perspective.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Tonee Moll is a queer poet, essayist and educator. Tonee holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts and a Ph.D. in English. They are the author of “Out of Step: A Memoir,” which won the Lambda Literary Award and the Non/Fiction Collection Prize. Their latest book, “You Cannot Save Here,” won the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from Washington Writers’ Publishing House. They live in Baltimore, and they teach creative writing & literature as an assistant professor of English at Harford Community College.

Mailbox Monday #723

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 its 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.

Emma, 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:

You Cannot Save Here by Anthony Moll for Gaithersburg Book Festival.