BOOK REVIEW: Little Epiphanies by Allison Joseph

Allison Joseph’s poetry collection, Little Epiphanies, is a lovely book.

Her tightly structured and orderly poems eloquently comment on everything from everyday clutter (“Little Epiphanies”) to our fellow mammals (“Ode to the Naked Mole Rat”). Yet she also skillfully uses iambic pentameter to poke fun at strict poetry format in “Sonnet for a Good Mood:”

“How funky can I be in fourteen lines;
how thick a groove can I lay down right here?
How bad can my ass be in these confines–
ten syllables each time seems so severe.”

On the next page, in “A Prayer for Women’s Bodies,” she smoothly transitions to more serious matters, honoring the imperfections that society would have us camouflage or hide:

“…love handles no longer

maligned, each waist its own territory,
own beloved landscape of bruise
or bone, wrinkle or fat. Let us honor
bone, whether porous or pointy,

shattered or submerged, hardworking
scaffolding holding us up when gravity
and graves could sink us down,…”

In fact, what amazes me most about this collection is that the subject matter is so varied while still fitting together well. She makes observations about racism in “Sundown Ghazal”, about Afro hairstyles as statements of black empowerment in “Thirty Lines about the Fro,” and her wandering pen touches on more mundane subjects like public transportation with equal parts observation and insight.

I recommend Little Epiphanies for poetry lovers everywhere.

 

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POEM: Mindfulness

“Mindfulness”

the swish of my skirt’s soft fabric
against my ankles
black translucent cloth flowing behind
threads catch upon the rough concrete
as my uneven gait
from old worn sandals
clips and slides along the sidewalk

a cool breeze
softly strokes my hair
like a lover’s caress

my dark reflection
moves aside as the door swings slowly
open, then closes

Does that other me follow me inside with her dark gaze?

 

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Saturday, November 10th, the Massillon Library’s Local Author Fair will feature several Ohio authors between 11am and 2pm. I will be reading from my work about 11:30. Please stop by and find out about the writers in your community. I hope to see you there!

*image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.Net via Creative Commons License.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Hard to Swallow by Pat & Bill Hurley

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Hard to Swallow by Pat & Bill Hurley is a beautiful collection of poetry.

The couple were married just weeks before Bill was diagnosed with cancer. The poems are arranged as a conversation between the husband and wife, with his poems in italics while hers are not. As he did not want to read any poems with angst, some of her poems were never seen by her husband; instead, they appear here as complimentary thoughts on their marriage and the experiences they shared in their short time together. She expresses her worry about his health, her admiration for his courage, and her despair of living without him. Some of her admissions are startling as well as moving.

From “Jealous”

OK, I’ll admit it.

I’m jealous of the cancer.

Ever since she moved in,

She’s had you breathless

He writes of his changing body and how he centers himself through meditation and the contemplation of labyrinths. He also writes of his love for her.

From “March 24, 2016”

…Perhaps angels are the nearest things to our souls, and

as such, are our closest companions to that which is divine.

Although it’s heartbreaking they only had a short time together, this book is a beautiful testament to living life to the fullest and appreciating every moment.

Announcement: My Poetry Collection, Soul Picked Clean

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I am incredibly honored to announce that my first book of poetry, Soul Picked Clean, will be published by Crisis Chronicles Press in early 2019!

Crisis Chronicles Press was founded by John Burroughs in 2008. They’ve published writers from all over the world, in every continent except Antarctica, and from time to time give special emphasis to great Ohio poets. Crisis Chronicles recently published their 100th title.

I will also be appearing at the Massillon Library Local Author Fair on Saturday, November 10th from 1030am – 1pm. I will post updates about the book and future readings as information becomes available. Thank you!

Book Review: Blood Work by Kisha Nicole Foster

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Blood Work by Kisha Nicole Foster is a thoughtful, moving collection of verse from one of Cleveland’s many great poets. Since her first collection was published, her style has evolved to become more visual, more elegant–relying less heavily on sound and more on the written form. Metaphors rather than multiple rhymes.

These are poems about family: specifically her father and son. However, the loss and regret felt over interactions with family are universal and relatable. The visceral connections of blood are used, as the title implies, as well as other metaphors. For example, she speaks about wooden roller coasters in both “Wooden Siamese Cats” and “I Smiled Back.”

[from “Wooden Siamese Cats”]

A wooden roller coaster

you and I

looping through air.

An unauthorized aerial act

of understanding.

She also references testimony in “Forcing Smiles” and (again) “I Smiled Back”, two complimentary poems placed next to each other in the collection.

[from “Forcing Smiles”]

you said whether you lived or died

you would be testimony

and

[from “I Smiled Back”]

When we talked on the phone,

he told me that this thing was life or death.

That if he lived he was going to be a testimony

and if he died he was going to be a testimony.

I wanted to overlook the death part.

I didn’t really need those words in my ears.

The shared use of key words and images makes the entire collection stronger. All the poems are so connected, each one feels like part of a larger narrative. Her streamlined approach uses straight forward language to eloquently convey deeply felt emotions. I know I felt emotional reading her words, especially the ones about her father, since it connected me to my own father’s loss a couple years ago. It’s beautiful.

So if you are a fellow poetry lover, I suggest you get this book immediately. If you are lucky enough to live in the Cleveland area, you can purchase it from Kisha Nicole Foster directly at a poetry event; otherwise, you can contact her through her FaceBook page. I’m sure you will enjoy these verses as much as I did.

Book Review: CHAPTER ELEVEN by E.F. Schraeder

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E.F. Schraeder‘s Chapter Eleven poetry collection links both the financial and political aspects of health care and other industries with the real people that are effected. Poems like “Stopwatch Medicine” illustrate how healthcare feels like a churning machine to the doctor forced to ration time treating each patient. “For These Reasons” continues the thought of people being treated as cogs in a machine, with brilliant lines like:

Every aisle a staggering surprise of

consumer options that tie my hands

with dish rags (10 for $1!)

to women 12,000 miles away.

The poems within this deceptively thin book detail personal loss, health scares, education, the decline and deaths of loved ones–as well as biting social commentary. She even uses the ready-made metaphor of Humpty Dumpty for her purposes on more than one occasion. For example, in “Almost OK — for Humpty” she turns the nursery rhyme’s disturbing imagery into insights on living as a damaged person:

A certain light still reveals

the shadows of the cracks.

My only regret about this poetry collection is that I can’t give you a direct link to buy it from any of the big bookstore sites.. You can, however, order it directly from Partisan Press, or if you are lucky enough to live near Cleveland, pick up a copy at Mac’s Backs  or Visible Voice  bookstores! Trust me. It’s worth the trip.

POEM: Haiking Haikus

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Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum

“Haiking Haikus”

In the forest, the

illusion of loneliness

is overwhelming.

I lose the Spring in

my step somewhere along the

Emergent Tower.

Towering among

the forest canopy, its

wooden bones reach out.

White smoke rises from

above and beyond the tree-

tops: Nuclear steam.

The world sways beneath

my feet. I know it’s better

to bend than to break.

*image taken during the Haiku Hike on May 6th, 2018 at Holden Arboretum