Category Archives: Book Reviews

Poem of the Week: The Nutritionist by Andrea Gibson via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Nutritionist, by Andrea Gibson

The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables,
said if I could get down thirteen turnips each day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away to where the darkness lives.

The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight,
said for twenty dollars she’d tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty and she said, “Stop worrying, darling,
you will find a good man soon.”

The first psycho-therapist said I should spend three hours a day
sitting in a dark closet with my eyes closed and my ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn’t stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.

The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth,
said focus on the out breath,
said everyone finds happiness
if they can care more about what they can give
than what they get.

The pharmacist said Klonopin, Lamictal, Lithium, Xanax.

The doctor said an antipsychotic might help me forget
what the trauma said.

The trauma said, “Don’t write this poem.
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.”

But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River
convinced he was entirely alone.”

My bones said, “Write the poem.”
To the lamplight considering the river bed,
to the chandelier of your faith hanging by a thread,
to everyday you cannot get out of bed,
to the bullseye of your wrist,
to anyone who has ever wanted to die:

I have been told sometimes the most healing thing we can do
is remind ourselves over and over and over
other people feel this too.

The tomorrow that has come and gone
and it has not gotten better.

When you are half finished writing that letter
to your mother that says “I swear to God I tried,
but when I thought I’d hit bottom, it started hitting back.”

There is no bruise like the bruise
loneliness kicks into your spine
so let me tell you I know there are days
it looks like the whole world is dancing in the streets
while you break down like the doors of their looted buildings.
You are not alone
in wondering who will be convicted of the crime
of insisting you keep loading your grief
into the chamber of your shame.

You are not weak
just because your heart feels so heavy.
I have never met a heavy heart that wasn’t a phone booth
with a red cape inside.

Some people will never understand
the kind of superpower it takes for some people
to just walk outside some days.
I know my smile can look like the gutter of a falling house
but my hands are always holding tight to the rip cord of believing
a life can be rich like the soil,
can make food of decay,
turn wound into highway.

Pick me up in a truck with that bumper sticker that says,
“It is no measure of good health
to be well adjusted to a sick society.”

I have never trusted anyone
with the pulled back bow of my spine
the way I trusted ones who come undone at the throat
screaming for their pulses to find the fight to pound.
Four nights before Tyler Clementi
jumped from the George Washington bridge
I was sitting in a hotel room in my own town
calculating exactly what I had to swallow
to keep a bottle of sleeping pills down.

What I know about living
is the pain is never just ours.
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo,
so I keep listening for the moment the grief becomes a window,
when I can see what I couldn’t see before
through the glass of my most battered dream
I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.

So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin
don’t try to put me back in.
Just say, “Here we are” together at the window
aching for it to all get better
but knowing there is a chance
our hearts may have only just skinned their knees,
knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming

let me say right now for the record,
I’m still gonna be here
asking this world to dance,
even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet.

You, you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.

Raising your bite against the bitter dark,
your bright longing,
your brilliant fists of loss.
Friend, if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other,
my god that is plenty
my god that is enough
my god that is so so much for the light to give
each of us at each other’s backs
whispering over and over and over,
“Live. Live. Live.”

 

 

To listen to Andrea Gibson perform this poem, click here.

For more information on poet and performer Andrea Gibson, click here.

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Poem of the Week: The Poet of Ignorance, Anne Sexton via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Poet of Ignorance, by Anne Sexton

Perhaps the earth is floating,
I do not know.
Perhaps the stars are little paper cutups
made by some giant scissors,
I do not know.
Perhaps the moon is a frozen tear,
I do not know.
Perhaps God is only a deep voice
heard by the deaf,
I do not know.

Perhaps I am no one.
True, I have a body
and I cannot escape from it.
I would like to fly out of my head,
but that is out of the question.
It is written on the tablet of destiny
that I am stuck here in this human form.
That being the case
I would like to call attention to my problem.

There is an animal inside me,
clutching fast to my heart,
a huge crab.
The doctors of Boston
have thrown up their hands.
They have tried scalpels,
needles, poison gasses and the like.
The crab remains.
It is a great weight.
I try to forget it, go about my business,
cook the broccoli, open the shut books,
brush my teeth and tie my shoes.
I have tried prayer
but as I pray the crab grips harder
and the pain enlarges.

I had a dream once,
perhaps it was a dream,
that the crab was my ignorance of God.
But who am I to believe in dreams?

 

Click here for more information about the beautiful poet Anne Sexton.

Thank you Alison for sharing these beautiful poems.

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Books: Rage by John Mavin

Full disclosure. John Mavin is a writing instructor I’ve taken many workshops with. If you ever want to learn how to tell a story, take one of John’s workshops. Not only is he a gifted and  inspirational teacher who understands the art of writing from creation to final drafts, he also is an amazing cheerleader. And a nice guy. Which is why when he published his collection of short stories entitled Rage, I was surprised.

rage.jpg

The stories, many of them based in the the fictional small Ontario town of Dolsons,  are rooted in the ordinary. From an aging couple’s final shocking hours, to a family struggling after the death of their son , John’s precise and eloquent prose navigates the vagaries of human frailty and failings and exposes the raw pain that lies beneath the surface of the human experience.

From a purely writerly point-of-view this gripping collection of stories is a must read for students of the short story.  From a readers perspective…it’s a page turning collection that takes the reader into a journey of the human experience. Available here and here.

About John Mavin

johnmavin-small.jpgA past nominee for both the Aurora Award and the Journey Prize, John Mavin is the author of Rage. He’s taught creative writing at Capilano University, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, with New Shoots, and at the Learning Exchange in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

 

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Poem of the Week: This Is the Dream, by Olav Hauge via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

This Is the Dream, by Olav Hauge (translated by Robert Hedin and Robert Bly)

This is the dream we carry through the world
that something fantastic will happen
that it has to happen
that time will open by itself
that doors shall open by themselves
that the heart will find itself open
that mountain springs will jump up
that the dream will open by itself
that we one early morning
will slip into a harbor
that we have never known.

For more information on Olav Hauge, please click here.
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Thank you to Alison for sharing these beautiful poems.

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Poem of the Week: What Happened Here? by Petra Morin (my sister!)

What Happened Here………..?

Windows covered, rotting roof,

Unkempt garden, is this proof

Or maybe not, it’s hard to know

The broken windows…it puzzles me so.

Who once walked the path out back?

Where are the children, what did they lack…

Is it a story of heartbreak and pain…

Somehow it doesn’t look like there was anything to gain.

32169, 643, 528 1427, 128

Lonely numbers, boarded doors

Was there ever happiness walking across these floors?

I hope that perhaps one lonely soul

Made it out into the world and achieved some unattainable goals……

 

Thanks to Petra for submitting her poem!

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Poem of the Week: Midwest Boys by Betsy Brown via Alison McGhee

Midwest Boys, by Betsy Brown

In Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
we kept it in mind
I-41 went clear down

to Florida. These scoop-necked
midsized midwestern
towns, set up separate originally

on waterways for trading–
first furs, then lumber,
the worker drinkers

voiceless then fierce
for the hell of it, tense
machinery, construction.

As a teenager you noted
mainly the routes out.
Spring, the dead mud,

the bad paint job, drifting jarred
eaves troughs, sullen pickup
sunk to its axles on the lawn.

A boy’s mind turns to the road.
Tract houses, one, one,
all along the frontage road

with tequila and Old Style, pot,
cheap speed; if you’re
a girl you try to remember:

They shoved candlesticks
up Linda. They drew on her
with her Bonne Bell.

If you pass out
they’ll strip you,
you won’t know

and if you’re lucky only
photograph you. These pictures
show up on bulletin boards.

In Eau Claire, 1992, teenage
boys dropped rocks from
an overpass over I-94,

aiming for windshields.
Martin Blommer in his
Winnebago, hit by a 32-

pound rock; his wife alongside
didn’t hear it, the crash,
the RV veered in a second

into the median, staggering
to stop, and he, in silence,
transfixed instantly, forever.

32 pounds. These are
my highways. I remember.
Long-play radio stations,

driving in moonlight
past hours of white
white mute fields.

I never wanted
to go back to Florida.
As a girl I didn’t

have much to compare–
dime bags, shot glasses, lives
that trudged with losses

and butane. I can’t forgive them.
Where could one drunk girl
find an ocean?

In the first forced blink of spring
I hate you.
I remember your names.

My curse on you is this:
May you have daughters
and may you love them.

 

Thank you Alison and Betsy.

For more information about Betsy Brown, please click here.

 

 

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Poem of the Week: Write About a Radish, by Karla Kuskin via Poetry Mistress Alison

Write About a Radish, by Karla Kuskin

Write about a radish
Too many people write about the moon.

The night is black
The stars are small and high
The clock unwinds its ever-ticking tune
Hills gleam dimly
Distant nighthawks cry.
A radish rises in the waiting sky.

 

Thank you Alison.
For more information about Karla Kuskin, please click here.

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