Category Archives: Book Reviews

Poem of the Week: Wondrous by Sarah Freligh via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Wondrous, by Sarah Freligh

I’m driving home from school when the radio talk
turns to E.B. White, his birthday, and I exit
the here and now of the freeway at rush hour,

travel back into the past, where my mother is reading
to my sister and me the part about Charlotte laying her eggs
and dying, and though this is the fifth time Charlotte

has died, my mother is crying again, and we’re laughing
at her because we know nothing of loss and its sad math,
how every subtraction is exponential, how each grief

multiplies the one preceding it, how the author tried
seventeen times to record the words She died alone
without crying, seventeen takes and a short walk during

which he called himself ridiculous, a grown man crying
for a spider he’d spun out of the silk thread of invention —
wondrous how those words would come back and make

him cry, and, yes, wondrous to hear my mother’s voice
ten years after the day she died — the catch, the rasp,
the gathering up before she could say to us, I’m OK.

For more information on Sarah Freligh, please visit her website.

A big thanks to the wonderful Alison McGhee for curating and sharing these word gems.

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Poem of the Week: Possum Crossing by Nikki Giovanni via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Possum Crossing, by Nikki Giovanni

Backing out the driveway
the car lights cast an eerie glow
in the morning fog centering
on movement in the rain slick street

Hitting brakes I anticipate a squirrel or a cat or sometimes
a little raccoon
I once braked for a blind little mole who try though he did
could not escape the cat toying with his life
Mother-to-be possum occasionally lopes home … being
naturally … slow her condition makes her even more ginger

We need a sign POSSUM CROSSING to warn coffee-gurgling
neighbors:
we share the streets with more than trucks and vans and
railroad crossings

All birds being the living kin of dinosaurs
think themselves invincible and pay no heed
to the rolling wheels while they dine
on an unlucky rabbit

I hit brakes for the flutter of the lights hoping it’s not a deer
or a skunk or a groundhog
coffee splashes over the cup which I quickly put away from me
and into the empty passenger seat
I look …
relieved and exasperated …
to discover I have just missed a big wet leaf
struggling … to lift itself into the wind
and live

For more information about Nikki Giovanni, please click here.

Thank you Alison.

alisonmcghee.com

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Poem of the Week: Any Common Desolation by Ellen Bass via Poetry Mistress Alison

Any Common Desolation, by Ellen Bass

can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.

For more information on Ellen Bass, please click here.

alisonmcghee.com

Thanks to Alison for sharing these gems with the world.

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Poem of the Week: What to Do, by Joyce Sutphen via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

What to Do, by Joyce Sutphen


Wake up early, before the lights come on
in the houses on a street that was once
a farmer’s field at the edge of a marsh.

Wander from room to room, hoping to find
words that could be enough to keep the soul
alive, words that might be useful or kind

in a world that is more wasteful and cruel
every day. Remind us that we are
like grass that fades, fleeting clouds in the sky,

and then give us just one of those moments
when we were paying attention, when we gave
up everything to see the world in

a grain of sand or to behold
a rainbow in the sky, the heart
leaping up.

For more information about Joyce Sutphen, please click here.
alisonmcghee.com

A big thanks to Alison for finding and sharing these beautiful poems.

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Poem of the Week: Things My Son Should Know After I’ve Died, by Brian Trimboli via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

 was young once. I dug holes
near a canal and almost drowned.
I filled notebooks with words
as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun.
I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction.
I spent a summer swallowing seeds
and nothing ever grew in my stomach.
Every woman I kissed,
I kissed as if I loved her.
My left and right hands were rival.
After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents’ house
at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this
there was music playing now.
Your grandfather isn’t
my father. I chose to do something with my life
that I knew I could fail at.
I spent my whole life walking
and hid such colorful wings.

For more information about Brian Trimboli, please click here.
alisonmcghee.com

Thank you Alison for these poems.

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Poem of the Week: Antidotes to Fear of Death, by Rebecca Elson via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Antidotes to Fear of Death, by Rebecca Elson

Sometimes as an antidote
to fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
til they are all, all inside me,
pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
into a universe still young,
still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
the light of all the not yet stars
drifting like a bright mist,
and all of us, and everything
already there
but unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
to lie down here on earth
beside our long ancestral bones:

to walk across the cobble fields
of our discarded skulls,
each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
thinking: whatever left these husks
flew off on bright wings.

For more information on Rebecca Elson, please read her fascinating obituary.
alisonmcghee.com
Words by Winter: my new podcast

Thanks so much to Alison for curating these beautiful poems.

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Poem of the Week: Gravity by Kim Addonizio via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Gravity, by Kim Addonizio

Carrying my daughter to bed
I remember how light she once was,
no more than a husk in my arms.
There was a time I could not put her down,
so frantic was her crying if I tried
to pry her from me, so I held her
for hours at night, walking up and down the hall,
willing her to fall asleep. She’d grow quiet,
pressed against me, her small being alert
to each sound, the tension in my arms, she’d take
my nipple and gaze up at me,
blinking back fatigue she’d fight whatever terror
waited beyond my body in her dark crib. Now
that she’s so heavy I stagger beneath her,
she slips easily from me, down
into her own dreaming. I stand over her bed,
fixed there like a second, dimmer star,
though the stars are not fixed: someone
once carried the weight of my life.

For more information about Kim Addonizio, please click here.
A big thanks to Alison for the beautiful poems.
alisonmcghee.com
Words by Winter: my new podcast

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Poem of the Week: Ars Poetica, by Aracelis Girmay via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Ars Poetica, by Aracelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.
 
Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record
 
of the foot’s silver prayer.
I lived once.
Thank you.
It was here.

Thanks to Alison for finding and sharing these beautiful poems.

For more information on Aracelis Girmay, please click here.

alisonmcghee.com

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Poem of the Week: The Copper Beech, by Marie Howe via Alison McGhee Poetry Mistress

The Copper Beech, by Marie Howe

Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen without it happening to me.

 

A big thank you to Alison for finding and sharing these beautiful poems.

For more information about Marie Howe, please check out her website.

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@alisonmcgheewriter

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Poem of the Week: Calling Him Back from Layoff, by Bob Hicok via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Calling Him Back from Layoff, by Bob Hicok

I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been

confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was

and it turns out I’m OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars

painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that’s a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle

for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said

he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean

and his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through

with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions

as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried

with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward

than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other

and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other

forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones

hear?

 

A big thanks to Alison for sharing these heartbreaking poems.

For more information on Bob Hicok, please click here.

To listen to Words by Winter, my new poem and storytelling podcast, click here.

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Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter

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