Category Archives: Book Reviews

Poem of the Week: Pulled Over in Short Hills, NJ, 8:00 AM, by Ross Gay

Pulled Over in Short Hills, NJ, 8:00 AM, by Ross Gay

It’s the shivering. When rage grows
hot as an army of red ants and forces
the mind to quiet the body, the quakes
emerge, sometimes just the knees,
but, at worst, through the hips, chest, neck
until, like a virus, slipping inside the lungs
and pulse, every ounce of strength tapped
to squeeze words from my taut lips,
his eyes scanning my car’s insides, my eyes,
my license, and as I answer the questions
3, 4, 5 times, my jaw tight as a vice,
his hand massaging the gun butt, I
imagine things I don’t want to
and inside beg this to end
before the shiver catches my
hands, and he sees,
and something happens.

Thank you Alison McGhee for posting these amazing poems.

For more information on Ross Gay, please click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Poem of the Week, Uncategorized

Poem of the Week: The Blue Light by Tim Nolan via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Blue Light, by Tim Nolan

I asked her to come to me
in whatever way she chose

As the wind, as the ruffling
water, as the red maple leaf

So today I closed my eyes
halfway toward sleep

And she came in a blue light
blue as a tropical ocean

Turning toward a darker blue
as the Sun passed

Coming in blue waves coming
in from the side of my eyes

Somehow bathing me in blue—
a blue that seemed to be

Her gaze –turned to blue—
just as she was a few weeks ago

Her blue eyes and mine meeting
in that long long look

 

For more information on Tim Nolan, please click here.

Thank you as always Alison for selecting and sharing these beautiful poems.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Poem of the Week, Uncategorized

Poem of the Week: Pass On by Michael Lee

Pass On, by Michael Lee

When searching for the lost remember 8 things.

1.
We are vessels. We are circuit boards
swallowing the electricity of life upon birth.
It wheels through us creating every moment,
the pulse of a story, the soft hums of labor and love.
In our last moment it will come rushing
from our chests and be given back to the wind.
When we die. We go everywhere.

2.
Newton said energy is neither created nor destroyed.
In the halls of my middle school I can still hear
my friend Stephen singing his favorite song.
In the gymnasium I can still hear
the way he dribbled that basketball like it was a mallet
and the earth was a xylophone.
With an ear to the Atlantic I can hear
the Titanic’s band playing her to sleep,
Music. Wind. Music. Wind.

3.
The day my grandfather passed away there was the strongest wind,
I could feel his gentle hands blowing away from me.
I knew then they were off to find someone
who needed them more than I did.
On average 1.8 people on earth die every second.
There is always a gust of wind somewhere.

4.
The day Stephen was murdered
everything that made us love him rushed from his knife wounds
as though his chest were an auditorium
his life an audience leaving single file.
Every ounce of him has been
wrapping around this world in a windstorm
I have been looking for him for 9 years.

5.
Our bodies are nothing more than hosts to a collection of brilliant things.
When someone dies I do not weep over polaroids or belongings,
I begin to look for the lightning that has left them,
I feel out the strongest breeze and take off running.

6.
After 9 years I found Stephen.
I passed a basketball court in Boston
the point guard dribbled like he had a stadium roaring in his palms
Wilt Chamberlain pumping in his feet,
his hands flashing like x-rays,
a cross-over, a wrap-around
rewinding, turn-tables cracking open,
camera-men turn flash bulbs to fireworks.
Seven games and he never missed a shot,
his hands were luminous.
Pulsing. Pulsing.
I asked him how long he’d been playing,
he said nine 9 years

7.
The theory of six degrees of separation
was never meant to show how many people we can find,
it was a set of directions for how to find the people we have lost.
I found your voice Stephen,
found it in a young boy in Michigan who was always singing,
his lungs flapping like sails
I found your smile in Australia,
a young girl’s teeth shining like the opera house in your neck,
I saw your one true love come to life on the asphalt of Boston.

8.
We are not created or destroyed,
we are constantly transferred, shifted and renewed.
Everything we are is given to us.
Death does not come when a body is too exhausted to live
Death comes, because the brilliance inside us can only be contained for so long.
We do not die. We pass on, pass on the lightning burning through our throats.
when you leave me I will not cry for you
I will run into the strongest wind I can find
and welcome you home.

Thanks to Alison McGhee for curating this beautiful poems.

For more information about Michael Lee, please click here.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Poem of the Week, Uncategorized

Poem of the Week: Gate A-4, by Naomi Shihab Nye via Alison McGhee

 

Gate A-4, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
“If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately.”

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,”
said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to 
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just 
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I 
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

For more information on Naomi Shihab Nye, please click here.

Thanks always to Alison for curating these lovely poems.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week: Listening to Paul Simon via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Listening to Paul Simon
     – Dorianne Laux

Such a brave generation.
We marched onto the streets
in our T-shirts and jeans, holding
the hand of the stranger next to us
with a trust I can’t summon now,
our voices raised in song.
Our rooms were lit by candlelight,
wax dripping onto the table, then
onto the floor, leaving dusty
starbursts we would pop off
with the edge of a butter knife
when it was time to move.
But before we packed and drove
into the middle of our lives
we watched the leaves outside
the window shift in the wind
and listened to Paul Simon,
his cindery voice, then fell back
into our solitude, leveled our eyes
on the American horizon
that promised us everything
and knew it was never true:
smoke and blinders, insubstantial
as fingerprints on glass.
It isn’t easy to give up hope,
to escape a dream. We shed
our clothes and cut our hair,
our former beauty piled at our feet.
And still the music lived inside us,
whole worlds unmaking us
in the dark, so that sleeping and waking
we heard the train’s distant whistle,
steel trestles shivering
across the land that was still ours
in our bones and hearts, its lone headlamp
searching the weedy stockyards,
the damp, gray rags of fog.

 

For more information on Dorianne Laux, please click here.
Thank you to Alison for finding and sharing these gems.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Poem of the Week, Uncategorized

Poem of the Week:A Good Day by Kait Rokowski via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

 

This poem is beautiful, heartbreaking, insightful, amazing.

 

A Good Day
     – Kait Rokowski

Yesterday, I spent 60 dollars on groceries,
took the bus home,
carried both bags with two good arms back to my studio apartment
and cooked myself dinner.
You and I may have different definitions of a good day.
This week, I paid my rent and my credit card bill,
worked 60 hours between my two jobs,
only saw the sun on my cigarette breaks
and slept like a rock.
Flossed in the morning,
locked my door,
and remembered to buy eggs.
My mother is proud of me.
It is not the kind of pride she brags about at the golf course.
She doesn’t combat topics like, ”My daughter got into Yale”
with, ”Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs”
But she is proud.
See, she remembers what came before this.
The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,
how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.
She thought each phone call from an unknown number was the notice of my suicide.
These were the bad days.
My life was a gift that I wanted to return.
My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.
Depression, is a good lover.
So attentive; has this innate way of making everything about you.
And it is easy to forget that your bedroom is not the world,
That the dark shadows your pain casts is not mood-lighting.
It is easier to stay in this abusive relationship than fix the problems it has created.
Today, I slept in until 10,
cleaned every dish I own,
fought with the bank,
took care of paperwork.
You and I might have different definitions of adulthood.
I don’t work for salary, I didn’t graduate from college,
but I don’t speak for others anymore,
and I don’t regret anything I can’t genuinely apologize for.
And my mother is proud of me.
I burned down a house of depression,
I painted over murals of greyscale,
and it was hard to rewrite my life into one I wanted to live
But today, I want to live.
I didn’t salivate over sharp knives,
or envy the boy who tossed himself off the Brooklyn bridge.
I just cleaned my bathroom,
did the laundry,
called my brother.
Told him, “it was a good day.”

 

For more information on Kait Rokowski, please click here.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Poem of the Week, Uncategorized

Book Review: Far to Go by Alison Pick

In another life I was the publicist for Alison Pick when I was working in publishing and she was just starting out as a poet. She is a very skilled, beautiful writer. But in this book, a novel, she turns to an historic topic – the Kinder Transport in which close to 10,000 children were rescued from Germany, Poland, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Far To G takes place in Czechoslovakia months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War and follows the life of the Bauer’s, a well-to-do Jewish family, as the Germans move in and occupy their border town.

It’s narrated by Marta the nanny and by AnnaLiese a Kinder Transport researcher whose own life is inextricably linked to the story.

This novel, as  you can imagine, doesn’t end well and Pick doesn’t try and hide this fact. But what she does well is detail the shifts in thinking and realizations that bring about the family’s ultimate demise. How the trusted right hand man to Pavel Bauer ultimately betrays his friend for greed, racism and hatred. How Marta, so real, so warm and loving, so imperfect and human, misses the opportunity to save herself and the family.

The Bauers, disbelieving and not fully understanding the very real dangers that lay before them, miss opportunity after opportunity to escape safely. This is a story I hear again and again as I read through accounts of people and families during this period of time. As people who were Jewish in name only, Pavel Bauer felt a false sense of protection which was ultimately betrayed by the nauseating racial policies of the Nazi regime and all of those complicit in its implementation.

The Bauer’s learned far too late, that no-one was safe. But they did manage to get their son Pepic  out by Kinder Transport. Hooray you want to say but in reality a mind-numpingly heartbreaking choice.Reading even a fictionalized version of this painful event makes it all so real.

Today, as the world spirals toward racial and religious division, threats of evicting entire ethnic groups, building walls, taking away women’s rights, refusal to acknowledge and help refugees , I think about my friend Inge who is a survivor of the Kinder Transport. I remember how she described the last time she saw her parents, how she cries even now, today when she talks about no longer being able to go to school in Germany, how she found out her parents were murdered. Inch by inch this happened to her and millions of others. Inch by inch, we can never give in to this.

Never doubt that historic fiction isn’t important. It is and always will be.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews