Category Archives: Book Reviews

Poem of the Week: Bach and My Father by Paul Zimmer via Poetry Mistress Alison

Bach and My Father, by Paul Zimmer

Six days a week my father sold shoes
to support our family through depression and war,
nursed his wife through years of Parkinson’s,
loved nominal cigars, manhattans, long jokes,a
never kissed me, but always shook my hand.

Once he came to visit me when a Brandenburg
was on the stereo. He listened with care—
brisk melodies, symmetry, civility, and passion.
When it finished, he asked to hear it again,
moving his right hand in time. He would have
risen to dance if he had known how.

“Beautiful,” he said when it was done,
my father, who’d never heard a Brandenburg.
Eighty years old, bent, and scuffed all over,
just in time he said, “That’s beautiful.”

Click here for more information about Paul Zimmer.

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Words by Winter: my podcast

Thank you Alison

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Poem of the Week: The Evening Star by George Kalogeris via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Evening Star, by George Kalogeris

I boarded the Blue Line at Aquarium station.
The only empty seat was the one by that young,

head back, eyes closed, exhausted-looking father
holding his sleeping child in his folded arms.

It was already suppertime, and the Evening Star,
as Sappho sings, was calling all of the creatures

home to their mother, through the rush-hour traffic.
The subway was coming out of the tunnel’s mouth

and I was sixty when I suddenly felt
a tiny hand start pulling at my sleeve.

In his sleep the child I never had was reaching
out for me, while the father I never became

kept his eyes shut. And all the way to my stop
at Orient Heights, nothing disturbed our dream

Click here for more information about George Kalogeris.

alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

Thank you so much, as always, Alison.

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Poem of the Week: Betty Parris Hears Only No

Betty Parris Hears Only No, by Ginny Lowe Connors
(daughter ef the R.everend Parris)

No running    no dancing    no wasting of time

no power    no nonsense    opinions    or rage

all of our stitches must march a straight line

no running    no dancing    no wasting of time

stubbornness ugly    defiance a crime

I dream I’ve been captured    forced into a cage

no running    no dancing    no wasting of time

no power    no nonsense    opinions    or rage 

Please click here for Ginny Lowe Connors’ website.

Thanks to the amazing Alison for sharing these poems.
alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

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Poem of the Week: Summing Up by Claribel Alegria via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Summing Up, by Claribel Alegria, translated by the author and Darwin J. Flakoll

In the sixty-three years
I have lived
some instants are electric:
the happiness of my feet
jumping puddles
six hours in Machu Picchu
the buzzing of the telephone
while awaiting my mother’s death
the ten minutes it took
to lose my virginity
the hoarse voice
announcing the assassination
of Archbishop Romero
fifteen minutes in Delft
the first wail of my daughter
I don’t know how many years yearning
for the liberation of my people
certain immortal deaths
the eyes of that starving child
your eyes bathing me in love
one forget-me-not afternoon
the desire to mold myself
into a verse
a cry
a fleck of foam.

For more information about poet and “voice for the voiceless and the dispossessed” Claribel Alegria, please click here.​
Thank you Alison.
alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

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Poem of the Week:Secret Reading Matter by Tadeusz Dabrowski via Poetry Mistress Alison

Secret Reading Matter, by Tadeusz Dąbrowski, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

I take the books left for free recycling mainly for their smell, 
I stick my nose among the pages, into business not my own, 
then stroll around someone else’s home,
peeping into their kitchen and their bedroom. But once 
their smell has faded and the book’s imbued with mine, 
I leave it at a bus stop or in a mailbox.
Busy nonstop with their crimes, their love lives, 
good and evil, keeping an eye on the time
and the setting, the characters haven’t a clue how many books 
they’re carrying away in their clothing


Please click here for more information on Tadeusz Dąbrowski.

Thanks as always to the lovely Alison McGhee for finding and sharing these poems.
alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my podcast

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Poem of the Week: A Secret Life by Stephen Dunn via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

A Secret Life, by Stephen Dunn

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don’t say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you’ve just made love
and feel you’d rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you’re brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that’s unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you’d most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it’s like a small fire
in a clearing, it’s what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It’s why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,­­­
the one who’ll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

Click here for more information about Stephen Dunn.
Thanks to Alison for always finding and sharing these beautiful gems.
alisonmcghee.com
Words by Winter: my podcast

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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.

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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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