Category Archives: Book Reviews

Poem of the Week: True Enough, by Jim Moore via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

True Enough, by Jim Moore

I have forgotten many things.
But I do remember
the bank of clover along the freeway
we were passing thirty years ago
when someone I loved made clear to me
it was over.

 

For more information about poet Jim Moore, please check out his website.

Thanks as always to Alison for sharing these beautiful poems. Visit Alison here.

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Poem of the Week: Sorrow Is Not My Name, by Ross Gay delivered via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

Sorrow Is Not My Name, by Ross Gay

—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

for Walter Aikens

For more information about Ross Gay, please check out his website.

Thanks to Alison for being such a fine treasure hunter.

Find out more about Alison here.

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Poem of the Week: Hanging out with musicians, still in my suit, by Tom Sastry

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Hanging out with musicians, still in my suit, by Tom Sastry

He said fucking and that was important:
“We’re all fucking broken.”
He said it gently
like a priest, soothing the smart of sin.

I hadn’t heard about it before
this shared brokenness
and it was new to me, this idea
that being in pieces could bring us together

so my mind worked through all the things he might mean
and
like the fourteen-stone word-association machine that I am
I remembered all the world’s once-complete, now-shattered things

until I couldn’t get it out of my head
that we were broken like jigsaws
fucking broken like fucking jigsaws
and it felt right and wise and true.

​For more information about Tom Sastry, please click here.

Thanks to Alison for always sharing these amazing poems. Visit her here –My websiteMy blogMy Facebook page.

Twitter and Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter

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Poem of the Week: New Restrictions by Dean Young via Poetry Mistress Alison

New Restrictions, by Dean Young

It doesn’t matter how many
Wallace Stevens poems you’ve memorized
or if you had sex in the graveyard
like an upside-down puppet
or painted your apartment red
so it feels like sleeping inside a heart
or the trees were frozen with ravens
which you sent pictures of to everyone you know
or your pie dough’s perfect
or you once ran a sub-5-minute mile
or you’re on the last draft
of your mystery novel and still
don’t know if the vicar did it
or every morning that summer
you saw a fox stepping through the fog
but it got no closer
or once you helped drag a deer
off the road by the antler
sit blinked
or which song comes from which side
of your mouth as you drive
all night all night all night
or how deep and long you carry
a hitch in your breath after crying
or shot a man in Tennessee
or were so happy in France
or left your favorite scarf in a café,
the one with the birds and terrible art
or the Klimt
or you call your mother once a week
even after she’s dead
or can’t see a swan without panic
or have almost figured out
what happened to you as a child,
urge, urge, nothing but urge
or 600 daffodils
or a knife in the glove box
or a butterfly on a bell,
you can’t park here.

Thanks Alison for another beautiful poem. For more information on Dean Young, please click here.My websiteMy blogMy Facebook page. Twitter and Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter 

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Poem of the Week: Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

Clearing, by Martha Postlethwaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

​For more information about Martha Postlethwaite, please click here​.

Thanks so much to Alison for finding and sharing these poems.

My websiteMy blogMy Facebook page. Twitter and Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter 

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Poem of the Week: Canoe, by Alison Luterman via poetry mistress Alison McGhee

Canoe, by Alison Luterman

When I was young, years ago, canoeing on the green
Green River, with my young first husband,

I wriggled out of my shorts, eased over the lip
of our little boat, and became eel-woman,

naked and glistening, borne along in the current.
He paddled, I floated and spun,

and let the ripples take me.
Even an hour of that kind of freedom

can last for years and years,
can become a touchstone you return to

long after the rented canoe has been returned,
and the road trip has ended, and then the marriage,

and then the husband’s brief life, and you yourself
have become someone else entirely; still

you return in your mind to the days
you could set up a tent in the dark,

and build a small fire
from birch bark and newspaper

and sit beside it, sipping tea, savoring your muscles’ sweet ache,
as one by one the uncountable stars came out.

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

For more information about Alison Luterman, please check out her website. Website Blog
Facebook page
@alisonmcghee

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Poem of the Week: Choices by Tess Gallagher via Alison McGhee

Choices, by Tess Gallagher

I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,   
an unseen nest
where a mountain   
would be.  

                              for Drago Štambuk

​For more information on Tess Gallagher, please ​click here.

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Thanks to Alison McGhee for curating these beautiful poems.

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Poem of the Week: For Nothing is Fixed by James Baldwin via Alison McGhee

By Alison McGhee, a pre-amble to the poem “For Nothing is Fixed” by James Baldwin

Last week, late at night, the fire alarm in my cheap motel began to shriek. Doors opened up and down the hall and men began to emerge: huge men, small men, men in their underwear, one on crutches, one pushing a walker, one carrying a case of beer, one sweating as if just out of a sauna. This is the strangest assortment of men I’ve ever seen, I murmured to myself. One of the men leered or smiled, hard to tell.

Next morning in the breakfast room I sat tapping on my laptop while the hallway men shuffled in one by one. The leer/smile man sat next to me. I could tell he wanted to talk but I pretended to be too absorbed in my work to look up. This did not stop him.

“Hey! I like your pink hair! How’s it goin’?” 

It was early. There were six hundred miles ahead of me. I didn’t want to talk. But then the last lines of this poem by James Baldwin came to me and I closed my laptop and turned to him and smiled. Had a long conversation about the fire alarm, the slim pickings at the breakfast buffet, his favorite smoking rituals back when everybody smoked, hard to believe it now, right? 

He was a lonely man. He just wanted to talk. Sometimes it feels like most people are lonely, and most people just want to talk. 

For Nothing Is Fixed, by James Baldwin

For nothing is fixed,
forever, forever, forever,
it is not fixed;
the earth is always shifting,
the light is always changing,
the sea does not cease to grind down rock.
Generations do not cease to be born,
and we are responsible to them
because we are the only witnesses they have.
The sea rises, the light fails,
lovers cling to each other,
and children cling to us.
The moment we cease to hold each other,
the moment we break faith with one another,
the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

If you’d like to read more about James Baldwin, this is an interesting profile.

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Poem of the Week: Lumina by Darrell Bourque

Lumina
      – Darrell Bourque

We’re all extensions
          of someone or another’s
                     golden light.

In the moment
          I was made
                     stars filled the sky

& some parts
          of the bodies
                     making me

were fleetingly
          illuminated—
                     briefly luminous.

Druids see light
          in wood
                     and worship trees.

When we wave
          in recognition,
                     we disperse light,

set light in motion
          toward
                     the beloved.

We string our trees
          with lights
                     in wintertime.

We want
          to see ourselves
                     in the dark.

For more information on Darrell Bourque, please click here.

Thank you as always, to Alison for passing along these beautiful poems.

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Books: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

I couldn’t put it down from the moment I read the first page. The story of a missing anybody is always compelling. What happened to them? Why did they leave? Are they dead or alive? What led to their disappearance? And who is left behind to wonder?

Swimming Lessons is the story of Flora Coleman, a young woman whose mother disappears when she’s eleven. It’s also the story of her mother Ingrid Coleman, as told through letters she has written and hidden in books throughout their house to her famous husband, the writer, Gil Coleman.

Flora returns to her childhood ramshackle seaside home to help care for her ailing father who believes he has seen Ingrid. Flora, herself doesn’t believe her mother is dead and often sees her. You’re never sure whether this is real longing for a mother who simply disappears but is assumed drowned or if in fact, Ingrid, whose life had become isolated and unbearable disappeared herself.

Just as there are no certainties in life, the reader too must decide in the end what happened to Ingrid Coleman.

What makes this book so compelling is the contents of the letters Ingrid writes to Gil, each one revealing to him what she could never say during the course of their tumultuous marriage. In Ingrid’s last letter she instructs Gil on how to care for their two young children. Is it a suicide note or a goodbye of another kind?

That she has reason to leave him is clear. When they first meet in the sixties in London, he is her handsome, flamboyant English instructor almost twenty years her senior, and she is a twenty year old student from Norway. Everything from the very beginning screams, run away, choose life number two and stay free, as her friend Louise warns her but she falls deeply in love and becomes pregnant. And the rest is history. She can’t escape the reality of her life as a somewhat reluctant mother, a husband who is emotionally and physically absent and the numerous heartbreaks along the way. That she lasted as long as she did seems a miracle but the letters describing the heady romance of their early days seems deep enough to last a lifetime and this love, in spite of everything, keeps her hanging on. If only he had loved her as she had loved him. And when she does think of leaving, the reality of being a young woman with no education stop her at the front door. How could she manage?

In the end Flora, her youngest daughter has to decide if she can let her mother live or if she has to put her to rest. It’s how we square the circle and find peace in the end and each one including Gil finds it their own way.

I loved this book. It was beautifully written, giving the reader an incredible sense of place and time and a snapshot of a young woman who’s heart was broken by love.

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