Review of “Drowning in the Floating World” by Meg EdenReview of “Drowning in the Floating World” by Meg Eden

Meg Eden’s landscape for “Drowning in the Floating World” is the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan and the following Fukushima nuclear disaster. The poems are populated by people who are fully realized in a few lines. It is through this close focus that the big picture emerges. Huge horrors cannot be processed all at once, and the small details make it all identifiable and real in a way that a camera pulled back would not be able to do.

In “Response to the Brother Who Wants to Move in After the Earthquake,” the fear is palpable. “You are contaminated; / a power plant lives in you now. / There’s already radiation in your skin, / and I can’t risk you rubbing off on me.” In “Poem for the Sneakers Washing Onshore,” Eden makes the scope of the tragedy more comprehensible in a simple way that grows on you with each line. “we are the feet of salarymen / & the feet of school girls / & the feet of tennis players / & the feet of arcade gamers…” Some poems come at you viscerally and will stick with you for a long time. These lines are from “Tsunami Girl.” “It happened quite slowly: her pale flesh rotted, / slipping from nature, from her family’s thoughts. / First, her face, then hands, and only at the very end, / her hair. Only then was she counted / collateral in a city filled with collateral.”

Nothing is wasted in this writing. I can feel that every syllable, every comma, was thought out. Beauty and horror dance together in these poems, tied together by a felt humanity. I highly recommend this book.

Review of “In the Dark, Soft Earth” by Frank WatsonReview of “In the Dark, Soft Earth” by Frank Watson

(Disclaimer: I was given an advance reader copy PDF of this book for writing a review.)

Frank Watson’s  “In the Dark, Soft Earth” has a large scope. In general, Watson’s style is sparse and succinct. His descriptions aren’t grandiose but still encompass the entire world and time both ancient and modern. Some poems have a perspective that reaches across the centuries, like these lines from “time”: “these are the tombs / of a thousand years / grown green with the moss / of life’s decay” or from “each pulse”: “each pulse begets the night / each kiss engraves / a stone tablet that lives / for a thousand years”. Other poems cross vast distances, such as these lines from “maps”: “her breath / has blown me / across this half / of the waking world”.

Images thread their way through the poems – continents, campfires, sand, seas, jazz, and more. The collection is broken into ten books. Each book in the collection also has its own theme. Some poems are accompanied by artwork by such painters as Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Edward Hopper, and Henri Rousseau. Book 8, called “An Entrance to the Tarot Garden” consists of artwork from tarot decks, one poem for each card of the major arcana. I found this section particularly intriguing due to my own interest in the tarot. Here is an excerpt from “high priestess”: “she is ancient / as she is young — / and while we look / she stops to listen // she carries her robes / like she has worn them / for three thousand years”. Book 9, “Across the Continents” includes poems that are translations or inspired by other poets’ works. Book 10, “Stories Before I Sleep” steps away from the spare style of the other poems and expands to include sonnets and other works that have more breathing space than the majority of the poems in the rest of the book.

Every poem seems pared down to its essential parts. Even so, there are sometimes bumps in the road. Rhyme is used occasionally and there are moments when it seems accidental. When that happens, I find it more distracting than helpful. A few of the descriptions also stopped me for a moment, such as these lines from “in the dark, soft earth”: “so still, the universe / has barely cracked / and the grass stays silent”. I found myself contemplating the sound of grass, which probably wasn’t what the author intended.

There are wonderful nuggets to be found in Watson’s poems. My favorite lines are from “secrets”: “sunlight broken / into a thousand little sins”. A few other favorite lines are from “rhythms”: “oh, what she does / to me with her / cello strings” and from “tender flesh”: “she was a doe / with tender flesh / but the only / ones she loved / were hungry wolves”.

This volume of poetry reminds me of a tree in winter. There is a primal beauty in its bareness, none of the essential parts are hidden. If s stripped-down style appeals to you, I think you will really enjoy “In the Dark, Soft Earth.”

“Showboat” by Grace Cavalieri – Review“Showboat” by Grace Cavalieri – Review

Showboat by Grace Cavalieri is available on Amazon

Showboat can be seen as one long poem or as a series of short poems, but either way, it can also be viewed as a lovely necklace with pearls and nuggets of gold. As she describes the life of a Naval wife, and of those she met along the way, we are given small portraits and long arcs. Showboat is elegant in the way it melds simplicity and depth.

One example is the following stanza:

That august a plane crashed
It was Donna’s pilot          we went there
Her tan arms          her white linen dress
The knock on the door
Thank God          her door          was not our door
         Don’t say that out loud
Blonde Donna who never thought
         anything bad
Now she’s as human as it gets

There is a lovely succinctness to these words. Volumes are compressed into a few lines and we’re taken on a journey of decades within a few pages. I heartily recommend you spend some time and enjoy the ride.

“Leviathan” by Neil Aitken – Review“Leviathan” by Neil Aitken – Review

Neil Aitken’s “Leviathan” (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016) has an intriguing focus. This poetry chapbook is about Charles Babbage, considered by many to be the father of the computer for the work he did with his analytical engine. I bought this book because, as a software developer myself, I found the subject interesting, even though I knew relatively little about Babbage. “Leviathan” was a more than pleasant surprise.

Babbage was a scientist and mathematician. He saw the world through his calculations. On the other hand, he loved his wife and children. He outlived his wife and four of his children. The push-pull between an analytical, scientific approach to the universe and the needs of, and desire for, human connection is a struggle that is shown at a deep level. It is a conflict that was strong in Babbage but is not unknown in today. This is from the first poem in the collection, “Cast.”

“Just as the compiler now ponders like a god at judgment, weighing
each line of code with what it means or fails to mean.
How each casting of a thing engenders the creation of another.
Nothing is ever the same after translation, after the name
has been hefted, then posited to the waves. The dark world dimming
in its simple downward trajectory of terms, the endless run of zeroes
widening back to the farthest shores. This melancholy of form.
To be. To become. The shape of nothing, how it is skinned
and laid to rest. In the hour of our words and their departures,
we are captive here to whatever comes, whatever returns,
be it beauty or love, or the unfurled wings of their manifold ruin.”

Aitken touches upon the highlights of Babbage’s life, meeting his wife, her death, and other events, as well as his meeting with Ada Lovelace. Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, was the one to recognize the potential of Babbage’s analytic engine and is considered the first computer programmer. This is from “Babbage Circumnavigating the Room, Encounters Ada, 1833.”

“…And now, three-quarters of the way
around this milling mass, you find Lady Byron again, and the girl who asks
the most remarkable questions. Who stops you with a calculated word.
In her eye, the same fire as yours. The same urgency to be understood.
How is it that the poet’s daughter is so attuned to number, to the secret language
of order, the unheard symphony of the machine you have been composing
in your mind all these years? How is it that you know instantly that in her
beats the same heart of pain, the same proclivity for loss and disaster?”

All of the poems are written in couplets, some with a single line to finish. The lines are relatively long and it seems to give the words room to maneuver, allows the reader time to ponder Babbage and his dream. It’s masterfully done. I highly recommend this chapbook.

You may find “Leviathan” at Hyacinth Girl Press and check out Neil Aitken at his Facebook page.

“Can You Catch My Flow?”“Can You Catch My Flow?”

Lidy Wilks, author of “Can You Catch My Flow?” is celebrating National Poetry Month with a blog tour. For this stop on the tour, I’ll be reviewing her chapbook, and I’d like to thank her for the free PDF copy so I could do this review. I also want to mention her Rafflecopter raffle — see the link at the bottom of this post.

I would say the theme of this chapbook is being a wife and mother and how the roles that are expected of us as adults can be restrictive. I would like to focus on some highlights.

In “Sleepless Nights” there is some wonderful specificity describing the feeling of missing someone:

just to hear your low,
lulling voice 202.41 miles away.
Now 9 months, 10 days, 2 weeks,
3 hours and 45 minutes has gone by
and I still don’t want to say goodnight
because I want to say good morning.

In “An Aging Love,” Lidy describes a couple’s life together in a series of quick snapshots: meeting, marriage, and children, and the future. This excerpt shows both joys and difficulties:

Melded for eight years, we grated and soothed each other
as you instilled in our sons the definition of a man while I enjoyed
my reverse harem of hugs, kisses and your reprimands.

While “An Aging Love” hints at the narrator’s world being less than perfect, rebellion against conformity is the theme of “Follow the Leader.” Here is an excerpt from the middle:

The adults are Einstein,
Cassandra and the Dali Lama,
all rolled up into one.
And us young’uns best
strive to be
just like them.

In some ways, I think the poem “The Identity of Edvard Munch” is a linchpin for the book. This poem’s tone is rather different from the rest of the chapbook. Its lines are short and the persona that speaks is intended as a 19th-century painter rather than a 21st-century wife and mother, and yet there is a similar complaint about “living in a/stale, conformed world.” This is a complaint that can be understood both by viewers of Munch’s paintings as well as readers of contemporary poetry, so this poem has the effect of taking us out of our modern cookie-cutter lives and connecting us with a larger view.

“Can You Catch My Flow?” is available through the following links:

Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
eCreate Store

About the Author:

Ever since she was young, Lidy Wilks was often found completely submerged in the worlds of Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Sweet Valley High, and Nancy Drew. She later went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, from Franklin Pierce University. Where she spent the next four years knee-deep in fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction workshops.

Lidy is the author of Can You Catch My Flow? a poetry chapbook and is a member of Write by the Rails. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children. And an anime, book and manga library, she’s looking to expand, one day adding an Asian drama DVD collection. Lidy continues her pursuit of writing more poetry collections and fantasy novels. All the while eating milk chocolate and sipping a glass of Cabernet. Or Riesling wine.

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“In My Neighborhood” Review“In My Neighborhood” Review

I’ve updated this review a bit.

Giovanna and I grew up together, so I’d been looking forward to this book. I’m very happy to share some thoughts.

“In My Neighborhood” is divided into three sections. In the first, Giovanna tells stories of growing up in an Italian neighborhood. The reader is steeped in the sights, sounds, and smells of these experiences and I found myself getting hungry for some good Italian food. Here is an excerpt from “Angela Maria, My Grandmother.”

There were countless garments you sewed
with your 5 daughters, including my mother
everyone sitting at the kitchen table
hand stitching collars and sleeves onto sweaters.

You picked bushels full of red tomatoes
grown in a backyard garden
You’d chop an simmer them fresh in a pan
with basil, garlic, and onions
always making your Sunday sauce from scratch.

At the butcher shop
you hand selected live chickens
feeling their necks till you found a fat one.

In the second section, our narrator leaves home, begins to explore her sexuality, and what it means to take your family and culture with you out into the world and how that changes over time.

The third section tells of leaving home and how, sometimes, our families love us even when they don’t understand us.

The tales told in these poems and stories are strong, identifiable, and honest. I highly recommend Giovanna Capone’s work.