Review of Merril D. Smith’s River Ghosts

I’ve been awaiting the debut of Merril D. Smith’s first collection of poetry, River Ghosts, because I’ve been a fan of her poetry for quite some time. I am certainly not disappointed.

These poems are built upon the foundation of Smith’s knowledge, as a professional historian, of history and also of myth (especially the ekphrastic poems). Sometimes the poems refer to Jewish history. “The Pogrom” describes Smith’s grandmother’s experience as a child and insists that “the wisdom of generations / yet flows through my blood” (17). She refers to this subject  again in “Family Ghosts” where she not only hears, but feels, her ancestors calling her.

The poems of River Ghosts have been persuaded into soulful singing by Smith’s love of beautiful language sounds, as if she won’t complete a poem until she’s managed to eke beauty out of the subject. In “Moon Landing,” she writes of a memory of the July moon landing in the time of her childhood. She uses the image of the moon’s surface to create a stunning metaphor for remembering:

                    Now—ensorcelled by moon-glow—

                    I plummet back, landing my time-rocket

                    on the rocky surface of memory. (11)

The ghosts of this collection create a chorus of voices: Smith’s mother who died of Covid-19, her father who passed away earlier, Jewish voices from the Holocaust, those from our cultural stories, and even the phantoms of childhood. These ghosts glaze the poems with an elegiac tone: “a lonesome sound of longing, / a lament for what once was” (63). Nevertheless, the book itself is more hopeful than sad since the emphasis is on noting the grace of life: “we are transients / sailing a timeless sea of dreams” (65). Smith’s first poetry collection is a triumph of beauty in the face of sorrows.

https://www.amazon.com/River-Ghosts-Merril-D-Smith/dp/B09WZ8F9XJ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3BLT2AFZMJ6WF&keywords=river+ghosts+smith&qid=1653163898&sprefix=river+ghosts+smi%2Caps%2C414&sr=8-1

13 Comments

Filed under Writing

About My Uncle Chuck

Just wanted to share a post I published today over at The Family Kalamazoo. I wrote about my great-uncle Charles Mulder, Jr. (Chuck). He was the leader of a small group in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe during WWII. He was with the 119th Infantry Regiment, which was a part of the 30th Infantry Division. According to Wikipedia, “The 30th Infantry Division was a unit of the Army National Guard in World War I and World War II. It was nicknamed the ‘Old Hickory’ division, in honor of President Andrew Jackson. The Germans nicknamed this division “Roosevelt’s  SS.” The 30th Infantry Division was regarded by a team of historians led by S.L.A. Marshall as the number one American infantry division in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), involved in 282 days of intense combat over a period from June 1944 through April 1945.

Uncle Chuck was a lovely person whose life was changed because of his war service and an incident of friendly fire. Read about it here:

https://thefamilykalamazoo.com/2022/05/19/uncle-chuck-and-aunt-ruthann-part-4-of-grandmas-sibling-stories/

6 Comments

Filed under Family history, History, Writing

When I Got Kicked Out of Girl Scouts

Last week Liz Gauffreau posted a story from her childhood with an image of herself in Girl Scout uniform. Wow, did that ever send me back in time! If you’re familiar with the Girl Scouts, you know that the first level is Brownies. My mother bought me a cute little brown uniform, lightly worn. I remember swinging in the swings at school, pumping my legs as hard as I could, looking down at my mocha brown skirt. My friend and I were singing, “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” 

Skip forward to fourth grade at a new school. I remember walking down the hall from the art room to the Girl Scouts meeting room. I was carrying money to give to our leader, Mrs. Norton. When I handed it over, she counted it and then accused me of stealing some pennies. I will admit that when I was a teenager I engaged in some shoplifting and paid the price. But as a nine-year-old? I wouldn’t even have thought of it. I was scared of authority, too.

What I learned from the experience is that even if you’re not guilty, once you are publicly accused you have been publicly shamed. Nothing was worse to me as a kid than shame. The look Mrs. Norton laid on me was pure hatred and disgust. She kicked me out of the troop, and I never went back. But I lived with that feeling of shame (and the stomach aches it helped cause) for years afterward.

Did anything positive come from the experience? I think it made me more sensitive to other children and then to other people in general. I never liked to see anyone bullied and would try to support people I saw bullied. This has continued throughout my life and has even included “mom groups” on social media where I defended the picked-upon. So I guess it was worth it, but it wasn’t the only problem I had at that new school. Luckily, I was only there for 1 1/2 years before we moved elsewhere.

About my new book, Rooted and Winged: it went into pre-orders last Monday. Why would you want to pre-order it instead of waiting until the release in September? In part, to be nice to me hah. The thing is, the number of pre-orders the book gets determines the royalty percentage that I will receive, as well as where the book will get marketed. So I can’t stress enough how much I would appreciate you pre-ordering instead of waiting (if you are able to, of course). AND, if you pre-order, you will be helping the wildlife in the Phoenix area as I am making a $5 donation for each pre-order! Info that I posted last week is copied below. If you want a donation slip, please let me know you pre-ordered and what your email address is.

PRE-ORDER HERE

Release date: September 9

Book description:

The poems of Rooted and Winged explore the emotional and physical movement of flight and falling. They are of the earth, the place of fertile origins, and of the dream world we observe and imagine when we look upward. Golems and ghosts that emerge from the ground, as well as the birds and angels that live above us, inhabit the collection. We will always be striving for flight, even as we feel most comfortable closest to the earth.

There are poems about Arizona, California, and the lakes of Michigan. My maternal grandparents are the characters that most inhabit this book.

Cover art: Leonard Cowgill

If you pre-order . . .

I would love it if you could pre-order the book, if you can swing it. For the pre-order period, I am donating $5 in the name of each person who pre-orders the book to Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Two months into the pandemic, we had a red-tailed hawk in our yard. She was unable to fly, and a volunteer from Liberty Wildlife came out to rescue her. I wrote a poem about the incident, which was published in The Orchards Poetry Journal and is in Rooted and Winged. The gardener and I have brought many smaller injured and orphaned birds to Liberty Wildlife over the years.  Some of the poems in the book are about the wildlife in our area.

If you place an order for the book, please let me know with your name and email address. That way I can keep track of the pre-orders to make sure my list matches that of the publisher. When the pre-order period is over, I will give the list of names and emails to Liberty. You will then receive an acknowledgement by email of your donation for the birds and bunnies.

As always, I am available for blog interviews and guest posts.

 

all my ghosts and angels become each

other and then me with a hinted outline of wings.

from “The Shape of Me”

57 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Cover Reveal of Rooted and Winged

Finishing Line Press has revealed the new cover of my full-length collection Rooted and Winged.

PRE-ORDER HERE

Release date: September 9

Book description:

The poems of Rooted and Winged explore the emotional and physical movement of flight and falling. They are of the earth, the place of fertile origins, and of the dream world we observe and imagine when we look upward. Golems and ghosts that emerge from the ground, as well as the birds and angels that live above us, inhabit the collection. We will always be striving for flight, even as we feel most comfortable closest to the earth.

There are poems about Arizona, California, and the lakes of Michigan. My maternal grandparents are the characters that most inhabit this book.

Cover art: Leonard Cowgill

If you pre-order . . .

I would love it if you could pre-order the book, if you can swing it. For the pre-order period, I am donating $5 in the name of each person who pre-orders the book to Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Two months into the pandemic, we had a red-tailed hawk in our yard. She was unable to fly, and a volunteer from Liberty Wildlife came out to rescue her. I wrote a poem about the incident, which was published in The Orchards Poetry Journal and is in Rooted and Winged. The gardener and I have brought many smaller injured and orphaned birds to Liberty Wildlife over the years.  Some of the poems in the book are about the wildlife in our area.

If you place an order for the book, please let me know with your name and email address. That way I can keep track of the pre-orders to make sure my list matches that of the publisher. When the pre-order period is over, I will give the list of names and emails to Liberty. You will then receive an acknowledgement by email of your donation for the birds and bunnies.

As always, I am available for blog interviews and guest posts and would particularly love to set things up for fall when the book is in our hands!

all my ghosts and angels become each

other and then me with a hinted outline of wings.

from “The Shape of Me”

35 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Lots of Stuff about Writing Besides Actually Writing

Eilene Lyon of Myricopia has written a beautiful review of my chapbook Kin Types. She writes on her blog about her family history (among other things), and is finishing up a book  about it as well. About my chap:

This slender volume is saturated with spirits brought to life by Luanne Castle’s soulful words in prose and poetry. It’s a collection I will read again and again, as it inspires a hope that some of her magic will rub off on my attempts to reinvigorate my ancestors’ stories. The writing is not just creative and lyrical, but draws on deep research and compassion.

Though there are instances of tragedy and death—universal human events—not all is gloomy within these pages. I love how “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead” conjures the purple prose of 19th-century journalism, and despite the dire subject, makes me laugh out loud with the final line. In “Genealogy” she takes a simple subject, the name Frank, and in a few words imparts both a legacy passed down and a deeper meaning tied to the name itself.

The details Castle creates to evoke time, place, and experience, continually astonish me. The veil clouding the past is pierced and we step into the shoes of her long-gone loved ones.

Coincidentally, two of the Kin Types poems were just reprinted by Verse-Virtual in the May issue. You can find them here:

2 Verse-Virtual poems

Check out the other poems in this issue, as well. Some lovely work.

You know that first poem, “Genealogy”? As you can see it’s about the name Frank and looks at another meaning of the name. So when I first heard about the great Diane Seuss’ phenomenal book Frank: Sonnets I knew the ambiguity inherent in that one-word title and was intrigued. In fact, her collection is a frank exploration of her life in poems, as well as inspired by but completely different from the work of poet Frank O’Hara. If you read one poetry book by a “great” this year, make it Seuss’.  The book has just taken these awards:

Winner of the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection
Winner of the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry
Winner of the 2021 L.A. Times Book Prize for Poetry
Finalist for the 2022 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Pretty darn amazing, but you will see why the book earned them.

On another note, I have a bundle of yummy looking poetry books to read by Merril D. Smith, Justin Hamm, Caroline Goodwin, Millicent Accardi, KB, and John Sibley Williams. Woohoo!!!!

And, finally, I am tinkering with the memoir. Is a writer’s work ever done? Kind of like being a woman (if you remember the expression).

Finally, on a completely unrelated topic, I found out there is a haunted hotel in Phoenix, Hotel San Carlos. That’s right. You can read about its checkered history here.

Make it a good week!

44 Comments

Filed under #amreading, #amrevising, #amwriting, #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book Review, Family history, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

Poetry in the Blogosphere: The Video Recording

Liz Gauffreau has made a video of the March 23 poetry reading for those who wanted to attend, but were unable to. Here ’tis.

Now, how do I stop saying um before every sentence? Are there online lessons available in that? Do I use a shock collar?

20 Comments

Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry reading, Reading

Angels on My Ears

We had a really lovely poetry reading on Saturday. Liz is working on a recording for us of the event, which we will be able to share. I can’t tell you how much extraordinary effort she put into both the organization and the hosting. She’s quite the dynamo!

Remember all that went into the event when you read her wonderful books because you will see all the effort and talent in her writing as well.

POETRY

GRIEF SONGS

NOVEL

TELLING SONNY

All the readers were so engaging and professional, with very special poems to share.

Then yesterday, I read a poem called “The Purpose of Earth” for Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia. They are celebrating Earth Day with an anthology, and the poets who wrote the collected poems read them at the event. “The Purpose of Earth” will also be in my new collection, Rooted and Winged. Presales will be next month.

These are the amazing etsy earrings I wore to Saturday’s reading in honor of “wingedness.” Haha, I know. My daughter called them “extra,” but then said to “definitely wear them.”  Somehow they do feel right.

Going to close comments on this post because I want to spend my blog time this week reading other blogs. Make it a great week! It’s our last week of poetry month!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under #amreading, #amrevising, #amwriting, #poetrycommunity, Poetry reading

Furry Grandbabies

I am a fur grandma all over again. And again. My daughter and  son-in-law adopted two kitten sisters.  Last July, their dear cat Izzie died quite unexpectedly. They didn’t want to get a cat leading up to their wedding because they were so busy, but daughter has been jonesing for a cat.  She knows it is better for the kittens if two are adopted together. I’ve taught her well. Cute enough?

So now I am the proud Grandma of 4 cats and 3 dogs (between both my kids). Most of my cats weren’t interested in meeting these babies, but Perry was. When he sat next to their carrier and looked in at them from above, my daughter said, “Looks like in ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,’ with his big head and their little bodies.”

 

***

Our blogger poets reading is this coming Saturday, April 23!  If you want to and are able to attend, please register at the link below. And if you feel like sharing with friends, please do :)!

https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

The theme for National Poetry Month 2022 is There’s A Poem in This Place. Two places to find contemporary poetry at its most vibrant are in the blogging community and at live readings. On 23 April 2022 from 4-5:30 PM ET, the two places cometogetherwhen a select group of poets from the blogosphere present a live reading of their poetry at Poets in the Blogosphere. Most poetry is meant to be read aloud, and hearing poets read their own work is a heightened experience.The event is moderated by Elizabeth Gauffreau. Please register in advance at https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

#NationalPoetryMonth

#blogpoetsread2022

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Elizabeth Gauffreau, Luanne Castle, Serena Agusto-Cox, Ken Gierke, George Franklin, Stephanie L. Harper, Carla McGill, Robert Okaji, and Merril Smith!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

53 Comments

Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Poetry reading, Reading

Tiny Books

You may or may not recall my book Doll God and chapbook Kin Types. Now it’s time to see the miniature versions.

After the release of Doll God, the doll on the cover was named Mary Gold by blog readers. I lost track of her for awhile, but then she turned up. I’ve been keeping her safe. Then I bought her a tiny Doll God. 

Joy Neal Kidney wrote a splendiferous review of Doll God today over on her blog! You can read it here: DOLL GOD REVIEW BY JOY NEAL KIDNEY

Of course, after seeing Mary Gold’s photo shoot, my other dolls started crying for their own tiny book. This doll, with her roots from the same heritage as so many of my ancestors, was selected to pose with a mini Kin Types.

When the gardener sees me doing photo shoots of dolls and kitties (like for Tiger’s birthday), I know he thinks I’m a weirdo. But he’s the bigger weirdo because he keeps sweeping up the same dead leaves and dried flowers day after day. How boring is that!

***

Reminder to register for the blogger poets zoom poetry reading scheduled for Saturday, 23 April! Link below.

https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

The theme for National Poetry Month 2022 is There’s A Poem in This Place. Two places to find contemporary poetry at its most vibrant are in the blogging community and at live readings. On 23 April 2022 from 4-5:30 PM ET, the two places cometogetherwhen a select group of poets from the blogosphere present a live reading of their poetry at Poets in the Blogosphere. Most poetry is meant to be read aloud, and hearing poets read their own work is a heightened experience.The event is moderated by Elizabeth Gauffreau. Please register in advance at https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

#NationalPoetryMonth

#blogpoetsread2022

 

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Elizabeth Gauffreau, Luanne Castle, Serena Agusto-Cox, Ken Gierke, George Franklin, Stephanie L. Harper, Carla McGill, Robert Okaji, and Merril Smith!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

39 Comments

Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book promotion, Dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry reading, Reading

Adoptee Literary Festival April 9

Here’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about adoption from the adoptee experience. It’s also a good place for adoptees who are writers or interested in the literary arts or others interested in same. Please share and PRE-REGISTER NOW. It’s this Saturday, April 9!!!!

One of the many things that this festival seeks to begin to correct is when stories are taken over by those who don’t really understand the adoption experience. They create stories like MY PET PEEVE: at the end of the mystery, the killer turns out to be the adoptee whose mind has been twisted by her adoptive situation. I get really upset whenever a novel or TV show ends that way.

Anyway, that was my little personal aside there. So now go, listen to the perspective of adoptees (adoptee writers) themselves!!!

13 Comments

Filed under Writers Conference, Writing