Category Archives: Poetry book

Review of Grief Songs by Elizabeth Gauffreau

Congratulations to Elizabeth Gauffrau on the publication of her new book. I’ve reviewed it below, and Liz will be responding to comments today!

Her new poetry collection, Grief Songs, is a deeply personal and yet universally appealing memoir in poems and photographs. The focus is on the nuclear family that Gauffreau was born into: her mother, father, brother George, and herself. Most of the poems are tankas.

Click on the cover image to purchase at Amazon.

 

A tanka is a Japanese syllabic poetry form consisting of five lines, 5/7/5/7/7. Like Haiku, these poems use economy of language to create an image, often from nature, and usually express emotions of love or loss. Because of the way phrases and images are “set” one after another in tankas and the short length of the poem, tankas create an impressionistic art that requires an active, rather than passive, reader.

The title plays upon the meaning of tanka as “short song,” as well as the elegiac aspect of the project. After the epigraph, Gauffreau lists the names and dates of her three relatives in headstone fashion. In this way, the reader understands the others have all passed. The book’s structure is remarkable in that each tanka is mirrored by a family photograph. Photos really are a perfect pairing with tankas because they provide another dimension to an elliptical form.

In “Boy Scout Badge,” we see a photo on the left of George and Daddy standing together on a dirt road. The tanka to the right reads:

walk a dusty road
distance meritorious
no badge without proof
Daddy matched him step for step
hot August sun beating down

We meet here a father who is partially responsible for his son’s success. He has to walk that same long distance as his son in the heat so that George can prove he deserves his merit badge.

Later on, in “Yearbook,” a teen George with the long hair of the 70s leans against the Coke machine at school. On the next page, we

see George strike a pose
Coke machine, casual lean
no caption needed
George Gauffreau enjoys a Coke
classmate, friend, brother, deceased

The succinct nature of the tanka only gives away the poet’s grief at her brother’s early death with that one word “deceased” piggybacked onto “classmate, friend, brother.” Also notice the long O sound repeated in the first four lines. Then that fifth and devastating line differs markedly in sound.

“Family Reunion,” the penultimate poem of the collection, shows a family group photo paired with:

we did not expect
Indian summer so soon
early morning sun
haze lifts, mountain range appears
but only for a moment

In classic tanka style, this poem focuses on a season, a glimpse, one image, but in so doing tells us a lot about love and loss. The mountain range appears “but only for a moment,” just as our families are together for what seems later on to be merely a “moment” in time. We are lucky to have these reunions when we can because before too long, we will have family members to mourn.

Elizabeth Gauffreau’s heartfelt poetry can be enjoyed by poetry newbies and aficionados alike.

You can find Liz here:

WEBSITE: https://lizgauffreau.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.Facebook.com/ElizabethGauffreau
LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-gauffreau
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/egauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. Recent publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published in 2018. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.

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Filed under #amreading, #poetrycommunity, #thesealeychallenge, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book Review, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection

The Strategic Poet: Diane Lockward’s Latest Craft Book

No poet could ever suffer from writer’s block when she has access to any of Diane Lockward’s phenomenal craft books. Now she has published her fourth, The Strategic Poet. The book is a #1 New Release in Poetry Writing Reference on Amazon. Click on the following image to find the book.

The back of the book lists the poets whose work appears inside as either prompt poems or sample poems.

One of my poems is featured in the book. It’s a formal poem, a triolet, but rather than being a single triolet, I made it a triple!

The description in the book of a triolet:

I accepted the challenge to use the form for a significant topic as I based the poem on a cat hoarding situation we had in Phoenix last year where 133 cats were found in one apartment lived in by a couple with children. Here is the very beginning of the poem. To read the entire poem you would need to purchase Lockward’s book.

Although I haven’t mentioned my arty junk journals in awhile (other than using supplies for my cat nicho), I am still working on them. Here’s the latest completed double page where I jumped all in with purple.

Speaking of my cat nicho, look who decided to check it out from behind. Tiger Queenie Princess Mimi Josefina. I don’t know if she realizes that I made it for the cats or not, but she never goes in my study and then yesterday she did, only to investigate the nicho.

Make it a great week ahead and stay well.

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Filed under art journaling, Book Review, Poetry, Poetry book, Publishing, Writing, Writing prompt, writing prompt

Time to Rest and Renew

This past week we went to Cali for one night for work. That was exhausting, especially with the stressful traffic. I also worked more on the memoir. I feel as if I have two unpublished books just sitting here now because the poetry book doesn’t start preorders until May! and this one, who knows. But I also know that I have been working very hard on these books and all the cat issues. I feel drained. It’s time to get some rest and renewal.

Pioneertown published three of my poems, so I was grateful to get this sense of renewal over poems I wrote before this period of memoir work.

Here is the link if you would like to read them. I would love it if you do :).

THREE POEMS

Kitties are hanging in over here, as are we humans. I am eager for cooler fall weather. October is my favorite Phoenix month: please, October, don’t disappoint!

This week I plan to do just what I need to do for work and life, then hang with my kitties and mystery novels and crafting supplies. Oops, I do have to finish one last book review I promised for Main Street Rag. There’s always that one last thing, isn’t there?

Make it a good one! XO

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In this photo of Perry there is a black mark I must have made by accident with the edit function on my phone. Please ignore. That is how lazy and tired I am. Putting up a flawed photo of my perfect lil guy. Doesn’t he look as smart as he is?!

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Filed under #amreading, #amrevising, #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, Literary Journals, Memoir, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing

MaryGold Emerges from Her Nest/Rest

I don’t know why, but there are always a handful of things I’ve misplaced. They are rarely items needed for everyday life.  When I find one, I soon find I am missing something else.

One of the items I’ve been missing for a couple of years has been MaryGold, the doll on the cover of Doll God.

How long has she been missing? I believe she was lost, then found, then lost again. Here is a post from December 2015 where I mention her disappearance and the discovery of her sister, Pinkie: On the Trail of MaryGold

Well, she’s found again! I discovered her in tissue paper inside a box in a dresser drawer in the guest room. She’s been so quiet!

I really enjoyed taking her on adventures. She doesn’t look bad for a girl who has been up to so much, including lying in a tidepool for her photographer, my daughter. I hope I don’t lose her again. If not, I’ll probably discover another missing object. (Does everyone do this or am I the only person who always has to be missing a few items?)

In honor of MaryGold’s reappearance, I’m offering Doll God for $7 each which includes shipping (if it’s in the continental United States only) through October 2021. The list price is $14 at Kelsay Books. Yesterday it was over $52 on Amazon (good grief). I’ll sign the book and address it to whomever you like. Be SURE to write in $7 so it doesn’t charge you $10 by mistake!

 [object Object]

Doll God

Luanne’s prize-winning full-length poetry collection. List price $14. Sale price of $7 includes shipping to addresses in the continental United States only.

$7.00

Pay with PayPal

 

 

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Filed under #amrevising, #poetrycommunity, #writerslife, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection

A Review of Poetic Expressions in Nursing

Although I won’t be reviewing most of the poetry books I read in August for #thesealeychallenge, I have a review to share of a book that I read at the end of July. I know the poet from our experience as the mothers of children through international adoption, as well as being the mothers of musical theatre daughters.

Poetic Expressions in Nursing: Sharing the Caring, by Susan J. Farese MSN, RN, is from the perspective of a nurse who writes poetry to express her feelings and as a stress-reliever.

After her careers in military and civilian nursing, Susan is self-employed in the communications field. Susan has taught seminars encouraging nurses to use poetry as another form of communication. I relish this stanza for how it exemplifies the encouragement:

Brave and famous poets we need not be

but writing from the heart, that sets us free

Through poems we tell our stories

Share pain, grief, caring, glories

Regardless of our nursing specialty.

Susan’s poetry collection tells the family history stories of where her desire to be a nurse originated. In particular, the decline and death from Alzheimer’s of Grandma Ann, described in “Ann’s Zest Ends,” was very poignant. Another poem tells the tragic story of Grandpa Joe who died of an asthma attack in his own kitchen. These family reminiscences really spoke to me.

In many of her poems, Susan gives nurses a voice. Very often nurses are relegated to background status (to the doctors and the system), so Susan allows the reader to appreciate nurses and what they do for us. She also gives a voice to some patients who died too young. One of the themes that runs through some of the poems is that of intuition. She wants nurses to use their intuition and to value the intuition of patients or the family of patients.

The book has a bonus section of haikus paired with Susan’s beautiful photography. Susan has made haiku her own poetic specialty, but most of the book is in various forms of free verse. Susan creates forms that work best for each individual poem.

This collection, with its very accessible poems, would make a lovely gift for nurse or patient in your life.

Because I started #thesealeychallenge yesterday and am still going to vet visits and sorting things out for my sick kitties, Susan Farese will be acting as host for this  blog post. Here’s your chance to ask her any questions about her book or the “marriage” of nursing and writing.

Here are links to get in touch with Susan:

Website: https://sjfcommunications.com/

Blog link: https://sjfcommunications.com/buzz-worthy-blog/

Author page: https://sjfcommunications.com/shop/

Linktree link (more links, current interviews etc.): https://linktree.com/Sjfcommo

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I will be posting my daily readings from #thesealeychallenge on Instagram at CATPOEMS and Twitter at WRITERSITETWEET.

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Filed under #poetrycommunity, Book Review, Poetry book, Poetry Collection

Join Me for #thesealeychallenge!!!

Are you ready for the challenge of your life? How about reading a poetry book a day for this entire month (August)? Before you get too overwhelmed, let me explain. Chapbooks count. If you read a Collected Works book, you can count it as as many books as are collected within. You can read the old guys, the classics of the 20th century, or contemporary poetry–or any combination. You can reread books that you really want to read again. Then, if you want to, share somewhere: image, title, whatever you want to share. On your blog, your social media, or keep a log for yourself.

This is the first year I am participating in #thesealeychallenge. Here is a little info about it and an interview of founder Nicole Sealey: The Rumpus on #thesealeychallenge

The way I chose my books was to grab a lot of poetry books from my shelf that I have not yet read! But I could do it through the library on my Kindle, if I chose.

Are you up to joining me? I’d love to follow your progress!!! And come follow mine:  Luanne’s #thesealeychallenge on Instagram at CATPOEMS and Twitter at WRITERSITETWEET.

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Filed under #amrevising, #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, Books, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading

On a Wing and a Prayer

Last week, in the middle of the sudden illness and passing of my daughter’s sweet cat Izzie, my Felix (cat #3–he’s 15) was developing symptoms. He tested positive for anemia. He is on medications to keep him eating, plus I started giving him daily subq fluids (i.e., under the skin) on Saturday. By yesterday I was feeding him by hand. However, he acts pretty spunky, so it’s pretty weird.

He was scheduled for an abdominal ultrasound today. Yesterday afternoon, on a Sunday, that office called and said the appointment was made by mistake. That they don’t do outpatient ultrasounds. When I made the appointment Friday morning, I was clearly told to avoid that issue he would be scheduled as an emergency patient and would get an ultrasound at 11AM. Today the woman who called kept repeating “no outpatient ultrasounds.” Because I made the appointment there, I missed out on scheduling elsewhere. She just kept repeating her script and obviously could care less about whether Felix survives or not. This is ANIMAL MEDICAL AND SURGICAL CENTER IN SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA. I could not believe they did that to Felix. I will be contacting the veterinary board of Arizona. And I have to start from scratch again for Felix.

Prayers and/or strong healthy vibes for him would be much appreciated.

Between work and cat care I haven’t had much time for art journaling, but I try to spend at least 5-10 minutes almost every day. Over the last couple of weeks, I completed these two that I like (except for their amateurish quality and the flaws I see heh). The first I posted on an art journaling Facebook group because I wasn’t sure whether to leave it as-is or not. I created an abstract background, and then I saw a partial wing in it, so I enhanced the wing with black acrylic paint. Only when I got done, because of the background, it looks as much like a bird (raven?) as a wing. So I asked the group if I should finish it into a bird, get rid of the top part that makes it look like a bird, or leave it alone. Forty people have responded, telling me to leave it as-is. Not one person said to make it wing or bird. That was cool because I like the ambiguity, you know? But I needed people with more experience to weigh in.

The photograph is one I purchased in a lot from ebay, by the way. I might have had wings on the brain because my new poetry book that will be coming out in a bleeping year is called Rooted and Winged. By the way, the poet who wrote the nesting/chickens/golden goose poem on the right page is named Miriam Flock. Flock! Isn’t that the best?

This next one began with the magazine image of Marilyn that I liked. My ideas progressed slowly, but when the #FreeBritney movement heated up, I knew what I wanted to do. I have a soft spot for her as my daughter grew up as a big Britney fan. She choreographed dances for the high school dance team using Britney music. Anyway, this whole situation that Britney is in reminds me of the classic short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in 1892. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The frightening story shows a woman under the control of her husband and doctor. Unfortunately, the woman’s plight mirrored that of many women then and apparently now. I will never forget a story published in my college newspaper when I was a student. The woman who wrote it said that her husband had her committed to a mental institution to get rid of her.

But Britney and Marilyn are celebrities with fame. Britney has lots of money. Both of them have been objectified and treated as something not human. The protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper” was treated as subhuman.  Britney (and Marilyn before her) is a real woman.

This post’s title “On a wing and a Prayer” refers to a bombing mission in WWII. As the plane limps home short an engine, it travels on a wing (wings of the plane) and with a prayer for its safe arrival. Isn’t everything we attempt on a metaphorical wing and a prayer? (Reminder: please pray for my dear Felix or send healing vibes!!!)

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Filed under Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

Poetic Book Tours: Review of Sherry Quan Lee’s Septuagenarian by Luanne Castle

Today I am participating in Serena Agusto-Cox’s Poetic Book Tours hoopla for Sherry Quan Lee’s new poetry collection Septuagenarian. The title is not a word I am familiar with, but I looked it up and it means a person who is from 70-79 years old. How many times have you heard a collection “boast” that the poet is an older person, especially a woman? Not very darn often.

The summary provided by the poet gives a good idea of her focus in the book: “Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die is a memoir in poetic form. It is the author’s journey from being a mixed-race girl who passed for white to being a woman in her seventies who understands and accepts her complex intersectional identity; and no longer has to imagine love. It is a follow-up to the author’s previous memoir (prose), Love Imagined: a mixed-race memoir, A Minnesota Book Award finalist.”

In the case of Sherry Quan lee, the term “mixed-race” means that her father was Chinese and her mother was African-American or, more accurately, 3/4 AA and 1/4 white. Quan Lee’s mother preferred to pass as white, and she tried to get her children to do so as well. This wasn’t always easy because it created secrets and lies “Mama said, / cover yourself with lies“), such as seen in the poem “Silence”:

one of us had thick curly hair like Mother’s, one of us

had silky straight hair like Father’s; and, yes, one was

beauty and one shame/hotcombs and gas flames and

it was complicated pretending

Quan Lee’s father also wanted to be white, she asserts. Sadly, her father abandoned the family when Quan Lee was five years old.

One of the most poignant poems is “Mother’s and Mine,” which writes about bruising from 28 different perspectives. Tellingly, she writes in #19, “When I stopped wanting what I couldn’t have, I bruised less often.”

This book appears to have been written during the pandemic. It contains some pieces from previous work published by the poet, as well as new work responding to a “woke” perspective. (In fact, she uses that expression to describe how she has learned from living to be 72 in the poem “I Woke to This Place”). It’s sort of a cobbling together of her past with her now-experienced outlook.  I love that she included photographs, especially her adorable cover photos, as well as her birth certificate. It really adds to the authenticity by helping document what Sherry Quan Lee’s life has been like. Reading the experiences of a woman who has gone through life differently than myself was fascinating. Because the poetic style is more literal and less figurative than I usually choose to read, I read this book more as an engaging and inspirational memoir than a poetry collection. Sherry Quan Lee’s story needed to be documented and shared, and I am so blessed that I was asked to read her book.

 

Imprint:  Modern History Press
Author:  Sherry Quan Lee
ISBN-13:  PB 978-1-61599-568-4 / HC 978-1-61599-569-1 / eBook 978-1-61599-570-7
List Price:  PB $ 17.95 / HC $ 25.95 / eBook $ 4.95
Trim:  6 x 9 (100 pp)
Audience:  General Adult
Pub Date:  03/01/2021
BISAC:  Poetry/Women Authors
Poetry/American/Asian American
Social Science/Ethnic Studies/Asian American Studies

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Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, Book Review, Memoir, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection

Characters, Real and Imagined

Yesterday, the gardener, our daughter, and I were sitting on the patio of the front yard. Suddenly I saw a bobcat walking the top of the wall. It kept walking the wall until it dropped down onto the grass of our lawn !!!! and scratched on the tree as if it were a cat scratcher. Then he/she climbed the tree back up to the wall and kept going. Our jaws had dropped to our chests. Something seemed a bit off, so we pulled out my daughter’s video from last week. Keep in mind that the pix of the bobcat I’ve shared have been the backyard. Sure enough, that bobcat in the backyard is an adult with long legs and dominant black stripes. This bobcat was an adolescent, much like the one I saw by the bbq before. I don’t think there were any family jewels on the adult, so maybe it’s the mother and her baby or babies still hanging around our neighborhood. None of us had our phones outside with us so we couldn’t get a pic, but that baby was definitely not concerned with us at all.

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I’m not sure where the week went! A lot of work, house repairs, and then add in the three physical therapy visits. I have two weeks left of my six weeks, but I am sort of hoping that we can add a once a week or something for awhile after that because my shoulder won’t be completely better by then. I am doing the exercises every single day that I don’t have PT, but it also needs the manipulation by the therapist.

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Main Street Rag published another one of my poetry book reviews. This one was for Speaking Parts by Beth Ruscio. Here is the beginning of it to give you an idea. You need to purchase a copy of the magazine to read the whole thing :).  Here’s the link: CLICK HERE. There are some amazing writers featured in this issue, so if you are looking to buy a lit mag issue this month, make it this one!

 

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Speaking of character actors, think of all the regular characters you’ve known in your life. My mother used to say “what a character” whenever she encountered someone eccentric or a little different, particularly someone with a big personality. Here’s a Mr. Big Personality I remember from my youth.  The only title this poem could have is “Walter.”

Walter stopped by my father’s store

on the first day of shore leave every year.

While he waited for my father to finish up,

Walter picked a wallet from a wooden tray

and handed me some cash to start the process

of spending banknotes stuffed in his pockets.

Walter was a sixteen-ton giant, his enormous chest

encased in a turtleneck, his skipper cap snug

on a head like a stone Colossus. I’d ask him

what happened to last year’s wallet, and he’d

guffaw with a joy that at twelve or sixteen

I could not imagine. All these decades

after Walter, I barely understand its origins.

Dad said Walter joined the merchant marines

after leaving the orphanage: what could he do?

His head twitched as if his inside and outside

were at odds. A woman I knew saw him out

one night; after buying drinks for everyone

and every drink for himself, he slammed the face

of a man into the sticky counter. She suggested

he looked confused, maybe he didn’t realize

his fingers were thicker than the broken nose.

I disregarded her story because my Walter

carried the luggage boxes up from storage

for which I earned a paycheck; he bought us

all lunch to eat in the back room, us peeking

out for customers and trying not to choke

when he had us giggling at his silly sailor jokes.

RIP Walter

***

I’ve been very slowly working on the memoir, my current WIP. And I try to work on my art journals every day, even if only for a few minutes. It’s more relaxing than naps, reading, or TV. That said I am watching the Vera series and wishing we got the Shetland series here. I saw one episode when I was in California, but there aren’t any stations airing it in Phoenix.

Here’s a little conversation between the gardener and me this week:

G: There’s a dead squirrel on the road!

Me: Oh no! Why do you tell me something like that?!

G: So you don’t trip on it.

Me: What? Did you make sure he’s not still alive?

G: [Laughing] Perry’s squirrel.

Then I see it: one of Perry’s stuffie squirrels is in the middle of the hallway, right before you get to the bathroom (one place I am always running to).

Make it a great week!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

#Bookreview: Doll God — Elizabeth Gauffreau

A HUGE THANK YOU TO LIZ GAUFFREAU FOR REVIEWING DOLL GOD AND WRITING THIS POST. Luanne

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Luanne Castle Reading Doll God on Morning Scramble Television Show My Review Click cover to purchase from Amazon. Doll God, Luanne Castle’s award-winning debut poetry collection, can best be described in terms of the water imagery that appears throughout. Some poems lap at the lakeshore of sensory experience, while others plumb the ocean depths of […]

#Bookreview: Doll God — Elizabeth Gauffreau

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Filed under Book Review, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Reading, Writing