Tag Archives: poems

Poetry Book Reviews: Goodwin and Swartwout

I’ve been doing some more reading again lately. Here are two poetry books that I swooned over.

In Caroline Goodwin’s new poetry collection, the elegiac The Paper Tree, language seeks to locate and identify. This is where and what, the poems seem to say. The mood can be mournful, commemorative, meditative.

Images from nature are seeds blown into the wind by the poet in an act of claiming. The urgent need of the poems, intense as it is, ebbs for a moment when hope soars for “a new kingdom . . . where the need to name the shape / does not even exist.” For now, the kingdom itself does not exist, but the glimpse of it has been noted.

Ultimately, the outward gestures of naming and sowing images lead to a necessary inwardness: “hold out your hands / open your heart / here’s where the world slides in.” The Paper Tree will present you the world if you open yourself to its wonders.

 

Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, Susan Swartwout’s latest poetry collection, finds the beauty and pathos in the oddities of life. Family history, carnival performance, time spent in Honduras—the subjects are varied, which further emphasizes that our lens can be adjusted to spot the strange and wonderful—or the pitiful—anywhere we look. The language is gutsy, the images sometimes grotesque and sometimes mystical. I found this collection impossible to put down, and poems like “Five Deceits of the Hand” where “we” are betrayed into aging and death thrilled me with jealousy.

Friends vanish like misplaced directions

into skies you used to claim. Age begins

sucking your bones until you lean shriveled

into the mouth of harvest.

In case you’re worried that the book ends on a dark or depressing note, the last word is salvation. I guess you’ll have to read the book to see if that means things work out ok or not.

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Maybe I finished my diamond poem (the one I mentioned in Typical Tuesday). Letting it rest right now.

I used #amwriting as a tag this week because I started looking through my memoir manuscript with an idea to restructuring it AGAIN. This is so insane. But look at it this way, what happens over many decades has to be structured in a way that is easy for the reader to follow and stay engaged. Most memoirs take place over a much briefer period of time (is briefer a word?), but the story I want to tell begins at least when I was 11, but truly long before I was born, and doesn’t end until this past decade. PULLING MY HAIR OUT.

Which reminds me that I wanted to share that Perry is in absolute love with his hairbrush. Yup. He hugs it.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing Talk

Enter to Win a FREE COPY of DOLL GOD and The Little Free Library with Dogs

What to win a free copy of Doll God?

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway. If you’re not on Goodreads, it is easy to sign up–and it costs nothing to enter to WIN A FREE COPY OF DOLL GOD.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Doll God by Luanne Castle

Doll God

by Luanne Castle

Released January 10 2015

Enter Giveaway

Remember the little free library?

One of the books I bought at the used bookstore was The Girl on the Train. It was a fairly suspenseful thriller, but it had some pretty big flaws. For one, a lot of the book is taken up by holding the main character’s hand while she drinks. Yeah, she’s a very tedious alcoholic. Boring. Then I figured out the solution to the mystery by the middle of the book, so the ending was a big letdown. None of the characters were likable.

Strangely, the book felt like it was written by Paul (not Paula) Hawkins. This is not meant as a negative about books by men or anything like that. And I’ve never really thought to myself about whether a book was written by a man or woman–I never cared. But I was haunted by the feeling that a woman couldn’t have written this book. It was kind of odd.

All that said, I read the book in one day, so it was a suspenseful read.

I went to California and thought I’d visit the little free library. Since I had just finished reading The Girl on the Train and didn’t have anybody I wanted to subject give it to, I thought I’d walk there and do a switch. When I arrived at the house with the little library, I noticed that the front door was open and a little wire-haired cutie (dog) was walking down the front yard. I kept approaching the library, wondering if the dog was supposed to be outside as he/she wasn’t wearing a collar. Just then a yellow lab came running out of that open door. The lab was not happy with me and ran toward me, growling in an aggressive manner. I walked across the street and turned back in the direction I came from. That was disappointing, considering I like being able to walk to a little library. And I couldn’t help but think of the children’s books in the library and what could have happened if a child had been walking there at that moment.

Later, the gardener drove me over there and I did the swap. I ended up with a book called Earnest about . . . (get this) a yellow lab.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book promotion, Book Review, Books, California, Doll God, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

April is the Humane-est (sic) Month, Breeding Thoughtfulness

T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Waste Land” famously begins:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
So it’s quite ironic that April is National Poetry Month. If anything, since poetry makes the world more thoughtful and compassionate, I think April might now be the most humane month.
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Poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: “Compassion is what we need.” Ain’t that the truth!
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Of course, one of the greatest mysteries is how a scumbag can write a compassionate, sensitive poem. Case in point: Ezra Nazi-collaborator Pound. He wrote this gorgeous poem/translation:
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THE RIVER-MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER

 

by Ezra Pound 1915 (adapted from Rihaku or Li Po 701-762)

 

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village Chokan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

 

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

 

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the look out?

 

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

 

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me.  I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

 

Frustrating that it was Pound who wrote these beautiful lines. Do you love a work of art by a creep? (Hint: you do if you like James and the Giant Peach or Matilda)

Happy National Poetry Month!!!

I plan to celebrate poetry this month, and am going to try to overlook the little detail above: that I don’t care for this year’s poster. Check out previous year’s posters here.

 

What do you think about this year’s poster? Does it make you want to go read a poem?

 

By the way: #amwriting

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Filed under #AmWriting, Poetry, Writing

Day 30 of Tupelo Press 30/30 Project: Where Did It Go? #poetry

DAY 30

LAST DAY OF THE 30/30 PROJECT FOR ME!!

Reminding you that I will be taking down these 30 posts in the very near future :).  Maybe you’ll see them in the future in some other form or “location.”

 

 

This post has been EDITED. The disappearance of that last poem: a mystery. It went the way of the other September poems–back into my writing box.

 

If you have enjoyed reading these one day poems, you might like my book Doll God where the poems have had a little more time coming into the world. It’s now a Finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards!!!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, History, Inspiration, Memoir, Poetry, Tupelo Press 30/30 Poetry Project, Writing, Writing goals

Poetry On the Edge

Alaska native Caroline Goodwin’s first poetry book, Trapline (Jackleg Press), is set at the edge–of the sea, the swamp, the wilderness. To get a feel for her poetry, imagine yourself walking along the shore, encountering “rot and salt,” dragonflies, gnats, the quahog and cockle. Then imagine focusing in on each treasure, closer and closer until you see a wing or an eye and then inside the organism. Once you’re amongst the blood vessels with your magical microscope, Goodwin will connect what you see to the human you through a hand, a thigh, a boot. What you discover will be big and beautiful and brutal.

The first poem offers an invitation to the reader: “come to the end of the wharf / when the last of the tide releases / the harbor with its trollers / and rigging _ _ its lampshells / and speckled anemone _ _  come / after work when the mind / / has grown plumes.” [The double underscore represents a larger space in the line. Since WordPress isn’t friendly to poetry, I had to make do.]

You will want to take Goodwin up on this invitation.  You can click on the book above to order from Amazon. I didn’t get a free book for recommending Goodwin’s poetry; I simply bought her book and fell in love with the poems.

Here is a sample poem for your enjoyment:

WEEDING

I can see how the termites

draw themselves through

the opening now

to rise out of the hive

in a flickering stream

every leg full of

sun every abdomen a

jewel and I let myself

think about the un-

born and the almost

born — eggs packed

in brittle shells

in husks

in the wings

ticking

my husband

scraping at the crumpled

leaves

his song a thin leg

. . . . . . . . . at the edge of the yard

[I had to add the ellipses to indicate a long space.]

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Filed under Book Review, Essay, Nonfiction, Poetry