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I’m delighted to welcome Laura Foley to Diary of an Eccentric today to share the inspiration behind “Prayer, 1943,” a poem in her new collection, WTF.

Prayer, 1943

Dad and his fellow prisoners
crouched under a shed,
its roof a sieve
of shrapnel holes
allowing rain
they didn’t notice
any more than hunger,
in their concentration
on pawns, queens, bishops,
rooks they carved
from discarded
toothbrush handles-
from their mouths,
to God’s ears.

Please give a warm welcome to Laura Foley:

My dad described in his recollections the event that I have put into this poem. The date comes from his time as Prisoner of War under the Japanese, in occupied China and Japan. I have tried to imagine what it was like for him.

I was touched by the detail he gives of the chess pieces carved from toothbrush handles, the sense of deprivation and boredom this conveys, as well as the camaraderie with the other men. Also the constant danger from American bombings as the Americans came closer to winning the war, how the American and other European prisoners were afraid of being mistakenly bombed as well as being cheered by the sight.

I have read many books about the war and the Japanese prisons, most notably Unbroken, which depicts a sadistic Japanese guard eerily similar to the one who tortured my father. Throughout my childhood, his imprisonment was a source of conversation, even though I was born more than a decade after his release. I wrote a poem about him being in prison camp when I was in Kindergarten.

Prayer 1943 comes from my collection WTF which is a tribute to my father, whose initials were WTF, as well as a working-through of my relationship to him, decades past his death.

Thank you so much, Laura, for sharing a little of your father’s story and the inspiration for the poem with me and my readers!

About WTF

Laura Foley’s “WTF” refers to her father’s initials and, slyly, to the abbreviated colloquial exclamation, in a pun that laughs and cuts, in this reckoning with a fraught father-daughter relationship. These spare poems communicate more like snapshots than narrative lyrics, beginning with sympathy and gratitude, moving through disappointment, anger and resentment, without ever losing compassion, as Foley examines her father’s formative WWII experiences and, consequently, how he shaped her experience and character, ending with a positive recognition of her father in herself.

Read sample poems here: https://www.readcwbooks.com/foley_poems.html

Check out WTF on Goodreads | Amazon

About the Author

Laura Foley

Laura Foley is an internationally published, award-winning poet, author of six collections. She won the Common Goods Poetry Contest, judged by Garrison Keillor; and the National Outermost Poetry Prize, judged by Marge Piercy. Her poetry collections include: WTFNight Ringing, The Glass Tree, and Joy StreetThe Glass Tree won a Foreword Book of the Year Award; Joy Street won the Bisexual-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared on The Writer’s Almanac, in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review, in the British Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology, and many other journals.

A certified Yoga Instructor and creative arts facilitator in hospitals, she is the mother of three grown children, grandmother to two granddaughters. She and her partner Clara Gimenez live among the hills of Vermont with their three big dogs.

Follow her on Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

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joy street

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sometimes all this grinning feels so strange, I just lie on the porch doing nothing energetic, just lolling on the sun-warmed wood, letting the dogs lick my face, while the din of loneliness fills other ears.

(“The Land of Happy,” from Joy Street, page 25)

Quick summary: Joy Street is a short collection of poems by Laura Foley that beautifully captures everyday moments, from missed moments to contribute to a conversation to romantic moments while shopping for groceries. These poems touch upon such things as death, sexuality, and illness, focusing on the small glimmers of happiness instead of depression and despair. The darkest poems focus on the narrator’s father’s experiences as a POW for the Japanese.

Why I wanted to read it: I always read at least one poetry book every year, and there was just something so beautiful and joyful in the cover image that I was intrigued.

What I liked: Short, narrative poems are my favorite, and Foley’s poems did not disappoint on that front. Foley manages to capture so much emotion and paint such vivid pictures in just a few short lines. I especially enjoyed how the poems focused on ordinary experiences, peppering them with humor, and how the love poems were passionate without being overly sentimental.

What I disliked: There was nothing to dislike, except maybe for the brevity of the collection.

Final thoughts: Joy Street is a feel-good collection of poems sure to speak to every reader in some way. These poems radiate honesty and gentleness, which I found both powerful and refreshing, and I liked them even more upon my second reading. I’ll end with some of my favorite lines, which had me nodding and smiling: “The poet rests a worn, compassionate hand on her youthful shoulder, letting her know she has all the time she needs to breathe. I await my turn, thinking I’d like to be like her. Not the famous part. The graceful part.” (from “Grace,” page 32)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for Joy Street.  To learn more about the book and follow the tour, click here.

Disclosure: I received Joy Street from the author for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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