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Source: Review copy from author

Kin Types is the newest poetry collection by Luanne Castle in which she recreates the stories of her ancestors. (Read the collection’s opening poem, “Advice from My Forebears” and the inspiration for it here.) She draws you in right away with lines similar to what many of us have heard from our elders, like “Quit scowling or your face will freeze that way” (“Advice from My Forebears,” page 2). I soon found myself immersed in the poems about Dutch immigrants who made their way to Michigan and forged a life, often difficult, judging from many of the poems, but hopeful as well in that these lines are written by their descendant.

From a mother who rushes into a house fire (“An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete”) to the fast-forwarding and rewinding that recounts the ups and downs of a marriage (“And So It Goes”), from the tale of a family who loses everything (“The Weight of Smoke”) to the names and connections that are uncovered when digging into a family’s history (“Genealogy”), Kin Types is about raising and confronting the ghosts of the past, making sense of the lives that came before us, and honoring the struggles and the sheer grit and determination that keeps the family tree growing over the generations.

Castle’s poems are narrative in style and haunting in that they portray some of the darkest moments in a family’s history, but they give us a glimpse of happiness and hope as well. The quote that opens the collection says it perfectly:

“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”

-Liam Callanan

It is easy to see how different today is from the era of the woman portrayed in these poems, but Castle does a brilliant job enabling readers to put ourselves in their shoes, at least for a handful of lines. It is virtually impossible to read Kin Types and not imagine the stories of your ancestors, especially those who you’ve heard about but who lived too long ago for you to have met. This collection is powerful in that, just as in the closing poem, “When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother,” it makes you consider how these long-dead people are reflected in who you are today. Kin Types is the best poetry collection I’ve read in a while, and one I won’t soon forget.

For more about Kin Types and to follow the blog tour, click on the button below:

Disclosure: I received Kin Types from the author for review.

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Luanne Castle is my guest today to celebrate the release of her latest poetry collection, Kin Types. She’s here to share a poem from the book and its inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome!

Advice from My Forebears

Always use hot pack canning for your green beans
and test your seals at the end.

Don’t grab a burning oil stove without considering
the consequences.

Don’t get in debt. If you don’t got it, don’t get it.

Make up your mind what church you’ll attend
and go there as often as you can stand.

Be Dutch or you ain’t much.

Get the log out of your own eye so you can get
the speck out of the other’s eye.

We can’t talk about it, but here’s your great-grandma’s
Eastern Star ring so you will have a signal.

Never pick a fight but if someone hits you,
hit them back.

Always plant marigolds in your vegetable garden
and keep a compost pile out beyond the shed.

If they come to your door, feed them. Then send
them on their way.

Just let be.

Be careful with a needle; that’s how your Grandpa
got blinded, coming around his ma’s knee.

Sit on my finger, nobody ever fell off.

Watch your step on deck so you don’t fall off the boat
and get skewered by the anchor like your Uncle Lucas.

Don’t quit writing like I did. Make me a promise.

Quit scowling or your face will freeze that way.

If you see somebody’s thumb stuck in the dyke,
don’t pull it out.

“Advice from My Forebears” was first published in the museum of Americana (Fall 2015) and then in Kin Types.

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The origins of my desire to recreate family stories lies with my grandfather—and with his storytelling and advice. He was the one who told me how his Uncle Lucas was killed by falling on an anchor as a young man in Goes, Netherlands. Also, he described running into his mother’s sewing needle and being taken to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for treatments in 1910. That’s how I learned that danger lurked even in the household.

When I began this poem, I had my grandfather in mind, but I was also thinking of a list a newfound relative gave me. I had met him through my family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo. His mother was Grandpa’s mother’s first cousin. He had compiled the list of advice his mother had given him in the 1930s. The list sounded familiar to me as it contained the phrasing and sentiments I learned from Grandpa. This one, for example: “If they come to your door, feed them. Then send / them on their way.”

The poem became a list much like the list given to me, but with advice passed on over several generations, as well as advice added on with new events. Grandpa was no doubt warned about his uncle’s death by his own parents and grandparents, as his uncle had died fourteen years before he was born, but his own accident with the sewing needle was a newer addition to the family lore. In the most recent event, my grandmother who had wanted to be a writer made me promise not to give up writing.

Family history is a compilation of layered stories, added to by each generation. Much is lost as well, but by repeating what is worth passing on we learn by hearing both the inspirational and the cautionary tales.

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About Kin Types

Kin Types is based largely upon genealogy and a fascination with what comes to all of us from the past. A mix of poetry in the traditional sense and highly poetic prose pieces, the collection takes the reader on a journey into the lives of women and somewhat into the lives of men who must carry on alone once the women are gone. The journey of this collection is not a ramble into the past, but a slingshot into the here and now by way of these portrait tales.

Check out Kin Types on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Luanne Castle

Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne Castle‘s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Grist, Copper Nickel, River Teeth, Glass Poetry Press, Barnstorm Journal, Six Hens, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, and many other journals. Published by Finishing Line Press, Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest.

Luanne has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside. She studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside (Ph.D.); Western Michigan University (MFA); and the Stanford University writing certificate program. Her scholarly work has been published in academic journals, and she contributed to Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers for Adults, edited by Betty Greenway. For fifteen years, she taught college English. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina. Visit her website.

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To celebrate the release of the latest poetry collection from Erica Goss, I have a video reading of the poem “Night Court,” from the collection of the same name. But first, a little about the book:

Night Court leaves us hungry for more of the poet’s open, probing, leaping intelligence, her ‘wild associations’ and surprises in the unexpected ‘shivering’ sweetness of a love story where ‘joy scrambles sadness.’ We hear ‘the clatter of souls entering bodies’ and experience ‘spring’s lizard stealth’ as sadness, longing and reluctance are transformed by breath-stopping beauty. Like a creature in the forest, the poet will ‘rub my cheek against the night.’ And she reminds us a prince waits, perhaps for centuries, until we wake.”
—Susan G. Wooldridge, author of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words

“’No more / mindless syrup blunting / raw edges, // no more disguising things / with bland counterparts.’ The poems in Night Court are often starkly rendered, tough yet sensitive. Deeply imaginative, the poems describe a feral world also experienced by children, a world of hungry ghosts, magic, beasts and violence. ‘There’s a crack at the edge / of the world where the dark // and comic leak through’ Goss takes us to this illuminating place.”
— Robert S. Pesich, President, Poetry Center San Jose

Check out Night Court on Amazon

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Please give a warm welcome to Erica Goss:

“Night Court” is the first video from my poetry collection of the same name, which has just been published by Glass Lyre Press. I used new footage as well as some older video I’d shot while on vacation at the beach in Santa Cruz. I like the jerky, unpolished look of the older video, and I think it’s interesting when juxtaposed against the new, smoother video. For video editing, I used Adobe Premier Pro.

I animated the title using newspaper cut-outs, which I distorted with video effects in Premiere Pro. For music, I used royalty-free sound effects (the whispering you hear at the beginning and end) and music by Podington Bear, with permission.

“Night Court” is my nickname for insomnia, a condition I have endured all my life. The poem represents the many nights I’ve lain in my bed, wondering why I was awake when the rest of the world slept. One night the idea came to me that I was being tried in a court of law. Bored, awake, and lonely, I imagined having to testify about my “tragedies” – i.e., the fact that I can’t sleep like normal people – in front of a judge and jury at a real night court, a criminal court that holds sessions at night.

I recently learned that New York City’s night court is a popular tourist attraction, and that until a few years ago, the court was open until 1:00 a.m. I’m often awake at 1:00 a.m. Coincidence?

A weird kind of honesty pervades the sleepless brain. In the poem, I write that “(my tragedies) have sworn to tell the truth / and nothing else” and that after midnight, “I am never more awake.” Perhaps there is some wisdom in holding court at 1:00 a.m.

I was a fan of the TV show Night Court, starring Harry Anderson and John Larroquette, which ran on NBC from 1984-1992. Memories of the show influenced the poem, especially the random, sometimes funny, sometimes dangerous nature of things that happen late at night.

To view my videos, please visit my Vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/ericagoss I will be adding more videos based on poems from the book soon.

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About the Poet

Erica Goss

Erica Goss is a poet and freelance writer. She served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA from 2013-2016. She is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award, Wild Place and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets. Recent work appears in Lake Effect, Atticus Review, Contrary, Eclectica, The Red Wheelbarrow, Main Street Rag, Pearl, Rattle, Wild Violet, and Comstock Review, among others. She is co-founder of Media Poetry Studio, a poetry-and-film camp for teen girls: . Please visit her website, Facebook page, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.

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One year ago, Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s most emotional poetry collection Saris and a Single Malt was on tour with Poetic Book Tours.

Chick with Books said of the collection, “Heartfelt, raw, honest and thought-provoking.”

Jorie Loves A Story said, “Vikram bleeds her emotions through words.”

Diary of an Eccentric said, “Saris and a Single Malt is a touching tribute to Vikram’s mother, a love song from a grieving daughter.”

This is a poetry collection that is raw and beautiful. And as part of the celebration, Vikram is offering 4 copies of the book to some lucky U.S. residents.

SARIS AND A SINGLE MALTAbout the book:

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.

IMG_2240About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning author of 11 books, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, mindfulness writing coach, and wellness columnist. Sweta’s work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press, 2018) is her debut U.S. novel.

Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the Indian Himalayas, North Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, and mindful living to female trauma survivors, writers and artists, creative types, busy women, entrepreneurs, and business professionals in her avatar as the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife. You can find her on: Twitter (@swetavikram), Instagram (@SwetaVikram), and Facebook.

Enter to win 1 signed copy and a $15 Amazon gift card or 1 of 3 other signed copies of Saris and a Single Malt.

Entrants must be U.S. residents.  Giveaway ends on Aug. 28, 2017, at 5 p.m. EST

Click to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

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Sweta Vikram and her father

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I am pleased to welcome poet Diamante Lavendar to Diary of an Eccentric today to share a poem from her latest collection, Poetry and Ponderings, and her inspiration for writing it. Please give her a warm welcome:

Please Do Not Weep

Do not fret
For your grievous loss;
Do not feel
Like a wave that is tossed;
Do not weep
By yourself, so alone;
For I am with you,
Soon you will be home.
The things of this world
Are transient and brief;
I will be your comfort,
Your ease and your peace;
Notice the good
And perceive not the bad;
Observe what you’ve learned,
The lessons you’ve had;
For everything you’ve been through
Has come at a cost;
There is good in the bad,
You have won and not lost.
I have set you here, love,
And you shall I keep;
Do not lose hope,
And please do not weep.

-Diamante Lavendar

What prompted me to write this poem?  My past and all the cumulative experiences I’ve had in life.  I’ve been hurt so many times that it became something I expected.  The people I was supposed to be able to trust the most were some of the most UNtrustworthy people I’ve known.  It has taken me a very long time to come to the point of making peace with my past.

After I wrote Breaking The Silence, the book about my life (which won 5 awards for Inspirational Fiction), I put together Poetry and Ponderings.  I was still working through some of the issues I had been plagued with during my lifetime.  Right before Poetry and Ponderings was published, my eighteen-year-old daughter died.  She was my hope and inspiration in life.  Now I find myself revisiting the agony of losing a child since it has happened to me three times.  Although my experiences have been stark and devastating, my writing is sparked with hope and love.  Because I have come to know that the spirit realm is alive and well, I believe I will be reunited with my children again and I look at God as the father I’ve always wanted.  It’s been rough, that’s no lie, but I believe I came here for some spiritual graduate work….and I got it.  It is my wish that I pass all the tests and graduate well.  It is also my wish that the books I write help others to learn and grow and spark a relationship with spirit.

Thank you, Diamante, for sharing your poetry and your story with me and my readers. Congratulations on the publication of your book!

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About Poetry and Ponderings

In this rare collection of nonfiction Christian poetry and prose based on real life experiences, Diamante Lavendar, a victim of abuse, shows the reader the raw emotions of pain, hate, and denial that occur before a victim of abuse can find a way to heal from the pains of assault. Knowing herself the very difficult journey of being a victim, Diamante was abused as a child, and turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. Many years later, she started to heal under God’s watchful eyes and was able to find love in her life again. She shares these truly inspiring, religious poems in the hopes that it may help other victims heal their hurts, as she did while writing the poetry collection.

Check out Poetry and Ponderings on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Diamante Lavendar has been in love with reading since she was a child. Diamante believes that everyone should try to leave their own positive mark on the world, and to make it a better place for all. Writing is her way of leaving her mark—one story at a time. She began writing in college and has published poetry in anthologies over the years. Most of her writing is very personal and stems from her own experiences, and those of her family and friends. She writes to encourage hope and possibility to those who read her stories. To learn more about Diamante Lavendar and her books, please visit her website.

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Source: Cedar Forge Press
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Robbie reached across and touched my arm. When he didn’t draw his hand back, I told him about my frights. “Maybe,” he said, “we all practice our dying, in different ways, at different times, but there’s no way to avoid the thought. Write it if you can.”

(from The Belle of Two Arbors)

The Belle of Two Arbors is a sweeping historical novel that takes readers on a journey between Glen Arbor and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and sometimes beyond, from 1913 to 1978. The book is presented as a memoir of the fictional poet Martha “Belle” Peebles, whose entire collection of poems, or “songs,” are found in a trunk, along with the memoir, after her death. The novel chronicles Belle’s life, from her mother’s tragic death when she was 14 until the end of her life and beyond.

Belle’s mother was a fan of Emily Dickinson and encouraged Belle to write. Although devoted to her younger brother, Pip, and her Papa, Belle decides to leave Glen Arbor to attend college in Ann Arbor, where her lifelong friendship with Robert Frost begins. Her friendships with Robbie, Ted Roethke, and Wystan Auden enrich her life and inspire her work, and they share their poems and letters over the span of many years. Dimond chronicles Belle’s work, her role as a caregiver, her complicated love life, her desire to preserve the natural habitat in Glen Arbor and expand the family’s stove works, her battle with sexism in academia, and more.

The Belle of Two Arbors is an ambitious novel that was just a bit too long for me at nearly 700 pages. Dimond’s prose is great, and Grimes’ poems (Belle’s poems for the purpose of the novel) are well done, but it felt like there were a lot of scenes and details that, though well written, just did not further the plot.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the novel overall because of Belle. What a fantastic heroine! She was brave, strong-willed, ahead of her time, a pillar of strength among her friends and family, a source of encouragement and love. She had dreams and figured out ways to achieve them. She managed the ups and downs of love without being overly romantic or dramatic. Her interactions with historical figures were fascinating. If it weren’t for the extraneous details that hindered the flow in certain places, I would have loved this novel, but even so, I think it is worth giving a try for Belle alone.

Check out The Belle of Two Arbors on Goodreads and Amazon, and click the banner above for more details about the book and to follow the blog tour.

Disclosure: I received The Belle of Two Arbors from Cedar Forge Press for review.

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Every April, I look forward to the National Poetry Month blog tour hosted by Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit. Serena is always challenging me to read more poetry and encourages everyone to just give it a try. If there is one thing I’ve learned about poetry over the years, it is that there really is something for everyone in the genre.

This year as I was contemplating my post, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of my favorite poetry collections. In no particular order, here are my top 5 favorite poetry collections:

From my review:

Dien Cai Dau, which means “crazy” in Vietnamese, is a collection of poems by Yusef Komunyakaa about his experiences as a soldier during the Vietnam War.  I first read this collection in a college English course on literature of the Vietnam War, and after re-reading it last week, I’ve concluded that it’s my favorite poetry book dealing with the war.  Komunyakaa is a master of words, describing his experiences and observations in a way that isn’t as gritty and raw as some other writings by Vietnam veterans but still shows the horrors of war and the struggle to survive.  He tells it like it is but does so with much emotion.

From my review:

Song of Napalm is divided into three sections, each of which deals with memories of his war experiences and indicate a progression toward dealing with the ghosts he carries with him and striking a balance between the need to remember and the need to return to the land of the living.  Weigl’s memories are so vivid and filled with emotion that they bring the war to life, and I could feel some of his pain.

From my review:

Delights & Shadows is a collection of quiet poems touching upon such themes as memory, aging, death, and nature. Kooser obviously spends a lot of time observing his surroundings, and many of his poems bring ordinary objects or simple moments to life. When Kooser looks at the world, he sees things that many of us would miss, and the descriptions of what he sees are fascinating.

From my review:

Catalina exemplifies everything I love in a poetry collection.  While I have no idea whether these poems are autobiographical, it certainly seems as though Soriano exposes her soul in these stanzas.  They affected me deeply with their heaviness and their beauty.

From my review:

Although there is diversity among the poetic styles and the poets’ experiences, each of the poems in The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry lead to the same conclusion:  that war is hell.  It makes me wonder how many of these poets were poets before, and how many used poetry as a way to deal with the loss, anger, and haunting memories tied to the war.  Some of the poems made me feel like I was staring into the poet’s soul.  I am in awe of men and women who can put such awful tragedies into words, and I believe that war poetry is among the most powerful and vivid, bringing to life the internal and external struggles in a way that non-fiction and prose cannot.

Have you read any of these collections? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of them. If not, I hope you will consider giving one or all of them a try! Happy National Poetry Month!

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