Tag Archives: poetry collection

Immigrant Model by Mihaela Moscaliuc

imm modelSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 112 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963345

ISBN-13: 978-0822963349

 

Review by Dennis Daly

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Like mythological werewolves rising from musty crypts, these passionate poetic lines of Mihaela Moscaliuc’s Immigrant Model prowl over page warmth feeding from the flesh of grim fables and drinking the metallic blood of modern mechanistic life.

Moscaliuc mixes unfortunate history, the unhappiness of others, and bleak folklore in her labyrinthine journey into the heart of gothic darkness. Along the way her persona develops a survivor’s surreal logic of alternating stoicism and fear, tempered by acute powers of observation. The poet’s major pieces are cosmopolitan in nature, set in Madagascar, Romania, Spain, the Ukraine, America, and even Ireland.

The first poem after the introductory piece Moscaliuc entitles Self-Portrait with Monk. She describes a monk festooned in garlic and pushing a wheelbarrow. Then the poet invokes that strange novel of murder and mysterious mayhem, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, for atmospheric effect. The narrative quickens, alters its flight, and changes into something wicked or wonderful that comes our way. The poet describes her ownership of the action as follows,.

He cooks and feeds and scrubs but never eats, my monk,

spends lunch elbow-deep in suds or scratching the bellies of cats.

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No wonder he’s so famished by the time Cassiopeia arrives.

Then black chiffon and ivory flesh stream upward,

shape-shifting in flight: raven, whiskered bat, pricolici, varcolaci.

At dawn, he lands between two rose bushes, soot in his mouth,

weeping who knows why, my celestial monk,

torn cassock glistening with spent saliva, rapture in upturned eyes.

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In Turning the Bones, Moscaliuc uses straightforward narrative to relate a seemingly ghastly ritual practiced by villagers in Madagascar in which the shrouded bones of relatives are temporarily disinterred and danced with. The occasion calls for good food, local brews, and colorful dress. Carthusian monks would understand this ceremony of remembering death and examining mortality. Here is the heart of the poem,

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… bundles heaved up

onto woven straw mats, names coursing the cheering crowd.

Perfumed and swathed in new damask, bodies are invited to dance.

In this hummock of tall grass, in the eye of the Indian Ocean,

the living and the dead reclaim themselves, flowery skirts

flapping against the bouquet of bones, bones reshuffling

as they warm to the tunes of trumpets and clarinets.

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The lengthy poem Ana to Manole reinterprets a chilling Romanian folktale that certainly rings true in the art world of today. Eyes wide open, the artist—here a mason—sacrifices his family to the needs of his patron, his ego, and his audience. He walls his pregnant wife up, betrays her for the ephemeral, only to be destroyed himself, turned into a cheap tourist destination. The poet describes Manole’s fate through the eyes of Ana,

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You raised the wall till it cinctured me whole,

silt shored against carcass, and for the glory of what?

A toe ring in the god’s trinket box, this masterpiece

you then bragged you could outshine.

I say it was the jaded gods having fun.

To think you could win their grace

with gilded turrets, dream yourself

a welder of shadows.

You fashioned the voice out of fear

you’ll stay a mason, master bricklayer

instead of Creator, so here we are:

you, water fountain fed pennies by tourists

too sated to invent their own myths

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For harrowing detail and lyrical fury very few poems can touch Moscaliuc’s sectional poem entitled Radioactive Wolves: A Retelling.  Divided into two major parts the poem first relates the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986 and its aftermath and then tells a fictional tale based on real events that occurred at an infamous Romanian orphanage. Both sections deconstruct misery into detail packed with dread, often lyrical. Consider this comment from the Chernobyl section on government helpfulness,

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All books disappeared, all important ones,

on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on X-rays.

The medical bulletins too, vanished.

Those who could took potassium iodine.

For that, you really needed to know someone.

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A sign we could follow, live by:

as long as there were sparrows and pigeons in town

we could nest there.

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My favorite poem in this haunting collection, Memoir, combines righteous anger with passionate celebration. Nothing surreal here, the nerve endings are too raw. Moscaliuc portrays the despicable and wealth-besotted dictators of Romania, Elana and Nicolae Ceausecu,  after twenty–five years of terrorizing their people, denying the obvious. Dragged before a firing squad of machine gunners they collected their well-deserved rewards. And, yes, Elana, did indeed actively participate in the countless atrocities. Both the abbreviated show trial and the execution were filmed. The piece ends in catharsis and relief,

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You may have understood the story of the firing squad,

how, fearing clones, we measured and re-measured the corpses,

shot and reshot them. We each craved a bit of dried blood,

a frayed cuticle, an eyebrow stump, a finger

on the trigger, so we replayed the execution all through Christmas,

kissed our informers, broke bread with strangers,

stopped stoning strays, begged Gypsies for forgiveness.

We loved as only people who cannot get enough of death love,

we loved unconditionally for one long day that Christmas of 1989.

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Immigrant Model, the final and title poem in this collection works wonderfully. The poet infuses her protagonist with mystery and sensuousness. Models, at least the very best of them, channel natural processes in ways unknown even to them. They connect with an artistic perception and stoke it further. Add in the immigrant’s complex and sometimes fluctuating identity and an interesting, often darker, dynamic occurs. Model perceives her artistic interpreters and then seeks to judge them in these lines,

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… as students sketch, she re-roots:

the desiccated belly of her Moldavian village creek

toothed with rocks, eyed with shriveled minnows,

but she can still feel their eye, the hammock of her body

swayed by the screech of charcoals’ smooth incisions.

Tonight she steals in to see herself in various stages

of completion, looks for the hand knowing enough, kind enough

to release her…

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Bats flitting in from the night sky, Moscaliuc’s poems may startle. Mornings after, one remembers only their magic.

You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Immigrant-Model-Pitt-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963345

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Dennis Daly

Dennis Daly

-Dennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel was recently released by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion. http://dennisfdaly.blogspot.com/

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New Release- I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast by Melissa Studdard

I ATE

“Melissa Studdard’s high-flying, bold poetic language expresses an erotic appetite for the world: ‘this desire to butter and eat the stars,’ as she says, in words characteristically large yet domestic, ambitious yet chuckling at their own nerve. This poet’s ardent, winning ebullience echoes that of God, a recurring character here, who finds us Her children, splotchy, bawling and imperfect though we are, “flawless in her omniscient eyes.”–Robert Pinsky

“In so many ways the poems in this book read like paintings, touching and absorbing the light of the known world while fingering the soul until it lifts, trembling. Gates splayed, bodies read as books, and hearts born of mouths, Studdard’s study, which is a creation unto itself, would have no doubt pleased Neruda’s taste for the alchemic impurity of poetry, which is, as we know, poetry that is not only most pure of heart, but beautifully generous in vision and feeling.” –Cate Marvin

You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Ate-Cosmos-Breakfast-Melissa-Studdard/dp/0988944758

You can read the poetry of Melissa Studdard in The Fox Chase Review at this link: http://www.foxchasereview.org/12AW/MelissaStuddard.html

 

The Americans by David Roderick

IconAmericans1Series: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 88 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (August 5, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963124

ISBN-13: 978-0822963127

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Reviewed by g emil reutter

There is always a danger in the blandness of a poet, of a poet who writes well-crafted poems, so well-crafted that they are void of passion, of reality. There is also the elitist view of suburbia as a wasteland of culture. And, then there is The Americans by David Roderick, a poet of passion and a craftsman whose series of poems titled, Dear Suburb, appear throughout this outstanding collection of poems.

Roderick tells us in the Dear Suburb (page 3) poem, I’m not interested in sadness/just a yard as elder earth, a library of sunflowers/battered by nights rain. And again in this poem, I see how you exist, O satellite town, your bright possibility/ born again in drywall/ and the diary of the trick lock. In Dear Suburb (page 13) he captures the transformation of rural to suburb, If your billboards peel, if the gaze/ is really dead, then what are those/remaining fields to you…/or the mirror of thought, or just thought’s sleeping sheets?

There are the other poems where monkey’s howl, Virgin Mary rests in a window, Judas swinging from an aspen, of pastoral settings, big box stores, gardens, Plymouths, the Enola Gay and of being an American.

Roderick reminds us of the dream of America, the American Dream and the loneliness of dreams, the longing for nostalgia and the possibility that delivers us into the future.

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You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Americans-Pitt-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963124/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408576264&sr=8-1&keywords=the+americans+by+david+roderick

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g-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

My South by Southwest – A Cast Iron Tempo Recollection by Elizabeth Stelling

soouthPaperback: 130 pages

Publisher: Red Dashboard Press

(February 28, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1494475456

ISBN-13: 978-1494475451

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Reviewed by Dennis Daly


I rode in with a posse of northeastern elites ready to make short work of any outlaw poet espousing a “cowboy” perception of all things human. Reckon us artsy-fartsy, highfalutin folk can’t abide shit-kickers, firing their guns in the air after writing a poetic memoir extolling the timeless and utterly personal importance of beans and cornbread.
 
 Days after discarding the unused hangman’s rope and reading My South By Southwest, Elizabeth Akin Stelling’s collection of poems set in rural Texas, in its entirety for the second time I became a believer in, if not cowboy poetry, at least Stelling’s version of this genre.
 
Stelling writes with an odd poetic cadence. She mixes the expected caricature of popular movie legend with realistic country diction and then infuses it with jaw-dropping moments of complexity. The book’s front and back covers and its illustrations unabashedly build on the cartoon look. But through it all Stelling’s honesty blasts onto the pages with the withering candor of a west Texas sun.
 
The book begins with a prologue poem entitled Texas Skies.  The piece is pure enchantment. White clouds shape themselves into dessert plants like mesquite and prickly pear, and then reform themselves into a woman encountering her universal cowboy. Flirtation follows with the predictable “scoot across a sawdust dance floor.” The poem ends transitioning from the messy personal to big picture beauty,
 
at night’s end,
morning light exposes a scene,
of rustled bed sheets and blankets
in a musky room
            filled with far-flung recollection.
 
Down the road,
a prettier site to behold:
a backdrop of a country town,
under a big top called Texas,
            a blue one
dotted with pretty white clouds,
scattered and taking on shapes,
always reminding
            of so many boundless things.
 
In Stelling’s poem, There’s A New Sheriff In Town, she describes her chemical makeup as a toddler in pretty funny terms and how it matches her Texas surroundings. The poem opens this way,
 
I drove my mother crazy
with my finger-sucking
(left-hand index barrel).
She would place me in a crib jail
and look down.
My “nasty habit” she called it,
crossing her chest
as if  praying to ward off evil.
 
Her sister advised her
“buy really hot sauces”
like mustard, green chilies
dip my finger in them,
then when she lay me down
to sleep, guaranteed,
I wouldn’t touch them.
 
Aunt Grace was wrong.
The hotter the better.   
 
Emotions attach themselves very readily to food I’ve noticed, remembered emotions from childhood even more so. Stelling makes good use of this phenomenon in her poem Corn-bread and beans. The poet details a family going through tough times. A mother prepares poverty’s breakfast in a cold house. The ending tugs at one’s heart,
 
Tears streamed.
            Each felt the sting—one, two, three
cutting of onions,
a front door slamming
and a father gone.
 
Leaving them—one, two, three, four
            frail bodies for eternity,
with a smell,
the burning aftertaste,
and a craving
for cornbread and beans.
 
Hearing the N Word In 1966 breaks through the surface texture of this collection. This poem delivers complexity, pathos, and a bit of thought provoking irony, all in five stanzas. The poet hits all the right notes. She has to. The poem begins harshly,
 
My father said nigger under his breath
toward some boys, coloured, and both
walking with scraps of lumber. They were dragging
wood along the school fence.
Huckleberry Finn did this jig,
And had fun.
 
Asking if daddy knew them,
supposing he worked with their fathers—
I was told to shut up
to remember  my place.
 
Here’s another brief selection from the same poem, highlighting childhood pathos,
 
Sandra and I came walking down the street.
In a rage Momma flew out our front door,
telling me to go into the house. Watching
through the screen door, I saw my friend’s tears.
Her unkempt afro swung around, then
she had to walk back four blocks
to an empty school.
 
Not only does this poet have a good ear but she understands the times and how societal bigotry infests otherwise decent people. It’s not that the poet’s persona is throwing her parents under the bus, but rather she seems intent on presenting an honest picture and setting up an ironic twist in the final stanza.
 
Kit Carson’s name graces a stray boulder and Geronomo metamorphosizes into a wooden Injun in Stelling’s poem Outlaws Still Border Texas. Tourism pleads its case from desolation. On a family road trip the poet notes a number of these incongruities. The poem ends not unreasonably,
 
“Goyahkla” means “The one who yawns”;
it is one of many trading posts
and totem pole—
riddled smoke shops
along the old Chisholm trail.
When I listened to the wind blowing through my long
auburn hair as Daddy drove,
 
I thought I heard the Great Spirit
call out: How
on earth did this blasphemy
make it this far?”
Wasn’t this supposed to be
a new frontier?
 
Beginning her poem, History Calls Out, “A Bullet Gone Wild, Stelling quotes the gunfighter Bat Masterson, who said, “If you want to hit a man in the chest aim for his groin.” I know a bit about Masterson. He later became a sportswriter in New York and railed against the barbarity of football. Somehow that seems appropriate. Stelling mixes a dreamed up meditation with gross reality. Here’s the heart of the poem,
 
When a man walked out into the street,
his gun packed as tight as possible,
in his belt and not far from his crooked
finger, it might have appeared aggression
looked you square in the eye.
Walk and draw was still a dream.
 
Civilized men kept a one shooter
deep in the pocket of his trousers.
To prosper, whiskey, and boredom
Brought out the best in a man
In the wilds of the frontier.
 
Together, the blend of honesty and humorous caricature charm these poems of cowboy sub-culture. Try ‘em out. You’ll like ‘em. Maybe you’ll like ‘em alot. And, dagnabbit, keep your spurs on and watch your back. 
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You can check out the book here: 

http://www.amazon.com/South-Southwest-Elizabeth-Akin-Stelling/dp/1494475456

 

dennis-Dennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel was recently released by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion. 

http://dennisfdaly.blogspot.com/

 

The Old Woman, the Tulip. and the Dog by Alicia Suskin Ostriker


 the old womanSeries: Pitt Poetry Series
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822962918
ISBN-13: 978-0822962915
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Review by: g emil reutter
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Although I thought it quite bold of Ostriker to attempt this collection, there was something about The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog, that did not wet my poetic appetite. I opened the book anyway and began to read the three stanza poems in the voices of an old woman full of memories of life, the opulent tulip and the rough and tumble dog. Ostriker tackles life through the voices of these three very different characters who have one thing in common, Ostriker’s voice.
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The Win That Blows Through Me
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I feel the hand of God inside my hand
when I write said the old woman
it blows me away like a hat
I’ll swear God’s needy hand is inside every atom
waving at us hoping we’ll wave back
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Sometimes I feel the presence
of the goddess inside me said the dark red tulip
and sometimes I see her
waltzing in the world around me
skirts flying through everything looks still
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It doesn’t matter whether you call the thing
God or goddess those are only words
said the dog panting after a run through the park
and a sprint after a squirrel
theology is bunk but the springtime wind is real
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In this one poem, Ostriker captures the essence of belief and how we all seem to have our own comfort levels in believing in God or a goddess or an enlightened view that nature itself is God.
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Using the collective voices of the old woman, tulip and the dog this collection charges into philosophical discussions between the three on a broad array of issues we deal with every day. A beautiful stanza appears in the poem, The Synagogue of the Ear Corn, in the voice of the tulip.
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When the morning stars sang together
And the sons of God shouted for joy
When the planet appeared in the sky
A blue-green jewel
I was down there in my purple dress
beside a river there were thousands of us flowers
life all around us so incredible
the mother of all rock concerts
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And so after having doubts, I must confess that once I began reading this collection, I could not stop. The crafting of the poems is exceptional, each voice unique blended by a master into an outstanding collection of poetry.
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You can find the book here:
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g emil reutter 2 g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)

Tiger Heron by Robin Becker

tiger heronSeries: Pitt Poetry Series
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 30, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822962985
ISBN-13: 978-0822962984
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Review by: g emil reutter
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Intimate relationships, growing old, the independence of her parents at 80 in weathering a storm for fear of being placed in assisted living. How nice the word hospice sounds in the language when actually a word for no hope of giving up of dying. Her father’s love of the track although a loneliness hovered over him.  Becker has developed a collection of poems that offer a realistic view of life, living and dying in a compassionate voice that is calming as you page through the poems in Tiger Heron. Becker accomplishes this with startling images, such as these from the poem Hospice:
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I wanted to believe in it, the word
softer than hospital but still not home—
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like any other frame house on the street,
it had a lawn, a door, a bell—
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inside, our friend lay, a view
of the garden from her bed. But no lift
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to raise her from the bed. A sword,
the sun plunged across the cotton blankets.
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Becker describes the loss of hope surrounded by life, a view of the garden, but no lift to raise her as the sun, a life force, plunged across the cotton blankets like a sword.
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She tells us in Montefiore Cemetery:
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Although the dying don’t want to talk much,
the dead have all the time in the world.
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However, a vast difference has replaced
our old relations. Emporium of headstones!
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Since when do you leave old antipathies
Mid-sentence? Choose silence over bickering?
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Becker remembers those who are no longer with her, Bubbe, her father bristling. At the end of the poem she leaves us:
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Silence, Montefiore nods, is the restraint of wisdom.
No tongue speaks as much ill as one’s own.
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Not all is gloomy here in Tiger Heron as the first two stanzas of Holiday reveal:
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We slept and woke to the sound of rhythmic surf.
Across the room, my friend lay with her book;
I listened to the spacious hour, its humane breath
on the room, grown large with distant water.
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In that monastic calm we took ourselves
Lightly, rose and ate, walked the half moon
Beach and indulged our ankles with bracelets
Of kelp. Underwater, the day kept flut-
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Robin Becker writes of the daily challenges of midlife and those at the end of life with a sobering realism that always flickers with hope, obtainable or not.
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You can find the book here:
g emil reutter 2– g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)  http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

Words Not Spoken by Vinita Agrawal

words not spoken

121 Pages

Publisher: Brown Critique- Sampark Books

Language: English

ISBN: 978-81-926842-2-2

Review by: g emil reutter.

Poet Vinita Agrawal is a realist who writes with passion about her life and those around her. Agrawal is excellent in her use of metaphor and writing poetic narratives such as the opening stanza of the title poem Words not Spoken:
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After mother passed away, the house shrunk,
silence expanded. Father and I heard pins of
emptiness drop. We discussed the sooty sun
behind the clouds, the salty rain. We mumbled
about what to have for lunch and dinner but
did not parley on what to do with mother’s saris.
We did not talk about the aroma that was missing
from the kitchen, or the flock of indigent mynahs
twittering hungrily in the balcony, their  beaks
agape with personal loss.
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In this one stanza Agrawal communicates the loss of a loved one with metaphors: the house shrunk, silence expanded, pins of emptiness drop, aroma that was missing from the kitchen, mynahs with beaks agape with personal loss. It is simply a beautiful stanza.
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From the fourth stanza of Draconian:
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It is a very bright moon tonight
that presses heavily on our parting
turns tears to silver, silence to gold.
It does the right thing always.
Let us prepare for the distance.
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The contrast of the bright moon pressing heavily on parting is a wonderful image. Tears to silver, silence to gold reveals the value Agrawal places on emotion but even a higher value on silence and endurance not only in this relationship but for life. This collection of poetry covers a period of 1997 to present. These poems of life and faith unfold before the reader revealing a life well lived in all the lows and highs we suffer and enjoy. Words Not Spoken is a valuable collection of poetry by Vinita Agrawal

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At present the book can be ordered by contacting

Gayatri Majumdar at browncritique@gmail.com

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g emil reutter-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)