Laura DiNovis Berry
Welcome! I provide free book reviews for modern poets! At the end of the year, 10% of all earnings and donations will be given to a non profit organization. This year you will all be helping Lambda Literary! Thank you!
Nilsen's 'Without A Kiss' Is Not Without a Warning
While Phoebe Nilsen's chapbook is at first unassuming in its slender arrangement, its warning to the readers who trace their fingers down its white pages is great. Published in 2018 by Finishing Line Press, Without a Kiss explores the deep consequences of a missed romantic opportunity along with the bittersweet nostalgia and tortuousness regret that comes with confronting it. Even the cover (designed by Elizabeth Maines McCleavy) of this well crafted collection, in all its black and white glory, works to push readers back into their own past mistakes whether those took place yesterday or years ago for some.
Dunn's Poetic Work Intoxicates
Readers be warned: To read Mark D. Dunn's 2014 poetic collection Even the Weapons is to feel the headiness of imbibing too much wine. His work is at once grounded in a thick snow fall and yet still, these poems are lifted off into more cerebral, cosmic planes. The poetry within this well crafted collection fluctuates between the realms of daydream and every day without bothering with any of reality's stringent tethers. In all honesty, the second movement is what can be best described as a stream of consciousness; readers will lose themselves in a twirling dream state where the poetic lines become touch points of thought, of connection, of some kind of reality rather than simple pretty words in boxed up stanzas.
Vivisection of a Woman
Christine E. Ray's first full poetry collection Composition of a Woman, published in 2018 by Sudden Denouement Publishing, is a fine addition to the universe of feminist poetry. It also must be said that Ray's cover, designed by Mitch Green, is seducing with its outlines of supple flesh upon the deep, matte black canvas, the brilliant white of a solid female skeleton, which is topped by a vibrant, genteel flower. This makes the interior work, which reads as if a vivisection has been performed upon the speaker, all the more shocking to the reader beholding it. While the bones of this collection are indeed hardy, they are not all quite as elegant as the body depicted on the cover.
Transmutation into Paper
Jayne Marek's 2018 poetry collection, The Tree Surgeon Dreams of Bowling, is a long exhale of breath broken into three specific movements. These movements showcase very distinct emotional territories as well as perform the transformation of a flesh and blood woman into ink. The opening of the book is filled with a cold bitterness. This is a marked change from what follows in later pages. Readers are then met with the serenity and calm which is wafted into the air by the flicking pages found in the middle of the collection. At last, in the final selection, Marek offers up a sense of subdued bereavement to her readers. Together, these factions form a whole work which is a hushed whisper; impressive lines seem to speak a little louder, assuring themselves places in the reader's memories, and an escape from loneliness on the page.
A Pleasing Study in Pain
White hot searing pain exploding through every cell, shrieks echoing in each and every molecule throughout a body in utter havoc—that's the intense sensation the cover (artfully designed by Chris Arabadjis) of Willa Carroll's 2018 poetry book,Nerve Chorus, thrusts upon the beholder. Carroll's collection of poems zeros in on the unadulterated pain of simply existing. The pieces within this work each explore and subsequently flush out the wide array of physical agonies which make themselves available to human beings struggling to survive in this realm as well as the emotional traumas humans so often face. She doesn't shirk from tenuous situations. She instead tackles these painful emotional occurrences by chronicling the suicide of an uncle and the decay of a parent. The work as a whole is a deliberate translation of pain, a truly wonderful subject to investigate, even to wallow in. For as Carroll states in "EmergencyRoom," "Pain is perfect. Total. One-pointed. No maybes."
LaForge Instills New Life into Ancient Myth
Published by Ravenna Press in 2017, the poet and prose author Jane Rosenberg LaForge's work Daphne And Her Discontents weaves a complicated, personal family history and ancient Greek myth into a complete, original poetry collection. The intertwining of personal stories with a piece of history shared by the world allows these poems to travel into the past, throughout present and well into the future. This strategy elevates LaForge's collection to a new plane. It also effectively destabilizes readers as LaForge has done quite well in creating an atmosphere which feels as though "...we move as though space and sea inverted..."
Flashes of Attraction but No Reaction
Passion and sexuality are often (if not THE) most powerful muses for poetry, unfortunately the poetic verses of Adrian Ernesto Cepeda do not do justice to the more steamy, erotic side of humanity. His collection, Flashes & Verses... Becoming Attractions, published by Unsolicited Press in 2018, is an exercise in melodrama. Used to excess, the words "cream" and "licked" rapidly begin to fill the reader with a profound distaste and those soured words will (unhappily) linger with said reader even when the book is at a close. The poetry in which Cepeda features the delicacies of the human flesh is not sensual or even gratuitous for that matter, but mawkish.
'The Minute' Is Immense in Young's Poetry
Michael T. Young's poetry book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, reads as the notebook of an obsessive naturalist who is desperate to record every last detail found in the world around him. It can be said that the utter essence of Young's collection is revealed through the speaker's comments in "Spy Game;" this book of poetry is simply the elegant translation of "...an entry in the sidewalk's journal..." which had previously been "...scripted in rainwater..." Young is intensely fascinated with the finer points of daily life, especially those details that often end up slipping unnoticed through even a keen observer's fingertips.
Bleeding Hearts on a Budget
Charitable causes may break your heart, but they can also break your bank account if you aren't paying attention to how much money you're donating. Every day your Facebook news feed is overwhelmed by a sea of requests. All of them begging you, shouting at you, to donate money to a multitude of good causes, such as that sad-eyed, three-legged dog in need of surgery or that homeless veteran whose hungry stare pierced your soul as you desperately tried to avoid looking at him when you scrolled past this morning.
Marjorie Maddox Tunes in to Tragedy
Marjorie Maddox's 2013 publication Local News from Someplace Else, published through Wipf and Stock, examines wanton destruction and new life as it tries to shoulder its way around old disasters. Through her precise, investigative language, (which will cause readers to imagine a reporter is diligently sharing tragic details with them) Maddox provides a chronicle of history. At the same time her work realizes that the past must be moved aside in order to gain access to the rewards of the future.
W. R. Rodriquez's Words Guide Readers Through the Beautiful Bronx
W. R. Rodriquez's Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx was written ten years ago but it could have stepped off the presses today. Its passion is streaked with cynicism and yet this collection is filled with a bleeding kind of joy.
Stephen Byrne's Award Winning Poetry Cuts Deep into Societal Stagnation
In this day and age (or as it has been since humanity evolved to create power structures in order to keep each other in check) everything is political, and Stephen Byrne's Somewhere but not here is no exception to this rule. Inspired by the savageness of humanity's every waking moment, this award winning poetry collection touches on the infestation of "fake news" to brutal gang rapes half way across the world. Byrne's ultimate goal is to engage his readers' minds in such a powerful way that "the night will fall in screaming / & the dawn will snap in two." He is trying to create discomfort for those individuals who think they are impervious in their own snug homes, who believe themselves to be out of reach from "the men of nightmares & dreams." Byrne's cutting poetry highlights that ownership of that supposed safety is simply an illusion. For those whose bubbles of security have been rudely popped, they will feel a "wet chill, like a frozen / tongue touching your cheek."