The Girl of the Lake: Stories
It had been awhile since I had picked up a collection of short stories, but Roorbach’s Girl of the Lake was a wonderful reintroduction to the pleasure of reading them. As a collection, the stories focus on human relationships within specific natural landscapes. The relationships and landscapes vary widely, though.
From an Afghani teenage boy in New Mexico pursued by three sisters to a female farmer in Michigan going on a blind date with a priest, these stories will challenge your assumptions but also provide comfort that some feelings are universal.
Roorbach also provides considerable detail describing the landscape–I felt like I had visited the setting of each story. The beauty and vulnerability of the natural environments enhances the love and loss each of his characters feels.
What Took You So Long: Poems for People in Love
Poetry is one of those amorphous terms that falls under the “I know it when I see it” category of classification. It can rhyme or not, it can be long or short, metered or unmetered, scattered across the page or written like prose. But the one thing that unifies all poetry is the emotional core that suffuses every word.
That core is alive and well in What Took You So Long, Neville Johnson’s collection of poetry. Each and every poem was originally penned for his wife, but he believes anyone in love can find something for themselves in these pages.
There’s something curiously voyeuristic about this, as if I’m peeking in on private romantic moments that were only meant for two. There’s an intimacy here that’s tangible, which I suppose makes Johnson’s willingness to share them with the world all the more brave and unexpected. You’re not meant to ponder just who is the sun in his sky, his everything, his only one, his American queen.
And although some of these poems are little too cutesy-poo for my taste–“we are hip as in hooray”–there are indeed a few pieces that resonated with me.
Onion Heart: The Selected Works of Alise Versella Volume 2 Peel Back Your Layers
Onion Heart: Peel Back Your Layers is the second volume in The Selected Works of Alise Versella. A collection of over eighty poems, Versella’s poetry is one of deep introspection regarding her image, as well as her world “and the person who once was a part of it.” Among her many accolades, Versella received honorable mention in the writers-editors online contest for “S.L.V,” one of her Onion Heart poems. Versella’s reflections strike a chord for those who desire transparency.
According to her website (www.aliseversella.net), Versella says this about her work: “I’m writing poetry to find myself; I’m writing poetry to save the world. My hope is that my poetry saves someone’s world from crumbling because I believe poetry is a beautiful salve to heal our deepest wounds, metaphorical heartbeats on white pages.” Indeed, Versella’s recent tome speaks to the issues of the heart. A mix of mostly free verse, prose, and visual poetry, lightly sprinkled with rhyme, Versella’s poetry carries a natural cadence to her lilting lines and forthright messages.
Versella groups her poems into nine headings and covers a multitude of topics that are all tightly intertwined with themes of life, death, and love. And as mentioned above, her introspection is a part of her self-discovery and emergence into adulthood. Much of what Versella has to say are mere ruminations on the facets of life. Although her candid expressions of grappling with existential complexities may appear rather insular, in truth her struggles strike a common chord with all readers. Offering encouragement, these lines from her poem “Whole” capture the aforementioned sentiment: “If I suffer silently soon this too will pass / And from my pain the aftermath is always beauty / From my pain come a million and one lighting bugs / Sparkling like stars spread out against the night…”
Amid baring her soul (peeling back the diaphanous onion heart layers), Versella includes relational poems both with eye-catching titles and clever statements. Great examples comprise of “Octopus” (“The rats that click inside your head / Are just octopus tentacles…”); “Bookend Memories” (“Shoved between bookends we have memories / But we’ve locked them behind library doors to keep our hearts from hemorrhaging…”); and “Frankenstein’s Hospital Bed” (“The landscape of your brain’s alive…but your landmass flesh is sinking…”)
Onion Heart: Peel Back Your Layers is a visceral and eye-opening read with healing elements to those who take Versella’s words to heart.
Scrolls of the Living Night
Kobi the Magician is born to a Ghanaian woman within meager environs. Three midwives witness the astonishing and mystical birth, as well as the miraculous moment when the young king speaks of a twin. Against Mama Kopi’s wishes, the midwives spread the news throughout the town of their future monarch’s birth. But, a year later, in the same area, a wealthy family celebrate their son’s first birthday. The midwives, believing that the celebrated Paa Quartey is Kobi’s prophesied twin, make ardent plans for the brothers to come together, but their well-intended strategy falls flat. Nevertheless, the twins ultimately meetmuch to the chagrin of their parents. Although the brother’s vow “to each other that nothing would render them disunited,” they are unaware to what extent their promise will take them.
Multi award-winning novelist Benjamin Kwakye pens an incredible tale of good and evil in his fourth, and most recent, work. An epic poem, Kwakye’s third-person verse is replete with a wealth of characters set within Ghana. While Kobi and Paa are, in essence, the principal characters, a large portion of Kwakye’s plot focuses on the interactions and reflections of the parents, the boys’ learning environments as they are growing, and the behind-the-scene situations with the midwives before the story shifts to the twins and their incongruous relationship.
Divided into three books, and designed in chapters, Kwakye’s ballad follows over 300 pages of stunning un-metered ABAB scheme, laced with rich descriptive verbiage. Keeping his narrative constantly moving, Kwakye alternates between various character scenes, centered on the Kobis, the Quarteys, the three midwives, and of course, the twin brothers. Of particular interest is the way Kwakye incorporates traditional culture aspects within a modern-day scenario. This pronounced feature is especially captured in the three midwifes, who combine spiritualism in their passionate pursuit to bring the two families, as well as the brothers, together.
Filled with a flurry of twists and turns, Scrolls of the Living Night is not only a delightful welcome to African literature, but also a refreshing read for poetry aficionados.
Tales From The Otherground
Nicks stirring poetry collection conveys a striking commentary on the multifarious aspects of life. Nicks deft word and world crafting in each poem creates an absorbing experience upon which to reflect. Themes of paradox, beauty and wonder, the elusiveness and futility of life are powerfully conveyed by Nicks skillful use of language and evocative imagery. Rich, yet simple wordplay takes shape in numerous ways. In A Number One Than Yesterday, Nicks reveals how punctuation can change the way one looks and thinks about things: do you know/the more you know,/the less you think you know?/do you know?/the more you know,/the less you think,/you know
Alliteration is the main vehicle in A Day In The Days to effectively capture the droning pattern of an emotionless, mindless and almost robotic way of life in the wearisome work that perpetuates the proliferant/pro-lifer-ant pompous pointification/of microsoftheaded and/apple-engorged vapidity. The breakdown of pro-lifer-ant is one of the many examples of Nicks formidable wordplay to highlight the message of his poems.
The wide range of tones in Nicks poems further emphasizes the diverse aspects of life. Suburban Purpose conveys irony and anger of the suburban ritual: i live uptown/and i hate my life; i eat my supper/and i fuck my wife. This is contrasted greatly with the meditativeness of Movement 101: is a river/more the water/than the way that water flows? Finally, Gorilla2 (a Noah count poem) is an example of a thought-provoking poem that is conveyed with humor: well, a pair of them must have heard the news/and stowed away/because everybody knows gorillas cant swim.
Each of the five volumes in this powerful poetry collection is introduced by a stark, but equally provocative double page pen and ink illustration. Tales from the Otherground is an evocative, bountiful harvest of wordplay, contemplations and observations on life that provides a feast for thought.
This was a really moving collection that touched on so many topics and created so many emotional responses. The wordplay that created completely different meanings with minor changes to sentences was also thought provoking. Highly perceptive and evocative.
Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl
Loved this book! In Epic Sloth Tales of the Long Crawl, the author Philip Gaber did an excellent job of sharing his personal experiences and insights on life through lively poems, short stories and essays.
I would highly recommend Philip Gabers current book. It is an excellent read because there are many ways in which the reader will be able relate to Mr. Gabers main point of his work. The main point of this book: even when we are worn out, tired, exhausted, high, drunk, out of money or just feeling completely lost, continue to strive for that finish line.
As I was reading Epic Sloth Tales of the Long Crawl, I often thought to myself that there are a lot of truths laid out in the many pieces in this book. Even before I finished reading the book, I went back and would re-read some of the sections. While it was very hard for me to narrow down which works in this book I liked the best, a few of the short stories and essays really stood out for me. I found myself pondering and genuinely enjoying It Was a Rare Moment When I Had Almost Everything I Wanted,” Her Sacred Atonal Life,” and Without a Light of Doubt.”
Regardless of your own personal journey in life, you will be able to relate to either one of the poems, short stories, or essays in this book. In addition to being a great book to read, Philip Gabers work is very human and down to earth.
The different pieces in Epic Sloth Tales of the Long Crawl are creatively written, and at times, will cause you to laugh. You might even catch yourself reading passages aloud to friends, as I did.
This book received a well-deserved five stars. Pick up a copy of Epic Sloth Tales of the Long Crawl. You wont be disappointed with Mr. Gabers work.