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UNMASKED

WOMEN WRITE ABOUT SEX AND INTIMACY AFTER FIFTY

A refreshingly blunt chorus of older women’s voices.

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Meier (Ireland, Place Out of Time, 2017, etc.) and debut editor Barry, a psychotherapist, present an anthology of essays and poetry about female sexuality after age 50.

For some women, aging doesn’t mean the end of their sex lives but rather the beginning of new adventures. Liberation from pregnancy fears, child-rearing responsibilities, and menstruation allow them to fully indulge their own pursuit of pleasure. This anthology gives such women the opportunity to speak for themselves—and they do so with aplomb. Nonfiction author Bernadette Murphy discovers the orgasmic perks of learning to ride a motorcycle post-divorce. Lisa Mae DeMasi, whose work has appeared in multiple literary journals, finds that, with reiki practice and essential oils, achieving climax no longer feels like “trudging up Mount Washington with a dead body strapped to my back.” Writer and blogger Rita Bullinger describes how a communication technique called “Imago dialogue” has increased intimacy and sexual satisfaction with her lover: “Communication coupled with oral sex, I’m convinced, is what makes sex at sixty-six the best sex of our lives.” It’s not all excitement and discovery, however; writer Lola Fontay shares the unsettling experience of witnessing a man masturbating in front of her at the end of their first date. Poet Becky Dennison Sakellariou considers the legacy of silence around women’s desire: “A woman like me is invisible, if she is not, / she should be, an anathema, a sin.” But many writers here use humor to talk about the havoc that aging can wreak: “Just when we have our act together the warranty goes out on the equipment,” says author and professional speaker Sally Franz in her hilariously prescriptive essay “Tweaking Sex After Fifty.” The authors also often address sex with tact and sensuality: “Sometimes then, long-married / bodies, after stuttering into sleep, / curve into long slumbers of silk yesses, / yesses loud enough to waken dreams,” writes poet Brenda Yates. Toward the end, the bad online dating stories do become a bit repetitive. But there’s a diverse array of perspectives here, each unique enough to keep readers intrigued.

A refreshingly blunt chorus of older women’s voices.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9990994-4-5

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Weeping Willow Books

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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ONCE UPON A GIRL

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

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Keridan’s poetry testifies to the pain of love and loss—and to the possibility of healing in the aftermath.

The literary critic Geoffrey Hartman once wrote that literature—and poetry, in particular—can help us “read the wound” of trauma. That is, it can allow one to express and explain one’s deepest hurts when everyday language fails. Keridan appears to have a similar understanding of poetry. She writes in “Foreword,” the opening work of her debut collection, that “pain frequently uses words as an escape route / (oh, how I know).” Many words—and a great deal of pain—escape in this volume, but the result is healing: “the ending is happy / the beginning was horrific / so let’s start there.” The book, then, tracks the process of recovery in the wake of suffering, and often, this suffering is brought on by romantic relationships gone wrong. An early untitled poem opens, “I die a little / taking pieces of me to feed the fire / that keeps him warm / you don’t notice that it’s a slow death / when you’re disappearing little by little.” The author’s imagery here—of the self fueling the dying fire of love—is simultaneously subtle and wrenching. But the poem’s message, amplified elsewhere in the book, is clear: We go wrong if we destructively give ourselves over to others, and healing comes only when we turn our energies back to our own good. Later poems, therefore, reveal that self-definition often equals strength. The process is painful but salutary; when “you’re left unprotected / surrounded by chaos with nothing you / can depend on / except yourself / and that’s when you gather the pieces / of the life you lost / and use them to build the life you want.” The “life you want” is an elusive goal, and the author knows that the path to self-definition is fraught with peril—but her collection may give strength to those who walk it.

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72770-538-6

Page Count: 196

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Endings

POETRY AND PROSE

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

A slim volume of largely gay-themed writings with pessimistic overtones.

Poe (Simple Simon, 2013, etc.) divides this collection of six short stories and 34 poems into five sections: “Art,” “Death,” “Relationship,” “Being,” and “Reflection.” Significantly, a figurative death at the age of 7 appears in two different poems, in which the author uses the phrase “a pretended life” to refer to the idea of hiding one’s true nature and performing socially enforced gender roles. This is a well-worn trope, but it will be powerful and resonant for many who have struggled with a stigmatized identity. In a similar vein, “Imaginary Tom” presents the remnants of a faded relationship: “Now we are imaginary friends, different in each other’s thoughts, / I the burden you seek to discard, / you the lover I created from the mist of longing.” Once in a while, short story passages practically leap off of the page, such as this evocative description of a seedy establishment in Lincoln, Nebraska: “It was a dimly lit bar that smelled of rodent piss, with barstools that danced on uneven legs and made the patrons wonder if they were drunker than they thought.” In “Valéry’s Ride,” Poe examines the familial duties that often fall to unmarried and childless people, keeping them from forming meaningful bonds with others. In this story, after the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hits Louisiana, Valéry’s extended family needs him more than ever; readers will likely root for the gay protagonist as he makes the difficult decision to strike out on his own. Not all of Poe’s main characters are gay; the heterosexual title character in “Mrs. Calumet’s Workspace,” for instance, pursues employment in order to escape the confines of her home and a passionless marriage. Working as a bookkeeper, she attempts to carve out a space for herself, symbolized by changes in her work area. Still, this story echoes the recurring theme of lives unlived due to forces often beyond one’s control.

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5168-3693-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2016

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