Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Prose and Poetry from the High Desert

by Bill BlackSusan Cosby-PattonJeanne Burrows-JohnsonKay LeshPatricia NobleLarry Sakin

Pub Date: July 20th, 2011
Publisher: Imaginings Press

Six Arizona-based authors present an anthology of poetry, essays and short fiction from their collective works.

Covering topics as diverse as the craft of writing, relationships, aging and even “Business, Culture and Society,” this compendium showcases the work of six writers hailing from Tucson, Ariz. Divided into 11 sections, their material is indexed as “General Essays,” “Historical Essays,” “Reflective Essays,” “Poetry” and “Short Stories.” But these varied forms and voices don’t always blend into a unified whole. Noble’s reflective essays, in particular, seem out of place; with titles like “Clearing the Deck for Success,” “How to Be a Millionaire” and “How to Be Really, Truly Well,” each essay reads like a chapter lifted from a self-help manual encouraging readers to “Say YES to Life” and “Say YES to Creativity.” Burrows-Johnson’s historical essays are interesting, if not thorough; her “Early History of Tucson and Her Cemeteries” never mentions the beautiful Binghampton Cemetery, established in 1899 in the Catalina Foothills and named Tucson’s best cemetery in 2007 by Tucson Weekly. General essays cover everything from bringing home a new cat (“Joshua Finds a Home,” Cosby-Patton) to putting up with a retired husband (“Retirement,” Lesh). Even the politcal makes an appearance in Sakin’s “A Declaration of Complete Independence.” Sakin also offers up a polemic blaming most societal ills on Starbucks in “Addled.” The pieces are generally quite brief, somewhat humorous and fairly casual. They often read more like blog entries than the sort of well-developed essays fans of the form expect to find in places like Best American Essays. The strongest section in the collection is the poetry, especially that of Cosby-Patton and her “Homage to My Thighs,” which pays homage to Clifton’s “Homage to My Hips,” and “As a Jewel in the Crown,” which asks for “a tried angel / an angel whose silver-stranded / tangled hair / slips beneath a tarnished halo.” Ultimately, this collection would have been more cohesive and successful if the authors had chosen to focus on a particular theme or genre.

A scattershot and thematically confusing collection.