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Tender the Maker

An elegantly crafted, dense work that invites readers to travel on spiritual, philosophical, and historical journeys.

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In this winner of the May Swenson Poetry Award Series, Hutchins (The Stranger Dissolves, 2011, etc.) explores the impact of memories in emotionally and linguistically complex poems.

With heart-rending images, Hutchins uses the power of the ordinary (“How dare the ordinary be brutal and needing us”) to create textured connections. She moves from highly personal experiences to shared histories. Worn shoes epitomize the effect of a father’s Alzheimer’s disease and death in “Cleaning Out The Garage in 1968”: “and it was an old shoe / dried into the same stiffness / laces untied and dangling and / shadow where your foot should be / the leather tongue / still molded to the known / curve of your high instep.” In “Linseed,” she stands witness to the persistence of nature in the face of the evil of the Holocaust: “Who knew at Auschwitz the grass would be/ so very green?” Her attention to language adds to the intricacy of her poems, whether by exploring language itself in “Between Pages of the Dictionary” or playing with it in “The Music Inside”: “ ‘Ring,’ I said. / I sang, ‘wrangle, wrung.’ ” She expertly weaves melodic language with references to nature, music, history, nursery rhymes, mythology, religious tracts, and more, which gracefully and pointedly guide readers through her themes. However, the intended depth of some references is not always obvious. In “Eye of the Storm, Pescadero Coast, 1972,” readers easily feel the plight of farm workers, “Along worn cliffs / in the farm workers’ small-windowed shacks, stoves / burned into the dark of the day. / It was Sunday, but only the storm made it / Sabbath. In flooded fields, unharvested / Brussels sprouts clung to their stalks.” Only through endnotes, which aren’t used for all references, do readers discover the poem alludes to California’s record 1972 rainstorms when Cesar Chavez fasted to support the United Farm Workers’ boycott and the 1939 farm workers strike led by Filipino labor leaders. The collection will be of interest to all readers, but it will be best suited to academics and serious poetry lovers. 

An elegantly crafted, dense work that invites readers to travel on spiritual, philosophical, and historical journeys.

Pub Date: March 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60732-438-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Utah State University Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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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

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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