A forceful argument for Stock’s growing relevance as a West Coast poet.

IN PLACE OF ME

POEMS SELECTED AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JACK HIRSCHMAN

A rousing retrospective of the more recent work of a prolific poet, by turns wide-ranging and piercing.

Ezra Pound taught readers most succinctly about the power of juxtaposition in his famous—and famously brief—1913 poem “In a Station of the Metro”: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd; / Petals on a wet, black bough.” By bringing together two unlikely images, Pound opened up new meanings in both, and the relationship that links them remains tantalizingly mysterious. Such juxtaposition is one of the tools that Stock (Just Like in the Song of Songs, 2009, etc.) ably wields in her new volume of selected verse, culled from just one decade of her work as a publishing poet. In “While the Men Prayed,” for example, Stock sets people at prayer next to a “large sabra cactus” with “yellow blossoms / which grew red and exploded / before my very eyes.” In “Torture,” tiny jellyfish are compared with egg yolks “before / being broken into by the tine / of a fork.” Most startlingly, in “Cho,” the narrator describes the moment that a charging deer collides with her automobile and then deftly shifts to reflections on the man who killed dozens at Virginia Tech. This collection is thus a kaleidoscope of surprising images, arrayed in a pattern whose logic, while alluring, is sometimes elusive. The volume pulls from more than a dozen different books, but unlike similar collections by others, it’s organized in reverse chronological order, so that readers see Stock’s more recent work first, starting from 2008. (The final section, however, from 2009, is an exception to this rule.) This idiosyncratic arrangement is an excellent decision, for it turns the reading experience into a process of excavation and lets Stock’s mature work serve as a heuristic for earlier offerings. Throughout, she deals with heavy themes—death, war, religion—and yet never lets them become ponderous, instead situating them in the real lives of real people. For instance, she reflects on the murders of five homeless men while her “laundry is in the machines down the street.” Of course, the poet subtly reminds readers that laundry and murder exist in the same world—our world.

A forceful argument for Stock’s growing relevance as a West Coast poet.

Pub Date: May 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9909203-0-4

Page Count: 204

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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A volume of ambitious and engaging poems.

THE POWER OF THE TELLING

COLLECTED POEMS

A collection of poetry focuses on everyday beauty and wonder.

Over the course of 50 poems with straightforward titles, retired high school English teacher Hathwell (Between Dog and Wolf, 2017, etc.) explores the world around him. Nature is a touchstone of his poetry. In “Poplar,” he expertly describes the titular tree “catching a breeze, flutter sage and silver wings” while in “Sunflower,” he lingers on the “wide blank face” of the “saddest flower.” The author also showcases culture in his poems. “Fred’s Girl” is a propulsive ode to the Fred Astaire–Paulette Goddard duet in the film Second Chorus, and “Sunday at the Symphony” captures the ethereal experience of live classical music. But the poems aren’t limited to the author’s immediate surroundings. A visit to the Spanish Steps, where Keats died in 1821, is the subject of “Readiness Is Everything,” which encourages readers to “imagine the world without you.” Hathwell plays with humor in “Dust Is Winning,” about the futile fight to keep things clean, and shows his cynical side in “Red Dress,” which describes the “ruby radiance” of an ensemble depicted in advertising. The act of writing is another recurring theme in this collection. “Song” depicts a successful writing day, in which “I rise from my desk, / Majestic, and I dance,” while “Sure Thing” warns readers “that language is prepared to lie / When you ask it to.” Quiet moments are also rich material for the poet. Throughout, he matches his message to the pacing of the poem, creating an immersive experience for readers. In “Finding Myself in the Morning,” readers sink into Hathwell’s serene, solitary scene where he can finally “not wonder / who is speaking, or what comes next.” In “Ten O’Clock,” the audience can sense the descent into a “deep, forgiving sleep.” The one flaw of this collection is its breadth. Because everything from Astaire to flora is fair game, the individual poems don’t always flow from one to the next, and transitions can be jarring.

A volume of ambitious and engaging poems.

Pub Date: April 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-939353-36-8

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Sturdy, exuberant verse.

Defining Atlas

Like the demigod from which it takes its name, Defining Atlas is a durable, uplifting volume.

A strong current of self-affirmation, self-love, and self-confidence runs through this work, and readers will come away feeling their spirits improved. We feel some of this current in the clever “Limited”; Michaels takes the titular subject and turns it on its head: “I’m new, but I’m old / Not limited beyond my means and methods / But limited because I’m special / Special beyond the heavens and everything that surrounds me / That I’m among…limited.” Elsewhere in “From the ashes…I am,” he sings a hard-won song of renewal and rebirth: “I am victory in its rawest form / I am hope that never conform / I am the will, the drive, and the truth / I am like everyone, like you.” But Michaels does not hoard specialness or victory for himself; he wants it for his reader too, and in “Wake Up!” he urges us on toward a bright future: “There’s something good here for you / Your purpose can never be defined by just one blue / Your destiny awaits you.” Underpinning Michaels’ stirring message is a strong faith in God, whose presence infuses many of the poems here: “But I always thank God for the latter / For the strength and will it takes / Shines so bright / Shines so right.” Michaels often adopts a loose scheme of rhyming couplets, and this decision leads to one of the book’s few weaknesses. Too often, the poet picks awkward or odd pairings; e.g., “And if I could become a perfect saint / I would make believers out of the ones who say they ain’t” and the “you/blue” couplet mentioned above. But such missteps are infrequent, and they don’t dim the warm light that emanates from Michaels’ fine volume.

Sturdy, exuberant verse.

Pub Date: March 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5035-4785-8

Page Count: 106

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2015

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