by James B. Anstead ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 28, 2018
Anstead packs lots of joy into tiny packages in this slim but playful collection.
A book of poetry that works a classic form for all it’s worth.
“Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.” So said the late Steve Jobs, giving advice that debut poet Anstead seems to have taken quite seriously. The latter’s new collection does one thing and one thing only: the limerick. This, of course, is the most homespun of poetic forms, and the best-known example has arguably the most famous first line in all literature: “There once was a man from Nantucket…” This chestnut isn’t as old as one might think; it appeared in the Princeton Tiger in 1902, attributed to one Dayton Voorhees. Not to be outdone, Anstead offers roughly 200 more here. Like Voorhees’ original, each opens in a particular locale (hence the volume’s title). For example: “An eccentric young man from Toledo / Adopted “total self-expression” as his credo. / So every day, exactly at noon, / He would cause his neighbors to swoon / When he circled the block in his Speedo.” If you’re not a fan of the domestic setting, the poet is also quite happy to take you abroad: “An inventive short-order cook from Swaziland / Thought the soup du jour was rather bland. / But in his zeal to improve the corn chowder, / He hastily added so much curry powder, / That one taste was all anyone could stand.” Anstead can go on—and does—and it’s a model that may feel repetitive. However, this compilation offers more smiles than one might anticipate. The only problem is that the author has a bad habit of trying to cram too many words into a line. The third and fourth lines of a limerick, combined, traditionally skip by in 12 syllables, but Anstead’s too often push past 20. (Take the Swaziland entry above as just one example of this.) Fortunately, at the end of the day, this tic doesn’t ruin the fun.Anstead packs lots of joy into tiny packages in this slim but playful collection.
Pub Date: June 28, 2018
Page Count: 46
Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.
Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2018
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by Katie Keridan ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 2, 2018
Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.
Awards & Accolades
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
Page Count: 196
Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019
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by William Poe ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 16, 2015
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
Page Count: 120
Review Posted Online: March 5, 2016
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