An evocative, concentrated rendering of a complex relationship.


Kantor (Shadow Sounds, 2010) explores the dreams, dementia, and death of her mother in this memoiristic volume of poetry.

Poetry can be a path to closure, and closure is what Kantor seeks in this collection about her mother, Miriam Gants. From the prologue poem, “I Only Saw the Stars,” Kantor reveals that her father was a louder presence in her childhood than her mother. Addressing Miriam, she writes: “Daddy / was excitement, / fear / and fun. // You / were safe.” Yet Kantor sets out to better understand this quieter parent, gleaning what she can of her mother’s life from old family photographs and memories from her own childhood. One affecting poem, “Irony,” tells of how Miriam finally attempted to assert her individuality after the death of her husband. Then come poems dealing with Miriam’s slide into dementia and the strain it put on the mother and daughter’s increasingly one-sided relationship. Grief-filled poems deal with Miriam’s death and Kantor’s attempts to move forward with an honest, loving memory of her mother. Dancing through the book is an image of Miriam’s ballet shoes; an aspiring dancer from early childhood, Miriam forever damaged her feet by spinning on her toes when she was 5. This didn’t keep her from a lifetime love of the art, which she and Kantor would watch together on TV. Her bittersweet passion became a metaphor for the unrealized dreams of her life, and her shoes are now a treasured (if tragic) heirloom for Kantor to pass on to the next generation. Kantor is a minimalist when it comes to verse: plain language, simple syntax, no distracting conceits. A poem, for her, is often the exploration of a single, pared-down image, with no superfluous information or detail. The narrative forms like a necklace of beads, with the truly inspired images shining like gems. In “Back To Before,” dementia-plagued Miriam feels the textured paint of a museum seascape with her fingers: “There’s no point in telling her / not to touch. // Compelled, // she’s rediscovering / the beginning // at the end.”

An evocative, concentrated rendering of a complex relationship.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1505633986

Page Count: 84

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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    Best Books Of 2012



Merging geographic precision with detailed lyricism, Berry’s collection of poetry spans continents and states of the soul.

The best poetry focused on a particular locale tends to evoke sensory stimulation as much as meaning, and Berry’s collection of nearly 60 poems is no different. Born in England, the author has travelled widely throughout Africa and the United States. With a doctorate in geography, she casts a discriminating, discerning eye on the landscapes to which her travels have taken her. In unrhymed, compact poems—few more than a page in length—the poet speaks with seriousness about the relationship between the natural world and one’s inner world. In “Music of Place,” she writes: “Carried in the wind is the music of place, blown / like washing on a line, white sheets flapping, sending / large billowing folds of sound back to me,” which typifies her ability to translate a place into a finely detailed, highly specific moment in her past or present. Some poems set in North Africa elevate journallike jottings into sharply etched experiences. The dominant moods suffusing these poems are calm and meditational, perhaps reflecting the influence of poet Elizabeth Bishop, who was also attuned to inner and outer geographies. The final 20 poems shift focus from geography and place to reconciliations or frictions with family members; many relatives have passed on but are vibrantly alive in the author’s memory. These family sketches often turn on a particularly poignant phrase spoken to the author by a parent or loved one: “Windows” pivots on Berry’s father’s comment, “I could drive if I wanted to,” as the author notes that her father never owned a car. Few books of recent poetry reveal such a penetrating awareness of how the environments in which we live affect us as much as we affect them. An extraordinary, nuanced collection by a gifted poet.


Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1935514749

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Plain View

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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Wise, kind and lively verse that truly “dances to a tune that’s / gloriously redeeming / of anger, hate, and envy. / It’s an...



Engaging lyric poetry that manages to be sensual and cerebral, fun and profound.

Readers willing to dig deeper than the work of poets Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Anthony Joseph will find that exciting new worlds of Caribbean poetry await. Although some lesser-known Caribbean writers tend to get bogged down in the exotic fecundity of their island landscapes, others write with a grace and steadiness that highlights personal experience within the larger context of culture and environment to reveal something universal. Trinidadian novelist, painter and poet Drayton (The Crystal Bird, 2012, etc.) most decidedly falls into the latter category. Her personal poems often focus on singular moments in her past, yet her evocation of the slippage between past and present, of how we manage to exist in both times simultaneously, speaks directly to readers. The exploration of how “time…magically overlaps generations” pervades this collection. Her narrators are buffeted by nostalgia but are never fatalistic or cloying; instead, they treasure the past and the present as a single fabric of interwoven threads. One narrator, for instance, revisits a memorable beach and finds that the “scenery I knew has all but gone, / except for the sea. / Longing and waiting, I dream of the days / that never can be again. / The sea waits while I dream a dream / where I stand on the balcony of this precious day.” Drayton invests symbols with a similar complexity; the titular brown dove, for instance, is at once a symbol of maternal devotion, sexual allure, rebellion and quiet endurance, and is rife with gender and racial resonances. Occasionally, her more contemplative poems suffer from excess erudition, and she is sometimes prone to distracting alliteration, but she also delivers unmatched similes such as, “The morning stormed my day / like a drunken party crasher / with streams of gold and white ribbons / coming through the window.”

Wise, kind and lively verse that truly “dances to a tune that’s / gloriously redeeming / of anger, hate, and envy. / It’s an awesome authority / with boundless energy.” 

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478160045

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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