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A breathtaking, artful set of poems on loss, family, place, and memory.

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Gunter-Seymour’s intricate poetry collection weaves together themes of grief and joy.

This poetry compilation begins in the past with “Vernal Equinox”: “I’ve been thinking about last times / I never knew were the last.” Across five sections, Gunter-Seymour’s works continue to reckon with the past head-on as they tell of childhood in Appalachian Ohio and the experience of being a mother. The poems portray the mosaic of her speakers’ lives, touching on a complex relationship with a mother, a loved one’s battle with alcohol and drug use, a fierce love of a child, and an insatiable commitment to the possibilities of language. As readers move through the collection, they will also encounter reflections on current topics, such as Covid-19, police brutality, the opioid epidemic, and others. A wide variety of poetic forms and devices brings a musicality to the poems that underscores both the simplicity and the jaggedness of love, and each section moves fluidly into the next. Beyond that, Gunter-Seymour attaches her speakers to physical locations through language, offering personal meaning to places such as New York City, Ohio, and Tennessee. Overall, the language is stunning and abrupt, with nuggets of introspection, as in “Rorschach Test”: “Listen—there are things to love / about failure too. Sometimes / we make mistakes, call them coincidence, / trapped like thirsty sponges / between memory and the moment.” Gunter-Seymour doesn’t shy away from discomfort, impressively embracing painful moments and showing how memories define people only as much as they allow them to do so. The collection’s title is a testament to the idea that being alone doesn’t mean being without a sense of place; one can create a home inside of oneself and move forward with “the sense / of something waiting to unfold, / leaving only the wait” (“Weather Report”).

A breathtaking, artful set of poems on loss, family, place, and memory.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8040-1243-0

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Swallow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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Breathtakingly magical.

A powerful homage to the natural world, from England by way of Canada.

Combining poetic words (somewhat reminiscent of Mary Oliver’s poetry in their passion for the natural world) with truly stunning illustrations, this unusually beautiful book brings to readers the magic and wonder of nature. This is not a book about ecology or habitat; this is a book that encourages readers to revel in, and connect with, the natural world. Focusing on a particular subject, whether it be animal, insect, or plant, each poem (rendered in a variety of forms) delivers a “spell” that can be playful, poignant, or entreating. They are most effective when read aloud (as readers are encouraged to do in the introduction). Gorgeous illustrations accompany the words, both as stand-alone double-page spreads and as spot and full-page illustrations. Each remarkable image exhibits a perfect mastery of design, lively line, and watercolor technique while the sophisticated palette of warms and cools both soothes and surprises. This intense interweaving of words and pictures creates a sense of immersion and interaction—and a sense that the natural world is part of us. A glossary encourages readers to find each named species in the illustrations throughout the book­––and to go one step further and bring the book outside, to find the actual subjects in nature. Very much in the spirit of the duo’s magisterial The Lost Words (2018), this companion is significantly smaller than its sprawling companion; at just 6.5 by 4.5 inches when closed, it will easily fit into a backpack or generously sized pocket. “Wonder is needed now more than ever,” Macfarlane writes in the introduction, and this book delivers it.

 Breathtakingly magical. (Poetry. 6-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0779-9

Page Count: 120

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

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An odd but sometimes-moving imagining of the nocturnal thoughts of the presidents of the United States.

A fanciful look at the dreams of U.S. presidents throughout history.

Phillips, a painter and multimedia artist, offers readers a mix of fact and fiction in a book that’s not so much about the inner lives as it is about the sleeping lives of America’s leaders. Working backward from Donald Trump to George Washington (including separate essays for each Grover Cleveland administration), Phillips’ essays imagine each man’s dreams about various subjects, include his childhood, his parents, and sex. Each essay attempts to capture the personality of the president at hand, and some bring in the viewpoints of other people, as in a dialogue between John and Abigail Adams or the musings of Zachary Taylor’s horse, Whitey. The chapter on Gerald Ford has a blank space in lieu of an essay, while Millard Fillmore, who was also not elected to the office of president, gets a full examination. The essays’ focuses aren’t always what one might expect; for example, John F. Kennedy’s essay is about living under the shadow of his father’s ambitions, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s is about the women in his life. This multimedia coffee-table book is full of the author’s own full-color paintings and illustrations, painted in styles ranging from surreal to abstract, and their effectiveness varies. Mainly, though, this book highlights the challenges of blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. In his quest to enter the presidents’ dreams, Phillips generally gets the history right and does a good job of capturing the essence of many presidential personalities and relationships. However, some of the sexual references can be overly graphic, as can some bodily descriptions, such as one about Cleveland’s testicles. As a result, this book can be unsettling at times. Still, its imaginativeness makes one wonder what the author would have made of the dreams of the current president, who defeated the man who called him “Sleepy Joe.”

An odd but sometimes-moving imagining of the nocturnal thoughts of the presidents of the United States.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-57-861384-0

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Black Book

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021

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