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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by J.C. Salazar ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 1, 2018
A volume of poetry that shines when focused on the author’s experiences of race and culture.
A collection speaks in part to the poet’s Mexican-American heritage.
In these multifaceted poems, Mexico-born, Houston-raised Salazar (Of Dreams and Thorns, 2017) explores general human themes like love and war in addition to specific experiences as a person of color. The book begins with a sensual meditation on desire, featuring luscious descriptions of a lover, from lips “moist like youth” to the body’s “softest velvet” slopes. The poems shift to odes to cultural icons like the Tejano star Selena and Mexican-German painter Frida Kahlo as well as occasion pieces honoring his brother’s 40th birthday and a friend’s mother’s memorial service. The author hits his stride when he delves into identity. In “I Am Not Brown,” he contemplates the societal implications of skin tone and his inability to fit into the rigid category of Caucasian or Latino. “For white and black and brown alike / Are slaves to history’s brush strokes,” he writes. “Grateful for the Work,” perhaps Salazar’s loveliest poem, catalogs the day of a laborer, starting with an early morning awakening and following him as he toils in 100-degree heat, enjoys tacos from his lunch pail, buys beverages from a child’s lemonade stand, and returns home to an equally hard-working wife. The author then makes an abrupt turn toward Syria in a series of poems that condemn that country’s president, Bashar Hafez al-Assad. They serve as a rallying cry for Syrians and grieve for the murdered masses. Salazar’s closing poem, “Sons of Bitches,” is a clunky rant about a 20-year-old immigrant shot in the head by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent. The gratuitous violence and political theologizing are ill at ease with the intimate, personal experiences that preceded them, such as the fablelike “A Mexican is Made of This,” in which Salazar beautifully describes the “rainbows, bronze, backbone, butterflies” that his people embody.A volume of poetry that shines when focused on the author’s experiences of race and culture.
Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018
Page Count: 166
Publisher: Bronze Diamond Productions
Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2018
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