A distinctive, poetic space that’s worth dwelling in.

DWELLING SPACE

Poet Harris (Traveling Through Glass, 2017) honors her predecessors while also blazing new trails in this accomplished long poem.

T.S. Eliot dedicated his landmark 1922 poem The Waste Land to his friend and collaborator Ezra Pound, whom he called “the greater craftsman.” It’s hard not to think that Eliot, in turn, is a huge source of inspiration for Harris’ latest work. Eliot’s poem famously opens, “April is the cruellest month […] stirring / Dull roots with spring rain.” Harris starts hers on a similar note: “Each month brings rain and emptiness, / blank skies, torpid melodies.” Harris’ work, like Eliot’s, is long; both are divided into five parts; and they share favorite images and themes—desert, rock, water, and divination, to name a few. However, Harris’ syntax is less tortured and her lines longer, which gives her writing a smoothness that even the modernist master sometimes lacked. And unsurprisingly, given the title, she’s much more invested in creating a fully developed sense of place. Harris builds arresting, intricate interior landscapes that both replicate and evoke exterior ones; here, for example, she describes an early-winter walk in the gray forest: “Black walnut, spruce, and sugar maple, / red oak, pine, and rare pink dogwood— / leaves and needles, needles and leaves, / bark and branches, branches and bark. // In the slate sky of December, as light / inches back to bright, skeletons / are visible on a path she walks.” The poet deftly plays the specific (black walnut, spruce, maple) against the general (leaves and needles) in the opening lines, and the unobtrusive alliteration in the fifth line—“slate sky”—gives the image a striking power. In passages such as these, Harris proves that she’s a craftswoman of considerable skill.

A distinctive, poetic space that’s worth dwelling in.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68111-282-4

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Cayuga Lake Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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