A captivating and visceral portrait of the California landscape by a talented cast of poets.



A sprawling poetry anthology explores California’s ecology.

A plethora of poets honors the Golden State and its unique ecosystem in this book, organized by editors Day (The Rainbow Zoo, 2016, etc.) and Nolan (Ruby Mountain, 2016, etc.) around topography. In primarily free-verse style, poets examine the beauty of the California landscape as well as the foreboding changes occurring there. The first section, “Coast and Ocean,” introduces the diversity of marine life, from whales and dolphins to sea lions and seals. Judith McCombs’ “Refugio Beach, California, 1950” and Kay Morgan’s “Before the Oil Spill” recall a more virginal era in West Coast ecology. In the “Coastal Redwoods” section, authors expound on forestry; Marcia Falk admires the trees’ “silent flesh” while their aroma awakens Cynthia Leslie-Bole “like a slap from a Zen master.” Dana Gioia leads readers into “a landscape made of obstacles” in the “Hills and Canyons” section, in which CB Follett mourns the loss of elk, salmon, and bears in “Once Here.” In “Fields and Meadows,” Kim Roberts catalogs invasive weeds while Kevin Durkin pays homage to his feathered friends. Scorpions skitter and coyotes prowl in the “Desert” section. The “Rivers, Lakes, and Lagoons” section fixates on the lack of water, as when T.m. Lawson ponders the disappearance of a Santa Monica watering hole in “droughtfall.” Water is considered a gift in the “Sierra Nevada and Cascades” section, in which Karen Greenbaum-Maya vividly recalls a “blue so pure it lit me up / as though I’d gulped a star.” The book ends with “Cities, Towns, and Roads,” a timely meditation on the disastrous effects of industrialization and climate change. The poets in this appealing collection are pure professionals. Every missive is a sensory-rich experience. Evocative images like Susan Kelly-DeWitt’s willow trees that “hung their heads / like sad old men” are abundant. The major fault of this anthology is its size; at nearly 400 pages, it is a downpour of poetry that will likely leave readers feeling more waterlogged than refreshed. The collection would have benefited from further pruning.

A captivating and visceral portrait of the California landscape by a talented cast of poets.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9768676-9-2

Page Count: 462

Publisher: Scarlet Tanager Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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