Poems full of linguistic delights and keen emotion.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

Where Do Things Go?

A powerful collection of poetry in which humor is tinged with sadness and grief is leavened with warmth.

In her third book of poetry, Heidish (Destined to Dance, 2012, etc.) experiments with punctuation, spacing, and the physical shape of texts. Most often she writes in free verse as she reflects on her life as writer, poet, and instructor. “The Hour of Blue” appears to convey the awkwardness of a new relationship with its averted eyes and shared silences, but the speaker turns out to be addressing a roster of unknown pupils before the start of a new semester. This clever rendering of the student-teacher dynamic is but one example of the author’s skill and creativity. Similarly, she’s able to evoke an entire life story in just a few words, as in “The Wizard,” which reveals the secret lurking behind the gruff exterior of a gifted repairman whose grey eyes are “paired nail-heads.” Nevertheless, themes of mortality and loss are front and center as Heidish bears witness to the passage of time (“Let me be an old rock-wall in an Irish field”) and bids farewell to various people (her first editor, her oldest friend, a beloved aunt), places (a bookstore, a tearoom, a bakery), and things (her typewriter). Two poems consider the healing effects of live music in medical settings. In “Up Near the Ceiling,” the playing of a harp in a hospice inspires this gorgeously consonant and assonant question about the spirits of the dying: “do they float on a lavender ocean, / foam-flecked and lit from far below?” At the same time, not all poems focus on doom, gloom, and fading light. Heidish addresses more quotidian concerns, such as the impatience of a doctor’s waiting room, the indignities of summer, and the nature of hats. She also writes in the voice of a neglected pet fish and wonders how bears receive her discarded writings as they rifle through the garbage. A poem about a 60th birthday celebration features “all of those tiny candles, / studding a long barge of tiramisu,” and the speaker wryly calls for legislative action limiting the number of candles permitted by law, for the safety of us all.

Poems full of linguistic delights and keen emotion.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9905262-4-7

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Dolan & Assoc.

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A volume of ambitious and engaging 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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?