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AN EVERYDAY THING

A dazzling work by a deeply intuitive writer.

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A debut poetry collection that vividly captures both the dreams and despair of blue-collar America.

The geographic inspiration for Richardson’s masterful book is the industrial heartland of Ohio. The collection is divided into two sections: “The Fire’s Edge,” which focuses predominantly on growing up in the Rust Belt in the mid-20th century, a time of financial instability and decay; and “Untying,” which takes a broader look at uncertainties that increase as one gets older. The first section contains a series of poems that detail the 1970 Kent State University shootings, in which National Guardsmen killed four university students, and their aftermath. By far the most haunting is “Randomness,” which imagines the early-morning ablutions of Sandra Scheuer, one of the students killed: “She slid from her bed on the morning of May 4, / chose the bright red blouse for the occasion / of the day of her death.” “Fainting” captures the feeling of wooziness during the event itself (“Heart / accelerated, free agent of pace and rhythm / beating against my chest wall, room tilting”) and goes on to note that “those lost / unconscious moments exist somewhere / in the cosmos, owed to me by the fact / I have not lived them.” In these claustrophobic, unstable industrial terrains, poems sometimes glimpse beautiful vistas, as in “Youngstown, Ohio 1952”: “the air lifted enough / for me to see the fevered orange flush / of the open hearth on the horizon.” Here, the powerful beauty of a sunset mirrors the infernal glow of the steelworkers’ toil. But Richardson’s painterly use of imagery is but one of her many skills; another is the manner in which poetry and music coexist within her work. In the second section’s “In the Cardiologist’s Office,” Procol Harum’s 1967 song “A Whiter Shade of Pale” filters through waiting-room speakers and wraps around recollections of a traffic accident: “my hands circling his chest turning cartwheels on the floor my head against his back bracing at the place where the car crushed his heart.” This collection will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever pondered the ephemerality of each moment.

A dazzling work by a deeply intuitive writer.

Pub Date: July 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63534-605-3

Page Count: 70

Publisher: Finishing Line Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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MY SON, SAINT FRANCIS

A STORY IN POETRY

An emotional, captivating Christian story in verse.

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Heidish (A Misplaced Woman, 2016, etc.) presents an account of St. Francis of Assisi’s life, as told from his father’s perspective in poetic form.

St. Francis is known as a saint who believed in living the Gospel, gave sermons to birds, and tamed a wolf. Over the course of 84 poems, Heidish tells her own fictionalized version of the saint’s journey. In his youth, Francesco is an apprentice of his father, Pietro Bernardone, a fabric importer. The boy is a sensitive dreamer and nature lover who sees “natural holiness in every living thing.” As an adult, Francesco decides to pursue knighthood, but God warns him to “Go back, child / Serve the master.” He joins the Church of San Damiano, steals his father’s storeroom stock, and sells it to rebuild the church. His furious father chains him in the cellar, and the bishop orders Francesco to repay the debt. Afterward, father and son stop speaking to each other; Francesco becomes a healer of the sick and a proficient preacher. After failing to broker a peace agreement during wartime, Francesco falls into depression and resigns his church position. He retreats to the mountains and eventually dies; it’s only then that Pietro becomes a true follower of St. Francis: “You are the father now and I the son / learning still what it means to be a saint,” he says. Heidish’s decision to tell this story from Pietro’s perspective is what makes this oft-told legend seem fresh again. She uses superb similes and metaphors; for example, at different points, she writes that St. Francis had eyes like “lit wicks” and a spirit that “shone like a clean copper pot.” In another instance, she describes the Church of San Damiano as a place in which “walls crumbled / like stale dry bread.” Following the poems, the author also offers a thorough and engaging historical summary of the real life of St. Francis, which only adds further context and depth to the tale.

An emotional, captivating Christian story in verse.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9905262-1-6

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Dolan & Associates

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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BEST EVIDENCE

POEMS

A poignant collection by a talented poet still in search of one defining voice.

A debut volume of poetry explores love and war.

Divided into four sections, Osaki’s book covers vast emotional territories. Section 1, entitled “Walking Back the Cat,” is a reflection on youthful relationships both familial and romantic. “Dying Arts,” the second part, is an examination of war and its brutal consequences. But sections three and four, named “Tradecraft” and “Best Evidence” respectively, do not appear to group poems by theme. The collection opens with “My Father Holding Squash,” one of Osaki’s strongest poems. It introduces the poet’s preoccupation with ephemera—particularly old photographs and letters. Here he describes a photo that is “several years old” of his father in his garden. Osaki muses that an invisible caption reads: “Look at this, you poetry-writing / jackass. Not everything I raise is useless!” The squash is described as “bearable fruit,” wryly hinting that the poet son is considered somewhat less bearable in his father’s eyes. Again, in the poem “Photograph,” Osaki is at his best, sensuously describing a shot of a young woman and the fleeting nature of that moment spent with her: “I know only that I was with her / in a room years ago, and that the sun filtering / into that room faded instantly upon striking the floor.” Wistful nostalgia gives way to violence in “Dying Arts.” Poems such as “Preserve” present a battleground dystopia: “Upturned graves and craters / to swim in when it rains. / Small children shake skulls / like rattles, while older ones carve rifles / out of bone.” Meanwhile, “Silver Star” considers the act of escorting the coffin of a dead soldier home, and “Gun Song” ruminates on owning a weapon to protect against home invasion. The language is more jagged here but powerfully unsettling nonetheless. The collection boasts a range of promising poetic voices, but they do not speak to one another, a common pitfall found in debuts. “Walking Back the Cat” is outstanding in its refined attention to detail; the sections following it read as though they have been produced by two or more other poets. Nevertheless, this is thoughtful, timely writing that demands further attention.

A poignant collection by a talented poet still in search of one defining voice.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984198-32-7

Page Count: 66

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2018

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