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ON THE OCCASION OF A WEDDING

ECLECTIC LOVE POEMS

A compilation that celebrates the full spectrum of married and divine love, often with sensitivity and gusto.

These collected poems approach the subject of love in a range of tones and styles.

This book is dedicated to a pair of newlyweds, and, as such, its poems could be considered to be epithalamiums. However, as debut author Bowen explains in an introductory “Proem,” she extends her definition of love beyond the human to the divine: “all love is entered in its fullness, / and nothing is omitted. // May I never forsake Him.” This collection is as eclectic as the subtitle suggests; the poems vary a good deal in tone (devotional, witty, and bawdy, by turns), as well as form. Some are in free verse, and others employ rhyme or haiku form. Bowen divides the work into four sections: “Flores Caelesti” (“heavenly flowers”), linking human and divine love; “Caelo Marique” (“sky and sea”), using images from nature; “Amor Insanus” (“crazy love”), offering playful and erotic poems; and “Pluit et Lucet” (“It rains and shines”), about the mixed nature (“half vinegar, half honey”) of long relationships. The poet’s use of language can be very effective, as in “I am Yours, a Soulful Avowal”: “I am bound to you, / not by vow, nor by will, nor by law, / but by divine grace.” The anapests in the second quoted line set up a rhythmic feeling of inevitability that helps make the third convincing. She also uses verbs to good effect, as in “To the Mother of My Love —”: “My heart is like a conifer-seed / That millenniums into tree.” The compression of “millenniums” as a verb, combined with the vast time span it connotes and the living result, a tree, conveys the heart’s journey with compact precision. On occasion, Bowen can be overly sentimental (“Two souls knit together. / Two lives become but one”) or employ awkward phrases, as in “Fortitude is the fragrance that drops from the cows,” which unfortunately suggests the odor of animal droppings.  But several other works are clever exercises; “Fortune Cookies in Bed,” for instance, seems to be a found poem composed of aphorisms from the titular confections.

A compilation that celebrates the full spectrum of married and divine love, often with sensitivity and gusto.

Pub Date: March 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73383-580-0

Page Count: 110

Publisher: Quintara Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2019

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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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