A collection that draws on tedious tropes of confessional poetry.

LOVE CRIMES

Scarlett’s debut poetry collection captures the various effects love has on the mind and body.

This work starts off by screaming loudly at the reader: “Engage me. Engage me / Tell me lies and enrage me / … / Adore me. Adore me / … / Arrest me. Arrest me.” But what feels like an aggressive cry for narrative attention may actually be just the beginning of the speaker’s exploration of the regularity, reliability, and power of emotion. In fact, as the collection develops, the poems carry the weight of heartbreak as well as the heft of self-realization as the speaker makes an emotive recovery. Scarlett has managed to create a work that flows at the speed of one theme. However, the individual poems fail to stand as independent works. For example, readers with no affinity for confessional poetry will feel as though the speaker is trying to take them into the specificities of a state of mind that they have no investment in: “I suppose you wonder why, my love for you / Won’t just go away? Why it is that when I am / without you my heart tears anew each day?” The work might have also benefited from rigorous streamlining; some poems feel unnecessary or might have been better as components of a different chapbook or full-length work. In “Chemical Soak,” for instance, Scarlett provides definitions of “flirtation,” “attraction,” and “infatuation,” among other terms, but these less-than-revolutionary definitions add little to nothing to the work as a whole. The collection’s biggest flaw lies in its show-and-tell approach, relying too much on the loaded history of its subject. The minimal amount of formal and thematic experimentation causes the poems to fall flat each time they suggest potentially interesting imagery: “Our love is now a wine stain / A crimson gash on my / White carpet.”

A collection that draws on tedious tropes of confessional poetry.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 66

Publisher: XlibrisUK

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2018

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An exciting poetic work that lives up to its emotional and linguistic potential.

THE BETTER MONSTERS

A complex work of poetry about seeking one’s rightful place in the world.

Poets have long used the topics of arrival and departure to explore feelings of belonging. In this debut book, Dutt gives us a glimpse into what a foreigner’s arrival to the United States looks like: “how to then shed this skin / wrapped since youth / how to speak American / when we arrive / without our imagination / to bring down bodies.” This sense of displacement festers in this book, which effectively presents a portrait of a family lost between two cultures and two generations: “We can’t talk / about what we did how sometimes it’s different / from the way it’s shown but they think they know / and we can’t tell them we can’t even tell each / other.” The family systematically struggles with preconceived notions that some Americans have about the Indian population. This subject matter is nothing new, especially in the modern era, but thankfully, Dutt’s collection is a productive contribution to a conversation about inclusion and tolerance and not a rehashing of stereotypical attitudes. Despite the tumult of arrival in a new place, daily life is shown to function as prosaically as it did before. In “Over Cider and Whiskey in Hotel Rooms,” the speaker compares the generational gap that exists between her and a figure who appears to be her son. The poem builds as the stakes get higher, though it ends on a small instance of everyday life: “we’d be so annoyed / when someone would slap the car / to pass and cross // we’d all have to get out / and check.” It’s these moments, when the poems seep through the speaker’s humanism, that make the collection so gripping. And at times, Dutt takes readers by surprise with tragically poetic stanzas: “all those stones / go home to your country / my country? / where we are on any map.”

An exciting poetic work that lives up to its emotional and linguistic potential.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77126-156-2

Page Count: 66

Publisher: Mansfield Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A tender and clever look at a writer’s life.

WORDS IN ROWS

POETRY AND PROSE

Callen (Running Out of Footprints, 2013) offers a quaint, playful collection of poetry and prose that spans nearly 50 years of her life.

The creation of “I Love You, Sun,” the first poem in this book, dates back to 1967; the closing poem, “Galaxy Girls,” was written last year. In between are 39 other pieces about nature, love, and the absurdities of Callen’s long life. Her descriptions of nature are filled with wonder and delight: “On a clear night…the stars hung rich and heavy over us, and it felt like we could reach out and touch heaven,” she writes about the Alaskan sky; in “Come Into Life With Me,” she urges readers to “Stand wild in the pulsing rain / and know the strength of its wetness.” Love is also a major theme, both romantic and platonic. In “Puzzle,” she’s intrigued by an unnamed someone, “And, fan that I am of wholeness / I grab you up in little gifted pieces / and turn you around and around / against the straight edges of my brain.” Callen is a talented storyteller who recounts many different scenes with wit and humor. In “Blue Moon Baby,” for example, an acquaintance details his daughter’s birth and the burying of the placenta: “He finally ran out of words, like a tightly spun top that finally came to rest,” Callen writes. In “A Wonderful Fantasy,” the author works herself into a tizzy anticipating an old boyfriend’s overnight stay, which ends in disappointment. “Never Enough” tells of Callen’s family as they struggle to calculate how big a batch of mashed potatoes will be required to satiate holiday guests. Only two pieces seem out of place in this collection: the grim “Time Twister,” which details the 1966 Tower killings at the University of Texas at Austin, and “Mom Visits,” an imagined reunion between the author and her late mother.

A tender and clever look at a writer’s life. 

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9884716-1-0

Page Count: 142

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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