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Poetry Breakfast

Serving a little poetic nourishment every morning. Start your day with our new expanded menu. Poems, of course, are our specialty. But we will also be serving a fuller menu that includes poetry book reviews to feed poets' and poetry lovers' souls.

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book reviews

Poetry Book Review: “I lost summer somewhere” by Sarah Russell

russell_front_april_19_revised_360x

It’s no surprise Sarah Russell’s poems have appeared in Poetry Breakfast a few times.  She has a unique way of taking our life experiences and trimming them down to the emotional core.

In I lost summer somewhere she tackles relationships, hopes, losses, and the inescapable events we experience in our lifetimes.  With each poem there is a raw tenderness – a very rare thing to find – but something she does almost instinctively.

She has the gift of both illuminating what we already know of our life experiences and simultaneously guiding us to see them in a completely new light.

 

Details:
Available from Amazon and Kelsay Books
Paperback: 78 pages
Publisher: Kelsay Books (April 20, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1949229793
ISBN-13: 978-1949229790

Sample Poems:

When I told truth to go away

we were girls –
blossom-cheeked,
skipping rope with life.
“I can’t be your friend,” I told her.
“You know my secret.”
Truth shrugged. “OK.
I’ll be here when you need me.”
She waved goodbye, and went
to live in the hills
with hummingbirds and foxes.
I stayed behind, secure in my choice,
though joy was hard to find, I never
trusted love, and I reacted oddly
to the seemingly mundane –
lilies made me nauseous, Black Beauty
gave me nightmares, a breeze against my neck
could make me cry. After fifty years,
I looked for Truth again.
She hadn’t changed – still young,
sweet, smiling, glad to see me.
But I’d become Wilde’s portrait in the attic—
haggard, bitter, burden-stooped.
I asked what would have happened
if I’d let her have her way.
“You’d have suffered” she said. “People
would have shamed you. They’d say
you made it up. But you’d be free.”

 

 

The Cottage

I’ve grown quiet here. My mind
has opened to woodsong
and the smell of earth turned
by a trowel.

I enjoy solitude, even when regrets
and the throb of an old lover happen by.
Sometimes I invite them in, make
a ritual of teacups on starched linen,
a silver server for the scones.
We reminisce ‘til shadows trace
across the floor, call them away.

Afterwards, I tidy up, wipe away
drops spilled in the pouring. I save
the leftovers though they’re getting stale.
I may crumble them on the porch rail
tomorrow for sparrows
before I garden.

Reviews:

Melancholy, exuberance, nostalgia, fulfillment, contentment, longing—Sarah Russell hits all the spots, and there isn’t one poem where a woman won’t be able to identify in some way. She’s singing all our songs, putting into magical words things we felt so often but never knew how to tell. This book has deep sadness matched by laughter, gentleness, love and a sense of adventure. It was a privilege being there with her, living what she remembers, identifying with every line. “‘I want to live,’ she said, / and this time I knew / she didn’t mean forever.” Indeed—who hasn’t been there. I LOST SUMMER SOMEWHERE is a book of poetry you will find difficult to put down. A rare gift, a gentle journey from life’s morning into the evening, and deeply moving.”  —Rose Mary Boehm, author of Tangents, From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden, and Peru Blues

“Sarah Russell brings us into her world, a world of “dream-filled summer nights,” where “leaves are October butterflies.” Readers will connect with poems about love found and lost, the end of a long marriage, illness, new love, aging, and death. Russell’s poems sing the important moments of life. It’s a song that stays in your mind, drawing you back to the poems again and again.”  —Nina Bennett, author of Mix Tape and The House of Yearning

“Sarah Russell’s poems don’t have to crawl under your skin. They have always been there. If you haven’t known a suicide or gone through divorce or cancer, you’ve known the fear. If you’ve never had a love you’d marry twice if you had three lives, you’ve felt the longing. Russell may have lost summer somewhere, but she has found what makes us human.”  —Alarie Tennille, author of Waking on the Moon and Running Counterclockwise

 

About the Poet:  Sarah Russell has returned to poetry after a career teaching, writing and editing academic prose. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication Theory from the University of Colorado. Her poems have been published in Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, Third Wednesday, Psaltery andLyre, and many other print and online journals and anthologies. She has won awards from Goodreads, Poetry Nook, and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. This volume of poetry received an Honorable Mention for the 2018 Concrete Wolf Louis Award. She lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with her husband Roy Clariana. They spend summers in Colorado to be near children and grandchildren. She blogs at:  SarahRussellPoetry.net.

Poetry Book Review – The Love Songs of Ephram Pratt by Jack e Lorts

Ephram Front-095 We’ve published a few of Jack e Lorts Ephram Pratt poems over the years.  Each one is unique and thought provoking.  They stir the mind and make readers turn their heads to look in a direction they’d probably not thought of looking before.

The Love Songs of Ephram Pratt is a fascinating collection with one unexpected poem after another.  As for the story of how Ephram came to be, we’ll let Jack explain that.

Book Description by Jack e Lorts:

The Love Songs of Ephram Pratt came about as a result of my meeting Ephram Pratt some ten years ago.

I first met Ephram in a poem in 2008; I didn’t know him previously & he is not related to a minor historical figure I’ve since encountered on the Internet. He is, in all likelihood, of the Tribe of Ephraim in the book of Numbers, and I also suppose he may be an alter-ego or doppelgänger of mine who talks and writes about things I may feel somewhat reluctant or uncomfortable in dealing with in my poems. Since meeting him, we have shared in writing some 800 of our “Songs of Ephram Pratt.” Although I have been writing seriously since the late 1950s, the past several years, Ephram seems have monopolized the bulk of my writing time.

Ephram and I deal with subjects about which neither of us knows much of anything, as well as subjects on which one or both of us know a lot. We love to play with words and at times we love big long words that we just love to loll around on our tongues. We love to read them aloud, although I do most of the reading and Ephram just listens.

There are often times we write poems we don’t know anything about, much less what they mean or understand them. Dali says, “The fact I myself do not understand what my paintings mean while I am painting them does not imply that they are meaningless.” Ephram and I strongly agree with Dali, that just because we do not understand what our poems mean, it doesn’t mean they are meaningless.

We believe in stream of consciousness, Kerouac’s spontaneous prose and the dream world of Andre Breton’s automatic writing.

Jack e Lorts – February 2019

Details:

Available through  Utter Chaos Press and Amazon
Paperback: 49 pages
Publisher: Uttered Chaos (March 9, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0999833456
ISBN-13: 978-0999833452

Sample Poems:

EPHRAM PRATT SPEAKS IN THE LANGUAGE OF SEALS
He lived near the sea
and his days were filled

conversing softly with
deceased mermaids,

but from them
he learned

the language of seals,
the grunts, the whistles,

the body language,
the subtle eye movements.

The cottage on the cape
was filled with ancestors,

peopled with tiny clones
of whoever lived there.

Only in the shadows
did he allow himself to speak

the language he knew so well,
he loved so insanely.

Why should he not speak
with seals?

The language known by poets
since time began.

 

EPHRAM PRATT REINCARNATES AS A SPIDER
There are times
when he works and plays

in the childhood
he has forgotten,

when the songs
he thinks he hears

are taken by
the scruff of his neck,

placed securely
in an antique box

and delivered piecemeal
to his imagination.

He may wonder
why the tapestry

he sees in the gallery
is seasoned with

a glowing tripod
of absolute nonsense,

but he sees
the luminous tapestry,

hears it, too,
and it makes him

want to lie down
in silence,

wondering if he will
reincarnate as an arachnid.

 

About the Poet:

Jack e Lorts, retired educator, lives in The Dalles, OR, via 20 years in Fossil, after stops in Kansas and California. He has published widely, if infrequently since the late 1950s, in such places as Arizona Quarterly, Kansas Quarterly, English Journal, more recently in High Desert Journal, Fault Lines, Phantom Drift, Windfall, and online such places as Haggard and Halloo, Elohi Gadugi, Locust, and Eunoia Review. Lorts is the author of three chapbooks, The Daughter Poems & Others and The Meeting-Place of Words (Pudding House 2008 & 2010) and Dear Gilbert Sorrentino & Other Poems (Finishing Line 2011). Active in Democratic and progressive politics, he has run for the Oregon House, served on the City Council and as Mayor of Fossil for many ensuing years.

He first published in the late 1950s alongside Ginsberg, Levertov, Padgett, Ted Berrigan, Russell Edson, Larry Eigner, and Cid Corman; he wonders what the hell happened in the ensuring years?

 

Reviews:

“In Jack Lorts’ latest collection, that poetic madcap and saboteur of the mundane, Ephram Pratt, truly hits his stride as our guide, a flaneur leading us to “brittle midnights” and right through “the invisible door to another childhood.” Pratt’s eccentric fascinations, which include circuses, unusual shoes, thunder-eggs, and a panoply of sirens, mean these love songs host rich strangenesses and ludic surprises. They mean readers may overhear crying trees and talking wood fawns, and may be spoken to alongside deceased mermaids. Writing in short lines like imaginative outbursts, Lorts delivers rare transformative rewards— “tiny chevrons of gold,” “a glowing coal burnt into soft molasses,“ and “a tiny box of hope placed on the cinders” that resists the flames. Readers, too, will bask in the wonders Lorts uncovers in these couplets, heat-driven by the engines of his gifts for phrasing, his surrealist leaps and juxtapositions, and his penchant for continuous poetic discovery.” ~Matt Schumacher, Editor, Phantom Drift and author of Spilling the Moon

“In these buoyant songs of delight and wonder, of mystery and exuberance that grow ever more laced with melancholy, the fictional Ephram Pratt—who once was a boy “with lanterns for eyes,” whose voice was “soft raisins in a box on the dresser,” a boy with hopes of exploring all the world can offer—sings his way through dream-like, surrealist, “minor miracles” that engage all our senses, and into the country of age and reflection, where songs become the memory of songs (though the urge to sing is never lost): a place where song, the “acorns of despair,” and silence intertwine and become one. It is a pleasure and an honor to recommend this luminous tapestry of poems by Jack Lorts, a book I hope to return to again and again.”  ~Ingrid Wendt, poet and Oregon Book Award recipient, author of Singing the Mozart Requiem and Evensong.

 

Poetry Book Review “Where I Ache” by Megan OKeeffe

where i ache Where I Ache is more like having a friend speak kind words, offer comfort and relate to you rather than just a collection of poems. Megan OKeeffe writes in a natural voice. It’s clear. It’s want you want to hear in the dark times of your life.

I chose this one for its open and straight forward approach. It hits mental illness head on without bothering to skirt around the reality of it with fancy and flighty words. It speaks directly and with love to those who are suffering.

The words want you to know they care and they want to be the friend that’s there for you through thick and thin.

 

Book Description:

This collection is broken up into six chapters ranging from themes such as depression, jealousy, grief, and strength. These delicate subjects can be difficult to talk about and most people avoid them because of the uncomfortable vulnerability. This collection features content that can be triggering for some. I’ve always written and shared my poetry with the hope that readers would relate and feel less alone. I hope you feel a sense of community to all of those connected throughout this collection.

Book Details:
Available in Print and eBook through Amazon.
Print Edition: 156 pages
Publication Date: May 31, 2019

 

Sample Poems

Everything You are Makes You Perfectly You

I don’t need you to have the smallest waist
There’s not a single part of you I would ever want erased.
It’s perfectly fine that your curves don’t look like hers.
Don’t go worrying about where my eyes are looking
I’d love you even if I was blind.
There’s no need to be self conscious
when you speak your mind.
Smart and funny, you’re the whole package honey.
Caring and sweet, you make my heart skip a beat.
Everything about you makes me want to stay
And I wouldn’t want to love you any other way.

 

 

The Mind’s Maze

I fill my head with words
from a tv or radio
to drown out my own.
Otherwise I get lost
in my own mind,
losing direction
of how to find the way out.
Thoughts anchor to each other
weaving a web over any exits.
An endless loop entrapping me
from Sleep’s comforting silence.

 

About the Poet: Find out more about Megan OKeeffe at her site https://debatablydateable.com/

Book Review – Foggy Dog – Poems of the Pacific Coast by Joe Cottonwood

 

Foggy Dog front cover low resSomething strange and amazing happened while I read the poems in Foggy Dog – Poems of the Pacific Coast.  A few lines in, on almost every poem, Bruce Springsteen songs started playing in the corners of my ears.  Maybe you’re not a Springsteen fan, but the down to earth, real, working, living, loving people of the poems just triggered the same feeling I get from the lines in Springsteen songs – you don’t need to like the Springsteen’s music to like these poems, you just need to like feeling something real, something rooted deep in the ground that branches up into the soul.

For an East Coast girl reading “Poems of the Pacific Coast”, it really blew my mind in many ways.  I know the people in these poems.  Hell, I’m one of them.  In “My Daughter Says” the first lines read, “My daughter says/every tree has a soul./ Some are good, some are bad./But always, a soul.”  I nearly fell out of my chair reading that.  As a child, I insisted trees had souls.  Growing up I even claimed that the two trees in the corner of my neighbor’s yard were “witch trees.” He ends that poem with the lines, “Without the spirit we twist,/we wither, we break./With the spirit our roots take hold. .My daughter knows.  So young, so old.”

Perhaps I’m gushing over this because I am the daughter of a woodworker and as a child I remodel houses, install bathrooms, and did various other handyman jobs with my father.  Joe Cottonwood is a carpenter by day and a writer by night.  But reading Foggy Dog, it’s clear that he is a poet all day, all night, always.

The poems are real.  They’re people you walk with, see in your daily lives, love.  They’re sometimes the people and pieces of nature you don’t even realize how much they mean to you until you read one of Joe’s poems.  And suddenly, their importance is profoundly apparent.  Every word is genuine.

I don’t know how else to describe Foggy Dog.  All I can say is go read it.  Chances are, you’re in one the poems.  And I’m quite certain, you’ll find quite a few familiar faces there.

Book Description:
With a keen eye and a big heart, Joe Cottonwood writes of the small towns and driftwood beaches of the coast. As a working carpenter, he speaks with special appreciation of trees: the giant redwoods, the powerful fir and redolent cedar. From pelicans to pumpkins, from dangerous driving to sunny hiking, from earthquakes shaking the house to seals giving birth on the beach, come for the humor, stay for the wisdom — all served with a generous helping of dogs.

Book Details
Available on Amazon in Print and Kindle
Print Length: 80 pages
Publisher: Clear Heart Books (February 21, 2018)

Sample Poems:

Wells Fargo Bank

Noon, I’m next in line behind an old man.
“I want to withdraw fourteen dollars,” he says.
The teller, a young woman with a soft sweater, says
“There’s only—let me check—yes—fifty-two cents.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” She tilts her head. “Sorry.”
The sorrow is genuine.
He wears a pinstripe suit, frayed,
wafting an odor of smoke and earth.
A smartly folded handkerchief, breast pocket,
has a dark stain. His silver beard
is neatly trimmed.

On one wall above the safe is a giant
mural of teamsters driving a stagecoach.
The man says, “There might be—”
“No. It’s always the same.”
For a moment he closes his eyes,
a slow blink while indignities of a lifetime pass.
Without a word, the young woman slides a sandwich
over the countertop through the teller window.
“Blessings on you,” the man says with a nod,
and he walks away with a limp.

I cash my check, a big one
from three days of messy labor
for a matron of the horsey set.
“He lives by the creek,” the teller says
without my asking. “Under a bridge.”
Outside the bank, in the parking lot of glistening cars,
I look around for the pinstripe suit, the silver beard.
I might offer the man something.
He might refuse to take it.
Anyway, no matter:
he has disappeared like the last stagecoach.
Only the blessing remains.

 

 

6.0 August 24,2014

The earth wakes us
shaking the bed.
It’s 3:21 a.m.

I sit bolt upright,
the dogs growl,
you clutch my arm.

To the ears of this old carpenter
the home we built is
sort of moaning
but not in a painful way
more like the way my body feels
when I stretch after
sitting too long.

after a few seconds: silence.
The planet rests.
“Want to check anything?” you ask.
“No,” I say.
So we curl together and go back to sleep:
you, me, dogs, our little souse,
forest, mountain, tectonic plates.

No damage
but the reminder of
who owns this place,
payment due some day
and when it comes
I want it to be with you.

 

About the Poet: Joe Cottonwood has worked in the building trades for most of his life. By night he is the award-winning author of nine published novels, a memoir, and a previous book of poetry. His poems appear in journals worldwide. He makes his home in La Honda, California. If you need help rebuilding your front porch, he would welcome your call. joecottonwood.com

Book Review – No Such Thing as Distance by Karen Paul Holmes

I never expected to find a few recipes at the end of a poetry book.  But that is what concludes No Such Thing as Distance by Karen Paul Holmes.  Strange as it seems, they fit perfectly.  The poems are filled with “ingredients” – a dab of family history, immigration, marriage; a pinch of illness, death, divorce; along with measurements of geography.  Karen’s poems illuminate how the ordinary is really a combination of extraordinary ingredients.

I let the words of other’s who have reviewed No Such thing as Distance fill you in on more about the collection.  For the moment, I’m still in the kitchen surrounded by all the amazing ingredients.

No Such Thing as Distance Cover FRONT

No Such Thing as Distance
by Karen Paul Holmes
Paperback: 102 pages
Publisher: Terrapin Books (February 1, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 099821597X
ISBN-13: 978-0998215976
Available through Amazon and Terrapin Books.

 

 

Sample Poem:

Macedonia Bean Soup

His mail gets forwarded now
but sometimes a letter slips through.
My ex enters my mail slot,
his address, mine once again.
An envelope might even slap
Mr. and Mrs.

This sadness, some say
it will linger. My cheerful self
will have a chink.
Does it add character?

I pass the Heavenly Ham shop,
think of the bean soup
my dad taught him to make
and see them in our kitchen
chopping yellow onions just so,
the secret pinch of mint,
peppers a little too hot for me
but not for them,
how of all the sons-in-law
he was the one who asked to learn,
how I will never have his soup again.

Perhaps one day, I’ll make it myself.
Call the leaving a blessing, move
to the shore of a silver-blue lake,
mountains echoing fireworks
on the Fourth of July,
chinks of brilliance in a black sky.

Reviews:

Karen Paul Holmes is a convincing poet.  In No Such Thing as Distance, she mends the body/mind split, the life/death split, the love/betrayal split, the parent/child split and its reversals—a mother in a coffin in a blond (instead of gray) wig. With grace, beauty, and humor, she explores how the past remains the present through music, art, pop culture (Barbie and the Beatles), as well as her rich cultural inheritance.  A truly empathetic writer, Holmes feels her family’s medical procedures and provides us with food (even the recipes!)  She knows that Zumba and the waltz are all part of the same great dance.  Her title may signal quantum physics, but it’s also how close this poet whispers in her reader’s ear.” – Denise Duhamel, Scald

“What marvelous poems these are, and how complete a collection. Like a circus aerialist who makes us gasp one moment and laugh the next, the poet takes us from her immigrant father’s Macedonian roots to her own maturity, to the life of a woman who is smart and well-read yet knows her way around a Coney Island hot dog and finds the attentions of a drunk cowboy oddly flattering. There are so many good poems here that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll put my money on “Confessions of an Ugly Nightgown,” in which a dead woman’s shapeless article of intimate apparel says it can still rouse a sleeping husband and is loveliest as it lies on the floor.” – David Kirby, Get Up Please

“Karen Paul Holmes lifts up the extraordinary found in the everyday. Here are poems that brim with finely-crafted detail, anchored to place while at the same time embracing change and impermanence. “Gulls winter here. / Like all fleeting things, they’re special to me,” she writes of a morning scene at her lake home. In poem after elegant poem, Holmes takes us across generations and countries as she grapples with larger issues, unafraid to explore the fullness of love and loss, the circularity of life. “I lived this day once,” she tells us, “and then lived it again.”” – Nancy Chen Long, Light Into Bodies

About the Poet:

Karen Paul Holmes has two full-length poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). She was chosen as a Best Emerging Poet in 2016 by Stay Thirsty Media. Publications include Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, Diode, and other journals and anthologies. Holmes hosts the Side Door Poets in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She also teaches writing classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School and other venues. http://www.karenpaulholmes.com

Book Review: “What You Saw and Still Remember” by Judith Waller Carroll

Cvr_WhatYouSaw_bookstoreOpening What You Saw and Still Remember is like opening a door that leads away from the news, political debates, from the entanglement of technology and to a quiet garden.  It looks at nature with clear eyes.  It does not judge nor rage nor cry.  It sits peacefully and embraces the beauty around us that is so easily forgotten.

The title is almost misleading.  In our busy digital age, the book actually speaks of those things we rarely notice and of what we have almost forgotten.

If you need to step out of chaos and just let the world be its perfect self for a while, then What You Saw and Still Remember can take you there.  You’ll see and smell and feel with all your senses the beauty nature gives us.

Here are two poems from What You Saw and Still Remember:

Pastoral

The deer are in disgrace again
for leaping thee back fence
and devouring the lilies.

How can we blame them
when such shameless colors
taunt and tease.

The azaleas are a pale-purple sea.
I want to dive in
with all my senses.

Even the homely wren transforms
from brown to golden as he teakettles merrily
to anyone who will listen.

Let others write in gritty words
their lessons of hopelessness
and heartache. I am content

with the silken language
of a cobweb, the airy balance
of butterfly and birdsong.

Dimensions of the Heart

A blue whale’s heart
is the size of a male gorilla,
but human hearts are measured
in more fanciful terms:
as big as Texas, hard as stone.
Soft. Sinking. Restless.

My own fickle heart
craves solitude in a crowd,
company when I’m alone.

All those years by the ocean
and it only wanted mountains,
the smell of blue spruce.
Now it yearns for salt spray and sea weed.
A mild winter. Fresh crab.

Or maybe those whispers of longing
really come from the soul—
that immeasurable space
somewhere between the mind,
with its reason and logic,
and the hollow muscular organ
pumping blood through the body,
oxygen to the brain.

 

Details:
ISBN: 978-1-59948-646-8
72 pages
Available at Main Street Rag Publishing

 

About the Poet:

Judith Waller Carroll is the author of The Consolation of Roses, winner of the 2015 Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press Poetry Prize, and Walking in Early September (Finishing Line Press).  Her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Awards include the 2010 Carducci Poetry Prize from Tallahassee Writers’ Association. She lives in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas with her husband, the novelist Jerry Jay Carroll.

 

Reviews:

“Judith Waller Carroll is a perceptive observer of both the human and nonhuman worlds. She is also a master of the brief lyric poem. Her precise images take hold and settle until the poem’s close, when they stab and sizzle. What You Saw and Still Remember could be labeled poetry of place, as long as places within the human heart are included. Carroll’s finely wrought poems seize our own hearts and do not let go.” –Andrea Hollander, author of Landscape with Female Figure: New & Selected Poems, 1982 – 2012

“This book reads like the comfort of a soft rain and then the sun breaking out after. Carroll’s poems are filled with keen observations of everyday nature and the intricacies of human relationships. They remind their audience, gently, to savor the minutia of each day. Contemplative and intimate, this work, like all good poetry, will call the reader to slow down, to read again.” –Sandy Longhorn, author of The Alchemy of My Mortal Form

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