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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 Review: “Writing in the Ether” by Catherine Arra

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Writing in the Ether is less a poetry book and more a private conversation you feel honored to have shared with you.  Unlike most books of poems, this one has a central character.

It only takes a few pages to feel as if your closest friend is confiding you, holding nothing back, and handing you the treasures and trials of her life.  She is sharing her story, her family’s story, in vivid details so much so that you think you might have been there with her too.

You can feel the essence of her in the room with you as you read.  You should be sipping wine together or sharing a pot of coffee.  You know what she’s saying is important, personal; that no one should over hear this and that you should never share with anyone what she’s shared with you.  That’s where you go reading Writing in the Ether.  It takes you to a place with a character you care about and in return, you feel as if that character cares about you too.

Here are two poems from Writing in the Ether:

Finding You in Smoke

Mother, if I could summon you back
I’d sit with you at my morning table
prepare strong coffee the way you like
place an ashtray near because you’ll
want to smoke after this long time away.

I’d finally insist that my eyes, replicas
of your hazel-green-framed-in-auburn
see beyond what I needed from you
slide down your color-streaked coronas
and slip through

like Alice chasing rabbits. I’d
fall into your girlhood, snuggle up close
smell your skin, shampoo, interlock fingers.
We’d whisper like best friends, sisters

and then you could tell me your secrets
the ones that walk backward, scream at night
the ones that kept you away from me
the ones you burned with 60 years of cigarettes
that killed you anyway.

 

The Girl Who Made Them

In the closet of my room, the long, slanted roofline
plastered white was a perfect canvas for sunflower suns,
psychedelic peace signs, mottled self-portraits, and mindscapes.
The walls, tablets for tortured free verse
on teenage love, existential loneliness, fists against
Vietnam and Kent State.
E. E. Cummings, Ferlinghetti, Peter Max, and too much
van Gogh influence, all in oil-based pastels that
“No matter how many damn times I painted,”
Dad said,
“it all bled through.”
Eighteen years later, a sixteen-year-old
in my creative writing class says,
“We’re renting this house. In the closet of my room there’s all
this cool stuff, art and poems like frescoes in an old church,”
and she writes a poem to the girl who made them.

 

Details:
Kind: Perfectbound
Pages: 100
Language: English
Date Published: December 2018
ISBN 978-1-948017-32-9

Available for purchase at Das Madres Press

 

Publisher’s Book Description:

The poems and short prose in Catherine Arra’s Writing in the Ether were born from the connective tissue of memory, the bones of the past, and the spirit that insists not only upon seeing and remembering, but upon reconciling “the holy and the unholy” to embrace what is.

Here is a story of a girl growing up in the 1960s with a mysteriously elusive mother, a second-generation immigrant father, and her immigrant grandparents living next door. At the center of the collection is a desire to reach back for clarity and continuity that becomes, in itself, an act of writing in the ether.

Through an exploration into her own story, Arra invites each of us to go back and become “forever the sentinel” on the doorstep of our history, to find the sweetest joys, the most devastating betrayals, and in doing so, mark each with a cross, a prayer, and perhaps a poem, because, as Arra writes, “Love eats you, and this is the only way home.”

 

About the Poet:

Catherine Arra is a former high school English and writing teacher. Since leaving the classroom in 2012, her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary journals online and in print, and in several anthologies. She is the author of three chapbooks, Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015), and Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017). Writing in the Ether is her first full-length collection. Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she lives most of the year, teaches part-time, and facilitates local writing groups. In winters she migrates to the Space Coast of Florida.
Find her at www.catherinearra.com

 

Reviews:

“Ether may be the fifth element, but poet-memoirist Catherine Arra grounds her alchemical work in the flame of the forge, toe-licking saltwater, radiant air, and earthbound ash. “There is a text within every text,” this born storyteller assures us, turning her gaze from her 1960s childhood to mismatched parents later in life, then back to her immigrant grandparents and Sicilian forebears. Arra’s words pulse with a soft incandescence, like fireflies, or sparks from a distant volcano.” —Nina Shengold

“Catherine Arra “gathers cracks in time like pick-up sticks,” and offers them to us as a shared memory. Tender yet honest, these poems capture the essence of self-discovery through fierce images of both nature and innocence.” —Lisa St. John

 

Poetry Breakfast offers poetry book reviews on Saturdays.  We do NOT receive any compensation for these reviews.  It’s just our way of supporting the work of poets.  If you are a poet who would like your book considered for review, please see our submission guidelines.

Passing on Grace by George Bishop

Passing on Grace
by George Bishop

The word and the act at dinner became unclear—
the goodwill of allowing everyone equal portions

seemed more meaty, the secret recipe of something-
battered fish closer to the prayer we all prayed

differently. If you kept yours open you could watch
each eye making corrections beneath lightly veined

lids, weighing something, spices maybe. Once, over
dessert, someone even asked me if I believed God

could change His mind—ghost-quick I began
sniffing through my bible backyards where the dog

inside has always buried such bones. Not sure,
I told him without telling him as he told me

he wasn’t sure what he meant, passed on grace,
said some things could’ve been better. I wanted

to know what they were but knew translations
are all that reach us, hearsay our hidden selves

speak. A god-nod filled my heart like a well
deserved belch, heaven moving away in perfect

circles of empty plates. Breakfast soon, eggs up
making more perfect circles, and there’s obedience

at a cave wall painting fire to stone, blowing it
for words. Praise the birds in the morning, all

the sounds they have for light, all the light
in their sounds. Amen.

George Bishop’s latest work appears in New Plains Review & Lunch Ticket. New work will be included in Naugatuck River Review and The Penwood Review. Bishop is the author of four chapbooks, most recently “Old Machinery” from Aldrich Publishing. His full length collection, “Expecting Delays” will be released by FutureCycle Press in 2013. He attended Rutgers University and now lives and writes in Kissimmee, Florida.

Last Dance with Mary Jane by Nina Bennett

Last Dance with Mary Jane
by Nina Bennett

Miguel shows me his bag of dope
at every counseling session.
I keep my expression neutral,
refuse to be drawn in when he asks
if it looks like good shit.
We then spend 30 of his 50 minutes
discussing his paranoia. He worries
that he is being ripped off, that his dealer
thinks he is stupid because his English
is poor. I use every maneuver I know
to redirect the session, but each week
we end up gazing at the baggie
he pulls from his backpack.

This week Miguel doesn’t show up,
doesn’t call to cancel, doesn’t answer his phone.
Today I see the article, buried
in the crime section of the newspaper. Shot
in the back, he bled out on the sidewalk,
died alone, three doors from his home.
Outside my window, daffodils bow their heads
as a spring shower cleanses the street.

Nina Bennett is the author of Forgotten Tears A Grandmother’s Journey Through Grief. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Requiem, Tipton Poetry Journal, San Pedro River Review, The Summerset Review, Bryant Literary Review, Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, The Broadkill Review, and anthologies such as Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS. Nina is a contributing author to the Open to Hope Foundation. www.transcanalwriters.com

The Island Dog by Tricia McCallum

The Island Dog
by Tricia McCallum

He is everyone’s,
Yet he is no one’s.
Vacationers arrive, discover him,
dote on him for two weeks,
then disappear.

He is their holiday project,
a story they’ll tell over dinner at home.
Some allow him in, to sleep at the foot of their beds,
to guard their front door,
Some even toy with the idea of a rescue,
Could we, should we? Shots? Papers?
Questions asked
with the exuberance of the relaxed and the happy,
but as the time to leave draws near,
reality encroaches, the idea stalls.

A new band takes their place.
The island dog waits,
knowing it will take only one,
one, to give him a name that won’t change,
one, to call it out in the dark
should he wander too far.
one, to call to him
and him alone:
Come home.

A Glasgow-born Canadian, Tricia McCallum is the author of a sequence of poems, essays and photos entitled “Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Mother and Father Remembered.”(2011). Her poems “Thirst” and “There’s Always the Guy” were chosen by readers at goodreads.com as the winners of the poetry competition in December, 2011, and in May, 2012. Two of her poems, “Following Seas” and “The Gift of Donovan,” appeared in the first issue of the quarterly poetry e-zine called IMPpress.

Tricia invites you to read more of her work at www.triciamccallum.com

Forecasting Hemlines by M.R. Smith

Forecasting Hemlines
by M.R. Smith

Weather will come
in its own fashion. Dark
evening dress, sharp jewelry
meant to kill,
sometimes light and blousy.
Today it is straight-legged
and lined out clean, a casual
bearing trying to portray
confidence and control
of a situation that could
change at the drop
of a barometer.

M.R. Smith lives in Boise, ID and will have work appearing in the fall in The Red River Review.

Resurrection by Nina Bennett

Resurrection
by Nina Bennett

The first Easter after Dad died
I waited for him to come back to life.
I sat at dinner, silence broken
by klink of fork against china,
swish and crackle of ice
as I stirred sugar into my tea.
I tried to ignore the whispered hypocrite,
you don’t believe in the resurrection
.

I am responsible for my father’s
death. I’m the one who implored
the ICU doctors to convince my brother
it was time to forgo life-sustaining treatment,
to explain that our father now existed
in a realm we could not access.

First child, oldest daughter,
I’m the one who rested my head
on Dad’s chest, strained to hear
his fading heartbeat, pressed my fingers
against the once-pulsing artery in his neck,
pushed the call button and told the nurse
his final exhale was at 5 p.m.

Nina Bennett is the author of Forgotten Tears A Grandmother’s Journey Through Grief. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Requiem, Tipton Poetry Journal, San Pedro River Review, The Summerset Review, Bryant Literary Review, Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, The Broadkill Review, and anthologies such as Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS. Nina is a contributing author to the Open to Hope Foundation. www.transcanalwriters.com

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