Books for Review


MER Books for Review – Winter 2023

Our book reviews are approximately 750 words, and are published online at Please refer to our Book Review Guidelines for more information.

If you’re interested in reviewing one of the books below, or another book that fits our parameters, please email us at [email protected].






Allison Blevins’s Cataloguing Pain explores motherhood, sexuality, and queerness as it juxtaposes the author’s diagnosis of MS with her partner’s gender transition. As one body moves toward unfamiliarity, a state of chronic pain, a sense of being caged, the other is escaping pain, emerging into its true self, becoming free. Cataloguing Pain chronicles both trauma and hope through marriage, illness, and motherhood as the author learns how to live in a disabled body.

Theresa Burns, Design. Terrapin Books 2022
Inspired by the poem “Design” by Robert Frost, the book explores the myriad meanings of that word in a contemporary woman’s life–aesthetic beauty, fate, intention, the intelligence at work in nature’s systems. The poems here exist in the tender, awkward spaces of mid-life, between aging and dying parents and children bristling to break free. A sister-in-law fears she’ll never reunite with the son she gave up as a teenager, though at that very moment he is searching for her. The pandemic forces grown children to return to the nest, upending a family’s surface calm. Design asks readers of any age: how much are our life stories steered by choice, and how much by luck or blind faith?.

Shutta Crum, The Way to the River. Kelsay Books 2022
“Crum brings us to and along and on and around the river where it is “rough going.” She discovers also that “All my loves are entwined,” and then eventually leads us to a poem on swimming in heaven. The temporary nature of life does not limit the depth of experience that the poems reveal, such as in “How to Properly Read a Paper Map,” which instructs, “When you go, dress warmly. / Drive Slowly. / Wave often.” The message to be in the present moment feels clear and important even amidst the ephemeral nature of life.”

Frances Donovan, Arboretum In A Jar, Lily Poetry Review Books 2023
In this rich collection of poems, Frances Donovan weaves lyric poetry with memoir, dramatic personae with careful self-reflection, all in complex meditation on trauma, sexual awakening, recovery, and femininity.  Complex and deeply moving, Arboretum in a Jar is a book I will return to with great pleasure.   – Kevin Prufer, author of The Art of Fiction and How He Loved Them

Joanne Durham, To Drink From a Wider Bowl, Evening Street Press, April 1, 2022
The title of To Drink from a Wider Bowl derives from the last lines of “Old Folks,” the opening poem: “We are thirsty still, but drink from a wider bowl.” The book reflects on the author’s discoveries in the journey from childhood through being a grandmother, about living in harmony with herself and others, and her relationship to the larger world.

Abby Templeton Greene, A Blue House to Sleep In, FLP 2022
Templeton Greene has crafted her third collection of poetry, A Blue House to Sleep In, embracing and questioning all things motherly: femme bodies, birth, bleeding, parenting, “the domestic”, dreams, nightmares, life and death– and gives all of these themes the value and import they deserve.

Lynne Jensen Lampe, Talk Smack to a Hurricane, Ice Floe Press 2022.
Soon after my birth, my mother was sent to a psychiatric hospital. She was gone most of my first year, the first of many disruptions. Talk Smack to a Hurricane seeks answers to three main questions: Which mother-version should the daughter believe? What happens to anger when no one’s to blame? Does psychiatry allow a woman her power and personhood?

Eve Packer, no mask, no talk: corona poems. Autonomedia 2022.
When the pandemic and lock-down struck, i figured i should keep some type of record. I had no intention of making a book, but then, when we saw a bit of light, I figured it might be a good idea to shape one.  then, delta struck. so, thats the postscript poem. Of course, we are many twists and turns later, but it stands as is.

Connie Post, Between Twilight. NYQ Books 2023.
In poems built like litanies, composed of echoes and refrains, and lit with the muted palette of dusk,Connie Post’s Between Twilight illuminates the experience of inhabiting “the body / that knows the sound of a belt / removed before a beating…that knows / how to leave…/ like music leaving a cathedral.” This honest voice, this exiled voice, comes through in poems that strike me as prayer. They seek mercy, not so much from a deity but from the world, and most significantly, from herself.—Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Andrea Potos Her Joy Becomes Fernwood Press 2022
Her Joy Becomes is bright and commemorative, celebrating the poetry found in family, literary heritage, art, and everyday life. Andrea finds joy and beauty in generational crochet lessons, the “waylaid atoms” of writers past, the stories artists tell in brushstrokes, and even well-seasoned brussels sprouts.

Margaret Saraco, If There Is No Wind. (Human Error Publishing).
If There Is No Wind is a collection of poems that include a variety of themes, including family, love, and activism, that are both thought-provoking and humorous. The title is from one poem in the collection, “If Wind Were Erased from Earth,” which examines what it would be like if wind disappeared as a result of our climate crisis. Some poems unearth grief and loss, while others exalt in the beautiful world we live in.

Lynne Shapiro, Gala. Solitude Hill Press 2022
Lynne Shapiro’s Gala is a collection of poems that unfolds like a film. Sliced with flashbacks and asides, the poems move through myriad cultural and poetic registers— from Surrealist tropes to Hollywood movies to Greek mythology — showcasing a unique voice that echoes the collage aesthetic of the artworks themselves. Gala is an artist’s coming-of-age story, and insists that a woman’s voice, in all its wonder and indignation, shall not be erased.

In her newest poetry chapbook, Sleepwalker, Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s poems speak with intense fierceness to hard-earned compassion and painful healing after her eldest son’s suicide. Trying to make sense of tragedy, she unearths the heartbreak of motherhood and deep loss, revealing tender, resilient love in poems that embrace who her son was and what he will never be. Readers who have suffered such a loss will know they are not alone.

Sherre Vernon, Flame Nebula Bright Nova. Main St Rag 2022.
This is the book you’ll reach for to reacquaint yourself with the fire inside. A book of joy & shadows; a mother making space for her life, love, & pain. Reading Sherre Vernon’s Flame Nebula, Bright Nova is to witness a heart gone incandescent with longing, a heat that builds so you too incendiate. A fearless encounter with a voice so familiar you’ll swear out loud when you realize it’s not your own memory, not your own voice, guiding you through. ~Melissa Eleftherion, Poet Laureate of Ukiah, CA

Jessica Walsh, Book of Gods and Grudges. Glass Lyre Press 2022“Jessica Walsh’s Book of Gods and Grudges tells a tale of generational trauma and transcendence… Her speaker struggles through illness and sobriety and grappling with God as a problem she tries to solve as she finds her own calling.”



Margot McMahon If Trees Could Talk Aquarius Press 2022
If Trees Could Talk is a five-generation story about an artistic Irish Catholic family from Northern Ireland.  Irene, a social justice activist, is key to the one hundred years of the family in Chicago.  The story also touches on encouraging the author to become an artist while ecology is her daughter’s passion.  Irene exemplifies The Greatest Generation.



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