MER Books for Review – Winter 2023
Our book reviews are approximately 750 words, and are published online at momeggreview.com. 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].
POETRY (FULL LENGTH)
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.
Chia-Lun Chang. Prescribee. Nightboat Books 2023
An arch, precise collection of poems that casts world-historical hierarchies in an aspic mold and serves them back to us on a warped platter. Reading Prescribee is not dissimilar to the experience of coming across a recipe in a vintage American cookbook: it transforms the familiar ingredients of contemporary life into an uncanny, discomfiting concoction. Wielding English as a foreign language and medium, Chang redefines
the history of Taiwan and captures the alienation of immigrant experience with a startlingly original voice. Flouting tired expectations of race, gender, nationality, and citizen status, Prescribee is as provocative as it is perceptive, as playful as it is sobering.
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.
Fox Frazier, Raven King. Yes Poetry, 2022.
Raven King is about being a mother to a young daughter and leaving an abusive marriage. It’s also about mothers and daughters on a larger scale, surviving (and trying to protect each other, and sometimes not surviving) in a world that is hostile to and violent against women and femmes.
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.
Linda Scheller, Wind & Children. Main Street Rag, May/June 2022
Linda Scheller’s Wind and Children is a tragic and beautiful exposition of a teacher’s heart. Tinged with the uncertain fates of her children, California climate chaos, and bright birdsong, these poems sing as a poignant “flute for the wind” in a broken “system that fosters indifference.” Through exquisite metaphor and gripping imagery, this “mother of thousands” pens 36 years of service with grace and wonder, regret and hope.
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.”
Kristine Langley Mahler, Curing Season: Artifacts. WVU Press 2022
A personal story of trying to belong during childhood and the grief of losing a best friend, combined with the history of a place (in this case Eastern NC), and the longing for elsewhere. As an adult, Kristine is still baffled by her desire to be accepted into the cultural community of Eastern North Carolina when it feels both at odds and parallel to her pioneer-like upbringing in Oregon, and her current lifestyle in the Nebraska plains. All three have long histories, all three are rural, but each means living within different levels of exclusivity. There are so many books about assimilation, but Curing Season feels especially apt as we dissect what it means to have “settled traditions” and “settled beliefs,” particularly in our current news cycle.
Carla Panciera, Barnflower.April 2023
Luke Dani Blue Pretend It’s My Body: Stories Feminist Press 2022 PDF only
Informed by the author’s experience in and between genders, this debut collection blurs fantasy and reality, excavating new meanings from our varied dysphorias. In the vein of Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, and Daniel Lavery, these ten short stories ricochet between the lives we wish for and the ones we actually lead. Surreal, darkly humorous, and always deeply felt, Pretend It’s My Body is bound together by the act of searching—for a story of one’s own, for a glimpse of certainty, and for a spark of recognition and human connection.
Sarah Eagle Heart and Emma Eagle Heart-White, Warrior Princesses Strike Back. Feminist Press PDF only.
“The Eagle Heart twins share an eye-opening memoir about what it’s like growing up on an Indian reservation in the present day. The brave Lakȟóta sisters, supported by the wisdom and strength of their community, give readers an intimate and inspiring look into the women who are leading the struggle to heal. This book will make you look at America with fresh eyes.” —Piper Perabo
Jane Harrington, In Circling Flight. Brighthorse Books 2022
In this contemporary novel set in the southern Appalachians, the lives of two young women are knit together when one is left alone on a farm after the loss of her partner and the other is displaced by mountaintop removal coal mining.
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.
Rashi Rohatgi Sita in Exile Miami University Press -May 2023. Novella
This novella follows the friendship of two BIPOC Norwegian women – one an immigrant and one the child of refugees – as they navigate motherhood during the pandemic. When Indian American Sita moves to the Norwegian Arctic, she finds a warm welcome from Mona, a local surfer from a refugee family who sees her as someone with whom she can be herself. But Sita’s not sure how to reciprocate, for as she begins to discover impossible fruits in the forest, she grows more unsure of who she is.
Abigail Stewart Foundations. Whiskey Tit (March 2023).
A steely-eyed feminist, multi-generational novel, Foundations is told in three parts following the lives of three women — a housewife, a Hollywood actress, and a reality TV show contestant — all living in the same Dallas house in different eras, whose experiences parallel the history of women’s rights struggles in the American south.