MER February Bookshelf
Lots of intriguing new and recent books, many from our contributors. Take a look!
Morgan Baker Emptying the Nest: Getting Better at Goodbyes (Ten16Press, May 2023; memoir) is about reinventing yourself, learning how to handle loss, and emerging from depression. When Morgan’s daughter, Maggie, left for college and Morgan also parted with nine puppies from a litter the family raised, she collapsed into a deep depression. She was, however, ready when Maggie moved to LA with her boyfriend after graduation. Morgan focused on herself, and her needs. Her identity shifted. Emptying the Nest: Getting Better at Goodbyes has been honored with The Memoir Magazine Award in Family/Relationship category.
Jiwon Choi, A Temporary Dwelling. Spuyten Duyvil June 2024; poetry. A Temporary Dwelling probes the limits of utopia, exploding the myth of the American Dream. These poems question such complex notions as nation, truth, body, race, gender and genre. And in doing so offers blueprints for our collective survival: by looking, by writing, by eating, by living, by laughing, by loving.
Tom Holmes, The Book of Incurable Dreams. Xavier Review Press, 2023; poetry. Tom Holmes, in The Book of Incurable Dreams, lays bare his longings and imaginings as one given up for adoption during the Baby Scoop Era. In this collection of forty-seven poems, he envisions the actions and thoughts of his birth parents, particularly his mother, as he places them in various scenarios and, in doing so, opens a window to the hopes, disappointments, and realities he experienced.
Jen Karetnick, Inheritance With a High Error Rate, Cider Press Review 2024; poetry.
“The poems in Inheritance with a High Error Rate carry environmental angst and individual, quotidian worries, and also manage to bound with wit and rhythm. From the edge of the Atlantic, in a landscape rife with moist heat, Jen Karetnick sees the ‛too-early bounty’ of fruit. Here too is the body with its sharp struggles and markings of age. In form and in free verse, this resonant collection circles alarm, granting a hard-won, clear-eyed survival. ‛This is enough wealth to grip.’”—Lauren Camp, author of Took House (Tupelo Press), and judge of the 2022 Cider Press Review Book Award.
Jane Miller, Canticle for Remnant Days. Pond Road Press, Jan. 2024; poetry.
Diana Goetsch on Canticle for Remnant Days: “So many deer die in poems,” Jane C. Miller begins her long-awaited first collection, “I am due to hit one.” The charm in Miller’s poetry is her hard wit, and her appetite for the mess of life. In poem after poem, she invites trouble to pose for a close-up, so we can gawk and take heart. This book is full of hits.”
Rue Matthiessen, Castles and Ruins. Latah Books 2/2024; memoir.
Castles & Ruins is inspired by a summer Rue Matthiessen spent in Galway with her husband and son, when she returned to the place of one of her most idyllic childhood memories, hoping to recapture the magic with her own child. As soon she arrives back in Ireland, trying to search out the area where she spent a summer with her parents (writers Peter Matthiessen and Deborah Love), she finds that it’s much more than a vacation with an end point, it is a trove of memories—a Pandora’s box. Rue’s feelings about having lost her mother rise to the surface afresh, as well as memories of her moody, intense father, who was just then on the cusp of a major literary career. The sixties, and her parents’ passionate, always crumbling marriage become vivid, like a film reel before her eyes. But will she be able to rediscover the castle of her childhood memories? Or will she find only ruins?
Karen Rigby, Fabulosa. JackLeg Press 6/2024; poetry.
Karen Rigby writes with “fingers cocked like a gun.” Deliciously inventive in its linguistic unfurlings, Fabulosa fibrillates with “noir and glitz” in these strange, seductive poems that are in conversation with a range of players from Dior to Endeavour Morse to Hieronymus Bosch. Shimmering with diamond-cut precision, Fabulosa underscores Rigby’s observation that “I never write / without measuring, each line / hooking a quicksilver hunger.” There is no bloat in this book; it is exquisitely hewn. Underpinning the collection is a keen interest in cinema, fashion, feminism, transformation, and textuality (from ars poeticas to portmanteaus to ekphrastics)…. -Simone Muench
Adrie Rose’s Rupture (Gold Line Press 2023; poetry chapbook), is a haunting, tender, and sensual debut chapbook. Exploring both the before and after of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy (in which a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube and splits it open, causing life-threatening internal bleeding) the poems in Rupture are lyrical, darkly funny, and determined in their examination of both desire and loss. This book confronts the body’s loves and their costs, asking “Who chooses / what survives, and why? / July brings back / roses everywhere / as if we were celebrating.” Set in a landscape lushly alive with wild plants and changing seasons, these poems enter the daily devotions of caregiving and endurance. Rupture was selected by Courtney Faye Taylor as the winner of the 2022 Gold Line Press Poetry Chapbook Contest.
Susan Vespoli One of Them Was Mine. Kelsay Books 2023; poetry.
These extraordinary poems, written in the raw days of early grief are life-lines, elegies, ghost messages, and cradle-songs. They are space blankets to wrap around the unhoused soul at four in the morning under a concrete underpass. They are food for the hungry, and coffee for the faithful who have kept vigil. “Don’t ask what’s the worst/that could happen/because it already happened” an early poem warns, but the work of words goes on, making meaning out of the incomprehensible. “I am a Cribbage opponent, ride to a therapist, snowboard buyer, homework checker, Mama Bear” another poem chants, listing the million tasks and roles that make up mothering. In these blazing poems, Susan Vespoli shares text messages and scraps of conversation from her murdered son, Adam, and in speaking for him she also speaks for the thousands of unhoused people who sleep in our cities’ doorways and back alleys, each and every one of them somebody’s child.