“Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone.” Rebecca Solnit
In an inflatable mess tent for refugees, an attendant learns the story of the bearded man who travels from Greece to Macedonia by foot, then to Serbia and eventually to Budapest seeking asylum. Danger arrives and so does white dust.
On the father’s eightieth birthday, he tells his oldest son he wants to celebrate it in a funeral parlor. There are the usual expatiations and songs and food and drink, but alone in the chapel, the father reveals to the son how his mother really died.
The Octopus: A Fable
Pariya’s son narrates the times his father turns into an octopus when he feels romantic love. Later, Pariya marries Ammya and things seem normal—except they aren’t. Years later the son learns the truth through a suppressed dream.
The glimmering surface of things
It is Alexandria during Ramadan, a year or so after the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and Mohamed Morsi is president. Political conflict threatens Egypt, but a different kind of trouble looms within a group of expats. Things don’t always glimmer.
Leaving the convention center, he chastises himself for his “addiction” although he just bought “Dangerous Dosage: Chronicles of Jason Archer,” the VR Experience that landed him on the floor. It was so real. But upon arriving home, he so easily returns to that "world."
Sold: Yellow House on Cooper Hill
Falling in love with the yellow house on the hill, she enjoys her own art studio. And visitors: a neighbor with brownies; a young mother with her baby and a fruit basket; Marvin with banana bread; and a young man with a photo and a revelation.
Riding the bus from Granada to Salamanca, Spain, they arrive in pouring rain and run to find shelter. Luckily a taxi pulls up and drives them to the Hostal Plaza Mayor. Jimmy has never met a girl like Vera before. This is his love story.
Coaxed by his roommate to attend a séance where Simon, the special guest, leads seven participants on the Ouija board, the narrator goes through rapid-fire emotions as he and Simon connect in a paranormal drama.
OK Hot Stuff
Ten middle school students help Jason clean up the mess of his mother’s house. Some scrape cemented egg whites off counters; others pull weeds. A week later, the mother has a clean kitchen and bathroom and a slanted floor to walk upon.
Jacqui teaches AP English at a Catholic school and her curriculum is more radical than Father Glenn likes. She loses her hat—a precious gift from Aunt Gwen—on the day Joseph brilliantly elucidates Thoreau. The hat is gone but Joseph’s eyes are brimming.
A sixty-five-year-old man holds hostage three children and a twenty-something woman. They have strength in numbers but he threatens and lies. They are now the family he never had. He is husband to the oldest, Dad to the children. His family ties.
Songs for Trying: “Losing Interest,” “Winter Blues” and “The Impermanence of Sinking”
The metaphors of water and sun run through Beamer’s poetry, as if pool water and the smell of chlorine can “block the rest of the world,” and the sun’s sinking in the sea at night isn’t the same as drowning. So too “sunlight becomes a hard, palpable thing,” a corrective to her “winter blues.”
“You Ungrateful Girl”, “Wrong Side Out” and “Best Left Buried”
Read the titles first and enter Stone’s undiluted poetry with eyes wide open. Significance lies in the poet’s voice and imbalance of power in “You Ungrateful Girl”; in the descriptive tone and revealed irony in “Wrong Side Out”; and in the dare to unbury a rotting corpse like a metaphor of “rages” and “barbed words.”
“To Pain”, “Bosom Story” and “I Hear You’ve Settled In”
In the prose poem “To Pain,” the poet addresses her pain directly and forces it to the surface, giving it an immediate presence. Employing the same rhetorical device—the apostrophe— in “I hear you’ve settled in,” the poet addresses her absent lover, inviting the reader to listen too. “Bosom Story” is a narrative and as reachable.
“The New Adventures Of”, “Opa” and “When”
Like a page from a memoir in “The New Adventures of,” the poet rejects her father’s rants and repulses an arranged marriage. A similar feat is fulfilled line by poetic line in “Opa,” the poet having found a fire-opal, “no opal omen of/ruin.” And in “When,” the poet pleas for racial justice and names the names, “Book of remembrance, book of tears.”
“The Dead Wall of Silence”, “Pieces” and “Scratching Out Earth”
In “The Dead Wall of Silence” the poet alludes to a partition against the backdrop of “sheep/and suckled cattle” in atypical dimeter and trimeter feet. In “Pieces,” he is not done with the fracturing: “Actual actions of schisms,” “splintered spectators,” “absolute absence”—just pieces. And in “Scratching Out Earth,” the poet faithfully renders the title in imagistic verse.
“Surgical Intervention”, “The Plastic Faberge” and “Three Fates At Night”
Poetry can be abstract or concrete, but there is nothing abstract about Hoffman’s poetry. How about surgical intervention as poetic inspiration? Or, the sound of a motorcycle in the dark as a rude awakening? Or “Three Fates at Night” by the side of the car window one midnight . . . and the poet shudders.
“Purpose (Predestined Love)”, “Love” and “Frozen Dream”
Huang knows her way around personification—the transference of human feelings and attributes to abstract concepts—and she crafts the poems “Purpose” and “Love” using this figurative device. The poet switches to a witty-metered play on words in the onomatopoetic poem “Frozen Dream” —gifted with alliteration and assonance.
“My Seventh Christmas”, “The Wind Gibbers with Their Voices” and “Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987)”
As different in mood and voice as they are in thought and theme, these poems reveal the poet’s structural versatility, whether it is explicit narrative in “My Seventh Christmas”; poetic ambiguity in “The Wind Gibbers With Their Voices”; or jazzed- up meter in “Jaco Pastorius,” in honor of the great bass player.
“Money Buys You Freedom”, “Visible to the Eye” and “Searchlight”
The poet’s voice in “Money Buys Your Freedom” and “Visible to the Eye” is direct, audacious, empowered. No beating around the bush; the poet points out that money can buy the law and a woman can become someone’s “wind-up doll.” Not so in “Searchlight.” The poet is an “Electra of sorts” and open to “accepting any substitution.”
“Don’t Hang Your Soul on That”, “Slant” and “Sugar Sandwiches”
When you read a Hilles poem, you are inside a lyricism that doesn’t stop at the length of the poem but continues to move as if the poet has shown you how to be with love and life and soul, even if you have to eat sugar sandwiches. Read these poems and you will see.
“An Old Song”, “The Incident” and “Acceptable”
Reger’s poetry wraps you in narratives of love and pain, sadness and longing. There is no escape from the sadness in the ballad “An Old Song.” Neither is there from the death of two lovers whispering lullabies on the banks of the Tigris in “The Incident.” Nor from the longing in the lyrical poem “Acceptable.”
“All Things Scarlet”, “From Primrose Hill” and “Untold Miles”
Vance drapes “All Things Scarlet” in allusions—colloquial or personal—and metaphors intersect what is linear. In “From Primrose Hill,” the poet concretizes the poem in landscape imagery: “post-war tenement/brick ways, ” “many-wandered fields.” Metaphor reigns in “Untold Miles” in the first three stanzas but focuses on the “not-quite-lovers in the last.
Those Who Cannot Remember the Past
After Sirajul Habib, an American youth and follower of Islam, sees displays of Nazi documents in Berlin, he wants to learn more about the Holocaust. In a later trip to Europe, he visits the Auschwitz Concentration Camps in Poland and is overcome by the enormity and scope of Nazi evil at Auschwitz I, the first site of the atrocities; and at Auschwitz II - Birkenau, where prisoners arrived in boxed rail cars.
“River Musings” is not only about the reclamation of the Willamette River that flows through Portland and the development of Waterfront Park, Portland’s gathering space. It is also about the Hide Naito family that ran a successful importing business; relocated to Salt Lake City during the Japanese internment; and returned to Portland later to enlarge their business and enrich the city with their philanthropy.
These are the special tenants of Jones’ home: “A hound of calm character, lazy and laid-back”—this is Jack Jones—and a fierce “ten-pound terrier, black and white, with bulging eyes”—this is Dory. As the dogs age, Jones is cognizant of her own droopy eyelids and graying hair, but as long as she is alive they will add more dogs to their household.
Tender and instructive, the narrative and descriptive essay “Married Sleep” offers the reader an inside look—with equanimity—at a wife and husband team who makes it through a daughter’s debilitating illness, a husband’s demanding work schedule, and a wife’s alcoholism and healing.
Just Places: Physical Spaces and the Stories They Tell about Justice, Terror, and Tragedy
An official NGO Observer at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, Will describes the exterior of the courthouse where the 911 conspirators are tried for capital crimes. Sitting on a dilapidated “out-of-service airstrip,” the low-slung building looks like a toolshed, but upon entering the building visitors witness “the world’s most sophisticated technology.” This space is not a symbol; it represents the physical implementation of justice. The question is: Can the Guantanamo military commissions offer a narrative “to reaffirm the country’s values and to offer closure”?
What is “Arrival Day”? Sookdeo writes about this public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago with a critical eye. Started in 1995 to celebrate 150 years of Indian arrival in Trinidad, the name was later changed to Indian Arrival Day. Does the “Indian” in the name ignore other ethnic groups if the country’s makeup “is reflected by colonization in every part”? The issue is more complex than at first glance.
Tadhg and the Seven Dragons: Story Two
It has been a year since the giant dragon Greatwing has made contact with eleven-year-old Tadhg. The boy is frantically turning the dragon-shaped pendant over and over—the one Miriam gave him last Halloween—hoping Greatwing will appear like he did the last time. On this stormy night the black tabby cat Dreyfus appears on the windowsill of Tadhg’s bedroom, pawing to be let in. Dreyfus announces that he and Miriam are leaving town and Tadhg must now help the dragons. Of course, Tadhg doesn’t understand the cryptic message, but before he can say anything Dreyfus disappears in a power blackout. The next morning on his way to school he hears thoughts coming from inside his head. Greatwing has arrived to take him on a mission. Tadhg will not make it to school that day and will instead fly with the dragon to land in a patch of heather in the Scottish highlands. The mission: To find Greatwing’s six cousins and be freed from the curse of the Others.
You can read Allotrope in one sitting; no, Allotrope compels you to read it in one sitting. The four characters—Yitzhak, Sleeping Bear, Arielle, and Sunny—form a multicultural elasticity that heightens as the story tightens and the mystery deepens. The characters each play a role but their synergy transcends their individual will, and the story unfolds in irony woven into the denouement. Taking from drama the literary device of foreshadowing, Fertik interjects clues and asides along the way in the dialogue and the myth at the story’s core.