book review

Ghostographs: An Album by Maria Romasco Moore

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By Charles Rammelkamp

Subtitled An Album, Ghostographs is like the memoir of an alternate universe. In her Author’s Note, Maria Romasco Moore mentions buying a Whitman’s Sampler box full of fading photographs of strangers at an antiques market in Altoona, Pennsylvania, when she was a child and imagining the lives of the people in the snapshots. That’s Ghostographs in a nutshell. The thirty-three short fictions that make up the book are all accompanied by the photographs that inspired them. Yet they all add up to a picture of a small town in post-industrial America, though with certain magical additions.

An example of how Moore’s imagination works is the story, “Aunt Beryl.” First, though, you must realize that there are a handful of aunts, as we learn in the story, “My Great Aunts,” accompanied by a photograph of five middle-aged women surrounding a child. “I had more of them than was strictly necessary,” she writes, displaying her sly sense of humor. “Everybody said so.”

Aunt Beryl is one of these aunts. The photograph that inspires her story shows two small children in the foreground, the black-and-white photograph overexposed as family photos tended to be back in the day, the faces washed out, hard to distinguish. The shadow of a woman in a hat stands before them; the sun behind her, her shadow shows a figure wearing a floppy hat. The story begins, “I’ve met her many times, but I couldn’t tell you what she looks like. I never once got a good look at her face.” She goes on to describe the floppy hat. “In my memories of her, it is the hat that stands out most. I would recognize that hat anywhere.” Indeed, the hat on the shadow figure hangs over each side of the face like forlorn donkey’s ears.

Moore sketches the town with its iconic landmarks – the abyss, a potent metaphor, like Hades in Greek mythology (“We were proud that a town as small as ours had an abyss of its own.”); the river that runs through the town. Back in the day, the river ran milk and people brought their glass bottles there to fill them. Then came the factories, and soon the milk was gone. In its place, molten glass, irregular jeans, clusters of caramel popcorn. And then the factories disappeared, and this indeed is how small-town America has evolved over time. This story is accompanied by a black and white snapshot of what appears to be a family swimming in a river.

“The River” is followed by “My Father,” with a photograph of a man standing in the river. “…my father made his living fishing for phantoms.” He “sold his ghost fish to the butcher, who knew how to prepare them….”
Thus Moore casually sneaks in references to her most potent theme – the haunting of the past that leaks into the present. And isn’t that what “an album” is? Take the photo album off the shelf, blow away the dust, look at the photographs of yourself and your family decades ago! Indeed, this is the secret of the title, Ghostographs – for just as “photography” literally means “writing with light,” these are the stories of ghosts caught by a camera lens.

It’s no surprise, then, that light and shadow, light and darkness are apt metaphors in Ghostographs. In stories like “Different Kinds of Light” and “Light” and “God in the Garden” we learn, via her grandfather, about the many kinds of light. (“Time is a kind of light, my grandpa told me,” she writes in the story, “Time.”) A girl named Tess, whose story is accompanied by an overexposed photograph of a little girl in a white dress, such that the girl glows, luminescent, is so radiant that “Moths migrated from miles around just to throw themselves at her…It hurt our eyes to look straight at her.” Later, Tess loses the light and in the children’s games of hide and seek, she is impossible to locate!

Three of the stories are entitled “Hide and Seek” and this is yet another of the threads Moore weaves through her collection. It’s easy to make the connection between visible and invisible, light and dark, the dichotomy of ghost and person in that pair of words.

Moore introduces a number of memorable characters, in addition to Tess. There is Lewis, a disdainful contemporary who grows in stature and at last becomes unrecognizable. There are the aunts, Edna and Ruth, Beryl and Millie, a woman named Hannah, the postman’s wife, who sends away for a mail-order baby. There is Rhoda, who adopts a baby pig, is rumored to suckle it at her breast. “Lewis saw her holding its front trotters in her hands, trying to teach it to walk on two legs.” (A photograph of a woman cuddling a pig accompanies this story.) There is Mabel, who “slept all summer and only woke up when it snowed.” And there are her father and mother and sister and grandpa.

The final story, “Ghost Town,” is almost elegiac in tone, accompanied by a photograph in which nothing can be clearly distinguished – only ghostly images. It’s about that unnamed hometown, which might be Altoona, Pennsylvania, but could just as easily be Potawatomi Rapids, Michigan, or a thousand others like them. “…they aren’t the people I used to know. The people I used to know are only ghosts.”

Maria Romasco Moore has a vivid and empathetic imagination. Her stories honoring that very real alternate universe are a delight to read.

You can find the book here: https://rosemetalpress.com/books/ghostographs/

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and Reviews Editor for Adirondack Review. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist(Apprentice House) and a chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts ( Main Street Rag Press). Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from Future Cycle Press.

 

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Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape by John Goode

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By Lynette G. Espositio

John Goode’s Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape published by Rain Mountain Press is an image-laden delight of poems that visualize, conceptualize and realize perception from different but common landscapes.

Bill Yarrow, author of Blasphemer and The Vig of Love says “John Goode’s poems are—all things wild and wonderful.”  The reader can see this clearly in his poem When My Father Took His Chainsaw into the Forest on page 30.
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                    the television died. 
                   Cartoons crawled across the carpet
                   and begged for more cereal. 
                   
                   The small angel of my life curled up
                    inside me. 
 
                   The sun dragged a generator across the sky
                   and the grass turned brown.
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The visual is so clear the reader wants to hug the narrator.  The poem continues with this sharp visualization of the setting, tone and timbre to reality-based images that set time and place into emotion.
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                   When my father took his chainsaw into the forest,
                    he cut the opossum
                   out of the encyclopedia 
 
                    He turned comic books
                    into woodchips and stone.
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This clear evaluation of a father by his young son depicted in the images chosen reveals a landscape of detail and emotion.

This continues on through the four parts of the 104 pages of poems followed by an interview with Goode where he discusses motivation and technique.

Goode continues to visualize and conceptualize his poems even in the titles from as simple as Unemployed to Elegy for a Tree in a Poem Written by a Young Woman Sitting at the Bar.  His poems, like his titles, vary in length. Some are one stanza and some are several pages. I find this detail of form gives support to the themes.  Most are free verse/blank verse in narrative form.  In the five stanza poem The Riot of Waitresses, the first lines set a contemporary situation: The girls at work are giving birth to televisions without doctors.  From page 87 to page 94, the narrator discusses the thwarted plans of women with their breasts trapped in their boyfriends’ hands like pigeons. Goode juxtaposes common images with an unorthodox landscape.  Breasts, boyfriends, pigeons…I love it.

The reader begins through the visualization to realize something special is happening.  Goode is able to make a point or points by choosing common understandings that expand out to fresh perceptions on how life works in suggestive images that conjure many interpretations.

The poems are consistently both interesting and surprising.  In A Note From My Boss on page 95, Goode uses the letter format and uses the salutary Dear Jude to make a point.

The first line gives real sarcastic attitude please wipe up the Lysol carcasses.  This memo to the boss ends with authority: Thank-you and no signature.  How impersonal is this as a reference to real life workers and how effective in a poem.  Thank-you, John….Yours Lynette.

Beauty and the Unrequited Landscape is available from www.rainmountainpress.com

Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.

Gothic Orange By Robert Milby

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A Guardian of Lost Legacies

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 By Karen Corinne Herceg.

In Robert Milby’s new chapbook, “Gothic Orange”, he fosters in us “the awe of eternal human history” (P. 5, l. 13), as he states so eloquently in “The Fossil Record, Catalogued by a Child.” He uses his home county of Orange in the Hudson Valley, New York region to create a microcosm of wonder and natural intelligence that informs both the local and wider landscapes of the world. Specific regional references correlate to universal knowledge through very personal perspectives, and Milby knows the minutia of the area as well as anyone. In stark and striking language, he writes with an antique authenticity, a pre-industrial mindset, and nostalgic yearning for a purer time of farms, fields, and the poetry of nature with “The sagacity of woodsmoke, grease/and ethers of the hayride of American history” (P. 10, ll. 10-11). He exhibits a remarkable ability to observe the environment with extreme patience and detailed specificity in the tradition of such great poets as Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Frost.

Milby reminds us that the ghosts of the past are integral to our shared history. They are ever present, but mostly obscured by modern noise and distractions that steal our rich heritage and the quietude required for reflection that enriches the imagination. We are overwhelmed by contemporary emphasis on commerce, capital, and our perceptions of compressed time. There is great irony in our emphasis on physical gain, loss, and success as opposed to what we miss on much deeper, spiritual levels:
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            Small village life, family secrets and scandals, useless to
            City folk, because in the end, the money cults prevailed. (P. 9, ll. 25-26)
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We are out of balance with nature and the very wonders that surround us. We bypass these gifts each day with our eyes transfixed on screens and superfluous messages. Meanwhile we forfeit the subtle, important wisdom that resides within our natural environment. Milby laments our lack of reverence for the natural world. He asks:

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           What is this motoring madness; distraction
           from the walk of life; song of Aurora’s heralds;
          whisper of a child at Dawn? (P. 18, ll. 10-11).
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There are very specific examples of our inability to acknowledge the disconnections we experience within our environment. Milby cares deeply and expresses this throughout his work.  We feel his deep sense of loss of a centuries old cottonwood in “The Balmville Tree,” cut down and disposable. He assigns an anthropomorphic persona to the tree that enhances the fact that this was a living, breathing entity: “Here he stood, a patriarch; a witness tree; over 300 years of/Hudson River story” (P. 13, ll. 2-3). And, again, in “Night Noise,” he employs a human element in a description of  “the parched and cracked skin of fields” (P. 16, l. 3).  Given our ubiquitous disregard for the importance and pre-eminence of nature, is it any wonder that a coyote would hide “from the heresy of humans”? (P. 26, l. 20).

Milby has a facility for examining humans and nature both in opposition and in communion. In “The King of the Frogs” he states: “I speak science truths one day, mythology the next” (P. 8, l. 17), evoking our ongoing conflicts and attempts to reconcile the mystical and the material worlds. He draws on his deep understanding of nature and extensive knowledge of both literary and world history to create an informed and nostalgic yearning, combining his wonder of the natural with ponderings of our many troubled interactions in the world. With wonderful, original lines like “the rails hiss like feral cats” (P. 10, l. 14-15), “wildlife gossip like human festivals” (P. 14, l. 17), and “Post partum rain” (P. 16, l. 1), he brings into focus the symbiosis of humanity and our indigenous environment. His connection to nature is intensely personal, and he integrates that connection with all aspects of art including painting, as in “The Field—for Vincent Van Gogh,” and with music in “The Grand Montgomery Chamber Series in Spring”:

            The artists spoke mythos through the piano. Forests rose,
            Surrounding the concert hall.
            Marshes and pastures permeated the parking lot.
            No breathing was labored as Chopin walked through the walls. (P. 4, ll. 10-13)
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 A visual image or auditory experience can evoke a direct association with elements of our inherent biological world. We have a legacy that is both ethereal and tactile, and nature is the bridge to that magical world through which we can “trace our organic past” (P. 5, ll. 1-2). There are “verses trapped in ancient stone” (P. 5, l. 8).

Milby is the Poet Laureate of Orange County, New York (2017-2019), an honor that is well earned and well deserved. He is the paterfamilias of poetry in the county and beyond it, encouraging and supporting his fellow poets, reading not only his own work but also promoting the work of others, hosting series and events since 1995, and publishing throughout the Northeast in many journals and anthologies. He is the author of four previous books of poetry and two spoken word CDs. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for his dedication, support and assiduous study of the ancient art of poetry that is so vitally needed in our modern world.

We may not ever reconcile the contradictions of human desires and intentions with the imperatives of nature, but we have poetry like Milby’s to prompt us to awareness and reflection so that we, too, might stop to reconsider our interactions and possibly make “a truce with/snowflakes” (P. 24, l. 19-20).

Milby, Robert. Gothic Orange.  New York: Printeks Reprographics, 2018. Copies available from the poet at:

robertjmilby@gmail.com     

Karen Corinne Herceg writes poetry, prose, reviews and essays.  A graduate of Columbia University, she has studied and read with renowned writers Philip Schultz, David Ignatow, John Ashbery and William Packard. Her latest book is Out From Calaboose by Nirala Publications (2017).  She lives in the Hudson Valley, New York.

Reader Picks for the Holidays 2018

 

The following list consists of 15 book reviews published in 2018 that have generated the most interest from our readers as of November 2018. Click the links and consider a purchase for your holiday gift giving.

Gessner

The Conduit and other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy by Richard Gessner

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/the-conduit-and-other-visionary-tales-of-morphing-whimsy-by-richard-gessner/

border

Border Crossings by Thaddeus Rutkowski

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/border-crossings-by-thaddeus-rutkowski/

mailer

The Gospel According to the Son by Norman Mailer

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/the-gospel-according-to-the-son-by-norman-mailer/

appearances

Appearances by Michael Collins

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/appearances-by-michael-collins/

young

The Infinite Doctrine of Water by Michael T. Young

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/the-infinite-doctrine-of-water-by-michael-t-young/

attic

A Look Back- Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/a-look-back-antic-hay-by-aldous-huxley/

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Leaning into the Infinite by Marc Vincenz

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/leaning-into-the-infinite-by-marc-vincenz/

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Monte Carlo Days & Nights by Susan Tepper

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/monte-carlo-days-nights-by-susan-tepper/

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The Gates of Pearl by Jill Hoffman

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/the-gates-of-pearl-by-jill-hoffman/

ornaments

Ornaments by David Daniel

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/ornaments-by-david-daniel/

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A Bright and Pleading Dagger by Nicole Rivas

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/a-bright-and-pleading-dagger-by-nicole-rivas/

thieves

Thieves in the Family by Maria Lisella

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/thieves-in-the-family-by-maria-lisella/

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Logos by Gil Fagiani

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/logos-by-gil-fagiani/

fire-without-light-copy

A Fire Without Light by Darren Demaree

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/a-fire-without-light-by-darren-demarre/

Lasater Philosopy of Ranching by Laurence M Lasater cover photo

The Lasater Philosophy of Cattle Ranching

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/the-lasater-philosophy-of-cattle-ranching/

 

 

Pavement by Rustin Larson

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By Lynette Esposito

Rustin Larson’s poetry volume, Pavement, is more than slim with only 14 poems but it is also more than powerful.  When I read the last poem on page 33, I wanted more; it can’t be over already.  I was left on the pavement struggling, visualizing and wishing I was not stuck in “nowhere.”  Larson’s tight focus, innovative literary technique, and clearly defined imagery lead the reader down his many forms of pavement.

Larson provides a tight focus on the image of pavement in each of his fourteen poems as well as entitling this tome Pavement.   Each poem is entitled Pavement with a number after it going from Pavement 1 to Pavement 14. This almost over focus works well here as the starkness of the multiple references and suggestions are revealed.  In Pavement 1, the narrator observes a man in a bathrobe smelling of urine coming into the health shop

where he has gone for a cup of barley soup.  The poetic lines are unevenly set up in length and indention which I like in the flow of this one-stanza poem.  The suggestion of a health shop where one can pay to be healthy but turns someone obviously unhealthy and desperate out to the pavement serves as irony at its best especially when the clerk goes to wash her hands after touching his bathrobe.

In creating his poems, Larson uses standard literary techniques and images in innovative ways.  Diane Frank, author of Canon for Bears and Ponderosa Pines comments …

Pavement breaks into new territory.  Larson, for example, says in Pavement 5, The Pallbearer has a rat’s tongue. So many suggestions of what this means almost assail the reader’s imagination and visualizations of funerals he/she has attended.  Just like Larson says in Pavement 4, Things we play with at home and mentions matches.  The settings of funerals and home are places the reader has been and felt secure in but the images take the readers out of that “comfort” zone. While Larson uses standard stanza formats, he fiddles successfully with line length and spacing to allow his meaning and images to form a visual of stepping and sidestepping on the underlying pavement.

Another example of Larson’s use of innovative imaging is In Pavement 13.   Larson says Part of you drinks sunlight.  This is a life story of a Norfolk Pine with a dream and hope about life. The metaphor extends beyond the seedling to anyone who has wanted to amount to something with the exception of being an overworked accountant.

All I can say is I loved this book and I am thirsty after reading it.  I want more.

Rustin Larson is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in writing. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review and others.  He is the author of Wine-Dark House (Blue-Light Press 2009) and Crazy Star (selected for the Loess Hills Book Poetry Series in 2005. He has also won many prizes for his work.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Pavement-Rustin-Larson/dp/1421837781

Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.

Sidebend World by Charles Harper Webb

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By Charles Rammelkamp

The title poem of Charles Harper Webb’s new collection is an apt metaphor for his poetic vision. “When I lean to my right, left arm stretched / over my head…” the poems begins: all sorts of fresh angles and relationships appear. “All cars / in the condo parking lot incline.” What else? “All waves / tilt as they roar toward shore….” Charles Harper Webb looks at the world from a unique perspective, reminding us of Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” With refreshing, original metaphors and vivid language, Webb tilts our vision as well.  And his poems are often just so funny!

Take the poem, “Rain Stick,” sprung from the contemplation of one of those long hollow tubes filled with pebbles or beans, pins arranged in the inside of the tube so that when you upend it, it sounds like rain, and “you feel released,

as if the clenched world has relaxed, yielding
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to tears, orgasm, the laughing relief that soaks you
when the lab test comes back negative.
Its reprieve, resuscitation, the stopped breath
re-starting before a single brain cell dies,
the baby splooching out as the uterus sighs.
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 And you thought it was just a stocking stuffer or a tchotchke! So many of the poems in Sidebend World – and throughout Webb ‘s work generally – spring from these casual observations of mundane objects we might normally overlook – “Dominion of Blue” about the Galapagan booby made famous by Charles Darwin; “Box of Butterflies” with its curious observations (“Monarch: orange and black Majesty to which I bowed, seeing you / flap, frantic, on my killing jar’s drenched throne.”); “Bait Ball,” a poem shaped like an ornament on the page, “Not really round, but / suitable for bouncing.” He notes later in the poem: “London, to the / Luftwaffe, was a bait ball.” “The Woman on the Cover of Glamour Magazine” “so full of tigress-in-bed- / and tyrant-in-the-boardroom.”

Of course, “monsters” and “heroes” both get a slightly different look, too, in Webb’s sidebend world. In “Here Be Monsters,” he dismisses Cave Bear, Saber Tooth, Scylla, Charybdis,  Dracula. “Now monster means the flippered child, / the protoplasmic blob.” “Monster’s // a murderer with bulging, jailhouse arms. / A job-search agency. An energy drink.”  Monster is the disfigured prom queen burned up in an accident with a drunk driver, the one “every boy wanted, just last year / to kiss.”  The poem, “You Don’t Want to Meet the Ai-Uru” takes another sideways look at a monster, and “Fear Factor,” a satire on Reality TV, similarly describes a rescue gone wrong, despite the hero’s “class-president grin.”

Which indeed takes us to heroes. In “Meanwhile, back on Mt Olympus…” we get Webb’s amusing take on Achilles and the limping god Hephaestus who makes his shield. In Webb’s sidebend world they seem like ordinary people, if only because he elevates us all to the status of “hero.” “Hero Food” riffs on an instruction from Food Styling for Photographers that is its epigraph. For although we need heroes more than the Greeks did, what we get is “Kenny Carrot leading the Allied Vegetables / against the merciless axis of Tooth Decay,” as Webb’s imagination takes us laughing all the way through a Homeric epic of the staging of a photoshoot for canned corn.  (Take “canned corn” in both senses!)

But he can also be empathetic in his sardonic way, displaying a real tenderness for his son. In “Emergency” we see him and his wife overcome with despair as they have visions of the boy’s life “leaking away” to some mysterious disease. “Barred / from the spinal test for meningitis  – “Can’t have fathers / passing out!” – I roam the halls, dodging other dads’ dead eyes.” In “Nice Hat” he watches his son trying to master skateboarding, knowing the boy is “too thought-bound ever // to dissolve into pure speed. The jabs of “I might / fall,” “I’ll look bad,” “It’ll hurt,” punch / through his guard, bloodying his nose….” Yet he protects his son from the “mohawked thug” who calls him “Dickweed.” How protective we are when we see our loved ones are so vulnerable!

The best of Webb’s poems are the ones like “A Far Cry from Eli Whitney” and “Down the Bayou” that start us out in one place but by the time they’re over have taken us someplace totally unexpected. ”Hey, The Sopranos / are on TV!” he writes in “Down the Bayou.” “Five minutes in I’m calling guys // “Frankie the Frog” and “Lenny Lasagna,” / swigging vino, yelling “Fugedabout it”…” and only a stanza later, having caught a snatch of “She Loves You” on the stereo, he’s “tromping / through cold Liverpool rain, winking at birds, / all of whom I’ve shagged, and now call Luv.

Sidebend World is Charles Harper Webb’s twelfth collection of poetry. Any of them will take you inside, outside, sideways down with, as one critic puts it: “compassionate intelligence and an abiding wonder at the beautiful strangeness of the world.” Amen.

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You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Sidebend-World-Poetry-Charles-Harper/dp/0822965615/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538521669&sr=1-3

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Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and Reviews Editor for Adirondack Review. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist(Apprentice House) and a chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts ( Main Street Rag Press). Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from Future Cycle Press.

Thank Your Lucky Stars by Sherrie Flick

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By g emil reutter

In this collection of short stories and flash fiction, Flick, displays her unique ability for seamless transition from urban to rural to suburban, often in the same story. Her use of metaphor and stunning imagery draws the reader into each story and unlike many collections of short fiction and flash fiction. This collection is like a fine quilt layered in a complex weave of unpredictable outcomes and character development.

She brings us Lenny the Suit Man who sells to millennials out of van, yet they are fine suits and his customers seek advice from the suit man. Flick tells us of the nickname, Sweetie Pie, in a flash fiction piece about infidelity that a woman bestows on her man when he finds an unknown sock in the his bed.

Flick writes in Birds in Relation to Other Things:

I remain in this small room. Her, it’s always dusty twilight. Our window pane is loose and cracked. It rattles with the breeze.

I talk softly into a coal-black phone after it has run twice. I listen to my voice. Reassuring. Reassuring. I put down the receiver.

You’ve gotten into an old car, a car in which you’re comfortable. You glance in the rearview mirror and drink juice from a bottle.

The birds have come to know me well. They trust me. They perch on my lamp, chair and ashtray. They are small and move quietly around my soiled clothes and hair, my dirty fingernails.

She writes of the polyester and plastic women of Las Vegas. And this from Pittsburgh Women:

When it’s dark, the women walk outside. They hear the clank of machines, the rattle of trains, the breeze tapping its way through every single tree. The women inhale with their hands on hips: they strike wooden matches to hold the flame to the fuses of fireworks, which pop and sizzle as they dart up into the night sky.

The story, Open and Shut, is about a young woman who moves from San Francisco to Nebraska. Flick in this defining story of the collection transitions from the urban to rural, from man to man, hipster to cowboy in such a seamless manner that the story flows like an uninterrupted breeze just above the stormy, gritty realism.

In this relationship driven collection she writes in the story, Snowed In:

So when he calls, leaving a message about forgotten coffee, he is already a thing of the past. The coffee is in the past—our morning, our voices, our life, it is back there in a different time. This time, on the other side, has little room for details.

In the story, Ashes, Flick displays her attention to detail and avoidance of cliché as in this passage from the story:

Up ahead, she sees red-black-and-flannel, someone in jeans walking along. Uncommon this early. Jocelyn has been studying the mosses and has strayed from the trail to climb a large rock with frilly, lacy green lining its top and side. Like carpet. She daydream about moving into the forest. Building a house that has trees soaring up through it and real moss carpet to dig her toes into.

These images as in all of Flick’s stories are fresh and relatable to the reader.

You can find the book here: https://www.autumnhouse.org/books/thank-your-lucky-stars/

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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/