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Hand Held Mirror of the Mind

The Handheld Mirror of the Mind


Stale Bread and Coffee



Finding Truth Through Poetry – A Review of The Handheld Mirror of the Mind

northeast times

Logan Krum of the Northeast Times reviews The Handheld Mirror of the Mind by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

The Handheld Mirror of the Mind by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri



Our poetry editor, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s fourth full length poetry collection, The Handheld Mirror of the Mind, is now available from Kelsay Books. You can find the book here:

What others say about The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:

Poetry of global dreaming. Life on earth is under threat and Diane Sahms-Guarnieri makes a poetic call for the survival of humans and all animal species, life on the endangered list. We are all connected and interdependent. Our past teaches us core lessons for the future. Now is the time to take action to preserve life on the global home we share. Diane’s poetry is a celebration of this life, inside and out.

—Martin Chipperfield, 34thParallel Magazine

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is a stunning wordsmith. In her collection, The Handheld Mirror of the Mind, we journey through themes of loss, grief, our shared humanity, and the complexities of the inner life. With great tenderness and lyricism, Guarnieri skillfully navigates these topics. Her graceful descriptions of the natural world provide a vivid magic, as if painting with words. In one poem, Guarnieri refers to stars, “as pinprick diamonds mined out of/night’s cave—luminous studs/riveted through black velvet.” She deals with death and the expectation of loss with care, infusing the life of nature, as in the line, “Your dusty voice rising as spirit leaving mimosa.” There is also great comfort, as in the refrain of the poem, “As long as a heart is beating someone is always alive.” While dealing with human struggles, this collection offers hope. Guarnieri invites us to honor all beings, all creatures, and all understandings of faith by joining together, “as global dreamers in coexistence.”

—Cristina M. R. Norcross, Editor of Blue Heron Review; author of Amnesia and Awakenings and Still Life Stories, among others.

“What does a heart know anyway?” Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s lucid and brave fourth full-length collection The Handheld Mirror of the Mind wrestles with this question, as love and loss pass as naturally as the seasons. Through elegy and aubade, the speaker turns her gaze inward, interrogating the darkness. However, as she sifts through memory’s wreckage, there are patches of light and hope, of song. As the speaker reconciles: “I carry their song inside my body,/inside rhapsody of thoughts….To them I sing this easy truth.”

—Emari DiGiorgio, author of Girl Torpedo and The Things a Body Might Become


The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:


Descanso Drive by Charlotte Innes



By Richard Nester


Charlotte Innes has dived into the wreck and returned to shore. I would say that she has brought back pearls but that suggests that there are pearls to be found. There aren’t always, a truth she is wise enough to know and delivers with an excellence that wins our attention. This is not to say that she has been unsuccessful, however. In one of the more remarkable poems of the book’s remarkable first section, “Seepage,” what she recovers is a “barnacle peace” a somewhat oxymoronic image that brilliantly sums up the central conundrum of survivorship, that healing requires revisiting. The poem deftly compares family events to natural ones and questions whether disasters in either realm can be overcome by the passage of time. The difficult answer to this question is no. An active agency is required in both cases and even then it may not succeed. In less skillful hands, the poem’s central conceit might have broken into pieces well ahead of this signal insight. But Innes does not fail us.

That she is conscious of these oppositions is clear. Witness the epigraph from Adrienne Rich attached to “My Silence” that holds that both words and silences are equally capable of lying. The poem recalls a sexual assault prevented only the intervention of a stranger, who is described as “tired,” a shadowy savior to say the least. But it does not begin with this recollection. The poem opens instead with a diary entry that startles Innes, not for what it says but for what it doesn’t say.  Innes finds the entry, made when she was a young girl at summer camp, gratifying in that it confirms creative gifts that she is proud of. However, the entry, for all its lyrical notice of the natural world, is false because it is silent about the day’s most crucial event, the violation that threatened her and that she was lucky to escape from, at least physically. Whether we ever fully escape the past is the true subject of the poem.

That the self may never be the permanent or trustworthy mooring that we might wish for is the revelation of “My Silence,” and it is this revelation that guides the book as a whole.  In fact, the self is as likely to hide in the familiar as it is to confront the painful. The book’s opening poem “The Moon in Theresienstadt” enacts this theme by means of a reversal characteristic of Innes, the ordinary becoming unfamiliar and even grotesque as the poet questions it. The poem tells us that “this week” the poet has produced seven poems in what she says is “a feverish rush” and asks, referring to the poems “where do they come from?” The answer that emerges from the juxtaposition of two moons, the one of “May 8” belonging to her ordinary life and the other of an earlier May in 1945 when her grandfather is liberated from the Nazi death camp at Theresienstadt, is that Innes’ poems arise from a compost of human suffering in which good and evil exist in terrible proximity.

She recounts in the opening stanza how the Nazis offer a masque of ordinary life—concerts and recipes and children’s paintings—to mask their crimes from civilized sight—theirs as well as ours. But the terrible always re-emerges. To read, as well as to create, is to participate, whether by choice or not. Her poems are a liberation, like the WWII “Liberation Day” experienced by her grandfather. They free us from what would be a more awful fate even than literal death, the cultural and communal death of not remembering. It is important to note how little Innes editorializes on why the Nazis permit the façade of ordinary life in the camps. My gloss editorializes far more than her poem. She reports instead, dwelling on how it was—not why it was—a stance that allows and encourages the reader’s psychic entry into her created space.

Assaultive change occurs again in “Death of a Carob,” a comic elegy for a beloved carob tree—beloved partly for its familiarity—cut down by the city because it is diseased. The tree is deeply missed but assumes a lyrical second life in the commemoration of its passing as its stump becomes a stage for the incongruous—a plaster bust of Beethoven and later an impromptu “arabesque” by a black-clad dancer. “Did someone pull a string,” she asks, and “flip joy my way,” proof for her that change can call forth joy as well as tragedy.

Innes’ individual lines are often small masterpieces. Consider the opening stanza of “Descanso Drive.” The rhythm of its stately opening sentence is like that of the neighborhood it introduces—easy iambs—that abruptly shift to a succession of trochees perfectly suited to their content “the speed limit’s shifted down from ten to five,” The deceleration is visceral. Moreover, the book’s title poem is elegant in its twists and turns. Like the street it honors, Descanso Drive, its surprises are doled out in carefully measured doses—the house that is often closer than one thinks, the woman and her dog, who seem like fixtures, until they’re suddenly gone. The tone, like the tone of “Kestral,” which immediately precedes it, is quiet, almost elegiac, and yet nothing is quite settled. Change, for better or worse, is always lurking.

Word play is a tool in this endeavor, and it is fully displayed in “Lashes,” another poem from the books consequential first third, where she calls attention to the similarity between “flesh” and “flush.” The poem’s poignant full title comes from another diary enter, this time the entry of a young boy in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. At times she comes dangerously close to mixing her metaphors in the first stanza of “Lashes” where the “mind” becomes “rain water,” the molecules of which turn into “guerillas.” However, these transformations are fine lines we walk with her, in a logic where permanence miraculously mixes with the provisional.

The Spanish poet Garcia Lorca spoke about the inadequacy of metaphor to touch the essence of experience, especially when the experience is laden with pathos. He says in one poem that “the blood ran into the street like . . . blood.” Innes employs Lorca’s understanding of metaphor and his caution many times in the course of Descanso Drive. In fact, one of her more persistent tropes is the undermining of her own tropes. However meticulously crafted her images, however expertly structured, her true subject is always the ineffable and the inarticulate, the tie between figurative and literal, joy and tragedy, the permanent and the provisional. Innes has an astonishing ability to arrest the mind, to not only capture our attention but also put it at rest, so that it willingly contemplates what it might otherwise find insignificant or unpleasant. Descanso Drive is well worth your attention.


You can find the book here:


Bio: Richard Nester has published two collections of poetry, Buffalo Laughter and Gunpowder Summers.






Tripping Over Memorial Day by David P. Kozinski

kozinski book
Review by g emil reutter
David Kozinski’s Tripping Over Memorial Day is a unique collection of poems combining urban grit and nature, of looking back and looking forward. In the poem Christmas 2010 Kozinski pens gentle realist imagery such as Half an hour before dark/there is no sailor’s delight on the horizon to The balm of forgetfulness/mutes the clang of language and in the last stanza, my father-in-law recites the gentlest hymn. /For him the most recent past dims/or disappears altogether/Our shaping moments/filtered, re-emerge into focus—His voice is quiet yet his observations are not sugar coated in this poem on aging.
In the poem First Christmas in Philadelphia Kozinski in the first three stanzas brings us into the grit of the city:  
Cut firs stood
in green fatigued
ranks on the corner
of the parking lot by the grocery
where gypsies hustled in the cold.
Every night the fire engines
roared down 44th Street
and teased
the news.
Forgotten are the reasons for this lullaby lush
with strings and sung clearly is paired
with finality of an abandoned
well, with the street smarted
calico I put to sleep
years later.
In a dark region
we are reunited, her white
fur gray with Sansom Street soot.
Into a Dark Land brings the reader face to face with immigration where only reflected light reaches corners/ baffled voices seep/through windowpanes and doorframes…the weight of sunrise and dusk/is an overcoat thrown off/and wings once dropped like sere leaves/unfold in a wakening field.
From the second stanza of Bailing:
my ancestors slip
in and out of trunks and portholes,
between the ribs and around the pipes;
            step on my tubes
of cobalt blue and mars black
with clodhoppers and grind
my bloodiest pencils into mud:
What Happened In Europe.
In Tripping Over Memorial Day he brings us into the muck in the last stanza with vivid images: It was swampy as Delaware/gets– dark, rubbery snakes/along the embankment, the river backing up like a clogged drain/birds restless in the dead air/under clouds that wouldn’t rain—a sermon proper for the abattoir.
Kozinski is an artist as well as a poet. He has given us a collection poems of not just words but of word painted from the palette of poet who has lived a full life and has keenly developed images such as this from the second stanza of Visitor:
Into the woods on a searing
summer morning it played
with reflections of overhanging boughs
and with my numbing hands
cupped so long in the slow motion water;
trailed across the sloppy stones
onto the mossy little island
I claimed as my own.
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

The Way Back by Joyce Meyers

the way back
Review by David P. Kozinski
The title of Joyce Meyers’ first full-length book of poems points to the various journeys that the contents convey. The Way Back (Kelsay Books) presents tableaux of travels to other lands, through history and life’s challenges in language that is mostly spare and straightforward and always elegantly rendered.
The book begins where life on Earth began, in “Water”, then touches on evolution in “Darwin’s Finches” and “Beginnings” and sojourns briefly in ancient history, as well as in the studios and lives of artists like Michelangelo and Frida Kahlo. Meyers explores family history and relationships, celebrations of life and the challenges of aging and facing death, nature and the threatened environment with clarity and precision, through a consciousness well aware of the ephemeral nature of everything we can see and touch, cherish and imagine.
The personal and specific lead the reader to contemplations of universal subjects, with careful attention to the music of words. The first stanza of “Cooking School” reads
                        Here you learn to peel
                        yourself like an onion. Start
                        with the skin, translucent,
                        crisp as parchment.
Later, the Tuscan chef guides the narrator’s fingers, “as I shape the pasta dough / in the shadow / of my mother’s hands.” Her mother, aging and frail, waits far away, “hands fluttering in her lap / like broken wings.” In “Nursing Home” the narrator surprises her mother with a plate of shrimp cocktail and olives. The poem concludes
                        Too much, she says
                        before she eats it all.
                        When we wheel her back
                        to the day room, she grabs
                        my hand and won’t let go.
The strong sentiments, familiar to those who have experienced parents’ decline, are deftly conveyed through images of hands and without sentimentality.
“Impermanence” is both the title of a poem in The Way Back and a theme that streams through it. The poem begins, “opening the door to morning / the sky rinsed clean // the shroud of grief lifted / by the wind” and touches on the cycles that have long fascinated scientist and poet alike: “yet you were once / a mountain, a star // and will be again.”
Poems like “Aubergine” and “Ajar” deal with the nature of existence – its impermanence and fragility. In the former, we find the narrator preparing ratatouille on a winter morning with Mozart playing on the radio, but are abruptly pulled from the tranquil scene in the second stanza, which presents a neighbor, assaulted by her son, facing, “a choice between his intolerable behavior / and the impossible side effects / of the only drug known to control it.”  The contrast of the two stanzas is echoed within the end of the second, starting with violence in Israel and “a glimpse / of how it will be when that tinder box ignites,” and concludes by letting us know that, during that same week, the narrator “fell in love again / and again with my husband.” Despite living in a world that knows much horror and sorrow, she will serve the ratatouille to her grandson, hoping it will help him forget for a while his parents’ divorce and later, practice dance steps she and her husband are learning as, “We take our nourishment where we can.”
Set at the end of December, “Ajar” offers an image of a door that may be “opening or closing, / poised to shut in or set free.” The third-person narrator notes how
                        … A new year
                        waits like a two-headed
god hovering undecided
which way to turn, like words
that would change everything
yet hang unsaid …
In a dynamic world, nothing is as fixed and clear as we might wish it.
                        … We think we know
                        what we are. A river
                        caught by a camera will never
                        be that river again …
The poet leads us through her husband’s successful bout with cancer, through eye-opening travels to Russia, Kenya and Thailand, and arrives at “East”:
                        I keep going east,
                        pulled toward the place
                        where morning springs,
                        where the sun sleeps at night.
The journey proceeds from place to place and through time, “past ancient monuments / to ego and engineering,” and past China’s Great Wall – a wonder of the world that nevertheless could not resist the world’s intrusions. Seeking wisdom, the narrator wants “to follow the sun back / and back, all the way / to its mother’s womb, bow / to her in gratitude for light // and warmth…” She longs to ask this mother, “why stars and species // must be born to die,” and why nothing “travels faster than light / but thought,” and “what happened / before time began.”
Many poets have tackled important subjects, and some have been able to do so while balancing the extremes of experience with the quotidian, but few have the ability to illuminate the profound with such concision, and through such original and natural-sounding language. Meyers accomplishes this and more in The Way Back. The poems resonate long after the book is closed.
David P. Kozinski’s first full-length book of poems, Tripping Over Memorial Day (Kelsay Books) was published in January. He won the Delaware Literary Connection’s 2015 spring poetry contest and the Seventh Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, which included publication of his chapbook, Loopholes. Publications include Apiary, Cheat River Review, Philadelphia Stories, Rasputin.