Lynette Esposito

City Poems by Mbarek Sryfi

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By Lynette Esposito
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In ninety-four pages of poems that range from light hearted ironic observation to serious reflection, Mbarek Sryfi presents a world of contemplation.
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The volume has two sections, The Trace of a Smile and City Poems.  The first section presents poems that have just a light touch of humor.  The second section of poems are more serious in nature and tone.
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On page twenty-six and twenty-seven in the first section, Sryfi asks a question in the title: Where the Hell do the Birds go in War, anyway? While the title evokes a sly smile from the reader, the poem is serious about the shocks of war.  Sryfi shows a mother in her red PJ’s sitting on the step with her daughter in blue PJ’s.  Her eyes are vacant.
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                     Under the sign sits the young mother in her red PJ’s
                     And blue blanket.
                     Hazel eyes,
                     Empty gaze.
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                     Her little daughter in her blue PJ’s
                     Rummaging in a plastic bag.
                     Leftovers.
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The scene has been set. The aftermath of a bombing focuses on a mother lost in thought holding a tin cup begging for money. The images of desperation and loss of hope in this eleven-stanza poem–some stanzas only one line–is clear and poignant. The last stanza has the mother becoming aware of where she is and her reaction.
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                      “Merci” she whispers
                       Without looking up.
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Sryfi’s poem is powerful and clear.  He is skilled in form and strong in powerful line breaks.  He sets the contrast between the morning coffee and the bakery and the woman sitting on the step in such a way the reader feels the despair at the same time smelling the morning coffee from a nearby shop. The common language works well here and the poem succeeds in presenting the leftovers of war.
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Throughout the book, poems vary in size, form and theme.  One of the short but interesting poems in the second section is The Autistic Child on page sixty-six.  This three-line poem sets the scene with the title and gives the reader a clear view of a child wanting to communicate but can only use his eyes.
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                      He stood there gazing.
                      His tongue helpless
                      But words dripping from his eyes.
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Although the poem is short, it is so direct that the reader can almost see the silence. This experience with an autistic child is realistic and tugs at one/s heart.
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On page seventy-eight, Till the Last Sound Ceases to Exist is a one-stanza, fourteen-line poem that is enhanced at the beginning with a quote from Eric Sellin: “History may well be a matter of one’s relative age.” The poem is unrhymed and conversational.  The narrator begins I like listening. The poem addresses the skill of listening and the artistry of sound. But, again, Sryfi has used his title to telegraph what he is really talking about and the last line brings it home.
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                     What you ought to do is just wait for death.
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Although the poem speaks of listening and sound, the message is more somber.  If there is no one to listen, there is no sound.
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Sryfi uses many poetic technics throughout this volume including quotations from other authors, translations, mixed-line and stanza lengths as well as creative images. The book is interesting and has a freshness to it.
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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.
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Danish Northwest/Hygge Poems from the Outskirts by Peter Graarup Westergaard

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By Lynette Esposito
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In Peter Graarup Westergaard’s Danish Northwest/Hygge Poems from the Outskirts, the reader is drawn into the forms and themes as easily as reading a folktale.
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The volume shows the “hygge” in its various aspects as practiced in the outskirts of Denmark. The poems are a translation from a Danish dialect called thybomal. Westergaard collaborated with the Irish poet,
Mary-Jane Holmes, to bring this volume to fruition.
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The tome is divided into three sections: Past, Present, and Future. The preface sets the tone by offering the history of Hygge, and, also, acknowledges English/Irish authors such as William Butler Yates, Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon as well as Danish poets Jens Peter Jacobsen, Johannes V. Jensen, Steen Steensen Blicher and Knud Sorenson. 
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Westergaard says the poems in the book are seen through both the lenses of the Danish and English tradition.
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The section of Past deals in thirty-four pages of poems, with things remembered such as My Father’s Farm on page three and First Love on page twenty-three.  My Father’s Farm sets a time and place and a poetic tone for this section.  It is a one-stanza poem with twelve lines and no end rhyme.  The poem sections his father’s hectares by good and bad soil and where it lies in the east and west.
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            ….my father’s thirty-nine hectares
            divided almost equally between good and bad soil:
            to the west of Vilsbel Plantage lay moorland,
            to the east: dark and loamy earth his own father
            cursed…
The poem details the life of a man tilling infertile soil until his own body gives out and he realizes the truth that the next generation, his children, are making a different choice.  It is a powerful poem of change, not only to the past as the narrator presents it, but to the present and future.
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In the second section called Present. Westergaard focuses on what is being experienced currently.  He presents nine poems including Thisted Antiquarian Bookstore on page thirty-nine.  One finds this fifteen-line three- stanza poem set in a narrative voice both engaging and sincere.
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           In Thisted Antiquarian Bookstore
           in Storegade, I found some poems
           by the Chinese poet Po Chu-I.
           In his poems you don’t need
           to consider our differences.
           All over the planet you can
          watch the same sunrise–
 
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The chosen poem from the bookstore suggests unity and equality from a simple observation/image offered to all on
a daily basis.  In this poem and in this section, the focus is on time and place as well as the disbursement and displacement of time.
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In the final section, Future, Westergaard uses three poems to depict the possible loss of Hygge.  In the poem,
Losing Hygge on page 49, the reader senses the anticipation of loss.
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        We can no longer avoid the white
         crepe of snow building the night
         or the way ivy twists away from itself.
         Only the right constellation of stars
         Can unbind the fog that grips us.
 
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The images, although a bit on the negative side, work well with the concern of change.  The two-stanza poem turns into a love poem as the narrator beseeches his lover to revisit remembered and beloved locations on the Danish sandy soil.  The poem succeeds both as a suggestion of the future and a remembrance of the past.
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This small volume could work well in any language.  The varied themes and images reach out and embrace the reader.
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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.
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Dead Shark on The N Train by Susana H. Case

By Lynette Esposito

Released in June 2020 by Broadstone Books,  Dead Shark on the N Train by Susana H. Case is one of those volumes of poetry that reaches beyond the pale to explore gender. sexual politics and violence. The poetic range in this seventy-nine- page tome of poems is broad and compelling.
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Case divides the volume into three sections: Living Dolls, Crime Scenes, and Storm Clouds.  Each section carries the theme of the titles. For example, the poem Diva (After Maria Callas) on page five in The Living Dolls section explores the roll of an expensive and talented mistress who must sneak in a side door to see her dying lover. The poem is in two stanzas with the first stanza dominating in length.  The poem speaks of a songstress being forced to sing since she was a child and turning from it to love.  The first stanza ends with the power play of one lover over another.
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                        If the man you love leaves you
                        to woo the most famous woman in the world
                        because she represents America—more
                        refined and even thinner than you—you’ll hole up
                        in your apartment until he begs you
                        to take him back, threatening to crash
                        his Mercedes into your building if you won’t.
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The poem clearly represents the woman on the side who must sneak into the place where he is dying and calls herself his canary with her voice cracking on high C. The poem is successful in both implied and literal images that tells a story both of love and betrayal.
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In the Crimes Scene section, Jane Doe a short three-stanza poem on page thirty-seven, mixes the image of the unknown female cadavers who are tagged with the name Jane Doe with a Smith who is only a Smith a per centage of the time.  In the second stanza, aggression is hidden in the linen clarifies the situation. The third stanza of the poem is powerful in referencing the fragmented lives women lead– coordinated but undefined.
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                               Fashionable teal and beige heels
                               at the foot of the bed.
                               Matching jacket on the chair.
                               Under the blanket, who is she really?
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The stanza shows the image of a woman who outside of the bedroom presents one image but really is nothing more than a Jane Doe when protected by the bed clothes. Or is she?
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In the final section, Storm Clouds, her title poem is presented on page fifty-two, Dead Shark on the N Train. The narrator speaks of a dead fish being admired then left behind on the subway to smell it up.  Tongue in cheek, the narrator says nothing surprises New Yorkers.  The poem then turns to a confession of how the narrator escaped the place she grew up but only makes it across the river.  This is a clever way of showing how connected we are and that somehow, we don’t stray too far. The reader then sees a picture of not a dead fish on the N but a man on #1 who has a heart attack and dies. His corpse rode the loop.
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If life is about a journey, both the fish and the man were involved with a major difference, one was noticed and the other was not.
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                                 .. .Like a man
                                  in his habitat, he seemed to be napping
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The poem is effective in its presentation of human nature in an everyday setting with an ironic twist.
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I enjoyed this book.  Case takes a consistently fresh approach no matter what subject she addresses.  She has a light touch but profound meaning in her poetic work.
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You can find the book here: www.BroadstoneBooks.com

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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.

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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.

Daphne and her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

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By Lynette Esposito  

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Jane Rosenberg LaForge writes of Daphne and her Discontents
in her 78 page poetry volume published by Ravenna Press.
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LaForge explores the mythology of the minor goddess Daphne changed into a tree by her father so she would be protected from Apollo’s carnal desire. She interprets the perception of protection versus punishment as she exposes her own life through Daphne’s transformation and her own changing life.
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In the poem, Introducing  Daphne. LaForge directly links herself to Daphne.
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                       The myth I have chosen to explain
                       myself rests in oil and marble:
                       One incontrovertible at its final
                        arrival, the other capable of separation
                        into terraces, an archaeological
                        rendering of lime, and flavor.
                       That was me, once, before I changed
                       To outrun my fidelity and desire;…
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She ends the poem with the words, conservator’s suffocating power. She intertwines
the examination of her feminine self and the protection that smothers her.  The tone and images presented in the poem work well with the subject matter.  LaForge has a light but clear touch in revealing her message (s) to the reader.
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All through the book LaForge accomplishes this strong approach.   In Mount Olympus II, she writes: We should have met in air as the tops of trees do.  The image is lovely and presents a clear visual.  It excites the imagination to look up and see the tops of trees moving in the breeze and touching each other like lovers.
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She writes in Pre-Daphne, Before my father turned me into a tree, I was fire and all the atomic numbers…. She suggests that she was not born the way Daphne became. The father changed her into a vehicle that would offer her protection but he basically changed her into an unmovable structure…no longer what she was.  She was “hands” and “feet”
but no more. I like her use of body parts to suggest the whole.
Throughout the book, the presentation of a transforming Daphne is used over and over but always fresh.  In the poem Danger Prone Daphne, LaForge writes,
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                                Daphne will always need
                                Rescuing, by saints, or angels
                                 Or contemporary females of
                                  no consequence, because only
                                 they can acknowledge the expediency
                                in her deliverance…
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She acknowledges at the end of the poem that I am Daphne, and why.
The volume is well focused and presents images that are both fresh and interesting. Her last poem, Post- Daphne, she acknowledges, I did not fit the myth over and over again like a kind of slacker Sisyphus: It is a fitting end poem pulling together the myth of a goddess and a living poet.
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Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s have been published extensively on line and in print.  Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She is a former journalist and college teacher, and lives in New York with her husband and daughter.
 For information on this paperback volume go to ravennapress.com.
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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.
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Hap & Hazard and the End of the World by Diane DeSanders

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By Lynette Esposito

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Hap & Hazard and the End of the World by Diane DeSanders is a 286 page novel written from the viewpoint of a young girl trying to understand the adult world around her.

Set in Texas during the 1940’s, innocence is challenged by situation, choice and misunderstandings.  The observations of the young narrator draw a clear picture of how a youngster can see but not understand the mysteries of adults, their issues and the choices they make.

It is difficult to sustain the strength of the storyline when it is presented from the viewpoint of a juvenile but DeSanders does an adequate job for the most part. She is creative with her chapter titles which serve as guides to the points made and symbolic messages suggested. For example, Lone Star Oldsmobile and Cadillac is the first chapter title and the situation involves a car ride with our narrator in the backseat and her father driving. In the chapter, I Call Him Nathan, the narrator details a friendship with a boy who is a foster child whose choices are not very good and the adults who choose to turn him out.  In the final chapter, The Bullfrog, our young narrator tries to interpret the frog’s situation allegedly trapped in a chlorinated swimming pool and relate it to her understanding of reality.

 DeSanders places the narrator in family situations where, while she is present, the adults do not really notice her and talk more at her than to her. The young girl details the happenings to the reader without realizing the complexities of what is going on.  It is as if the reader is in the room and is reviewing, with the narrator, the mundane family happenings and the stark loneliness\ of some of the characters. The characters exhibit much psychological pain in their reactions to every day life and our young narrator is confused as to why the adults around her are acting as they do.

Although this is not a novel about solutions, it is a novel about situations that are common to the majority of average people who have hopes and dreams often unrealized.It is a novel about the vulnerability of childhood and all of us.

DeSanders is a fifth generation Texan and a history buff.  This is her first novel.

She also has an active interest in the theater arts and sings in New York. The paperback is published by Bellevue Literary Press. For information on their titles go to blpress.org.

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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.

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Single Woman by Dell Lemmon

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By Lynette Esposito

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In the Mudfish Individual Poet Series number 10, Dell Lemmon presents Single Woman, a collection of confessional style poems using images from everyday living to represent a lifestyle and a life.
The 105 page paperback is divided into five parts.  The poems range in subject matter to include dogs, cats, dolphins and the sewers of Paris from the viewpoint of a woman revisiting her perspective of her own life and the suggestion of how others evaluate her.
The poems are mostly free verse using images the narrator chooses from locations and situations such as when she babysat in France to when her mother died and she inherited her coats.  The use of everyday language is appealing and the clarity of presentation helps the reader appreciate how symbolic daily incidents can be.
In her poem, Yankee Candle, Lemmon explores the usually dreaded doctor’s appointment where one faces an honest truth about one’s body.
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          At my bi-annual doctor’s check-up, my doctor told me only a few more
          Ponds and I would officially be obese.
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She proceeds in the poem to detail weight gain and the why of it.  The poem has more a sense of rebellion rather than resignation as she speaks of pecan pie.

The poems are conversational in nature as if the narrator is not only talking to herself but also to the reader.   In her poem, Congratulate Yourself, she talks about the things you promise yourself when you were child:  I wanted to live without lying…I wanted to live without hurting other people.  She addresses the issue of failing.

If you like poems that border on prose and images that suggest complexity through simplicity, this is an enjoyable poetry collection .

 You can find the book here: Single Woman

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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.

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