Lynette G. Esposito

Blue Swan Black Swan – The Traki Diaries by Stephanie Dickinson

blue swan

By Lynette G. Esposito

Stephanie Dickinson has cleverly used the prose poem form to reflect diary entries of a tragic narrator.  Published by The Bitter Oleander Press of Fayetteville, New York, the sixty-six- page tome is strong on place, emotion and image.

The book has five sections which are characterized by places.  The five sections:  Salzburg. Vienna, Berlin, Galicia, and Grodek.  Dickinson adds time as well as place in the titles and a linear time line throughout until you reach the final sections of 1914.  She also uses a linear time technique in Salzburg, 1887 where she details personal items about George Traki, 1887-1914. that influences the poetry being presented.

On page fifteen, Dickinson begins her two- stanza prose poem with The Linden trees take on a wilt.  The tone is set. The second stanza begins, Morning drags on. Again, Dickinson combines poetic skill in linking place with time.  All through this first poem are details setting the scene presented as if these are diary entrees that are logical, emotional and personal.  This first poem captures the reader completely.

The tone changes in the second section called Vienna and the time is 1909.  The first poem in this section on page twenty-nine is The Wine-Hunt.  It is a one-stanza poem that begins: Vienna, 1909.  Two days asleep.  Dickinson’s narrator gives time and action as if it is a notation to the self. The narrator speaks of extreme drunkenness and a sky full of piss.  The poem reads like a self evaluation of one’s condition and in this poem, the self- evaluation is negative.  The narrator puts his fingers to his nose and smells the piss. Dickinson skillfully causes the reader to not only see the narrator’s condition but to relate to it through the senses.

In the third section, Berlin, the poem Snow on page forty-one begins 1912. Tavern night and the serving girl’s shoulders sag….  Again, Dickinson has placed the reader as both the observer and as participant in this one- stanza poem.  This sweet girl nudges the narrator out into the snow and the many cruel things that happen to a drunk in the cold.

All the poems in this book are prose poems of different lengths but written with great detail and sensitivity. The book is an interesting and complicated read but worth it.

You can find the book here: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781734653519/blue-swan-black-swan-the-trakl-diaries.aspx

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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Summer Reading Recommendations 2021

Top ten book reviews based on readership of North of Oxford

scott

A Little Excitement by Nancy Scott

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/a-little-excitement-by-nancy-scott/

erotic

Erotic by Alexis Rhone-Fancher

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/03/01/erotic-by-alexis-rhone-fancher/

danish

Danish Northwest/Hygge Poems from the Outskirts by Peter Graarup Westergaard

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/danish-northwest-hygge-poems-from-the-outskirts-by-peter-graarup-westergaard/

red rover

Red Rover Red Rover by Bob Hicok

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/red-rover-red-rover-by-bob-hicok/

RAZOR WIRE

Razor Wire Wilderness by Stephanie Dickinson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/05/01/razor-wire-wilderness-by-stephanie-dickinson/

American Quasar CoverA Camera Obscura Cover

American Quasar by David Campos / A Camera Obscura by Carl Marcum

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/06/01/american-quasar-with-poems-by-david-campos-and-art-by-maceo-montoya-a-camera-obscura-by-carl-marcum/

world

The Likely World by Melanie Conroy-Goldman

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/the-likely-world-by-melanie-conroy-goldman/

HunleyCov

Adjusting to the Lights – Poems by Tom C. Hunley

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/03/01/adjusting-to-the-lights-poems-by-tom-c-hunley/

savant

The Philosopher Savant Crosses The River by Rustin Larson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/03/01/the-philosopher-savant-crosses-the-river-by-rustin-larson/

come

Come-Hither Honeycomb by Erin Belieu

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/come-hither-honeycomb-by-erin-belieu/

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Sonnets by Theresa Rodriguez

sonnets
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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In Sonnets, published by Shanti Arts Publishing in Brunswick, Maine, Theresa Rodriguez executes the Shakespearean form and other sonnet forms in a delightful variant of topics.
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The seventy-five pages of sonnets explore universal themes from love and loss to desire and faith. On page seventeen, Rodriguez presents a Spenserian Sonnet in which she acknowledges she is new to the form.
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          Another form of poetry for me:
          The Poetic forms concrete, sublime, refined;
          Another type of sonnet flowing free:
          The product of a careful, studied mind.
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As with other endeavors in this poetic volume, she addresses what it is to write as well as the intellectual discipline to write in a particular form.
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         In joyous new discovery do I find
        The puzzle-solving mental different way;
        Creative energy will flow in kind
        In all that I can do, and write, and say.
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The next quatrain addresses the complexity of staying in form almost as if there is a fight between the writer and the words as she works to fit the words into their rightful places.
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        If every word would thus obey
       The many thoughts that full within me spring,
       Then I could make a miracle today,
       And I would birth a brand-new thing.
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Rodriguez skillfully keeps control of the form and pulls it together with the final couplet.
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         Oh, could I create a worthiness in this:
         That not a word would here appear amiss.
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To write in a particular form, a writer must always be aware of the rules.  To marry content into the verse that has particular rules, requires the writer to have both discipline and focus.  Rodriguez displays both all through the book.
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In her Petrarchan Sonnet on page eighteen, Rodriguez, in two stanzas and the standard fourteen lines, honors Petrarch and humbles herself to achieve the form. On page twenty-nine, Rodriguez speaks of unrequited love in her poem You’ve Made it Clear.  She says in the poem:  I know that love is never made by force and ends the poem with
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          For though I’ve longed for you in every way,
          I also love enough to stay away.
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The poem succeeds in a traditional theme of desire and loss.
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On page sixty-seven, Rodriguez addresses how the young lose faith in The Prayers of Youth.
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          The prayers of youth begin with fervent heat,
          And all the passions of a lover’s love,
          And all the ardor of an earnest sweet,
         Excited faith, transcendent from above.
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She follows the theme through the aging process as youthful faith cools and the ardor diminishes.  The sonnet is successful in presenting the changes as youth matures and perceptions adjust to a different way of thinking. The couplet closes the poem with a plea.
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        Oh, keep me on the warm and lighted way
       That you might fan me when I go astray.
It is interesting that the ending couplet gives direct address to a higher power with a passionate prayer.
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If you are a lover of the sonnet form, there is plenty in this tome to enjoy.  I found Rodriguez dealt a little too much on her involvement in discovering various forms of sonnets and her self- awareness of her reaction to the various sonnet forms.  Overall, reading and re-reading. the book was an enjoyable exercise in sonnet exploration.
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You can find the book here: Sonnets
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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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High Tide by Ed Meek

 
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The surf is certainly up in Ed Meek’s High Tide published by Aubade Publishing. Nina Rubenstein Alonso, Editor of Constellations, a Journal of Poetry and Fiction, comments that “Ed Meek’s poems pull us in with such clarity that you don’t feel the pain at first, almost like a painting you need to study until you see what’s waiting in the shadows, that scarred figure, it’s history.”
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High Tide makes the reader feel like he is swimming in the shallows, safe, unaware of the images of sharks like dark gothic beings waiting to prey on your intellect.  The poems open on one path, then deliciously lead down another one you did not expect. For example, the first poem in the book on page one, Hamock, details notes that Columbus took.
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                 Mayans carved them from the bark of trees
                 Columbus noted in his diary.
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Meek skillfully uses the title to define “them” and holds a conversational tone all through this twenty-six line, one- stanza poem.  Meek details the wonderful leisurely activities of using a hammock through the first fifteen lines of the poem then speaks of A promise I usually fail to keep as the poem reaches a turning point.  The tone of the poem becomes more somber and the narrator becomes like a spider in a web suspended above the earth dreaming of things he did not do and the Mayans half asleep before Columbus washes ashore.  It is a powerful poem with many suggestions.  
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This highly skilled author shows this strength throughout the book.   In the poem on page seventeen, Praise for Ponytailed Girls Who Run, Meek presents a nice setting and visual and makes a subtle comment on what is alive and what is not alive using hair as his metaphor.
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          I love to see them bouncing past
          on the balls of their feet—
          hair pulled back to flaunt
          flawless skin, flashing
          arms from T-shirts, legs
          in short shorts, multi-colored,
          incandescent shoes.
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In this three- stanza, free-verse poem, it is clear the narrator’s admiration has reconstructed a view of beauty.  The third stanza turns to the hair.
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        And the hair, lovely,
        surely not dead
        but vibrant with life and light
        as it sways and bobs
       like a rope swings in the wind above the water.
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Meek has turned the vision of a young girl running into a comment on how life is perceived.
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While some poems span more than a page, Meek is also able to project deep meaning in very short poems.  On page seventy-eight, the three- line, one-stanza poem,  The Last Game, demonstrates Meek’s ability to see and translate images into profound interpretation.
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        When you die, you will slide
        under the tag at home.
        dust rising in the air.
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The assumption that we all die is, of course, clear, but to become dust and rise in the air at home, gives one pause for thought when housekeeping.
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Hide Tide is a thoughtful book of complex poems that range from the ordinary to extraordinary in both themes and images. It is not a book one would read in a single setting but a little here and a little there allowing time to digest.  It was a pleasure to read.
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High Tide is available from Aubade Publishing at https://aubadepublishing.com/books/high-tide/ 
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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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The Philosopher Savant Crosses The River by Rustin Larson

savant
By Lynette G. Esposito 
 
The Philosopher Savant Crosses the River published by New Chicago, reveals Rustin Larson’s sense of place, time and sense of humor in almost eighty pages of artistically controlled poems.
 
In, By Greyhound with Grandmother on page nine, the reader is immediately invited onto the bus with a safe companion.  Larson skillfully sets the scene with the title before he reveals the details in the text of the seven- stanza poem.
 
Quarters slid into the vending machine.
   It’s good to have a town in mind in California
        when you speak of death.
 
The scene is set, the location is clear and the action of eating from a vending machine shows the reader the circumstance.  But death? 
 
Subliminal messages: deviled ham
     On white bread.
           My grandmother handed me half.
 
The poem triggers the narrator’s memories of sound, taste and color. He mentions his grandmother again so the reader knows the narrator is with a safe traveling companion.
 
The ending, however is a surprise since there is a tone of calm and nourishment.  After remembering the taste of a drink that spoke of sunset and tasted like kisses, the last line brings an image of colossal meaning of his feeling for his grandmother and her role in his life.
 
My grandmother hugged me
 
The way a mountain hugs stone.
 
The poem is written in three- line stanzas except for the last line that stands alone.  The visual of the two traveling companions is built into a remembrance and an accolade for the safe feeling being with Grandmother.  This artistically transports these images into the universal feelings and observations one has of a protector.
 
On page twenty-one, the narrator is in second grade and speaks of First Love.  This is a time of innocence and surprise. The three-stanza poem shows a young boy discovering desire and longing.
 
In second grade, I stuck my paste-stiffened mittens on Donna Owen’s shoulders, then choked on my saliva.
 
The poem ends with:
…….The whole
 
tree quivered as it swallowed it down.  The goddess walked flowing
in silk.  She would take her chances.  The cool air shattered and sang.
 
The images are descriptive and lovely as this young second grader discovers the fleeting deep emotion of young love.
 
On page eighty, the poem, Neruda, demonstrates a wry twist life has. All is good in the five stanzas until the last line.
 
Neruda had the goddess scarf
     dangle what was over all
           in heaven again pounced
 
in a roar around the microscope
       about what the devil said.
 
The evangelist, red,
     complaining, is lit
         with Neruda’s returning,
 
white and blue, by the way,
     with happy people.
I’m contemplating;
   it occurs, it asks me
          and then it rains.
 
This poem has a serious and religious tone. The reader is drawn into the importance of what is happening here.  And as in life, no matter how serious, no matter how religious, nature takes over and puts one in his/her place.  In this case, it rains.  It is a fresh presentation on pomposity.
 
This tome has a wide variety of scenes, places, situations and images that seem to speak out loud of commentary on daily life both as it is lived and remembered.  I liked the conversational tone of the poems and the skilled clarity of the narrator’s observations.  This is a good read.
 
 
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.
 
 

Longer Thoughts by Theresa Rodriguez

RODRIGUEZ_LONGER_COVER_FRONT_SMALL
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By Lynette G. Esposito
In Longer Thoughts, published by Shanti Arts Publishing in Brunswick, Maine, Theresa Rodriguez presents a plethora of poems in varying lengths and forms that address universal themes, famous figures, and clever images.
Carol Smallwood, an interviewer, editor and literary judge, grasps the essence of Longer Thoughts: “While mastering classical poetry, Theresa Rodriguez expresses the deepest emotions; she reigns whether settings are in the past or present leaving us in awe.” 
 I think she is right on.  Rodriguez goes from free verse to villanelle to sonnet with ease and mixes her subjects with astute observation and skill.
On page seventeen in the poem Dance of two Spirits the narrator envisions a relationship both at peace and in conflict with a poem that moves and reads like musical lyrics. The first stanza sets the situation.
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                         As we swirl each other
                         each in and out-of-sync dance
                         with the other
                         our movements both
                        embrace and collide
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The poem proceeds with eleven more stanzas in free verse form revealing how the addresser and addressee are interacting. The stanzas have uneven lines which gives an uneven musical pace.  The three final stanzas provide closure and non closure at the same time which is very clever of Rodriguez.  The ending suggests how love is complex and distrustful but hopeful.  She reveals the universal ups and downs and uncertainty of people in love.
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                      And then we attempt again
                      the dance of two spirits
                      wondering if the meeting
                     will result in cacophony
                     and clash
                     or tunefulness and harmony.
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                    Always on alert,
                    always circling,
                    always fearful,
                   always cautious,
                   coming around again and
                   again,
                 checking, moving, eyeing swaying,
                 on tip-toe and quiet, steady breath,
                 to circle with you again in a questionable dance.
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On page twenty-eight, Rodriguez writes an ode to Johann Sebastian Bach and his music.  I touch the pages of your music, the poem begins.  In five stanzas the narrator praises Bach and how his music has affected her. She notes in stanza three So truly blessed, to know the forms In which you wrote.  The poem projects a sincere voice of appreciation and a deep knowledge of Bach’s music.  She closes this five- stanza poem with:
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                  And so I feel a part of you my own;
                  A touch of soul-mate, friend, the great Sebastian.
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She chooses a well-known and revered musician and skillfully makes it personal.
On a more common subject, Rodriguez addresses Insomnia on page thirty-eight.
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                   In this sleepless state of night
                   relief escapes me.  How I yearn to find
                   a rest that does not come.  Within my mind
                  are waking thoughts I have to fight.
In this poem, Rodriguez presents a situation that many go through in fighting to find sleep but must be awake during the day after a sleepless night.  The poem is clear and the images suggestive of that restless struggle to shut the mind down.
The tome is forty-five pages of poetic pleasure of introspection and reflection. It is good for a quiet read in a comfortable chair.
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Longer Thoughts is available from Shanti Arts — Nature, Art, Spirit
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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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Postpoemed, by Carl Kaucher

post
By Lynette G. Esposito
 
Postpoemed, by Carl Kaucher (Alien Buddha Press) is 80 pages of mostly free verse poems exploring the context of location, time and circumstance.  Throughout the volume, Kaucher titles various poems with actual places and places observations within the verse that empirically reveals connections between what can be seen and what cannot be seen. 
 
For example, in his poem, Philadelphia, on page thirteen, in the second stanza of six, the narrator defines where he is:
 
                         I am sitting on sitting on the sidewalk, silently
                         pondering chaotic cracks in the concrete
                          that form these fractal lines of prose
                          that go nowhere and have no flow
                          till someone throws me a dime
                          that I turn into a rhyme
                          and scribble it on a cardboard sign
                           that no one can read.
 
The picture of the city is there but subtle.  In later stanzas, he talks of not knowing where he is and of great philosophers as he ponders an empty storefront.  The last stanza pulls the reader across the boundaries of what one sees and how one sees it.
 
                            Martyr me vagrancy at the Trestle Inn
                             then bury me in a pothole
                             At 11th and Callowhill.  
 
 In this context, a person cannot sit on the cement step just to think and then to write without passers by judging the poor soul as a jobless nuisance.  Kaucher skillfully comments on societal reactions as well as the state of thinkers and poets.
 
In his poem, At 8 pm, on page 60, Kaucher intermixes time, place situation and distortion.  He sets the place at a concert with the lead musician attired in a dress but looking not like a woman and is juxtaposed to flashing lights and grandma hooping it up in the front row with the crowd possibly protesting the NRA. Seems like chaos but he makes it work in the last stanza when he pulls the reader from a possible high back to reality with simple receipts.
 
                                      Later,
                                      coffee, crumb buns, horn honks
                                      and rude gestures till 2 AM
                                      and the sleepless interlude
                                       I woke with a pocketful of receipts
                                       that all indicated
                                       it was Easter morning.
 
The poem makes the reader feel as if he has been on a trip but gone nowhere.  At 8 pm is a well- controlled poem with clear visuals that one needs to awaken from to be back in real time.
 
In his poem, Weed Freak, on page 73, the narrator makes a clear comment on what it is to be unique.
 
                                          Wet fallow field
                                          and vacant lots
                                          inspire dormant seed
                                          that grow into weeds.
 
                                          One time,
                                          I was called a weirdo freak
                                          while taking a picture
                                          of a rustic wooden fence
                                          with two
                                          beware of dog signs.
 
                                          Freaks can always spot a freak.
                                          Weeds can always be pulled.
 
The poem succeeds with its plain images and concept that wryly twists the observed and the observer into one.
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The poems in this book are interesting and well crafted. Kaucher sets the place, time and situation in the poems with deliberate precision.  It was a pleasure to read.
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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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I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood By Tiana Clark

i cant
By Lynette Esposito
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I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark published by Pittsburgh University Press in the Pitt Poetry Series is an amazing collection of verse.
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The ninety-nine pages of poems vary in style, length and subject but are connected by a raw honesty that reveals stark truths. For example, on page three in her poem, Cross/Bite, Clark describes a difficult birth.
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          I was born into the world sideways.
    Doctor said.
            surgery to break my face
set it right again
              as f breaking were simple.
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 This poem represents a harsh beginning that makes the narrator’s jaw click like typewriter keys, yet she remains unbroken and thankful.  The form supports the images and revelations in this poem by having ragged lines on the right.  It suggests, among other things, like white sand in the mouth, an uneven life from the very onset and the uneasy decisions that are made from the beginning of existence.
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In the poem, In the Middle Things on page eighty-eight, the narrator is grown but acknowledges the desire for information on an unknown absent father.
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       My daddy   is what    is always   at stake   in all   my work
       I want to know if he is still                                alive—
       If he thinks of me as often I think of him.
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       I am still that baby, alone
       In the incubator, yelping    for more and more breath
       with moist, moth-like wings for lungs.
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       Only my mother’s name is on my birth certificate
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The poem skillfully uses spacing, and word groupings as techniques to emphasize the desire to understand where one comes from, who one’s fathers are and what that does to one’s lives.  Her images reek of longing and wondering.  It is a strong poem that is worthy of being read and read again.
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The book is divided into four sections, I Can’t Talk, About the Trees, Without the Blood and an Epilogue that has quotes from Muriel Rukeyser and Gwendolyn Brooks. This is a poet who is not afraid to quote other poets throughout the book as well.
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The book is the winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.  Justly so.  The poems are consistently strong and complex.  The images are fresh and interesting.  This is a good read for lovers of poetry.
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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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The book is available from www.upress.pitt.edu

Catastroika by Charles Rammelkamp

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Published by Apprentice House Press, Charles Rammelkamp’s Catastroika presents clear visions of Russian history in poetic form presented with fictional scenarios that reflect truths.  Thaddeus Rutkowski, author of Border Crossings says:  These poems will open your eyes to rulers, revolutionaries, and the people caught between them,
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For example, In Kiev Pogrom, 1905 on page fifteena graphic picture of circumstance is presented.  The four-stanza poem details the brutal unrest in Russia.
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             The killing and destruction lasted three days
             as many as a hundred Jews killed,
             property destroyed—factories, shops, homes
             The historian, Simon Dubnow, called it
             Russia’s Bartholomew’s Night.
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After setting the scene of destruction, the last two lines personalize the situation by switching from a general picture to a personal narrative.
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            For me, just about to turn eleven,
           both beaten by mobs to bloody pulp and bone,
           it was the death of Uncle Lev and Papa
           that made up my mind to flee to St. Petersburg.
This technique of going from the general situation to a specific one, brings the reader into the situation of real fear.
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Strannik on page twenty, opens with a calm tone but progresses almost into insane anxiety as the narrator prays before the mother of Jesus.
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               Papa settled down, built a house
               on the family farm
               for his growing family,
               Praskovia giving birth to four
               in rapid succession
              though the first, a boy,
              only lived a few months,
              reminding Papa
              of his own brother, Mischa,
              making him wonder
              if he were being punished
              for not obeying the Virgin.
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At the end of the poem, the wife, weeping with her husband, tells him to do what is right; to find his soul. He must go.  Where is he to go?  The poem does not answer.
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Catastroika on page one hundred fourteen brings together the voice of the book in dealing with anti-semantic issues.  The poem talks of the exodus of talented Jews to Israel, The United States and elsewhere from Gorbachev’s Russia.  The last stanza of four clarifies.
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                   But if life is improved under Gorbachev,
                   the general situation’s deteriorated,
                  Jewish leaders fearing Jews will be blamed,
                  the usual scapegoats.
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The volume is divided into nine sections alternating with the names Sasha a fictional person and Maria, a real one. It contains one hundred and seventeen pages of poems that vary in length.  The subjects appear to be well researched and an acknowledgement page and glossary is included for those who want to fact check.
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Rammelkamp has a remarkable ability to humanize dire situations with a clear insight into message.  The poems are not an easy read, but I enjoyed the view Rammelkamp presented even if it wasn’t pretty.
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The book is available from https://www.apprenticehouse.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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