Lynette G. Esposito

The Liar’s Asylum by Jacob M. Appel

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By Lynette G. Esposito

The eight short stories in Jacob Appel’s Liars’ Asylum are amazingly fun to read.   The 168 page collection, published by Black Lawrence Press, explores common every day experiences with life twists that both surprise and confirm the human condition.

Appel is a keen observer of people interacting with their life situations.  John Jodzio, author of Knockout, comments,  ”I am in absolute awe of Jacob Appel’s Liars’ Asylum.  The stories here are magnetic and knowing, funny and inventive.  Appel is a master of form—deftly able to conjure up pitch perfect characters whose lips spill out both truth and wit.”  I agree.

In the story when Love Was an Angel’s Kidney on page 120, Appel narrates the story of a young eighth grader fascinated with a high school athlete who comes to her father’s camp for youth who need dialysis. The story, in true beginning, middle and end short story form, shows how love can happen and end anywhere. While the young girl would give up a kidney for her innocent love when she is skinny dipping with him in the camp lake, her financially inept father is losing the camp to the bank and his wife to his best friend.  Her father never finds another woman for whom he would sacrifice an organ, but she wonders about her young love and if he still thinks of her.   She asks:   Am I what remains when an angel’s kidney evaporates in the past? This is an interesting concept when looking at love itself as it fades into the past but remains in the heart.

In Good Enough for Guppies,  the story opens with Divorce infected the air last summer and Appel sets the scene for old women (78) seeking love in a variety of places all told from a candid observer who once in awhile participates in the story by suggesting the relationship he has with his own wife.  The narrator, Gene, and his wife, Shelia, must deal with Shelia’s mother, 78, marrying a man in his forties with a Bronx accent.  Shelia is almost hysterical because it is her mother and Gene attempts to understand survivorship in a long-term marriage.  The story suggests and shows average people reacting to love at various stages in their life and how they react as well as judge others outside and inside the family.

Appel is a master of unique and inventive story lines that are well controlled, developed and meaningful.  He sets clear scenes with unique twists that help the reader see and understand the characters in more than one perception and in more than one dimension.  I enjoyed every story.

The book is available here: https://www.blacklawrence.com/the-liars-asylum/

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.

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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.

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/

 

 

Logos by Gil Fagiani

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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In the 161 page soft cover poetry book, Logos by Gil Fagiani, the reader learns from Fagiani himself in an author’s note that his poetry is of the people.
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                          This poetry of the people, this song of the streets, has been
                           the most influential element in my literary pursuits, and why
                           my first impulse has been to write about the world with addiction
                           and treatment by means of poetry rather than prose.
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This book fulfills Fagiani’s literary pursuit..  For example, his poem Believer on page 15 is only one stanza but powerful in both image and storyline.
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                          On a muggy
                          fly-filled day
                          inside a courtyard
                          reeking of diapers,
                          mice-filled glue traps,
                          take-out tins of rice and beans,
                          he stands behind a long line
                          of sick junkies
                          until it’s his turn
                          to push his last ten-dollar bill
                          through a hole in the wall,
                          convinced
                          a dynamite sack of dope
                          is going to be pushed back.
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The title suggests faith but takes an ironic tact on the “belief” of an addict with a questionable outcome for the deliverance of a product that would allegedly lift his spirits. The language used is clear and common in a setting that speaks of squalor and desperation.

Fagiani divides the tome into sections Shooting Dope with Trotsky, White Uncle Tom, Siding with the Enemy, and A Single Spark.  These titles also represent Fagiani’s approach to heal the reader with street song and poetry. Jose’ B. Gonzales, Ph.D., editor of Latinostories.com, says: This collection is full of lyrical grit. In the first section, Shooting Dope with Trotsky, Fagiani uses images in the poems talking about the black section of town, anti-poverty volunteerism in Harlem and skin popping until he almost ODs. In the section, White Uncle Tom, Fagiani tells the stories of an interview in the South Bronx, the feds busting Mikie for a pound of pure in his trunk, and teaming up with a girlfriend to scam guys.  The gritty storylines represent imperfect lives in imperfect and desperate situations.

In Siding with the Enemy, Fagiani shows a party group made up of Black, White,  and Puerto Rican men walking arm in am down a street in an Italian neighborhood singing at the top of their lungs until the narrator realizes they could get hurt and they need to leave the neighborhood when bottles start flying and exploding. A Single Spark shows situations in the subway, in the bedroom and behind the Paradise Theater with the play on words successfully executed.  The subjects, the storylines and the images use their figurative eyes to look directly into the face of reality.

The book is a  pleasurable read especially if you like looking at images that aren’t afraid to roll in the dirt and stand up to shake it off.

Gil Fagiani has many poetry collections to his credit including A Blanquito in El Barrio, Chianti in Connecticut, and Stone Walls.  He was a social worker and worked in a Psychiatric hospital and a drug rehab program in downtown Brooklyn.

The book is available from www.guernicaeditions.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.  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.

 

Thieves in the Family by Maria Lisella

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Thieves in the Family by Maria Lisella published by New York Quarterly Books is a good end of summer read for lovers of poetry. The broad range of themes presented in everyday language gives a sense of deep understanding of relationships between nature, humans and the overall the culture we live in.
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An example of nature and how one reacts is the last poem of this soft cover volume, My Rain, which creates an ending to the lushness of the warmer months and how one can interpret something as common as rain in an individual way.
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My Rain
                                          does not whip the ground
                                          from under me.
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                                          Falls straight
                                                    As a sheet.
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                                          Ends at dawn
                                             in a mist that lingers
                                             over blades of grass.
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I like the technique of using the title in a dual function of being the title as well as the first line of the poem.  Although the poem has a lyrical sense to it, its directness and clarity expands the image of how perspective on even drops of rain can change a person. The uneven lines contribute to the visualization of the unevenness of rain drops.
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This direct and clear approach is all through the book when the narrator remembers her relationship with her father on page 27, Father, fix it, please. The poem opens with The dark befriends me here in the basement.  Lisella has given the reader a place that is usually unfriendly and often scary and makes it into the safe and wonderful memory of her father’s workshop where anything can be repaired.
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The relationship to our culture is shown on page 57 when she reveals some issues with being short in her poem Lethal.   Lisella’s last line draws the poem to a close on the subject of being short: lethal, small and ready to spring.  The poem gives images of what it means to be small but gives power to the petite of the world using the common denominator of ballet and turning that suggestion and perhaps negative of being diminutive into power.
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In another cultural reference, she speaks of war in her poem Just Boys on page 79 by showing three tombstones of boys who fought the other boys.  The opening line is so strong, The sun is about to slip below the grass, that one can feel a graveyard shiver.  She speaks of taking pictures as if they could record silence. In the space she has led the reader to, we stand in a dead and quiet war zone of the past but in the present.
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The volume is divided into four parts headed by Roman numerals.  The 100 page tome covers a wide range of themes drawn from everyday life and presented in both long and short poems.  Although the poems are direct and clear, many of them I wanted to read again and again because of the way they made me feel.
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Maria Lisella is the Poet Laureate of Queens for 2015 to 2018. Her work has appeared in Amore on Hope Street, Two Naked Feet and many literary journals including Fox Chase Review and New Verse News.  She holds an MA in specialized Journalism from NYU-Polytechnic University. She is also a travel writer and editor and has had her work recognized in South Africa, Italy and France.
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The book is available from www.nyq.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.  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.
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Talking Pillow by Angela Ball

Talking Pillow by Angela Ball
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Review by Lynette G. Esposito

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Talking Pillow by Angela Ball a professor of English at the Southern University of Mississippi, takes the poetry reader on a contemporary ride arounda block of modern subjects represented in both literal and figurative images.

Published by the University of Pittsburg Press in their Pitt Poetry Series, this 55-page soft cover tome offers reflections on universal themes such as love, loss, death hope and grief.

The poems are divided into three sections:  Lady of the House, FBI Story, and Bicycle Story. The sections are thematic. In Lady of the House, the focus of the poems is on relationships and the myriad subjects that make them.  In FBI Story the theme switches to discovery and realization using contemporary images that are both representative and logical. In the section, The Bicycle Story, the reader rides with the narrator through locales, timelines passing through remembrance and grief.

In the lead poem in the first section, Society for Ladies of the House. the situation is set in an ambulance ride to the hospital and the desire for the patient’s recovery The surprise ending is sweet but not sentimental  and shows how love transcends every day minutiae to survive and make one recognize how glorious love is.  After the trip to the hospital, the last lines show the true purpose:.

        …It parades the sky in its windows, admits
         the opera of passing sirens, the swerving, rocking
         ambulance with the brave young driver, determined
         to reach the hospital in time to save the patient
         to let him heal and return home, tentative
         but upright, to his own true love, the Lady of the House
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The poem I favor in FBI Story is the last poem in this section on page 37 entitled An Attempt.  Ball uses a dead bee..
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           For us, all that’s left
           is a dried bee, tilted
           onto one wing.
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The narrator says you cannot touch anything without water.  I like the perception of death during An Attempt, and the stillness represented by the bee caught trying but left unmoving.  It is a visible image in nature that asks the reader to understand action projected and action paused…probably without warning.  The last lines speak of the bee dust in the flower and the sad realization that the “we” of the poem will still not be any closer.

In The Bicycle Story, two poems attracted me: Lots of Swearing at the Fairgrounds, and Intercourse after Death Presents Special Difficulties.

          At the fairgrounds even children
          were full of curses, scrawled across mornings.
          What was denied, open pasture,
          the perfection of a stallion covering its mate.
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The comment on confined spaces obscuring the beauty of nature is subtle but clear.

The lines that struck me in Intercourse After Death Presents Special Difficulties, beside the title, involve a congeal visit to the after life. Ball handles the desire without sentimentality but with intensity and possibility. .

      Nights I ingest the pill
        that lets me seem awake while in motion
        at home and at work.  I note
        today’s horoscope
       “a far-fetched hope is realized.”.  
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For those who have lost a lover or a loved one, Ball suggest that there is shame in the need to touch and be touched by the lost one and how the narrator of the poem deals with the reality and perception

The book is a pleasure in its direct simplicity as well as its subtlety.

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You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Talking-Pillow-Pitt-Poetry-Angela/dp/0822965151/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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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.  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.

Darwin’s Mother by Sarah Rose Nordgren

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By Lynette G. Esposito

The soft cover volume of Darwin’s Mother by Sarah Rose Nordgren published by Pittsburg Press is a delight. It is so good, even the acknowledgements are interesting.

The book is divided into three sections: Origin of Species, Material, and A Moral Animal. I have favorites in each section. In the first section, my favorite is Mitochondrial Eve on page 9. The first two stanzas set up the poem and the last single line closes it. 

                                     Please go down and thank her
                                      under the arched branches
                                      where she sits on her heels

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                                      arranging a circle of leaves
                                      for a good bed.  And on the inside
                                      of her skin thank the mosaic.

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The seven-stanza  poem is both visual and logical. The structure is regular until the final stanza which stands alone as a single line: always with the door open.  The reader is spoken to in direct address and then is presented with a picture of our original Eve as she puts everything together from the inside out while resting in nature and at the same time being part of nature.

In the second section, Material, my favorite is on pages 28 and 29 entitled Reservoir.  The poem begins It is the nature of data,,,, The poem progresses to discuss

this dry subject in fresh and wonderful images of “things.” Norgren relates data to water and the gathering of it.  In stanza three and four, she presents how this gathering works:

                                        It takes a staff of thousands
                                        traveling on foot with tin buckets
                                        under their arms to collect                                        
                                        even a fraction of it, empting it all
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                                        into the reservoir we’re building
                                        for this very purpose.  

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She uses the image of water as data through the rest of the poem discussing the uses of information and the broad expanse of it, and ends the poem in two lines: as they stare and say, My God how beautiful. One sees in the poem the digital blue lakes and not the dry numbers of information we observe in landlocked pages. The poem transforms informational data into a lovely useable waterscape.

In A Moral Animal, Nordgren presents poetry with subjects including The Kiss, Moral Animal, Achilles and Mary at the Museum and Simulation. My favorite in this section is

Movie Night on page 54. The title suggests this is a fun poem. If you think watching a horror movie on an Easter Sunday is fun, then add giving birth and trying to stuff the baby back in as a leisure activity and you have a rather twisted vision of what to in your spare time.

The one stanza poem ends with the lines:.

                                      …This time
                                      you play the distant voice while I
                                      heave myself up, heave myself up
                                      from the bitter lake.     

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As in her other poems,  Nordgren creates not only visuals, but contrasting perceptions in how reality can affect us and in this poem how an old horror movie affects our Sunday afternoons.

The book feels honest, simple and complex as it explores the exterior and interior of the author’s view of the human condition in a timeless exposure of how the past, present and future intermix.

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The book is available from The University of Pittsburgh Press at  www.upress,pitt.edu

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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.  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.