National Poetry Month Part 3 – Book Review Monday!

National Poetry Month is in its final week and since I normally introduce poets and their works during this special month, I thought I’d end my posts with some of the books I’ve purchased this last year. I think you’ll like them too.

Starting with books that celebrate the beginning and the end.

Donna Wylie – isn’t she adorable on the cover? Donna was 2 years-old in that photo and in Born to be Me, she takes that toddler exuberance and explores how instinct, genetics, and environment all shape who she became, and the journey to re-discover the person she was born to be. A lesson for us all.

Bobbie Harrison looks at life at the end, with the passing of her beloved Mel. The poems in Half a Couple are unique in two ways. The first is the form Bobbie chose. Each poem is a poem for two voices and written in such a way that one can read the poem across as one usually does, or read down in one of two columns, each column a different voice. The reader has each voice and also the blended voices. The second gift Bobbie gives the reader is her honesty in moving through this new environment of widowhood from being lost to eventually being found.

You know I love the rural life and these two books take me right there. I will follow Joyce down any hard-packed clay road, and sit with Dee any day looking through the torn screen to see what she sees and remembers.

Reading Hard-Packed Clay is like opening a family album rich in stories like the one about the dad who worked in the furniture factory and the rest who worked the hard-packed clay; the boys who went to war and the gardens and loved ones left behind; life in the past lived in the past and remembered in the present with road trips to old homesteads and car rides on old school bus routes. And always with Joyce, the love of family and love of nature.

Dee’s poems in Torn Screen Bent Frame are vignettes inspired by what we all think of when we picture life along the backroads – old trucks, small churches, quilts on the line, farmhouses … But Dee knows these things first hand and writes with an eye to detail and emotion from knowing their necessary connection for survival. Dee’s academic background focused on the interplay between landscape and culture, and her poems elevate that often difficult struggle between the two into something sacred.

The poems in these books read like tiny prayers. I had the honor of writing a blurb for Julie’s, Theology of Four-Letter Words, and in it I write, “… distills the simplicity and complexity of ordinary words until the sacred appears. … Each poem imagines God in our every day experiences and the world around us. Our only response when our eyes are opened to the possibilities is, ‘Of course! He is.’” So, can you see God in heat? In bone? How about pink? Julie’s gift is in showing us how we can.

Diana’s Hummingbirds & Wine is a tribute to her adult daughter who passed away unexpectedly. In this short collection, only 28 poems, Diana captures not only the deep loss and grief of the human heart but also its strength and resilience.

Scott Owens is such a prolific poet, and he has another collection coming out this year! Scott always explores something new so there’s no redundancy in his work or ‘once you’ve read one of his poems you’ve read them all’. Worlds Enough is his first children’s book of poetry, but it’s also for adults. Most of the poems in Sky Full of Stars and Dreaming were written during the pandemic, but instead of focusing on the negative Scott found glimmers of hope and light. Prepositional came about because a reader asked if he had another collection of more ‘upbeat’ poems, similar to Sky Full of Stars and Dreaming. He said he didn’t, but he could write one! And he did, using prepositions as the connecting theme. But not in their academic, third-grade vocabulary learning sort of way. Scott takes these simple, common words and as Ami Kaye writes in her blurb, ‘… highlights the preposition as a metaphor for shared humanity, with an engaging playfulness, he explores human relationships and the world at large …’

These final two books look daunting but they aren’t. The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina was written by James Lundy, Jr. and his sense of humor, dry wit, and personal interest in the subject – James is a past president of the Society – carries over into his writing. The Poetry Society of South Carolina, founded in 1920, is the country’s oldest state poetry society.

A House Called Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Poetry is a select collection of poems published by Copper Canyon Press over its first fifty years, 1973 – 2023. Each decade includes a diverse roster of well-known and not so well-known poets, and illustrates the breadth and changes in poetry over the years.

Where to purchase these fine book~

Donna Wylie, Born to be Me

Bobbie Harrison, Half a Couple

Dee Stribling, Bent Screen, Torn Frame

Joyce Compton Brown, Hard-Packed Clay

Julie Ann Cook, Theology of Four-Letter Words

Diana Pinckney, Hummingbirds & Wine

Scott Owens, Prepositional, Worlds Enough, Sky Full of Stars and Dreaming

James Lundy, Jr. The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina

A House Called Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Poetry

Wishing all of you a great week – whatever you may be reading!

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1 Response to National Poetry Month Part 3 – Book Review Monday!

  1. I enjoyed the Vistas 3 event this past Sunday so much! It was wonderful to see so many friends as well as see great art works with the inspired poems beside them.
    Thanks so much for this overview of new poetry books! I have looked forward to Julie’s Theology of Four Letter Words for a long time. The others sound interesting too, especially The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina and Half a Couple.
    I recently purchased Angelo Geter’s More God Than Dead Poems which I am reading through–and weeping along with him. Thank you for all you do to support poetry in South Carolina!

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