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Recommendation: Risking It by Sylvia Byrne Pollack

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The poems in Risking It appear straight-forward but often have twists and word play hiding in them.  The poet shows herself to be a person of long experience who admits the bad but lightens it with language. A career in science may have helped to produce this attitude, and certainly added to the rich variety of her vocabulary.

Consider this ending of “Did You Fail Lithium or Did Lithium Fail You?”

. . . . . The inevitable ditch

into which everything falls is filled

with dank water, toads, milfoil.

Word is sent for some desiccant.

Word is sent for a sump pump.

Word returns empty handed.

And the reader is left thinking of all the ways words are unable to make things better.

The poet lives in a world where even such things as stones and tomatoes have personality.

Or even cancer cells.  “Girls Gone Wild” is about breast cancer cells who “want/to take a road trip, reach/the lymph highway ASAP,/spend spring break travelling or/ beached somewhere warm like her liver.”

After describing treatment, the poem ends with acceptance:

She came back with a scar her oncologist called

disfiguring but she figured

it was healthy scar tissue, more bonded

than the sorority sisters that hung out there before.

The poet has strong political opinions which she expresses briefly in the voice of an alter ego called The Deaf Woman, avoiding dogmatism, concealing anger.  “What the Deaf Woman Cannot Hear” is a poem about the horrors of gas chambers.  It concludes:

What comes next in my country?

wonders the deaf woman

the disabled woman

the disposable woman.

Here’s one short poem in its entirety.

Ars Poetica

The poem that declines to be written

because it is self-conscious, shy, cryptic

or shallow is a poem that must nevertheless

be treated with respect—like a wild goshawk.

Don’t try to take off its hood too soon.

Let it rest in the dark as the two of you get

to know each other.  Your voice is important.

When the day comes, let it fly, watch where

it soars.  If it disappears into the forest, you must

let it go.  But if it flies back, feed it.

For Sylvia Byrne Pollack, even not yet written poems have personality. And while this instruction is a lot to ask, the respect that she recommends here is something she gives to everything she writes about.

I hear this book is up for a couple of awards.  It deserves one.

Interview: Lost in the Greenwood

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My interview with Lynn Moorer about Lost in the Greenwood, which we recorded via zoom, aired on KTAL Community Radio last Friday, August 13.  It is now available for listening on their archive page.

https://www.lccommunityradio.org/archives/category/all-about-books

You will be able to hear me read seven of the poems in the collection, a good sampling if you’re curious to know what the book is about.  Having to record via computer audio instead of a separate mike made some of the reading a little stilted (it’s hard to hold a book, lean in without blocking the computer sound, and not lose your place!) but you’ll get the drift.

My interview with Lynn Moorer about Lost in the Greenwood, which we recorded via zoom, aired on KTAL Community Radio last Friday, August 13.  It is now available for listening on their archive page.

It was fun to do; Lynn comes up with interesting questions.

Three Poems on Line

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Three of my poems have just been published on The Ravens Perch: http://theravensperch.com.

They are short, easy to read on line, and intended to amuse, as well as to hint at the complexities of life.

“Coming Apart” is about glaciers and climate change. It is a reject from 3 Elements Review.

In “Who Will Interpret,” the messenger Mercury is found wanting in helping us understand the world. I return often to the question of the uses of astrology, and never come up with any answers.

“Brothers,” is my favorite. :As a mother of two sons, I found myself picturing desire and lethargy as two small children. They begin by quarreling in front of the television. And in the morning:

Any moment now, two urgent
children will jump on my bed,
demand I take sides, choose
between wanting and not wanting.

I hold out a hand to each.

Thanks to The Ravens Perch for putting these out in the world.

Just Three More Weeks

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There are just three weeks left to submit your work to Sin Fronteras/WritersWithoutBorders Journal for our next annual issue.

Go to http://www.sinfronterasjournal.com/submissions for the specific instructions. Let us hear from you.

Lost in the Greenwood is an almost winner

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Lost in the Greenwood is one of six finalists in the poetry category in the 15th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards.  These awards are given for books in all sorts of categories and subcategories of fiction, non-fiction, children’s books. . . , so many categories they offer an alphabet at the top of their announcement page: https://www.indieexcellence.com/15th-annual-finalists.

There is just one category of poetry, listed between picture books and politics.

I’m pleased to see Lauren Camp as another finalist.  The other poets are unknown to me.

Celebration for Sin Fronteras Journal

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We are celebrating our 25th issue of Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Journal

A Poetry Reading (via Zoom)
https://cccconfer.zoom.us/j/9348057923

15 May 2021, 7:00 to 8:30pm PDT (Check your time zone)
(open mic to follow)
(the door opens at 6:55pm)

presented by el gigante reading series, Sacramento City College
through the kindness of SF contributor Danny Romero

Many of our contributors will be reading their poems. A great opportunity to see the variety of poems we publish.

Submissions are now open for the next issue. Guidelines at http://www.sinfronterasjournal.com.

Recommendation: Shake and Tremor by Deborah Bacharach

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Deborah Bacharach’s Shake and Tremor is about relations between men and women, the complications and deceits involved.  She combines Biblical stories of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, Lot and his wife, and Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, with contemporary examples.  She mixes past and present so that the reader may not know where she is as she moves from poem to poem and also within poems.

An example:  Ten Young Men of Sodom and Gomorrah opens with an epigraph from Genesis: “For the sake of ten [righteous men] I will not destroy it.”  It consists of nine vignettes.  one of them reads:

It’s not that I have greater
lungs or desert living
gives me the strength of ten.

I’d be driving my own taxi, but there are no medallions.

Or “Farewell to his Wife,” set in the moment when Lot’s wife looks back and turns to salt:

He does not look back.  He does not choose
to lunge for her hand even as her hand
slips from his grasp when she looks back.

Maybe they said their good-byes
over tax returns,
a glass of wine and orange rinds.

The poet will return to this moment another time and tell it very differently.  The shifting of both topics and attitudes keeps the reader off balance. But Bacharach is having a wonderful time with the mixture.  It’s worth the trouble to go with the flow.

The key poem for access to the mind of the poet, for me, is “I Am Writing About Fucking,” which gives a sequence of reasons: “because I am human, . . .because sorrow was taken . . .” ending with:

because it’s not polite and I am always very
please and thank you
because there are already
enough words for snow
because of shame, that fishbone in the throat
because we are made of stars.

If this word play pleases you, you should enjoy the book.  And perhaps be a bit jealous of Bacharach’s skill and her leaps of imagination.

Poems on Line

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Beate Sigriddaughter, who is a great networker from Silver City, not too far from here, has posted one of my poems .from my new chapbook, “Transported” on her website, Writing in a Woman’s Voice.” The poem is “Centripetal Forces” a fancy title for a poem about family traveling together. Find it here.

If you check there tomorrow, she promises she will have added “Ground Level” which combines an adult sense of geography with a child’s perspective.

If you wait longer, you’ll have to scroll down to find me. I am in awe of Beate’s ability to keep up her blog on a daily basis.

And I’m grateful.

Two links

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First, the promised link for the Giveaway of my chapbook Transported on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/320806-transported

Second, a link to two poems not in the book, but also about my birth family, published on One Art week before last.

Giveaway for Transported

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I’ve been getting some very positive comments from early readers of my poetry chapbook “Transported.”

I’ve set up a giveaway on Goodreads to reach more folks. It should go live on Thursday, 3/11.

Link will follow when it goes live.

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