Saturday, December 31, 2016

First Lines 2016


Since 2009, I've posted this special meme, and I was determined to keep this fun, annual tradition in 2016.  Created by Melwyk from The Indextrious Reader, A Year in First Lines is a once-a-year, end-of-year meme.  The idea is simple yet brilliant. Take the first line of each month's first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.  This year, I'm posting on the very last day of the year! 😀



 To read any post in its entirety, click on the month of the post.

January
The first one should be extraordinary, or at least special in some way.

First Book of the Year 2016














February
Fans of cozy mysteries, I have a spectacular book giveaway for you!

A Cozy Giveaway












 


March
Argh! 

Really Random Tuesday #96















April
Spring is a sublime season. 

The Jane and Bertha in Me














May
I didn't post.😔
 

June
These days, I tend to rely on Instagram and texting to communicate with family and friends.

Saturday Snapshot: Pride and Prejudice














July
I didn't post.😔


August
I'll  admit right away that I cannot be objective.

Saris and a Single Malt















September
Typically, field guides are books that help interested readers identify wildlife such as plants or animals, or natural objects, such as minerals, designed to be brought into the "field" or area where the  objects exist.

Field Guide to the End of the World















October
Imagine the possibilities! 

Saturday Snapshot: May Designs














November
I didn't post.😔


December
Holiday greetings!

Pick Me Up














As you can see, I did not post every month this year.  While I visited the blogs of others and left numerous comments throughout the year, I did not post as often as I have in the past.   Oh, well!  It's hard to fit everything in, isn't it?  But, I enjoyed the posting I did do, which is important to me. 

Please feel free to post your own First Lines from the year, which will create a unique sort of collage of your blog.



 Wishing all of my readers a happy and healthy New Year!  Your comments are appreciated. 😃

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pick Me Up: Review and Giveaway


Holiday greetings! I have not posted anything here in ages, but I'm back now, with a fabulous book giveaway!  Thanks to Angela at Penguin Random House, I'm able to offer a copy of the new book, published in 2016, by artist and author Adam J. Kurtz, Pick Me Up: A Pep Talk for Now and Later, to a lucky reader!  This  journal presents a unique idea, which is to flip to a random page and leave your mark. When you return to that page again, you can add more to it, edit it, or simply read it.  Here is a page from the beginning of the Pick Me Up:



Due to the busy-ness of this merry and time-consuming season, I have not had a chance to write (or draw) much in the book, but at least I was able to spend some time with the book (which really did lift me out of a weary mood one evening).  I took some pics (with my handy dandy phone, of course) to show you a few pages, which I've featured here, with some small additions by me.



This book is humorous and fun but it also serves a purpose, which is to encourage and to help put things into perspective.  I know I'll enjoy it even more in the days ahead.

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Pick Me Up Book Giveaway (U.S./Canada only):
  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, share this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Enter by 8 PM on Monday, January 16.  One winner will be selected randomly and contacted on Tuesday, January 17.  Best of luck!

Thanks for reading, and have a happy and healthy New Year!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

This or That Book Tag



~ RULES ~
Mention the creator of the tag. 
Thank the person who tagged you. 
Tag other people and spread the love. 

Thanks to Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit, for tagging me in the This or That Book Tag, and to Ayunda from Tea & Paperbacks, the creator of this book tag.


1) Reading on the couch or reading in bed?
Both!  It depends on what time it is.  I also love to read in a La-Z-Boy chair, with my feet up.  That is pure luxury to me! 

2) Main character: Male or Female?
I've certainly enjoyed both over the years, but I think that now I  prefer a female main character, because I can relate to her more closely. 

3) Sweet or salty snacks while reading?
I don't usually snack while reading.  Only once in a while, I'll have a bowl of pretzels, or an apple, while I read.  But, I may have a cup of tea, or coffee (if it's early in the day) as I read.

4) Trilogies or quartets?
Not usually.  The last one I attempted was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and I only finished the first book.

5) First Person or Third Person POV?
I enjoy both.  But there is something about First Person POV which draws you in more closely, perhaps. 

6) Night or morning reader?
Once in a (very) blue moon, I read in the morning, in bed or on the couch, before my day begins. But usually, I read in the late afternoon, evening, or night. 

7) Libraries or bookstores?
Another tough choice!  I am a huge fan of Amazon, I adore traditional bookstores of all sizes, and I love our public library, which has a sweet little bookstore in it that sells discounted books and cards.  So, once again, my answer is both!


8) Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?
Most of the books I read are touching, but also have humor in them.  I only read a handful of primarily "funny" books.  I gravitate toward more serious fare, for the most part. 

9) Black or white book covers?
Hmm . . .   do you mean the background?   I like interesting covers. They could be black, white, or black and white--or colorful! 

10) Character driven or plot driven stories?
Characters are more important to me, probably because I don't usually read action-packed stories.


What do you think?
The Book Bloggers  I tag are:

Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza

Gigi Ann from Ann's Reading Corner 

Harvee from Book Dilettante

Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog

Laura from Laura's Reviews

Naida from The Bookworm

Pat from Posting For Now

Sheila from Book Journey

Tracy from Pen and Paper


If you are not on this list but the idea appeals to you, please feel free to play along!  Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.   :)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Conversation with Arisa White

As I read You're the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, the new collection by poet Arisa White, published in 2016, I felt that I wasn't connecting deeply enough with this work.  Although I noticed and appreciated the bravery and beauty of these poems, many of which have titles from 'a List of terms for gay in different languages' on Wikipedia, I couldn't help but wonder: am I too old, too traditional, or even too straight to really “get” this work?  When I read poetry, I want to savor the beauty of the words and their arrangement, but I also seek to understand the meaning of the poems. This is essential to my enjoyment of poetry.  Fortunately, Arisa White agreed to answer my (somewhat eclectic) interview questions, presented here.  My hope was that a conversation with her would strengthen my understanding of and connection to her work. 

A Conversation with Arisa White




1) Welcome, Arisa, and thank you for being so gracious and patient with me!  As mentioned, I struggled a bit to find connection to your work.  Who do you think is the ideal reader of this collection of poems?

AW: I think someone who can live in the interstices.  Someone who understands and knows grief, a broken heart, who pines for things to be just, who is not afraid of her well, he who goes inward, they who write for the here and sensuous logic.  She who sees and resists the restraints put on the body,he who story tells and finds other ways, they who disobey hegemonic voices and choruses on and on 
and on . . . .

Spoken like a true poet, Arisa!   :)


2) Tell me something important about this collection that I may have missed.

AW: I don’t know what you’ve missed. Makes me think of the bus driving off as you run to it. And do you keep running because it is a bus you need to catch?  I wonder, what made you late?  What were the conditions that made arriving on time, now a missing for you? The funny thing is this collection is exploring that same thing--missing. The way it leaves a certain presence in the body. The absence shapes you. And as it does it’s shaping, you learn to exist with it. You learn a new understanding of your body and its emotional terrain as the relationship matures. In that maturation, things are nurtured--the imagination, for one, and the way you maneuver language, and quiet and silence too, so it better speaks to you, is another. So the language is full with you.  Each poem explores some form of missing and the transformation that occurs.

Arisa, at least I didn't miss the missing theme, mentioned above! Your poems eloquently express longing and loss and love.


3) What gift (or gifts) do you want to give your readers?

AW: Joy.  Nuanced emotional literacy.  Rigor.  Possibility.  Inspiration.  Contemplation.  Provocation.

I'd add Harmony to your list, Arisa.


4)  Do you hope to reveal, or conceal, in You're the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, which seems to be a love letter?   How autobiographical is this collection? 

AW: It does feel very much like a love letter. A love letter that has been written in private and public places in the body and within the culture at large. A love letter written at different points on the waves of love, at different moments when you encounter a “new” way of comprehending love. A love letter to how love leaves you open and changed. This collection is not autobiographical. It pulls from my personal sphere. Too much is taken from what is around me--gossip, media, family narratives, books, popular culture, music. The I in the collection is an outward I, an I in community, in intimate relationship to the ecologies that form its making. You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is the house made from tensions of bodies in relationship to their own and other bodies. 


5) What, if anything, did you (or an editor) edit out of this book?

AW: There were six poems removed from the original manuscript. The work had a different tone, and at times reminded me of pieces that could have gone in my debut collection Hurrah’s Nest—those poems were more autobiographical. Some of the edited-out poems were an exercise in language, and after revising them, sometimes radically, they didn’t make sense to me.  I couldn’t place their sense within in the collection. With the removal of those poems, I was better able to see the overall creative enterprise of the work, and as result I then included the suite of poems “Effluvium”; “Effluvium” brings attention to AIDS and its impact on black women, but expands itself to address violence against women.

 

6) If you could set one of the poems in this book to music, and turn it into a song, which poem would it be, and why?   

AW: Not music, and that may be because there is already “music” present in the work—its prosody, assonance, slant rhyme, etc.  However, I do see “Lady in the House: Kitchen Speeches” as short film. That persona is so irreverent and radically self-possessed that to see her embodied would be great. The setting of the kitchen is very feminine, and so knowledge has been exchanged at kitchen tables, near the stove, washing dishes.  It is a powerful creative space, a space where women cook for revolutions, commune and congregate, take time for themselves, make themselves beautiful, prepare their medicines, concoct poison and bombs.

Arisa, it's interesting that you singled out this poem and mentioned that you can see it as a short film.  It's one of my favorites in your book.  I agree that the setting of the kitchen, sometimes c
alled the heart of the home, is both feminine and powerful (I like that coupling). To my surprise, I've grown to love my own kitchen over the years; it has become a creative and comfortable space for me. There are many profound lines in "Lady in the House: Kitchen Speeches", such as:

"I've been searching for one pure answer, one complete
thing to feed loss.  Something grown for your mouths,
a recipe my pots don't refuse."

7) How does the writing process affect you, emotionally and/or spiritually?  Why did you choose poetry over prose?

AW: Writing is an integrative act.  Different parts come together to make something, and from that making something becomes known.  Something is realized, and what that means for me is that I’ve freed myself.  In the ways we are socially constructed and therefore disempowered, I get my power back, bit by bit, trauma by trauma, generation by generation, and so I know myself more by being engaged in the creative act that socially created me.  I’m more present in my body, even when I’m told to be fearful because I’m black, woman, queer, etc.  I can write myself right as an inhabitant of this earth.  My “I” has broader (in)sight.  And poetry aligns more closely with how I see/perceive the world.

Arisa, your statement, "I can write myself right as an inhabitant of this earth", is excellent.  The act of writing, to a writer, is, of course, extremely valuable.  As far as poetry goes, you seem to be a natural poet. 

After thinking about your answers, I realized that I needed to read your poems with more freedom, meaning that although your content is meaningful, I shouldn't seek or expect a complete, literal understandingI was reminded (once again!) that my approach to reading poetry should be different than my approach to reading prose. This  conversation did help me to connect more closely with your work.  Thank you very much for this interview, Arisa! 
 
********************
           
Thanks as well to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for arranging this tour and for providing a print copy of this book.  For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on the tour for You're the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened.  I've linked this review to Serena's 2016 Poetry Challenge.

Thanks for reading!  As always, your comments are welcomed. 



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dogs and Their People: Spotlight & Giveaway

They seem to be everywhere these days, out on walks and runs, at outdoor cafés, in some stores, on our blogs, and in our homes.  They have sweet names, and even sweeter faces.  Whether they are beautiful, ridiculously cute, or downright silly, dogs provide companionship and unconditional love to those who care for them.  Many of us cannot resist the charms of dogs, myself included.  I am crazy about dogs!  Madeline from Putnam contacted me this week about a new book that will be published on October 18, 2016, Dogs and Their People: Photos and Stories of Life with a Four-Legged Love by the humans at BarkPost.  Featuring many photos and stories, this book is a celebration of the extraordinary bond between people and their dogs.  I'm excited about the prospect of reading this book, and thrilled to offer a giveaway of this book to a lucky reader!


But first, before the giveaway, here are some photos from my fellow book bloggers.  Aren't these dogs darling?!


 DOGS

Edee
 Toby & Coco
 
Kaiyo
Otis
Huey & Otis
Lila
Daisy
Joey
Humphrey
A beautiful painted stone
Sonia

AND THEIR PEOPLE
 
Edee belongs to Pat from Posting For Now
Toby & Coco belong to Renee from Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot
Kaiyo belongs to Vicki from I'd Rather Be At The Beach
Otis and Huey belong to Naida from The Bookworm
Lila belongs to Trish from TLC Book Tours 
Daisy is my dog
Joey belonged to Gigi Ann, Ann's Reading Corner 
Humphrey belongs to Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza 
Beautiful painted stone by Emma from France Book Tours
Sonia belongs to Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit
 
Many thanks to these book bloggers, who shared their fabulous dog photos.

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Dogs and Their People  Book Giveaway (U.S./Canada only):
  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For another chance, mention something endearing about your dog.

Enter by 5 PM on Monday, November 7.  One winner will be selected randomly and contacted on  Tuesday, November 8.  Best of luck!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saturday Snapshot: May Designs

 

Imagine the possibilities!  May Designs creates personalized notebooks, stationery, and more.  On Pat's blog, Posting for Now, I won a generous gift card from May Designs, and ordered this personalized notebook.  I love it!  Some of you may have already seen this photo on Instagram.   

Inside the notebook is a place for your name and contact information. 


 
In the future, I could see ordering a gratitude journal or a fitness log from May Designs.  What would you create?


Many thanks to West Metro Mommy for hosting Saturday Snapshot!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Field Guide to the End of the World



Typically, field guides are books that help interested readers identify wildlife such as plants or animals, or natural objects, such as minerals, designed to be brought into the "field" or area where the  objects exist.  These books often feature detailed illustrations or photographs. According to Wikipedia, the first popular field guide to plants may have been  How to Know the Wildflowers by "Mrs. William Starr Dana" (Frances Theodora Parsons), published in 1893.  I knew I had a few classic field guides in my shelves, so I looked around my home to gather them.  Quickly, I found a small, eclectic bunch, mostly gifts from my mother (who nurtured the nature lover in me and my young family): A Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds (autographed by Roger Tory Peterson),  A Peterson Field Guide to Pacific State Wildflowers, The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather, and The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians.  And now there's a new kid on the block.  The newest addition to my collection is a field guide--to the end of the world.

"This is it, the apocalypse . . ."
~ Radioactive, Imagine Dragons

Published in 2016, Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey is a collection of poems that won the 2015 Moon City Press Award.  This book is divided into five sections: Disaster Studies, Cultural Anthropology, Hard Science, A Primer for Your Personal Genome Project, and End Times Eschatology.  In the book, we are introduced to Teen Girl Vampires, Zombie Stripper Clones, and Alien Autopsies.  The tone of this collection is often humorous.  Martha Stewart's Guide to Apocalypse Living, with its "guide to storing munitions in attractive wicker boxes: page 52", has already been mentioned specifically as a very funny poem in other reviews of this book, and I agree.  This collection is filled with original, evocative images that underscore the importance of humor, even during the most troubling, uncertain, apocalyptic times.

There's notable, creative variety in the format of these poems.  Some are presented traditionally, while others, like Post-Apocalypse Postcard from the Viceroy Hotel, Santa Monica, and Post-Apocalypse Postcard from an American Girl ("determined for once to do more than survive"), resemble flash fiction; Shorting Out has spaces to illustrate the "shorts", and there's even a poem written in epistolary form, Letter to John Cusack, Piloting a Plane in an Apocalypse Movie.

Poetry, like music, must be felt to be understood.  You experience poetry by the actual reading of it, or by hearing someone else read it aloud.  Here is a sample from the book, a single, stunning poem, which the poet has given me permission to share. 


Every Human is a Black Box

We all carry our own road map to disaster, the faint voice recordings
that veer from mundane to hysterical in that last moment.
There's no turnkey solution to us; one person's milk
is another's poison; my mother swears green tea gives her hives.

My husband looks up from the field with scratchy throat and red eyes,
while I frolic in amid the goldenrod; at night I toss and wheeze
in the dust of my pillow while he snores dreamlessly.

Our lives have stood, like loaded guns -- for one, heart attack
by sauce alfredo, for another, 101 years of béarnaise and tobacco
troubled by nothing more than mild glaucoma.  Some of us
can disregard the warnings; others must cling tightly to directions.

When you slide into the grave, remember your body is a document,
a reminder, a memorial to distant waters, the siren call of cells
to sleep. Turn off. Shut down.  Mayday, May Day.



Another poem in the book that impressed me greatly is Yearbook: Not Pictured.  This poem is so clever and interesting!   The poet paints pictures of various moments in school "not pictured" in the yearbook, things that were personally meaningful and memorable (such as, "sneaking out to lie in the sun under that pink dogwood tree"),  and states that "the most important lessons are not the ones we were graded for".  How true!  Like all poets, she feels things very deeply, and remembers things well, although of course, memory is selective (relatedly, a young man signed my own high school yearbook with a line that I haven't forgotten, "the end is near").  In this poem, she presents a believable set of details from her time in school that casts us back to our own school days.

These apocalypse poems are poignant, but there are welcome rays of light--"let's just say it was all magical"--because "the poet clings, stubborn, to romance".  As I read this book, I marveled over many things, many times.  Jeannine Hall Gailey's work is full of thought, and fully brilliant. Although the book's subject is serious, this collection is also playful, heartfelt, and hopeful.  It is a celebration of life.  As you can tell, I'm a big fan of Jeannine Hall Gailey's work.  I've also read The Robot Scientist's Daughter, sci-fi poems published in 2015.  I'm eager to read She Returns to the Floating World, another collection of her poems, published by Kitsune Books in 2011.  In college, I read The Floating World in Japanese Fiction (sometimes it comes in handy to have been a Lit. major), and am especially interested in Japanese material now that I have been to Japan(!).  She Returns to the Floating World focuses on feminine transformations in the personae of characters from Japanese folk tales, anime, and manga.  It sounds quite intriguing to me!

Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for organizing this tour, and also to Jeannine for graciously mailing me a print copy of her book because I wanted to read it in the traditional way.  For more reviews, please visit the other stops on the tour for Field Guide to the End of the World. I've linked my review to Serena's 2016 Poetry Challenge.

Thanks for reading what I've written!  It's your turn now.  Comments are welcomed.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Saris and a Single Malt

I'll  admit right away that I cannot be objective.  Sweta Srivastava Vikram is one of my favorite contemporary authors.  I cherish her work.  Over the past several years, I've had the privilege and pleasure of reading and reviewing a lot of her work--mostly poetry--and I've also interviewed her.  This past weekend, I was thrilled to learn that her article, Sweet Somethings, was published in the New York Times Magazine section (it's just a matter of time until one of her books is listed as a NY Times bestseller, I think).  This prolific writer is also the CEO and Founder of NimmiLife, which helps people reach their goals by increasing their creativity, productivity, and health.  Her newest poetry collection, Saris and a Single Malt, published by Modern History Press in 2016, is her most personal to date. It is fittingly dedicated to her beloved mother, who died unexpectedly in India in 2014. The poet's mother, the subject of this book, affectionately called Mummy and Mumma, is richly brought to life in these poems.

"For Mummy--wherever you are, I am sure the place has good whiskey and a beautiful collection of saris."

The book takes place in "real time", over the course of a harrowing thirty-six hours.  The poems in this collection are an autobiographical account of the poet's thoughts and emotions as events unfold during an extremely difficult time.  On May 30, 2014, Sweta and her husband, Anudit, caught a flight to New Delhi because her mother fell ill suddenly, and was rushed to the ICU at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon.  "Poetry, pain, and prayers" accompany Sweta on this arduous and uncertain journey.  In Saris and a Single Malt, we are invited into the very core of this intimate experience, and we feel the poet's great pain and loss.  But although she is disconsolate and distraught after her mother dies, the poet still manages to describe her mother's beauty, with grace and eloquence:
 

"Motherless: I embraced poetry and Bhaiya.
Peaceful and beautiful: Mumma looked
like a poem wrapped in a lavender sheet."
 ~ May 31, 2014, Poetry, pain, and prayers, Sweta Srivastava Vikram 


As always, Sweta puts everything into her work.  Saris and a Single Malt is intensely personal, passionate, and profound.  In the poem "I Write", Sweta states that she must write in order to survive this ordeal.  She articulates her pain and agony throughout the book, beginning with the flight on May 30, 2014, and describes many parts of the experience, such as being at JFK Airport and on the plane, arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, learning that her mother is gone, and some of the Hindu rituals that follow, in these poems.  I've been granted special permission to include one of my favorite poems from the book in this post.  This poem especially resonated with me.


 Forever Courage, Beta

I wear the butterfly pendant you gave me, Mumma.  I pull at it,
hoping the wings will set me free.  I want to get away from
everybody.  I want to know how to reach you.  I don't want to live in
the absence of your voice.  I wonder what you would say if I read
my plea.  Suddenly, I hear you whisper in the summer breeze. Never 
lose courage, Beta.  You've always been strong.  I swallow my angst.
Words, I tell you, they stay with me forever.


This sincere and courageous account touched me deeply.  I think that adults who have lost a loved one, especially a parent, will be able to relate to this honest and powerful work.  In the span of just over a year, in 2011 and in 2012, I lost both of my parents, first my mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and then my father.  Although my story is different than Sweta's, there are some similarities.  In 2011, I spent a long Memorial Day weekend worrying about my mother's health, waiting to hear news of her condition.  Soon afterward, like Sweta, I was in flight, traveling on a red eye from CA to NY while my mother was in the hospital, hoping to make it there in time.  Sadly, my mother passed away shortly before I arrived in NY.  While on the plane in the hazy, wee hours of the morning, I either dreamed or imagined or heard my mother say in her distinct voice something like "I am alright, Susan--please don't worry", and to this day I wonder if this was truly her message to me in her final moments. 

Although this book conveys Sweta's loss and sorrow, the poet also shares the joy of her close relationship with her mother.  She describes her mother's beautiful saris as "carrying the scent of sweet cardamom"  and smelling of  "cloves and single malt", her delicious cooking, and many other essential details. Saris and a Single Malt is a beautiful, heartfelt collection that is also a loving, poetic tribute to her mother.  In the Afterword of the book, Sweta talks about how she was able to better cope with her grief and find some peace after the loss of her mother.  It is a hopeful and helpful ending.

Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour and for providing a copy of this book.  For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on the tour for Saris and a Single Malt.  I've linked my review to Serena's 2016 Poetry Challenge.

Thank you for reading.  Comments from my readers are welcomed and appreciated.




(PUBLISHING DISCLAIMER: “Forever Courage, Beta” excerpted with permission from the book Saris and a Single Malt, published by Modern History Press.  Copyright (c) 2016 Sweta Srivastava Vikram.  All Rights Reserved.)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Couple Who Fell to Earth

"the world being a jagged heaven
my soles learn to tread more tenderly. My head of red clouds
and wounded distortions: bells and satanic flutes heard.
~ from Immanent, Pugatorio (with Dante Aligehieri), Michelle Bitting



Published in 2016, The Couple Who Fell to Earth is the third book by California poet Michelle Bitting.  This poet holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University, and not surprisingly given the mythological nature of her new book, is currently a Ph.D candidate in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. This book is divided into several sections: Earth, Heart, Immanent, Body, Wind, an Epilogue, and Acknowledgements.

The first poem in the book How Like Marriage is the Season of Flowers in which a forgotten, wrinkled flower bulb from the messy garage has become a single red bloom, sets the stage for the entire collection of poems.  Themes included in this poem reverberate throughout the book--transformation, change, rebirth--and abundant beauty: "beauty needs no apology".  (Thank you--we shouldn't feel guilty about noticing beauty in our daily lives!)  The poem is magically descriptive and layered.  It resonated with me in several ways.  The house, the home, and the love story, brought to mind the some lines from the great, classic song by the Talking Heads, This Must be the Place (Home--is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there . . .).

The Couple Who Fell to Earth is the second poem in the book.  The opening is quite dramatic, and features a couple who went "flying without a map as naked astronauts often do", and who "hurtled through space and burned up entering".  This poem is about passion and marriage, while the poem Gold Ring is about a very long marriage.  The book reflects a deep appreciation for the special richness, and, I think, the otherworldly nature of love, passion, and marriage.  In the Acknowledgements section Bitting cites other poets and writers who inspired her work, such as James Merrill and Frank O'Hara, but I was curious about a possible David Bowie connection to The Couple Who Fell to Earth, which is also the title of the book.  The Man Who Fell to Earth is a 1976 British science fiction film which stars David Bowie as an alien who has landed on Earth in search of water to save his home planet.  I asked Serena from Poetic Book Tours to ask the poet about this.  Here's what Bitting said about David Bowie:

"I've always been a huge Bowie fan so I suppose he and that film were in the back of my mind.  But it really just naturally came through the writing of the poem and maybe Bowie's song playing in the hinterlands of my psyche. Then he died, which I truly did not see coming. "

The Couple Who Fell to Earth is a dynamic, transcendental collection that shows a deep appreciation for life.  I wanted to linger, to become lost "in the lines", and I did, to some extent.  Over the past few years, I've increased my intake of poetry, and slowly but surely, I think I'm understanding it better (at the very least, I'm less intimidated by it as an art form).  I started reading the book one unhurried morning in bed (while a Saturday morning dove cooed outside of my window), and I enjoyed it a great deal.  While reading this collection, I thought about why I want to spend more time reading poetry.  Poetry lets you languish in language, longer.  Poetry "allows" you to mull over a word or an idea (which you can carry around with you, whether you're at the store, or perhaps more fittingly, in the woods).  Sometimes, I just want to think about a single word, detail, phrase, or idea, for a while, to slow down in this way.  Poetry seems to encourage this idea; you don't want to rush through poems, you want to take your time, to savor the vision and the voice.  Additionally, poems, like short stories, can fit into the small time spaces of our lives more easily than larger works.  But back to the book at hand.  Here are some shorter, exquisite lines from The Couple Who Fell to Earth:

"From this time on, love governs my soul."

"The rest is mystery and history re-seen."
~ Immanent, Pugatorio (with Dante Aligehieri)

And from the last poem in the book (one of my favorites):
"The soul of the soul of the soul is love."
~ Epiphany II  

Although I'm providing only small glimpses into The Couple Who Fell to Earth, I hope I've been able to convey the expansiveness and beauty that permeate this collection of poems.

Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me on this tour and for sending me a copy of the book.  For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on the tour for The Couple Who Fell to Earth. I've linked this review to Serena's 2016 Poetry Challenge.  As always, your comments are welcomed!


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