Monday, April 16, 2018

How to Love the Empty Air

How will you celebrate?  April is National Poetry Month, a time to explore and experience the world of poetry.  In honor of National Poetry Month, I read a new collection of poetry by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, the poet's seventh, How to Love the Empty Air, published in 2018.

This book is an intimate, autobiographical collection of poems that depict the author's successes in her work and relationships, as well as the great loss that she experiences when her mother--her "narrator"--dies suddenly.  In these poems, we learn about the poet's life, about her writing career and move to Texas, and about her relationships, especially her relationship with her mother.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book, because it's contemporary--it includes email and texts--it's down-to-earth, and also, most importantly, it illustrates the poet's beautiful, close relationship with her mother, who has died. Each of these poems is like a short story (or more accurately, a mini story) packed with creativity, thought, and feeling.  Although Aptowicz is deeply grieving the loss of her mother, she's able to find some comfort, which she shares with her readers, by remembering and honoring her mother in this collection, in a way that's both personal and universal.  The titles of poems, such as for the opening poem, My Mother Does Not Give Advice, and Moving Means that You Have to Touch Everything You Own Once (never thought of it that way!), and the final poem, Sleeping in Late with My Mother (which ends the collection in a funny and positive, remarkable manner), set the stage for the unique humor found in this collection.  Her mother's voice comes through clearly in these poems, sometimes quite literally, "That's not the picture I want you to see/Use the other one/You know that one, from our weekend together?"  (from the poem, Portraits of My Mother, Far Away from Texas).  The poet and her mother share a special sense of humor. These poems are funny, they are touching, and very "relatable".  I don't know how Aptowicz manages to create poems out of emails, texts, and references to emojis, but she does!  On a personal, related note, having lost my own mother in 2011, I cherish the letters and emails I have from her, and reread them when I crave connection to her.  My mother's words, like Aptowicz's mother's words, contain her humor and her support, and so remain helpful, and present. 

If I were a high school English teacher, I'd choose to read and discuss How to Love the Empty Air with my students, because I think my students would then fall in love with poetry.  But many people, of all ages, are reluctant to read poetry. They worry perhaps that they will not understand it, that it'll be written in formal, difficult-to-decipher language, replete with odd metaphors and similes, bygones from another era. These poems are easy to read and yet full of depth and meaning. I really can't say enough about them!  If you're at all intimidated by the idea of poetry, pick up this book. You might change your mind completely.

Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour, and for providing a complimentary copy of this brilliant book.  To read other reviews of this collection, please visit Poetic Book Tours' tour for How to Love the Empty Air.
Thank you very much for reading! Your comments are appreciated.


  1. love mother daughter relationships so I think I'd enjoy this book.

  2. My mother passed away in 2006. Never have I felt such pain. I never made an effort to “get over it” nor do I wish too. This sounds like a wonderful collection

  3. You've made this sound like a must read. I love the cover!

  4. This sounds like such a lovely collection of poems with a book cover and title that drew me in.

  5. I really loved this collection. It's wonderful

  6. This sounds really good and really different. I love the idea of poems created by using emails, emojis, etc. I think that it is a very good think when literature explores these new ways to communicate.

  7. This really does sound good. Love your post.

  8. I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. It is great that you have those connections. This poetry collection sounds impressive.

  9. Thank you all for taking the time to leave comments! :)

  10. It sounds like you had a wonderful relationship with your mother.

    I'm sure I'd find these poems moving despite my reservations about the format.

  11. This sounds like a beautiful collection of poetry. It's hard to get students interested in Poetry I've found.

  12. Happy National Poetry Month Susan. I am glad you enjoyed this moving collection of poetry about mothers and daughters.

  13. What a thoughtful review! I love that this collection explores the relationship between mother and daughter. I'm sad to realize I didn't read ANY poems in April for National Poetry month!


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