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Melissa Ginsburg’s Doll Apollo (LSU Press, 2022) resists conventional narrative notions. Organized in three sections, “Doll,” “Apollo,” and “Toile,” the book explores identity, doubt, mythology, and violence, both bodily and environmental, in poems linked by the lush imagery of a common landscape. “Toile” refers to a canvas-like fabric that depicts pastoral vignettes and it is a popular decorative element, particularly in the U.S. South. The gorgeous cover art for the book includes a toile pattern that reflects the unique concerns of Ginsburg’s poems, mingling an unexpected astronaut with paper dolls in the traditional pastoral background.
Sherrie Zantea, known by her stage name, Candy, is a luminary in the Dallas poetry community. She is the brilliant leader behind the Dallas Poetry Slam organization and has been making literary history for more than 20 years. Her chapbook, Oak Cliff-Hangers: Stories in a Snow Globe (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2021) reflects on growing up in Oak Cliff with heartbreaking candor and soaring hope.
Alex Temblador’s latest novel, Half Outlaw (Blackstone Publishing, 2022), is a hell of a ride. The story follows Raqi (pronounced “Rocky”), a successful LA attorney in her 30s, as she grapples with grief, trauma, relationships, and her profoundly complicated family, who are members of the Lawless, a drug-running, gun-dealing motorcycle club. As your friendly neighborhood poet, I’ll be honest: I don’t read many novels, but this book’s heartrending characters, cross-country trek, and magical realism had me hooked.
Matthew W. Baker’s debut chapbook Undoing the Hide’s Taut Musculature (Finishing Line Press, 2019) is a visceral and incisive exploration of what it means to have a body. Baker’s poems delve into mortality, illness, surgical interventions both elective and necessary, and radical changes both voluntary and beyond the speaker’s control. The speaker in these poems grapples with isolation and relationships, offering an unflinching portrayal of the mother/son dynamic.
Loretta Diane Walker is treasure in the Texas poetry community. She is the author of many books, including a full-length collection, Day Begins When Darkness Is in Full Bloom (Blue Light Press, 2021) and the topic of this review, her most recent chapbook, From the Cow’s Eye & Other Poems, which won the 2021 William D. Barney Memorial Chapbook Prize from The Fort Worth Poetry Society. The poems in the collection show off Walker’s poetic range; the speaker weaves stunning Texas landscapes and offers deft observations about love, grief, music, dreams, superheroes, and much more.
I was excited when I found out Lauren Berry’s second poetry collection, The Rented Altar (2020), would be published by C&R Press. Her debut collection, National Poetry Series winner The Lifting Dress (Penguin, 2010), is a book I’ve returned to many times over the years since I first picked it up. I was fascinated by the lush, dark, terrifying world of Berry’s young speaker in the first book, and I expected her second book to be just as compelling.
Robin Myrick describes her debut poetry collection, I AM THIS STATE OF EMERGENCY (Surveyor Books, 2020), as “about us.” The result of an eight-year listening project, Myrick’s poems examine the ways political discourse permeates our lives, our relationships, and our imaginations.
Rebecca Balcárcel’s debut middle-grade novel, THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY (Chronicle Books, 2019) stars Quijana, a bicultural girl who grappling with the tumult of being 12 years old. Why is your friendly neighborhood poet reviewing a novel written for children ages 8 to 12?
Inner Moonlight, our monthly poetry series, celebrates its second anniversary with a virtual experience, 11 poets read their poems from their homes. Make sure you click on this link to watch all the performances on YouTube.
Logen Cure, curator of our monthly poetry series Inner Moonlight in conversation with local writers, Nomi Stone and Rose Skelton. They’ll be performing on November 13th at Inner Moonlight, our poetry reading series.
Opalina will read from her collection of poems “Black Sparrow Dress” at Inner Moonlight, on Wednesday, May 8th.
Moon Woman and don’t get your hopes up is a double chapbook set to be released this year from Thoughtcrime Press. This innovative volume offers readers the opportunity to delight in each individual collection and invites them to consider the interplay between the two very different, very powerful voices of Fatima-Ayan Malika Hirsi and courtney marie. The poems in this dual collection share particular concerns: the body, desire, relationships, identity. Both voices take risks, make confessions, and raise big questions.
Lauren Brazeal’s first full-length collection, Gutter (YesYes Books, 2018), tells the story of a young woman, who identifies herself early in the collection as “Little Mohawked Squatter Punk,” living on the streets of Los Angeles. This collection challenges all my expectations about storytelling in poetry. The narrative emerges from a strange combination of forms, everything from sestina and villanelle to letters, instructions, erasure, checklists, and more.
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