Review in Scintilla

My thanks to Scintilla.Info for a wonderful review of my poetry collection. Here it is:

Book Review: I lost summer somewhere, Sarah Russell

I lost summer somewhere, Sarah Russell

Poetry: I lost summer somewhere, Sarah Russell

Local (State College, PA) poet Sarah Russell has given us a collection of poems that are heartfelt and moving. I lost summer somewhere is poignant, elegant, and sometimes emotionally raw. Reading it drew me into a world of love and loss, of new love found, of letting go of an aging parent piece by piece, of being with someone at their most vulnerable point, of watching granddaughters grow into a world we could never have imagined. At times it was a nerve-wracking white-knuckled journey through life. But it is hard to find someone relate that journey with the grace, beauty, and dignity that Russell achieves.

Anyone who has ever been in love can both relate to and laugh with her poem, “If I Had Three Lives.” She starts,

“If I had three lives, I’d marry you in two.”

This humorous look at love then goes on to imagine her life where she did not marry him: writing, reading lots of books, vacationing in Maine, practicing yoga…and then admitting,

“And I’d wonder sometimes / if I’d ever find you.”

This quirky love poem acknowledges that marriage has changed her in ways that might not always meet her ideal (“I’d be thinner in that life, vegan”), but in two of three lives she would choose him and in the third life she’d long for him. Honestly, that’s more than a lot of us get!

The titular poem is a metaphor for aging. The poet realizes that she has entered a stage of life when geese have abandoned their nests and wildflowers have finished their blooms. I love how she says to the geese as they leave,

“I’ll stay here, I tell them, I’ll air out / cedared cardigans. chop carrots / for the soup tonight, cross / the threshold of the equinox, / try not to stumble.”

Any of us watching the years spin by faster and faster can appreciate both the sense of loss and the acceptance of our future, whatever that may be.

Although the poems offer much to every reader, I believe that women would especially appreciate Russell’s perspectives. She writes as the wife who watches a marriage crumble, as the mother there with a daughter making a difficult choice and living with that, as the grandmother advising her middle-school granddaughter. Sometimes, like in Learning to Play Baseball, she is the bemused woman struggling to communicate with a man. She is the woman watching herself age, falling in love again, appreciating new seasons of life.

That being said, this book is not “for” women or men. It is for anyone who loves language, who loves poetry, for anyone who has loved and anyone who is watching an aging parent decline, for anyone who has enjoyed an “Indian Summer” of life and found a second love and held a child. Sarah Russell’s poems are beautiful and passionate, and I lost summer somewhere is a special collection.

Lawrence – by Robert Ford

A marvelous poem by Robert Ford, voted Reader’s Choice at Algebra of Owls. Both the poet and the journal are worth following. I’m never disappointed by their offerings.

Algebra Of Owls

In Miss Owen’s English class we learned about The Writer,
a local hero, or at least he’d come from a town near ours
we’d heard of, and had written poems and books, and died

abroad. He wrote a novel famous for being about fucking,
she told us – or something – and for having the word cunt in it,
and getting banned. Her fish-batter hair bounced as much as

hair as short as hers could, and her cavegirl face with its dark,
moon-lidded eyes, ground pepper as she said the swear-words,
and feasted on the bony silence they’d milked. After the bell,

we mooched about in the schoolyard like sheep just shorn,
our tongues and lips clumsy with disbelief, the crown jewels of
our vocabulary now strangely blunted in our mucky little mouths.

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and…

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Mary Oliver

I just learned that Mary Oliver has died. She is one of my favorite poets, and one who inspired me with her plain language and sensitive observations. The world is lonelier without her.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like a hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom; taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

– Mary Oliver
From New and Selected Poems
Photo source

Somewhere in her Breath

In this beautiful poem by Rajani Radhakrishnan, a city becomes a woman.
photo source

THOTPURGE

From this height, the city has the ugly visage of failed
possibilities, scraps of dystopia sequinned on her

colourless blouse, an aging matron who still walks the
streets in her high heels, her lips the desperate pink

of what might have been. I stand at the edge, counting
all the reasons to live. Below, the city murmurs even in

her sleep. Trying to fit her frame to the warm undulations
of the morning sky. Somewhere in her breath is the

poetry of those nights. Somewhere in her embrace is
the smell of heated passion, the taste of your skin on her

tongue, the beat of your heart in her urgent rhythm, the
shadow of your gaze in her underbelly. Somewhere in the

line of her upturned chin is the path we never dared to
take. Somewhere in her soft lap is everything we were.

Everything we lost. Have you watched…

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Who hoards rain clouds in the desert?

Another wonderful poem by my friend Rajani Radhakrishnan. Instead of reblogging it from her website, I put it here so you could read it uninterrupted. Please leave comments on her site and look around while you’re there. She writes beautiful poetry.

Who hoards rain clouds in the desert?

There the universe stores vats of virgin happiness, doling
it out like a grim faced Scrooge, while we wait, bowl in

hand, wanting more. Always wanting more. We are made
of longing and hunger. And everywhere we look, is a giant

supermarket feeding that emptiness. Everything in excess,
marked down, on luscious display, the seed of the first apple

feverishly multiplying on every shelf of every aisle and our
hands reaching constantly to fill the ever growing void. Except

for happiness. For that, there is a line and a quota and a price.
We pretend not to see each other. Who will admit to such

privation? We study the signs from a distance. Perhaps, it
is another sorrow, another wound, another word that brings

you here. Does my skin turn transparent as I stand? Do you know
the scars inside? You will not turn your head. I will not call. How

much longer? Who hoards rain clouds in the desert? No one
warned me to save my smile. To save the light in your eyes.

– Rajani Radhakrishnan
Rajani’s website
Photo source

Home

Late afternoon in the valley, the trees
wear halos. Then twilight steals the sun,
kitchen lights blink on like stars,
and coming home is a sigh
and the smile of someone waiting.
Your day is told in half sentences
and nods and questions answered —
nothing new, but new enough to tell again.
After supper, after gin rummy and pages
turning and the rhythmic click of a sweater
growing row by row, bed greets you
like a childhood friend, and sleep
keeps company with the blue black sky
and the owl’s whispered flight.

– Sarah Russell
First published by Your Daily Poem
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
Painting source

The Way

Another beautiful poem from Rajani Radhakrishnan. Her lyricism and imagery are outstanding.

THOTPURGE

And the monk sat, like a cloud, at peace, the way you can
unfurl at a safe distance from people, speaking softly, the

way spring rain writes on leaves, about life and illusion and
the journey of souls that leaves us behind, the way a snake

trades one skin for another. I wanted to ask if I could shed
this skin you touched, memories etched on it like scars that

would never heal. I wanted to ask if I could be washed and
anointed in a sunshine unguent, the way a bride is bathed

before her wedding, healing turmeric running down her
face and neck, the way the old sky is made to masquerade

as a new one each morning. But I am just the moulted life
of a writhing soul, holding on for a flutter, the way a name

is carried in the fist of the wind, for a…

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Flotilla by Steve Deutsch

One of my favorite poets on one of my favorite sites. This poem is outstanding.

Autumn Sky Poetry Daily

Flotilla

You left behind.
one half a jelly donut,
stale as last Wednesday;
some clothing, moth-eaten,
mildewed; two shoes,
one black, one brown,
with newsprint for the soles.
You left behind a paper sack
of winter warmth, and poetry
by Whitman, Poe and Crane,
well-fingered and browned in age.

You walked into the river
and left behind four dollars
and eighteen cents, which I
have spent on coffee
and a banana nut muffin,
that crumbled in its freshness.

Your poetry; penned
in your perfect prep school hand,
was stuffed inside two newish socks
atop the brown and laceless shoe.
It is unnervingly good,
but I can use the socks.
I crumpled your words in their freshness,
and set them to sail upon the river,
page by remarkable page.

by Steve Deutsch, first published in Weatherings.

Editor’s Note: The title in this poem serves up multiple meanings to…

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