You couldn’t have a more timely title for a book released during a pandemic than Emma Hine’s poetry collection Stay Safe. And it’s the perfect book to curl up with these days because while there’s grief and a bit of terror in the poems there is also wonder, sometimes delivered in twists that take you to a completely unexpected and delightful place. In the poem “Spell,” for example, a swath of dead aspens and then later a tragic car accident turn out not to be what they seem, the trees and driver both alive: “a red truck in flight over a mountain,/ landing gently; moths about to open/ like white flowers; empty-handed/ trees about to fill again with leaves.” Hines and Stay Safe won the 2019 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and the book is available here.
Through his poetic meditations in Night Weavers, Melvin Dowdy takes us on his journey to find a way forward after his wife suffers a stroke that significantly changes their lives. “We are the fierce stretching for the light,” he says at the beginning of the middle section. And he is fearless in gazing at his struggles along the way. Yet, love and the beauty of nature and music are constant companions, and we see hope in poems like “The Boy with No Ear for Music” where a child works to master an instrument, overcoming the disparagement of an early teacher. Dowdy doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of the process of becoming resilient, but he makes us glad he shared his path with us.
Night Weavers is available on Amazon
Meghan Phillips’ flash-fiction chapbook Abstinence Only plays with the theater of the absurd that serves as sex education in most schools. I found it rollicking good fun to read. Students are made to kiss an CPR dummy wired to deliver an electric shock, girls wear signs saying noli me tangere, an alliterative list of discharges, e.g., “creamy chlamydia, is used to teach students about STDs. Yet, even while she’s making you laugh, Phillips doesn’t shy away from making clear the sexist treatment of girls in these lessons, and, even better, shows the girls with the wit and agency to resist.
Abstinence Only is available through Barrelhouse