One thing about being a writer is that, after awhile, you meet other writers one way or another: sometimes through social media, Zoom events, or in person at book signings and readings; sometimes through conferences, workshops, or various educational programs; sometimes by finding local writers groups or getting an introduction to someone through a friend. When you meet writers, you get the additional privilege of reading their work. It so happens that lately, many of my writerly friends and colleagues have published books, and I’ve been busy reading them!
First, I want to mention that whenever possible, readers should purchase literary volumes from the writers themselves or from their publishers, or–if it’s an option in your region–from an independent bookseller. I do resort to ABE and Thrift and Amazon when a book has gone out of print or when the publisher prints through Amazon, but I want to remind people that the other sources will support the writers themselves or the independent small bookshops and publishers who launch these books into the world.
Now that my virtuous aside has been accomplished, here are a few of the books-by-friends-&-colleagues I’ve been consuming lately–not all of them newly-published (it takes me awhile to get around to the reading).
The near-abstract imagery and the concrete place-names and lyricism in Heather H. Thomas’ 2018 Vortex Street appealed to me on several levels, from the scientific (a repeating pattern of swirling vortices, see “fluid dynamics”) to the particular: my husband grew up in Reading, PA, where some of these poems are suspended in recollection. I’ve also loved reading Grant Clauser’s latest, the 2021 Codhill prize-winner Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven, a collection of poems that strikes me as both deeply beautiful and tenderly sad. Poet Lynn Levin has published a terrific book of short stories, House Parties, that remind me of the wry sense of humor and wide-ranging knowledge her poems have while proving she’s also a deft hand at plot and character. Maureen Dunphy’s memoir Divining, A Memoir in Trees, brought to mind parallels with Lesley Wheeler’s memoir in poems, Poetry’s Possible Worlds. In both books, the authors have chosen a locus [an American tree, a contemporary poem] and used the exploration of that “trigger” to draw out something personal. What better way to connect with readers than through something we love and value? Which brings me to a shout-out to Jane Satterfield, whose poetry collection The Badass Brontës isn’t in this photo because I’ve already lent it to someone who’s a Brontë fan.
In addition to the above books, I am eagerly awaiting new works from a host of other poet-friends: chapbooks by Beejay Grob (forthcoming from Moonstone Publishing) and Lisa DeVuono, poetry collections from Jerry Wemple, Jeanine Hall Gailey, and others that slip my mind at the moment. My only regret is that I have all this reading to do just as gardening season gets really underway!