Books to read for 2021: Things My Mother Left Behind by Susan Richardson (Potter’s Grove Press) with “Leaves” from the book

The first thing I noticed when reading Susan’s writing is the descriptive imagery, she makes you feel every emotion she feels.  This is a trait in writing that I admire and her telling of loss and depression at times returns me back on imagery I rarely see outside of Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plath.  The poetry reads like the story of her life through the love, loss, grief, the screaming pinches in the soul that losing a parent, child, or sibling staples-in forever.  She also hauntingly describes the progress of losing her sight as she has gone from a sky full of stars both sentient and still to the ones who blink out erratically til there is nothing left to burn.  These are not just some poems.  These are her life.  Emotions are hers.  When you read this collection of poetry the Emotions are yours too.  “Between Sight and Blindness” “Stitching Bones” the loves that got away “Cactus Garden” the pains that diseases bring, the people they take away, the hearts that feels like a car puttering out over the rainy bridge with nowhere to go, these poems will “scatter into the sky” scratching at the stars looking for the brightest one yet receiving in return a turning off the lights inside of Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory, in demure breath wanting the world see the pain. A wonderful read.  A wonderful trip into the mind. We need more of her poetic vision.

Susan Richardson is an award winning, internationally published poet. She is the author of “Things My Mother Left Behind”, from Potter’s Grove Press, and also writes the blog, “Stories from the Edge of Blindness

”. She lives in Ireland with her husband, two pugs and two cats.  You can find her on Twitter @floweringink, listen to her on YouTube , and read more of her work on her website

Leaves

Another hospital room,
another chair holding the weight of my sorrow.
His breath is almost soundless,
mouth open wide
as if inviting god into his lungs one last time.

His eyes flutter awake,
startled.

Is it my face he sees,
dulled by time,
or a face that once held the sun?

He smiles and strokes my fifty-year old hand,
all the years drifting away.
The blues sit perched on his dry lips.
I am his child,
four years old singing Lead Belly
at the top of my tiny lungs

I am a drop of his blood
spilling out onto the Earth,
a fracture of his bones
stuck into the ground with paper spikes.
I am the tear from his eye,
heavy, 
reluctant.

His hands are a whisper that tell a story,
a smattering of leaves on his palm,
fingers plucking at things only he can see,
my mother,
my brother,

both long dead.

I watch his chest barely rising,
each small breath
a forest of words trapped in the mist of his memory.
I wait for his stillness,
for the breaking pieces of his mind to be at rest.
He sits in my palm now,
softly,
frail like the wing of a sparrow.
He folds into shapes
so tiny
so quiet.

Poem by Susan Richardson : “Mean Girls”

A Book Review for Steve Denehan “The Streets, Like Flowers, Come Alive in the Rain” Review by Georgia Hilton

The Streets, Like Flowers, Come Alive in the Rain: Poetry Collection by [Steve Denehan]

https://amzn.to/3jWEMUq

The Streets, Like Flowers, Come Alive in The Rain,
(Steve Denehan, Potter’s Grove Press, 2021)

The first impression a reader may have when encountering Steve Denehan’s new collection is that the author has found his version of the good life and is unapologetically living it. There’s little poetic angst here – The Streets, Like Flowers, Come Alive in the Rain is quietly life-affirming and uplifting, but never corny or overly sentimental. Instead, it revels in the knowledge that joy arrives quietly, without fanfare, in small domestic moments. Take the poem ‘Rain’, where the author reflects that ‘happiness comes easy these days’, and that after searching for it for years, he realises ‘it was there all along/ hiding in plain sight/ in the folds of that old woollen blanket/ in the press filled with lunchboxes and Tupperware.’

That’s not to say that Denehan shies away from the difficult subjects, far from it. In The Tossed Coins of John Canning, the poet’s family meets a homeless man ‘a hard life behind him/a harder one to come’. Discovering that he is also a poet ‘of wrong turns/ and bad calls’, Denehan muses that ‘it could have been me/ could still be yet.’ This is someone who never takes his version of the good life for granted, who knows that everything can change in a heartbeat. Perhaps this is the key to the sense of quiet gratitude that permeates this collection.

Denehan is a humane, compassionate writer, but he also gives wry expression to some of the absurdities of modern life. In The High Cost of Breathing, Denehan recounts his disbelief at ‘The Oxygen Bar’, where he encounters a dozen people ‘smiling under oxygen masks/ breathing pure air/scented with flowers and butterscotch’. In Destination Restaurant, the poet can’t hide his revulsion at the ‘guffaw…of a truffle scoffing, oily-mouthed snob’. Denehan picks apart the absurdity and pretension of modern life with skilful precision, whilst reminding us of what’s really important – meaningful relationships with those we love.

It’s no surprise then that the most memorable poems are those written about Denehan’s daughter, Robin, who provides the foreword for the book. In One More Week, Robin writes a poem about her grandfather – ‘having read it/ I was quiet/ while I waited/ for the lump in my throat to subside’. In The Dance Class he muses that ‘inside her chest there are no corners/ her blood/ and some of mine/ dark fire dancing…with the only music that really matters.’

This is a collection primarily concerned with what really matters. It never sacrifices sincerity for artfulness but is nonetheless accomplished. As Robin herself says of her Dad’s writing – ‘his poems always make me think.’

Georgia Hilton

The Featured Poetry Showcase for Steve Denehan

Reviewer bio: Georgia Hilton is an Irish poet and fiction writer living in Winchester, England. Her poem Dark-Haired Hilda Replies to Patrick Kavanagh won the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize in 2018, and she has a pamphlet I went up the lane quite cheerful and a collection Swing, both published by Dempsey and Windle. Her short fiction has appeared in Lunate Fiction, Fictive Dream and the Didcot Writers anthology. Georgia tweets sometimes at @GGeorgiahilton

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A Book Review of Pen Muses a compilation of 60 poems by Sarika Jaswani (reviewed by Mashaal Sajid)

Pen Muses

Pen Muses is a compilation of 60 Poems by Poet and Artist Sarika Jaswani. Known for her ArtInCrochet nonprofit and fundraising for various underprivileged schools around the world,
Sarika is a certified crochet instructor and art tutor. She has authored original children’s stories in the series ‘Life is Magical’ to go with crochet toys in her shop. Her books are available at
Kindle and BN.com. Sarika’s poetry has been published on The “Tide Rises, The Tide Falls”, “A Cornered Gurl Publication”, and “Fevers Of The Mind

This is an emotive and relatable collection of poems on a diverse range of topics from love, grief, heartache, and sorrow to desire, hope and personal reflections on the complexities of time
and human emotions. Abound with imagery from the natural world and an empathetic poetic voice, these Poems have a soothing effect on the reader. They create a meditative and calm atmosphere replete with internal reflections and familiar emotions expressed in exquisite
language.

Some of my favorites were Aroha, An Empty Page, Limoncello Elder, Sculpture and Seven. Aroha is about separateness in relationships and love thriving despite superficial barriers.

“Willful
I shun the stigma of aging suns”

An Empty Page is about the creative process, this poem has a beautiful visual pattern that heightens/elevates the poems liquid atmosphere composed of language like: barbel, wet weight
and currency of liquid. Limoncello is a melodramatic poem about the passing of time, love and loss. Sculpture is ripe with desire and desperation and uses passionate language to express
these emotions:

“Forge me in your love
My engraver-
I’ll be a bearer of your nameSeven is another love poem, this one is on a lighter and happy note and sings the lover’s praise.

The Collection consists of a few ekphrastic poems paired with alluring photography such as Skyline, Dark Moon and The Woods. Quite a few verses captured my heart with their poignant
visual imagery of nature and others with their poetic brilliance, some of these phrases were:
“Dog-eared leaf/ with your initials/ stays mint in my elegy”, “In each vein fold of pigeon-heart petal of Chrysanthemum”, “I wear your sepia blemish/ at each vex of moon”, “allium of her life
stems in gospel truths”, “I fill each grain/ in spores of your spell”, and “I want to steal your sun/
off orchards/ be an apple to/ bathe in your sunshine”.

I was grateful for the opportunity to read and review Pen Muses. The collection has a lot of potential, the love poems are heartwarming and accessible and would make a beautiful gift to
share with someone you love or want to express your feelings to. The collection makes a light-hearted read you can enjoy and delve in at leisure, it leaves you contemplating the
bittersweetness of love, time and memory.

Brief Bio:
Crochet artist, art tutor, writer of children's stories, philanthropist. Poet. Dabbles in poetry, reading,
and writing. Art lover. Bird lover. Dreamer and blogger. Poetry published at The Tide Rises, The
Tide Falls, also on Medium @ACG.

Sarika Jaswani, under the pen name ArtInCrochet, is a decade old non-profit donating hats and
scarves to orphanages and shelter homes. She has done fundraising from 2016 through sales of handmade crochet items for kids in need. She is a certified crochet instructor from The American Craft Council. She has conducted classes at Alpharetta Main Branch Library, Art Center Alpharetta, and Michael's Community Classroom Alpharetta Georgia. Funds raised through her teaching crochet art are used to donate books to various underprivileged schools around the
world. She has authored original children's stories in the series 'Life is Magical' to go with the crochet toys in her shop. Her books are available as Nook Books on BN.com and Amazon
Kindle. Her Etsy page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtInCrochet
Sarika is a passionate poetry reader and writer. Her Poetry is published on:
The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls.
Online Literary Journal
Featured in Fever Of The Mind
A Cornered Gurl publication on Medium
https://link.medium.com/LFnXDnZTGdb

Wolfpack Contributor: Sarika Jaswani

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Sarika Jaswani (artincrochet)

Bio: Doctor by profession. I'm a Crochet Artist, Art Tutor Writer of Children's Stories, Philanthropist. Poet. Published. Passionately reads & writes poetry. Art Lover. Bird lover. Dreamer and blogger.Published on 'Tide Rises Tide Falls' & on Medium with A Cornered Gurl @ACG @Scittura 

Fevers of the Mind Poetry on WordPress
Silver Birch Press
The Organic Poets 
A frequent VSS prompt writer on twitter
My poems run on theme of love, reflection and philosophy of life.

ArtinCrochet on Twitter @sarikajaswani

Book Review by Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

“What The Owl Taught Me” by Annest Gwilym a poetry book review by Mashaal Sajid

What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym | North of Oxford
What The Owl Taught Me

“What the owl taught me” is Annest Gwilym’s first full-length Poetry collection published by Lapwing Publications in 2020. Having read Annest’s debut poetry chapbook “Surfacing”, I looked forward to delve into this collection and my anticipation was rewarded. A bestiary of sorts,  “what the owl taught me” is a perfect read for anyone who approaches themes of nature and wildlife with adoration and cautious reverence. 

Annest depicts the spirit of living creatures from mythological birds, sea urchin and moths to endangered critters in these 40 Poems. The collection is hallmarked with quaint verses giving human characteristics to animals like: “scuffle for a crumb on the street, sinewy legs dance and pounce”, “upright head, a Roman nose”, “shimmied and played chase with the ladies”, “underwater acrobats”, “as your mocking laughter ripples”, “he keeps vigil, forages, shovels snow”, and “in his robe of sun he cartwheels”.

Perhaps due to my biased fascination with moths, but mostly because of these opening lines “I rode through the liquid night, as a melon-slice moon crested a bank of cloud”, Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth is my favourite poem in this collection. It takes you on a first person view of a moth’s night journey, flying over moor and sea, to end in a desire filled moment with the anticipation of some obscure ferine mating ritual: “There to wait for my lover; my musk strong, / it will draw him from miles. He will come, / wings taut with blood. Antennae fresh as ferns.”

Some poems are heavy with environmentalist concern and themes of extinction. Golden child is a concrete poem about the endangered Raja Undulate sting ray, the speaker describes the beauty of the creature calling her ‘beauty queen of rays’, the voice breaks to distressed prayer towards the end: “Golden child, I pray you don’t go the way of the golden toad”. “The Last Woolly Mammoth” paints a macabre and mournful picture of the extinction of the last Woolly mammoths on Wrangel Island. Tinted with grief and loss, it features a mother child duo, the child after witnessing his mother’s death surrenders to loneliness and demise. The poem holds bitter lessons about climate crisis and environmentally harmful practices : “People have taken bones and tusks, of his dead tribe, wear his family’s coats on their backs.”

What The Owl Taught Me contains many brilliant Poems, among these, the ones that stood out to me the most are: “Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth”, “Domesticated”, “Barn Owl”, “The Nightmare Bird”, “The Moon Hedgehog”, and “Wasp’s Nest”. Their language is fresh and alive with poignant oft eerie imagery like “The ugly planet hangs like a mutilated moon”, “he fled through looms of leaves, fingered by spiders”, “moon-bitten, storm struck eater of stars, and dreams, it’s scream strangles the night “, “silken killer moves like water”, and “when I see you I could burst into flower”

What the owl taught me is a stirring read that captures your attention throughout. The collection is a testimony to Annest’s poetic prowess. Anyone with an interest in bestiaries, a love for wildlife and their share of environmentalist concerns would thoroughly enjoy this book.

 

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

Wolfpack Contributor: Annest Gwilym

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym  (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Bio: Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She has been placed in writing competitions, winning one. She lives on the coast of north west Wales with her rescue dog.

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Poetry Pamphlet Review: Surfacing by Annest Gwilym | Sammi Loves Books
Surfacing by Annest Gwilym

A dauntless and personal debut poetry collection by Annest Gwilym. Surfacing was published in 2018 by Lapwing Publications. Annest is based in North Wales, near Snowdonia National Park. Her writing has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She has been placed in competitions, winning one in recent years and she was the editor of the former webzine Nine Muses Poetry.

Surfacing is a collection of poems all unified by themes dealing with mental illness, loneliness and anguish. One distinguishing feature of this collection is the speaker’s tenacity and spirit and how their vulnerability allows us to feel for and have a closer look into the internal world of someone struggling with mental illness. 

The book cover is symbolic of light at the end of the tunnel or in this case a glimmer at the end of a passage under a dark canopied forest. The 19 poems all with unique poignant titles are arranged into three parts, each denoting a shift in the atmosphere which is most evident in ‘Bright little pill’ and ‘Beach pottery mosaic’. The language is at times abrupt,flowing with underwater references and seascapes at other times like “The sea outside your house slyly slides past mine”, “My heart beats sea-surged”, and “even my broken glass can become sea treasure”. 

Evocative imagery paired with visuals of animals and the natural world world like “Before the Storm irises Black Star lilies”, “In a forest full of hemlock and wolfsbane”, “a sweet soil shelter” transports you to a welsh landscape and reminded me of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. The first part heavy with imagery that invokes loneliness, desolation and being distant from the world, paired with everyday visuals like “percussion of washing machine”, “blinds are drawn day doesn’t break there”, “the cutlery is mismatched”, “slow as a Sunday afternoon” becomes haunting. 

The poems in the second part deal with fear, paranoia, treatment and drowsy liminal hospital rooms. The poem ‘Last night’ echoes Lady Lazarus. This part has a very dream heavy and sleep induced atmosphere, Some imagery that really stood out is “If they shut me in an attic I could fly out on singed wings”, “whaled woman lies beached drowning lungs broadcast”, “people move like smoke”.


In the third part of the collection the language becomes more grounded in reality and the atmosphere becomes warmer, the visuals calm and solitary but familiar as we move towards the end the tone shifts to one of hope. “The house curls in on itself”, “festive glow of pub and bistro”, “the steaming parcel a warm hand in mine”, “the sun’s yolk descends behind the island where I picked wild strawberries” are some examples. 

Life Underwater is my favorite Poem in Surfacing, it has a beautiful form and makes brilliant use of references and imagery. “Like Sisyphus I roll each jellied day one after the other, Without Orpheus to sing me back” this line leaves me astounded every time. 
Surfacing takes you on an intense reflective and emotive journey which ends for the reader in a warm and hopeful way.


Wolfpack Contributor: Annest Gwilym

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Annest Gwilym

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

Bio: Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She has been placed in writing competitions, winning one. She lives on the coast of north west Wales with her rescue dog.  





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