Poetry Review — In Love in War: A Journey of Black Womanhood

In Love in War: A Journey of Black Womanhood by K. Grace is a collection of poetry about being a woman and black in America. Grace presents a struggle in her writing. It is a struggle that sees oppression on all sides. There is the struggle in black America to free itself from its past, and, at the same time, to break the cycle of poverty, stereotypes, and the selfishness of people. She proclaims that even if an African-American does everything right, they are still at a disadvantage because of skin color, and that is one thing no one can change:

By remaining silent I succumb to my ancestor’s chains

By using textbooks as shelf ornaments and doorstops,

I push my unborn babies onto slave ships…

By slipping into the safety of convention

I become part of this nation

That was based on

My destruction and dehumanization 

Another battle being waged with acceptance is with women. Openly welcomed into women’s rights demonstrations, the author discovers that most of the welcoming company would not join her in a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Men also present a challenge in other ways. The cry for power often lacks responsibility. There is a perpetuation of victim status instead of becoming masters of one’s destiny. 

I’m tired of revolutioniggaz

these brothas raising their fists to fight

using those same fists to beat their wives 

There is a battle of color too; it is something Grace wishes never existed. Although she can ignore and forget what the world teaches, many cannot. Her use of Whyte throughout the poem is unusual in that is separate from “White Boys” and other general references to “white” people. Whyte is the society in which we live. It is the indoctrination of “whiteness” and then demanding that people act, dress, and perform in certain ways. Not only does the spelling difference separate the individuals from the system, but it can also relate to the Y chromosome. It is the white male, by a vast majority, that makes our laws, sends tax dollars to particular districts, and determines reproductive rights.

Feeding the lie by letting it pull our puppet strings

Acting like chocolate-coated Europeans

Tellin people how to live

When our shit isn’t together 

In Love In War is a powerful collection of poetry with a strong message that will apply to all readers. Her root message is love, and that love is at all levels from society down to individual needs. Grace is clear and eloquent in her writing and even as a middle-aged, white, male I can see and agree with her arguments. There is a cry for all sides to recognize that there is a problem that must be resolved. 

Until we accept that the world is the way it is because of our daily decisions

Only then you can tell me you truly love your children — your future

Only then, can I believe that you are serious about change

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Poetry Review — The Skin of Dreams: New and Collected Poems 1995-2018

Quraysh Ali Lansana provides the reader with a selection of poetry that not reflects the author’s life but the changing world in time and geography. The poet takes the reader in life as an African-American in Oklahoma. “in eufuala” capture the small Alabama town life for a poor black man who, by his own words, cannot vote. The poem rings with segregation, good ol’ boys, knowing “one’s place”, and diabetes. Chicago is different with a different kind of violence with a deep ingrained repression that is shown in “statement on the killing of patrick dorismond .” Other times we are reminded of what we all long for, against all odds:

i am not non-violent i am a teacher
i am not non-violent i am a writer
i am not non-violent i vote
we are not non-violent we care
The dating of the early poems is magnificent and anyone from the period would immediately recognize:

a harvest gold & avocado green leisure suit with fm radio, it was their,
well, daddy’s, mansion, his james brown conk cool, his funky country on radials, power windows and doors a working class music.
~ 1972 ford ltd

Lansana provides the reader with a snapshot of America that few chose to look at or look at with any pride. It is, however, more real than the American Dream and lives everywhere. It may look different or be explained away but it exists and evolves with time.  An outstanding collection of American poetry.

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Book Review — Haig’s Coup: How Richard Nixon’s Closest Aid Forced Him From Office

A fascinating biography of a real-life ”Cigarette Smoking Man” — Never in power but always able to manipulate those in power. Haig struggled to get into West Point, graduated in the bottom third of his class, and would later serve under Nixon. He rose to Brigadier General working under Kissinger in September of 1969, and by October. 1972 he had his fourth star– skipping the rank of Lieutenant General in the process. His strategy to power came by gaining trust and turning on others — Kissinger and Nixon included. Haig’s Coup is the history of the last few months of the Nixon presidency and how one man worked to control the chain of events that not only removed a president but also preserved his own record of government service. A engrossing read,

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Book Review — Dementia: The Journey Ahead: A Practical Guide for In-Home Caregivers

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Summary: Dementia is a degenerative disease that can go for years without being diagnosed. Patients often have a long life ahead with a declining ability to take care of themselves. The decline takes many forms and increases in severity with time. From the inability to control behaviors to the failure to control their body, the disease is devastating. The personal needs of the patent are essential but also the needs of the caregiver must be considered.

Review:

Dementia: The Journey Ahead: A Practical Guide for In-Home Caregivers by Susan Kiser Scarff and Ann Kiser Zultner is an informative manual in caring for those who have developed dementia. What makes this different than other books on the subject is that it is deeply personal and not a clinical reference guide. The poetry of Virginia Pasquarelli punctuates the chapters adding personal feeling to a serious topic.

Scarff begins with the life of her husband, Red. Red was a former fighter pilot, an avid sailor, and an MBA graduate who started his own consulting and partnership investing corporation. A long successful marriage takes a sudden turn when Red develops dementia. The downward spiral of his cognitive abilities is documented and used to help teach others how to care for their loved ones.

Gradual changes in behavior can lead to many difficulties and may not be noticed until more advanced stages. Those affected, many times, do not realize they are suffering from the disease and will need to be protected from themselves. Many still drive and go out on their own, and there are plenty of news stories and Silver Alerts to support that. Behavior alone in public may be mistaken for drunkenness, drug use, or aggressiveness. The book covers ways to protect the safety of a loved one from physical dangers as well as recognizing the early signs of dementia.

Scarff and Zultner provide the reader with a wealth of helpful information from practical daily advice to resources on support groups. Legal and financial considerations are explained as well as what to look for in long term care facilities. Although neither has a medical background, they do provide information on selecting a doctor and gaining proper healthcare. Appendixes provide essential and detailed information. The importance of the author’s input makes the subject of homecare personal and relatable to all readers.

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Poetry Review — Journeys: An Exploration of Being

 

Journeys: An Exploration of Being by Victoria A. Carella is a collection of traditional poetry. Carella is a Mystic, Master Shaman, master of human consciousness, Master Medicine Woman, transformational teacher, visionary, artist, author, poet, and gardener.

In the modern era of Instagram poets and platitudes as poetry, it is refreshing to see that traditional poetry is still being written. Carella relies heavily on end rhymes in either an aabb or abab format. Not only are her poems longer than a few lines, but they can stretch for pages. The combination of rhyme schemes and her narrative storytelling creates a new age Byronesque style of poetry:

A chill wind blows across the land

Night descends with heavy hand

Tempestuous energies within

Hands over the ears to shut out the din

“Mainstay”

The poem, “Mainstay,” continues with a morphing, talking cat which becomes a clown and an angel which reminded me a bit of Dante. Rather than purely divinely inspiration, the poet does mention mushrooms and the doors of perception in another poem. Either way, the story flows and the rhyme adds to the movement of the story. One must read the lines and not overemphasize the rhymes when reading. However, emphasizing or forcing the rhyme in reading tends to be distracting. Read naturally and allow the words to form the patterns.  

A later poem, perhaps autobiographical, tells the story of a girl becoming a woman and searching for her own path. As with many young adults drugs do come into play. Although the poet does not come out and say it directly, Patti Smith once said that she did not have a problem with drugs because she used drugs (marijuana) to create, not hide or turn off. Regardless, the woman in the poem becomes a little too dependent on drugs. She does turn things around and finds that the modern world was still filled with problems and threats even for an educated and conforming woman. She isolates herself and returns to the path she started on before drugs and worldly complications and becomes a master shaman. 

The collection ends with shorts bits of wisdom one would expect from a spiritual person. Throughout her work is a connection with the metaphysical. This is represented in mentions of Buddhism, God, and medicine meant in a sense of spiritual healing or the healing by a shaman. There is also a recurring theme evolving and growing. The poem “Butterfly” is also about transformation and discovery of what we are really capable of becoming:

Off they fly somewhere

Their destiny for a time they share

Yet being butterflies they are totally free

The way most of us yearn to be

Carella accomplishes two things in this collection. First, she writes poetry that works in a traditional sense. Secondly, she writes a spiritual book which isn’t heavy-handed or filled with dogma. Both her poetry and narrative work well together. Neither one forces itself on the reader, but instead, seem to join and compliment each other to create a natural feeling and experience for the reader.  

REVIEWED BY

Joseph Spuckler has a Masters Degree in International Relations and a deep appreciation for poetry and Modernist writers. He is a Marine Corps veteran and works as a mechanic devoting his off hours for motorcycling and reviewing poetry. Originally from Cleveland, he currently resides in Dallas.

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Book Review — The River That Flows

The River That Flows: A book about life, death and the Universe. (Them 1) by [Blasco, Jordana]

Summary: A short story or prelude to a longer story. A fantasy fable centered on the children of the moon. A woman fleeing from her abusive people stumbles upon a group of highly civilized people.

Review: A new age fantasy that centers on power versus love and community, and how corruption can find its way into a Utopian society. Blasco also explores what happens when people don’t act and hope that evil will discover itself and correct its own mistakes. The language used in this tale is almost poetic and not only adds value to the story but also establishes a rich alternative world.

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Book Review — By Time Is Everything Revealed: Irish Proverbs for Mindful Living

By Time Is Everything Revealed: Irish Proverbs for Mindful Living by Fiann Ó’Nualláin is a collection of Irish proverbs and Eastern philosophy. Although it does not sound like a very probable mix, O’Nuallain not only makes it work, he makes it seem natural. The first part of the book covers the author’s journey through Karate, Hinduism, and Buddhism in a very Western and Catholic country. This is not the path that many would take.

Ó’Nualláin introduces the reader to meditation in a way that is easy to understand and not a foreign feeling.  Mindfulness is explained in a very Western style, and even compassion seems more like common sense that those of an older generation practiced than something foreign.  Sitting meditation is taking the time to connect to things around you rather than the dwelling on the tensions of life.  The author uses washing dishes as a time of mindfulness. Something that has been in Western practice for quite some time is walking meditation.  Thinkers like Nietzsche, Rousseau, Kant, and Thoreau used walking as a way to connect to creativity and remove oneself from the chaos of life.  Walking should be done in solitude and used as a way to connect with the environment you.  That means no phone or music.

Some of the proverbs sound very familiar to English and American proverbs.  “Need teaches a plan” and “Change is the breath of life” are familiar sounding.  “Do good in return for evil” seems close to turning the other cheek.   “The mountain is good mustard” and “A slow hound is often lucky” require a bit of thought.  Ó’Nualláin explains the proverbs, translating them for Gaelic into English,  and offers action points or practical examples, for each precept.  There are also fifty-two proverbs, one for each week of the year, that can be studied and put into practice in an organized manner.

By Time Is Everything Revealed is not only an instruction guide for the reader, it reveals that despite cultures that do not seem to have much in common, but there is also a commonality in mankind that goes beyond national or regional identities.  This commonality is where By Time Is Everything Revealed dwells.

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