Monthly Archives: October 2020

Poetry Review — Of This River

After squalls fill the hollow

I fear the light,
which has nearly folded
its purple into laurel,

will splinter on a porcupine’s orange teeth
as it rakes the white ribs of a dead coyote…

From “Winter Solstice”

Of This River by Noah Davis is the poets first published collection. His poems and prose have appeared in Best New PoetsOrion MagazineNorth American ReviewRiver Teeth JournalSou’wester, and Chautauqua. George Ella Lyon selected Of this River for the 2019 Wheelbarrow Emerging Poet Book Contest from Michigan State University’s Center for Poetry.

Of this River stands out as an outstanding collection of contemporary poetry. The Appalachian theme that runs through the collection creates a subtle but vivid environment. Unlike many works that overstate themes, however, here the reader wades in and finds himself or herself emersed in the poetry. The water theme is nearly always present and anchors the poems together along with the short-haired girl. The connection between the water and the girl seems almost Woolfish.  

The mythology that runs through the poems, although local, seems to have a Native American feel to the stories. It is very much in touch with the land rather than a being. A stunning collection that connects, explores, expresses life in the remote setting.  

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Book Review — Rails Around the World: Two Centuries of Trains and Locomotives

Rails Around the World: Two Centuries of Trains and Locomotives by Brian Solomon is a pictorial history of trains. Solomon is one of today’s most accomplished railway historians. He has authored more than twenty-five books about railroads and motive power. His writing and photography have been featured in the world’s top railfan publications, including TrainsRailway AgePassenger Train Journal, and RailNews

From hand-drawn and black and white photographs to brilliant color photos, Solomon takes the reader on a ride through history. Rails have been credited with expanding America and connecting all parts of the country from coast to coast. Rails similarly joined Canada. Rail systems changed the way armies were mobilized and supplied in the First World War. Large cities rely on rail to move their people to and from work and transport goods across the country or continent. Rails were a symbol of national pride and conveyed a romantic image of travel. Lines like the Orient Express, The Flying Scotsman, The 20th Century Limited, and the Trans-Siberian Express all live on in memory and history.  

Rails Around the World also covers less known trains that provided practical service but without the more powerful machines’ glamour. Commuter trains and electric trains are given their place in history around the world. Vladimir Lenin Electrics, Amtrack, and Japan’s bullet train demonstrate the difference and range in passenger transportation.  

The evolution of the steam engine to the diesel to the bullet train is displayed in a smooth transition. Old steam engines slowly adopt a more aerodynamic shape, some even falling into the art deco category, before developing into the utility diesel and then into the fully streamlined TGV bullet train.  Rails Around the World demonstrates the versatility and adaptability of the oldest modern form of transportation. An informative and beautifully illustrated history of trains in all their forms. 

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Book Review — Great Naval Battles of the Twentieth Century: Tsushima, Jutland, Midway

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Great Naval Battles of the Twentieth Century: Tsushima, Jutland, Midway by Jean-Yves Delitte and Giuseppe Baiguera is a graphic novel depicting three naval battles with deeper historical context. Delitte is an official “Painter of the Fleet” and a full member of France’s independent Académie des Arts & Sciences de la Mer (Academy of Arts & Sciences of the Sea). He is an architect and designer by training. Baiguera has been teaching at the Scuola Internazionale du Comics (Academy of Visual Arts and New Media) in Brescia, Italy since 2009. In 2011, he published Ecoguard, a volume distributed in schools to build ecological awareness.

When asked to review a book on great naval battles, I was a bit perplexed. As a Marine, maritime history is part of our history, but the mechanics of naval battle strategy is a bit beyond my learning. As someone who studies history, I was intrigued and familiar with the basics of the three battles in varying degrees. Discovering that this book was a graphic novel, I wondered if enough detail could be written and drawn to make it a useful text.  

What I found was unique. Although the naval battles provide the setting, there is also a deeper historical trend running through each battle story. Each story carries a subtle understory or understories. There is much more to Jutland than the two most powerful navies, at the time, facing off. On the surface, it was similar to two men in white dinner jackets getting into a fight, but neither one wanting to finish the fight because he might dirty his jacket. Unlike Tsushima, both navies returned to port reasonably well intact. What was an indecisive naval battle on the surface carried more profound consequences in the war and history. At least two critical points or ideas are placed in the story that shapes the battle’s outcome.  

All three stories give more than a battle history. They put the battle in a historical context. The world was changing quickly when Russia and Japan fought the Battle of Tsushima. Woven into the story are internal and external political currents that will shape the future of the world. Battles and wars do not happen in a vacuum, and this collection is an excellent demonstration of the complexities outside the physical battle history.

The stories have a personal view of the events often seen from the elite or officers’ point of view, and the common man in the conscript or volunteer enlisted ranks.  Great Naval Battles adds a human as well as a political face to the battles. The graphics in this book add to the writing and complete what the minimal text suggests. For fans of graphic novels, the artwork is very well done and accurate. Overall a very well done history in an easy-to-read and understand format. The complexities are subtle and require the reader’s attention to get the most from the experience. Highly recommended. 

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Poetry Review — Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back

In need of a friend;
lonely living in a world
Addicted to pharmaceuticals


Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back by Alicia Cook is the poet’s sixth collection of poetry. Cook dedicates much of her life to shedding light on how drug addiction impacts the mental health of families. She released a collection of essays on the topic entitled Heroin Is The Worst Thing To Ever Happen To Me. An essayist and speaker, her activism to fight the opioid epidemic is far-reaching and has garnered a worldwide readership, and her very own episode on the Emmy-nominated PBS series Here’s the Story.

Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back is the third collection of Cook’s poetry that I have reviewed. I am fond of her use of music and the music theme to frame her poetry. Her poems, or tracks as she calls them, are influenced by music. I can’t say for all the poems, but where I knew the music in her “currently listening to” following each poem, it was synergy. The combination of Springsteen’s “Glory Days” and “Track 89” was fantastic. Unfortunately, most of the music is after my time. The poetry, however, on its own, is substantial and moving.

Cook stands out among the younger poets in her writing. Her poetry is traditional in form and much more developed than the Instagram poetry that seems to be all the rage today; her poetry also packs much more of a punch. Deep and well-thought lines adds power to the words. It is refreshing to see traditional poetry for all readers that is actually poetry and not a collection of clichés masquerading as a poem. With that being said, the second half of Cook’s collection, “Side B The Remixes,” takes each individual Track to create a new poem or perhaps, a lyric, through blackout. Blacking out portions of the original track or hand-drawn connections of words creates another layer of meaning. A clever reader will see this as a continuation of the drawing by Katie Curcio after the dedication; what remains hidden in what we say.

Cook writes with emotions and carries her themes throughout this collection. Her emotions, although strong, are not overpowering her message. Her themes are natural without a hint of being forced. Cook exhibits a great talent that is rare today in younger poets. A master of verse.

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