Book and Chapbook Reviews: Comstock Review Poets
Authors - F
Sherry Fairchok's A Stone That Burns (The Ledge Press, 1999) won The Ledge annual chapbook contest in 1999. The "stone" in the title refers to coal and it is coal-mining that is the subject of this Bakers Dozen of direct yet lyrical narrative poems. She expands her focus in the full-length The Palace of Ashes (Cavan Kerry 2002) in a fine collection of resonant yet restrained poems, "a poetry of place and passion laced with loss and wonder."(Lawler)
At The Water Puppet Theater (Word, 2002) takes us through the Vietnam of poet Jim Fairhall's soldiering youth and today's modern Vietnam. This is a complex book with its generational history and its haunting, precise musical language.
Winner of the 1999 May Swenson Award was Patricia Fargnoli’s Necessary Light (Utah State University Press, 1999). Mary Oliver, in her introduction to the book, used the phrase “shimmering gladness” to describe the poet’s work; Brendan Galvin used the words “energy and wonder.” Lives of Others,(Oyster River,2002) is a 40 page chapbook of narrative poems done with sensitivity and empathy, Small Songs of Pain (Pecan Grove, 2004), are thirty seven transcendent, surrealistic meditations on Marc Chagall’s visual renderings of the fables of LaFontaine. There is also a generous Greatest Hits (Pudding, 2004). Duties of the Spirit (Tupelo, 2005), a lyrical and deeply moving exploration of the joys and fears of growing older in America, received the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry These wise poems reveal the ways we must live fully in both the outer and inner world and the book was one of the finest poetry collections to appear in 2005. Her newest book, Then, Something (Tupelo, 2009), turns away somewhat from the narrative bent of the poet’s earlier work and moves more toward lyric poems of the spirit: meditations, pastorals, mosaics, landscapes, questions & propositions, dreams, variations, and, at the end, a coda. The book begins with one of the most moving poems of both personal and universal significance to be found in any poetry collection: “wherever you are going,” the title letting us know the poem’s theme. The poet’s skill, her tenderness, the sheer beauty of these poems, make even the erasure they point toward seem filled with light and something to be awaited with joy as she explores boundaries between the real and the imaginary. Highly recommended. 9/09. www.tupelopress.org.
Jim Ferris gives us unfaltering poems showing the power of our imagination to make sense of affliction in his humane and powerful The Hospital Poems, winner of the 2004 book award from Main Street Rag. This empathic memoir, so deeply personal, makes his suffering our own.
Gary Fincke 's poems engage the reader from the first line on. His list of books includes The Days of Uncertain Health (Lynx House, 1988),Handing the Self Back (GreenTower Press, 1990), The Double Negatives of the Living (Zoland, 1992), Plant Voices (Yardbird, 1991), Inventing Angels (Zoland, 1994), The Almanac for Desire (BkMk, 2000), Greatest Hits (Pudding, 2001), Blood Ties (Time Being, 2002), and Standing Around the Heart (Arkansas, 2005). Each poem uses a personal anecdote to explore a universal truth in subjects ranging from the Kent State shootings to political poems dressed in animal garb. Somehow the poet manages to keep the emphasis on the universal, without sacrificing the personal, all written with wit, style and wisdom. For website click on name; for poetry samples click here or on book name. (links added 9/05)
Two collections from Henry George Fischer are Timely Rhymes from the Sherman Sentinel (Singular Speech Press, 1994) and More Timely Rhymes From The Sherman Sentinel (Singular Speech Press, 1995) They are spritely, spirited, lyrical witticisms. Very, very clever - and very, very funny.
Ann Fisher-Wirth’s debut book, Blue Window (Archer, 2003) is a set of autobiographical lyrics that are precise, sweet and attentive. She follows this with the incandescent Five Terraces (Wind, 2005) which charts an intense lyric of time and place, spanning the world from the Ming dynasty to present-day Europe and America, but her vitality and compassion never lessen. To quote poet Maurya Simon, “In this rich, impassioned and wise collection, Ann Fisher-Wirth extends our appreciation of what comprises dignity, love, loss, transcendence, and grace” and I recommend it highly. In her prize-winning, 24 page chapbook, Slide Shows (Finishing Line 2009), she achieves a near-perfect fusion of form and content, creating mercurial poems of ten lines each which reflect the best of haiku and sonnet as she describes a childhood in post-war Japan. amended 1/10. www.finishinglinepress.com.
Charlene Fix has given us a joyful recounting of dog in Flowering Bruno: A Dography (XOXOX, 2006). These poems are so right, both individually as poems of wit and craft (terrific diction!), and as a totality, a memorial where the poems work together so perfectly to bring us into the Bruno-nature and this reciprocal love. Susan Josephson's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment. (added 1/07)
Peggy Sperber Flanders' chapbook, An Array of Textures (Threshold Press, 2004), is a collection of moving poems that are elegy and memorial to her mother, who died in 1995. A selection of these poems was awarded the Bruce Dearing Writing Award by the SUNY Health Science Center.
A Needed Path (Black Willow,1982) is a twenty page chapbook containing the lovely formal verse of Harold Fleming, founder and former editor of the much-missed journal Black Willow.
Keith Flynn is the founder and managing editor of the Asheville Poetry Review and author of The Talking Drum (Animal Sounds, 1991),The Book of Monsters (Animal Sounds, 1994), The Lost Sea (Iris, 2000), and The Golden Ratio (Iris, 2007). A performance poet and musician, Flynn's poems need to be read aloud for the full dramatic impact, but even on the page, they mesmerize the reader with their historical significance and startling juxtapositions. These are original, passionate, vigorous and musical narratives that roam the full spectrum of the art. He also has produced three albums and has written a book of prose: The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory: How To Make Your Poetry Swing. Keith Flynn is a true original, and a national treasure. (added 5/07)
Visible Bones (Plain View Press, 1998) is a plump cornucopia -130 pages - of good poems by CB Follett. These poems, addressing both body and spirit, possess emotional depth, wit and inventiveness. In a direct and natural voice, she celebrates the ordinary world as well as giving us some fine and compassionate poems about adoption and family life. There is also a Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2002) available.
Dark Card by Rebecca Foust, reviewed by Ellen McNeal (9/10)
What shapes a poet’s voice, what influence the deck she’s dealt? What influence that timeless space at the birth of her first child
wedged in that narrow,
seconds-ticking, desperate place,
cord Gordian –knotted
around his throat. The delivery changes everything for this poet, and gives voice to poems of understanding and love and introspection.
When I had you I gave birth
to my mirror,
the chink in my armor.
Becky Foust’s Dark Card describes the journey she takes with her son,
born with Asperger’s Syndrome. How bittersweet the birth, how perceptive the poet. Ms. Foust details the joy, the ridicule, her own questions of guilt or blame. The “chink in her armor” gives rise to heroics, and in each poem we grow to an understanding of Asperger’s, the condition of “different,” of change.
The poems take us, with her son, to school where he got D’s in math for not showing his work, though he understood thoroughly the theorem. To the grocery store, where he rearranges a display of applesauce jars to make an algorithm, perfection to him, to the playground, and to “the rug,” where he was taught to sit, dumbed.
Not good at showing emotion, he challenges his mother’s “illiterate heart.” But she knows him like poems, this” unreachable,” reachable child.
His face is blank as a kettle pond
Drawn, but he feels everything
there is underneath---
And at eighteen he shaves his “luxurious beard” and takes his hand (unsuccessfully) at the wheel of the family car. Ms. Foust is defender and champion, always aware, teller of stories, poems seen in her mirror.
This collection of poems concludes with gratitude, hope, and the understanding that the “coil of that Gordian-knot-throttled curse”
lets loop out in vast uncoiling spirals
whole archives of text
What influence the deck a poet is dealt? How clear the voice, how graceful the telling. What worlds are found in reflection.
Rebecca Foust’s book, All That Gorgeous Song, recently won the Many Mountains Moving Book Award and will be released in April 2010. Also forthcoming in 2010 from Tebot Bach Press is God, Seed, a book of environmental poetry with art. Two chapbooks, Mom’s Canoe ( Texas Review Press, 2009) and Dark Card (TRP, 2008) won the Robert Phillips Poetry Prize in consecutive years. Foust’s poetry is published or forthcoming in Cincinnati Review, Hudson Review, Margie, North American Review, Spoon River Review and other journals. Visit her website at www.rebeccafoust.com
Anne Carroll Fowler brings us Five Islands (Pudding House, 2002), set in her home state of Maine. These wonderful poems weave details of home life and seasonal landscape with the final illness of a close friend, yet are awash in hope and a celebration of both life and its earthly conclusion.
Joyce Frazeur's The Bovine Affliction (Bear House,1991): This selection of nineteen exuberant, country-oriented free-verse poems is delightfully illustrated by Penelope Williams-Yaqub's black and white drawings of cows. Daughter (Small Poetry Press, 1996), is a chapbook of memory poems of and poems directed to the poet's troubled daughter.
Laverne Frith: Drinking the Light (Finishing Line, 2007) brings us two-dozen poems by the well-respected co-editor of Ekphrasis, Laverne Frith. Camille Norton points out that the true subject of these poems is perception itself. Because the poet is also proficient in the visual arts, he explores reality in a painterly way, dwelling in its details to explore its nature. The result is this fine collection of often nature-oriented, mostly ekphrastic poems: lucid and delicate yet rich in the telling detail. (added 10/07)
Robert Funge: Daughter (Small Poetry Press, 1996), is a chapbook of memory poems of and poems directed to the poet's troubled daughter. Heartbreakingly tender and moving, Funge weaves his spell around the reader. The Passage, a full-length collection followed in 2001 (Elo Publications) which expands his repertoire of subject matter but continues to stun us with themes of loneliness, and pulses with wisdom and compassion. (updated 2006)