Book and Chapbook Reviews: Comstock Review Poets
Authors - R
Margaret Rabb's Granite Dives (New Issues Press, 1999), is another of the best poetry books to be issued in 1999. The poet masterfully uses the finest of formal verse to weave tales of domesticity and motherhood, love and nature. Whimsical, wise poems, each polished as a jewel.
Sima Rabinowitz' inventive The Jewish Fake Book, winner of the 2004 Elixir Press book award, combines narrative and lyric poems of myth and mysticism with prayer and meditation. The pain of history and the secrets locked within language are the subjects of this masterful collection.
Ellen Rachlin hunts for permanence beneath an uncertain temporal world in her 25 page chapbook Waiting for Here (Finishing Line, 2004). These imagistic meditative poems shine with restive images, soft, assured rhythms and intimate diction. She follows this with Until Crazy Catches Me (Antrim House, 2008), her cryptic, whimsical poetry of memory and how it transforms us. The conflict between our needs for distance and intimacy, commitment and freedom, constitute the major theme and the poems are engaging and metaphorically rich. (updated 10/08)
Ancient Music (Pecan Grove, 2000) gives us a lovely 40 page chapbook by Geri Radacsi. In these elegant poems of archeology, sculpture and past times we encounter precise and joyful language.
By The Way (Buttonwood Press, 1998) is a collection of Illinois poet David Radavich with a wide range of theme and mood. The poems exhibit variety, rhythm and power in their stories of life's journey, both outward and inward.
A Convert's Tale (Pudding House, 2002) is Charles Rammelkamp's collection of clever persona poems about religion, told mostly in the first person, the convert, and encompassing a variety of different faiths. Grace, guilt, faith, death and the afterlife.
What a pleasure it is to read Bill Rasmovicz's The World in Place of Itself (Alice James, 2007)! These lyrical meditations on the world in all its detail revel in language and metaphor. These somber poems work by never quite losing their hold on hope even when hope is not possible. Intellect and insight meld with intensity to produce work that is both surreal and understandable. As the poet says, "impossible, that we must love what kills us." (added 9/07). Excerpt from poem in book which appeared in CR: click here.
Kangaroo Paws (Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1994) gives us poems written in Australia by the well-respected poet, David Ray: radiant yet unsentimental verse that is observant, keen and lyrical. For current books see www.davidraypoet.com (added 2006)
Dian Duchin Reed has created a delightful thirty-page chapbook, Medusa Discovers Styling Gel (Finishing Line, 2009) that blends “mythology with modern angst” (Barbara Bloom) in sparklingly playful poems that yet possess a serious core and acute insight. There is music as well as wisdom to be found here. 1/10. www.finishinglinepress.com.
Shelly Reed was shot in the face by an unknown assailant on the sidewalk in New York City in November 2001. The sixteen poems in Explain This Blessing (Pudding House, 2003) tell the story of her falling in love again with the world despite her pain. These are moving and hopeful vignettes of a world newly shattered by terrorists' acts.
John Repp's The Fertile Crescent (Cherry Grove, 2004) is an unsettling book because it writes about things that should make us sit up straight, widen our eyes, make us more aware. These are well-crafted, well-imaged narrative political poems that, as Albert Goldbarth writes "(are) heartfelt and smart about our human confusions."
Ukulele (Main Street Rag,2006) is poet and editor Jonathan K. Rice's first full-length collection. These fresh and observant poems are in the style of W.C.Williams in their attention to "things" and the telling detail. Character vignettes are sharply etched and perceptive. The book gives us another view of America told with an energetic voice. 5/07. www.MainStrretRag.com.
The Cartographer's Tongue (White Pine Press, 2000) is Susan Rich's first prize winning book whose fine lyric poems concern themselves with travel, history and politics. They range the entire world and are linguistically sensual, exact and generous. She has followed this up with Cures Include Travel (White Pine, 2006), another transformative collection.. This is lyrical poetry at its best, deeply human and honest. She writes often about the courageous victims of war and violence and we, too, are captured a she celebrates the unquenchable, human spirit, regardless of the circumstances. Bosnia, South Africa, Ireland, and home in Seattle: many poems travel, while yet others celebrate the glories of memory, the beauty of love. (updated 5/07)
Elisavietta Ritchie: In her newest book, Awaiting Permission to Land (Cherry Grove, 2006) poet Elisavietta Ritchie's deceptively understated, clear lines render a world teeming with life and knowledge in poems both lyrical and grim. These join her excellent Raking The Snow (Washington Writers Publishing House, 1982), Elegy for the Other Woman (Signal Books, 1996), and The Arc of the Storm (Signal Books, 1998) and two chapbooks, Wild Garlic (Big Easy Press, 1995) and the wry Real Toads (Black Buzzard Press, 2008). This poet gives us exuberant, vital poems that manage concurrently to be abstract, immediate, and tremendously imaginative. (Updated 3/08)
Bertha Rogers' Sleeper, You Wake (Edwin Mellen, 1991)gives us 74 pages of Rogers' wonderful nature poetry accompanied by her own pen-and-ink illustrations.
Lois Roma-Deeley's pen has produced two fine collections, Rules of Hunger (Sea Cloud Press, 2003) and northSight (Singularity Press, 2006). The common themes of both books are lives lived in time and history, stories of family, rich in its Sicilian traditions. To quote poet Jane Hirshfield: "Time and history, the transcendental, even a bead of sweat, are given their voice in Lois Roma-Deeley's vital chorus, whose song is a hard-won resurrection and the unlikely survival of hope." www.StarCloudPress.com to order either book. Please note the second book will not be out until 2006. (added 8/05)
Susan Roney-O'Brien won the 1999 William & Kingman Page Poetry Award for Farmwife (Nightshade Press, 2000). These are narrative poems of clarity, deceptively simple and very observant of both the natural and spiritual worlds and the ties between them.
Rose Rosburg's Breathe In, Breathe Out (Singular Speech Press) takes us traveling through Europe and Asia in honest poems that reflect her understanding of the human heart.
The talented poet and reviewer Liz Rosenberg gives us three books: Children of Paradise (Pitt, 1994), These Happy Eyes (Mammoth 2001), and The Fire Music (Pitt, 1986), which won the 1985 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. As C. K. Williams says, "An intelligent, sophisticated and sensible sensitivity informs these poems and a keen sense of passion illuminates them." I concur.
Half The Story (March Street Press, 1997) is a 43 page chapbook that recalls poet Geri Rosenzweig's Irish childhood in these radiant poems of memory and the natural world. She follows this with the terrific God Is Not Talking (Pudding House, 2002), 22 poems using knife as the central metaphor.
What Men Talk About (Pudding House, 2000), by Charles Rossiter, won the 1999 Red Wheel Barrow Award. This is the best of Applied Poetry and has both clarity and charm. 33 pages.
Mary Kay Rummel explores the world through the illuminated prism of Celtic manuscripts and her own Irish roots. In The Illuminations (Cherry Grove, 2006), the telling is in the details: pages of the Book of Kells, those who created and those who copied, seeing other places with the awakened eye and the awakened heart. The writing is elegant, mystical, and full of music. Her newest entry is the chapbook (36 pages) Love in the End (Bright Hill, 2008), one of Bright Hill's At Hand Series. In these luminous meditations on the nature of love, imagery and the beauty of language shine. A beautiful collection. (Updated 1/08) (website as of 2011: http://marykayrummel.com)
Tania Runyan's wise and elegant poems in the chapbook Delicious Air (Finishing Line Press, (scroll to right and down) 2006) consider mortality and motherhood through narratives from Biblical stories and family tales. A girl running at thirteen, observing bees, taking a bus trip, praying in youth group, honey- mooning: experiencing insight and grace in the many small epiphanies that punctuate her life. This poignant, moving collection is a delight. (added 9/06)