Friday, March 25, 2016


Which is more valid? What you remember or what is correct?

I’ve been trying to write something about every book I’ve read since last year. I use Goodreads first and then Amazon to write a few sentences. For mainstream popular books, I figure that’s enough. If the book has a huge following, my two cents worth of input won’t matter all that much. I just want to keep up my reading list and track my personal responses. That’s especially helpful when I have a book club meeting and I need something to add to the discussion. I hate to say it, but if I finish a book two weeks or so before the club meeting I’m not likely to remember any of the finer points without some prompting. So yeah, I need to crib some notes.  

Now, for local authors I try to go beyond the few sentences. It’s pretty difficult for me to write in-depth commentary because I don’t feel I have the “artsy, highbrow” vocabulary that the real critics have mastered. Poetry chapbooks are even more difficult.

I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with a decent sized review for A Bizarre Sentence by Trisha Georgiou last December. I managed this feat by sitting down to write very soon after attending her launch party at the Bettendorf library.

One of the things I keep on hand is the page of critique instructions I got from Amy Parker when I took a novel writing workshop at the Midwest Writing Center. She encouraged us to use quotes because “Everyone loves to see their own words.” So I try to supplement my thoughts with some quotes.

I recently wrote a review of A New American Field Guide & Song Book by Ryan Collins. I wrote down my thoughts and used the quotes I liked the most. But then I ended by including something of my personal experience: a bit about music.

While I was reading the center sections of his book, I began to hear song lyrics. I can only figure that it was my subconscious trying to help me to make sense of it all. This has never happened to me before. I’ve enjoyed many books, been repelled by a few, but never have I had song lyrics run through my brain while I was still reading.

The lyrics were broken and incomplete, but I had enough to look up the song—get the real words as they were meant to be heard. I used those in my review.

Was I right?

Or should I have gone with what I remembered?

Perhaps that would have been more in keeping with Collins’ work.  

The latter is exactly what I ended up doing in a rewrite. I hate to admit that I am slow on the uptake, but Song Book is part of his title. So yeah, I get it now. I stand corrected.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


I've been sick since Tuesday and wouldn't go out if it weren't for the chance to meet Susan Carroll, my editor. She'll be part of a panel on publishing at the MWC.

I've been reminded that I will soon be published.

It still doesn't feel real ... or maybe it's the pain in my head.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Review for A New American Field Guide & Song Book

The first paragraph of the Liner Notes for A New American Field Guide & Song Book sports a hefty list of all those that poet and writer Ryan Collins owes a debt of gratitude to, from William Melvin Hicks to Titus Andronicus. It’s an impressive cross section of everything that goes into the great American melting pot of culture by one means or another. Collins needs to thank the many because he has used the few pages of this book to stir that melting pot into a caldron of changed-up images and mixed-up meanings. He did his best to redefine the new in “New American.”

My personal favorite snapshot of a routine American mindset: “We set ourselves into a world like precious gems, when we are more cubic zirconia, oriental emeralds, New American rubies.”

Collins often berates, but also cautions and cajoles us with sage advice: “Your body is your best protest & your words are not ash until you burn them—”

Ryan Collins uses A New American Field Guide & Song Book to give us a survival guide to the crazy mash-up of our modern lives. He presents us wonderers with directions, while he admonishes us with: “You are only lost if you don’t follow the maps I sent, if you refuse to unfold the crane’s paper wings.”

To Collins’ Liner Notes list I would like to add a credit line for the lyrics of “Upside Down.” That tune started playing in my head while I was reading and it wouldn’t go away.  I couldn’t remember the words exactly, but “Upside down. You turn me. Inside out and round about,” were close enough. At the time, I didn’t think of them as a corruption of memory, just an extra clue to help me find my way.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Review of A Bizarre Sentence

I bought a copy of A Bizarre Sentence by Trisha Georgiou as a Christmas gift. Before wrapping it, I carefully scanned it to find the poems Georgiou talked about at her launch party. I especially wanted to see the “visual” poem about world peace written in many languages, including two forms of Greek: Classical and modern. I also wanted to read the poem about the cover photo. The incongruous words on the wrecked sports stadium’s door handle sent the poet off in search of other bizarre bits of sentences, and provided an inspired theme for this collection.

I found “The Towers Are Falling Down” a poignant reminder of a horrible day. Georgiou was able to get a call through to a friend in New York City. While we watched the televised coverage over and over, her friend looked out a fifteenth floor window to see debris flying by. It’s a powerful image for a poem.

“Energy Works” described the core of our being in scientific terms: DNA, nucleotides, inherited traits, patterns from our ancestors and added, “Now, imagine letting it all go… Your mind can choose…” A sentiment I can appreciate.

The most fun poem I found on my quick read was “Midterm Elections.” Iowa has the joy of hearing from many candidates early and often, so the chances of coming across the bizarre wording of ill formed sentences are extremely high. The sad thing—the real quotes used in this poem don’t sound all that different from what I’m hearing for the present round of politicking. Georgiou expertly captured the essence of the whole campaign process and conveyed the bizarreness in a few well chosen words.    

I had to handle the book carefully, it still had to be a nice looking present, so I couldn’t read everything as carefully as I would have liked, but I was impressed with the variety and quality of a strong collection of poetry. Trisha Georgiou has a winner here—a gift for us all.