Book and Chapbook Reviews: Comstock Review Poets
Authors - L
Private Hunger (Akron, 2002) by Melody Lacina combines poems from her private childhood memory-album, travels through Europe, and concluding with a celebration of this earthly body and it's capacity for life. Highly recommended.
E.J. Miller Laino's Girl Hurt (Alice James, 1995)is an urgent book about surviving and recovery. These are truthful, beautifully crafted narrative poems of memory. "No Stone" is one of the finest mother-daughter poems I have ever read.
Quraysh ali Lansana is the author or They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (Third World Press, 2004), persona poems telling the story of this remarkable woman who led so many slaves to freedom. Many of the poems are told in her voice, others in the voices of slaves and their hunters: a truly remarkable book. Southside Rain (Third World Press, 1999) is his collection of lush urban song set in the streets of Chicago.
Mary Ann Larkin's newest chapbook, Gods & Flesh (Plan B, 2007) blends the spiritual and sensual seamlessly in these perfectly pitched poems of body, spirit, and human longing. These evocative and often surprising poems, exemplify the best of the lyric tradition and I recommend it highly. Previously, A Shimmering That Goes with Us (Finishing Line, 2005) tells of friendship between two women, the poet and Barbara Tanner Angell, and is a tribute to the latter, who died of breast cancer. The poems are as luminous as the title: tender, quietly intense, peaceful and transcendent. It is difficult to write on this theme without sentimentality and the poet achieves this goal perfectly. (Update 2/07)
Shallow Graves (Random House, 1986) is the product of Wendy Wilder Larsen telling first the story of her life as a visitor in Vietnam during the early 1970's, then the life story of a Vietnamese woman, Tran Thi Nga, in clear and wonderfully readable narrative poems.
In Steven Lautermilch's Fire Seed & Rain (Longleaf 2008), we find landscapes peopled with inanimate objects, spiders and herons, other creatures, spirits, and, above all, with dreams of the human heart made visible through the magic of his language. The poet is also a photographer and he combines his acute sight with his poetic vision to create poems that are magical and shining. (Added 11/08).
Patrick Lawler: (reading a burning book) (Basfal, 1994) and A Drowning Man Is Never Tall Enough (Georgia, 1990) are by the ever-talented Patrick Lawler. His poems are verbally brilliant and the newer of the two books pushes the envelope as to what poetry is and can be. The section entitled "Light," from the latter, is absolutely heart-stopping. Just out is Feeding the Fear of the Earth (Many Mountains Moving, 2006), winner of last year's prize from the same-named magazine, a dazzling and inventive collage of famous and not-so-famous folk interacting in surprising ways on the playing field of the earth. History and philosophies collide, sparks fly. Highly recommended. (updated 2006, new link 2008)
David Lawrence brings us Blame It On The Scientists (Pudding House, 2002), a chapbook of twenty-nine short often ironic poems that read like a cross between Bukowski and Perchik. Really unique.
In her second chapbook, The Undifferentiated (Pudding House, 2003), Ann Neuser Lederer mines the depths of her long-time job as Oncology and Hospice nurse in poems that both seer and illumine. The more cheerful panorama of plants and landscape are the subjects of her first chapbook, Approaching Freeze (FootHills, 2003), which can delight with surprising metaphors. Also check out her website: http://www.geocities.com/annlederer/
Barbara F. Lefcowitz mines the shores of history, both personal and universal, in The Blue Train To America (Dancing Moon, 2007). The generous book travels through landscapes as various as Turkey, Rarotonga (NZ), Patagonia and Prague. She brings us art, retells the past, and gives us character sketches from her travels. Lefcowitz has the poet's true curiosity about everything., the eyes to see, the voice to sing. (new 6/07)
Nathan Leslie has turned his strong writing efforts from short stories and other fiction to poetry to produce the unique Night Sweat (Hamilton Stone Editions, 2009), poems of dream and nightmare, vividly described and well-imaged. The poet takes us through a cast of children, memories of experiences at different childhood ages, experiences culled from sights & sites, birds, and art works, seen through a prism of night’s distortions, sometimes better than reality, other times not so. The same blurred vision edges the poems of the day as well, and creates a unified vision for this poet’s first strong collection of verse. 8/09. www.nathanleslie.com.
In Salvaged Maxims (Word, 2002). poet Naton Leslie finds the maxims contained in a 1792 book of English legal commentary an occasion for all manner or meditations on contemporary subjects and the result, rendered in his smooth, elegant cadences, is by turns dark, humorous and haunting. In contrast, Egress (David Robert, 2004) features a bleak and unfeatured landscape peopled by characters, including ourselves, in search of healing and spiritual purpose. (updated 7/07)
Carol Levin brings us poems of the Northwest in Sea Lions Sing Scat (Finishing Line Press, 2007). This 30 page chapbook is beautifully produced by the press with lovely cover art by the author. Sea lions, boats, harbors and the human heart, often wrenched by the sea and life itself, are her subjects. Her voice is original and lyrical. The combination yields a magical blend. (Reviewed 6-07. New to site: 11/07)
Lynn Levin's Fair Creatures of an Hour (Loonfeather Press, 2009) delights with its wry wit and its candid portrayals of humans leading their sometimes fretful, sometimes funny, lives. They are both playful and tender, by turns; interspersed among the lively verses more serious lovelies are tucked, such as “Peace Is the Blithe Distraction,” and, at the end, several fine love poems such as the lively and hilarious “Sublunary and All” dance across the page. Add its wonderful imagery and musical language and the results are a book to be read and savored. 10/09. www.loonfeatherpress,com The earlier Imaginarium (Loonfeather Press,2005) dances confidently from the poet’s pen in its blend of comedy and tragedy, ecstasy and grief. Each poem heads the reader toward one emotional shore then lands him/her on another one entirely in smooth and seductively lively writing. These poems laugh, eat sandwiches and dance, to paraphrase one poem. Highly recommended. 10/05. www.loonfeatherpress,com
Richard Levine writes poems about survival. In his 16 page chapbook, Snapshots from a Battle (Headwaters Press, 2001), the subject is the Vietnam War. His longer chapbook, A Language Full of Wars and Songs (Pollack Press, 2004), delves with a wider eye into all the complexities of life, with irony, whimsy, compassion, and protest. These are skillful, visionary poems.
Patricia Lee Lewis' fine 32 page chapbook A Kind of Yellow (Patchwork Farm, 2005) received the First Place Poetry Award in a Writers' Digest book competition. These visionary poems affirm life even as they tell the story of a teenage pregnancy, abusive husband and eldest son's suicide seen through the eyes of the mother. They wrench the heart with their genuine feeling, skillful writing and charm. ( new 9/07).
Betty Bonham Lies' first collection of poetry, The Blue Laws (Pure Heart Press, 2008), uses past obscure blue laws from Connecticut or Massachusetts as the basis for wry poems exploring modern life. The poems run the gamut from tender to elegant, from witty to wanton. Justice, compassion, love and loss contrast and sometimes merge in these wise poems. (New 7/08)
Lyn Lifshin checks in with one of her earliest books, Black Apples (Crossing Press, 1973), Naked Charm (Illuminati, 1984) and Raw Opals (Illuminati, 1987), and her latest, Cold Comfort: Selected Poems 1970-1996 (Black Sparrow, 1997).. Wildly creative, dissecting family life and failed love relationships, Lyn Lifshin has been a popular poet for over thirty years. Sometimes her erratic use and non-use of punctuation confuses, but the poems are so profusely imaginative they're hard to resist. Best of these is Cold Comfort, since it shows the scope of her work.
Deena Linett's "Woman Crossing a Field (BOA, 2006) is a simply extraordinary book," says Alicia Ostriker, describing the poetry as "stained glass." The poems are imbued with flowers and colors and light, dazzling in its intensity, and the poetic craft of Linett's writing is masterful. Her first book, Rare Earths (BOA, 2001) is a rare poetry-novel that engrosses the reader instantly. Molly Peacock described it as subtle, daring, deliberately constructed and it was one of the best poetry books to appear in 2001. . (Updated 2006)
Margaret Lloyd is the author of two books of poetry: This Particular Earthly Scene (Alice James, 1993)and A Moment in the Field: Voices from Arthurian Legend (Plinth, 2006). ..”their quiet surface opens on unquiet depths,” says Jeremy Hooker about these poems, and it is the perfect reflection of this reader’s view as well. Direct, simple, and unobtrusively well-crafted, they deal with complex emotional states. Jack Gilbert describes it as “poetry of the adult heart.” Sir Thomas Malory is the major source for Welsh poet Lloyd’s Arthurian legends in the second book, poems of romantic love sung through the voices of long-ago women. Bold, courageous, passionate, these voices reflect the eternal power of human love, whatever the time. 1/10.
David Lloyd gives us the figure of Frank Sinatra as myth drawing other myths to it in The Gospel According to Frank (New American Press, 2003). Fred Chappell describes it as "daring, enjoyable, wryly ironic" in its employment of parable, proverb, anecdote and tall tale. And The Everyday Apocalypse (Three Conditions, 2002) won the 2002 Maryland State Poetry chapbook competition, complete with its varied subjects and marvelous sestinas.
Diane Lockward's newest, What Feeds Us (Wind, 2006), brims with wit, sparkle, and sensuous energy. Some formal verse, including a magnificent ghazal, are interspersed among the sassy and lush free verse that are her hallmarks. Additionally, there is Eve's Red Dress (Wind, 2003), a generous collection of scintillating poems resonant with shrewdness and deep feeling. Kim Addonizio says "cognizant of loss, but always celebratory, Lockward's poems are irreverent, ravenous for the world and unabashedly female." There is also a small chapbook, Against Perfection (Poets Forum, 1998), that showcases the poets wonderfully specific language, fascinating stories, and terrific last lines. (updated 10/31/06)
Joanne Lowery's Leper Woman and other poems (March Street 2002), Sweat (Snark, 2003) and Poems That Work (Snark 2003) give us poems which are by turns humorous, heartbreaking, horrifying and absolutely unsentimental, running the imaginative gamut from the historical to the autobiographical. They concern memory and persistence and her consciousness of loss at the heart of experience: exciting and compelling and recommended. Click here for sample poems by Lowery.
Written by Jungian analyst Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Crimes of the Dreamer (Scarlet Tanager, 2005) uses the poet's mythic orientation to dance among various personal, religious and political realms. And it is a dance of wild, original rhythms, musical and free-floating. A previous book, Red Clay Is Talking (Scarlet Tanager, 2000) also showcases her rich and musical voice, her poetry of quest. Click here for Scarlet Tanager Books. (new 8/05)
California poet Kathleen Lynch brings us three chapbooks: How To Build An Owl and Other Poems (Small Poetry Press, 1995), No Spring Chicken (White Eagle Coffee Store Press, 2001), and Alterations of Rising (Small Poetry Press, 2001), a Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2002), and a prize-winning full length collection, Hinge (Black Zinnias, 2006). Clarity, grace, intelligence and gratitude mark this poet's superbly crafted work. As Richard Jones, who selected Hinge as winner of the Black Zinnias Poetry Book Award, says of it, "Hinge is a collection dignified by generosity of spirit, written by a poet who is 'willing to touch each physical miracle' and then say 'I am grateful.'" Highly recommended. www.calartsandletters.org. (updated 2006)