Book Exploration: “Harbors” by Donald Quist

Originally published at gnathic.


If you’ve never pre-ordered a book on a whim after receiving an email promotion from a publisher, Harbors (2016, 1st Edition published by Awst Press, cover illustration by Maggie Chiang) by Donald Quist is proof that sometimes your whims can lead you in the right direction. Although I live pretty frugally by choice, I do spend money on books. The expense was certainly worth it this time.

When I opened Harbors, tucked inside the front cover was a postcard announcing the book’s publication. The card displayed the same contemplative cover art as appears on the book’s cover. A lone figure rows past a lighthouse and huge rocks toward a dock inside a snug harbor. The hues in Maggie Chiang’s illustration range softly from powder blue to aquamarine and charcoal. In the message portion of the postcard, a handwritten note from Donald Quist invited me to send my thoughts on the book to his personal email account. That was super nice! I did email him what I am publishing to the world here on my little blog.

Quist divided the book into two distinct yet complementary parts designated Log I and Log II. Each log contains chapters and each chapter contains sub-chapters or sections. Within each section Quist details nonfictional experiences from various periods of his life. The events in Log I take place in the United States, while the events in Log II occur mostly in Thailand as base camp or while Quist is ten thousand feet in the air between continents. Quist’s memories while in Thailand and while traveling take him back to his life in the U.S. Informing you of this structure has nothing to do with how I read the book. I’m not recommending any strategy for reading this other than diving in.

Quist writes in a tone that seems casual, but is acutely thoughtful. He brings the reader along with him from the opening sentence which contains a recollection that immediately takes us back in time to his awkward childhood. People like to pretend that they grow up and forget about the scuffles, slights, and embarrassments of their youth, but they don’t in reality. Many of us certainly do not forget about the comeuppances and hard lessons, the unfairnesses and disappointments. We keep those close by at all times. Quist shares his life in an honest tone that does not excuse him or anyone for their past actions. As the author ages, the reader witnesses his coping mechanisms and his moments of terror, confusion, or frustration. He leads the reader through his realizations about his family, the funerals, the church that always looms in the southern U.S., the Jerry Springer effect on society, and his difficult time as public information officer for the town of Hartsville, South Carolina. Racial tension in the southern United States is a topic that never goes away for too many reasons to go into here. You feel it in Log I in narrative that, at times, seems matter-of-fact, but Quist’s vigilance forces the reader to reevaluate what we think we already know. Quist juxtaposes his alternately blunt and eloquent anger with, in the next breath, anecdotes whereby he exhibits his forgiving nature as he grows up and takes care of his aging family members. He delivers these histories in a magnification by which the reader understands the smells and images that surround the author at each stage.

Another structural choice utilized by Quist and which I found unique and effective were the shifts in perspective as delivery methods. For example, the chapter of Log I entitled “Tanglewood” he switches to second person point of view to recount the experience of reading his work to a room full of middle school students. The disarming vulnerability he shares with the reader draws its potency in part from this skillful shift in point of view. In another section in Log I, “In Other Words”, he imagines his wife’s explanations to the customers of her restaurant as to why she and Quist are closing up and moving to Thailand. The imaginary conversations are italicized, but at some point Quist shifts (still using italics) to what reads like a true account of a discussion between him and his wife. He also appears to describe true accounts of incidents that happened at the restaurant when he was enraged by the infuriating presumptions of certain customers. In the shifting back and forth, he articulates his own frustrations and fears as well as his hopes for the strength of the relationship he and his wife have built. But like skilled writers do so well, he does not define his emotion in first-person personal pronoun-verb-adjective structures; he demonstrates it in the actions he recounts and in the conversations surrounding events that he describes. The structural choices in these chapters and in many other sections effect powerful emotional responses from the reader. We sense that familiar insecurity and excitement that comes before tectonic shifts in the foundation of the life to which we’ve become accustomed. Through his choice of methods, Quist gathers the paradise that contains humanity with all its foibles, falsities, and fascinations.

By the time I began Log II, I was in that satisfying place you reach in some books: you are fully embracing the journey, and then the author succeeds in making it even more intriguing. At this point, I tweeted at Quist: “3/4 of the way through “Harbors” by @DonaldEWQuist : a cartography of satisfying crispness like paper rustling in a quiet chamber”. “Cartography”, by the way, is the name of the first chapter within Log II. I was completely swept up and when I get swept up I like to express it. Hence, the tweet.

The shift between Log I and Log II is not stark, but it is palpable. The dramatic change in setting explains a substantial part of the difference. But Quist experiences in Thailand a re-run of racial consciousness, only without the historical scrim of American Slavery. The racial concerns are laid bare in Thailand. Many people in Thailand, according to Quist’s account of the comments made by his wife’s family, do not understand why someone would marry a person of a different race if that race is darker. Why, after spending over ten years in America, hadn’t she chosen a white man instead? This incredulity certainly isn’t better than the American brand of racism. It is only a slight difference and no comfort, though his wife claims that the reason people stare at them as a mixed-race couple in the streets of Bangkok is not based in hatred. In strange contrast, he notes a difference in the ease of getting a taxi now that the military has taken over the government in Thailand. Taxi drivers must pick up everyone in order from the taxi queue. Before the advent of this system, he had difficulty getting a taxi to pick him up and he assumes (most likely correctly) that it was because of his complexion. So, he benefits from an otherwise negative shift in Thailand. When military takes over a country’s government, Westerners cringe at the thought. Yet in this small way and perhaps in many other small ways, the African-American Quist benefits in Thailand where he otherwise suffered a similar racism. It’s a frustrating set of circumstances. He has found a harbor in a place an American would least expect it.

While flying to Bangkok in 2012, Quist thinks back to his time growing up in the southern U.S. as an African-American teenager when he and two friends, also minorities, are accosted in Quist’s own driveway by a police officer. The officer instructs them to lie facedown on wet asphalt, which they do until the officer understands that they are in front of Quist’s home. The officer tells them that they make people nervous by hanging around and says that phrase that echoes, You shouldn’t be here. That notion rings loudly in Quist’s ears. By contrast when flying back from Seattle to Asia in 2014, he recalls how many of his friends did not view him as black enough:  I remember friends of all colors teasing about how white I am, citing the way I speak, the shows I watch, the music I listen to, and what I read as evidence of my unbearable whiteness. Quist’s thoughts meander while he flies between continents and he realizes that despite the racism he senses from the Thai people, …I am profiled less in Bangkok. Fewer expectations and presumptions are based on my race.

As the book ends with a powerful address to his father’s memory, the reader is left to consider the meaning of the word harbor. In the unfolding narratives in this book, Quist’s character has been a harbor for people in his life who sought acceptance or experimentation. He has also sought harbor in people and places and, ultimately, in himself. I came away from this emotive and provocative work thinking about the analogy of docking ourselves in safe harbors versus drifting dangerously without a harbor. We think that new places will be different despite the fact that we bring ourselves with us wherever we go. We think people will be different, but they are the same everywhere we land once we’ve been there long enough to see past the mist of cultural mystique.

The facts that Quist tackles in this work are in many ways too big for a single book and in other ways necessarily addressed in his chosen medium. He faces head-on the complexity of how we think and talk about race. He comments in one section about how angry he felt after reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. I felt angry after reading Citizen, as well. I don’t know what kind of person would not feel angry after reading it. My response to anger is often sublimation. What does anger do for us? It can be a motivator. It can be a path towards change. It can be a path to eventual discouragement. Expressing anger in a controlled way is a skill that only the emotionally mature can accomplish. Talking about anger, aside from the psychological benefits of doing so, can spread and diffuse the anger contained in one vessel. It can energize a populous. It can be destructive as well as creative. When anger subsides, what is left of a person? The ability to reflect on what made one angry, the response, and its repercussions separates us from what we call our animal nature. But what are you supposed to do when no one listens to your reasons for being angry? In my life I’ve always worked from the premise that exposing negative motivations (what people call “bad” or “evil”) helps to destroy them or alter them to something more healthy/positive. Understanding can lead to redirection. But some people cannot be persuaded because they have no impetus for giving up their power. And in small minds, power, hatred and violence are too easily intertwined. We enter battles and come back wounded. While we heal, we seek the company of people we trust and we gain strength from the bonds we’ve allowed. Once we have recovered sufficiently, we go out again into the battle we choose or that is chosen for us. This is one of the cycles in which we live, in which Quist lives. As he flies back to Bangkok from the U.S. in 2015 he notes: I remember watching news coverage of rioters tearing through Ferguson and Baltimore. I recognized that fury. I understood the rage born from feeling ignored for so long, let down for so long, the feeling that I don’t really own anything but a life and body consistently threatened by a governing structure that promises to protect me. I recognized the desire to burn it all down in hopes of rising from the ashes.

Quist has the ability to use the stories of his past to teach without being didactic, without lecturing, without beating you over the head with a message. He expresses his conclusions in a confessional way and lets you consider your own options for approaching a conclusion. He does not suggest there is any right or wrong way to look at what he has decided to give you in this work. If you find a harbor in it, or if you don’t, it is yours to determine.

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An examination: “Sharpen” by Rich Ives

Originally published at gnathic.

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The bad news: theNewerYork Press (tNY) has ceased to exist. The good news: for as long as supplies last, you can still purchase this contemplative and intriguing work by Rich Ives, “Sharpen” (2015 theNewerYork Press, LLC; hand-drawn illustrations by Jack Callil; diagrams, book and cover design by Nils Davey), from Amazon in print and perhaps for all eternity in digital format, here.

This examination is my attempt to study this complicated work chapter by chapter. Perhaps “complicated” is a word that has a negative connotation. But complexity challenges the intellect, and that’s the enjoyable part of reading. Providing a way for the reader to get lost in a fantasy construction is one kind of enjoyable book. What Rich Ives (I could not locate a webpage for him) has written and what Jack Callil and Nils Davey have complemented with their illustrations and diagrams is another kind of enjoyable book: a challenge. So I have endeavored to tackle it here, as I’ve indicated, chapter by chapter, tool by tool, etc.

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1.0 Bench Clamp

I’ve been around a wood shop and a metal shop, but not extensively. Anyone can appreciate the beauty and usefulness of tools. And the tools in this chapter and many other chapters have use for both the narrator and his daughter. Davey’s diagram of the bench clamp (1.1) articulates the hard, smooth lines that make us love the qualities of steel and iron. The bench clamp’s essence is in the act of holding items in place and that is necessarily preceded by the act of opening and then the closing of its jaws. The diagram makes this obvious, and it is necessary to understand the functionality of the tool in order digest this one-page chapter. (This is true for all chapters in this work.) What is to be clenched in these jaws will be sharp. The narrator likens a communication made by his daughter to what is being held in the space between the jaws of the bench clamp. He concedes that there is a collaboration necessary to use this tool. But once that sharp word is spoken:

it can’t be removed. It doesn’t matter much what it is because they’re all alike. They’re all sharp and appear unexpectedly though it must have been carried a long time, that thing she said.

The necessary collaboration is between the speaker (the daughter) and the listener (the father) in this instance. And they both hold the sharpness. Callil’s illustration 1.2 follows: a gaping maw with knives and saws stabbed at crooked angles into the gums where teeth should be. Insert your project and tighten the jaws.

2.0 Lactation Dance

Breast as tool. This is an unusual notion diagrammed by Davey (figure 2.1), as is standard, on the page before the text of this one-page chapter. Davey does not render the breast in the manner of a Gray’s Anatomy illustration, but rather more like the diagram of a tool. In this chapter, Ives uses the metaphor of snow geese settling on snow-covered fields, stubbled with what is left of the plant structures after the fall harvest. And, as expected by the chapter’s title, Ives introduces the notion of a baby. The daughter of [his] daughter will arrive like the snow geese on snow-covered fields to feed on what nature has provided. And this is a dance of sorts, the landing of the geese that trust the snowy field like a baby understands and trusts the breast of its nurse for its life––the intricacies of innocence balancing with the forces of nature. The chapter is full of the billowing imagery we associate with a breast.

In figure 2.2, Callil illustrates a confusion of a snow goose, headless and wings spread, which seems more to hang in the air than to fly. And Ives warns, In this world, singular is plural. This baby, his daughter, can be true again and again. It is a difficult chapter that reflects the mire of emotions: a gift I don’t know what to do with and a heart of milk, or a vinegar intention and babies whose heads somehow make allegations too unsupported to deny.

3.0 Witchet

This was an unfamiliar tool for me. We are informed, with Davey’s diagram 3.1, that it is also called a rounding plane. I was relieved to be informed that it is possible that the familiar word widget could be a corruption of the word witchet. (Relieved because I can be a geek about words.) This one-page chapter is more wood than steel. The witchet, if properly used, can make tapered dowels of wood or metal. I get the feeling the narrator would like to be steel, but he can’t be. Yet, wood holds incredible strength in its grain.

In this chapter, the daughter is forlorn and the narrator suggests that if you were listening to her speak at this moment, [y]ou might think she was a puppet if she weren’t talking about love…. This chapter is filled with scents and dusty imagery. What is wooden are fingers. And the narrator does not allow illusion:

That’s not a stack of dried brown rainbows but dowels I’ve fashioned, to hold things between this and that in my daughter’s space, between here and there, between cared for and fallen.

Ives invokes the theme of a ring, be it a wedding ring or another kind of ring used to link things. There could be a tangle of childish marriages in the future. He crafts sensory-rich memories. Callil illustrates (figure 3.2) a mirrored image of a puppeteer’s tangled failure. You sense the narrator trying to understand and forgive. He is self-reflective and tries to link the past with the future, seeking some stability in the confusion of the present.

4.0 Whetstone

I have whetstones always close by in my home. You need to sharpen knives more often than you care to do so, but it is frustrating to use a tool that should be sharp and isn’t. Davey’s diagram 4.1 seems to drift without explanation of its parts. The whetstone itself is clearly indicated, but other unidentified items (a honing steel and a stand for the whetstone) float poised nearby. The elements complement the whetstone, but go unnamed without explanation. We are, however, informed: Sharpening with a whetstone is sometimes called ‘stoning’.

This chapter is about before. You do not sense his daughter’s presence here. The narrator is husband or on a journey leading up to husband. The images hang: stain of the captain’s bleeding tobacco and faded orange dress and the wings of mosquitoes. They collide, too. These memories dangle there, like the unnamed elements in diagram 4.1. Ives describes the soft lengthy clumps of thick hair-like words in Callil’s apt accompanying illustration (4.2) of the captain surrounded by mosquitoes and belching out hair. Again, this is all before. But whetstones leave a paste of detritus from sharpening. The memory is stuck to the narrator. He forgot to sharpen his tools and now he casts stones at himself.

5.0 Grindstone

This tool is more complex than the whetstone. Davey’s diagram 5.1 is only slightly more informative than his 4.1, albeit just as beautifully rendered. One thing is clear, you use your feet to accelerate or slow the sharpening process. In this half-page chapter, Ives describes a creation or a near creation. All of the body goes into this process. But here again the narrator seems to need clarity (I can’t seem to relate to cloud cover. Take it down.) in the midst of an intimacy into which he lands: I believe I’m gamely, but blame assimilates the bleed. He repeats his discomfort: I’m deliciously compromised. Take it down. It is rough and primal, gorgeous, the act––nicks and scratches…stout strokes of sliding––and the gift in Callil’s accompanying illustration 5.2, [t]he egg.

6.0 The Inner Ear

Here another tool of the human body, but this one for taking in, not for giving like the breast. And not only for hearing but also for balance. Davey’s diagram 6.1 exhibits an almost squid-like fluidity unlike any others in the catalog. In this chapter, the narrator relates the calls of owls with what [he] had hoped for [his] daughter. This might be a continuing of the remembrance of creation that he fervently began in 5.0.

Listening and balancing are both delicate acts. Ives thinks back along the meandering path of life, a childhood that he cannot remember clearly (I remembered a childhood, but most of the details escaped me.) After all, he values imagination over reality. This is a weighing, a balancing. How to keep it from tipping over?

From the complexity and violence of his self-discovery (from that other life, the one where I fathered my intelligence), he wants to flee. Illustration 6.2 appears like a universe of stars inside the the confines of an owl whose face is a longitudinal section of an apple, seeding all of its ancient metaphor, and we know that the forest awaits.

7.0 Vise

We are back to steel clamp and open jaw. But this tool, we are told, is for metalworking and its jaws are separate and replaceable.” Davey’s diagram 7.1 is svelte, vertical. The narrator recalls being pressed tight against a private entrance and squeezed until the juice bled. This aftermath of creation will last until the foreign feels familiar. This vise squeezed like life with all of its vices sought and sampled:

We were beasts at the edges of each other. We poked and prodded to see what dangers lay there, waiting to attach themselves.

And as the illustration 7.2 depicts, and as our lives if we look closely and honestly enough teach us, we are truly composed of devices. I love that concept. His daughter is born from an eagle with its dangerously hooked beak that surely will clamp as hard as or harder than any vise. She seems to multiply in the text (…all my daughters and I…).

8.0 C Clamp

More steel or maybe cast iron this time. This eighth chapter is the second longest in length, a page and a quarter perhaps. The C clamp (Diagram 8.1) by comparison to the vise and the bench clamp is a delicate thing, like touch (Between one touch and another touch, there is holding onto ourselves through another.). And as simple as the C clamp appears to be, we are given a nearly complete explanation of its parts. Ives describes transition:

I was held by the fingers of a delicate prod, turned and turned to put me together with myself and cut away the excess. For this I held very still.

Here, the narrator wants to hold on to himself and, it seems, to the daughter that he may have failed in some way––failed to guide (Do I really line up? Do I hold still long enough? Do I stand too close to see clearly, to operate effectively the tools of this exchange?). Where his daughter’s fingers were wooden, his are clearly soft flesh gripping tightly. He wants her strong, …do not diminish yourself. The accompanying illustration 8.2 echoes the dangerous power of what we say, what we write with our fleshly hands wielding iron words, a pencil that morphs into a pistol.

9.0 Ghost Twins

Arriving at this ninth and last chapter, the longest at only one and a half written pages, devoid of tools but full of devices, the intimacy of the prior chapters becomes a kind of kaleidoscope for the realizations allowed the reader here. The daughter is a twin and also not a twin, a savior who seems to need saving whose throat is too slender to swallow anything as distasteful as fate. When she is dulled, the mother is light. But it seems evident that the mother has not survived, has passed through the door that defines the room, which is where the living remain.

We know the father has struggled and stumbled, and it is the daughter who enables him to make the only offering, to assemble the parts that make up the life. But if the father feels alone, inside the room with himself, aching to know how to raise a daughter(s) alone, he is thoughtful enough to wonder, What’s the gender of this lament? It’s a potent and tender moment.

All of the tools and materials Ives has been able to salvage culminate in 9.0. The Ghost Twins are diagrammed (9.1) as identical mirror-image waifs clothed under bed-sheets in Halloween-style. But in illustration 9.2 the twins have become one wide, sturdy girl, nearly curtsying. Their one head is a window opened into a moonless, starless infinity of night. This is the dance of daughters so very polite and measured. The reader is left to wonder how the narrator will know how to raise them, to contain them, to keep them safe when always [t]he window is open.

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Most likely, I haven’t even approached the intentions Ives had for this work. For that failing I apologize to him. But one of the wonderful aspects about art is that it can be interpreted in multiple ways. Ives excels in using skill and imagination to to construct the past and future world of Sharpen. He does it without feeding the reader any form of pabulum or ready-mix storytelling.

As I’ve noted along the way, the chapters are super short. In each one, Ives packs a richness of information, metaphor, imagery, and unknown-ness into the text for the reader to explore for hours, as I have. Sharpen is alternative literature at its finest. I remember that theNewerYork always claimed not to publish poetry. But this work is proof that poetry thrives inside the non-confines of alternative literature. A poem is a made thing and Ives, Callil, and Davey have made an excellent thing.

I treasure this un-catalog, this manual that does not instruct. I bought two copies of it. May we never cease to print the written word in hard copy because the relationship between the reader and author feels far more intimate when the pages are in our hands than when we observe words on the screen. This work feels satisfying in my hands. It comes bound in the same sort of card stock as many old-timey owner’s manuals used to be. The collaboration of the three mediums between Ives, Callil, and Davey invite comparison and exploration, a search for alternative meaning and connections. I have attempted to do as much as I could here, but I will continue to read and handle this work. It’s the only way I know to thank those who created it. I hope other publishers will have the courage that Joshua Raab and Daniel Bullard-Bates had in their time running theNewerYork.

Review of Beth Grindstaff’s “This Fragile Husk”

This review was originally posted at gnathic.

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Beth Grindstaff completed her poetry collection, This Fragile Husk (Finishing Line Press, 2016, cover art by Beth), to the appreciation of her adoring friends and fans––people like me. I first encountered Beth through the social networking platform called Tumblr. Her blog, paradigmpoet, was a haven in a storm of social media. Beth is one of those people who have made me thankful for slogging through the social media experience. The poems she posted on that blog were a source of inspiration for me. Beth’s voice was always clear and strong. She is, and has been since the time I encountered her, a warrior. I have often addressed her as such––”Hey, warrior woman!”––and she graciously accepts the moniker. When I first called her a warrior (and I was not the first to do so), I had no idea how much of a warrior she was to become. I do not think she did, either.

As I fell out of love with Tumblr’s platform, I made sure to keep in contact with Beth. We sent emails and even wrote letters through the U.S. Mail. We sent each other poems and poured our hearts out on the paper and digital pages, knowing we would keep each others’ confidences. Very soon into that period, Beth was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She explained the processes she was going through in her letters in heart-wrenching detail. Ever the warrior, her voice remained strong––even as she grieved, even as she railed against the Fates. She would document long bicycle rides she had begun to take and which provided her a kind of physical relief. She would go to work in the midst of a snowstorm because she knew her boss depended on her. And she would express thanks for her true love and concern for the effect this journey with MS would have on the both of them. Beth is strong. Beth is giving. Beth is a warrior.

As I read the poems in her latest publication, This Fragile Husk, I remembered how Beth expressed to me that her poems were changing, that her voice was changing. Beth has always had a gift for depicting the tragedy-and-beauty sushi roll that is the world around us. She has performed her poems before groups of people who I can only imagine must have listened in astonished silence. So when I prepared to read the twenty-two poems in this collection, I was excited. Knowing some of what Beth has been going through by following her Instagram posts, I expected this book of poems to sing in a new voice. And this book of poems does sing in the way a cello sings. The only proper accompaniment to these poems is a solo cellist laboring lovingly over J.S. Bach’s cello suites, one by one.

The collection opens with her poem “Once”. As it begins to unfurl it hesitates, reminiscent of Gertrude Stein’s “How She Bowed to Her Brother”, with periods not commas, ends that are not endings but stops, like stumbling or catching your breath before you embark with trepidation. Every kind of cracking sound exists in this poem, porcelain, skull, leaking vessel, creaking wood. The poet is looking at herself in the mirror of a lake, seeing the myriad aspects that make up her entirety. She finds it, the myth as proof, and moves through this entirety, using that mirrored surface to see into the past and maybe a distance into the future, but always seeing her present.

Beth goes on to envision the forked tongue of the horizon in her poem “Everything, everything” where, with repetition and subtle alliteration, her will and the weight of things must yield somehow to worship and memory of winter. She becomes a bird of her self crashing into a false sky in “The way I want to be gone”. Here, she indulges on the edge of hopelessness but never drowns. She knows the bruises but never ceases to persevere; she wait[s] like silt in the throat of a storm. The reader senses eternity.

Beth maneuvers through the complicated mourning of loved ones in poems like “Granny”, “Legacy”, “Planting Tomatoes”, “For Cyndie”, and “To my father, on the six-year anniversary of his death”; and the reader cannot help but share this painful grief with Beth because of our vowels and a kind of shared blood that insists in her phrasing. Where she mourns in short line-lengths, the echo of memory extends the verses. And, in a way, her mourning culminates in her “Death Sutra”. The poem takes you away to places that unfold like the most familiar nightmare that you’ve somehow come to love. Every stanza begins [b]eyond colors and sensations and we are left wandering with Beth yet somehow remembered, known.

She coaxes you through the pain of her disease in poems like “Tales of a hard winter (March 7th)”, “Findings of demyelinating disease persist”, or “Diagnosis” which give you her blinding ache[s], her body capsized by pain, her silences [t]o mourn what is to come. In these recollections she is painstaking, giving the reader sensory details (dog’s velvet fur and Bartlett pears blooming, the ragged sermons of winter and the needle … pulled) familiar, yet not necessarily what you might have noticed had you lived it. And always the careful attention to phrasing, the delicate usage of language (loss of mothering bone/to the cold), and the associations made by ones who, like Beth, see the world with eyes more open and arms spread wider–these things are evident throughout Beth’s verses.

Ever present in these poems is the warrior voice. Beth has changed, but Beth remains. The warrior in her voice has always expressed the anguish of life as she pressed on through battles, and her latest battle has only given her more of herself, more ammunition to use in her battle. Beth’s poems approach the world with an elegance and a perceptiveness that readers will understand more with each reading. Her poetry gives you Beth’s essence and Beth’s presence. A strong present it is.