In her debut poetry collection, i shimmer sometimes too, Porsha Olayiwola shares powerful odes to the world that has shaped her identity through the use of honest and suspenseful imagery, creative form, and relatable motifs in today’s society.
Each of us finds a way to cope with the hurdles and pain that life throws our way. Some turn towards their work, others to more destructive means. Then, there’s Josh Denslow. In his collection of stories Not Everyone is Special, Denslow covers a range of topics with his characters: from being a child of divorce, to being a survivor in the aftermath of a friends’ suicide, to being a little person in today’s world. His approach is to use humor not only to build up the narrative in each story, but show how people use it as a form of self-preservation and self-defense in ways that are true to real life, even when he is putting a character in a world where people have superpowers like being able to get the wrinkles out of shirts by patting them down with their hands or extending and retracting their facial hair in real time.
The Complexities of Human Desire
Review: The Wanting Life
Unnamed Press, pp. 315
Cost: $18.00 (paperback)
Imagine the sun setting in a not-so bustling Rome—a glass of Limóncello and fresh risotto in front of you. Your table is small with intricate iron wrought detail, and the world is quiet. There’s a slight summer breeze and a whispering guitar, maybe two, in the background. You can almost hear each wish as it meets the surface of the Trevi Fountain.
Mark Rader transports us, sans jetlag, to a past world of desire and love lost in his unconventional romance novel The Wanting Life. We travel from Cape Code to Italy to a generationally familiar town in Wisconsin, navigating the hearts and minds of Rader’s characters and the threads that pull so heavily on their spirits.
A Deep Dive Into Familial Relationships
Review: The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish
Two Dollar Radio, pp. 353
Cost: $16.99 (paperback)
In Katya Apekina’s novel The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, relationships are used to emphasize characterization and create drama within the story. In particular, the novel examines father-daughter relationships, mother-daughter relationships, husband-wife relationships, and artist-muse relationships. Told through numerous first person accounts in the form of narratives, letters, phone conversations, and interviews, Apekina provides the reader with an in depth, up-close look at the intimate intricacies of these relationships and their meanings. The unique structure of this novel allows the reader to see each character’s internal and external struggles and conflicts. These accounts in various forms help create strong characterization and drama within the story.
Humanity has long searched for meaning and truth by looking toward the stars. Poets Steven and Benjamin Ostrowski believe we only need to look within ourselves. This father and son team present what they’ve learned and what they seek to know in their new book Penultimate Human Constellation: A Father and Son Converse in Poems (2018, Tolsun Books). Less an epistolary narrative and more like a private conversation over a long sleepless night, the Ostrowskis embark on their unique quest. We become privy to their efforts.
Wilderness and a Dissolution of Boundary
Review: A Wilder Time
Bellevue Literary Press, pp. 224
“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.” This Alan Watts quote prefaces William Glassley’s nonfiction book A Wilder Time.
Watts was a 20th century Buddhist and spiritual lecturer who talked about the non-existence of self and the necessity of a return to nature in order to dissolve artificial, man-made divisions.
Glassley, a geologist, takes his own Wattsian spiritual journey into the Greenland wilderness. Although Glassley’s scientific background comes across in his writing, it doesn’t outshine his poetic prose that captures the pristine, esoteric setting of an untouched land.
Seemingly Simple Reflections of Life
Review: Driving Together
Robert Tyler Sheldon
Meadow-Lark Books, pp. 84
In his poetry collection, Driving Together, Tyler Robert Sheldon shares personal observations of seemingly simple moments in his life: observations on a hummingbird, a physical scar, yard work, and graduate school. Spanning all of these subjects, Sheldon’s poems use crisp imagery and storytelling. Through his prevalent themes of childhood experiences, the nature of Kansas, and the relationship to his wife, Sheldon reveals to his readers an unexpected depth to life’s simplicity by use of imagery.
As an avid reader, it has been a long time since I was so heavily engaged in a novel that my physical grip tightened by suspense and bent the pages. This was my experience reading True Ash, full of such vivid imagery that the reader is taken into a different world. Colen and Guess's writing not only plays mental mind games with readers, but questions the terms of genre as well. This novel is a combination of short stories, flash fiction, and prose poetry that all coincide with each other creating a luring uncanniness that hooks readers.
The Art of the Uncomfortable
Review: Pretend We Live Here
Future Tense Books, pp. 168
Paperback, $13 US
Genevieve Hudson captures the comfortable in the uncomfortable. Her collection of short stories, Pretend We Live Here, centers on characters looking for home in places, in people, in their own bodies. No matter where her characters roam, readers are confronted with the violence inherent to existence through her sharp-edged but haunting, sometimes even joyful, prose.
Review: The Shape of A Hundred Hips
Bink Books: pp. 226
Cost: $14.95 (paperback)
In this current climate of the #MeToo movement, women across the globe are fighting back against sexual harassment and assault by pulling back the curtain of shame, stepping out of the shadows, and sharing their personal stories. Author Patricia “Pat” Cumbie bravely adds her voice to this critical discourse with her memoir, The Shape of a Hundred Hips.
book reviews by glassworks editorial staff