Everything is Shining By Jan David Madsen, reviewed by Emily Pittman Newberry

Everything is Shining By Jan David Madsen

Lulu, 2016, 66 pages, $15
ISBN 978-1329812314
Available at https://www.lulu.com/
Author website: https://zestymumbles.com/

Reviewed by Emily Pittman Newberry

When Carolyn Martin sent out a call for poets to write reviews of books, I scanned the list of books on the OPA website and was drawn to Everything is Shining just by the sound of the title. As I read it through the first two times, I loved many of the poems.

The book opens with some intriguing pieces. “Dust To Dust” is a nicely done meditation on the concept of no thing. No thing is the belief in a deeper reality that is neither what we think of as nothing nor made up of stuff. It is more real than the material world around us. The poem begins, Ask when I first knew that everything/was shining, all at once, like the sun … and ends, That it is the dust in which I Am/ dancing forever. This line – with the capitalized I Am – leaves us with the mystery of whom is being referred to: the speaker or pure Beingness, the nonmaterial world out of which we are all made.

In “Ever Again,” we are treated to a prose poem that is interspersed with a more traditionally formatted, three-stanza poem. In the prose sections the speaker is present with his internal state. The poetry weaves in the felt and seen world around him. The single word Silence at the end invited me to be present with internal and external physical experiences in a way that transcends the boundary we normally perceive as solid.

In addition, this poem repeats words from an earlier poem, “That Day,” which describes a similar experience, but one that is not exactly the same. The words of a saint, “Ever Again” says, retrieved and read many, many times. In “That Day” the saint’s words appear as a pantomime: the stream seems to mummer the words of the saint. In “Ever Again” these same words peek through worn-thin papers to speak of this dissolving leap into reality from the depth of silence beneath. I found this intermixing and repetition to be almost a conversation between the two poems. It drew me in and motivated me to re-read both.

Other poems use sweet language to engage the reader. In “Mist,” the speaker says, Let me evaporate/ like the dew on the leaves, and “Moment In A Meadow” opens with Bright sun dappling green-dance in the trees.

Given how much I liked many of the poems, others left me wishing they had been reworked. For example, “A Real Poser” begins with a very dark blind and the very bright lamp. Then in the third and fourth stanzas the speaker throws out a series of questions: What is it?/Where is this place?/Is it day or night? and What’s going on?/Is it some kind of trick?/An illusion? He then answers, Yes, yes it is! And, of course, Everyone is in on it! Here we are spoon fed the questions and the answers are handed to us on a silver platter.

The poem “Draw” does the same thing. It begins with two stanzas in which the speaker asks to be literally drawn on paper, ending with the poetic, The surface upon which I am drawn is still upon a blank and empty page. Then the poem ends with a line of questions in which the speaker again tells us the answers we are to reach rather than showing them poetically.

I hope this author keeps writing and that we will see more from him with poems like “Dust To Dust,” “Ever Again,” “Mist,” and “Moment In A Meadow.”


Reviewer’s Bio:

Emily Pittman Newberry is a performance poet living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing explores the challenges of living as spiritual beings in a human world.  OneSpirit Press published her first full book of poetry, Butterfly A Rose, and a chapbook, Nature Speaking, Naturally, now used in art therapy classes for elders. She wrote poetry for the artist’s book Water by Shu-Ju Wang. Her work has appeared in journals such as VoiceCatcher, The Tishman Review, and Kind Of A Hurricane Press. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014. Her website is www.butterflyarose.com



Here From Somewhere Else by Judith Arcana, reviewed by Tricia Knoll

Here From Somewhere Else by Judith Arcana
Left Fork Press, 2015, 26 pages, $10
ISBN 978-0692589526
Available at https://leftfork.org/books/

Reviewed by Tricia Knoll

Judith Arcana’s chapbook Here From Somewhere Else was a perfect choice for the Turtle Island Quarterly’s 2015 Editor’s Prize. The press focuses on deepening connections to the natural world. The eighteen poems in the collection take the reader from observations of nature in cityscapes (primarily Chicago and other Great Lake Towns where Arcana lived for more than 25 years) to the forests, trees, and birds of the Pacific Northwest.

Arcana begins the collection exploring how an urban mind can open up to the natural world. One route is the imagination. A short poem, “Dreaming the Indian Ocean,” describes a childhood dream of flying in her bed to where whales swim in green deep water. She uses close observation to describe the appearance of nature in the urban landscape – the sky darkens over garages, birds speak to each other in graveyards, the rhythm of a train races through Queen Ann’s lace and milkweed, and the mica sparkles in sidewalks – what the poet compares to stars falling from the urban sky. Middle-aged women on sidewalks and lawns watch crows on picnic tables and fountains. Her poem “City River” asks, Does the river know it once was wild? and questions what people watching a river may have lost with the taming of an urban waterway.

The narrative arc of the collection is movement. Arcana now lives in Portland. The poems move away from Chicago lakefront cityscapes into places familiar to people of the Pacific Northwest. As a transition, the poet is sitting in the woods in “Soon.” Her cell phone rings, a reminder of the world she recently moved away from. The news concerning her father’s health is not good.

This poem continues a motif of lyric observations of how light plays on natural surfaces. Sprinkled throughout the poems are compounds words like fireclouds, waterhearts, goldsilver, and riverlight. Light flashes through graceful branches and falls on the rushing river not as diamonds and gold but as diamonds and gold wish they could reflect light. Arcana asks, Can I be in love with the light on the water? The answer is yes.

That vision carries forward how the poems progress. In “Metamorphoses” Arcana plays with all the possibilities her connections might mean. Can the narrator be an old woman in a cottage deep in the woods? Or an ivory owl swooping at squirrels? The dark bird watching children march to the school bus? In “Wild River Sister,” the identification between the poet and a wild river includes both light and the churning river which feels like the poet’s mind.

These poems are long on wonder. “The Man Who Loves Trees feels the heart of a tree like his own pumping dark liquid to limbs. The affinity with trees in “This Side of the River” concludes with a question:

Do you understand the language of trees? Most of us can’t
ask them these questions; we can only raise our eyes, worship
their solemnity, their reach, their rough skin made of rain.

Oregonians can celebrate that Arcana chose to come here from somewhere else. She hosts a monthly poetry show on KBOO community radio in Oregon and online. She writes poems, stories, essays and books, some of which are available through the Multnomah County Library.

Beside the small press award for this book, her fiction collection reflecting the history of reproductive rights Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture was the 2014 winning prose chapbook from Minerva Rising Press. Arcana is a “Jane,” a member of Chicago’s pre-Roe underground abortion service and a long-time supporter of reproductive justice.

Website: http://www.juditharcana.com


Reviewer bio:

Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet whose work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her collections include Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press) and Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press). In Summer 2017, The Poetry Box, a Portland-based press, will release Broadfork Farm.

Books Needing Review and Past Reviews

For information on submitting a book review see the OPA book review guidelines and policies.
Contact the book review editor.

Books Needing Reviewers
Deborah Akers – partly fallen
Eleanor Berry – No Constant Hues
Adam Brown – Musings of a Madman
Nancy Christopherson – The Leaf
T.L. Cooper – Vulnerability in Silhouette
Nancy Flynn – Great Hunger
John Haislip – Seal Rock
Quinton Hallett – Mrs. Schrödinger’s Breast
Laura LeHew – Becoming
Carolyn Martin – The Way a Woman Knows
Shirley Plummer – The Task of Falling Rain
Arn Strasser – Before Dreaming
Anita Sullivan – And if the Dead Do Dream
Pepper Trail – Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems (finalist for Oregon Book Award)
Christopher M. Wicks – 365 Sonnets


Past Reviews

Setting the Fires by Darlene Pagán, reviewed by Carolyn Martin

Nice and Loud by Lois Rosen, reviewed by Susan Clayton-Goldner

a question of mortality by Susan Clayton Goldner, reviewed by Lois Rosen

Avenida Uriburu by Michael Hanner, reviewed by Sara Burant

Ocean’s Laughter by Tricia Knoll, reviewed by Carolyn Martin

Every Door Recklessly Ajar by Nancy Flynn, reviewed by Ann Staley

Reverberations from Fukushima: 50 Japanese Poets Speak Out, reviewed by Ruthy Kanagy

Anuk-Ité: Double-Face Woman by Dorothy Black Crow, reviewed by Carter McKenzie

High-Voltage Lines by Tiel Aisha Ansari, reviewed by Lois Rosen

Just This, Tanka by Margaret Chula, reviewed by Penelope Schott

Snow White, When No One Was Looking by Donna Prinzmetal, reviewed by Carolyn Martin

Woodstock Baby, by Joan Dobbie, reviewed by Tim Volem

The Parachute Jump Effect by Judith Arcana, reviewed by Penelope Scambly Schott

Rending the Garment by Willa Schneberg, reviewed by Eleanor Berry

Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams, reviewed by Penelope Scambly Schott

Still Life with Judas and Lightning by Dawn Diez Willis, reviewed by Kelly Eastlund

Iron String by Annie Lighthart, reviewed by A. Molotkov

Willingly Would I Burn by Laura LeHew reviewed by Larina Warnock

To That Mythic Country Called Closure by M, reviewed by Carolyn Martin

Tomorrow Too by Don Colburn, reviewed by Tim Pfau

In the White Room by Elizabeth McLagan, reviewed by Erik Muller

Understory: Poems by Paulann Petersen, reviewed by John Sibley Williams

Motionless from the Iron Bridge: A Northwest Anthology of Bridge Poems

Verge by Sara Burant, Comment by Erik Muller

Photograph With Girls: Poems by Nancy Carol Moody reviewed by Toni Van Dusen

At This Distance by Bette Lynch Husted reviewed by Erik Muller