Book Reviews

OPA seeks to promote poets by featuring independent reviews on our website. To add your book to our review list, or to become a reviewer please contact our book review coordinator. See the list of books that need review here. See the book review guidelines here.

The ground at my feet: Sustaining a family and a forest

by Ann Stinson Reviewed by Melody Wilson Oregon State University Press, 2021, 144 pages, $21.95 ISBN-13978-0870711466 Available at Annie Bloom’s and Broadway Books When I say I love a book, maybe I mean it meets my expectations or it’s better than other books I’ve read. Maybe I mean I learned a lot without working too …

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SMALL FEATHER by Jade Rosina McCutcheon, reviewed by John Van Dreal

Finishing Line Press, 2020, 40 pages, $14.99ISBN: ‎ 1646622901Available at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/small-feather-by-jade-rosina-mccutcheon/https://www.amazon.com/Small-Feather-Jade-Rosina-McCutcheon/dp/1646622901 The cover of Jade Rosina McCutcheon’s chapbook immediately caught my eye. Within a kaleidoscope of doodled line and color, a thought bubble speaking for the soul of the work declares, I AM Still Here. Within a few hours, I was at the book’s end, where …

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This is the Lightness by Rachel Barton, reviewed by Louise Barden

The Poetry Box, 2022, 87 pages, $18.00ISBN: 978-1-956285-17-8Available at The Poetry Boxhttps://thepoetrybox.com/bookstore/lightness and Amazon In This is the Lightness,her new collection from The Poetry Box,Rachel Barton takes us on a spiritual and imaginative journey, starting with her narrator’s youthful sense of a universe so small…I wonder it should matter at all  (“Sometimes My Universe”) through …

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Stronger Than the Current, by Mark Thalman, reviewed by M. Ann Reed

The title of Mark Thalman’s chapbook, Stronger Than the Current, emerges from the dominant character trait of Helen McCready, a native Oregonian. When the rising Siuslaw River drowns McCready’s prize tulips, she keeps her rowboat tied to the back porch from which she fishes for salmon. Her patience is stronger than the current (“Mapleton”). Not a patience of necessity for survival, not a patience of placid waiting for the fish to bite, hers is rather a steadfast mindful trust in and love of the remaining beauty, which surpasses necessity.

Firefly Lanterns: Twelve Years in Kyōto, by Margaret Chula, reviewed by Ce Rosenow

I have known Maggie for almost thirty years, having met shortly after her return from living in Japan. I found several of the stories in Firefly Lanterns to be familiar tales she shared while we visited beneath the copper beech in her back meadow in Portland or shared a meal. Other stories were new to me, and even the ones I had heard before took on new life because of her decision to write them as haibun. This Japanese form began as a type of travel writing, making it particularly appropriate for sharing Chula’s memories of her time abroad. It combines prose paragraphs with haiku, allowing the poet to craft detailed vignettes punctuated with crystalized images in the haiku. Chula is a longtime practitioner of haibun and even invented the form of linked haibun with Rich Youmans in their book Shadow Lines. In Firefly Lanterns, she takes varied approaches, sometimes concluding the haibun with haiku and other times interspersing haiku throughout a longer prose narrative.

making oxygen, remaining inside this pure hollow note, by M. Ann Reed, reviewed by Sakina B. Fakhri

The poems in M. Ann Reed’s making oxygen, remaining inside this pure hollow note invite the reader into the hollow growing point we share with plants – the silent note through which, as the author says in the Preface, we breathe soul-life into words, words into musical patterns, musical patterns into images, all literary features into meaning. And so this book unravels, teaching the reader how to read it as it proceeds with a sense of movement without propulsion – a sense of moving-with instead of moving-towards. The words do not merely transform, but transform with the reader.

With Extreme Prejudice, Lest We Forget, by Emmett Wheatfall, reviewed by Carolyn Martin

As a poet astutely aware of the challenges facing 21st century America, Emmett Wheatfall has never shied away from the in-your-face-truths all of us need to hear. With Extreme Prejudice, Lest We Forget is his latest foray into truth-telling. This collection bears witness to the history of the COVID-19 pandemic which Wheatfall elegantly describes as The greatest hitchhiker on earth…/making its rounds (“Every Nation Under The Sun”).

Perigee Moon, by Margaret Chula, reviewed by Jeanne Yu

In her collection, Perígee Moon, Margaret Chula invites us closer into the luminous light of tanka, a poetic form rooted in the Japanese Heian era (790 –1180 A.D.) Tanka, meaning literally “short song,” has captured the imagination of lovers, warriors, and emperors over the centuries. Today tanka remains popular in weekly Japanese newspaper columns and as a mainstay in imperial family customs.

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