Book Review: Poetry: rel[am]ent by Jamison Crabtree

I’m not sure where I found this book of poetry by Jamison Crabtree, or how long ago it was, but I finally got around to finishing it. The book rel[am]ent is divided into sections of laments to various universal monsters with a large poem in the center called “golem” and finishes with “relent.”

Themed books of poetry are a risk and often I am not willing to take such a risk. I like poems that fit together, but I am never sure how the public feels about these things. In my own life I have created several collections based on themes, but I have not felt comfortable releasing them into the world. This collection of poems by Jamison Crabtree works on several levels. He writes laments for characters of movies that multi-generations can identify with like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Blob.

The reader, by title alone, arrives with preconceived notions based on how well they know each of the characters, but then they get surprised by how connected yet disconnected the poems are to each of them. The writer interjects himself into the role of each character as if he were in the room with them, thus morphing the lament into something more personal.

There are great individual lines and stanzas encapsulated in this book, but on a whole there were only three poems in their entirety that touched me. The pieces of the poems that I enjoyed cut me and gave me something to think about however when surrounded by words that were less than connected or intense, it made the poem in its entirety fall a bit flat for me.

I think this is a collection that will hit people in different places depending on their experiences and background. It reminds me of the type of poetry I wrote in college in the early 90s where life ticked by in fractured light and poems felt like clips of film shown out of order or with the sound reel missing. This collection provided me with nostalgia on two levels.

Jamison Crabtree’s rel[am]ent can be found at The Word Works. He was the winner of the 2014 Washington Prize.

“lament for dracula”

you carve ghosts into bus-stop benches
you, to cry into the barrel of your guns.

we can live forever among our wrong loves

if we can grieve, if we believe we are capable

of any real grief (no, we are not.)

Published: South Shore Review

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

I have the distinct pleasure of being a part of a wonderful new literary magazine called South Shore Review. It is based in Nova Scotia and is filled with great fiction, essays, non-fiction, and poetry. It features beautiful photographs and art. If you would like to read my poem, “Our Labored Breaths,” then click the hyperlinked title. They do have a tip jar linked to the website if you’d like to contribute to the work they do.

Thank you for reading.

Micro-fiction: 2 am Ineptitude

2 am Ineptitude

Awkwardly, Diane held the woman’s dead hand trying to slide off the wedding rings. Her skin, like cold clay, gave resistance. The gold circle spun,               a large document              , uploading. She looked away with sudden 2 am ineptitude. He stood at the bedside, his warm fingers over Diane’s were a rescue.

“I put them on,” he said, “I’ll be the one to take them off.”

Art for Sale: Picasso Portrait

Ever since I was a young girl, I was fascinated with Picasso. There is something inspiring about the child-like way he approaches the canvas. I have always kept in mind that the little girl inside me that always wanted to be an artist could find her way. Much of my life has been about writing and creating with the word, but 20 years ago my ex-mother-in-law taught me how to cross stitch while I was pregnant and unable to work. I started out with small kits and made English cottages the size of refrigerator magnets. One year, I was given a software program that allowed me to move away from the traditional country kitsch that is found in cross stitch to be able to do portraits and anything I can photograph.

Though I haven’t always agreed with the way Picasso treated women or the way he lived his life, I couldn’t help but do his portrait. His face is deeply interesting. This portrait captures some of the pain all artists feel in the endeavor to let their creativity out.

This piece is 6.25 inches by 5 inches and is matted locally by my favorite art and frame shop to fit an 8 x 10 frame. I spent about 120 hours on this piece and am asking $60.00 plus shipping (in the US only, international can be worked out). If interested, please contact me at aleathiadrehmer@gmail.com.

Book Review: The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon

I started reading this book in 2020, but did not get to finish it. I’ve had quite a few holdovers from the year before as I read too many books at once and then not finish them. I chose The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon from the shelves of a used book sale. I liked the simplicity of the cover and how the smoke swirled across it. The way the title is in a hazy script made me feel as if there were an impermanence to the words.

Sometimes I choose books this way knowing nothing about the book or the author. I never read blurbs or jacket covers. I don’t want to know about the book before I read it and sometimes the cliff notes of what should drag me into the book, puts me off.

This book is written like a stream-of-consciousness style of writing because there are no dialogue tags, no notation that anyone is speaking. This is a narrator driven book through its entirety. Had I known this before I started reading, I would have closed the book and passed it on to someone else, which is why I don’t read blurbs. I need these challenges sometimes.

There is a deep sense of searching in the pages of The Polish Boxer. There is a hunger for life and for knowing. These are the things that kept me in this non-traditional fiction book. It is a book in which a character finds himself through the search for another person. It is a journey of disappointment and self-discovery. Once you get past the lack of dialogue tags and settle into what the author is trying to tell you, I think you will enjoy the ride.

Poem: I Once Dreamed of Bob Dylan

I’m pulling this one out of the way back machine. It was originally written in 2008 and published somewhere, though the place escapes me without searching records. I’ve always loved the power of dreams to tell me something about myself. I can still remember this dream even though it has been 13 years. I hope you enjoy.

I once dreamed of Bob Dylan

I once dreamed of Bob Dylan
in a tree house, one walled,
and built from looking glass.

The old man spoke to me
as leaves colored like imminent death
drifted and swirled, their reflection
a knowing torture, and he said 

                                                   blankly:

“You must walk the highway
to get to the by-way.”

I blinked twice,
flashing sea stones
at his face (cracked and dried
like mud in noon sun)
as he pointed to the lines on mine
that had not  been written yet.

Book Review: The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

Happy New Year everyone. Yes, I know, it’s the sixth. Better late than never.

Now that 2020 is out of the way, I can get back on track. The year was distracting, to say the least. I still managed to read some books, but my audio book game was off for sure. Somewhere in the summer of last year, I took part of a workshop with a book agent who was going to help us learn how to query an agent. For those of us without degrees in writing or any earthly clue what that even means, this workshop was going to be great.

It was until she gave us a homework assignment to come up with several comparative books to the ones we had written, but the caveat was that they had to be from the last five years. Insert panic. Waves of glorious, crying panic. Let’s just start with the fact that most of the books I read are from dead authors or from ones who are publishing, but not at the breakneck speed of mainstream fiction. I attempted to look up books which I thought would stand with my themes or time setting. I had a hard time taking books at their word and not reading them first to see if it was really comparable. Add to this the fact that I hadn’t read any recent fiction in a fair bit of time.

What does all of this have to do with N. K. Jemisin? I’m getting to that. This year one of my goal is to try to read a great number of Time Magazine’s Top 100 books of 2020. I am doing this to open my reading comfort zone and maybe grow as a writer. My palate for the word isn’t as broad as I had hoped, and I learned this from the workshop. My second novel has touches of science fiction and fantasy… both categories of fiction that I DON’T actually read. How do I expect to pull that off successfully? I have started my novel writing career as a pantser 100% and I’m telling you this is beyond painful in the editing phase.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin has found its way on Time Magazine’s list, as I’m sure it is on many others as well. Before this, I had never even heard her name. You may gasp, I get it. Her book about the creation of New York City from a multi-universe point of view rocked my world. I have to admit that I listened to this as an audio book and Robin Miles is an amazing voice actress. She made Jemisin’s words come alive. I was in this book. I could see everything she wanted me to see. I am not sure how many pages it is as a traditional book, but it was a whopping 16 hours of listening. It was a race to the finish line for me as it was due back in the morning with a waiting list already formed.

I’m not going to tell you anything more about this book because I think you need to explore it for yourself. The adventure is in parsing it all together like a puzzle. It was a fabulous way to start my new journey of writer’s I’ve never read before. Get ready. This year will be ripe with book reviews.

Writing: Oh, 2020…

It is hard to know where to begin. The year started out with a trip to Arizona just as the pandemic was starting to be more than a whisper in China and Europe. I saw my brother for the first time in twenty years. I spent time with family and time in contemplation.

I changed jobs just as the pandemic started to hit locally going from being an ER nurse for nearly 14 years to going back to the medical floor. It felt like both an insane and a sane thing to do. Switching gears from critical care back to non-critical care felt like going backward, but what I have learned is that my critical knowledge can save people in that space too. Everyone has the potential to take a turn for the worse. The work has been just as hard or harder. The deaths of patients hit much deeper when you have spent weeks caring for them rather than minutes. Not that each death I have ever witnessed hasn’t take a piece of my soul. I’m learning that I like to take care of old folks more than young folks. They are appreciative and have good stories. They make me laugh and cry.

Being an introvert (possibly a ambivert), I thought I would have it made in the shade when they closed down practically everything in my town in New York, but I was wrong. I realized just how many places I went in a day, how much public I soaked up by just being in close proximity. Forced isolation has a much different feeling than when it is freely chosen. I did what I always do and that is find a way around it. Much of the year was spent playing disc golf and walking… so much walking. I found new places to explore in my town and found peace in nature like I had not before. I played my first tournaments in disc golf and got an official PDGA number. I even placed 3rd in one event.

In April, after spending a month writing poems from tandem prompts, I fell in love. I had really settled on being alone for the rest of my life. A string of bad relationships makes you feel like it is hard to trust and I had trust issues in the background already. The pandemic had me looking for friendship and I found that along with love. Sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve all the kindness this man wants to shower me with. I feel broken and selfish and a bit closed off when I shouldn’t. But he is always there waiting to offer solution and patience. From a distance (we live 8 hours apart), we have built a beautiful friendship and have worked diligently around every corner to be present in our own individual traumas while being there for each other. Our holiday plans were foiled by Covid, but not for much longer.

This year I finished writing the first draft of my first novel. My writer’s group at the library was a great influence in getting me back into finishing this book and my dear friends Mattea and Jerry pushed me across the finish line. It was no where near what I wanted it to be and it is currently on its third draft. In the spring, I set the first novel down to start an idea for the second one. Seven chapters into that one and I went back to the first. The foundation is laid. Yesterday, the book cover for the second book came to me while in deep rest during acupuncture. It is going to be an exciting new year.

This fall I was diagnosed with Melanoma and had a huge chunk excised off the side of my face which I promptly named Edgar Allen Mole. It started as a way to cope with this disfigurement and the fear of dying. The skin is the body’s largest organ and the most exposed. The potential for more cancer is always in the back of your mind. I was never a big sunbather, but I do enjoy the outdoors and disc golf and hiking. I only wore sunscreen if I were going to a beach with “wide open sun.” Life is different now. Hats all the time. Sunscreen all the time. No activity (if I can help it) with a UV index over 4. The hardest part was watching my kid silently unravel with the thought of losing me. That made me determined to kick some ass. Since the first excision, I have had four more biopsies with negative results. My eyes are free of melanoma as well. This year may find me having another ten biopsies, but I will cross that bridge when I get there.

An opportunity opened itself in December for me to sell all the things I make. I’m a crafter and artist. It is my meditation. It is what I do instead of take anxiety medication. I had always wanted to know if the things I made were of interest to anyone else. I took the plunge when a local store opened up that sells only handmade items from locals. Happily, I have sold enough this month to cover the rent of my spot for two more months plus some cash in my pocket. It was a goal I had for myself and I was happy to have achieved it in a pandemic situation.

Now for the fun stuff! Here is a list of books that I was able to read or listen to this year:

Poetry:
Like a Begger by Ellen Bass
Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatahil
Under the Influence of Nothingness by Dan Provost
Human Hours by Catherine Barnett
Heroin Love Songs X
Blisters on My Soul by Jack Henry

Non-Fiction:
Guest Book by Leanne Shapton
The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Songbook by Nick Hornby
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Fiction:
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Moonglow by Michael Chabon
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Salt Dancers by Ursula Hegi
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Oryx and Crake by Margarat Atwood
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Lanny by Max Porter
The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Weather by Jenny Offill
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Graphic Novels:
Redlands
Black Magik
Regression

Buddhist Text:
Journey Without Goal by Chogyam Trungpa