Publisher and Publication Date: Cider Press Review. January 20, 2021. Genre: Poetry. Pages: 73 written pages and illustrations. Format: Paperback. Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from the author and publisher. I am not required to write a positive review. Audience: Poetry readers. Rating: Very good.
Passiflora is a collection of poems about our day-to-day struggles with loss, raising children, relationships, aging and creating art, and how the nature that surrounds us informs how we view these challenges and sometimes serves as a source of solace.
Passiflora is a lesson to me to never read a poem quick. The first time I read through the book at a quick pace. The second and third times slower. I let the words trickle through me. I let those words savor a bit in my mind. I am fond of nature in poems. Passiflora uses the natural world to compare and express other parts of life like relationships.
Since I’ve had breast cancer, I can relate to the poem on page 18, “Sunday.” I know it’s an uncomfortable subject. People wonder what they can do and automatically think about providing a meal. While reading this poem I can feel the discomfort, the things unsaid, and the dare to follow through with just being there as a friend.
Another favorite poem is on page 26, “Eve: After the Fall.” I’m amazed at the introduction-the shift-the use of words bringing in the second child-“he.” It is beautiful and moving.
The form or structure of the poems is noticeable. The stanza arrangement. The pause of spaces. These are on purpose. I love this.
I love the illustrations included in the book. I wish there were more. They are botanical drawings.
The front cover of the book is a photograph by Grace Kellogg. It is a close-up view of the pistil and stigma in a blooming plant-possibly a flower. These are the areas that germinate and produce.
Publisher and Publication Date: Boukman Press. May 9, 2020. Genre: Poetry. Pages: 106. Source: I had originally received a complimentary pdf. I could not view the book, so I bought my own copy at Amazon. My review is of a self-purchased eBook Kindle copy. This review is my own opinion. I was not required to write a positive review. Audience: Readers of poetry. Women aged 18-55, young adults, high school and college students, teachers and professors, cultural institutions like Museum of African American History and Culture, etc. Rating: Excellent.
Author Information: Rojé Augustin is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her first novel, The Unraveling of Bebe Jones, on which her drama series pitch BEAU REVE is based, won the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award in African American fiction. She wrote the novel while living in London and Sydney as a stay-at-home-mom. She established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce projects across a range of formats, including television, web, and audio. Her first Sydney based project was a podcast and visual web series called The Right Space, which explores the relationship between creatives and their workspace. In 2013, Rojé’s script The Weekly: Women Who Shaped a Nation was selected for the Australian Writer’s Guild Pathways Program. In May 2020, Rojé published a debut poetry collection titled, Out of No Way Madam C.J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama, which tells the story of Madam Walker’s phenomenal life story. Rojé continues to work as a producer while also writing in her spare time. She is an Australian citizen who currently lives in Sydney with her Aussie husband and two daughters.
Summary: A dramatic poetry book that tells the remarkable rags-to-riches story of Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker. New York, NY, July 2020 — Author, producer and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker. Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker & A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama tracks Walker’s phenomenal rise from penniless orphan to America’s first self-made female millionaire in dramatic verse. Born Sarah Breedlove to former Louisiana slaves in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and was widowed at 20. After the death of her first husband, Sarah moved to St. Louis with her daughter where she earned $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. When her hair starting falling out she developed a remedy and sold her formula across the country. In the process she became the wealthiest Negro woman in America. Rojé’s highly original and accomplished poetry is written through the lens of the mother/daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric poems to haikus, blackout poetry to narrative (one poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’) — with each chapter addressing issues relevant to their lives at the time. Written against the backdrop of the Jim Crow era, Out of No Way is ultimately an examination of what W.E.B Du Bois called “conflicting identities.” Sarah was a proud African American on the one hand and a woman seeking America’s acceptance on the other. She was a pauper who achieved the American Dream while denied the rights and protections of the American Constitution. She was a wife, mother, and business woman who juggled the demands of family with the demands of career. And she was an orphan who had to transcend a brutal childhood in order to be a loving mother to her child. As Du Bois stated at the time, “One ever feels a two-ness. An American, A Negro…Two warring ideals in one dark body.” Indeed Madam C.J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove was an American and a Negro, as was her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, both of whom likely viewed herself through their own conflicting identities. What did they see? Out of No Way tells Walker’s remarkable rags-to-riches story by exploring thoughtful questions — What impact did Sarah’s busy work life have on A’Lelia? What was the bond between a mother orphaned so young and the daughter who might wait days or weeks for her return? Could the death of her parents when she was a child have compromised Sarah’s nurturing instincts? How did A’Lelia feel about their newfound wealth? What, if any, were the drawbacks of that wealth? Rojé’s collection of dramatic poems joins an exciting line up of works about Madam C.J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker — from a forthcoming book by Walker’s great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, to Self Made a Netflix original series, this trailblazing woman’s life story serves as an important reminder that race is a barbaric construct to be dismantled and discarded for good.
My Thoughts: These poems are original and evocative, but the first word that comes to my mind is powerful.
The poems are deeply emotional. My first impression is the love between the mother and daughter. However, there are other emotions explored. For example, the fear and anguish because of the lynchings and murders.
Some examples of the types of poetry is acrostic, alliteration, couplet, dramatic monologue, elegy, epistle, lament, and occasional poem. I love the creative idea and work of using different types of poetry. I feel this is original and brilliant.
Included is a speech given by Madam C. J. Walker at an Anti-Lynching Conference in June 1918.
My favorites poems: Lelia, Knoxville College 1902-1904 “Reading” The Prison of Racism that Hate Built The Salon that Art Built The Lost Letters
Included are quotes from: Ancient Proverb, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and Susie King Taylor.
Publisher and Publication Date: Alan Squire Publishing, an imprint of Santa Fe Writer’s Project, Distributed by IPG. March 1, 2020. Genre: Poetry. Pages: 72. Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from the publisher, I was not required to write a positive review. Audience: Readers of poetry, especially female poetry readers. Rating: Excellent.
Summary: Girls Like Us is packed with fierce, eloquent, and deeply intelligent poetry focused on female identity and the contradictory personas women are expected to embody. The women in these poems sometimes fear and sometimes knowingly provoke the male gaze. At times, they try to reconcile themselves to the violence that such attentions may bring; at others, they actively defy it. Hazen’s insights into the conflict between desire and wholeness, between self and self-destruction, are harrowing and wise. The predicaments confronted in Girls Like Us are age-old and universal—but in our current era, Hazen’s work has a particular weight, power, and value.
My Thoughts: Reading this book of poetry provokes me. It reminds me of my experiences of the themes in this book. In the first poem, “Devices”. Various names are directed at females. For example: “dumb slut,” “frigid bitch,” “chick,” and “skirts.” The poem ends with this line: “We’ve been called so many things that we are not, we startle at the sound of our own names.” Most females can tell stories of the horrible names used against us to drag us down, belittle us, dehumanize us, and exert some kind of control. These names are often said in an attitude of, “oh, I was just kidding, you take things too seriously.” Men, not all men, because I’ve had females cat call me too, they all should be ashamed. It is not a way to makes friends. It is not a turn-on. It is not a solid and healthy way for any type of relationship. And, it’s annoying as heck. As a young girl I wanted to be liked and noticed, but not called-out. I did not want to be abused. Essentially that is what those words do: abuse. Several other poems resonated with me—they spoke big to my heart. “Against Resignation” “Blackout” “Eve at the Stop ‘n’ Shop” “Dictation” “Lucky Girl” “Free Fall” “Alignment” “Monarch”
What are the themes running through the poems? Not knowing who you really are, but desperately want to know. Hiding and covering up. Sexuality and being comfortable with it. Finding our voice. Transition and growth. Understanding and expressing emotions. Submission to something that is later regretted or questioned if a yes was ever given. Being told “it” is all in our head. No validation.
I made several marks in my copy of this book. It spoke to me. It reminded me of things way back in my past that hang on like a string from my clothing that can’t be pulled off…and if it is pulled what will pull with it?
About the Author: Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.