No Passing Zone
by Donna Reis
6 x 9; 75 pages $16.95
From the Back Cover
Lyrical, wry, biting—Reis uses all the tricks in her deck to show how to survive the pain and healing of the body, the crumbling and restoration of houses, the razing and rebuilding of love. There’s serious word play here, and a sharp eye for detail. Reis explores not only her own experience, but the lives of others—Dorothy Wordsworth ministering to her brother, Mary Lamb, whose “Kitchen rattled / toward me, its knives hissing . . .” Readers will rejoice at the perseverance of this poet, who “stayed because [she had] more stories to tell.”
Good poetry ventures out beyond one’s neighborhood of comfort and the familiar, testing the self where there is no “Vicodin handy,” with only the music of the poem to carry you. Donna Reis, in this lush collection, is always moving toward those edges, and thus the reader learns more of what it means to be human in a hostile universe.
There’s danger in this book, and near-death trauma, houses for sale and ex-husbands staining the couch, and “there’s Crazy Kate down / in the ruins forever building walls, / flying her blue-blooded flag / like a Keep Out sign, hoarding / matches, storing cans of gasoline.” No Passing Zone takes the reader on a winding, sometimes harrowing, sometimes giddy ride, but it’s one not to be missed; the reader is safe with Donna Reis at the wheel, ready “to venture down roads / where tragedies struck—certain, at last.”
The speaker in these shocking, tender, funny, and lovely poems is stunningly resilient, surviving four near-death experiences including a hit and run leaving her with lifelong after-effects. She’s as splendid a model of grace as I’ve met in literature or life; transcending daily pain with her often naughty sense of humor and gratitude, drinking every delicious drop of nectar life offers—and for one so wise in self-knowledge, there is nectar everywhere and every when.
Donna Reis’s first collection of poems, "No Passing Zone" (Deerbrook Editions, 2012) has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of three chapbooks of poetry: Certain (Finishing Line Press, 2012), Dog Shows and Church, a sequence of poems (Eurydice Press, 2000), Incantations (Eurydice Press, 1995). She is co-editor and contributor of Blues for Bill: A Tribute to William Matthews (Akron University Press, 2005). Her non-fiction book Seeking Ghosts in the Warwick Valley: 60 Personal Accounts (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2002) has sold nearly 2000 copies. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from The City College, The City University of New York and an MS in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College, also The City University of New York.
Reis’s poems have appeared in eight anthologies, among them Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust (Northwestern University Press, 1998), Chance of a Ghost (Helicon Nine Editions, 2005) and Killer Verse: poems of murder and mayhem (Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011). Journals in which her poetry has appeared include A Gathering of the Tribes, Hanging Loose, The New York Quarterly and Zone 3. Her non-fiction essays are published regularly. She was the recipient of The Meyer Cohn Essay Award in Literature in 2001and The James Ruoff Memorial Essay Award in 2002 from The City College of New York. Reis has taught poetry at The Northeast Poetry Center, College of Poetry in Sugarloaf, New York. Her poem, Krakow, 1939, along with a photo of her great-grandmother were featured in Carol Rosen’s hand-made, art books that are presented in the holocaust museums in Washington and Tel Aviv and at the Guggenheim in New York City.