Praise for Combed by Crows
To apply Dennis Camire’s own words to himself, he is indeed a “birder of words” working at “altruism’s altitude.” If all poetry implies a vision, what the poems in Combed by Crows see is how important beauty is in a broken world—beauty and compassion—how they can be found almost anywhere, in the autistic boy trying to get a date, in giant pumpkins and lowly earthworms, in our language itself, from the letters of the alphabet to the many names of fishing lures. Camire sees and celebrates it all, not denying our wounds, but finding in them the source of love. These poems become models of attention and curiosity, gratitude and a full-hearted embrace of experience. The images are vivid and compelling, the syntax becomes a river, carrying us through an amazing series of verbal rapids without once tipping us over. I love this book. It’s like the donated organs described in one poem, giving our tired cynical minds a transplant of marvel and wonder.
—Betsy Sholl, Former Maine Poet Laureate
What Dennis Camire does best with inventive, metaphoric language is to praise “this world’s strange beauty.” But even more important than this, he never lets us forget those who are seemingly excluded from paradise: the autistic, the maimed, the disfigured. Thus among kids “whose eyebrows dragonfly with delight” and “the purple and green roots” of their hair, we find in the same park “the mother with/Down’s syndrome child in tow/slow to marvel/at this Garden of Eden of Teens/ . . . the way he always blossoms/that same smile to each unexplained glory.” I grinned and cried at these poems, but seldom separately because Camire knows the inextricable intimacy of laughter and tears.
Spurred to dreaming by these wonderful lines, I, too, began to imagine, and there were his forebears, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Ogden Nash, meeting somewhere outside of time and space, sharing this book. And why not?—these three poets of pied beauty and dappled things.
—Bruce Guernsey, former editor of The Spoon River Poetry Review and author of From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010
The most striking aspect of Dennis Camire's poems is how they recalibrate our lens on the familiar. They celebrate poignant moments when honest curiosity allows a reader to assume an unfamiliar point of view. Like the widow feeding seagulls, one can "feed with like greed on all the grace" in these swooping poems, and be consoled on the way "through grief's coastal gales." If we need reason for awe, read " The Song of Our Cells": our most basic rejuvenation is cause for amazement.
Camire's poems show us by example that abstraction and transcendence are not required to practice presence. The poems reflect on plain moments observed with gentle humor while buying groceries, gardening, repairing a stone wall, fishing for trout. Such moments are not abstractions. They reveal that what might seem banal is layered and often cause for solace. Like St. Augustine, Dennis reminds us over and over that "love draws us to the things of this world." And what a lovable world his is.
—Jeanine Hathaway, Vassar Miller Prize, 2001, The Self as Constellation
Praise for Kafka’s Shadow
I have been drawn to Judith Skillman’s work for three decades, ever since her first book, Worship of the Visible Spectrum. In her latest volume, she inhabits the mind of Franz Kafka, as well as some of those who loomed large in his life: family members, would-be sweethearts, his editors. We thus see the world in the outré, off-kilter way that Kafka seems to have—as if the lenses of his eyes worked differently than most people’s, letting in a light that few can focus. In Kafka’s Shadow, he sees edges that others don’t, edges that cut him off from taking part in “normal” life—pleasing his father, marrying, performing work that others consider productive. Skillman’s use of internal rhyme in many of these poems exemplifies how Kafka’s world, while being initially recognizable as our own, resonates on another frequency, bringing music sharp and unfamiliar to our ears. T his book gives us a deeper knowledge of Kafka as a person and artist, of his times and difficulties in finding his place. T hough he loved peonies, we see the thistles that grew around him.
—Michael Spence, Umbilical, winner of T he New Criterion Poetry Prize
Reading Skillman’s poems, I felt more acutely my own desire to be fully alive, the pressing realities of beauty and loss.
—John Amen, Editor of The Pedestal Magazine
. . . readers will encounter the intelligence and honesty of the real thing.
—Brendan Galvin, Habitat: New and Selected Poems 1965-2005
. . . Skillman’s ability to accommodate multiple meanings in even the most seemingly straightforward of sentences is like being pushed by a doppelgänger who insists we jump beyond obvious interpretations.
—Christianne Balk, The Holding Hours, UW Poetry Series
Praise for Never Completely Awake
These poems are driven by a passion both sexual and scriptural through configurations of surrender to instinctive logic and imaginative opportunities. Nothing is lost upon her. She treats each moment of each scene as her raison d’etre: Devotion to the project of creative language. The collection or series is endlessly interesting. She is an artist touched by brilliance, and her gifts simply refuse to be denied. I have been blessed in my exposure to her work, as I feel sure, you will be also. Poets, they say, are either born or made. Martina Reisz Newberry is both.
—Gerald Locklin, Poetry Editor: Chiron Review.
Martina Reisz Newberry’s newest collection, Never Completely Awake , is nothing short of breathtaking. In poem after poem you find a generous spirit, a stunning acuity of image and vision, and, above all, her rare gift to wake us to a deeper circuitry that helps give our lives their necessary shape and substance. A truly superb collection, an absolute joy to read.
—Robert Hedin, author, translator, editor, founder of Red Wing Center for the Arts, Red Wing Minnesota
Martina Reisz Newberry may not be completely awake, but she is completely aware in these richly sensual poems. As she comes to terms with the aging of the physical body, her spirit waxes ever stronger and wiser in this mature collection. As she tells us, “It’s really about…how much dark you can stand.” But, there’s plenty of understanding and enlightenment along the way. Self-reflective, quietly ironic, this poet constantly observes and attends. From the Hollywood Blvd. Wax Museum to the Burningman office, from the death of a brother to the loss of a lover, she leads us through different emotional landscapes, always grounded in beauty. Whether in a vision or a waking dream, she offers us both prayer and wind in the living, breathing world.
—Robin Scofield, author of Sunflower Cantos
Transfixed by the hourglass, yearning for continuance the voices invoked by Newberry quest after ways to transcend, to keep going. Here, struggle and surrender dance their inseparable tango. Those whose lives she bids us enter exist like storm-driven kites: dipping and rising, finding the heights, fearing the line will snap. Be it rainfall of needles, pack of greyhounds, or a woman attuned to her neighbor, Newberry summons from any and each of these the place where anguish and solace collide, and—if we’re lucky— resolve. Hers is a universe freely dipped in various faiths, compelled to ask “how much dark you can stand,” even as it offers refuge.
—Margot Farrington, author of Unpeopled Eden And Selected Poems