Poems Shed Light on Life #Thursday Book Feature

Neoteny: Poems

by Emily K. Michael

Copyright 2019.

 

What Amazon Says

 

A lively and imaginative debut, Neoteny explores blindness, family, and birdsong. In these poems, Emily K. Michael meditates on literary and personal heroes like Jo March, her beloved grandmother, and her guide dog. This collection is rich with treasures from childhood — the honey-colored piano Michael played, the fig tree in her front yard and the trays of fresh mint drying on her grandmother’s table. The poems move between a child mind and an adult’s perspective as Michael contemplates the rich emotional power of commonplace objects and the way her own blindness complicates everyday situations. Poems like “In This One” and “I Say Yes” take the reader into the domestic moments of young romance while “Deficiencies,” and “Wood Thrush” invite readers to disappear in wonder for the wild world.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Michael weaves local sounds and spaces into her work. “Anniversary in St. Augustine” is the story of a couple’s private tour of historical landmarks, while “Ajeen” captures the quiet of a deserted street deep in hurricane season. “Trading Threes” and “Encore” welcomes local birds onto the page as Michael immortalizes the sounds of mockingbirds and cardinals.

Though Neoteny is an uplifting collection, Michael confesses the difficulties she experiences as a blind poet in a sighted world. In “Small Hours,” she asks readers to wonder just how important their vision really is, and in “Blindness Locked Me Out,” she catalogues the situations where her disability relegated her to the sidelines. “Natural Compliance” maps the challenge of exploring the wilderness with a white cane and wheelchair. And “A Phenomenology of Blindness” is Michael’s resounding answer to the common questions about how blindness works. To those who think Michael is seeking a cure, she offers “Faith,” a poem that examines how healing really works.

Neoteny also pays tribute to the poets Michael loves. “Practice” is Michael’s nod to CD Wright’s “Lake Echo, Dear” and “Antiphon for Emily” is her song for Emily Dickinson. Neoteny opens on “I Begin to Understand Jo March,” a finalist for the 2018 Atlantis Award. The final poem is “Cello,” first published in Artemis Journal and later included in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital’s Poems in the Waiting Room. Poems from this collection have also appeared in Wordgathering, Nine Mile Magazine, The Fem, Saw Palm, The Deaf Poets Society, Rogue Agent, and The South Carolina Review.

 

My Thoughts

 

I don’t recommend starting this collection on an empty stomach. The author’s descriptions of delectable delights in “Ajeen” and other poems about food at the beginning will make your mouth water, and you’ll abandon any plans to enjoy some poetry before lunch. But if you download the Audible version, you can eat and read poetry simultaneously if you wish.

I love the way Emily Michael narrates her own poetry here. The piano interlude at the end gives the production a nice touch. I could identify with “Blindness Locked Me Out” and her poems about playing music and attending concerts. I also appreciate how she tells us what being blind is not. This collection isn’t just about blindness. Even if you are experiencing vision loss, it will enlighten you on a variety of topics.

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By the way, from now until July 31st, you can download My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress absolutely free from Smashwords as part of its annual summer/winter sale. Click here to visit my Smashwords author page.

Also, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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Thursday Book Feature: Songs of Heartstrings

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Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude

By Miriam Hurdle

Copyright 2018.

 

The pieces in this book focus on nature, healing, and other topics. The book is divided into sections, each beginning with quotes from others. An entire part is dedicated to poems inspired by the weekly challenge on Coleen Chesebro’s blog.

I like the variety of poetry forms used in this book, including villanelles, pantoums, and acrostics. I found her pieces about her family moving and especially enjoyed “A Walk on the Beach,” since that’s one of my favorite pastimes when visiting my brother in Florida. Because some of the poems are about spring, this would be the perfect time to read this collection.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book Feature: Love the Beat Goes On

Love the Beat Goes On
by Lynda Filler
Copyright 2017

This is not about Sonny and Cher, although I thought it was when I first glimpsed the title. In this short memoir, author and photographer Lynda Filler discusses her diagnosis of cardiomyopathy in 2008 and how she miraculously recovered. She starts by detailing events leading up to her diagnosis including but not limited to her experience with online dating following several failed marriages, her move from Canada to Mexico, where she lived for several years, and her return to Canada. She then describes her symptoms and how she came to be diagnosed and told to get her affairs in order because she didn’t have long to live. She then outlines her path to healing and subsequent recovery, providing tips to others suffering from the same malady. She often claims not to be a medical expert and encourages readers to follow the advice given by their own doctors. The book includes resources.

I felt two connections with this book. First of all, my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy about the same time as Lynda Filler. Second, my brother and his first wife honeymooned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, during the 1990’s, at probably about the same time Lynda Filler was living there. Although I found her description of her healing process interesting, I was, and still am, skeptical. If this book had been released in 2008 when my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, he might have benefited, although I doubt he would have read it.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Thursday Book Feature: Cottage by the Sea

Cottage by the Sea
by Debbie Macomber
Copyright 2018.

After losing most of her family as a result of a mud slide near Seattle, Annie retreats to the seaside village where her family rented a cottage for several summers. By a miraculus twist of fate, she is able to rent that same cottage. A physician’s assistant, she finds a job at the local clinic. In her quest for healing, she affects the lives of a shy six-foot artist with whom she falls in love, her reclusive landlady, a teen-ager with an abusive stepfather, and other characters, all needing relief from their troublesome burdens.

I’ve always enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s work, and Cottage by the Sea didn’t disappoint me, but there are a couple of things I don’t like about this and other books she has written. First of all, the author uses way too much unnecessary narrative. As I’ve said before, it’s better to show and not tell, and too much narrative bogs a story down. Another thing I don’t like is her use of adverbs. It’s always better to use a stronger verb, and in the case of dialog, what a person says should speak for itself without the adverb. Because Debbie Macomber tells such heartwarming stories that make me feel good, I’m willing to put up with these pitfalls.

That said, Cottage by the Sea was a great end-of-summer read for me. According to the author’s note at the beginning, a mud slide near Seattle actually happened several years ago. I like the way this author uses real-life events to tell a compelling story. I also appreciate her not including descriptions of sex. There are better ways to show two characters in love like kissing, hugging, hand holding, and body language. Sex scenes are unnecessary and bog a story down.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and it was hard to put down. The narrator did an excellent job portraying each character. Although one minor plot detail could have been handled differently, I found the ending very satisfying. If you don’t have time or enough money to retreat to a seaside village, I suggest you read this book instead. You’ll be refreshed.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

***

The Healing Voice

Sunlight streams in through large windows

of the room where we sit,

some like me in wheelchairs,

others on couches, in armchairs,

a few with walkers in front of them.

Some shout, cry, wander, fight.

Others, like me, watch the passing world.

The television talks–no one listens.

 

Then she appears, guitar in hand,

asks if we’re ready for some music.

TV silent, she stands,

strums the guitar, sings favorite songs,

knows our names.

Nothing else matters when her voice

fills each corner of the room.

I love to sing,

wish she would stay forever.

***

I recently received word that the above poem won second place in a contest sponsored by Magnets and Ladders, an online magazine featuring work by authors with disabilities. It will appear in the fall/winter issue. Click below to hear me read it.

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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