ASU professor and poet Patricia Colleen Murphy will read from her second poetry collection, Bully Love, at Changing Hands Bookstore this upcoming Saturday.
The collection won the 2019 Press 53 Award for Poetry, and it offers glimpses into the harsh but beautiful Sonoran Desert, painful but important memories, and an unexpected but powerful love for landscape and people.
Check out a book review of Bully Love by Spellbinding Shelf’s editor-in-chief here.
Publisher: Independently published, 2018 Genre: Poetry Pages: 32 Format: Paperback Buy Local My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Hailing from Tucson, Arizona, local author Blake Edwards shares the first volume of his two volume collection, Strange Diary Days.
Beginning in ethereal desert landscapes, readers soon leave the dust behind as they are transported into a world both surreal yet strikingly tangible.
From dirt roads to ancient spells awaking, Edwards’ work truly delivers his promise to his readers—a world where all that can be imagined exists; and you are right in the middle of it.
I would like to preface my review with this tidbit of knowledge about my literary preferences: normally, I am not one to get easily immersed in fantasy. My poetry collections are few, and they are grounded in reality with the likes of Carolyn Forche. To be honest, I just wasn’t sure if I would connect with this collection because of it’s promises.
I have never been so pleased at being wrong.
Edwards took a brilliant approach to this collection; the first poem of the collection, “Strange Diary Days,” hints at the otherworldly themes readers will encounter later, but only just so. He then goes on to ground his readers in beautiful but relatable realities in which he describes the desert and his perspective having grown up in Tucson, Arizona.
My favorite poem from this first part of the collection is “Winter Throes.” I found Edwards’ details so tangible—”I listen to the fire crackle deep, yet the floor is cold”—yet also so ethereal—”Past these boneyards lie quick-wild spring, where colors spill over and salve the scars away.” His words were the perfect balance of grounding and ethereal, poignantly preparing the reader for what was to come in the later half of the volume.
Slowly I saw the ethereal take hold over the realistic, as if each poem were my feet leaving the ground a little bit more, until I looked down and saw that they were no longer on the floor. It was gradual, painless, and so cleverly crafted.
“Wicked” was my favorite poem from the second half of the collection, clocking in at four stanzas and leaving me pouring over them again and again. Edwards’ craftsmanship with each word left an incredible imprint on me as a reader.
I would recommend Strange Diary Days to anyone—no matter what genre, material, or platform you prefer. It was a true delight to be taken into Edwards’ world, and I hope each reader gets a chance to experience what I did.
I would like to thank Blake Edwards for the ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Publisher: Press 53, April 2019 Genre: Poetry Pages: 84 Format: Paperback Buy Local
Winner of the 2019 Press 53 Award for Poetry, Patricia Colleen Murphy shares her journey from Ohio to Arizona in her latest book, Bully Love.
The collection offers glimpses into the harsh but beautiful Sonoran Desert, painful but important memories, and an unexpected but powerful love for landscape and people.
Amidst the many life changes—from Ohio twisters to Arizona monsoons, childhood to adulthood, and solitude to love—the poet examines how she finds peace and beauty in spite of hardships, including death and grief, as she leaves a broken home behind to build up a new life.
Although I consider myself to be more of a fiction junkie than anything else, a few poetry collections have found their way onto my bookshelves. Usually these collections sit on my shelves for years as I pick away at them one poem at a time. A poem here during a stressful finals week. A poem there to break up my reading flow during the hot summer months.
Reading Bully Love was a different poetry experience for me as I read it in its entirety (and even reread some of the poems) over a few short hours. I really appreciated the curation of this collection. Although each poem captures a specific scene or memory, they each clearly belong together to explain the poet’s transition from Ohio to Arizona. There’s a contrast between these two different landscapes that’s mirrored in other areas of the book: having parents and being parentless, being alone and finding a companion, remembering childhood and reflecting on adulthood. I think it’s this contrast in both the moments and scenery that tie the poems together and kept me reading.
I found the most haunting—and perhaps most revealing—poem to be “Tell Your Story Walking,” where the poet admits,
There are two ways to tell a story.
When I was fifteen you went mad and I saved you.
When I was fifteen you went mad and I never forgave you.
This collection embraces all of life—both the suffering and happiness it brings—bravely and without being timid. Although Murphy grapples with some difficult topics in many of her poems—such as loss, loneliness, and madness—the poems are still very digestible because of the imagery she couples these topics with. By sharing descriptions of the landscape and those who inhabit it, the poems make reflecting on life’s hardships feel more manageable.
As a fellow Arizonan hiker, I absolutely loved the landscape imagery and was even able to recognize some of the desert locations described. I think the writing brings the Sonoran Desert to life almost as a character of sorts. It was interesting to see how place, especially the desert, is so important to these poems. In fact, many of the poems’ titles are place names, reflecting the importance of the land in these shared memories.
I suspect that I’ll return to this collection soon—if not to read it in full, then to tuck a poem or two away for a stressful week, or a change of pace, or a reminder that unexpected beauty can be found even in hardship.
Krut’s collection contains three sections: the first two with fourteen poems each and the last one with thirteen. The poems do not necessarily tell a single unified narrative, though they do flow and have a definitively similar tone.
However, it is worth noting that these poems must be read in order to gain a true sense of the collection.
While I cannot claim a perfect understanding of this collection, I can say that the title gives a good indication of the themes, subjects, and images that repeat throughout the collection. The sky is dark “now”, encompasses the immediate value and poignancy of these poems, as well as the action they contain. The striking images of a dark sky setting us on fire illuminates how the natural world has this effect on “us all”, a reminder of a unifying inability to control our own mortality.
When you read a poem, you get a tiny glimpse into the author’s perspective on the poem’s subject filtered through the perception of the poem’s speaker. But when you read a collection of poems, you really get a sense for who the author is, what they feel, and what is on their mind. This poetry collection reveals the mind of a man who has a sharp eye for observation and keen insight into the common experience of human emotions, filtered through startlingly unique and moving imagery.
Krut’s collection surprised me with its portrayals of the world that felt both aptly universal and intensely personal, capturing the essence of the human journey with its yearnings and fears. The most repeated setting, or at least the one that left the deepest impression on me, was the graffitied streets of a city bustling with cabs that was still somehow hollow inside. Krut’s distinctive voice characterized cities and their residents with unique associations that relayed powerful truths.
Though many of the images in Krut’s collection were unsettling, this felt intentional rather than jarring. Each poem had its beauty, albeit an evocative and haunting appeal. My personal favorite, “The Tuning Fork and the Listeners,” was the one that seemed to most aptly characterize the echoing that resounds throughout our world, masterfully applied through the metaphor of song and a tuning fork. Krut’s skill in conveying ideas in a few lines is evident on each page in the collection; the short length is a gift that allows readers to return and glean more insight from the poetry.
Despite the intensity of the imagery and sophisticated writing, I believe high school students and above should be able to understand Krut’s message, or at least, appreciate his thematic and stylistic construction.
Thanks to the author and publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.