by Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor
I’ve noticed a rise in the publication of chapbooks (or maybe my increasingly busy life has made me take more notice of chapbooks lately). For those who are time deficient, the 40 or less pages fit in nicely between picking the kiddo up from school and taking her to speech therapy, or working on my own writing and taking the dog for a walk, or any other two routine activities. And chapbooks are a special treat that can often show another side of an established author’s talents (as chapbooks can be a place where authors venture into subjects and styles not explored in their full-length collections), immerse the reader in a highly tightened theme, or give the reader a taste of an up-and-coming author.
Anne with an E (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) by April Michelle Bratten
In my upper elementary and middle school years, I was a devotee of everything Lucy Maud Montgomery. I read all of the Anne of Green Gables series and all the L.M. Montgomery books I could get my hands on in the U.S. Then, on a trip to Canada when I was 12, I bought all the rest of the L.M. Montgomery books. Needless to say, I was beyond excited about Anne with an E (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) by Michelle Bratten.
Anne fans will delight in this book, but you don’t need to have Anne of Green Gables in your reading history to enjoy or connect with this collection. This is not the Anne Shirley of the turn of the twentieth century; this is an Anne Shirley for the turn of the twenty-first century. Bratten’s poems embody the spirit (sometimes lonely, always bold, feminist, ect.) of Anne. There is a power in the poems. This Anne “knows / the answer to life is not hidden in her breasts / or even the sky. It is answered by how she chooses / it to be written” (from “The Fall of Anne”).
About the Poet:
April Michelle Bratten was born in Marrero, Louisiana. The daughter of an USAF active duty father, April grew up traveling and living across the United States and abroad. Her travels have greatly influenced her writing over the years, particularly her three-year residency at Incirlik Air Force Base, Turkey. She currently lives in Minot, North Dakota, where she received her BA in English from Minot State University. You can find her poetry in Southeast Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Stirring, and others. April has been the editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly since 2008 and she is also a contributing editor at Words Dance Publishing, where she writes the article Three to Read. Three to Read highlights recent poetry and poets in online journals around the web.
Dirt Eaters (Tupelo Press, 2018) by Eliza Rotterman
The raw chaos of the inner self is captured and given an order of hope in Rotterman’s lyrical poems. In Dirt Eaters, there is a tension that is pulled right up to its breaking point. And brokenness can be its own kind of strength.
The two poems titled “Light-rope” set themselves as two antipodes: one, in which the speaker is in “[her] own made-up dark;” the other, in which light verges on explosion as “a neutron star, / the crush of twenty times twenty into one, centers dense with rupture.” And that is the pulse of the entire chapbook. Darkness threatens to become light, light threatens to become darkness, and there is a power in it all that at first seems chaotic, but reveals itself to be determined and in control.
About the Poet:
Eliza Rotterman grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and holds an MFA from the University of Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Poetry Northwest, and Los Angeles Review, and she was awarded the Kay Evans fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
Flight (Tupelo Press, 2018) by Chaun Ballard
Flight rises out of a history of race issues, oppression, and fear to move into a future with new language and new visions of the world. For this chapbook, the title poem is about September 11th, but as the title of the collection, Flight goes beyond that day. Reading Flight is like encountering a bird who just realized its wings can carry it anywhere.
“Using the Laws of Motion to Explain Ferguson” does just that, but the impact is far greater than a physics experiment:
- Second Law
the acceleration a of a mass m
by an unbalanced force F
is directly proportional
to the force
and inversely proportional to the mass
or a [knee-jerk reaction] = F [ired shots] / m [ichael brown]
Each poem is complex yet precise in its telling of the world and its history. Each poem travels beyond its individual moments to something beautiful and hopeful.
About the Poet:
Chaun Ballard was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and San Bernardino, California. He holds an MFA from the University of Alaska–Anchorage, and his poems have recently been published in Anomaly, Columbia Poetry Review, HEArt Online, Rattle, and Pittsburgh Poetry Review, earning nominations for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Although he calls Alaska his home, for the past eight years he and his wife have served as educators in the Middle East and West Africa.
About the Reviewer:
Lisa Houlihan Stice is the poetry editor of the Military Spouse Book Review, where she brings her knowledge of contemporary poetry and her attention to diverse poetic voices to the table. A Marine spouse, she is the author of the poetry collections ‘Uniform‘ and ‘Permanent Change of Station.’ Her poetry has appeared widely in literary journals. For the Mil Spouse Book Review, she has written the Homefront Journal features “The Ever-Changing Normal,” “Code Switching,” “My Life on the Homefront,” and “Our Own Foreign Country.” She has reviewed several books of poetry including Kazim Ali’s ‘The Secret Room,’Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s “Milk and Honey,” and poetry by Ocean Vuong and Javier Zamora.