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Michigan Bookmark

A special Stateside series that features Michigan authors reviewing Michigan books.

Wayne State University Press, 2016

The poems in Zilka Joseph’s second book, Sharp Blue Search of Flame, sear with poignant images and brilliant diction. Whether she’s reinventing myths from Jewish and Hindu Indian culture or commenting on the contemporary American scene, this poet speaks with the authority of lived wisdom. The range of experiences she captures spans from physical pain to erotic joy. Though troubling, even terrifying at times, this world we inhabit still holds great beauty, Joseph insists.

Yale University Press, 2017

By any measure, Airea D. Matthews’ collection of poems, Simulacra, is an auspicious debut.  Awarded the 2016 Yale Younger Poets Prize by Carl Phillips, Simulacra channels the voices of famous 20th century poets like Anne Sexton and Gertrude Stein.  Her poems look unflinchingly at the ways mental illness intersects with class, gender and race, and she ushers the epistolary poem into the 21st century. 

Wayne State University Press, 2016

  

Michael Delp’s newest collection of poems, "Lying in the River’s Dark Bed", reads like a surreal, post-apocalyptic novel-in-verse.  The characters who narrate the collection, the Dead Man and the Mad Angler, serve Delp’s themes of ecological awareness, spiritual darkness, and political anger well. 

drawing of a bird
Tom Pohrt, "The Bird-while" reprinted with permission of Wayne State University Press

Keith Taylor is a naturalist as well as a poet. Every summer, he spends several weeks at the University of Michigan’s Biological Station.

The poems in his newest collection contain a close, almost scientific, attention to detail. This is a collection that delves into the truth of beauty, evanescence and life through communion with the natural world.

States of Motion - Stories by Laura Hulthen Thomas
Wayne State University Press, 2017

Thomas generously gives us the whole messy life. This is deeply satisfying, but you have to pay attention.

Pegasus Books, 2016

In Lorraine Boissoneault’s book, The Last Voyageurs, the author immerses the reader into the 1977 reenactment of La Salle’s expedition and the perils of the Great Lakes.

Reid Lewis, a French teacher from Elgin, Illinois conceived of the modern odyssey. He wanted to prove that young men could live under the same primitive conditions as the 17th century voyageurs. Starting in Montreal, six adults and sixteen teenagers paddled 3,300 miles down to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The prose poems in Kathleen McGookey’s latest collection, Heart in a Jar, oscillate between the elegiac and surreal. “How can we use the poetic imagination to cope with loss?” McGookey asks her reader.  

Tyehimba Jess has won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his book Olio. It's a book of sonnets, songs and narrative that examines the lives of mostly unrecorded African-American performers. 

WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2017

It’s no wonder Jack Driscoll has been singled out as one of America’s greatest writers. The ten stories in his new book are elegantly written.

They’re suffused with beauty and mystery and a deep compassion for the rough, yet good-hearted people who live in northern Michigan. 

Spiegel & Grau, 2016

 

I first became aware of the writer Andy Mozina when he published a short story collection titled Quality Snacks, with Wayne State University Press’ "Made in Michigan" series back in 2014.

If you have fished, or wanted to fish, or thought about fishing, or just stepped out of doors with some expectancy, Body of Water is the book for you.

Though Montana is his home now, Michigan poets know Chris Dombrowski from his elegant poetry collection, Earth Again, published by Wayne State University Press. Michigan anglers know Dombrowski as a stellar fly fishing guide. 

Transcription of the book review: NOLA Gals by Barbara Rebbeck, published in 2015, honored the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and received five major awards in Young Adults categories. This year Rebbeck wrote a play for young people called Turbulence. It was based on her own novel.

Michigan Bookmark is a series that features Michigan authors reviewing Michigan books.

On July 8, 1850, with a crimson robe and a paper crown, James Jesse Strang was crowned King of Beaver Island.

His coronation completed his youthful ambition to enter into royalty, but it would also result in his assassination.

In Don Faber’s well-researched book, James Jesse Strang: The Rise and Fall of Michigan’s Mormon King, the author declared that he wanted to present “the historical Strang, stripped of myth, demonization, and popular fancy.”

Michigan Bookmark is a series that features Michigan authors reviewing Michigan books.

"Bob Seger's House and Other Stories" is a masterful anthology of short fiction by some of Michigan’s best living writers. The settings of the stories include the frozen landscape of the Upper Peninsula, a drug house in Detroit, a suburban office cubicle, and the top of a Ferris wheel at a rural county fair. The characters range in age, from an unborn child, to a 90-year-old war veteran, to a ghost well over a century old.

The stories in this diverse anthology, edited by Michael Delp and M.L. Liebler, are presented in many forms. There is an allegory, a fable, historical fiction, and even a Western-style tall tale. Magical realism transports us to the heavens and plain, old-fashioned realism grounds us to the Earth.  One hilarious story includes lines of script-like dialogue that the main character, a frustrated playwright, creates only in her head. A short, short story, less than a page long, packs more punch, word for word, than any story I’ve ever read.

When I’m reading Francine J. Harris’ poetry, I’m not doing anything else.  It is the insistence of the voice, the images as troubling as they are beautifully wrought, the way the ink drifts from the left margin with the weight of her words, the indelible shape this technique makes on the page, that stays with the reader.  Her newest collection, play dead, challenges us in the way that only the most daring poetry can.  Harris’ language is so direct, so stark, that the poetry remains accessible, even as she experiments with form.

How do we respond to betrayal? Where do we turn when our horses bite us, our fiancés sneak into haylofts with other women, our husbands date their college students, our daughters run off with our boyfriends, our brothers place us in harm’s way? These are the kinds of predicaments Bonnie Jo Campbell confronts in her latest story collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.

Hystopia, the first novel of acclaimed Michigan short story writer David Means, is a complex book built around a simple question: what can we do about the trauma that war inflicts on our veterans?  

Christopher Hebert's Angels of Detroit has a rich cast of feckless and out of their time hippies who make their way to Detroit for no good purpose. Hebert is a generous and perceptive writer who gives his characters a long hard look, but his anarchists have a difficult time explaining why blowing up Detroit will lead to something better.

In John Smolens’ riveting new novel, Wolf's Mouth, the action begins in 1944, in Camp Au Train, a lumber camp near Munising, Michigan. But it’s not a typical lumber camp. It’s a Prisoner Of War camp, one of the many in Michigan during World War II. 

The prisoners are mostly Germans, with a smattering of other nationalities.

But even in an American-run POW camp, the Nazis secretly hold the reins, meting out a cruel justice to anyone who disobeys Kommandant Vogel, a man known for vengeance and violence.  

Yet one Italian soldier, Francesco Verdi, dares to defy Vogel.  It’s a choice that will have repercussions for the rest of his life.  He also happens to be the narrator of Wolf's Mouth.

Michigan Bookmark is a series that features Michigan authors reviewing Michigan books.

Seasonal Roads is the title of L.E. Kimball’s impressive new book of stories. The title refers to roads that are unplowed and therefore unpassable in winter. Kimball guides you down some of these roads in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – into cabins, forests, and rivers, and into the lives of three women. Author Lisa Lenzo has this review.

 

Michigan Bookmark is a series that features Michigan authors reviewing Michigan books.