September Reads

I’ve read so many good books throughout September, but I want to talk briefly about just a few.  It’s getting darker earlier, I’m leaving work under the dim veil of Bojangles Lights and passing cars, and the leaves are just beginning to pick up their retreat from the trees.  It’s the time to get those last few tank-tops in before they have to be covered in buttoned-up sweaters, and a time for poetry, obviously.  Or picture books, or memoirs, or whatever you fantasize about reading in your dreams (that is if you are a book nerd, with black wire-rimmed glasses in your dreams…In my dreams I like to be slain a cross a bet with my feet hooked behind me, resting on my elbows staring into a bright white page).

Anyway, I haven’t really reviewed any books from this month.  I’ve been falling off the wagon and into the straw.   I think a lot of this is because I’ve been flying by the seat of metaphors throughout poetry books for September.  The books I did review I HAD to, because there was a deadline and a publisher that was pushing me to do so.  It’s so nice feeling like I’m in college again and people expect things from me.  Anyway, I just wanted to share with you some thoughts about the other books I’ve read, because the majority of them were amazing and I feel like at some point, they need to be shared so that other greasy hands can discover them along the book-spine shelves.

I just thought this picture was fitting.

The first is Blue Rust by Joe Millar (Joseph), who is married to poet, Dorianne Laux.  I feel weird reviewing this book of poems because I see Joe and Dorianne kind of frequently at the Loft and so I’m just going to say a few words.  Joe is the quintessential man’s poet.   I feel like I should have been in a workshop, surrounded by hammers and different sizes of rusted nails while I scraped my boots against the cement floor, pacing through the lines of his poems.   Every time I read Joe’s poetry, I feel like I could stop where I am, grow a penis, and keep on going.  He makes me feel like I’d look good in a tool belt, or I can handle my whiskey (I’m not even sure I’ve ever drank whiskey).  It’s fitting because Dorianne’s new book is titled Book of Men, which is definitely a married contrast to Joe’s man-ness.  Reading his poems is like watching a really good, metaphorical version of Tool Time (but better, and with Joe Millar spouting off beautiful words).

I think a few quotes will show you why you should run out to your local bookstore, and buy his book of poems.

  • “Now the crickets are throbbing/the ancient psalm of tall grass.” -Divorce, 19
  • “The woods are quiet and full of wind/and I think: some things sound better/in books than when you actually do them.” – The Dutch Roll, 21
  • “It’s no crime to be tired of the sun,/to be secretive, hiding your pain.” -Kiski Flats, 23
  • “There’s a song women sing/ you know all the words to,/to make a child stop crying and sleep,/a song to make a grown man forget.” – For Annie, 24
  • “Listen to the night freight coming down,/its engines, its wheels, its sack of ripe grain,/its gray rats grown fat by the iron tracks,/its love-moan traveling back through the rain.” – Day of the Dead, 79
And here is one of my favorite poems from Millar’s collection, The Women of Poetry.
And here is Joe’s website.
I think Joe’s a man with magic hands, and every time he writes a poem – he just writes it.  I have to go through a thousand revisions, literally – and his just spit from his finger tips like chewing tobacco.  I’m completely jealous.  Every time I read a book by him or Dorianne, I automatically ask myself, “why again is it that I write, when it’s all already been said here?”

Isolato - Larissa Szporluk

The next book is Isolato by Larissa Szporluk which won the Iowa Poetry Prize.  I can’t say very many things about this actually.  I was kind of lost for the majority amount of reading time and I feel like Szporluk got rewarded for the wrong book, since her other books have been half-mind-blowing.    I don’t even have any quotes to share.  I feel like this is one of those books that you pick up to read and you expect great things from, and then it turns out, it’s one of those poetry books that no one understands.
If I’m going to be honest, this is the kind of book that kills poetry.  (Go ahead and map out my rejection letter, Iowa).
If an everyday person can’t pick up your book and feel something, then it’s not a good book, in my opinion.  Now, I know, there are many books out there, that are at a really high level of literary prowess and they make you swim through the words to get to the deep meanings, but it’s different when you’re not even sure where you are in the murky depths.  (Examples: Life of Pi, Bone People, there are others).   When people in other reviews say “the arc of this book is filled with repossession and separation” and you saw nothing…there’s a problem.
Then again, maybe I just need to get my brain into heavy-duty thinking.  Lots of people gave this book of poems a five-star on and here are a few other reviews that may be more favorable in case you don’t trust my humble, and everyday-man of an opinion.  (Joe’s had me growing balls up there so maybe I just can’t respect her ridiculous poems).  Maybe my jeans were just been too tight at the time.  Plus, I’m living on vegetables (and men need meat…(stupid metaphor).
Other reviews, blogs, comments, sites:

Life As A Crossword Puzzle

Next on the list of poets I’d totally do (coitus): Noah Falck.  I think most of you already know I’m obsessed with him.  And a ton, A TON, of his poems are available online (even though I encourage you to read the freakin’ books).  The chapbook I just finished was one of his first chapbooks, Life as a Crossword Puzzle.   It’s really interesting because all of the titles are either Across, or Down.  I can’t say this book had a swarm of my favorite poems by Falck, but it comes in a shiny, pink cover and it’s stapled together.  For some reason, I used to look down on author’s who stapled their collections (Nancy Hechinger is another example), but now I realize they’re saving the environment by only publishing poems that are worthy of the collection, or fit into the collection.  Hechinger’s book of poems may be small, and travel-size, but it’s like jewelry, good things come in small packages.  I feel the same way about Falck.  This book even inspired a poem of my own to be scribbled away in my dying notebook (seriously it’s scalp is coming unglued).


I just like how much stanza power, Falck has.  One second he’s a prose poet and the next second he writes a tiny blurb, like a want-ad, and it’s just as magical.  He can do it in few words, or do it in an essay.  I mean the man’s just got words bubbling from the holey pockets of his jeans (that, and probably change).  Plus, he teaches fourth grade, it’s okay for the womanly “awww’s” now.
Here is an example of his short blurb poems.
Here is a stanza poem.
Here is a prose poem.
Here is a vertical poem & stanza.
Ch, Ch, Check him out (my best Beastie Boys impression).

Beyond Bullets

Beyond Bullets is completely inspirational and gives the reader a new look on the War in Afghanistan.   The picture on the cover of the photo journal breaks my heart because I know the story behind the soldier pictured.
I recommend this book to everyone.
I literally have no words.


I wanted to take screen shots of the images, but then that would cheat you from the full experience.  Just know, that Gerzsak was in Afghanistan for fifteen months as an honorary member of a platoon.  Following this, he spent a year hanging out with Afghani friends and experiencing the life of a civilian.  What he found was a stark contrast between the two lives, and what you’ll see is his photo journey.  Here is one of the shots within the book that is publicized on the publisher’s site and it will give you a taste of why you need to purchase this book, immediately.


I think that you need to buy this, or rent it from your library and just take a look at the war we’re still fighting.  I think every book is going to be a bit bias, but at least you’re going to get inside photographs and a look at the inside life of many of our soldiers, and of the people we’re up against.  Yes, there is a picture of a Taliban suicide bomber in jail.  This is a part of our daily life, even if we don’t feel it on a daily basis.  I found a few websites that allow people to just write to soldiers in their free time, they are listed below.
This is for my friend, John Starnowski, fighting over there and getting letters from me with updates about local gas stations and scenery changes.  It’s the little things.


The last book that I feel like deserves a shout-out for this month is Meadowlands by Louise Gluck (imagine two dots are over the U).  I think I especially loved this collection of poems because I had already read Margaret Atwood’s version in Penelopiad and I think they go well together.  I love anything with Greek myths, I want all my children to have the names of Greek God’s or Goddesses, minus one of the boys who already has a name (yes, I’m creepy, and will probably just end up with countless cats named after Greek mythology)…my name is the name of a famous Greek woman, Cassandra, who is simultaneously known as seductress of men, and helper of man kind.   She’s quite the duality.  So, when I picked up this book at Edward Mckay’s not knowing that it was about Greek Myth, I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s the tale of Penelope and Odysseus (tale as old as time, yes older than Beauty and the Beast) and most of the character’s involved (their son has a main role).  Gluck adds a twist though with making some of the poems feel modern, and like you’re in the middle of their relationship, in fact, wait, it’s your relationship and you’re living in the arguments over petty bullshit.
I love a good poetry book filled with petty bullshit.
Here is what I wrote on “This may be one of my favorite books of poetry of all time. And not because the language is exceptionally fresh, or because it’s images at their finest hour, and metaphors like a full meal – but because it’s real (even in the myth).”
Anyway, I recommend this book because it’s fluid, it’s understandable, Gluck is a poetry Goddess in her own right and it’s an easy read.  I do recommend that you read it out loud and under covers, with a handy-high-lighter to mark away.
Here are some quotes:
  • “you have not been completely/perfect either; with your troublesome body/you have done things you shouldn’t/discuss in poems.” – Penelope’s Song, 3
  • “So Penelope took the hand of Odysseus,/not to hold him back but to impress/this peace on his memory:/from this point on, the silence through which you move/is my voice pursuing you” – Quiet Evening
  • “On the other side, there could be anything,/all the joy in the world, the stars fading,/the street light becoming a bus stop.” – Moonless Night, 9
Here are other reviews & sites:

And, with that, I’m moving on to October and starting fresh with a few spooky books (probably not), but it would be nice if anyone could recommend any horror stories to me.  I tend to put Stephen King’s books in my freezer, like my grandmother, so that I know they can’t escape, and/or bring demons into my household.  So, if you can recommend anything that isn’t Stephen King, I’m grateful.


It’s time for Autumn: sweaters, scarves and all the trees dying around you.

6 thoughts on “September Reads

  1. Bea Mannes says:

    “I love a good poetry book filled with petty bullshit.” I think that quote needs to go inside a little hand worn notebook, maybe I should get one!
    I always enjoy reading your reviews, learning little tidbits about you, like Joe’s poetry makes you want to wear a tool belt.
    Keep reading, and I just love the autumn leaves. Go Bills!! Autumn and football go together, and the Bills are 3 and 0. That is an Autumn miracle! Yeah!

    • Cassie says:

      It’s definitely helpful to meet other women who are writing or reading. You should join. You can turn off emails so it will never bother you and you can just reap the friendships and the benefits.


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