“door of thin skins” reviewed in Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction

door of thin skins

This is not one of those books you read in order to find out what happened; knowing the end doesn’t spoil one single thing that comes before, because suspense about the plot is never the point. Surprise here comes from ways the narrator weaves the story, from the insights, images and sounds that emerge as she juxtaposes its elements, as we watch her

think about things he said.  They run through my mind, a piece of yarn
unwinding so far until gnarled at a knot. I sit and ponder the knot.

At the knot is a feeling.  I try to loosen it.

I can’t know what was in his mind….

The way it was on the outside and the way it was on the inside.
I want to take myself for granted.  (16)

“Based on a True Story: Young Tambling by Kate Greenstreet and door of thin skins by Shira Dentz” by Holly Welker

Read the full piece here

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“What’s Gone” by Joan Cusack Handler

Is guilt:

Not placing him first
Not visiting more often
Not making soup
Not stopping by on my way to East Hampton
Not joining him for a walk
Not being good enough
Not going to mass
Not believing
Not getting an annulment
Not saying my prayers
Not watching my tongue
Not forgiving my brother

What’s left
is guilt:

Falling back to sleep that morning
Ignoring his DNR that first night,
so he had to fight three more
till his frantic heart convinced us to let him go
My hand slapping his face.
Convincing him to let go of the walker, trust himself & the cane
Escaping to the computer
Dreading the sound of his stick on the floor
announcing the end of his nap & my break
My hand slapping his face
Seeing his pale-boned chest, sad reluctant breasts,
hollowed-out torso
Still avoiding mass
Slapping his face.
Doubting heaven
Losing my faith
Slapping his face.

handler.auphoto.oct2015From Orphans by Joan Cusack Handler 

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News and Events: Week of May 16th


Sarah Bracey White, Travelers’ Rest (Ossining, NY)
Thursday, May 19th
Sarah is peaking about and reading from Primary Lessons, A Memoir at Somers League of Women’s Voters’ Annual Authors Luncheon


Sarah Sousa won a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for 2016

Harriet Levin Millan’s work was featured in Drunken Boat. Both of these poems will appear in her forthcoming book, My Oceanography.


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Book Press Release: Tornadoesque



poems by Donald Platt

Donald Platt’s fifth volume of poetry, Tornadoesque (CavanKerry Press; May 2016; $18.00), takes a candid look at the aftermath left by the inevitable storms—real and emotional—that life places in our paths. In expansive lyrics, many written in this three-time Pushcart Prize-winner’s trademark style of alternating long and short lines, Platt writes with often shocking honesty about tender subjects—his own bisexual yearnings, a beloved daughter’s battle with bipolar disorder, the deaths of aging parents, the turbulence of a society at war. Infused with an inherent pragmatism, the poems draw their power from closely observed day to day life, and from a broader vision of the transcendent capacity of art.

In Platt’s hands, individual experiences spread across larger canvases, illuminated with gravitas. A trip with his wife and daughters to Chartre Cathedral, for instance, turns into a hallucinatory dream of the pain and passing we each endure:

…Rose windows, because you showed me in the dead of winter
         	how my small life
shone through your blacked-out panes forty feet above me, I knelt

         	down in that empty
cathedral. I kissed the old worn stones we walked on. Nothing
          	could have been colder.

(from “Chartres in the Dark”)

A tortured casualty of war in Baghdad becomes a mythic Greek figure in “Man on the Dump.” A visit to the doctor, in “Audade with Irises & Blood Work,” grows akin to the flaying of Saint Bartholomew as depicted in the Sistine Chapel.

Two life-defining realities surface again and again in the poems, leaving indelible through-lines. First, there is the poet’s lifelong bisexuality, never acted upon, and suppressed to preserve a passionate heterosexual marriage. A theme of physical desire and emotional longing, it recurs in many ordinary moments: at a video rental store, on the Washington Metro, when contemplating the paintings of Marsden Harley or the sculpture of Rodin, while witnessing a Good Friday passion play. The second is Platt’s struggle to maintain ideas of order amidst the spiraling moods of his adult daughter, institutionalized for a time with mental illness, and always walking the tightrope between sanity and its shattering alternative. He holds onto a fierce devotion even in moments of despair:

I, awkward father, walk 25 blocks to bring roses, orange as the sunrise that spills every
	morning over the East River and sets the Williamsburg Bridge and the abandoned
	Domino Sugar factory on the Brooklyn side afire

To you, O my manic motor-mouthing daughter

(from “Litany on 1st Avenue for My Daughter”)

“No one knows his final destination/until he arrives there,” Platt writes in “Western Motel,” and, indeed, the poems in TORNADOESQUE offer a kind of roadmap, ever shifting, for one middle-aged man’s route toward elusive answers. Platt “has a delicate ear,” says Gerald Stern, “and a generous mind that lets the world come in. His range is connected to his generosity, as it is connected to his unrelenting memory and his intense pity and his unforgetting eye. He is a fine poet.”


About Donald Platt

Donald Platt has published four previous books of poetry, Dirt Angels, My Father Says Grace, Cloud Atlas, and Fresh Peaches, Fireworks, & Guns.  He has been awarded two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and three Pushcart Prizes.  His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New Republic, Poetry, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Southwest Review, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, and Southern Review, as well as in three editions of The Best American Poetry.  He teaches in the MFA program at Purdue University.


TORNADOESQUE by Donald Platt
Publication Date: May 2016
Price: $18.00; ISBN: 978-1-933880-51-8
Distributed by: University Press of New England (UPNE), 800.421.1561 or 603.448.1533, Ext. 255


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Alabama Literary Review reviews “Places I Was Dreaming”

8_w171_h264_s1_PR15_PCffffffSince the publication of Mose in 1994, Loren Graham has been one of my favorite poets.  His poems have a way of drawing one in completely-I read Mose twice in one sitting-because Graham’s mastery of narrative and his amazing talent for creating authentic voices.

Read the full review here.

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Holly Smith named teacher of the year

Holly Smith, who is the recipient of the 2016 CKP scholarship to the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching because her student was the NJPOL champion, was named teacher of the year in her district.
“I am a teacher, and who was I kidding, right?” she said. “This was my calling. It’s a really nice validation to get from the district.”
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“Orphans” spotlighted in ForeWord Review

Orphans_coverSee the full spotlight here.

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News and Events: Week of May 2nd


Dawn Potter, White Mountain School (Franconia, NH)
Thursday, May 5, 6:30pm
Dawn will be doing a poetry reading at the campus

Kevin Carey, The Hall Haskell House (Rt 1A Ipswich, MA)
Friday, May 6, 7:00pm
Kevin will be reading in “Celebration of the American Voice” to benefit My Brothers’ Table

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“A Christmas Story “by Robert Cording

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

A Christmas Story
by Robert Cording

Sure, I’d had too much wine and not enough
of the Advent hope that candles are lit for;
and I’ll confess up front, I was without charity
for our guest who, glassed in behind those black,
small, rectangular frames, reminded me
of those poems that coldly arrange a puzzle
of non-sequiturs to prove again how language
is defective and life leads to nothing more
than dead-ends. So, after a night of wondering
if our never-more-than-hardly-surprised guest,
a young professor whose field of expertise
seemed to be ironic distance, would give
a moment’s thought, as he took apart everyone’s
unexamined stances, to how and why his own
might be constructed, I blurted out a story
over our Christmas dinner dessert, about
Alexander Wat, how the Polish poet,
taken one day from his Soviet prison
to see a local magistrate, stood in the sun,
reveling in its warmth on his face and arms
and hands; as he took in the beauty
of a woman in a light green dress, he knew
he would soon be back in his prison cell.
He never forgot, he said, the irony of
his freedom, and yet he felt, standing there,
something like a revelation, the autumn day
surging in those silly puffiest white clouds,
and a hardly bearable blue sky, and the bell
of a bicycle ringing, and some people
laughing in a nearby café, and that woman,
her bare languid shoulders turning in the sun—
it was all thrilling, achingly alive, a feast
happening right there on the street between
the prison and a government office, nothing else
mattering, not even the moment he knew
was coming, and arrived, right on schedule,
when he stood woodenly before the magistrate.
And when I had finished, my face flushed,
my guest looked at me with astonishment,
unable to process where so much emotion
had come from, and then asked, calmly as ever,
what I meant when I’d used the word, revelation.

“A Christmas Story” is from Only So Far (CavanKerry Press, 2015).


rcording_hsRobert Cording teaches English and creative writing at College of the Holy Cross where he is Professor of English and Barrett Professor of Creative Writing. He has published seven collections of poems: Life-list (Ohio State University Press/Journal award, 1987); What Binds Us To This World (Copper Beech Press, 1991); Heavy Grace (Alice James, 1996); Against Consolation (CavanKerry, 2002); CommonLife (CavanKerry, 2006); Walking With Ruskin (CavanKerry, 2010); and A Word in My Mouth: Selected Spiritual Poems (Wipf and Stock, 2013).


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“Breathing Under Water” and “Standing” by Catherine Doty

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

Breathing Under Water

Florida’s just a thumb on a jigsaw puzzle,
but under water the Weeki Watchee Mermaids
pour their tea, cook, exercise, iron clothes, guzzle
with muscular skill their Grapette soda
with only occasional surreptitious sucks
on an air hose hidden in shell-studded scenery.
They grin, open eyes afloat in their blue-lit skulls.
Holding my breath was a skill I practiced, too,
like when I was ten years old and woke to a body
lowering onto my body, and a breath that put me in mind
of a rotten leg, a thing I’d seen in a book once
and which scared me, but not as much as this body
on top of my body, these jabbing fingers. I was wildly aware
that the room I was in was a pigsty, and I was a pig to be sleeping
in my clothes, and I wanted to blame it on someone, which
would have meant speaking, which I could not do—
it would have been too real—and I was too old to blame anyone
anyway. I closed my eyes to make the black world
blacker. The lamp was within my reach, and a railroad spike
I could easily have lifted, and also a bowling ball I’d found
on the tracks, but all I could think of was being ashamed
and dirty, and grateful the whole thing was happening
in black and white, like those mermaids on TV, their lips
and nails a black I knew was red, their long white legs
safely fused in their glistening tails.

Standing, 1964

See her small clothes drop in the blooming weeds—
t-shirt and shorts in the upraised arms of the yarrow.
Her arms are upraised, too—she exults or prays—
she’s narrow and flat, she’s white as Queen Anne’s Lace.
The thatchy back of her head is a patch of knots,
her teeth are rotted, but, then, so are theirs, bared
as the boys reach to touch her, not unkindly.
They are sixteen and she is half their age. Above them
a star goes dark, or many darken—the maple completes
the ring at its very heart. She feels like the pinecone seed
that split the boulder, the bullet exploding the head
of the president: once invisible, once inconsequential,
now singular, at last in her rightful place.

Catherine Doty

Catherine Doty is the author of a book of poems, Momentum (CavanKerry Press), and a collection of cartoons, Just Kidding (Avocet Press). Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, among them Garrison Keillor’s More Good Poems for Hard Times and Billy Collins’ 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day. She is the recipient of a Marjorie J. Wilson Award, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Ms. Doty has worked as a visiting artist for the Frost Place, the New York Public Library, and other organizations.

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