Sunday, June 26, 2016

It is with a heavy heart that we now have to announce that Black & White Gets Read is going on an indefinite hiatus.  We sadly, have failed to maintain enough reviewers to keep the site going.  If our status changes in the future, we will re-open the site at that time.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Consequences Of A Moonless Night by Loueva Smith

Published by Texas Review Press

Reviewed by G. B. Welch, Ph.D.

In her first chapbook, Consequences of a Moonless Night, Winner of the prestigious Robert Phillips Chapbook Prize, poet Loueva Smith takes us from the East Texas piney woods where she was born to a park bench that fronts the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.  With stunning imagery she tells us that her darkness is always with her, it rearranges the furniture. The family is steeped in Pentecostal beliefs that the world will end in her lifetime.  My father’s mother walks/ with the beast of the Apocalypse/ on a leash down to the livestock/ pond…  for exercise.  Her father tries to build a fire on a cold night with wet wood.  It smolders, but no heat.  He plays Love Me Tender with five rubber bands on a cigar box.  They are so poor the static electricity in their hair has to serve as Christmas lights.  The only thing her father will give Ms. Smith are the names of the constellations in the night sky while her mother remains secluded behind stacks of romance paperbacks breathing through rose petals the scent of a love she longs for.     

Growing up, Ms. Smith is closest to her older brother and, as readers, we stand with the family as he dies, too young, too soon.  He has given her books telling her what to expect from this world: Kafka and Anne Frank’s Diary.  And she asks of her kitchen chairs, when they were felled in the forest did they long to be made into flutes, to have holes drilled for song?  She rescues a crippled bird and tells it, You and I are rooted things.  But then, if Jesus can work on the Sabbath, making clay birds fly, can Ms. Smith become the poet she’s dreamed of being since she was a girl carrying Emily Dickenson’s poems in her pockets? 

Dearest Marie is the first in a series of love letters.  Taken as a group they form a transition between the loss of a loved one, and the beginning of a new love.  In these poems Ms. Smith explores unfamiliar territory.  I can’t learn to pronounce even the simple words…..My voice hides in a cut-lass sugar bowl.  The poems are exploratory, sometimes cautious, certainly gentle.  I touch her ridged childhood scar/……the letter M/ the same as the burn on the inside/ of my lip where I seldom say her name.  Tarot Pair and Recipe introduce the pitfalls of loving.  Marie’s recipe for a meal includes the knee joints of St. Joan of Arc.  Let her pray all night …../ ….It makes the flesh tender.  And finally the last poem, Dearest Marie, (the second poem with this title) unveils the poet with truth, candor, and strength.  Consequences of a Moonless Night leaves our minds wobbly with its expansive journey through lyrical imagery.    

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Acts of Balance by Nancy Means Wright

Published by Finishing Line Press

Reviewed by Carol Smallwood

Vermont writer Nancy Means Wright is the author of seventeen books and has had dozens of poems published in magazines and anthologies such as Bellingham Review and St. Martin’s Press. The 18th-century feminist Mary Wollstoncraft is no stranger to her as she has published a mystery series based on her life. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men.

In her third chapbook,  Acts of Balance, the poet alternates chronologically the voices of the historical Mary Wollstonecraft and a fictional contemporary farmwoman, Fay. For each poem, she’s included a short preface with their name (Mary or Fay), date, and their current concern.

Most of the poems have a work by the fictional contemporary Fay opposite one by Mary Wollstonecraft such as:

Fay Drops in on an Apple Doctor
   Something is growing inside Fay’s breast. Vermont, 1994

Fresh cheeked and white-haired,
he leans over my bare breast
and we talk poems.

Admittedly, he writes a little,
A Carlos Williams. Last week
the poem described an aunt who
died—it was pancreatic cancer.

Breasting the Flood
   Mary gives birth to Fanny. Le Harve, 1794.

When my cat purrs
the fresh stream rushes

under the frail bridge,
the earth rumbles

in the rub of wind;
green twigs snap.

The attractive chapbook’s design is a study balance it self with red endpapers, red ribbon tie, red cardinal bird on the cover. The first poem is by Fay in 1957; the last poem is by Fay, 2012.

The dialogue between the women divided by time and place shows a unity between the two lives, a sharing that women too often do not see among themselves whether they are contemporaries or not. We are in the Third Wave of the Women’s Movement but many women do not realize it which I suspect Mary Woolstonecraft would have understand very well; Wollstonecraft died when she was thirty-eight, shortly after giving birth to her second daughter. I would have enjoyed an introduction by the poet on how she came to write this memorable work.