Category Archives: Poetry Book Reviews

Hermit Thrush by Amy Minato

(A book review by Christina Anne Taylor)

I’ve been enjoying Amy Minato’s Hermit Thrush, which was recently gifted to me by a friend in the literary scene who thought I would appreciate it. The poet’s educational background is Environmental Studies, and that’s precisely what her poems are: assessments, translations from one language into another so that readers might sense her perceptions. Multi-colored, multi-textural, reading her poems is like walking through a lucid dream, which is why this slim yet sufficiently full-filling collection is a perfect read first thing in the morning when one is still in alpha waves and needs a gentle awakening while the coffee is brewing.

hermit-thrushThis morning I awakened to “Body of the Earth”…

A swish through flakes

of the forest’s dead skin

where maple leaves lay yellow palms

on the tibia of beetle-burrowed sticks

and tresses of brown needles.

And from “Field Study at Harvest Moon”…

Across the meadow, sunset alights

corn lilies’ lacy tops,

a procession of candles

in a green night.


A doe grazes the margin

between meadow and pine rim,

one ear twitching for bugs,

the other for us.

Amy Minato artfully unfolds a mind that recognizes life in all things and frequently personifies to awaken what is silent, to set to motion what is still, and to present a layer of magic as she perceives it. She is the author or two other titles as well as Hermit Thrush, which was beautifully designed and published through Inkwater Press in August of this year. Copies are available through Powell’s Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Inkwater Press, and many local independent booksellers.

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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Poetry Book Reviews


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Nasty, Brutish and Short by Todd Millick

(Review by C. A. Taylor)

One of the best parts of my job as a publishing service-provider via Middle Island Press is that my clients sometimes send me copies of other books that they’ve published elsewhere. Such is the case with Todd Millick, author of Short and Sweet published by Middle Island Press, who recently sent me a copy of his first book of prose titled Nasty, Brutish and Short: Lessons and Laughs from an Overseas Officer.

(Continuing with my review at…)

I immediately felt the “funny” and consider this book to be genuinely healing in that sense. I feel so good when I read these stories, two or three at a time with my morning coffee. Though this book has a masculine “feel” and would appeal mostly to men, it appealed to me as well, and if my dad were still alive and residing in a VA hospital, I’d surely send him a copy of this book to help him recover from the inside out.

The title is a bit harsh, imo, to the reality of the stories in this collection. Yes, the well-traveled author is in touch with reality, and his accounts are complete with observations of crude and strange human behaviors in places like Bulgaria and Egypt, but the stories are intelligent lessons in geography; they are travel insights with a witty narrator who happens to have been a governmental “insider” who adds interesting tidbits such as telltale signs of whether or not countries have joined the EU. Recycle bins? Chances are, they’re in.

Most amusing to me are the author’s accounts of taxi drivers and drivers in general in Cairo. He claims that one cannot simply jump in a cab and expect that the driver knows how to get to one’s destination. One must, in most cases, tell the cab drivers where to turn, and if their horn quits working, they just might suffer a major internal crisis with a lack of “voice” on the road.

These and similar stories make for a delightful overall read. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Pick up a copy of Nasty, Brutish and Short at

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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams

Some weeks back I received a copy of Disinheritance by e-friend, poet and literary agent John Sibley Williams. It’s the kind of book that I like to savor slowly over time, because each poem is rich with what I define as true poetry: not words describing situations and sensations so much as situations and sensations finding the right words through the poet’s mind. In other words, I don’t see poetry as being manufactured in the poet’s mind. I see poetry as entering the poet’s mind and being translated, which Williams demonstrates in this collection.

First things first: the cover design is flawless, truly created with love. It’s nice and silky and the interior is equally well designed. The book is divided into three parts; it is well-crafted and well-ordered, and it returns throughout the book to a “Dead Boy” theme (the poet apparently being the “Dead Boy”). Here, a few lines from “A Dead Boy Learns Metaphor”:


The poetries of white blood cells

help us make sense of the body.


The comfort of abstraction,

of self-defining

by our creations.


Something clots.


I rename the white hospital walls swans.

Now they are feathered         and I

can finally be their pure spring lake.


The wolves at my bedside say my heart is an ocean

so I construct a simple ark to fit two of each limb.


The sheets are a canvas of long-

fallen leaves

so I rake my fingers over cotton and gather their falling.


I read these free-verse poems with the intent of penning a review, so I kept paper in the book and took notes firstly in search of my favorite poem. I found that each poem became my new favorite, or I should say I couldn’t choose a favorite, but I took the contents in slowly and thoughtfully because that’s what the poems require of the reader.

It took me years of reading poetry to arrive at appreciating free-verse. This is among the best of free-verse, the kind of poetry that those who aspire to express poetry should study and take note from literary lessons such as this from “In Apology”:


Not even earth can describe our harvest, not even the sky

and all its burning can speak for ash.

But there comes a time

abstractions must choose what shape to take.


For justice, please look down into my hands

as into a mirror. For truth, here’s

a cord of kindling. For you, a midnight river of stars.


I enjoy the quiet contemplations throughout Disinheritance. From “Oppenheimer”:


Mother we call the beauty in

what cannot be possessed,

and father, where are you

but in the violence it takes

to create her?


So the book flows…one pause, one sigh after another, and I’ll surely read it again and am grateful for my copy which will fit snugly on a shelf in our poetry room. Thanks, John!

Disinheritance (*click*) is now available at


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Posted by on August 11, 2016 in Poetry Book Reviews


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Big City Nighttime Stories: Book Review

We’re happy to have received word of a review of Big City Nighttime Stories (ISBN 978-0-6926-12682) in the Winter-Spring 2016 edition of The Rockford Review, published by the Rockford Writer’s Guild. The reviewer is editor Connie Kunst.

McCormick Cover JPEGBig City Nighttime Stories (Middle Island Press, 103 pages, $16)  by Gene McCormick is a collection of poetry available on Amazon or directly through the author.  Email: for more information or mail check/money order for $16 to PO Box 51, Wayne, IL 60184.

Gene McCormick captures the “ugh” moments of places and people a little too well.  I’ll just say it:  his writing makes me uncomfortable. What is he going to unveil next? What dysfunction is he going to uncover?  What underdog is he going to reveal?  He’s unpredictable.  I’ll just say it:  his writing is fascinating.  In this collection, we are reintroduced to “Ed” who is a regular in McCormick’s poetry.  Ed sleeps with prostitutes, drinks too much, has a terrible diet, and regularly judges others, but I like the guy anyway.  Sure, Ed is a loner and goes to all the dark places, but he does it all so colorfully.  Ed and all of McCormick’s poems make for delightfully dark reading.

Thank You, Connie, from Middle Island Press!


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Posted by on April 3, 2016 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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Insane in the Quatrain: a Book Review

(Reviewed by Christina)

I’ve been focusing on tying up literary loose-ends in my life, and I awakened at 2 a.m. with the thought of the book Insane in the Quatrain in my head. Strange, considering that I haven’t read it in a few years, but it was mailed to me as a review copy. I was overwhelmed by it and didn’t know what to say, because it’s as though the whole concept of the book is a joke.

Insane in the QuatrainThe author uses the name Bradley Lastname. He is unidentifiable by the cartoon photo, and what I gather from the “About the Author” page at the end of the book is that he’s also known as B-Dog Lastizzle by his peeps in the hood. (?) I don’t know many “peeps” who get into subjects such as 33rd degree Masonry and cultural devolution, but okay… (?) He does seem to be prolific. Insane in the Quatrain is 188 pages, and he also lists five other books by title “and several other books of poetry and fiction.”

Insane in the Quatrain is really quite sophisticated in content in a city-slick sort of way; it’s word-play gone rampant, often with a catchy rhythm and infused throughout with a potpourri of prosaic thoughts (in quick scanning, I only see one actual poem written in quatrains). The content IS funny – not just entertaining but Laughing-Out-Loud-Funny, but at times it’s crudity and obscenity on the hard offense, which is probably why I haven’t picked it up in a few years. Today I have it in my lap.

Even the layout of the book brings to mind a giant middle-finger as the page numbers are much larger than the text and they’re deliberately placed all over the page. The font size varies throughout, but this is all part of the jibe against the modern world and modern poetry in general.

Here I’ll quote his poem “the seven deadly SINaesthesiaS”:

at first I was amBIValent about Roy G. Biv,

but I have since gone from curious to furious.

  • O is BLUE, not orange, Roy.
  • U is green, not G, Roy.
  • O is BLUE, not B, Roy.
  • I is RED, not indigo, Roy.
  • Red is I, nor R, Roy.

I’m beginning to feel like young Vladimir Nabokov pointing out the errors on his wooden blocks.

And don’t go telling me that Rimbaud didn’t really have synaesthesia.

If he didn’t have it, he sure knew where to get it !!

Too bad he never shared it with you.

…and another poem: “SEVEN DAY WEEKEND”:

Saturday – Went bowling with the Bolsheviks

Sunday – Honorably mentioned by the Mensheviks

Monday – Beat eggs with the beatniks

Tuesday – Shaved legs with the neatniks

Wednesday – Picnicked with the sickniks

Thursday – Mutinied with the nogoodniks

Friday – Procrastinated with the woulda*coulda*shoulda-niks

So, on that note, Insane in the Quatrain (a product of The Press of the Third Mind, Chicago) is available at for people who need some intelligent amusement in their life and don’t mind occasionally being mentally assaulted.

Oh, and THANKS, B-Dog, for the copy. Peace-Out.


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Posted by on March 27, 2016 in Poetry Book Reviews


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Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe: a Poetry Book Review by LB Sedlacek

THANK YOU, North Carolina poet LB Sedlacek, for taking the time to review Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe:

Volume 15 / Issue 6

“Jupiter Works on Commission”
by Jack Phillips Lowe
ISBN 978-0-6925-0688-2
Copyright 2015
Middle Island Press
57 Pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

Jack Phillips Lowe’s narrative poems in
this collection all tell work related
tales.  Subjects like using technology
to make a simple task harder, shopping
in a discount store, product packaging,
imaginary friends, employees talking
at breaks are to be found in inventive
poems such as “Captain Nitro Returns”
and “Box Wars.”

An inventive approach to working and
professions, each poem offers a
unique perspective on jobs.  “Coo-Coo-Ca Chew”
is a humourous look at customer service
in the returns area of a department
store.  “Cheer Up, Subversive Jean”
is a humourous account of the FBI
looking into the band The Monkees
for what the rock band was “really”
up to in 1967 at a concert.  “Godspeed,
Myrna” talks of unemployment and how
someone might spend their time good or
bad when not looking for a new job.

From “Jupiter Works on Commission”:
“Tomas and Vinny were welders./Until
they got laid off last November, that
is./Now, to keep in touch, the pair
meets once a week/for coffee in the
only restaurant they can afford–…”
This is the title poem.  It’s the
story of Tomas and Vinny praying to 
find work and how they decide they
need to quit praying to saints but
instead to the Roman gods and
goddesses, specifically Jupiter.  This
is my favorite poem in the book.  I
could read it over and over again.

Jack Phillips Lowe has accomplished,
or rather put into print a realistic
view of the working life (a life we
spend so much time with whether we are
employed or not it surrounds us; 
unemployment; spouse’s jobs; graduating
and looking for a job, etc.)

From “Survivor’s Stripes”:  “The night
before the job interview,/Reed stands in
front of his bathroom mirror/and stares 
at them peeking through his sideburns:/
curly gray hairs.”…//”standing tall,
Reed decides to wear/his grays proudly
to the interview/as badges of wisdom–…”

Lowe writes with a certainty
that captures the everyman soul — poems
in touch with the world working or not
working.  He delivers a contemporary
narrative of down to earth poetry for the
working souls.


(It means so much to poets and their publishers when there are readers who support their dreams. Jupiter Works on Commission is available at and the Middle Island Press website.)



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Posted by on March 11, 2016 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe: A Book Review by Megan DiBello

We’ve received a review of Jupiter Works on Commission by Illinois poet Jack Phillips Lowe (a poetry chapbook recently published by Middle Island Press) which we would like to share here at Poetica~Place.

It was penned by NYC writer/singer/teacher Megan DiBello and was accepted by Midwest Book Review for the November edition of their “Reviewer’s Bookwatch”:

“Like an acrostic poem of the words “average joe”, Jack Phillips Lowe’s book, Jupiter Works on Commission, runs like the x axis of vignettes defining the relationship between social classes in real life chronicles where humans wear their career to work. A harsh reality most encounter is the need for survival on an economy of living to learn to love to work. If you want to know what it’s like to live in America’s society, read what feels like a biography of one who built this country with generations of hard work. From the normalcy of Norman Rockwell to those stepping outside of his paintings and into a more modern summation of a Dorothea Lange photograph, Lowe creates citizens who wear a library of masks; made from hourly wages, salaries, and the emotions that derive from tired feet, the need for a good meal, and a safe place to call home. In his honest approach towards defining a civilian, with non-cynical commentary, it is aptly remarkable how his historical timeline, drives off the x and y axis of this acrostic lifestyle he creates, to show how life is more like a parabola. Like getting a rejection letter in the mail, his words push kind to a new xy generation.”

Thank You, Megan!

Copies of Jupiter Works on Commission are available via

Jack Phillips Lowe also has a new poem posted on the Poetry Super Highway, and his book is in the hands of a few reviewers, so we’ll keep readers posted.



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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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