Not a Soul but Us: A Story in 84 Sonnets Poetry by Richard Smith Bauhan Publishing, April 2022
Not a Soul but Us: A Story in 84 Sonnets by Richard Smith is the winning collection of the 2021 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. In it, Smith tells the story of mid-fourteenth century Yorkshire, when the plague pandemic wipes out half the inhabitants of a remote village. Left behind is a twelve-year-old shepherd boy, who, with the help of his dog, survives near-starvation and a brutal winter and keeps his flock alive. In the months and years that follow, he struggles to reconnect with the life around him. Judge Meg Kearney said this of her selection, “A mastery of craft. Music. An undulating urgency of tone that leaves no doubt about the emotional impulse that drives the work. A voice that you trust, even when the syntax or the material is difficult. And that material needs to feel relevant, of substance, necessary. Not a Soul But Us is an achievement on every front.”
Girl as Birch Poetry by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson Bauhan Publishing, April 2022 ISBN: 9780872333338 Paperback, 92pp; $17
In Girl as Birch, Gibson mimics the flexible (adaptable? too pliant? healthily, if secretly, resilient, then, finally, aligned) motion of a birch in strong wind, as it relates to the options seemingly available to her, growing up as a girl. The poems imitate in form the experiences they evoke. The leitmotifs of red, birches, mirrors, walls enclosing gardens, labyrinths as metaphors for constraint, recur throughout the book. Without being a manifesto, Girl as Birch explores female gender roles with both pliant and uprising imagery and action. Restriction and rebellion, silence and speech, appearance and artifice, passion and repression, the past and being present, buffet and embolden the speaker of these poems. The elastic and varied syntax, pace, music, and the use of rhetoric and wit express deft self-examination. The book moves from serial impressionistic poems of early childhood to discrete lyric poems of memory and experience and on to a sense of emotional, social, spiritual evolution, not resolution.