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Book Review :: Our Lively Kingdom

Our Lively Kingdom poetry by Julia Lisella book cover image

Guest Post by Chloe Yelena Miller

Julia Lisella’s title poem, “Our Lively Kingdom,” opens with the lines, “Our lively kingdom’s now broken / into village plots that others love to visit.” Themes of brokenness, healing, and finding joy weave through these poems like a river through a private landscape. My nine-year-old noticed the cover looks like a map with “tracks like a secret language.”

The covering painting, “Stories Untold,” by Sharon Santillo, sets the tone for the reader. Lisella illustrates a life of attention with lines like “All life is like that / a pursuit to satiate hunger” from “Thoughts About Hunger on a Morning Walk,” and “Is that the way of my work these days, conjuring you into existence . . . ” from “In At Home Depot 15 Years After Your Death.” Indeed, these poems resurrect and remember.

The poem "Hot Flash" has my heart (hormones?) forever. Previously, so little has been written wisely about perimenopause and menopause. Lisella writes, “is my body just grieving” and “The body’s history feels different than mine / as does the earth’s, and yet in unions / we keep telling this short story without words / with spasm and fit     like lyric     like labor."

The poems in Our Lively Kingdom give glimpses of time from the narrator’s childhood through to the pandemic, from private and familial places to nature and to her classroom. In “I’m Receiving Now,” Lisella ends the book with the line, “I’m receiving all the grief here it is here it is.” This ars poetica offers instructions on life and the poetic craft.

Our Lively Kingdom by Julia Lisella. Bordighera Press, October 2022.

Reviewer bio: Chloe Yelena Miller lives in Washington, D.C., with her family. She is the author of Viable (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2021) and Unrest (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Chloe teaches writing at American University and University of Maryland Global Campus, as well as privately. Find her at chloeyelenamiller.com and @ChloeYMiller.