If It Comes to That is a collection that thoughtfully considers the human condition. The poet shares deep reflections on the creative spirit, on the archetypes that encapsulate our behaviors, and on our relationship with the natural world. One can’t help but see the connections that emerge while reading these poems—there are big questions of how we’re connected to the people who inspire us and the ways in which we’re tied to the past. However, these poems are also filled with the people who we touch simply and softly, hand to hand, finding a way through uncertain times. —Aaron Lelito, Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Wild Roof Journal
Graveyard Dogs is a graceful descent into the dimension of loss and grief. We witness life reduced to dirt and gravestones. We see love pushed into the shadows with nowhere to go. Jason Brightwell is a masterful shepherd whose poems guide us through the many facets of death. There is beauty and elegance in mourning and on every page in this book. He shows us that life prevails through tar, rust, and blood. We remain—the ones that are left behind—still of stars and still of purpose.
Paper Cuts: Lighter Verse by Gail White Kelsay Books, May 2023
Gail White’s first new chapbook in seven years shows no abatement in her trademark formalist cynicism as she takes on cats, gators, Edna Millay’s goldfish, and God. She expresses sympathy for the snails found mating inside her garbage can “because on Friday nights / I look ridiculous myself.” If the heat is getting you down, some iced light verse is highly recommended. Gail White was born in Florida but has disowned it for political reasons. She currently lives in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, where Cajun food is available at all hours. Her other books, Asperity Street and Catechism, are available on Amazon.
The Death of Weinberg: Poems and Stories by Walter Weinschenk Kelsay Books, February 2023
The Death of Weinberg: Poems and Stories includes a wide sampling of Walter Weinschenk’s writing, much of which has appeared in print over the course of the last few years. Though the stories and poems vary in terms of length and style, there is a singular focus. The book is, essentially, a rumination upon life, death, and the search for meaning. Most of these pieces are speculative in the sense that there is absent any reference to a particular location, time frame, or historical context. However, these poems and stories, dreamlike in nature, focus upon essential issues with which we grapple throughout our lives: loss, loneliness, meaning, and mortality. The common thread is the narrator’s voice which is, essentially, an inner voice, a voice of consciousness, that engages us in a consideration of what it means to be human.
In Deep, Judith Sanders’ debut poetry collection shifts deftly among registers of language, from satirical to heartfelt to laugh-out-loud funny. Many of her poems delight in flights of imagination. Her observations are accurate, musical, and precise. Her politics are expressed slyly, elliptically; there’s a feminist strain, too. Her voice is unpretentiously real, whether probing everyday experiences or ultimate cosmic paradoxes. Wherever these wide-ranging poems travel, they plunge in deep.
Swallowing Stones by Lisa St. John Kelsay Books, January 2023
Swallowing Stones is Lisa St. John’s debut book of poetry in which she explores the process of finding a space for grief and regaining joy. Free verse and formal poems collaborate with philosophy and art to tell the story of a widow’s discovery in finding her place in the world again. From “Stomping My Foot,” St. John begins, “I want to channel some of this horror into poetry.” And later, “Give me back the world / of Mexican beaches / and the two of us dancing / alone / late at night / before bed.” Poems that beckon, beg, promise, and deliver.
Lisa St. John lives in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York, where she calls the Catskill Mountains home. Her chapbook, Ponderings, was published by Finishing Line Press, and she has published her poetry in many journals and anthologies. Her poems have won several awards such as The Bermuda Triangle Prize and New Millenium Writing. Her essays and memoir excerpts have been published in magazines and nonfiction collections.
Untangling the Knots by Buffy Aakaash Kelsay Books, December 2022
Untangling the Knots by Buffy Aakaash opens doorways, solutions to approaching the everyday world with a renewed sense of awareness. Each poem is like a meditation on simple tasks we all experience. Metaphorical instructions on “How to Pet a Cat” or “How to Start a Fire” give way to deeper considerations like “How to Start Over” or “How to Stay Alive.” This collection of twenty tightly tailored poems will appeal to anyone who walks through life questioning the importance of the mundane, knowing there is always something deeper to those things people do that can seem feckless and unimportant. Aakaash grew up around hills and lakes in New Jersey west of New York City. He has lived as a queer man in both big cities and small remote towns throughout the US since then — backwoods Tennessee, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, high desert New Mexico, not in that order, but finally New England.
American Bitch Poetry by Rae Hoffman Jager Kelsay Books, April 2022
American Bitch is Rae Hoffman Jager’s debut collection of poems that portrays a woman starting a family in an impossibly violent and impersonal world. Jager’s book juggles an unlikely pairing of poems about football, Judaism, pregnancy, and becoming a parent. This collection is a funeral march and a celebration with allusions to Greek mythology, Marshawn Lynch, Rothko, and an ever-growing crack in the ice shelf. Jager holds a BA from Warren Wilson College and an MFA from Wichita State University. Her poetry has been published in a variety of online and print journals. In 2016 She was named The New Voice Poet out of Salina, Kansas. This book originally was a finalist with Sundress and Birdcoat Quarterly before finding a home with Kelsay Books.
Hands of Years poetry collection by Riley Bounds chronicles a journey of faith undertaken with open eyes. While stylistically spare (“tall and slim as votive candles”), these poems reach deep, plumbing the seminal moments in the author’s spiritual life and illuminating the healing power of such moments. Death is described as a space where “life simply leaves, vagabond through zodiacal clouds and dust”; to his father, the poet writes, “Your heart was always a war drum, so stay and tithe your noise”; a child’s prayer is “proffered to Who he doesn’t know from the textless hymnal of his solar plexus, the liturgy of bone and marrow.” In the collection’s final piece, Bounds prays that he might one day “hold the hands of years and become the voice I sing, echoing up the wall of our netted souls, refracting each other’s given light.” The power of these poems lies in their meticulous imagery, their brutal honesty, and their bold confrontation with difficult truths. They alternately rattle and soothe, offering a glimpse of light after each forage into the darkness.
Reviewer bio: Elizabeth Genovise is an MFA graduate from McNeese State University and the author of four short story collections, the most recent being Palindrome from the Texas Review Press (forthcoming September 2022). www.elizabethgenovisefiction.org/
Real Rhyming Poems Poetry by J. M. Allen Kelsay Books, April 2022
Rhymers unite! Real Rhyming Poems by J. M. Allen is a chapbook of exclusively rhyming poems, which is quite uncommon, so the reader is in for a rare treat with this book. Twenty of the thirty poems in this collection had been accepted individually in thirteen different publications. The poem “Genes” won first place in a 2021 contest, and the poem “Ten Hours of Sleep” was picked up by Associated Press (immediately after it was published in a Minnesota newspaper). The author is a parent and included some poems regarding teenagers in this collection of humorous and serious poems. If you haven’t read good rhyming poems in a while, here is your chance! J. M. Allen is an electrical engineer and parent, who enjoys writing rhyming poems. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has been a longtime resident of Rochester, Minnesota.
Dancing Mockingbird Poetry by Steven Dale Davison Kelsay Books, February 2022
Dancing Mockingbird is one of several books coming out this year from journalist and professional writer Steven Dale Davison. The poems in this collection offer readers a meditation on the natural world and the feelings and insights they evoke. The works are grouped in sections for mountains, animals, and bodies of water under such labels as The Rail of Silence, A Vast Nest, Extra Terra, Elementals, and Speak the Lake. Interlogos – love poem interludes – are nestled between each section, and a Prologos and Epilogos complete the reader’s journey.