Multifarious Dimensions of Meh: A Poetry Collection by Eric Montgomery

Poetry Book Review

Title: Multifarious Dimensions of Meh
Author:  Eric Montgomery
Publisher: Independent
Released: February 8, 2023
Pages: 50
AISN: B0BVBD6JVH
Stars: 4.0

The title and cover of this new poetry chapbook, Multifarious Dimensions of Meh: A Poetry Collection by Eric Montgomery, are terrific! Montgomery should be proud of his courage in putting his work in the public eye for his first chapbook publication, and he shows promise as a poet. While it’s true that poetry can take almost any form, I think some of these poems could be expanded upon to add more depth, but many also stand stark and sharp as they are, exploding with a “Boom!” to break the silence. And they are meant to be read aloud.

Montgomery’s work covers themes of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other life experiences, many of which we can all relate to. Numerous titles are one-word, which I like, and his poems are short, as they were initially written to be shared on Twitter. Some of my favourites are “Numb,” “Pillows,” “Boom!,” “Nowhere,” “Ghost,” “Forgotten,” “Pounce,” “Must,” “Bokeh,” “Change,” “Little Slice,” “Focus,” and “Shake.” I read this book twice and let his words wash over me. The poems were even more satisfying the second time.

With tens of thousands of poetry books to choose from on Amazon, it’s often hard to decide which one to read, but Multifarious Dimensions of Meh is a quick read that will leave you feeling empathy and respect for its author.

Montgomery expresses his creativity not only through writing but also photography and hosts a spoken word poetry podcast, Poetry is Not Dead. In addition, you can subscribe to his Very Short Story posts for #vss365, a tweet-sized writing prompt based on a specific daily word at Mister Eric (mrericmontgomery.com) or follow him on Twitter at @ImMisterEric.

Confessions Under Cratered Moons: Poetry of Cosmic Chaos by Whitney Aumack

Poetry Book Review

Title: Confessions Under Cratered Moons: Poetry of Cosmic Chaos
Author:  Whitney Aumack
Publisher: Independent
Released: December 4, 2022
Pages: 163
ISBN: 979-8365820777
Stars: 5.0

The first poem in Whitney Aumack’s second poetry collection, the fabulously titled Confessions Under Cratered Moons: Poetry of Cosmic Chaos, called “A Gift to the World,” immediately captivated me. Because I know we are kindred spirits who, as poets, look at the world in a similar way, often through the mud-streaked pane of depression that we never stop trying to keep clean, and with music as our compass. By the time I read “I Can & I Will,” I was revisiting my twenties and early thirties, reminding myself that I, too, know my worth.

“I dive into what it means to be human in a world of pain, hookup culture, love, and loss. This book covers a variety of themes, such as love, loss, betrayal, pain, hope, despair, eating disorders, addiction, and domestic violence.”

As a recovering alcoholic, Whitney, a full-time college student in Washington State, writes about trying to make it through gray days, succumbing some days to being a solo drunk, always falling for the bad boys, sometimes finding herself doing the walk of shame, and wrestling with unrequited love. I know we are poetry sisters seeking to find meaning in the hardships of life, living for the days we almost understand. Sometimes it has taken a few tokes, a bottle of tequila, gin, or whiskey, or writing poetry to cope, but we play music loud, dance around the kitchen, and do our best to take life one day at a time, choosing to believe there are better days ahead.

Whitney writes many short poems that pack a punch, like “Make It Another Day,” “Tiptoes,” “We All Fall Down,” “Sheep,” “The Only Choice Was to Make a Choice,” “Dancing in the Kitchen,” “Ignorance Isn’t Bliss,” “It’s Not Over,” “No” Is a Complete Sentence,” “West on a Full Tank,” and “The End,” which were among my favourites.

She writes beautiful Haiku, which isn’t an easy thing to do. But I loved “Trust,” “End the Cycle,” and “You Can Let Go.”

Aumack, who did not have an easy childhood or youth, now recognizes what is sacred and profane, always ready to let light in even though she’s not afraid of darkness. She knows there are a million ways we’re all the same, and she knows what she wants to do moving forward. She also knows the power of poetry in healing. Whitney Aumack’s exquisite work will make you feel seen, heard and validated.

Even though I am over twenty-five years older, I see you, Whitney, and you are not alone.

Connect with Whitney Aumack at Whitney Has Words (whitneyaumack.com) or @eclectic_poetry on Twitter.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Historical Fiction Book Review

Title: The Marriage Portrait
Author:  Maggie O’Farrell
Imprint: Knopf Canada
Released: September 6, 2022
Pages: 352
ISBN-13: 978-1039005631
Stars:  4.00

I wanted to read Maggie O’Farrell‘s latest book, The Marriage Portrait, because I enjoyed her earlier work. I loved After You’d Gone, The Distance Between Us, and The Hand That First Held Mine. I look for her work when browsing used bookstores, which is a pleasurable hobby. So, I was delighted to win an uncorrected proof of this book in a giveaway on Goodreads. The version of the book I read was 436 pages long.

I have not yet read Hamnet, which was critically acclaimed, but after reading The Marriage Portrait, set in Renaissance Italy, I can say that O’Farrell writes exquisitely about 16th-century Florence. Her descriptions of the setting, architecture, fashion, the Medici nobility, the poverty of the plebes, and the tumultuous emotions of her protagonist, Lucrezia, are flawless.

Lucrezia de’ Medici was the fifth child of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. When her elder sister Maria died, Cosimo gave Lucrezia’s hand in marriage to her fiancée. O’Farrell conjures Lucrezia’s wedding day at the age of thirteen to Alfonso, the Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, who is more than twice her age, in marvellous, intimate detail, and we can empathize with everything the young girl experiences. Likewise, her portrayal of the tiger’s anger and grief earlier in the novel is authentic and heart-wrenching.

O’Farrell’s ability to depict dread is astonishing. Women of our time would never be able to understand how terrible it would have been to have lived in the 16th century without the work of gifted storytellers like O’Farrell. Can you imagine never being allowed to leave your room without permission? Can you imagine being married off to a twenty-four-year-old man when you are thirteen? We feel everything Lucrezia feels and find ourselves holding our breath at times. Yet, Lucrezia’s ability to find solace in her cruel world through her art is inspiring. I rooted for her throughout the book.

I would love to see O’Farrell write a book about Lucrezia and Jacopo, the artist, if there was a chance that they escaped together. The way she wrote the ending was beautiful. However, I believe The Marriage Portrait was inspired by Robert Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess,” and we know that Lucrezia died at the age of sixteen, cursed by her genealogy and the customs of the times.

In the version of the book I read, its pacing drags, with some of its 60–84–page chapters set in the days before or just after Lucrezia’s marriage to Alfonso, and I would prefer they had been chopped into thirds. Other chapters, set in the book’s present, which excitingly depict Lucrezia’s fear of being murdered by her husband, are no more than a few pages. What struck me most about this version is how long almost every sentence is (especially in the first third of the book); many are whole paragraphs, which can make for a tedious reading experience. If you were to read passages out loud, you would often gasp for air. I hope that the fully edited version tightened O’Farrell‘s magnificent prose just a little to improve its fluidity, but overall this is a captivating story.

Maggie O’Farrell

Flirting with Fifty by Jane Porter

Romance Fiction Book Review

Title: Flirting with Fifty
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley
Released: May 24, 2022
Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0593438381
Stars: 4.5

It has been a while since I have read a Berkeley title by New York Times Bestselling Author Jane Porter, and I am thrilled that she has this new book, Flirting with Fifty, out now, with a follow-up called Flirting with the Beast coming in November.

I do not read many romance novels because I have not been fortunate in love and gave up hope of finding my soulmate long ago. As someone flirting with sixty, I am cynical and jaded after being hurt by men too many times. I prefer spending time with friends, attending concerts, writing visceral poetry, reading literature, and watching dark, fantasy, supernatural, or period dramas on TV. I am independent, self-reliant, and comfortable with being single rather than dating from the truly cringe-inducing shallow pool of uninteresting men in my age group where I live.

As a result, although I have never been married, I can relate to Porter‘s heroine in this book. Paige Newsome is a professor of math and statistics at UC Berkeley and a divorced mother of three grown daughters, each of whom lives in various parts of the US. Her best friend, Elizabeth, is always there for her, her career is fulfilling, and she has interests outside of work. Her life is full. Paige doesn’t think anything is missing in her life. Then she’s coerced into a co-teaching assignment for a semester that includes an exciting field trip to Tanzania. The other teacher is a charismatic, celebrity professor whom she had a one-night stand with thirty years earlier when she was an insecure, inexperienced student.

I had a one-night stand almost twenty years ago in Ireland that unravelled me with its unexpected, exciting perfection. If that Black Irish, early 2000s, Johnny Depp-reminiscent social worker ever found his way in front of me again, I would feel like forty-nine-year-old divorcée Paige does when she realizes that the well-known Princeton tenured professor of biology (who has a show on the Discovery channel) she will be teaching with is her long lost one-night stand from Paris.

Jack King is everything a woman like me wants in a romantic interest: intelligent, interesting, successful, confident, handsome, and comfortable in his skin. And I won’t forget to mention his Aussie accent. That kind of man would make most women’s hearts skip a beat. And I love that he “believes value comes from accomplishments and not acquisitions.” However, at fifty-five, not even perfect guys come without baggage. Jack’s career demands a lot of travel; his twenty-eight-year-old son, Oliver, is his heart, and he never remarried after his wife died of ovarian cancer. He also never committed to his longtime, on-again, off-again lover and colleague, Camille. So could he possibly commit to Paige?

What I love about Porter’s writing is that she writes so authentically for her audience and makes storytelling appear effortless. Her characters are richly and carefully developed personalities with flaws that we understand and relate to. When Paige and Jack talk about their children, the meaning of parenthood for each is evident. All of Paige’s insecurities about her body and sex are mine. Porter knows her settings and characters intimately, and readers can sense her love for them. Most of all, I love that Jane’s stories make me dream again about abandoned possibilities for later-life love. I know I have to leave Kingston for it to be possible, and Porter almost makes me believe I can do it and that true love could lurk around the next corner. Like Paige, I ask myself, “Why couldn’t she try different things without obsessing about the negatives or the future?” And could I make new friends at this stage of life who would not only have time for me but have my back? We will never know the answers to such questions if we don’t take a risk.

Sometimes we long “to be greedy and want more. More adventure. More fun. More change. More new, fresh, interesting.” And we won’t get it if we don’t start by doing something different. However, being genuinely tired, disappointed, and exhausted by life does stand in the way of risk-taking in the future. Fortunately, there is safety in living vicariously through Jane Porter’s thoughtful, romantic books.