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You May Applaud Now!

and other poems
by Elizabeth P. Brooks

Review by Janine Pickett

To purchase, contact the author :
Subj: Poetry Book

 May 17, 2016


Beginning with the attractive "playbill" type cover, through 19 powerful poems, to the endpapers where there is space for writing and reflection, "You May Applaud Now" is a beautiful book. It is written in an honest, convincing voice and author Elizabeth Brooks is on a mission: To change the world through love.  Her words pour forth from her heart about topics she holds dear: God, human dignity, love, respect, joy, discontent. Her poems touch on each of these subjects, and more, by asking piercing questions, or providing an insight that will sink deep into your conscience. She asks us to think, then turns right around and fills us with hope and encouragement. From "Somehow": It was not war/that allowed me/to discover/that life is filled/with enormous blessings/and opportunities
One of my favorite poems in the book is "I See You" on page 32.  It's a strong piece and I love the encouragement, the invitation to step up, the knowledge that we no longer have to hide:

I See You
You are not invisible
don't cower or walk in
anyone's shadow

Stand UP
You are covered by the
shadow of His wings.

Wake UP
the heart of the wise,
poor and good
knows both sadness and gladness
What is done is done
and cannot be undone
but the living can become
alive and strive
what appears abase will abound
with dignity and grace
Step Up!

The author knows what she is doing and she does it well. Like many of us, she's fed up with the pettiness, discrimination, and ugliness in the world.  She's sounding an alarm--To love one another. She calls us to use compassion to explore the social dynamics between each of us.  In the poem "Stirring My Hub Up": I'm tired of the vitriol/I'm tired of the denunciations/of my character/slowly dripping with venom from/ferocious yet invisible fangs. This book is a must read. Buy your copy today. Join the tribe.

About Elizabeth Brooks:

Pioneer.  At the age of 20, she exhibited the true spirit of sacrifice and courage. In pursuit of the American Dream, she left her immediate family in Trinidad and Tobago and migrated to New York City to chart out a future for her tribe.
Years later, she relocated to Los Angeles to raise her children. She indulged in bi-coastal living at two different periods of her life. As an older adult, she returned to New York City where she pursued her education at Lehman College in the Bronx with an undergraduate degree in Sociology. Upon graduation, she was hired by New York Public Library and immediately enrolled at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn to obtain a MS (LIS). Her greatest joy was serving a diverse community and empowering the public by providing them with access to information.

In 2000 she returned to California where she led a team at the Pasadena Public Library and they received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from the office, Congressman Adam B Schiff, in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community.

Elizabeth now calls Tampa Bay home. She is deeply concerned about human dignity and the need for social justice. She is outgoing, loves the sound of laughter and the power of the word.
She works part-time as a reference librarian at Saint Leo University in Dade City. She volunteers as an adult literacy tutor in Tampa and she is committed to life-long learning and substantive change. Elizabeth is a member of Grace Family Church Temple Terrace FL. She is a performance poet and has had several poems and a nonfiction essay published in Indiana Voice Journal.

Elizabeth is currently working on a novel and many other projects.



 Protest Poems

Poetry by Scott Thomas Outlar
Published by Transcendent Zero Press

 Cover Art by Christos Karapanos

Review by Janine Pickett

Available now on Amazon

March 7, 2016

Songs of a Dissident

The poems in Songs of a Dissident are shocking, powerful, and full of insight about the "structured" or "prefabricated" world we live in, and poet Scott Thomas Outlar knows that world intimately. His powers of observation are keen, and in this collection, he pushes us outside of our comfort zones and challenges us to look at the "facts" with new eyes.

He writes about the "powers that be" with vigor and boldness, and an exuberant determination to awaken us from our slumbers... We will either make the world a better place, or by complacency we'll "let it burn".  It takes skill, an honest voice, and a huge amount of courage to write like that. 

Each poem is like a little bomb of thought, of actuality, of inspiration dropped into your heart and left there to ignite, ultimately ushering in a whole new train of thought- An enlightenment of sorts-A protest to what we always thought we believed.

An example from:

 Feeding The Beast

"I browse the headlines in the morning
after checking my email for letters
from publishers, editors and potential agents.
Terrorism, torture, hackers, racism, war,
gossip, meaningless trivia, self-important
politicians yapping their gums, a broken
economy, unemployment, etc.-
and you know what?"

To get the answer to that question, and many more guaranteed to arise, you have to buy the book. The true mark of a poet is inspiring  people to think-and Outlar does exactly that: 

It's a Power Thing
"He who holds the purse strings
controls the movements
of the puppets and the pawns"

We are the puppets and the pawns, and Songs of a Dissident is an intense wake-up call that belongs on the shelves in every community library. I love this book!  

You can check out more poems from the author by typing his name in the IVJ search bar...multiple choices will appear...and a short story right here in the current issue of IVJ.

About The Author:

Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site where links to his poetry and fiction can be found. His words have appeared recently in venues such as Yellow Chair Review, Poetry Quarterly, Tuck Magazine, and Dead Snakes. Scott's chapbook "Songs of a Dissident" was released in 2015 through Transcendent Zero Press and is available on Amazon.


Burnt Rotis, With Love
Poetry by Prerna Bakshi
Published by Les Editions du Zaporogue (Denmark)
Review by Janine Pickett
January 13, 2016
Paperback edition available at:  Lulu


 Burnt Rotis, With Love

I found it impossible to keep my balance and remain on the surface of these poems. This collection is powerful and unsettling, and Prerna Bakshi pulls you in deep and doesn't let go. In this body of cohesive, tightly woven poetry she explores and interrogates the narratives of Partition of India/Punjab post British colonialism, women's identity, gender, and class struggle. Her poems are connected by setting, imagery, challenging themes, and autobiography; and she casts the net wide... Violence, oppression, exploitation, abuse, struggle, survival and resistance.

In the opening poem, "I Can Hear You", the use of repetition and response as an interior dialogue, or thought pattern, brings the subject matter of abuse and oppression into clear focus.  It sets the tone for the body of work and Bakshi follows up. In "Family Gup-Shup (Chit-chat)", "A Tale of Round Rotis", and some of the other poems about forced domesticity and the patriarchal society, she brings us face-to-face with the heartbreaking realization that these women are not only abused and invisible, they're stuck.  Anchored in the muck of cultural and family biases that run deep, and sometimes religious.

The author is fearless though. She embraces her characters and allows hope to rise as she ruthlessly examines and rejects those beliefs, such as in "Coward Gods", "The Cooking Gene", and "My Women Have Spoken".

In one of my favorite poems "What Will Be Left Behind?", Bakshi reflects on the devastation of her ancestors lives during and after Partition (footnotes provided) : "The battered suitcases/that bear the marks of/gruesome violence/and the narrow escape;". But she doesn't camp there, she moves forward with: "Let’s leave them behind and/build a better world".

The last poem in the collection closes with a beautiful and necessary request: That we let women narrate their stories themselves.

Gone And Buried

They floated away
like flimsy paper boats.
Like lost fireflies.
Like chiffon saree pallus and duppattas
with the wind.

They were buried like unsent letters
hiding away, stuffed at the back of a wardrobe.
Like trapped bodies
under a pile of disaster rubble.
Like precious treasures buried in the backyard by a refugee
before they eventually have to flee.

These floated away, buried stories
of the many women – when will they be heard?
When will the smell of their stories
fill the stiff air?

When will their stories get dug
out of the rubble
so they could bear witness
to the past and present.

Let women narrate their
stories themselves.
Let the bloody stench of their stories
choke you, gag you a little.
Let the secrets be unburied.
Let the demons of these women’s lives
haunt you a little.

I first became aware of Prerna Bakshi's work when she answered a call for submissions for our February 2015 special issue on homelessness, "Out of the Shadows", and later in the May 2015 Women's edition. I found her poetry startling and urgent and written in a voice that seeks--no, make that demands--answers to our most basic humanitarian questions. She is a force for change and I'll be watching as her body of writing expands and she ultimately takes her place among the important new literary authors of this generation.

About The Author:

Prerna Bakshi is a sociolinguist, research scholar and writer of Indian origin, currently based in Macao. She has contributed essays and articles to a variety of publications including The Hindu, CounterCurrents, Amar Ujala, and Desh Bandhu to name a few. Her poetry has been published in Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Red Fez, peer reviewed journals such as Muse India, Postcolonial Text and is forthcoming in Hysteria, Grey Sparrow Journal, and several publications.


Poetry By: Elizabeth Poreba

 Published By:

Reviewed By:  Shirley Pearson

December 15, 2015

Elizabeth Poreba, in her poetry anthology, Vexed, has captured the reader with her unique style.  She causes her followers to pause over her abbreviated verse and probe the depths of her soul, such as in Accounts where she seems to question the real relationship between her mother and self:
“Now, with all that I savor,
why can’t I remember those mornings
as her love’s wary tender
and balance the account in her favor?”

Her mysterious and perplexing verse, at times, allows the reader to equivocate her carefully crafted words to their own situation, belief or goal.
In The Apple Tree, she seems to be offering her view on global warming but does it by painting a pretty picture wherein the tree thrives in unlucky circumstances.
“I wish it had delayed, but it was tricked
By what we’ve done to weather,
And now blooms too soon, betrayed.”

In the end you realize the author has caused you to pause and ponder your own moments and choices. So be it.  One can depend on Elizabeth to trigger your musings.

About The Book:
When asked how to pray, Jesus advises his listeners to be brief, unlike those who "think that they will be heard because of their many words" (Matt 7:8).
This statement, like many others in scriptures, raises questions. How many words are too many, and how else besides words to ponder Holy Writ?
In these poems, Elizabeth Poreba seeks to keep Jesus' advice in mind while examining her life as a convert from a Puritan-infused Congregationalism to Roman Catholicism.

About The Author:
Elizabeth Poreba taught English in New York City high schools for thirty-five years and now volunteers as a docent at the Old Merchant's House in Manhattan, a tutor of conversational English at New York University, and a foot soldier for the Sierra Club. She has published a chapbook, The Family Calling (2011). Her poems have appeared in, First Literary Review East and Commonweal, among other print and online publications. You can read three of her poems right here in the Nov/Dec.Grace Issue of Indiana Voice Journal. You can purchase your copy of Vexed at the following links:,



Poetry by Darren C. Demaree 

Published by 8th House Publishing

Reviewed by Jennifer Criss 

October 21, 2015 

Darren Demaree has a unique style and voice that quickly engages the reader.  In his new book of poetry, Not for Art Nor Prayer, he speaks of not only his wife, Emily (clearly his muse) and children, but also little glimpses of the everyday.   Mr. Demaree mentions also of his home in Ohio, and breathes life into it.  He appreciates what may seem mundane to the rest of us- or things we might overlook. These short, simple poems are not all that simple and they lend themselves to a third, maybe fourth reading- or more.  Sometimes, there is an enjoyable snark there that’s not noticed on the first pass. It’s as real as poetry gets.

Adoration #141
For the only child in the sick waiting room at Dr. Maher’s Office

I always want to know how they
Are doing in the room without
The television, with old toys,

Wiped hourly like their noses
Left there with an over-anxious
Parent, doing nervous dances

& always staring at the clock.
Today, there was one caped boy fly-
ing, ignoring his mom, the room

Adoration #90
For the manager at the Krogers

Yes, I saw, in fact I read it
out-loud to my daughter that we
we’re not supposed to ride inside

the cart, but with my son sitting
under buckle, we had no choice,
but to chance that she might, at some

point stand up to reach for pancake
mix. The running and singing was
my fault.  We were having such fun.

I have several favorites, but I think my most favorite is this one regarding his wife and her reaction to appearing in his work so often, and the fact that she is beginning to accept and maybe challenge her portrayal:


Unwilling to be a statue
& painted only in the slants
of shadows, Emily has

started to answer questions
at readings about these poems,
about herself in these poems.

She has heard me talk
About them for years
& I couldn’t be more

Disappointed that she is cribbing
my answers.  I wrote these
for a decade, waiting for her

to get pissed, to take ownership
of them, to ask why I told the truth
& why I lied, why I why

& just kept going without asking her.
She likes it now, when she’s naked
& a little bit mean in the poems

& she likes people thinking
That part of her is real, I suppose
I’ve gotten away with it.

The best word to describe the poems within the pages of his anthology is real--They’re so very real.  Real relationships, real conversations, real observations without being overly floral or dramatic.  It’s easy to forget that these tiny pieces of our everyday can be beautiful and meaningful.  I think in this work the author wants us all to stop and take a closer at our surroundings and the people in our world and appreciate them a little more. You can order your copy of  Not For Art Nor Prayer here.

About The Author:
Darren C. Demaree is living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.  He is the author of five poetry collections.  He is the recipient of five Pushcart Prize nominations and is currently the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology.



Poetry by Arthur Powers

Published by Finishing Line Press

Reviewed by Janine Pickett

October 3, 2015


I was struck by the unassuming elegance of Edgewater. The book is beautifully crafted. From the artwork on the cover through the 33 pages of poetry, Arthur Powers takes you on a journey you’ll not soon forget. Culled from his travels across the Heartland and his memories about the life he knows and loves, he captures a spirit of people and place through the use of wit, imagery, observation, and compression. The poems are not long but they are dynamic. They remind me of little temples containing big revelations. An example from one of the poems, Nauvoo to Bishop Hill (Summer, 1977):

From Nauvoo up to Knoxville, winding
the Mississippi’s green hills hot in
summer, the locusts singing alive
the Illinois sun, we moved slowly,
following curving grey roads that led
through myths of our imagination.

There was a flowing sense of unity and emotion as I explored Powers’ landscape. I found myself feeling soothed, welcomed, meditative. I knew he was taking me somewhere and showing me new things, not just in the physical realm, but the spiritual realm as well. I didn’t want the journey to end. One of my favorite poems from the book:

A Grey Coat, A Hook,
               A White Wall
           (for Christ Our Lord)

The grey coat
hangs on the white wall
floating in air,

as though no hook
held it there,
It’s empty arms

stand rounded,
crooked at the elbow,
holding out no hands

as though the crumpled,
hanging figure
begged for hunger,

pointing with no fingers
from the black pits
of empty sleeves.

Simple. Rhythmic. Profound. I’ll treasure my copy of Edgewater for years to come. 

You can buy your copy here.

About The Author:


Arthur Powers is from Illinois.  In 1969 he went to Brazil as a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived most of his adult life there.  From 1985 to 1992 he and his wife lived in the Brazilian Amazon, working with subsistence farmers in a region of violent land conflicts; through his experience with the farmers, Arthur came to appreciate more deeply his own Midwestern heritage. 

Arthur received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and numerous other writing awards.  He is author of two books of fiction and of a poetry chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (see below).  His poetry has appeared in many anthologies & magazines, including America, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Christianity & Literature, Hiram Poetry Review, Kansas Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Roanoke Review, South Carolina Review, & Southern Poetry Review.

~Janine Pickett

The Snake and the Condor, Robert Southam
The Snake and the Condor by Robert Southam





Reviewed By Janine Pickett
July 26, 2015


The Snake and the Condor is a sweeping novel of 473 pages written by a masterful storyteller. It's a breathtaking journey as we explore, along with the main characters Mawi and Julieta, a world of love, oppression, action and adventure set in London and South America at the time of Pinochet's cruel dictatorship in Chile. It shines a powerful light on truth. The spirit and beauty of love and compassion among human suffering, and the tyranny, exploitation and fear used in politics to oppress a people and ravage a continent. This book will expand your awareness of power, greed and social and racial divisions beyond anything you can imagine.  It is a profound, emotional, and entertaining read. The scene settings and descriptions are rich and cinematic. I was mesmerized by the story from the very first paragraph:
           "The outskirts of Santiago had been harrowing enough, with their plywood
shanties, barefoot children and mothers in rags collecting fallen cabbage-
leaves from the costermongers’ barrows, and rotten pawpaws and apples
thrown by the venders into the gutter. In Lima, from the back of the cab on
its way south from the centre, the view might have been out of Hieronymus
Bosch or the younger Brueghel: a vision of hell. Barely clothed men, women
and children, their faces, arms and legs covered in sores, lay weakened from
hunger in the ruins of houses they had neither the means nor the energy to
rebuild after the earthquakes that periodically and without warning shake
Lima to pieces."
The author's voice throughout the narrative is authentic, lyrical and seductive.  Few authors can write light, entertaining passages while focusing on heavy topics, but Southam pulls it off. He writes with passion and skill. He is in total control as he makes us laugh, pause, and re-evaluate what we truly value in life. One of my favorite passages is on page 198.  Julieta is wondering if she's doing the right thing or not by marrying Mawi. She reflects on the wealth, the silver, the parties, and the man she left behind. She comes to her conclusion:
          "Julieta had found her eldorado among the simple-hearted Indians of the Andes, who laughed and smiled with candour and welcomed strangers as old friends. She had found it in a world of plywood walls, cardboard roofs, and threadbare clothes, far from cadillacs and motorways, riding her beloved Pablo, sailing a boat designed long before Spaniards arrived on the continent, with a view not of treasuries and banks but of an azure sky, and azure water and islands, and the snowy peaks of the high Andes.  Would Cortez ever discover the treasures Julieta had learnt to value? She said good night to Yucuma and walked arm-in-arm with Mawi back across the meadow to the garden-house and their bed hidden among the flowers and blessed by the gods, the people and the animals of the island."
The Snake and the Condor has all the elements of a literary masterpiece.  It's an important read. You can purchase your copy today on Amazon
Santiago, Chile, at the height of Pinochet's reign of terror in the late twentieth century. Julieta, the Juliet of this 'Romeo and Juliet' story and the daughter of a senior government official, is to be married to the army officer of her father's choice. She attempts to escape with the boy she loves to the Peruvian Andes, but her father's tentacles reach across South America and even as far as England. The young lovers are caught up in a series of gripping adventures and narrow escapes. They are helped by a courageous priest, whose mission is to save opponents of Pinochet from the prisons, torture chambers and executions of the military régime. The Snake and the Condor is more than a retelling of one of the great love stories of world literature. It also studies the cruel effects of colonization, forced conversion and economic exploitation on non-European civilizations. It evokes the fear, suspicion and uncertainty on which tyranny and dictatorship thrive.
As part of his research, Robert Southam spent several months in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, living with indigenous South Americans well below the poverty line and exploring the shanty-towns of Lima. Full biographical details can be found on his Website,, which also has a blog on South America generously illustrated with photos.

The Website includes details of an earlier novel, Aïsha’s Jihad, which is still selling steadily from because of its continuing relevance to the situation in the Middle East. It remains a set book for Swiss sixth forms and at French universities.



July 19, 2015

Published By:

Speaking Through Sediment

    This is an anthology of selected poems by Michael Cooper and Cindy Rinne written in free verse and will attract those who enjoy beautifully arranged poetic expression.  Poetry, as a literary expression exemplifies a condensation of thoughts, feelings and emotions presented using careful word selection to allow the writer to stimulate and penetrate readers gaining the essence of the poem’s beauty.  Readers are equally responsible to pull from the expression in order to attain total fulfillment.  This co-authored work is a vivid display of quality poetic expression.
                She paused by the side           
                of the road and rested in a folding
                chair beneath ash tree shade
                     at the latest bouquet-daises and
                           pink carnations next to a wooden cross.
                     Manyara had the head of a
                     body covered in white tiger
                moths, and roots for legs.
                                        Her legs tried to dig  
                                        into the earth while the moths
                ached to fly.  A split
                Thoughts growled, Who  
                was buried here?  She sensed a young
                     ferret beneath the crust.
                Speaking through
                     What’s your story?
                The ferret with a dark sable mask said,
                I was killed by a swerving
                    car.  Then carried off the street
                    and buried by weasels.   

    As readers browse this collection of poems some will impact them more profoundly than others.  You will even find Haiku poems and some poems are more abstract than others.  I especially enjoyed the poem on page 45.    
                                Into the valley a lava flare explodes
                    No cell vacant   ash between her thighs
                           Once made love    conceived
                               Beautiful feathers    born in sediment
                                   Her son inside the sacred urn     nameless
                        A phoenix captured in mosaics

                 Water hushes the stone       by the Sarno
                                            Scent of roses     unfurl
                                            Blind to the petrified bones       
    This poem’s brevity enhances verse power using simplistic emotionally driven lexicon, a joy to read.  Poetry signals differently from reader to reader, exposing poetry’s uniqueness to display its singular; yet, diverse dimension of literary expression.  I feel this fine anthology is a worthy read for those seeking a wonderful reading experience.  
     Michael and Cindy are deserving of any and all accolades coming their way for their grand effort to present this extraordinary collection of fine poetry and I am grateful to be given an opportunity to review their work, otherwise I may have never read these poems.  
                           ~ Raymond Greiner   

About the Book:

Speaking Through Sediment began as an adventure in a speculative style of leaping that Cindy Rinne and Cooper simultaneously experimented with. Both poets are seekers, and as such were engaged in a style of play where they leapt without being sure of where they were going to land. The collaborative process was a matter of sharing work as it was generated and then feverishly writing the next piece— each writer engaged in this process simultaneously. The collective of poems generated was then curated under the weaver’s-eye of Rinne, who found continuity and meaning in the poetic landscape. The field was very wide, and ever dangerous: a polyphonic animal of a poetry book. Rinne and Cooper purposefully do not delineate where one voice leaves off and another begins to further underscore the sense of collaboration through dialog rather than the individuation of intellectual property and agonism.


The Pony Governor
Poems by
Darren C. Demaree
Reviewed By Jeremiah Ashcraft
July 1, 2015

    The Pony Governor belongs on the shelves of poetry readers. While the poet's muse was clearly a disillusioning government, the body of work he presents transcends partisanship and is accessible to the beating hearts of any political persuasion. By a blend of his own perception and creative imagery, Darren's work engenders within the reader the emotions experienced by any observer of government without the frustration of its inevitable failings. Darren's work is an elevated political experience like no other.
    Dynamic, emotional, and inspired, almost every line touches a nerve. He has observed the curious mix of power, selfish-ambition, and inadequacy and has sentenced the entities of concern to a profound and beautiful scrutiny. Yet, the author does not succumb to the demoralizing forces to which he is a witness. Rather, he finds hope, which he also shares with the reader.
    The best reason I can offer for encouraging anyone to read this book is simple: It's written by a poet who has found and is familiar with his own voice. Not having done so is possibly the most common judgement to make in regard to much contemporary poetry, even contemporary poetry that is technically sound.
    The Pony Governor is unique. It's fascinating. Read it.

    The Pony Governor will be available July 20, 2015. Learn more HERE.
    Read more about Darren C. Demaree  HERE.



by Raymond Greiner

Published by Outskirts Press

Reviewed by Janine M. Pickett
December 28, 2014

The essays and short stories in this book are a delight to read! Written and experienced in solitude, they shed light on the natural world around us, and our interconnectedness with nature. Raymond Greiner is a keen observer and storyteller. He writes with intensity, and through his written words, invites us along on his journey. It is a journey of knowledge, imagery and discovery: 
Intentional Geometry...
I see spider webs daily in summer. A tiny creature on its mission of survival creates these devices. A single spider will often construct five webs each day, and then eats its web after serving its purpose in order to ingest protein, creating material for its next set of webs. These webs are images of beauty, especially when the morning sun strikes them glistening with dew, revealing geometric design perfection.

 The author gives us a peek inside a pristine environment filled with wonder, spiritual value and natural harmony, while also pointing out our need for cultural, social and environmental change.
The Conundrum Of Poverty
"It would behoove the onslaught, self-feeding frenzy of acquisition to seek greater balance and sensitivity gearing energy toward apportionment and equality. As a species we have proven an ability to invent and install highly complex, technical devices it would seem equally possible to install basic comforts to those in dire need. Compassion is not complex."

 This book is fun, breathtaking at times, and important. It makes you think and act. You can purchase Hinterland Journal at the following links:

 This book displays a collection of short fiction and creative non-fiction essays. These writings were produced over a five-year period 2005-2010 while living in a small cabin in a remote rural location. This environment offered opportunity-for revealing thoughts manifested from nearness to nature and its many functions. "The voice of destiny sings in various rhythmic tones, often off key and out of tempo, like a catbird singing in a thorn bush. Then the sky opens and darkness becomes light as clouds of doubt vanish."



Review by Janine M. Pickett
December 15, 2014

Songs Of A Clerk is not a "fun" or "entertaining" read, but it is immersive. Author and poet, Gary Beck pulls us into his drab frustrating world as an office clerk whose hopes and dreams have faded.  The book has 120 pages of poems with titles like, "Drudgery", "Trapped", and "Repetition". The poems are mostly short, drab, and repetitive. But they make a point. If it is the author's intent (and I believe it is) to make us feel and respond to his boredom, loss, and shattered dreams, then he pulls it off with skill. A job well done. I felt the weight. The oppression. The monotony of the daily office grind. I yearned for the clerks' escape. For example:


Temporary gypsy
alone in unknown office,
they talk different people past me.
Armed with sharpened pencils
and dreary figures,
I sit a mindless computer,
leering at five o'clock. 


The office smells of old age,
resentful men and women,
chokes the air,
burning my throat,
tearing my eyes,
until I cannot see 
my desk of responsibility. 

Some of the more energized and colorful poems happen when the clerk is daydreaming, or near the end of the book, when he finally escapes the dreary office job and states he is happy.  I like these poems, and they seem to enter in just when you need them. Placed precisely by the author, perhaps, when he knows you are nearing your breaking point. That takes skill, timing, and a few well-crafted poems.


How nice to watch young women pass,
while sitting in the sunshine of a park.
Their high heels click
like hail assaulting corporate windows.
Their bright dresses light up my lunch hour.
The nearby traffic honks and roars.
People pass bewildered, sad,
barred from gladness
by impenetrable doors.
Yet somehow,
in the sunshine of the park,
I'm happy.

Songs of a Clerk, is a 132 page poetry volume. Available on paperback with a retail price of $11.99, and eBook with a retail price of $5.99. The ISBN is: 978-1-941058-16-9. Published through Winter Goose Publishing and available now through all major retailers. For more information or to request a review copy, contact Winter Goose Publishing at: info@wintergoosepublishing.

About Gary Beck:
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director. He has seven published chapbooks. His poetry collection 'Days of Destruction' was published by Skive Press; 'Expectations', Rogue Scholars Press; 'Dawn in Cities', Winter Goose Publishing; ‘Assault on Nature’, Winter Goose Publishing; ‘Songs of a Clerk’, Winter Goose Publishing. ‘Civilized Ways’, 'Perceptions' and 'Displays' will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His novel 'Extreme Change' was published by Cogwheel Press; 'Acts of Defiance' was published by Artema Press. His collection of short stories, ‘A Glimpse of Youth’ was published by Sweatshoppe Publications. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City
About Winter Goose Publishing:
Winter Goose Publishing is an independent publisher founded in 2011. We are a royalty-paying
publisher dedicated to putting out the best literature in prose, poetry and art; covering a variety of
genres. You can visit for more information or email
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Published by Elephant Rock Books, 2013

Reviewed by Janine M. Pickett
October 6, 2014

The Biology Of Luck is a stroke of genius. It is a novel written within a novel. The story takes place in a single day in the life of Larry Bloom, a New York City tour guide and struggling writer.  Larry has written a novel about his “dream girl” Starshine Hart, and although he has received an answer from his publisher Stroop & Stone, he refuses to open the letter until his dinner date with Starshine.

            "Then he folds the envelope in two and stuffs it into his breast pocket behind his cigarettes. He will wait until after his date to open it.  It will either serve as consolation or as icing on his cake. A third possibility exists, of course, the possibility that Larry’s perfectly constructed  New York City day will collapse into rubble like the grandeur that was Rome, but for a moment, it is a beautiful Harlem morning scented with maple blossoms and exotic fruit, and he is happy, happy in the way he knows he can be if he wills away the inevitable and succors himself with the remotest of hopes. That is the purpose of his book. That is the subject of his book. That is the reason that the city rises from its slumber."

And that is the reason I love this book. Jacob Appel has the heart of a poet. His prose is rich, sensual and startling. He understands human nature and spins a tale that is bristling with joy, humor, despair, compassion and hope.  He is a visual artist, an architect, a prolific writer that makes you think.  And you are rewarded for doing so. Sentences that seem absurd suddenly make sense. Places that appear dark actually have light.
As we tour the city with Larry Bloom, and through alternating chapters, Starshine Hart, we visit historical landmarks, we witness the scene of an attempted suicide, we watch people fall into rivers and we see people who, in Starshine’s words,  “are just doing the best they can with what they have”. We meet these people... A cast of quirky characters with names like Snipe, Eucalyptus, Bone, Ziggy Borasch, who are so superbly drawn that you know you know them. They are authentic. They are New York.

Will Larry and Starshine end up together?  Will his novel find its way into print?

The Biology Of Luck is a fun read.  It is epic. It comes complete with a hand-drawn foldout map of Larry’s NYC, questions for discussions at the end of the book, and a conversation between ERB publisher Jotham Burrello and Jacob Appel.

As a Hoosier native who has never been to New York City, I’ve decided to go. I’ve invited my neighbors  Helen and Tom (Appel's long-lost Hoosier cousins) to join me, and I’m pretty sure the only guidebook we’ll really need, to help us find our way around the boroughs, is a copy of The Biology Of Luck.

You can purchase your own copy HERE

Visit Jacob M. Appel's website

Jacob M. Appel's first novel The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Prize (U.K.). He's won the Tobias Wolfe Award, the Percy Walker Prize, the Kurt Vonnegut Prize and has published over 200 articles and stories. He is a psychiatrist at The Mount Sinai Hospital and a licensed New York City sightseeing guide.  Jacob lives in Manhattan.

LITERARY EVENT:  Jacob Appel will be reading/speaking at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, November 13, 2014. 

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