L. I. Henley's Starshine Road, Reading Saves Lives, and from the bookshelf: "Of Cascadia" by Sam Hamill
Sticks & Stones
a newsletter
"Reading," Katy Tresedder, licensed under Creative Commons.
September 17, 2018
Welcome to Issue #18 of
Sticks & Stones,
Erica Goss's bi-monthly newsletter
dedicated to poetry, reading and literature. 

  • REVIEW: Starshine Road by L. I. Henley
  • THE READING LIFE: Reading Saves Lives
  • WHAT I'M READING/RECENTLY READ: The Spirit of Intimacy, Turtle Diary, Fire in the Belly: the Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz
  • RANDOM POEM FROM THE BOOKSHELF: “Of Cascadia” by Sam Hamill
  • QUOTES: Robert P. Baird, from NY Times Book Review
  • VIDEO: "Stone Poems," my latest video poem based on 5 poems by Joan Dobbie

Hello, and welcome to the eighteenth issue of Sticks & Stones! My mission with this newsletter is to help spread the word about poetry and art. That's it, plain and simple. I hope you enjoy the newsletter, and if you do, please share it with your friends.

I also have a blog. If you like it, please subscribe.
In L. I. Henley’s poetry collection Starshine Road, the author explores the Mojave Desert, a place of tough survivors, trash heaps, and unexpected beauty. 
REVIEW #19: Starshine Road by L. I. Henley
Perugia Press, 2017
In The Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin’s classic book about the Mojave Desert, she writes, “Not the law, but the land sets the limit.” The poems in L. I. Henley’s collection, Starshine Road, celebrate the desert’s conflicted personality, a place empty yet full, untamed yet mystical, and dangerous yet familiar. 
Henley sets the tone with the line “conception made the sound of a shotgun,” from the book’s first poem, “Little Child.” In subsequent poems, we learn that the poet’s father was “a cop / a white man” who “mistook me for a crook” one night and “put his hand around my throat.” This same father teaches his daughter, at age four, to shoot:
            Coffee cans perched on a fence in the desert
            wingless rusted birds
            The one in the middle
            that one is a killer
Life in the Mojave Desert blurs the line between safety and danger. In “Starshine Road,” the title poem, the speaker is a teenage girl learning the difference: “sixteen   alone in the desert / thirty minutes from town,” walking to the bus stop “past that windowless shack where at 5 a.m. // the meth-heads had finally drifted off on Ambien.” She worries about the men who drive past her, finding out later that instead of wanting to attack her, “some of them were actually worried” about her.
A love story surfaces in three poems about a junk pile visible from the speaker’s home. In “Junk Pile as Seen from My Kitchen Table,” the pile’s distance renders it a mysterious presence, standing between the speaker and “the highway where cars are going to Vegas  Salt Lake   Taos.” The poem ends with a plea: “promise me you are something close to content / …so we can keep on this way.” In “Junk Pile as Seen from Inside the Junk Pile,” the speaker lists what she sees, now close-up: “a gutted cabin,” “lunch meat,” “a clock face,” and ends again with a statement about love:
            There is nothing here
            that I want
            so then how do I
            explain my love?
In “More About the Junk Pile,” we learn who is responsible for its existence: “an artist” who “buried her trash,” which includes “pull-tabs from the 90s.” In the poem’s ending lines, the trash rising up from the ground spurs an emotional response with “I come back / when I throw myself at you.”
“Shoe Tree (a poem in twelve parts)” describes the effect, both absurd and poignant, that man-made objects often have when contrasted with “a cinder cone / a lava field.” Like many human desert dwellers, this completely ordinary thing “creates itself” within an environment that now includes “a dry wash” and “a row of empty cabins” with “broken windows.” The poem first reimagines the shoe tree as an actual tree – either deciduous, evergreen or coniferous, or as unwanted lumber – and then compares its purpose to those of real trees: “But you, with all of your gaping, flapping shoes / what can you offer besides stories?”
Henley explores poverty, privilege and compassion fatigue in “A Dollar (for a funeral),” a long poem about the speaker’s repeated encounters with a woman who appears, at various times, to be an immigrant, pregnant, asleep, dead, having just given birth, and a liar. “A dollar to make her go away,” Henley writes, and “I said I was sorry.” At the end of the poem, the woman is revealed as a fraud: “Just two weeks ago / the woman got a promotion.” The poem ends in the queasy moral place these encounters so often create.
Starshine Road shows us that the Mojave Desert is a place deeply deserving of poetry, a land imbued with the stark contrasts that inspire strong emotion. L. I. Henley has written a book that reveals the true nature of this implacable place, too often ignored and undervalued, as a mysterious and fascinating land.
L. I. Henley was born and raised in the Mojave Desert village of Joshua Tree, California. She is the author of two chapbooks, Desert with a Cabin Viewand The Finding (both with Orange Monkey Publishing). Her first full-length collection, These Friends These Rooms,was published by Big Yes Press in 2016. She is the recipient of The Academy of American Poets University Award, The Duckabush Prize in Poetry, The Orange Monkey Poetry Prize, and The Pangaea Prize through The Poet’s Billow. She lives with her husband in the high desert of California, and edits the online journal Apercuswith her husband, Jonathan Maule.
Starshine Road is available from Perugia Press  and Amazon.
Reading Saves Lives
We’re already familiar with reading’s benefits: knowledge, mental stimulation, stress reduction, improved vocabulary and memory, concentration, and better writing skills – not to mention the pure pleasure of sinking into a deliciously good book while the rest of the world disappears. As a child facing long, hot, unscheduled summers, I read to pass time and escape boredom, returning again and again with my mother to the San Bernardino Public Library for another armload of books.
But reading is much more than a list of its benefits. Many of us have sought, and received, life-saving solace in books. For example, when my son was diagnosed with a mental illness, I read close to forty books on the subject. Through my reading, I discovered that I was not by any means alone, that at least twenty-five percent of the population experienced some kind of mental illness during his or her life, and that with therapy, medication, and family support, many lead productive and satisfying lives.

NONFICTION: The Spirit of Intimacy by Sobonfu Somé, quote: “In tribal life, one is forced to slow down, to experience the now and commune with the earth and nature. Patience is a must; no one seems to understand the meaning of hurry up.”

FICTION: Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban, quote: “There were her white naked startled feet at the bottom of the still conservatively dressed Harriet. Her nervous-looking naked feet still hadn’t left home. Thank God my feet are in shoes most of the time. They don’t look as if they will ever walk in happy ways and I’m pleased not to see them.”
NONFICTION: Fire in the Belly: the Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr, quote: “The feeling of new art is fugitive: here for the moment, gone forever. It’s only truly valuable before it’s surrounded by the mystique of money, while it’s still owned by culture, before it becomes booty.” 


This week’s random poem is “Of Cascadia,” by Sam Hamill, from Habitation, 2014, Lost Horse Press. 

Of Cascadia
I came here nearly forty years ago,
broke and half broken, having chosen
the mud, the dirt road, alder pollen and
a hundred avenues of gray across the sky
to be my teachers and my muses.
I chose a temple made of words and made a vow.
I scratched a life in hardpan. If I cried
for mercy or cried out in delight,
it was because I was a man choosing
carefully his way and his words, growing
as slowly as the trunks of cedars
in the sunlit garden.
Let the ferns and the moss remember
all that I have lost or loved, for I carry
no regrets, no ambition to live it
all again. I can’t make it better
than it’s been or will be again
as the seasons turn and an old man’s heart
turns nostalgic as he sips his wine alone.
I have lived in Cascadia, no paradise
nor any hell, but both at once and made,
as Elytis said, of the same material.
A poor poet, I studied war and love.
But Cascadia is what I’m of.



Robert P. Baird, “Behind the Poetry,” review from the NY Times Book Review section, 9/2/18.
“A poem without a reader is just ink, and any work that turns up its nose at the private gestures and personal experiences of its audience stands little chance of becoming a classic. Perhaps neophytes need reminding that even the best poems are products of their times. For the rest of us, however, the far greater mystery – the same pondered by the traveler in Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ – is that the passions they once inspired somehow yet survive.”



VIDEO: I'm happy to share my latest video poem, "Stone Poems," based on five poems from Joan Dobbie's upcoming book of the same name. I hope you enjoy it!
Stone Poems, a video by Erica Goss with poems by Joan Dobbie

I will begin accepting submissions on October 1, 2018, for reviews in Sticks & Stones starting in January 2019. Submission guidelines:
Send your book to me at 2086 Morning View Drive, Eugene OR 97405.

Thank you!

Connie Post received a Best of the Net nomination from MockingHeart Review for her poem "Twenty Minutes into a Deep Sleep."

John Reinhart's microfiction story “High Noon Protocol” won first place in the 12th Alban Lake Drabble Contest. "Letters to the Sagebrush" won an honorable mention in the same contest. John also recently won honorable mentions for “What We Hide,” and “Where There Be Dragons” in the Zathom “Inspirations” microfiction contest.

Send me your news and recommendations.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it or forward it to a friend. Thank you.
Erica Goss served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California from 2013-2016. Her latest poetry collection, Night Court, won the 2016 Lyrebird Prize from Glass Lyre Press. She is the author of Wild Place (2012, Finishing Line Press) and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets (2014, Pushpen Press). She is co-founder of Media Poetry Studio, a poetry-and-film camp for teen girls. The author of Wild Place (Finishing Line Press 2012) and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets (PushPen Press 2014), Erica teaches writing and video workshops. Please visit her at: www.ericagoss.com
Copyright © 2018 Erica Goss, All rights reserved.

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