Review: I*HATE*YOU*JAMES*FRANCO & Havoc – Two Reasons to Read Kristy Bowen (and the first one’s free!)

Rhiannon Thorne



PDF: 20 pages
Publisher: Sundress Publications
Available for free: Sundress

I don’t hate James Franco—I’ve never met the guy nor has he done anything publicly which has actually wanted hate—but apparently my friends have heard me gripe about his forays into the world of poetry enough times that it has become a bit of a joke. In fact, I have several friends who report back to me about Franco, assuring that I don’t miss any of his poetry news: interviews, book releases, questionable publications… well, it’s a long list, because as everyone knows, Franco is nothing if not prolific.

A few months ago, the joke finally paid off. “Have you read this book by Kristy Bowen?” my friend asked, the link she included to I Hate You James Franco starting my literary love affair with Bowen.

While most of us in the poetry community spend our time griping…

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A Review of Kate Garrett’s Minor Things

Rhiannon Thorne

Kate Garrett Minor Things

Minor Things by Kate Garrett

Paperback: 21 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Available for purchase at Lulu

I’m always weary of self-published books. Often, I’ve found they live up to the stereotype of being under-edited and amateurish. But not all self-published books are created equal. And that’s a great thing.

Minor Things by Kate Garrett proves to be more than the standard self-published fare. She begins by stating, “This is a mixtape, not a misery memoir” and hits play at birth in 1979. Each subsequent poem, or track, moves the reader through a song of her youth, from a stepfather with “the dead smile of a shark,” to the boys with their mixtapes:

Plastic castles of folk and rock,
industrial, grunge and hip hop. They gave
her the sound of second-hand shop clothes.
They handed over promises of something more
than home-grown apathy.

Like most great mixes, Minor Things is…

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Club Changes

The club is changing how we operate. We will no longer be reading a specific book each month, instead, we will be republishing and redirecting to book club reviews written by members and published off-site, as well as new reviews at the member’s discretion.

If you’d like to have your book reviewed, please email: with the subject line BOOK REVIEW.

If you’d like to publish a book review here, please shoot us an email with the subject line REVIEW SUBMISSION.

July 2014 Book Discussion: Scrawny Girl by Karen Jakubowski

Scrawny Girl  Scrawny Girl by Karen Jakubowski

Karen-JakubowskiKaren Jakubowski is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a member of the Amateur Writers of Long Island, the Long Island Writer’s Guild, The Bard’s Initiative, Performance Poets Association, and Poet’s in Nassau. Her poem A Woman’s Intuition won the June 2012 Goodreads poetry contest. Local Gems Press released her first poetry collection, Scrawny Girl, in 2013 and will soon be publishing a chapbook of her tarot poetry. Her poetry has appeared in numerous on-line journals and print anthologies.

Discussion Questions:

*Out of all the poems in this collection, why do you feel Jakubowski may have chosen “Skinny Girl” to name the collection after? Do you think that the book would have read differently if she had named it after “Fat Fuck” or a sexual poem like “Merging Once Again” or “Hunt”?

*Unlike our last selection, “Howl”, Jackubowski employs several different poetic styles throughout her collection. How do you feel this variation impacts Scrawny Girl?

*Do you feel that this collection speaks to any particular group? For example, do you feel like this volume has more to say to women than men?

*Which poem or poems are your favorites?

June 2014 Book Discussion: Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Welcome to our “Oldie but Goodie” month at The Perusalist Society where we are discussing “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg.

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg

As there are numerous editions, we won’t be linking to where you can purchase a copy. We will also be keeping our introduction brief as Ginsberg is so well-known, but here are some key facts:

*Allen Ginsberg worked on drafts of “Howl” mid-1954 to 1955, including many references and allusions to other poets, friends, and real life events.

*Howl and Other Poems was published in 1956 in London. Shortly thereafter, it was seized by customs and subjected to a court trial based on charges of obscenity. Defended by nine literary experts made up of fellow poets and professors, the charges were dropped when California State Superior Court Judge Clayton Horn ruled that the poem had “redeeming social importance.”

*For all things Ginsberg, visit They have an extensive biography.

You may listen to Allen Ginsberg reading “Howl” below:


Discussion Questions:

*What do you most like about “Howl”; what do you least like about it? Do you have a favorite section?

*”Howl” was greatly influenced by William Carlos William’s use of rhythm based on actual speech. Ginsberg said, “I took out little four-or-five line fragments that were absolutely accurate to somebody’s speak-talk-thinking and rearranged them in lines, according to the breath, according to how you’d break it up if you were actually to talk it out…” How do you feel about Ginsberg’s breathy metering?

*For those familiar with Ginsberg, how does “Howl” compare to Ginsberg’s later work? Which do you prefer?

*What does “Howl” mean to you as a reader/poet/citizen/etc?



May 2014 Book Discussion: Odessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick

Odessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick


Patricia Kirkpatrick received the inaugural Lindquist & Vennum Poetry Prize. Her book, Odessa, selected by poet Peter Campion and published by Milkweed Editions in 2012, was awarded the 2013 Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. She is the author of Century’s Road, poetry chapbooks, and books for young readers. Her work appears widely in journals, among them Prairie Schooner, Poetry, and Agni Online, and in anthologies, including Robert Bly in This World and She Walks in Beauty, edited by Caroline Kennedy. Her awards include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Loft- McKnight.

Odessa’s Description on Amazon: A grim prognosis, brain cancer, leaves the speaker in Kirkpatrick’s Odessa fighting for her life. The tumor presses against her amygdalae, the “emotional core of the self,” and central to the process of memory. In poems endowed with this emotional charge but void of sentimentality, Kirkpatrick sets out to recreate what was lost by fashioning a dreamlike reality. Odessa, “roof of the underworld,” a refuge at once real and imagined, resembles simultaneously the Midwestern prairie and a mythical god-inhabited city. In image-packed lines bearing shades of Classical heroism, Kirkpatrick delivers a personal narrative of stunning dimension.

Discussion Questions:

*This book includes a number of quotes from other works and seems to introduce them as essential to the meaning of the poems. Do you believe it’s possible to get a full sense of these poems without having read these other works? Do you feel that works with obvious knowledge and study behind them, such as this one, can actually potentially alienate an audience? How did you feel about it?

*Not having had a brain tumor yourself, how effective do you feel Kirkpatrick’s project was? Did you feel the ache and confusion and the loneliness of her experience? What else did you gather from it?

*What was your favorite part of this book? Why?

*Do you feel that you will read more work by Kirkpatrick?

Next Book Up: June 2014 – “Oldie but Goodie” Month – Howl by Allen Ginsberg

April 2014 Book Discussion: Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Image   Dog Songs by Mary Oliver








Compared to other poets we’ve discussed at the Perusalists, Oliver is fairly well known, and so her introduction will be kept brief. Her career, which started in the early 60’s, has extended healthfully into the current day. As such, a quick web search will sate those who need more context, and the questions we pose will be a little different.

Discussion Questions:

*Do these poems have appeal for people who are not dog lovers?
*Has Oliver used her position as one of America’s most beloved writers to release a book for personal enjoyment rather than mass appeal? Or, would this book have mass appeal without her “swag”?
*Do you think the design of the book (hardcover, illustrations, and short length) mean it’s intended more as a collector’s book? Or, is this perhaps just a perk of becoming an accomplished writer – that your poetry are given such care in how it’s presented to the reader?
*Do you think Dog Songs was meant to appeal to readers who may not normally read poetry?
*Did the poems seem redundant in any way? How did you feel about this overall as a volume; were any of the poems lacking or possibly used as filler poems to create a full feeling book?
*Which was your favorite dog? Which was your favorite poem? Least favorite poem?

Next Book Up: May 2014 – Odessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick

MARCH 2014 Book Discussion: The Bones Below by Sierra DeMulder

bones below  The Bones Below by Sierra DeMulder

Sierra DeMulder

sierra demulder







Sierra DeMulder currently studies English at the University of Minnesota. She is a two-time National Poetry Slam champion and has also won “Best Female Poet” at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (2009) as well as other awards in slam competitions.  The Bones Below was her first full-length book, published in 2010 by Write Bloody Publishing, and was promptly followed by New Shoes on a Dead Horse in 2012, also published by Write Bloody. DeMulder regularly tours, performing at both academic venues such as high schools and colleges, as well as public venues including prisons, churches, and homeless shelters. Quite active on the greater internet, you can find more information about her at her personal sites: and, as well as contact her via twitter at @sierrademulder or through email at

Discussion Questions:

* On the back cover of The Bones Below, it states that DeMulder is a “clear voice of her generation.” How well do you feel she represents her generation (20-somethings)? Is she just one “clear voice” of many? How accessible do you feel her work is to the generations that came before her and those that may come after her?

*How did you react to “Mrs. Dahmer” (pg 25) and do you feel that this reaction is based on your generational perception? Why do you feel that she included this poem in her collection?

*As a slam poet, how do you feel she differs and compares to other slam and performance poets, both of her generation and to the ones which proceeded her? (Videos of her performing below.)

*The back cover also claims to “complete a touching portrait of the artist.” How true do you think this is? Do you think this means it’s safe to assume that all these poems are rooted in autobiographical truth?

*Which poem(s) did you enjoy most? Least?

*Are you interested in reading (or have you read) New Shoes On A Dead Horse? Or another poetry volume published by Write Bloody?


Next Book Up: April 2014 – Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

February 2014 Book Discussion: Another Creature by Pamela Gemin

Another Creature
Another Creature by Pamela Gemin

ImagePamela Gemin is a poet and editor. Her previous book, Vendetta, Charms, and Prayers, was published by New Rivers Press in 1999. She has also edited three poetry anthologies, including Sweeping Beauty: Women Poets Do Housework. Gemin is also an Associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh.

Gemin has published in journals such as Green Mountains Review, Rattle, and Prairie Schooner, and has had both her poetry and anthologies featured on NPR. Her awards include literary fellowships from the University of New Mexico, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Wisconsin Arts Board. Another Creature, published in 2010 by University of Arkansas Press, was a finalist for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize.

Discussion Questions:

*Two of Gemin’s anthologies center specifically around the maturing baby-boomer generation (Boomer Girls: Poems by Women of the Baby Boomer Generation & Are You Experienced? Baby Boom Poets At Midlife) and two deal specifically just with women (Boomer Girls & Sweeping Beauty) – two topics which obviously interest Gemin. To what extent do you feel like Another Creature is told through the lens of a female baby-boomer? How important is Gemin’s generational and gender association to this collection? Do you feel that it is her intention to represent this group? How accessible do you feel her experiences are to those outside of this generation? To men?

*Many of the poems are told from the perspective of a woman who has lost love, who is “alive and kicking” away a past love, one who is lonely, yet quickly flashes forward to her husband “off hunting whatever was left to hunt.” Then, near the end of Another Creature, Gemin writes in This Is Not my Beautiful House:
…Now I’m a wife who hangs lace in her kitchen
windows, the blue and green flags of her husband’s shirts
on a tightrope behind the house. Now we’re another creature.
The husband and his wife eat, go on vacation. And when they come
home it’s the same as it ever was: the man builds a fire and the woman cooks…
The omission of the majority of her marriage is certainly intentional. Why do you think Gemin chooses to stick mostly to her past? (Are those poems perhaps in another collection? Gemin has very limited web presence, so is her omission about privacy? Or do you think this says something about the nature of loneliness?) What do you think her collection says about being a working wife, a topic we can assume she views as important based on her past editing choices?

*Section III has several less than flattering poems written about family members, however there is very little biographical information available online about Gemin. Based on what little we know, how true do you feel these poems are? Do you believe they’re Gemin’s stories, or stories she’s appropriated about her generation’s shared experience?

*What do you think of her writing? Her use of language? Humor?

*If you could ask Gemin one question about this volume, what would it be?

Next Book Up: March 2014 – The Bones Below by Sierra DeMulder