Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Non-Book Review: "Un-Shelter" by Page Hill Starzinger

The other day a package was waiting for me when I got home for work. One thing that struck me peculiar about this package was that both the "Return" address and the "To" address was one and the same. The second thing that was peculiar about this package was that the envelope writing was in my scribble.

So I sat there for about five minutes trying to figure out why I would send myself a package, when it dawned on my that maybe I should open it up and see what it was. The was, was this poetry chapbook. The who from, was Noemi Press.

A couple of minutes later, I remember the who. Back in March of 2008, I entered a contest sponsored by Noemi Press and submitted one of my short stories to them (A Betrayal of Vows, I believe). This was the writer who won the contest.

FYI: I found this website last year called NewPages, that has links and listings to indie bookstores, publishers, record labels, literary journals, etc. It's a nifty website to explore and I highly recommend it if you're looking for stuff that is seriously off the beaten path.

Note: I'm not a big fan of poetry, and while I was submitted stuff for potential publication from the beginning of '06 to early '08, I found that most (if not all) literary journals and about 75% of small publishers lean slavishly towards poetry. I am not insulting poets or poetry, but it seems to me that a lot of other genres (like the short story or the essay) are getting the shaft by the abnormal focus by publishers on poetry.

Here now are my observations on this poetry chapbook entitled "Un-Shelter".
1} The publisher is a very small not-for-profit literary organization located in Las Cruces NM, and is called a 501(c)(3). If I remember correctly, they publish less then six titles per year.

2} About half the poems were previously published in journals such as Colorado Review, The Laurel Review, and Volt just to name a few. I haven't heard of any of these save the Colorado Review, but I would fathom a guess that they're high-end literary journals.

3} The poems themselves are written in a variety of styles, topics and pentameters. While the style and pentameters wouldn't necessarily turn me off (I did enjoy a poem written by someone else that was done as anagram), certain topics would. To me, topics like murder of prostitutes simply doesn't work as a poem (Riptide is one such poem in this chapbook) no matter how you write it.

4} Topical poetry is another turn off for me. This chapbook seems to contain a lot of topical poetry, some of which would really work much better in the essay form as opposed to the poetry form.

This is pretty much my non-book review of this chapbook. While there is poetry out there that would definitely appeal to me, this doesn't. If topical poetry does for you (poetry slams are another big turn off for me and this chapbook reminds me of the poetry slams that are held every year in CT), then this chapbook is for you. I believe the cost is under $7.

Tune in next time, when I give my personal take on Swords of Talera by Charles A. Gramlich.


  1. I have to admit I like poetry in small doses but the stuff I do like sticks with me longer than a lot of novels... And I'm looking forward to your Charles G review.

  2. That I can understand.

    I can take poetry in very small doses, and it's basically limited to what I find on other people's blogs (which I find overall to be very good).

    As for the Charles G review, it should be interesting. I actually finished the first volume in about one and half weeks at work, which is the equivelant of about two days at home.

  3. As you know, I dabble in poetry once in a while :) Like you, I'm not interested in reading topical or sensational poetry. I agree with you that there should be more journals or publications dedicated to all the wonderful prose writers who need a forum to share their creativity. I have a number of short story and essay anthologies filled with some of the greatest literary giants. Prose writing must be showcased too!

  4. Most definitely.

    I had at one point several subscriptions to literary journals that I got from entering writing contests.

    I think that the one that I didn't get via the contest but simply because it appealed to me, was one called 'A Public Space'. It had a lot more prose than poetry.

    For the most part though, the literary journals I had leaned quite heavily to poetry.

  5. G - I am not a big fan of poetry either, but I am open to it, going to the occasional poetry reading, etc. My book group read an anthology of poets from Georgia last year, but I found myself more interested in their personal stories and why they write poetry.

  6. I am sort of open to it. Most of what I've read this year so far has come from two people, both of which are frequent commentators on ths blog: Septembermom and Jannie.

    Prior to that, I would say my poetry exposure was limited to a former friend in the chat rooms who writes a ton of poetry and posts it in the chat rooms.

    I know poetry is an art form where you either get it or you don't. There is no shades of gray with it.

    And I know the only way that I'll continue to experience it, will be in the Blog world.

  7. I will check out Septembermom's poetry. Jannie's is always good - she definitely keeps it real.

  8. Septembermom's is pretty light and sometimes breezy.

    It definitely appeals to me.


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