Poetry that excites and mystifies in all the best ways.

Kingdom of Speculation

Goldberg pulls hard truths from simple tropes in this superb collection of verse.

The late child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim once wrote that “nothing can be as enriching and satisfying for child and adult alike as the folk fairy tale.” Whether or not Goldberg knows of Bettelheim, the spirit of his line infuses her book, as it’s filled with dwarfs, demons, princesses, and queens. And yet this is not kids’ stuff, for Goldberg takes some of the themes of children’s literature and repurposes them to crafting this blade-thin but lightning-powerful exploration of loss, love, and the life of the mind. Although readers will hear in her work echoes of contemporary poets such as Louise Glück and Jorie Graham, more helpful comparisons are to Lewis Carroll and John Bunyan. It’s Carroll, more than anyone else, who teaches readers that child’s play is seldom childish. From Bunyan, Goldberg borrows an allegorical streak; the former author personifies Faith, Hope, and Ignorance in The Pilgrim’s Progress, the latter births characters named Reason, Passion, and Grief in “The Early Childhood of Grief”: “And from the loins of Reason and Passion / springs Grief, a surly, birdlike boy / who refuses to cry. No gurgling, no babbling, / no scattershot foray into the dense / and dissonant world, choosing instead / to stay mute.” Goldberg deploys her poetic tricks—the assonant “surly, birdlike,” the alliteration in “dense and dissonant”—with thrift and subtlety. As an able, award-winning writer, she has no need to flaunt her gifts, and from the outset, readers will know they’re in the hands of an unpretentious master. Additionally, she’s smart and economical in her use of symbols; favorites include the egg and the flowering plant called love-lies-bleeding. Returning to such images over and over again, she’s content to dig deep into their many meanings, reminding readers anew of the old truth that a rose is never just a rose.

Poetry that excites and mystifies in all the best ways.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-936628-31-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A volume of ambitious and engaging poems.



A collection of poetry focuses on everyday beauty and wonder.

Over the course of 50 poems with straightforward titles, retired high school English teacher Hathwell (Between Dog and Wolf, 2017, etc.) explores the world around him. Nature is a touchstone of his poetry. In “Poplar,” he expertly describes the titular tree “catching a breeze, flutter sage and silver wings” while in “Sunflower,” he lingers on the “wide blank face” of the “saddest flower.” The author also showcases culture in his poems. “Fred’s Girl” is a propulsive ode to the Fred Astaire–Paulette Goddard duet in the film Second Chorus, and “Sunday at the Symphony” captures the ethereal experience of live classical music. But the poems aren’t limited to the author’s immediate surroundings. A visit to the Spanish Steps, where Keats died in 1821, is the subject of “Readiness Is Everything,” which encourages readers to “imagine the world without you.” Hathwell plays with humor in “Dust Is Winning,” about the futile fight to keep things clean, and shows his cynical side in “Red Dress,” which describes the “ruby radiance” of an ensemble depicted in advertising. The act of writing is another recurring theme in this collection. “Song” depicts a successful writing day, in which “I rise from my desk, / Majestic, and I dance,” while “Sure Thing” warns readers “that language is prepared to lie / When you ask it to.” Quiet moments are also rich material for the poet. Throughout, he matches his message to the pacing of the poem, creating an immersive experience for readers. In “Finding Myself in the Morning,” readers sink into Hathwell’s serene, solitary scene where he can finally “not wonder / who is speaking, or what comes next.” In “Ten O’Clock,” the audience can sense the descent into a “deep, forgiving sleep.” The one flaw of this collection is its breadth. Because everything from Astaire to flora is fair game, the individual poems don’t always flow from one to the next, and transitions can be jarring.

A volume of ambitious and engaging poems.

Pub Date: April 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-939353-36-8

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Sturdy, exuberant verse.

Defining Atlas

Like the demigod from which it takes its name, Defining Atlas is a durable, uplifting volume.

A strong current of self-affirmation, self-love, and self-confidence runs through this work, and readers will come away feeling their spirits improved. We feel some of this current in the clever “Limited”; Michaels takes the titular subject and turns it on its head: “I’m new, but I’m old / Not limited beyond my means and methods / But limited because I’m special / Special beyond the heavens and everything that surrounds me / That I’m among…limited.” Elsewhere in “From the ashes…I am,” he sings a hard-won song of renewal and rebirth: “I am victory in its rawest form / I am hope that never conform / I am the will, the drive, and the truth / I am like everyone, like you.” But Michaels does not hoard specialness or victory for himself; he wants it for his reader too, and in “Wake Up!” he urges us on toward a bright future: “There’s something good here for you / Your purpose can never be defined by just one blue / Your destiny awaits you.” Underpinning Michaels’ stirring message is a strong faith in God, whose presence infuses many of the poems here: “But I always thank God for the latter / For the strength and will it takes / Shines so bright / Shines so right.” Michaels often adopts a loose scheme of rhyming couplets, and this decision leads to one of the book’s few weaknesses. Too often, the poet picks awkward or odd pairings; e.g., “And if I could become a perfect saint / I would make believers out of the ones who say they ain’t” and the “you/blue” couplet mentioned above. But such missteps are infrequent, and they don’t dim the warm light that emanates from Michaels’ fine volume.

Sturdy, exuberant verse.

Pub Date: March 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5035-4785-8

Page Count: 106

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2015

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