In Letters from Limbo, voices of the dead reach the living through various means, including the titular letters, revealing experiences harrowing and mysterious, and exploring limbo as an abode of souls as well as a state of entrapment and intermediacy. Fluent in many modes—lyric to documentary—the poet commands varied poetic forms. That we dwell in metaphorical limbos by virtue of our unpredictable earthly sojourn is a haunting truth this book both illuminates and celebrates.
From the introduction: “This book, the second in the Waiting Room Reader series, grows from the belief of its visionary originators, Joan Cusack Handler, director of CavanKerry Press, and Sandra O. Gold, president of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine, that one good thing to be able to pay attention to in waiting rooms is poetry. This is a belief that I, as guest editor of this volume, emphatically share. Poems with staying power are always themselves acts of attentiveness, and reading any good poem both demands and rewards attention. The job, then, is to make sure poems can be found in waiting rooms, where they will always be needed. All the works in this collection (primarily poems but also a handful of short prose pieces) enact longing and memory; they recall, they evoke, they praise. The writing of just about every piece in this book turns out to have been an act of reclamation, an evocation of some lost original, which isn’t so lost after all. “The pieces gathered here touch upon themes poets have always visited: memory, family, love, loss, nature. Voices and styles naturally and delightfully vary; some pieces are chiseled and succinct, others loose and rhapsodic. But all, in addition to being accomplished, share the generosity and intensity of their attention to a particular piece of experience.” Among the contributors are Robin Behn, Maxine Kumin, Molly Peacock, Linda Pastan, Liz Rosenberg, Elizabeth Spires, and Jeffrey Harrison.
The Reader was co-sponsored and co-conceived by CavanKerry and LaurelBooks partner, The Arnold P.Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine. Publisher Joan Cusack Handler and Gold Foundation President and CEO Sandra Gold observed that patients, while waiting to learn about their physical health, typically are provided only pop culture magazines—perhaps entertaining but without the solace and comfort that literature provides. The Waiting Room Reader was designed to address that need by bringing fine and accessible writing to “keep the patients company.” Here are uplifting and inspiring poems that focus on life’s gifts – everyday pleasures: love and family, food and home, work and play, dreams and the earth. This collection, originally offered only to hospitals and physicians’ waiting rooms, was received with great success and is now available to a wider audience.
Judith Hannan CavanKerry Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3608.A71574M68 2012 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
In the past, the few memoirs about children battling cancer dealt mostly with death and grief. This passionate retelling by a survivor’s mother is about the struggle to help shepherd her child out of illness, towards health and through survival. Now that more children survive cancer, this passionate retelling by the survivor’s mother is required reading; the struggle of helping move the child out of illness.
Joseph O. Legaspi CavanKerry Press, 2017
Threshold enters a landscape of seemingly perpetual in-between, crossing from conventionality to queerness; exploring the fluidity of gender; and translating the hard hold of family. The collection meditates on passageways and what it means to arrive at, and pierce through, thresholds—between countries, past and future, and the threat and security of love.
A family built, a family lost. Truth Has a Different Shape is a story of the power of compassion, of love and loss, revelations and relationship, and the evolution of self.
Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, Kari O’Driscoll was taught that strength and stoicism were one and the same. She was also taught that a girl’s job was to take care of everyone else. For decades, she believed these ideas, doing everything she could to try and keep the remaining parts of her family together, systematically anticipating disaster and fixing catastrophes one by one.
Truth Has a Different Shape is one woman’s meditation on how societal and familial expectations of mothering influenced her sense of self and purpose, as well as her ideas about caretaking. As an adult, finding herself a caretaker both to her own children and to her aging parents, O’Driscoll finally reckons with the childhood trauma that shaped her world. Adoption, loss, and divorce defined her approach to motherhood, but in Truth Has a Different Shape, O’Driscoll finally pushes back. This memoir tracks her progress as she discovers how to truly care for those she loves without putting herself at risk, using mindfulness and compassion as tools for healing both herself and her difficult relationships.
At the center of her second book are two islands off the coast of Salem, Massachusetts, through which O’Neil finds the rough terrain of marriage and what it means to love in the face of adversity. She navigates the waters of transition with exuberance and reflection, and discovers new ways to make the ordinary extraordinary.
January Gill O’Neil CavanKerry Press, 2009 Library of Congress PS3615.N435U53 2009 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
The dynamics of race, family, motherhood, career, sex and ultimately, transformation are explored in this debut collection. Underlife represents the wilderness of thought and emotion hidden away from the external world. Through O’Neil’s narratives we see our lives as if for the first time.
My Mother’s Funeral
Adriana Páramo CavanKerry Press, 2013 Library of Congress F2279.22.P25A3 2013 | Dewey Decimal 986.136
My Mother’s Funeral circles around the death of the author’s mother, but what also emerges is a landscape of personal loss and pain, of innocence, humor, violence and beauty. Drawing heavily upon her childhood experiences and Colombian heritage, Páramo describes the volatile bond linking mothers and daughters in a culture largely unknown to Americans. The book moves between past (Colombia in the 1940s) and present lives, and maps scenes both geographical (Bogotá, Medellín, Anchorage) as well as psychological--ultimately revealing the indomitable spirit of the women in her family. Especially from Páramo’s mother the reader learns what it means to be a Colombian woman.
Adopted at birth, Andrea Ross grew up inhabiting two ecosystems: one was her tangible, adoptive family, the other her birth family, whose mysterious landscape was hidden from her. In this coming-of-age memoir, Ross narrates how in her early twenties, while working as a ranger in Grand Canyon National Park, she embarked on a journey to discover where she came from and, ultimately, who she was. After many missteps and dead ends, Ross uncovered her heartbreaking and inspiring origin story and began navigating the complicated turns of reuniting with her birth parents and their new families. Through backcountry travel in the American West, she also came to understand her place in the world, realizing that her true identity lay not in a choice between adopted or biological parents, but in an expansion of the concept of family.
Sarah Bracey White CavanKerry Press, 2013 Library of Congress F279.S92W55 2013 | Dewey Decimal 975.769043092
Ripped from middle-class life in Philadelphia, and transplanted to a single-parent household in the segregated south, Sarah, a precocious black child struggles to be the master of her fate. She refuses to accept the segregation that tries to confine her—a system her mother accepts as the southern way of life. A brave memoir that testifies to the author’s fiery spirit and sense of self that sustained her through family, social and cultural upheavals.
Baron Wormser brings to life the immense force poetry can have in people’s lives. In stories funny, tender, sad, and edgy, the narrators register how poetry has changed how they see themselves, how they live, and what they care about. As it bends genres by adapting aspects of fiction, biography, essay and monologue, The Poetry Life shows how poetry can be lightning in the soul. “Baron Wormser has pulled off a miraculous feat—he has written a collection of stories that reveals the absolute necessity of poetry in our lives. His prose style is riveting, and his characters are as diverse as a phone book. Each voice conjures up a passionate portrait of inner life, telling us—through episodes both comic and tragic—that the world of the deceased poet remains eternally relevant to our own.” —Clint McCown, author of The Weatherman: A Novel “‘Poetry,’ Baron Wormser writes, ‘is about generosity.’ So too are these ten stories you hold in your hands. They are about generosity. And mystery. And loneliness. And life. They are about how poetry helps us ‘stay in our skins.’ You will fall in love with these stories and with the ten poets who appear in them. What Baron Wormser says about William Carlos Williams, I say about him here, ‘He nailed it.’” —Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle: A Novel “A book of stories not about poets but driven by the presence of poetry and the shadows of poets: madness undoubtedly. But the best kind of madness! With this book, Baron Wormser invites us to reconsider the connection between poetry and our lives, to remember that we really do live hungry for inner vision, for small insights that can save us from the slag heap of goofdom and pointlessness. It’s a wonderful book. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to stay in the world. ” —Tim Seibles, author of Buffalo Head Solos