Kendra Steiner Editions: A Sampler of Reviews by Aleathia Drehmer

“Keepers of Silence” Luis Cuachtemoc Berriozabal 2007

Luis’ poetry endeavor comes via a grassroots chap published by Kendra Steiner Editions. This little book of eight poems is dedicated to Luis Omar Salinas, a poet transplanted from Texas to California. These works lend the reader to believe that LCB is having a wonderful imagined relationship with Salinas as if he stood beside him, Luis to Luis. This is an intimate collection that looks into the admiration of one poet to another.

“Salinas and Lord Byron”

I imagine his mind
is reaching for a line
only he could write:

something melancholy,
with a hint of magic,
and unforgettable.

Central California
has felt his brush and heard
his song in the groves.

He has some Lord Byron
in his veins, but I’m sure
he has never been to England.

“Rimbaud in the City: 10 Snapshots” by Glenn W. Cooper 2008

Traditionally, I am not one to read a book of poems completely entrenched with one idea or about a person as it leaves me cold most times, but Glenn W. Cooper captured my interest in this glancing of Rimbaud. He entertains what it might be like if Rimbaud were alive today, in this time. It impressed upon me that Cooper would have to transcend Rimbaud in an internal way to imagine him now. Each snapshot had me turning the page to the next one in anticipation to see where he would go next.

“Rimbaud picks up”

a hitchhiker on
highway 61 but
he’s not sure why
he’s not one for
small talk & doesn’t
need any company
for where he’s
going & they both
just sit there
with the radio
between them fading
in and out of blues
stations & no one
saying anything
there is nothing
to say or do
except listen to
Leadbelly & watch
the red dust swirling
in the cloudless
sky above them like
blood on a blue
blanket & suddenly
Rimbaud remembers why
he picked up the hiker
in the first place.

“Pulses of Time (creel pone sound study #7) by Bill Shute 2008

Bill Shute captures me now and again with his sound study series. This one in particular dazzled me with its word formations on the page, but more so than that was the regression of the book. It is a journey backwards from twelve hours to five minutes. Each block of time feels related yet not entirely connected. It gives the reader the opportunity to imagine what has happened in the hours not mentioned, trying to make that ephemeral linking of time.

“Eight Hours Ago”
dampened yet sizzling
electric blue icicles
at eye level

rock salt
and sand
at our feet
the vacuum
of chill and drone
and melting strings
and empty stockings
and tomorrow

Kendra Steiner Editions

Chapbooks are $4 each or 3 for $10 available while quantities last.


reviews by Aleathia Drehmer

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Sometimes we read books that were meant for certain times in our lives though we don’t know that when we pick them up. I started reading “Gilead” simply because it was on the Pulitzer list and for no other reason. I knew nothing about it. I like reading books blind sometimes. It makes their impact that much more to savor.

I am not a church going woman. I think we all know that by now. I have been a Buddhist for many years…over 10, though that absolves me of nothing, just makes me responsible to myself for the way I carry on my business. These days, that responsibility can be questioned. This entire book is written from the eyes of an aging minister as a letter or journal to his young son who he will not see grow up. It is a collection of his thoughts, of the history of his family that no one else would be able to tell. It is the most loving thing I have read in a long time.

I have always admired religion in some way…not always agreed with the strictness of it or the seeming way it does not forgive those that don’t believe, but I do know that there are kind hearted religious people out there that love and forgive because it is in their hearts. Because they somehow feel the Lord around them. This, whether you believe in God or not, is an enviable thing in life to have such a comfort for when times are not so good, or choices in life get questioned.

This book is about finding some sort of peace with the life the man lived and relaying his hopes and dreams for his young son as he grows into a man. It is a testament to recognizing the faults in oneself and being able to stand in front of them and be accountable, even if they cannot be changed. I find myself here in this place right now. This place of accountability and though it is tough, I feel some sense of relief knowing I have placed a hand upon my heart, felt it beating in the truest manner in the choices I have made.

A new friend, just added today, sent me a song he wrote while on tour last year. It touched me to tears. It was a nice, long winding tale about traveling, about singers and life just happening the way it does. “Trying to find what matters, if it matters anymore. Every life is part of every life lived before.” Thanks for that Doug.
I will leave this entry with a passage from “Gilead” and hope that maybe it encourages you to read the book.

“He did then seem to me the angel of himself, brooding over the mysteries his mortal life describes, the deep things of man. And of course that is exactly what he is. ‘For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him?’ In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable–which I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.”

The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

This book is about two Cuban brothers who come to America in the time before Castro took over. When they came over it was not about “a better life”, but about new adventure and music and opportunity. These brothers were great musicians playing mambo, cha-cha-cha, boleros and any other form of Latin music of its time. We are talking 1940’s NYC Latin music scene. One brother is a macho….a man’s man, a ladies man and full of life and excitement. The other is a gallego which is reference to a man that would come from Spain, but also one with a great melancholy about him. So they were opposites.

This book is about the journey of Cuban music in NYC through the 1940’s to the 1960’s. It is about love and loss and great, heartbreaking longing. This story is filled with images of pastoral Cuba, of rich foods, and thick with Cuban terms and language that surprisingly does not take away from the book, because the author explains it all to you without detracting from the story. It is as if the brothers were telling you a tale of their lives. It is sensual with many scenes of lovemaking and the pure passion men and women have for each other without it being a trashy romance novel.

I found it to be enriching in Latin culture and I desired listening to the Afro-Cuban All Stars a lot while reading this book, because it felt good. I found myself wanting to eat rice and beans and thick pork chops and fried plantains. I wanted to dance about the room. I wanted to make passionate love to someone. I wanted to play the congas and sing at the top of my lungs. I wanted feel the sunshine on my face, but mostly, it made me long for my family. I want that feeling of having my clan together while eating and laughing and remembering the tales of our lives.

Sometimes it is hard to find a book with all of these things that is masterfully written so that the pages fly by until you have come to the end, weeping and clutching the book to your chest, wanting just a little bit more. This book takes you to another place and the joyousness of music and of life.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner

Wallace Stegner is by far one of my favorite authors in the world. This man can spin a yarn and detail the open prairie with his pen so meticulously that I always feel like I am there breathing in the air, seeing the expanse of the untouched sky, and feeling the breadth of the land. I love stories about pioneers. I always have, and I realize now why that is. I am a woman of hope. These stories about prairies, westward moving men and women all start with the seed of hope; some new life, new claim upon land that might establish them as citizens of this country…..this America. But none of us can ever really claim that. We are all foreigners to this land. In this time and space we have lost that spark of pure hope; that great longing for the original American dream.

This book took me a long time to read. I have many excuses and none of which I will validate. I have been lazy and there is no excuse for it. This book was not riveting or excessively adventure filled, but a slow progression of the lives and deaths of a family trying to mark their corner out. There is something magical about following this family on a journey that none of us could ever imagine in our wildest dreams. Maybe some of us have had similar lives as children and get to the place in our adult lives and look back in wonder as to how we survived as reasonably healthy adults. I know that I do this. I think of the alternate routes my life could have gone were it not for hope and for the understanding that I get in this life exactly what I need as it happens. We all do. It is the ability to open your eyes and see it, to acknowledge that the lessons are there to be learned. So many of us turn the blind eye and it leaves us miserable in the moment and jaded when looking back.

I read a quote in the wee hours of the morning, though seemingly having nothing to do with Wallace Stegner and his book, it is all together apparent to me now that it is. “Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable than risk being happy.” – Robert Anthony

This book is about risk and life and tough love. It is about loyalty to the family and death and the ability to see the truth of the matter. It is a long book with small print. It is challenging, but it is worth it to fall in love with the people and see a life chased after, but never caught.

The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor

This book I got on the cheap rack at Barnes and Noble one day and frankly, I didn’t know the author or anything about the story, but the cover was beautiful. It was five bucks. I thought, what the hell.

Inside, I found myself traveling to Ireland in a small town in County Cork. I am a sucker for Ireland and maybe that is because I am a sucker for the sea. I am not sure. This is a lovely story about the time right before World War II when Ireland began to get heated up. It is about a family torn apart from the loss of a child, or so they believe.

The parents leave for continental Europe and this child is found, and the entire book is the life of Lucy and that of her parents, oblivious to her being alive. It neatly tells the story of how one deals with the loss of a child and how one deals with the absence of parents. There are beautiful descriptions of landscape and the quirkiness of Lucy Gault. It is not uproarious in emotion, but tends to deal you its literary blows with a quiet steady hand. There is an unsettling feeling that you cannot quite name about the title character. She has a reticence about her that is moving.

It is just over 200 pages and worth the read for something pastoral and quiet and steadfast.

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