This issue of Righter Quarterly, Winter 2016 carries a review of my soon-to-be published poetry chap book, Languid .. with Lemon from Finishing Line Press”
Here is the review, but please do check out the entire magazine–you can purchase it on Amazon. It contains many wonderful articles, recipes, and poems (some by me!)
Languid Luciousness With Lemon.
By Joan Leotta
Reviewed by Elizabeth Silance Ballard
I must admit that I have never read a great deal of poetry. I believe it has something to do with the requirement during my junior year of high school to memorize a minimum of 100 lines of poetry. I chose to memorize some of the works of Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay and loudly declared to anyone who would listen that they were my“favorite poets.” However, when that year was over and the memorization requirement met, I rarely looked at a poem.
When I received Joan Leotta’s latest book of poetry and was asked to review it, I thought of umpteen reasons why almost anyone on the planet was more qualified to review this volume than I but I turned to the first poem anyway. I was hooked. I could not put the book down.
In poetry, there is no story line, no plot, to keep us interested and turning the pages. The poet has to be a master with words, with imagery, with alliteration so that the reader is, at once,captivated with feelings, emotions, and/or memories. Joan Leotta is such a master. Her poems
are of few words but each word is carefully chosen and evokes such nostalgia, such a longing for the simpler times. Yet, she is showing that we can still enjoy and appreciate the simple things in our own lives.
With my first reading of the poem, “Languid Luciousness With Lemon,” I smiled. I,
too, love farmers markets. The food is always so fresh and the combined smells of all the fruits and vegetables make me want to grab a big basket and start filling it to the brim. The poet,however, is in no such rush as she imagines slicing the peaches and how they will look on a pretty plate at home. With this and all her poems in this volume, she pulls us into an appreciation of the simple pleasures of life. I was reminded of my junior literature class and of Mrs. Sandlin telling us that poets look at life differently. “They focus and their work can help us focus and examine the various aspects of life. We don’t have to run helter skelter trying to do so much all the time. Sometimes we can learn more just by focusing.”
Reading this book many decades later, I realize now what Mrs. Sandlin was trying to teach us back then. All of Joan’s poems are about the simple, yet so important, aspects of our lives.In “Apples at Nonna’s,” we can identify her childhood eagerness and anticipation of a family outing, the comfort of family traditions, the joys of possibilities. I believe one of my very favorites is “Back Porch Morning.” For a few minutes, I was sitting on my own grandmother’s back porch basking in the joy of just being with her. This is what good poetry does, I believe. It brings up feelings and memories and helps us to see and feel them in other ways, too.
Much of Joan’s work centers on the family such as in “Sampling Oysters” in which she tells of going to Prince Edward Island with her daughter and sampling oysters in various places.She recognizes in the poem that the real pearl gained from the oyster outing was their togetherness.
Likewise, she speaks of her son who, during spring break of his senior year, they went to Kill Devil Hills on the outer banks of North Carolina where he made his first solo flight in a hang glider. The poem reflects her wistfulness in the realization that this son was making only the first of many solo adventures in his life and would soon be moving into true adulthood, out of the safety of family.
On a humorous note, anyone who grew up with biscuits on the table will readily identifywith the poem, “In Rhapsodic Praise of Biscuits.” Oh, the sheer near-ecstasy of a hot biscuitwith soft butter, or jelly or honey! She brought back the memory of my own mother’s biscuits—hard, crusty and perfectly brown on the outside with a warm softness on the inside—and Daddy’s frequent comment, “Good eatin’, Honeybunch!”
No doubt, this little book of poetry will arouse memories of your own special moments inlife and will be on our bookshelves for a long time to come.