Friday, December 28, 2018


Lillian and Kate Xmas 2018

Lillian & Kate Romero, Christmas Day, 2018

When twins Kate and Lillian Romero joined our family three years ago in March, I became a Great Grand Mere, a title family members hardly ever use, but an honorable one that gets me an annual Christmas dinner invitation from the girls’ parents. Lillian and Kate are fraternal twins deeply devoted to one another, and, at Christmas, became the subjects of much photography; e.g., the photo at the top of this blog.

Alex, Kate, and Martin Xmas, 2018

Kate listens to Daddy's heart and Alex watches

A few months ago, I included a poem about the twins in my last book of poetry, All Love,. The poem speaks of their mutual devotion, and it pleased several reviewers because of its brevity!


their inchoate language a babble
understood only by each other;
solitariness unknown, unwanted;

the joining of inner dispositions
down to the last breath
an articulation of love.


Photographs by Victoria Sullivan

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Among the readings I’ve been doing to prepare for the New Year is the recently published book, A Resurrection-Shaped Life, Dying and Rising on Planet Earth by the Rt. Rev. Jake Owensby, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana. The book arrived two days ago, and I didn’t put it down until I finished it early this morning.

A Resurrection-Shaped Life arrives at the dawn of the New Year and is a wise, profound introduction to the idea of recovering what Bishop Owensby describes as our resurrected Self. The 110-page book of hope and insight gives Christian readers, emergent and seasoned, a sense of dying and rising again and again, moving from their brokenness and past shame and failures, through Christ’s grace, to become transformed humans. I was reminded of the Scottish preacher George MacDonald’s words in an anthology of his work by C.S. Lewis: “We die daily. Happy are those who come to life as well…”

For those who belong to this “pain avoidant culture,” as Bishop Owensby defines our present-day country, this book isn’t a panacea for sufferers who want to avoid suffering at any cost, but, instead, offers a message of hope for those of us who often forget that the cross is the symbol of our redemption. Owensby suggests that we devote ourselves to a higher purpose, citing Biblical stories, as well as quotations from contemporary authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Outliers, a book that reaffirms what I believe as a writer — to master anything (including spiritual peace), ten thousand hours of practice are required to reach one’s higher purpose… and suffering is always a part of that practice!

Bishop Owensby reflects compassion and empathy but does not sugar-coat his spirituality, citing examples in his own life that reveal his humanity. His writing is not dogmatic but easily conveys his faith and transformation from issues of shame and blame to a believer in forgiveness and justice. Owensby shows us that there is a power in the universe greater than we are and greater than the afflictions we're suffering. He also presents a vision of the destiny we want to live out. 

As one who can readily identify with his story of abuse, I especially appreciate his candor about the messiness of our lives and am reminded of reading The Drama of the Gifted Child by the Swiss psychotherapist, Alice Miller. A close friend asked me what the book was about, and I replied: “Grandiosity,” which is not the theme of this book at all! I had subconsciously avoided its true meaning, which was to offer consolation and hope to those who had been abused as children. My friend was astonished and suggested I re-read this book about surviving an abusive childhood to overcome feelings of alienation and to discover a higher purpose.

I’m accustomed to writing reviews in which I cite numerous passages by the author, but in respect for Abingdon’s copyright rules, I have only briefly reviewed this Christmas/New Year’s gift of witness from Bishop Owensby — his meditations, spoken from the heart of his own experience, will help readers achieve transfigured lives of intimacy and resurrection with the risen Christ.

This is an honest and life-changing book by the enlightened leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Cover of Pinyon Review #14 by Susan Entsminger

A few nights ago as I watched the PBS News Hour, I was pleasantly surprised to see a female poet appear in the last segment of the news. Ada Limon spoke passionately about the radical hope of poetry as an effective way of communicating and touted that people today are reading more and more poetry, exploring the nuance and mystery of it, as well as using it as a way to express rage. Limon also pointed out that poetry was a place where we admit to the unknown and sometimes practice beauty, make music from specificity and empathy. I was inwardly applauding her comments during the entire segment.

Gary and Susan Entsminger, editors and publishers of Pinyon Review, a magazine that features poetry, fiction, art, and photography, have been doing their share of touting the effectiveness of poetry for almost a decade in the pages of a literary journal that showcases the talents of a diverse group of artists from throughout the U.S. and abroad. In the latest issue showing the cover art of “Limes and Leaves” rendered by Susan Entsminger, the editors have chosen to include the translated work of several Chinese poets and a deceased Dutch poet, M. Vasalis, billed in her country as the “Dutch Elizabeth Bishop.” 

Although the work of other poets: Stuart Friebert, Neil Harrison, Gary Entsminger, Scott Davidson, to name a few, contributed highly notable work, I chose to showcase the Oriental poets who take readers farther afield to explore the “nuance and mystery” of Chinese poets the Muse inspires. Also impressive: “To A Tree,” a poem by the deceased Dutch poet, M. Vasalis, translated by Fred Lessing and David Young, which quickly sets the tone of international sharing on the opening pages of this issue of Pinyon Review.

As I’m a tree hugger, I appreciated the poet’s plea for trees not to move, “… for who could bear it if a tree pulled up its roots/and danced away?…” Vasalis muses on the eternal qualities of trees that [are not] “made to move,/in lengthy lines, like steady music, simple,/and then again stand still, a slender temple…I stood there in the wet and heavy grass/and felt that I had drifted into paradise…” Gary and Susan plan to publish a career-spanning selection of Vasalis’s poems in 2019. Interestingly, she was a Dutch psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of children and was recognized as the most widely read and admired poet of her country.

In a long poem entitled “Crossing Lop Nor,” the Chinese poet Wang Ziliang, translated from the Chinese by Ajiu X. LI, divides the poem into sunset, land, sky wind, high wind, and ear into a medley that ends with a humorous musing about the ear; e.g., “It is said that Lop Nor/has the shape of an ear,/though never used to listen… Lop Nor, a metaphor about listening./A metaphor about sound and its fading… This ear/emblems how the gods achieved immortality/through enormous silence.” In this poem, as in many Oriental writings, nature offers specific philosophical commentary through “the sensual beauty of the land.” 

A self-translated poem by Langji Tianya, another Chinese poet featured in this issue, offers readers a meditation entitled “Like Calcium,” in which he “settles in a mountain pasture,/His meditation slides on a slope, the mass rises in a curved manner./The dead leaves cover themselves, the weeds go home/The fresh footprints on the piles of rocks will find the way of release.” Like Haiku, the featured poems by Chinese poets in this issue, aren’t understood quickly and include lines for the process of meditation. As Limon said in her broadcast, in poetry “we admit to the unknown.”

In this 14th edition, an intriguing article, “The Studio of The Three Arrows,” by Robert Elliott and Susan Entsminger features photography by 20th century photographer Harold A. Taylor who in his early 20’s hiked through Yosemite National Park to photograph its valley — “massive rocks, waterfalls, sequoias…” partnering with Eugene Hallett to open the Studio of the Three Arrows, so named for the Yosemite Miwok Indians and the English-born Taylor’s family crest. The photographs, as explained by Susan Entsminger and Robert Elliott, were created by using dry glass plates that produced sharp images and beautiful contrast. Susan’s grandfather, William T. Elliott, acquired the glass plate negatives when Taylor retired as he and Taylor had been in a photography business together. Elliott gave his son, R. Elliott, the Yosemite and California Missions Collection, which he is digitizing and archiving. The arresting photograph of “Wawona With Coach,” is a digital scan of one of Taylor’s beautiful glass plates. Photographs in this article provided by father and daughter make this 14th edition a real collector’s piece. 

Along with the Oriental poems, I couldn’t resist including the haiku of award-winning Gary Hotham who lives in Maryland; e.g., “outside the lines/our grandson includes more/with one crayon”… and “mixing with the afternoon sky/a lifetime of clouds/disappear.” Hotham has won first place in the Harold G. Henderson Memorial Haiku Awards and second place in the San Francisco International Haiku Competition. Pinyon published his Stone’s Throw, described as a book echoing the Japanese masters.

Pinyon Publishing just celebrated its tenth year as a publisher of quality literature and art in book form. Pinyon Review, a journal of the arts and sciences, is one of the few journals that has kept its mission of featuring emerging and well-known poets, fiction writers, translators, artists, and photographers. The magazine is produced in a log cabin on a plateau in southern Colorado where Gary and Susan share a life devoted to the cause of sustainability and quality publishing. On a personal note, they have consistently featured and supported my writing and reviewing of other writers’ work. Thank you, Pinyon, from all of your writers, photographers, and artists.

Available from Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Front cover of Southern Cross

Janet Faulk, a native Alabaman now working in New Iberia, Louisiana, stays close to her southern roots when she writes most of the time. However, when she discovered a diary written by an anonymous Alabaman who traveled abroad to find his fortune following the War Between the States, she became fascinated by his account of a colony of Alabamans who settled in Brazil and moved her literary interests farther afield. Over a decade later, after transcribing the handwritten diary of an anonymous man who authored the Brazilian Travel Diary, she wrote finis to Southern Cross. 

Based on a true account, but written in the tradition of “non-fiction fiction,” Southern Cross also mesmerizes readers with a love story between the major characters, John Foster and widowed Kate Teal who develop a shipboard romance en route from Baltimore, Maryland to Brazil. The romance is related in deft, accessible prose, and Kate’s life of “inconsistencies…in which she moves toward something rather than away from something” keeps the reader transfixed about her survival once she departs from Mississippi near the Escatawpa River for the hinterlands of Brazil.

Faulk’s finesse with description emerges in the first chapter; e.g., “Nothing brings buried thoughts to the surface like the first dark of evening. At twilight when shadows lay long and thin in the grass, the fading light of day pulls color along with it and orchestrates a symphony of evening sound. This is the time of day when it becomes difficult to tell a black cat from its shadow and stillness spills over the earth like indigo ink. Then, the night movement takes shape with the subtle rustle of a raccoon family easing along the water’s edge, the whirr of seven-year locusts creating a rhythmic background for an occasional bullfrog croaking and the singular intermittent chirping of a lone cricket…”

Faulk skillfully weaves rich descriptions of the diarist’s visits to farms and lumber operations scattered throughout Brazil and brings into focus the politics, slavery issues, and future of agriculture (cotton, sugar cane, etc.) in 19th century Brazil. Romantic scenes between John and Kate are interspersed in alternate chapters to sustain interest in the diarist’s detailed explorations of the diverse countryside.

Choctaws, African slaves, Brazilians—Faulk introduces international diversity among her cast of characters, working to achieve authenticity and remaining faithful to historical detail through the extensive research she completed. Her readings included the work of Zora Neal Hurston, Sylviane A. Diouf, and Sandra Medlock, Operations Manager, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. 

Conversations between John and Kate contain serious ruminations about religion and ethics, and the end of Southern Cross will leave readers contemplating a softer denouement, but Kate embodies a kind of Faulknerean observation that humans will not only endure, they’ll prevail. This is a real page turner, as well as a heart warmer told with certainty of tone and narrated with an instinct for detail and sure sense of self.

Janet Faulk

Janet Faulk is a native of northeast Alabama and has resided most of her adult life in south Louisiana where she lives with her husband, Rudy Gonzales. Southern Cross is her first historical fiction. Previously, she published a book of personal essays, The Road Home, and co-authored Porch Posts with the poet Diane Marquart Moore.

Available online from Amazon and signed copies by mail from the author (