Your Poetry Reviews

By Joan Gelfand


Alkali Sink

Stella Beratlis

Sixteen Rivers Press

ISBN: 978-1- 939-639- 06-6


“An alkali sink also known as a salt flat or salina, is a habitat found in …some parts of the

California Central Valley. The sink is hot and dry, and plant species that thrive there have

adapted to grow in the salt-crusted hardpan.”

While Beratlis supplies the scientific definition, the title of her debut collection suggests nothing

less than toxic depression. In this memoir, we meet a poet who has adapted to the ‘salt crusted


Beratlis’ place is not the California of majestic redwoods nor the wide, thrilling Yuba, Eel, Trinity

and Sacramento Rivers. This is ‘backstage’ where the child of immigrants must fend for herself.

In a hard pan life of a dysfunctional family, Beratlis finds beauty.

Is that not the test of a poet? To find the gorgeous under the gross, the sweet under the putrid,

the warm under the bitter cold?

Growing up under the care of Greek parents and grandparents, this may well be the world of

the immigrant today; take what you can even if it’s wild mustard by the side of the road, mind

your manners (how to drink metzcal at a funeral) and above all: don’t forget your roots.

But how far can you go? “All roads lead back to Forklift, California” writes Beratlis in

Has our heroine escaped, or is she repeating the mistakes of her forebears?

The men Beratlis describes are truck driving, auto loving, hard, boozing, abusive and criminals;

the women wear black, cook, bake and suffer their fate.

And still, Beratlis mines the beautiful: “Altamount of my rib/Aqueduct of your chest,” “This

bowl of farm is mermaidful,” and “expansive cabbage.” Loss is life, freedom is a rarity and

‘Hunger was not just a distant thought but a chemical memory in her muscles.’


Sudden Windows

Richard Loranger

Zeitgeist Press

ISBN: 978-1- 9405-72- 06-2


Publication Date: June 17, 2016

Reinvention is overused. Delving is boring. So how does a poet sing, now, in the 21 st century, as

the earth is winning the war against humanity? Loranger writes in “The Cinnamon of the Veins”

“Why can’t we speak of falling leaves? You can have your economics and your ironies,

but can you live without the fall? What art belies the oak? How many acorns need to drop

on your head before the crumbling leaves become your heart? You may speak of

preciousness, of the done and overdone, of parsing the new for a vamping vie, but this is

the eternal fugue, my friend, an eddy, a year, and you can no more shun the river than

you can not fear.”

Loranger is no innocent bystander. He becomes one with the earth as with a lover’s body.

He tussles and then melts into it until we feel his bones turning to ash.

The prose form has never had a more adept practitioner. Echoes and enjambment, like the

eddies themselves, drift and float throughout the text. Add a pinch of anger, a tablespoon

of despair and a cup of rage and you have a book that, shot out like a rocket to space,

shall endure through the ages. I’d like to read this book in heaven.

Joan Gelfand, author, “The Long Blue Room,” “A Dreamer’s Guide to Cities and

Streams,” and the award-winning “Here and Abroad.”