3 September 2019
Magnets & Ladders:
Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
A Literary Magazine
Spring/Summer Edition, 2019
I was asked, “what are you reading now?”
The expectation was that I would respond with a book or two that I am currently reading. But I’m not reading any books right now. I’ve been so busy working on my newly released book of poetry, and an upcoming chapbook publication that I needed to take a break from books. I was feeling like I am standing beneath Niagara Falls and I needed to just relax and enjoy a tasty literary treat. I found just what I was looking for when my Spring/Fall edition of Magnets and Ladders, as recorded by Perkins Library arrived.
When I say, “I am reading,” let me clarify that statement. Since I have profound sight loss, my reading is done while I sit in my fiber studio working on a project. While I am selecting just the right bead, or the length of a new necklace in progress, I am listening to a recording of Magnets & Ladders, read by a variety of professional narrators and recorded at Perkins Library,
I am a subscriber to the Perkins Library editions of Magnets & Ladders. The digital cartridge comes in my mail box. And, it is free. When my new issue of this magazine arrives, I typically read it from cover to cover several times. I am always enthralled by the variety of excellent poems, and essays in this bi-annual publication. Coordinating editor is Mary-Jo Lord, and her staff of volunteer readers make the decision and decide which submissions will be in the publication each time.
For the record, I am one of 5 poetry readers – each reader scores all of the submissions individually. We never know what the final selections are. I find out when I get the magazine on the Perkins Library cartridge. It is always a surprise and I look forward to reading the work selected in each category. And, with each issue, I think,
This is the best one of all.
For my review, I selected one work from each of the 6 sections to highlight. That was a difficult task because there are so many I could have selected. Finally, I decided to choose one that was most memorable to me after I finished reading the publication through several times. So, here are the pieces that have stayed in my thoughts –
Part 1: “Violets Beside the Old Water Pump,” by Alice Jane-Marie Massa.
In this long poem, Massa relates a story-within-the-story – of a summer visit from her cousins:
…When city cousins, with eleven children,
came to visit…
the wild eleven were
fascinated with our pump
and worked the handle more in one day
than it had been used in three months of a summer…
Part II: Canary’s Song,” by Ria Mead.
Ria Mead became one of my new favorites after I read her prize-winning poem, “Talking to God While Making the Damn Bed,” in the Magnets & Ladders, Fall/Winter Issue – 2018-19.
I am keeping my focus on her work and expecting to read more in the future. She has a unique point of view and a contagious sense of humor. However, in this poem she has taken on the voice of One crying in the Wilderness, in the form of a recent tragedy where Jewishpeople were attacked and killed while worshipping in their temple in Pittsburgh, PA.
From her poem, ‘Canary’s Song,” I provide a small snippet:
We cannot bury the victims,
until their remains are collected:
including the blood.
They will be buried whole.
In Part III, I plunged into a wild and whimsical tale, “Hey, Hey, Hey: This is no Choke,” a memoir by Janet di Nola Parmerter. Read it!
The narrator who read this story brought out the playfulness of her writing style. In her writings Janet speaks about her love of the theater and her many plays she has seen most of her life. Since I just saw my first Broadway musical last summer at age seventy-five, I am impressed and even feel a bit jealous of the opportunities she had as a resident of the big Apple. Her non-fiction story relates a unique experience and I was spellbound as I tried to figure out what was happening to her as she sat in the audience and had a near-death experience while watching a play. I won’t spoil the surprise ending!
July 8, 1987 was a rough day. I desperately needed a break from stress. Regrettably, the terror I would experience in that dark theatre would soon cause my blood pressure to shoot through the balcony roof! The first act was quite humorous. Then before the intermission, as they say, the plot thickened.
Part IV: One of the first poetic forms I encountered during my undergraduate work is one called, the Diamante.
In “Happy Birthday to the Diamante – A Fun Poetic Form,” editor, Mary-Jo Lord showcases a collection of Diamante poems written. If readers think this poem is an easy one to write, you just might be surprised. If a person has sight loss, it can be particularly difficult because not only does this form require a certain number of lines; a certain part of speech for each line; it also requires that the finished poem look like a diamond shape. That means, the writer has to be conscious of every letter in every line – the piece has to have a visual look to it, as well as meeting the metrical requirements.
Kudos to all who wrote Diamante and sent them in for consideration.
by Elizabeth Fiorite
Darting, Dawdling, Dusting,
Pollen, Pistil, Bills, migration,
Chirping, Swooping, Looping,
Part V: “Farewell,” by Sally Rosenthal
This poem is at the tip top of my list of “Most Memorable Poems” in the entire issue.
As a septuagenarian woman, I could feel this poignant final farewell between the poet and a family member. From this moment forward, everything has changed, and the feeling of loss is so strong it left me numb for days after reading this poem.
It’s hard to reach so deep into one’s soul to articulate this feeling because it is a moment that is timeless and beyond all language. Sally does it with grace. She has created a “Poetic I,” that is unforgettable. And, she does it in such a way that the reader has to turn away from the scene for a moment, to gather her composure.
Elderly and frail, mind wandering in dementia’s fog.
The lunch we shared will be our last,
Cake crumbs swept away like memories.
Only one of us knows
We will not meet again…
Smiling for her sake, I turn to leave
As my heart constricts with sadness.
Finally, in Part VI, I chose a story with an ending that took me completely by surprise.
The story is “French Silk Pie,” by Abbie Johnson Taylor.
First, I never heard of French Silk Pie! What’s that all about? Well, I had to look it up to find out just what it is.
Tell me, does this description speak to you?
“French Silk Pie features an Oreo cookie crust, rich and creamy chocolate filling, and is topped with homemade whipped cream and chocolate shavings! No raw eggs. Perfect holiday recipe!”
OK! If you can “Handle the Heat,” after reading about this pie, you might want the recipe.
I’ll have a cup of coffee with mine, thanks!
In fact, I’d like to read the upcoming Fall/Winter issue of Magnets and Ladders while I am savouring my slice of French Silk Pie.
You can find out more about Abbie – Read it here.
If you are a writer with disabilities, you may want to consider sending your work to Magnets & Ladders. Please go to the website and consult the Guidelines
Submit to: email@example.com.
“Behind Our Eyes, a Second Look” is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers, and in E-book format on Amazon Kindle. It is also available in recorded format from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
See our book trailer on Youtube
Several members of our group meet by moderated teleconference twice monthly to hear speakers; share work for critique; or receive tips on accessibility, publication, and suggested areas of interest.
This review is courtesy of Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2019.
All rights reserved.
Lynda retired from her position as Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA – in 2008. She lost most of her sight in 2007 due to Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, a rare condition that causes rapid sight loss without warning. Since her retirement she works in her writing and art studios full-time. She can be found during the night communicating with other writers and friends, on Facebook.
Lynda authored 2 additional published books:
_Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, 2017. DLD Books. See it here.
_Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage, 2003, Kota Press. See it here.
Walking by Inner Vision: http://www.lyndalambert.com
104 River Road, Ellwood City, PA 16117