Backed up
jet lagged
corpses line the parade of
rampant serfs at the bank.
All starving for a
palm of papyrus,
and inkwell
feather to shift the
earnings to someone,
someplace else.

Published in May 2016 Issue of Dying Dahlia Review


Break Every String | Review



American Poet Joshua Michael Stewart’s newest poetry collection, appropriately entitled Break Every String, will break your heart with its raw and unforgiving verse, then quietly stitch it whole again with compelling narratives that will take you on an unforgettable journey of loss and then healing as he exposes his troubling adolescence with vivid, well crafted material. Mr. Stewart’s remarkable ability to recollect his fractured past is so genuine it will leave you applauding each small measure of  reconciliation.

Engaging from the start with Born in the USA, a monologue sewn together like a patchwork quilt, Stewart brilliantly juxtapositions the agonizing dissolution of his childhood with the silent decay of the “blue house with the white fence lined with rosebushes” near his home.

With each new stanza, his life, like the house, deteriorates.  Every time there is evidence of a significant slide in his own life, like the day his “father brought home a pink slip heavier than a Huey Hog” the blue house with the white picket fence, suffers.  First “the rosebushes became thorny switches” then as divorce, alcoholism and domestic violence enter his world, we see the house, with its now “boarded-up windows” and “paint-chipped fence” reflect his own agony.  And lastly, as if in sync with his personal struggle, he sees the “Backhoes and bulldozers devour(ed) the blue house with the collapsing roof” as it falls victim to abandonment.

And here’s the thing…I’m only on page one, entry one, of an 85 page true gem of a book that reads more like an autobiography instead of a poetic anthology. Break Every String is a compilation of memories and experiences that move past normal America and reaches deep within the heart of realities we often turn a blind eye too. Mr. Stewart invites us into a world, his world, one that most of us are unaware of or, even worse, numb too.

Mr. Stewart profoundly captures memories of significant relationships that, while most of them difficult, betrayed him as well as enabled him to heal.  Among this list, which includes his mother, father, brother, nephew, step-mother and Chanel, is his companionship with music.

Throughout the book he makes careful mention of artists and genres he is fond of.  In After Ohio he writes, “Jazz is a language no one I knew knew how to speak, which is why I wanted to speak it–how it wrangles chaos, gives it form.” In relating to Jazz like a language he befriends it, learns it and in return, Jazz aids him organizing the chaos that is his life. Music is a steady theme throughout many of the poems and is intertwined appropriately with his family’s unbalanced up and downs.

Peppered among the well crafted poems and narratives are letters. All but one are written to Josh from his mother. They remind me of a pot of on a stove, no recipe was used, just a little of this and a lot of that. They are sad, yet, you can’t help but realize she’s just doing the best she can. I read regret but also selflessness in her words. I should like to know if they were actual letters.

Of all the contributions to this collection, this one is my favorite and I feel the need to share it within this review. This poem is the one that broke my heart before the following pages helped to heal it.  I literally cried with empathy for this young boy.  I wanted to rescue him, hold him and gently peel off the two sides of the band-aid for him.


Another Saturday Night

I’m eleven, pacing the living room

in the dark. I’m pressing a washcloth

against the two-inch gash on my elbow.

Mom’s across town inhaling barroom


loneliness. Blood and water trickle

down my arm to the studded wristband

my brother, sixteen and god, made for me.

He’s joyriding in the Firebird with the mullets


who’ll become his pallbearers. I’m yelling

for them until the back of my eyes hurt,

until I stick two Band-Aids on my wound,

and crawl into bed with the scarring.


Mr. Stewart un-peels the layers of his life in a way that is more than poetic, it’s rhythmic and fluid, verse and narrative inter-twining to tell an intimate tale that will leave you hoping for a follow-up volume.

I want to thank Mr. Stewart for allowing me the opportunity to review Break Every String, it has been truly a pleasure.

Joshua Michael Stewart
Break Every String
Hedgerow Books of Levellers Press
ISBN: 978-1-937146-92-4

Break Every String by Joshua Michael Stewart  


Heat Seekers | Review


Steve Lambert’s debut collection of poetry, Heat Seekers, is an extraordinary diary in verse. Each cleverly written contribution symbolizes a snapshot of a life truly felt. Mr. Lambert’s work is rooted. The poems grab you and invite you in with such amazing clarity.  His lexicon is thick and he chooses carefully with spectacular results.

Take for example his poem Heat Seekers, for which the collection acquired its name. The poem is simple in subject matter, a man sitting on a bench in his hometown, yet the rhythm of the language welcomes the reader to sit beside him and “feel the warm wooden bench” and listen “to the hot breeze bully the dry fronds overhead”.  With compelling lines like, “My hands read the polished grain of the bench like Braille”  the reader is transported.

Like life–the good, the bad and the ugly have their moments throughout the pages of this unique and utterly fascinating timeline of poetry. Lambert exposes himself and his experiences with raw detail in a style I have not seen before. Weaving tale after tale with an authentic voice that moves between tenderness and nostalgia then turns the corner with honesty without apology.  This style allows the reader to relate to each Wartime Lullaby sung and observation in line At the Shell. 

The most compelling aspect of this entire collection is its ability to invoke your senses, engage them and call them your own. There is a landscape of simplicity juxtaposition with just the right amount of naked reality that makes this anthology stand above others I have reviewed. I look forward to Mr. Lambert’s second collection with the eagerness of a boxer waiting to enter the ring.

Heat Seekers by Steve Lambert