January 15, 2010

Review by Valerie Martin Bailey
Breath-Life by Juanita Torrence-Thompson
BREATH-LIFE
by Juanita Torrence-Thompson

Scopcraeft Press
Post Office Box 1091
Portales, New Mexico 88130-1091
ISBN 978-1-8-8160478-5
2009, 56 pp. $12.00
http://home.earthlink.net/~poetrytown/breathlife.html

With breath comes life, and so it is in breath-life, the sixth collection of poetry by Juanita Torrence-Thompson. Part I, titled “Word Play,” is indeed playful, and the first poem “Alphabet Soup #1” takes the reader on a merry, tongue-twisting romp through the alphabet in a delightful style that is as fanciful as Dr. Seuss for grown-ups with alliterative treats like:

…licorice-licking lecturers laughing and dancing the Macarena, munching mincemeat and mayonnaise at Mobil malls….

The poem, an extended abecedarian form, is written as prose, but with its bouncy rhythm and crisp alliterations, there is nothing prosy about it. The first section features twenty-three additional short poems that are equally innovative. I had the sensation of flight as I dipped and twirled from poem to poem like a butterfly on “lime-tinted wings” to sip the nectar from “dreamy dahlias,” while “tweaking ascending roses” in a “whirling garden of verbs”—these poems are “syncopated dollops of color” in a world of blue that “surrounds and surrounds.”

My personal favorite in Part I is “Winds of Flowers.” I was particularly charmed by the imagery of this poem that assigns gentle, pleasing attributes to various “heavenly” elements of nature: wind, sun, moon, stars, and clouds. Only the second stanza has a slightly negative feeling, as the sun “bleaches homes like an unwanted visitor.” The sun could have scorched or shriveled the homes like an invading enemy, instead there is a slow, quiet process of bleaching by a more benign unwanted visitor. The sun uses its mighty power to slowly change and lighten rather than destroy. Stanzas one, three, four, and five soothe the senses with metaphors that comfort the soul and evoke memories of sensual pleasure.

Warm winds
dance a smooth fandango
while the world sleeps

Morning sunrise
bleaches homes
like an unwanted visitor

Moonlight bathes the earth
like an innocent belle
at a masked ball

Stars shower the sky
with rotating sprinkiles of chocolates
for lovers to wish upon

Cloudes hug the heavens
like fluffy balls
at a sprightly carnival of gems

Life is rich and savory in Part II, titled “In This Heat,” and Juanita Torrence-Thompson is the “Iron Chef” of poetry, using language with a bold creativity that declares this poet is not afraid to experiment as she dishes up fresh, unexpected metaphors and whimsical imagery that has no echo. breath-life is the full-meal-deal—soul food for those who hunger for new taste sensations in the search for the human soul. The poet makes an urgent search for her soul in “African Absurdity”:

a young woman from Zinkatoobee, Africa,
walked across seven continents in search of her soul.

That search is satisfied as she writes a celebratory poem, “My Soul”:

My soul, a rhapsody
plays melodies at each stanza
each insatiable syllable

My soul, an epistle,
reads chapters of memories
recites ebullient phrases

My soul, a firefly
sparks the planets
with scathing fragments

My soul churns
sings rhapsodies
recites epistles
fuels the storm that blows me down

This poetic feast includes a number of deliciously wry, tongue-in-cheek humor poems, including “Police Begin Campaigning to Run Down Jaywalkers,” and my personal favorite, “Computer Gossip” featuring an overworked Macintosh computer that never gets any sleep:

just when I enter Sleep Mode
On goes the light
Snap goes the power strip
W-o-o-s-h-h-h goes the printer and I go CLICK

I’m sure I identified with this poem because I mercilessly overwork my own Macintosh computer. Fans of Torrence-Thompson will not be disappointed with this new offering from her prolific pen. Her poetry is a paradox that leaves you satisfied, yet longing for more.

____________

Valerie Martin Bailey is editor of Encore, the anthology of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Inc. and a frequent judge for state and national contests A founding board member of the Laurel Crown Foundation, a non-profit organization for the promotion of literary arts, she is director of their “Awaken the Sleeping Poet” festival and editor of their anthology, The Dreamcatcher. An award winning poet, she is president of the San Antonio Poets Association and seven times poet laureate of that association. She is a councilor for the Poetry Society of Texas and a recipient of their President’s Award. She has published two books of poetry, A Gathering of Roses (Castle Hills Press) and Spinning Straw into Gold (Castle Hills Press) and has been published in the Poetry Society of Texas’ Book of the Year, the Texas Poetry Calendar, Lucidity, Mobiüs, The Poetry Magazine and many other anthologies and magazines. She owns Rhyme or Reason Word Design Studio, a small desktop publishing company, in San Antonio, Texas.

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