A review of I Let Go of the Stars in my Hand edited by Jane Ormerod, et al

Reviewed by Ruth Latta

I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand
edited by Jane Ormerod, Thomas Fucaloro, and George Wallace
Great Weather for MEDIA
2014, ISBN 978-0-9857317-3-3, $17 US0

 I Let Go of the Stars in my Hand is an anthology of poetry and creative short fiction, featuring an interview with the blues/jazz poet John Sinclair. The bio notes of many authors represented show impressive published credits and literary achievements. This is the third anthology and fifth book published by Great Weather for MEDIA (www.greatweatherformedia.com). The editors consider submissions from all over the world, and this latest book includes works by writers from England, France, Denmark and Sweden as well as by Americans.

Great Weather for MEDIA is more than a book publisher; it is a community presence in New York City and holds readings and events there and elsewhere in the United States to “bridge the literary, performance and music worlds”. In the introduction one reads that “each anthology takes on its own aesthetic. During the selection process we never look for a theme and yet it seems to appear organically. In this anthology an ungentle tenderness permeates through the work.”

To be honest, I could not detect any theme even though one was identified for me.

I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand included several works that I admired a great deal and others that weren’t to my taste, as is the case with many anthologies and literary magazines. My preference is for lucid, accessible writing that doesn’t try to make the reader feel stupid or naive, so I particularly liked Vicki Iorio’s poem, “The Day My Mother and Sister Stopped Eating”. Linda Camplese’s poem, “My Father’s Gun” impressed also me. Its quiet, matter-of-fact tone is more disturbing than some other poems in the anthology which aim to shock the reader.

The last frame of the poem/cartoon “Stars”, by Swedish author Janne Karlsson on Pages 37 and 38, is intriguing. It shows a babylike figure releasing stars from its hand, and reads: “The taste of independence/the pain in my tummy/the world is calling/I let go of the stars in my hand” and in its simplicity has several levels of meaning.

According to the Introduction, I Let Go includes “some of the most experimental poems” that the editors have ever included in an anthology. In some, “the writers let go of more than just stars.” Poets Zev Torres “Jamnation” and Stephen Mead “Researching Plague” have created poems which do not lend themselves to being performed aloud; their cleverness is best appreciated on the printed page. Kit Kennedy’s “Fog Descends: I Walk into a Koan,” consisting of cryptic proverbs, and ending with “How many crows inhabit an imaginary tree?” provides food for meditation.

My favourite prose pieces are “American Gothic” by former Kalliope editor Dorothy Duncan Barres and “The Feast of Mt. Carmel”, a bonding-with-grandfather story by Peter Fiore. The latter story begins with lighting a candle in church and ends with an “otherworldly” experience, a feast of clams. The author concludes that while he cannot believe the claims of religion, “from that day forward I’ve [he’s] been a believer in clams.”

This sentence sums up my feelings about I Let Go of the Stars in my Hand.

Though unable to discern a unifying theme nor to admire of all the content, I liked some of the stories and poems, and believe that these annual anthologies and other work by Great Weather for MEDIA are an admirable contribution to arts and culture.

To read some of Ruth Latta’s poems, visit her website at www.cyberus.ca/~rklatta/RuthLatta.html