A review of M by Dale Kushner

Reviewed by Laurie Kuntz

by Dale Kushner
3: A Taos Press
ISBN-13: 978-1737056034, Paperback, Feb 22, 99 pages

Every poem is a journey, every journey a poem. M by Dale Kushner is a stunning collection of poems depicting life’s journey in three stages.  The roads of sorrow and suffering, the paths of transformation toward spiritual joy and desire, and the longing to know and feel all that is holy are contained in Kushner’s work. 

The three sections of her book resonate with these conceits introducing the reader to characters whose experiences are in concert with each stage of life-altering journeys.

The beginning poems speak to trauma and suffering, but each poem then leads the reader to insights for healing.  The subjects in many of these poems are resilient women in history who have endured sorrow, trauma, and loss. Their journeys toward redemption and survival are intertwined in the thematic structures of the poems.  

The poem, Desire in Exile starts with the vivid image of aching:

 Because the muscles of my jaw ache/because there are seeds in you and in me/seeds ripening because/ suffering follows sacrifice…

This poem, like many in the collection, speaks of the human condition of sorrow and how it breaks us, yet can bring us together in the understanding of our desires for acceptance, hope, and recovery. 

The poem, Desire in Exile, found in section one, journeys through a relationship based on fear and loneliness, yet ends in revelation of the strength each of us can muster: 

   …And when I lay myself down the sun warms me from above/and from below the stone. / Birds passing through me leave their songs. 

The mid section of the book is called Via Dolorosa--the way of sorrow, which leads to an understanding, an acceptance and a resilience to forge on. The poems in this section bring us to war torn lands and paint pictures of women braving the elements of war, loss, and mothering in stressful and devastating times. The poems in this section take us from the United States to the Netherlands, France, Poland, Nigeria, and India to name a few of the locales. These poems resonate with the message of survival after pain, trauma, war, and displacement. In the poem: Meerabi, India 1530, the last stanza is a totem for all of the poems in this section:

Spirit baring her teeth–/I waded out into the sun’s bull’s eye dazzle. / Singing, I went under/the water taking my brokenness into its radiant heart–/then through. /Then beyond.

The final section of the book, Via Transformativa is an allegiance to every journey’s epiphany– the conclusion and resolution of life’s spiritual awakenings.  The last poem in the book, aptly titled, The Journey, concludes with a stunning message: 

You might say/ I had fallen into a dream/ 

and was given knowledge of dissolution, / as when the sky is as once paneled/ black with rain, and at its farthest reaches, /bronze new life.

The poems in this section are the unifying force, which lead the reader to feel compassion for all creatures. Inherent in this intriguing, beguiling, and stellar book are the components of empathy, transformation, and acceptance, all which are necessary for a moving and wonderful collection of poetry. 

About the reviewer: Laurie Kuntz is a widely published and award winning poet. She has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net prize. She has published two poetry collections (The Moon Over My Mother’s House, Finishing Line Press, Somewhere in the Telling, Mellen Press), two chapbooks (Simple Gestures, Texas Review Press, winner of Texas Review’s Chapbook contest, and Women at the Onsen,Blue Light Press, nominated for a Pushcart).  Her new poetry chapbook, Talking Me off the Roof, is forthcoming from Kelsay Press in late 2022.   Recently retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind. Visit her at: