Sarah Kain Gutowski: THE FAMILIAR

THE FAMILIAR: POEMS, Sarah Kain Gutowski. Texas Review Press, Huntsville, TX 77341, 2024, 94 pages, $21.95, paper,

I reviewed this book at Escape Into Life (EIL), but now that the hard copy has arrived I’m dipping into its pages again, still feeling astounded by its chutzpah.

From the cover:

Gutowski’s poems are breathtakingly smart—controlled, precise and exquisite as diamonds—and yet they vibrate dangerously from within, as if anticipating, as she writes in one poem, “so much broken glass.” –Amber Sparks, author of And I Do Not Forgive You

You can visit EIL (see link below) to read more about what I find fascinating about the story-in-poems of one woman’s prism of selves (Ordinary Self and Extraordinary Self are the main characters). Here, one poem in its entirety:

Recurring Catastrophes

My ordinary self is not great at networking.
Her conversation’s void of art and humor, not
because she doesn’t know what to say but rather

her dearth of interest. She won’t respond to emails,
schedule dinner dates, return phone calls—all gestures
other ordinary people make to stay connected

and maintain relationships. My ordinary self runs
a little warm when asked about her lack of friends.
If I become distracted by other people and their

other problems, she once said, how can I focus on ours?
At this point in our life, she is correct—fires keep
erupting at home, and spread to school, to work,

and on the flat, dry road to the grocery. Everywhere, smoke
and heat and the need to escape. My extraordinary self
is never around for these recurring catastrophes

but my ordinary self and I can feel her like the tremor
underfoot when a house folds its charred frame to the ground:
somewhere, she’s smiling, her eyes hot and gray as ash.

—Sarah Kain Gutowski, The Familiar

Gutowski is also the author of Fabulous Beast: Poems, which won the 14th annual National Indies Excellence Award for Poetry. In addition to checking out my review at EIL, you can learn more about the poet at her page at Texas Review Press, and at her personal website.


Sati Mookherjee

WAYS OF BEING, Sati Mookherjee. MoonPath Press, PO Box 445, Tillamook, OR 97141, 73 pages, $16 paper,

I am writing a “real” review of this book—Mookerjee’s second, and the winner of the 2023 Sally Albiso Award—to be posted at Escape Into Life (EIL) on May 5, 2023, its release date. So consider this a preview, my quick appreciation and shout-out to a stirring collection.

Washington State Book Award winner Sharon Hashimoto says in her cover blurb:

Rhythms, images and juxtapositions in these poems flow like waves filling and emptying, from past to present to what might be—all while glorying in occlusions. Sati Mookherjee’s lively word play questions our definitions, boundaries around spaces, and leads to fresh and original epiphanies…

“Occlusion,” a fine old word meaning “the blockage or closing of an opening, blood vessel, or hollow organ,” often used in a medical context. In these poems, where Salish Sea, tideflats, “the great lung of bay,” are loved, and desecrated like human bodies, the word is completely appropriate.

I’ll get carried away if I go on (and I want to save that for the review), so I’ll offer this short poem (some are quite long), as a teaser:


Lay your warm body on the warm earth
and sense how deep the roots go, the roots

we can’t see, think of the acres
of hot black lightless matter under your body.

I think the past is a perfectly fine place to live.
Why not be native to it, visit the present

as necessary, a tourist, in transit, on a brief journey.
I can see you’re dying. This terrarium,

even with its carefully laid nests of leaves and grass
and twigs, can’t keep you, I don’t want to keep you,

go home, back to where you need to be.

—Sati Mookherjee

I’m not sure “Ground” is the right choice—so many of the poems are grounded (deeply) in the present. These are poems of witness. A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Mookherjee enjoins us to treasure our time here, on earth, adjacent to water.

Ways of Being is available now for presale. Visit for more information. I’ll update the links when the full-length review is posted.

[Update 4.28.23] Mookherjee’s book launch is this coming Sunday in Bellingham, and you can reserve your seat now: 

My review of Ways of Being can be found here: 


I have been writing up a storm

…taking a Creative Non-fiction class, working on a big revision, writing book reviews and poems (everything but blog posts). And I’ve been sending things out — here’s proof:

At EIL you’ll find several poems about birds (scroll down to find mine). And gorgeous images.

Art by Tifenn Python