Review of "When Truth Comes Home to Roost."
Honored to share the review written by Pulitzer Prize nominated writer Susan Isla Tepper. The review appears in
CERVENA BARVA PRESS SEPTEMBER 2022 NEWSLETTER
"When Truth Comes Home to Roost" by Diana Dinverno Reviewed by Susan Isla Tepper
Celery City Chapbooks 2022
Writers are told to make every word count. That advice has been my own metaphorical bible for many moons. In this slender chapbook, which is a hybrid prose poem / memoir, Ms. Dinverno follows that advice to the literal letter.
This is the shortest memoir I've ever read. Yet, at its conclusion, I felt I knew every nook and cranny that informed this writing. I sat on a park bench reading this book on a beautiful summer day and my own emotion at the ending page numbered 24 was Astonishing!
It opens with a prose poem. The first paragraph sets up place, and emotional and economic status of the family:
Fourth Grade Shoes
In August, I nodded when my mother asked if I liked the red, white, and blue shoes. Oxfords, she called them, suggesting a stylishness absent in the other sale-bin options. I wore them the first day of fourth grade, and every day thereafter, slipped them into galoshes when snow covered the road to and from school. My mother's sparkly ring, the one that sat on the shelf, disappeared. Above my head, the word pawn floated by. It wasn't intended for me. I didn't try to look it in the eye, and it, too, disappeared.
There are 3 more stanzas to this piece, but I won't give them away. Dinverno's writing is precise, and always clear. There is no fudging on the deep matter that travels very deep and is part and parcel of this telling. When a writer has the courage to present factually, the work can be magnificent as evidenced here. Different poetic forms have been used throughout the book, lending a freshness to each piece that is linked, yet is also dramatically different in plot and scope. The way each day changes, somehow, big or subtle, from the one we lived before.
Work sent him to a Detroit pharmacy
where my birth mother served customers
at its soda fountain. I imagine she caught
his eye with her glossy hair,
cherry-tinged lips, and 4'10" frame,
a butterfly, amidst sundry-stacked shelves,
flitting near invoices on his clipboard.
He gave her a ring with a pink stone.
But he was so old, she told me years later
to explain why she'd refused his proposal,
He was the ugliest man I ever laid eyes on.
He married someone else,
she said, started a family.
I think about him, his other children,
wonder if we would have been friends
or reckless with one another's hearts. (continued in the book...)
I found this work transformative. How gently it pulls up hard truths recalling a time of hopeful innocence unwinding like a spool of yarn toward the terrors of war in Southeast Asia, and its concurrent losses and radical changes. Tugging pieces of writing that reflect on family, neighbors, friends, strangers and a world trying to adjust and just get by.
Susan Isla Tepper is the author of 10 published books of fiction and poetry and 2 stage plays. Her new satirical Novel titled ‘Office’ is forthcoming from Wilderness House Press. Later this year another Novel titled ‘Hair of a Fallen Angel’ will be published by Cervena Barva Press. Tepper is currently in the production phase of her play about artist Jackson Pollock in his later years. http://www.susantepper.com