Bits and Pieces: Thoughts from a Life in Poetry and Prose
by Joyce Henefield Coleman

"I sometimes feel the presence of spirits,
Perhaps ancient Native Americans who found respite here
Ate pecans, wild onions, and grapes,
Feasted on deer and wild turkey."

Coleman’s book of poetry is slim but encompasses something much larger: the experiences which shaped her. She shares intimate events which were particular to her journey and experiences affecting our nation over the last half-century. Included are pieces concerning loss, the births of children, horrors committed at Newtown, Connecticut, and The Boston Marathon, traveling, and her long marriage. These poems are a mixture of rhymed pieces and free verse. Also included are haikus and a prose poem, similar to the many prose poems with which Robert Bly is often associated. Although there is a lot of loss and sorrow represented in these poems, they are ultimately bound together by the author’s joy in the life she has been given, hope for the future and the life of her children, and her ability to embrace the life she has lived as the complex, confusing, sad, and beautiful mess that it is.

Although some of the more reflective poems get snarled in general, abstract language and lose the ability to connect, Coleman’s poems are at their best when they paint a picture of an exact place and time. “I Still Remember” recalls a childhood home and comes alive with lines like “Skipping down the hot sandy lane to the mailbox” and “Watching our great-aunt wring a chicken’s neck.” “The Tin Man” opens with “Down, down it came, / All 131 feet of tin and steel. / For eighty-four years it held the sky, / Casting shadows with the sun,” which allows the reader to picture this metal giant and feel what it means to see this landmark crumple. “Rio Medina” stands out as it grounds the reader not only in a place but the historical context of that place. “Good Night,” was perfectly placed to close the author’s story.

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