Review: Four (4) Poetry & Art by Tara Caribou (published by Raw Earth Ink, November 2020)

When has been more necessary than 2020 and early 2021 that we have needed beauty?

Stuck in sterile homes, we do the best we can. Nonetheless we stagnate a little, because we are meant to be alive, breathing, feeling creatures of the wind.

For most of us, we’ve never been indoors so much. For some, who reside in the unparalleled beauty points throughout the globe, they have been our divination to the lost world.

WordPress siren Tara Caribou author of Four (4) Poety & Art (Published by Raw Earth Ink (late 2020) has long been that paragon, that horse whisperer of beauty and the observation and offering of it.

Tara Caribou

As well as an accomplished photographer in her own right, Caribou is founder of Raw Earth Ink, an indie micro publishing house based in Alaska, publishing some of the hottest talent out there.

Consequently you would not be wrong to assume Caribou has little time to devote to her own abilities as a poetess, but there you would be wrong. With incredible self-control and discipline, Caribou has been blogging, building a reputation for her young dynamic company and writing exquisitely, all while running another business and producing some of the best poetry and art books I’ve seen in recent years.

Because I know this, I cannot be surprised at what Caribou achieves, she is a very quiet powerhouse of determining and mastery. She never does anything half-measure, she is a true old-school perfectionist and she happens to have the one thing few of us possess. Really good taste. From her logo to the choices she makes about whom to publish, and what project to embark on.

Why this matters so much, is related to the initial success of her second poetry volume. If you are going to publish something about the four seasons, life, the outdoors, you want it to be in some way, reflective of the indescribable beauty of the outdoors. At the same time you have the safe space to write your heart out and not apologize for doing so;

a hundred crumpled pages / glimpses of who I really am / for I am / alone.” (Filaments of Ink)

Using her own artwork, photography and uncanny design skills, Caribou has accomplished her goal. I’m inclined to leave it at that, but it’s really worth mentioning this is no easy feat, for the greater percentage of books I read are middling in design, occasionally very disappointing and never possess that wow factor.

Photo by Tara Caribou, Alaska.

From the moment I received my excitedly purchased copy of Four (4) I saw what Caribou had accomplished. She’s brought the outside inside for us all;

Without Pain I’d find no ultimate balance / for this my jaded soul.” (Lessons in Pain)

Four (4) is like a beautiful day and a sonorous night. The book possesses everything almost effortlessly. Her cover is thick and gleaming, the artwork sumptuous and dreamy. The colors vivid and reflective of a perfect day. This is both a classic design and modern enough to be appreciated by all and cherished for the loveliness of her wrappings.

Inside we find even more delight. Four (4) is so well thought through, again no surprise there, as I know Caribou’s prodigious work ethic, but the care and attention to every little thing really sets Four (4) apart from other small press books. I think this little wonder, is perhaps the best calling card Caribou’s company can have, because if you wanted your book to be as gorgeous as this, you’d need look no further for a publisher.

Tara Caribou is one of my most enjoyed poets. She writes a lot, she works hard at her craft, but she doesn’t hide her emotions behind theory and method, she’s very much in the real world. It is this bravery to reveal and knowledge of the value of deep observation and consideration in writing, that makes it so easy to revel in Caribou’s written work. At the same time, she is not convoluted, she is not pretentious, she is a writers writer, she writes about what we all at some time or another, consider and want to understand better;

Who am I really? / Can somebody tell me? / It’s dark in here / Smoke and screams / Is that me?” (No Escape)

If you are familiar with Caribou’s work you will also know her for her passion. Generally I run a mile from writers who ‘write out sex’ because invariably they leave me embarrassed or disgusted with their renderings. But there are those whose sheer voracity of unsated passion, lends them the quill for writing on intimacy and doing it well, usually because they know what to reveal and what not to and how. Those writers? I definitely read;

I’m trying to hide all my inside parts / the real parts / the something found beneath ribs and sinew / for it’s deep inside I hide all the truth.”

The four sections of seasons are reflected in mouthwatering chapters, with the really lovely (and original) idea of creating ‘considerations’ for each season. In Spring, we have time and light and dark, echoed through Dawn, Midday, Dusk and Night. Within that section, the poems speak of these themes. Summer possesses variations on the theme of love, Autumn speaks to the elements, Winter of the moon. I don’t want to say too much, because that’s the delight of unwrapping this gem, but you get the drift, and can appreciate alongside me, the tremendous thought gone into this collection.

I made my own / powerful lines spoken with weak knuckles / or perhaps just a weakness for love / well, weakness is weakness / but I never claimed to be strong.” (What I Meant to Say Was)

Even without her prodigious talent and drive, Caribou’s eye for beauty is unparalleled and it is this, her opus magnus, she lends us, in our darkest times. Four (4) couldn’t be more timely, it couldn’t be more relevant, and it honestly, truly, could not be a lovelier book of poetry and art. I am so impressed, it only makes me prouder of Caribou’s achievement as an artist in the world of publishing, where we all think we can never be surprised again … how wrong we are.

If you love the beauty of our world, I recommend Four (4) to you as the best of what you may currently be missing. If you are a romantic at heart and have no outlet, Four (4) is your new friend. Caribou’s willingness to plunge into the truth of what makes us human and the best things about it, are uncanny and she’s not one to shy away on paper from exposing realities we all can benefit from.

And I’m lying here / Wondering / About space and time / And where I fit.” (Space Between)

Ironically, it is Caribou with her vision, that helps US understand where we fit in this world. Her pure rendering of what possesses our core, is hard to reject. I believe she actually has known her place in this universe a very long time and that is why she is so wise and aware. But even sages should have their doubts, that’s what makes them relatable and ultimately, human;

Hold my hand / let’s move together forever / always forward / into the light.” (Echoes)

People say the quieter people are the ones we have to watch for, and they’re not wrong. While the rest of the world bleats loudly, Caribou is hard at work, producing and conceptualizing publications that will stand the test of time and give us something truly worthy to sink our teeth into. That’s no easy endeavor and she and Raw Earth Ink are among the most impressive creatives I have met.

I pluck a few motes without effort / they weigh heavily in my palm so / I relax my fingers and blow them out / little galaxies all their own.” (Far-Flung Galaxies)

Purchase Four (4) here.

Raw Earth Ink

Candice Louisa Daquin.

The creation of SMITTEN; Interview with Kindra M. Austin

Interview with Kindra M. Austin one of the two co-founders of Indie Blu(e) publishing by SMITTEN editor, Candice Daquin.

Candice: Indie Blu(e) is a young, edgy and finger to the pulse type of micro publishing gig. What went into its inception? What forces created Indie Blu(e)? What influences?

Kindra: When Christine and I first encountered one another, we recognized straight away that we share a passion for not only writing, but for helping other writers hone their creative voices. I think we first began talking about joining forces to build a publishing company in 2017. In 2018, we realized we already had the bones to build upon with the Indie Blu(e) Network, which we co-founded. The IBN began as a source for readers and writers to discover indie authors, and authors published through small presses.

Our shared vision has always been to represent the unconventional and underappreciated. Knowing what we wanted to represent was the easy part: razor edged, badass, blow a hole through societal norms types of writing. Christine and I spoke at great length regarding our mission, which is to work in a close partnership with our authors to create books that shine, and reflect the talent of the writers. Speaking for myself, I can’t imagine operating a press that didn’t focus on the aforementioned. My influences come from those who do things their own way. I don’t have the heart to do anything otherwise.

Christine and I definitely bet on our combined reputations as writers and editors when we announced the birth of Indie Blu(e) Publishing, and I know we were both happily surprised by the volume of submissions we received early on. Our submissions list continues to grow, and that is a personal success because it speaks to the trust we’ve earned in the writing community. The level of faith these writers have in us is humbling, and drives us to best ourselves with each new project.

Candice: I was fortunate enough to be asked by the founding members of Indie Blu(e) to come onboard. It struck me early on that Indie Blu(e) are unique in that you are not just a typical micro publishing house. As conceptualizers and publishers you have a very strong principle in the choices you make with publishing and it can be said you galvanize and bring together people over very powerful themes.

What do you think are the reasons you operate this way? What benefits do you believe come from linking your beliefs with your publishing acumen? How has IB shifted the micro publishing world by combining strong ideas with publishing? Did you feel a moral responsibility to do this? Did you talk about why this was important? After the Kavanaugh hearings and the #metoo movement, how did We Will Not Be Silenced come to be created?

Kindra: We make it easy for one another to use our individual platforms, sources, and Indie Blu(e) Publishing as a vehicle for advocacy because we all believe in the power of the collective voice. Personally speaking, I have always believed that as a writer, I have the power, privilege, and duty to speak for those who aren’t being heard, and who are marginalized.

I’m incredibly proud that IB has marched to the front line with We Will Not Be Silenced, and that the proceeds from WWNBS go to charities. So yes, I felt a moral responsibility. During the Kavanaugh hearings, there was a fire burning in the pit of me. When Christine suggested a collection of writings and art imparted by sexual assault and harassment survivors, I was all in without hesitation. And I think that a micro-publisher willing to speak so loudly and intimately about its beliefs shows its golden balls. In my dreams of success, Indie Blu(e) Publishing will be at the forefront of anthologies that shatter the foundations built by bureaucrats, hatred, selfishness, fear mongering, and willful ignorance.

Candice: I came onboard to work with you during the creation of We Will Not Be Silenced. In turn this influenced me to consider SMITTEN. Thanks to your idea of bringing voices together, I could see the value of an anthology of poets writing about love between women. You were open to the idea – why do you care so much about giving voices to those who are usually not heard?

Kindra: I’m too empathic not to. A lot of people don’t get upset enough over injustice and uncaring to rise up and help. I don’t understand that at all, and I don’t want to. I never want to know what it’s like to live quietly while my brothers and sisters of this world are suffering.

Candice: Since I have known you both, I have seen a powerful wave of influence coming from ideas you regularly have, where you create projects and communities and collectives and this raises the awareness and voices of authors we may not otherwise hear from. What are your influencing reason(s) for being so socially conscious? Do you think it is a prerequisite of someone in your position as publishers?

Kindra: A lot of my writing influences are authors who are/were involved in raising awareness and advocating in one way or another. Again, I see it as a privilege, and my duty to do the same. A lot of writers we are introduced to have important messages and sensitive life experiences they want to purge, and we hear the call to give them safe and secure outlets to speak their truths. If I weren’t socially conscious, I’d make for a poor publisher, I think.

Candice: Recently you have had a very successful series of poetry prompts on feminism and feminist books including many lesbian classics. Many of the authors in SMITTEN have participated and become part of your growing community of authors – thanks to your inclusive approach to authors and good ideas. Is this a necessary part of being a relevant and sensitive publisher?

Kindra: Absolutely. If IB ever lost that, I’d have to walk away. But that would never happen, so no worries.

Candice: What goals do you see going forward with Indie Blu(e) based especially on the wide influence you have already had in the writers communities?

Kindra: I’d like Indie Blu(e) to publish fiction. I’m a novelist at heart, and I’d love to work on crazy good novel. Also, we have a lot of great anthology ideas. I’d like to see IB at the front of micro-publishers who represent the best up and coming writers.

Candice: Is Indie Blu(e) a publishing house with a social conscience and if so, do you believe we should all aspire to consider this when committing to creative endeavors?

Kindra: Yes, we have a social conscience, and IB gravitated toward social issues and advocacy naturally. While I do believe we should all develop a strong social conscience and stand by our principles, I don’t think that every project needs to address feminism, sexual abuse, domestic violence, etc. IB is in a position where we can represent both gripping, entertaining fiction, and collections like WWNBS and SMITTEN.

Candice: With SMITTEN you were gracious enough to be a huge support in its creation. Why are you able to tap into the depths of a project and relate to it, even if it’s not exactly like your own lives? How did you learn to be responsive to subjects diverse to your own lives? And sensitive to the needs of minorities when dealing with neglected subjects such as rape, sexual abuse, lesbianism and inequality at large?

Kindra: I don’t know exactly why I can relate to people and experiences different from me and my own, other than to say that I’m highly empathic, and I’ve been around diversity my whole life; I’ve always had friends who were different from the majority, and I saw them struggle with misunderstanding and cruelty. I’ve also experienced a lot of direct disparagement.

I’ve been close with women who’ve been raped, my mother and sister being two of them. I grew up around domestic and sexual violence. I’ve spoken up for my cousin, and the children of some of my friends who are mistreated because of their sexual orientation. For me, it’s all about being human. To see another human being suffering in any way makes me ill, and the only level of relief for me is to use my platforms to address the issues.

I’m incredibly proud to be a part of SMITTEN. There’s no way I could have passed on the opportunity, and I thank you, Candice, for including me in this stellar project.

For information on SMITTEN please go to https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/ and if you want to purchase SMITTEN it is now available via KINDLE and hardback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1951724003/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Candice+daquin&qid=1572275732&sr=8-3 among other book sellers. If we all purchase one copy we raise this projects awareness and make it more possible for future necessary projects to exist!

For up-to-date information about who Indie Blu(e) is publishing, check out their site at www.indieblu.net or their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/indieblupublishing/\

Kindra M. Austin can be found at https://www.facebook.com/kindra.m.austin.author/