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.

SMITTEN was a Finalist in the National Indie Excellent Awards

Today I got some very good news I wanted to share with all the SMITTEN crew who made the anthology of women who love women poetry – – SMITTEN so incredible. SMITTEN was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards! For an LGBTQ anthology of poetry this is a huge achievement and I wanted to thank everyone who was involved in SMITTEN for their incredible work! Indie Blue & Christabelle Ray & Kindra Austin for publishing SMITTEN & featuring their work in it & Mitch Green for its amazing cover. Well done everyone! BE PROUD! SMITTEN AUTHORS GROUP
CONGRATULATIONS!

It is our great pleasure to inform you that you are a Finalist in the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards. Your book embodies the standards of excellence that this award was created to celebrate. We salute your talents and our jurors truly respect each of the final works that are honored this year.

The lists of Winners and Finalists are proudly showcased on our website, please visit www.indieexcellence.com and click on the 14th Annual Finalists tab to see your book cover, name, and info highlighted for the world to see (click through to your website if provided). Awards are available for both download and purchase on our website including cover stickers, certificates, and medals. The 14th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards Press Release is distributed to an array of news and media outlets and it is also on our website as a download for your use. Please share it widely–this honor should be used to promote and garner attention for your amazing product!

The entire team at the National Indie Excellence® Awards sincerely hope your participation in our contest will serve you well in your ongoing success. We thank you for your patience during this challenging year as we all deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Sending you and yours our deepest congratulations.

Warmly,

Everyone at the National Indie Excellence Awards

WELL DONE to everyone involved in this project! I am ordering stickers of our achievement, if you want one, let me know and you can put it on your copy of SMITTEN and be proud of how well SMITTEN has done. Typically LGBTQ books do not succeed like this and I always knew, with the incredible writers we had in SMITTEN we’d break that glass ceiling.

 

Thank you to everyone involved in SMITTEN: Christine Ray. (Indie Blu(e)) Kindra Austin. (Indie Blu(e)) Mitch Green. (Designer) Avital Abraham. Didi Artier. Kim D. Bailey. Sonia Beauchamp. Henri Bensussen. Sarah Bigham. Susi Bocks. Elmear Catherine Bourke. Dani Bowes. Ruth Bowley. Cassandra Bumford. Lynne Burnett. Amie Campbell. Tara Caribou. Jennifer Carr. Laura Elizabeth Casey. Olivia Chachinsky. Teresa Chappell. Clementine. Kai Coggin. Carrie Lee Connel. Susan Conway. Selene Crosier. Emily Alica DeCicco. Katherine DeGillo. Liz DeGregorio. Grace Desmarais. Rachel M. McCayhey. Sean Heather K. McGraw. Lindz McLeod. Cristina DeSouza. Hoda Abdulqadir Essa. Melissa Fadul. Kirsten Fedorowicz. Rachel Finch. Susie Fought. Renee Furlow. Nadia G. Wandeka Gayle. Milena M. Gil. Rebecca Ruth Gould. Manda Grathwohl. Maria Gray. Maranda Greenwood. Carrie Groebner. V. Hamilton. Kim Harvey. Sophia Healy. HOKIS. Kelsey Hontz. P. M. Houghton Harjo. Tia M. Hudson. Hallelujuah R. Huston. Rachael Iikins. M. Duckett Ireland. Sarah Ito. Jessica Jacobs. Paula Jellis. Carol Jewel. Kelly Girl Johnson. Emily R. Jones. Sarah Kacala. Sarah Karowski. Nick Kay. Destiny Killan. Erin King. Crystal Kinistino. A. Lawler. Jill Lee. Aviva Lilith. Tre. L. Loadholt. Katherine Love. Carolyn Martin. Jennifer Mathews. Alexandria Moore. Charity M. Muse. Skye Myers. Nayana Nair. Jack Neece. Jesica Nordarse. Michelle Paige. Alison Palmer. Marie Prichard. Georgia Park. S. A. Quinox. Talia Rizzo. Samantha Renee. Dr. Sneha Rooh. Rachel Roth. Maranda Russell. Millie Saint James. Rebecca Sanchez. SATU. T. M. Servin. Kay Shamblin. Tan Shivers. Alexandra Short. Izabell Joraas Skoogh. Jamie L. Smith. Janis Sommers. Megha Sood. Alicia Sophia. A. Staley. Wil Staley. Alison Stone. Tekla Taylor. Shraddhanvita Tiwari. Carla Toney. Piper Michelle Townsend. Charlene Trolinder. Erin Van Vuren. Sarah Vermillion. Marvlyn Vincent. Isabel J. Wallace. Angie Waters. Milly Webster. Vanessa Rowan Whitfield. Karissa R. Whitson. C. E. Wing.

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Hoda Essa

Hoda Abdulqadir Essa is a New Orleans native with roots hailing from East Africa. Hoda is a maker, writer, lover, shapeshifter and soul traveler, searching for heaven or hoping to construct it with her own bare hands.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing? 

As a poet, I’m consistently working from a place that many people call “emotional intelligence” – in other words, I am dreaming out loud when I open my mouth or put pen to paper. So, for me, being a poet comes with a subtle responsibility to always tell the truth. Poetry is not a soundbite nor is it a news-clip. To me, poetry is the rhythm that lives in each person individually. It’s important to express that and writing is a powerful medium to do so.

When you found out SMITTEN was about women who loved women, without the emphasis on erotica that is usually the case – could you immediately think of ways to express that love through writing? 

Absolutely! My friend and I talk about bringing intimacy to life and to me that is what art is. No one has ever written ballads about an intellectual conversation they’ve had but we pause to capture the gentleness of a lover’s brush against your own skin – to me writing is a way at grasping moments that we ultimately have no language for. The erotic, especially, can be more greatly understood as we wrestle with it on the page.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women? 

To me, this is a declaration of the time’s we are in. Standing together in creativity unity is the most empowered place for many women, myself included. It means to me that I have graduated into a time space reality that is being carved out by the very people writing and experiencing love for and from a woman.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on? 

To me they’re intermingled. You have to love a moment to be inspired enough to write about it. Erotic writing is being so in love with an intimate moment that you want to recreate it for others. The two are closely related as far as I am concerned.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry? 

I am smitten and often. As often as possible. And I love this word as the title for the anthology (kudos to you all) because that word encompasses how wistful it is allowing oneself to be overtaken by simply being fond of another. I’ve tried my entire life to bottle this feeling and give it to the world so yes! It is absolutely possible to summarize these feels in poetry, until we can market the sensation of course!

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

I chose this poem because I was inspired by a woman who took my breath away. She was beautiful, inspiring, deliciously sad in all the right places and talking to her moved me. We never formally met but my hope in writing “WOMAN” was to zoom in on how explosive this connection was without any physical intimacy. I am not even sure if I felt romantic ideations towards this person up until this day – I just knew that I wanted her inner-flame to be safe. I wrote this poem to honor her fire; to protect it.

SMITTEN is available by ordering it in your Barnes & Noble, purchasing it online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or asking your independent bookstore to order it via Ingram. SMITTEN is available on Kindle and in print form.

For updates on SMITTEN visit the Facebook SMITTEN page.

This is a huge project of 120 female authors – an anthology that is testimony to the power of love and connection between women. Support SMITTEN by purchasing a copy for someone who supports LGBTQ equality, women or poetry.

 

 

SMITTEN Poets Interview: Talia Rizzo

Talia Rizzo is a lesbian poet studying creative writing at the University of Denver. Her work focuses on her experiences as a queer woman, the complexities of family separation, and the power of images. Talia’s work can also be found in Levee Magazine, Foothills, and Prometheus Dreaming. When she’s not writing, Talia can be spotted among the Colorado mountains, taking in the sun with the wildflowers or skiing until her legs are sore.

1.How does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you? 

I don’t want to say my poetry would be nothing without my experiences as a lesbian, but I’m going to say it. In some way, when I read old poems from five or six years ago and when I read the collection I am working on now while living in Spain for a few short months, I see different reflections of one another. Sexuality is everywhere and for that reason, each of my poems has some type of image that can be traced back to a specific experience, thought, memory, fear of being a lesbian in the United States. When I began writing poetry, it became a catalyst for me to understanding my identity and my past relationships with women and how they have felt in relation to the men I have been with. It gave me a chance to create, to sit and think for hours over cups of coffee about the intensity, the vivid colors I felt when I was with women, even if it was just their leg grazing mine under the table. Over time, my poetry has shifted and taken on different forms, some I don’t even understand yet, but one thing has remained the same—my life as a lesbian is at the core of all my work; it is the way my world is shaped, the lens on which everything is always seen.

2. Whom are your favorite lesbian writers and why?

Alicia Mountain and Pamela Sneed. They are my two biggest icons in every way and I aspire to be half the writers they are. They have each, in their own very different rights, mastered the art of image, of storytelling. If the man drinking a beer at the table beside me reached into my backpack, all he would find is their two very different and sensational stories—Sweet Dreamsby Sneed and High Ground Coward by Mountain. Mountain’s collection of poetry has come to me in every moment of need, over and over again, and still each time I am able to get something new from it, something I didn’t see before. Sneed taught me things beyond myself and gave me the chance to reflect on and be thankful for all the privilege I have been given in my life. Their images are relentless in the best way, so specific and subjective to each individual woman, yet so universal to the community.

7. What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women? 

It is absolutely thrilling. I am so excited to see all of their work. In countless ways, all lesbians, all bisexual women, all queer people are connected through a similar experience of identity, while simultaneously having so many individual differences. Love is both an individual and collective experience, especially when it comes to being a lesbian. I remember being eighteen in a restaurant with an old girlfriend and having to move tables because of a couple older, heterosexual couples next to us talking very loudly about how disgusting they found us. All we were doing was holding hands. I remember the way it felt when the waiters carried our plates full of food across the restaurant to a new table and every head turned to watch us get up and move. I remember my girlfriend’s eyes filling with tears and the excessive apologies of the employees. In some ways that night, a love I had never experienced before presented itself, as well as an experience I know is universal. As a community, we have been spit on, degraded, beaten, and killed for our sexual preference. While simultaneously, finding other people, other women, who love us, who accept us, who become a part of us. Being featured in SMITTEN alongside so many women from all over the world is an absolute honor for me, as all these words and stories bring us together—even when we are miles and miles apart.

SMITTEN is due out any day now. Please consider supporting this project by purchasing a book when it comes on sale. Even one purchase helps support the endeavors and hard work of these 120 authors and highlights the value of LGBTQ subjects. SMITTEN will be available via all good book stores please check the Facebook SMITTEN page for up to date information.