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.

Quintessence: A Literary Magazine Edited by Tremaine Loadholt

Dear WordPressers.

If you have not yet heard, the immensely talented Tremaine Loadholt of much beloved WordPress a Cornered Gurl https://acorneredgurl.com/ and extremely successful Medium site https://medium.com/@trEisthename has Edited and Created an incredible collection of works by up-and-coming authors and poets called Quintessence: A Literary Magazine.

This beautiful collection is based upon the work Tre has tirelessly done i recent months through her championing and encouraging of younger authors. This success has garnered her much praise and appreciation in the writing world and she is truly making strides with her selfless support of new authors.

Quintessence is a literary magazine to be published yearly in the Spring. The writers you see featured in this literary magazine are contributors to A Cornered Gurl and have been faithful in their support, encouragement of others, and submitting strong and poignant work to be read freely on the platform. This is the first issue.

Quintessence can be purchased via Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Quintessence-Literary-Magazine-Featured-Writers/dp/1716132363/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2TOW5XSHEO2ZD&dchild=1&keywords=tremaine+loadholt&qid=1587574468&sprefix=tremaine+loadho%2Caps%2C190&sr=8-2 and I highly encourage you to consider purchasing a copy, because this is the ultimate publication of support for indie and upcoming authors, produced and edited by one of our own.

Congratulations to Tre for her tremendous accomplishment and all this whilst working a full time job and much more! She’s an amazing human-being and I’m so proud of her and proud to call her a friend.

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Wil Staley

I am a writer, painter, and more. I received my BA in Psychology, MA in Education, and 50 graduate credits in Counseling before coming out; as being queer was grounds for dismissal. I am now seeking my MSW, so I can help those marginalized by society and be a voice for the LGBTQ community. When I met my wife, I knew I had found myself and I’m learning to love the human I have become. Wil Staley

Do you find any stereotypes in lesbian/bi work that you would personally remove?

Absolutely! Most books for same-sex attraction focus on sex and erotica. Very little exists for same-sex love and companionship. Not only that, but I haven’t seen many books that have lesbian or bi characters who are just people; it almost always focuses on their sexuality. I think it’s important to remember we’re all just human and we are not our sexuality though that is an amazing part of us. Being a lesbian or bi is a normal part of life and I hope this anthology is able to portray that truth.

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

This is such an honor to me. I’m being published alongside those like me who want to speak their truth for others. Not only that, but I can’t believe I’m in a book with so many amazing artists! I appreciate knowing so many other writers hope to make a change in the way our community is viewed.

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

-Being a voice for anyone is incredibly important to me but being a voice for the lesbian/bi community is even more precious to me. I know what it’s like to be hated for something you can’t control and to lose many people close to you because you want to love another human who happens to be the same sex. I come from a religious community who turned their backs on me when I came out. I still had a few people who stuck around and taught me what unconditional love was really like and I am so thankful for them. I hope I can help give others a voice and let them know they’re not alone.

Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you believe anthologies like this can help you be heard?

-Writing is really the only thing that has ever helped me feel my voice is heard and has made a difference. Being in this anthology will help my voice expand. I think anthologies like these are amazing because it caters to all types of people and offers many different styles of writing for our readers so they undoubtedly will find something that speaks to them and helps them feel heard.

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

-I had three accepted pieces and the poem “Nakedness” really speaks volumes. I wrote this to show others how beautiful love can be; how healing it is to be able to give your all to someone leaving nothing uncovered; even the painful or ugly pieces of life. My wife and her love took away the shame I felt in being out and open and the pain I felt growing up in trauma. I am forever grateful for her gentleness.

SMITTEN is now LIVE and can be purchased in Kindle and Print format!

Please support this worthy and important project by purchasing a copy or more. Your support goes a long way to helping the visibility of LGBTQ authors, poets and artists. For up to date information please go to www.indieblu.net

Not even ourselves

Why and when did people stop being interested?

as kids we would sit on benches and talk about our pain

there seemed then, such a mercy in the air

it hung like cobwebbed dew around us and

despite the hardships we bore, our friends were

our succor

Why and when did people stop being interested?

and grief was labeled an annoyance?

why does growing-up mean we no longer write

poems like this

do we no longer feel the same

or just hide it away?

and if it is hidden how does it stay so

with the swell and the surge and the blistering salt

I hear rain falling into a tin can somewhere

and briefly I remember eating out of cans in summer

my lips sticky with apricot

it was a luxury then and my grandmother carefully

spooned each peachy globule out and added ice-cream

I hated the taste of ice-cream and I loved

the feeling of lying high in a big tree smelling apple leaves

in those days

when tragedy struck

we children who are called resilient

had the hope or the armor of youth

and the cherish of our friends

I saw her running toward me across the fields separating our houses

her red hair and freckled face red with exertion

we ate stale cucumber sandwiches left over from her mother’s

garden party and she held my hand in her own

clammy seedy palm

as if I were a starfish

I told her of my disappointments and the ache in my chest

all those who had forsaken and gone their own way

with the wisdom of child she wrinkled up her eyes against the sun

told me what I needed to do was pretend I didn’t care a damn

because one day you’ll grow up and nobody will be able to hurt you

I held onto that advice like a piece of paper framed in my chest

but it wasn’t true it wasn’t true

and I wonder where she is now

if she has children

if she is the same kind of mother she was as a friend

if I could see her again I would say

thank you for giving me the hope to get to this point

maybe it wasn’t true, maybe adults fool themselves into

thinking they are not children with ageing hearts and

brittle bones

maybe being an adult is harder than any childhood

because you don’t have afterwards to dream of

and the future as yet unsummoned

with all your magic and all your wistfulness

seen through the eyes of someone not old enough

to know the reality

I would tell her don’t tell your children the truth

let them dream as we did just a bit more

where I can still hear my grandmother knocking over pots

as she makes an apple pie and the smell

of summer is all about us in a haze

and your red hair makes mine look blonde

and your freckles tan your legs whilst mine remain blue

and your hand in mine is the first hand of friendship

I would thank you for running when I called

because nobody has run since and I suspect

adults have ways of doing things

us children never quite understand

I’m thinking if I could choose a side

I’d go through time and clasp your wrist and run

into the high grass fields out the back and where

nobody would find us

not even ourselves

years from now