Stanleyh Kunitz
Talking With Stanley Kunitz

Review Excerpts

Talking With Stanley Kunitz, this new book by Juanita Torrence-Thompson, is lush and brilliant with the daily details that fill our lives, and make it better. These lovely poems ebb and flow from the quiet and personal to the links and human connections that are universal and lasting. There is something in every one of these poems that will remind you of our best selves, the poet at work with her language, image, endless bravado and lyricism. This is a tremendous book about transitions, transformations, new beginnings, the lives we touch and never cease to forget. I say BRAVO to the poet for her voice, her strength, her endless singing!
—Virgil Suarez – Author, 90 Miles: Selected & New (University of Pittsburgh Press)

The title poem of this thoughtful collection clearly conveys this poet’s eagerness to salvage passing moments, whether those are spent encountering famous figures who respond in unexpected ways, recalling childhood experiences, noting the delicate details of a beloved landscape, overhearing the musings of a neighborhood gossip, or turning glimpses of strangers in public places into memorable vignettes. Several among these poems also pay tribute to the struggle for civil rights; others touch upon the subtle meanings of that struggle; and one of my favorites, “Sign of the Times,” comments with dry, sober–and sobering–irony on the graffito, ubiquitous these days, proclaiming that “Life is good.”

Kudos to Juanita Torrence Thompson on her keen eye for the fleeting detail, her powers of observation, and the honesty with which she records and responds to what she observes.
—Rhina P. Espaillat – Author, Her Place in These Designs

The 66 poems in this volume take the reader on a roller coaster ride of human experience and emotion—from the anticipatory climb toward exhilarating heights of love—of both nature and fellow humans: agape, eros, phileo, and storge (family love)—to breath-taking plunges into disappointment, sorrow, and loss: tsunamis, trapped miners, the death of Martin Luther King—to a plethora of exciting, unexpected curves into reflection, irony, mystery, and triumph, and frequent quick surprising dives into humor. This book will leave you breathless and wanting to ride again.

See RATTLE review.

—Valerie Martin Bailey – Poet, Editor of 3 poetry anthologies & Poet Laureate of San Antonio Poetry Society 8 times.

Juanita Torrence-Thompson ranges wide in her newest poetry collection from the lyrical poetry of Stanley Kunitz to the blues poems of musician B.B. King. But the journey is pleasant, sensitive and done at a pace that soothes the reader while revealing a larger world of connections. The 66 poems in this four-section book display the poet’s command of both free verse and patterned sestinas, while the natural, daily observations of English Romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge are reflected in Torrence-Thompson’s poetry.

From “Meet Me by the Garden Gate at Twilight”:

I ache to hear
Your voice in the violet night
As soft breezes caress my temples
I awaken with a sigh
On a strawberry morn
When swallows sing
Their dulcet serenade
—Charles H. Johnson, Poet, Author, Teacher

Mrs. Torrence-Thompson’s seventh book of verse, Talking With Stanley Kunitz, takes the reader on a variegated journey from her Queens residence and Manhattan’s Broadway to New England, the American South, England, Malaysia and South Africa. The voyage is cast chiefly in free verse and the sestina; she uses the latter form for evocative nature poetry (“Falling in Love with Little Neck Bay”), gentle feminist musings (“A Sestina of Bridges”), exploration of African roots (“Traveling in Africa”), affirmation of “noble” Civil Rights leadership (“Traveling on the Road with Dr. Martin Luther King”), political criticism (“On the Road – a Sestina Written During G.W. Bush Administration”), social criticism of the overly meek (“Vital Signs”) and a surprise encounter involving spontaneous magnanimity (“Driving Robert De Niro”).
—Barbara Hantman – Poet, Teacher & Author of 7 poetry books

In this diverse collection, there are the Vermont poems which display another side of Torrence-Thompson’s view of the world. We have the playfulness of “Bennington Gas Station,” the unexpected discovery in “Dog Walking Man,” and the quiet, imaginative poem, “Echoes From the Mountain Top.” Here is an excerpt:


…Suddenly I fall back in time
to horse-drawn carriages
imagine my mother's tender smile,
loving voice echo my name calling
from the mountain peak
I lift my hand into the air
almost touching the amber sky

Juanita Torrence-Thompson has painted a magnificent treasury of poems people can relate to and learn from without being preachy. Talking With Stanley Kunitz will put a smile on your face or elicit a teardrop, but you will feel compelled to keep reading. As usual, Torrence-Thompson delivers.
—Dominick Arbolay – Poet, Author of The Phantom

See Patricia Carragon's review online in Gently Read Literature Pages 38-42.

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