I’m pleased to announce both the recent book review of my chapbook “Awakening” in the Daily Hampshire Gazette Book Bag section**, as well as my featured virtual reading on March 7th, sponsored by Writers Read in the Hilltowns.
** Please note, I have edited the Book Bag article to highlight review of my chapbook only. If you would like to read the original article which includes Carol Edelstein’s newest book of poetry “Past Repair”, here is the link.
By STEVE PFARRER Published: 2/2/2021 1:59:00 PM
Awakening by Stephanie Shafran (Daffodil Press)
Another Northampton poet, Stephanie Shafran, has released her first chapbook, “Awakening,” which Shafran says contains a number of poems she’s written over the past 20-plus years. On her website, she writes that publishing the work “like the journey described in ‘Awakening’ … took determination, faith and affirmation that even in the most challenging and tenuous of times, words matter.”
The poems in “Awakening” speak to surviving loss, and overcoming pain and abuse, to find renewed life and spirit. “After Since Unfinished by Richard Blanco” is a nod to that poet and his poem of that name, with five stanzas that all begin with the line “I’ve been writing this since.” What follows is the tale of a young girl recalling memories of planting flowers with her father and then trying out the typewriter he gave her on her seventh birthday: “You’ll be a writer someday, he said with confidence, / and this will get you started.”
But then the narrator recalls waiting for the headlights of her father’s car to return one night, only to discover “his white Valiant sedan complied with his demand / and pumped carbon monoxide / until his hands loosened their grip on the steering wheel / and his body surrendered.”
“Make-believe” recalls the disconnect between a young girl playing with Barbie and Ken dolls, who kiss and always get along, and the acrid words between her mother and father. In “Photograph,” the narrator wonders why her partner grimaces in a picture: “Not willing to be captured at ease? / Or is it the way I handle the camera / awkwardly, not quite / as you instructed?”
Yet Shafran’s poems also speak of healing, of finding beauty in unexpected places. The prose poem “While My Sixteen-Year-Old Daughter Visits Auschwitz” imagines the terror that once reigned at the infamous death camp, comparing it to the cancer destroying a loved one. But even at Auschwitz, the narrator writes, each new year brings a “season of rebirth and promise — the promise nature makes to yellow irises — this spring and next year.”
Nature also holds lessons for a graceful way to live life, and for accepting what one has been given. “Trees,” Shafran writes in the poem of that name, know “how to survive by bending with the wind, / stretching roots to quench thirst. // When branches break from winter’s wet snow, / trees know how to heal wounds, / make do with what remains.”
“If I could today,” the poet writes, “I would become that tree, / poised in front of this green metal chair / where I sit this early spring afternoon.”
Supporting the writing community in Western Massachusetts
Writers Read in the Hilltowns, March 2021
March 7 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Join us for Writers Read in the Hilltowns! On Sunday, March 7th from 2-4pm our featured reader is Stephanie Shafran. To attend, email Jane Roy Brown at email@example.com for a link to the meeting. You can sign up for Zoom video conferencing for free HERE.
Bio: Stephanie Shafran lives in Western MA. Her poetry and prose have appeared in anthologies such as Straw Dog’s Compass Roads and Ophelia’s Mom, edited by Nina Shandler. And in journals such as Earth’s Daughters, Whirlwind Review, Slant and Silkworm. Her poem Pears received an honorable mention in Writers’ Digest’s 2001 non-rhyming poetry competition. Last year, Stephanie’s poem After “Since Unfinished” by Richard Blanco won 3rd place in the Robert P. Collén Poetry Competition; recently she was a semi-finalist in River Styx’s Microfiction Contest. Stephanie published a chapbook entitled Awakening this spring.