And For The Mouth A Flower, A Review

AndForTheMouthAFlower Cover

And For the Mouth A Flower, by  J. Tarwood, was recently reviewed by Sonja James in The Journal. Her full writing is shown below and can also be found in its original formatting here.

A review by Sonja James

J. Tarwood’s “And For the Mouth a Flower” is the latest poetry collection by one of the nation’s most intriguing poets. In this slim volume, Tarwood writes of family, childhood, the natural world, and his travels throughout East Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. These are poems that grace us with the elegant interplay between the mundane and the exotic. The poet reaches deep within himself while simultaneously searching the globe for his material. These poems are a grand and explicit dialogue between self and world.
The opening poem, “Come,” is an open invitation to a deceased sibling: “Visit me.” The poet speaks with poignant clarity as he summons his dead brother:

You can talk if you like…
You can be quiet too,
remembering that dead end
on the Illinois shore
where Mom and Dad made you a home…
Dying young, you settled
for being me. But I’m not
forever either. We can
haunt the world together.

In “Home for the Holidays,” Tarwood criticizes his father while inventing himself: “Dad had no backbone to spare./I took mine from a squirrel.” The poem concludes with an aphoristic aside: “The wise heart is sad and slow.”
“A Drinking Man” is yet another family poem. This poem celebrates the poet’s father, who liked to drink hard spirits: “Bundled good, he drank/gifts to shut up his own,/each cold shot a threshold/to yet another.”
In “Learning to Read,” Tarwood evokes a childhood memory of the Dick and Jane primers once used in elementary schools. He thus records the magic moment of understanding when the book came alive for him: “What hocus pocus, then/triggered book to talk/till I at last/had to talk back?”
In the subsequent poem, “Balloons,” the poet pays homage to those common childhood toys. He first categorizes them, describing both carnival balloons and parade balloons. He then describes how he once tried to save a balloon: “I stashed one once/in my top drawer./I thought it was my soul./It kept shriveling up//though air was everywhere.”
Not just a poet of family and childhood, Tarwood is also an exceptional nature poet. “Kingfisher” is a nature poem of profound beauty. Here the poet describes a kingfisher: “Sunshine floats in the flow,/melting gold, when a sudden/glint of jewelry IDs the bird,/green willow, blue water, melting gold.”
In the later poems, “Bogota” and “Havana,” Tarwood celebrates these two cities he has visited. Another travel poem, “Education in Yemen,” chronicles an experience he had as a teacher in Yemen when a wild hawk flew against the window: “A hawk swoops into my classroom window.” He and the children watch the bird peck at the glass until it finally tires and flies away “soar[ing] off on a sudden thermal,/shriveling into nothing/as we head back to words.”
Perhaps the loveliest poem in the volume is the love poem, “Blue of You.” With passion, Tarwood writes: “To think of you/is like/a horizon of violins/or a jasmine discovering stoicism:/ blue lingers/a soul/a silence.”
As a whole, J. Tarwood’s “And For the Mouth a Flower” is a stunning collection of poems chronicling events triggered by memories of Tarwood’s unusual life experiences. These are passionate poems that overwhelm with their dignity and respect for life. As a fierce master of human perception, Tarwood has created a poetics of vibrant insight into the human condition.
Sonja James is the author of The White Spider in My Hand (New Academia Publishing: Scarith Books, 2015) and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).
Poets are invited to send recent books for review consideration. Contact Sonja James at

Kathi Wolfe in NYC 12/2

Bailout Theater

Please join author Kathi Wolfe on December 2nd for a reading with Bailout Theater, courtesy of Judson Arts Wednesdays. Doors open at 55 Washington Square South at 7 pm. Free community meal served and devoured at 7:15 pm. Free art offered and enjoyed at 8 pm. This month, a lineup of poets and musicians, curated by Sarah Duncan, reflect on “Wellness” through story and song. For more information please see the event site,

Book Club Series

TakiScreenshot 2015-11-07 16.21.56ng place at diverse locations between October and December, this series features four events and five books selected by a committee of Baltimore-area writers. Each book club event features a facilitated conversation with interested readers and the books’ authors. Presented in partnership with and sponsored by The Ivy Bookshop (Information on how to register for one or more Book Club Series events coming soon.The first 10 people to RSVP for each event will receive a free copy of the book! For more information, please visit this page.

On Oct. 13: Experience the Divine with Louie Crowder and Sky Bradshaw

On Oct. 13, BrickHouse Books and LitMore will host Doors to the Mysteries: Vodou and Art, an evening of readings — literary and tarot — with playwright and author Louie Crowder and tarot reader Sky Bradshaw.

Louie Crowder

Louie Crowder

The program will include a discussion of Alchemical theater and its relationship to Vodou ceremonies, Vodou as Divine Theater, and expression through forms of art as language/conversation with the spirit. Crowder will also read from his works.

A longtime resident of New Orleans, Crowder is an ordained vodou priest, as is performance artist and tarot reader Sky Bradshaw, who will discuss some of the nuts and bolts of ceremony and dialogue with the Divine.

Loiue Crowder won BrickHouse’s Stonewall Chapbook Award in 2013 with his one-act play A Better House for Ritchie.  His short play “The First Snuff Film I Ever Saw Was in Charleston, South Carolina,” premiered at the 11th annual Fresh Fruit Festival in New York City.  His first novel, In Irons, was published Spring 2014 by Gallatin and Toulouse Press (New Orleans).  His second novel, Henry Gereighty, was published this spring by Next Left Press (Ascension Parish, La.)

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m. at LitMore, 3326 Keswick Road. Admission is free, but donations to LitMore will be appreciated. Liquid refreshments will be available for purchase.