Friday, April 28, 2023

If The Sky Won't Have Me: Poems by Anne Leigh Parrish - Review

As she did with the moon won't be dared, once again, Parrish has written a poignant and powerful collection. In my review of her previous collection, I talked about how our country had been through a lot in the past five years, and that our world, specifically in 2020/2021, experienced something that was terrifying and heartbreaking. Though the pandemic has ended, COVID is still around, but there is another dangerous virus that has been seething under the surface and has now decided to come back up and throw our country back 200 (or more) years. Hate is that virus.

The poems in this collection are varied, and touch on many, loss, nature, science, and even the very thing I mentioned above. And those are the poems among my favorites.

Above Us

I call anything above me sky
He says God is above us
& I say sure, but you can't see that
& he says, oh no, I see God
Everywhere, every day, even when I 
Look at you

It's better to focus on the sky &
Know it's sky
Leave mysticism out of it
Leave the pious men to 
Their burning stakes

Just look up & see clouds
Doing what clouds do
Drift, scud, gather
Motion & movement
Blue to gray
Changing the light
& wind

Isn't that enough to feel
In the presence of what's holy?



We don't know them before they rage
You think love identifies, or generosity, or
Even the quality of sobs & tears when grief
Holds sway


Rage reveals what's concealed by
Manners & conventions, what we call social graces

Abandoned for the machine gun & 
Confederate flag
Even though the bearers smile
They seethe with hatred
The bitterness of their disenfranchisement
The loss of what...exactly?

Free use of the N-word?
Permission to slap their wives & children?

Once men fought to lift people, not 
To oppress them

But times have changed , or perhaps not
Changed at all

Ghosts of slave owners & lynch mobs
Occupy the living

Think about it
Soon you'll feel rage, too.


Powerful, no? It's like she opened my mind and looked inside. 

Here are some stanzas from three of my other favorites...

New voices speak in terms 
His husband, her wife
Offer new mandates
Share your identifiers

As land is swallowed by rising seas 
& the patriarchy holds fast

We loosen their grip just enough
To keep breathing

from Keep Breathing


Ruination & murder everywhere
Species gone forever
Others on the edge of
Blinking out

This is the price of taking
More than we need

We will always have it, 
That urge to destroy & claim

from More Softly


You know all there is to know 
About tides & blossoms
Men & women
How children grow &
Who they become despite your prayers
Wishes, incantations

[Spare them your notion of gender roles
Never works for anyone, anyway
Except for the great white fathers
& they've been lying since the first one opened his mouth]

So, look to the heavens the scientists chart
Not the one said to run by the hand of God

from Muon


I really enjoyed this collection. So much of the subject matter hit home for me. I also must mention the beautiful artwork throughout the book by the artist, Lydia Selk. Art, for me, has a way of grounding the words. This is Parrish's second poetry collection, and as I did with the moon won't be dared, I will proudly place it on my shelf, and come back to it often. Highly recommended for poetry lovers and compassionate people in general.

Read my review of the moon won't be dared

About the book:
The poems in If The Sky Won’t Have Me weave a brilliant tapestry of the human condition, focusing on nature, the female experience, family drama, aging, politics, and regret. Images of water feature strongly, as do rebirth and regeneration, both physical and spiritual. A perfect sequel to the author’s debut collection, the moon won’t be dared, these poems expand and deepen our understanding of what it means to be alive in a complex world.

Advance Praise:
Award-winning novelist Anne Leigh Parrish doubles down on her provocative debut poetry collection the moon won’t be dared with a new book of resonant and deeply emotional poems. If The Sky Won’t Have Me echoes with themes of love gained and lost, including relationships with family and the environment, through every stage of a woman’s growth. Recurring images of nature and water link the poems, culminating with the title poem where the poet craves rebirth in water: “If the sky won’t have me, ... / I’ll stay just until clouds gather, / Rain falls again & I release myself once more.” If The Sky Won’t Have Me is filled with ringing poetic images that often read like personal parables and leave the reader wanting more. – Terry Tierney, author of The Poet’s Garage

Satisfying. Brilliant. Necessary. A beautiful and masterfully written collection of poems whose words evoke a sense of movement that beckons us back to the page and to the places we belong. – Loic Ekinga, author of How to Wake a Butterfly

About the Poet:
Anne Leigh Parrish is the author of nine previously published books: A Winter Night (Unsolicited Press 2021); What Nell Dreams, a novella & stories (Unsolicited Press, 2020); Maggie’s Ruse, a novel, (Unsolicited Press, 2017); The Amendment, a novel (Unsolicited Press, 2017); Women Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By the Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and All The Roads That Lead From Home, stories (Press 53, 2011). Visit her website.

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  1. Interesting to hear what this poet is doing in her newest collection.

  2. Thank you for this spectacular review.

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