Coming March 2019: Pre-Orders Begin November 29, 2018
In Blue Exhaust, Janet Reed confronts history and childhood in Middle America—a time of Rosemary’s Beauty Shop, a red Corvair, segregation—and displays that world with courage and affection. What makes this collection rare is its delivery of language commensurate to the importance of the stories. In a resounding and thematic moment, the speaker as child is given only the choice of using her mother’s violin, to play as the mother once had done, and observes, “I, the rib of her instrument.” Such compact, vivid images, resonate throughout this book and show readers that we are, indeed, indebted but not limited to the instruments—opinions or actions—of our predecessors. These are passionate, authentic poems, which veritably soar on the evocations of names, places, and experiences made memorable.
Robert Stewart, Author of Working Class, Stephen F. Austin UP (December 11, 2017)
Missouri of measuring women’s hemlines by yardstick to see if they are passable for church, segregation a wistful past for some residents, a place where education and summer of love are met with skepticism, and the Book of James is all that is needed by most; a place of shame and conformity. Missouri also a place of constant car exhaust — the possibilities that cars bring, nostalgia, freedom, luxury, longing, or as Reed writes “when you call a road trip to escape your past and find your face is always in the rearview mirror.” I admire how Reed is able to walk a delicate line in her poems to show how she is from, but not of. We read how she discovers at the young age of eight to be skeptical, and to be observant “You know why erasers need pencils, why words are fire.” Reed’s clarity and honesty is admirable, as these poems paint her decisive pathway to move past.
Soraya Shalforoosh, author This Version of Earth (Barrow Street Press, 2014)
In stunning detail, Janet Reed provides a poetic memoir of her dysfunctional family under the rule of an evangelical extremist mother and a “son of a town drunk famous for failure” as a father. Early on, she found herself “on a fast track to collision” living in a house where her mother favored her foster children and her father his Red Corvair over loving her. Reading became her escape, but she had to do it with a flashlight under the covers or risk over the top punishment. As a child, she found herself “in a moving darkness/[she] did not yet understand,” and her mother, “hands firm on the wheel, drove [her] deeper into the night.” By the time she’s a teen, she’s a rebel dying to get out, and when she goes off to college at last, she leaves behind “the house of sand and salt” and doesn’t look back. These are heartbreaking poems with sharply honed imagery and metaphor that touch the soul and make the reader long for more.
Maryfrances Wagner, Red Silk, winner of the Thorpe Menn Book Award, The Silence of Red Glass
Blue Exhaust is a fast car that will take you on an exhilarating ride through the past. Although some of the truths revealed along the way are painful ones, there are also so many beautiful vistas that you won’t regret the trip.
Marne Wilson, Author The Bovine Daycare Center (Finishing Line Press)