Review: The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page
Length: 96 Pages
Publisher: Finishing Line Press
The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page is a story told in verse about the lives of Jonathan and Teresa and the ranch on which they live. Using both poetry and poetic prose, the author makes the story come to life.
Page’s writing is as gritty as the sandy prairie and he does not shy away from coarse language or difficult topics. Page has created something raw and gritty that is full of local flavor. The reader can feel the heat of the pounding sun and smell the scent of the farm animals. Life on the ranch is hard and oftentimes painful; as such, Page’s writing will cause readers who would prefer to imagine an idealized version of the American West to be uncomfortable. His writing forces his readers to reckon with the harsh realities of life and how we treat the environment.
As the story progresses, the protagonist must deal with both the daily challenges of life on the ranch as well as his own internal struggles. There are no easy answers, and as such, the book leaves the reader with an unsettled feeling. It is this same discomfort that makes the book so powerful and so memorable. I found myself slowly reading and rereading Page’s words as I worked to understand their multiple layered meanings. In the end, Page takes his reader on a journey into America’s heartland as well as into our problematic past. Is there a future for Jonathan, Teresa, and their ranch? Or will the Salty River, along with the rest of the natural world, continue to bleed?
Hammer of God by Aria Ligi
Review by Stephen Page
Poetic Justice Books
There are many topics covered in this exemplary collection of poems, “Hammer of God” by Aria Ligi—damage, pain, acceptance, healing, and moving on (but not necessarily in that order). There is a back and forth, a skipping around of steps in the healing processes, as there are in any PTSD recovery process. Each section in the collection has its own internal processes order, and each section is in itself a process.
Mx. Ligi’s poems are laudable, her story-telling prophetic, her subject matter empathic and impactive. There are scenes in the book that will shock you, relate to you, or remind you that we live in an imperfect, violent world. This is a book that should be read by everyone, not only for Ligi’s assonantal singing, but to give hope to those who have lost hope.
*Find her book on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and her website: https://arialigi.com
Bio: Aria Ligi is an award-winning poet who has a great love for history and in particular the English Romantics. Her publications include, but are not limited to, The Scarlett Leaf Review, Z Publication’s New York’s Best Emerging Poets anthology, Light Journal, and the Australian Times. She has been a frequent guest on Progressive News Network’s Blog Talk Radio, and Aeon Byte. Currently, she and is the Senior Poetry Editor at October Hill Magazine.
“The Salty River Bleeds” by Stephen Page
Review by Aria Ligi
Page’s collection, Salty River Bleeds, is a two-part parable, one of the lives of Jonathon and Teresa and the other of his ranch, its inhabitants, the environ consisting of his cows, sheep, ibis and such and their struggle against the exteriors (man encroaching on them all). Yet, it is also, as he pictures so beautifully, mirrored with Old Man, who through the simple the challenge of living day to day, is a metaphor for it all. Pages’ work embodies very Campbellesque qualities of the myth told within the confines of free verse, epistles, and alternatively spiced with rhyme. Page is not only a mythmaker he is rancher poet-activist who is wise enough to question his place within the tale, that of hunter and farmer, while portraying in stark terms the cost to those around him from his livestock to the earth, air, those who would shepherd it, and those who would seek to profit from it. This is a fascinating read because it does not shy away from depicting the most hideous of things, such as the roof of a truck slicing through a man’s neck, nor does it distance itself from the beauty that is all around him. Yet, Page does not leave it there, because at the end he returns us to his quiet pondering, that of Teresa and Old Man, leaving us with the mirror image for us all and the unsaid question, are we all not walking that same road, and in that are we not all one and the same?
Publisher – Finishing Line Press
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In her little house in the woods, cozy and fire-place warmed during the first snowfall of the year, a reader is further consoled by ecoLiterature.
“The Salty River Bleeds” by Stephen Page.
by Stephen Page
I wake up late in the morning, ten o’clock,
to the shouts of children in the living
room. I feel like sleeping more, but stir and robe
myself to stumble to the kitchen to pour
my first cup of coffee. The smell is rich
as bramble, but before I can sip into
lucidity the screams of my three-year-old
grandchild and four of her friends headache me to
shower where I wash away last night’s dream.
I dress and backpack and ready to tramp
to the Wood to find the Myth, but my wife,
who is watching the kids, is called
by the capataz to come look at the cows,
so she asks me to babysit until she returns.
I never asked to be a grandfather, nor responsibly
a father, but here I am, married to a woman
I love, a widow, a mother whose daughter
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The Salty River Bleeds
Review by Carole T. Beers
5.0 out of 5 stars
Stephen Page’s poems are dynamite! The imagery, rhythm and story sing. That they tell deep stories of a land and its inhabitants is a bonus!
Stephen Page Finishing Line Press #CaroleTbeers
Read Douglas’s 5-star review of The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page
Stephan Page’s beautiful The Salty River Bleeds contains a series of portraits of rural, small town ranch people with just the right amount of surreal, dream-like strangeness to make us ask while we walk through these scenes, what’s really happening here? A good question, and I suspect one Page wants us to ask when we see the “teenage daughter/standing on the porch with her arm in a sling” (17), or when we see Old Man “walking,/always walking.” But clear and true within this collection is an eye that sees unflinchingly not just that “blackness veins its cloud/like a smoker’s x-ray,” (18) and the “dead body…not the head” (48), the rough and mundane and violent and predictable but also the beauty of “Ponies and calves leaping about/as if celebrating the survival of another day.” And that’s what we do, in “the river hued red.”
You are red-breasted, your song flute-like,
Your wings brown, your sharp eyes whitely circled.
A common day your voice makes remarkable;
So rare, you laid a single light blue egg.
As your mate vanished in northern flight,
Not perceiving reason, you cawed alarm
Plummeting before an olive-drab truck;
Callused-index-fingered riders caged you.
Escaping, you darted directly to a lawn
And plucked a burrowing worm; starving, you bore it
To your nestling, ravenous for her breath.
Your albino fledgling shudders on the edge
Of the nest, as summer winds sway the tree,
And below, a muddy river roars silently.
This poem was originally published in “The Timbre of Sand.”
Congratulations to my friend and former classmate, Stephen Page on your publication. I just received mine from Finishing Line Press!😍 — Gardner Powell