Book Review: Kind Chemist Wife: Musings at 3 a.m., by Sarah Bigham / Reviewed by Candice Daquin — April 29, 2020

Book Review: Kind Chemist Wife: Musings at 3 a.m., by Sarah Bigham / Reviewed by Candice Daquin

Kind Chemist Wife: Musings at 3 a.m.,  by Sarah Bigham

Review by Candice Louisa Daquin

This is a book about many things. In essence this is a book someone who has chronic pain or any chronic condition will find a great deal in. Any woman also. Any lesbian. Virtually any human being if they are willing. It’s a universal book about a life. Sarah Bigham asks in her introduction; What is truth? Truth may be malleable but she’s most certainly able to access it within Kind Chemist Wife; Musings at 3am. The first time I read this title it was in Bigham’s biography and I thought it was such a gentle term of affection for her wife, which has gone on to seed her creation.

Bigham is covering a long time period, from hometown, student, campus, professor and her exploits otherwise. This all needs to go together to fully tell her story. This isn’t just poetry, the majority is prose or prosetry, and as such you need to do more than flick through to find your favorite poem, it doesn’t work like that.

Bigham is clearly a highly intelligent writer. You might think aren’t all writers? No. By intelligent I mean she brings things up we know, but in such a way it causes us to think more on the subject at a deeper level. This works really well with poetry of course but she’s also able to employ it with the unpeeling layers of her prose. “There is silence behind those doors now. Joy must be easier to embrace than pain. And so it will always be.” The seemingly simplicity of her observations are anything but.

If we tell our stories, the secret question is always, why would anyone want to hear? If we are ‘famous’ then it’s expected a certain portion of people may, but what if we are just us? What makes a life story of a stranger interesting? I would say the obvious answer is relatability but equally it can be the candor and courage of the storyteller. In Bigham’s case, she has a clever way of landing a point with something we can all envision, as with the story of her birth, ending with ‘I can almost hear the drill.’ It is both macabre, and highly human.

Funnily enough reading Bigham’s life you would imagine her older than the ‘middle aged woman’ she describes, as if her memories are older than the 48 years, she’s inhabited this earth. This speaks of chronic pain more than anything, even when relatively still youthful, people who experience chronic pain may experience time differently and feel at 48, much older than their years at least physically. I could feel this in the aged quality of her memories, not a bad thing but a part of who she is as someone who is never free of physical pain.

This leads to Bigham asking questions of certainty; What is true? What is certain? Can I ever be as certain as someone else? For a highly intelligent woman, it is hard often to place certainty in position of immutable and not feel it will shift. Bigham’s memories are very kaleidoscopic, they have less order than poignancy and as such, this is a disordered foray into a person’s 48 years of living and of their memories of their ancestors, which makes it a larger story than just one person, covering a multitude of topics, but always able to boil down to what really matters.

Coming from highly educated parents, less common in 1972, Bigham has excellent recollection of memories most of us would have long forgotten and as such, is able to illustrate with great alacrity, the landscape and vividity of her childhood especially. As she says; “I have always been quirky and find that I am often dealing with people who blink at me. My wife tells me this is because people are still processing what I have said. I am sure I am exasperating.”  Her frankness is endearing despite her insistence we might find her annoying, I suspect we’d find her a relief from the faux world beyond.

If you are expecting a linear, well compiled and ordered series of memories that lead to a definite conclusion, Kind Chemist Wife: Musings at 3am will utterly disappoint. This is far more in the realm of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept”, written by Elizabeth Smart the journalist, inspired by her romance with the poet George Barker. Why? Because the interject of Bigham’s wife’s thoughts about how others will see her, the going back and forth without specific order of thought, it’s more a phantasmagoric method of imparting than sequential, it’s a highly female and somewhat old-fashioned brute honesty approach in the vein of those thoughtful writers of old before technology gave us editor. Whilst some may be dismayed at this, I have found, these types of books are the most beloved, for their diary like bluntness and how we can climb over the social norms at get to the marrow of what is being imparted.

Clearly Bigham relishes intellect and it is both her haven and her confidence, as well as what she is attracted to and proud of in herself and others. But I am glad kindness also becomes a part of this story, for without it, we may only be reading about precocious childhoods and odd-girls-out and not get more from the story. Most of us would have let go of the pains of childhood and not even recall them, but there is a nostalgic value to recalling those slights and what made us, us, if you are able to, because you get a better sense of why you are who you are. Bigham’s prodigious memory is uncannily able to color in the myriad detail of her youngest years. You can tell Bigham loves to write, and is able to write on near any subject, she is also not always aware of when she may over-explain or over-tell a story, which we are all guilty of at times, but in this, it’s like having a conversation with your best friend.

Additionally, the story has little structure so at times it can be hard to hold onto those memories with the same cherish the author invariably does. But understanding how people become role models, or indeed, stop being them, elucidates childhood at its most focused and that in of itself holds value. As Bigham says; “Spending time in other homes taught me a lot about people in general.” This is one other way she’s able to elucidate on subjects with such honed skill. She has always been as much an observer as able to relate her observations. “I never felt I really belonged to anything” may sum this up best. For what does someone who feels on the periphery do? But pay attention to what everyone else is doing and how it makes them feel?

There is definitely a sad quality to this memoir as well as a lonely one, perhaps evoked best by descriptors such as; “social cannibalism of high school.” For those who struggle to fit in, who feel they know more than others and this is unappreciated, or who simply love to find out how others think and feel, this coterie of stories by Sarah Bigham will appeal and read much like a collection of letters from a favorite relative. Even if it’s not our own family we can learn and appreciate from the recollections of others. Furthermore, there is a universal message about children with disadvantage (her chronic pain) and how despite that, we can flourish and nay, excel.

I would be dishonest if I did not say, I am deeply drawn to the poetry in this collection for the simple reason that poetry is always original and it is harder for prose to be quite as enticing, or as thrilling, much like comparing a song with dancing without music. But that’s my bias. Sarah Bigham’s ability as a poet is extremely high, and she employs beautiful words to add to her recollections such as in the poem Inheritance where the word ‘gloaming’ a relatively unused, classical poetry word, is absolutely perfectly situated.

Her smarts are wholly evident (“Words have always been my utopian refuge”) in poetry where you cannot afford to run on and must be clever and concise. Lines like; “With a passion you had held in your diaphragm.” You cannot help but be spell bound by this clever woman’s tongue. Each little detail such as ‘freckled hipbones’ really raises the hairs on your arms, because it’s like she’s right there, seeing into you and everyone else. That at times horrifying but certainly uncanny ability as a poet really shines in this collection.

“I am forgotten — / in a mint green examination room / with yellowing stains in the / pitted corners of the vinyl flooring, / overhead lights / winking at the joke.”

I was also struck by Bigham’s comments on today’s writing marketplace and her universal question; “How many submissions, for and by women, may be rejected because there is nobody reading these submissions with an eye toward women’s experiences in the world?” This is a necessary, wider question beyond the scope of the book, which hints at the lethargy for truth from women by women in our publishing industry at large. I felt very proud of Sarah Bigham for having the courage to speak this truth, and I hope as more women do, what is considered publishable, and valuable, will shift to greater inclusion of fringe voices, which incredibly, still contain women despite our 51 percent of the population.

It horrifies me that a woman of Sarah Bigham’s awareness, or for that matter, any woman, irrespective, should be mistreated by our medical system so appallingly. However, having experienced the same biases and taints myself, I can attest to Bigham’s sorrowful recollections of discrimination and labeling by doctors. For anyone who has gone through ‘the system’ or any system that has a patriarchal bent, this book will resonate with you.

Pain Warriors are all very well but that’s if we make it. Bigham’s honest recounting show the fragility of this and how so many probably do not. It is both heartbreaking AND necessary to be aware of what women like Bigham experience and how our system fails them and despite this, they carry on. If that were the only value to this book it would be enough. Of course, it is but one of many. As Bigham says; “Stigmas be dammed.”

There Is No Manual for This, The Ologies and The Purse, are my favorite prose stories in the collection, for their embodiment of survival, humor set against suffering, unsaid love, and its quietude of daily life and the very great pains and joys that accompany them. There is such a pure, fierce courage in those words, it makes me want to know Sarah Bigham and her Kind Chemist Wife and hear all her musings at 3am. “The spots on my mother’s hands (the ones she says make her look old) that are part of the gentle hands that have hugged me for years and intertwine with mine when we walk together these days.”

Bigham reminds us of what matters, and also of what does not, in a flawlessly frank and at times extremely emotive book that is brimming with quiet immemorable value.

You can purchase Kind Chemist Wife: Musings at 3 a.m. direct via Amazon and through other independent bookstores.

For updates on Sarah go to her Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/Sarah-Bigham-101883001439012/

Sarah’s website is: http://www.sgbigham.com

If you are a fan of GoodReads consider leaving Sarah a review: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52191096-kind-chemist-wife

Sarah’s work can also be found in SMITTEN published by Indie Blu(e) as one of the talented poets part of this incredible female-only anthology about love and relationships.

 

 

Do You Write Reviews Book Reviews? Indie Blu(e) and the Go Dog Go Cafe want them! — April 15, 2019

Do You Write Reviews Book Reviews? Indie Blu(e) and the Go Dog Go Cafe want them!

We all know that Amazon has become persnickety about publishing book reviews and that they have been blocking many folks from leaving reviews as well as removing many of the book reviews that you have taken the time and consideration to write.

Indie Blu(e)and Go Dog Go Café would LOVE to publish your book reviews! They may not have the same reach as publishing on Amazon or Goodreads would, but publishing your review on IB and/or GDG will introduce both your writing and some great books to a new and appreciative audience.

If you have written a review that you would like to have considered for publication, please email Indie Blu(e) at indieblucollective@gmail.com with the following:

• the review itself in a Word Document (preferred) or in the body of the email (fine)
• an image of the book (your reader images of the book are always popular)
• your name EXACTLY as you would like it to appear with the review
• a brief biography and/or links where readers can read more of your writing.

IB and GDG are happy to publish reviews that are already published on Amazon and/or Goodreads to increase their reach.

We will let you know if your review will be published and send you the links for sharing

Five More Days to Submit to But you don’t LOOK sick: Battles we fight with invisible illness – an Anthology — April 14, 2019

Five More Days to Submit to But you don’t LOOK sick: Battles we fight with invisible illness – an Anthology

Indie Blu(e) Publishing is still accepting submissions for an anthology about the lived experience of chronic, invisible physical illness. If you have been diagnosed with such an illness (for example: lupus, MS, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, migraine headache, etc.) or are a caretaker for someone who has, share your truth with us. We believe that creative expression can enlighten, connect, support, and heal.

Writers and artists can submit up to three pieces of creative work (poetry, prose, essay, and/or original Artwork.)  Pieces of writing should be limited in length (under 1,000 words.)

Using a pen name or publishing anonymously is acceptable.  You will be asked to provide a brief biography (75 words or less) to be included in the anthology.

You will be notified if your work is accepted. Please do not consider non- acceptance as any diminishment of your experience, but as with any publishing venture, we must try to fit the individual pieces together into a strong whole.

Submission of previously published pieces is acceptable if you still own the rights to your work.

Artwork can be submitted in black and white OR color, but all artwork should be black and white compatible.

All submissions should be uploaded to our Submittable page by midnight, Friday, April 19, 2019.

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews The Lithium Chronicles — April 6, 2019

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews The Lithium Chronicles

The thing about Nicole Lyons is …. There are too many things about Nicole Lyons and nothing about her is sufficient to encompass all that she is and will be.

She’s more than words. But she is without doubt the fiery mistress of words. She knows the power within words. She knows the spells behind words. She can inhabit a word and possess it and then give it back to you, with her own unique signature upon it.

How she has that mastery I don’t know, but single-handedly she’s responsible for new genres that she alone OWNS.

So, when her publishers send me an advance copy of The Lithium Chronicles Vol. 1., to review, I get a little light-headed and vacillate between two tactics; Going completely fan-girl overboard and trying to stay professional. I think I’ll go completely fan-girl overboard.

The cover alone has a claim to magnificence. And it’s no wonder, what other modern poets work deserves a gorgeous cover like that?

When Lyons began her blog, The Lithium Chronicles, I doubt even she knew how enormous her online and offline presence as a writer, thinker, philosopher and voice of her generation would become.

For those who know her, maybe her massive success comes as less of a surprise, because they already had insight into why she’s the magnetic compelling creature that she is.

The title gives us a little hint. It’s often said those who are bipolar have that irresistible mercury that we’re all attracted to. When they’re good they’re off the freakin chart.

Sometimes however, it’s worth imagining how hard it must be to be Nicole Lyons? What a price you pay for that degree of creative altitude?

Consider how all those mercury souls who write, have to navigate, survive and endure the intense highs that may bring madness or brilliance, whilst the lows confer almost un-survivable darkness. Maybe that’s why so many true artists do have some kind of mood-disorder, where they are at the mercy of something within them that can produce such excellence. It’s like skating on a knifes edge and avoiding being stabbed by it your entire life.

I could quote Nicole Lyons for hours, and in fact I have quoted her more than any other writer I believe on my own blog. Equally, you could google how many throughout her writing career thus far, have done just that and remain hypnotized to the succinct and desperately clever way she riddles her wordage. However, rather than quoting her this time, I ask you to just go out and buy her and grow her voice even more, although I know she’ll do it without you because that’s who she is, she’s a scrapper. She’s a survivor and she’s a bad ass and she’s also got a golden heart and a fierce mouth that I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of, but one I intensely, eternally respect.

If you spend any time on social media, you’ll see Nicole Lyons work everywhere there is poetry, in fact you’ll see people outright plagiarizing it, she’s one of the most often copied artists and regularly has people pretending her work is theirs. I suppose imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I also know it’s sickening, cheap and terribly hard on the author.

Personally, I get really tired of reading endless memes online, especially those life affirming quotes. I’ve just had too much of it now. I find a lot of things about social media irritating and insincere. But somehow and despite this, I find myself sharing Nicole Lyons work again and again as if she’s every kind of exception to every kind of rule.

It’s probably because, Nicole Lyons just isn’t and will never be a passing phase, a momentary epiphany or a transient hot writer. She’s here to stay the long haul, and if you label her as simply an author of memes and short, clever phraseology, you’ve missed her depths and she has a velvet goldmine of them. Some of her most profound and moving work is in her longer writings which you may not be as familiar with as they are not shared as often but you will find them in this volume. It may surprise you how versed she is at any length poem, and how moving and intense her longer pieces can be.

Yes. That’s it. Nicole Lyons is an exception to every rule. She’s the author you will become addicted to, even as you vowed never to become addicted to any writer. She’s the straight girl you will crush on whether you’re straight or gay, because of her honesty, and the sheer erotic will of her soul. She’s the poet you’ll most often quote, probably imperfectly, and you’ll finally accept that she’s cast a long spell on you the way all fantastic and immortal writers do and you can’t put that feeling into words.

I won’t quote Nicole Lyons because you probably already know how good she is. The only thing left to say is, if you ever read poetry and feel something, you’ll want to own every last thing Lyons has written and this is absolutely no exception. If we ever needed a poet laureate of brave, broken, real people who survive the darkness, Nicole Lyons would get my vote, as she is my queen of hearts. She’s a heart breaker, a heart mender, a best friend, a warrior, a solace, a rage against the dying light and a new element in the natural world that they haven’t yet named. Hell, I’m fairly sure she makes the sun shine and thunder roar. Such is her own, wild, untamed and brilliant voice.

The Lithium Chronicles is available through Amazon.

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Candice Louisa Daquin’s own life, traveling from her native France, via England, Canada and finally the US, has brought a myriad of experiences that others have often been able to tap into via her writing. A collection of lives really, and with this, she tries to weave greater meaning through poetry and touch those who experience similar questions, doubts, and hopes. Surely this is what writing attempts in its very human form?

Daquin’s themes include feminism in its complex, everyday form, and the experience of being a woman, a gay woman, a bi-racial woman, a bi-cultural woman and finally, a Jewish woman of Egyptian extraction (Mizrahi) and how this sits with the world’s current revolt between the dominant faiths.

You can read more of her writing at The Feathered Sleep.

On “The Myths of Girlhood” a poetry collection by Christine E. Ray Reviewed by Rachael Z. Ikins — January 22, 2019

On “The Myths of Girlhood” a poetry collection by Christine E. Ray Reviewed by Rachael Z. Ikins

With an intense almost Gothic darkness, reminiscent of the novels of Ann Rice, “Myths of Girlhood” entices us into its pages. Christine Ray references familiar fairytales, song lyrics and expressions from childhood as she leads us from a place of mental illness, through the pain of the growing-up years into self-discovery. We deal with the past by putting it down again and again.

Through her use of strong, stark imagery we look in the mirror with the poet and face ourselves and all the monsters who maimed, the demons we’ve survived, and the dragon who longs to burst out of her self-actualized breast to embrace her freedom.

Ray’s elegant poetry tells us 3D stories of a real woman’s life. We root for our hero as she tears off layers. Grows into herself. Names herself; poet, boss, lover, mother, SURVIVOR and with a small, two-word line as loud as a thunder-clap, “my own.”

Rachael Ikins, author of the award-winning poetry collection “Just Two Girls,” (claresongbirdspub.com) and of poems in the anthology “We Will Not Be Silenced” (Indie Blu(e) Publishing)

The Myths of Girlhood will be released January 2019 by Indie Blu(e) Publishing