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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Elements of The Soul: A Review of the Anthology

So, there's this writer's forum I'm a member of named Accentuate Writers Forum at: Out of that forum came two anthologies titled Elements of the Soul (available at
 and Elements of Time (available at

Elements of the Soul

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed every story and poem, I feel compelled to provide a review for each:

“Jasper” by Lucinda Gunnin is the first entry in “Elements of the Soul”, an anthology of short fiction and poetry published by Twin Trinity Media.
Good whodunit. Made me glad I’m mortgaged, no landlord comes knocking on my door! 

“Cicada Song” by Randy Barefoot, the first poem in the “Elements of the Soul” anthology, sings to me like a lullaby whisper from a most leisurely moment of a child’s being. Material toys are forgotten. Time stands still to make space for a time long gone, a time so imbedded in memory that it transcends to the present and makes a mist of the future.

“The Fire” by novelist Jennifer Walker is the second short story offered in “Elements of the Soul”. “The Fire” captures the reader’s heart even as the author provides scraps of education on interacting with horses (how to calm them, how to lead them, how to love them) and why a horse without a saddle makes for a very uncomfortable ride.

“Flames of Love” by Susan Sosbe is the second poem in the “Elements of the Soul” anthology. The poet leaps at love’s promise, feeding the look, touch, scent and kiss of a vampire mistaken for soulmate. Love is consumed by a ravenous taker and miserly giver. By the time the mesmerizing one is satiated and departed, the host, though not dead, may as well be so.

“Last Caress” by Steven Thor Gunnin is the third short story presented in “Elements of the Soul. Gunnin knows how to excavate the most altruistic and most putrid instincts of people barely holding on to physical, emotional and mental survival. Mary wants to be left alone to steep in her shame and what ifs. Frank desperately struggles to hold on to his sense of purpose in life. Mike may be more of a contagion than the undead lurking outside the walls of his parasitic existence. Each of the three desires some kind of intimacy with one another, if only to feel some solace, acceptance before the end. Frank wants to touch Mary’s soul. Mike wants to stroke and penetrate Mary’s body. Mary only wants to feel like a woman again. Steven Thor Gunnin peers microscopic into his creations with the knowledge of just what frightened creatures we all are.

“Rise” by award winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis, is the third poem offered in “Elements of the Soul”. “Rise” speaks of the heat of the day, the chill of the night, of love maintaining and surmounting all discomfort, all weaknesses. Love dares to embrace the return of embryonic total dependency, melting and flowing into a single whole river of Life, ever rising above the banks, flooding and making whole all the poet’s world.

“Love and Loss” by Lindsay Maddox, the 4th short story offered in “Elements of the Soul”, spins the ghost of O’Henry into a tale that is so emotionally crippling it will haunt the reader forever. The gun Lindsay Maddox aims so sure at our hearts makes certain, no matter the number of times “Love & Loss” be read, tears will swell the eyes and drop, like from dripping faucets, down your cheeks, even while your heart cries out for mercy.

“The Voice of Violence” by Angel Sharum. is the 4th poem offered in “Elements of the Soul” and packs a cornucopia of emotions: regret, relief, sorrow, loss, resentment, acceptance and horror. Here fire not only destroys a house and the lives trapped within, but reduces to ash the home’s sordid past, liberating the survivor to pursue an existence free of family shames, but, also, devoid of the few “treasures” clung to before the inferno. For the poet, a buried past offers a reincarnated future: a fresh chance of a better life for the one who can turn, walk away and forget.

 “Healing Scars” by Jo Brielyn is the 5th short story offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”, an appropriate pause to reflect after reading witness to the internal wounds festering in the lives of those portrayed in stories and poems already read. “Healing Scars” shuns pity, patronizing, and the darker elements of revulsion and shocked stares. It is a Christmas story, after all: a time to appreciate things could be worse, even when they are.

“Autumnal Reverie” is is the 5th poem and the 2nd by award winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. Wind whips down through the forest roof, rocking the dangling multi-colored leaves and stirring the fallen that carpet the floor. In the rustling, does the poet feel and smell the breath of angels? In her place of worship, the poet walks on holy ground, inspired to reverence, allowed in Eden until the gates close.

“Troy Spencer” by George Kramer is the 6th short story offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. After a five-year failure to communicate, Troy and his sister Joan are forced to open a dialogue with one another upon the death of their mother. Troy is determined to learn why Joan hates him so much. Joan, however, tries her best avoid the discussion. The reader will be surprised when Joan’s reason for the estrangement boils to the surface, resulting in an unanticipated reversal of reader sympathy from brother to sister.

“Heat from the Road” by Felicity Tillack is the 6th poem offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. The poet’s soul has self-committed to prison Earth: a “muddy slog” where Life is a dirty “job” and locked, single file, to the chain gang of the filthy masses. The poet cannot ignore her psychic sense of being a stranger in a strange sun-baked land. The planet is Hell; all walking nowhere, their feet only digging themselves deeper onto a “dingy hole”, hope for escape only in death.

“Flood of Tears” by M. Lori Motley is the 7th short story offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. There is evil in the belly of a small town. One evil has been removed, quarantined; yet more festers beneath the faces of those who judge the innocent as well as the guilty. Human decency breaks down like a crippled old truck in a deluge of rain.

“When the Rain Comes” by Jo Brielyn is the 7th poem offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. The poet speaks of the storm within expelled; the released storm darkens the sky even as the poet’s soul becomes brighter. Thunder shakes the earth, but the poet’s soul no longer trembles. Lightening rips apart the sky, yet her soul’s ragged edges soften until returned to the smoothness of its youthful, innocent incarnation. Tears escape her eyes and are recycled, multiplied in billions, to make the rain, all whipped by the wind born of her discontent. For a moment, the poet can relish being free of the storm, revived as the rain whips against her face on its journey back to the deepest depths of her soul.

“Purgatory” by Steven Thor Gunnin is the 8th short story offering in “Elements of the Soul”. Once again, Gunnin (author of “Last Caress”, the 4th of the stories offered in the anthology) sets a small stage (this time The Body Shop Saloon), where four huddled characters are gathered around a table. Gunnin opens the tale like a campfire story, with a circle of drinks substituting for flames and long draws on cigarettes for the glow on faces. The storyteller is an orderly in a morgue—and, man, does he have a story to tell his nervous audience—reserving his vengeful plans for them all to the very end.

“Summer Heat” is the 2nd short story by M. Lori Motley and the 9th offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. In her previous “Flood of Tears”, Motley tried to balance the worst instincts of her characters with a few decent souls. “Summer Heat”, however, is devoid of any characters the reader can find sympathy for. Thieves, bullies, animal abusers and unsolved murders are the ingredients for a this hot Motley soup, best enjoyed with crackers in bed.

“Love Burns” by Lucinda Gunnin, the author of the first offering (“Jasper”) in the anthology “Elements of the Soul” begins the anthology’s 10th short story with all the joy and innocent dating opportunities of a teenager oblivious to the possibility of recklessly gambling away her young life. No doubt, some married readers of “Love Burns” will find the tale touches their own lives too intimately. Not-yet-married readers may find a warning that echoes with a sense of unease about their current lovers. Sometimes the cover of a romance truthfully speaks of the wonders inside. Sometimes it lies.

“Guilty Pleasure” by Angel Sharum is the eighth poem offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul” The poem is short, but blunt to the unmistakable point that the ecstasy of elicit love under the moon is worth all the risks faced in the mundane light of day.

“The Darkest Night” by Susan Sosbe (author of the poem “Flames of Love”) exposes a mystic secret in the 11th short story offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. Sosbe’s elderly narrator, Alyse, is dying, though, she knows, neither for the first time nor for the last. She only mourns the loss, years before, when a much younger Alyse defied, out of a driving hunger for vengeance, a firm rule of the cosmos: The harm done to others, no matter how justified, will rebound ten-fold on the one whom inflicts that harm. Young Alyse called upon evil to destroy its own henchmen; yet knowing, by so conjuring, she was jeopardizing the lives of her deeply loved and loving husband and their children. In “The Darkest Night” the price of vengeance kills more than the avenger ever intended.

“Earthbound” is the 3rd poem by award winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis and the 9th poem offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. Reborn in the merging of her soul with her lover in “Rise” and made holy in the Eden of “Autumn Reverie”, the poet, now, pleads for transcendence, rescue, in “Earthbound”. All to be desired has deserted her. Poor and defeated, she has come to feel the pain and the entrapment of gravity’s invisible chains, pulling her onto her knees, compelling her to pray to “the ones” who exiled her here, “Please, take me back.”

“The Assignment” is the second short story by “The Fire” author Jennifer Walker and the 12th offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. Forced by her mother, under threat of tuition cut-off, to complete a 1500 word essay, to not fail college English again, the narrator complains, “Why can’t she understand I’m a free spirit and I have to go where my muse takes me?” “A free spirit should not be confined by anything as mundane as homework. A free spirit should not be confined by grammar rules and quadratic equations. It’s my participle. Sometimes it dangles.”
“The Assignment” brings out the reader’s affection for the hapless narrator. The reader will laugh. The reader will be gleeful for each and every word the narrator carves out to slowly whittle down 1500 words to 1455. The reader will remember this story as the one to revisit whenever a smile is needed.

“Kleio” is the sole short story by award winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis and the 13th offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”. The story is about found treasure disguised as an earth-crusted piece of junk. Surely most who read this story have experienced “the find”: from find-a-penny-pick-it-up-all-day-long-you’ll-have-good-luck, to a lost ring in a sofa, to something forgotten in the attic. Marney finds her treasures at a favorite flea market. Pushing a baby’s buggy that holds her finds, Marney discovers, under a junky assortment in a box, Marney discovers a mysterious dried muddy baby rattle. Rescued by Marney for a dime, she nurses away the rattle’s layers of gunk and takes the readers on a treasure hunt centuries back in time.

“Fly” by Rissa Watkins is the 14th and the last short story offered in the anthology “Elements of the Soul”.  Watkins opens “Fly” with a past event, and then fast-forwards the years to complete a circle. The past and the present becomes a singular moment in time, paused only briefly in a kind of game of musical wheelchairs. It is always sad to confront the decline of a once lively mother or father, when roles reverse and the child becomes the parent and the parent the child. Watkins, however, spins the adversity of the situation into an uplifting conclusion that both teaches and gives hope.

“Mahingun” by award winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis is her 4th poem and the last in the Anthology book "Elements of the Soul"  “Mahingun” earned first place in the 2010 annual Preditors and Editors readers poll.
Does the poet confess in her poetry to spying through the eyes of a forest creature on her fisherman? Illuminated by the moon’s own reflection in the frigid water, he stands, knee-deep. Only a visitor to the wild, the fisherman belongs to the poet and will soon gather up his gear and return home to her. Until then, does the poet stand guard over her manly man inside the mind of a bear?

And so, the reader closes the cover of “Elements of the Soul”, somewhat sad that the adventures in reading are over. What a wonderful collection of stories and poems. The reader hated to be left behind by the writers, but their book will rest in a place of honor with the classics, sheltered behind the glass door of a bookcase bordering the fireplace. The cherished memories will be revisited from time to time, until the reader finds in his mail Trinity Media’s second anthology “Elements of Time”. The reader looks forward to the second “elements” volume, the reunion with now familiar authors (Maddox, Steven Thor & Lucinda Gunnin, Brielyn) and making acquaintance with the new (Nancy Smith Gibson, Linda St. Cyr, Opher Ganel, Cathy Graham and Andi Caldwell). Waiting is always the hardest part of living.         

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