Beyond Repair by J.C. Todd


J.C. Todd, Beyond Repair [Able Muse, 2021] – Review by Courtney Bambrick

J.C. Todd’s Beyond Repair presents a solemn, resigned perspective of war and its inevitable, irrevocable toll on civilians, combatants, and their communities. The collection opens with “In Whom the Dying Does Not End,” in which a parent recalls the development of her child’s body inside of her. This intense awareness of the work of creating a body – the prolonged and exact process of gestation – follows through the book as a counter-perspective to the awareness of the body’s vulnerability to violence and how witnessing such violence can affect the brain. The poet in “In Whom…” contextualizes her daughter’s gestation within her own awareness of an insurgency in Hama, Syria. Throughout this collection, that balance between human creation and destruction reinforces the shared humanity of us and them in any conflict, across any border, but maintains that geography, history, power, and imperialism have made some bodies more vulnerable than others.

As it establishes expectations about pregnancy and motherhood, “In Whom the Dying Does Not End” offers a lens to see the effects of war on parents, children, and the bond between parents and children. Other poems such as “Cover Shot” (13) and “Night Ride, ar Raqqah” (17), pick up the theme of caring for children or carrying a pregnancy through tragedy. These poems seem to attempt to balance threat and promise. By referring to the space inhabited by her daughter as the “province of my body” (4), this foundational idea of pregnancy and development becomes complicated with the idea of nations and political powers within them. The speaker of “In Whom…” is “consumed by what I feed,” reflecting the parasitic nature of imperialism. The poem’s depiction of violence in Hama is countered by the daughter’s development: “a riot of cells / firing between [hips]” (3). Different “provinces” support or suppress different revolutions. The poem “Flashback to the Morning After” makes this parasitism even more explicit in depicting the flies in the wounds of a child: “…his decay / is the incubator / and holy food for clusters / of eggs” (44). Such a “contagion” is “alien / and intimate / as a just-conceived child.”

“My Parents’ Altruism” also repeats themes of “In Whom the Dying Does Not End” such as gestation and development of life set against a backdrop of war. The poem suggests an animal urge toward growth and survival and future. The repeated emphasis on the scientific and medical language serves to de-personalize the images and allows the poems to speak to universal human experiences. Todd writes, “Eight months before birth, / all the eggs I will bear into life / appear in me as seed” (51): not only is there birth emerging out of war, “the seedbed” where the speaker has “taken root,” but the potential for the next generations.

The landscape is another vulnerable body threatened by human violence. The former fecundity and abundance of “Peshawar  Lahore  Kashmir  Shalimar” are mourned in the poem, “The Silk Road and the Scythe.” Here, an orchard, provides an image of historical opulence and plenty “epic and sugary before it fell” by the work of “that ascetic—the scythe” (9); such destruction of orchards and farmland leads to the starvation of human bodies. Similarly, in the section “Earth” from the sequence “The Damages of Morning,” the planet itself says of its unruly inhabitants, “They cavort and die. I persist, / My motion not a quest for power / Or longevity” (75). The host can withstand cycles of destruction and regeneration to a degree we squabbling leeches, fleas, and flies cannot.

The title Beyond Repair comes from the military slang term FUBAR, an acronym meaning “fucked up beyond all repair.” Here, “FUBAR’d” is a sonnet sequence near the middle of the collection about an Air Force doctor who is coping with immense and relentless loss: of patients, community, resources, and of elements of herself. The sequence brilliantly uses the sonnet form to contain ideas and emotions that are too gruesome or too dangerous to share unfettered. The connections among the linking first and last lines of the sequence stitch together like sutures, holding together this doctor’s world, but just barely: “…In dreams, their skin gapes open / to wound her pain that has no analgesic” (31) shifts into “Too wound up and there’s no analgesic / strong enough to bring her down but uproar” (32). I think of the splint, tourniquet or the hasty stitches closing a wound enough to protect the patient for just a little longer. The subject of these poems considers how changed she is, how unrecognizable to those with whom she shares a life: “Best prepare him to live with her half-gone, / fucked up by damage beyond her control” (34).

Partway through the book, Todd’s geography becomes more familiar to American readers: in “Imagining Peace, August: 1945,” we see the speaker’s father and uncles “laze in Adirondack chairs” while drinking beer and singing “Mairzy Doats.” The poem presents a family’s exhalation after the end of war, and the ways that confrontations persist in peace: “We’re picking fights. Clam up / or else, the first idle threat of peacetime” (54). Poems in this section relate to the poet’s childhood and growing up and how life is shaped by WWII, Korea, Vietnam. Even in American backyards, insulated against so much of the terror experienced elsewhere, we feel reverberations. For many U.S. citizens living today, there are few periods of time untouched by American militarism; very few of us know no veterans or refugees of these and other wars. In “Reading the Dark in the Dark” (58) and “Reading with Students about Death Camps” (69), Todd illustrates the ways these stories of war are shared through writing and reading as well as through more personal and immediate connections.

War, militarism, and imperialism affect all of us – the relative immediacy of that danger may vary whether we are living in a region under siege, working in such a region, or growing up with someone who has witnessed such horror. Todd’s emphasis on the body allows us to consider all bodies regardless of political or ethnic identity. Removed from borders and beliefs, the physical body that demanded the sacrifice of parents’ strength, time, and safety is a body familiar to most of us. The human connection shared among parents and children across languages, regions, and cultures is matched by our shared vulnerability to violence. Todd knows that it is often easy to look away, but Beyond Repair presents layers upon layers of damage – a reader will almost certainly recognize a familiar reflection in at least one of these stories. Maybe the title is more a question than a declaration. How much suffering and how much cruelty will push us “beyond all repair/recognition/reason/redemption” (Notes 91).


These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things by Shannon Frost Greenstein


Shannon Frost Greenstein is the author of “These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things,” a full-length collection of poetry from Really Serious Literature, and “Pray for Us Sinners,” a short story collection by Alien Buddha Press.Shannon’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in McSweeneys Internet Tendency, Pithead Chapel, Bending Genres, Philadelphia Stories, X-Ray Lit Mag, Reckon Review, Arkana Mag, New Mexico Review, Epoch Press, Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Cabinet of Heed, Door Is a Jar, STORGY Lit Mag, Lunate Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Scary Mommy, Crab Fat Magazine, Bone & Ink Lit Zine, Ghost City Review, trampset, Crepe and Penn, Spelk Fiction, Rhythm & Bones Lit Mag, Blunt Moms, the Philadelphia City Paper, WHYY, The Manifest-Station, Royal Rose Magazine, and elsewhere.She harbors an unhealthy interest in Hamilton, Nietzsche, Mount Everest, ballet, and the Summer Olympics. Shannon aims to write The Next Great American Novel while simultaneously acquiring more cats.


Review of Shannon Frost Greenstein, These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things

by Sarah Van Clef

When I read the collection of poems “These are a Few of My Least Favorite Things” by Shannon Frost-Greenstein, the first word that came to mind was balance. How does one balance the wickedness of the world, the unfortunate changes and shifts we see in our cultural society, mental illness, drug addictions and illnesses, and  the beauties of the world and culture like friendship, companionship, and family? In this collection of poems, Frost-Greenstein walks on the tightrope of such balances. She provides readers with a dialectical lens of the analysis of what suffering and life and celebration and horror actually mean to her. She culminates in the love of her world around her amidst the destruction that is going on in and outside of her mind.

From the beginning of the collection, in her poem “Down To The Filter”, Frost-Greenstein owns the fact that she “backslid today”(Pg. 8) amidst her many roles of being a mother, a writer, and a basic functioning member of society. Like so many of us do when trying to tackle any kind of demons we may be facing, “Down To The Filter” provides such agency that we are all allowed to “smoke that bitch down to the filter” (pg.9) when we need to, that as human beings, we are allowed to slide back into old habits and routines that sometimes aren’t the healthiest for us mentally. By the end of this poem, Frost-Greenstein boils it down to one thing: She is human, and humans are not always perfect, and neither are the demons that lurk in this collection.

In this collection, Frost-Greenstein not only tackles hard subjects like drug addiction and family trauma, she also widens the dialectical lens and looks at her city of Philadelphia, and the violence and destruction that was once her home. With an apocalyptic tone, Frost-Greenstein describes the violent segregation in her society  in her powerful poems “The White Pieces Go First”, and “Billy Nair’s On The Moon”. For the speaker in these poems, she must ask herself a larger question: What does home mean amongst the chaos? For Frost-Greenstein, she finds the answer in her children, her trauma, and her voice.

These poems are a call to warning, a loud, scream and cry for help. Not only does Frost-Greenstein understand that these poems need to be written for the mothers, fathers, friends, and neighbors that have felt similar loss and grieving, but also the future generations of leaders and artists that can change the narrative in how we look at mental illness, drug addiction, and familial trauma. Poems don’t always have to be pretty, and in this collection they weren’t in the slightest, but as much as it was difficult to read contextually, it surmounted in its beauty between the lines. Powerful in their own right, “These Are A Few Of My Least Favorite Things” is a collection that needs to be read, screamed, and chanted to anyone who will listen because this is how change actually comes to fruition.

Sarah Van Clef  is a poet and memoirist from South Amboy, New Jersey. Her lyrical essays and poems have been featured in Local Gems NJ Bards Literary Anthology, The Monmouth Review, and others. She currently is the Reviews Editor for Philadelphia Stories, An Adjunct Professor at Monmouth University, and the Co-founder of 2nd Renaissance Arts; an online creative cohort for writers to network and celebrate writing through educational and enrichment programming. Sarah holds an MA in English Writing Studies from Monmouth University and is currently working towards her MFA in Creative Writing. When Sarah is not teaching or writing, you can mostly find her on the beaches of the Jersey Shore or singing in her band, The Cellar Dwellers.

Gilt by Jamie Brenner


Jamie Brenner writes beach reads with a twist, including the national bestseller THE FOREVER SUMMER and her latest GILT.  People Magazine call her books, “a delightful escape wherever you are.” Publishers Weekly says of her new novel, GILT, “This beach read sparkles like a diamond.”

Jamie grew up in suburban Philadelphia on a steady diet of Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz novels.  After studying literature at The George Washington University, She moved to New York City to work at HarperCollins Publishers, Barnes& and before becoming an author.

Today, she spends her summers visiting the beach towns that inspire her novels.


Review of Jamie Brenner, Gilt

by Hannah Michael

No one does family dynamics quite like author Jamie Brenner, and in her newest release, Gilt, proves just that. Similar to last summer’s Blush, Gilt centers around a family business. In this case, it’s Pavlin & Co., the decades old, family-run jewelry empire that changed the game for jewelers everywhere when they began selling diamond engagement rings. Pavlin & Co. told the world that, “A diamond says love.” However, when a publicity stunt gone wrong pits the three Pavlin daughters: Celeste, Elodie, and Paulina, against one another to receive a famous family jewel, the love they once shared is fractured. The fallout over the Electric Rose sends one daughter to start a new life on the shores of Cape Cod, another is left unlucky in love, and the third meets an untimely death. Now, as the company is coming up on their centennial anniversary, long ignored secrets in the Pavlin family are brought to the surface and demand to be reconciled.

The dual timeline of this story really allows readers to immerse themselves in both sides of the Pavlin family. We get to see Elodie, Celeste, and Paulina at a pivotal point in their lives, when the publicity stunt changes their relationships with one another forever. Then, we are in present day with Elodie, Celeste, and Gemma, Paulina’s daughter. Still grappling with her mother’s death, Gemma tries to piece together the past of the family she never knew. She decides to confront the Pavlin’s and claim the inheritance she never got, which she believes includes the Electric Rose. This sets off a series of events that takes readers from New York City to Provincetown, as the Pavlin family is finally forced to dig up the events of the past, and how they each played a role in the aftermath.

Something that has always struck me about Jamie Brenner’s writing, especially when it comes to family stories, is that there is never an absence of love. The Pavlin family may be estranged due to greed and competition, but at their cores, they want nothing more than to reconcile the wrongs of the past. We watch both Celeste and Eloide grapple with a fair amount of guilt that holds them back, but when Gemma reemerges in their lives, they are reminded that there is a future to the Pavlin family name, if they are willing to swallow their pride and move forward together.

Jamie Brenner never fails to deliver the perfect beach read. Gilt has the glamour of the New York City jewelry scene, the heart of the long-awaited family reconciliation, and the small town charm of Provincetown that makes you feel like you’re a part of the community. With fast-paced chapters and a cast of characters you will grow to love, Gilt is the beach read you will be more than happy to take with you into the fall!

Hannah Michael is a current student in the Rosemont College Graduate Publishing program. A lifelong reader, she is seldom found without a book more than ten feet from her person. She is either reading a light beach read, or a gruesome thriller– there is rarely any in-between. Hannah holds a BA in Theatre from DeSales University, and is thrilled that she will soon hold degrees for studying both the loves of her life: musicals and books.

Museum of Things by Liz Chang


Liz Chang was the 2012 Montgomery County Poet Laureate in Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Rock & Sling, Origins Journal, Breakwater Review and Stoneboat Literary Journal, among others. Her chapbook Museum of Things is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in early 2023. Her creative nonfiction recently appeared in Oyster River Pages, and her flash fiction has been published internationally. Chang’s translation of Claude de Burine’s work is anthologized in Paris in Our View from l’Association des Amis de Shakespeare & Company.


Review of Liz Chang, Museum of Things

by Anna Huber

Museum of Things by Liz Chang is ekphrastic in nature, allowing the reader to walk through a small selection of objects in the “museum” of the poet’s life. Her story takes time to piece together like a complex, beautiful, and verbal jigsaw puzzle. Chang presents a view of the world that is unique by the objects she displays that people may find familiar, bridging the gap between her and the reader.

From the very first poem, there is a dichotomy of sadness and mysticalness that seems to reverberate across each page. Though very different, the two feelings of sadness and mystical enchantment are captivating, inviting the reader to go deeper, to read the poems again and feel their love and heartbreak trickle down the page in tangible streams. In her writing, Chang has made her story very accessible to her audience.

Focusing on the objects in the poems- a snoopy lamp, a white shelf, a handful of stickers-  nostalgia is present in every poem, bringing somber sweetness to the page. In my own life, I grew up with many objects passed down to me from different people. Though I am very different from the writer, I find some of the objects she writes about to be a sort of a commonality we both share. The vivid descriptions of the objects bring the museum of Chang’s life to fullness. In those descriptions the poems become honest. These objects allow the reader to walk through her memories displayed in a way that nurtures. As objects were at times passed down to her, Chang passes a part of those memories down to the reader and it is mystic.

Chang’s ordering of words and use of language are masterful. She conveys her history as a girl in a way that is magical and reminiscent of fairytales. Her poem, “It’s a Lamp, Charlie Brown” shows the reader a glimpse into her life where grandparents live in a far away land and she deals with the trauma of a helicopter accident that seemed to put a hole in the haziness of childhood. While the balloons and kites in the poem may be weightless, her words are heavy with grief.

Like balloons, Chang pulls on those emotions and memories to the surface where they can tangle with her own understanding of life. She nurtures and comforts the reader with her life history so masterfully in these poems. They are sweet on both sides and yet hard as rocks in the center. These poems are made to be read and should not be passed over.

Anna Huber is a student at Monmouth University in New Jersey. She currently works as a writing assistant at Monmouth’s Writing Services and is in the process of completing an undergraduate thesis in literature. Her love for literature began at a young age as her mother is an English teacher who read to Anna often. After graduating in May 2023, She plans to pursue a career in higher education and impart an understanding and greater respect for literature to the next generation of students.


My cousin sold 2 paintings for the down payment
We were all there my mother my grandmother my aunts
Maybe we were dead
Maybe my mother was dead
I was in bed with a tall good-looking stranger who offered me a joint
We could not close the curtains
His body tasted like Christ’s
My mother and I arranged the furniture
My grandmother moved the furniture though she could hardly walk
The teacups she stacked one on the other fell 2 stories to the floor
My stranger disappeared
My uncle tried to kiss me
I could no longer use my writing desk
I tried to move out
I tried to move on
There was no sex
Maybe there will never be any sex
The man selling the apartment sent me to a Manhattan address

Paula Brancato is a NY-based, Sicilian-American writer, filmmaker and Harvard MBA. Her literary awards include The Booth Poetry Prize, Danahy Fiction Prize and Brushfire Poet Award. Her work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Mudfish, Bomb Magazine, The Virginia Quarterly, Ambit Magazine, Georgetown Review, Litchfield Review and Southern California Anthology. Paula taught poetry and screenwriting at USC and Stony Brook Southampton and is a graduate of Hunter College and LA Film School.


The low, washed buildings swamped in white dunes,

the afternoon courtyards laden in silence;

I walk the solid beach, wind plucking

at hair, clothes, my very soul.


I am here to contemplate,

meditate, whatever –

yet it is difficult to tear

memory from teases and taunts.


Sole seagull so high up in the stratosphere must

symbolize something—at least it would

in literature or art, but in reality,

I cannot grasp it.

Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal and teaches a “Joy of Poetry” course at Temple University-OLLI.He has written reviews for the Dylan Thomas Society, the John Updike Society and Joseph Conrad Today. His latest book of poems is Until the First Light (Parnilis Media, 2020).

Words Remain Unsealed

At Tupperware parties
The ladies sold nothing but containers
Full of nothing

Hostesses in hose and skirts
Demo-ed the patented airtight seal
Taught housewives how to burp
Like expectant madonnas at a new mother class

The optimism of a starburst lid
Avocado Green
Burnt Orange
Harvest Gold
Cheap hydrocarbons in every kitchen

Genius commercial speech
Plastic dyed a hue named for the color of ripening wheat

Grasshopper oil pumpjacks
Fueled the Tupperware party revolution
Powered by women converted to capital
And party games


When I interviewed at the big Silicon Valley tech company the young woman in the break room
saw the red apples among the cornucopia of bananas, grapes, oranges, snacks and kombucha.
She said, “Damn it. There aren’t any green apples. I can’t think unless I have the green apples”

Amy Beth Sisson is struggling to emerge, toad-like, from the mud outside of Philly. Her poetry has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, The Night Heron Barks, and Ran Off With the Star Bassoon and is upcoming in The River Heron Review and The Shoutflower. She is currently an MFA student studying poetry at Rutgers Camden and a Graduate Assistant for the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice.

Bless Amtrak

for their quiet cars, no raised voices, no phone calls
all devices muted or used with headphones
but how about a party car blasting Chili Peppers
passengers dancing with strangers
they sneak off with at the next stop

what of a weapons car where macho men
with shaved heads and skull tattoos
can flaunt their gun obsession disorder
while the rest of us are spared the sight
of a Glock 19 or an AK-47

or maybe a widows’ car, Kleenex at every seat
where you don’t have to explain
smeared eye shadow, mismatched socks
or the strange sounds escaping your mouth
a moan, a sigh, a sob, a shriek

and no one stares

Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.


I was stationed near Biloxi, Mississippi,
before the time of Martin Luther King.
One night I went to a restaurant
with some white guys from South Philly,
but the man told us go around back.
And if we got stopped by the police,
forget about comin’ home.
You asked me why I wear this uniform.
Because it’s the way I get respect
from those ladies sitting over there
who think I’m some kind of general.
They talk to me when I bring them gifts,
just like the young men do.
I spend my days at this coffee shop.
People think I’m important.
I give them advice or conversation
or money when I’m not broke.

Robert Coles has lived in and around Philadelphia most of his life. He writes, “Since 1990, I have published over one hundred poems in various literary journals, anthologies, and magazines. My most recent poems have appeared in the summer issue of Philadelphia Stories, 2021, and I placed as a semifinalist in the 26th Macguffin Poet Hunt Contest, 2021.”

My Father and His Sky

Lead foot in a Lincoln, nothing stops an object
so completely in motion.

My father has seen cornfields bigger than
the sheeted sea of my bed,

vast as ever, vaster without him.

He used to sit on the edge of my bed
and talk about the sky.

He’d throw constellations like pop-flies
through the windows,

stipple clouds with his swollen hands.

Children listen to sky stories as long
as they end in sunrises.

I didn’t beg the curtain of dawn from
his grinning mouth—

I wanted something newer than mornings.

My father isn’t new anymore but his car is,
black and big-rimmed.

He rattles a century of coins across

shaking them loose every mile.

I watch him in the curve of the Earth now,
a flickering corona.

He is the reaching horizon or someone
reaching for the horizon,

loosed by the wind and a rest-stop coffee.

I think he might still sing with the radio
like the leather seat is me.


I think he hears the hills sing their mappings
in return, their topography,

the echo of blue dreams in the brush.

Men can fly in the open like this,
wingtips splayed.

They tell as many stories of the sky
as the hot asphalt

is willing to listen to.

Dina Folgia is an MFA candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University. She was an honorable mention for the 2021 Penrose Poetry Prize, and a 2020 AWP Intro Journals Project nominee. Her Her work, which has been nominated for Best of the Net and the AWP Intro Journals Project, has appeared in Ninth Letter, Dunes Review, Stonecoast Review, Sidereal Magazine, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, and others. She is a poetry reader for Blackbird and Storm Cellar. Keep up with her work at