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Leaning Against The Rain- Book Review

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jill111 / Pixabay


When I received Alex Norelli’s book of poetry Leaning Against The Rain in the mail, I was just at the start of suffering from a bad cold. Laying on my sofa, channel-flipping and feeling irritable, I kept glancing at the envelope on my coffee table. Finally, I opened it, thinking I’d take a glance and set it aside for a time I felt better and more coherent. An hour or so passed, and I decided I’d at least read a few poems. Doing so eventually led me into the late night/morning hours reading the entirety of the book in one sitting.

I knew Alex as a visual artist, and though I also knew he dabbled in poetry, I did not realize how much of himself he poured into it until I started reading his book. One of the major things that set Norelli’s book apart from so many others, was the freedom in it. Even the poems that were among my least favorite or the ones that I found harder to understand, still retained that freedom and flowed from a voice that has much to say.

And that voice is both exhilarating and refreshing. It is not one trying to emulate any other and you discover that as you read the strange and wonderful pieces. Though many of the poems reference nature, the descriptions are enlightening and new, making one almost feel they are in a field of wildflowers, ‘leaning against the rain’. The words bring a sense of calm yet at the same time that feeling of being truly alive. It’s almost as if Alex has created a Zen garden to be shared within his nature poems.

The book is divided into three parts; NATURE NATURE NATURE, LOVE IN THE TIME OF WATERTOWERS, and THE BLUEST PEAR. Each section stands on its own and offers the reader something new. I found personally, though these poems made me feel, they made me think a lot also. Not in a bothersome way as if you are trying to decipher ancient script, but in a pleasant, inspired way. It is the kind of collection that makes you want to go reaching for your own pen or paintbrush. Any piece or collection that does that, I consider a great success.

The immense creativity in these pages along with a total lack of pretentiousness, is something I wish I saw more of in collections of poetry. Alex welcomes the reader into his world with a new spin on spirit, and never once seems to be talking down to the reader, but rather invites them to join him on a journey that is free of inhibitions and self-consciousness. He is playful, experimental, but at the same time deep and serious.

Out of all three sections of the book, my favorite is LOVE IN THE TIME OF WATERTOWERS, probably because the pieces in this section gave rise to my emotions the most. Following are a couple of pieces from that section:


Strands of Your Hair

so much of it
it’s as if we lived years

bird silhouettes

against the blue and cloudy

one long strand of yours
weaving among
a small flock of mine

in a sky
so quiet now
that you are gone


Anti-social Tendencies

Why do I choose blistering sorrow
over the warmth of human relations?
Is my drug of choice asphyxiation?

Or am I bellicose at heart?
All the leaves shook from the tree
with a single depravity
and I stood there, at the trunk

and like a lush hugged it.

No witnesses,
but the fly I conjured
to watch and affirm
the validity of fall.

Additionally, the beginning of the much longer poem, Love in the Time of Watertowers (from myself in the future looking back on what hitherto is hath to come):

“You will find yourself alone
 crying relentlessly
 punch walls, breaking
glasses, shuffling papers gritting teeth
clenching to no avail, the echoes
of the damage continuing to resound
as every nerve in your body
shudders in one magnificent
chorus you never knew
was there.”

Norelli’s collection of poems is one of those where I have a very hard time choosing my favorites, because each section, each piece, seems to take you to a different place on various levels. Even the Prologue and the final Epigramatica are enjoyable to read and both take you on a strange journey.

Out of all the books of poetry I have in my collection, I have to say this one has become a favorite and one I will return to. I highly recommend this book to any lover of poetry who would like something strange, thought-provoking and fresh to add to their bookshelf. And though the poems I referenced above are more on the moody, serious side, this book takes you on a journey that has many twists, turns and moods. All the bends in the road of this read offer surprise, contemplation, and a breath of creative air that travels deep and wide.

To purchase the book and learn more about Alex Norelli’s creations, go to AlexNorelliARt.com. You might also find yourself stimulated by his visual pieces.

-Heather Lenz




‘A Listening Thing’ William Michaelian Book Review

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Review of A Listening Thing by William Michaelian

“Why do we muzzle our children? Why do we put away our old people? Why do we persist in the notion that we do not have time to love and care for each other? Why are there people like Uncle Leo, who wait alone, year after year, for a glimmer of hope to enter their lives? I’ll tell you why. We are selfish. On top of that, we are afraid- afraid to live, afraid to die, afraid to be hurt, afraid to appear foolish- afraid to be. p.124 of  A Listening Thing

The above quote is one of my favorite observations about life from the thoughts of the main character, Stephen Monroe, in William Michaelian’s 10th Anniversary Edition of ‘A Listening Thing’.

It is such observations, questions, and the character’s introspection that made me love this book. Many times I found myself  thinking “yes, that’s exactly it, that’s the problem, that’s the heavy loneliness so many have to bear in life, that is the way I feel also”.

The main character, Stephen Monroe, is what many would call an average man. One of those people that many in life would probably pass by and not give a second thought. There are many such real characters in society; those with hum-drum jobs and lives, struggling financially, dealing with failed marriages and relationships with children or other family grown distant. Stephen seems a pretty basic individual when you first start reading, until he delves into his own heart and mind, looking at life with so much quiet desperation and unsolved questions. He is far from basic, despite his boring job as a typesetter and his somewhat hidden existence in the world.

Stephen is a man who is world-weary and sees with a clear mind and heart the flaws in society and the lack of love, the silly titles that make some important and others invisible. He is distanced from his only son, which clearly bothers him, and is dealing with the fact of his wife’s departure and his displeasure with work and his life in general. He even deems himself a failure to some degree, but conveys in his deepest being that this is not really the case, that his unhappiness, though frustrating and depressing, is not without hope.

In actuality, Stephen is a man of much wisdom and emotion, and this is displayed repeatedly throughout the book. You basically have a man who is looking at himself straightforwardly and teetering on the edge of a society full of massive flaws and callous ways. His view of the world, though sad and rather pessimistic, is not without its observations of beauty or the possibility of change. He is also not a man blaming the world for his own flaws or failures, but takes great responsibility for much of how his life has turned out. He admits he is lost and perhaps even afraid. On page 125 he says ….“the world is a busy street, and I don’t know which way to turn. Maybe it doesn’t matter”.

Throughout the book you read of a seemingly ordinary man with much intelligence and heart, a man that is trying to listen and dreams of a world that also listens. How many of us, especially those that think and feel on a deeper level, cannot relate to such a character?

As an example of Stephen’s frustration and wisdom, one of my favorite excerpts from the book, on p. 29 is the following: “And who is the underdog? Those of us who are trampled on by society, or made to look awkward by people who, despite their wealth and influence, contribute nothing- those of us who are shoved into corners and under bridges because we were born at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, or to the wrong family- those of us who refuse to conform, and who have paid a tremendous price for our freedom, and who will never give it up- those of us who try and fail, then try again- those of us who laugh in the face of ridicule. Beyond that, the underdog is anyone who cares about what happens- to us, to the planet- and is willing to admit it, even if only to himself.”

So, it is not so much the storyline that kept my attention throughout the book, but the inner workings, thoughts and wisdom of the main character. Though the storyline is important, because eventually Stephen in all his loneliness does return to a place where he can receive love (however flawed), it is the depth of the character I find so mesmerizing, and exactly what makes this an excellent read. It says on p.27, “Uniformity may be cost effective, but it shrivels the spirit”. I think the story backs up that statement throughout, and leaves the reader with a deeper sense of self and the world, or at least a wish to achieve such.

The extensive interview with William Michaelian included in the 10th Anniversary Edition is also a great addition to the book, and gives a wonderful glimpse into the author himself.

~Heather Lenz

Below is a link to purchase the book and a link to the author’s website:

A Listening Thing


William Michaelian


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