Gritty details are, perhaps, to be expected in an anthology of poems gathered from a group of writers who come together in recovery. What’s so astonishing about this collection is the range of emotions and the quality of the writing: joy and grief, exuberance and ennui, as well as a host of other emotions, all dwell together in this compelling book. I’m glad, too, that the editor decided to feature some voices and give readers several works from so many different writers; each of these features (and there are so many good ones: Hirsch and Torres, Nguyen and Ybarra) gives us just a little more insight, a little more connection with the imagination behind the writing. From editor and teacher Anna Bálint’s wonderful introduction through each of the cutting vignettes and memorable lyrics (and the quality production from Raven Chronicles Press), Words From the Café reminds us that every day is a challenge to find our best selves and that art—poetry, story, song—can connect us.
—Tod Marshall, Washington State Poet Laureate, 2016-2018, He is the author most recently of Bugle (2014), which won the Washington State Book Award in 2015.
Words From the Café gives us the chance as readers to sit with interesting companions, have a cup of coffee, and listen to their stories. It’s a transformative process for our companions and for us. For our companions there’s the change that happens when people feel heard, respected; and for us, there’s the change that happens when we open our hearts to our own vulnerability, to life. What a comfort. We don’t have to go down that unhappy path of isolating ourselves from others, from pain, or from our own feelings. We all need a safe place. Thanks to Anna Bálint, Safe Place Writing Circle, Recovery Café, and Raven Chronicles Press for this book.
—Richard Gold, founder and executive director of the Pongo Poetry Project and author of Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method.
As I read and listen to Words From the Café (Raven Chronicles Press), I find myself entering not only into the lives of others through their poems and prose, but into a whole range of physical, cultural, philosophical and psychological territories some of which look and feel and smell very familiar and some not. Territories like RECOVERY, Food, Trauma, Mental Illness, Spirituality, Art, Addiction, Memory, Age, Prison, Public Assistance, Death, and COMMUNITY. Twenty-two writers with good strong voices, ten of whom are featured allowing the reader to firmly step into their shoes and walk a while. When people feel safe, they can start to explore new territories within themselves. And sometimes they discover the poet, the writer, the artist inside. Recovery is serious life business, but there is also a lot of humor coming out of so much of the work here, which I appreciate especially during these difficult times. Megan McInnis writes, “It’s possible that art, music, and literature have brought me closer than anything else, besides acid, to understanding spirituality.” Many thanks to Anna Bálint, founder, editor and facilitator of the Safe Place Writing Circle, and to the Recovery Café for creating the space for this important work. We are all the better for it.
—Martha Linehan, chemical dependency professional, OPS (Organization for Prostitution Survivors)
Speaking plainly, Words From the Café is a recovery program knocking on the door of mainstream American culture. Editor Anna Bálint has shaped an anthology that breaks down conventional definitions and boundaries. This anthology builds character and energy, writer by writer, making its credibility as it proceeds. There’s no room for fancy talk in recovery that works, perhaps that’s why so many in American culture fear it. And Higher Power? What is that? Literature, too, needs its allies. Literature finds them in the Sister/Brother siblings of Higher Power and Recovery. These alternate realities combine in the empirical world breaking out from under cover. They witness. Words From the Café is a book that speaks and testifies.
—Jim Bodeen, carries a notebook and camera, and follows a split discipline, exploring the poem and liberation theology. “I’m interested in people whose lives cross borders where the borders may or may not be geographical. I’m interested in the poem of witness and testimony.”
Order on our website http://www.ravenchronicles.org/shop/
$14.99, and receive a CD with readings by the ten featured readers.
Or purchase a copy at OPEN BOOKS or Bulldog Press in Seattle’s University District, or at BookTree in Kirkland; or on Amazon’s website.