“A Smattering of Stanley: Poems and Memoir”

George Chappell’s third collection of poetry, “A Smattering of Stanley,” covers a large range of experience, from his feelings of affinity for his grandfather Stanley Hamm, who died before George knew him (“Sonnet to My Grandfather”), to topical contemporary issues (“Marching to End Gun Violence”), to the persistent complications of long-term personal grief (“Bearing Witness”), to appreciation of nature (“Hawks’ Release”). “When I Was at One with the World” is a touching prose memoir on learning to feel at home at Christmastime in Vermont long, long ago.

A section titled “Warfare” highlights Chappell’s ongoing appreciation of the lives of military veterans, which he also treated in his 2015 book, “When Souls Walk Away.” A particularly sharp entry is “War Counts On,” in its entirety:

War counts on

a strong voice

to call to


men ripped

with fear

from the grey


All the poems here offer the reflective, heartfelt moods and sensitivities characteristic of Chappell’s other collections, which have been composed during his extraordinarily active retirement after a long career as a journalist and teacher. George Chappell holds an MFA in writing from Goddard College and lives in Rockland, where he also leads creative writing workshops for veterans and senior citizens. “A Smattering of Stanley” is available through online book sellers and by writing to Tidal Stream Press, 90 Grace St., Rockland, ME 04841.


“The Heroin Diaries: Little Stories to Understand Why: a book of poems”

“The Heroin Diaries” by Mary Dowd is a candid, physician’s-eye view of the heart-rending world of drug addiction. It comprises verse portrayals of real situations and people undergoing practically indescribable suffering, together with sensitively made photo portraits of some of the subjects by Joanne Arnold. Dowd, who has spent years caring for addicts and homeless alcoholics in Portland, told me in a note that she fears her poems are “not very uplifting about recovery.”

The poetry is cast in extremely plain-spoken diction, and the emotions conveyed are raw, from the points of view of both the sufferers and the physician. Some titles encapsulate the atmospheres: “Grace on the Corner of Oxford and Preble,” “The Queen of Sorry,” “Blind,” “Tell Me about Despair,” “The Lost Girls,” and “Circles of Hell,” the concluding poem about a prison cellblock. “This Is Just to Say” tears down and re-assembles a tender, kitchen-table poem about temptation of the same title by William Carlos Williams; Dowd’s version:

If you keep shooting heroin

into your jugular

you will not live to see forty.

You know it, I know it.

Forgive me for stating the obvious.

It’s all I can do.

Although these poems are, as the writer stated it, “about the wreckage I see every day” and this book is likely to be a painful read even for people untouched by the crisis our political leaders are by and large ignoring, still there is something hopeful in any effort to speak truth to misery.

“The Heroin Diaries” is available through online booksellers.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first Thursday of each month. Contact Dana Wilde at [email protected].

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