In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.
David Lee Garrison ’67, Light in the River (Dos Madres Press, 2020)
Lately, many of us have been looking for small ways to escape from our screens and our worries. David Lee Garrison’s latest poetry collection is the perfect shelter for moments like these, providing an assortment of charming, readable poems that will leave readers in good humor. All of the poems are brief and enchanting, presenting as bite-sized stories that seamlessly balance comedy and depth and seem to encompass tiny worlds of their own in remarkably few words.
In “Meatballs,” a dog begs for the meatballs his owner is cooking, looking at him with “big wet eyes” and a “relentless display / of pathos”; at the end, the owner quips that the dog has “got [him] / by the meatballs.” In “Men at Seventy,” the speaker’s voice straddles wit and sadness: “They take aspirin before playing tennis, / write wills directing that their ashes / be mixed into the clay of the courts.” “Beware of the Poem” reflects on the art of the poem itself, and Garrison cites other poets, including Langston Hughes and Thomas Lynch, several times throughout the collection. Garrison’s style is effortless and self-aware, and his is the perfect book to keep on your bedside table if you’re looking for a nugget of wisdom and humor before calling it a night.
David Lee Garrison ’67 is a poet who lives in Oakwood, Ohio. He earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University and taught Spanish and Portuguese at Wright State University for 30 years. He has translated and published the poems of several notable Spanish poets, and his poems have appeared in several journals and anthologies.
James E. Porter ’77, MALS ’79, Maximizing Mindfulness & Minimizing Stress (Health Matters Today, 2020)
Whether you’re new to the world of mindfulness or looking to revamp your meditation routine, James E. Porter’s approachable and fast-paced book will prove to be helpful. The book gives readers a detailed rundown of the powers of mindfulness and being aware and attuned to the surrounding world. The text explains how mindfulness can actually change the structure of your brain, affecting how you respond to stimuli in your environment. The main text is not the only compelling feature: the book also contains journaling exercises, eye-catching diagrams, personal sidebars, and striking photographs. Porter provides both scientifically-backed explanations of how and why mindfulness works and specific mindfulness exercises for readers to practice (and a 12-month meditation schedule).
The book’s 14 chapters give the reader a full picture of what mindfulness can do, from helping us enjoy our food more to improving our memory. In an increasingly fast-paced world in which everyone is constantly moving onto the next thing, Porter’s book will help readers slow down and live thoughtfully, as well as battle a range of afflictions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and chronic pain. Even after reading only the first chapter, readers will be inspired to find a quiet place, close their eyes, and breathe.
James E. Porter ’77, MALS ’79 is the founder and CEO of StressStop, a company that provides stress management, resilience training, and training materials to corporations, hospitals, government agencies, and military bases, among other clients. He has created relaxation videos, as well as authored workbooks, articles, and blogs; and has lectured on stress management and mindfulness at several universities. He lives in Norwalk, Conn.
Lara Tupper ’95, Amphibians (Leapfrog Press, 2021)
From the very first page of Amphibians, the reader is sucked into a multisensory world mediated by Lara Tupper’s deft narration. Tupper explores notions of what it means to exist in a female body, with many of the stories dealing with the relationship between the female characters and the internal and external worlds they inhabit. The book of short stories reaches across several countries and environments, touching every corner of the world, investigating issues of place and belonging, and taking readers on imaginary trips around the globe.
Tupper’s prose is finely attuned to physicality and the senses: the opening paragraph of “Before and After Florence” reads, “It was chilly for June. They wore sweatshirts and boots. In Paris, Vienna, and Lugano, Gaby was the follower, the listener. She followed as Mo reserved the hostel beds and deciphered the maps. She held open the plastic bag of bread and cheese as Mo dipped in her multi-ringed fingers for more.” Not only does this passage set up place and character, it also activates each of the reader’s senses, prompting us to become more attuned to the author’s mission of exploring physicality. In all but one of the stories (when a second-person narrative takes over), Tupper wields the third-person narrative expertly, using it to interrogate the inner lives of her female characters and critique the worlds surrounding them with authority. If Amphibians is the first work by Tupper that readers pick up, it certainly won’t be the last.
Lara Tupper ’95 is a writer from Maine. In addition to Amphibians, she is the author of Off Island and A Thousand and One Nights. Her work has been published in a variety of notable literary magazines. She earned her MFA through the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and taught at Rutgers University for several years. She now runs writing workshops and retreats. She is also a jazz/pop singer.