TOUGH ENOUGH is a rare collection of poetry from four incredible women; Annie Menebroker, Victoria Dalkey, Kathryn Hohlwein and Viola Weinberg. The collection offers a unique look into the writing of these four formidable voices and offers the reader a chance to experience their "shared" journey as Tough Old Broads while at the same time maintaining their individual journeys through life as poets, mothers, wives, and confidants; their poetry enriching us with beauty, poise, grace and at times, gritty realism. It is a collection of unique voices weaving a storied tapestry of words and images the reader will turn back to again and again. This is a timeless journey of life lived to its fullest. Grand in one moment, heartbreakingly difficult the next, this is as honest a look at four friends and their journey through poetry that you will ever find.

178pp. Soft Cover & Perfect Bound, 8" x 10"


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Reading Tough Enough, I think of Basho—“It is deep autumn/my neighbor/how does he live, I wonder.” I wonder, too, how one lives, survives and even thrives in “deep autumn.” The “how to,” might be found in the work of these four poets who have immersed themselves in poetry, art, music, dance, embracing life’s sorrow as well as its joy. In “Tulare Motel” Annie Menebroker speaks of Wilma who escapes hellish summer heat, “. . . But she blessed/ this strange room, played cards/ with her brother, and called her/ friends to spread the word of survival.” Spreading the word of survival—what act of poetry is more blessed than that—is exactly what the poets of Tough Enough do. That they refer to themselves as Tough Old Broads speaks to an unselfconscious resilience that is the backbone of this collection. There are questions here as well as answers. Kathryn Holwein’s villanelle, “My Acts,” begins “Are my acts like the ash I will become/since everything feels ghostly from this striving.” Victoria Dalkey’s “Elegy In The Old City Cemetery” questions the nature of the mind: “A new paradigm for the mind holds/it is like a cloud, vaporous, amorphous,/ a shape-shifting function of imagination.” Perhaps the ultimate answer to how one might live, given sufficient courage, is found in Viola Weinberg’s “Arthur’s Seat, The Easy Way,” the poem that closes this sterling collection: “I threw myself into the very muscle of desire.”

                                             Donna Hilbert

 

Four different strains of speculative intelligence. Four lifetimes sorted. The same years captured by different sensibilities—all with that certain ache that is poetry. What I like is the rich mix of memory & public commentary. Annie Menebroker’s lyrics bursts, for example—the cogent self-questioning that turns to larger issues. Kathryn Hohlwein’s spiritual sense in poems that are moving & insightful, always emotionally right. It’s not by chance that the four poets have integrated their gifts & their life-work. From her practice as an art critic, Victoria Dalkey seems to take her vision & feel for order, her wit & sense of tonal shift. Viola Weinberg recaptures, exuberant & expansive, in the know, the challenges of working in the media & being a mother. Her intense & dramatic poem, “Arthur’s Seat, the Easy Way,” about climbing Scotland’s almost mythic height, in spite of her health & physical limits, is about the transcendence that is the task for all four poets.

                                             Dennis Schmitz

 

What a pleasure and delight to find four poets whose work I have loved and admired for many years gathered together here. Sly, witty, passionate, painterly, erudite voices calling out to us--to our hearts--from the heart of the mysterious quotidians. This book, these poems are a great gift.

                                             Susan Kelly-DeWitt
 

Rest your finger anywhere in these pages to find buffed gemstones, what Annie Menebroker calls “poetry enlarged by experience.” Crazy love infuses the pages of Tough Enough: Poems from the Tough Old Broads. The reader of this magnificent collection will note the love of language, such as in the Kathryn Holwein poem in which “the great shoal / rips are only a turquoise selvedge / of a black and unrippable fabric / whose warp has fifteen dimensions / that weave where no light spins” “Yeats Said”). That same reader will delight in the love of this collection’s chromatically-ambitious images, with one character wearing “a necklace of kingfisher feathers / bluer than the lips of ten thousand / blue-bodied dancers” (from “ChInoIserie” by Victoria Dalkey). Herein we also luxuriate in surprising similes, such as Sacramento poet laureate emerita Viola Weinberg astounding us with “Cameras clicking like old teeth / Motor-driven film and steel bodies” (“Photo Genius”). These poems are more than tough enough, for the aim at what Holwein calls “a precise accountancy of [our] living – as always, the reckoning,” and they hit the target every time. With enough poems and poignance for four book, Tough Enough is a triumph and a delight!

 

                    `                        Dr. Andy Jones