In November, I saw that Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper had posted “Monday Muse Reads ‘The Wishing Tomb.’” If you know Maureen’s blog, you know that Monday Muse is often about poetry. And this one was indeed about poetry, a collection entitled The Wishing Tomb by poet and editor Amanda Auchter.
This poetry collection is all about New Orleans. Maureen had a long, in-depth review (she never does anything by halves). I read it, clicked through the links to Auchter’s web site and then to her blog. I was intrigued, especially about the fact these poems were about New Orleans.
So I bought the book. A fine review by Maureen Doallas means a virtually automatic decision. So to answer my question above: Yes, reviews sell books, especially this review.
And it’s a wonderful collection of poems. Auchter writes about the New Orleans I grew up in – the history (I knew whom Lake Pontchartrain was named for), the casket girls, the fire of 1788 (which resulted in the Spanish rebuilding the French Quarter), Marie Laveau, the Cornstalk Hotel (on Royal Street), the Pontalba Apartments, the cemeteries, Hurrican Betsy in 1965 (I lived through that one).
But more than the history, her poems have the feel of New Orleans, the soul of a city that I have not lived in for 40 years and yet will still be part of my mental and emotional DNA.
I liked all the poems in The Wishing Tomb. And I liked this one:
Down in the 9
In the shadow of his house, Fats Domino
climbs from broken shards
of an attic window. His body is flashbulb-
stunned, humid. The floorboards
give and splinter behind him, open
to water. Wild
hair, sweat. For days, the city was song-
sodden, newspaper-inked. For days
he watched the dark
flood rise fifteen feet,
did not know that all over the country
houses burned with the blue
flicker of television, the missing
poster of his face, or how in Ohio,
a radio crooned Ain’t That A Shame.
Up and down the block, he hears
whistles through fingers, then a boat
under the eaves. Tonight, he breathes
in the heat of himself, this world
of sewage and snakes, the sea-
sick waves, a hand
under the pit of his arm. Tonight,
he steps out into the flashlit dark,
returns himself to the small explosions
So go read Maureen’s review. If you like poetry, good poetry, and even don’t know or care much about New Orleans, you’ll find The Wishing Tomb an enchantment.