Book Reviews: ‘River Ghosts’ by Merril D. Smith and ‘Perceptions’ by Ivor Steven and Derrick Knight

If you are looking for some recommended reading, I have the following book reviews for you from Merril D. Smith, and Ivor Steven/Derrick Knight. Curl up with a cup of coffee and read on…

River Ghosts by Merril D. Smith

This delightful volume of over 50 original poems is Merril’s debut poetry collection, published by Nightingale and Sparrow Press. The striking cover was designed by Merril’s child Jay Smith, maintaining the strong family connection which runs throughout this book, dedicated to the memory of the author’s mother, Sylvia L. Schreiber.

The book is haunted by ghosts, from the title poem onwards:

ghosts in dusty grass
sit still in the long ago,
a gull’s laugh breaks the silence…

These echoes are a recurring and unifying theme throughout the book, in keeping with the author’s dedication to her mother, whose “laugh still echoes.”

There are echoes of the distant past, in poems such as ‘Antikythera Mechanism’ and ‘Jawbone: Homo Sapiens,’ which display Merril’s interest in, and strong connection with, ancient history:

His epitaph,
“eight teeth, one broken.”
Not living,
no longer here,
yet not completely gone.

True, too, of the skeletons of the more recent past. ‘Observe, And Again’ carries echoes of the Holocaust:

Freighted bodies bound for
the unknown—

a train to hell
where fear is the constant.

Atrocities prefigured in ‘The Pogrom:’

and I do carry within me the burnt ruins

of that long-ago pogrom—

an incipient conflagration—who knows?

All levels of history and deep time are here, from human history to the evolution of the universe; subjects close to my heart, as is the historical reputation of women, so thoughtfully examined in ‘Through the Ages, She Is Blamed:’

scared of her knowledge, scared if she’s free
those named and nameless who do not see
it is they, not she, who commit the atrocities.

There is so much to love in this collection! I could go on, but I encourage you to discover this stunning debut for yourself: River Ghosts is available from Amazon.

Perceptions by Ivor Steven and Derrick Knight

Perceptions is a cross-continental collaboration from poet Ivor Steven (Australia) and photographer Derrick J. Knight (United Kingdom). Here are dragons, faeries, foals and swans captured in verse and image, which complement one another perfectly. The images are predominantly of nature, and perhaps reflect humanity’s struggle to find a place within the natural world, in the ruins of so-called ‘progress’, as evinced by Ivor’s poem, ‘Mankind’s Dirty Hands:’

within nature’s naked forest
waiting for mankind’s dirty hands
to stop the desert sands
from ravaging the last strands of what remains hanging over our land 

The poems are a mixture of haiku, senryu and longer poems featuring Ivor’s trademark end-rhymes:

All the world is green
within my midday dream
please, do not disturb me
let me sleep, let me be
(from the poem, ‘Let It Be’)

Other contributors who deserve credit are Derrick’s wife, Jackie Knight, who has provided some excellent photography (I particularly like her images of birds) and of course, Ivor’s niece, Kerri Costello, who designed the cover, and linked the book to yet another continent (she lives in the US).

The book (available from Lulu) is a fortuitous combination of verse and image. Despite his own advice to the contrary in the section ‘Do not quote me,’ I will end with what strikes me as a most pertinent quote from Ivor:

“A poet following a poet, gives you poetry in motion.” 

It is a testament to the friendships formed on WordPress that these two artists have been able to collaborate successfully and bring this globe-spanning project to fruition!

Happy Reading,

29 thoughts on “Book Reviews: ‘River Ghosts’ by Merril D. Smith and ‘Perceptions’ by Ivor Steven and Derrick Knight

Add yours

  1. Thank you much for this lovely review Ingrid. I appreciate it so much, and I’m very happy that you enjoyed my book. 💙

    Also, congratulations to Ivor and Derrick.

  2. Ingrid, beautiful reviews. Ivor is one of my favorite poets on WordPress, and I enjoyed his first book. I look forward reading Perceptions, enhanced by Derrick Knight’s photography. I love Kerrie Costello’s cover!

    The excerpts from Merril’s book, River Ghosts, are quite intriguing! I will certainly check it out!

    Thank you for posting these two lovely reviews! <3 Wishing you continued happiness and success! <3

  3. From the “Team”, Ivor, Derrick, Kerri, and Judy(of Jaymah Press), a sincere big thank you, dear Ingrid, for your superb review of “Our” book “Perceptions” … “It was Just a Little Dream” ..
    “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

    “When something good comes, you have to be prepared to polish it, carve it and chisel it, that’s the work. But the actual intention, what you are really going to be writing about, that’s going to come up from a really authentic place that is deep and over which you exercise no conscious control.” … Leonard Cohen

  4. Two fabulous reviews. I will look for Ivor and Derrick’s book on Lulu. I had tried Amazon and not found it there.

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