Sunday, September 11, 2011


"Circle ... Home" by local author Melissa Dey Hasbrook (Femistiza Press, $20) is an intriguing new book  that isn't that easy to categorize.

It's a mixture of contemporary poetry, prose, maps, photographs and artwork, deftly combined to offer a thought-proving volume that's intriguingly different.

The self-published volume is the debut publication of the small press Femistiza; Hasbrook received an emerging-artist grant earlier this year from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.

The oversize trade paperback features excellent cover art and small line drawings of turtles and spiders by Linda Robinson, which are also scattered throughout the volume.

This is a collection of poetry and prose rooted in mid-Michigan, using journal observations, personal family photographs and prose.

The first part of the book deals with "Stories from a Stone," where Hasbrook uses journal entries and photographs to reflect on the state of the family land that used to be the Kowalk dairy farm on Clark Road in DeWitt.

After offering images of the original 1890s title abstracts to the property, Hasbrook continues with "the land, once called DeWitt," which first appeared as an e-book in 2009.

This section includes poetry, vintage photographs and prose, some dealing with memories, ancestors and future land development. "The Tin Sequence" details the horrors of the introduction of smallpox to American Indians.

Hasbrook continues her skillful storytelling in the next section, offering insights into generations of various family members.

The last part mixes more genealogical poetry with an exploration of the fate of the Mason Esker, an ancient glacial riverbed that flows from DeWitt through the Lansing area to Mason.

Hasbrook's combination of thought-provoking poetry and memorable images is accompanied by notes that explain the relevance of the graphics. She also provides a selected list of sources and inspirational materials.
The author is a local community organizer who began the HerStories Project as a grass-roots program to celebrate stories about women in 2010, expanding the events this year to celebrate gender.

Hasbrook's earlier creative publications include "Echoes of Women (2006), a collaborative chapbook, and "Blame It on Eve" (2007), an e-book on CD of her poems.

Portions of "Circle ... Home" have been published on her website

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books since 1987.

This review was originally published by the 
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, September 11, 2011.


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