Sunday, March 20, 2016

Ray's Reviews: Poem Journey by Joyce Benvenuto

  “Poem Journey” by Joyce Benvenuto (Thunder Bay Press, $17.95) is
subtitled “More Poems and Prose from along Old Grand River.”

        This is a sequel to her first book of poetry, “A Grand River: Poems for
Michigan”, (Thunder Bay Press, $15.95) published in 2012.

        But it’s more than just a sequel, Benvenuto has added many more vintage
photographs as well as sections of carefully-crafted prose.

        It’s a small, well-designed 110-page hardback, with an intriguing cover
design made of colorful street signs of areas along the flowing Old Grand
River waterway or the winding Grand River Avenue.

        Both books are organized similarly, following strands of history
geographically from Detroit to Grand Haven - and chronologically, from
early ancestors to present times.

        Benvenuto skillfully combines fact and fiction in her myth-making, noting
in her brief introduction “Reader be warned: I am a storyteller.”

        She describes many fond memories of her childhood, teen years and more
spent along the bustling roadway or quiet riverside.

        Benvenuto also writes smoothly about assorted experiences in her Michigan
travels in relevant areas, dealing with friendships and encounters made
during her explorations and journeys.

        One of the most fascinating sections is “Time”, involving a trip to
nearby Portland, to see if she and a friend might be able to locate a
long-and well-kept secret place – the burial site of Chief Okemos.

        They face many challenges, as the location is not highly publicized as a
tourist attraction and is far off the beaten trail.

        She discloses her not easily-duplicated method of discovery and shows
proof – a photograph that shows a memorial marker: “Grave of Okemos,
noted Chippewa Chief 1858 - Erected by the Daughters of the American
Revolution – 1921.”

        Benvenuto offers enjoyable escapism, deftly using vivid imagery to make
the past come alive with superb visualization.

        It is best to relax with both books, starting with the first, and savor
the words slowly – preferably under warm bedcovers or near the light of a
glowing fireplace.

        The author is a Haslett resident and MSU graduate, having taught in the
Haslett Public Schools for 18 years and taught creative writing students.

        Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed
Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987. He grew up in
Northwest Detroit, about a mile from Grand River Avenue.

Find these books and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on  March 20, 2016.

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