Poetry, Politics and Passion – Reviews & Comments

Jennie Orvino’s book, Poetry, Politics and Passion is a genre crossover because the author herself is a crossover—poet, journalist, interviewer, writer of personal essays and memoir.

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Jonah Raskin, author of Natives, Newcomers, Exiles, Fugitives: Northern California Writers and their Work, says Orvino’s book makes good on its title, exploring passion, politics and poetry as the three main loves of the writer’s life. “What’s priceless about the book are the snap-shots of the 1960s,” Raskin says. “Jennie’s take on the era is absolutely new and unique. It’s funny and moves back-and-forth from past to present, from protest to romance to poems on the page. It’s a joy to read.”

Well-known writers and peace movement figures show up in these pages as the author’s friends, mentors and lovers. But as Orvino offers up five decades of activism in the streets and on the page, we also get an intimate portrait of a woman from idealistic girlhood to grandmother, with all the complexity one might expect.

The book is divided into three parts: 65 pages of memoir, 28 poems and 7 essays on topics from Robert Bly to online dating, from sacred sexuality to aging gracefully. There is also a section of photographs and ephemera which add a visual and historic dimension to an already vivid presentation.


Judges Commentary
Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

A beautifully written book that works really well on all fronts. In many cases, memoirs are a linear account of every detail of a person’s life. Poetry, Politics & Passion sticks to a specific time when the writer came of age. Her focus on this formative time gives the book a center than many don’t have. And her prose is as well-formed as her poetry. She knows how to turn a phrase nicely, avoid wordiness and say a lot with a little. Saying a lot with a little works very well for the sexual encounters in the book. The writer skillfully gives the full flavor of what’s going on while still maintaining elegant and evocative prose.

The writer is honest and insightful about her own challenges and reactions to things.The memoir portion is also a great foundation for the poetry and essays that come after. While they all may seem like disparate parts, they come together to make a satisfying whole.

Review: North Bay Bohemian
by Gabe Meline, Editor (April 4-10, 2012 issue)

Jennie Orvino has been writing since she got a diary with a lock and key at age 14, but in ‘Poetry, Politics and Passion’ (Piece of Mind; $15), she throws the lock away. Comprising poems, personal essays and a lengthy memoir, Orvino’s book is tremendously frank about the author’s many exploits while stylishly circumventing embarrassment. It opens with Orvino being arrested inside St. John’s church in Milwaukee in 1968 for protesting the Vietnam War; swings swiftly into young sexual liaisons; touches on courtroom cases, jailed draft resisters and an aborted engagement; and shows a college-age Orvino horrifying her parents by sewing a burlap wall hanging with the immortal words of e.e. cummings: “I WILL NOT KISS YOUR FUCKING FLAG.” And that’s only the first 24 pages. Orvino’s 28 poems are similarly blunt, sometimes with the whomp of Raymond Carver (“The Thought of Writing Poetry,” a succinct, beautiful tragedy) and sometimes with sorrowful lament for the world (“FGM,” “Boys Do Cry”). Personal essays, perhaps the most revealing of the book, cover masturbating from the age of five, an ongoing friendship with Robert Bly, a grandson born with an arm that ends below the elbow, matchmaking services gone horribly wrong and being filmed in the throes of climax for a documentary on orgasms. A page-turner, indeed.—G.M.

Book Review: by Linda L. Reid, author of Touch of Magenta
There are so many reasons to love this book, so many facets, that it’s hard to know where to start. First, it plops you into the middle of the 1960 anti-war protests with all the personalities that we read about in the news, only up close and personal, a chance to revisit these game-changing years through Jennie Orvino’s eyes as she describes her involvement in these explosive events. Secondly, the writing is superb, intelligent and honest. The poetry is remarkable and keeps the pace of the book, and lastly, her essays have a frankness meant to break barriers about what can and should be said about sex, about it being okay to enjoy, express, to be inventive with. This is a wild ride that doesn’t let up from beginning to end. Each section offers something different that all ties together in a complete look at a moment in time and one woman’s take, one complex and interesting woman. A definite great read.

Review: from the Poet Antler
I loved Poetry, Politics and Passion! It brought back memories of those Milwaukee days of yore when we were young and starting out and you and Jim Sorcic, Morgan and Barbara Gibson, Julia and Lucy, the whole cast of characters in the drama then, those apocalyptic days. Jeff  and I were at the May 1969 Resistance Reading too!

Your frank heart-talk about sexuality is inspiring and a blessing—so sincere and honest and helpful. I never heard of “tickling my cookie” and now I’ll never forget it! What a poignant Father/Daughter story and brave compassionate soldier youth he was. “California Camping” tent delight and gazing at the sleeping friend in moonlight archetype.… “FGM” is great, the greatest poem on that subject. “Boys Do Cry” belongs in every Mathew Shepherd anthology—you might email it to these websites: “Mathew’s Place” and the Matthew Shepherd Foundation.

“Improviser” and “Pasta” have super powerful endings. “Redolence” a smell-awe epiphany, and the ending is phenomenal. “In the Town of Tal Afar” is indelible and crucial. “Dream of Undoing” has magic shaman energy; ending of “Valentine MIA” is so sad. “Roberto and the Gringa” is a real short story, the characters come through—“he wanted an iguana moment” —and the last line is so provocative. “One of Many” gets A+ “the heat/wavers between us/like air above desert blacktop.” “He entered me like a thief who knew/exactly where the good silver was kept” –astounding image.

“Refrain” precise redwood branching notice and “don’t wash just yet.” “Reunion” is hot and raw and a story in itself. Would we could all have reunions like that! Tango, “why does/the music make/feeling sad feel good.” “Invisible” — kind friends’ gifts and sensitive cosmic gifter he was! “Sanity Defense” — I’ve felt like this a lot, a companion poem to “The Thought of Writing Poetry.” “Of My Own” makes our deaths be beautiful, visualizing in advance lets us experience it now, as then we may be in a dream that eclipses all. Last poem is so sensitive after all that came before in eye and love and sorrow—the babylove cameo at peony heart center.

Your book is a triumph of honesty and sexuality and courage that will charm and empower women and men in the years to come.