November 17th 2022
What Others Say About City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia)
In Diane Sahms’s ambitious City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia) there are classical elements, the prominence of the elegiac as well as the lyrical and an oracular power that echoes back to Greece, yet remains rooted in Philadelphia. The language soars—blooms, although with a dark undertone, illuminating the shadow and shading the light. The meticulous pairing of the shadow and light allows the reader to explore the connective tissue between the seemingly unalike. Sahms’ syntax alone imparts a musicality and a dissonance to her work. Readers are jarred into a heightened realm of acuity. Heroin’s inner arm of a clawing dragon/he never slew and Blue Heron’s Blue-gray architecture wades slowly, deliberately/leads slavish eyes knee-deep into still waters. They are yoked together like duets. In her “Suite for Iris” the poet’s persona explores the world from the perspective of Iris who exists in the liminal zone of part human-part flora, a fertile intersection of the primeval and the reasoned. Iris, tall stalk before shears, /rhizome’s roots as heart’s arteries. Sahms’ often heretical visions push brilliantly into an unseen darkness.
—Stephanie Dickinson, author of The Emily Fables and Big Headed Anna Imagines Herself.
Wade into the mirror with Diane Sahms as she unveils and unravels identities—probing for meaning and finding connections. Different life forms fuse into a “universal soul” in these “heart shuttling” sojourns that sonically imagine the magic of “spirits united.” Morality and mortality yield their secrets in exhilarating lyric passages in which emptiness is purified via resolute perception and consequent insight. —Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
In City of Shadow and Light (Philadelphia), Diane Sahms looks upward to the cosmic, then comes back to the personal, in poems that are full of natural imagery and (often) mystery. The focal point is the “first city,” Philadelphia, and its inhabitants, particularly those connected to the poet. We meet ones who create and others who struggle. What brings them together is the poet’s care for each and every one. Through these poems, you will gain a new appreciation for a place and some of its ordinary (and extraordinary) people. This is an eye-opening, heart-tugging collection. —Thaddeus Rutkowski, author of Tricks of Light
Diane Sahms’s City of Shadow & Light opens with the loss of two sons and continues to hearken more challenges as the book unfolds. But as she quotes from Jung in one epigraph, dark shadows only heighten the brightness of light. Thus, the book’s ending of “light” is hard-earned, and the fortitude is as inspiring as the “brave Raven, who stole light / from total darkness // for everyone.” The reader is left gladdened that this poet managed to retain her voice and that, despite everything, that “voice, still sings.”—Eileen R. Tabios
The Chapbook is available here: https://moonstone-arts-center.square.site/product/sahms-guarnieri-diane-covid-19-2020-a-poetic-journal/294?cs=true&cst=custom
Sahms-Guarnieri’s work embodies the magnitude of feelings felt at the beginning of the pandemic. Readers are left with the heaviness that 2020 left behind, but also gratitude that they survived a truly chaotic year. Megan Milligan- Northeast Times – 8-25-21. Read the full review here: https://northeasttimes.com/2021/08/26/local-poet-captures-the-essence-of-2020-in-new-poetry-book/
What Others Say:
As sobering as Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, when the Bubonic Plague devasted London, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s, Covid-19, 2020 is a grim recounting of the horrible year through which we have just lived.
Starting with the ironically named “March Madness” section, a term that usually refers to the annual NCAA basketball tournament but so succinctly captures the mass disorientation, like “a sci-fi movie, yet real,” as she notes on 3-23-2020, the journal proceeds through April, the cruelest month, mixing death and rebirth in its stew of life, into the horrific summer of 2020 –
185,000 dead in the United States by Labor Day – and into fall/winter with the mounting dead, the glimmer of hope that a vaccine may soon be available. The collection ends on New Year’s Eve, over 350,000 Americans dead under the chaotic leadership of the Trump administration, the most of any nation in the world. Along the way, as if the pandemic were not bad enough, Sahms-Guarnieri addresses the social turmoil that tore the country apart, the racial injustice that spawned BLM.
—Charles Rammelkamp, author of Ugler Lee and Mortal Coil
Now Available from Kelsay Books
Frank Wilson on The Handheld Mirror of the Mind by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
Logan Krum on The Handheld Mirror of the Mind by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
What others say about The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:
Poetry of global dreaming. Life on earth is under threat and Diane Sahms-Guarnieri makes a poetic call for the survival of humans and all animal species, life on the endangered list. We are all connected and interdependent. Our past teaches us core lessons for the future. Now is the time to take action to preserve life on the global home we share. Diane’s poetry is a celebration of this life, inside and out.
—Martin Chipperfield, 34thParallel Magazine
Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is a stunning wordsmith. In her collection, The Handheld Mirror of the Mind, we journey through themes of loss, grief, our shared humanity, and the complexities of the inner life. With great tenderness and lyricism, Guarnieri skillfully navigates these topics. Her graceful descriptions of the natural world provide a vivid magic, as if painting with words. In one poem, Guarnieri refers to stars, “as pinprick diamonds mined out of/night’s cave—luminous studs/riveted through black velvet.” She deals with death and the expectation of loss with care, infusing the life of nature, as in the line, “Your dusty voice rising as spirit leaving mimosa.” There is also great comfort, as in the refrain of the poem, “As long as a heart is beating someone is always alive.” While dealing with human struggles, this collection offers hope. Guarnieri invites us to honor all beings, all creatures, and all understandings of faith by joining together, “as global dreamers in coexistence.”
—Cristina M. R. Norcross, Editor of Blue Heron Review; author of Amnesia and Awakenings and Still Life Stories, among others.
“What does a heart know anyway?” Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s lucid and brave fourth full-length collection The Handheld Mirror of the Mind wrestles with this question, as love and loss pass as naturally as the seasons. Through elegy and aubade, the speaker turns her gaze inward, interrogating the darkness. However, as she sifts through memory’s wreckage, there are patches of light and hope, of song. As the speaker reconciles: “I carry their song inside my body,/inside rhapsody of thoughts….To them I sing this easy truth.”
—Emari DiGiorgio, author of Girl Torpedo and The Things a Body Might Become
“These are dense poems, packed with imagery, emotion, and sensualness. A long, slow read, I lingered over every word—each affecting, not a one I would extract. Reading “The Handheld Mirror of the Mind” is like reading a novel, the kind that after you pick it up and begin reading, you are reluctant to set it down.”
-Stephen Page, author of The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, and A Ranch Bordering the Salty River
The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:
Now available from from Red Dashboard Press
Wherever Diane Sahms-Guarnieri takes you, she takes you all the way there, soul and senses rendered high-definition cameras, taking in history, loss, family, humor, and eros in a world brought alive. Night Sweat, her new book, moves among her beloved Philadelphia and environs, Old City, Christ Church, where “the present belongs and does not belong,” even the drug dealers at Frankford Terminal — then we’re in a bed of fire and fondly remembered love, then “friendship, the hinge of a calm shell,” then a flower field, with “seductive” tulips and “slightly badass” dandelions, then ancestors, relationship, descent from Lenape settlers and from the stars alike (“Stars connect us: they are lineage”). This poet is a singer, of car accident, graffiti artist, or the marriage (told in a hilarious poem) of William Carlos Williams and Flossie. After reading Night Sweat, you will live in a different world — or, rather, thanks to Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, the world you always lived in, all aching beauties laid bare.
John Timpane- Assistant Books Editor/Media Editor Writer – Philadelphia Inquirer
Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s Night Sweat is a moving collection of poems. In Sahms-Guarnieri’s poem “Sunset” she writes: “Everything has its own way of entering into night.” Many of her most memorable poems are intimate and unprecious portraits of people and urban landscapes and the psychic interplay of each in the other. Here people and places live inside each other and vice versa. In the poem “Delaware River” she describes the river as “a snake/ who has swallowed a mouse/ it carries it through night/ like a dark and dirty secret.” There is also much flora and fauna in the book, but Sahms-Guarnieri’s edge remains. She writes “I have come to mistrust the wisdom of trees/ their disguises.” Sahms-Guarnieri is a tough and tender poet. Her poems bridge time and memory in ways that unexpectedly reveal our present.
Thomas Devaney, poet and author of The Picture that Remains and A Series of Small Boxes.
In Night Sweat, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri explores the physical and emotional landscapes of the places and people she loves. She knows these places. She knows these people. And she writes with both the authority and humility of a poet fully engaged with these worlds.
Jim Daniels- Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English- Carnegie Mellon University
In a city that looks back, reflective as the moon, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri hangs life on the line from clothespin to clothespin to clothespin, billowing in the night breeze, a breeze that chills but does not cool. The light Night Sweat sheds on the city is not the glare of sun but the haunting vision of moonlight that touches at once the subliminal and the sublime. In a striking array of poetic images, reflecting together Ash Can Art and Georgia O’Keefe, haunting and dazzling at once, as moonlight illuminations provide tantalizing glimpses in a landscape revealed only to the exquisite extent that moonlight allows.
Host of Poetry Aloud and Alive
Contributing Editor, Schuylkill Valley Journal
Now Available from Anaphora Literary Perss
What others say about Light’s Battered Edge by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
The familiar Gospel song may reassure us that “His eye is on the sparrow,” but for those at the battered edges of our society, too often it doesn’t seem that way. Here, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri catches sight of “a sparrow by its own forgotten self,” and that sparrow stands in for other “forgotten” ones: the homeless, the wrecked, the ill, a family of forebears “visited” by comprehensive Job-like “Misery.” Even as she shows us “light’s battered edges,” however, Sahms-Guarnieri makes us sharply aware of “life playing / disharmoniously and harmoniously”: love so close it’s “like being safely snug inside / the lining of another’s skin”; earth itself surrendering “to each / sunset” “in a thankful swaying sort of way”; a soul snatched up animistically, “lifting, lifting, lifting into light.” These compelling poems leave us disquieted, as much by beauty as by sorrow.
Nathalie F. Anderson
Author of Quiver
Professor, Swarthmore College
Think of the spirit of place as the frame of memory shaping language, of the perpetual soliloquy of being who you are in counterpoint with echoing phrases others have uttered at or to you, and you will have some idea of the chant and enchantment of the poems gathered in Light’s Battered Edge. There are some hard truths in these poems — about abusive spouses, about the wear and tear of caring for others. But underlying it all is the sense of what love really means.
Books, Inq. — The Epilogue
Nicolette Milholin of the Montgomery County News
“Like a well-written memoir, Sahms-Guarnieri’s work
shoots straight to the center of human experience
instead of hiding pain under a false fabric of pretension.”
Click here for Review
Barbara Bialick of the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
“to Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, images are an all-important way
she remembers people from her childhood and on into motherhood.”
Click here for Review
Christine O’Leary Rockey of the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel
“Her writing is wonderfully conservative in that way that poets
strive for- each word matters and is artfully placed against another
to create maximum impact in sometimes very small spaces.”
Click here for Review
Diane Guarnieri’s brave lyrics balance on the tharp edge of sound and insight in these songs of praise and longing, these laments and lullabies, where the home and the heart are rendered in luminous and bleak images that do not turn away from tenderness or brutality. A fragmented narrative runs like a red thread through the book: how one begins in “not knowing”, yet develops a gaze in which “the shade is never drawn.” Finally in a sequence of poems that bear the names of flowers, it is the self who blooms through the seasons, healing and blessing. – J.C. Todd
“Yesterday, there was only one sparrow. / Today- – two.” Diane Sahms-Guarnieri confronts the past and divines a present with these poems of beauty and hurt, of strength and survival. Often heartbreaking, but always emotionally honest, these poems of lyricism and grace, of uncommon courage, are a testament to human resilience and the salve of tenderness. Hope abounds in these hard-won poems. The sparrow is a wonderfully strong creature, metaphor or not. This is a generous debut collection by a poet who aches with life, and has a smart, original way of talking about it. – Louis McKee
Working class Roxborough and Manayunk roots sprout throughout this body of work. Two generations of hard working women, a father known for taking a nip or two and the loss of loved ones to the dust of the textile mills that once dominated this area of Philadelphia. Images of Being, a collection of images from childhood to middle age, no matter how dark or light we can always see that optimistic child skipping down the steps from Gorgas Park holding her father’s hand. Sahms-Guarnieri reflects her world, warts and all, a journey through darkness always looking for the light. In the end optimism prevails. – g emil reutter, The Fox Chase Review