November Quilt

November Quilt, by Penelope Scambly Schott (The Poetry Box, 2018)

Review by Lennart Lundh

When I was in Vietnam, I wrote my wife every day. Some letters were long, some short, all filled with the events of the day. The thirty daily poems in Penelope Scambly Schott’s November Quilt (Winner of Second Place in the 2018 Poetry Box Chapbook Prize) are much like those letters, exploring the small things we all share or know of. Following the author’s first-day invitation to think of stitching (“I offer you my fingers / this pieced together quilt.”), these daily offerings are the rich and varied fabrics.

And varied they are. On the 2nd, we consider our parents and how we mis-see them:

Did you mistake your parents for grown-ups?
I did. I believed each untruth they told me.

I also thought married people talked only
about boring stuff like calling the plumber.”

 For November 4th, the poet bids us,

Let’s jump back to fifth grade in New York City
where the Russians would bomb first

how can I save us all?”     

while on the 15th we remember, “The dog Laika in her tiny Russian space capsule. // For years we were told / how she was euthanized — not that she fried.”

The importance of these scraps of fabric we share, things my great-granddaughter surely sees as the detritus of ancient history, is made clear on the 9th:

We need to tell each other
all these small details because after we’re gone,

who’ll care? In this life, I care about you.

This pattern formed by Life is explicit on the 13th and 14th, where

What will anyone remember about me? 
Does my sister know how I eat an apple?

The entire apple, core and all the seeds.”

is joined to

What do you know about apples?

I was pulled over for eating an apple —
the officer thought I was on my cell phone.”

Just past midway, on the 18th, Scambly Schott cautions us, “You might ask if my writing has a plot. No, none . . .” Perhaps, but there are subtly continuous threads holding the pieces of November together. For example, the 7th ends,

I reheat my coffee before I walk the dog. 
When we get back from the walk, the coffee is cold.

All day I reheat my same cup.”,

and the 8th picks up the conversation with, “Day after day, sip after sip, we piece together / our lives.” The 15th’s thoughts about Laika and Sputnik begin the epistle for the 16th (“After Sputnik, we were all supposed to study math.”), while the 16th ends, “For a smart girl, / said my mom, how can you be so dumb?”), as the 17th opens by partially explaining, “They taught us long division in May / and I forgot it over summer vacation.”

Somewhere in the third reading, refining my poem-by-poem notes, I realize the bobbin thread anchoring these stitches and pieces is a different commonality: how unknown by, and unknowing of, each other we are. This epiphanal moment, crowning fine, carefully chosen and blended words, is what makes November Quilt so marvelous, so poetic. A tap on the forehead, a pulling aside of a stage curtain, and what is obviously obvious appears. Once seen, it’s impossible to unsee, leading us to a final charge to readers in the last lines of the last poem:

“Please don’t hang this one on a wall or store it
safe from moths in a zippered plastic bag.

Spread this quilt to keep another reader warm.”

Penelope Scambly Schott, author of a novel and several books of poetry, was awarded four New Jersey arts fellowships before moving to Oregon, where her verse biography, A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth, received an Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Several of Penelope’s books and individual poems have won other prizes. Her individual poems have appeared in APRGeorgia ReviewNimrod, and elsewhere. Her most recent books are HOUSE OF THE CARDAMOM SEED and NOVEMBER QUILT.

Risa Denenberg is the curator at The Poetry Cafe.
She is a co-founder and editor at Headmistress Press and has published three full length collections of poetry, most recently,
 slight faith (MoonPath Press, 2018).

Jeff Santosuosso

Body of Water Anniversary Interview with Lauren Davis

Lauren Davis: Your debut chapbook Body of Water was published on November 2, 2018. Congratulations on its one-year anniversary! When did you first start to put this manuscript together?

Jeff Santosuosso: Some elements of that book are ten years old, while the most recent, the title poem, is about a year old. That gave me a theme. I generally don’t think in terms of a single-themed work, so that focus was welcome. From there, I browsed my body of work to find similar elements and to tell a story with the chapbook.

LD: In one or two sentences, can you describe the function of a poetry chapbook?

JS: Short story with no overt plot. A flip book of words.

LD: Can you tell me a little bit about how you found your publisher?

JS: I found the publisher via a message board, CRWROPPS and via a referral from another poet. CRWROPPS is a great tool for writers looking for submission opportunities and other things. Clare Songbirds Publishing House is a fine little outfit in upstate New York. They did not require me to presell any chapbooks, as others do, nor did they require a submissions/reading fee. Writers work directly with management.

LD: Your cover is absolutely stunning. Did you provide this image for Clare Songbirds Publishing House?

JS: I love it too! I’ve received many compliments on it and have forwarded them to CSPH. The artist is Angela Yuriko Smith. She did that on her own, presumably having read all or part of the manuscript. In any case, the result is stunning!

LD: What was the editing process like with your publisher?

JS: Easy. Simple email exchange, quickly reverted by the publisher. High marks for that!

LD: And has your relationship to these poems changed any now that they’ve been out in the world?  

JS: Not so much, though I’m fascinated by the feedback I get, what reaches and connects with people. My son read one of them for a college public speaking course and recorded it. Gives me the chills!

LD: That must have been a very special experience, to witness that. Tell me what poem you think best represents this collection.

JS: Probably the title poem and also “The Blue.” The first because it’s personal. The second because it’s universal. I grew up about five miles from Walden Pond, read the book in high school and have always credited it with lasting impact on my outlook. That poem is very introspective, almost a mood poem for me. Separately, I was prompted by the poet and teacher Matthew Lippman to write a poem about the sea/ocean. (What? Yeah, that’s never been done before, I’ve got such a fresh perspective. Uh-huh.) Anyway, that poem is historical and global, a sweep of a piece, if you will. For me, then, the two relate to our personal, internal, finite relationship with water and our universal, external, infinite relationship with it. I’ll always have a soft spot for “New Jersey Nighthawks,” which I wrote on a ski trip when I was reading a lot of Kerouac.

LD: What are you working on now?

JS: Ha! Come to think of it, more than I expected: an adaptation of one of the books of the Bible. A collaborative poetry work with a good friend, inspired by another. A totally killer video collage of Anglophones from all over the world with their luscious local accents reading “Jabberwocky.” Oh, and a novel about tennis, second chances, and redemption that’s finished. What’s the definition of “finished”?

LD: Do you have any advice for poets who are putting together a chapbook manuscript? 

JS: Look for a theme. Look for alignment between your theme and what the editor seeks. Have the book tell a story or have some arrangement, narrative or otherwise. Follow the publisher’s guidelines.

Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and award-winning poet living in Pensacola, Florida. His debut chapbook, Body of Water, was published at Clare Songbirds Publishing House. He is Editor-in-Chief of, an online journal of poetry and short prose.

Lauren Davis is the author of Each Wild Thing’s Consent (Poetry Wolf Press). She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and her poetry, essays, stories, and fairy tales can be found in publications such as Prairie SchoonerAutomata ReviewHobart, and Ninth Letter. Davis teaches at The Writers’ Workshoppe in Port Townsend, Washington.

Risa Denenberg is the curator at The Poetry Cafe.
She is a co-founder and editor at Headmistress Press and has published
three full length collections of poetry, most recently, “slight faith” (MoonPath Press, 2018).

The Poetry Cafe in the Spotlight!

Thanks so much to Trish Hopkinson for publishing an interview with me about The Poetry Cafe! You can read it here:

Since it was published, I have heard from more than 20 poets who wish to send me copies of their books! Whew! 

Later today I will be publishing my next review: Refugia, by Kristin Berger and onboard is Feed, by Emily Mohn-Slate. I am working on adding all of the books I have received to the list under “Drumroll, Please” and will be linking each book to the place where it can be purchased. I will be adding cover pictures in the future, and perhaps, interviews with chapbook poets.

I am looking for writers who are interested in writing reviews for this website, as I have more books already than I can review alone. If you are interested, send me an email at the address below. Anyone associated with an MFA program who wants to send students my way, I would be happy to connect with them and discuss guidelines for chapbook reviews. If you want to give them credit for writing a review, even better! And, I will send them a book to review! 

The email address is

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Back from AWP and Ready to Review

I was able to meet some of my favorite poets last week at AWP from my perch behind the Headmistress Press booth.

I am back home now and re-energized to move forward with this project of reviewing chapbooks. It’s all about the chapbooks! Here is information for interested chapbook writers, readers, lovers and reviewers.

  1. Headmistress Press, publisher of lesbian/bi/trans poetry, is holding our 5th annual Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest, from May 4th through July 4th. See details here. You can see (and buy!) our chapbooks at our online store
  2. If you wish to review a Headmistress Press chapbook, on this site or another, please contact me and  tell me which book you are interested in, and I will send you a review copy.
  3. If your press is having a chapbook contest, please let me know and I will announce it at The Poetry Cafe.
  4. I have recieived several chapbooks in the mail. Thank you! I am now open to receiving your chapbooks. I don’t promise to review every chapbook, but I will list all of them (see “Drumroll, please”) and I do promise to read every one I am sent. Please mail a copy to The Poetry Cafe at the address below.
  5. If you wish to submit a chapbook review, please query me first, and I will send you the reviewers’ guidelines.
  6. The next chapbook review will be up soon! Sublime Subliminal, by Rena Priest (Floating Bridge Press, 2018).

Contact me on the contact page or via email at: 

Mail chapbooks to: 
The Poetry Cafe
60 Shipview Ln
Sequim, WA 98382

awp2It’s all about the chapbooks!

Moving in!

I have already gotten a terrific response to The Poetry Cafe Project. It seems there are a lot of chapbooks looking for a sweet home review!

If you missed my review of Lauren Davis’ chapbook, “Each Wild Thing’s Consent,” I strongly recommend that you read it RIGHT NOW! 

Ok, now that you’re back, I want to open up the cafe to chapbooks!

I don’t promise to review your chapbook, but I promise to read it. I will list every chapbook I receive. Please mail chapbooks to me at:

The Poetry Cafe
60 Shipview Ln
Sequim, WA

If you prefer to inquire first, email me at:

I will also be looking for reviewers soon. If you have an idea for a chapbook review, please email me for instructions at