Saturday, May 31, 2014



The Glass Ship by Judy Wells
(Sugartown Publishing, Albany, CA, 2014)

The first chapter of Judy Wells’ new book of poems, The Glass Ship, published by Sugartown Publishing, is a spine tingling wave in her imagined ocean that invites one to turn the page and read on.  The magical cover by Sian MacQueen increases our desire to open the book and read.  It is formatted in twenty-two chapters consisting of the introduction – THE GLASS SHIP, the twenty islands she visits, and home from the voyage, THE ISLAND OF EPITHALAMION.

The Glass Ship is a highly imaginative collection of poetic narratives, or prose poems, in which a woman who, like Odysseus, finds adventure on a long sea voyage, as she travels alone in her small, so called skin ship.  And like Thomas Moore who, in The Care of the Soul, turns to medieval mythology for insight, Judy draws on Irish medieval immrama, which consist of tales of voyage to other-world islands, particularly the “Voyage of Maelduin.”  It teaches the “craft” of dying and pilots the departing spirit on a sea of perils and wonders. 

We begin dying at birth and Judy’s tales show us that to live is to die as we encounter danger, wonders, humor, sadness, insight, joy, love, family, tasks that are too difficult to manage, and the acceptance of death; ie, “perils and wonders.”  From her studies Judy sets sail creating her shape-shifting original characters and words. 

A sample of the perils is found on RED SEA, RED ISLAND.  Bending to smell a red rose she thought she heard a voice say, We were once human, all of us. Now we are flowers.  We die in a day.  If you want to save yourself from our fate, race toward the apple tree and eat.  Her visit to THE ISLE OF THE PURPLE CAROUSEL is one of wonder – pure magic as she frees the captive carousel horses and caught the magnificent sight of fifty golden palominos racing down the beach … flowing white manes merging with the waves.  On the ISLAND OF BLACK AND WHITE SHEEP she learns that it is impossible to discover the secret of immortality. On the ISLE OF THE HANDSOME GIANT she finds humor in a man who covers his face with ugly masks because he is ashamed of his beauty. 

The descriptions of the islands are filled with original images and similes: like a winged sunset, black helmet of hair, faces like walnuts, brown and wrinkled, the sun/a red coin in the sea. They are splashed with brilliant colors and unique, whimsical poetic phrases:  Burnt croissants and cross women, red ants which seemed to be building towers – not to live in, but for aesthetic pleasure.  Excess of sorrow laughs./Excess of joy weeps (with a nod to Blake). Go carry the living.

The book is attractively packaged:  silhouettes of animals found on the islands, chopped line indentations suggesting waves, and a sinuous font based on Celtic lettering.

I highly recommend this book.


Cherise Wyneken is a freelance writer.  After her children grew up and left home she began studying poetry and creative writing at FIU & FAU in SouthFlorida.  Her articles, stories, and poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies, periodicals, and journals, two full collections of poetry, two poetry chapbooks, a spiritual memoir, a novel, a children’s book, and a children’s audiocassette, plus her latest book, “STIR-FRIED MEMORIES,” stories about her life,   She has been writing a poetry column for the Oakland Examiner’s online issue at: and was nominated for the 2013 Poetry Pushcart Prize.

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