What readers say about Soar Ready:
”Butter-bombing bringer of truth, Valerie A. Szarek has a compassionate way of shredding illusion and finding value in the hard truths of reality, a way of finding gems in the gravel and beauty in the grit. Life has taught her to appreciate the gifts given, accept the mistakes made and understand that love is all that matters in the end. Soar is an exploration of the richness of life that opens before us like a blossom of light. Soar is as much medicine as it is poetry. Valerie turns herself inside out in her poetry to share with us her exquisite humanity.M. D. FriedmanExecutive Editor of Liquid Light Press
”Valerie A. Szarek’s Soar Ready begins with the poet donning bird feathers and the assurance that shadows are her friends. Indeed, Szarek both takes flight and also descends into the shadows of her country or her own past. She offers the gift of the pen to Congress, and in her epistolary poem“Dear America,” to the angels with “the most battered wings” who “have worked the hardest/ to intervene in our destruction.” She hugs the homeless woman in the cold, and she counts with gratitude the days of her sobriety. The reader comes away from the book feeling embraced by her words, trusting the writer’s kindness, and soaring through the compassion and spirit she creates with verse.Kika DorseyAuthor of Rust, Coming Up for Air, and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger
”Valerie Szarek is a joyful survivor, keen observer of nature, a wise-woman and a shaman —in short, a healer of the first order. Her poems capture a journey to know herself (“I had my feathers replaced today… part angel, part great blue heron … and downy owl” from Soar Ready) and place herself within a community of spirits, animals, people and nature that is embracing and nurturing (“they whispered my true names/ my land names/ my wind names… / they stitched together/ the marrow of my bones.” (from Indigenous)
Szarek acknowledges 30 years of sobriety and painful separation from her original family, calling the “haunting abandon” of heroin addiction a “hollow-boned, familiar, red-brick seduction” but chooses instead to “wake up 10,950 times a day” in delighted amazement (from The Best Poem I’ve Even Written.). Reminiscent of Walt Whitman, she continuously chooses to “suit up and show up” to “the life that sings itself” (from Letters to an Unknown God).
There are echoes of Mary Oliver in Szarek’s elegy asking us to “trust the arms of this season / to catch you.” (from Autumn). She observes nature, especially crows and ravens, and tells us “My spirit soars on raven wings” even while “The Cardinal stones/ chant my name…” (from Remember me this way) There is no doubt, readers will “see the moon differently” (from Soar Ready) and will find parts of themselves in, and remember Valerie Szarek’s evocative, transforming poems.Lorrie WolfeAuthor of “Holding: from Shtetl to Santa” Editor and contributor to anthologies, “Mountain, Myths, and Memories” and “Going Deeper” Poetry Editor, RISE: A Journal of Change Poet of the Year, Ziggies Poetry Festival, 2014-2015
”For Valerie Szarek, life itself has been a foremost teacher, and she has received many lessons, some harsh, some sweet, and all cohering to make the beautiful and perceptive woman she now is. She describes herself as "Poet/Artist/Healer/Musician" and indeed she is all of these. Her poems thus become a kaleidoscope
reflecting scenes from life itself, sometimes focusing on the Big Issues (recovery, wondering about God, her own responsibility for lost ones hovering beneath bridges on frigid nights) and sometimes including more minor subjects such as an eraser or a toy’s loss of an eye. At times she reviews her ancestry (Russian Cossack, early Polish grandmother) or laments our hurtful politics that have led to such suffering of innocents.
All of these scenarios are filtered through the eyes of a mature, thoughtful woman, who offers new insights into a world uniquely her own. The unifying theme that runs throughout is the poet’s longing to turn experience into language, observation into meaning. It is as if she kneels at the altar of art and beseeches the Muse to give her energy and craft to serve. This volume is testimony that her wish has been granted.
Read these poems and you will broaden your own horizons and be reminded that art never fails to redeem life, even in the midst of chaos.Dorothy WaltersPh.D. Kundalini Wonder: the god/goddess in Your Body (prose); The Kundalini Poems: Reflections of Radiance and Joy; Some Kiss We Want: Poems Selected and New. www.kundalinisplendor.blogspot.com