THIS WEEK’S OTHER TWO FEATURED BOOKS, “ATTENTION PLEASE NOW,” BY MATTHEW PITT AND “AWAY AT WAR,” BY NICK K. ADAMS, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.
THE BOOK: Mall Flower.
PUBLISHED IN: September 2015.
THE AUTHOR: Tina Barry.
THE EDITOR: Robin Stratton.
THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing Company outside Boston.
SUMMARY: Mall Flower is a collection of poems, short and flash fiction and hybrids of the two. Some of the themes I explore are alienation, loss of a parent, divorce, sexual awakening and its decline. I tried to provide the reader with a balance of light and dark, often in the same piece. There are playful pieces, such as “Mall Flower,” about a teenager’s sexual awakening while strolling the mall, and darker yet still humorous works, like the flash “Going South,” that focuses on my family’s last trip to Florida before my parents’ divorce.
THE BACK STORY: I’ve been writing fiction and non-fiction since 2001, then switched to flash fiction and poetry around 2010 when I started working on my M.F.A. in creative writing at Long Island University, Brooklyn. After I graduated, I took a look at what I had amassed and realized that I had a loose story arc that I could build a book around. After that, I weeded out a lot of writing that didn’t support the themes.
WHY THIS TITLE?: I grew up in suburban New Jersey, hence the title Mall Flower. I liked the contrast of the awkward, retiring “wallflower,” with a “mall flower,” that suggests a kind of artificial blooming, and in my poem, a teenager who isn’t the least bit shy. Mall Flower, though, is about much more than malls.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Both male and female readers have told me that they laughed as much—sometimes more—than they cried.
The book appeals to both poets and readers of poetry, as well as people who find poetry too esoteric. The pieces are accessible to everyone.
REVIEW COMMENTS: With a sort of precision and attention most poets would reserve for the mapping of a butterfly wing, Barry dedicates both her short fictions and poems to something equally perplexing and full of beautiful angles and confusing symbols – she points the magnifying glass so that it reflects the sun against the sheen of plastic, the semi-precious, the hair-sprayed, fast-food fed realities that usher many of us into and out of days, years, and even decades of longing for genuine connections. — Jen Knox, After the Gazebo, The Glass City
Tina Barry’s aptly-titled Mall Flower shimmers with delicate and gritty insights. Barry is a writer of great warmth, intelligence and wit; the poems and stories in her delightful debut collection will move and surprise you. — Jessica Hagedorn, playwright and author of the novels Toxicology, Dream Jungle, The Gangster of Love and Dogeaters.
Mall Flower by Tina Barry is a collection of minimalist stories and poems about ordinary characters undergoing extraordinarily loss. A child, hungry for attention before her parents’ divorce, rakes the hair on her father’s legs with a doll’s comb; a family in need of saving, prays to a god in a pink negligee; outside a sweetly wallpapered bedroom, a neighbor’s dead deer is trussed to a child’s swing set. Brassy, unbeautiful, but very cool characters. No matter how hard they try, they falter with their “crowns tilted at unflattering angles.” They are us. And how fortunate we are to have Barry’s amusing voice bringing us these beautiful quirky stories. — Barbara Henning, A Day Like Today, A Swift Passage, My Animal Eyeball, and Cities and Memory.
Tina Barry is a master of the image that packs it all in: social commentary, pathos, humor, you name it. In her stunning debut, she revels in the glorious absurdity of growing up and getting old. No matter how outrageous Barry’s poems are, no one would ever doubt their truth. There’s an exactness to her images and a candor to her voice that–even as it’s whispering–screams authenticity. You should enjoy reading Mall Flower everywhere poetry is allowed: the public pool, the bedroom, even the food court. — Joanna Fuhrman, author of six books including The Year of Yellow Butterflies, The Emotive Function and Pageant.
AUTHOR PROFILE: I lived in Brooklyn for three decades before moving to a small village in upstate New York in 2015. I thought my husband and I would be exotic, but it seems like so many of the people we meet are just like us— “cityits,” city idiots—negotiating this new, and mostly wonderful life.
My poems and short fiction appear in numerous journals and anthologies, such as The Best Small Fictions 2016, The American Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, and the forthcoming Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, Lost Horse Press. I’m a writing tutor at a local college and a teaching artist at the wonderful The Poetry Barn. My writing has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and several times for the Best of the Net award.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: When I wrote Mall Flower, I hoped that its stories would resonate with anyone, regardless of their gender or backgrounds. I’ve been told they do.
I’ve blown out my shag haircut
and it’s big.
With the mirrored halter-top
and jeans chopped into shorts.
I’m psyched for the mall
And its food court, where I strut
the aisles on swizzle
past Jahn’s green whipped cream,
past Beefsteak Charlies,
past the crepes at Magic Pan,
past the Nut Shoppe’s chocolate turtles
To buy cigarettes at Mr. Pipe
where Scott wears an afro
and a Star of David,
ties a red bandana
to the loop of white overalls,
and asks me to meet him
where I wait, back pressed
face tilted to the sun,
knowing, as I suck
the smoke in deep,
that I’m a fox.
A total fucking fox.
We left suburban New Jersey
Our last trip to Miami before Dad switched families. My younger sister and I filled in every Mad Libs blank with “tits” and “ass” so Mom would yell and make noise in the car.
At a lunch counter in Pennsylvania, the waitress asked a man with a Popeye tattoo if he wanted a plate of spinach. It was the only time Dad laughed.
At a motel in Delaware
My sister held my head underwater in the swimming pool. I heard shadowy sounds, then the glug of a motor working unnoticed.
At night we peeled back the synthetic quilts on our beds. From my parents’ bed: Mom’s restless feet. I watched my sister not sleep.
The woman in the motel’s office read palms. Mom had a short love line.
A giant peach teetered like a swooning moon atop a water tower. We bought gifts in a roadside shop: A bikini patterned with peaches. Straws filled with peach-flavored sugar. We sprinkled the coral grains over our stuffed animals’ fur. They looked glamorous twinkling in the moonlight.
Dad slowed down to watch cotton pickers bowed in the heat. They stared back.
Beside the pool
At the pool in the hotel in Miami, we sipped Shirley Temples, took turns curled beside Dad on a blue-striped chaise lounge. I smacked my sister’s face. She had taken too long raking the hair on Dad’s legs with a doll’s comb.
Dad wouldn’t take us to Sea World, so Mom bought dolphin-shaped pool floats and took pictures.
Returning to Jersey
My sister threw a deck of cards out the car window. We watched them spiral tightly together down the highway, then blink out like dead stars as the wind drew them apart.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Mall-Flower-Tina-Barry/dp/0996540512/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498587779&sr=8-1&keywords=mall+flower), Big Table Publishing Company and me. Please don’t purchase it from halfcom, or any other site where the book is being sold illegally. Neither I nor my publisher makes a penny on those sales. PRICE: $14
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Tbarrywrites@gmail.com, TinaBarryWriter.com, @tbarry188, https://www.facebook.com/tina.barry.5, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6432565.Tina_Barry