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The Poet and the Poem 2022-23 Series

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The Song In the Room: Six Women Poets

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The Poet and the Poem 2022-23 Series

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The Poet and the Poem 2021-22 Series

Ocean Vuong

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Lenny DellaRocca

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Willie Perdomo

J.P. Dancing Bear

Anne Harding Woodworth

Richard Harteis
& Tom Veys

Thomas Sayers Ellis

The Poet and the Poem 2020-21 Series

Barbara DeCesare

The Write Blend
Poetry Collective

Pamela Murray Winters

Shirley J. Brewer

Garrett J. Brown

Temple Cone

Lauren K. Alleyne

Doritt Carroll

Yao Hoke Glover III

Meg Eden

George Bilgere

Robert Earl Price

Robert Earl Price

Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka

Andrew McConnell Stott

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Barbara Quick

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John O'Dell

Ned Balbo

Carolyn Forché

The Poet and the Poem 2020 Series

Panna Naik

Joanna Howard

Lisa Vihos

Fatemeh Keshavarz

Steve Leyva

Seema Reza

Judith Farr

Susan Orlean

Nancy Mitchell

celeste doaks

Robert Ertman

Joy Harjo

Natwar Gandhi

Mervyn Taylor

Jane Clarke

Rob Richmond

The Poet and the Poem 2019 Series

Dr. Xuhua Liang

Chad Frame

Erica Wright

David Gewanter

Wendy Lesser

Marcus Jackson

Michael Lally

Nin Andrews

Linda Pastan

Kyle Dargan

Virginia Smith

Kim Roberts

Abhay K.

Geraldine Connolly

Bob Hicok

George Bilgere

Jeannine M. Pitas

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Poets Commemorate China's Nanking Massacre

Arielle Saiber

The Poet and the Poem 2018 Series

Zeina Hashem Beck

Sherwin Bitsui

Linda Rodriguez
George Wallace
Bojan Louis
Margo Jefferson
Anna Lawton
Lauren Camp
Diane Wilbon Parks
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Patrick Washington
Mike Maggio
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The Poet & the Poem 2017 Featured Poets for the 40th Anneversary
The Literary Review
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Harteis' Appreciation of Cavalieri's "Other Voices, Other Lives."
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Mark McMorris
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Collective Voices
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Hope Snyder
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I Gave You My Work, Gilbert
Don't Undersell Yourself
You Can't Start The Spiritual Journey
The Protest
Going South
Two by Two
This Is
Washington Independant Review
Podcast from WPFW-FM
"The Man Who Got Away"
Geoffrey Himes
The December
A Review by
Sonja James
Review of Wicked Stage
by Daniela Gioseff
Fund for the Future of Children "Emerging Voices in Poetry"
Interviews with
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Interviews with Significant Poets
Currency of the Heart
An Interview with Grace Cavalieri
Scene4 Magazine
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Pinecrest Rest Haven Audio Tape
WPFW 89.3FM Poetry Anthology

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The Mandate of Heaven by Grace Cavalieri

Bordighera Press 2014 $11.00

A review by Sonja James

Grace Cavalieri's The Mandate of Heaven is a warm and expansive homage to Cavalieri's Italian ancestors. Cavalieri, who writes with great feeling of her grandparents and parents, captures her Italian-American childhood in Trenton, New Jersey in poems that are as breathtaking as they are poignant. Cavalieri as poet is a gifted philosopher of the imagination in the service of memory, and this blend of memory and imagination yields poems that stun and delight us with their beauty.

In "Letters," which is the opening poem in the volume, Cavalieri invites us into her work by establishing the common ground we stand on as she prepares our entry into her world: "If you ask what brings us here,/staring out of our lives/like animals in high grass,/I'd say it was what we had in common/with the other33333333334444444444" The poem concludes with her stated purpose: "What is found in this beleaguered/and beautiful land is what we write of."

In "Ancestors," she sets the tone for her exploration of her Italian heritage: "I have followed the slow vine/from where they came-/that country with olive trees/and more-to find it not/that different from my own." With impressionistic grace, she darts from one-line word pictures of her grandparents to the development of a philosophy of memory to a description of her childhood.

The poet then shifts modes and celebrates her own arrival in the world with the poem "Birth": "a child is born." The poem concludes with her description of the freedom she feels as she finds her place in the world: "She will find attachment, amazement/She will be free/to surround herself with her own life."

From this liberating vantage, she creates poems out of childhood memories of life in Trenton and also imagines the life of her grandparents in Italy.
In the title poem, "The Mandate of Heaven," she sets a goal for herself: "the power in the writing wants to be released/during this one lifetime." Her project is simple:

If we could finish the unfinished
what would we say, what themes would we play today,
what violence, death, abandonment and loss would
we see33333333334444444444how would I seek the inner harmony
which you speak of, but have left undone.

Several of her poems are devoted to specific childhood memories. In "The First," she recalls her mother's friend, Mrs. Conti. In "Dates," she writes with particular intensity of being a third grader in public school. An equally intense poem, "Time Travel," is about her father.

"Trenton Transit" and "Angelo" are two other poems where she recalls her relationship with her father. "Angelo" is especially poignant. In this poem, she lovingly recalls how her father would prepare spaghetti sauce for her to share with her poet friends.

In "Replacing Loss," she returns to the theme of childhood as she remembers her now deceased childhood friend, Jan: "When/you were three months/old, I was born to be your/friend, and live just/down the street,/where we played."

"Markings" is another elegiac poem in which she remembers her sister, Judy: "This is the night, when later we speak/About loss/will be the night we have lost."
Perhaps one of the most moving poems in the volume is "Palace of Listening," a poem in which the poet's dead mother appears through the medium of "the face of a man/sitting on a doorstep." This poem is a summation of the ease with which Cavalieri gives life to her ancestors through the medium of poetry.

As a whole, Grace Cavalieri's The Mandate of Heaven celebrates the beauty to be found when memory is placed at the service of time. Ancestors and children have a home in the imagination of a poet who frees the reader to experience the continuity of life from continent to continent in words that proclaim the unique beauty of each and every individual life.

Sonja James is the author of Baiting the Hook (the Bunny & the Crocodile Press, 1999), Children of the Moon (Argonne House Press, 2004), and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).