Review of Glyphs by Rick Lupert

Today I painted the walls with the Glyphs presented in Martina Reisz Newberry’s book, Glyphs. These meditations with an acute awareness that a lot of time has passed with occasional glimpses into a fantastical world “I have wondered if he could lift / heavy objects with his mind” comes along and you wonder if it is possible. Has it always been possible? Or how about in Residue when the tree trunks are let to “…believe they are tent poles keeping the stars above us where they belong.” Yes, trees…this is your job.

There are links between these poems and pages. Witness Martina falling off the world in Cartography 101 immediately after showing us Evelyn McHale’s famous 1947 leap off the Empire State building. Martina is building connections between herself and the world presented to her, between one poem, and the one that follows it.

There are a handful of erotic departures (and as they become more frequent we realize they may be more “returns” than “departures”) including tales of her virginity going away and a third person account of how Sadie has sex with the ocean. Sadie is present throughout Glyphs. She’s a recurring muse, an inspiration, a fantastical figure in her own right who goes about “her usual miracles.” Sadie is your companion throughout the book, her songs and miracles documented as an essential component of the overall story.

So much of the human experience of Martina’s poems resonates with me personally. The story in Starlings of the boy who had his BB gun taken away after shooting at birds reminds me of an indelibly present experience from my past when I witnessed something similar. I was in middle school and there was another boy with a BB Gun (maybe the same boy?) Undoubtedly this fueled my later vegetarianism (and anti-gun-ism for that matter) and forever idea that “apple cores will do the trick.”

Ekphrastic poems such as Street Scene and Bar Room Kiss expand on the visual of the paintings Martina is responding to (be sure to visit the links to see the originals) with expanded stories that talk to the scenes the artists portrayed an provide the perfect narration. Art was meant to talk to art and these ekphrastic glyphs are exactly the conversation they should be having.

Occasionally Martina surprises you with a word you never new existed. Cocklight for example which, makes perfect sense and will now be a permanent part of my diction.

Explanations come parenthetically. For example in Slouched Against a Stair Rail, the descriptive “purple” is followed by “(purple)” in an effort to make you fully understand she wasn’t kidding about the purpleness present in the sports coat. Sometimes the parenthesis are not closed (See Welcome Mat) blurring the conversation between poem and clarification. Walls are being torn down in these poems for you to be able co-exist in multiple worlds, and perhaps not fully knowing which one you are in.

In Welcome Mat, Martina tells us “nor have I felt sin / in any of it.” There are no regrets in these poems, only confident musings about what has been done, and what has been imagined.

Like Pavarotti whose presence is only protruding slightly into Los Angeles as he sings from the greater realm of wherever he truly exists, Martina presents her elevation over this world in a way that resonates with any artist’s filter…or to the common-person who hasn’t yet discovered their inner muse. These poems shine a light for them, and all of us, into realms we are glad to have revealed.

Reading these poems is like walking through a city’s neighborhoods…each neighborhood with its own characteristics. You’re on the same walk and you can see the connection as you turn a corner from one poem/page/street to the next, even though the one you’ve ended up on tells a different story, and smells and sounds different.

Borders begins with “I am here to astonish you”…most of the way through the book. I’m torn at what must be the launch into Glyph’s denouement, between the idea that the book could have begun with this poem, and the realization that, this far through, I have been astonished.

Rick Lupert, author of God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion, and The Tokyo-Van Nuys Express

Rick Lupert has been involved in the Los Angeles poetry community since 1990.  He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Distinguished Service Award for service to the Los Angeles poetry community. Visit his site

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