Smiling at the Executioner
M.B. McLatchey’s Smiling at the Executioner is a brilliant collection of poems inspired by the Stoic philosophy, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying these poems, which know how to live on their own, to take root in your heart. These are the kind of poems you hope you can remember to quote when in moments of uncertainty. McLatchey is not some one-trick theme artist who will sing you “I get knocked down, but I get up again”—NO!—she’s the one who will serve you images, sounds, and textures that make you want to read this book aloud. She will bring you the taste of bread, the promises of olives, the singing of hunger, and the love of desire.
—J.P. Dancing Bear, editor of Verse Daily
M.B. McLatchey pens these perspicacious, wise, and musically intelligent poems with a sincere gratitude for being alive in an era when “our histories are shadows on a wall; our memories rote lessons that flicker and mutate.” These masterfully crafted poems are an antidote to our complicated age of technology, machine-enforced intelligence, and screen-based isolation. They applaud every moment of humanity, from folding a fitted sheet to drawing a bath, for knowing “what we were, how to retrieve our former selves,” and for putting the necessary spirit back into spirituality.
—Jen Karetnick, Founder and Managing Editor of SWWIM, author of Inheritance with a High Error Rate, winner of the 2022 Cider Press Review Book Award
Smiling at the Executioner is a philosophical exploration of survival, love, marriage, men, family—and words— inspired by the Stoic mind, using image and metaphor from ancient and contemporary myth. Like an ancient story, this book is so rich it is hard to pick and choose—each poem a meditation on the Stoic desire to keep loving one another, and to persevere. When writing of forgiveness, McLatchey writes, “not a sinner’s crawl; a purging of the stench /of an unkept stall; a never forgotten love, /Penelope’s woven—and unwoven—shawl.”
—Lee (Lori) Desrosiers, Managing Editor/Publisher of Naugatuck River Review, author of Keeping Planes in the Air, Salmon Poetry
If they aren't already familiar with her degrees from Harvard and Brown Universities, the title of M.B. McLatchey's book will draw readers to the superbly written content. Even though the author has endured hardships, she faces them with ideas that flow serenely off the page. It's beautiful to glimpse McLatchey's understanding of her range of control and the way she expresses her emotions. With rich imagery that never fails to create a lasting image in one's mind, McLatchey paints vivid scenes that entice each of the senses. Some poems have so much depth the reader may wonder about the challenges the author has endured and briefly consider the role of "J" in the pieces dedicated to that person. Many of the pieces unfold like stories, leading the reader to devour the author's thoughts and absorb the language. Smiling at the Executioner is a great selection for readers who enjoy eloquently written poems within a work of collected thoughts.
—Courtnee Turner Hoyle, Reader's Choice