The New York Journal of Books commenced operations at the start of 2010.  The site is currently running as a beta. Our planned permanent site will have substantially enhanced content and functionality.  Additionally, the volume of reviews will increase as will the portion of reviews published on a book's date of release.


Coffeehouse Meditations by Nina Romano 


(Kitsune Books, February 21, 2010)

What makes poetry intriguing? One answer may be found among the stanzas of Coffeehouse Meditations. Ms. Romano’s artfully crafted poetry shows us worlds we may have never noticed in ways we have not thought of. Coupled with her lyrical yet nuanced style, Ms. Romano’s undulating meter accomplishes what many modern poets aspire to achieve. She shines a warm, natural light upon everyday situations—similar to the astute observations made by the poet Walt Whitman.

Unlike most poetry books, Ms. Romano divides hers into two separate and distinct parts that are skillfully woven together by a similar tempo and underlying theme. Part I, entitled “Coffeehouse,” provides the reader with a microscopic lens that observes and zooms in on what appears to be mundane events that occur at various coffee shops. Ms. Romano magnifies these daily occurrences and creates a kaleidoscope of colorful imagery to help us celebrate the events we often miss in our headlong rush through the world.

For example, her poem “Autumn in Denver” breathes life into a “tiny cricket on a pinecone on the windowsill outside” (who may be a pesky guest to some), and invites the reader to view this invisible creature as a welcome visitor. In “The Coffee Poem” she transports the reader to faraway lands and examines the journey of a coffee bean from being plucked, anonymously hauled to factories, and, in the end, being branded with exotic names to be savored by customers at Starbucks. Within the same poem she ponders a fascinating question about whether the picker (of the bean) knows “that each bean will be hand selected and chosen as if a veiled bride to be handed up on the wedding altar of the conveyor belt.”

Part II transcends the coffee shop world to take us on an international journey filled with recollections of love and loss, unfulfilled dreams, and passionate trysts. For example, in “Autumn Walk In Muzzling Rain,” Ms. Romano recalls the memories and joys of youth with her dog. As her dog “whimpers a little in quick profound old man’s sleep, dreaming of our youth” we feel the bittersweet emotion of playful and energetic times that have slowly drifted away. It is this type of meditation that would interest readers beyond those who solely admire poetry.

Although one of the strengths of Part II is its international flair, it is also a potential drawback. Ms. Romano’s usage of foreign phrases in Italian and Spanish to describe various culinary delights or colorful destinations enhances the authenticity of the work. However, some well-placed translations would improve the reader’s ability to grasp the full meaning and depth of her meditations. This, however, does not detract from the overall power and beauty her poems create.

Coffeehouse Meditations is a thoughtful and heartfelt evocation of the simple, idyllic pleasures of life and a lament for some of the things we’ve lost. It would make a welcome addition to any poetry lover’s library.

Reviewer Laura Schultz is a freelance writer who wrote a column entitled “Media Trends” which explores the evolution and new trends in the erotic aspects of film, television and advertising. Her poetry has been published in such venues as Forth Magazine.