New York and African Tapestries
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New York and African Tapestries
Reviews & Excerpts

Small Press Review selected New York and African Tapestries as a favorite book for May/June 2007.


“Juanita Torrence-Thompson’s delightful collection is more than a tapestry, it is a collection of tapestries. Juanita has stitched together the times and the places of her life with people who share them with her. The result is an heirloom of insight and image; a source of wisdom, identity and especially of comfort. By her gratitude we all become grateful.”
— Daniel Thomas Moran Poet Laureate, Suffolk County, New York

“From New York to Uganda, England to China, Sydney to Africa, Juanita Torrence-Thompson’s poems lead us on a mother-daughter journey, each separately finding her own way in the world of women, searching for the human sparks that unite us all. Issues tackled from September 11 in New York to Peace Corps work with disadvantaged youth, to the simple act of dancing with her husband.”
—Rochelle Ratner, author of Balancing Acts

“Juanita Torrence-Thompson carefully considers and perfectly shapes her lines of verse. As a result, her poems are lucid and immediate. You get a feeling of ‘Yes, I’ve been there; I’ve felt those things.’”
— Thaddeus Rutkowski, author of Tetched and Roughhouse

“In Juanita Torrence-Thompson’s book, New York and African Tapestries, the 9/11 poems reveal her nobility of character. I found the ‘Mother You Knew How to Live’ poems to be tenderhearted and revealing of a mother who had very special qualities for her daughter and for the world at large. The mixture of enthusiasm for life, insight into human foibles and strengths, and awareness of tragic conditions that exist for some while others dance in a more utopian realm are her own unique medley.”
— Barbara Hantman, Author, Capullos del alma: Soul Buds

“Starting from the gorgeous cover photos by her, this is a rich tapestry of New York life, rendered by an observant, skillful, and compassionate poet. Juanita Torrence-Thompson possesses the wisdom and sensibilities it takes to create poems that make us say, “yes, that’s me!” Her work will lift your spirits!! She deserves to sell a million copies.”
— Cindy Hochman - Editor, First Literary Review-East
Author, The Carcinogenic Bride

Review Excerpt from Pedestal Magazine:

“Teacher, editor and writer Juanita Torrence-Thompson has traveled widely, loved deeply and led an extraordinary life - a life from which the 84 poems in her fifth poetry collection, New York And African Tapestries, draw in startling, familiar detail…. The beauty of Torrence-Thompson’s poetry, however, is her ability to make experiences as diverse as traveling through a Moroccan market or walking down a crowded Manhattan street feel universal. She achieves this not by focusing on the grandiose and exotic, but on the small and human, on the peculiar observations and thoughts people can have, even in the most beautiful and unfamiliar surroundings. ‘During Sydney Olympics…’ focuses not on the pageantry of the event, but on a quirky souvenir the speaker has purchased… Even something as mundane as garbage disposal is not omitted, as in the humorous “They Must Have Trash in England.”

“…the bulk of New York And African Tapestries centers on small moments in daily life: dancing with a spouse, attending the theater, meditating on the beauty of a steel bridge and caring for an ailing parent. Indeed, the work in ‘Tapestries’ 2nd section, “Mother You Knew How to Live,” details Torrence-Thompson’s close relationship with her mother, and her sorrow at her mother’s sickness and death. The poems in this section, most notably “A Note,” “Forgiveness,” “Ablutions,” “Climbing the Great Wall of China,” and “Waning Days” show Torrence-Thompson at her finest. …“The Necklace,” the second poem in this section, is the collection’s stand-out piece. Through the simple device of a handmade necklace, Torrence-Thompson creates a touching and universal commentary on the generosity of mothers, the innocent thoughtlessness of youth and the guilt adult children often feel when they recall their childhood behavior towards parents. It is a portrait to which almost anyone with positive memories of a parent can relate. The simplicity of language and image in poems like “The Necklace” is one of ‘Tapestries’ greatest strengths.

Torrence-Thompson is a smart and compassionate poet with a keen understanding not just of human frailty, but also of the joys which make the human experience worthwhile. She also has a gentle sense of humor, which she displays in poems such as “I Waved to an Angel”.
—JoSelle Vanderhooft, Pedestal Magazine (online)

Review Excerpt from Home News Tribune:

New York And African Tapestries is a very user-friendly collection of poems that the reader can use to travel the world. However, the poetry tourist doesn’t have to fear getting lost in a maze of foreign back alleys or a tangle of unfamiliar language. There is no jarring jargon here. Just the pure, passionate poetry of observation and reflection.”

“Torrence-Thompson knows what to look for because she is a world traveler. Her poetry takes in Singapore, Australia, Morocco, Mexico and Switzerland.”

“Wherever Torrence-Thompson goes she always finds poetry. On occasion, her verses may have the obvious charge of outraged social conscience, as in… ‘South African History: Lorna Style.’

“But in a different poem, her observations are spiced by “sauntering down Broadway/Pregnant with marquees” where in ‘Ode to Manhattan’ she can: “Wander into bookstores and libraries/and have a love affair between the pages/by traipsing to Madagascar or ride a camel/in Egyptian deserts or along the Arabian Sea/Or ride an elephant in India. Bask in the sun and sand/Or coast along California’s 17-Mile drive…”

“The 84 poems in this 100-page collection display a sensitivity, compassion and awareness worthy of all who call themselves poets… Yet, in despite the obvious inequities and cruelties encountered in this poetry, Torrence-Thompson still keeps a poets balance in an unsteady world…”
—Charles H. Johnson, Home News Tribune

Review Excerpt from Art With Words:

“More so than Torrence-Thompson’s other books this one took me longer to read. Not because it was more difficult to get through, but because of the emotional involvement she demands from her reader in this volume of poetry. New York And African Tapestries starts out with eleven poems on 9/11, each one powerful and heart wrenching. I believe Thompson sums up the devastation of 9/11 perfectly with the last three lines of her poem October 2001. “Life as we knew it / will never be the same again / Gone are the carefree days of America”. Although a somber way to start this book she moves immediately into Life In Queens, and several other poems which I read as a celebration of life and diversity.

One thing you notice while reading any of Torrence-Thompson’s poetry is her attention to detail. I would have to say very little of the world around her escapes her attention. Details which are especially poignant in her travel poetry.

Each of the four sections of poetry presented in this book offer artfully constructed threads which weave the writer’s tapestries. I believe, as in all of Torrence-Thompson’s books, this collection of “new poems” offers something for everyone.”
— Debra J. Harmes-Kurth, Owner/Editor Art With Words

Excerpts from New York and African Tapestries By Juanita Torrence-Thompson (Fly By Night Press, A Gathering of the Tribes)

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

...It was too late for the brave firefighters and police
Inside the Twin Towers who were helping others
Too late for them to flee. Too late for them to go home
For dinner. Too late for them to kiss their wives goodbye
Too late to see their sons graduate from Columbia, too late
To walk their daughters down the aisle...


...You are taken for granted
-- you metallic wonder --
We’re sure you’ll always be there
-- Like Mount Everest --
despite erosion, rain, sleet, fog, snow


There was a lull in the rain
Mother and I began our ascent
Slowly, deliberately, pacing ourselves
For the long climb ahead.
The Chinese countryside swept before us,
Clean as a palace floor

...The first time I looked around
at the lush greenery
surrounding The Great Wall,
I was caught off guard
And gasped in delight.


I have a crush
on Tony Paisano --
the cutest boy
in our 4th grade class --
I’ll bet he’ll be named most handsome
In our high school yearbook

...I watch his face
when he opens
my valentine
Looking amazed
he glances my way
I look away
then back again
He says “thank you”
I’m ready to swoon.


...I relaxed in her yellow Queen Anne chair
while listening to stories of her debutante ball
royal friends and travels to Europe, Africa and Asia
She once rode a camel in Egypt, an elephant in India
and a rickshaw in Hong Kong


Drift softly, softly into the night
Inhale hibiscus and sip a lime-laced drink
In its chilled, smoky glass


...I think I am someone special
My ancestors were African kings and queens
doctors, lawyers, teachers,
abolitionists and preachers,
inventors and writers of the dream
I think, therefore I know,
I am someone


After a breakfast
of corn flakes with bananas
home baked white bread
kiwi fruit, paw paw - a native fruit
Orange sections, tea
Sumi, the royal driver, picks us up
at the palace, shows us around
the royal compound: two huge kitchens
with vast steel ovens for banquets where
women bake dumpling bread


...I lift an engraved 3-D lid
a garish green music box with
Crocodile Dundee wrestling a croc while
a chorus rings out, “Waltzing Matilda.”
Inside the box, an Aborigine man lights a fire
with sticks and dung
near the sacred Uluru. I smile
and slip away. Aussie coins
still jangling in my pockets.


One dismal, drizzly day
in April, Moti and I
took a breather
from our college studies
to wander through

the vibrant city
of Shakespeare, Dickens
and Shelley,
zigzagging through
Oxford Street
then ducking

into The National Gallery
where Gainsborough’s landscapes
and Rubens’s nudes hold court.

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