When All Else Fails
by Lana Hechtman Ayers
# pages tbd, # poems 69
Published by The Poetry Box
US price tbd
ISBN tbd
To Order: https://thepoetrybox.com/bookstore-2
(official release May 15)


Open-hearted and unwavering, these poems of vivid imagery navigate the reader through a lifetime–a rocky childhood, self-discoveries as a young woman, the many losses of adulthood, then finally learning to anchor one’s existence to beauty. Some poems in this collection explore growing up with an abusive mother, attentive grandmothers, and a distant but caring father. Other poems reflect upon the ethos of the times, bullying, and the ordeals of being female in a male-dominant culture. Poems that give voice to connection with nature, with the arts, with creativity, and with loving relationships provide uplifting insights. Ultimately, When All Else Fails celebrates the restorative power of poetry itself.


“Lana Hechtman Ayers’ unflinchingly honest and sensual poetry traces her journey from a difficult childhood in Queens spent in ‘the dark house of my mother’s anger’ where the poet grew ‘scrupulous as an owl’, to a wildly luxuriant maturity in the Pacific Northwest where she revels in intimacy with sky and water, trees, birds, and a loving partner. The shadows of New York give way to a wide open spaciousness and a vibrant appreciation of simple gifts: eggs from the Farmer’s Market, the sound of rain, a beloved dog, and the window in the poet’s study where ‘One windy day I became a kite.’ Ayers generously takes us along on her journey from violence and decay to a hard-earned rebirth into nature, love, and art. In the end, we too are redeemed.”
–Alison Luterman, author of In the Time of the Great Fires

When All Else Fails reminds us that poetry can arise from even the most difficult circumstances. Lana Hechtman Ayers takes the raw material of extreme childhood poverty and abuse and turns it into one arresting poem after another. Even more remarkable is that the poet emerges from this crucible not just alive but fully alive, willing to embrace everything, knowing that she’s here “to touch / the blank page with reverent ink.” Ayers’ good humor and generosity of spirit are hard-won and all the more authentic for that. When All Else Fails is a powerful book about the redemptive power of poetry.”
–John Brehm, author of No Day at the Beach and The Dharma of Poetry

“In this compelling free verse memoir, Lana Hechtman Ayers includes a number of poems recounting her young years spent as a sickly, mercilessly teased outsider. Her hateful mother gave her love that was ‘a recipe for violence,’ and her beloved father—who kept a vigil at her side through her numerous illnesses–was one of her few solaces. But the tone here transcends darkness. These poems sing with joy and reverence for a world ‘hard as agate but twice as beautiful.’ Ayers’ work speaks to us in a vividly rich lyric voice ‘born to be the sky’s reporter, mood ring for the rain.’ ”
–Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita


Lana Hechtman Ayers, originally from New York, settled in the Pacific Northwest after a decade in New England. She is managing editor of three poetry presses: Concrete Wolf Poetry Series, MoonPath Press, and World Enough Writers. She facilitates generative writing workshops in the Amherst Method, runs a poetry book club, helps other poets assemble manuscripts, and teaches at writer’s conferences. Lana is the author of nine previous collections of poetry.


Starry Night

by Lana Hechtman Ayers

At MoMA in New York at eighteen,
I discovered Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
So up close I stood after the security guard walked by,
I smelled the century between us
and heard the cry of wet paint long since dried.
I had no context for the tortured life of a man a culture
and religion apart.
Had no knowledge of the sanitarium
from whence the scene arose.
But in that moment, I felt Van Gogh as soul twin,
one who understood the world is never still,
impending darkness and the cacophony of exploding light
engaged in a fight for domination.
His cypress tree like a sword of doctrine piercing
the fabric of time.
I have never been at home anywhere but in that painting,
or else in the rain where drops become
my shroud, my sanctuary, song without lyrics.

Whoever knows what they were born for is truly fortunate.
I scribble in notebook after notebook,
as if to clear the way by making it muddier.
I want to know it matters, any of it,
earth, humanity, a few humans in particular,
perhaps even myself.

Alone in my apartment, looking out,
the stars like drops of rain
glistening on the windowpanes of the cosmos,
I’ve come to believe by way of pain
and a singular painting,
that if love is the answer,
no question matters more than any other.


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]