THE POWER OF THE PAUSE: The Wonder of Our Here & Now
Editors: Heather Tosteson and Charles D. Brockett
85 ~ poems, fiction & essay ~ 20 B/W illustrations ~ 268 pages
Price: $24.00
Publisher: Wising Up Press
ISBN: 978-1-7376940-4-5
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Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

If I have learned anything about life and especially about writing poetry, it is the importance of pausing to take stock of myself and my circumstances. This point is eloquently made by coeditor Heather Tosteson in her opening essay for The Power of the Pause: The Wonder of Our Here & Now. This helpful intro sets the stage for my review. I needed foundational lines such as: “The meaning of a pause is determined by what comes after … when we rejoin that flow, we rejoin it differently …”. I recently watched a documentary on the lives and careers of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Desi was quoted as saying, “I never learned moderation … all I ever did was work.” In the end, both Arnaz and Ball paid a heavy emotional and psychological price for their inability to pause.

While most folks would have no quarrel with Tosteson’s and Brockett’s premise, my goal, in this review, is to support and illustrate that premise with fresh vigor.


The anthology, which features contributions from 52 writers, is segmented into five major categories: I. Meditation; II. Illness; III. Trauma; IV. Quotidian; and V. Pandemic. Quotidian includes two subcategories: Wonder at the Small Connections and Identity. Pandemic also features two subgroups: The Way We Live Now and A Moment in History. I found the subcategories helpful when I desired a more targeted treatment of major themes. I was often bitten by the “curiosity” bug and ran sorties into them. I read poems in each category but did not approach the book in cover-to-cover fashion.

20 black and white illustrations enhance the volume. They are thoughtfully placed and enrich the whole. For example, preceding “Wonder at the Small Connections,” is a photo of a man and boy sitting side-by-side on sunny steps. They are sharing lunch. I imagine green grass, a blue sky, and casual but meaningful communion between the two. Pausing need not be rocket science.

Each division carries roughly equal shares of narratives and poems. I like this feature because essays contain a great deal of power in their details. I was fascinated by the sense of journey and struggle to learn and grow. Poetry, on the other hand, stacks its images in ways that often hit like a sledgehammer. Poems provide an awakening, “on tap.”


Beth Christensen’s essay entitled “Twenty-Five Years,” (Trauma Section), describes sexual abuse which began at age 15. The abuser, as is often the case, was a clinical therapist–a person of power who knew how to subtly manipulate his victims. The way Beth unfolds her narrative, the details, her emotions within the trauma, is worth the book’s asking price. The essay’s title is important: “Twenty-five Years.” 1974 marks the beginning of the abuse. 1999 marks the interval of years the author struggled to cope with what had happened. In the interim, she gathered herself, studied, and became certified as a teacher of critical-care nurses. Suddenly, while asleep she bolts out of bed in a panic:

For the first time in twenty-five years, I remember what the doctor did. I remember the sex and feelings of craziness and unreality, and somehow, I know without a doubt that what I remember now is real and true.

By the next segment, 2022, the narrative comes to a gentle close you won’t want to miss. There truly is power in pause.

Continuing in the Trauma section, I was moved by Chris Ellery’s poem, “Silent”:

         Whoever heard of night
         using big words
         to get what it wanted?
         Star light comes to you
         caroling, but there are
         no words or music.

         When you climb to the top,
         you don’t expect
         the mountain to lecture.
         Wind in an icy crevice
         explains nothing that you think
         needs explaining.

         The tongues of flame that took
         my father and mother
         had nothing to say.
         Because I was silent
         and listened, I heard
         the lesson and learned it.

When I read a finely crafted poem, I seldom ask, What does it mean? I ask, What am I feeling? I felt “tongues of flame.” I felt the deafening “silence” the author must have felt. His poetic pause helped him live his life.

By dipping into each segment, sampling and thinking, I was gifted with a full-orbed portrait of pausing. This unique skill (and it is a skill) is a vital life-source. The Power of the Pause functions like a body of many moving parts, each part fulfilling and completing the other parts.

Diane Elayne Dees’ sonnet offers a fitting closure:

         The Space Within
                  a sonnet for Patricia

         The space within each breath, we seldom notice,
         like the moment that the dusk turns into night,
         or the creeping cloud that softly dims the light.
         We step around the mud that births the lotus,
         afraid to get our feet wet. We are stranded
         on an island we created from our fear,
         surrounded by an ocean of despair.
         And so, we tell ourselves that we’re abandoned;
         we forget to note the space within each breath.
         With one foot in the future and the other
         in the past, we tell ourselves that we would rather
         deny our birth, bring on our spirit’s death.
         The space within each breath is always there,
         inviting us to pause, become aware.


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