One of the joys of being a publisher is watching your authors continue to thrive. In 2012, Moon Tide Press published Irena Praitis' Straws and Shadows, a remarkable thematic collection of poems about life in Lithuania between the world wars. The book had a number of successful readings and got a writeup in Orange Coast Magazine. Now, Irena, who teaches at Cal State Fullerton, is back with a new release: The Last Stone in the Circle, which won Red Mountain Press' 2015 poetry prize competition and will launch at 3 p.m. on June 19 at Teatro Paraguas, 3504 Calle Marie in Santa Fe.
Yes, that's in New Mexico, which is a long drive from Irena's home in Southern California. But I once made that very drive, stopping overnight just once in Arizona, and can vouch that it's a beautiful and thought-provoking drive for artists or poets -- complete with the ranch where D.H. Lawrence once lived. Just make sure to fill up regularly on gas to avoid running on empty in the middle of the desert, as I nearly did at one point.
The Last Stone in the Circle, which Irena crafted from eyewitness accounts, depicts the experience of prisoners in a German work/re-education camp during World War II. One of the most striking things about Straws and Shadows is Irena's eye for detail, particularly in service of preserving the past. The book ends with the lines "I'll be gone soon, too, and only the ghosts / will have tales to tell, but no one to tell them to." We can count ourselves lucky to have Irena's tales again.