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Monday, August 24, 2020

Carole Mertz Reviews Jack Grapes Prize-Winning Book of Poetry

Carole Mertz Reviews Jack Grapes Prize-Winning Book of Poetry

Title: Dancing in Santa Fe and Other Poems

Author: by Beate Sigriddaughter

Genre: Poetry Chapbook

Publisher: Cervena Barva Press

ISBN 9781950063239 

2019, 24 pg., Paperback, $8.00

Book is available at 

Review by Carole Mertz ( originallyfor The Compulsive Reader 

In Dancing in Santa Fe, Beate Sigriddaughter delivers a fine collection of fourteen poems, all written in free verse. An American poet of German heritage, she has won multiple poetry prizes, including the Cultural Weekly—Jack Grapes Prize in 2014, and multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Her gracious promotion of women’s poetry (at her blog Writing in a Woman’s Voice) is also commendable.

Richness of character and content run throughout the collection. The author presents a wealth of resources and displays her thoughtfulness resulting from inner reflection, along with her skill in defining external scenes surrounding her. Sigriddaughter describes a bus ride, for example, in which a rider is exulting over the sunrise, but fellow-travellers give the rider a look of contempt. “What have you done with my exuberance and with my tenderness?” she asks within the poem. “Was it of any use to you to take it like that?” (From “Silence,” p. 19.)

In “Lines for a Princess” (p. 21), the persona is at once a sheltered flower, a mountain juniper, a “seed that never quite took,” and a poet who “wants sequins and justice both.” I like the depth of this persona’s character and appreciate the clarity with which the narration is rendered. In it Sigriddaughter writes, “Days whisper by. You have to / listen carefully to hear them.” The poem is one among others in the collection that draws on fairytale themes

A longer poem, “Dancing in Santa Fe” (pgs. 4-7), renders alternating verse backdrops of such weighted matters as concentration camps and the horrors of war, contrasted with New Mexico’s beautiful mountain scenes. “…to feel for sins I haven’t committed?” she writes, as autobiography. “…is an unspeakable filter / on this gorgeous world.” 

The poems, “Samsara” and “Nirvana” draw on Buddhist religious terms to deliver their messages. As wanderer, in “Samsara” (pgs. 8-9), the poet writes:


Even on the mountain, surrounded

by excellence, the trouble

of the city clamors in my heart…


In “Nirvana’ (p. 10), Sigriddaughter issues a plea:


I love you world. Send more angels.

Help me fight the dull and dangerous



Here she admits her distrust of “nirvana,” a striving after bliss and the absence of suffering or desire. (Isn’t self-effacing consent like suicide? she asks.) 

“The River” (p.11) brings to the reader another level of reflection; the river acknowledges being bound to desires. Accepting this, it wants to carve passageways through mountains of unnecessary evil. I enjoy the beauty of this metaphor and how it allows the river to speak Sigriddaughter’s own spiritual desires. 

In addition to her narrative skills, the poet’s mature voice also lends beauty to her verses. We trust her voice all the more, because it doesn’t conceal the imperfections of the world. “I have heard,” she says in Scheherazade (p.16), “how not forgiving is like drinking poison.” And with further insight, “You cannot be my hero any more…I cannot imagine the cost / of making nice with the entitled predator / like that.” A subsequent line strikes an even stronger point. 

Though several poems lead us to reflect on beauty and dark matters, such as war and unforgiveness, the Sigriddaughter chooses to close the chapbook with a humorous poem. In “The Dragon’s Tale” (p.23), the princess is hidden away from “benevolent contempt.” We content ourselves with this comedy when the dragon asks, “You thought I was going to eat her?” 

I delight in Dancing in Santa Fe. Its content seems to “fill the narrow margins of reality with beauty.” (15) Beate Sigriddaughter’s poems balance darkness with a joyful light.


Beate Sigriddaughter, author of hundreds of poems, is winner of the 2014 Jack Grapes Prize and a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee. She has promoted women’s writing at her blog Writing in a Woman’s Voice for many years, an activity which grew out of her earlier Glass Woman Prize. Siggriddaughter is the author of Emily and Dancing in Santa Fe and other poems

Her forthcoming Dona Nobis Pacem will be issued December, 2021 by Unsolicited Press. Learn more at:, and



Carole Mertz is the author of Toward a Peeping Sunrise (Prolific Press) and of the forthcoming Color and Line (with Kelsay Books, November, 2020). She reviews frequently at Mom Egg Review, Eclectica, South85 Journal, and Dreamers Creative Writing. Her reviews are also at Into the Void, Main Street Rag, World Literature Today, and League of Canadian Poets. Carole is judge (in the formal poetry division) of the 2020 Poets and Patrons of Illinois International Poetry Contest. Carole resides with her husband in Parma, Ohio. Reach her at and tweet with her @Carolemertz1



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