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Great explorations: Two poetry collections inspire different forms of discovery

for the Journal

V.B. Price is an erudite Albuquerquean, known for writing incisively about public issues in many forms for many years.

Price is a poet, a journalist, a novelist, an essayist, a nonfiction author, a columnist, as well as an editor and a former college professor.

His latest book is “Innocent Regained: Christmas Poems.” It’s a collection of poems he has written each year for half a century. The bound poems have been sent as holiday gifts to friends.

Now they are gifts to anyone who reads the anthologized poems. The poems are also gifts at another level.

Rini, Price’s late wife of 51 years, inspired his annual writing of these poems.

“Rini had cancer for a long time. She always said one should concentrate on what doesn’t hurt. She always looked at life as a gift. I did, too. … Christmas is a time of delight, and she wanted to retain that delight and gratitude for every little pleasure we could take,” Price said.

The poems’ themes vary with their thoughtful, positive messages. Price said his favorite poem in the collection is “Five Reasons Why Despair Is No Good.” The reasons – according to the poem – are love, beauty, wonder, curiosity and change.

Price said the line “despair is no good” in the poem is borrowed from famed children’s book author E.B. White. “(Despair) accomplishes nothing, helps nobody. It can be struggled against, by doing what Rini suggests,” Price explained.

He said he himself has fought to overcome mental roadblocks in writing the poems.

Price, who is 80, remains intellectually active. He is preparing three new poetry collections, a book about pediatric illness and pollution, and an encyclopedia of the writers who have lived in New Mexico. For four years he’s been producing a column online (vbprice.com) that maintains his longtime commentary on politics, the environment, culture and human rights.

His “Innocence Regained” is one of two poetry books recently published by Casa Urraca Press of Abiquiú. Zach Hively is its publisher. The other is “Glitches in the FBI,” a chapbook by Albuquerque poet Amaris Feland Ketcham.

Ketcham was drawn to the combination of earthy language and the language of inquiry into paranormal mysteries in the 1990s TV series “The X-Files.” She had viewed the first few seasons when they were initially aired. This year, the pandemic enabled her to rewatch those episodes and view episodes from other seasons.

The chapbook, she said, is experimental.

“It’s all found poetry. You’re relying on chance and surprise that happens in the experimentation. One good thing is I found how easy it is for characters to emerge, with either dramatic monologue or their own thoughts voicing during the poems,” Ketcham said.

In the book’s author’s note, she writes that the poems are composed of lines and dialogue repurposed from the series, adding “… I strove to write away from the source material so each poem became something new.”

Ketcham teaches in the University of New Mexico’s Honors College.

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A timely third book of poetry is “Starfish on a Beach: The Pandemic Poems” (Wings Press)by Margaret Randall of Albuquerque. Randall’s poems dissect with urgency and clarity the uncertainties of trying to survive the current pandemic and to wonder about a post-pandemic future.

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