Falling into the River
by Debbie Hall
A Poetry Box Chapbook Prize Winner – Third Place, 2019
“How many close calls before we become ghosts?” wonders the author of this collection, where she reflects upon her experiences—emotional, relational and spiritual–during her partner’s yearlong battle with a life-threatening illness. Threaded throughout these poems is the presence of the natural world—always a source of solace, but now more acutely and deeply felt.
About the Author
Debbie Hall is a psychologist, photographer and writer who lives in southern California with her partner and two vocal and talented rescue cats. She and her partner share a passion for traveling the world. She feels incredibly fortunate to have had the time and means to launch a second career as a poet after retiring from psychological practice. Debbie completed her MFA in 2017 at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. She considers poets her rock stars.
Debbie’s poetry has appeared in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including the San Diego Poetry Annual, Serving House Journal, Sixfold, Poets Reading the News, Poetry24, Bird’s Thumb, Califragile, Gyroscope Review and Hawaii Pacific Review. Her essays have appeared on NPR (This I Believe series), in USD Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune. She received an honorable mention in the 2016 Steve Kowit Poetry Prize and won second place in the 2018 Poetry Super Highway contest. Her first poetry collection, What Light I Have, was published in 2018 by Main Street Rag Books and was a finalist in the 2019 San Diego Book Awards. She is thrilled that her chapbook, Falling Into The River, just won third place in the 2019 Poetry Box Chapbook Prize.
What They’re Saying . . .
Falling into the River is a book of remarkable candor and tenderness. Faced with a somber “unexpected detour,” Debbie Hall has forged poetry that is deeply attentive and hopeful. Near misses and nimbus clouds hijacking the sky are offset by gifts from nature and the poet’s playfulness. Hall gives us the egret, “lustrous with first light,” and weeds, “resplendent in their ratty coats.” Surgery is compared to the pas de trois in a ballet, and mortality appears as a gorilla in a tutu. These poems are delightful: intimate, unflinching, and imbued with love.
—Rebecca Patrascu, Before Noon
When immeasurable fear arrives on the shores of poetry it is sometimes greeted with neither aversion nor welcome. Despite its alarming unease and three hundred mile per hour winds—the call to respond, repair, and interpret is the poet’s duty. This new poetry collection by Debbie Hall, Falling Into the River, documents a couple’s processing of shared weakening and fear. These are poems with spines. “Words you can barely form / with your own mouth, / vocabulary that you must now / make your own.” Hall is gifted with a language that is rich in observation and conveys it with profound courage and tenderness—“Here, sit in my lap now.”
Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater
Language formed from ache, perseverance and enlightenment construct Hall’s poems: a cancer survivor’s grateful soul mate who comes back from a despairing precipice—love’s shared journey—to discover in these intimate poems that even a long life is short. We learn, too, how the residential soul survives for illumination, to know endurance is born from restoration and hope. Poems to remind us that we fall to get up and go on, mostly, a little more stooped, but thankfully keen to the transient world, each day sanctified with “…the calculus of near misses / allotted each of us.”
—Jeff Walt, Leave Smoke
Falling into the River, Debbie Hall’s newest collection, is a graceful and unflinching telling of the perilous medical journey of the poet’s longtime love. This is a poet with a gift for staying present no matter what. She knows herself and she knows her heart, and in that knowing we come to know ourselves as well. As readers we are up-close witnesses to every phase: the anxious wait for results; vigilance during the partner’s illness and treatment; self-questioning about how to best offer comfort; and ultimately the return of her partner to health. With the instincts of a tracker and all senses on high alert, Debbie Hall never strays from the natural world, which provides inspiration, hope, solace and even distraction when needed. Hall’s brilliance with extended metaphor will dazzle you. Look what she does with the jigsaw puzzle, the fire bulletin, Swan Lake, the tomatoes! Oh, the tomatoes! These poems portray a shared life lived with gusto, through times of ecstatic contentment, despair and renewal. This collection is a celebration of life and love—a testament to treasure.
—Lin Nelson Benedek,
When a Peacock Speaks to You in a Dream