The Catalog of Small Contentments
by Carolyn Martin
In her fifth collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments, Carolyn Martin celebrates the aesthetic she has embraced for decades. It is found in Sting’s comment, “All my life I have tried to find the truth and make it beautiful.”
These delightfully accessible poems sparkle with beauty as they revel in truths inspired by a host of poets, artists, and philosophers from Billy Collins and Mary Oliver to Teilhard de Chardin and Claude Monet; from Virginia Wolf and Maggie Smith to Henry James and Joan Miró.
They also draw beautiful truths from the natural world that surrounds the poet. Feral cats, squirrels, Steller’s jays, slugs, moles, and maple trees appear throughout the collection. Even an errant fly and spider earn lessons on how to survive in an unfriendly world.
Finally, Martin’s obsession with unique words inundates these poems. Words like anatidaephobia, hypnopedia, superannuation, blamestorming, and funemployed offer readers the opportunity to enjoy the poet’s wordplay while expanding their own vocabulary.
Whether she’s chatting with an antic ant or pondering Monet’s myopia, Martin is committed to the small contentments that fill her days and inhabit these poems.
Enjoy a video of Carolyn reading from the book:
Carolyn Martin — A Featured Poet on The Poetry Box LIVE (August 2021)
About the Author
From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and dry summers. After years of writing academic papers and business books, she discovered that poetry is the way her mind interacts with the world—in images, rhythms, sounds, and intensities of language. So she’s settled into the joyful challenge of translating experience into as few words as possible and making those experiences accessible to her readers.
Martin prides herself on flashes of humor that light up her poems. Her intention is to begin and end poems with delight and throw in splashes of wisdom along the way. Add her penchant for musicality and obsession with unusual words, she crafts poems that are surprising and satisfying.
Her poems have appeared in more than 130 journals and anthologies throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fourth poetry collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019, and her first chapbook, Nothing More to Lose, by The Poetry Box in January 2021.
She currently serves as poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at carolynmartinpoet.com.
Early Praise for The Catalog of Small Contentments:
Fast-paced and quick-witted, Carolyn Martin’s fifth collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments, will lift your spirits, entertain and fortify you during these mad times. These are love songs to the world and all that lives within it. There are laugh-out loud poems and poems of praise to the maker of the universe, to the earth in all its beauty. Find here ekphrastic poems that reconsider surrealism and poetry, turning old myths into new understandings. John Donne’s For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love and Noel Coward’s Kiss me quick before my body rots set the tone for a collection that takes its own advice to poets: Never ride a bike with the brakes on. Philosophical and funny, wise and rhythmic, Martin’s exuberance for living will infect and sustain every reader.
The Blue Nib’s Poetry Editor for North American Time,
author of The Gypsy Shaman’s Daughter
Small contentments appear throughout Carolyn Martin’s fifth poetry collection with an abundance of gratitude. One can feel the natural world of human and animal life— in heart, in mind, in ocean, in garden— speaking out from deep inside the poet.
The humility that gratitude requires also shines in these poems alongside Martin’s compelling impatience for the suffering that diminishes us. Her quiet anger flows through poems like “Breaking News: God’s Rewilding Plan Leaked” where human inattention and grandiosity undermine some of the awesome contentments that the world can provide. Humans might well be in Martin’s thoughts when she writes in “A Montage of Misperceptions,” giggly goldfish [are] convinced the ocean belongs to them.
The Catalog of Small Contentments reads like an injection of the human spirit into the bloodstream.
—Colin Greer, poet, playwright, educator, activist,
and president of The New World Foundation
Carolyn Martin’s The Catalog of Small Contentments suggests how we can find sanity in what we see in our gardens, poetry books, or the night school of sleeplessness and dreams. Whatever is close by, including feral cats. She notices the spider on her windshield and writes with a robust sense of humor which hits perfect notes in her laugh-out-loud proverbs. Her serious side pays homage to influences as diverse as Billy Collins, Basho, Marx, and Bette Davis. We witness her gentle compassion when she reads obituaries and shares the loss of loved ones. Martin’s fans might include other poets, mystics, birdwatchers, retired folks, and those open to learning a new word a day (she provides an addendum to explain.) Boiling it down, these poems are for people who wonder about the place of humans in the universe on days that begin with a look out the window.
—Tricia Knoll, author of Checkered Mates