Book Review: Leaning Against The Rain


When I received Alex Norelli’s book of poetry Leaning Against The Rain in the mail, I was just at the start of suffering from a bad cold. Laying on my sofa, channel-flipping and feeling irritable, I kept glancing at the envelope on my coffee table. Finally, I opened it, thinking I’d take a glance and set it aside for a time I felt better and more coherent. An hour or so passed, and I decided I’d at least read a few poems. Doing so eventually led me into the late night/morning hours reading the entirety of the book in one sitting.

I knew Alex as a visual artist, and though I also knew he dabbled in poetry, I did not realize how much of himself he poured into it until I started reading his book. One of the major things that set Norelli’s book apart from so many others, was the freedom in it. Even the poems that were among my least favorite or the ones that I found harder to understand, still retained that freedom and flowed from a voice that has much to say.

And that voice is both exhilarating and refreshing. It is not one trying to emulate any other and you discover that as you read the strange and wonderful pieces. Though many of the poems reference nature, the descriptions are enlightening and new, making one almost feel they are in a field of wildflowers, ‘leaning against the rain’. The words bring a sense of calm yet at the same time that feeling of being truly alive. It’s almost as if Alex has created a Zen garden to be shared within his nature poems.

The book is divided into three parts; NATURE NATURE NATURE, LOVE IN THE TIME OF WATERTOWERS, and THE BLUEST PEAR. Each section stands on its own and offers the reader something new. I found personally, though these poems made me feel, they made me think a lot also. Not in a bothersome way as if you are trying to decipher ancient script, but in a pleasant, inspired way. It is the kind of collection that makes you want to go reaching for your own pen or paintbrush. Any piece or collection that does that, I consider a great success.

The immense creativity in these pages along with a total lack of pretentiousness, is something I wish I saw more of in collections of poetry. Alex welcomes the reader into his world with a new spin on spirit, and never once seems to be talking down to the reader, but rather invites them to join him on a journey that is free of inhibitions and self-consciousness. He is playful, experimental, but at the same time deep and serious.

Out of all three sections of the book, my favorite is LOVE IN THE TIME OF WATERTOWERS, probably because the pieces in this section gave rise to my emotions the most. Following are a couple of pieces from that section:

Strands of Your Hair

so much of it
it’s as if we lived years

bird silhouettes

against the blue and cloudy

one long strand of yours
weaving among
a small flock of mine

in a sky
so quiet now
that you are gone


Anti-social Tendencies

Why do I choose blistering sorrow
over the warmth of human relations?
Is my drug of choice asphyxiation?

Or am I bellicose at heart?
All the leaves shook from the tree
with a single depravity
and I stood there, at the trunk

and like a lush hugged it.

No witnesses,
but the fly I conjured
to watch and affirm
the validity of fall.

Additionally, the beginning of the much longer poem, Love in the Time of Watertowers (from myself in the future looking back on what hitherto is hath to come):

“You will find yourself alone
 crying relentlessly
 punch walls, breaking
glasses, shuffling papers gritting teeth
clenching to no avail, the echoes
of the damage continuing to resound
as every nerve in your body
shudders in one magnificent
chorus you never knew
was there.”

Norelli’s collection of poems is one of those where I have a very hard time choosing my favorites, because each section, each piece, seems to take you to a different place on various levels. Even the Prologue and the final Epigramatica are enjoyable to read and both take you on a strange journey.

Out of all the books of poetry I have in my collection, I have to say this one has become a favorite and one I will return to. I highly recommend this book to any lover of poetry who would like something strange, thought-provoking and fresh to add to their bookshelf. And though the poems I referenced above are more on the moody, serious side, this book takes you on a journey that has many twists, turns and moods. All the bends in the road of this read offer surprise, contemplation, and a breath of creative air that travels deep and wide.

To purchase the book and learn more about Alex Norelli’s creations, visit his website. You might also find yourself stimulated by his visual pieces.

*Originally appeared 2014 on Ravens Among Me.

Heather Lenz

Heather Lenz

Poetry Editor at Stepping Stones Magazine
Heather Lenz is a poet, editor and visual artist. Her poems have appeared in both online and print publications such as Enigma Rag, Mind Eclipse, Adoration, The Monarch Review, Carcinogenic Poetry, Ink Sweat & Tears, Falling Star Magazine, Because We Write and others. Born and raised in Washington State, she continues to explore new outlets for her art, which birthed Ravens Among Me, a site dedicated to her creative expression.
Heather Lenz

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