Donna Reis

    about donna     home     anthologies     send us an email   donna's poems




Introducing: No Passing Zone

Poems by Donna Reis 6 x 9 in.

75 page collection

trade paper $16.95

No Passing Zone, poems by Donna Reis

Available from Deerbrook Editions

also available from

and our distributor


From the Back Cover

Lyrical, wry, biting—Reis uses all the tricks in her deck to show how to survive the pain and healing of the body, the crumbling and restoration of houses, the razing and rebuilding of love. There’s serious word play here, and a sharp eye for detail. Reis explores not only her own experience, but the lives of others—Dorothy Wordsworth ministering to her brother, Mary Lamb, whose “Kitchen rattled / toward me, its knives hissing . . .” Readers will rejoice at the perseverance of this poet, who “stayed because [she had] more stories to tell.”
—Mary Makofske

Good poetry ventures out beyond one’s neighborhood of comfort and the familiar, testing the self where there is no “Vicodin handy,” with only the music of the poem to carry you. Donna Reis, in this lush collection, is always moving toward those edges, and thus the reader learns more of what it means to be human in a hostile universe.
—Steven Huff

There’s danger in this book, and near-death trauma, houses for sale and ex-husbands staining the couch, and “there’s Crazy Kate down / in the ruins forever building walls, / flying her blue-blooded flag / like a Keep Out sign, hoarding / matches, storing cans of gasoline.” No Passing Zone takes the reader on a winding, sometimes harrowing, sometimes giddy ride, but it’s one not to be missed; the reader is safe with Donna Reis at the wheel, ready “to venture down roads / where tragedies struck—certain, at last.”
—Meg Kearney

The speaker in these shocking, tender, funny, and lovely poems is stunningly resilient, surviving four near-death experiences including a hit and run leaving her with lifelong after-effects. She’s as splendid a model of grace as I’ve met in literature or life; transcending daily pain with her often naughty sense of humor and gratitude, drinking every delicious drop of nectar life offers—and for one so wise in self-knowledge, there is nectar everywhere and every when.
—April Ossmann

  Book Reviews for No Passing Zone

Snake Nation Review

          I fell in love with Dona Reis's poems when I read "Going for Coffee after an Al-Anon Meeting," which Snake Nation Press published. In the poem, the different wives talk about how their husbands might die and what they would wear to the funerals. In fact, the poem starts off with the lines,

"To get through each day / I kill my husband, Sandy says."

The poem goes on with three women, Sandy, Lynette, and Cheryl, each envisioning how her husband will be killed and what they will wear to the funerals. "How can he complain about the $1,200 / price tag when it's for his funeral?"

One cannot help but laugh, but also be aware that there is another layer, that these three have alcoholics in their lives. Whether it's a sibling, a parent, or a husband is not addressed, but the reader is aware or otherwise these women wouldn't be going to an Al-Anon meeting.

In her book of poetry, No Passing Zone, Ms. Reis has that wonderful ability to write about ordinary things from an odd angle, or at least from an angle that the has considered or never considered.  It's wonderful both ways.  But you're never in doubt of what she's talking about even if the actual deed is not mentioned, such as "Sleeping with the Carpenter."

What do we want from poetry? Why do we read poetry? Even more interesting to me, as a writer, reader, and editor is: Why do we write poetry?    

A long time ago, Janet Burroway, a professor at Florida State University, read a very revealing poem. Later, I asked her, "How did you have the courage, the nerve?" She answered, "I want to know myself and to be known." To me it was a very good answer.

"To know yourself and to be known," is what the reader will find in Reis's poems. You will recognize yourself and know her, too, to some extent from her experiences,  in "Still Life" the hit-and-run accident she endured, and also in the trials of women with difficult husbands--are there any other kind? Even brothers and male friends can be difficult because we are the nursemaids and cooks, as we are all too aware of in "Dorothy at Grasmere." Maybe I should say life is difficult rather than place that word on all men's shoulders.

There's a lot of humor in the poems in No Passing Zone, along with a lyrical quality to the words that carries the reader from line to line. I especially like "Everything You Need to Know about Ghosts" because of the last line: "Don't count on them / for anything so practical as finding your keys, / because they are undoubtedly / the ones who hid them."
                              —Roberta George


 The American Book Review -Fantasy, Memory, Pain by Stephanie Rauschbusch



No Passing Zone


Donna Reis


Deerbrook Editions, 2013, $ 16.95


Warwick Valley poet Donna Reis begins this indelible book by recalling the stillness after a near-fatal accident: “I want snow / to light on my face / the way it did as I lay / that night like a fallen tree, / an ailing wolf,” ending with the “spiked beauty” of loosestrife.  In between, a home is repainted and sold, a marriage dissolves and another begins.  It’s a saga of surviving with humor intact, full of phrases that startle and glint.  On the way to a funeral in Texas, “Parched prairie grasses / flutter along highways like mourners. / A crow whines from a steeple top…,”; at home, “There is always a reason not to sleep. / Eyelahes net the sky. Nails pop / from walls like typos.”  Yet despite life’s hardship’s, “There is no use in stopping. / I will make up for my husband’s fallen life / by loving someone else.”


Written by Nina Shengold for Chronogram Magazine.



Secrets and Survival: No Passing Zone, by Donna Reis

Donna Reis, in her thoughtful 2012 collection, No Passing Zone, provides the reader with a glimpse into

A life full of endings and beginnings: Tragic accidents, tragic relationships, the tragedy of scars long in healing.  It is a book full of ghosts and whispers, but also filled with a soft humor and grim determination.


From the beginning of the book, the thread of loss is felt.  “I want to feel that stillness / only lovers and dying feel / before they go beyond.”  (“Still Life”) Reis gives us a sense throughout that while love may be the search, it is loss that is the secret friend of all our days.  Even the small things in life smack of fatalism.  In the poem, “Green Stairs,” the author looks at a freshly painted set of steps and sees ‘how they rise / before us as we plod / up to bed / for the next twenty years.

This is a vision of a life that is searching for a place when the world keeps displacing it.


One too many

lost marriages, too many glasses

 of wine, too many departures.

And now what?

Am I the desperate hijacker

who combusts into flames,

or the blanket that smothers

and smolders?


Reis is smart enough not to offer up easy answers, but to leave with an intriguing set of ambiguities, which is, in the end, what living really is.  In the sneakily erotic “Cowboys,” Reis, reading about cowboys,

admits, “you feel like you’re cheating / on your husband, feel like you should / wish he were home more often.”  Again, in the quiet eloquent “Two Rooms,” Reis offers this insight: “I have stopped talking / to our dead dog, so I can leave / his grave behind, stopped / wanting for things I can’t have.”  The flip side of all this fatalism and longing is the secret heart of survival that runs through this strong collection.  Though she flirts with the notion of meeting death head-on in “Vicodin,” “I reach / in my pocket / for a narrow escape.”)  it is the survivor that always wins out.  Listen to the unabashed assuredness in the aptly titled poem “Certain.”


There is no use in stopping.

I will make up for my husband’s fallen life

by loving someone else.

I will know him when he sits

at the next table in a restaurant,

or passes me on the road.

I will know what to feed

his injured heart…”

In the end, Reis lets us know, it is a secret wilderness that carries us through.  In the collection’s final piece, “Loosestrife,” it is this unfettered need to grow and cling to survival that looms as the key in the end.


But I want it’s spiked beauty.

Seedlings sprout through

Floorboards, hallways thicken

with tangled discord

till I cannot see

beyond it.


Written by John Bellinger for The Comstock Review.