Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

Friday, April 28, 2017

Salt and Oil, Blood and Clay by Jennifer Bresnick


Rating: WORTHY!

This is "A collection of short stories, poems, and vignettes that use fantasy and the harsh realities of ordinary life to explore the impact of solitude, sorrow, hope, and longing on how we see and believe in the world." I don't think that blurb does this justice. This is short, but it was quite engaging. I liked how it hung together, and even though I didn't 'get' everything, and didn't like some things, overall I considered it a very worthy read.

I loved that the author isn't afraid to make her poetry rhyme. I'm not one of those people who thinks poetry should be "just like in the Hallmark cards' but neither do I think rhyming poetry is a dirty word. Or more to the point, a set of dirty words! I think poetry needs to have rhythm, meaning, and yes, rhyme, but you can rhyme with meaning and sentiment instead of literally with words. Far too much poetry these days is pretentious prose arbitrarily broken into random clauses. Not with this author, who writes so well that you can feel the emotion coming through those words straight into your heart. That's exactly what poetry should be.

The short stories were quirky and engaging, and in some cases felt like they were unfinished - or were the beginning of something longer, which the author abandoned, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing to get from a story. Some of those were intriguing. Life is unfinished until it's too late; then there's nothing we can do about it! We've left it to others to finish what we started, so my advice is to get it done while you can, and this author brings that and more. I recommend this.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Courage: Daring Poems For Gutsy Girls by Various Authors


Rating: WARTY!

I must say up front that i am not a big poetry fan despite having published a book of poetry and prose (Poem y Granite - the title says it all!) myself. Poetry is like all art forms: a very personal thing, and I'm forced to conclude that it's especially personal to the author of it, and less so to everyone else!

On top of that, this book isn't aimed at me. Well maybe it's aimed at half of me, since I do have one X chromosome, but I suspect it's intended for those carrying at least two such chromosomes. Oh yes, it's possible to have more than two, but it's usually not a good idea. Male chauvinists might take some pleasure in the knowledge that for each extra X you have, your IQ drops by about fifteen points, but this is only in males, so evidently we can't handle the X! When females have an extra X the IQ drops only by ten points, so that ought to set the record straight!

It seems odd to say I was disappointed in this, because I wasn't sure what to expect from it. I got less than I expected, whatever that expectation was though, which meant it was a disappointment for me. I think that my first problem was that these poems didn't feel very much like poetry to me. Most of them were nothing more than prose split arbitrarily into odd line segments. We've all done that: pretentiously split up some (to us) deep-sounding prose and called it a poem, but it doesn't make it one.

And no, I'm not one of these people who believes that if it doesn't have an alternate rhyme scheme like a Hallmark card or a pop song, then it's not a poem. I do like rhyming poems, but I appreciate other kinds of poetry too, if it seems poetic! There are different ways of making a poem. It can be done by rhyming words, or by rhyming ideas or thought, or meaning, or by making the poem rhythmic in some way. It's that old truth: I may not know much about art, but I know what I like, or something along those lines.

Again, it's a personal thing, but to me, most of this stuff was not poetic. Maybe that's on me for not being a woman (or a girl in this case)! Maybe there;s a secret girl code in here that guys just don't get, but whatever it was, I think that accounts for the bulk of my disappointment. I didn't feel elevated or educated by it. I didn't feel I had any insight I had not had before. One poem, for example, bore more resemblance to a shopping list than ever it did to poetry. Others were simply women evidently getting bad stuff out of their system, which is fine. No on says poetry is required to be upbeat and perky (no one who knows anything anyway), but this simply did not feel poetic.

So while others may get different mileage out of this - in fact I hope they do - I didn't get very much out of it at all, so I can't recommend it.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

If Bees Are Few by Various Writers


Rating: WORTHY!

I have to say up front that I am not a big fan of poetry. Too much of it seems way too pretentious to me, but I am a big fan of bees. The aim of this book was to bring together "a hive of bee poems", with the profits from it going to the University of Minnesota Bee Lab. So, if you don't want to read the book, at least consider sending some money to the lab! Maybe they'll send you a free beard of bees!

No, they won't - the bees would just die without the queen, and if they included a queen, she would probably die from being so exposed! This is how vulnerable bees are, and whatever is causing Colony Collapse Disorder isn't helping. If the bees go, we're screwed for a host of food plants, and gorgeous flowers and trees which we can only enjoy if the bees pollinate them. Besides, bees are cute!

CCD has affected a lot of nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, and the USA, to name a few. Unfortunately these nations are not all well represented in this book! France, Italy, Portugal, and Switzerland have no representation as far as I can tell, and continents like South America and Africa not at all or hardly at all. There seems to be a strong focus on Minnesota (about 20% of the writers are from there or live there), and around 80% of the writers are from or resident in the USA. That said, there is some representation from a wide variety of nations, if only to the tune of one or two writers each.

The title, If Bees are Few comes from Emily Dickinson's 1755 poem To Make a Prairie, and though I am not a fan of hers, her poems were nonetheless among the best here. There is a preface and an introduction which I skipped. I never read those things, but I did read the afterword by Marla Spivak which talked about the whole purpose of the book. She's well-worth listening to.

The poems are from people both living and not, and there were some sterling names among those who have gone to that great beehive in the sky: Robert Burns, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Devereaux, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudyard Kipling, DH Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, and William Shakespeare, Alfred Tennyson, Vergil, Walt Whitman, and William Butler Yeats. Let's face it, whether you're a fan of poetry or not, these contributors are no lightweights! The variety of poetry is remarkable. Some are long, some short, some are like traditional poems, some not, and some are more like short stories than poems. Some are serious, some amusing, some descriptive, some truly poetic, if not obscure! Some are solely about bees, others have bees make cameos, just buzzing in and out. There is something for everyone, though, which I really liked.

I found myself preferring the older poems but there were some more recent ones that had a good voice, too. All in all, it made for an entertaining read even for someone like me. And it's for a really good cause. It's for all of these reasons that I recommend this book.




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Salad Anniversary by Machi Tawara

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Title: Salad Anniversary
Author: Machi Tawara
Publisher: Steerforth
Rating: WARTY!

Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter.


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Machi Tawara is a young Japanese poet who single-handedy revived the ancient tanka style of poetry in Japan, but for me it just tanked. The poetry left me completely flat. It was nothing uplifting or edifying. It wasn't educational or moving. All it consists of is Tawara pining over a lost love - which she personally never had to begin with - or talking about her everyday activities which frankly, was boring.

For this she became a superstar poet in Japan, selling some two to three million copies of the book. I guess you had to be there. What appeals to the Japanese isn't necessarily what appeals to we westerners, nor vice-versa, and while I am sure that Juliet Winters Carpenter gave the translation her best shot, the fact is that you can't translate Japanese to English and have the idea behind Tanka remain true. If you did, the English version would not be in a series of triplets, as it appears in the iPad translation, or in an apparently random mix of couplets and others as it is in the kindle, but printed vertically down the page, which in English would be a tough read. Clearly no thought whatsoever has been expended on the ebook versions.

Salad Anniversary begins with two blank pages in the iPad version, and the title with a capital S towards the end of Anniversary in the Kindle version. This tells me that as little thought went into the ebook as went into the print version. Given the rise of ebooks the publisher might want to give some thought to how they offer their wares.

Here's the list of poem titles:

  • August Morning
  • Baseball Game
  • Morning Necktie
  • I Am the Wind
  • Summertime Ship
  • Wake-up Call
  • Hashimoto High School
  • Pretending to Wait for Someone
  • Salad Anniversary
  • Twilight Alley
  • My Bisymmetrical Self
  • So, Good Luck
  • Jazz Concert
  • Backstreet Cat
  • Always American

You can see from this alone that there's nothing Earth-shattering on offer, but this would have been fine had what was offered actually delivered something of value. For me, it didn't. Here are some short unconnected samples so you can judge a little bit, at least, for yourself. Note that these are taken out of context, but I saw very little flowing from one triplet to the next anyway.

On Kujukuri Beach
taking picture after picture
I may only throw away
Sunday morning
in sandals, we set off together
to shop for bread and beer
I boil three chestnuts
to make an autumn for one-
remembering the far-off sea, and you
Buy myself a pair of slippers
yellow as spring flowers
now that I love here

There are three problems. First of all, the poetry doesn't speak or call out to me. Instead, it whines with self pity. I kept wondering if the author rent her clothing or wore sackcloth and put ashes in her hair before she sat down to write it. Second, it's impossible, as I mentioned earlier, to properly represent the poetry in English in the way it would appear in Japanese. Third, you cannot duplicate the cadence adequately in English and still maintain the wording or meaning which the original author intended.

I have to wonder if the choice to migrate this to English was truly done with an honest desire to share some potentially interesting Asian poetry with the west, or if it was simply done because the author scored a hit in Japan and there was potentially money to be made in the west? Either way I can't recommend this.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Contemporary Passion by RM Romarney


Title: Contemporary Passion
Author: RM Romarney
Publisher: Vivid Publishing
Rating: WORTHY!


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

I don't usually review poetry because I tend to find very little that speaks to me or impresses me in any relatable way, but I have to admit that this one has what it takes and turned out to be entertaining. It's a 38-page poem (in my ebook ARC) set in modern times, but played out as religious passion play. Actually, to me, it seemed more like a musical, or like that old Queen song, Bohemian Rhapsody, and I enjoyed it a lot despite its religious theme.

It features a group of young, passionate, and virile artists in process of recording an album of music, and having some serious relationship issues along the way - and I mean serious! And for once, I get a book with a truly appropriate cover! Yeay!

I think this poem made an impression on me because in some ways it reminds me of some of my own, such as published in Poem y Granite, but I've never written one as long as his! To reference my own work might seem self-serving or self-absorbed, but isn't that how we all are with poetry? It has to reach us, doesn't it? It has to say something to each of us personally, and speak in a voice we understand - one to which we can easily relate, otherwise it's meaningless, obscure, pointless, and boring. Contemporary Passion was none of the above, which is why it appealed to me. It was joyful and passionate, and had a life of its own, and I salute the author of it.