Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged poetry

A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet

“But if the tradition would not admit me, could I change its rules of admission?” Eavan Boland asks in her new book, A Journey with Two Maps. This volume honors the accumulated change wrought by earlier woman poets, the self-claimed permission for women to write identities outside of the feminine, and the female victory of bringing the ordinary into the canon. She also proselytizes for a transcendence of the binary: that the writer can perceive the contradictory aspects of poetry’s history and practice and reconcile them through her work, and then use these two maps to reach a poetic destination.

Morning Haiku

In her introduction, Sanchez—a member of the “Broadside Quartet” who published her first volume of poetry in 1969 and is most often associated with the Black Arts Movement—recalls her discovery of haiku at the 8th Street Bookshop in New York at the age of twenty-one. “I slid down onto the floor and cried and was changed. I had found me.” It may seem hard to sum up a person in three lines and seventeen syllables; Sanchez solves the problem by writing poems composed of groups of haiku. These poems certainly feel like personal reflections on people and places that have impacted the poet.

Morning Haiku

From my first taste of Byron at age twelve, I was hooked on poetry. As a teen, my reading went from the Romantics to Sylvia Plath to the Beats. By the time I belatedly discovered Sonia Sanchez, who has been publishing astonishing poetry since 1969, I was ready. This, I thought, this is poetry: not a word wasted, and all of them well-chosen; inspirational, revolutionary, and speaking straight to the heart.

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters

Everyone knows about the tragic life of bombshell Marilyn Monroe, whose nickname “Miss Golden Dreams” would indicate nothing of how brief her existence would be. At thirty-six, the “orphan” with a mentally damaged mother and no father to call her own was found naked and dead in her Los Angeles home, apparently from suicide. With three divorces, several miscarriages, and plenty of roles depicting her as a dumb blonde, not even Monroe’s celebrated curves, sapphire blue eyes, or perfectly heart-shaped face were enough to keep her smiling. No fame or money could save the starlet with the little girl voice from the many demons that haunted her.

Sonata Mulattica

Rita Dove’s poetry is seductive. Her narrative verse reels you in because it’s like reading a page-turner of a novel that suddenly immerses you in her beautifully recreated world. It is always a world she has taken the time to carefully research. In 1986’s Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas and Beulah Dove’s subject was the adventurous and bittersweet epic lives of her grandparents, who survived and loved through the Great Depression and into the Jim Crow era in Akron, Ohio.

Red Willow People

Imagine evening as a woman, wind as a friend, and every part of nature as an organ in the human body. You have now entered the landscape of Devreaux Baker’s newest collection of poetry, Red Willow People. The colors are red, white, yellow and the green shade of clay. The light is supplied by lines from poetry by Federico Garcia Lorca. The smell is sage, cedar, and pinyon pine. These poems are the story of a region, specifically Taos and the Southwestern area of the United States. They are also the story of a people, all the different clans of the Navajo (Dine’). The collection captures the essence of both the region and the people while exploring the universal themes of transformation and rebirth.

Each and Her

It can be easy and convenient to forget facts learned and impressions made about our southern neighbor, Mexico. Because I like to think of myself as conscious and conscientious of both international news and poetry, I was surprised by my recent discovery of Each and Her by Valerie Martínez. A widely anthologized poet and former poet laureate of Santa Fe, Martínez has been recognized for a career’s worth of community outreach and education, and even for translating Uruguayan poetry.

The Vintage Book of American Women Writers

Anyone who has taken their share of English literature survey courses will tell you that the women considered great enough to be included within the literary canon are few to be found, as women writers have been marginalized throughout history. Even today, the title “great American novelist” is one that has yet to be bestowed upon a woman, and many women writers whose work has literary significance find their work disregarded as "chick lit." The Vintage Book of American Women Writers helps to give women their due. The 848-page book traces the history of women writers in America, beginning with Anne Bradford, the first woman to be published in Puritan America, and ending with such contemporary writers as Amy Tan and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Written on the Body of The Erasable Woman

When did you start writing poetry? At a very young age—probably when I started writing with chalk on my bathroom door or adding my own two cents to my parents’ biology textbooks they tell me I always furiously flipped through. I experienced a lot of racism, (hetero)sexism, and different kinds of regulation at a young age too, and I think what that did was make me really quiet and closed up in a lot of ways.

I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t and Other Plays

It has always been Sonia Sanchez the poet I’ve known and loved, with strong works like Wounded in the House of a Friend, Does Your House Have Lions?, and Like The Singing Coming Off the Drums.

The Livelihood of Crows

In her latest collection of poetry, Jayne Pupek, who brought us Forms of Intercession, shows that she still knows how to rivet readers. The Livelihood of Crows swells with fresh phrases and unique images, making it difficult to select just a few favorite lines from the collection.

Traveling Light

Pastan’s latest collection reaches beyond the usual everyday subjects and themes of a “domestic poet,” a label that has long underrated her abilities.

The Keening

A. LaFaye’s The Keening is one part poem, and one part novel. Though the narrative is strong, it is the layered, considered language, and the dance with fantasy that make this novel something special. Both a modern-day ghost story and young adult novel, the book is complex, something that can’t be tied to just one genre. This book’s protagonist, Lyza, lives with her father on the fringe of a Maine fishing village.

Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad

Although the wives of the Prophet are held up as examples for Muslim women to follow, little is told about the human beings behind the women on pedestals. We all get told the same stuff—how Khadija supported her husband, Aisha’s work as a jurist and teacher—but the discourse focuses on their actions, not their persons. Tamam Kahn’s Untold aims to tell the human stories of the Prophet’s wives—and succeeds. In the preface of the book, Kahn touches on her intentions: upon meeting strong Muslim women in Morocco, she wanted to tell the stories of strong women, including the back story. Indeed, what makes for a strong woman isn’t just her praiseworthy behavior, but also her imperfections, her humanity.

Living and Loving in Dos Lenguas

Janet Romero-Leiva is a queer, feminist, Latina visual artist and writer whose work explores immigrant displacement, denied aboriginality, queer and of colour existence, living and loving in dos lenguas, and the continuous intersection of identities that shape who she is and how she moves in this world. Janet immigrated to Canada at the age of seven and has since been trying to find her footing between America of the north and America of the south.

Crow Mercies

When picking up a new poetry collection, I give it an initial read and then sit with it a while, thinking about whether any particular poems or lines stuck in my mind, or whether I had any specific feelings while reading. Sometimes I draw a big blank, which usually means that particular collection doesn't merit another read. Collections like Crow Mercies are different. Even during my first reading of this collection, I found myself stopping to reread poems again out of excitement. This is certainly the kind of book that ends up a permanent fixture on my bookshelf that I come back to again and again.

Word Comix

Word Comix by Charlie Smith is a collection of poetry that often explodes with strange and unfamiliar words. Reading it, I kept getting the desire to grab a dictionary and improve my vocabulary.

Tough Skin

In this collection of prose poetry, Sarah Eaton takes her reader on a wild romp, stomping through delicate issues of incest, death, and the family with the care that might be accorded by a child as it destroys a garden of hitherto well-tended flowers. While she brings a dark sense of humour to themes that might more traditionally be described as horrific, she also manages to litter her gory stories with surprisingly familiar and endearing characters such as the drunken uncle, or the teenage candystriper (hospital worker, for the uninitiated). What strikes me as most interesting about this collection is not her dark humour, but how this approach is particularly effective at handling what seems to be the overarching theme of the book: care-work and the people who do it. Eaton’s world is one that exists on the edge of violence, which some might say is also where the work of care exists.

No Surrender

No Surrender is poet Ai’s posthumous collection and indeed bears the imprint of a full life lived. Written in Ai’s characteristic poetic monologue, each poem is a story that inhabits the liminal space between the more expository world of prose and the oft cryptic and somewhat mystical realm of the lyrical. While the stories told in the poems themselves may or may not be autobiographical, themes common to the poet’s own background and experience figure prominently throughout this twenty-one poem collection: luck, alcoholism, Catholicism, relationships, motherhood and miscarriage, race, and ethnicity.

Diwata

As a librarian, when I’m asked for a recommended read by someone thirsty for tales, I instinctively direct them to the fiction stacks. I forget how poems, too, can be rich with narrative. Barbara Jane Reyes’ Diwata teems with stories.

What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009

Stephen Dunn, an experienced poet with a litany of accolades after his name, has published a selection of works from the last fifteen years, along with a slim collection of new pieces, in What Goes On In a wry, raw voice Dunn’s poems touch upon matters of politics, success, and sex.

The Lesser Tragedy of Death

The Lesser Tragedy of Death is the first collection of poems by novelist Christina García, author of the superb Dreaming in Cuban. The poems offers an anguished narrative detailing García's brother’s lifelong struggle with drug addiction.

The Selves

Sonja Ahlers’ The Selves is a visual essay which combines collage, poetry, watercolor, calligraphy, prose and fabric. The result is a multi-layered and textured work that reveals something new every time you leaf through it. Although pastiche and mixed media immediately come to mind to describe Ahlers’ work, it may also be considered a new genre or a new way of looking at our lives as women in relation to mass media.

Also Known As

Being a writer is often a difficult endeavor. It’s not the desire nor the passion that is constraining but more often the discipline, the dedication. Sometimes what writers struggle most with is the publicity of the written word. Once something is printed, with your name next to it–there is no going back. It may be one of the reasons so many authors choose to publish under a pseudonym, a fictional name created to hide the identity of the author in order to create a truly private space where creativity can thrive. Elizabeth Robinson has taken this practice one step further.

Table Alphabetical of Hard Words

Recently, as I was pushing my daughter in her stroller up a hill, a guy in a pickup truck whistled. Pattie McCarthy’s poem “spaltklang: is good broken music” reminded me of this moment. McCarthy describes a new mother who finds her body meaning has been overwritten with a new set of signs: it’s the stroller, she said, it renders one invisible, no one will ever look at me like that again, she said, not _even him.

Toxic Flora: Poems

An extraordinary selection of poetry by Kimiko Hahn, Toxic Flora beautifies the ugliness of the scientific life and the elements of being human through poetry. Extending from the common small animals of the world to outer space, Hahn delivers a speckling of her work with both clever brevity and clarity. Projecting moments grasped from the New York Times, Hahn elaborates only the slightest amount necessary in her poetry, leaving the reader to ponder and to possibly wonder about the natural world and the human place in it.

A Little Middle of the Night

Molly Brodak’s poetry collection A Little Middle of the Night is wide in its range: big dog topics like perceptions of art and the weight of tragedy are sifted through by a careful and talented poet.

Seedlip and Sweet Apple: Poems

Seedlip and Sweet Apple is a poetry collection that blooms with the voice and life of Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the Christian sect deemed the Shakers for their prayerful and "ecstatic" dance. Her followers eschew marriage and reproduction, living in brotherly and sisterly communities devoted to harmony and God.

So Much Things to Say: 100 Calabash Poets

Each May for the past ten years, poets from all over the globe converge in Jamaica for the Calabash International Literary Festival. So Much Things to Say: 100 Calabash Poets brings together the work of poets known and unknown who have read at the Festival or are Calabash Writer’s Workshop Fellows.

Shoulder Season

I’ve often wondered how much it really matters if the reader “gets” what the poet means in some of the more cryptic or shall we say intricately wrought poetry out there, or can a poem itself act as an agent of transformation, imparting unique meaning to both the poet and the reader? This question popped its head up as I read Shoulder Season by poet Ange Mlinko.