Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (CBR13 #45)

Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky

I picked up Thylias Moss’s Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky through a variety of reading challenge tasks (Read Harder’s read a book of nature poems, Read Women’s tasks about a book about the natural world, a collection of poetry by a black woman), book club squares (Going with The Wilds), and some internet sleuthing. While I find it difficult to review poetry, I can tell you that I agree with the book’s blurb, it is a powerful book with poems that present the black American experience with a heightened intensity. The language both brings the reader incredibly close, but also can fling you to the stratosphere, viewing from far above. There is an immediacy in the language that Moss uses that kept me engaged from poem to poem – something I struggle with as a reader. The poems themselves have conflicting elements that come together to reflect the truth Moss is interested in pursuing: that we exist within chaos. While not all poems in this collection are specifically about nature, you can see Moss illustrating the differences in experience between white Americans and black Americans, specifically what nature means to women descended from slaves versus those descended from slave owners.

Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky is celebrating its 30th birthday this year as a 1991 National Poetry Series selection. The National Poetry Series is a literary awards program that sponsors the publication of five books of poetry each year, since the late 1970s. The goals of the program are to meaningfully add to the number of poetry books published each year, making possible books which might not otherwise be published. Heightening poetry’s visibility among readers, and giving American poets, of all ethnic and racial groups, gender, religion, and poetic style, access to publishing outlets not ordinarily available to them.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One (CBR11 #59)

The Princess Saves Herself in This One (Women Are Some Kind of Magic, #1)

In my review of Crimes of the Heart I took a potshot at Poetry as a genre, mostly because it has had a high barrier of entry to me in the past (graphic novels/comics has been my other major hurdle) but in fairness I have gotten better at finding poetry that works for me in at least part due to all the reading challenges I do that require poetry. In 2018 I read two collections I quite enjoyed, No Matter the Wreckage and Depression & Other Magic Tricks. I’m happy to add Amanda Lovelace’s The Princess Saves Herself in This One to the list of contemporary poetry collections that really work for me.

Lovelace’s work shares being subject driven with Kay’s No Matter the Wreckage, this is Lovelace’s personal history writ large in a slim volume. It is also quite like Benaim’s Depression & Other Magic Tricks I felt seen, I felt that the person writing these poems experienced the world in a way recognizable to me.  I’m finding that poetry that shows the author processing themselves and putting what they find back out into the universe so we can know that we aren’t alone is the stuff that really works for me.

The biggest things structurally that work for me in her work is the way she plays with mechanics. Like Katsings said in her review, Lovelace’s work is sometimes reminiscent of e .e. cummings, another favorite of mine. The writing is often sparse, but in a beautiful way that helps you sink into your own mental reactions. There were so many lines and phrases that I loved as I went through that I had trouble keeping track to decide which to include. This collection also contains my favorite poem that I’ve found in the wild over the past couple years and I had no idea. This book and I were meant to cross paths.

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Depression & Other Magic Tricks (CBR10 #41)

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I have said many times that reading Poetry is not my jam. I have mostly gotten over my entrance issues with science fiction and graphic novels/comics but Poetry still often trips me up. The funny part? I’ve been known to write it, but reading a collection can be too much, and I think that’s the real problem – a collection of poetry, of really good poetry is likely going to feel like too much.

At times, Sabrina Benaim’s first published collection Depression & Other Magic Tricks did feel like too much, and I think I might finally understand that is really a good thing.

As I mentioned in my review of No Matter the Wreckage, I am a fan of spoken word and Benaim is one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time. Her poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has over 7,000,000 views. I’m not sure what writing to perform does to the structure of poetry, I leave that to you who study mechanics and craft to tell me, but whatever it is, it works.

This wasn’t a perfect collection for me, but it may be for you. I did however feel seen, felt as though the person writing these poems, or at least many of them, knew the world the way I did and was able to get that knowledge out of themselves and back out into the universe, where it belongs so we can know that we aren’t alone. It is one of the best magic tricks I know.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

#stickingittocancer #onebookatatime

No Matter the Wreckage (CBR10 #18)

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I struggle with poetry. Reading it never has the same effect as listening to it, even when I read it aloud to myself. But, since April is National Poetry Month I thought I’d give it another shot. In an example of past me having current me’s back, one of the books I picked out for last year’s Read Harder challenge that I never got to was No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay and it is a book of poems. I don’t know how I either a) hadn’t noticed or b) forgot that it was, because I was downright surprised when I was going through my shelves prepping April’s reading list to discover that I could knock off two birds with one slim volume.

The other bit of good fortune? I was already familiar with Sarah Kay’s work and didn’t know. I had seen her spoken word performances over the years and loved them. Spoken word is really much more my speed, so reading a collection based out of that practice made these poems so much more accessible to me, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. There’s something to the freeform nature of her work, of the way in which it is subject driven, a lot like Neruda’s Odes to Opposites, which helped my brain hold on.

Not that every poem in the collection is a knockout for me. I did dog ear (it’s my copy I purchased from an independent publisher, I can do what I want!) a few poems to come back to because they hit me in my feels. I don’t know that I’m doing a great job of selling you on this book, but in his pre-Hamilton days Lin-Manuel Miranda gave her a pull quote for the back cover (!) which reads in part “In this collection she will give you moments so intimate and beautifully rendered you will come to know them as your own.”

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Not bad at all for a fellow I.B. kid.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

Ode to Opposites (CBR9 #67)

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It has been a couple of years since I read any poetry, and the last time was also at the behest of the fine folks over at Book Riot and their annual Read Harder Challenge. I don’t know if I’m going to manage to complete this year’s challenge by the end of December – I know what books I am going to read for the remaining challenges, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to fit them all in.

But I wasn’t going to allow myself to use that as an excuse to not pick up this collection of Pablo Neruda’s work. The specific challenge this year was to read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. It was one of the handful of tasks submitted by authors, and they are particulary specific. This one is from Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, another was from Roxane Gay and instructed us to read from a micropress (review forthcoming). Neruda felt like the most logical choice for me, I had not read a complete collection of his work yet and I knew that many of his poems were not about love, which so many poems are.

Reading these poems I can see easily why Pablo Neruda won the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature. This bilingual edition has the odes in their original Spanish facing the translation in English, with pencil illustrations accompanying them. It was simultaneously fascinating and infuriating. I would read the original versions, trying to translate for myself, and then read the English versions to make sure I had complete comprehension (woo boy is my Spanish rusty) and I would come up again and again with phrases I would have translated another way. It makes me wonder what would have happened to these odes in the hands of a woman translator.

Most importantly though I was captivated by the conceit of this collection, of reading about spring and autumn, the future and the past, fire and rain one after the other. If you’re looking for some poetry to round out your reading year this edition is the way to go.

This book was read and reviewed as a part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

Above the Dreamless Dead (CBR7 #28)

Every so often I come across a book and think, god I wish I was still in the classroom so I could get this book into the hands of kids. I think I’m going to email my friend who teaches reading and be all crazy about using this book, or parts of it, in her poetry unit.  Where was this when I was trying to learn/understand/make meaning of poetry? Not even to get started about WWI Trench Poets and the passing of the 100th Anniversary of this war with very little fanfare.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads, because it does a better job than I can at encapsulating the book:

As the Great War dragged on and its catastrophic death toll mounted, a new artistic movement found its feet in the United Kingdom. The Trench Poets, as they came to be called, were soldier-poets dispatching their verse from the front lines. Known for its rejection of war as a romantic or noble enterprise, and its plainspoken condemnation of the senseless bloodshed of war, Trench Poetry soon became one of the most significant literary moments of its decade.

The marriage of poetry and comics is a deeply fruitful combination, as evidenced by this collection. In stark black and white, the words of the Trench Poets find dramatic expression and reinterpretation through the minds and pens of some of the greatest cartoonists working today.

With New York Times bestselling editor Chris Duffy (Nursery Rhyme ComicsFairy Tale Comics) at the helm, Above the Dreamless Dead is a moving and illuminating tribute to those who fought and died in World War I. Twenty poems are interpreted in comics form by twenty of today’s leading cartoonists, including Eddie Campbell, Kevin Huizenga, George Pratt, and many others.

I am a graphic novel, graphic memoir, comics collection newbie. For those of you who read this format more frequently you will most certainly not have the entry issues I did in following the formatting. I also don’t read much poetry, but first person narrative works and songs have always been easier for me, since the meaning is more readily at the surface. However, there was still more to unpack, more to understand and the various artists who contributed to this work very evidently took the time to study their chosen poems and make interesting artistic choices as well as servicing the meaning and allusions in the various texts.

And thanks to Shmookariah for putting this on my radar.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Classic Love Poems (CBR7 #11)

I hope you had a nice Galentines/Valentines/President’s Day/”oh dear godtopus the Fifty Shades the Movie has been unleashed on us” weekend. Mine involved my siblings all in the same state for the first time in 2 years and snowstorms. All things considered, not bad.

But we’re here to talk about what I read over the weekend.  I have DNF’ed The Line of Beauty and if any of you can explain to me how this book ended up on my to read list in the first place I’d love to know. I only read 75 pages, but NOTHING happened and there was NO character development so that book had to be put down and my misery needed to end. There will be no further review of that book.

But let’s get to the review of the book that I’m really here to talk about. It’s another audiobook, and we have Pajiba Love to thank for introducing it to me. In Pajiba Love there was truly delightful link to Richard Armitage discussing the process of recording an audiobook. Everyone needs to go check out the comments on that post  provides links to Matthew Macfadyen reading poetry and then that led me to Hiddleston reading poetry… it was quite the day, really.  What type of audiobook was this? A book of love poems. Read aloud to you by Richard Armitage, with his voice. HIS VOICE. So, after some internet sleuthing I discovered that on Audible I could have the audiobook FOR FREE (and it still is, I believe until March 9th (the same day as the Station Eleven Book Club Post!), so you can get it for yourselves) and listen to Mr. Armitage read me fifteen classic poems. I was all in.

Which poems you might be interested to know? I’m here to help:
• “How do I love thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
• “Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare
• “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
• “To Be One with Each Other” by George Eliot
• “Maud” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
• “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell
• “Bright Star” by John Keats
• “Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
• 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
• “Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning
• “The Dream” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
• “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe
• “i carry your heart” by e. e. cummings
• “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron
• “Give All to Love” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I often have a tough time sinking into poetry and do best when I hear it aloud. So for that reason alone this is a good choice. I don’t know that I had ever really understood “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” before this. All I have left to say to you is – off you go, go luxuriate in some well read poetry; including my favorite love poem of all time “i carry your heart”.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.