The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks was an impulse buy. I was already in the bookstore. It was just staring at me. I had to buy it.
Anyways. I wasn’t very familiar with Brooks’s works before buying this book. I mean, I’d heard of her—she won the Pulitzer Prize, among others—but I couldn’t tell you what she’d written.
Well, she wrote poetry, and a lot of it is race-related. This makes sense; she was a Black woman in a very unfriendly America. But with the possible exception of Countee Cullen (who I haven’t read in a while), I think she may have described Black anguish better than any other poet I’ve heard. In addition to this, she followed the rules just enough to be taken seriously at the time, reinventing the sonnet.
You may have learned “We Real Cool” in school, if you want a sample.
I don’t think Brooks is my favorite poet, but she’s probably in my top 5. Go look her up. ♥
So. I’m exploring poetry. I’m also exploring the world. Which is what brought me to Spain’s Federico García Lorca, and his entire collected works.
Which are really great, once in a while. One of my favorite poems from this collection has a section which reads, “Por tu amor me duele el aire, el corazón y el sombrero.” (Your love gives me an air-ache, a heartache, and a hat-ache.) Lorca has a beautiful gift with words.
Unfortunately, he spends his gift with words on an avant-garde approach that pushes the limits just for the sake of pushing the limits. Sometimes I can appreciate this. But … not for an entire life’s work. Like, I think it’s great to make poems that don’t make sense. But for crying out loud, please make at least 1 out of 10 follow-able.
I love the way Lorca’s poetry sounds, but I really wish it was a little more accessible. What I really want is to find a poet who uses language as clever and unpredictable as Lorca, but who still wants the reader to know what the poem is talking about. Can anyone direct me to someone like that? ♦
I very seldom like a book enough to gush, but I’m probably gonna gush about this one.
I picked up Zazoo, by Richard Mosher, just before Christmas. My husband and I had an irresponsible amount of store credit at Pioneer Book, so we decided to buy ourselves books as Christmas presents. A lot of books. In fact, we weeded out our book collection, gave away a few, consolidated, and measured (with a tape measure) that we had something like 6 feet of shelf space. And then we went to the bookstore (with a tape measure) and picked out everything that looked remotely interesting.
Zazoo fell into the “This Looks Remotely Interesting” category. I had never heard of it, but it was just sitting there in the YA section, looking lonely, and it had an interesting cover and blurb, so I threw it on the pile.
Currently the best book I’ve ever read. You guys.
Zazoo is a Vietnamese girl growing up in France, raised by her “grandfather”—the French soldier who adopted her after her parents were blown up by a land mine. The book is a coming-of-age story about Zazoo’s poetry, romance, tragic lack of breasts (she’s about 13,) neighbors, and relationship with her grandfather. It also follows her emotional wrestling match with the truth when she finds out that her beloved grandfather was a killing machine in WWII and Vietnam. She slowly learns about her family, real and adopted, and about what horrible things were done by some of the most innocent people around her. And more than anything, it’s also a story of forgiveness. The book places pain and love so close together that they become inseparable.
Please go read this book. It deserves so much more attention, and it’s so beautifully written. ♥
Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical poetry collection by Jacqueline Woodson. Written at about a middle-grade level, the book follows her early childhood experiences, and how she came to love writing.
This book is simple and beautiful. It explores what it’s like to be a child, to not really understand your parents’ decisions, and what it was like to be a Black girl—in both the North and South United States—during the sixties. It also talks about friendship, family, and self-exploration.
I would recommend this book to anyone, especially young Black girls who love to write. ♦
Alright, guys. I don’t get it.
Robert Frost is a big deal. Everybody freaking loves him. And I read “The Road Not Taken.” And it’s pretty good. So I picked up The Road Not Taken and Other Poems. Because if I liked that one, I’m sure to like the others, right?
Yeah, I don’t get it. Can someone please explain to me why Robert Frost is all the shiz?
Yes, I just used “shiz” in a book post. ♦
I don’t read a lot of Mormon fiction, because—let’s be honest here—it’s pretty cheesy. For some reason, Mormon authors have a really hard time plugging their religion into any story-line or character without bearing fervent testimony that they know this church is true. (Usually with the phrase “every fiber of my being” somewhere in there.) And while there’s a time and place for testimony, some random paragraph in the middle of your adventure/romance story probably isn’t it.
I digress. The point is, Psalm & Selah was not cheesy, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the appropriate use of Mormon culture, I was also impressed with the quality of writing.
Psalm & Selah, by Mark Bennion, is a poetry collection based on the author’s readings of the Book of Mormon. And while most Mormon authors would probably use the medium to talk about how much the scriptures mean to them, Bennion uses the scriptures to inspire poems from the perspective of the characters in them. And he’s a very good poet.
He writes poems about what it would be like to leave Jerusalem and wander in the wilderness for years. He writes what it would feel like to be the prophet’s “wicked” brother. He writes from the perspective of women who only show up for a verse or two, and has profound insights into what it might be like to be the only person in town who believes in God. And he is more concerned with the poetic aspect with preaching, which makes the poetry much more genuine.
If you haven’t read the Book of Mormon, you probably won’t understand most of the references in this book. But if you have read the Book of Mormon—regardless of whether you found any spiritual quality in it—you should read this collection. It’s one of the better poetry collections I’ve ever stumbled upon. And it’s flat-out the best Mormon fiction I’ve ever read. ♦
Love Poems, by Pablo Neruda. I picked this up at the BYU store, because it was on crazy sale upstairs. Like, a couple bucks. Score. I had heard good things about Neruda from my husband, who thinks he’s just a wonderful poet. And he’s Chilean, which means I can cross Chile off of my “countries to read a book from” list.
Anyways. Love Poems is a very short collection, and fairly sweet. He’s not the best romantic poet I’ve ever read (I think Shakespeare takes the cake on that one so far), but I did enjoy most of the collection, and I’m looking forward to reading some of his less love-based poetry in the future. Because, you know. It’s not like that was the only book I bought. ♦