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Posts Tagged ‘national poetry month’

Every April, I look forward to the National Poetry Month blog tour hosted by Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit. Serena is always challenging me to read more poetry and encourages everyone to just give it a try. If there is one thing I’ve learned about poetry over the years, it is that there really is something for everyone in the genre.

This year as I was contemplating my post, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of my favorite poetry collections. In no particular order, here are my top 5 favorite poetry collections:

From my review:

Dien Cai Dau, which means “crazy” in Vietnamese, is a collection of poems by Yusef Komunyakaa about his experiences as a soldier during the Vietnam War.  I first read this collection in a college English course on literature of the Vietnam War, and after re-reading it last week, I’ve concluded that it’s my favorite poetry book dealing with the war.  Komunyakaa is a master of words, describing his experiences and observations in a way that isn’t as gritty and raw as some other writings by Vietnam veterans but still shows the horrors of war and the struggle to survive.  He tells it like it is but does so with much emotion.

From my review:

Song of Napalm is divided into three sections, each of which deals with memories of his war experiences and indicate a progression toward dealing with the ghosts he carries with him and striking a balance between the need to remember and the need to return to the land of the living.  Weigl’s memories are so vivid and filled with emotion that they bring the war to life, and I could feel some of his pain.

From my review:

Delights & Shadows is a collection of quiet poems touching upon such themes as memory, aging, death, and nature. Kooser obviously spends a lot of time observing his surroundings, and many of his poems bring ordinary objects or simple moments to life. When Kooser looks at the world, he sees things that many of us would miss, and the descriptions of what he sees are fascinating.

From my review:

Catalina exemplifies everything I love in a poetry collection.  While I have no idea whether these poems are autobiographical, it certainly seems as though Soriano exposes her soul in these stanzas.  They affected me deeply with their heaviness and their beauty.

From my review:

Although there is diversity among the poetic styles and the poets’ experiences, each of the poems in The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry lead to the same conclusion:  that war is hell.  It makes me wonder how many of these poets were poets before, and how many used poetry as a way to deal with the loss, anger, and haunting memories tied to the war.  Some of the poems made me feel like I was staring into the poet’s soul.  I am in awe of men and women who can put such awful tragedies into words, and I believe that war poetry is among the most powerful and vivid, bringing to life the internal and external struggles in a way that non-fiction and prose cannot.

Have you read any of these collections? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of them. If not, I hope you will consider giving one or all of them a try! Happy National Poetry Month!

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I’m delighted to welcome Laura Foley to Diary of an Eccentric today to share the inspiration behind “Prayer, 1943,” a poem in her new collection, WTF.

Prayer, 1943

Dad and his fellow prisoners
crouched under a shed,
its roof a sieve
of shrapnel holes
allowing rain
they didn’t notice
any more than hunger,
in their concentration
on pawns, queens, bishops,
rooks they carved
from discarded
toothbrush handles-
from their mouths,
to God’s ears.

Please give a warm welcome to Laura Foley:

My dad described in his recollections the event that I have put into this poem. The date comes from his time as Prisoner of War under the Japanese, in occupied China and Japan. I have tried to imagine what it was like for him.

I was touched by the detail he gives of the chess pieces carved from toothbrush handles, the sense of deprivation and boredom this conveys, as well as the camaraderie with the other men. Also the constant danger from American bombings as the Americans came closer to winning the war, how the American and other European prisoners were afraid of being mistakenly bombed as well as being cheered by the sight.

I have read many books about the war and the Japanese prisons, most notably Unbroken, which depicts a sadistic Japanese guard eerily similar to the one who tortured my father. Throughout my childhood, his imprisonment was a source of conversation, even though I was born more than a decade after his release. I wrote a poem about him being in prison camp when I was in Kindergarten.

Prayer 1943 comes from my collection WTF which is a tribute to my father, whose initials were WTF, as well as a working-through of my relationship to him, decades past his death.

Thank you so much, Laura, for sharing a little of your father’s story and the inspiration for the poem with me and my readers!

About WTF

Laura Foley’s “WTF” refers to her father’s initials and, slyly, to the abbreviated colloquial exclamation, in a pun that laughs and cuts, in this reckoning with a fraught father-daughter relationship. These spare poems communicate more like snapshots than narrative lyrics, beginning with sympathy and gratitude, moving through disappointment, anger and resentment, without ever losing compassion, as Foley examines her father’s formative WWII experiences and, consequently, how he shaped her experience and character, ending with a positive recognition of her father in herself.

Read sample poems here: https://www.readcwbooks.com/foley_poems.html

Check out WTF on Goodreads | Amazon

About the Author

Laura Foley

Laura Foley is an internationally published, award-winning poet, author of six collections. She won the Common Goods Poetry Contest, judged by Garrison Keillor; and the National Outermost Poetry Prize, judged by Marge Piercy. Her poetry collections include: WTFNight Ringing, The Glass Tree, and Joy StreetThe Glass Tree won a Foreword Book of the Year Award; Joy Street won the Bisexual-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared on The Writer’s Almanac, in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review, in the British Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology, and many other journals.

A certified Yoga Instructor and creative arts facilitator in hospitals, she is the mother of three grown children, grandmother to two granddaughters. She and her partner Clara Gimenez live among the hills of Vermont with their three big dogs.

Follow her on Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

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BerthainMe

Source: Review copy from Poetic Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★★

Publisher’s summary: This spring marks the bicentennial of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. In her ambitious and timely debut, The Jane and Bertha in Me, Rita Maria Martinez celebrates Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. Through wildly inventive, beautifully crafted persona poems, Martinez re-imagines Jane Eyre’s cast of characters in contemporary contexts, from Jane as an Avon saleslady to Bertha as a Stepford wife. These lively, fun, poignant poems prove that Jane Eyre’s fictional universe is just as relevant today as it was so many years ago. The Jane and Bertha in Me is a must-read for any lover of Brontë’s work.

My thoughts: The Jane and Bertha in Me is the best poetry collection I’ve read in a long time. Part of the reason I enjoyed it so much is that I loved Jane Eyre when I read it first in high school and then in college. But the main reason is that Martinez’s voice is fresh, unique, and exciting. She brings Jane Eyre and its characters into the present day and shows how classic novels remain relevant to readers hundreds of years later.

Martinez’s poems are full of vivid imagery (“The Bertha in me sleeps until three in the afternoon and sits on the back porch with a cup of Earl Grey that quells the desire to chop up her crotchety landlord,” from “The Jane and Bertha in Me”), sensual (“Charlotte’s manuscript sepulchered like an incorruptible saint, splayed on its back like a woman whose architecture I want to touch,” from “At the British Library”), insightful (“Pain caused by first love never truly subsides,” from “Jane’s Denial”), and even humorous (“She’ll be sorry for canoodling with the missionary, thinks Rochester, who’s exceeded his cursing quota and looks like Wolverine,” from “Jane Eyre: Classic Cover Girl”). Martinez even writes about Brontë herself, from her different personas to the migraines she suffered through in order to create her “pristine prose” (from “The Literature of Prescription”).

These poems make one consider the numerous personas inside each of us and how, in the hands of a skilled author, fictional characters are just as complex as real people. I appreciated the Notes section at the end of the book that explained Martinez’s inspiration for some of the poems. As in any poetry collection, there were poems I liked better than others, but I can definitely see myself revisiting The Jane and Bertha in Me in the future.

While it’s not necessary to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy The Jane and Bertha in Me, it certainly would help. Even if you’ve only seen one of the movie adaptations, that’s enough for you to know the main characters who appear in these poems.

What others are saying about The Jane and Bertha in Me:

The Jane and Bertha in Me is a Rubik’s Cube(TM) of Janes. Each poem is a smartly annotated, hauntingly revisionist homage to Jane Eyre. Martinez’s astounding poems are literary, conversational, personal, fun, as she confidently transports her Janes from the Moors to Macy’s, from Thornfield Hall to the world of tattoos. —Denise Duhamel, author of Blowout

Rita Maria Martinez’s The Jane and Bertha in Me gives an unusual twist to the well-known characters from Jane Eyre, envisioning Jane at the guidance counselor, Bertha getting a makeover. These persona poems give us greater insight into the minds of madwoman and governess alike and even minor characters like Blanche and Alice, with beautiful, lush language and empathetic vision. Even casual fans of Brontë’s great book will enjoy this lively re-imagining. —Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of The Robot Scientist’s Daughter

About the poet:

IMG_0377 - CopyRita Maria Martinez is a Cuban-American poet from Miami, Florida. Her writing has been published in journals including the Notre Dame Review, Ploughshares, MiPOesias, and 2River View. She authored the chapbook Jane-in-the-Box, published by March Street Press in 2008. Her poetry also appears in the textbook Three Genres: The Writing of Fiction/Literary Nonfiction, Poetry and Drama, published by Prentice Hall; and in the anthology Burnt Sugar, Caña Quemada: Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish, published by Simon & Schuster. Martinez has been a featured author at the Miami Book Fair International; at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida; and at the Palabra Pura reading series sponsored by the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Florida International University.

To follow The Jane and Bertha in Me blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

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Disclosure: I received The Jane and Bertha in Me from Poetic Book Tours for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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love ten poemsFor the 2013 National Poetry Month Blog Tour hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit, I thought it would be fun to read some of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s work.  I borrowed this very short collection, Love: Ten Poems by Pablo Neruda, from Serena, and it was a good place to start.  These poems are from the movie Il Postino (The Postman), which I haven’t seen. (I wonder if I would have enjoyed them even more if I’d seen the movie?)

Neruda’s use of language is beautiful, with unforgettable lines like “Love is so short, forgetting is so long” from “Tonight I Can Write.”  I especially love how this collection has the original Spanish on the left and the English translation on the right.  Some of the poems felt a bit over my head but sounded nice when read aloud — but they sounded even better when read aloud in Spanish.  I finished this collection thinking that I need to add Neruda to my poetry shelf!

Here’s my favorite poem from the collection:

Poetry
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires,
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened,
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.
(pages 7, 9)

I love the idea of poetry as a being, seeking out the poet, how poetry is a calling, something that chooses the poet.  And I love the idea that poetry is used to explain, describe, feel, experience, and find wisdom in the “big” things.

What do you think?  What’s your favorite poem by Pablo Neruda?

national poetry month

dive into poetry challenge

Book 2 for Dive Into Poetry Challenge

Disclosure: I borrowed Love: Ten Poems from Serena. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Sonics in Warholia, shortlisted for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, is an intriguing poetry collection that pushes the boundaries.  It straddles the line between prose and poetry and is structured like a series of essays.  Chock full of pop culture references, it is a letter from Megan Volpert to Andy Warhol.

I have to be honest and say that Sonics in Warholia wasn’t my cup of tea.  At times it felt like Volpert was trying too hard to be edgy, and there was a lot of what seemed to me to be nonsensical rambling.  And I’ve actually read novels with more poetic language and imagery.  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to appreciate Volpert’s writing.  In fact, there were some passages that I thought were brilliant, mostly when the narrator moves away from the chatter about Andy Warhol and reveals more about herself.

I see myself, and therefore am not quite myself. The camera is here somewhere, a sturdy ladder and a bird’s sharp eye patched with electrical tape. A direction to act natural is impossible to obey, everything having an out of control seemingness. (from “Recurring Fear of Flat Champagne,” page 52)

The poem that stood out the most for me was “Dear Diary of a Dead Man’s Telephone Number,” in which the narrator has two of Andy Warhol’s old phone numbers and debates dialing them. What starts off as somewhat amusing soon becomes quite sad. Her brother was killed, and she waits until his birthday to dial his old cell phone.

Two rings brings a simple hello in a south Louisiana twang belonging to a young man just like so many times before that I believe through some kind of phone voodoo I am listening to my Lazarus. (page 36)

I think my enjoyment of these poems was clouded by my lack of knowledge about Andy Warhol, aside from what I learned about him in a college Art History course, and the fact that most of the pop culture references went right over my head. Although I enjoy narrative poetry, I think these prose poems are too heavy on the prose for my tastes.

However, the more I revisit Sonics in Warholia, the more I am able to find passages that grab my attention and speak to me. Maybe it wasn’t the right time for me to read these poems, and I honestly think I just didn’t get what Volpert was trying to accomplish. Even so, Sonics in Warholia is a collection I won’t soon forget, one that underscores the diversity among poets and poetic forms.

Short List - 2011 Indie Lit Awards in Poetry

Hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit

Book 7 for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Challenge

Disclosure: I received a copy of Sonics in Warholia from Sibling Rivalry Press as part of the voting process for the Indie Lit Awards. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, shortlisted for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, is a collection of poems that aims to bring awareness to issues with which women worldwide struggle.  Sweta Srivastava Vikram mainly focuses her writing here on women and nature, going so far as to state in the preface that the goal of the collection is to compare the plight of women to the destruction of the once revered eucalyptus tree.

Vikram’s poetry touches upon such themes as rape and other forms of violence against women, poverty, discrimination, loss, and grief, with many poems depicting the suffering that women endure at the hands of men.

God was seen residing in me once,
just like the tree.
With time, death listens
to the voices of unholy men sitting
on the tip of tongues
satiating desires. (from “Unholy Men,” page 5)

What can I say to a man
who eats pleas for dinner and calls me
the fungus destroying the root of our family’s tree!

Dark are letters that sit on the tip of my tongue.
To climb the mountain of your dreams,
you sent my son to serve the nation, he came back as ashes. (from “Loss,” page 19)

While I mostly enjoyed the imagery and could feel the pain and sorrow in these poems, sometimes they felt preachy and a little too much. However, I think that’s to be expected in a collection in which every poem centers on the same theme. Maybe if I’d read a poem here and there instead of all of them at once, it might not have felt so overwhelming, so stifling. Also, I think my inability to really relate to the poems — coming from a relatively privileged background compared to the women depicted in the poems and not having experienced such oppression and loss myself — may have impacted my reading.

Regardless, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow is a thought-provoking collection of poems, one that aims to empower women and give those without a voice a chance to be heard. Moreover, Vikram stresses that “pro-woman doesn’t mean anti-man” and even dedicates the book to her grandfather. Vikram’s poetry is emotional and powerful, and she exemplifies how the written word can be used to raise awareness about important issues and to educate people in the hopes of sparking change.

Short List - 2011 Indie Lit Awards in Poetry

Hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit

Book 6 for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Challenge

Disclosure: I received a copy of Beyond the Scent of Sorrow from Modern History Press as part of the voting process for the Indie Lit Awards. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems, shortlisted for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, is an emotional collection of poems.  The triptych, like the title suggests, focuses on three women:  Annette, a psychiatrist; Julia, her daughter; and Milena, one of her patients.  Emma Eden Ramos is a writer of both poetry and prose, and this shows in her narrative style.

With Three Women, I felt like I was reading a novel in verse.  Ramos tells a story about grief and family heritage, anger and suicide, and immigrant issues.  I like that Ramos doesn’t use flowery or abstract language and just tells the story.

We spoke our usual mother-daughter dialect
she cursed wildly
I eyed her with disgust
this rabid creature with my DNA
held hostage my distress
and we argued
she raged
it was about five minutes before she left me
in peace (page 7)

M: Hey, I say what I think. I don’t tip-toe like Americans.

J: What does that even mean? You don’t sound foreign.

M: Well I am, I’m Croatian. I actually wasn’t born here.

J: You sound American to me.

M: Well I came here when I was one.

J: So you were raised here, which, I think, makes you one of us. (page 25)

Following the triptych are three separate poems, my favorite of which was “Letter to Suicide (an old friend)”

We met first then
and
Later when Maribeth decided to go the Woolf way
(giant pebbles and all).
She had, after all, graduated with an English degree. (page 30)

Three Women is the kind of poetry book to read when you want a break from prose but don’t want to have to think too hard to decipher imagery and symbolism and just want to enjoy an interesting story.  I don’t think the “Selected Poems” were necessary to include, but they don’t detract from the triptych, which is the main focus.  And just because Ramos’ work is very accessible doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch.

What I enjoyed most about Three Women was the raw emotion displayed by the women.  I really felt their anger and their sadness.  I felt like I really got to know the characters, much more than I expected given the short length of the triptych.  If Ramos can pack that much emotion and that much characterization into a poem spanning about 30 pages, I wonder what she could do with a novel?

Please give a warm welcome to Emma Eden Ramos, who was kind enough to answer some questions about her writing, Three Women in particular, and her favorite poetry collections.

Could you tell my readers a little about yourself (your interests, writing, etc.)?

I am a twenty-four-year-old writer from New York City. I am also currently a student at Brooklyn College.

I’ve been writing since I was fifteen but only began seriously working on my craft in 2009. At that time I was majoring in Psychology, which has greatly influenced my writing.

Describe your poetry in 5 words or less.

Prose-like, semi-autobiographical, moody, character-based.

The poems in Three Women are very narrative, which I enjoyed. Do you prefer writing poetry or prose?

Poets and fiction writers tend to be very different creatures, especially when it comes to time and space. Many poets have the ability to obliterate the concept of time as linear movement (although there are fiction writers–Virginia Woolf for instance–who manipulate the bounds of temporal space). Poetry can exist in a space of its own. It does not have to be cohesive or even logical.

For me, however, working with a narrative structure that fits into a specific space and time is essential. So yes, when it comes to writing, prose is my preferred medium.

Why were the final three poems chosen to follow the triptych? I thought the triptych stood well on its own.

Originally I conceived the triptych to stand on its own, and it is still the main focus of the collection. The chapbook, however, needed to be a specific length, so I chose the final three poems because they expanded on some of the themes that were forefront in the triptych.

What are some of your favorite poetry collections?

I have many favorite poetry collections. To name a few: A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far by Adrienne Rich, Magnetic North by Linda Gregerson, Longing Distance by Sarah Hannah, Odes to Opposites by Pablo Neruda, and there are many others. One of my favorite novels is Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, which consists of a poem of 999 lines written by the main character and a commentary on that poem by his eccentric neighbor. It’s a work of genius.

Any hints as to what you’re working on now?

I have a middle grade novella coming out from MuseItUp Publishing in September, and I am beginning to pick up bits and pieces of what will hopefully be a full-length novel. Fingers and all other flexible appendages are crossed. That may account for the difficulty I’m having typing.

Thanks, Emma! Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Indie Lit Awards. I wish you much success!

Short List - 2011 Indie Lit Awards in Poetry

Hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit

Book 5 for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Challenge

Disclosure: I received a copy of Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems from the poet as part of the voting process for the Indie Lit Awards.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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