Book 17: They Can’t Take That Away From Me by Gail Mazur

This book was a gift from one of my closest friends. I got the chance to stay with her for a night recently, and she surprised me with one of my favorite things, a book of poetry.

I’ll start by saying that I’m extremely picky about poetry. Typically, I enjoy poets like Rupi Kaur or Yrsa Daley Ward; it’s rare that I pick up a book of poetry by a white woman. Had it been me perusing the aisles, I might never have picked this book up.

As a poet, reading other people’s’ works shows me what I do and don’t like in a poem. I didn’t care much for the first section of poetry (all entitled “Questions,”), mainly because of the repetitive lines that could be found in each poem. Prior to my poetry writing class, I was a big fan of repetition on poems, now I generally only like it in spoken word or on other rare occasions. The concept behind the first section was deep, and i enjoyed several elements of the poems, but the repetition weakened them for me. I wanted more imagery, more passion about her questions on the meaning of life, and less repetition. I will admit, the concept behind the section wasn’t my favorite either; big, complex issues like the meaning of life can read too cliche, and I wanted a more unique collection of poetry from Mazur on the subject.

The last four sections of poetry don’t have as central a theme as the first, and each poem is titled differently. I feel that individual titles strengthen a poem’s ability to stand alone and read organically.

In the second section, I began to see a bit more of Mazur’s culture seeping into her poetry; her mention of Jewish tradition especially sparked my attention (leaving stones on a headstone to represent a visit). I do dislike her choice to write about poetry in her poetry. Evening Was undoubtedly my favorite poem in this section, mainly because it hinted at dementia so heavily.

In the third section I felt like Mazur was overdoing it with extensive vocabulary words. Twenty Lines Before Breakfast has a vast array or big, smart people words. That’s all well and good, but it’s not organic; it’s forced.

The fourth section is just two poems, the first of which is yet another poem about poetry and writing. Definitely not my favorite, though I have mentioned my pickiness before.

In the fifth section Leah’s Dream was the star of the show. I LOVED the flow of the poem, the organic feel, and the sensual content. I didn’t love the whole section, but I did thoroughly enjoy this poem.

My favorite elements of Mazur’s writing were her honesty (in Maybe It’s Only the Monotony, Mazur speaks about interactions with her daughter in which she became violent), her tendency to write about aging and dementia, and her strong stylistic choices.

I give this book a 6/10.

They Can’t Take That Away from Me by Gail Mazur on Amazon

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