Book 4: Porridge by Richard Garcia

Richard Garcia came to Georgia College to perform a reading on the 24th of this month. I’d never had much experience with his work before, and so I went to the reading having read only a few of his poems. The reading itself seemed to highlight some of the stranger poems in the book, a few of which ranked among my least favorites, but most of which still contained strong lines and images. I purchased Porridge with the intention of getting to know Garcia’s writing a bit better.

Porridge is a collection of prose poems, one of my favorite forms both to write and to read. I enjoyed the first poem in the collection quite a lot, and found myself immersed in a few of Garcia’s themes. His writing is poignant yet subtle, a duality that is rare. Though I didn’t love every poem in the collection, I saw value in his willingness to challenge the genre and to combine so many motifs.

Garcia incorporates fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and even a few comic book heros into his poems throughout this collection. The poems each have a strong voice, be it an interesting if not eclectic voice at times.

I give the collection a 7/10.
Happy reading!

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Book 3: [Redacted] by Trista Mateer 

For brevity’s sake, I’m writing this in the notes section of my iPhone and publishing through the app. I have decided not to continue linking books through Amazon, I didn’t get any bites and don’t really care to continue the process itself as you’re all people who can buy your books through whatever venue you desire. 
Book 3 for 2017 is Trista Mateer’s [Redacted], a collection of poetry that incorporates art, flowers, texts, and tweets. I enjoyed it for its content and Mateer’s reliably stunning poetry, but also for the barriers it broke down. It’s lovely to see a millennial poet succeeding in incorporating social media clips, different little things that mark our generation, in her works. The screencasts and tweets are loaded, they’re poetic in and of themselves. 

I think this little 60 page gem may have pulled me (at least half-way) out of the slump I’ve been in for a few weeks. I’ll be reading more now, for class and for myself, as well as writing much more. Expect to be linked to some published works from me soon, next month in fact. 

I give the book a 9/10, the only possible improvement being another 60 poems. Mateer wrote this almost entirely in the month of April, 2016. I aspire to that dedication to craft. 

Goodnight friends, and happy reading. 

Book 2: Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home by Erna Brodber

And so begins my course-readings for Spring semester, 2017! This short book crosses genres of fiction and nonfiction, allowing Brodber to write on her experiences while

I’m reading this and several other books by black women for my literature course, Contemporary Black Women Writers. The course is focused on black girlhood and coming of age, a bildungsroman through the black girlhood lens. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on the weekly reads as far as complete books go.

Brodber wrote this novel through internal sociological perspective. She’s well respected in her field, and is an excellent writer to boot. This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read, written in vignettes with a timeline that is rarely linear. Nellie, the protagonist, struggles with the trauma that is coming from a culture that has been shattered by imperialism and attempting to rebuild it and find herself.

Brodber’s writing style in this novel is often compared to that of a prose poem, a comparison that I find to be well-founded. Her writing is lyrical, stunning in its unique imagery and style.

I give it a 9/10.

Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home

Happy reading,

Scarlett

Book 1: Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill

I wanted desperately to like this book of poetry. Though I didn’t purchase it, I did have my eye on it enough to enter giveaways on Goodreads, fortunately winning it last year. I was impressed to see something published by Thought Catalog as well, I wasn’t familiar with that aspect of the site until I got Your Soul is a River in the mail.

The book is broken up into eight sections of poetry, beginning with “Cosmos” and ending in “Heal.” Each section of poems had a theme, a concrete theme that was grounded in the poems it held, and I do laud Gill for her continuity.

I felt that overall this collection lacked a good deal in originality. Gill didn’t take the risks she could have in a lot of cases, opting instead to over-explain or attempt to make each poem into a micro lesson. Her style was good enough, but her poetry read as very young.

I do think a younger audience may quite enjoy this collection. As a poet I spend a good deal of my time analyzing what I read and assessing poems to see how they might be improved – Gill’s choice to draw on cliches was the biggest downfall for me, and I do sorely wish I had more positive comments on the work as a whole.

I give the book a 5/10.

Your Soul is a River

Happy reading!
PS: I’ll be a bit absent for a while as I’m having surgery tomorrow and likely won’t get much reading done for a few days. Best to all of you.

Goodreads Wins for 2016

I recall quite clearly how excited I was when I received my first email from Goodreads with the headline “Congrats – You’re a Giveaways Winner!” I had won Nadja Spiegelman’s I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir. Now I’ve won more giveaways than I’d considered possible, due mostly to my incessant boredom at work during lulls leading me to enter into dozens at a time. I certainly can’t say I never win anything anymore!

Here’s a list of the books I’ve won this year, linked to Goodreads:

What a list! I’ve really enjoyed some of the books that I won this year. Regardless of the reviews I’ve left, I am so grateful to have won at all, much less in such a bounty. That’s fourteen books that I may never have had my hands on if it weren’t for these giveaways. I encourage any avid readers, especially those of us who are in school or otherwise struggling financially to look into the Goodreads Giveaways tab, browse the genres, enter and try your luck. It’s beneficial to you and to the writer/publisher whose book(s) you review.

A note on integrity; My reviews were always honest, as the contests requested – the point in giveaways is to receive honest feedback, and in some cases mine was negative. Though I don’t want to seem unappreciative, I have a moral obligation to review these books as I would any other for the sake of book buyers everywhere.

Book 64: H.D. Collected Poems 1912-1944

H.D. is a bit of a badass, as I learned in poetry workshop this semester. Her writing is incredible, she was at one point involved with Ezra Pound, and she didn’t take much shit from anyone from what I can tell.

It was an ongoing read over the course of the semester, so I started it in August and have had the pleasure of working through it slowly, though I did read a great deal of it on my own time.

My favorite section of poetry in the collection was definitely Trilogy. I couldn’t get over how beautifully woven the poems were, and I’ll go into more detail in a bit about them.

H.D.’s definitely worthy of note in the feminist realm; in the introduction she discusses thinking that women should be able to do as they please, and with the years 1912-44 on the cover it’s quite clear that she wasn’t among the popular school of thought at the time.

*

I’ve decided to include one lovely poem of H.D.’s here. It’s long, so I limited myself to the one:

Fragment Thirty-Six

I know not what to do
my mind is divided. —Sappho

I know not what to do,
my mind is reft:
is song’s gift best?
is love’s gift loveliest?
I know not what to do,
now sleep has pressed
weight on your eyelids.

Shall I break your rest,
devouring, eager?
is love’s gift best?
nay, song’s the loveliest:
yet were you lost,
what rapture
could
I take from song?
what song were left?

I know not what to do:
to turn and slake
the rage that burns,
with my breath burn
and trouble your cool breath?
so shall I turn and take
snow in my arms?
(is love’s gift best?)
yet flake on flake
of snow were comfortless,
did you lie wondering,
wakened yet unawake.

Shall I turn and take
comfortless snow within my arms?
press lips to lips
that answer not,
press lips to flesh
that shudders not nor breaks?

Is love’s gift best?
shall I turn and slake
all the wild longing?
O I am eager for you!
as the Pleiads shake
white light in whiter water
so shall I take you?

My mind is quite divided,
my minds hesitate,
so perfect matched,
I know not what to do:
each strives with each
as two white wrestlers
standing for a match,
ready to turn and clutch
yet never shake muscle nor nerve nor tendon;
so my mind waits
to grapple with my mind,
yet I lie quiet,
I would seem at rest.

I know not what to do:
strain upon strain,
sound surging upon sound
makes my brain blind;
as a wave-line may wait to fall
yet (waiting for its falling)
still the wind may take
from off its crest,
white flake on flake of foam,
that rises,
seeming to dart and pulse
and rend the light,
so my mind hesitates
above the passion
quivering yet to break,
so my mind hesitates
above my mind,
listening to song’s delight.

I know not what to do:
will the sound break,
rending the night
with rift on rift of rose
and scattered light?
will the sound break at last
as the wave hesitant,
or will the whole night pass
and I lie listening awake?

*

I was assigned to read Trilogy for a week in workshop dedicated to Invocations – a form that H.D. has clearly conquered. In her section of poems about the Virgin Mary in “Tribute to the Angels,” the second section of Trilogy, she ends with a consideration of Mary as her own being, presented without the Child and therefore depicted as a human and not just a vessel. She calls upon many portraits of Mary through the section of poems and interweaves her own thoughts with biblical imagery and those depictions. H.D. writes of other goddesses in this section as well, sometimes interlacing them in her poems about Mary – drawing on strong women in myth was quite an interesting choice here, and one that I appreciated.

In the final section of Trilogy, “The Flowering of the Rod,” I fell in love with H.D.’s depiction of Mary Magdalene – there’s so much to go on in these poems, so many images and the development of such a strong female character. She followed a brief allusion to the thief crucified alongside Jesus, which was also artfully woven in here. Again H.D. ties in mythology (Siren, mermaid, etc.). There’s even a glance at Lilith!

Though I found Trilogy to be quite a coded (down to the fact that it’s broken up into three parts, alluding to the holy trinity), I felt it was all well worked and very well thought out.  All three sections were divided into 43 parts, which sent me to research the numerology/symbolism of the number – 43 didn’t draw many results that I could tie definitively to H.D.’s poems (partially because I’m not sure how prevalent numerology was in her lifetime), but it is a number associated with the archangels in modern numerology.

*

 

I think my principal complaint, which isn’t purely complaint, is the repetitive themes – Greek mythology is pretty constant in theme. Though I love mythology, I did often wish there was more poetry separate from lore.

I give this book a 7/10.

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Book 63: Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction (Since 1970)

I read a chunk of this book for my CNF workshop this year, finishing it independently due wholly to my undying love for CNF.

The collection begins with JoAnn Beard’s essay “The Fourth State of Matter,” a stunning braided essay that deals with loss in multiple ways. Other essays are briefer, less grim (ie. Annie Dillard’s “Living Like Weasels”).

I’d say my favorite essays in the collection were;

Apologies for the few I couldn’t find available online. They’re all present in memoirs from the authors, however, and would likely be nice additions to any bookshelf.

There’s little to say cumulatively about an anthology like this, other than that it is full of wonderful prose and worth reading. There were two or three essays in the volume that I didn’t feel compelled to read to completion. Considering that this volume holds fifty essays, I’d say that’s an excellent ratio.

It’s my hope to finish one or two more books before this year escapes, though I make few promises.

I give the volume a 9/10.

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present

Happy reading and happy holidays!