Books · Poetry · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughs: Peace Flows From The Sky (Susan Polis Schutz)

Uncomplicated poems to soothe the mind

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Peace Flows From The Sky
Author: Susan Polis Schutz Illustrator: Stephen Schutz
Genre: Poetry
First published: 1974 (?)
Edition: paperback published in 1974 by Athena International

I felt like some poetry and quickly grabbed this thin little paperback from my shelf. I had lingered there for a few years, ever since I picked it up in a used book shop.

These are very simple poems that both celebrate life in the Colorado mountains and the author’s relationship with her husband, as well as some that question the roles that society bestows upon women.

I enjoyed these poems fine and I found them easy to read and understand. They did not exactly inspire me, but maybe they did not need to. In truth I prefer to get a bit more inspiration out of poetry, but that is a purely personal thing. These poems were a nice quick read in the sunshine and I enjoyed them for that. They were not meant to be deep or profound. Rather, the author just wrote as she found and I respect that.

The simple illustrations throughout the book were done by her husband and were a nice touch. I am happy to put this little book back on my shelf.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: The Flowers of Evil (Charles Baudelaire)

Melancholy perfection

★★★★★★★

Title: The Flowers of Evil
Author: Charles Baudelaire
Translator: Anthony Mortimer
Genre:
 Poetry / Classic
First published: 1857
Edition: Paperback, dual language edition, published by Alma Classics in 2016

Judicially condemned in 1857 as offensive to public morality, The Flowers of Evil is now regarded as the most influential volume of poetry published in the nineteenth century. Torn between intense sensuality and profound spiritual yearning, racked by debt and disease, Baudelaire transformed his own experience of Parisian life into a work of universal significance. With his unflinching examination of the dark aspects and unconventional manifestations of sexuality, his pioneering portrayal of life in a great metropolis and his daring combination of the lyrical and the prosaic, Baudelaire inaugurated a new epoch in poetry and created a founding text of modernism.

***

I always find it hard to discuss poetry. I don’t know enough about poetry, technically speaking. I only know whether a poet’s work speaks to me or not. Well, I can confirm that Baudelaire’s poetry speaks loud and clearly. It speaks loud and clear in melancholy tones that I came to love.

The format of most of the poems is quite simple, but I can imagine how controversial the content of these poems must have been when they came out. For modern eyes they do not shock, but it was a different world back then. My modern eyes (and ears) much enjoyed reading this. His imagery is beautiful and the rhythm of his poems, mostly classical forms, just work so well.

The subject matter range from love to destruction and everything in between. There is deep sadness, despair, but also moments of admiration and yes, love. Considering his life (there was a helpful biography at the back), these poems make sense in that context. Yet, even before I knew anything about his life, his poems just clicked for me.

These poems are easy to read, but take a little bit more time to digest, just the way I like them. I will definitely be dipping in and out of this book, reading a poem here and there, in the future.

I don’t quite think this will be for everyone. The imagery can be a little crude and it does deal with sex and prostitutes rather a lot, but as a document of the time and as poetry, I thought this was exquisite.

I loved that this is a dual language edition, with the original French poem on one side and the English translation on the other. I did refer to the French versions every now and then and the rhythm felt much the same, so I can only surmise that this is a pretty good translation!

7 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? (Mahmoud Darwish)

Exquisite prose that touched my heart even if I did not quite understand

★★★★★★☆

Title: Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? (original title: لماذا تركت الحصان وحيدًا)
Author: Mahmoud Darwish (translator: Jeffrey Sacks)
Genre: Poetry
First published: 1995 (in Arabic) / first English translation: 1999
Edition: Paperback, published by Archipelago Books in 2006

At once an intimate autobiography and a collective memory of the Palestinian people, Darwish’s intertwined poems are collective cries, songs, and glimpses of the human condition. Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? is a poetry of myth and history, of exile and suspended time, of an identity bound to his displaced people and to the rich Arabic language. Darwish’s poems – specific and symbolic, simple and profound – are historical glimpses, existential queries, chants of pain and injustice of a people separated from their land.

***

There is something about Arabic poetry that touches me deeply. Maybe it is the words used, maybe the symbolism and metaphores, the imagery, the different emotions…. I am not entirely sure. All I know is that it touches my heart.

I will not pretend to understand what this poetry book is trying to say, but the imagery and the words are beautiful. At times they moved me to tears or made me smile. I got themes of displacement, the human effects of war, home, insecurity, transience and love in its many forms… Yes, I admit that much of it went over my head. I often did not understand the metaphores or symbolism. And you know what? I am ok with that. It only means that I will need to let it simmer and I will want to return to it at a later date, to drench myself in these exquisite words again. Maybe then I will gleam something different from them. Maybe then I will grasp some of the deeper meaning. Or I may just enjoy the beautiful prose.

Whatever the author is trying to say, it means something to me. Maybe it does not matter whether I got their meaning exactly, I felt something, and when a poetry book does that it makes me happy. I do not need to understand implicitly. I just need to feel it.

I definitely want to read more from this author.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt (John Cooper Clarke)

Brilliant use of the English language!

★★★★★★☆

Title: Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt
Author: John Cooper Clarke
Genre: Poetry / Punk Poetry / Modern Poetry
First published: 1983
Edition: Paperback, published by Vintage in 2012

Punk. Poet. Pioneer. The Bard of Salford’s seminal collection is as scabrous, wry & vivid now as it was when first published over 25 years ago.

There is something about the rhythms of John Cooper Clarke poems that I really like.

Of course I have seen/heard him perform a poem or two on television over the years, so I am familiar with his style of reciting them, which helps to find that rhythm in myself as I am reading them.

His subject matter is gritty, his delivery is sharp as a knife, and his language choices and (internal) rhyme schemes just work for me.

I did not love each and every one of the poems, but the vast majority I really enjoyed.

If you enjoy modern poetry, I would definitely recommend this one!

(on a side note, the illustrations by Steve Maguire are pretty great too)

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: The Love Poems of Rumi

The trouble with translations…

☆UNRATED☆ (for now)

Title: The Love Poems of Rumi
Author: Rumi (translated by Nader Khalili)
Genre: Poetry
First published: 1998 (originals written in the 13th century)
Edition: Hardback, published by Wellfleet in 2015

 Included in this book is a collection of Jalal al-Din Rumi’s passionate love poems, translated by Nader Khalili. Beautifully designed and illustrated throughout, you’ll become spiritually inspired by the words in this book. Perfect for lovers, dreamers, and poets, the poems from this 13th century theologist will leave you wistfully peaceful.

***

Yes, I fell for the package. This is a nice looking volume with gilded edges and all that jazz.

After reading a few books that mentioned Rumi’s work in a smaller or larger extent, I felt compelled to pick up some work by him. I now feel that this volume was not the right choice to dive into his work. The translation feels very clumsy and does not flow well.

The longer poems definitely feel more coherent than the shorter ones, but still the translation kept bothering me. At times a poem would touch my heart, but then some clumsy wording would ruin it for me.

I have now researched the most faithful translations of Rumi’s work and I will definitely try a different translation instead.

I will leave this unrated for now. I did not hate it, but it did leave me unsatisfied.

UNRATED

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass (Lana Del Rey)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Violent Bent Over The Grass Backwards
Author: Lana Del Rey
Genre: Poetry
First published: 2020
Edition: Hardback, published by Simon and Schuster in 2020

“Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is the title poem of the book and the first poem I wrote of many. Some of which came to me in their entirety, which I dictated and then typed out, and some that I worked laboriously picking apart each word to make the perfect poem. They are eclectic and honest and not trying to be anything other than what they are and for that reason I’m proud of them, especially because the spirit in which they were written was very authentic.” —Lana Del Rey

🌸🌸🌸

I bought this poetry book on a whim. I have been listening to the author’s music quite a lot lately. It always touches me, so I figured maybe her poetry would as well. It did.

There is something very lyrical, but real and heartfelt about her prose. It took me a few poems to get used to the rhythm and feel of her writing, but by the end I really loved it. I loved how her poems are irregular and almost jarring at times. It made sense in the themes of this work, which seems to be an exploration of life and self and maybe acceptance as well, her place in this immediate world she is existing in.

I enjoyed this thoroughly and the photographs scattered throughout and the way her typed pages are printed in the book give it a great feel. The hardback was a joy to read.

I definitely want to listen to her reading this work, but as a poetry book it already hit the right spot for me.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Lines by Leon (Leon Stevens)

Stevens, Leon - Lines by Leon

★★★★★★☆

Title: Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose and Pictures
Author: Leon Stevens
Genre: Poetry   Pages: 90
First published: 2019
Edition: E-book, kindly sent by the author

Lines by Leon is a selection of poems, prose, and short stories that address the subjects of loss, struggle, and reflection. Inside these thoughtful contemplations are original observations about ego, behavior, human relations, places, and the environment. 

🤍

I loved this poetry collection. It is only short and quite light-hearted, even if it deals with some deeper subjects. To be honest, I found it a breath of fresh air and it was a joy to read.

I liked the cadence of the poems a lot. The author is a musician and songwriter as well and I think some of that is reflected in the poems, which sometimes feel like pieces of lyrics in the best possible way. It was easy for me to connect to them and to visualize what the poet was talking about. A lot of them made me smile, mostly in recognition!

There are some illustrations scattered throughout that add a nice touch. At the end of a book the addition of a graphic novel element and some fragments of short stories should feel out of place, but somehow do not.

I will give you a short poem from this collection that made me smile:

Ego
Sorry, I don’t have room for your ego
Maybe, if you got rid of most of it
You might fit
Into my life
– but probably not

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and I will be buying myself a physical copy. I will keep an eye out for anything else Leon Stevens publishes in the future.

Highly recommended!

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

Poetry Review: In The Dark, Soft Earth (Frank Watson)

Watson, Frank - In The Dark, Soft Earth

★★★★★☆☆

Title: In The Dark, Soft Earth
Author: Frank Watson
Genre: Poetry   Pages: 232
First published: to be published 7 July 2020
Edition: E-book, kindly sent by the author

Vignette verses explore the workings of love, nature, spirituality, and dreams with sprinklings of tarot symbolism and jazzy blues. Together these verses contemplate the subtle underpinnings of a soft earth.

*

Poetry is very personal. Something one person loves, may not work for another. Poems that do not work when you read them internally, may suddenly make sense when you read them aloud.

This collection for me was a little bit hit and miss. There were poems I absolutely loved, like the title poem, which really struck a chord. But there were some that just felt like a collection of sentences that did not necessarily make sense to me as a whole. At times the poems went somewhere I really did not expect and sometimes that worked, but at other times they lost me completely.

I found I especially loved the poems that had imagery of music and nature. Those crept into my heart and i found myself thinking about afterwards. I also really enjoyed the series of poems under the heading of An Entrance to the Tarot Garden.

There was some phrasing that felt a bit repetitive. I am not sure whether this was deliberate, but it was something I noticed a little too much, especially in the first half.

Would I recommend this collection? I think I would. I did feel there was a deeper meaning to these than I have not quite grasped on first read. This is a poetry collection I will come back to at some point in the future.

An example of one of the shorter poems I really liked in this collection:

jazz notes

jazz notes
blue totes

cold air
and sudden stares

as bebop blew
the ragged zoo

of thin-skinned moats
and sinking boats

until we knew
our time was through

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

Poetry Thoughts: Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Wendy Cope)

Cope, Wendy - Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis
Author: Wendy Cope
Genre: Poetry   Pages: 69
First published: 1986
Edition: Paperback, published by Faber and Faber in 1986

Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis

It was a dream I had last week
And some sort of record seemed vital
I know it wouldn’t be much of a poem
But I love the  title

I don’t read poetry that often, but this was a fun one. The poems are mostly modern in feel, some written from the poet’s point-of-view, others from a man’s perspective. There are poems of observation, some love poems, even some haiku and some seem to simply exist because it sounds pretty. I am perfectly fine with all of those.

The rhytms worked well and a lot of these sound great read out loud.

As a collection of poems I enjoyed most of these and they did not feel too simple or too high-brow. In fact, there was a good sense of humour throughout.

If you like poetry, I highly recommend this one.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Nocturnal (Wilder Poetry)

Wilder Poetry - Nocturnal

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Nocturnal
Author: Wilder Poetry
Genre: Poetry
To be published: 7 May 2019 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Edition: E-book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

A collection of words and imagery inspired by darkened skies and sleepless nights. it is a journey of healing and self-discovery whether love stays or leaves. it is dreaming with your eyes wide open while the rest of the world is hiding.

I love the word ‘nocturnal’. I have no idea why, but I do, and that is why I chose to review this poetry collection. That and my desire to read more poetry. It was the title and front cover that caught my eye.

Let me start by saying that the artwork is stunning and I absolutely love it. It is worth purchasing a copy of this collection for that alone.

I have mixed feelings about the poetry itself. Some of the poems were really close to my heart and others were just a bit meh. There were too many poems of only a few short sentences in my honest opinion. I preferred the slightly longer ones.

The short sharp ones can work, but too many of them and I feel the collection loses its power. I felt this one suffered a bit from that.

Having said that, as a whole I did enjoy the poems, especially in conjunction with the artwork. Were these poems eye opening and absolutely brilliant? No, but they did express emotion quite well and sometimes that is all you need.

4 out of 7 stars