Books · Poetry · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(poetry) Book Thoughts: Wintering Out (Seamus Heaney)

Maybe this will need another read before it clicks

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Wintering Out
Author: Seamus Heaney (Northern Ireland/UK)
Genre: Poetry
First published: 1972
Edition: Paperback, published by Faber & Faber

‘Seamus Heaney has gone beyond the themes of his earlier poetry and has made the giant step towards the most ambitious, most intractable themes of maturity. The power of this book comes from a sense that he is reaching out towards a type of desolation and of isolation without which no imagination can be seen to have grown up.’ Eavan Boland, Irish Times

***

I find poetry notoriously hard to put my thoughts together on. It’s so subjective. To the person, to the mood, even to the moment and what has been read before.

Having recently read some poetry I absolutely loved, this one felt no more than decent for me. There were a few poems in this collection that I really enjoyed and felt, but the majority did not hit home for me this time. They did feel better when I read them out loud and found the cadence in the words.

I know that poetry can hit differently on different days and words that make no sense on a random Sunday in February may flood the mind with meaning on another random day in August. I will definitely read this one again and I do want to read more collections by Seamus Heaney. Sometimes it takes a while for the words to take shape in my mind, and I may just have to read a few by him before I ‘get’ his poetry. I did not feel this one alone gave me enough to understand the poet’s words.

As a poet, respected as he is, Heaney is yet to bowl me over, but this collection did make me want to seek out more, so I guess it made enough of an impact.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(poetry) Book Thoughts: Almond Blossoms and Beyond (Mahmoud Darwish)

Confirmation that Darwish is the poet of my heart

★★★★★★★

Title: Almond Blossoms and Beyond (original title: كزهر اللوز أو أبعد)
Author: Mahmoud Darwish (Palestine)
Translators: Mohammad Shaheen (from Arabic)
Genre: Poetry
First published: 2009
Edition: Hardback, published by Interlink Books in 2009

Almond Blossoms and Beyond is one of the last collections of poetry that Mahmoud Darwish left to the world. Composed of brief lyric poems and the magnificent sustained Exile cycle, Almond Blossoms holds an important place in Darwish’s unparalleled oeuvre. It distills his late style, in which, though the specter of death looms and weddings turn to funerals, he threads the pulses and fragilities and beauties of life into the lines of his poems. Their liveliness is his own response to the collection’s final call to bid “Farewell / Farewell, to the poetry of pain.”

🌸🌸🌸

I think this is my third or fourth work by poet Mahmoud Darwish that I have read. There is just something about Darwish’s poetry that makes the words live in my heart. This collection of poems, written towards the end of his life, is no different. These poems are shorter and sharper than previous work I have read. Less complex maybe, but the emotion they provoke is the same.

Throughout these poems it is clear that the poet is aware of his own looming demise. He asks himself a lot of questions and contemplates his own mortality. Knowing he died not long after these poems were written gave them an extra layer of melancholy. I feel I am not eloquent enough to do his poetry justice, but suffice to say it touches my heart and I think that is what he meant to do.

I loved this collection and if you want to dabble in poetry, and into his work, I think this would be a good place to start. These poems are a little more accessible than some of his other work I have read, but no less beautiful and meaningful.

I will be reading more of his work soon.

7 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(poetry) Book Thoughts: Selected Poems (Pablo Neruda)

When sentences turn into images…

★★★★★★☆

Title: Selected Poems
Author: Pablo Neruda (Chile)
Translators: Anthony Kerrigan / W S Merwin / Alastair Reid / Nathaniel Tarn
Genre: Poetry / Classic / Poetry Collection
First published: Original poems: 1924-1967
Edition: Paperback, published by Vintage Classics in 2012

Selected Poems contains Neruda’s resonant, exploratory, intensely individualistic verse, rooted in the physical landscape and people of Chile. Here we find sensuous songs of love, tender odes to the sea, melancholy lyrics of heartache, fiery political statements and a frank celebration of sex. This is an enticing, distinctive and celebrated collection of poetry from the greatest twentieth century Latin American poet.

***

I have to be honest and say that it took me a little while to get into these poems. When I started reading them they did not make sense.

Neruda’s style is very visual for me, using mostly images from nature, and after a while I stopped trying to understand exactly what he was saying and just enjoyed the words and the images he was painting. This was when I started truly enjoying his work. I felt the ebb and flow of his work and the feelings that he was portraying.

He has a clear connection to the sea and nature and that shines through in this collection of poems, often using the water to portray a feeling, a restlessness or longing, but also wonder. I enjoyed the free verse style he uses. It makes it more of a narrative somehow.

I think this is a great collection that gave me a good taste of what Pablo Neruda was all about. This is a dual language edition and I liked looking at the Spanish versions of the poems, even if I am unable to understand the language.

If you enjoy nature and looking at the world in a different light, Neruda may well be the poet for you. I certainly enjoy his work and I will seek out more from him for sure.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(Poetry) Books Thoughts: The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Hanif Abdurraqib)

Powerful, so powerful, yet so vulnerable

★★★★★★☆

Title: The Crown Ain’t Worth Much
Author: Hanif Abdurraqib
Genre: Poetry
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Button Poetry in 2016

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s first full-length collection, is a sharp and vulnerable portrayal of city life in the United States. A regular columnist for MTV.com, Willis-Abdurraqib brings his interest in pop culture to these poems, analyzing race, gender, family, and the love that finally holds us together even as it threatens to break us.

***

There is something so raw and heartfelt about this author’s work. I love how it is powerful and vulnerable at the same time. Angry, and sad. Hope and hopelessness hand in hand. The world is both beautiful and incredible, ugly and unfair.

Throughout this collection of poetry, with poems written and musings written over a decade or more, there’s a thread of being black in America, of being young and black. Of the dark cloud of danger that runs through the black lives he knows.

Often these poems read like streams of consciousness, a unspooling of love, fear, anger, bitterness and a touch of nostalgia. His experience is not me. I am neither black, male or living in a big city in the US. His is not my world. Yet, in the end this world is mine and these words, these emotions, these feelings matter so much and should be heard and read. I do not think it matters who you are or where you are. If you don’t feel these words. If they don’t touch you… Then I don’t understand.

Something that Hanif Abdurraqib and I have in common, what drew me to him in the first place, is his passion for music. He weaves it through all his prose and poetry. It’s always there in the background, soundtracking his thoughts. I love that it does, as it does the same for me.

I would encourage anyone to pick up this author’s work. He’s an incredibly emotive writer writing so naturally about important issues. Highly recommended.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Blue Horses (Mary Oliver)

A collection of poems that grew on me with every page

★★★★★★☆

Title: Blue Horses
Author: Mary Oliver
Genre: Poetry
First published: 2014
Edition: Paperback, published by Corsair Poetry in 2018

In this stunning collection of new poems, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has defined her life’s work, describing with wonder both the everyday and the unaffected beauty of nature.   Herons, sparrows, owls, and kingfishers flit across the page in meditations on love, artistry, and impermanence. Whether considering a bird’s nest, the seeming patience of oak trees, or the artworks of Franz Marc, Oliver reminds us of the transformative power of attention and how much can be contained within the smallest moments.   At its heart, Blue Horses asks what it means to truly belong to this world, to live in it attuned to all its changes. Humorous, gentle, and always honest, Oliver is a visionary of the natural world. 

***

This little poetry book unexpectedly took me on quite an emotional journey. After the first few poems I felt out of touch and indifferent. By the last I was questioning the meaning of life!

The language of these poems are not spectacular. They did not flow into my brain like others have done, yet little by little, poem by poem, they crept into my soul. I felt I got to know the author’s mind, as if I was celebrating and questioning life alongside her and it was a lovely experience.

I love poetry that takes you on a journey and this one did that for me. I love nature and pondering the meaning of it all and these poems celebrated exactly that.

6 out of 7 stars

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 · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: In The Presence of Absence (Mahmoud Darwish)

A truly incredible poetic memoir

★★★★★★★

Title: In The Presence of Absence (original title: في حضرة الغياب)
Author: Mahmoud Darwish (translator: Sinan Antoon)
Genre: Non-Fiction / Poetry / Memoir
First published: 2006 (in Arabic) / English translation: 2011
Edition: Paperback, published by Archipelago Books in 2020

By one of the most transcendent poets of this generation, a remarkable collection of prose poems that explores themes of love, pain, isolation, and connection. In this self-eulogy written in the final years of Mahmoud Darwish’s life, Palestine becomes a metaphor for the injustice and pain of our contemporary moment.

***

I read this beautifully written poetic memoir over the span of a few weeks. I did not want to rush it. I wanted to take in every word and to let them sink in.

I have never read anything quite like this before. The author wrote this remarkable second-person narrative, that is part poetic prose and part memoir. I have read one of his poetry books before, which I loved, but this was a different beast altogether.

The author touches on many memories and thoughts, on emotions and on the plight of the refugee and the displaced and exiled. It is a voice that is not heard enough. I started reading this book before the flare-up of the conflict between Israel and the Palestines, but in the past couple of weeks it has only become more poignant to me. The issues this Palestinian poet wrote about have still not been resolved and probably never will be. I will include a page in which he talks about his arrival in Gaza and how he felt whilst he was there.

I am not sure how I can express how I felt about this one. All I can say about this self-eulogy is that it touched me deeply. It is so beautifully written and the way he addresses himself throughout made it feel very personal and intimate. I really felt like if I was reading the innermost musings of his heart as he was pondering the end of his life.

An incredible piece of writing and I hope more people will read this, wherever they are in the world. It will enrich your life.

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 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Broken Wings (Kahlil Gibran)

★★★★★★★

Title: The Broken Wings (الأجنحة المتكسرة)
Author: Kahlil Gibran (Editor: Will Jonson) Pages: 44
Genre: Fiction / Classic / Poetry / Novella / Tragedy
First published: 1912
Edition: Paperback, independently published in 2014

With great sensitivity, Gibran describes his passion as a youth for Selma Karamy, the girl of Beirut who first unfolded to him the secrets of love. But it is a love that is doomed by a social convention which forces Selma into marriage with another man. Portraying the happiness and infinite sorrow of his relationship with Selma, Gibran at the same time probes the spiritual meaning of human existence with profound compassion.

Apparently it only takes 44 pages to break my heart. Oh, my word. This was the most beautiful and tragic story I have read for a long, long time.

There is so much love contained within these pages and the writing is so exquisite, it filled my heart with emotions and then proceeded to shatter it into a thousand pieces.

Written at the beginning of the twentieth century it nevertheless has a lot of modern sensibilities and the author’s views on how society treated (and unfortunately still treats) women. I feel that between his beautiful lines of prose this was very much a social commentary on the lack of choice women experienced, as well an ode to the strength as well as helplessness of love and the human spirit.

This poetic novella touched me deeply. I am not ashamed to say I cried my eyes out. Beautifully sad.

I have a longer work by this author on my shelf, but I do not think my heart can handle it just yet.

7 out of 7 stars

My Poetry

From my notebook: Soundwaves

I never post anything I write, because, well, it’s not very good… But I came across this bit of poetry that I wrote a while back. I kind of like it, so why not post it? I have no idea what it is about. I think I just liked the words. 

Don’t worry, this won’t happen too often!

***

SOUNDWAVES

Ladylike abandon
Lipstick masquerades
Masterly we crafted
Invisible barricades

Acquiesce the voices
Marauder of my soul
Conspicuous as ever
Into infinity we fall

Fight against the masses
Lift up your netted wings
Waltz into tomorrow
On broken cello strings

Envelope the dusk
A labyrinth of twilight
Then triumph over silence
So mysteriously light

Lungs open wide in rapture
Sound permeates the skies
Hurricanes defeated
Screams turn into sighs

***

Let me know what you think!