Bell’s first (and possibly not last) memoir is a well-written, fast paced, and engaging read that chronicles Bell’s extensive struggles with depression, with being the child of two semi-famous gothic musicians, years of coping with her mother’s drug addiction, and the ongoing battle to maintain self-esteem against an inverse of Snow White’s evil queen’s mirror on the wall – the “reflection” of the title.
For those who saw beneath the veneer of our country’s prosperity, “Howl” was the response of those supposedly mad or insane, observing the interior disintegration of a society enamored of materialism, steeped in religious doctrine but becoming increasing devoid of spiritual direction, still segregated and racist and generally intolerant of sexual honesty. “Howl” helped define a generation that saw beyond America’s inflated sense of progress and supremacy.
Like the best poetry collections, Still Pilgrim coheres absolutely. It has one theme, expressed in the book’s title and the title of every poem. And it sticks firmly to one form, the sonnet. O’Donnell’s take on the form, though, is like Pope Francis’s approach to pastoral care: merciful and generous and forgiving. Meters range from trimeter to pentameter, some of them tight and sprightly, others elastic, heterometric, even sprung, Hopkins-like. Rhyme schemes are many. Rhyming is tolerant of slants and assonances.
Adrian Mitchell’s exquisite writing captures the essence of the island in such a way that the reader becomes immersed in the life upon it. And within these wonderful descriptions of a tropical paradise it is easy for the reader to be completely captivated by the imagined life of his subject. The author’s words, spoken through the mind of the beachcomber’s wife, draw us in so that we feel her emotions one after the other.
Light and hope seems to play like a continual refrain through Maggie Walsh’s Sunset. Though these are poems that reflect the hardship and suffering that Walsh has experienced, they are never dark; never dour. Always there is an appreciation of the natural beauty, and a kind of joyousness that comes from sensation and perception in the face of racism, the grief that goes with being separated from home and family, and of feeling different.
Perhaps, by working on the atomic bomb, Heisenberg undermines the beauty he lives for; Ferrari refuses to let judgement be the last word. Instead, he tells a story, not unlike a letter, the overall effect of which is a sweeping, panoramic view of both the internal workings of one’s soul, as well as the wide scope of science in modern history, in short, the quantum effect.
The writing is exquisite, poetic, and very detailed. Mahood’s observations are often minute explorations: a delicate rock formation, the texture of a rope, the sound of grass crunching under the feet, a sunrise, the smell of cooking, or an empathic exploration of a companion’s discomfort. Though Position Doubtful is sophisticated, charged as it is by ethical considerations, the political impact of government policy, and a deep-seated understanding – both visceral and intellectual – of the ethics of colonial occupation, power struggles, and feminist discourse, it’s also a personal journey and deeply moving.
Kendi wisely narrowed the scope of his book by telling the stories of five exceptional American leaders who greatly influenced the progression, side by side, of racist ideas through segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists throughout America’s entire history. These Americans are the minister Cotton Mather, Pres. Thomas Jefferson, politician William Lloyd Garrison, writer W.E.B. Du Bois, and antiracist activist Angela Davis.
Out from Calaboose is an ambitious work, rich with mythology, politics, ecology, and psychology. The book moves through darkness and light, trauma, loss, desire, pain, but also, and always, leaning towards freedom from these things. Once gets the sense that this freedom lies almost entirely in the power of words – the poems themselves are the keys.
It is rare when we can call a poetry book a “page turner” in the sense of a drama or mystery, but in his remarkable new work, Miriam’s Book: A Poem, Harold Schweizer accomplishes just that. The connective tissue of each chapter, organized as in a novel, propels us forward with anticipation and curiosity.