In this new collection by the accomplished Lillo Way, the reader is transported from earth to sky and beyond by lyrical and visionary poems. This work pulls against the gravity and mortality of life on planet earth. Within each unique tableau we learn secrets for transcendence: the importance of perspective, light and dark as an extended metaphor for wholeness, and the indomitable energy of music and dance.
Like the AIDS Quilt itself to which the title alludes, A Quilt for David is a memorial to victims of the AIDS epidemic that swept up hundreds of thousands of lives in the last forty years, in the same scary way the COVID pandemic has killed so many people in 2020. Only, this memorial for David Acer memorializes more than the victims of the HIV virus. It also revisits the homophobic hysteria that drove so much of the narrative. “All of them emboldened by…a mute president,” as Reigns writes in one of the 79 untitled meditations (both poems and prose pieces) that make up this breathtaking collection.
This is a stunning book, even if sometimes bleak, about a family struggling to transcend its own sometimes cryptic and often brutal history, as well as the history of their natural land. This is not a light and fluffy book, but its harshness and intensity are part of what makes it such a great read. And, as mentioned before, the writing itself is eloquent and gorgeous. The lyrical, precise prose in The Way of the Saints transforms the story into literature.
And then I read the novel again and again, awestruck, shedding tears each time I read of Garima’s sad demise. The theatre-halls were either being sold out by the owners to predatory realtors or to rich business magnates who razed the hall to put up a zany shopping mall there. It was crucial times for theatre-halls then, no doubt.
All of which is to say that this smallish, quiet book is magnificent. But you can’t get away with reading it once, or quickly. It calls you back, draws you in, tricks you into thinking it’s about flying owls, changing peed sheets, watching water wash over the rocks, and taking out the trash, and indeed it is about peed sheets, owls, and taking out the trash just as our lives are about those things, and yet, it is also about everything.
Personification and identification are routes to empathy, to feeling what is felt by another: another person, an animal, an inanimate object. Yvonne Zipter pursues this goal by swapping pieces of herself with pieces of the world.
Chimera says a lot in so few pages, Skelton makes the reader enter moments, fragments of time, the land, life: imagined and real. In this book Skelton once more has demonstrated her skills as a writer.
Just as her previous collaboration with Peter Bruun, Innumerable Moons, deals with love, loss and grief in later life, so too does Clarinda Harriss’ new collection, Ash Wedding, amounts to an extended elegy for Harriss’ friend, Steve Davitt, whom she’d known for more than three decades and with whom she spent the final two years of his life. Davitt suffered a massive heart attack while walking their dog on the streets of Baltimore in April of that already devastating year, 2020. The dominant theme in these poems is grief, raw, unassuageable grief.
Slivers of Kirk’s sometimes funny, sometimes traumatic personal history overlap and complement and reflect one another throughout the book. He spends a good part of the book searching in Transylvania for a lost manuscript, purportedly the work of none other than the great Béla Bartók, and spends another large chunk of it organizing strange activities on the deck of a cruise ship navigating some of the world’s remotest waters. Interwoven with these threads are passages in which Kirk frets over his seriously ill father, who, in one video call, strikes him as looking, in Kirk’s words, about a million years old.
Reading through You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love, I experienced a litany of emotion that found me racking through memories, hopes, and losses. The work is astoundingly raw and explorative. Harvey dances between forms and visual presentation with the precision and coherency of a professor, the care of a mother, and the creative wield of a comic book artist.