Mourning vies with exultation at every crisp turn of phrase and every crunchy, unexpected line break. Some of that mourning is for the earth, for its creatures, for human folly and ignorance, for the apprehended apocalyptic end of days. Mourning is sometimes captured in references to popular music hits — Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash always blaring out of cars of boys, and fathers who don’t know what to do with, without or about the boys — and sometimes in the symphony of stars, skies, space and otherworldliness.
In HellWard we find powerful, often disturbing language, simultaneously raw and refined, beautiful and at times jolting in its honesty. What struck me particularly throughout the book is the way Sale uses mono-syllabic words to powerful effect: death, hell, pain, depth, weak, guts, ache, dark, gunk, blight, flesh, tears, stench, dread, blood, hiss, oozed,“clots of gore” (a wonderful image), cries, groans, filth, swill, “smelt the blood” (another wonderful image), skull, skin, bone, ice, heat, hot, bare, raw, mess, froth, “dark webs,” “hard knots”, guilt, “black holes,” blotch, stank, bleak, slop, “greed and pride and lust,” and “sick slime.”
As both a poet and a trained classical singer, Rodriguez is more consciously aware of the musicality of poetry than most, and it is not surprising that other poems in this collection such as ‘The Piano,’ and ‘Oh, When I Hear,’ also take music as a subject. Most are of course not directly about music, per se, though all display the melodious qualities of regular meter and perfect rhyme.
Svoboda’s verse is playful, a true delight. As Alan Michael Parker writes in his Introduction in the style of an Introduction, “…give us voices, and their own inner voices, the ways we have made gender our playmates, and how we make our bodies the play. Then stand close, and watch the players play.
My Father’s Face is a very welcome collection from a neighbouring country, Nepal, and its contemporariness is what makes it both relevant and moving. At some places the editing and the translation could have been a bit tighter, and minor irritants like phrases/ structures like ‘an ocean of deep gashes’ or ’I am delightful’ could be worked on for future editions. Also an Introduction to the volume by the poet himself would help in grounding the poetry in more specific locales and circumstances.
Murray does not try to establish a perfect correspondence between these poems and the myth’s incidents and details; instead, the poems move freely back and forth between two planes of existence, the personal and the mythological, as they recall Murray’s youth in Ukraine and her subsequent career in the U.S. diplomatic service, particularly her time in Russia. The myth itself functions in the poems more like a reticulated canopy, casting an occasional net of shadows over the scenes taking place below.
The poems, prayers and music in this collection are courageous, refreshing and from the heart. We identify and are not strangers to their expressions of love, joy, and uncompromising cries for justice, peace and healing. They address the challenging and turbulent and political and social climate we live under today. Uniting this collection is hope. The unrelenting determination to persevere.
The pandemic has made time blur for people. This anthology offers a variety of excellent poems by an inclusive array of artists to help us remember and acknowledge how we coped (or not.) Just as T. S. Elliot’s “Four Quartets” were originally published as stand-alone works, the chapbooks that make up this anthology by the same name can be savored separately even as we appreciate how they weave and intersect. This anthology will resonate and shine in the future as a historic literary gem.
Reading Alchemy will excite your imagination. You will travel in a magic carpet to the past and present, the vivid images in the poem will become a painting in your mind. I advise: read each poem a few times and you will, with each reading discover layers of beauty and humanity.
The book is called “Give a Girl a Chaos,” but the sub-title is “and see what she can do.” As I was reading this book, I started to hear in my mind Holly Near’s song “Fight Back,” an anthem I used to sing at rallies. Like Near, Seaborn is triumphant and resounding about women surviving chaos. She shows us that the girl who has been through chaos can catch the joy in every moment and overflow with love.