An Arab-American who feels strongly about the Palestinian homeland, Metres clearly sees the complexities in the region and reflects them so succinctly and comprehensively in his poems and prose sketches, reflecting the good and bad on both sides.
Fire Front is critically important reading – not just for the messages it contains, though they are both timeless and relevant to the world we’re living in right now, but also because this is work that is fresh, urgent, astonishing, beautiful, and heart-rendering and have the power that Whittaker talks about in her introduction, to change the shape world for the better.
You don’t have to be a card carrying poetry lover to fall in love with the poems in this book. I’m planning to put the anthology on my coffee table and look forward to the conversations it sparks with guests. (That is when we are allowed to have guests again. I am writing to you from the heart of social distancing.) Some of these poems turned me on. Some of them made me long to be the person being kissed for the attention and tenderness of it. Some of them made me cry.
This intricate mixture of joy and grief, celebration and fear, is expressed over and over again in these poems. In “Damage,” a poem about her young daughter mistaking the words damn it for damage, the poet reflects, hearing her daughter’s mistake when she stubs her toe or startles when a door slams, “damage [is] the right word.
Though these are personal poems, rooted in love, loss, grief, and rebirth, there is a strong, though subtle underlying politic which takes the form of advocacy. Collective empowerment is an important theme throughout the work, linking back to the title–kindness as a radical act.
This collection is a word feast to be read over days, not in one sitting, and these poems by Alice Jones deserve to be savored. Despite frequent medical and historical multisyllabic vocabulary, many of the poems regard common social phenomena. Readers will appreciate each word as they feel the momentum of stylistic and linguistic rhythms within and between sentences.
Even at its most intense, Blackford’s poetry never stops being warm, accessible and humorous. The Alpaca Cantos is beautifully presented with thick paper, careful layouts, with lovely drawings by artist Gwynneth Jones. These are poems that are both complex and simple, tragic and yet infused with delight and an almost impish joy in the day-to-day.
As in Bishop’s works, Malech seems to present some of her poems in utter simplicity, then surprises with the unexpected turn at the end. “Dear Reader” (p. 67) does this quite successfully. Some of the poems appear enigmatic, but when studied, reveal a coherent whimsy. “Come Again” (p.55) plays on the comedy of typos and “Euscorpius italicus” ( p.37) on the fear of spiders, both done with commendable control.
Rutkowski ruminates on so many of the little things that usually escape notice. Three poems are devoted to a pet turtle. Imagine that, a turtle, the very definition of a slow-moving, boring thing. Yet in poems like “Turtle’s Cold Day,” we see Rutkowski actually worrying about the animal because of subtle anomalies in her behavior. In “Head Scratching” he observes that he knows why she stretches her legs – “to cool off.” But he’s puzzled by the reason behind her scratching her head. Could it be a mosquito?
So many of these poems are littered with broken hearts and relationships gone sour, feelings of foreboding and loneliness and vulnerability. The second reference to “girls like us” comes in “Diagnosis III,” which highlights the incipient violence lurking everywhere. It begins: “Girls like you, he spat, / his breath laden with smoke / and Svedka….” It ends: “Girls like / you, he repeated, leaving me / a blank to fill.”