From Louisiana to Honduras, Susan Swartwout covers much ground in her poetry collection, Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit. The collection is billed as a gothic take on Southern culture, and in some aspects it is, but there is more here than meets the eyes or first reading. The collection also tells a family’s history and the impact of this on the life of the individual who tells it.
Beyond the mistakes and the failings of humans which are highlighted in these poems, there is something that redeems us. We can, and must, love, and transcend. IV is a collection poetry about the ephemeral nature of life, of pain, about how we learn, grow, become mindful/present/enlightened, and above all, about love. No matter how much we’ve severed, sutured, eluded and deconstructed, love is always transformative.
Jesih is from Slovenia. Natural aspects of this country, along with the author’s own thrust toward existential questions, serve to inform the poems in the book. He takes notes while walking, while reflecting, and brings the reader along for the journey. One gets the sense from his poetry that Jesih is a peripatetic wordsmith.
This work is Ecopoetry at its most astute—where nature is primary, and human perception becomes transfigured by the encounter. All or nearly all of the poetry is set in The Hunter Valley, NSW (Australia), and many poems revisit these places from different perspectives, different stories, and different times of day, life, emotional contexts.
O’Connor portrays Emily sensitively and sympathetically. Writers will identify with her need for peace and solitude, co-existing with a yearning for understanding and closeness. Emily’s girlhood friend, Susan Gilbert, who married her brother, Austen, was her closest friend.
Brady paints a wide spectrum that not only includes the world of ancient Greece and Ethiopia but also the terrain of Queens, New York, where he grew up. Brady’s book makes known the impact of the Homeric texts on the young life of the protagonist.
Despite its seeming simplicity, the poetry in The Guardians is condensed tightly, and though the work remains rooted in the domestic, there is a universe pulsing in each observation. Time is stretched between present and an infinite regression of past, and all that we inherit, all that is wild lurking below the surface of our lives. This is poetry that can be read again and again, each time yielding something new and powerful in its minute and expansive observations.
Though the poetry is easy to read and instantly accessible, the work operates on several levels. There is the political: the woman dispossessed, unable to afford rising Melbourne property prices (and a later nod to the global financial crisis; there is the spiritual: the idea of letting go of attachments and expectations: “I am a whisper/of butterflies”; and there is the tangible: the poet’s attempts to make a coherent life and create meaning during this period of intransience.
It is tempting to say that Autoplay by Julie Babcock is a collection of poems about Ohio. It is and more. One way to put order to this book, a task that is almost if not totally impossible to do, is to separate the poems into categories. The Ohio poems would be one category. Another category would be poems dealing with childhood and adulthood.
The narrative in this collection exists in that there is no narrative; we find ourselves instead in the pairing of clashing words that, like a musical score, creates not an arch, but rather the opening of a flower. Each prose poem is handled with delicate care, and yet, Lewis is able to formulate each in a sense of divine carelessness. She redesigns familiar clichés into new architecture, allowing a close proximity to the reader throughout each section.