Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I was the Jukebox by Sandra Beasley

I group Sandra Beasley's poems together with Julianna Baggott and Aimee Nezhukumatathil--they write accessible poems that I really like to read. They are poems I would give to someone who wasn't into poetry, or someone just starting to read poems. They are straightforward, easy to understand, but still really good. I think these poets are great for poetry.

Beasley said in her book that a lot of the poems were written during NaPoWriMo. I saw a lot of them posted to her blog every day as she was writing them. I was so impressed by her poems, I tried NaPoWriMo myself the next year (I do it every year now. I love the weird poems that happen when I am forced to write a poem every day). In some ways you can tell that they were done during NaPoWriMo: there are a lot of poems with similar titles (The Piano Speaks, The Sand Speaks, The Platypus Speaks, etc.) There are also a lot of repeating lines in the poems. I am sensitive about repetition, and I don't think it was overused in these poems.

All the poems in the book are either one stanza, or are broken into stanzas of the same length. I think there is one or two that breaks this rule, but will have another orderly method of breaking lines (three line stanza followed by a two line stanza throughout the poem).

My favorites from this book:

Unit of Measure

The Piano Speaks

You Were You


Monday, June 28, 2010

No air conditioning

When it is hot, the cats voluntarily hang out in their carriers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey

I read Red Becomes the Wolf on Verse Daily awhile ago, and I liked it so much I picked up Becoming the Villainess. I was really looking forward to reading it because I love villains, and I had heard that all the characters in the poems were women. I really enjoyed Gailey's askew fairy tales. All the poems were about various women or girl characters in fairy tales or archetypes.

I have seen these characters redone before but I like Gailey's versions--they have an edge. They talk like believable people. I liked how much variety there was in the poems' subject matter, yet somehow it was all tied together. I was a relief to hear all these characters who were always at the mercy of villains, or hoping to be saved by men have strong voices in this book. The women in this book are how I wish all those characters were written in their original stories.

The language in the poetry is tight and strong. There is not any fat to trim. The stanza breaks were pretty orderly, and almost always had stanzas that were the same amount of lines. The lines were broken at the ends of sentences or the middles, usually ending with a strong word.

When Red Becomes the Wolf

Spy Girls

Alice in Darkness (one up from the bottom of the page)

In the Faces of Lichtenstein's Women

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hard Reds by Brandi Homan

After reading Homan’s current work published online, I didn’t expect these poems to be personal (or seem personal), and I expected to see a lot more prose poems.

These poems are friendly and straightforward. Each poem tells you a story. Judging by the poems, I assume Homan comes from a similar background to me and it feels like I am visiting home. The poems are comforting.

I didn’t like the series of poems about red dresses called The Red Dress Centos. I think they could have been combined into one poem.

I liked her titles and they usually added something to enhance the poems.

The book is in sections, and I like the second section (Two Kinds of Arson) best. I know Homan has a chabook of the same name. I have the chapbook and plan on reading it soon. I also have to pick up Bobcat Country--I would love to see what Homan is writing now.

My favorites in the book:

Self Portrait in Blueshift (Bottom of page)

Ode to the Barycenter of a Binary Star (last poem)


Put Your Hands on the Plow and Hold on

Black Life by Dorothea Lasky

I bought Black Life soon after it was published in April. I was looking forward to it since I am a fan of Awe.

I liked Black Life even better. It is even more cute and charming. All the poems in the new book are at the level of the best ones in the first book. These are more complex, and the subjects change more in this book.

I like how Lasky isn’t afraid to sound sincere. I saw one of the poems in the book in The New Yorker, and I was happily surprised. Her poems have a cuteness to them that you don’t see a lot it serious poetry. It is one of the main reasons I like the poems--they are really good at being themselves.

There is more than one poem in the book about being attracted to weirdos (A favorite subject of mine), and the poet also mentions a lot of specific names of people. I haven’t looked any of them up (I wrote this part of the review offline), but I am going to look them up when I can go back online.

Her poetry is unique. You can identify a Lasky poem without seeing the byline. They are vivacious and seem simple on the surface.

Her titles are just there. I don't feel like they do a lot to enhance the poems.

Her poems are all single stanza poems.

The book has huge print, which I like because tiny letters strain my eyes. I also think the large print suits the poems. It reminds me of Lasky’s reading style, which is loud and seems “large.”

My favorites in the book:


Me and the Otters

That One Was The Oddest One (more than half way down the page)


Monday, June 21, 2010

My Zorba by Danielle Pafunda

I never answered the question: Who is Zorba? Sometimes Pafunda writes Zorba as a he, sometimes as a she. It is interesting but I feel like I should know the answer by the end.

The language in My Zorba is lush and creative.

She has a series of poems in the book that are letters to people and things: "Dear Grandmother," "Dear Debacler," "Dear classroom, no windows, two slider projectors, humming." I liked these, and they almost always included Zorba somehow. There are very few poems that don't include Zorba at all, and I miss him/her when he isn't in the poems.

I really like the mystery of the book, but I wish I could have decided who Zorba was by the end. I think I may be wrong trying to figure out who Zorba is. It might be one of those universals that poets use, that morphs as the poems require their subjects to. However, it seems like Zorba is so close, so specific in the poems, I want to know everything.

There were a few pop culture references in the poems, but there were not enough of them, so when a poem had a pop culture reference, it seemed to stick out a little too much.

The poems were broken into lines, but they looked like prose poems. Sometimes the stanzas were broken across pages. I thought this was a fun idea, but there were times I wasn't sure which stanzas belonged together. There is no table of contents, so I couldn't confirm.

Even though I felt like I was at a loss defining Zorba, the poems were beautiful, and I cared what was happening. I really liked them. I am going to keep reading it, and maybe I'll figure it out, or maybe I'll get over wanting Zorba to be someone specific.

My favorite poems in the book

My Sea Legs

Dear Pearce & Pearce Inc.

A Second Opinion is Sought (At the bottom)

A Parsimonious Holiday (Second from bottom)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I only go there a couple times a week

The cashier at Trader Joes said that he sees me there more than anyone else.

The most!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Looking at cards at the convenience store while waiting in line

Cards for Father's Day

A large footprint in the sand next to a small footprint in the sand
An adult Golden Retriever and a puppy peeing on the same tree
A baby turtle riding on the back of a big turtle

Cards For Graduations

A kitten wearing glasses
A kitten wearing a graduation cap
A puppy wearing a graduation cap
A puppy wearing glasses
An owl wearing graduation cap
A cat with glasses and a graduation cap

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova

I first found out about Vera Pavlova's poetry because I went to a poetry event in Cambridge and didn't know anything about the poet. She recited her poems in Russian and her husband translated the poems into English for the audience. It was so nice to hear her read them in the poems' native language, and the two of them had great chemistry and it was a great reading.

Pavlova's poems are short. I read the whole book of 100 poems in one sitting. Sometimes they are simple, but they are always thought-provoking, and moving. The poems are vivacious. I do feel like I am missing something by reading them without Pavlova here, but it isn't because the poems are not complete, it is just because hearing her read added so much to them.

This is the only book that was translated to English. I hope the book does well so they will translate more of them. I'd love to read more. I also look forward to her reading in the area again--I will definitely go see her.

Almost none of Pavlova's poems have titles. Her poems are so short, a title may be as long as some of the poems. I feel like a poet misses something important when they leave off a title.

My parents were virgins

I broke your heart. It is at the top of the page, just one line, after it says "translated by Steven Seymour".

Only she who has breast fed

Multiplying in a column M by F

The Haunted House by Marisa Crawford

I've been looking forward to this book since I read some of Crawford's poetry in Action Yes (one of my favorite online magazines). Her book didn't disappoint. The poems were somewhat different than the types of poems that are being published by Crawford right now, because the poems in The Haunted House are all focused to the same subject: being a preteen/young teen. Because of the subject matter, it is hard not to compare The Haunted House with Karyna McGlynn's I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl: Poems (which is one of my favorite books, period). They both write about their (and my) teen years, but the main difference is Crawford has mostly the lighter side and McGlynn writes about the pitch black side. Both books are great.

Crawford's poems are almost all prose poems, which I think suit her subject matter and writing style. I like the prose poems better than the few poems that she wrote with line breaks.

I like Crawford's titles, just reading them makes me feel nostalgic ("And I Will Always Love You" and "The Cute Beatle"), or made me laugh ("Riding in Cars with Monsters" and "Yum, Poison Apple").

She uses a lot of specific names when she writes, and I feel like these are real stories and real people. Every reader wants to feel like they are watching something real. She has a lot of poems about Emily Dickinson (she is her descendant and also went to school in Amhearst) and talks about her as if she is a friend at school or a cousin around the same age as she is in these poems.

My favorites in this book:

Me Without Makeup

Valentine's Day

Riding in Cars with Monsters

Under the Evergreens

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Difficult Farm by Heather Christle

I liked the poems by Christle that I've read online, and her book was as good as the online poems. They are charming, funny. I wish she had another book so I could read another by her. She wrote about some topics that I was also interested in.

She has two longer poems in the book, made up of 5 or more parts. I often feel like long poems could be reduced or condensed into smaller poems, but I didn't feel like that about these long poems. Christle writes strong first lines and endings to her poems, and also interesting titles.

I have been thinking about stanza breaks lately, so I am going to try and mention them in my reviews. Christle's poems are all one stanza, with just a few that have 2 line stanzas. There is only one poem with irregular stanzas lengths.

My favorite poems in this book:

It's not a Good Shortcut if Everyone Dies

The Handsome Man

Acorn Duly Crushed

Onward and Onward

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Torched Verse Ends by Steven D. Schroeder

Torched Verse Ends is a fun book. I got Schroeder's book because I liked his poems that I would see online. His style of writing is unique--there is more wordplay than usual, and the subjects are about things that I don't usually see in poetry (video games, bars, pool). I like seeing something different sometimes. I also like when a poet has a style that is unique enough that I can tell who wrote a poem without reading the author's name. The poems are packed tight, without making you feel exhausted afterward, and are smart without making you feel stupid. They are friendly.

Another thing I really liked about the collection are Schroeder's titles. I think they are some of the best titles I've read.

My favorites from the book

Without Glasses (last one on the page)

These 3 are from his online chapbook, 90% of Everything

Fifteen Ways to Finish Fish (page 10)

Bad Nature Lover (page 6)

52 Pickup Lines (page 15)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Update on Brushing my Cat's Teeth

My cats have eaten dry food all their lives, and have also been overweight. My vet recommended wet food and I tried it and finally (finally!) their weight is under control. The problem is their teeth aren't doing as well. The vet wants me to start brushing their teeth.

The directions for brushing a cat's teeth say

week 1: Lift the cat's lip and rub your finger on their teeth.

week 2: Put toothpaste on your finger and brush their teeth with your finger.

week 3: Brush their teeth with the toothbrush.

I couldn't lift the cats' lips until weeks after I first started, but now I think I am finally ready to move on to week 2. I am going to try and brush their teeth with my finger on Saturday or Sunday! I'll let you know how it goes.

The only reason I am making progress at all is because the cats are eating proper portions, and not hogging out like they wish they could. They are food crazy. I touch their mouths right before I give them a treat, and because they know the treat is coming, they put up with it. I've also been putting the seafood flavored toothpaste (Ew!) on the treat to get them ready for the brushing that is coming soon!

The Terrible Stories by Lucille Clifton

I read a lot of these poems before, and I am happy to have an excuse to read them again.

Clifton was one of the first poets that I read that showed me that poetry was modern and alive. I read some of her Superman/Clark Kent poems. I was surprised to see pop culture references. She was a great discovery for me.

I also wanted to read one of her books because she recently died, and I feel like I am going to miss her.

The Terrible Stories is a fantastic book. I should have read it earlier. It is a great example of what makes Clifton a joy to read. Her poems are funny, surprising, and they are full of emotion. This book has everything that I love about poetry.

The book is divided into sections, and I like some more than others. (Her section, "From the Book of David," I didn't understand some of the references.) My favorite was "A Dream of Foxes." I read about half of the fox poems before, and was glad to read the rest of them.

My favorite poems in the book:

leaving fox The link sends you to a wonderful site of her poems, and this is the section with the fox poems.

scar (half way down the page)


entering the south

Thursday, June 03, 2010

New Smoke Anthology

I moved New Smoke: An Anthology of Poetry Inspired by Neo Rauch up on my reading list because I am going to a poetry reading for this anthology next week.

I know a couple people in this anthology and have heard some of the poems read before. I had also talked to some of the poets about the artist Neo Rauch before reading the anthology.

Neo Rauch is my kind of artist. His paintings are fun, and surreal. I am a fan of his work. I never would have heard of him if it wasn't for this anthology. Here is a google image search for him if you want to see some images of some his paintings.

All the poems in this book have the similarity of having a lot of images that normally wouldn't go together, and it feels like some of the poems have images stacking on top of each other, just like Rauch's paintings. The poems and the art compliment each other.

Rauch is a good subject for an anthology because the poets can each write a couple poems about his paintings, and the poems fit well with the artwork without being repetitive. All the poets were different enough from each other so I could identify which poet wrote which poem.

I hear the press, Off the Park Press, is planning other ekphrastic poetry anthologies. I am looking forward to reading more of their work.

My favorite poems in the anthology:

Marian Brown St. Onge's "In This Hunter's Room"

Catherine Shainberg's "Postcard"

Gale Batchelder's "Martin Luther Revises his Thesis"

Judson Evan's "Fog Mirror"