Quantcast

Mailbox Monday #355

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Falling for You by Jill Mansell from Anna for Christmas — Thank you!

As a teen, Maddy Harvey was a bit of an ugly duckling. Luckily she’s blossomed since then, and Maddy thanks God for this small miracle when a tall, handsome stranger comes to her rescue one starry summer’s night.

Instant attraction turns to disaster-in-the-making when Maddy learns the identity of her superman: Kerr McKinnon. Of all the colorful residents of the small Cotswold town of Ashcombe, why did it have to be him? Because as family feuds go, the Montagues and the Capulets have nothing on the Harveys and the McKinnons.

 

The Arranged Marriage: Poems by Jehanne Dubrow from SantaThing.

With her characteristic music and precision, Dubrow’s prose poems delve unflinchingly into a mother’s story of trauma and captivity. The poet proves that truth telling and vision can give meaning to the gravest situations, allowing women to create a future on their own terms.

 

 

The Emperor of Water Clocks by Yusef Komunyakaa from SantaThing.

“If I am not Ulysses, I am / his dear, ruthless half-brother.” So announces Yusef Komunyakaa early in his lush new collection, The Emperor of Water Clocks. But Ulysses (or his half brother) is but one of the beguiling guises Komunyakaa dons over the course of this densely lyrical book. Here his speaker observes a doomed court jester; here he is with Napoleon, as the emperor “tells the doctor to cut out his heart / & send it to the empress, Marie-Louise”; here he is at the circus, observing as “The strong man presses six hundred pounds, / his muscles flexed for the woman / whose T-shirt says, these guns are loaded“; and here is just a man, placing “a few red anemones / & a sheaf of wheat” on Mahmoud Darwish’s grave, reflecting on why “I’d rather die a poet / than a warrior.”

Through these mutations and migrations and permutations and peregrinations there are constants: Komunyakaa’s jazz-inflected rhythms; his effortlessly surreal images; his celebration of natural beauty and of love. There is also his insistent inquiry into the structures and struggles of power: not only of, say, king against jester but of man against his own desire and of the present against the pernicious influence of the past.

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, which I got from SantaThing for a second time.

The prophetic poem that launched a generation when it was first published in 1965 is here presented in a commemorative fortieth Anniversary Edition.

When the book arrived from its British printers, it was seized almost immediately by U.S. Customs, and shortly thereafter the San Francisco police arrested its publisher and editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, together with City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao. The two of them were charged with disseminating obscene literature, and the case went to trial in the municipal court of Judge Clayton Horn. A parade of distinguished literary and academic witnesses persuaded the judge that the title poem was indeed not obscene and that it had “redeeming social significance.”

Thus was Howl & Other Poems freed to become the single most influential poetic work of the post-World War II era, with over 900,000 copies now in print.”

Emma got me this great bag for Christmas too!  Thank you!

What did you receive?

Who Are Your Auto-Buy Authors?

6559777749_7831f738fb_o

Hello everyone! The holidays are nearly here, but I have a treat for you! If you haven’t liked the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page yet, go do it now.

Beginning Dec. 12 (sometime this afternoon the first pick will be revealed), I’ll reveal one of the books on my Best of 2014 book list, through Dec. 24.

That’s one book from the list per day, with a tidbit about why I loved the book and a link to where you can buy it.

Today, I wanted to talk about those authors we love so much that we buy their books automatically no matter what the subject.  I used to have just a few of those authors, but my list is now growing!  I thought today would be a good day to share not only the older ones on the list, but also the newer ones that have joined the ranks.

My previous list:

  1. Yusef Komunyakaa
  2. Tim O’Brien
  3. Stephen King
  4. Anita Shreve
  5. Amy Tan
  6. Isabel Allende
  7. James Patterson
  8. Anne Rice
  9. Mary Oliver
  10. Billy Collins

My additions to the list:

  1. Beth Kephart
  2. Jeannine Hall Gailey
  3. Jane Odiwe
  4. Syrie James
  5. Abigail Reynolds
  6. Karen White
  7. Beth Hoffman
  8. Jill Mansell
  9. Janel Gradowski
  10. Diana Raab
  11. C.W. Gortner
  12. John Shors

I find it interesting that there are many more female authors being added to my auto-buy list. 

I’m not really sure why so many great female authors are being added to my auto-buy list these days.  It isn’t that I haven’t read some great male authors, but perhaps I need to read more of them to get a true sense of their work and whether I want to buy it automatically no matter the subject.

Do you have auto-buy authors? Who are they?  What attracts you to their work?

Don’t forget to like the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page to find out over the next 12 days which books made the 2014 Best list.

Poetry as Gold. . .

Welcome to the Savvy Verse & Wit blog tour for National Poetry Month in the United States, but here on the blog, I consider it more of an international celebration.

If you have signed up to celebrate poetry this month, there are still some dates open, just check the schedule and let me know what date you’d prefer.

This past week I was reading Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, translated by Barbara Harshav, and I came across a commentary about recreating the Portuguese language to make it clearer and truer to its origins: “The waiter, the barber, the conductor — they would be puzzled if they heard the newly set words and their amazement would refer to the beauty of the sentence, a beauty that would be nothing by the gleam of their clarity. … At the same time, they would be without exaggeration and without pomposity, precise and so laconic that you couldn’t take away one single word, one single comma. Thus they would be like a poem, plaited by a goldsmith of words.” (page 26) This passage reminded me of how poets — and fiction writers — often seek out ways through language to make images, characters, situations, emotions, and more clear to the reader — drawing connections between images that may, at first, seem to have nothing to do with one another, but through a juxtaposition or other means provide the reader with some insight or generate within him or her a deeper understanding or emotional response.

As I’m sure many of my faithful readers know, I read and write poetry, but they probably also know that I love Yusef Komunyakaa‘s work in particular.  “Facing It” is one of my all time favorites, and I think part of it is because I can picture exactly what he’s seeing as the Vietnam veteran in the poem describes his first experience with the Vietnam War Memorial.

Facing It

My black face fades,   
hiding inside the black granite.   
I said I wouldn't  
dammit: No tears.   
I'm stone. I'm flesh.   
My clouded reflection eyes me   
like a bird of prey, the profile of night   
slanted against morning. I turn   
this way—the stone lets me go.   
I turn that way—I'm inside   
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light   
to make a difference.   
I go down the 58,022 names,   
half-expecting to find   
my own in letters like smoke.   
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;   
I see the booby trap's white flash.   
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse   
but when she walks away   
the names stay on the wall.   
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's   
wings cutting across my stare.   
The sky. A plane in the sky.   
A white vet's image floats   
closer to me, then his pale eyes   
look through mine. I'm a window.   
He's lost his right arm   
inside the stone. In the black mirror   
a woman’s trying to erase names:   
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

In particular, I love the parts of the poem where he describes reflections in unique ways, especially when the reflection eyes him like a bird of prey and the names that “shimmer on a woman’s blouse” but remain on the wall as she walks away. In addition, the poem reflects on the practice of rubbing the names onto paper from the wall as a form of care and caress — “she’s brushing a boy’s hair.”

Sorrow 2 -- Vietnam Wall

In many ways, poetry not only tells stories, but creates them with their readers and generates an emotional response that can be carried over to friends, families, or even book clubs. These are the types of poems that I consider “gold.”

What makes a great poem for you?

Best & Worst and More…

Those of you expecting my review of Molly Peacock’s The Paper Garden, please forgive me.  I’m hoping to have the review up on Friday. 

Sometimes life just gets in the way, and I want to extend an apology to TLC Book Tours and Molly Peacock for the delay.

 

 

 

However, I did want to let everyone know that I would be over at Alyce’s At Home With Books today with a guest post for her Best & Worst series

Check out my post, here.

 

 

The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa

The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa — broken into three sections — challenges the mind and the internal rhythm of our souls.  It challenges our preconceptions about everything from music to what it means to be an African American.  In the form of aubades and odes, Komunyakaa evokes song throughout the collection, which have readers very focused on how the rhythms of the poems impact them beyond the words spoken.  The poet is striving to reach not only the logical mind here, but something deeper, ethereal, like a soul.

There are allusions in this volume that are religious, musical, and mythological, but these do not detract from the poems’ power.  “Kindness” (page 28), is one of the most dense poems in the collection, filled with a number of allusions including the consumption of salt as a sign of friendship.  However, even if not all the references are clear at first glance, it is clear that kindness is often recognized even in the bleakest of moments and in the darkest of places even if someone has been a “stranger” to it.

There are a range of emotions and thoughts in this collection, the narrator of these poems changes like the lizard, adapting to the moment and blending into the environment he finds himself in. The cover is reminiscent of the dark jungle of our lives as we try to navigate our way sometimes in the shadows for the silence of observation, but oftentimes to hide from the actions and decisions we have made or are frightened of making.  Meanwhile, other decisions seem inevitable and natural.

Excerpt from:  Conceived in a Time of War (page 37)

Because your mother & father kissed
beneath a hail of Roman candles,
you crawled out of one thousand
tiny deaths, stubborn as aster
in stony clay.  A goddess of dawn
scooted under a zing of barbed wire
to witness your birth. . . .

Komunyakaa’s poems have a musicality equivalent to Jazz.  “Jazz has space, and space equals freedom, a place where the wheels of imagination can turn and a certain kind of meditation can take place.  It offers a meditational opportunity,” he once said.  His poems are just like this, providing moments of pause, allowing readers to interact with the lines and images.  “How many ghosts followed us/into the basement to Muniak’s bepop gig/to hear the saxophone argue with the piano?/” from “Aubade at Hotel Copernicus” (page 33-4).

Komunyakaa is paying homage to all forms of the human spirit — good or bad — in The Chameleon Couch, but the poems are never indifferent. In “A Translation of Silk” (page 17), “One can shove his face against silk/& breathe in centuries of perfume/on the edge of a war-torn morning/where men fell so hard for iron/they could taste it. Now, today,/a breeze disturbs a leafy pagoda/printed on slow cloth. A creek/begins to move. His brain trails,/lagging behind his fingers to learn/suggestion is more than radiance/” Some poems are about the legacy we leave behind, the anger about historical events like the Holocaust, and the quieter moments each of us shares with our lover or family. Another extraordinary candidate for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards and the “best of” list.

Also please check out the poem from this collection that I featured in the 117th Virtual Poetry Circle.

About the Poet:

Yusef Komunyakaa is an American poet who currently teaches at New York University and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Komunyakaa is a recipient of the 1994 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, for Neon Vernaculaand the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He also received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Komunyakaa received the 2007 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribution to the poetry world.

His subject matter ranges from the black general experience through rural Southern life before the Civil Rights time period and his experience as a soldier during the Vietnam War.

This is my 26th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

117th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 117th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions, visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

Today’s Poem is from Yusef Komunyakaa’s current collection, The Chameleon Couch: (page 113-4)

Ontology & Guinness

    Darling, my daddy's razor strop
is in my hands, & there's a soapy cloud
on my face.  I'm a man of my word.
Didn't I say, If Obama's elected,
I'll shave off this damn beard
that goes back to '68, to Chicago?
I know, I also said I'd kiss the devil,
but first let me revise this contract.
I can taste tear gas.  I hear a blur
of billy clubs when I hit the drums.
I haven't witnessed this mug shot
in decades, but I'm facing the mirror.
I'm still the same man.  Almost.
Led Zeppelin is still in my nogginbox.
Alan Watts, old guru of ghosts
& folksingers, I can still two-step
& do-si-do to Clifton Chenier.
But, in no time, this philosopher
will be going down the drain, baby.
Look at how a finely honed razor works.
I may be a taxi driver, but I know time
opens an apple seed to find a worm.
See, I told you, my word is gold,
good as making a wager against
the eternal hush.  The older I get
the quicker Christmas comes,
but if I had to give up the heavenly
taste of Guinness dark, I couldn't
live another goddamn day.  Darling,
you can chisel that into my headstone.

So what did you think?

A Weekend of Firsts at the 2011 National Book Festival

It was a weekend of firsts for the National Book Festival and “Wiggles.”

For the first time, Wiggles rode on an escalator, the subway, went to Washington D.C., saw the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Wall Memorial, the National Mall, the National Book Festival, and Jill from Rhapsody in Books and her husband (forgive me I cannot remember his name — having a sleepy brain moment).  She also met the Cat in the Hat, a Honker from Sesame Street, and got her own first free books from a publisher, Penguin.

That leads me to the firsts for the festival.  For the first time in its 11-year history, it was held over two days. And both days were chock full of authors and activities, which made it even more worthwhile to go since one day was no better than the other, depending on your author preferences.

Additionally, while they have generously offered Library of Congress programs, bags, bookmarks, and audio samplers from classics, publishers do not frequent the festival and offer free books.  Imagine our surprise when Penguin was there offering giveaways of children’s books — which may be related to this year’s theme of reading aloud — in addition to all of their other fun activities for kids.  Wiggles was too young for the activities, but The Girl from Diary of an Eccentric had some fun making bookmarks.

Kelly Cherry--VA Poet Laureate

Another first for the festival was a tent on Sunday dedicated to the States’ Poets Laureate, though they only had poet laureates from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C, California, and Maine.  They did indicate at the beginning of the program that it was an experiment to see how popular it would be.  It had a decent crowd for the poets we saw, Kelly Cherry (pictured above) and Stanley Plumly, (pictured below) who was introduced by the Architect of the Capitol — a big fan of his poetry. Unfortunately, we only heard bits and pieces from these two poets because Wiggles was in need of a diaper change, but I’ve read Plumly’s work before and Cherry’s presence gave me another poet to check out.

Stanley Plumly -- MD Poet Laureate

Most of the poetry I experienced was on Sunday, rather than Saturday, which we spent mostly wandering around with “Wiggles” to places like the Washington Monument to check out the cracks from the earthquake and the Vietnam Wall memorial. The only poet we heard read was Kimiko Hahn, who was a boring speaker. I haven’t read much of her poetry, but I have a feeling that its more academic than most and you’d have to spend time reading it on the page, rather than listening to it being read. I missed Rita Dove earlier in the day on Saturday, thanks to the lovely Metro track work.

Please check out the slideshow of the photos I took:

Sunday was the day I looked forward to all month — meeting Yusef Komunyakaa for the first time; I consider him a rock star of poetry to be honest. I did actually speak to him about my Vietnam Veteran uncle and writing for a bit, and learned there is an anthology being worked on with poetry from family members of Vietnam veterans, which would be incredibly interesting.

Yes, I picked up his new book. Yes, I was tongue-tied talking to him, and yes, I was in awe. So in awe, that I forgot to give him a business card for both Savvy Verse & Wit and War Through the Generations. Beyond that, hearing him read his poems in his own voice is just what I imagined it to be — each has a soul and a rhythm that you can imagine, but it is SO MUCH better to hear from the source.

Hence, my YouTube video for you of his recitation of Grenade:

I did upload another of his poems being read, but I didn’t catch the name of it and someone walked through my video, so you’ll have to ignore that if you check it out. The crowd to hear Yusef gives me hope that poetry has a wide audience that only has room to grow further. It was a packed audience, no empty chairs, and standing room only.

How was your experience?

Mailbox Monday #145 and Library Loot #7

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is Amused by Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  To Join the Lost by Seth Steinzor for a TLC Book Tour in November.

2.  The Time in Between by Maria Duenas from Shelf Awareness.

3. Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp from my mother.

4. I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, which I won from Caribousmom during BBAW.

5. Tracks by Eric D. Goodman, which I received for review from the author.

6. Ladybug Girl Dresses Up! by David Soman and Jacky Davis, which I picked up from Penguin at the National Book Festival — first time books were given away for free.

7. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner, which I also picked up from Penguin for “Wiggles.”

8. Stagecoach Sal by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Carson Ellis, which is signed by the author and given away to 100 attendees at the Penguin tent.

9. The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa, which I purchased at the National Book Festival and got signed by one of my favorite poets.

Library Loot:

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

1.  Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? by Steven Tyler

What did you get this week?

Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa

Yusef Komunyakaa‘s Dien Cai Dau is another collection of Vietnam War poetry.  The poet, who received the Bronze Star and edited The Southern Cross, dedicates this book to his brother Glenn, “who saw The Nam before” Komunyakaa did.  His poems put the reader in the soldiers’ shoes, allowing them to camouflage themselves and skulk around the jungles of Vietnam from the very first lines of “Camouflaging the Chimera.”  Beyond skulking in the jungle, hunting the Viet Cong, Komunyakaa discusses the weight of war as soldiers trudge through the landscape with their equipment and what they’ve done and seen.  Weaving through the tunnels looking for the enemy or searching the thick forest, soldiers are constantly reminded of their emotional and physical burdens, though they find joy in some of the smallest moments.

One of the beautiful aspects of Komunyakaa’s poetry is his vivid sense of how even the most beautiful elements of nature have a darker side.  In “Somewhere Near Phu Bai,” Komunyakaa writes “The moon cuts through/the night trees like a circular saw/white hot.  . . .” and in “Starlight Scope Myopia,” he suggests, “Viet Cong/move under our eyelids,/lords over loneliness/winding like coral vine through/sandalwood & lotus/.”

Beyond the nature imagery and the immediacy of the war, some of these poems have an analytical quality much like a general planning out the battle moves.  Each move of the soldiers is reflected in the carefully chosen words and lines, and the effect is genuine, creating a suspense and fear readers would expect soldiers to experience.

A Greenness Taller Than Gods (Page 11)

When we stop,
a green snake starts again
through deep branches.
Spiders mend webs we marched into.
Monkeys jabber in flame trees,
dancing on the limbs to make
fire-colored petals fall.  Torch birds
burn through the dark-green day.
The lieutenant puts on sunglasses
& points to a X circled
on his map.  When will we learn
to move like trees move?
The point man raises his hand Wait!
We’ve just crossed paths with VC,
branches left quivering.
The lieutenant’s right hand says what to do.
We walk into a clearing that blinds.
We move like a platoon of silhouettes
balancing sledge hammers on our heads,
unaware our shadows have untied
from us, wandered off
& gotten lost.

Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa is an excellent collection that will allow readers to join the fight in Vietnam, feel the fear and anxiety of soldiers, and see just how many enemies soldiers faced — the Viet Cong and the jungle.  Komunyakaa is a poet with incredible insight from propelling emotions off the page through images to using carefully chosen words and phrases to vividly paint the scene.  Dien Cai Dau is one of the best poetry books about the Vietnam War and often reads like prose.

This is my 6th book for the 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge

This is my 8th book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.