Full Moon Boat by Fred Marchant

Fred Marchant’s Full Moon Boat, published by Graywolf Press, is a poetry collection from my shelves that has been dipped into on many occasions.  The collection not only contains original poems by Marchant, a Suffolk University professor, but also translations of Vietnamese poets.  Many of these poems not only examine deep emotional turmoil through nature, but also the theme of war, particularly the Vietnam War.

“In 1970, Georgette, Harry’s war bride,
wrote to me on Okinawa, pleading that
I not leave the service as a conscientious
objector.  She said Jesus could not approve,”  (From “The Return,” page 3)

“From the steps of the pagoda where Thich Quang Duc
left to burn himself in Sai Gon, I took a photograph

which centered on a dragon boat
drifting on the Perfume River, framed by a full-leafed
banana tree.  An image of mourning.
Another photograph:  this one in front of the Marine insignia,

my right hand raised, joining.  I am flanked
by my parents, their eyes odd and empty too.
It was 1968, and none of us knew what we were doing. (from “Thirty Obligatory Bows,” page 28)

Unlike other poetry collections with a focus on the Vietnam War, Marchant’s collection zeroes in on the deep emotional states of families sending their sons overseas to war, ranging from pride to shame and even confusion.  In many ways the lines of these poems are deceiving in their simplicity, releasing their power only after the reader has read the lines aloud or for the second time.  In “A Reading During Time of War,” readers may miss the turning point in the poem on the first read through, but sense that something has changed in the last lines, prompting another read and the realization that the realities of war will always rear their ugly heads.

A Reading During Time of War (page 54)

It is the moment just before,
with no intent to punish,

a wish for all to be air
and scrubbed by rain,

filled with eagerness to learn
and be if not a child

then openhearted, at ease,
never to have heard

of the bending river
that stretches to the delta

where a bloated corpse
bumps softly,

snags on a tree stump
and, waterlogged,

rolls slowly, just below.

Additionally, these poems touch upon the beauty and emotional anchor deep within the chests of the Vietnamese.  In “Letter,” by Tran Dang Khoa and translated by Marchant with Nguyen Ba Chung, readers will find that Vietnamese families and soldiers had the same trepidations as American soldiers and their families.

“Mother, I may well fall in this war,
fall in the line of duty–as will so many others–
just like straw for the village thatch.
And one morning you may–as many others–
hold in your hand apiece of paper,
a flimsy little sheaf of paper
heavier than a thousand-pound bomb,
one that will destroy the years you have left.”   (from “Letter,” page 36)

Overall, Full Moon Boat by Fred Marchant examines the nuances of the human condition during times of crisis, including The Vietnam War, and heartbreaking decisions that soldiers and families make when conflicts begin or continue to rage even in strange lands.  Through translations of Vietnamese poems, Marchant explores the similarities between each side of the conflict in how they react and deal with war.  Other poems in the collection examine the dynamics of families through natural imagery.  Both beginning readers of poetry and those who have read other poetry collections will find Marchant’s comments on the human condition and how that condition is altered by war poignant and true.

About the Poet:

Fred Marchant is the author of Tipping Point, which won the Washington Prize in poetry. He is a professor of English and the director of creative writing at Suffolk University in Boston, and he is a teaching affiliate of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

This is my 2nd book for the 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge.

This is my 16th book for the contemporary poetry challenge.

This is my 4th book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.


Please also remember to check out the next stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour at Ooh Books and Estrella Azul.

Your Ten Favorite Words by Reb Livingston (That’s How I Blog)

When I was asked by Nicole at Linus’s Blanket to join her on That’s How I Blog on BlogTalk Radio, I knew I wanted my book club selection to be a volume of poetry, especially since I would be on the show during National Poetry Month.  So Nicole and I agreed on Your Ten Favorite Words by Reb Livingston.

I hope everyone will join me and Nicole at 6:30 PM EST this evening in the chat room and on the phone for the show and the book club discussion. OK, this is me begging! 🙂

Reb Livingston’s Your Ten Favorite Words is a collection of poems that examines the battle between the sexes in a new way, creating caricatures of men and women.  Livingston has a way with imagery, alliteration, and riddles.  A number of poems roll into a rhythm, twist the tongue, and require readers to assess each line carefully.

The collection is broken down into three parts:  Our Rascal Asses; Unsweet and Looking for a Fix; Burgers and Pitchforks.  Readers are introduced to three caricatures Smitten Girl, The Man With the Pretty Chin, and The Heart Specter.  And each section begins with a mini-conversation or set of statements between the characters.  These set up each section, allowing them to unfold.

“The Smitten Girl [to The Man with the Pretty Chin]:  Will you be using your charm for good or injury?

The Heart Specter [murmuring]: (C)harm for G(o)od!” (Page 8 )

Livingston’s collection turns conventional expectations about female perspectives on relationships with men upside down.  Each narrator celebrates female sexuality and desire, but also questions the confusion that comes with that base emotion and need.  At the same time, there is a sense of the comedic in these lines, which pokes fun at the awkwardness of sex and interactions and expectations between men and women.

“He was dark brilliance and moans

(his moans, girlish and dusk, yet I gushed)”  (From Almost Took a Lover Once, page 12)

Livingston’s Your Ten Favorite Words is a collection with a title that will cause confusion among readers and leave them scratching their heads.  The title’s meaning and purpose to the collection could remain obscure for some time, but this is a collection readers will want to return to again and again to unravel the riddles and relish the inner truth of these frank discussions.

About the Poet:

Reb Livingston is a poet and editor of No Tell Books, a press devoted to poetry, and No Tell Motel, an online poetry magazine.  She also is the author of Your Ten Favorite Words (Coconut Books, October 2007) and Pterodactyls Soar Again (Whole Coconut Chapbook Series, 2006). Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2006 and literary magazines.

This is my 26th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

This is my 15th book for the contemporary poetry challenge.

This is my 3rd book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.

Since Reb Livingston is a local D.C. area poet, this is a great look at her work as part of The Literary Road Trip, which has moved to Jenn’s Bookshelves from GalleySmith.


Please don’t forget to check out the next stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour Life Is a Patchwork Quilt.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am by Elise Paschen

Elise Paschen’s Poetry Speaks Who I Am combines written verse with audio recitation of poetry by the poets themselves on CDs spark young readers’ love of poetry and verse.  Readers between the ages of 11 and 14 will find poems in this volume that speak to their struggles with love, family, growing into adulthood, and making friends.

“[Paschen says,] For me this poetry is life altering.  It’s gritty.  It’s difficult.  And it hurts in all the ways that growing hurts.  It’s meant to be visceral and immediate.  It’s meant to be experienced.”  (Page XI)

Gritty and real are the best terms to describe the struggles within these lines of verse, from being the only white kid in school to being a Black person at a time when political correctness suggests you are African-America.  But more than that, there are poems about bra shopping — the stepping stones of becoming a woman — and the realization that the world is not perfect and that wars do exist.

Bra Shopping by Parneshia Jones (Page 16)

Mama and I enter into no man’s, and I mean no man in sight, land
of frilly lace, night gowns, grandma panties, and support everything.

A wall covered with hundreds of white bras, some with lace, ribbons,
and frills like party favors, as if bras are a cause for celebration.

Some have these dainty ditsy bows in the middle.
That’s a nice accent don’t you think? Mama says.  Isn’t that cute?
Like a dumb bow in the middle of the bra will take away some of the
attention from two looking, bulging tissues.

Full of wit and sarcasm, this poem illustrates the angst and embarrassment of the narrator as she shops for bras with her mother under the watchful eye of the sales clerk. A number of poems illustrate these feelings of awkwardness and tenderness between friends and parents.

The audio CD that comes with the book is stunning as each poem is read with emphasis and care either by the poet themselves or a contemporary counterpart.  In some cases, the poems are accompanied by ambient noise and/or nature sounds.  Some poems will garner young readers’ attentions more than others, but overall the CD works.

Used Book Shop by X.J. Kennedy (Page 108)

Stashed in attics,
stuck in cellars,
forgotten books
once big best-sellers

now hopefully sit
where folks, like cows
in grassy meadows,
stand and browse.

In a yellowed old history
of Jesse James
two earlier owners
had scrawled their names.

I even found
a book my dad
when he was in high school
had once had,

and a book I found —
this is really odd —
was twice as much fun
as my new iPod.

I always get hooked
in this dusty shop.
Like eating popcorn,
it’s hard to stop.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am is a wonderful collection of classic and contemporary poems from the likes of Langston Hughes and Lucille Clifton to the contemporary works of Billy Collins and Molly Peacock.  Each poem will reach out to young adolescents in new and exciting ways, having them nod their heads in agreement as emotions, situations, and dilemmas are unleashed in verse.  Moreover, the poems selected in this volume will not have readers scratching their heads, wondering what it all means.  These poems are straight forward and get to the heart of the adolescent matter.

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me a free copy of Poetry Speaks Who I Am for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.


I hope that you will take a trip over to Books and Movies because she is featuring Billy Collins as part of the National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

This is my 24nd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

Despite the mix of contemporary and classic sonnets, I think there is enough in here to count for the contemporary poetry challenge, and this makes book #14.

This is my 2nd book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.

Sonnets for Sinners by John Wareham

John Wareham‘s Sonnets for Sinners is a book of poems I would recommend to those who enjoy reading sonnets, who love poetry, and those who are just starting to read poetry.  Wareham includes the classic sonnets of William Shakespeare and William Yeats, but he also crafts new sonnets from the words (available in the public domain) of famous figures, like Tiger Woods (click to read the poem Wareham created from Woods’ words), Elizabeth and John Edwards, and Princess Diana.

What’s most unique about this volume is the insight provided by Wareham.  He analyzes each poem, offers up lines that illustrate his examinations, and even poses questions that illicit laughter.

Discussing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129:  “To begin with, says the poet, sinners bypass rationality — past reason hunted — then, the moment the lusty act is completed they unreasonably despise themselves — past reason hated — for succumbing to a swallowed bait on purpose laid to make the taker mad.  The devil made me do it!”  (Page 11)

Sonnets for Sinners is broken down, categorizing sonnets into attractions, fevers, lamentations, farewells, endings, and epiphanies.  For anyone interested in reading more poetry, particularly classic sonnets and classic poets, readers would enjoy the commentary from Wareham.  It is not only informative, but witty.

Kind Cuts by Chandler Haste (page 66)

“I don’t want to hurt or abandon you
— so what to do?” you ask.  Well maybe first
drop me into a pot of boiling glue
then have a witch doctor apply a curse.
Or when that fails and I rise in pursuit
of you, have a firebug set me aflame.
Or cut out my tongue and render me mute
then poke out my eyes and publish my shame.
Or, here’s aptly felicitious fate
for this hopelessly addicted lover:
Bobbitting! — that could be the kindest bite
to slice me out from under your thumb of.
Off the top of my head that’s my advice,
Bow to it gently, and in love, rejoice.

Despite the mix of contemporary and classic sonnets, I think there is enough in here to count for the contemporary poetry challenge, and this makes book #13.
This is my 1st book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.
This is my 12th new-to-me author for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Sonnets for Sinners by John Wareham from publicist Sara Hausman at Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

Clover, Bee & Reverie: A Poetry Challenge

Regular Rumination is hosting another poetry reading challenge, Clover, Bee & Reverie: A Poetry Challenge, which will run between now and the end of the year.  Additionally, participants are not restricted by time period and can read any poetry from Emily Dickinson to more contemporary poetry from the likes of John Amen.

What will I be reading?  Not sure yet, but I do have 3-4 must-read contemporary collections in mind for this challenge.  You’ll just have to wait and see what else I come with as time goes on.

1.  The Wrong Miracle by Liz Gallagher
2.  The Guilt Gene by Diana Raab
3.  Your Ten Favorite Words by Reb Livingston, which will be the book club selection for my stint on Linus’s Blanket’s That’s How I Blog! on Tuesday, April 13, 2010. I hope you will join us.
4.  Questions of Fire by Gregg Mosson

Consider joining in the fun, expanding your poetry reading horizons!

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.