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Mailbox Monday #588

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song edited by Kevin Young from NetGalley.

A literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present

Only now, in the 21st century, can we fully grasp the breadth and range of African American poetry: a magnificent chorus of voices, some familiar, others recently rescued from neglect. Here, in this unprecedented anthology expertly selected by poet and scholar Kevin Young, this precious living heritage is revealed in all its power, beauty, and multiplicity. Discover, in these pages, how an enslaved person like Phillis Wheatley confronted her legal status in verse and how an antebellum activist like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper voiced her own passionate resistance to slavery. Read nuanced, provocative poetic meditations on identity and self-assertion stretching from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Amiri Baraka to Lucille Clifton and beyond. Experience the transformation of poetic modernism in the works of figures such as Langston Hughes, Fenton Johnson, and Jean Toomer. Understand the threads of poetic history—in movements such as the Harlem and Chicago Renaissances, Black Arts, Cave Canem, Dark Noise Collective—and the complex bonds of solidarity and dialogue among poets across time and place. See how these poets have celebrated their African heritage and have connected with other communities in the African Diaspora. Enjoy the varied but distinctly Black music of a tradition that draws deeply from jazz, hip hop, and the rhythms and cadences of the pulpit, the barbershop, and the street. And appreciate, in the anthology’s concluding sections, why contemporary African American poetry, amply recognized in recent National Book Awards and Poet Laureates, is flourishing as never before. Taking the measure of the tradition in a single indispensable volume, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song sets a new standard for a genuinely deep engagement with Black poetry and its essential expression of American genius.

What did you receive?

Tapping Out by Nandi Comer

Source: NetGalley
Ebook, 96 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Tapping Out by Nandi Comer relies heavily on imagery and language tied to lucha libre, or Mexican freestyle wrestling, as she explores the roles of identity, changes in our identities, and the masks that we often wear when faced with violence, trauma, and other situations. The poems are like the high-flying maneuvers of the wrestlers in lucha libre and many times Comer references the colorful masks of the wrestler-narrators in the poems to explore unsettling realities of migrant and immigrant experience. There are bumps and bruises along the way, and it’s hard to turn away from Comer’s poems. Reality is harsh and she displays it all.

From "Rudo"

I am always undoing the language of my body.
my arms, my hair say
Black. Dark. English only.

From “Tecnico :La Mascara,” “In a year you can go to a mall or grocery store, walk through the dust of a market and everyone will know the bottom lip and callused forehead I have kept so long inside. M’hijo, before I let go of your face, someone will have to rip me apart.” Here the wrestler is concerned about how they will be remembered and how long it will take them to return to regular society because to be unmasked in the ring is career ending. There is a deep exhaustion throughout these poems — whether exhaustion from the identities assumed and being outside of the true self or from the fighting for just a piece of happiness and fleeting joy. But the wrestlers, just like the immigrants and minorities, do not have the option of “tapping out” from their lives. They have no choice but to keep fighting — or face death head on.

Tapping Out by Nandi Comer is a collection of narrative poems that melds the Mexican wrestling world with the realities of immigrants and minorities. It’s match after match, fear around the corner at every turn, and constant exhaustion in fighting to live. To ignore these narratives, is to ignore the humanity of all of us. To ignore the injustices of the world, is to be an ostrich with its head in the sand.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

NANDI COMER received a joint MFA/MA in Poetry and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University. She has received fellowships from the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Cave Canem, Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Arts. Her poems have appeared in Detroit Anthology (Rust Belt Chic Press, 2014), Blue Shift Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Green Mountains Review, Pluck!, Prairie Schooner, and Southern Indiana Review.

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard

Source: NetGalley
ebook, 288 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard, which will be published in September 2016, is stunning. Wolfe is a clear talent at capturing nature, tribes, and animals and his composition is unique and lively. It’s clear that the equipment he uses and his forethought about the scene enable him to capture even unexpected beauty. Rather than work as a career photojournalist, he has taken a harder, more independent path. While this has left him to be creative and take on projects that others might not, it also has some consequences, such as not being in his home more than he is on the road. However, it is a choice he never regrets, and readers will see why when they view the phenomenal images in this book.

His love of photography is infused in every picture he takes, and it is these pictures that enable us to put ourselves in different locations and view them as they are, without industry and interference from the modern world.  Even photos at a distance are created with composition, lighting, and subject in mind.  It is clear that he loves what he does, and he equally loves the subjects, shining a new light on even the ones most photographed, like penguins.  Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard is a book that everyone will want to have in hardcover to cherish Wolfe’s art — to hold it, to view it up close, and to reach inside and experience the world through his eyes.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Photographer:

The son of commercial artists, Art Wolfe was born in 1951 in Seattle, Washington, and still calls the city home. He graduated from the University of Washington with Bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and art education in 1975. His photography career has spanned five decades, a remarkable testament to the durability and demand for his images, his expertise, and his passionate advocacy for the environment and indigenous culture. During that time he has worked on every continent, in hundreds of locations, and on a dazzling array of projects. You can view his stunning photographs online and buy.

Lost and by Jeff Griffin

Source: NetGalley
eBook, 170 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Lost and by Jeff Griffin, published by University of Iowa Press, feels more like a scrapbook than a poetry collection, and while there were poems included, most everything in the book are scraps he gleaned from his travels into the desert. Some of these pieces are lists, photos, and other scraps, including a letter from a woman to her alcoholic partner. While these items may reflect communities that have once thrived in the desert and are now abandoned, the collection is not what most readers would expect and there is little to link these pieces together.

From GoodReads:

Ever since he was a child sitting in the back of his parents’ car, Jeff Griffin has been taking explorative journeys into the desert. In 2007, as an art student, he started wandering the back roads of the Mojave Desert with the purpose of looking for a place to reflect in the harshly beautiful surroundings. What he found were widely scattered postmodern ruins—abandoned trailers and campers and improvised structures—whose vanished occupants had left behind, in their trash, an archaeological record.

While Griffin’s efforts to create an artistic rendering of these emptied communities, trailers, and lives, the pieces could have been better tied to one another with some text, explanation, or other commentary from Griffin. In many ways, the collection could have benefited from a demonstration of how Griffin was influenced or inspired by these pieces to create his own art — though the book itself is his modern art from those journeys into the Mojave Desert. Lost and by Jeff Griffin, published by University of Iowa Press, just didn’t work for me, but perhaps I’m not the target audience for this one.

About the Poet:

Jeff Griffin is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an associate at Griffin Moss Industries, Inc., and he operates the publishing house Slim Princess Holdings. He lives around Nevada.

Medic Against Bomb: A Doctor’s Poetry of War by Frederick Foote

Source: NetGalley & Grayson Books
eBook, 82 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Medic Against Bomb: A Doctor’s Poetry of War by Frederick Foote is a collection of poems from a retired U.S. Navy physician, who also is the director of the Warrior Poetry Project at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  Beneath the carnage depicted in many of these poems, there is a compassionate undercurrent.  Some of these poems are about the battle scars — physical and emotional — that shape today’s warriors, but they also are about sacrifice, discipline, and human comfort spawned from work on the hospital ship Comfort and the care of sick and wounded Americans.

From “Mountain Burial”

knowing we can’t retrieve
this well that’s now gone dry.
She lives in a field of green
whose thousand blades wave free,
scattered from us by war,
the ender of destinies.

From “Uncle Jim”

They say everything’s been written; it hasn’t.
Darkness and light are vast, and poets have barely begun.
Even when it hides, the hand knows when it’s writing a final death.

Foote’s narrator is a compassionate medic, but he is well aware of the carnage of war, facing it daily in surgeries and helping soldiers come to terms with the losses they have suffered. There is compassion for the soldiers as well as for the enemies, particularly those also marred by war. These poems are less trying to make sense of war, but geared toward demonstrating compassion and understanding. They pay homage to the dead, a way to honor their collective and individual sacrifices. Foote also includes some great notes about the different terms used, including Fedayeen, which refers to a generic fighter, and Mujahadeen, which refers to someone fighting for a religious cause. There also are great tidbits about events that occurred during the war that many may not know, including villagers who tossed unwanted children — particularly those with cognitive disabilities — onto Medevacs to get rid of them (“The War Child”).

Wife on the ICU

I watch at night and walk at dawn
forever in flight like the soul of a bird
the monitor shows a thin green line
I walk at night and watch at dawn
not knowing the end of the road I’m on
down which, possessed by a voice unheard
I watch at night and walk at dawn
forever in flight like the soul of a bird.

Medic Against Bomb: A Doctor’s Poetry of War by Frederick Foote is a collection of poems that is less focused on battles and who the enemy is and more on the compassion necessary to treat those men, women, and children who are scared by war — whether they are soldiers, bystanders, or the enemy. Some poems are better paced than others, but there are some gems that will have readers looking at war with a new perspective.

About the Author:

Frederick Foote is a poet and physician who lives in Bethesda, MD, USA. His work has appeared in Commonweal, JAMA, The Progressive, and many other journals. Click the tabs for a sample of these poems.