Friday, November 10, 2017

What We Are Reading Now

We're always reading fine works of poetry. This month on Poetry Matters, instead of an in-depth review or interview, you’ll find three quick posts about what books have captured our attention: 
So take a look—you might find that next great book of poetry or a poet whose work resonates with you. And friends, please do share with us what you're reading. We're always looking for good books!

Karen George tells us about Roberta Schultz's Songs from the Shaper's Harp

Songs from the Shaper's Harp
by Roberta Schultz
Finishing Line Press, 2017
ISBN: 978-1635343175

I'm currently reading Roberta Schultz's second poetry chapbook, Songs from the Shaper's Harp, (Finishing Line Press, 2017). The book is populated by dreamers, singers, and ancestors, as well as fantastical and mythical beings such as sea creatures, ghosts, angels, seers, and sirens. The poems vibrate with mesmerizing cadences of lyrical language, and layered, interconnected imagery of water, shape-shifting, and the boundaries between worlds. She explores and celebrates memory and the imagination; the ways we invent and reveal poems, songs, stories, dreams; and the mysteries that saturate our lives. Color, motion, and sound infuse these poems, along with a deep sense of wonder and reverence for the natural world. These poems examine family and community connections, revealing ways to heal from loss and disconnection we endure as humans. Songs from the Shaper's Harp resonates with emotional intensity that pulls you into its worlds, and haunts you into returning for more. 

Anthony Fife discusses Jennifer Kronovet’s The Wug Test

The Wug Test
by Jennifer Kronovet
Ecco, 2016 (National Poetry Series)
ISBN: 978-0062564597

Through a careful balance of personal, character-based poems and disinterested, clinical poems, Jennifer Kronovet’s The Wug Test (2017), reminds me precisely what I love about poetry and language.  The spoken word, either through its presence in our lives or its conspicuous absence, in one way or another touches us all.  We often take language for granted, however, opting for lazy or thoughtless talk when we are capable of so much more.  Kronovet and her collection allow for no such carelessness. 

What of the child raised by the voiceless?  What of the child whose language is systematically prohibited?  Such matters are pondered in The Wug Test, and the reader walks away more knowledgeable and in awe of our spoken word.

Nancy Chen Long comments on Hannah Sanghee Park's The Same-Different

The Same-Different
by Hannah Sanghee Park
LSU Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-0807160091

The Same-Different is Hannah Sanghee Park’s first book and winner of the Walt Whitman Award, which is awarded by the Academy of American Poets to a poet for a debut book of poetry. While there is so much to admire in Park's book, the thing I'll lift up in this short overview is Park's deftness with language, her  celebration of it.

The Same-Different divided into three titled sections. The first section, titled “The Same-Different,” is comprised primarily of sonnets (or 14-lined poems, at least), that make use of puns and linguistic and sonic echoes to explore similarity and difference, and to a lesser extent, to work against a strictly binary view point. Take, for example, this poem that riffs of off true/false:


          It is the long con,
          the construct of it.
          You are always on:

          Magnet and dragnet.
          No use avoiding
          the obvious us.

          We live on a wing
          and a prayer, thus:
          first cry foul, then wolf.

          I have had so much bad
          faith in our future
          I don't know what to do.

          This statement is false.
          This falsity true.

The second section of the book, “A Mutability,” contains 12 sonnets, one for each month of the year. The title of each sonnet references a mythical character from a different culture, such as “Narcissus in January” and “Norroway in February.” The poems in this section explore love and lover, for instance these lines from “Nagual in November”:
. . .
Shapes were aped: now you're the very man
to swap identities. To hell with costs

and costumes: child’s play, acting beneath
your skill for a life undercover.
I’m duped, and due for unending grief
by the form first took: someone’s lover,

someone's rock, someone's ever-longing con.
. . .

The third section, “Fear,” is one poetic sequence of fifteen untitled poems prefaced with a poem titled “Preface to the Fear/False Spring." These poems stray from the sonnet form and make beautiful use of white space. This section centers more on (a) relationship(s). The poems are exquisite and poignant, for example the portion of a poem, shown below.

I find The Same-Different to be an impressive and compelling book. If you are drawn to lyric, language-leaning poems, this book sure to delight. I'll leave you with this snippet from the third section of the book on page 52:

          The light flinches, and I fear.

          As the snow heaped proportional to sheets,
          trees balancing snow for some time,

          then the universal gesture for giving up.

          The snowplow darkens the road

          There are runs in my stocking like plowed road,
          revealing         a clearing.

          I adore you. Am I to pretend otherwise.
          . . .