lefaquin’s #CBR5 Review #10: Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation : Poems by Amal Al-Jubouri

Before the womb expelled me
you were my cord to the placenta
I was your creation
No—your goddess

I, your heiress
You, my slave
You, my god

You came from Paradise
and so did I

My cheating lover
A number, a zero-sum

–          Poetry Before the Occupation

 

As to be expected in a book of poetry about war, most of the poems are heartbreaking, lonely, melancholy. But they are exquisitely beautiful, and each word feels so perfectly chosen in Arabic and in English, that I couldn’t stop reading. For an extremely well written analysis of Al-Jubouri’s poetry, one that I feel adds so much that I want to say, this article has some excellent insights. This is a book I want to dwell on, and one I’ve recommended to several friends. To read the rest of my review, look here.

pyrajane’s review #32: Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse by Anne Carson

RedGeryon is Red.  He’s a monster.  He hides his wings and tries to follow his older brother.  He’s an odd child, monster or not.  He speaks little but is always learning.  His mother is his solace and her unconditional love and guidance helps him find art.  He’s able to create a space for himself while being abused by his brother.  He grows, discovers photography and “somehow Geryon made it to adolescence.”

We know from Stesichoros that Geryon will be killed by Herakles.  He is the tenth labor and has fate is sealed when both are born.

But in this version of Geryon’s life, how will this death happen?  He and Herakles meet as teenagers.  He’s fourteen, Herakles is sixteen and Geryon  is doomed.  He spends as much time with Herakles as he can, wanting to love him completely, but at a complete loss when it comes to approaching the unnamed and unknown.  Herakles is all confidence and sexuality, and yet he seems to wait for Geryon to stumble into admitting something, or waiting for him to simply give up and give in.  Geryon’s longing and frustration is tangible and Herakles’ refusal to help soon starts to feel cruel.

But eventually Herakles possess him completely.  He is charming and only wants to journey and discover and find fun.  When Geryon amuses him, it as if they are the only two in the world.  Geryon feels unworthy and knows this attention is fleeting.  He’s desperate to keep Herakles interested.  He withdraws from his mother, both of them unsure how to approach each other now.

And then Herakles leaves Geryon behind.  He’s bored, or Geryon is boring.  Broken and sick, Geryon peers into his camera and waits.  Perhaps he’ll find something interesting, or become interesting.

Are you interested?  Read the rest over on my blog.

reginadelmar’s #CBR5 review #44 The Wild Party by Joseph Moncure March

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This book length poem almost has to be read out loud to get the full effect. Written in 1928, it is a fun jazz-age piece. The character’s are straight out of  a gangster’s speakeasy: Queenie “was a blond, and her age stood still” and her lover Burrs was “A clown, Of renown: Three-sheeted all over town.” The plot is predicted by the title of the book, Queenie decides to throw a party and as the alcohol flows things get out of hand. Continue reading

Sara Habein’s #CBR5 Review #35: Proxy by R Erica Doyle

proxy-poems-r-erica-doyle(Forgot to post this one awhile back!)

My review of R Erica Doyle’s very good poetry collection, Proxy, appeared at The Rumpus.

“A change of position, a change of time — R. Erica Doyle’s Proxy moves through the heady, consuming stages of desire, explosion, depression, and peace within the life-cycle of a relationship. Her prose poems are unafraid of the body, of queerness, and the messiness into which one can willingly dive.”

Sara Habein’s #CBR5 Review #14: Looking For The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco

Looking-For-The-Gulf-Motel-BlancoMy review of Looking For The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco recently appeared on The Rumpus. Here’s an excerpt:

Look, perhaps we should have more open lusting for poets, yeah? If that is someone’s gateway into a poet’s work, then so be it. We all need more poetry in our lives.

All right, now that I’ve got all that off my chest, can I also tell you that I really enjoy Looking for The Gulf Motel? Yes, I do. Truly. It hits all my thematic hot spots — love, lust, and loneliness. Blanco revels in memory and intimacy, and much like Tracy K. Smith’s poetry, his work makes me want to bed down and stay.

ElCicco #CBR5 Review #19: Black Venus by James MacManus

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Black Venus is a fictionalized account of the relationship between French poet Charles Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval. Baudelaire is recognized as the greatest poet of the French language whose classic work Les Fleurs du Mal was banned shortly after publication in France in 1857 due to its “obscene” content. Jeanne Duval, an immigrant from Haiti whose mother was a slave and whose father was a French plantation owner, was his lover for 20 years and the inspiration for Baudelaire’s best known work.

As the novel begins, Baudelaire is a 21-year-old “dandy” living off of his mother’s money. Baudelaire wears the latest fashions and haunts the trendy cafes with his friends, accruing debt while expressing disdain for the bourgeoisie and support for revolution. While drinking at a working class dive, he catches cabaret singer Duval’s act and is immediately attracted to her. Duval was tall, shapely, olive-skinned and had long dark hair. She was also quite independent for her time, having escaped Haiti at the age of 14 and making her way to France. A 20-year dysfunctional relationship ensued, involving  alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, debt and an obscenity trial. Baudelaire’s mother and friends blamed Duval for Baudelaire’s downward spiral, but MacManus shows Baudelaire as someone who willingly went down that path. His dark side is evident throughout the novel — vain, selfish, drawn to many vices and unrepentant about it. It is the dark side of man that is the focus of his verse and what set him apart from the romantic poets of his age.

Little is actually known about Jeanne Duval. She did not write, and accounts of her from Baudelaire’s contemporaries are unflattering (she was the whore who supplied him with opium). Duval, as depicted by MacManus, was an independent minded woman restricted by her sex, race and class. She used her talents as a singer, her own intelligence and her looks to support herself and her predilection for fine dining, gowns and jewelry. Baudelaire’s mother offered her money to stay away from him, while his publisher Poulet-Malassis offered her money to get back with him so that he would write again.

The Baudelaire/Duval relationship, as depicted by MacManus, was a train wreck and reminded me of some of the celebrity relationship disasters that you might find in today’s tabloids. They go from lust to hatred and back again. They do drugs and drink to excess and spend extravagantly. Baudelaire calls her a whore and his “black Venus,” a term that Duval detested since her skin was light. She also resented the way Baudelaire portrayed her physical body in verse and sketches — all big breasts and buttocks, with the inscription “Quaerens quem devoret” (seeking whom to devour).

Duval Baud

Neither one seems to understand what attraction it is that they have for each other, but it is undeniable and similar to their other addictions.

Duval seems to have been able to weather their break-ups better than Baudelaire. She continued to take lovers (as she had even while with Baudelaire), including Manet, who painted her portrait.

Duval Manet

MacManus’ Duval does not admire Baudelaire’s poems or understand his fascination with the slums and seamy side of Parisian city life. Given her early life as a slave in Haiti and the violence of the revolution there, plus her personal experience of poverty in Paris, this makes sense. For MacManus, Duval’s dream was to leave Paris and start life anew in the American West, where she imagined her father living. Unfortunately, her dreams were thwarted but MacManus allows her one great act of selflessness and compassion before her death from tuberculosis.

This was a pretty good book. The history is solid and the story behind the banning of Baudelaire’s verses is interesting if you are unfamiliar with it. Overall, the creation of a story for Jeanne Duval and her relationship with Baudelaire was satisfactory.

Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #25: Finding My Elegy by Ursula K. Le Guin

When the pure act turns to drygoods Finding My Elegy
and the endless yearning
to an earned sum,
when payday comes:

the silly sniveling soul
had better run
stark naked to the woods
and dance to the beating drums (first two stanzas of Middle, p. 15)

Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems (2012) by Ursula K. Le Guin was both a book and author I’d never heard of before I spotted this book in the library. The cover picture and title caught my eye, and I grabbed it on a whim. I like poetry when I understand it, and if it means something to me it can be incredibly powerful. However, I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I don’t really know the right way to attack a book of poetry and probably even less about reviewing a book of poetry.

Ursula K. Le Guin is a renowned author of over sixty books of fiction, fantasy, science fiction, children’s literature, poetry, drama, and more. She’s won a bunch of literary prizes and one of her young adult books is now on my to-read list. I think it was partly Le Guin’s breadth of work that convinced me to try her poems. I figured someone with an interest in so many different things would have interesting things to say. 

Click here for my full review.