For me, every month is poetry month, but at least once a year in April the rest of the world takes at least 30 days to pay tribute to the lasting impact language and poetry can have on our lives. I try to contribute a few posts each year in April to my muse and in this first one I’m going to keep it simple with a list of a few of the poetry collections I’m currently reading or raving about.
First off, let me just say that the worlds of Catherynne M. Valente are like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before, something akin to Ovid or Paz, but even more mesmerizing and spellbinding. A few years back I stumbled upon Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, which I reviewed and vowed not only to read and re-read but to gift to all my poet friends. Well I grabbed it again in addition to a newer collection, A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, which I am hesitant to say, blows Yume no Hon out of the water perhaps because of the short nature of the collected and expanded upon, odd and grotesque world mythologies are easier to wrap your brain and senses around. The first poem of the collection, “The Girl with Two Skins” tells the tale of a she-fox who lurks villages in search of a man, “beautiful enough” to turn the she-fox into a human. When instead the she-fox is taken in by a young girl who attempts to tame the stiff, bristles and wild tail with ribbons and dresses and sewing lessons, the inevitable nature of all things wild lead to a shocking, sensual transformation. I was left with a strong desire to get my hands on an Encyclopedia of World Mythology in order to try and piece together more knowledge of the Arctic leviathan-god, of Adlivun, Sedna, described in the poem, “Sedna, Submerged”. “It was all I could do not to chew the sinews/ from her thigh as I was drawn out by dry, flat hands. / It was so thick with meat and fat, / the smell of tallow and sealskin.”
I’ve also been exploring the prose poem explorations of Campbell McGrath in Road Atlas: Prose & Other Poems. Having been caught up into his unique voice through the historical glimpse into the Lewis and Clark Expedition through his book length poem, Shannon, I am eager to get my hands on more of his work.
“A boy selling sugarcane rode past on a donkey; white-turbaned woman bent like egrets to the salt marsh. ‘There is no word for this in English,’ said Elizabeth,
meaning, by this, everything.
Later: goats and dogs on barbed-wire tethers; children laughing beneath banana leaf umbrellas;
women hanging laundry on a red dirt hillside in a stately ballet with the wind.’
from Praia dos Orixas
More to come during April. Also re-reading, Dear Darkness by Kevin Young plus his earlier collection, For the Confederate Dead.