Every month has been poetry month for me, especially during this last year and a half, but I still feel that poetry month calls for a little extra attention. The past two years I have attempted the write a "Poem-a-day" goal, and I think much of my poetry and pride has suffered from these attempts. While this sort of motivation is effective for other writers, I think that I would like to be less concerned with quantity and focus on the quality of poetry. So this year instead of writing 30 horrible poems, I am setting the goal of reading a book of poetry every day. Should they inspire my own writing, it's all for the better! But truly I want to have a less self-centered poetry goal and really enjoy, respect, and share the poetry that has already been written and given to us writers and readers. I will try to write a mini review or response to each of the books. If anyone would like to join, I welcome comments. And if anyone has recommendations, I still don't have all 30 books picked out. Happy reading and writing everyone.
"The Redshifting Web" by Arthur Sze
"The Redshifting Web" is a collection of Arthur Sze's poetry from 1970-1998. The poems connect past and present, the universal and specific, and carry both elegant and horrifying images. Much of the poetry presents ideas, objects, and brief narratives stacked on top of one another, so that the reader feels the effect of being stretched over many times, places, and emotions; at the same time Sze organizes the items in such a way that one can't help but draw connections between them, feel both pain and relief, fascination and disgust. A poem may start with apricot blossoms then dive into asphyxiation. It will have you consider the Sombrero Galaxy then take you to meditate on floating pins. Sze asks the "big" questions such as, "Who is measuring the pull of the moon in a teacup?" or the now googleable and at times applicable-to-dinner questions "True or false...the fins of a blowfish are always edible." When I first opened this collection, I had been anxiously flying across the country from SF to NY. But before my plane even took off (we were on the runway long enough for me to read the new poems at the beginning of the book) I felt calmed. I was a little disturbed that I could be calmed since Sze points to some of the frightening truths of our society, yet at the same time, he brings balance to those situations by redeeming confidence after each storm such as in BEFORE COMPLETION:
A woman puts a baby in a plastic bag
and places it in a dumpster; someone
parking a car hears it cry and rescues it.
Lastly, I can't help but mention all of the natural imagery that Sze strings throughout. I cannot more accurately describe the persimmons, pear trees, or ginkgo than he does so I'll just leave you with two lines from THE STRING DIAMOND:
germinating in darkness.