Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mixing the Narrative with the Lyrical

Book Reviewed:  Made Flesh, by Craig Arnold

One of the reasons I wanted to get my MFA in poetry was that it would give me access to more contemporary poetry.  It's easy to stay updated on all the newer literary novelists and genre writers, but it's harder to find information about the best contemporary poets out there.  Because writing programs are made up of people for whom reading poetry is a lifestyle, being in a program means I have far more access to good, new poetry. 

In my workshop, we were assigned the book Made Flesh, by Craig Arnold.  In this, his second and final collection, Arnold explores love and the body and traveling through the prism of mythology.  The book is divided into seven titled sections that are in themselves made up of connecting, untitled poems.  We had a lively debate in class about whether or not the book's sections are all about the same couple (in this case, Hades and Persephone) or if each section seemed complete onto itself.  I personally think the book is a combination of both, with the poems looking out across an array of characters as well as the couple of Hades/Persephone, all of whom also seem to be reflections of Arnold-as-poet. 

This book had its admirers and detractors both in my class, and I count myself as an admirer.  I found it extremely easy to get sucked into the narrative voice of these poems.  Once I picked the book up, I had trouble putting it down again.  Arnold has a wonderful way of mixing a narrative drive with some beautiful lyricism, all of which suits the book's main concerns.  I enjoyed Made Flesh a great deal.

I would also easily recommend this book to others, particularly people who are just starting to dip their feet into contemporary poetry.  It's artful without being pretentious, and Arnold doesn't use overly complex phrasing or difficult words.  Overall, I think the book's a huge success, and it's unfortunate that Arnold passed away before he could write more. 

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