Thursday, May 17, 2012

Poetry Round-Up

Books Reviewed: A Green Light, by Matthew Rohrer; Apprehend, by Elizabeth Robinson; Brutal Imagination, by Cornelius Eady

I read so much poetry these days that I can't possibly blog about each book. So every once in a while, I do these round-ups to let you know what I've been reading lately. Here are three books I've read recently:

A Green Light:  This is another one of the books my friend Drew lent me for the summer.  I liked it well enough, although it hit me as being a little contemporary-poetry-business-as-usual.  But I find that most poetry books can be saved by one stellar poem or two, and that happened here.  "Hone Quarry" is a series of 15 shorter poems about nature and lost love.  It's a lovely series about the way we try to reconcile our human experiences with the bigger world around us and how nature fails to comfort us completely.  So while this book as a whole was kind of whatever, "Hone Quarry" put it more firmly in the "like" department.

Apprehend:  I picked this book up at AWP because I thought it looked interesting, with Robinson exploring language and linguistics through poems that evoke fairytales.  This is part of the Fence Modern Poet Series and lots of people seem to like it.  I am not one of those people.  I recognize what is brilliant about Robinson's work, and I could see why other people loved the book.  But in the end, I'm the type of reader who wants to feel something, anything when I read a book.  And this one failed to do that for me.  I might recommend it some people I know who might enjoy it, but I probably won't be picking it up again anytime soon.

Brutal Imagination:  My workshop professor recommended this one to me way back at the beginning of the semester, and I just now got to it.  The book is split into two sections. "Brutal Imagination" is a series of poems from the voice of the black man that Susan Smith blamed the 1994 murder of her children on, a man who never actually existed.  They explore race and media in really interesting ways, and the relationship between the criminal, real Smith and the incriminated, imaginary speaker is complicated and messy and fascinating.  The second section is "The Running Man," which is a series of poems that were used as the libretto for a 1999 jazz opera of the same name.  These poems take on a series of voices, that of the Running Man and various members of his family.  I actually enjoyed this section the most of the two.  The poems were more lyrical, the language more coaxing.  There's some really lovely stuff in these Running Man poems.  Overall, the book as a whole was quite good.  And I wouldn't mind someday getting to see The Running Man on stage.

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