I've been reading memoir in verse recently. In June I read Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson and immediately after that picked up This Is the Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy, both of which were excellent.
I don't always think poetry is a great fit for nonfiction topics--poetry is often works well to distill a topic to its essence and prompt readers to see something from a fresh perspective. I don't think poetry is typically good at conveying background information and putting events in a larger context, which is often what I want from nonfiction. But in the case of memoir, poetry can get to the heart of a story and keep things moving along--because even a really interesting life surely contains plenty of mundane details that readers won't really care about.
The latest books I have from the library are not poetry, and every time I look at them, I think about how very many words are on each page. I should probably start one of those books soon, though.
What have you been reading? Have you encountered books that you thought you wouldn't like that surprised you?
Book Club! - This month the WGOM book club is doing The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Thanks to eschapp for setting that up.
This month I read Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, which won the Man Booker International Award for translated literature. It was really interesting, it made me hold a lot of ideas and themes in my head at the same time. There wasn't much overreaching narrative, but there were lots of vignettes that very clearly fit together with themes of travel, observation and preservation, and the futility of the human desire to keep things familiar and the same. I enjoyed it, although if you're looking for a "great story", this is probably not your book.
I also loved Not Hereby Hieu Minh Nguyen. The poems had absence and hurt, but with an enormous amount of tenderness that made them great to read. It reminded me of Slow Lightning by Eduardo Corral (another favorite - Corral just announced he's got a second book coming out, I'll definitely be buying that sight unseen).
Pepper posted a couple months ago "I want to be a person who reads poetry, but the truth is that I'm not." and I can kind of identify with that. I like to occasionally pick up a poetry collection, but I find that it takes a different kind of appreciation than novels or even short stories. In most collections I've read, there's two or three poems that stick out but I find it hard to take in the book as a whole. When I read poetry I'm reminded of a quote from this article about people's responses to a live poetry reading.
We’re introduced to poetry as it relates to the concept of the rhyme at a young age. We all read and loved Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss and to us, that’s what poetry was. Then, when we encounter it later in high school or college, we learn that rhyming is bad and so are clichés. This new poetry is hard to understand, and we still love Shell Silverstein.
I like that idea and the thought behind it.
With all that said, this past month I read Brink a collection by Shannah Compton. And while I think I still ran up against the same issues that I usually do when reading poetry, I enjoyed a lot of the poems and a lot of the lines within those poems. My favorite was "Critical Animal Studies", in particular the last four lines.
Critical Animal Studies
Let us creep apart from them.
Let us be eternal cynics who despise
things like polo and expatriate accents.
Except, I will continue to say dishabille
as scantily as I envision it, whatever rules
we make, alluding again and again
to the porcelain lamp I flick on and off
in my elliptical dream. Let us welcome
the wounding of our structures, their division
into parcels of turned-away desire.
Then let us take down all the fences,
position the floodlights to capture
the glory of the dark procession
as our creatures stumble free.
Share what you've been reading this month below, or maybe share a poem you've enjoyed.