Book Review – Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Walwrath

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Poetry / Dark Fantasy
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2018
Publisher: Finishing Line Press

A paradox of piercing and delicate, like a tendril of blood dripping down a shard of crystalline ice, an homage to Alice and her looking glass illusions.

Glimmerglass Girl is a realm in a globe of femininity and both the knives and hearts it bears, or the knives puncturing hearts when worse comes to worse, as it does.
Never faint, but it’s like a symphony cut short at the intermission – it ends all too abruptly, but doesn’t it glisten while it lives?

Quotes

  • “I am night and a thousand stars hurtle through my skin, punching through the ether. I crouch, prehistoric, in the space behind clouds, my volcanic heart attracting lightning, sympathetic interstellar.”
  • “I tell my sisters: cultivate loneliness like you might care for an orchid, turning it gently towards the light, serving it water like wine; aerated, purified, filtered.”
  • “When others see me, they will see a woman unhinged. I will crawl out of my skin, leaving it all heaped behind me and the naked me will walk home alone in the darkness; a disciple of shadows, an acolyte of the moon”
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Book Review – And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Classics / Poetry
Publication Date: August 7th, 2001 (first published 1978)
Publisher: Random House

And Still I Rise has the freedom of body and spirit all poetry should aspire to break out into. Its raw truth and elegance beckons heartache without force, and not once does it fall back on old cliche as foundation. It’s a brief book that can be read in a moment, but what a moment it creates.

I love to think of poems as what they could be if translated into the physical realm – whether they would be something precious, something alive, something dark. Angelou’s poems feel like artworks – they can be fresh and vibrant as much as they can be visibly distressed, but in both forms they are beautiful.

Quotes

  • “Hate often is confused. Its limits are in zones beyond itself. And sadists will not learn that love by nature, exacts a pain unequalled on the rack.”
  • “What surety is there that we will meet again, on other worlds some future time undated. I defy my body’s haste. Without the Promise of one more sweet encounter I will not deign to die.”
  • “Wait for me, watch for me. My spirit is the surge of open seas. Look for me, ask for me, I’m the rustle in the autumn leaves. When the sun rises I am the time. When the children sing, I am the Rhyme.”

Book Review – The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and Her Flowers

★★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017

There is a patch of sunflowers where others have said they’ve found paradise in words. Perhaps they did, but I dove in and saw only sunflowers. That’s the best way I can summate my feelings for this compilation – while parts are so lovely, I’m afraid I didn’t see the same empowerment nor flavours of the heart that other readers have.

As you can see from my rating, this doesn’t mean I thought negatively of it. I personally loved Kaur’s poems about her mother and the ones of darker, more agonized composition. The feminist ones were my favourites, often skirting the edge of the abyss I love to see poetry drawn out of – unashamed, emotional and raw. The illustrations are a pleasant touch to see, as well.

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The romantic poems to me didn’t feel as genuine, having more of a commercial symmetry and tone. It’s not a weak compilation nor are those necessarily weak poems, but I suppose I felt like those in particular wanted to scream but only allowed short bursts before covering their own mouth. Self-consciousness in the name of audience appeal never does creation any favors.

I commend Kaur for bringing a fresh popularity to contemporary poetry, and I think some of The Sun and Her Flowers is stunning, but other parts could be more full-hearted. I recommend, but perhaps try her breakthrough, Milk and Honey, beforehand.

Quotes

  • “I hardened under the last loss. It took something human out of me. I used to be so deeply emotional I’d crumble on demand, but now the water has made its exit.”
  • “You ask if we can still be friends / I explain how a honeybee does not dream of kissing the mouth of a flower / and then settle for its leaves.”
  • “Sun becomes moon and moon becomes sun and I become ghost / a dozen different thoughts tear through me each second / you must be on your way / perhaps it’s best if you’re not.”
  • “Why is it that when the story ends, we begin to feel all of it?”

Book Review – If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publication Date: June 26th, 2018
Publisher: One World

Composed of raw emotion, memory and urgency, If They Come For Us examines the injustice of war and division. Bloodshed is something that shakes and dismantles the roots of generations, leaving scars on even those who only recall it faintly, or don’t recall it at all. The aftermath doesn’t fade easily – what is lost and the price of what is gained must never be forgotten.

Asghar speaks rich lyrics also on culture, sexuality, and the delicate, haphazard art of growing up. They are unabashed, honest and hint at deeper intricacies. Her words also take a strong stance against all that leads to partition and war – namely misunderstanding or fearing another because their culture is different, without trying to understand them. Prejudice only leads to further prejudice, never to any sense of harmony.

Some were not to my personal taste, as is with any compilation, but I enjoy the collection’s earnest voice as a whole, especially with the earlier poems and the ones with feminist touches. Particular resonant poems for me were “For Peshawar”, “When the Orders Came”, “Boy”, and the disarming “WWE”.

If They Come For Us is sometimes painful and sometimes passionate, even the poems that weren’t my preference are never watered-down or weak in their meaning or choice of words. (The cover artwork is also beautiful, to boot.) I recommend.

Quotes

  • “Aren’t I a miracle? A seed that survived the slaughter & slaughters to come. I think I believe in freedom I just don’t know where it is. I think I believe in home, I just don’t know where to look.”
  • “From the moment our babies are born are we meant to lower them into the ground? To dress them in white? They send flowers before guns, thorns plucked from stem. Every year I manage to live on this earth I collect more questions than answers.”
  • “All the people I could be are dangerous. The blood clotting, oil in my veins.”
  • “Even nature is fractured, partitioned. I want to believe in rebirth, that what comes from death is life, but I have blood from someone’s father’s father on my hands & no memory of who died for me to be here.”

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Note that this was an uncorrected copy and there may be minor changes present in the final print.]

Book Review – Blue Bird by Magda Ayuk

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publication Date: April 17th, 2018
Publisher: Self-published / Independent

Blue Bird is a potent melding of soul and flesh, of feminine and masculine – it is raw life blossoming from the soil to form the fruit of songs. It outshines quite a bit of feminist poetry I’ve read, wearing its own wings fearlessly and without constriction. Most importantly, it sings of a union and dissolving of animosity between genders or races that a lot of similar poetry doesn’t convey – that each should be able to embrace their own and the other like the earth embraces its seasons.

A voice of nurturing and delicate harmony in a time of growing division and extremism on every side is much welcome to me. This collection asks why there is such deep rage without reason, and why is it aimed at those who have done nothing to deserve its acid touch, forced to reconfigure into something they can’t be and don’t want to be? But those have felt its burn have not been destroyed, and can heal. Maybe in words, we can find a neutralizer so that the acid becomes nothing but water.

Quotes:

“Let us never deem unworthy a tree that doesn’t bear fruit. / For even the tree without leaves can bring a man to tears.”

“So many people are walking around with bones in their heart. / We hear them rattling as they walk, like ominous wind chimes. / They catch our attention for a moment, but then cars honk, / maybe a simple hello would stop the noise, but we’re far too afraid to touch unknown skin.”

“You threw your words into the sea / Cast a net of regret / But it came up empty”

 

[I received a copy of this from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]