We are breaking the rules this week to recommend some poetry-related websites we think you might be interested in.
Lemon Hound has a unique and strong editorial voice. To our great dismay, Sina Queyras has announced that she will stop publishing new content on the website soon, but that just gives you all the more reason to take a look and appreciate all the great work she has done. Lemon Hound has everything from quick and digestible "short takes" to thought-provoking conversations and criticisms. The website will be staying up even after Queyras' work is done, so make sure you pass the link on.
The Poetry Foundation
If you have not yet been introduced to The Poetry Foundation then you are in for a wonderful surprise. The website has a large database of free poems to peruse, so even if you have been there once or twice, it is always worth going back. We also strongly recommend The Poetry Foundation for literature students and people who don't know where to get started with poetry. You can even search the content by subjects, such as love.
Brain Pickings touches on many more topics than just poetry, but its varying appreciation for all things literary and philosophical is what makes it so notable. Each blog post is easily digestible, even for those who might not be so familiar with the subjects. Like The Poetry Foundation, Brain Pickings is also great for students because of its quick and accessible summaries of complicated topics, such as the theories of Susan Sontag.
The following books have pretty much nothing in common except that they are all poetry and all worth reading.
Glossolalia explores the lives and perspectives of the thirty-four polygamous wives of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Author Marita Dachsel plays with language, comparing the similarities between religion, poetry, love, and faith. The term glossolalia, which means “to speak in tongues,” is used as a way of navigating through the difficulty of expressing and capturing a life (or thirty-four lives, in the case of this book.) Glossolalia presents a world in which the real merges with the fantastical, and hope is never guaranteed—where “truth is filtered through tongues.” We, the readers, peer into the private thoughts of these women, but their bodies and their lives are entirely submerged in the public. Upon the death of Smith, one of his wives reflects that she “was left with // nothing / not even secrets.” Feminism fights its way to the surface, but faith becomes a burden, “faith has worn [them] out.”
Burning Daylight is one of those books you do not want to say too much about for fear of ruining the experience, because that’s what it is, an experience. Between the cutout cover pages, Christine Fellows’ lovely poetry captures the Canadian North as sharply and realistically as the photography scattered throughout the text. The book begins with beautiful snow blue pages filled with poetry that drifts sleepily along with a lonely and shivering lyricalism. The latter half of the book captures the glories and majesties of the Northern sunrise—the end of the nights—with its milky orange pages and serenely celebratory phrasing. Between these pages, the photos and the montages, is a single CD of Fellow’s music. I urge you to put on your headphones and listen to the gentle power of Fellows’ voice and instrumentals as you flip through the book. Her beautiful phrasing will rush over you like a flurry of snow both textually and visually: “Eyes open wide for emphasis, stories / nest into one another, oddly / punctuated, / halt- / ing.”
The Winter Count
McGill-Queen's University Press
Dilys Leman’s The Winter Count creates its own kind of history. Bringing together diaries, treaties, lists, instructions, photos, drawings, and, of course, Leman’s own poetry, The Winter Count is both representative and subversive of official history. There are at least two simultaneous narratives coexisting at once, if not more, and the result is as cluttered and dissonant as history itself. Leman’s writing is biting and sarcastic, but also deeply poetic and shockingly beautiful. Her exploration of Louis Riel’s sanity and the punitive laws forced on First Nations in 1885 is easy to swallow but appropriately hard to digest.
Snapshotsare all about women, embodiment, family, memory, politics, femininity and all of those topics that keep needing to be talked about. By focusing on these three collections today, we hope to help keep these books, and their ideas, in our collective minds and memory.
The Fleece Era
Joanna Lilley's debut poetry collection explores time through place, and the world through the everyday. The Fleece Era is a reminder of the significance of the mundane and the complexity of the familial: "She'll say she's sorry by painting / the kitchen and ringing the plumber." The poems are both sardonic and comforting, resistant and motherly. Lilley writes about both individualism and dependency in an attempt to locate identity in society, in family, and in self that is both liberating and loving. The journey in The Fleece Era is not so much geographical as chronological. Every location, every moment, represents the past, present, and future simultaneously: "I try not to be nostalgic for a place / I chose to leave for a place unbroken." Each event in The Fleece Era is hauntingly recognizable. To put it in her own words, the poems are are "felt and seen rather than just merely thought."
Kate Hargreaves' Leak encapsulates the sharp sardonic wit of both Lilley and Strang in a complete deconstruction of the body and the body politic: "Her belly voted for the NDP" / "Her collarbones. Her sternum. Her rack. Her ribbed for her pleasure." / "Her hip-to-hip, toe-to-toe, or cheek-to-cheek. She toes the line." Here too, like in Lilley's The Fleece Era, experience is plotted, but in this case it is physically rendered on the body as bruises, scratches, and bumps. Hargreaves portrays a distinct violence in being, specifically in being a woman, that is apparent even from her table of contents ("Heap / Chew / Skim / Pore / Chip / Peel") which focuses on words that are both domestic and torturous. Leak experiments and plays with language and the result, like the book as a whole, is both pleasurable and painful, indulgent and subversive: "She peels the polish off her nails. In sheets. / He peels the tights from her thighs. / She appeals her parking ticket. / She peels a grape. She scrapes. She rinds. / She grates a lemon for zest. / She grates on my nerves [...] / She trips and skins her palms on the sidewalk. / Sheet rips. / She stains."
Much like The Fleece Era, Catriona Strang's Corked explores identity by mapping the self through time, place, and relationships. Whereas The Fleece Era explores the identity of women by making the body grotesque, Corked also grotesques language, even deconstructing it at times: "Why so fence-fond? / Why so trowel-lick? / Sucky Mull, dear Sucky Mull / was hell so specific?" Corked explores both the private and the political, the personal as well as the cultural memory, and she does so with a sharp edge: "In our District of Neo-Logistical / streamlined and ultra-ideological / survey, one certain / fact arises: / gigantic / intrusions." Most noticeably, Lilley captures the embodiment of experience, as best illustrated by the poem "Memor" and, in doing so, transforms a life into a landscape: "there is no longer any record of my capacity for retaining / perpetuating, or / reviving, it all / passes through memorial to become / once more without."