Oct 29, 2014
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.