I've now read (one,two) three poetry collections from poets who originally posted their writing on tumblr. I'm probably never doing it again. I'm genI've now read (one,two) three poetry collections from poets who originally posted their writing on tumblr. I'm probably never doing it again. I'm generalizing right now, but these three collections have many of the same flaws. And they seem to be written for an "internet culture" if I may call it that. A culture where poetry is posted so it can be quickly read and reblogged or otherwise shared, it's made to resonate with as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, which means the quality suffers. They're poems made for quick, easy, shallow consumption.
I'd love to read a good poetry collection from a tumblr/blogger poet. If you ever find one, let me know.
I expected more from this than I did 'Home' because I recall liking Ashe Vernons poetry whenever I came across it online. Turns out I've either been lucky with the poems I've read (or I've been the kind of reader I described above, someone who quickly read it, thought it sounded okay and never thought about it again) or it's that I can enjoy her poems when I read them on their own, but as soon as they show up next to each other it becomes apparent they don't quite work.
Mostly what's lacking is clarity or unity in imagery. I'm not saying to use only one image in a given poem, but do not, as Vernon does, stack them on top of each other endlessly. Each line seems to present a new form of abstract imagery until I couldn't picture it in my head at all. I had to give up understanding what was going on in nearly every poem because they were too much. Sometimes the images made sense, more often they didn't.
Every sentence seemed to be written with the thought that it could be taken out of context and exist as a poem on its own. There seemed to be a focus on making every line memorable and hard-hitting, which meant no lines ended up being either of those things. I simply had no idea what the hell was going on in each poem, I had no idea what they were trying to get at or even what emotion or experience they were trying to convey. My number one feeling in reading this collection was confusion, the second was frustration. In fact I got so exhausted trying to understand anything that I just skimmed the last third of the book.
I struggle to recall a single poem that stood out to me, that I remember. I can think of only one, and even that I don't remember in full, but it's her father, and it very nearly works. It has lines like this:
"We found you cold, Dad. You were one room over - ten feet away, Dead while I was sleeping,"
That's an extremely specific image, there's nothing flowery about it, and that's what makes it work. I see it very clearly in my head, and I'm heartbroken by it. The rest of the poem is ruined somewhat by lines like this,
"EMTs stormed the house Like a disaster response team - Covered the place, like cleanup from a hurricane - Nobody told them you took the hurricane with you when you stopped breathing."
Which I think would have worked beautifully if Vernon had stuck to the tangible and not gone into hurricane metaphors and imagery, because it takes from the immediacy, it removes it from what I can picture in my head - and the real, physical image of a house covered in EMTs is enough. It hits hard as it is.
I remember little from this book. All the poems bled together in a torrent of images upon images that constantly replaced each other and never really made an impact. I wish for clarity, more tangible images, even if they may seem boring or ordinary, because they help the hard-hitting, abstract images stand out and fully impact the reader. Otherwise you end up, like here, with a book of pretty sentences, that sometimes make sense, but get tiring after a very short while, because they don't add to a full picture.
I bought Wrong Side of a Fistfight and got “Home” for free with it, which is a good thing because I might otherwise have regretted buying it. I felt mI bought Wrong Side of a Fistfight and got “Home” for free with it, which is a good thing because I might otherwise have regretted buying it. I felt much the same about this poetry collection as I did with 'Love & Misadventure', it makes the same mistakes and has many of the same flaws.
I don’t want poetry to be incomprehensible, I want it to make sense, but without being obvious. I want it to have meaning you grasp at the get-go and some you have to look for. Most of the poems in this seemed to advertise their meaning, to wear it bluntly on their sleeve, which can be a strength for some, but sadly isn’t in this case. The I seems at times almost infantile, which again, could be a strength, but when the I goes back and forth between being ‘adult’ and ‘child’ it gets confusing and I’m not sure it’s supposed to come off as infantile, as childish, as it does.
Another thing is that it’s internet poetry, it started online and I have immense respect for Von Radics for starting up Where Are You Press, it’s an amazing feat and I love what she’s trying to do with it. However, sometimes the internet bleeds into her poetry. There’s an ‘internet speak’ to it that falls completely out of place, for me, anyway, perhaps I only see it because I spend so much time on tumblr myself. And sometimes things just don’t seem to make a lot of sense?
Like these lines:
“I’m worried I will earthquake from my body”
“You keep trying to turn your heart bomb shelter.”
Yes, I understand what she’s getting at, but the phrasing is really odd and the sentence loses meaning. It’s not a bad thing to be precise in poetry, please don’t fear it.
“What no one ever talks about is how dangerous hope can be. Call it forgiveness with teeth.”
A classic example of something sounding really good, but not making any sense. Why is hope like forgiveness with teeth? What do hope and forgiveness share that one could be the other with teeth? I honestly just don’t get it. I really don’t. It seems there is no immediate meaning in it, it simply conjures up a pretty image, but leaves meaning behind. It’s a little lazy, but an easy enough thing to overlook if you’re not paying attention. Sadly, I was.
Mostly it just feels banal and too obvious. There were no epiphanies, no surprises, and very few places where I thought “Huh, that’s interesting”. It presented life to me in a way that felt familiar and therefore trivial. It kept pushing to break boundaries, to be honest, but fell short almost every time and landed squarely in “well known and too worn” territory. Short and forgettable.
Perhaps she fares better in her other books. I hope so, but I don’t think I’ll continue with her work. There wasn’t enough good moments in this to make me want to. ...more
“When love is faithful, and it seems Nothing can hurt you, Know that the world is faithless still And will desert you… remember this.”
The thing is, even“When love is faithful, and it seems Nothing can hurt you, Know that the world is faithless still And will desert you… remember this.”
The thing is, even if all the other Little Black Classics were terrible and not worth the paper they’re printed on, then this, this one book, would have made it all worthwhile.
I read it and I fell in love. Simple as that. Without this series I most likely would never have read a single word of Hafez and I am so infinitely, so deliriously happy that I have, because I have loved every word so far.
I’m having trouble putting into words exactly what it is that moves me so in his writing. There’s a lightness to it and at the same time a gravity, an understanding of life and what it means to live, in a world that can be both cruel and kind. There’s self-awareness, there’s beauty, so much beauty, but the kind you find in simple things, in the smallest of gestures.
It was also a venture into non-European, non-Western poetry for me. Normally I’d be intimidated (and I still am, with everything I read from somewhere else), because I think poetry from my own country can be difficult enough to grasp without a guide, imagine how little I’d understand without any knowledge of the tradition, the country and the culture Hafez comes from.
But I decided to embrace the chance for diversity, the opportunity to read Persian poetry, because when else would I do it? I decided to collect this small, manageable sample, and I fell in love. Yes, there’s a hell of a lot I didn’t catch, of course, but so much of poetry is universal I’m reminded. So much of it can be grasped, when you find the right poem or poet, in the feeling you get while reading. Not an understanding, necessarily, more like you’ve shared something with someone, across time, across space, despite the wall of flesh separating minds, something significant.
I admitted my cowardice, tried to do better, and I fell in love. Irrevocably, I fear.
“Good news! The days of grief and pain won’t stay like this – as others went, these won’t remain or stay like this.
In words of gold they’ve written on the emerald sky, ‘Only Compassion does not die but stays like this.’”...more