Luminous Worlds covers a significant span of David C. Kopaska-Merkel's poetic output over the course of almost two decades in the space of almost 110Luminous Worlds covers a significant span of David C. Kopaska-Merkel's poetic output over the course of almost two decades in the space of almost 110 pages, and there are many ways to enter this book.
The author of 23 books, Kopaska-Merkel is a geologist by trade in Alabama with a literary career that stretches back into the 1970s. Many will be familiar with some of the more obvious influences on his work, such as Zelazny, Algernon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft, but that's really just the type of the iceberg in this collection.
He opens with "The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd" which begins as a petite drama in a circus but progresses smoothly into something surprising with subtle cues until the big reveal at the heart of the poem. It unveils itself with an easy-going humor and diction that acknowledges the roots and the potentials of speculative poetry. It's a good first poem for the collection and serves as a guide to what we might expect in the remainder, without giving away too much.
The second poem, "Tsunami Child," provides a contrast, with a darker, condensed tale of tragedy that grounds the readers back in a certain timeless present, where we are brought to understand the limits and the need for the fantastic around the world.
If you like these first two poems, you will likely enjoy the rest.
There are a good many poets who excel at either long-form poems or short-form poets. Kopaska-Merkel has an excellent command of both, with the majority of his poems paced just right that it keeps the reader engaged without belaboring any particular points.
Among the poems I found particularly interesting to consider were his pieces "Flipbook Sonata," "Réanimation Medicale," "Cartography," "Clark the Ripper," and "Engagement Off Joulter’s." There are many instances, such as "Clark the Ripper" that delightfully reframe a familiar subject, remaining true while deftly suggesting what could have been.
In his poem "Golem," he has the fine lines: "My thoughts are flying up into an artificial sky The painted stars are no less real than I."
There are many such gems throughout, and by the time he closes with "The Valley of Years," you wonder where the time has gone and how could you have reached the end so quickly.
Kopaska-Merkel takes his readers around many worlds and many times, both inner and external. He capably shares a wide emotional breadth with his readers but is never maudlin or saccharine. I would recommend this collection as a fine introduction to his work and the work of contemporary speculative poets, and encourage readers to seek out other volumes of his as well....more
John W. Sexton is probably my favorite Irish poet of the 21st century, and I was happy to have a chance to look at his fourth collection, Petit Mal.
SJohn W. Sexton is probably my favorite Irish poet of the 21st century, and I was happy to have a chance to look at his fourth collection, Petit Mal.
Stretched over 86 pages of poems, Sexton uses a variety of styles, primarily free verse to explore any number of topics with a clean, penetrating insight (and frequently a good dose of humor) that I've often found lacking in American poetics.
I think he should be welcome company among Lao poets for the depth and breadth of his work.
He opens his collection with "My Granda as Lama Tensing," a touching exploration of life, death, our elders and sparrows around the world. The poem is short enough that it's difficult to excerpt without giving away the marvels of the lines he presents, but I think if you enjoy it, you'll enjoy the good majority of the poems that follow.
I often evaluate a manuscript by its thematic coherence balanced with its ability to surprise.
With Petit Mal, I think he presents an interesting puzzle as to how everything is connected to the notion of the petit mal, while also remaining independent as poems in their own right. The term of course, is most often used in connection with the phenomenon of absence seizures, when people just stare off into space for a few moments then come back. I consider this a great manuscript because it effectively presents a body of poems that provide a great glimpse of where we or others might have gone in the middle of such a seizure. Few of the poems in here overstay their welcome. He's in great control of his poems most of the time, with many lines and images capable of lingering with you if you read it at the right moment.
For me, the poems I found myself personally pondering the most were "Lao Tzu Notices Infinity For The First Time," "The Drowned Sailor," "Tea With Akhmatova's Cat," "Sixfaces and the Woman of Nothing," and "The Final Years of King Canute." You may well find many other interesting poems. But in any case, he closes the collection with "silence," which masterfully brings the manuscript full circle if you've been paying attention.
It's $15.00 in the states, but I think it's worth it, and it will be hard for many to find a copy here, which I find a deep pity. It has my highest recommendations....more
Poorly researched and barely supports its own thesis, incorporating only the most generic information about the Lao community in the US, let alone inPoorly researched and barely supports its own thesis, incorporating only the most generic information about the Lao community in the US, let alone in the Bay Area. It has a nice collection of photographs from a handful of families, but for a state that has the largest Lao population in the US, the result is underwhelming. There's a space and need for community-driven histories like this, but this particular book is absolutely not the model to emulate. There are no in-depth interviews, not even resources as to how to contact the organizations or institutions in the subject area. There are no counterpoints to established narratives, etc.
One who is serious about studying Laotians in the San Francisco Bay Area would be better off reading the back of the menus of many fine Lao-owned restaurants in the area. Give this one a pass....more
The Lao culture draws from over 600 years of history, and one of the most beloved tales passed on from generation to generation is that of Xieng MiengThe Lao culture draws from over 600 years of history, and one of the most beloved tales passed on from generation to generation is that of Xieng Mieng, a wise trickster figure who uses his wits to navigate the ins and outs of Lao society.
A Sticky Mess might be considered a prequel to the main origin story of this character. Nor Sanavongsay has been working on this tale for over 14 years and the results have paid off in a lavishly-illustrated book that leaves readers with more to look at each time. It's a great adaptation of the tale, and Sanavongsay adds some personal touches that set his version apart, including some new characters who will doubtless be appearing again in future books in the series.
A Sticky Mess sets a new standard for our expectations of Lao childrens books. It's been a wait, but it's worth it....more