This is one of the most astounding books of poetry I have ever read. From its compelling first words ("Sheepish as a far off echo, Lawrence Booth wadeThis is one of the most astounding books of poetry I have ever read. From its compelling first words ("Sheepish as a far off echo, Lawrence Booth wades/into the Great Field and the wide-yawning night") to its stunning final image ("Here come the crows!"), this book is sublime. There's not a single wrong note here. The characters, their voices, are so true, so exactly themselves. Though form and style vary from voice to voice and poem to poem, Manning maintains a powerful economy of language throughout - tight, crisp, just enough and never too much. Here as with Bucolics, he wrangles familiar imagery - and even ordinary words - into something extraordinary; for example:
"He cloaks himself in the pheromone of harvest-time. The last hay stuffed in the barn; everything looks like a pumpkin, even the clouds are coming in swollen." (from Act V, Scene IV)
Read together, the poems create a riveting momentum, a sense of something about to happen. There is story here, but not in any obvious or contrived way. It really does feel like a book of visions, glimpses into a character and his world.
I have seen this book described as Gothic; postmodern; biblical; radical pastoral; Freudian pastoral. All I know is that I read each poem twice, right away - sometimes a third time. I read a number of them aloud to my husband, because sometimes you just can't keep it to yourself....more
I disappeared into this book for days, blissfully ensconced in Victoriana. Kids running wild in the woods; Arts and Crafts cottages; café society; musI disappeared into this book for days, blissfully ensconced in Victoriana. Kids running wild in the woods; Arts and Crafts cottages; café society; museum basements; fairy tales told and performed. Oh, my, this book has it all. And what a fascinating time period this is, everything on the cusp of enlightenment - or disenchantment. Amateur science abounds; disciplines are born and die; new forms of art and aesthetics, new freedoms articulated; invisible worlds debated; alchemy not quite dead. Curiosity took such strange, expansive forms.
And within all this is the compelling story of a family (the Wellwoods), and a storyteller, and the stories they tell each other about this story, and how they live their lives in relation to stories...
Have you heard of Ranganathan’s five laws of library science? Every book its reader, every reader his/her book…? Well, I am this book’s reader. This is my book. This is not everyone’s book. It’s long. It’s brimming with arcane vocabularies. Some of the historical description could strike people as rather dry. Not me, though; I can't wait to re-read it. This is a new favorite. ...more
I love these. They are delicate. They are modest. They are like little treasures you find in other people's desk drawers, or the bits and pieces thatI love these. They are delicate. They are modest. They are like little treasures you find in other people's desk drawers, or the bits and pieces that collect on the edge of tidal pools.
Timing is everything, of course. When I picked up this book, I had just finished reading The Children's Book (a novel of the Victorian era by A.S. Byatt), and wasn't ready to leave that world yet. The pamphlet Ruefle draws her "erasures" from - written by Emily Malbone Morgan - was published in 1889, so boom! I'm smack back in the wonder of the age.
I love the whole idea of "erasures" - whittling away the bulk of an existing text until what's left is your own. It reminds me of wood-cut printing, where all the work we do is on the part we don't see, carving out the negative space. There are strange and beautiful possibilities lurking in the yellowed pages of public domain books. I love the spatial elements introduced into the poems by this process of erasure, so that which is whited out still has presence and weight.
Here is a link to some of her erasures, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation:
I zipped through these like an addict, lighting the tip of one with the still-burning end of the other. It is good for me to read this. So often I amI zipped through these like an addict, lighting the tip of one with the still-burning end of the other. It is good for me to read this. So often I am lusting after wild words, strange lexicons, things a Victorian theosophist might say. It is a wonder what Manning can do with the simplest of raw materials - soil, leaf, rock. Our narrator, a farmer in his field, is in conversation with a silent and inscrutable "Boss." The resulting hymn-like soliloquies are so intricately crafted as to allow their scaffolding to disappear. We get gifts like this: "You're dripping hums between my lips;" and this: "a bird/with a whistle in its bones." As with all hymns, we get our share of graves and winding sheets ("all things go one direction down"), but somehow, Manning makes even the dark moments feel celebratory.
Oh, my, what a book. Something about Skoog’s treatment of disaster powerfully speaks to me. We get a sense of expeditions doomed before they begin – bOh, my, what a book. Something about Skoog’s treatment of disaster powerfully speaks to me. We get a sense of expeditions doomed before they begin – bleak, beautiful images of skeleton coasts, “pig-like hands that hold up sails,” a surreal litany of disease and death-dealing.
Skoog comes at tragedy from an oblique angle; indeed, disaster is less the theme than the backdrop of his work here. Nor is he particularly concerned with survival or rescue (“I, too, am tired of miraculous recoveries”). This is about the limits of witness, the fragility of calamity’s claim to our attention. All this ruin – hurricane, flood, death, disease – and already, we’re moving on: “Soon this attention will be over and I’ll return to car, / wheel baby across the difficult tracks, / the ice in my soda barely melted.”
Despite the governing theme, there are moments of stillness, respite, and whimsy (like the “candied” red sedan, whose hood “glistens like licked cinnamon”). But such moments seem to emerge in spite of “exile and years of night;” “rage shame guilt or scold.” However hopeful the mood, the specter of Mister Skylight* is always lurking in the corners.
I love the “placeness” of Skoog’s work, the stark specificity of people and towns, the proprietary nouns of local climates and geographies. And he mixes with this strong descriptive language slant commentary that guides our readings: “My disarray is so local” and, “I’m sorry if this is ruining anything.”
For the most part, I prefer Skoog’s shorter poems to his longer ones (with the exception of the titular poem cycle, which left me, frankly, agog). Some of the longer poems feel unwieldy and distracted, even forced in their opacity, somehow. Then again, perhaps they will reward repeated readings. I guess I'll find out; I am happily putting this on my "to re-read" shelf.
*Mister Skylight is a code word used to alert a ship’s crew to disaster without alarming the passengers. ...more
I read this book based on the recommendation/review of a friend, and I am absolutely floored. John, where have you been all my life? I second all theI read this book based on the recommendation/review of a friend, and I am absolutely floored. John, where have you been all my life? I second all the reviewers' praise of Banville's language - even found myself feverishly writing down scattered phrases or entire paragraphs. - And how beautifully Banville controls the story - delivering just the right amount of plot detail and character insight at just the right time. Finally, I am struck by the juxtaposition of Banville's vigorous prose with his protagonist' (and interlocutor's) general apathy (or "accidie," as Banville would have it). It is, in a word, perfect.
If you are new to the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps you shouldn't let my stingy rating dissuade you from reading this translation. It has its charms. MitchelIf you are new to the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps you shouldn't let my stingy rating dissuade you from reading this translation. It has its charms. Mitchell provides a simple, elegant version of the Gita, presented in short, powerful stanzas. Perhaps the biggest draw is its accessibility. You certainly won’t need to consult a glossary or an encyclopedia to get something out of this, nor will you require any background knowledge of the Hindu epics. Mitchell clearly seeks to capture the universal appeal of the Gita, so his intro takes a comparative rather than historical perspective. But there’s the rub; Mitchell gives the deep, rich, local history of the Bhagavad Gita almost no attention at all. Perhaps that’s why his translation feels sadly denuded of all the things that make the Gita uniquely Indian; all the small things, the many names for Krishna, kin terms, teknonymics, the richness of local context, fall away in favor of a stark, almost sterile spirituality. Frankly, I prefer Ann Stanford's version; as poetry it may be clumsy, but as sacred text, it’s definitely superior....more
This is a terrific collection - every story (with the exception of the first) a wonder - especially the last, from which the collection takes its nameThis is a terrific collection - every story (with the exception of the first) a wonder - especially the last, from which the collection takes its name. Wow. ...more