**spoiler alert** To Your Health: Humanity's Diagnosis by Jeremiah Walton is a chapbook with only five poems (a very quick read!). Although I was most**spoiler alert** To Your Health: Humanity's Diagnosis by Jeremiah Walton is a chapbook with only five poems (a very quick read!). Although I was most impressed by his writing style and age, I felt as if though I could not adequately give a review because of this chapbook's length. I think if I were to read perhaps five more poems (for a chapbook of 10 poems), then I can give a much better review of the poet's work because there would be a much wider range of discussion (e.g., for style, voice, themes, etc.). Briefly, Walton's style is reminiscent of Allen Ginsberg, but with a twisted sense humor that can be found in dark/noir poetry. Nevertheless, for the purpose of book ratings, I would rate this book as 3.9 out of 5 stars.
First, I absolutely love the title. It is an attention-grabber. However, as I mentioned previously, if the author had a few more poems included in this chapbook, this will give more variety of "diagnoses" for humanity. But as it is currently, I'd say that there needs to be more exploration on this topic (so perhaps I could give the book a higher rating). After all, there are many things good and bad about the world...
In "Then There Was Light," this poem explores what "light" is to mankind, particularly on a more philosophical, meditative level as it boils down to the same conclusion no matter if we take the scientific, religious, or any other route for that matter: "A potent mixture for the desperate seeking answers." What is Truth?
"We Will Sing" is my favorite poem from Walton's chapbook. I love how birds are a metaphor for humanity. Although there were minor errors, this is the poem I am most drawn to.
(excerpt) All the birds aligned With sharp crack beaked smiles All singing A black arrow shot Feathers exploding, Their guts bursting from song . . . And they'll sing, and they'll sing And we'll sing, Along out of tune We are the birds, Orchestrated and rehearsed
The repetition and vivid diction used in this poem are strong and hypnotizing. It gives you the answer to why the caged bird sings. This poem is a reminder that mankind likes the sense of control. However, who are we to say that we would go along with our own individual thinking all the time? Because at times we are like the birds, we cannot help it but to mold ourselves in a flock (perhaps out of fear, to go with society's norms, etc.), getting into dilemmas of groupthink and finding ourselves a puppet just going along with the crowd.
In "Perspective," this short satirical poem depicts how our "attention span" is limited--perhaps due to the fact that the things we watch and read from the media, from current news to celebrities to pop culture, everything becomes overwhelmingly saturated. And when that saturation happens, nothing more can be said about the news (we get bored, then "[no] one notices"), and so we move onto the next hot topic/scandal/gossip.
(excerpt) No one notices The statuary rape of Afghanistan is still going No one notices The president impregnates his secretary's throat with patriotism We are disgusted
Jeremiah Walton is a promising upcoming poet. His diction and style are lyrical, colorful, and gripping. All of his poems are almost stream-of-conscious, Ginsberg style that explore and comment on (a part of) humanity. Although To Your Health was a short read, I think it would be wonderful if Walton continues to add to this chapbook (there are many things he could cover). I look forward to reading more of his work in the near future!
Notes: I received this book as a PDF file from the author himself in exchange for a review....more
**spoiler alert** I am planning to go see Black Coffee as a play this summer, and so I thought I would check this book out to read from the local libr**spoiler alert** I am planning to go see Black Coffee as a play this summer, and so I thought I would check this book out to read from the local library. This is my first Agatha Christie "novel." Although I had seen a good handful of theater productions of Christie's plays, I immediately recognized that this book is not Christie's style. Black Coffee was first written as a play by Christie herself and should have remained as such instead of adapted into a "novel." This adaptation is written by Charles Osborne, who is, according to the book jacket, "a world authority on theater and opera." While Osborne may be well-known, I believe a classic like Christie's Black Coffee should not have been altered by writing style. Thus, as it stands, the "novel" reads and is written--quite forcefully--in the style of playwriting techniques instead of a true novel.
In playwriting, there is usually a few key props that are of interest throughout the play. In Black Coffee, some of those key props are the poisonous hyoscine in a phial, the coffee cup, and a valuable scientific formula that goes missing. While there are those key props in mystery novels, this adaptation does not illuminate what the characters are actually thinking or feeling as they become involved with any of these key props. Therefore, this adaptation is not a true novel either because a novel would show the reader what each character is thinking and feeling internally, which is not known to the other characters. In a sense, the character development is quite terse with exaggerated habits that are written for a play instead of a novel. I am sure that if I read Black Coffee as a play, there would be more character development than in this adaptation because the reader would be able to read and analyze the characters through symbolism and character behavior and would come to appreciate them more that way. For me, the characters seem somewhat two-dimensional in this adaptation. I just felt like I could neither relate to them nor appreciate them.
Both the narration and the dialogue are nicely written and moved the story along. However, I wonder how much of the narration and the dialogue are from Christie's work? After all, they both read in a playwriting style as mentioned earlier. For instance, consider the following:
Then the door to the hall opened, and Miss Amory entered, carrying a small work-bag. She went over to the settee, put the bag down, knelt, and began to feel at the back of the seat. As she did so, Dr. Carelli entered by the other door, carrying a hat and a small suitcase. Seeing Miss Amory, Carelli stopped and murmured a word of apology at having intruded upon her.
Miss Amory rose from the settee, looking a trifle flustered. "I was searching for a knitting needle, " she explained unnecessarily, brandishing her discovery as she spoke . . .
This passage could be easily condensed to stage directions and a scene description in an actual play. And once again, despite the dialogue, the reader has no idea what Miss Amory is thinking about in this moment of time. She could have been looking for (or hiding) something else rather than a knitting needle. Why did she come into the library even though she knew that no one is allowed to go in after someone's unexpected death?
While mystery novels tend to bounce from place to place and through space and time, the reader is directed back to the library again and again (the scene of the crime) throughout this adaptation. As mentioned before, I haven't read many of Christie's novels, but I do know that in plays, scenes/places are few. Hence, the transition between scenes should be as smooth and not as confusing as much as possible. In this adaptation, however, I feel like I have no sense of time because it wasn't really emphasized in the "novel." With a well-written novel, the reader knows what time and day it is, which keeps the reader grounded and engaged in a novel. Otherwise, the reader is alienated and uninvolved with the story, which I felt with this book.
Before concluding, this book is about Sir Claud Amory who is worried about someone stealing his valuable scientific formula. When he calls Poirot to come and help him, he winds up dead in the library in the midst of everyone present after the one-minute darkness. Who has stolen the formula and killed Sir Claud? As Poirot and his partner, Hastings, interview the members of the household, they find many other complex stories and clues along the way.
To conclude, although I enjoyed guessing "whodunit," this adaptation was not well-written nor wholesome. I feel that this book has done much injustice to a brilliant author like Agatha Christie. A play should be a play and could be adapted into a film. However, I believe that if Christie wanted Black Coffee to be written as a novel, she herself would have done it years ago. I hope to read the play itself (Black Coffee) soon for comparison as well as other actual Christie's novels....more
**spoiler alert** Sword Mountain by Nancy Yi Fan is a surprisingly delightful children's book (fantasy genre). It is well-written and has amazing char**spoiler alert** Sword Mountain by Nancy Yi Fan is a surprisingly delightful children's book (fantasy genre). It is well-written and has amazing character development and a strong plot--both of which engaged me as the reader. I couldn't put this book down, and once I finished it, I was thinking about reading the other avian adventure books by Fan. (In general, I would rate this book as 4.8 out of 5 stars.)
This novel reminded me of the classic fairytale of Cinderella, a down-to-earth girl turned into a princess, except that the protagonist in Sword Mountain is Dandelion, an eaglet (a valley bird; think peasant here) who finds herself waking up at the beautiful kingdom of Sword Mountain. But before all of that happens, she was just a typical valley bird about to celebrate her birthday with her first flight until an archaeopteryx (a reptilian bird) ruins everything. Her parents died in the fight against the archaeopteryx that showed up at her home-cave. Like Cinderella, she becomes an orphan, but is saved by a disowned eagle prince named Fleydur, who decides to adopt her and makes her a princess. Of course, upon arrival at the palace, Dandelion faces adversity in many forms: such hostility of her status as a valley bird; the Queen's icy treatment of her; bullying and teasing at a "fake party" led by her assigned companion, Olga (eaglet); awful treatment by the new tutor (Tranglarhad, the owl); Fleydur's unjust imprisonment; and finding a way to protect Sword Mountain itself from evil anybirds that try to claim it.
As a children's novel, I really admire the many lessons craftily woven into the book. For instance, Dandelion learns the meaning of friendship and bravery and justice against evil and prejudice. She learns perseverance and standing up for herself when she is challenged. An example is a scene between her and the new tutor, Tranglarhad, when Tranglarhad wanted Olga to say that anybirds have "no merit," but she rose to defend Olga when Olga broke down crying.
The symbolism of flight is also a strong theme throughout the novel. It is represented by Dandelion's birthday candle that was extinguished by the archaeopteryx on her sky-born day. Throughout any form of adversity, Dandelion touches that candle in her pocket to give herself strength and will to move forward. Dandelion is not only a princess but also a warrior when she learns to wield a sword after her best friend, Cloud-wing (another eaglet), goes to Rockbottom Academy to be a full-fledged eagle warrior of Sword Mountain. The reader can note the similarities of Dandelion's perseverance and determination with both learning how to fly and wielding a sword. In fact, those qualities are found in the meaning of her name as well--the tenacity as a dandelion flower.
A dichotomy addressed in this book is tradition versus change. In the world of eagles and the Sword Mountain, rank/status is significant. Likewise, tradition and rules are heavily ingrained within this eagle culture. However, when Fleydur returns home and then later brings home Dandelion, both tradition and rules are challenged in more ways than one. If change is successful, the society is awarded with something beneficial for its members. In this case, Sword Mountain receives not only the gift of music but also the gift of unifying anybirds from everywhere by putting aside any formalities and prejudices (e.g., rank, prestige, etc.).
As mentioned previously, character development is fairly strong in this novel. As a reader, I learned to appreciate and love the uniqueness of each character, especially with the fact that there are many introduced in this book! However, it is wonderful to compare and contrast the personalities of Fleydur, Cloud-wing, and Dandelion--as they all know what it is like to be misfits or mis-perceived by others at Sword Mountain.
Although the book ended happily, I just felt that the ending was a bit rushed. Miraculously, the missing gem is found, the Stone Mountain King is alive, and Fleydur is freed from prison. Shouldn't the Queen offer an apology to Dandelion for treating her disrespectfully (but then again, I suppose the Queen was always like that)? Should the Queen also offer Fleydur an apology for "disowning" him in so many ways? What was in the will the King wanted to say/write? So what happens to Tranglarhad and the rest of the owls and archaeopteryx empire? Does Fleydur make up with the Queen or his brother after he was freed from prison? So many questions, yet overall, this book is generally worth reading as it is written beautifully in plot, character development, and style (even if there are a few errors).
Notes: This book was a Goodreads giveaway (an uncorrected proof copy, or ARC copy)....more
**spoiler alert** Therapy Poetry by Clara B. Ray is a chilling poetic travel into the mind and soul of the author with a past history of child abuse.**spoiler alert** Therapy Poetry by Clara B. Ray is a chilling poetic travel into the mind and soul of the author with a past history of child abuse. Ray informs us (the readers) that she was encouraged by her therapist to write down her feelings and thoughts for each therapy session, and thus began her journey into recovery. Since this book was published in 2011, Ray has spent the previous three years (circa 2007 or 2008) converting many of her writings to poetry. This reflective poetry book is a product of some of those writings as it is divided into four sections--from childhood years to the present. (In general, I would rate this book as 3.8 out of 5 stars.)
Ray's book opens up with "A Girl. Abused. A Gun." as the first poem. She tells the reader what happened in her eyes as "a little girl" who "felt the cold steel of a shotgun to [her] head." The "shotgun" acts as an anchor and irony in the poem as Ray knew that it belonged to "familiar eyes, / [t]he eyes of [her] daddy" instead of "[s]omebody who didn't know [her]" such as a robber. In many cases and research of child abuse I've read about, many of the child abuse take place at home (though child abuse can happen just about anywhere). The abuser(s) is/are frequently the parents or other caregivers. In Ray's case, the abuser is her father. After revealing the gun associated with her father, the reader can see that her fear and lack of trust sever her relationship with her father. Over the years, this became a snowball effect because she lapsed into such profound confusion and thoughts of "[s]omething had to be wrong with [her]" no matter "how good [she] had been" around her father or at home. When Ray was 15-years old, wanting to gain control and freedom for herself was apparent and necessary. However, she spiraled into a world of marijuana, alcohol, spending time with troubled friends, and staying out all night away from home. This time period was a crucial time for her as she searched for her self-identity as represented in the poem, "A Mask Goes Up in Smoke" with the following lines:
A street-bad stance covering the pain, my mask going up and on in smoke.
For Ray, adopting a street life was a better alternative than living at home with an alcoholic father and his shotgun. I like how "smoke" can be interpreted both in a literal and figurative sense in this poem: the smoke as with the puffs coming from the marijuana, and the smoke as in a way to mask Ray's pain (e.g., the "hidden fears, tears . . ."). The smoke can also be used as a figurative flexible door or a wall to divide her life at home as well as her street life. And lastly, the smoke as Ray's "mask"--how she identified herself during her teenage years, which also seems as if though she did not know herself at all.
Besides the themes of control/freedom and self-identity in her poems, Ray also writes on the theme of self-acceptance through her five-part poem series entitled, "She Was Cold." Self-acceptance was embodied in things that initially give Ray's the abused "inner child" warmth, but that warmth is only short-lived and is eventually replaced by something else. For instance, in the first part, the warmth of self-acceptance was found in the arms of a "masculine scent." The name of this man probably did not matter for Ray, but the warmth did because she did not receive any from home, especially from a fatherly figure. In the second poem of the series, the man is replaced by fur coats; then in the next poems by food, weight gain, and therapy. Each embodiment of warmth paints many layers of emotions and struggles for the author. Not only does Ray eventually find self-acceptance, she also found acceptance and understanding of her "mother's pain" as she too experienced abuse from her husband as from the following in "A Short Story: Mama Goes to Therapy":
"And I just learned what I should have known years ago... A woman can leave a mean husband. A woman got options."
Ray also takes this learning to heart as a self-healing mantra on her journey to recovery from abuse and domestic violence.
I find that Ray's strength is her prose, or what she called "short stories," in this book. Each "story" is succinct, yet poetic at the same time (some almost seem to border on prose poem). For instance, in "A Short Story: Soon One Morning," Ray presents a 1960's setting, in which she was at church contemplating how her father "came home in a drunken rage . . . trying to decide if [she or her siblings] would be shot" the night before. This scene poses a haunting and powerful contrast between the violence the night before versus the calm sanctuary of a Sunday church setting. The only thing that is constant was Ray's thoughts of the violent event unlike her mother's seemingly calm demeanor. Ray ends this "story" with the following:
For those children ['who die in America each day, from child abuse or neglect']--the acapella song of a small country church still plays on.
Ray gives us a chilling, sad statistic (though not referenced) in that there are "four children who die in America each day from child abuse or neglect," which serves as a reminder that child abuse and neglect happen very frequently. Although the "acapella song" is a song for herself from this church setting, it is also a song for those children everywhere--as if it is a song of mourning for those children who have been or are in this same situation as Ray. Furthermore, another interpretation of this "acapella song" is that it can be an offering of hope in that perhaps one day, they will too find that sanctuary and peace from all the violence in their lives.
To conclude, Ray's Therapy Poetry is a wonderful mix of prose and poetry. Her writings are raw, emotional, direct, and haunting. This book may be written for therapeutic purposes, but I can imagine that this book will serve even a greater purpose: to help those who are also suffering through any form of abuse as well as to let readers see through the mind of someone who had been through abuse....more
**spoiler alert** Finding Compass by Carolyn Martin is the author's first poetry book, yet it is filled with poems of wit, lyricism, and wonderful sto**spoiler alert** Finding Compass by Carolyn Martin is the author's first poetry book, yet it is filled with poems of wit, lyricism, and wonderful stories. Martin's poems invite the reader to have a glimpse of and re-live a part of her world as she covers a wide range of topics from baseball to biblical figures to her childhood life in New Jersey. No matter what the topic/theme Martin covers in her poems, each poem is incredibly unique and rich all on its own. (In general, I would rate this book as 4.7 out of 5 stars.)
In Martin's opening poem, "Finding compass" is also the title of the book itself. I like how the poet tries to put herself in the perspective of the flying geese. She describes them as: "disheveled and disorderly, / as if a pre-school child / is scribbling lines across / the jagged sky" as they fly in vee formations. However, she filters the vee down to one single goose that was left behind as "she missed / their lift-off yesterday." Fortunately, as with any life obstacles, we can always overcome them if we are willing to. Martin then proceeds to tell us that this lone goose is programmed to follow its own compass no matter what happens, even if it was left behind. This poem demonstrates such careful and keen observation of nature and how Martin empathizes with that lone goose.
In the "Portrait of a Cowboy as a Young Girl," Martin paints a caricature of a three-year old girl dressed in "white-fringed gloves," "bronco-busting chaps," and "a broad brim hat that . . . ties beneath a stubborn chin." It is as if though the reader is looking at the same photograph with Martin: an adorable cowgirl beaming with confidence at the camera. The last two stanzas of the poem are a surprise element as it is understood that this was a snapshot of her Jersey childhood as she switches from third to first person. The last two lines of the poem are especially haunting:
I can't recall when I was more of me than on that sunless winter day.
It makes me wonder as a reader that in childhood, there is that note of having no fear, being carefree, and having an abundance of confidence to rule the world and be whatever we want to be--even like cowboys. However, with those lines, we are left to wonder the truth of human nature. Have we lost our innocence and the sense of our identity as we become adults? This poem made me think about that very defining moment in my life in which I realized that I was fragmented, that I was less than what I used to be. However, like the poem, I too "can't recall" when I was ever more of myself!
I'm always partial to health care related poetry because even though it highlights human suffering, there is always hope that shines through, showing that humanity has such an indescribable resiliency. In "Those who wander," Martin weaves together her father's expertise at maps during her childhood travels and links it to the present where she sees him with "tubes . . . and wired hands" after a serious "four-valve" heart surgery. The sudden loss and grief in this poem are powerful and raw, yet I find it amazing how Martin connects symbols and concepts together. For instance, her father's Chevrolet's bumper sticker reads: "I don't get lost. I just explore," which later echoes a comforting message for Martin: "Those who wander are not lost." It is important to note how the sense of being lost and loss both play throughout the poem (there's even a sense of wordplay as well!). This loss/lost concept depicts Martin's father as a lost traveler, but he will find his way in the afterlife. Martin and her mother may (still) have that sense of loss, but like everything in life, it is human nature that we will always find our way... given with time to heal and re-establish that sense of direction once again.
In "Second Sight," this poem reminds us to pay close attention to the things around us, especially to the things we don't give a "second glance" to such as the "holly berried / in the trees" that was "waiting-- / like grief or love . . ." for Martin. In our environment, there are always so many things that compete for our sensory attention such as the following:
[the] bright lights around a coastal curve; a cat caught stalking migrant birds; my lone car key asleep inside my trunk . . .
However, some things deserve a second chance or glance again, to be entered into our sensory experiences once more, because sometimes we might have just missed it on the "first sight."
As mentioned earlier, Martin finds poetry in every single thing around her and spins a story out of it. In "For These Thy Gifts," she depicts a normal Thanksgiving family dinner by dividing sections of the poem into football related terms while using wit and humor as in the following example:
2. Kick off good food good meat good God let's eat my southern uncle scores a laugh
. . .
what we know: who tackles turkey legs gets our respect
I seem to think that Martin is poking fun at Thanksgiving Day and the fact that it is football season in a light-hearted way, while at the same time, cleverly threading a prayer throughout the entire poem as depicted in this example. After all, for die-hard football fans, football is like a religion, and while others, Thanksgiving is celebrated religiously because of the emphasis on family and tradition with "turkey legs" and all.
Finally, at the end of the book, I really enjoyed reading Martin's poetic skills in donning different perspectives of biblical figures. It would help to note that she was a former Roman Catholic nun. In "Noah and The Flood," for instance, Martin writes these perspectives in a poetic dialogue for each character such as Noah, his wife, neighbor, sons, Yahweh, and the desert itself. As a reader, it made me think about the fact that there are more than one side to every story, yet the Bible offers only one view (or a very limited one), which is Noah's story. In the following, Martin gives a voice to Noah's wife:
His wife says,
He claims he talks to God. I watch him wave his arms around his head, point to piles of gopherwood and then to cloudless skies . . . I do not hear a godly voice.
With more voices added to the story of Noah, the Great Flood, and the ark in this poem, it adds dimension to the story itself as well as makes the story even more believable because of the use of dialogue and someone other than the protagonist of the story. After all, although these characters were not the "stars of the show," they were also an influential part of Noah's life.
Although I am unable to cover more of Carolyn Martin's poems as it is beyond the length and scope of this review, I have to say that it was a memorable experience reading Finding Compass. Each of her poems has a compass of its own, and it's no doubt that Martin found her own compass by publishing this book as her first book of poetry at the age of 66. For those with an ear for lyricism and a heart to listen to stories and to laugh and cry along, I highly do recommend this book....more