The hour of reckoning–honestly, a PayPal button? Yes, please.


		
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“A Theory of Time”–My latest love poem

This is my latest love poem, and I have to say that even though not all of my poems are love poems, I’m beginning to wonder if people are getting tired of my favorite poetic subject, of all my poetic subjects, if they by and large aren’t poetically inclined, if they resent rhyme (as I often use it, and some people consider it out of style), or if they’re even reading my output at all.  I still am getting tons of reads of my literary essays, some even all the way back to 2012 when I first started my blog, but it’s rare for people to comment on the poetry, or even give it a “like,” which admittedly is a bit of a lazy technique for comments, though I have occasionally used them when I couldn’t think of what else to say.  So, if you are reading, folks out there, don’t feel unequal to the situation, or shy:  most poets are flattered even to be read.  I can tell by some of my stats that the poetry is less popular, but other stats suggest that some readers are getting to it through “Archives” and the “front page,” as I call it.  Let me invite you to read, and have your say.

A Theory of Time

After a while, the rope will fray and break
That is tied and stretched and tested for love's
  long sake;
Though aeons may pass without apparent change
Then on a sudden the atoms will rearrange

Themselves, and the threads will fast unweave
And the lover's heart, torn and tattered, cease
  to cleave
(Except when "cleave" means to split and to divide,
Whereupon the rope then untwines from side to side

Rather like two snakes, themselves undoing from acts
  of love
If really that were their destined formation,
  to be wove.)
Rope, quite like the mirror, split from side to side,
And Tennyson's curse seems to mock and to deride.

Ropes and rivers, and bodies in boats drifting
  with the tide
To Camelot, where the towers spread out wide,
And boats are secured, as long as ropes hold true,
But boats are just boats, and rue is only rue.

For when men and ladies rue what has been done,
And time rolls around, intent to spare not one,
Then Camelot once again peeks out from time
Granting a suffering unwound and sublime.

And then threads of love lie loosely
  on the ground,
Quiescent, dependent from the parent round
So that all one can say is "It once was
  in Camelot,
And wherever else, and now the bonds are not."

For, regal and royal we most of us just fail of,
And our Camelots flourish on more quotidian love,
Long testings and strivings, so noble and honored
  and free--
Why, ropes already riven would float us out
  to sea!

So, consider, my love, that I still love and hope,
Though for aeons, it seems, I haven't yanked
  on the rope;
But left you at peace, where it seems you want
  to be,
As far as a galaxy, universe, from me.

©4/19/2019 by Victoria L. Bennett

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“Responsive Reading”–A form altered from the sacred

Though some of you may be unacquainted with the term “responsive reading,” many of you will know the form from a church context.  It is in form in which the minister, rabbi, imam, or priest speaks certain set lines, and the congregation, when he or she is done, repeats another set line or lines, usually shorter, which seems to sum up or comment upon what the leader said.  I decided to try writing a secular poem using this form, even a secular poem which ends with a reference to my very best friend, my cat.  Some might feel that this is reductive of the form in a profane way, but I like to think that what comes around goes around, and that as I have also written some poems with God-references and spiritual topics, I’m allowed.  So, here is the poem:

Responsive Reading

How many bright morning are left in the day
‘Ere mornings and evenings and all pass away?
How long shall I linger, how long shall I strive?
How long before I am no longer alive?

And then there falls a long silence.

Though I am still searching for dubious goals,
And most of my best-laid plans have gaping holes,
I yet ponder daily on how to achieve
The things I most want to do before I leave.

And it seems that the sky folds and snickers.

It happened upon a time there was someone
Who made all my days much more easily run;
But then he found other things far more his style,
And left without grieving, but just with a smile.

Love is a mug’s game, through and through.

So, now I prize letters that fall on the mat,
And seek correspondents, and dote on my cat;
And make my dear calico poems on her eyes–
At least to her I need not spout any lies.

Love is salvation, between true companions.

Oh Lucie, oh Lucie, oh Lucie-Minou!
Your eyes are like jade, and your nature’s so true;
I would that all humans were loyal as you,
And smart and quick-witted, and beautiful too!

We all eventually find our own way out.

©4/1/2019 by Victoria L. Bennett

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“Preparations for Grace, or, What to Do When the Music Stops Playing”

A good many years ago now, when I was an awkward adolescent making timid but determined steps forward in an avocation of being culturally aware, there was a sponsorship group known as the Community Concert Association which made it possible for moderately well-known musical artists, soloists, and dancers or dance troupes to tour our complacent little backwater of a town.  Our town would possibly have been omitted from this flattering arrangement if it had been one whit smaller, more rural, or deeper in the surrounding countryside.  There was also the fact that it was the county seat, and had a number of professional people from larger areas and more prestigious educational systems living and raising families in what they thought of as a “safe” and unremarkable place.  I was fortunate enough to have a mother who, though a widow, thought it important to make such performance viewing opportunities available to me, and so she set aside part of her small income, stretching it enough to cover my attendance at the season of concerts and ballets each year.  It was just a taste of intellectual freedom and enjoyment, just enough to set my appetites for more as I grew older.  I can still remember sitting in a crowd composed mainly of adult couples up in the balcony, where I had chosen to sit so that I could see better in the crowded high school auditorium.  The seats were not ranked according to preferential spots as they are in most performances; it was first-come, first-served, and the balcony meant that I didn’t have to look over heads or miss the echoes of the music that floated up into the overarching ceiling.

I can still remember, and in fact except for a blurred recollection of many a night taken together, one night stands out as the symbolic equivalent of the whole endeavor, which took place during the 1970’s, when the entire area was burgeoning and growing with cultural and monetary progress, which only began to recede again once the mid-80’s were over.  But let me concern myself with this one night, which stands out for me as the epitome of grace and accomplishment, though initiated by a failure, of sorts.  It’s a shame that I didn’t know at the time just how strongly this impression would stay with me, and that I didn’t preserve the dance program, or remember the male dancer’s name.  But perhaps by consecrating his memory in a stray paragraph or two, I have more accurately or feelingly preserved his moments with us on stage, which just dropping a name or a company moniker would not do, as that would only commemorate his gift to us for those who are knowledgeable enough to be acquainted with his or their work, and would neglect to foster awareness of just what he gave to me and others that night for everyone to understand.

The first few performances of the evening were by small ensembles of dancers, round dances and pas de deux and other such exhibitions of talent.  And don’t get me wrong, all of those artists, as far as I can recall, were quite accomplished.  But they were in no way remarkable each from the other, but were just as good as they were supposed to be.  They filled the bill, as it were.  Finally, as the last performance of the evening, the single male dancer who was going to dance alone came out to thunderous applause, which was possibly because he was known to be someone more important than the other dancers had been, the troupe’s manager, for example, or possibly because the county audience had more or less had enough for one evening, and was looking forward to the last moments of the night’s performance.  He took his place on stage, struck a pose, and waited.  And waited.  There was a moment’s shrill squawk from backstage, then a tearing sound, then a wail.  Still composed, he broke formation, stepped to the side of the curtain, and spoke with someone behind the scenes.  We saw, I saw, him hesitate for just a split second before something in his manner seemed to state, “Right.  Okay.  Well, we’ll just have to see what we can do about that.  We’ll have to go ahead.”  As it turned out–and as he stepped forward to the footlights to explain to us in broken English heavily accented with Russian, or Slavic overtones–the tape had broken which contained his music.  Seemingly unfazed by this, he proposed to us that he would dance without the music.  There was a slight murmur from the crowd, presumably because now there was nothing to tap one’s foot to, and such a small-town area as this was not overly fond of male dancers as it was.  The immodestly tight tights, and all that.  Male friends of mine who were taking lessons in the only dance studio in town had already encountered such prejudices.  But from his first leap high in the air, the audience seemed to waver, and change its mind:   he was dancing in time to something which he could hear and we couldn’t, quite obviously.  We watched him and marveled as he swept and swooped and cast himself upward like a reverse waterfall, and then came down again on both feet, and then started the whole thing all over again, with what seemed like a magical ability to keep pace with some hidden music.  And in fact, that’s what he was doing:  showing an extraordinary degree of preparation for moments of grace when he could have gone away and protested that someone or something he counted on had failed him.  When he was eventually done, he struck a strong, masculine, and thoroughly accomplished pose on stage and let us look at him, the man who could suggest musical tones just by imagining them clearly enough.  To my great delight, the audience loved him.  When the troupe came out, group by group, he got the largest round of applause; his own troupe applauded him as well.

I hesitate to draw a moral from a tale like this, because it seems preachy and overly goody-goody.  Suffice it to say, that when my own Ph.D. instructors told me about what my task in passing a Ph.D. exam ultimately consisted in, and they used the expression “Grace under pressure,” I knew what they meant, whether I can be said to have succeeded in showing it or not.  It meant that I was going to have to leap high whether there was any music for me or not, and that the audience expected to be pleased whether or not I was feeling harmonious at the time.  I needed to rely, that is, on hearing inner harmonies, and seeking out whatever grace I had come equipped with already.

On a lighter note, I was also privileged to see yet another exhibition of grace under pressure from a beautiful troupe of ballet dancers, mostly female, who were onstage up in Toronto during the time I attended graduate school there.  They had been passing round and round on stage in a circle, doing parts of Swan Lake, when suddenly amidst the exhibitions of fluttering tutus and pointing toes there struck a huge clunking noise.  The noise itself detracted from the visual elements, though it wasn’t easy to see what had caused it.  The ballerinas continued to circle, some dropping out at the wings, some swooshing into the line from the same spots, and all circling close and closer to the front of the stage.  Imagine the audience’s surprise when, just as the twelfth or so ballerina bent gracefully over her own toes, she also picked up a huge semi-circular object and carried it out of the round when next she exited!  There was some nervous laughter as the watchers realized that the ballerinas had been dancing around a heavy weight which had fallen from the ceiling, which could have struck or tripped up any of them, and yet, since it didn’t, they had chosen the neatest, most audience-friendly way of removing it so that their fellows wouldn’t fall over it.  Again, there’s no fail-safe remedy for such moments, such unpredictable moments, but there are people who manage to incorporate the grace notes and arpeggios of chance into their routines, and those people, to my way of thinking, make their own sort of music and sound their own sorts of rhythm for the universe.

We all have moments when we are in tune with something we can’t name, which yet fills us with a nameless sort of confidence and then leaves again before we can get its calling card or take its number down, something which is too busy in the universe to allow any of us to hog it.  But we can prepare to greet it on those odd occasions when it walks up, slaps us on the back, gets our suggestions, and makes off again while we run off to tell the other so-and-sos in our life whom we met.  As far as I know, the best way of being prepared for it to call again is to celebrate it when it comes, because as we know, everyone likes to hear himself or herself mentioned with approval; and who’s to say that grace isn’t like the rest of us, waiting to be approved of and mollified?  In any case, rejoicing is rare enough, and we can all rejoice together when we witness an instant of grace, our own or someone else’s.  And together we can hear the music of what was intended for us, even if it sometimes seems, as it sometimes does, that the music has been borne away, the tape rent, the trumpeter silenced.  The music is ours, from the time we make it ours until it accompanies us through the final performance, and we strike the last post and wait for applause, the music that, though others may not be able to hear it, we can imagine as we dance, and can set our steps to, all the way to the very end.

©4/21/2019 by Victoria L. Bennett

(P.S. to my readers–This is my essay which was inspired by a reading of Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird.)

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How to write a how-to book–Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”

Most of us who write, have aspirations to write, or just like reading about good writing and how it’s done have heard of Anne Lamott.  She’s the fine essayistic voice behind such classics as Bird by Bird (her book on teaching writing) and other, more obviously spiritual books such as Help, Thanks, Wow (her book on what prayer is all about) or her books about her son’s and grandson’s youth (Operating Instructions: My Son’s First Year and Some Assembly Required:  My Son’s First Son respectively).  The breadth of the things she can write about (because she also writes fiction) is astounding, but behind it all is a firm grounding in just what makes us human and reachable by others; for Lamott, it’s our sense of humor.

Today, I would like to share just a little of what I think makes for success in her work, and it is this sense of humor she shares with us so readily.  Even when she’s discussing situations in which she has encountered the most fragile of writers’ egos, or the most obnoxious of them, she does so with a rich appreciation of their underlying connection to her and her own experiences.  She shares little snippets of these experiences constantly, and while being aware that she must once have agonized over things just as much as the rest of us do, we are coaxed along through the narrows, shoals, and dead falls of being writers by her amused look at her own trials and difficulties with other writers, publishers, editors, family, and day-to-day confusions.

True, it’s often hard for us to laugh when our own work is concerned, and Lamott discusses at length in several spots how some of her students seemed nearly to want to call her a fraud because she couldn’t give them quick and easy answers about how to get published.  Her take on this whole conundrum was that one should write for the sake of writing, and publish when possible, if possible.  Her final encouraging word seems to be that writing is a spiritual task, a fulfillment of personal goals more precious and worthwhile than the mere search for fame and fortune.  Now, one could also believe that it’s easy for her to say, since she is a famous and respected writer.  Except, of course for the fact that she discusses freely her own search, at first, for fame and fortune, and the sum and total of her book’s argument (though it’s really important to read the whole of her book and not rely just on my word) is that true satisfaction comes not from finding fame and fortune through one’s writings, but from the process, as I know you’ve heard it said before.  It’s just that Anne Lamott makes the best argument for this frequently-cited idea with a grace and hilarity which you won’t find in other writing guides I’m familiar with, where everything is self-serious and clunky, even, full of nice one-liners supported by lengthy paragraphs, which, however well-intentioned, rely on some particular set of tricks of the trade some of which even contradict those in other writing guides.

Lamott is nothing if not blessed with a light touch; this makes her book easy to read, which is not a curse:  it’s free of causing that overwhelmed feeling one often has after reading a writing guide, that feeling of having too much responsibility weighing one down, that feeling of being unequal to the task of writing as advised.  This may be because Lamott doesn’t come up with a particular theory of writing, or support a particular style; instead, she gives general advice about where to seek for material starting out (from one’s childhood, from overheard conversations, etc.), about how to accept criticism in a beneficial manner, about how to know when criticism is not based on good fellow feeling, about how to deal with what publication is really like, about how to deal with writer’s block, and other issues facing those who are rank beginners and who are seasoned writers equally.

Anyone who is interested even in the issue of how other people write whether or not they write themselves might find a good read and more than a few chuckles in this book, which though funny as hell is also gifted with an underlying commitment to the subject that it’s easily possible to sense.  After reading this book and finishing it a couple of days or two ago, I felt the impulse to write an essay other than a literarily-based essay on a work of literary fiction, such as I ordinarily publish here.  Though it doesn’t have the comic power of Anne Lamott, it’s a piece such as she advises us to write, based on things from our own lives, and so I want to share it with you, my audience, and will use it as my next post.  Until then, make an effort to get a read of Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, or indeed any of her others while you are waiting to read that one, and I promise you will be entirely delighted with her material and her voice alike.

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The Best-Laid Plans–Sarah Dunn’s “The Arrangement”

The Scottish poet Robert Burns once famously said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley,” which is just to say that no matter how well we think we’ve planned, destinies have a way of coming along to f–k us up, the more as we’ve planned the harder.  In the upscale suburban community of Beekman in Sarah Dunn’s hilarious comic novel The Arrangement, the planning concerns marital conditions which range everywhere from ordered though mildly boring to outright acrimonious and divorce-prone.  Different couples in the community, though different in various ways, are mostly the same in the ways they’ve organized their lives around their children’s schools and future well-being, mostly college-bound young people as they are.  Trendy stores and shops are there too, but they are trendy in a very recycling-cum-farmer’s market-cum-craft shop-cum-socially conscious sort of way.

Enter Lucy and Owen, an apparently loving and overwrought young couple dealing with a child under ten, Wyatt, who shows characteristics both of autism and ADD, or even ADHD.  They have done all they conscientiously can to improve his life, but he is totally out-of-control a good part of the time.  This eats away at Lucy, whereas Owen deals with it by strategically (and usually successfully) coming up with redirects for Wyatt’s attention.  The couple also socializes with other couples in the community mostly just as they would were everything “okay,” which is an odd way of pretending that nothing is wrong when it clearly is.  Yet, no reader who has covered the first fifty pages or so would assume that there was anything wrong with the marriage itself, so the “remedy for no disease,” as it were, is odd.  What I mean to refer to is their assumption that they might benefit by adopting an “arrangement” which another couple tells them about at a private dinner they are sharing:  the open marriage.  The couple tells them that the arrangement is only for six months, and that there are ground rules.  They are intrigued, but at first don’t assume it’s an arrangement meant for them.

After a while, however, they finally decide to go ahead with it.  Their ground rules include things like “No texting (or sexting) to the other man/other woman inside the house,” “no falling in love,” “no more than a six month’s time span,” “no discussion of the situation in depth,” etc.  At first, Owen is all excited over the plans, and finds someone almost immediately, a craft store owner named Izzy.  Lucy takes a little longer, but finds someone, Ben, through a friend.  They’ve agreed that they don’t need to discuss things about their meetings, but the funny thing is that they end up lying to each other and being deceitful as if there were genuine, old-fashioned, unequal affairs going on.  And, Izzy ends up intruding into their marriage in a way that’s entirely inappropriate to the arrangement; Owen, over the course of time, realizes that she is sort of “crazy,” as her ex had conveyed to him when they spoke.

A lot of the humor of this book arises from the fulfilling of expectations which should have been perfectly normal with a regular old-fashioned affair, and the odd way both Lucy and Owen are startled when this happens.  There’s also a marvelously funny scene in which the whole community participates in a “blessing of the animals” at the local church, with mismatched and unlikely (and dangerous-to-mix) animals, who abruptly rebel from their owners and commit havoc on the surroundings and on each other:  this is the perfect symbolic scene for the themes of the book, or perhaps I should say the scene is the perfect objective correlative, for the people themselves and how they run their lives.

That the book ends more of less happily is due partly to the fact that Lucy and Owen, after spending time living apart while Lucy is falling out of love with her own friend, Ben, as Owen has done with his, Izzy, manage to get back together.  But for the satirical light of the book, this happens against a backdrop of other couples breaking up or making less happy arrangements for their lives.  To make Lucy’s and Owen’s way a little easier, Wyatt shows some signs of getting less erratic and concentrating more on what people say to him

Note that this book is in no way a heavy duty intellectual challenge.  It’s funny in a light way, well-written and free of most grammar and style errors, and a delight to read for its witty dealings with upper middle-class lives and mores.  It would be good to see other offerings from this author to see if there’re more scintillatingly satirical works in store.

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When truth is reached through shadows and illusions–“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Since I’ve first read the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  I’ve often casually wondered why the tale of an alcoholically debauched night between two academic couples, one seasoned and supposedly mature and the other neophyte, should have been given its title, with a major talent of the writing world (who was excluded from academia because she was a woman) featured by name.  At first, I followed up a suggestion, unfounded, made to me by someone who said that as neither of the couples purportedly have surviving children, it was named because Virginia Woolf was not allowed to have a child, due to her bouts of mental illness.  While there may be many truths that history, literary as well as other kinds of history, may hide, I could find no suggestion in what I know of Virginia Woolf to support the theory that she wanted children.  In fact, she apparently turned down Leonard Woolf a couple of times because she wanted to avoid sex and marriage.  Next, my theory became the idea that as marriage is often fearsome and turbulent for many, the title referred to this very desire to avoid marital intimacy.  But then, beginning with George and Martha, the older couple in Edward Albee’s play, all the dirty linen and even the hypothetical dirty linen of marital intimacy is aired in front of the opposite couple, the younger of whom are Nick and Honey, who after a while of this badgering begin to reveal some ugly secrets of their own.  So, I was no further along.

I was perhaps making my mistake, though, by my preference for George’s character, because he is the one who seems at some moments to be the ringleader of the group, though Martha plays a strong hand as well.  He, for instance, christens the “games” of societal frauds and truth-tellings between the two couples, who are spending a sodden late night visit together, Humiliate the Host, Get the Guests, and Hump the Hostess, and he is the senior academic of the group at the college where Nick is also employed.  But this didn’t get me much further, once I decided to try to look at the group more objectively, perhaps, certainly more equally, with each having a part to play.  It’s a funny play, funny in a biting, acerbic, sardonic fashion, which is George’s main mode of utterance most of the time, so I feel I may be excused for at first regarding him as more central than the others.  It’s an odd, surrealistic scene, typical of the ways many people going on a bender feel about their surroundings while they are doing it; I can speak from experience in this regard.  It’s sort of reality turned inside out, with people saying things they normally only think when they are in such a situation, where they mostly stick to polite manners, fighting off drunken impulses even when three sheets to the wind, only discussing the evening frankly with their mates when they arrive home.  But in this case, in different groupings of four, three, and two, they find themselves in a metadialogue, discussing what happens as it happens.

What actually happens here, though, does have something to do with a certain quote from Virginia Woolf, which I uncovered only today:  “A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life.”  Martha and George seemingly have a routine they go through around other couples, and an agreement not to discuss their progeny, a son, whom it is difficult to discern if they ever really had.  They keep threatening each other with the revelation of something about him in front of the guests, who are uncomfortable and want not to hear at first, and it’s difficult to know if it’s that he died in an accident caused by himself or George, or that in fact he doesn’t exist.  The suggestions run counter and rampant, but by the end of the play, it would seem (though the one truth is not for certain) that, as they end by telling the guests together, in a seeming truce between them which ends their war of words and threats, they never were able to have a child.  If this is the truth which has caused all their angst and pain, and their conflicts and battles, their use of the other couple to get back at each other, and then their mockery aimed at the other couple, then it has been revealed after a reaching through myriads of shadows and illusions they have created, and it ends the play.  Thus it’s not only a feminist who reaches some form of release and freedom, however temporary, by telling the truth about her life, but both Martha and George, in their drunken revelations and conflicts, who by the end of the play have rehearsed once again (and one feels this play has a repetitive loop sense reminiscent of others like “Waiting for Godot”), and come up with the truth(s) of their life, both the things they pretend, the illusions, and the haunting agony that compels them through their lives.  Martha’s drinking problem in particular is in the forefront of their diatribes against each other, though both imbibe heavily; it is  Martha (in the perspective of 1962, when motherhood was still believed to be more innate and stronger a feeling than fatherhood) whose tragedy it is a little more than George’s that either 1) their son died, or that 2) (as seems more likely, since it occupies the ultimate ending position in the play’s plot) they never had a son.  And yet, both of them tell Honey and Nick at the end that “we” were not able to have a child, which is a sign of their apparent strong and twisted love for each other.

I know I perhaps should have issued a spoiler alert for the benefit of those who have not seen or read this play yet, considering the things I’ve revealed about it, but the point is to read or see it and perhaps get something new from it each time.  An excellent experience is to catch a revival theatre viewing of the version of this play with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, directed by Mike Nichols; I promise for searing, scorching dialogues and portrayals of marital pain, it won’t disappoint.

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Rupi Kaur and “The Sun and Her Flowers”–When simplicity is enough

Upon first perusing Rupi Kaur’s second book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers, published in 2017 hard upon the heels of her extremely successful first book, Milk and Honey (which I haven’t yet read), I was at first a little disappointed.  The complicated devices and figures I, at least, prefer to find in poetry were missing.  The poem was a long sort of prose poem of most short, declarative sentences, with a few questions strewn here and there, interspersed with clever sketches of the stages of a woman’s life.  The most complicated comparison seemed to be that of comparing people to sunflowers, which, in the titles of the various divisions of the poem, go through stages of “wilting,” “falling,” “rooting,” “rising,” and “blooming.”  That seemed at first not only too simple, but a little simple-minded.  But something kept me reading, anyway.  Perhaps it was the desire to see the “plot” fulfilled, which is one of the characteristic things analysts say drives the reading of a prose work.  I mean, given the organic governing metaphors, and the theme of “to everything a season,” a certain uplift at the end was to be expected, it was apparent.  Still, this particular evocation of the growing season had somehow become more interesting than just the generalized comparison:  she had sneaked it in on me.

As I read, I followed the poem through the delineation of a violently-inclined love affair and its end, the grief and desolation which follow the ending of even a bad love, the gradual recuperation that, if one is basically life-oriented and sensible, one tries to develop or find, the impulse toward re-growth that follows, and the also gradual rise into a new love and a community awareness of the family as a whole.  But let’s take that a little slower.  The first parts of the poem are addressed to a “you” who is a bad influence; then, gradually the “you” disappears; then it morphs into a “you” who is a sudden and surprising treasure; then, an awareness of the loves of different generations of the family develops; then, a recounting of the difficulties that migration presents even to two parents or forbears who love each other, and a detailing of the anxieties and separations they must endure for their families comes next; then, a modest gesture toward discussing the life of societal pressures and how this affects immigrants in a new country sums up the whole.  Really, by the time I finished the book, I was quite impressed with just how forcefully and completely this poetic vision had fulfilled itself, and all in a series of simple, non-capitalized, mostly unpunctuated sentences.  (Not that capitalization or punctuation are regular in poetry anyway, as a general rule, or that they are to be expected in free verse, but when one is confronted with apparent simplicity as a device, one can begin to question whether or not it’s overdone.  Happily, such was not the end result in this case.)

By this time, I was sufficiently humbled to want to read the graceful (and again, simple) biographical sketch of Rupi Kaur which takes place at the end of the book.  It was a bit vague, and I would have liked more details (which, like jewels, or buds, if one prefers to stick to the organic metaphor, were strewn throughout the summary).  Basically, the artist’s statement was that “I am the product of all the ancestors getting together and deciding these stories need to be told”).  One set of topics which I have not touched upon yet, and which the poem also dealt with in detail was female liberation from the restraints of a conventional and hidebound societal influence, and how various generations of women have achieved it.  As the blurb stated, and as I have in a general way sketched out above were:  “love, loss, trauma, healing, feminity, migration, and revolution.”  That’s just about said it all, but that’s saying a lot.

There are many different styles and kinds of poetry kicking around these days, and everyone can mostly choose for himself or herself which to pursue for edification, but if you read no other book of poetry this year, it’s at least arguable that you should read this one, which is based in technique upon the poet’s experiences in delivering performance poetry in places in Canada, her country of adoption.  After all, you can hardly go wrong with a long poem which has not only an organic metaphor governing its development, organic metaphors consistently expressing things “all flesh is heir to,” but which also describes a particular historical experience of a large group of people.  Give it a read; I think you’ll be both pleasantly surprised and greatly impressed, whatever your first impression, or your overall take on performance poetry.  As for me, at some time in the near future, I’ll be dipping into Milk and Honey by the same author, to see what word experience she started out by allowing me to immerse myself in!  Shadowoperator

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