Books read, late April

Hala Alyan, The Twenty-Ninth Year. I picked this up at random from a library poetry display, and it is very typically, almost stereotypically, a volume of poems about drinking and bad relationships in one’s twenties. But Alyan also wants to examine her role within the Palestinian disapora, so the typical twentysomething narrative shifts under those pressures. Her moments of crystalline observation are equally distributed between the mundane and the political.

Joe Berridge, Perfect City. Discussed elsewhere.

Robert A. Caro, Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing. Process and workflow from one of the most famous biographers of our time. Some of his own shortcomings are also on display, as I suppose happens to us all, but it was an interesting glimpse of a world no one could now inhabit and how he managed to inhabit it and do this massive life’s work along the way.

Lara Elena Donnelly, Amnesty. Discussed elsewhere.

Mary Moore Easter, The Body of the World. Many of these were historical persona poems, putting herself in the shoes of ancestors and other figures from the past in ways that were empathetic and illuminating. This was another random poetry month display selection, but it was probably the best of the lot–I didn’t know Easter’s work before and will definitely seek more of it now.

Audre Lorde, The Marvelous Arithmetic of Distance: Poems 1987-1992. This was a very slim volume, the tiniest glimpse of Lorde’s work. This iceberg tip made me want more. It made me want something like….

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems Volume Two. Immersing myself in this poet’s work has been so rewarding. Not every poem is a gem. It doesn’t work like that. But there are a lot of gems among them, a lot of poems that made me catch my breath and give the world and the people around me a longer, different look.

Emma Reyes, The Book of Emma Reyes. This is a bunch of letters written by a Colombian artist about her earliest, poverty-stricken childhood, which was in the early part of the twentieth century. It has the slightly random shape of much autobiography, but it’s short and lucid and interesting.

Justin Reynolds, Opposite of Always. This is an extremely sweet teen romance, with time travel or whatever else you call Groundhog’s Day style looping shenanigans. It has sad bits and goofy bits and is so very very much fun. I am not usually a sucker for romances, but I enjoyed this a lot.

Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. There is a spectrum of plays that are just as good to read as to see onstage vs. plays that make almost no sense as a script. This is a “choreopoem” but still, the script for a theatrical production, and I can tell that I was missing out on a lot by reading it rather than seeing it performed. Still, it’s related to Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo, which I love, and seeing how differently Shange is developing her ideas in a different medium is pretty great.

Jane Yolen, How to Fracture a Fairy Tale. Discussed elsewhere.

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