National Poetry Month Wrap-Up | Mid-April 2019

Hi there. I’m Jen. This is Remembered
Reads. And this is going to be a wrap-up of the poetry that I read in the first
half of April of 2019. April is National Poetry Month in Canada, I think also in
the United States, and as such I thought I’d pick up a little bit more poetry
than I normally read. And the first thing that I picked up was Inhaling the
Silence by Anna Yin. This is a collection that doesn’t have a single overarching
theme, although I suppose one could say that it looks at the day-to-day. I liked
a lot of the poetry in here. Although now, because I read this at the beginning of
the month, it hasn’t really stuck with me
particularly. But I did think a lot of these were lovely. One pairing that I
liked in particular was titled March’s Rainy Curtain, which is talking
about the West Lake, which is in southern China. Roam with me towards the west lake,
upon the warm breeze within a night, the banks turn green, through slanted eaves
crisp bird calls, and golden sun rays beamed down on my river, flowing home and
so on. So very nature-y. And then directly opposite that on the page is a
poem called the Day Goes By which talks about walking from Union Station to the
distillery district which is along Lake Ontario.
So I’ll read part of that to you. Waiting at Union Station, clock ticks ponds line
up, mind floating at the Mill Street Brewery, desert for free. Dashing steps,
train passing, home elsewhere, the veiled moon tonight upon Lake Ontario. So I
thought it was funny that we got the two lake poems face to face. And I don’t know
if they’re ordered like that intentionally, but I like that those were
paired together. There’s a lot of stylistic and form differences in here
there there’s a lot of free verse, there’s a sonnet, there are a
lot of pieces that are written to particular poets generally to either
Canadian or Chinese poets. The next book that I picked up was
Beautiful Mutants by Adam Pottle. He’s the same author who wrote the
novella The Bus that I discussed in my last wrap-up. This is a really
interesting collection of poems in that most of the poems are parts of series
that deal with a specific topic but they are for the most part woven in between
each other. Which does an interesting thing, because I think a lot of poets
will create a collection that has distinct chapter sections where the
series of poetry run in order. But seeing them into woven like this was a little
more interesting and occasionally surprising. Because you occasionally go into something
thinking this is a standalone piece and then it is not. It’s part of something
else. I think the most powerful part of this was the section that is titled the
Alberta Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives, and the parts that are
tied into that. Which is dealing with an institution in Alberta where a lot of
people were forcibly detained but also forcibly sterilized,
which resulted in lawsuits that had some publicity when that went through. A lot
of the publicity was for a particular former inmate / patient who was
described in her records as having an average IQ. It’s kind of a reminder of
how people think about the abilities and the level of agency of people with
developmental disabilities that there was such a focus on this quote-unquote
normal woman going through this, Whereas of course it’s horrible for everyone not
just the quote/unquote normal woman. And bits of that’s the section that deals
with that, combined very simple children’s rhyme type pieces, with
freeform poetry, and also some found poetry through court statements. Which I
thought was really interesting. Interwoven with that is another series
of poems part of which is called Deaf Speech, which is basically the narrator
character, essentially a person meditating on their experience of
hearing, being hard of hearing, speech & elements of speech. I think that part
gets painted as being autobiographical poetry just because Adam Pottle is
himself deaf but he has written a memoir and it’s pretty clear that the stuff
that the poems in here are not really as memoir-ish as I think a lot of people who
reviewed it have implied. And I think that’s maybe a
little bit iffy that the assumption has to be that if you were a deaf person
writing about a deaf character it must be about you. I thought that was kind of
interesting on a external level. There are also two series of poems in here
that are essentially stories. They’re both prose poetry. One of which is about
a character who is shot during a drug deal gone wrong in Vancouver and becomes
a paraplegic, and ends up working in a call center. And we get his stories
interwoven amidst the Deaf speech story and also the story of a teenager who has
just lost a leg and gets involved in online fetish forums. And because all
three of those are interwoven together, it makes you pay attention to it a
little bit more, to kind of remember who are we discussing at this point, or who
are we thinking about at this point. And there are additionally some other pieces
in here that are inter wolven with the stories. I thought the interweaving of
the different narrative poems was really compelling and I thought it worked. I
know there are some people who feel like prose poetry is “cheating”. I think being
overly impressed by the difficulty of creating works in a particular form is
dismissive of what prose poetry can do. If you if you feel compelled to define
poetry as needing to fall within really specific parameters I think that’s
really limiting what you can read and enjoy. Unfortunately, because so much
of this is is essentially storytelling I’m reluctant to read any selections out
of this because I don’t think it works in isolation the way more traditional
poetry, where the poems exist as individual pieces. I think if you are a
fan of storytelling, of narrative poetry, of prose poetry, or if you were a fan of
Pottle’s non-poetry work, I would definitely suggest picking that up,
because I thought it was very good. And finally I read Michael lists as the
Scarborough which without the framework that it’s sold on would be a really
compelling collection of mixed classic and early 90s pop culture elements being
mashed together. Unfortunately the framework makes the
content feel unearned and a little cheap. You can see the skull in
the videotape on here, what the back copy said and the way the author discussed
this collection in interviews – so it’s not simply the publisher marketed it
this way he definitely sold it this way himself – is that this is a loss of
innocence story based on the fact that the serial killers Paul Bernardo and
Karla Homolka murdered one of their victims over the Easter weekend in 1992.
So that’s the framework of this. And we get two poems that touch on that. There
is one poem where we have the narrator character who is presumably mostly the
voice of the author – who is a nine year old in 1992 – and hears something about a
missing girl on the radio. And then later we get a piece that’s set in more or
less the current day, where he’s an adult and is pretending to house hunt but is
actually taking pictures of what was the crime scene, the house that where that
happened no longer exists it’s been torn down, and he’s caught by a neighbor
being voyeuristic who basically knows that that’s what he’s doing. However most
of the poems in here aren’t that. They really are kind of a nine year olds view
of life in the early 90s in the GTA. Without the bigger framework, I would
have thought a lot of that was really interesting.
A lot of the poems have bits of things there’s a poem called Gold Nissan that
has part of the Fresh Prince of bel-air theme song in the middle of it. Some of
them are entirely bits of other things. There is a poem in here that’s called
Purgatory – if you are from southern Ontario and you listened to radio or
television ads in the early 90s, you will recognize that the entire poem is, I mean
this is found poetry, it’s the Marineland jingle. Yeah,
that’s it it’s all four verses of the jingle, but it’s called purgatory now. I
know some people think that’s cheap, I was somewhat charmed by that. I thought
it was hilarious. I mean there’s a poem called today’s special that is a
description of the credits sequence of the kids TV series that used to be on TV
Oh throughout the 80s and I suppose early 90s – it just describes the
credits sequence. There’s a poem called Super Mario
Brothers 3: A sickle of young grass beneath his hoof, how else would he love
what isn’t his himself, walking at night down Beatrice, I get a note from the
abducted princess, it’s about ghosts, if you see any ghosts be careful, the castle
where her hosts detain her is haunted, the stars are bare, and won’t drop super
leaves into the air, that could transubstantiate Italians into flying
raccoons, if not stallions. I think it’s hilarious. But even though that’s fun,
it doesn’t earn the whole. If this was just a book of essentially reminiscences,
even with the same setting of Easter 1992, even with the two references that
it does have to the murder, I think that would be it would have been
a lot more entertaining. But because it has this framework hanging over it that
doesn’t feel earned, it just feels cheap. The packaging of it felt cheap. Which for
a lot of poetry that could have otherwise been really amusing. I think
it’s kind of disappointing. So I didn’t even bother rating that on Goodreads
because the content was funny but it’s clearly not meant to be funny. It’s
packaged in this very grave way and it doesn’t feel like any
of that is earned. So it was disappointing just because I thought
this was interesting stuff and fun stuff but packaged in such a way that it felt
cheap. In any case, that’s the poetry that I’ve read so far this month. I have a few
more collections out of the library that I’ll be getting to later this month
hopefully. Have you been reading any poetry for National Poetry Month? And if
so, have you been enjoying it? I’d love to hear who you’ve read. And if you’ve read
any of these, I’d love to hear what you thought of them. That’s it for now. Ciao.

8 thoughts on “National Poetry Month Wrap-Up | Mid-April 2019

  1. I just read a poetry collection by the Jamaican British Poet Raymond Antrobus, called Perseverance. He’s also a deaf poet. It was a really powerful debut. Thanks for the recommendations! 😊

  2. You are the first booktuber that I follow that has discussed poetry for this month. I love National Poetry Month, and I am reading my second collection right now. Great video. I will look into a couple of these.

  3. Hello Jen, I didn't realise that it was National Poetry Month in Canada when I planned to read The Law of the Yukon by Robert W. Service on my channel on this weeks Sunday Morning Meet-Up.

  4. Happy Poetry Month Jen!  I enjoyed your discussion very much,and being introduced to some new poets.  I have always had a problem with prose poems because to me they seem to be more or less short stories in disguise, although I am not saying that they can't be brilliant if properly done.  Thanks Jen, have a good weekend.

  5. I had no idea it was National Poetry Month! That's really too bad about the framework for The Scarborough, but man…having something to the Marineland jingle that's really wild. And Today's Special, wow, that's so funny ! I was recently wondering if that was an Canadian or Ontario thing. Wild. I've been reading some Yeats recently , but sadly not loving it. Maybe I will have to pick up something else before the end of the month!

  6. I've been reading Langston Hughes! Really enjoying him! Technically it's one book with poetry from several of his collections, so maybe I've read as many poetry books as you have? ;). Hope you enjoy the rest of your collection!

  7. Great that you were reading so much poetry for April. 🙂 Beautiful Mutants ended up on my wishlist. It sounds really interesting!

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