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[personal profile] yatima
I read this on the recommendation of the great Roxane Gay. Like everything she recommends, it's excellent.

grant me a few free hours each day. Grant me a Moleskine pad & a ballpoint pen with some mass. Grant me your gift of this voice. Pages & pages of this voice, in a good book from a loving press. & grant me a great love, too. Grant a way to provide for my love. Like, a tenure-track job at a small college in the Midwest.

Wicker draws the reader in with this likable, conversational-confessional frankness. His project isn't to emphasize our shared experience, though. It's to draw attention to the cracks.

The danger in consuming the Grey Poupon is believing that you, too, can be a first-generation member of the elite, turning your nose up at soul music, simple joy, fried foods, casual Fridays—essentially everything I’m made of.

Under late capitalism, we are all subject to precarity, but no one more so than a black man in a police state. Wicker challenges us not to look away.

What’s the use in playing it like everything’s going to be OK for me in the event of mortal catastrophe

Grant this guy tenure, and bulletproof skin.
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[personal profile] glinda
I started doing this challenge at the start of the year and I'm delighted to see that this comm has woken up again. I don't generally make it to 50 books in any given year, so I don't expect to finish the challenge this year. My target for this year is to make it to 25 books read for the challenge. I'm currently on my 11th book so hopefully the comm having woken up will inspire me to get reading! (Just writing this post caused me to grab another book of poetry from my shelf and read it so I could include it here.)

I've read a few books of poetry for the challenge (largely because I also set myself the challenge to read 10 books of poetry this year, I've got to 7 so far) so I thought that would make for a good theme to gather together some mini-reviews.

2. Off-Colour - Jackie Kay )
3. Talking Turkeys - Benjamin Zephaniah )
7. Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known - Wole Soyinka )
10.A Silence You Can Carry - Hibaq Osman )
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[personal profile] yatima
Believe the hype. This is the best book of poetry I have read in years, dense with precisely described emotion. It reminded me of the first time I read Plath's Ariel:

a piano—but a mare
draped in a black sheet. White mouth
sticking out like a fist. I kneel
at my beast. The sheet sunken
at her ribs.

A side-note: in my Honours English class back in nineteen ninety-mumble, our great professor Bruce Gardiner wasted most of a tutorial trying to get me and the rest of my virginal cohort to understand Yeats "The Song of the Wandering Aengus" as the poet going outside at night for a wank. One of Vuong's poems here is helpfully titled "Ode to Masturbation," which should save many graduate student hours.
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[personal profile] yatima
"Welcome to the Middle-Aged Orphans Club," writes Sherman Alexie, and as a middle-aged orphan myself, I did feel welcome, and seen, and understood. In July, Alexie cancelled part of his book tour because of complicated grief and being haunted by his late mother: "I don’t believe in ghosts," he writes. "But I see them all the time." Me too, brother.

Like Bad Indians, this is an intricate quilt of a book, part memoir, part poem, part dream. It's hard to imagine how it could be otherwise. The loss of a parent is a loss of meaning. For indigenous people, this is doubly true. Lillian Alexie was one of the last fluent speakers of Salish. Her death robs her son, and the world, of an entire universe.

This book, like Hawking radiation, is an almost-undetectable glow of meaning escaping from a black hole. If you haven't lost a parent yet it might be too much to bear, but if you have, it might feel like joining a group of survivors around a campfire after a catastrophe.

IN AUGUST 2015, as a huge forest fire burned on my reservation, as it burned within feet of the abandoned uranium mine, the United States government sent a representative to conduct a town hall to address the growing concerns and fears. My sister texted me the play-by-play of the meeting. “OMG!” she texted. “The government guy just said the USA doesn’t believe the forest fire presents a serious danger to the Spokane Indian community, even if the fire burns right through the uranium mine.”

...“Is the air okay?” I texted. “It hurts a little to breathe,” my sister texted back. “But we’re okay.” Jesus, I thought, is there a better and more succinct definition of grief than It hurts a little to breathe, but we’re okay?
dorothean: detail of painting of Gandalf, Frodo, and Gimli at the Gates of Moria, trying to figure out how to open them (Default)
[personal profile] dorothean
One of the people Barbara Neely thanks at the beginning of Blanche Among the Talented Tenth is hattie gossett, which reminded me that I hadn't read presenting... sister no blues for a while.

I love this collection of poems so much that I get kind of incoherent trying to explain myself, so this is the best I could do for a Goodreads review.

But I thought for this community I would do something different.

gossett introduces each of the four sections of this book with some song lyrics, most of which I wasn't familiar with. I have been able to find youtube videos for most of them and so here's the sister noblues playlist! I've added the song title and link but the section titles and lyrics are as they appear in the book. I think I'll be buying some of these albums next...


won't you stop and take a little time out with me?
just take 5.
just take 5.
stop your busy day and take the time out to see.

- carmen mcrae, take five

I'm a travellin woman
I got a travelling mind.
I'm gonna buy me a ticket
an ease on down the line.

- clara smith, freight train blues (this video of somebody's victrola is all I could find. hattie gossett credits a 1980 album called women's railroad blues)

they say to keep on smilin
when trouble comes in twos
rich folks say to keep on smilin
but poor folks pay the dues

- abbey lincoln/aminata mosaka, in the red. not on youtube now; from her 1961 album straight ahead


mr. backlash, mr. backlash
who do you think I am?
raise my taxes
freeze my wages
and send my son to Vietnam.

- nina simone, backlash blues

the blues are created by the men folk
especially on friday when the eagle flies
and they don't want to give up the money to pay them folks
for them televisions and stereos and thangs
when they git it on friday they want to put it in their pockets and walk around with it.
makes em feel important.
and you know if you ask em about it they may talke to you real real bad.
lock you in the basement for a week for even reminding him he's got bills.
but I got a little song that I always sing cuz it keeps it in my thinking that one money don't stop no show.
he may it slow it down for a minute for a minute
but never ever stop it.
cuz you see
the show must go on.

- esther phillips, I'm gettin' 'long alright. not on youtube now; from her 1970 live album burnin'

you're in trouble
can't you see?
baby you ain't fooling me
with your smooth talk.

- evelyn champagne king, smooth talk


how I made it over
coming on over
all these years.
you know my soul looks back in wonder:
how did I make it over?

- mahalia jackson, how I got over

you never git nothing by bein an angel child.
you better change yo ways and get real wild.
I'm gonna tell you something, wouldn't tell you no lie.
wild women are the only kind that ever git by.
wild women don't have to worry, they don't have no blues.

- ida cox, wild women don't have the blues (to 1:27)

I got a lot
a lot of what I got
and what I got is
all mine.

- ethel sweet mama stringbean waters, come up and see me sometime

no more pleadin.
no more cryin.
cuz I believe that I do hold up half the sky.

- linda tillery, freedom time

in a special kind of womanly way.

- linda tillery, womanly way. not on youtube now; from her 1977 self-titled album


just pick up your paper
turn on your tv.

- roberta flack, trying times. not on youtube now; from her 1969 album first take

there's no savior
in the struggle
for freedom time.

- linda tillery, freedom time again

I know we can make it.
I know we can work it out.
if we wanna
yes we can can.

- the pointer sisters, yes we can

pharaoh's army
all of them men got drowned in the sea one day.
oh yes they did.

- aretha franklin, mary don't you weep

straight ahead
the road is winding.

- abbey lincoln aminata mosaka, straight ahead
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
16. I read I Speak for the Devil by Imtiaz Dharker. Her poetry tends to confessional style, which I usually dislike, but Dharker uses that style to speak for herself and her characters so skillfully that I enjoyed this collection throughout. The language and structures are deceptively simple but manage to convey complexities and deeper meanings. The whole collection is complemented by Dharker's own illustrations, which highlight her interest in bodies and embodiments. I offer you two samples: the more intellectually representative poem and the more sensually typical poem.

Tags: british, scottish, islam, muslim, calvinist, british-asian, poetry
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
13. The Young Inferno by John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura is a verse retelling of Dante's Inferno embedded in a picture book. I liked Kitamura's stark, black and white, art style but in the art-as-storytelling stakes it seemed to me to lack variety. It also clashed with one of the text's spelled out messages: "My teacher said, 'You've got a point. Quite right. / It just shows that neither beast nor man / can be divided into black and white.' " Except this is a black and white book in several senses. Agard's verse text didn't work for me as either narrative or poetry. (Note to self: don't read retellings of Christian morality stories unless they're specifically subversive in some way.) However, I'm probably about as far from the target audience of hoodie-clad schoolboys as it's possible to be so who cares about my opinion anyway? I just hope this isn't picked up from the teen, graphic novel, section of the library by a reluctant reader who is consequently discouraged further. Agard writes good poetry but this isn't it. Kitamura's first and second illustrations are both interesting as art, especially the way Our Hero is represented as a negative (in the photographic sense) of himself, but the only illustration which wholly won me over is the fossil landscape in illo 4.

14. Too Black, Too Strong by Benjamin Zephaniah is an extremely powerful collection of individually skillful and soulful poems. Ben is one of the most humane people I've met and it shows through in every word of his work. Most people know him as a Rastafarian lyricist who wrote that "funny" poem about turkeys and Christmas, and maybe as that political poet who refused to accept the Order of the British Empire he was awarded, or that black British man who was bereaved of a family member by police violence (although that describes too many people), but his work is so much more: witty, political, memorial, deeply spiritual, widely literary, and linguistically sophisticated. There are several example poems at my dw journal.

15. Fiere* by Jackie Kay is her latest, 2011, poetry collection. I've loved Kay's writing since the first time I encountered it, years ago. Amongst other forms, she's an extremely accomplished poet in both Scots** and English. Kay's poems aren't generally confessional (in the strictest literary sense of that word) but they do contain enough autobiography that I feel some minimum background aids understanding, and that's provided in the brief blurb on the back. Kay is multiracial, her mother was a Scottish Highlander and her father was a Nigerian Igbo. She was born in Edinburgh and raised by white Scottish adoptive parents. There are two example poems, the ecstasy and the agony of human relationships, at my dw journal.

* "fiere", Scots, meaning "companion/friend/equal"
** Scots, which is primarily related to English, not Scottish Gaelic which is a different language.

Tags: women writers, african-caribbean, black british, britain, british, british-african-caribbean, caribbean, black scottish, scottish, guyanese, poetry, japanese, biracial, multiracial, children's books, sf/fantasy, fiction, guyanese-british, igbo, young adult
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
11. Selected Poems by Mimi Khalvati is a selection from three previous books, which I enjoyed cos, although her poetry tends to be allusive (and so I missed some of the meaning), Khalvati's use of language is like listening to music. Two example poems, which I found particularly pleasing for various reasons, at my dw journal.

Disclaimer (also for the tag wranglers): I have no idea whether Mimi Khalvati herself, whose online autobiography is sparse, would identify as non-white and/or Iranian (or how the word "Persian" might or might not be a label of choice for some ex-pat Iranians). She certainly writes about non-Eurocentric concerns.

12. Startling the Flying Fish by Grace Nichols is a sequence of poems about Caribbean life and history. For me every word was powerful. It's outstandingly the best contemporary poetry I've read for years. The blurb perfectly describes this work as "symphonic". I wasn't sure whether to post an example poem or not because, even though all these poems are excellent as stand-alones, they belong in the context of the whole, which is more than the sum of its parts (but I caved anyway and posted two examples on my dw journal). If you're interested in contemporary poetry or the Caribbean then you should read this book. I strongly recommend it. Nichols is an author with plenty of published work too so if you like this then there's plenty more (and she writes for children too).

Tags: women writers, poetry, iran, britain, british-iranian, iranian, guyanese, british, guyanese-british, african-caribbean, british-african-caribbean, black british, caribbean
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
6, 7, & 8. Three poetry collections by Moniza Alvi: Carrying My Wife, A Bowl of Warm Air, and The Country At My Shoulder (all three collections are available together in an omnibus also called "Carrying My Wife"). I have to admit, out of about 150 poems, there were three that did anything for me. I mostly found the expression of content incomprehensible, possibly due to the author reaching for innovative imagery, and the aesthetics of form uninteresting, but she's a comparatively popular mainstream Establishment poet so my judgement is extremely questionable (and I haven't heard her read her own work live). There are two of the poems, which did speak to me, at my dw journal.

9. The Redbeck* Anthology of British South Asian Poetry, edited by Debjani Chatterjee, is a nearly 200 page collection with a wide variety of content and style, which I enjoyed. There are two example poems at my dw journal and a third example poem but, of course, three poems can't reflect the breadth (or depth) of this anthology.

* I keep misreading it as "Redneck". ::facepalm::

10. The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan didn't appeal to me visually as much as the previous Tan books I've perused but the gist, that it's more important to be happy than to fit in, is another good theme, especially for kids.

Note to tag wranglers: "british-asian" and/or "british-south-asian" is correct usage and, yes, some of the authors (and/or their subjects) are also caribbean / african / &c.

Tags: women writers, poetry, anthologies, asian, british-asian, pakistan, britain, british, caribbean, african, bangladesh, india, indian, indian-british, pakistani, bangladeshi, pakistani-british, bangladeshi-british, british-south-asian, asian-australian, australian, chinese-australian, picture books
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
4. I read Chinua Achebe's Collected Poems. I felt as if I'm not the intended audience for the majority of these poems. I'm not "African"/Nigerian/Igbo. Only a handful of the poems, mostly early "Biafra" poems, seemed aimed at me and my level of understanding. Instead I felt the great privilege of being invited into someone else's conversation as a listening party. So I read and allowed the poems to sink into my mind without flailing about for full understanding, which I find is often a productive way to interact with poetry.

Achebe's 1960s idea of "Africa" and "African" seemed, to me, to be very much a product of its time. Achebe's work also, I thought, began by speaking from Africa/Biafra/Igboland and moved into speaking about Nigeria/Igboland. But in such a brief collection, with free-standing poems communicating on their own internal merits, it's probably foolish of me to try reading conclusions into the work, and also highlights my position as an outsider who is detached from the central conversation Achebe is involved in.

Excerpt from Knowing Robs Us

[...] had reason not given us
assurance that day will daily break
and the sun's array return to disarm
night's fantastic figurations -
each daybreak
would be garlanded at the city gate
and escorted with royal drums
to a stupendous festival
of an amazed world.

There are a sample Chinua Achebe poem, and related art by Chaz Maviyane-Davies, at my dw journal.

Tags: africa, african, igbo, nigerian, poetry
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
1. Bloodshot Monochrome by Patience Agbabi, is a pleasingly varied contemporary poetry collection with a strong emphasis on reinventing traditional printed-poem forms, especially in the sonnet sequence Problem Pages. I posted a sample poem and a video link at my dw journal.

Author bio: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth163

2. The Red Tree by Shaun Tan, is a picture book full of complex and surreal images. The verbal story is minimal but effective, the art is stunning. I can't explain but I recommend you read this or one of Tan's other equally brilliant works such as Tales From Outer Suburbia, The Lost Thing, or The Arrival (no words at all)... or...

3. Eric by Shaun Tan, is a very short picture book with drawings in a deceptively simple style. Their meanings, and Eric's story, may be puzzled out by would-be readers here: Eric by Shaun Tan @ The Grauniad. It's only 12 pages and FREE TO READ (but Mr Tan got paid)! :-)

Author's website: http://www.shauntan.net/

Tags: women writers, poetry, asian-australian, british, picture books, black british, australian, chinese-australian
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
2.9 Ranters, Ravers and Rhymers: Poems by Black and Asian Poets, Ed. Farrukh Dhondy (1990)

The collection is divided into sections - Black Britain, the Caribbean, India and Africa. There are recurring themes - identity and power in society.

I liked the collection in some ways, but I found it frustrating. It was clearly designed as a introduction - Dhondy says he aimed it at teenagers. But it lacks basic information that an introductory text needs - the date of publication of the poems, some information about the poets, maybe some annotations because there are references to political events of the 1970s and 80s that I have no idea about.

I also struggled with some of the dialect poems, especially the Caribbean ones. I found the Indian section easier as they are written in standard English. My eye just flows along the lines rather than having to puzzle out what each word means, leading to a very disjointed reading experience.

Naturally, the issue of language is one that the poets address. Eunice De Souza says in "Encounter at a London Party":

You are young and perhaps forgetful
that the Empire lives
only in the pure vowel sounds I offer you
above the din.
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
Countee Cullen, Color (1925)

Cullen was a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance (and, cough, the only author from that period I have read).* I enjoyed his work - he is clearly a fairly traditional writer. His poetry rhymes, follows classical traditions and references classical and Biblical mythology. He was writing three years after *The Wasteland* came out, but might as well have been writing in the nineteenth century.

Cullen himself said: ‘I should be the last person to vote for any infringement of the author’s right to tell a story, to delineate a character, or to transcribe an emotion in his own way, and in the light of truth as he sees it... I do believe, however, that the Negro has not yet built up a large enough body of sound, healthy literature to permit him to speculate in abortions and aberrations which other people are too prone to accept as legitimate...’

* Not my Renaissance! The Renaissance for Aboriginal literature was probably... um, is probably now.
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
My last book in the 50 books by POC challenge! It took me 2 years to do, I think. Or possibly 3 actually, though it was definitely an August that I started.

So, my review of Maya Angelou...

Read more... )
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[identity profile] hapex-legomena.livejournal.com
So Black History Month is almost at an end; have 50 African-American poet as presented by The Vintage Book of African-American Poetry edited by Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton.

In alphabetical order:

long list of poets. with links! )

[all links go to public domain works - the ones that I could find anyway]

If you look at the list of writers you may notice that the editor, Michael S. Harper included himself in his own anthology, which I think is kind of suspect, but I guess that's what co-editors are for.

I was going to write about every individual writer, but, yeah, no. Too lazy; don't feel like it. Also, it's a lot harder tracking down public domain works on the big wide internets than I thought it would, or think it should. Seriously, if the book was originally published in 1910, I don't google books or whoever pointing me to amazon. Just give me the text JFC.

It's was a good anthology. Not an excellent anthology, but a good one. The editorial inserts were informative, if sometimes annoying. (One of the editor's and I have a slight difference of opinion on the use of dialect in poetry.) By choosing the poets that they did, the editor's try to the diversity of style and identity that falls under the term "African-American poetry" and they also attempt to show growth over time.

Two poems that got me:

White Lady by Lucille Clifton (recently passed, may she rest in peace)

AKA my new go-to poem to explain why White Women's Syndrome and the trope of the Nice White Lady does not give me the warm and fuzzies.

On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd and join th'angelic train.

This poem is so sad. The woman named Phillis Wheatley received the name Wheatley from her owner
and the name Phillis from the slave ship she was brought to America. She lived a hard and short life. And here is this poem pleading for "Negros, black as Cain" to be seen human.

Those two were downers. Here, have a happier one:

Dawn by Paul Laurence Dunbar

An angel, robed in spotless white,
Bent down and kissed the sleeping Night.
Night woke to blush; the sprite was gone.
Men saw the blush and called it Dawn.

This entry was originally posted at Dreamwidth. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
My [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc year ends on January 31, and although I have still been reading, I've gotten slack with posting reviews. So here's an 8-book catchup post.

#40 - Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jill Tamaki Read more... )

#41 - Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan Read more... )

#42 - Papunya School Book of History and Country by the Papunya School community Read more... )

#43 - Kampung Boy, by Lat Read more... )

#44 - Not Meeting Mr Right, by Anita Heiss Read more... )

#45 - The Wheel of Surya, by Jamila Gavin Read more... )

#46 - Swallow the Air, by Tara June Winch Read more... )

#47 - Love poems and other revolutionary actions, by Roberta (Bobbi) Sykes Read more... )
[identity profile] puritybrown.livejournal.com
21: On Two Shores by Mutsuo Takahashi (English tr. Mistuko Ohno & Frank Sewell)

This is a bilingual edition of new and selected poems by Takahashi, a distinguished Japanese poet who uses both modern and traditional forms. I was especially interested in this volume because it's published by an Irish publisher, Dedalus, and some of the poems were inspired by the poet's visit to Ireland in 1999, where, according to the introduction (and the poem "Faith"), he rediscovered his faith in poetry and in the future.

As an Irish reader, I found the Ireland-inspired poems in this collection intensely moving -- I'm used to seeing the pictures of Ireland reflected through outsiders' eyes and not recognising it, whether the picture is positive or negative; but Takahashi's Ireland, an Ireland of poets and abandoned railway stations and urban foxes, is familiar to me, and strange at the same time, like a photograph taken from an atypical angle.

There are earlier poems in this collection too, and they show the same insight and the same gift at capturing a moment in an image as the Ireland poems; but they betray a sense of fear, and in particular a fear of time, as in "The Letter":

I am writing a letter
addressed to you.
as I write,
you who will read the letter
don't exist yet;
and when you read the letter,
I who wrote it
won't exist anymore.
A letter suspended
between someone who doesn't exist yet
and someone who doesn't exist anymore --
does it really exist?

(I have trouble writing about poetry; I always feel my words are too clumsy for it. I really liked this book.)
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[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Title: War Dances
Author: Sherman Alexie
Number of Pages: 256 pages
My Rating: 2.5/5

This is a collection of short stories and poems linked mainly by the fact that they're about whiny guys. I don't know. I did like a couple of the stories (especially the last one, Salt, and the title story), but the ones that left a bad taste in my mouth really left a bad taste in my mouth and kind of overpower all the rest. The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless was just gross, and I get that he was supposed to be a gross asshat guy, but I don't really need to read a story about a guy who's just wallowing in his assholishness while going "wah, wah, poor me", you know? I could go anywhere on the internet and find a million of them.

Added to that the fact that I'm not a big fan of poetry and these poems didn't do anything to change my mind, and that the writing itself wasn't that great, this was just really not the book for me. I'm glad this wasn't the first thing of his I ever read, otherwise I'd probably write him off and never read anything of his again.


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