Title: The Road Between Author: Courtney Peppernell Type: Poetry Length: 288 pages (pretty long for a poetry book) Published by: Andrew McMeel Publishing Pub date: August 29th, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I read the synopsis for Courtney Peppernell’s The Road Between, I couldn’t wait to start reading it (plus I love that cover!!). A collection broken into eight parts (the cave, the closet, the sky, the sea, the roads, the mountains, the fields, the home), I expected a book of self-discovery and love through small moments in life. I expected something subtle and nuanced, as self-discovery so often is. I expected to love and connect with this collection of poetry.Read More »
Title: The Hour Wasp Author: Jay Sheets Type: Poetry Length: 88 pages Published by: April Gloaming Publishing Pub date: May 28th, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Tremulous Hinge Author: Adam Giannelli Type: Poetry Length: 90 pages Published by: University of Iowa Press Pub date: April 15th, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Filthy Labors Author: Lauren Marie Schmidt Type: Poetry Length: 104 pages Published by: Northwestern University Press Pub Date: Apr 15, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
The short version: If you only read one book of poetry this year, let it be this one. As someone who loves poetry, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was beautifully written, and provides incredible insight to those who feel most forgotten in the course of humanity.
The long version: Let me first say, I am in awe of this book. The last poetry book that I read, I finished in a day. It was a quick, easy read that left me feeling pretty good about myself afterward. But Lauren Schmidt’s Filthy Labors, with its poems on family, religion, and the Haven House for Women and Children, didn’t allow me to do that.
Despite the fact that this book had less than a hundred pages of poetry, it took me four days to read it. It wasn’t that it was difficult to read or unenjoyable. The reason I read so much slower than usual was because so many of the poems were so beautifully written, that I was afraid of reading this book too fast; I didn’t want any of the poems to get lost amidst the rest.
When I say these poems are some of the most well-written poems I’ve read, there’s a lot that comes into play. Each section of poetry is prefaced by a quote from Walt Whitman, which sets up the perfect framework for the following poems. The lines are full of musicality and lyricism; there’s so much rhythm and internal rhyme and assonance that I actually had to read many of them out loud, because I just wanted so desperately to hear them instead of just read them. The structure of the poems is involved, too. There’s a healthy balance between free-form poems and poems that are more traditionally structured; you’ll see a smattering of villanelles, pantoums, and other poem formats. Line and stanza breaks are in the perfect places to imply double meanings, or to set the speed and tone of the poem. Even the order in which the poems are printed worked its magic on me, pushing me to read more right up to the end.
Despite how amazingly well-written these poems are, this is not a book to read if you’re looking for something that will allow you to sit there and feel good about yourself afterward. This is much more a call to action and, at the very least, contemplation. Schmidt doesn’t come across as preachy or judgmental, but in her explorations of her own dealings with family members and other people in her life, she challenges her readers to question how they themselves have treated and thought about their fellow humans. (There were several times when I was just sitting there thinking something like, “I can’t believe you would say that about your own grandfa– Listen, I may have thought it before, but YOU’RE the one who wrote it down and published it!!” But, of course, that’s pretty much what she’s getting at.) She also questions why we sometimes think of helping others as a sort of filthy chore, and what we are doing to change those thoughts.
Long story short, this was an amazing collection of poetry, and I can’t wait for its publication date so I can buy a hardcopy to keep on my poetry shelf. If you have any interest in reading poetry, I would definitely find a copy of Filthy Labors for yourself!
Overall, I gave Filthy Labors 5 stars:
Thanks for reading! If you plan on reading this book, let me know why, or, if you’ve already read it, let me know what you think in the comments below!
Title: the princess saves herself in this one Author: Amanda Lovelace Type: Poetry Length: 208 pages Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing Pub Date: First published April 23, 2016. Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
The short version: If you like poetry, read this book. Many of the poems were ones that would be covered in red had I handed them in to my poetry professors, but I still loved these poems, and as subjective as it is, I feel a little more myself after having read them.Read More »
Title: With Paper for Feet Author: Jennifer A. McGowan Type: Poetry Length: 96 pages Published by: Arachne Press Pub date: Feb 23, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The short version: If you enjoy poetic re-imaginings of folklore, Shakespeare, and religion, I would recommend this book.
The long version: Jennifer McGowan’s With Paper for Feet challenges the way we have viewed people, specifically women, in our stories, religion, and history. Broken up into five sections, this book deals with women in folklore, Greek mythology, Shakesperean plays, history, and Christianity. In short, this was a book that I really, really wanted to love.
Instead, I didn’t really know how to rate this book. It was difficult for me to read it all the way through to the end, but not because of poor writing.
The poems in this collection are actually pretty well-written; there is a lot of musicality within each line, so that the poems themselves are easy to read and enjoyable. I appreciated the way the sections were broken up by context; a section for folklore, one for Shakespeare, one for religion, etc. I think, more than anything else, I loved the feminine re-imaginings of traditionally male perspectives; the re-writings of Helen of Troy and Lady Macbeth were among my favorites.
That being said, I had a difficult time finishing the whole book. You could probably say my biggest issue stemmed from myself: I didn’t know where about a third of the references came from. I would have a rough idea of, “Yeah, this is Shakespeare,” or “I’m pretty sure this has something to do with Greek mythology,” but there were so many times when I had to stop reading so I could look up who I was even reading about, it took a lot of the fun out of it for me. There were so many that I had to look up that I finally just gave up and hoped for the best without the context. Which is unfortunate, because, with a lot of the poems, they lose a lot of significance if you don’t understand their context. I would have loved to see some epigraphs or something with some of the poems just to help situate the reader with the speaker. Make it possible for me to still enjoy the poem, and then sate my curiosity later.
A perfect place for context would have been at the division between the sections, which, at the risk of sounding petty, is one place I was hoping for more creativity. Instead of just “With Paper for Feet: Section Three,” I was expecting something like “Section Three: With Ink for Ears” (I’m bad at this, I know) or anything other than a robotic “Section Three” to signal we were changing perspectives, and to help situate us in that new perspective.
Long story short, this book is full of some great poems! It didn’t work well for me, but if you know a lot of literary women (or are willing to put in the time to do some research), I would definitely recommend this book.
Title: Neon Soul Author: Alexandra Elle Type:Poetry Length: 162 pages Publishedby: Andrews McMeelPublishing Pub Date: March 21, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Short Version: I was not a fan. It might be okay if you’ve never read poetry before, but if you’re already acquainted with the genre, I’d look for something else.
In her forward for this collection, Alexandra Elle explains, “Truthfully, sometimes I worry that I can’t grab onto my colors because I’m not broken anymore. There’s a lingering fear that being whole threatens my creative voice.” This collection is an exploration of whether being whole, in fact, improves her life and voice, instead of diminishing them.
In my view, poetry should deal with abstract topics through concrete means. There were a few great poems with a few great lines that actually did this. One of my favorites was in “sixteen-year-old self,” where, when talking about love, the speaker says, “love does not require/you to misplace your map or directions/or identity–/it is not permission to lose your way home.” I loved lines and poems like this because, while I am not a huge fan of any sort of love poetry, it presented love in a unique way and let us view love through the very real and relatable sensory feelings of maps and being lost. If all of her poems had been like this, Neon Soul would have easily been at least four stars.
Unfortunately, they were not. Out of 143 pages of poetry, I liked about 30. At the risk of seeming insensitive, the rest seemed like angsty-teenage Facebook posts. To me, a poet’s job is to take a feeling we’ve experienced, and put it into words we never had to describe that feeling, so that when you read it, you kind of go, “YES! That is what I was feeling, but I never knew how to describe it until now.” That doesn’t happen often in this collection.
At one point, a page is dedicated to a poem where the entire poem is just, “there will be many–/or maybe a few…/who won’t ever love you./ and then there will be one/who will.” That was the entire poem. And I just wanted to shout “I KNOW THAT!! I could’ve written that! Explain it to me with words and images I wouldn’t see or use myself!” The only way I know how to describe it is to say that I can’t start asking questions about the stars until I have seen the night. You can’t expect me to go along on an emotional exploration of love until you give me a sensory explanation of it. Because most of the poems were like this, I couldn’t really get into it, and couldn’t bring myself to give this book higher rating.
The end of this book had several poetry prompts, so if you are looking for your very first book to get you into reading or writing poetry, I could understand choosing this one. But if you’re someone who is already acquainted with the poetry genre, I would probably give this one a pass.