Tag: Poetry

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, by Amanda Lovelace

“i don’t consider myself
a spidery, spiteful, spitfire woman,

but if i’m never going to be whole again,
then neither are you.”

rainandabook-the-witch-doesnt-burn-this-oneThe Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. I find that title to be a powerful one – one that makes you stand up, take notice, stop what you’re doing and listen. One that shouts we’re done taking shit lying down. One that announces, we’re women, and we’re tired of being burnt at stake because our only crime is that of being women.

This is the second collection of poetry from the series Women are Some Kind of Magic by Amanda Lovelace. The first was The Princess Saves Herself in This One. The book is divided into sections with poems exploring themes such as abuse, violence, politics, periods, self-acceptance, healing and more. A lot of the poetry was hard-hitting and struck a chord with me. Let’s be honest – it struck several chords! I was highlighting furiously as I read, and one of my favorites in the collection is the poem below:

some
fathers
will
cracked
their
daughter’s
teeth
with skinned
knuckles
&
when
her lover’s
fist
comes
for her
she will
offer him
an open-lipped
smile.

“it’s just like home,”
she’ll say.

This brought a lump to my throat.

However, I do have some mixed feelings about this book, looking at it objectively through the lens of a book reviewer. I’m the last person on earth who would call herself a poetry snob or poetry purist, so let’s get that out of the way. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking that hitting Return after every word doesn’t turn a sentence into a poem. Of course, any and all rules of literature and poetry are meant to be broken, toyed with, played jump-rope with. Creative liberties are fine and a right to be exercised. But…
Every
Word
In
A
New
Line?

Maybe that’s just me. Moving on to other things, I found some of the poems to be repetitive, like they were in a similar vein, conveying similar ideas. I also felt I’d read some of it before.

My biggest grouse with the book has to be the misandry though. I know this is being promoted as a feminist book, and yes, for the most part that’s exactly what it is, and I applaud it. I’m a rather loud feminist myself, so every voice added to feminism is something I’m beyond grateful for. But there’s a thin line between feminism and misandry which I’m afraid the poet has not only crossed but justified it. I understand where she is coming from and I share the sentiment, and I also understand this volume would not have been this angry or this relevant had it not been written this way. But the chapter where misandry is justified did not sit well with me, because the answer to misogyny is not misandry. That will just skew the world in the opposite direction, but it will remain skewed. In fighting the villains, we must not become the villains.

For these reasons, while I really liked the collection, I cannot bring myself to bump it up to 4*. I’ll keep the rating at 3.5. That said, I still feel it’s a relevant book and everyone should read it. It will get you riled up enough to not let anyone treat you like a doormat. Even a certain dickhead masquerading as a President somewhere in the world.

Goodreads | Amazon

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley/Andrew McMeel Publishing. My review is honest and unbiased.

 

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The Universe of Us, by Lang Leav

We existed in a time before love.

41uk183zjdl-_sx310_bo1204203200_So, I’m back with the review of Lang Leav’s new book, as promised yesterday. I could have written this yesterday, in fact, just chose not to. The page count says 200+, but 1) every alternate page is blank or has an image, 2) every page has only one or two lines. I read it in breaks, but when I finished, I realized I took up approx 55 minutes (give or take 10 minutes) to read it. Let that sink in.

Yesterday, in my review of Faudet’s book, Bitter Sweet Love, I mentioned how his work is rather juvenile and Leav’s work is something that in the past I have considered high school-ish. Given that I read The Universe of Us right after the poorly written Bitter Sweet Love, by comparison, Leav’s book seemed more sophisticated. By comparison.

This is true of the first half. By the second half, the book plunges into all that I feared going in – the childishness, the dullness, the half-bakedness. I know Leav is extremely popular, but what is worrisome is that her audience is mostly young and very impressionable; some of her poetry can be construed as dangerously terrible advice. Her poetry isn’t layered; it doesn’t have a lot of depth – it is all too easy to take it literally. Consider this one for instance: I think love is about being your darkest, most destructive self. To be loved, not in spite of this but because of it. My dear, that is abuse, not love.

Speaking of abuse, Leav’s obsession with love seems almost unhealthy. I have read excerpts of her poetry before, if not the whole books (although, a lot of her poetry in this volume had me thinking “I’ve read this before”. There is, after all, only so many times that stars can collide). The number of metaphors for “love” and “heartbreak” make you drowsy, not like you’re bored, but more like you’re drugged. There is no variety, no casual observation thrown in to break the monotony, nothing. It’s love all around. So syrupy.

While the book was all right for a quick read, while a lot of her words rhymed and everything, while her “poetry” is certainly better than Faudet’s, if someone asked me to recommend a poetry book, I wouldn’t be jumping up with pompoms for Lang Leav.

Note: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. This review is honest and unbiased.

Goodreads | Amazon

Bitter Sweet Love, by Michael Faudet

A memory picked from a flower wilted, its petals faded all color crushed. How can I forget such fragrant perfume? The lingering regret of a love long lost.

30227846

I noticed this book because of its cover – so strikingly similar to Faudet’s first book, Dirty Pretty Things. I used to follow Faudet’s poetry on Facebook. I felt some of his works were good, if not the stuff of classics. But Bitter Sweet Love just did not work for me.

It was either Isabel Allande or Anais Nin, I can’t remember who now, who said Erotica is a feather, but pornography is the whole hen. Faudet seems to have missed that memo. There were some of his earlier works (not in this volume) that fit better into the erotica bracket. Those were lovely poems, and the reason why I was interested in his poetry in the first place. But after reading Bitter Sweet Love, I can’t seem to quell this niggling feeling that his work is, on the whole, extremely juvenile.

All the so-called poems in this volume probably fit within 140 characters. They’re just broken into

sentences,

phrases

that may go on

or not

then end

period.

See what I mean? Just because it rhymes, it can’t be called poetry, now, can it? Although this is what seems to pass for poetry amongst the contemporary crowd, or the tumblr crowd, as they are called. Now don’t get me wrong. There are several tumblr poets who’ve produced works of exceptional beauty (Christopher Poindexter comes to mind). But Faudet’s book reads more like a Penthouse. And it was not fun either; just saturated (migraine-inducingly) with a lot of love and fucking (because (and I quote), “this is no weather for making love”). Oh, and vodka.

Bitter Sweet Love is dedicated to Lang Leav, another contemporary poet whose works I’ve called high-schoolish in the past. Interestingly, along with this book, I got a copy of her latest, The Universe of Us. Pretentious title aside, I think it fares much better than this one. I’m only halfway done, so more on that in my next review.

Goodreads | Amazon (pre-order)

Note: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. This review is honest and unbiased.

 

Love Letters to the World, by Meia Geddes

30841274Love Letters to the World is a collection of prose poems in the form of letters addressed to “My dear world”. At times I got the distinct feeling that the world was a specific person being addressed, such as a lover or a friend. At others, I thought it’s being addressed to the world at large with its “flowers and skies” but not to the people of the world; more like to planet Earth and nature.

I have mixed feelings about this volume. On one hand, I want to appreciate the sheer number of “letters to the world”. On the other, I want to ask “Why?” What is the purpose? What is this in relation to? I’m also having a bit of difficulty classifying this as prose poetry. It is a collection of letters written in purple prose. It’s crossed that thin line between poetry and purple, to the point where it tried to be luxuriant and profound but ended up being vague and broad and, I hate to add, a tad pretentious.

The book is divided into six parts. I was not too impressed with the first part, but I decided to keep reading in order to give a fair review, and to be completely honest, it didn’t take up too much of my time. Each letter is only about half a page long, so you can sort of glide through the book. The first section is full of the word “sentence” (for example, “we do not live or think in sentences”). It’s sprinkled so liberally, present on every other page, that it eventually loses all meaning! The second section is my favourite, because that did jolt me with a few of the writer’s observations and I thought the book was definitely worth my time. But with sections three to six I was back to being unimpressed with a light buzzing in my head – a buzzing that just kept asking, “Where are we even going with this?” The word “sentence” from section one was replaced by “displacement” and “placement” and “true”. Actually, those words were present quite a lot in section one as well. The letters themselves do not relate to the section titles, so I don’t know what purpose they serve. If there is a connection, I could not make it out.

In the midst of all these needless words, I do see that nearly all the letters have at least one coherent, meaningful thought. Everything else is just a frame or graffiti around it. But whoever heard of a book with only single line quotes as individual chapters (actually there are, but these books are the height of pretentiousness and narcissism).

To me (and you’re free to disagree of course) poetry (or prose poetry or any literature) is supposed to mean something. Nothing out of this world, nothing groundbreaking, but a simple thought that makes me feel something, conjures an image or just makes me sit back and think. In those respects, this book has failed me. However, there were still one or two letters that I enjoyed. In addition to that, this book does not tax your brain and it takes only a couple of hours to read through.

Think of it as a cleanser after a particularly heavy book, and read it if you wish. If you choose not to, you’re not missing much.

Goodreads | Amazon

Note: I received a Kindle ARC of this book from Netgalley. This review is honest and unbiased.

Wages of Love, by Kamala Das

“Like other women writers of my class, I am expected to tame my talent to suit the comfort of my family.”

rain-and-book-kamala-das-wages-of-love

I remember reading a poem by Kamala Das in school. It was part of the English literature syllabus. I had heard Kamala Das’ name whispered conspiratorially between my parents, but I never knew why. (I had also heard Arundhati Roy and Neena Gupta’s names mentioned in those very same tones, on different occasions). So when I found a poem by her, I was wildly curious. I hoped to find a glimpse into the adult world of literary gossip. I found nothing; I did not even like the poem very much. I was perhaps too young to appreciate Das’ direct way of expressing thoughts, being more used to as we were back then to rhyming poetry about sunflowers and daffodils and such.

When they saw me read a poem by Kamala Das, my parents casually remarked how she wasn’t very good. I was easily influenced (still am) and so I nodded my head in agreement. Similar casual (snide) remarks followed, with my mother going rather ad hominem and colouring Kamala Das as an example of what a writer – and more importantly, what a woman – must not be. I did not press for details, but I smelled a scandal.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when someone (who intensely dislikes me) read my blog and commented that I write like Madhavikutty (Das’ pen name). I felt proud, humbled, and insulted all at the same time! The childhood bias was still present, I suppose; however, being compared to a splendid writer such as herself did wonders for my ego, even though I knew I was nowhere near as good. The sad thing was, I had never read any of her works, apart from that one poem.

Fast forward again to last week, when Amazon Kindle decided to treat us all with some cash to buy any ebook of our choice. As to why I chose a Kamala Das book, I’ll never guess (given that I have several other books on my TBR, and hers is one name that never really crossed my mind), but that is, as you can see, what I chose. Sometimes, our instincts know.

Wages of Love is a collection of short stories, plays, poems and essays compiled by Suresh Kohli. It starts with the short piece “The Fair-Skinned Babu”, the story of a contract killer. Its ending gave me goosebumps. And with that, I was hooked. Das’ writing is as raw as it gets. Poignant and melancholy, set against a sepia tinted background. Stories such as Neipayasam will tug at your heartstrings and leave a cloud of sorrow over you. There are other stories and plays that question traditional notions of morality and holds a mirror over society’s rigid and frigid laws.

It’s the non-fiction section of the book that I absolutely loved above all else. If there’s one thing you must read, it is Das’ thoughts on religion. She wanted to get the fields “Religion” and “Caste” removed from all government forms, a view I completely agree with. Every time I go to a hospital, and their registration form has a “religion” field (most do), I make sure that my displeasure is obvious. Another essay worth noting is Shattering Misery’s Silence. It talks about how the matriarchal and matrilinear society of Kerala went on to become a patriarchal one, and how the bold women of previous centuries gave way to meek, submissive ones. She talks about how clothing is used to judge people. The slightly sardonic tone in which Das writes is quite gut wrenching.

“If wrappings of cloth can impart respectability, the most respectable persons are the Egyptian mummies, all wrapped in layers and layers of gauze.”

Finishing this book has filled me with a quiet restlessness. Why had I not read her books for so long? Why was I advised against reading her, when of all the writers I’ve read, she seems to be one of the fearless ones that need to be read. Yes, her work NEEDS to be mandatory reading. She spoke her mind; how many of us do? What holds us back?

For far too long, I have placed Sylvia Plath and Anais Nin on the pedestal of honest and bold writers. For far too long, I have revered Anita Nair’s skills as a writer. Today, I place Kamala Das on that pedestal. Or perhaps on an even higher one.

Amazon | Goodreads

I Wrote This For You, by Iain S. Thomas

“I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it. They may think they get it, but they don’t. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. You were meant to read these words.”

sreesha-divakaran-iain-thomas-pleasefindthis-wrote-this-for-you

When you read an intense, packed book like the last one I reviewed, you want to read something that makes you feel you’re flying through it to even it out. I wanted something short enough that I could read it within a few hours, yet something that gave me something to chew. I was, in particular, looking for something like The Lover’s Dictionary. Unique, short, yet not “silly”. I picked up another Levithan from my collection, but it didn’t quite stick. I may go back for it another day. Instead, I found I Wrote This For You, by Iain S. Thomas (who goes by the name pleasefindthis on GR and his blog).

I Wrote This For You is a collection of photographs (by Jon Ellis) and quotes/poems/aphorisms/observations. It begins with the quote above. It is interesting to note that each person who reads it will interpret it in his or her own way. As for me, while some of it did not resonate with me on a personal level, this is one book in which I went furiously highlighting a sentence or passage on nearly every page, especially in the first half. I felt like it was an intimate conversation between two people and I was an observer. Detached, but not eavesdropping. Like I had every right to be there, yet it was not a story to call my own.

There were some passages though, that I desperately wished were part of my own story – words I wanted hear, but never did, perhaps. Words I wanted to say but never found the courage to.

“I read what you leave in public spaces. The songs you reference. The quotes you quote. I know it’s about me. I can feel you thinking of me. I want to tell you that I know and admit that I feel the same. But I can’t.”

There are quotes like that that hit you hard.

Now, given the fact that I went looking for something like The Lover’s Dictionary, a comparison of some sort is natural, though unfair. I liked Levithan’s book for its uniqueness, and its layers. The fact that it had a story that you had to piece together like a puzzle. I Wrote This For You is honest, insightful, observant and almost makes your scars bleed. But it reads like a blog, not a book. That put me off a little bit. There’s no real connection between the chapters, though you can try hard to find some, or even fool yourself into believing there is, but they are all separate pieces. If it weren’t for that, I’d put both on the same level. A good read, nevertheless. Made my weekend!

Goodreads | Amazon