Poetry Review

Poetry Review: Head Off & Split 

Sometimes, I feel like I’m on a life-long quest to convince people to give poetry another chance. For some reason, so many people I encounter have such negative views about poetry: perhaps PTSD from high school English classes or negative experiences with overly obscure poetry. A lot of people don’t find poetry accessible, especially contemporary poetry. While I’m not always a fan of the extremely ambiguous or minimalist poetry that is pretty trendy right now, I find that there are still lots of poets who employ beautiful, spellbinding imagery and emotion. One collection that really spoke to me recently because of its clear and powerful message is Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney.

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This collection won a well-deserved National Book Award, and it is a truly inspiring collection of poems that focus on civil rights, racial relationship, and even family dynamics. So many of these poems feel deeply personal, especially the title poem which was mesmerizing. Finney is an amazing poet who has been overshadowed until recently, but this collection is surely going to keep her in the limelight for a while. I would definitely recommend this collection to anyone who either loves poetry or who wants to explore how modern poetry relates to the present political climate. Poetry has always been used as a way to critique society, and Finney continues that tradition today.

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Poetry Review

Poetry Review: Why I Wake Early

A lot of contemporary poets seem to avoid too many images of nature. They see them as cliche and overused, which I do think is a fair criticism. However, once in a while, a poet will emerge who can use these images to speak to the soul. One of those poets is Mary Oliver, and her collection Why I Wake Early is no exception to her history of adding a bit of magic to the world around us.

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This collection actually came out in 2005, so it’s not her latest offering. Still, I read it recently and just felt compelled to share. Nature is something that we all experience. I love that her poems use these images in complicated ways to speak to universal truths about the human condition. These poems are remarkably accessible, and I think that anyone who is not in love with poetry who wants to give a contemporary poet a try would be mesmerized by this collection.

When you read these poems, you can live a moment in Oliver’s world. You can see through her eyes. You can feel what she’s feeling. Unlike the deliberate ambiguity that makes other contemporary poets feel inaccessible to their readers, Oliver invites you in. She wants to share experiences with you and take you on her morning journeys.

Poetry Review

Poetry Review: The History of Anonymity

Title: The History of Anonymity

Poet: Jennifer Chang

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April is National Poetry Month, so I wanted to make sure that I reviewed a brilliant poetry collection before the month was over.

Jennifer Chang is a relatively new poet. She doesn’t have a huge body of work, but what she has out there is spectacular. I have read so many poetry collections that were not at all memorable, but this one has stood out to me since I read it back in 2012.

Chang uses references to nature in her poetry in the most exquisite way. Nature is such a huge theme in poetry that it almost always borders on the cliche. So often, I’ve found that poets seem to just describe nature or talk about the beauty of nature. Chang, however, properly utilized nature. The natural references are all metaphors or references to situations or emotions. They have clear meanings beyond just description.

Often when I talk about my love of poetry with other people, I am met with blank stares and admissions that most people think poetry doesn’t make any sense. I completely understand how people might feel that way because so much contemporary poetry is deliberately inaccessible with huge amount of ambiguity. This is an example of a collection that can be accessible by everyone! I would highly recommend this collection to both lovers of poetry as well as those skeptical of poetry.