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The world that Donald Revell ponders in these poems replete with contrarieties. The same verbal playfulness and prophetic lyricism that made Revell a 1992 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and a winner of National Poetry Series, Pushcart, and PEN Center USA West awards are in full force in Beautiful Shirt. Here he traverses the rocky terrain of innocence, memory, disillusion, and salvation in a voice at once haunted and elliptical: "This is the world as I have known it./ It has a soft outline and is easily victimized."
Juxtaposed within a trio of long, introspective poems are shorter lyrics that push the limits of poetic syntaxes and dictions. In all, Beautiful Shirt searches for the true nature of the self through language unfettered by narrative constraints and conventional conceptual identities.
In her first collection of poems, Kansas native Amy Fleury captures images of dragging clotheslines, baked lawns, and sweet potato babies, inserting them with an earnest dignity into her stories of midwestern life. Beautiful Trouble explores the subtleties of landscape, place, families, girlhood, womanhood, and everyday existence on the prairie. Fleury writes of the Midwest with authenticity, speaks of romance with delicate allure, and recalls the heartbreak of childhood without self-pity. In meditations on resilience and life’s contradictions, Fleury engages her characters fully and paints their souls and sensations evenly in language both rare and beautiful. She is a poet in love with sound and its power to summon majesty from quotidian scenes. Her poems are brief and striking, depending on exquisite word choice and balance to achieve a simple order on the page.
Recapturing the celebratory voice of Africa in poems that are both contemporary and traditional, Liberian-born Patricia Jabbeh Wesley weaves lyrical storytelling with oral history and images of Africa and America, revealing powerful insights about the relationship between strength and tragedy—and finding reason to celebrate even in the presence of war, difficulties, and death. Rooted in myths that can be traced to the Grebo tradition, Becoming Ebony portrays Liberian-born Wesley’s experiences of village talk and civil war as well as her experiences of the pain of her mother’s death and the difficulties of rearing a family away from home in the United States, and explores the questions of living in the African Diaspora. Turning on the African proverb of “the wandering child” and the metaphor of the ebony tree—which is beautiful in life and death— these poems delve into issues of human suffering and survival, plainly and beautifully chronicling what happens “after the sap is gone.”
There are worlds within our own in which even the smallest victories are hard won, the tender moment is almost unbearable, and the understated rings like a bell. Belonging, a new collection by British poet Dick Davis, is an extended visit to these worlds. Deepened by his dry wit and the formal rigor of his verse, the poems of Belonging negotiate their way among personal and political dividesâ€”generations in a family, man and woman, and the tentative present and our inherited pasts. But behind much of the writing there is also a desire for a kind of idealized belongingâ€”to a clerisy of civilized and humane decency which can be found intermittently in all cultures and is the monopoly of none. Davisâ€™s own cosmopolitan background provides the context for many of the poems, yet he is concerned always to Wnd the humanly universal within the local and anecdotalâ€”a hope realized in these careful and incandescent poems. â€œReading this book in manuscript, I began by jotting down the titles of the best poems, but gave that up when it seemed I might choose them all.â€?â€”Richard Wilbur Dick Davis is an Englishman who has lived for most of his adult life outside his own countryâ€”in Greece, Italy, Iran, and the United States. He is currently a professor of Persian at Ohio State University in Columbus and the author of several books of poetry and translations, including Touchwood and Borrowed Ware. What others say about this book: In Top 10 Poetry Selections for 2002! â€œHis poems are full of fine emotion, intelligence, wit, and multinational culture. He lithely celebrates the legendary rake Casanova; poignantly conjures â€œKiplingâ€™s Kim, Thirty Years Onâ€?; economically reports a fatherâ€™s aching futility in comforting his child (â€œA Bit of Paternityâ€?); deftly valorizes the power of art (â€œJust Soâ€?); and often muses on the shortness of life and the limitations of being human, so cogently that a single quatrain can take oneâ€™s breath away.â€?â€”The Booklist A Book of the Year 2002! â€œA British poet married to an Iranian, Dick Davis teaches Persian literature in the United States. The cultural diversity of his life is reflected in the variety of his poems â€”in their skillfully handled formal range, in the scope of their subject-matter and in their commitment to an ideal of civilized life shared by many cultures. Belonging is a profound and beautiful collection, which stimulates, dazzles, surprises and delights.â€?â€”The Economist â€œI want to go through Belonging quoting handfuls, learning poem after poem by heart. . . . To read Dick Davis is to be reminded of what poetry used to be, and can still become.â€? â€”X. J. Kennedy
An Anthology of African Love Poetry
From the ancient Egyptian inventors of the love lyric to contemporary poets, Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poetry gathers together both written and sung love poetry from Africa.
This anthology is a work of literary archaeology that lays bare a genre of African poetry that has been overshadowed by political poetry. Frank Chipasula has assembled a historically and geographically comprehensive wealth of African love poetry that spans more than three thousand years. By collecting a continent’s celebrations and explorations of the nature of love, he expands African literature into the sublime territory of the heart.
Bending the Bow traces the development of African love poetry from antiquity to modernity while establishing a cross-millennial dialogue. The anonymously written love poems from Pharaonic Egypt that open the anthology both predate Biblical love poetry and reveal the longevity of written love poetry in Africa. The middle section is devoted to sung love poetry from all regions of the continent. These great works serve as the foundation for modern poetry and testify to love poetry’s omnipresence in Africa. The final section, showcasing forty-eight modern African poets, celebrates the genre’s continuing vitality. Among those represented are Muyaka bin Hajji and Shaaban Robert, two major Swahili poets; Gabriel Okara, the innovative though underrated Nigerian poet; Léopold Sédar Senghor, the first president of Senegal and a founder of the Negritude Movement in francophone African literature; Rashidah Ismaili from Benin; Flavien Ranaivo from Madagascar; and Gabeba Baderoon from South Africa.
Ranging from the subtly suggestive to the openly erotic, this collection highlights love’s endurance in a world too often riven by contention. Bending the Bow bears testimony to poetry’s role as conciliator while opening up a new area of study for scholars and students.
The first published collection of poems by Ron Egatz presents a host of narrators describing encounters with characters ranging from washed-up rock musicians to former lovers, airline stowaways to family members. A poet for 25 years to the month of publication of this book, Egatz explores the limits of the lyric narrative poem with subject matter spanning historical events to family snapshots. This collection is a rallying cry for poetry unafraid of being understood, yet not sacrificing lyric quality, music, or emotional depth.
Beso the Donkey is a poetry cycle about a wounded, neglected, and abandoned jackass. In sparklingly clear and luminous poems, Richard Jarrette tells the story of Beso and of his caregiver's attempts to understand and heal him — an endeavor that teaches the man much about the meaning of life, death, peace, and acceptance. With undertones of Buddhist, Christian, Taoist, and Islamic faiths, Beso the Donkey incorporates elements of philosophy, ethics, religion, and morality.
As the book progresses, we sense the poet’s growing acceptance of life’s passing. Along with the author, we feel a deeper peace blossoming as Beso’s life is ending (which is itself a beginning). This is a lyrical story of loss and acceptance.
"The poems in Elise Paschen's Bestiary explore domestic preoccupations set against the backdrop of the wild-heartedness, real and imagined, of the animal world," praises the poet Jason Shinder. In this modern-day Bestiary, or "Book of Beasts," the line between animal and human is thinly-drawn. The daughter of a Celtic king, through love, is transformed from beast to human; lovers take flight as moon and owl; manatees transform, before the explorers' eyes, into mermaids. This dynamic runs throughout the collection: taking flight, hovering between air and earth, plunging, and then resurfacing from water. The poems create a constant engagement between what tethers us to our daily lives—marriage, motherhood, raising a family, the loss of parents in old age—and the desire for other worlds. Exploring notions of transformation, these poems cross thresholds between animal and human, between death and life. Award-winning poet, Elise Paschen, creates in her third and most complex poetry collection, work which is elegant and passionate, preternaturally still and reckless all at once. Paschen displays a variety of form and nuance from ghazals to long-lined free verse poems. Writing out of a distinct Western literary tradition, but tapping into her Native American (Osage) roots, Paschen celebrates the mythic, the unusual, the magical glimpsed in the everyday.
Guillaume Apollinaire’s first book of poems has charmed readers with its brief celebrations of animals, birds, fish, insects, and the mythical poet Orpheus since it was first published in 1911. Though Apollinaire would go on to longer and more ambitious work, his Bestiary reveals key elements of his later poetry, among them surprising images, wit, formal mastery, and wry irony. X. J. Kennedy’s fresh translation follows Apollinaire in casting the poems into rhymed stanzas, suggesting music and sudden closures while remaining faithful to their sense. Kennedy provides the English alongside the original French, inviting readers to compare the two and appreciate the fidelity of the former to the latter. He includes a critical and historical essay that relates the Bestiary to its sources in medieval “creature books,” provides a brief biography and summation of the troubled circumstances surrounding the book’s initial publication, and places the poems in the context of Apollinaire’s work as a poet and as a champion of avant garde art. This short introduction to the work of an essentially modern writer includes four curious poems apparently suppressed from the first edition and reprints of the Raoul Dufy woodcuts published in the 1911 edition.
In a world where the lurid and dramatic have become the standard fare in representations of Africa, it is refreshing to read poems such as Roselyn Jua’s which depict the continent as a land of ordinary people, living ordinary lives, partaking in the ordinary nostalgias and anxieties, the everyday joys and sorrows that beset ordinary people everywhere in the world.