Thursday, September 04, 2008

I was going to read a couple poems from Ted Genoways' new book, Anna, washing, before my afternoon nap today. But I ended up reading the whole book from cover to cover in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down. It's a wonderful sustained historical narrative, a novel told in sonnets, a book-length poem sequence, if you will. Anna of the title is Finnish, and has immigrated with Abe Malm (a boy who was left to her care many years before, when she was 20 and a maid, and is now her husband) to Alaska in the Gold Rush days, carrying an 80lb washing machine on her back. The book tells the story of her and Abe's life together: surviving the Gold Rush by washing the clothes of miners, surviving the land's hardships and a small pox outbreak, other illnesses and more. It's a love story at heart, but a very different kind of love story. The language is beautiful, and spot on for the time, and reminds me a lot of Melinda Mueller's gorgeous book-length poem about the Shackleton expedition, What the Ice Gets. Though, at times, the strict sonnet form was a little monotonous, for my taste (some are broken up by using cascading lines, and that helps), I really really enjoyed these poems. Highly recommended.

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