Sunday, July 18, 2010

Some recent poetry I've been reading. . .

Romey's Order, by Atsuro Riley. I'd seen his poems the last few years in Poetry, and liked them. And this book is a delight. His poems are dense and sonically packed with scrumptious thick hyphenations like "gloam-knelling," "spawn-floss" and "ditch-jellies". There is definitely a bit of Gerald Manley Hopkins here. There is also a fascinating family history in the background, with Riley (and the semi-autobiographical poems' speaker: Romey) being a child of an American soldier and a Japanese woman, who make their family home in the South (South Carolina, in fact). The mix of Southern Gothic images, and Japanese sensibility (he spies images of Mt Fuji one day in a book of his mother's) are wonderful. Highly recommended.


Bar Book: poems and otherwise, by Julie Sheehan. I picked this book up blind off the shelf at Elliott Bay a few weeks ago. What a hoot! It's the story of a marriage, the birth of a child, and a bitter divorce, told through drink recipes and bar tending stories. There are prose poems, poem poems, poem recipes, a bit of a scene from a play-poem, numerous footnotes and asides. It's really a fun and varied collection. Here's a taste:

How to Make a Slow Comfortable Screw

This cheap date of a cocktail wears too much makeup. Even the name is fake. What masquerades as sexual innuendo turns out to be the recipe for the drink: "Slow" is for slow gin, "Comfortable" is for Southern Comfort -- tell me if I am speaking too shrewdly, too lewd-ish -- and "Screw" is for screwdriver, that most common of beverages. . . . . (pg 62)

The divorce poems are a bit spiteful, vindictive, and painful to read -- and her ex sounds like he deserved every bit of it. Still, I would not want to ever be the next person to cross this woman.

Read the Bar Book if you dare . . .


My Kill Adore Him, by Paul Martinez Pompa. Chosen by Martin Espada for the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. This was a really good read. I liked the Chicano-identity displayed here. These were assertive poems, that pulled no punches, whether it was about homophobia in grade school or the NBA locker room; sexism, racism, transvestism (a fun poem about a bar where straight men dance with chicks with dicks), or police brutality. Here is a taste:

Exclamation Point

Exclamation Point -- a punctuation mark that indicates strong feeling in connection with what is being said. It serves as a signpost to a reader that a sentence expresses intense feelings. An exclamation point may end a declaratory statement (Put your fuckin hands up!), a question (Do you want me to put a cap in your Mexakin ass!), or a fragment (Now asshole!). It may express an exclamation (Your ass is going to jail!), a wish (If you move, I'll shoot your fuckin ass!), or a cry (Okay, okay, take it easy, officer!). As these examples show, exclamation points are commonest in written dialogue. They should be used carefully in any writing and very seldom in formal writing. (pg 43)

Recommended, yes.



RJGibson said...

I loved Romey's Order. I've raved about it to anyone who'll listen.

Peter said...

Glad to hear it RJ. I think it's a pretty terrific book. All those hyphenated words! (suspect they have a relation to Romey/Atsuro's hyphenated existence as Japanese-American?).

RJGibson said...

Peter--you know I never thought of the hyphenate thing in relation to his own hyphenated status. When I read the book I was deep in an essay on parataxis, so I was thinking about how paratactic the poems were and how much like Hopkins his poems were. No matter the rationale, I love the book.

Have you read David Baker's Never Ending Birds? That's probably the only other book I've liked so much this year.

Peter said...

Hi RJ:
Yes I read the Baker book, and liked it enough.

Re: Romey's Order, I have decided Atsuro Riley is the love child of Gerald Manley Hopkins and Basho!

Anonymous said...

I’ve been read Viviani Ketely – I used Google Translator - she is pretty good