|(Photo © Lorna Fergusson)|
Both my May IGISIRIs are poetry books -
Poems that Make Grown Women Cry, edited by Antony Holden and Ben Holden (Simon and Schuster).
This collection is named to match the earlier collection Poems that Make Grown Men Cry. I have to say I find both titles irritating, as if an emotional response is something to be wrung out of us in spite of ourselves and our adult status. Poetry is more than a sob-fest, anyway. So my advice is ignore the titles and relish the range of poems and, what is more, the short essays written by the contributors describing why they chose the poems they did. Their reasons are both moving and enlightening, sometimes sending you back with new insights to a poem you thought over-familiar. And if no other poem does make you cry, Claire Tomalin's choice will: it's a poem written by her daughter, Susanna Tomalin. 'It is a poem of farewell, clearly stating her intention to be gone.' As I have lost someone from my life too, who wished to be gone, the last verse of this calm, lovely and resolute poem in particular broke my heart.
Alice Oswald, Falling Awake (Jonathan Cape)
Poetry is all about perception and expression of that perception. I bought this book after standing entranced in a shop, reading the first few poems. All too often with modern poetry I feel shut out by the knowingness of it, the archness, the deliberate obscurity or awkwardness. Here I felt that sense of revelatory recognition you should feel when the poet pounces, captures, holds up to the light, the thing, the sense, the perception. It's a blend of the familiar and the utterly refreshed - something I have always loved in metaphysical poetry when poets like Herbert and Donne dazzle with a swift piercing image, like an arrow thocking into the bullseye. Oswald's title poem, written in rhyming couplets, has the deceptive simplicity of a poem by George Herbert, her poem Swan has a fairy tale quality like Angela Carter as the dead swan lifts from the 'plane-crash mess of her wings', the 'clean china serving-dish of a breast bone' and her 'black feet/lying poised in their slippers.'
Poetry is never well-served in reviews, I feel, by short quotations. Somehow the spell of all is lost - so I highly recommend you take up these books and make your way through them, putting them down at intervals to absorb the beauty or the power of what you've just read.
[What is IGISIRI? remember, IGISIRI means 'I've Got It, So I'll Read It!' and it's a simple project where you read two books each month, books already on your bookshelves. You choose them quickly and without too much consideration. And you read them. That's all there is to it! I'd be delighted to hear about your latest reads. You can comment here on the blog or on my Facebook pages, LornaFergussonAuthor and Fictionfire.]