The arrival

New Poetry Books

National Poetry MonthIt's April and National Poetry Month is in full swing. It's easy to see why a large group of poets, librarians, and publishers chose April to promote this wonderful art, for as e.e.cummings said, "in Just-/ spring when the world is mud-lucious... and puddle-wonderful." Here are several contemporary books that I found compelling.

--Beautiful in the Mouth: Poems by Keetje Kuipers
Kuipers' first collection rocks. With an assured voice, she tackles difficult subjects with honesty, freshness, and inviting detail. She writes about love gone bad, sleeping with her first boyfriend (an injured war vet), and loneliness. And she writes about sex in a way that makes it both believable and extraordinary. Kuipers has lived in many places. From these poems you can tell that she attaches deeply to her current home whether it's a Montana cabin, a Paris room, or a New York apartment. She brings an out-of-the-way reservoir to life with the playful shouts of swimming children. It's hard to believe that this amazingly accomplished book is her first. Check it out.

--Traveling Light by Linda Pastan
This poet is known for meditative domestic poems and ones about family. In this wonderful collection, she continues writing about those subjects but also includes poems about the deaths of loved ones and even imagines her own. However, these are not dark poems at all. Pastan has a wonderful sense of humor and slyly incorporates it to provide additional movement in her writing. One poem celebrates a long discarded Christmas tree that has become a nest for wrens; another one celebrates a flower salad, and a third, a Thanksgiving Day feast where a young child's eyes recall those of a dead great grandparent, "there, three generations down,/ her pale blue eyes// watching/ from the child's/ oblivious face."

--The Arrival by Daniel Simko
I read all the poems first and was incredibly moved by them. Later, I perused Carolyn Forche's introduction to be shocked by these lines, "This, Svetozar Daniel Simko's first book of poetry in America, is also his last..." Unfortunately, this poet and former translator of Georg Trakl's work, died in his forties. Simko was born in Bratislava, so Eastern Europe with its pogroms, violence, and politics is a motif in some of these poems. Simko brings to life the echo of his family, and many other Europeans who have suffered and are now lost with lines such as, "I am writing your names down for the last time./ I am writing your names in secrecy./ Be silent...Be silent." Anyone who admires the work of Trakl, Celan, or Mandlestam will find these poems eloquent and haunting.

--Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman
A sense of mortality hangs over Wiman's third collection; some of these poems speak of illness and loss. Ultimately, this is an optimistic book that asks and then answers some of the great questions: why are we here? What is life about? How can we live wisely and praise this extraordinary earth that gives us a home? Poems such as "One Time" and "Gone for the Day, She Is the Day" explore the nature of love, especially after a serious diagnosis. Wiman, who is also the editor of the revitalized Poetry Magazine from Chicago, writes more formally than many modern poets, often incorporating rhyme. Despite the seriousness of his poems, humor is often included and indeed necessary, given the subject matter: "tumbleweeds maddening/ past in the cage of themselves." A collection that sings with the beauty of life and at the same time acknowledges its fragility,"To believe is to believe you have been torn/ from the abyss, yet stand waveringly on its rim."

If you love poetry, these books are not to be missed.


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Graphic Novels for The Afraid

MercuryI will come right out and say that I do not like superheroes (movie or print) and I didn't read comic books as a kid, so I am not naturally drawn to the graphic novel format. Because I'm kind of a nerd, what I do like is big fat novels and dusty historical non-fiction. So color me surprised when recently I've been enjoying more graphic novels. Last night as I finished Mercury by Hope Larson I began to wonder and hope that the reason went beyond the fact that I can read on in a single sitting -- though that is very satisfying too! My rationale is that I've been craving something different. I have read enough fiction to be somewhat bored with a traditional storyline. I want to think while I read -- to be engaged! And picking up some graphic novels has been the way to do that recently. I've tried to compile a list of graphic novels for the hesitant -- for anyone who thought that they weren't interested. Give one a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
This classic graphic novel is on every "must read" list -- and for good reason. This personal and moving tale is told through flashbacks of the author's father, a Holocaust survivor. In 1992 this was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Stitches by David Small
A finalist for the 2009 National Book Award, this touching memoir tells the tale of Small's childhood and examines the frightening possibility that his father caused his cancer through unnecessary and experimental radiation treatments.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
This graphic novel tells the classic immigrant story -- what it is like to leave loved ones and arrive in a seemingly alien world - all without words. Yep, without words. Amazing illustrations and a true story arc make up for the need of even a single letter of text.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Both immesely funny and serious, this is Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Revolution, starting at the age of nine.

Mercury by Hope Larson
Two young women in a rural area of Novia Scotia struggle with family obligations, relationships and growing up -- over 100 years apart. Love this book.


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"The Arrival" reviewed by Jennifer on August 3, 2010

The Arrival
Shaun Tan
graphic novel
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The book is a masterpiece through and through. Wordless, told through beautiful drawings, "The Arrival" portrays the immigrant experience in a compelling, universal light. As a man leaves his war-torn homeland in search of safety for his family, he is confronted with the challenges of settling down into a way of living that is completely foreign. The new-world that Tan creates is both strange and stunning, and the concept and characters are as strong as the graphics. This book most certainly deserves your attention.
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Tales From Outer Suburbia
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