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Recent poetry that stands out - summarized reviews
Culture

Recent poetry that stands out – summarized reviews

Nam Le, 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese PoemView image in fullscreen

Nam Le’s guide to crafting a Vietnamese poem offers a total of 36 techniques.

Nam Le, the recipient of the Dylan Thomas prize, is known for his short story collection, The Boat. His first collection of poetry focuses on various themes such as anti-Asian racism, war trauma’s lasting impacts, Vietnamese diasporic identity, and being marginalized from multiple perspectives. This book-length poem consists of 37 works, each titled after a type of violence or mode of intellectual inquiry. The poems explore the complexities of intergenerational trauma, the struggles of assimilation in Western society, and the consequences of cultural imperialism. With a personal and political perspective, these provocative poems strongly condemn historical, cultural, linguistic, and racial violence. “Your blood carries it. / What happened to them – / Your parents, theirs, all their relatives.” This debut is one of the most impactful and memorable works I have read in recent years.

K. Patrick, Three Births

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Three Births by K Patrick (Granta, £12.99)

This debut work by a talented author, recognized as one of the top young British novelists by Granta, delves into themes of bodily fluidity, queer love, and desire. K Patrick’s writing exudes a carefree attitude, evident in the first poem “Pickup-Truck Sex” where the speaker questions their own arrogance in wanting to merge with someone else’s body. The poems capture fleeting moments of happiness as well as periods of sadness and reflection. Drawing inspiration from Woolf’s stream of consciousness style, the writing thoughtfully explores the relationships between people, objects, places, and even celebrities like George Michael, Daniel Craig, and Kylie. Patrick embraces a range of emotions, skillfully evoking a sense of manic irony through words that are both hopeless and poignant. Ultimately, the work is a vivid display of the author’s raw and vulnerable self, asking the reader to appreciate the beauty and complexity of their life.

After You Were, I Am by Camille Ralphs (Faber, £12.99)

When you begin reading After You Were, I Am, you embark on a wondrous journey guided by Camille Ralphs’ sharp and lively intellect. Through three separate sections, Ralphs leads us on a voyage starting with George Herbert, godson of John Donne, and traversing metaphysical interpretations of the Book of Common Prayer. We then continue on as Ralphs gives voice to those persecuted during the Pendle witch trials of 1612, before finally reaching the pirate haven of the Elizabethan occultist John Dee. Ralphs’ poetry is imbued with an eerie and captivating steampunk essence. The writing is rooted in an empathetic understanding of both “the workers of this world” and historical figures, while also effortlessly encompassing elements of the spiritual and fantastic. It celebrates word origins and plays with alchemy in a delightful way. “In the beginning, there was you, the Word. I knew it.”

Anne Carson, Wrong Norma

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Anne Carson’s Wrong Norma (Jonathan Cape, £14.99) is incorrect.
Described by the author as “a collection of writings about different things, like Joseph Conrad, Guantánamo, Flaubert, snow, poverty, Roget’s Thesaurus, my dad, Saturday night”, Carson’s latest work displays her brilliance and originality through a series of hybrid, free-flowing texts interspersed with images and digressions. Throughout, these prose poems evince clarity, precision and attention, juxtaposing classical myth with musings on the contemporary world and the nature of selfhood, the “burden of being a subject-in-process no matter who we are”. Each vignette conveys a sense of surprise and freedom, as in the opening piece 1=1: “a bolt of pure aliveness like entering the water / on a still morning with the world empty in every direc / tion to the sky. That first entry. Crossing the border of con / sciousness into, into what?”

Nikki Giovanni, Poems 1968-2020View image in fullscreen

Nikki Giovanni’s collection of poetry, spanning from 1968 to 2020 and published by Penguin, is available for purchase at £12.99.

This is a generous and inclusive collection of poems from one of the leading poets of the Black Arts Movement in the late 1960s. The earlier works of Nikki Giovanni included in this selection are passionate, rebellious, and persuasive, with pieces like Black Power (For All the Beautiful Black Panthers East), Reflections on April 4, 1968, and The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. Her activism remains relevant today, as shown in Black Lives Matter (Not a Hashtag). Her poetry focuses on themes of race, gender, and sexuality in the Black experience, as well as Black love, struggle, and joy. Reading her work is like having a personal discussion with a trusted friend. These are heartfelt and accessible poems that celebrate, touch, and motivate, while also speaking out against racial injustice (“if they take my life / it won’t end / the revolution”). As she concludes: “the only things that truly matter are the words, the stars, and the music”.

Source: theguardian.com