Saturday, July 20, 2013

Enthralled with poetry

thrall –by Natasha Trethewey

84 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
Illustrations: No
5 Stars

For those of you who have not read Ms. Trethewey's poetry before, you are in for a treat! It is easy to understand why she was appointed Unites States Poet Laureate in June 2012.

These poems come from two primary sources – both common to all poets: art and family. She gives a very short introduction to the poems inspired by art, and though I have not seen the paintings she describes in actuality, after her poems I have seen the paintings.

She comes from Gulfport, Mississippi, and many of her poems are inspired by her parents, and growing up in that part of the world.

The poetry is beautiful, it sings with notes reaching deep sadness and full happiness. If you've ever wondered what kind of a poet becomes our US Poet Laureate, give this book a read. Her poetry can be read by anyone, it is not written for the "high brow," it is written for anyone who cares to pick it up and read it.

Not only is her poetry accessible, but I understand from some of my poet friends that she is, too. She has been reappointed as our nation's poet laureate. The poem that grabbed me when I picked up the book and opened it at random begins –


In the portrait of Jefferson that hangs
            at Monticello, he is rendered two-toned:
his forehead white with illumination—

I stopped after that first stanza, thinking about several things, how enlightened he was for his time, how intelligent, and how dark. How he kept slaves; how he slept with one, Sally Hemings but did not acknowledge his sons by her even though they had his coloring and red hair, and barely his daughters; how his sons as his slaves helped build the university, but could not attend; how he would not free his children, but did help them 'walk' to freedom. Two-toned. Light and dark. Good and conflicted. Human.

Heroic With Grace

Heroic With Grace – Legendary Women of Japan – edited by Chieko Irie Mulhern

322 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
Illustrations: No
4 Stars

I bought this book primarily for the biography of Tomoe Gozen. I found the bios of the early women from Ancient Japan to be fascinating, but when I got into the bios of the more modern women, especially Hani Motoko, they did not hold my interest so much. Especially of Miss Hani Motoko. The author of that segment talked about what seemed like every educated woman during the Meiji period including the subject of her essay.

This book was published in 1991, and the later essays were written in the form of histories I so dislike – too many dates and dry facts, and not enough humanity.

If you are a student of Japan, this is a fascinating book, especially if you want to know how women were treated in ancient Japan. If you just want a fun read about some interesting women, well, I suggest Jessica Amanda Salmonson's trilogy about Tomoe Gozen that takes places in an alternate universe. A lot more fun. (Although the real Tomoe was pretty darned interesting in her own right!)

I gave it 4 stars because of the early essays.