Two Reviews: ‘The Tiny One’, and ‘Falling Awake’

The Tiny One by Eliza Minot **** 9780375706332
I love stories which feature child narrators, and Eliza Minot’s The Tiny One was almost perfect.  The book’s blurb ticked a lot of boxes for me, and I was very much looking forward to immersing myself within the story.  Via is only eight years old when her mother is killed in a car accident; her voice from the outset is believable, and has been constructed both with sensitivity and an outpouring of emotion.  She springs to life almost immediately; she is made up of naive quirks and complexities.  The structure which Minot has utilised within her novel is the age-old formula of fragmented memories, which build a full picture of both Via and her mother.  Once I began to read The Tiny One, I could barely put it down.  It is as transportative as Kaye Gibbons’ work, and is a must for anyone who enjoys reading about trauma in fiction, or seeing serious occurrences from the viewpoint of an unreliable or biased narrator.


Falling Awake by Alice Oswald ****
9781910702437Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake has one of the most beautiful blurbs which I have ever read; even had I not been familiar with her poetry or output beforehand, it would definitely have enticed me to pick this particular tome up.  I very much enjoyed Dart when I read it a couple of years ago, and have been eager to read more of Oswald’s ever since.  The imagery which she creates throughout Falling Awake is nothing short of beautiful, and her use of mythology is strong and fitting.  The themes of nature and mutability tie the whole together wonderfully.  Oswald’s repetitions are splendidly handled, and there is not a single poem here which falls short of being meaningful or memorable.  Falling Awake is a fluid poetry collection, which I would heartily recommend to any fans of poetry.


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Poetry Wishlist

I have been browsing the book haven that is The Strand in New York City’s website of late, as well as various library catalogues (as you can more than likely tell, I am very much anticipating getting stuck into a whole city’s worth of bookishness), and thought I’d put together a post highlighting my current poetry wishlist.  All of these books were chosen at random from an enormous list.

1. Falling Awake by Alice Oswald 9781910702437
‘Mutability – a sense that all matter is unstable in the face of mortality – is at the heart of this new collection and each poem is involved in that drama: the held tension that is embodied life, and life’s losing struggle with the gravity of nature. Working as before with an ear to the oral tradition, these poems attend to the organic shapes and sounds and momentum of the language as it’s spoken as well as how it’s thought: fresh, fluid and propulsive, but also fragmentary, repetitive. These are poems that are written to be read aloud. Orpheus and Tithonus appear at the beginning and end of this book, alive in an English landscape, stuck in the clockwork of their own speech, and the Hours – goddesses of the seasons and the natural apportioning of Time – are the presiding figures. The persistent conditions are flux and falling, and the lines are in constant motion: approaching, from daring new angles, our experience of being human, and coalescing into poems of simple, stunning beauty.’

0811218716-1-zoom2. “A” by Louis Zukofsky
‘Long out of print, ‘A’ is the monumental life-poem by one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. Louis Zukofsky’s (1904-1978) poem brims over with daily love, light, intellect and music, expressing a new potency of poetic language to comprehend and counter-form the maddening expansion of human neglect wrought by the 20th century’s post-industrial, almost post-cultural, entropy. Zukofsky registers ‘a new music of verse stretching out into the future.’ (William Carlos Williams) – a surging tropism of possibility reformed.’

3. ‘Spain, Take This Chalice From Me’ and Other Poems by Cesar Vallejo

‘A definitive, bilingual collection of poetry by one Latin America’s most important poets features more than eighty poems that span the full range of his literary career, accompanied by an introduction that looks at Vallejo’s life, his complex literary style, his leftist politics, and more.’

4. Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan 0374100985-1-zoom
‘Blending together the naturalistic milieu of great chroniclers of American life with the cinematic menace and wonder of Fritz Lang, this much-anticipated collection of poems evokes real lives and institutions.’

5. The Accordion Repertoire by Franklin Bruno
‘Compressed and expansive by turns, Franklin Bruno’s first collection of poems moves through the languages of commerce and philosophy, theforgotten codes of old Hollywood and the radio serial, and thecontested spaces of the contemporary city with musicality, anger, and wit.’

6. The After Party by Jana Prikryl
‘Jana Prikryl’s The After Party journeys across borders and eras, from cold war Central Europe to present-day New York City,from ancient Rome to New World suburbs, constantly testing the lingua francas we negotiate to know ourselves. These poems disclose the tensions in our inherited identities and showcase Prikryl’s ambitiousexperimentation with style.  “Thirty Thousand Islands,” the second half of the collection, presents some forty linked poems in a great variety of structures and incorporating numerous voices. Rooted in one place that fragments into many places—the remote shores of Lake Huron in Canada, a region with no natural resources aside from its beauty—these poems are an elegy that speaks beyond grief.  Penetrating, vital, and visionary, The After Party marks the arrival of an extraordinary new talent.’


Have you read any of these?  Which would you recommend I begin with?  If you would also like to recommend some more poetry books for me to seek out, that would be much appreciated.

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Flash Reviews: Poetry (12th June 2014)

Forward Book of Poetry 2014 by Various Poets ***
1. I spotted this on my library’s online catalogue and requested it.  I love discovering new poets, and reading such an anthology was a marvellous way in which to do so.
2. The foreword to the book is written by Jeanette Winterson, which is rather cool.  She was one of the prize’s previous judges, and she talks about how important poetry is in the world: ‘Poetry is a practical art.  You can rely on it.  It will not break under your weight’.
3. I love the variety here and have discovered some wonderful poets – Sinead Morrissey, Claire Trevien and Marianne Burton to name but three – but the entire collection was not quite as enjoyable, memorable or unique as I thought it would be.

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‘Bee Journal’

Bee Journal by Sean Borodale ****
1. I was attracted to Bee Journal for three reasons – the title, the beautiful cover, and the fact that Carol Ann Duffy (one of my favourite contemporary poets) praises it highly.
2. The idea of Bee Journal is a marvellous and, I think, rather unique.  It is a ‘poem journal of beekeeping that chronicles the life of the hive…  The book is filled with moments of revelation – particularly between the domestic and the wild’.  The poems are told both from the perspective of the nameless beekeeper, and the bees who inhabit the hive.
3. Borodale uses language beautifully and sparingly, and some of his turns of phrase are truly lovely.

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Of Mutability – Jo Shapcott ****
1. I read this sumptuous poetry book in a single sitting, and was so very impressed by it.
2. Whilst I did not adore all of the poems in Of Mutability, they linger in the mind; they are beautiful and startling on the whole.
3. I am so pleased that I picked this up on a whim from the library, and I shall be hunting out more of Shapcott’s work in future.  I heartily recommend her to everyone who appreciates the written word.

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Dart – Alice Oswald ****
1. I love the idea of Dart; it is one continuous poem which tells the story of the River Dart in Dartmoor.  It takes into consideration the perspectives of so many people and animals who come into contact with it along its course.  Oswald writes the following in her short introduction: ‘Over the past two years, I’ve been recording conversations with people who know the river.  I’ve used these records as life-models from which to sketch out a series of characters – linking their voices into a sound-map of the river, a songline from the source to the sea…  All voices should be read as the river’s mutterings’.
2. I love the different poetical styles which Oswald has used throughout.  They serve to make each portion of the poem distinct, whilst still linking it with those portions which appear before and after it.  Each part blends seamlessly into the next throughout.
3. Oswald discusses so many elements of the river – its course, wildlife and the ways in which animals use its resources, and the people who encounter the river for different purposes – anglers and naturalists, for example.

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