Friday, February 09, 2018

Books In Verse

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Writing reviews for books written in verse or collections of poetry is pretty hard because I’ve never really read poetry critically (even though I was a lit major.) However, over the past year, I’ve been reading more and more poetry collections and books written in verse because sometimes that mode just works for the stories being told and its incredibly lovely. Please note, I received advanced copies of both books for review.

Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners
Naomi Shihab Nye  


Voices in the Air is a collection of almost one hundred original poems written by the award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye in honor of the artists, writers, poets, historical figures, ordinary people, and diverse luminaries from past and present who have inspired her. Full of words of encouragement, solace, and hope, this collection offers a message of peace and empathy.

Voices in the Air celebrates the inspirational people who strengthen and motivate us to create, to open our hearts, and to live rewarding and graceful lives. With short informational bios about the influential figures behind each poem, and a transcendent introduction by the poet, this is a collection to cherish, read again and again, and share with others. Includes an index.

My first introduction to Naomi Shihab Nye was through The Turtle of Oman in 2017. I immediately fell in love with Naomi Shihab Nye’s writing. Even when she was writing prose, her talent for verse came through. So when I heard about Voices in the Air, I was immediately intrigued and ready to gobble the collection whole.

Unfortunately, Voices in the Air, wasn’t what I was expecting. It takes a while for Nye to really build on her poems. It is slow-going at first and the poems themselves didn’t really grasp my attention. It isn’t until she leaves the frolicking, natural world that her poems become strong and her passion shines through. It is then her words really caught my attention and I truly began savoring her poems.

Voices in the Air is undoubtedly an ambitious collection, written by a talented poet, but I wish there was a stronger thread linking all the poems that gave more meaning to the collection as a whole.

3 Hot Espressos


Blood Water Paint
Joy McCullough


A stunning debut novel based on the true story of the iconic painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

Joy McCullough’s bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia’s heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman’s timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I will show you
what a woman can do.

I feel extremely terrible for not loving Blood Water Paint but sometimes, it happens and I won’t love everything I read unfortunately. I like novels in verse, they are fun to read and in so many of the cases, they are so perfectly crafted to the stories being told that I couldn’t imagine the some story being told in prose. With Blood Water Paint, even though I kind of got what the author was going for, I don’t know if the verse worked out.

The book is pitched as this incredibly feminist story about a female artist and the fucking bullshit she had to put up with and it is that but I don’t know if the verse aids that story. It is definitely beautiful at times but it was also really confusing and not really an intentional confusing. It took me a long time to gain my footing within the story and to really understand what was going on.

Of course, it didn’t help that I went in with almost no previous knowledge of the artist and found myself wading in new, unknown waters (writing this sentence, for some reason, makes me crave a novel about a shipwreck.)

The author is no doubt talented but I just feel like the medium she chose hindered the story at so many times.

I think Blood Water Paint is worth the read especially if the artist is unknown to you but even if she isn’t. Her story is powerful and should be remembered.

3 Hot Espressos
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Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows and plan horrifying things. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so she will lure you over to the dark side with baked goodies and good book recommendations.

6 Responses to “Books In Verse”

  1. Joy Lennick

    Anything poetic grabs my eye. All the above made interesting reading. I am not a poet in the classical or learned sense, but enjoy writing spontaneous poems about nature or those with a humorous vein:AS TIME GOES BY
    Time’s appetite, it never wanes,
    is never, ever sated.
    That’s why I feel akin to time
    and my figure is inflated.

    From a modest collaboration book, written with my husband (amusing poems and limericks) THE MOON IS WEARING A TUTU. Thanks for reading! Cheers.
    Joy Lennick

  2. Jordan

    I’ve been really wanting to read more poetry collections and books in verse, so I really enjoyed reading your reviews and thoughts on these. I think I’ll have to add both of these authors on my list to look into just to see. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Shane Morgan

    Honestly, books written in verse aren’t my favorite. It’s a bit hard for me to get into them but I’ve liked the few that I have read, even though it took a while to warm up to the style. Thanks for your honest reviews on these two, they do seem interesting.

  4. Valerie

    I know I told you this already, but Naomi Shihab Nye actually came to my high school to speak, and it was a good talk. But yeah, I agree with you about her poems, because I read “Red Suitcase”, and that wasn’t mindblowing for me, unfortunately.