I want to talk about all this trendy poetry being published

It’s bad. Simply put, it’s bad. That’s the long story short. But I want to make the story long.

The bad:

All of these poetry collections by people like Rupi Kaur and others of the same ilk are made with zero care for the craft that is poetry. These collections are filled with one-liners that fill a whole page, sometimes a whole two pages. It is done not for beauty or poetry, but for the shock value, the trend of writing down profound statements and calling it poetry. Because of these poets, the real wordsmiths are forgotten. They aren’t popular, their works tend to be much more lengthy, and many people just don’t get poetry. They’re not taught how to get poetry, and this uneducated audience is what makes these frauds so successful.

Recently I tried to read Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer. I started reading this collection under the very wrong impression that it was going to be full of myth and the use of Aphrodite as a complex and interesting concept and character. This collection is full of those one-liners, full of the whines and self-pity that publishers seem to be eating up. There is no depth to the work, just the same old collection of nothings. I wish I could say this is the only time this year I have been promised a full and promising poetry collection and came away disappointed. Good news is that the art in Aphrodite Made Me Do It is rather intriguing. Perhaps Mateer should stick with the art and not the poetry.

The good:

One-line poetry isn’t bad. No indeed it can be used to great effect, setting off lengthy poems with anti-climactic ends, or even climactic ones. But those who put this type of poetry to the best uses are forgotten. The only reasons I know about better poets are the facts that I am a poet myself, that I go looking for it, that I’ve studied poetry in all its forms for some time.

Again, if only more people were exposed to poetry in well-rounded and in-depth ways. But, to all of you out there who want to have a better understanding of poetry, or want to read better poetry, here are some resources that will set you on the right track:

Medium: there are so many poets on Medium, it would take more than a lifetime to read them all. But that is good, and there is so much variety among the poems and poets themselves – plenty of niches to curl into.

Literary Magazines and Journals: There is a plethora of literary journals and magazines that focus on or include poetry, and most are easily accessible. You can just google “literary journal” or “poetry journal” and you’ll be given many options. However, if you want a comprehensive list, I would suggest looking at Poets and Writers and well as Poetry Foundation. Many colleges and universities also have their own literary journals, so look there too!

Here are some of my favorite literary and poetry journals:

Platypus Press

Fairy Tale Review

The Rialto

Short Édition’s Short Circuit

There are so many other wonderful poets to read. Let’s leave behind shock value, and embrace the beauty of wordsmithing again.

Book Review – Stupid Poems 15 by Ian Vannoey

Stupid Poems 15

Stupid Poems 15 by Ian Vannoey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The title of this collection is very apt, as these poems of Ian Vannoey are really very stupid. Vannoey does the job well. The poems are silly, funny, totally daft, though sometimes they can reference relevant political happenings (which, in and of themselves, can be very stupid indeed). I think this collection is for those who need a fun brain break, and to be silly for a while.
You can definitely tell, as well, that this is a British collection, which may resonate with readers even more, considering not only the political events of Brexit, but also the tendency of Anglophilia (I also am an Anglophile, hence why I chose to read this collection!).

The reason I gave this book three stars, however, is not because it is a bad collection. There will be so many people who love this collection for what it is; however, it is simply not for me.



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Book Review – Ivy in Bloom by Vanita Oelschlager

Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers from the Past

Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers from the Past by Vanita Oelschlager

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I think the best part about Ivy in Bloom is that it has the most gorgeous illustrations by Kristin Blackwood. The illustrations start in the Winter, with heavy whites, grays, and browns, and at the end blooms in bright spring colors. The poetry by Vanita Oelschlager is very simple, and wonderful for a child who is just getting into poetry. What is great about the poem, though, is that each line is adapted from or inspired by a poem from a famous poet. These poems are noted and written out in the back of Ivy in Bloom, and such poets include Charles Dickens, John Greenleaf Whittier, E.E. Cummings, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and so many others.

I recommend this book to anyone who needs a little spot of spring in this Wintertime.



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Book Review – Chronic by D.A. Powell

Chronic

Chronic by D.A. Powell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read this collection for my thesis on reception of Vergil’s Eclogues in 21st century poetry. The last two poems “Corydon & Alexis” and “Corydon & Alexis, Redux” take after Vergil the most, being Powell’s own version of Eclogue 2. Most of the poems in this collection describe Powell’s experience with the AIDS crisis and his experience with disease and love. The last two poems combine all of these themes together. More than this, though, Powell writes about what does and doesn’t last and endure. Very relevant to today’s world whose days, due to the dangers of climate change, are numbered. What lasts is the tradition of humanity, saved in texts like these.



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Book Review-Garden of Ravens by Krystal Jane Ruin

Garden of Ravens

Garden of Ravens by Krystal Jane Ruin

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I reviewed this collection for NetGalley.

I went into Garden of Ravens thinking I was going to get a clever collection of poems that uses themes of folklore and fairytale. After all, as the description says, it is a” collection of dark poetry that journeys through folklore, twisted tales, mental breakdowns, and depression”.

What there actually was of folklore was very little, and I would not call the use of these references clever. There were references to Little Red Riding Hood, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Macbeth, Greek Myths, and a few others; I can see how they were trying to be used, in a way of feminism and representation of abuse. However, all these references did was add a small amount of intellect to an otherwise depressing collection. All in all the folklore themes really were not very important to this collection, which is disappointing.

Most of the collection is about heartbreak and it is very clear that the author needs therapy. It is in the same style and theme as the poems of Rupi Kaur. I understand why it sells, it directly evokes a lot of emotions that people feel when they are unlucky in love. However, the constancy of that theme makes the collection (and others like it) very oppressive and, again, not clever. There was no cleverness in the meter or words used; there were sometimes rhyme schemes but that felt like using rhyme scheme for the sake of rhyme scheme and not for any particular poetic purpose.

Some of the poems, also, were quite creepy. Not horror/folktale creepy, but as if the author is a stalker creepy. I honestly wonder why the publisher thought this collection was a good idea. The themes are good, but the execution is just plain awful and shows no careful or artistic thought. I would not recommend this to anyone.





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Book Review: Imperfect Pastorals by Gail Wronsky

Imperfect Pastorals

Imperfect Pastorals by Gail Wronsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Imperfect Pastorals was the most fortuitous find for me this Spring. I am in the midst of writing my thesis on the reception of Vergil’s pastoral poetry in contemporary pastoral poetry, and after copious amounts of research and digging in places beyond the scope of my field, I came across Gail Wronsky’s wonderful collection. I have read this collection through the perspective of my thesis, and enjoyed wonderfully how Wronsky referenced Vergilian themes within the theme of pastoral, such as liminality (of life and death represented by both nature and through myths like that of Orpheus), man vs. nature, Lucretian philosophy, and of course Vergil’s famous bees.

All of the poems are in un-rhyming verse, and yet Wronsky has structured the poems to be read at a certain rhythm. Though there is no meter as Vergil puts in his works, Wronsky divides stanzas to be each read alone or with the others, employs internal rhyme where it fits, and uses other poetic structures that make the poems flow or jump to representations of nature.

Aside from the classical references, there are mentions of pastoral in the context of Wronsky’s own pastoral landscape of Topanga Canyon, CA (also right in my own hometown), designating her as a Los Angeles poet writing particularly Los Angeles idylls. It is a genre of pastoral all its own, evoking, at least to myself, paintings of Los Angeles by artists such as David Hockney.

I recommend this collection to those who find meaning in the connection, or even disconnection to nature, and its philosophy; and to those who are, like myself, fascinated with the Vergilian and non-Vergilian ideas of myth in pastoral.



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