Tag Archives: poetry

The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, by Joy Harjo

The Woman Who Fell From The Sky

  • Genre
    • Poetry, Free Verse
  • Plot Summary
    • A collection of poems about heritage, pain, personal growth, love and hope in the face of grief. 
  • Character Empathy
    • Interesting. You see mostly people in fragmented moments and sideways glances, but these still evoke a strong sense of personality, perhaps because they capture the contradictions, frailties and dilemmas that make up real humans.
  • Tone: What’s it Like to Read This Book?
    • The first thing that came to mind is that this book is like water. I love wading into big cool lakes, finding an open space and just floating in the middle; this book gave me that feeling. It’s a force of nature, but gently immersive. It’s dynamic, but peaceful. The sentences are deliberately long, so you get a little lost in the hops from concept to concept, but the sense of an emotion or idea completely captures you. It’s a book to reread and reread, not so much to understand it better, as to understand how you understood it so well the first time around.
    • There’s also a permeating, thunderingly fierce sense of love. She talks often about the power of love and kindness; not mere civility, but the kind of determined, transformative love that shows up in small moments, but takes real courage to show.
  • Other Shiny Stuff
    • The end of each poem has notes on the inspiration, whether historical or personal, and extra little reflections. I love it when authors do that. 
    • Look, this is a book of absurdly pretty poems. Do you like absurdly pretty poems? Ones where you’ll read it and totally lose track of your surroundings, because you’re just dwelling on the pure, distilled majesty that is being fed to your eyeballs? Then you’ll like this book. What else do you need?
  • Content Warnings
    • Some allusions to abuse and oppression, but nothing graphic.
  • Quotes
    • “If we cry more tears we will ruin the land with salt; instead let’s praise that which would distract us with despair. Make a song for death, a song with yellow teeth and bad breath. For loneliness, the house guest who eats everything and refuses to leave. A song for bad weather so we can stand together under our leaking roof, and make a terrible music with our wise and ragged bones.”
    • “Every day is a reenactment of the creation story. We emerge from dense unspeakable material, through the shimmering power of dreaming stuff.”
    • “Truth can appear as disaster in a land of things unspoken.”
    • “(When a people institute a bureaucratic department to service justice then be suspicious. False justice is not justified by massive structure, just as the sacred is not confineable to buildings constructed for the purpose of worship.)
    • “Her mother has business in the house of chaos. She is a prophet disguised as a young mother who is looking for a job.”
    • I’m sorry, said the house who sat down by the man who’d taken refuge in the street. The inhabitants could be heard disappearing through aluminum walls as the boy bent to the slap and beating by the father who was charged with loving and nothing in him could answer to that angel. I could not protect you, cried the house: Though the house gleamed with appliances. Though the house was built with postwar money and hope. Though the house was their haven after the war. Though the war never ended.”
    • “When I hear crows talking, death is a central topic, Death often occurs in clusters, they say. They watch the effect like a wave that moves out from the center of the question. The magnetic force is attractive and can make you want to fly to the other side of the sky.”
    • All acts of kindness are lights in the war for justice.”
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Rose, by Li-Young Lee

Rose

  • Genre
    • Poetry, Free Verse
  • Plot Summary
    • A collection of memories, beautifully told in free verse
  • Character Empathy
    • Tender and immersive; his family is a main topic, and each poem made me feel like they were a part of me, just as they are a part of him.
  • Tone: What’s it Like to Read This Book?
    • Soothing like a lullaby. I could have finished this book in a day, but after a few poems I wanted to take a break and luxuriate in the impressions for a little while. 
  • Other Shiny Stuff
    • At first I thought this was just a collection of lovely moments, and I was all right with this. Once I had begun the third section, though, I realized it had been telling me a story all along; one so personal and honest I felt oddly privileged to have been allowed to read it. I won’t spoil it here. 
  • Content Warnings
    • Not applicable
  • Quotes
    • “It’s late. I’ve come to find the flower which blossoms like a saint dying upside down. The rose won’t do, nor the iris. I’ve come to find the moody one, the shy one, downcast, grave, and isolated.”
    • “I was cold once. So my father took off his blue sweater. He wrapped me in it, and I never gave it back. It is the sweater he wore to America, this one, which I’ve grown into, whose sleeves are too long, whose elbows have thinned, who outlives its rightful owner. Flamboyant blue in daylight, poor blue by daylight, it is black in the folds.”
    • “Other words
      that got me into trouble were
      fight and fright, wren and yarn.
      Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
      Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
      Wrens are small, plain birds,
      yarn is what one knits with.
      Wrens are soft as yarn.
      My mother made birds out of yarn.
      I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
      a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.”

The Surrender Tree, by Margarita Engle

The Surrender Tree

  • Genre
    • Poetry, Historical Fiction, Free Verse
  • Plot summary
    • The story of Cuba’s various wars for independence, told primarily through the eyes of Rosa, a former slave who becomes a gifted herbalist, dedicated to healing the wounds of enemy and friend alike.
  • Character empathy rating
    • I’d answer this question, but just thinking about it makes me reach for tissues, so I’ll just move on to the next one while I can still see straight. 
  • Tone: What’s it Like to Read This Book?
    • When you read other people’s reviews, the words that come up most often are “haunting” and “powerful.” And yeah, that sums it up pretty perfectly
  • Other Shiny Stuff
    • Most of the characters are taken from historical figures, including Rosa the healer. 
    • Lieutenant Death’s switch from being a sympathetic child to a dedicated Javert type figure is jarring and tragic, in the best way.
    • I swear I learned more about the Spanish-American war from these poems than any teacher ever taught me. 
  • Content Warnings
    • You get to learn about the world’s first concentration camps. So yeah, there’s violence here. 
  • Quotes
    • “The child tells me her grandmother
      showed her how to cure sadness
      by sucking the juice of an orange,
      while standing on a beach.

      Toss the peels onto a wave.
      Watch the sadness float away.”

    • “Hatred must be a hard thing to learn.”
    • I can’t understand
      why dark northern soldiers
      and light ones
      are seperated into different brigades.
      The dead are all buried together
      in hasty mass graves,
      bones touching.”
    • “Can it be true that freedom only exists when it is a treasure, shared by all?”