CBR Bingo – Verse, for this lovely book of poetry
I am an avid reader – and I love a good poem, especially one embedded into a narrative. When a character reads a poem in a novel, I always think, I should read more poetry. But I rarely have the patience to finish an entire book of poetry. This book, consumed over several days, in between chapters of the book that I am STILL reading (Hanya Yanagihara writes looong books!) – this book might be the first book of poetry I’ve read in its entirety since Where the Sidewalk Ends. It was worth the effort! I loved Vuong’s novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Vuong’s voice is both streetwise and personal. This is a book about loss, addiction, regret, hope, love, all the big hits that make reading interesting.
One thing that makes poetry difficult for me is that it really requires you to slow down – and I’m always looking for the next plot point. I think this makes me an inadequate reviewer of a book of poetry, in some ways – I’m not one to pick out a specific poem and parse what its structure means. I can appreciate that poets play with packing so much meaning into empty space – and yet, I still struggle with interpreting that. Dear Rose, one of the longer pieces, was a poem that seemed to be beg to be read aloud – each line fed into the next, changing the meaning or context both slowly AND abruptly. Several poems were letters to specific people (Sara, T, Peter, etc). Another piece told a story with brutal simplicity – Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker, a gut punch in lists. Other pieces read more like prose, but always with Vuong’s specific voice.
Even if I cannot contribute much to the conversation about the meaning of each piece, taken as a whole this book offers a number of beautiful passages and phrases – “the sadness in him ends in me tonight”; “Because where I’m from the trees look like grandfathers dancing in the rain”; . While many of the images were related to moments of pain (loss, accidents) I love Vuong’s attention to the smaller details, letting beauty sit side by side with the pain.