Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.

======


That bit above is usually true on Sundays. Today, I offer a different kind of collection. Because sometimes, the very best way to encounter poetry is to be surprised by it, to catch it out of the corner of your eye.



The Poetry Unbound podcast from On Being is a lovely way to let a poem, a single poem take up all the space in the room. Too often, with a collection, we read poem after poem, letting the accumulated power of them do their important work. With this podcast, host Pádraig Ó Tuama guides listeners through a single poem, not belaboring it but opening it up, lifting it to the light for a closer look. New episodes arrive each Monday and Friday, which means I can always find a Sunday poem if I need it. My favorites are all here: Ada Limón and Ross Gay and a few favorites I hadn't met yet, like "Prayer" from Faisal Mohyuddin, which contains this perfect reminder of why I read poetry on Sundays:


. . . unfasten your cluttered mind from the tangible hold of secular trances bow down


before the cascading glow of God’s mercy submit to a centripetal course towards the gates of a more perfect emptiness


Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.

Last Sunday at 9 pm, I was unexpectedly stuck in the parking lot of a 24-hour Walgreens, awaiting antibiotics for my son who had unreasonably contracted strep (how in god's name we are so careful). Without question, the day had not gone as planned, and there would be no Sunday Poetry post. But with the relentless pulse of small town traffic outside my car, and the pages dappled with light from the drugstore sign behind me, I read (finally!) Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic. It is an amazing piece of work - poetry, yes, but also drama and allegory and elegy.

This book is a partner/cousin/step-sibling to David Grossman's Falling Out of Time, another tale of love and loss that blends poetry and drama. But where Grossman's story provides a tight examination of individual, parental grief, Kaminsky's collection explores a collective loss and uncertainty, the pain exploding outward to encompass all. Here, as a sample, is the opening poem, an indictment and urging all in one:


We Lived Happily during the War


And when they bombed other people's houses, we


protested

but not enough, we opposed them but not


enough. I was

in my bed, around my bed America


was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house--


I took a chair outside and watched the sun.


In the sixth month

of a disastrous reign in the house of money


in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,

our great country of money, we (forgive us)


lived happily during the war.


---

The only problem with relying on the public library is sometimes you experience a title that feels so essential, such a required part of the narrative that you feel compelled to buy the book you just finished reading. Such is the case with Kaminsky's Deaf Republic. Anyone want to buy me a copy?

The best books spark the best conversations! If you have thoughts to share, please feel free to email me at sarabethwest52@gmail.com. I promise a reply.

Every Wednesday, I send out something of a hodgepodge of ideas, a gathering of thoughts on books, culture, and unexpected moments of joy. Sign up here to stay in the loop!


Sara Beth West

(@fiftytwowest)

is a reader and a writer, offering book reviews and interviews with leading writers and thinkers.

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