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
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 email@example.com. I promise a reply.
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