Svetlana Lilova: Metaphysical Dictionary (2016) A Collection of Poems with Illustrations by Graham Falk

metaphysical-dictionary

Some of you may remember that I participated in Thomas’ (MystwostotinkiBulgarian Literature Month in June. Right after the month was finished, I was offered a copy of Svetlana Lilova’s poetry collection Metaphysical Dictionary. Svetlana Lilova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and emigrated to Canada as a teenager. Language is one of the major preoccupations of any expat or immigrant. So it’s not surprising that Lilova’s collection is inspired by this experience and written in the form of a dictionary.

This is such a unique collection. It combines Lilova’s poems with drawings by Graham Falk. The result is as original as it is thought-provoking.

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You can open it anywhere you want and you’ll find something that will surprise or delight you.

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It’s possible to read the book from beginning to end, but it’s equally rewarding to just open it at random and read an entry here and there.

If you click on the images, you can read a few of the entries. Here are some more:

nature      an endless song

a symphony of diversity and balance

inertia  outwardly;

a lot happening on the inside

demanding all attention

vital to attend

focus

inwardly;

not moving enough to produce

a reflection or substance

to focus on

sad      unknown

suffused with rose water

choice     what we all have

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This is the kind of book that would make an excellent gift. Not only for lovers of poetry and quirky texts, but also for those who enjoy the combination of words and drawings.md4

The collection has been published by Dumagrad Books, a Canadian publisher I wasn’t familiar with. For those who are interested in independent publishers, don’t miss visiting the website. They have a really appealing catalogue.

Linda Pastan’s The Happiest Day

Heroes in Disguise

I don’t read a lot of poetry. Maybe one or two books a year, often less. Last year, I discovered the poems of Linda Pastan. One of my favourites is The Happiest Day.

It’s from her collection Heroes in Disguise.

The Happiest Day

It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn’t believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of the lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day–
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere–
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then…
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.

Carol Ann Duffy: Rapture (2005) Poems

Rapture

Carol Ann Duffy’s seventh collection is a book-length love poem, and a moving act of personal testimony; but what sets these poems apart is Duffy’s refusal to simplify the contradictions and transformations of love – infatuation, longing, passion, commitment, rancour, separation and grief. Instead, Rapture is a map of real love, in all its churning complexity, showing us that a song can be made of even the most painful episodes in our lives. These are poems that will find deep rhymes in the experience of most readers and will, ultimately, prove that poetry can and should speak for us all.

I like poetry and try to read a poem here and there as often as possible but it’s relatively rare that I read a whole collection in one go.  British poet Carol Ann Duffy’s collection Rapture was an exception that’s why I decided to write about it.

I often hear people say they would love to read poetry but feel they need special guidance, an instruction, an interpretation to be able to make the most of a poem. While I certainly like some of the poets which are not so accessible, I thought it was a pleasure to find someone like Carol Ann Duffy who is so readable and whose poems almost read like short stories. Reading her would be a perfect starting point for someone less familiar with reading poetry.

Rapture is meant to be read from beginning to end as it does, to some extent, tell a love story, beginning with the early enchanted moments of falling in love and ending with the break-up and loss of the loved person.

What appealed to me in Duffy’s poems is the combination of strong imagery and ideas. The words she chooses create pictures in the mind, are very sensual but at the same time they lead to intellectual discoveries. Another element which seems typical for her and makes her so accessible, is the combination of the mundane with lyrical descriptions of nature. Love in these poems is rooted in daily life but also experienced as pure beauty and enchantment. Duffy writes a lot of almost magical poems describing exalted states but she doesn’t shy away from writing about the sudden importance of text messages.

I haven’t read any others of her collections so far but it seems every book has a theme which runs through it. The themes are different from one book to the next, but images return and weave a world of their own.

The collection I bought, is the Picador collection which you can see above. The cover is very pretty, it’s not as red as on the photo. The picture of the branch of a fig tree, with leaves and fruits, is embossed on it.

I find it very hard to review a poetry collection and think it might be better to let the poems speak for themselves. Here are three of my favourite poems of this collection:

Name

When did your name
change from a proper noun
to a charm?

Its three vowels
like jewels
on the thread of my breath.

Its consonants
brushing my mouth
like a kiss.

I love your name.
I say it again and again
in this summer rain.

I see it,
discreet in the alphabet,
like a wish.

I pray it
into the night
till its letters are light.

I hear your name
rhyming, rhyming,
rhyming with everything.

River

Down by the river, under the trees, love waits for me
to walk from the journeying years of my time and arrive.
I part the leaves and they toss me a blessing of rain.

The river stirs and turns consoling and fondling itself
with watery hands, its clear limbs parting and closing.
Grey as a secret, the heron bows its head on the bank.

I drop my past on the grass and open my arms, which ache
as though they held up this heavy sky, or had pressed
against window glass all night as my eyes sieved the stars;

open my mouth, wordless at last meeting love at last, dry
from travelling so long, shy of a prayer. You step from the shade,
and I feel love come to my arms and cover my mouth, feel

my soul swoop and ease itself into my skin, like a bird
threading a river. Then I can look love full in the face, see
who you are I have come this far to find, the love of my life.

Tea

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.

While browsing the internet to do a bit of research on this collection I found an interesting article by Jeanette Winterson from 2005 in which she deplores that Carol Ann Duffy is not poet laureate. I’m sure Jeanette Winterson is pleased that this has changed. Carol Ann Duffy holds the title since 2009.

Do you have a favourite poem or poet?

Giveaway Winner – The Day the World Ends – A Collection of Poems by Ethan Coen

As promised, I’ve drawn the winner of the poetry collection The Day the World Ends courtesy of Crown Publishing.

random org. list generator has decided. The winner is

Guy Savage (His Futile Preoccupations)

Congratulations, Guy.

Pease send me your address via beautyisasleepingcat@gmail.com

Poetry Month Book Giveaway – The Day the World Ends – A Collection of Poems by Ethan Coen

April is poetry month and that seems to be an excellent reason to give away a book of poetry. I wasn’t even aware of the fact that the younger of the two Coen brothers wrote poems before Crown Publishing offered me the opportunity to give away his newly released book The Day the World Ends.

Here is what the blurb says

Coen’s eccentric genius is revealed again in THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS (Broadway Paperbacks Original, on sale April 3, 2012), a collection of poems that offers humor and provides insight into an artist who has always pushed the boundaries of his craft. THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS  is a remarkable range of poems that are as funny, ribald, provocative, raw, and often touching as the brilliant films that have made the Coen brothers cult legends.

I haven’t read any of his poems but I like the movies of the Coen brothers a lot. The Big Lebowski is one of my favourite comedies. It seems that some of the poems in his older collection were quite controversial.

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If you would you like to win the book, please leave a comment. The giveaway is open internationally. The winner will be announced on Sunday 15 April 2012. 

Literature and War Readalong January 28 2011: Strange Meeting by Susan Hill

The end of the month will arrive sooner than we think and I just wanted to remind you that I am going to post on the first book in the Literature and War Readalong, Susan Hill’s Strange Meeting on January 28. I hope some of you have read it and will participate in the discussion and maybe post as well. It’s a short novel of barely 200 pages. The novel tells the story of two very different men who meet during WWI. The first four novels of this read along are all dedicated to WWI. The only one that is slightly longer (300 pages), is the April choice, Carol Ann Lee’s The Winter of the World.

To get you in the mood for Strange Meeting, here’ s a quote taken from Susan Hill’s website

My great uncle Sidney was killed on his 18th birthday at the Battle of the Somme and his photograph in uniform was on the dresser in my grandmother’s house so as a young child I always asked about him. The Great War began to haunt me from then and my interest became an obsession after I heard Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in Coventry Cathedral. I knew I would have to write a novel about it but first I read everything I could – memoirs, biographies, history, letters. I wrote the novel in 6 weeks, at home in Warwickshire, and in my rented house in Aldeburgh, where I tramped across the marshes in the rain and mud and saw the ghosts of dead soldiers rising up in front of me.

But having finished it, my interest in the First World War was exorcised and it has never returned.

Another quote that seems important in the context is the poem Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen which Susan Hill certainly had in mind.

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall, –
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand pains that vision’s face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
‘Strange friend,’ I said, ‘here is no cause to mourn.’
‘None,’ said that other, ‘save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled,
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now…’

I will try from now on and post a quick note on all the books of the readalong during the first weeks of each month.