It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. If it does it will be the first of the season! In honor of the first snowfall, I wrote this.
Tiny DestinyEach snowflake is unique Each one with a tiny life Each one, a tiny destiny For most they fall On trees or roads. The lucky kiss our cheeks and nose. Once they melt they’ve lived their lives. If only they could say goodbye.
I’m a big fan of Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform for creative projects. A while back I was intrigued by J.S. White’s story of a little devil that wanted to be an angel, and a little angel that decided to help him. I helped fund the kickstarter project and a few months later I received a limited edition signed hardcover (in full color), a signed paperback, two t-shirts, and a bag of marbles (they’re in the story). My name is also listed as a contributor on the front page. Pretty impressive package right? I thought so anyway.
I read this story so quickly that afterwards I had a little bit of withdrawal. Seriously, I read the book in about four hours and when I was done I felt like I had gotten one of those holiday boxes of chocolate and ate the whole thing in one sitting. The story was wonderful (and not because my name is in the book) and at first I was worried that this book was going to have an agenda. You know what I mean, one of those “if you act like this you’re going to hell” type things. I already have enough people asking me to join everything from Scientology to the Church of the SubGenius (I live in Seattle…can’t you tell?). I don’t need another one trying to sell me.
The story is about a young devil boy who steals a halo from his father, a powerful demon in the Netherworld after receiving a strange note. Rayjack, a naive angel boy, runs into a wounded Ash who is being pursued for stealing the halo. They become friends and set off on the journey to make Ash’s dream come true. The halo he stole isn’t what it seems and the pair are in for a shock of a lifetime. White has done a great job created this alternate world. He’s managed to make the Netherworld and Aetherworld vivid and exciting, but I found myself wishing he could show us more of it. The angels and devils were very human and relatable, the two main characters especially. There are some good twists and the last quarter of the book really took off, I just wish the story was longer. I think i’ve become spoiled with all these 700+ page young adult novels. This one clocks in at just over 300. I’m excited to read the second one and I hope it comes out soon. You can find it on Amazon and you can also check out his site Rayjack.com for more info (and some great illustrations).
There are few as daring as Seth Steinzor, let me tell you that. It’s not everyday that you embark on a mission to bring one of high school students most hated, and the rest of the world’s much loved Dante’s The Inferno in narrative verse. When I was contacted by TLC book tours to review the book I was at first shocked but then began to wonder why no one had tried it before (maybe they have but I haven’t seen it). My curiosity was piqued and here I am reporting on my readings for all to enjoy.
What first struck me was the accessibility of the writing. I’m an advocate for making poetry more approachable to the rest of the world, not just the academics and English majors. A lot of the problems that I see, (and one reason more people don’t read it) are that many poets become focused on the metaphors and structure so much that they forget about the crucial element…the audience. I was a little scared when I got Steinzor’s book in the mail because well, he was tackling such an important piece of work. Almost everyone has heard of Dante’s Inferno, and a lot of people quote Dante’s work works without even knowing. So here comes To Join the Lost and I can say that I was pleasantly surprised.
What I like about this book is I feel that’s it made to reach poetry readers and non poetry readers alike. Even if you haven’t read The Inferno before, you don’t need to. The story stands on it’s own merit, occasionally throwing in tidbits and quips that will amuse the Dante purists out there with lines such as:
“His voice was sweet and soft, and the phrase was one of the few I knew in Italian. Odder to meet an Italian who can’t quote Dante than one who can.”
The imagery is excellent and as I descended deeper into the circles, it only got more entertaining. His prose allowed me to read it more like a novel than a poem which I think will help make this book a success. During his descent he covers everything from politics to philosophy and while the original was anchored in the dominant Catholic views of the time, this one seems to follow a more zen like or buddhist approach. Here is an excerpt and comparison of the original and new as they enter into hell:
I think that this is a perfect time for a book like this to come out. With it’s sarcasm and play on modern day America, I think this book gives us a witty escape from our recession ridden lives. I’m glad to have this book in my collection and what better time to give your friends and relatives a book about hell than on Christmas? Kidding…Anyway, it’s available on Amazon (just click the book photo I’ve posted) and be sure to check out Seth Steinzor’s website and TLC Book Tours who were gracious enough to give me a copy of this book for review. To Join the Lost is infinitely quotable and a pleasant read.
Oh man, where to begin? Gennady Aygi is a Chuvash poet who grew up at a time when Russia was still the U.S.S.R and they didn’t take too kindly to poets, especially Chuvash ones. For those who have no idea what Chuvash is (which included me), it’s a small ethnic minority group that is concentrated in an area a few hundred miles west of Moscow. It’s basically in the middle of nowhere; I couldn’t even find his hometown on Google Maps. Aygi has been awarded numerous poetry awards (such as the Pasternak prize) and is a multiple Nobel Prize nominee. Basically, this guy has pretty much maxed out poetry’s “street cred.”
The reason that it’s taken me so long to do the review for this collection is well…it was hard. For those of you who have read some of my other reviews you know how I’m always trying to find collections that can be used to grab a broader audience so that they can be converted to regular poetry readers. This is not the book to do it. Aygi’s poems are truly a masterpiece but I probably understand 1% of them. This is not one of those poetry books that you relax to on Sunday morning with some coffee. This collection takes a lot of work. You could easily structure a college course just on this one collection. He is one of the best poets I’ve ever seen when it comes to using word spacing and structure. In the poem “Untitled Aloud” He actually has a handwritten music score in-between stanzas. A music score!
I wish I could expound on the inner workings of his poems and the symbolism behind poem X but I’d be lying. I think it will take several more readings before I start to understand his works. I applaud Sarah Valentine for attempting to tackle a poet who’s poems have such a command of Russian idiom that most Russians don’t comprehend all the meaning behind them. I highly recommend you add this book to your collection, just be prepared to do some work.
Here is an untitled poem from the collection that gives you a good glimpse of his style:
brighter than the heart of any single tree
(Quiet places –– holding up the highest strength
of song. It takes away hearing there, un-
able to hold back. Places non-thoughts –– if you understand