Part of the joy of reviewing books for The Eastern Door is getting a wide variety of things to read in different genres.
They send them, we read them.
This publication has reviewed books of fiction, political science, history, anthropology, and, at times, poetry.
We look at two collections of poems this week, and we forward a challenge: read a book of poetry this winter.
If you haven’t turned the page and rolled your eyes yet, good.
Books of poetry are a joy to read. A friend of mine suggested this method: read the entire book in one sitting. It’s a good suggestion, and one that I used when looking at this week’s selections.
Note: focusing on a set of poems requires putting the phone aside for a moment, finding a comfortable spot, and just diving in.
Thisledown Press’s publication of Mika Lafond’s nipê wânîn and Cartograph by Cara-Lyn Morgan are great reads and reading either book in sittings that could be as short as 30 minutes gives one the potential of exploring the authors’ culture, personality and landscape.
Both books are journeys.
Morgan’s poems bounce between landscape, familial relations and introspection.
The first chapter “map” follows the book’s title, and explores the four corners of the compass.
Morgan’s collection is never far from the land, but the map title should not be taken literally. She charts her body’s recovery at times, her family’s journey, and past moments of pain and pleasure.
“My father finds reminders of his childhood/everywhere, the agouti with their blunt/nose and deer legs, mouse ears/which twitch when the baby makes kissing/sounds at them. Perhaps I know him. Here/in a place his bones understand,” Morgan writes in “el camino.”
When reading poems like Morgan’s, the effect is much like a roving camera catching images and feelings as it pans.
Lafond’s collection again is a journey, as the title suggests; nipê wânîn translates to “my way back” in Cree.
A highlight of the book is that each poem includes a translation in Cree giving readers the chance to learn words or just read for the pleasure of hearing the language aloud.
It’s a style one hopes catches on, as reading poetry in two languages is such a pleasant exercise.
The chapters acâhk (spirit), niya (me), and askiy (land) all have their own mini-journey within the larger exploration. Again, think of a camera panning a panoply of scenescapes and emotions.
Lafond’s words have a raw honesty about them that can be painful and beautiful at the same time.
“You don’t see the pain – strangling grip choking/my names – dirty – ugly – stupid bitch/his lips ruin me with words/I’ve been crying – lying – too shy/to explain/buried under nightmares/too real – to feel normal again,” she writes in “don’t call me beautiful (kâa kimiyosin isin).”
Grab one or both of them, and give it a whirl.
No one ever regretted reading a book of poems.