Friday, 15 January 2016

Poetry Book review...of sorts, and a moan

I'm getting to the end of the backlog of poetry books I purchased at the Poetry Book Fair in September. Last but one is All the Ways You Still Remind Me of the Moon by Liane Strauss (from Paekakariki Press). I bought this for two reasons: 1) Loved the black cover with the moon on the front and there are pages throughout depicting the various phases of the moon, 2) two years ago I began writing a series of moon poem myself and I wanted to see how someone else did it!

The poems are very different from my mine (my thunder is not yet stolen) and reading them has taken me back to my own collection. I have been re-reading them, editing and have actually added to them - first poems of the year.

Liane's poems look at how our lives wax and wane like the moon through relationships, patterns and actions. I am not one for recognising much poetry form but when a poem is called Villanelle of the Moon I know where I'm at! I rather like this form and the challenge it presents. I enjoyed this poem which used the idea of the moon as a reminder of what to do and comes back with 'always leading me to you.'

I also enjoyed Catching the Moon which resonated with my own writing. I think I need to do closer/slower reading of some poems to get the full meanings but I did like the way Liane uses internal rhyme in her poems as well as end rhymes. It is a nice booklet and visually pleasing, split, as it is, into sections corresponding to the moon's phases (by the art work). That's one of the things I enjoy about the Poetry Book Fair - the different formats of books and pamphlets being produced. I am draw by black and white art work and anything different. Poetry has come a long way from the plain book. It's exciting to see poetry branching out in new directions.

One last thing about form and the recognising of it. Some poetry forms are obvious to me like the sonnet and villanelle, other not. I don't take poems apart to work out whether they conform to a set pattern, use 'metrical feet' or have feminine word endings. Maybe this is why I shall never make a 'real' poet! I know it makes for a poor poetry book reviewer as I struggle to find the words for what I mean.

However, when I write I find a lot of those constraints take away the creative element,  Does knowing all of them and applying them make you a better poet? Having read most of Stephen's Fry The Ode Less Travelled I got bogged down by all the iambs, spondees, dactyls and trochees. I have other books which explain them but it's like getting to grips with another language. I wish I could be this clever juggler of anapests and such like but it's Greek to me (I think that's an attempt at a joke at root words!).  Maybe with me it's like music - can't write it, can't read it, but sing me a tune and I will give you a harmony.

When listening to a tutor trying her best to explain metrical feet and admitting that even she struggled, I thought yes, this is like the clergy trying to explain the Trinity. Impossible!

You can read one of Liane's poems here.

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