It seems that many of us here at Literary Mama found something to read this month that resonates within us, giving us pause to reflect on how the work compares to our own lives, be it with poetry, memoir, or fiction.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending AWP for the first time. It was overwhelming, educational, and incredible. It was also expensive in that I emptied my wallet and filled my extra large tote bag to the brim with books and magazines. Whenever faced with a pile of new books, I become excited and often stack and restack them according to the order in which I’d like to read them. This time it was an easy pick. As April is National Poetry Month, I chose to celebrate with a book of poetry. I attended a panel on travel and fell in love with the visual poetry presentation of Kai Carlson-Wee and his brother, Anders Carlson-Wee. Their book, Mercy Songs, is so much more than a collection of travel poems. It’s a call-and-response book of poetry between two talented brothers. It perfectly captures the sibling companionship from younger years to older. Mercy Songs is a must read, with a visual counterpart, its own brother, Holes in the Mountain. There is something so authentic and rugged about this collection of poems and its complementary film. The visceral details in the poems left me tasting metal, hearing trains, and wanting to read it all over again.
Literary Reflections editor Andrea Lani found humor and a connection with Catastrophic Happiness. She writes, "Catherine Newman's book Waiting for Birdy helped get me through the harrowing early months of parenting twin infants and a disaffected four-year-old. So of course I rushed out and got a copy of Catastrophic Happiness the day it came out and devoured it thanks to a serendipitous sick day—immediately. What I love most about Newman's writing is that she can take the most ordinary, unremarkable moment in her family's lives and elevate it to a poignant reflection on life. She's like the Rumpelstiltskin of child-rearing, turning the straw of boring days raising kids into golden words. Also she's funny. Very, very funny. And who couldn't use a good laugh?"
Amanda Jaros, blog editor, is concentrating her efforts on the new blooms of April in both the beauty of nature and writing. She remarks, "I’m rereading Annie Dillard’s classic book of nature writing, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Dillard is adept at focusing on the tiniest details of the natural world outside her door, then reflecting on those details in startling and honest philosophical ways. She doesn’t shy away from the inherent violence of the natural world, but she makes sure to delight in the vivacity of it as well. Dillard takes the reader through the seasons, from the strangeness of a frog being sucked dry by a giant water bug, to the marvelous feat of trees leafing out in spring, constantly paying attention to the minutia of the creek and mountains she frequents. The prose is dense with description and reflection and is often slow-moving, but every line is a well-crafted thing of beauty that causes me to look at my own backyard with so much more insight and appreciation."
Libby Maxey, literary reflections editor, is focusing on fiction. She shares, "I've been reading Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, the first of her now-famous Neapolitan novels. Although I had some difficulty getting into it at first, largely because I was distracted by spots where the translation sounded too literal, I'm quite taken with the human drama now that I'm a third of the way in. The narrator (Elena) and her eponymous friend (Lila) are two smart girls growing up working-class in 1950s Italy, competing for academic glory and social stability in the middle of a sexist, classist, violent world. Although their story is told plainly enough, Ferrante captures the emotional matrices behind the smallest gestures with an explosive concision that gives me the shivers. When Lila pushes Elena's cherished doll through the grate into a uniquely terrifying cellar, Elena musters all her self-control to mask her despair: 'I felt a violent pain, but I sensed that the pain of quarreling with her would be even stronger. I was as if strangled by two agonies, one already happening, the loss of the doll, and one possible, the loss of Lila. I said nothing, I only acted, without spite, as if it were natural, even if it wasn't natural and I knew I was taking a great risk.' Elena's choices, made within a hierarchy of losses and fears, are chilling—and also completely understandable."
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