Poetry and Islands: Materiality and the Creative Imagination
by Rajeev S. Patke
Rowman & Littlefield, 2018
An island is either a destination, or a home, or a place of exile and imprisonment, or simply a place to sojourn. It is an ideal vehicle for journeys treated as allegories, or for acts of finding that turn into acts of losing, or the reverse transformation. An island is not a continent; yet it can be an archipelago. An island is both a place in itself and a pretext for imaginings that need a local habitation and a name. It can give relief, and pleasure; or it can frustrate, isolate, and negate. Above all, it both invites and resists — or contains or constrains — the imagination.
In all cultures and times, the poetic imagination has fed on the natural attributes of islands.
Poetry and Islands explores how islands become repositories of human longings and desires, a locus for some of our deepest fears and fantasies. It balances historical and geographical reference with a selective approach to poems and poets in English, and in translations into English. The study of particular poems in which islands figure in exemplary ways is balanced by a more detailed discussion of the poets who have played a major role in shaping human responses to islands on a global scale.
(Adapted from the publisher’s description)
by Norma Farber
El León Literary Arts, 2012
Year of Reversible Loss is a cornucopia of meditative insight and poetry, pondering the trajectory of grief and capturing its changing rhythms through gemlike poetry and sustained passages of remembrance and reflection. Norma Farber traces the turning of the seasons as a deeply felt metaphor for the journey of the grieving heart in this journal of the year following the death of her husband, Sidney Farber, dedicated pioneer in the field of pediatric oncology.
Where once a leaf clung,
the ashtree wears a scar,
a moon halted at half.
Her observations of the natural world as well as the hidden recesses of the heart are startling, fresh, at once keenly personal and transcendent.
Sign your name on the wind.
Then I’ll know which way
to follow you.
Reviewed by Lillian Howan, author of The Charm Buyers.
by John Morgan; artwork by Kesler Woodward
University of Alaska Press, 2014
River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir is a book-length poem that takes readers on a weeklong raft trip down a river in southcentral Alaska. Bears, eagles, moose, seals, otters, and salmon inhabit the poem’s world, and the landscapes shift between glaciers, mountains, rapids, and waterfalls. The trip becomes a spiritual journey journey as well, as the poem includes commentary by fifteenth-century Indian mystic poet Kabir (pronounced kuh-BEER), who serves as a mentor to the narrator. The raft trip described in the poem took place in 2003, the year in which the second Iraq War began, so the war is on the narrator’s mind and becomes a metaphor for his inner struggles. However, the main story of the poem is the trip itself, which is influenced and shaped by the river’s waves and currents, and the wildlife and scenery that provide frequent surprises for the travelers. This volume includes artwork by Alaska artist Kesler Woodward. Woodward participated in the original raft trip and makes an appearance in the poem as well.
John Morgan was born in New York. He earned his MFA degree at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was awarded the Academy of American Poets’ Prize. He has perviously published four books of poetry, four chapbooks, and a collection of essays. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Yale Review, and other magazines and anthologies.
by Bei Dao
Edited by Eliot Weinberger
New Directions, 2010
The Rose of Time: New & Selected Poems is the newest collection from contemporary Chinese poet Bei Dao, spanning his entire writing career. Distinguished by humanist philosophies and experimental techniques, Bei Dao creates an alternative reality that can be sullen, bitter, and violent, yet also fertile and hopeful. His work attempts to understand the nature of identity, public and private afflictions, and human problems grounded in all modern societies. This bilingual edition includes a preface form the author and an afterward by the editor, Eliot Weinberger. (Publisher’s Description)
Bei Dao (born Zhao Zhenkai, 1949 in Beijing, China) founded the literary magazine Today (Jintian) along with Mank Ke. Bei Dao’s poems have been used as political anthems and humanistic tropes, most notably in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. His work has been translated into twenty-five langauges. Bei Dao is currently a Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong.
by Simon Perchik
Split Shift, 2001
Simon Perchik was born in Paterson, New Jersey. He is best known for his personal, non-narrative style of poetry. In addition to The Autochthon Poems, Perchik has published seventeen books. His works have appeared in numerous print magazines, including The New Yorker, Partisan Review, AGNI, Poetry, The Nation, North American Review, Weave Magazine, Beloit, and CLUTCH .
by Jaun Cameron
With translations by Cola Franzen, Steven F. White, and Roger Hickin
Cold Hub Press, 2013
Jaun Cameron was born in Valparaíso in 1947. For many years, his poems reflected the realities of living under a dictatorship and then in exile. Members of his own generation were just commencing their literary careers when the Pinochet dictatorship began. To circumvent draconian censorship laws that forbade any criticism of the regime, these writers resorted to a coded language. Not belonging to any official group, Cameron could not earn a living, and after some years of struggle, he emigrated to Sweden, where he remained for ten years. He is now back in Valparaíso with his wife, graphic artist Virginia Vizcaino. Apart from three chapbooks translated by Cola Franzen, So We Lost Paradise is the first selection of Cameron’s poetry to appear in English.
Cola Franzen is an American writer and translator who has published fifteen books of translations. In 2000 her translations of Jorge Guillen’s poetry, Horses in the Air and other poems, won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets.
Steven F. White has translated and edited many volumes of Spanish poetry. His translation with Greg Simon of Lorca’s Poet in New York was widely acclaimed.
Roger Hickin is a New Zealand poet and visual artist, and editor of Cold Hub Press.
by Judy Rohrer
University of Hawai‘i Press, 2010
Haoles in Hawai’i strives to make sense of the term “haole” (Hawaiian for “white person”) and “the politics of haole” in current debates about race in Hawai’i. Recognizing it as a form of American whiteness specific to Hawai’i, the author (who grew up in Kaua’i and O’ahu) argues that haole was forged and reforged over two centuries of colonization and needs to be understood in that context. Haole reminds us that race is about more than skin color as it identifies a certain amalgamation of attitude and behavior that is at odds with Hawaiian and local values and social norms. By situating haole historically and politically, the author asks readers to think about ongoing processes of colonization and possibilities for reformulating the meaning of haole. (Publisher’s decription)
Judy Rohrer grew up in Hawai’i and received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Hawai’i in 2005. She has published writings on race and colonization in Hawai’i, gay marriage, disability studies, and citizenship in Racial and Ethnic Studies, Borderlands, Feminist Studies, The Contemporary Pacific, and American Quarterly.