Before we dig in today, I want to welcome my new followers, most of whom were brought here via last week’s post on The Accidental Athlete (featured on Freshly Pressed, a fact I’m incredibly excited and not a little confused about – I mean, does anyone actually know how they select the pieces featured?). In an unexpected whirlwind adventure, I spent most of Friday and Saturday moderating and responding to hundreds of comments and checking out as many of the blogs now following me as I could. I still can’t believe the response, and I’m more than a little nervous about living up to the hype…
At any rate, I hope you’ve all had a chance to look around. I don’t post about sports more than about once a month; running, yoga, and Zombie Apocalypse Training (I really should trademark that idea…) are huge parts of my life, and I love discussing them here when I find a worthy book on a related subject, but my literary interests are far-flung. I very much hope you’ll hang around regardless – I was moved and impressed by the range of comments on that last post, and I’m excited to have new voices joining the scene.
That being said, I was basically paralyzed on Saturday night when I realized that A) I hadn’t started reading another book on Friday morning as planned, B) I had a much larger and untested audience to appeal to, and C) I had mentally committed myself to reviewing one of the (non Kindle) books on the To-Read shelf. Ugh. It’s not that those books are bad – in fact, I’ve kept them around because I assume I’ll enjoy them…someday. But I was coming off a writer’s high – literally thousands of people had read and responded to a post I’d written about a great book, and here I was, glumly flipping through some dismal looking titles. To make matters worse, on Friday night, I went to see The Hunger Games (obviously), and although I have a few issues with both the movie and the books, I did love the series, and it was difficult to find another book that would engage me with any comparable energy.
No. Obviously no sane person would pick a book that would probably have little to no appeal to sports lovers, YA addicts, or fantasy/sci-fi geeks…but what can I say? I love a challenge.
To make this even more hilarious, although I enjoy poetry and have written my fair share of it, I rarely read poetry anthologies. I endured a lot of abuse for this in college, and if anything, the disdain of my poetry-devouring classmates made me want to pick such a book up even less. So why would I do this?
Good question. Well, first of all, one of the editors is Naomi Shihab Nye , who wrote Habibi (reviewed in January). I find her delightful, and one of the great things about being a beloved author is that you have the power to convince me to read something I might otherwise ignore. Secondly, even though I’m wary of poetry, I loved the idea behind the book – the editors grouped almost 200 poems into pairs to demonstrate the different ways in which male and female poets see the same topic (excerpted from the back cover). My husband and I got married a year ago April (after being together for four), and I’ve been curious watching as our first year of marriage unfolds with all its beautiful quirks. As much as he is basically the best man in the universe (a completely unbiased perspective, of course), sometimes it feels like we’re talking about the same topic in two completely different languages. And I have to imagine we are not the only ones…
In a typical novel, I often notice the difference in tone, language use, and structure between male and female voices, and this can be further complicated when the author is of a different gender than the protagonist. This anthology offered me the chance to examine similar variations in a close comparison. I often ignored which gender I was reading to see if I could guess myself by the end of the piece, and I would say 97 percent of the time I could. There’s just no getting around the fact that men and women are fundamentally different – our bodies grow strong in different ways and at varying rates, and our brains attach to detail and big picture concepts differently.
I’m really happy about it too. As much as it can pain me to have a conversation with a male friend or family member and come away with absolutely black and white ideas of what was communicated, I find it fascinating that we can be so different and yet still connect on the plain of emotional resonance.
That being said, I don’t know if I would recommend this book to a general audience. The poems in it were lovely, and I’ve marked about twelve that I especially enjoyed, but I’ve found that people are very touchy around the subject of poetry. It seems to be much more divisive than fiction (although genre fiction often provokes some outrageous arguments); mostly, it seems to make people sulky and reminds them of whatever English teacher they hated most in high school.
If you aren’t getting a weird twitch in your shoulder blades reminding you of carefully penned poetry returned with a page full of red marks, I totally recommend giving this book a whirl (especially if you’ve just had an hours’ long conversation with your SO about buying a car and at the end of it still have no idea where s/he stands on the matter…); however, if you’re filled with rage at the mere idea that I would even mention poetry here in this sacred internet space, take a moment and post a comment about a book you love and would like me to review.
Now everyone’s happy, right? And we can move on to more important matters, like having a case of the Mondays…
Naomi Shihab Nye doesn’t have a web home, but more information can be found about her work online. Paul B Janeczko can be found at http://www.paulbjaneczko.com/