Review 5 star
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Just Her Poetry: Seasons of a Soul by D.L. Finn is a full-length book of poetry with high literary quality. It is divided into two halves, one about the healing beauty of nature and one about relationships and emotional situations. Part One—Just Her Poetry--talks about the seasons of the year in the spectacular scenery around the author’s home and contains a short set of vignettes called “Musings from the Back of a Harley,” detailing the thrill of motorcycle rides around the countryside. Part Two—Seasons of a Soul—explores emotions like sadness, hope, and insecurity in the face of destruction from human behavior and natural forces. There is also an area of poetry inspired by or excerpted from D.L. Finn’s other books, including a memoir, and some poems about the holiday season.
I really enjoyed Just Her Poetry: Seasons of a Soul. Rich in content and daily reality, the poems built on each other within each section to take up where the other poem left off. Much like writing chapters in a book of prose, D.L. Finn’s poetry is sophisticated storytelling. It grew in little images gradually to tell a complex story—a novel in verse. My favorite section was “Musings from the Back of a Harley,” a completely unique, distinct set of poetry where sharp edges of words brought the excitement of riding a motorcycle into verbal motion. Thought-provoking depth about the fragility of life appeared in other areas of the book, as in a series of poems (“Fire,” “We Wait,” “Wait,” and “Red Flag”) where fine writing brings the experience of living near forest fires into visceral, vivid clarity. Including some poems that connected into Finn’s other writings added more layers and was excellent for putting this book in context.
Review 5 star
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A Bell for Jimmy by Theo Wadsworth is a short story in verse that tells a moving tale of a dog’s heroism to save a community. Lovely, starkly surreal black and white illustrations by Julia Naurzalijeva act as companions we travel back in time while an old man tells the tale of the isolated town of Eden. The man explains to a stranger who’s stumbled on the hushed village why they are ringing a memorial bell. Years ago, a terrible winter storm lasted for weeks and almost destroyed the town. A group sent to get help vanished into the storm. Other communities were far away. People had lost hope. But then a small dog became the hero of the town and ever since he’s commemorated in honor.
Original, dramatic, and heartwarming all at once—A Bell for Jimmy is a modern classic. With a lyrical, well-paced poetic style and a small-town scene reminiscent of 19th-century American writers, Theo Wadsworth captures a unique storytelling voice. The book creates a mood and a moment, half-fantasy, half-gritty reality, in a captivating twilight zone that draws the reader in. Part poem and part short story, it’s a survival tale with a bit of nightmare, and it’s amazingly believable, self-contained and individual like Eden itself. But it is also accessible, with an earnest familiarity, a story of courage and memories that touched me by the end. If you like family stories about courageous dogs, this is entirely perfect. And if you like books that make you remember them long after they are closed, A Bell for Jimmy is remarkable.
Review 5 star
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Echoes of Haikai is an excellent book of 75 poems by Gil Olson. The poems are a good recreation of the spirit of Japanese literature’s distinctive tone and style and are divided into four sections for the seasons. 2 tiny poems per page exhibit the great subtlety and scope for the reader’s own interpretation in this art form. Ordinary things like eating, observing flowers, feeling cold in the winter, and other people’s deaths are given layers of imagery and meaning painted in cold, clear words, perfectly chosen, to snapshot an image of a person’s essence—a moment’s essence.
Gil Olson does a fantastic job of capturing the personality of Japanese poetry, so hard to label or pin down, so definite when it is seen and felt—a personality truly distinctive, with a strong presence that this book made a pleasure to read and to recognize. Fragmented, detached feeling combined with underlying intensity and nuanced sophistication expressed in simple terms create an underlying depth rewards continual re-reading. Careful word usage and the communication of the poet with the reader in phrases like—“plums, cherries, and apricots—sunlight on your hand”–make an idea mean more than one thing. Is the sunlight in your hand from the fruit, which came from a tree that used sunlight to grow, or from the warmth of your friend in giving it to you? If we see how other people see things, we see so much more of the world and Echoes of Haikai opens a lovely world to explore.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.