Braid: Poems and Thoughts Selected by Anna Tegner is a collection of intelligent and emotional pieces by Pierre Sotér. The book brings together poems from three of Sotér’s works (Dawn, Emotions and Emoções, and It May Be Better) to form a good composite of the ideas he expresses throughout his poetry. The message is a quest for philosophy and reason, combined with acceptance of the reality that there’s more to life than we can find with just our intellects. The collection has many layers and reflects the nuances and dignity of a searching mind examining life. “Life dawns in the worlds we dream and lives in the moments we will remember,” is a beautiful fragment from this book and delightful little gems appear throughout.
Pierre Sotér’s writing is noteworthy. It is gentle and sensitive yet packs a heavy punch of honesty and purpose—an uncommon combination. I was involved in each poem as an individual entity. While many books of poetry have an overall theme which all the poems reiterate, those in Braid: Poems and Thoughts have their own personality, distinct and visualized. Each one its own story. Reading this book was like reading many tiny books in one. The tone was often sad, but also joyful when describing love and curiosity about the world, those moments that make life special. Singing rhythms of undiluted ideas harnessed into words propel this book forward and that is just what poetry should be. Standout moments include the wistful painting of a bygone time in “Barren Crags,” “Singing in Wonderland,” “Turning Still,” the insightful “Bereft,” and the witty, imaginative “Taking Off.”
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.
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.