The Book Jam Blog
Read our latest reviews
April brings showers, flowers, and an excellent opportunity to highlight the power and beauty of poetry. We bring three volumes to your attention today.
The Shared World by Vievee Francis (2023). We had the privilege of hearing Francis read her own poetry, including some from this newest collection, on a cold evening in White River Junction, Vermont a few weeks back. To hear her is to be educated, entertained, and brought to a lyrical place that requires thinking anew about many things. In The Shared World, Francis discusses how it feels and what it is to be a Black woman in the world today; in doing so, she gives readers the great gift of better understanding. As Rebecca Morgan Frank says in her review of this collection for the Poetry Foundation, "longing for love and protection in a world that denies it permeates this collection". We are all better for having read this volume of Francis's latest work (and any of her other books). If Francis is ever in your vicinity reading anything - including the phone book - do yourself a favor and attend her reading; you will not regret it. ~ Lisa Christie (and Lisa Cadow when she's able to read it)
The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez (2011). For years I gave this collection to friends reaching milestone birthdays - 30, 40, 50. I don't know why I stopped. I need to resume this practice because when I recently dusted off my copy, these autobiographical poems still offered a road map for reviewing one's life and choosing anew to live it as best as one can. This collection explores multiple facets of Alvarez's life - as a little girl reciting poetry every night, her role as a sister anticipating her family's rejection, her life as a renowned professor; in doing so, as discussed on the podcast Code Switch, Alvarez provides "an acknowledgement that you're never all of yourself all of the time, and that so many of us exist perpetually in gray areas". This volume helps readers remember the gray areas where life often occurs and how to treat them with with respect and ideally joy. ~ Lisa Christie (and Lisa Cadow even if she never gave it as a gift)
Life by Donna Ashwood (2022). I should probably examine why I need to tell you all that this volume is definitely more of a self help book than the two poetry volumes discussed thus far. Is this need from my fear you will think I am not deep/intelligent or I am weak and require comfort? In light of the fact that the people who I have shared something from this book with, have in turn passed those poems along, this need to start with a disclaimer seems strange. And with that disclaimer out of the way, now come words about this book. I received this collection of Ashwood's poetry from a friend who knows I have been struggling through a seemingly never ending series of unfortunate events. Her gift of this volume and the poems within it have provided much needed help remembering I am not alone. Perhaps that is enough for any poem. We add it to this set of reviews as sometimes all one needs is a reminder they are seen; and, this book provides just that. ~ Lisa Christie