Lately I've made some Amazon orders. I've requested free shipping which should have taken 5-8 days or more. The orders have arrived the next day. I am not a Prime member, so that's not the explanation.
I'm not complaining. It just seems worth noting.
On Saturday, I read this blog post by Jeannine Hall Gailey. She had reviewed Lee Ann Roripaugh's Tsunami vs. The Fukushima 50. It sounded like a book that would hit several of my reading sweet spots: nuclear disaster, natural disaster, poetry, and a female-centered take on it all. It's been awhile since I've ordered a book of poems, so I ordered it.
It arrived on Sunday. Usually books arrive and go to my ever growing books to be read shelf, but I decided to read it while I could still remember why I had ordered it. So I did.
It's a great book--but it's also the kind of book that makes me wonder if I'd appreciate it more if I had more background. There are some pop culture references that I can sense are there, but they're not mine, like the reference to Watchmen.
There were also some references that may or may not be references to Japanese pop culture, but I can't be sure. I know even less about the pop culture of other cultures than my own.
It's not enough to keep me from enjoying the poems, and also not enough to send me on a quest to know more. It is the kind of moment that makes me feel old--once I knew all sorts of stuff about a wide variety of pop culture, and not just that pop culture coming from my own society. Once I could keep track.
My favorite poems were the ones that gave the tsunami a voice. I thought of Patricia Smith's Hurricane Katrina poems in Blood Dazzler. If I was a grad student, I might do more with those comparisons. If I was an ambitious woman on a tenure track, I might write a book that explores the ways we give natural disasters a personality.
I am a poet feeling like a dried out crisp. Maybe I need to play with the idea of weather having a personality. Maybe I should start with the August weather that's leaving me so worn out. Hurricanes get so much press (speaking of which, I should keep an eye on Tropical Storm Dorian down in the Caribbean), but heat waves can kill far more people. Maybe I should write a poem in the voice of the disappearing Arctic ice.
This morning, I went to Jeannine's review on The Rumpus. I had decided not to read it until I read the book. It's an amazing review--wow. It does just what a review should do. It puts the poems in context and gives me insight. It makes me want to read the book again.
Here's the way she ends the review: "In Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50, a book that crackles with imaginative language and mythological retellings that represent real-life disaster, Roripaugh offers the audience a new way to think about nuclear and natural disasters and the remnants and ghosts that remain in their wake. Worth a close reading just for the sonic skills displayed, this book manages to weave a larger message for the reader inside poems that are at once playful, plaintive, and foreboding."
This experience over the past few days is as close to having a real time conversation about poetry as I'm likely to have these days. It's been a treat to think about a volume of poems in this way.
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