Recently, Serena, who writes the blog Savvy Verse and Wit, was a guest on That’s How I Blog! A poetry enthusiat, Serena chose a book of poetry for us to read. Well, really, I chose it. She suggested three books, and the topic of the one that I finally picked seemed to be the most accessible. It was about the battle of the sexes and the nature of the relationships between men and women. My other choice, I believe, was a book of poetry on nature and the environment, but there is a reason that I haven’t read Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. Nature is also the chief reason that I had such a problem reading George Eliot’s Silas Marner. I love nature as much as the next girl, but pages and pages of ruminations on trees and leaves do nothing to contribute to my normally charming personality being that they make me want to throw things, like this other book I just read.
So anyway, to make a long story short I picked Your Ten Favorite Words, by Reb Livingston to read for That’s How I Blog! Equally skeptical about reading poetry and of my patience and ability to interpret it, I thought that a book of poetry on the battle of the sexes might be more understandable and engaging. Boy was I wrong.
The experience of reading these poems, much like the experience of viewing some modern art, left me completely mystified. It was very pretty to the ear when read out loud, but there were very few points in the book where I felt like I had a true grasp of what was going on. There were a number of poems with references to cabbages – again, completely mystified. Some poems would start out with lines that led me to believe that finally stumbled upon a poem I could understand only to devolve into seemingly random musings on topics I couldn’t quite discern. Other poems which started out making no sense would offer the odd coherent sentence with a gem of knowledge. I read to understand, so reading this was a bit frustrating for me.
I admit that after awhile I read quickly, and with goal of finishing. I suspect that these might start to read better with more care and constant re-reading, but I’m just not interested enough by this type of poetry in general (nothing particular against this book or author) to do that.
While this book flew right over my head (repeatedly!), it did lead to a fascinating conversation with both Serena and Anna, who writes the blog Diary of an Eccentric. We talked a lot about how some poetry seems to be deeply personal and has its own vocabulary and context. I often felt when I was reading Your Ten Favorite Words that there was a code or something going on to which I wasn’t privy, but would have unlocked the poems for me. The type of poetry I found in Livingston’s book seems to be more about audience to me. There seems to be more gain in being invested in the author’s world view and in the way that she uses language.
Just an fyi – I don’t consider this a review because I really don’t read enough poetry to give any type of guidance on it that might be useful. These are just some thoughts I had when reading and thinking about this book. For more comprehensive reviews of Your Ten Favorite Words, I refer you to Anna and Serena.
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