Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Cold Panes of Surfaces by Chris Banks

I get most of my book suggestions from industry newsletters or by reading reviews on other book blogs.  This one came via my son.  He came home from school excited one day and told me that I just had to go and buy this book of poetry called Bonfires.  He had been studying poetry in English class and it turned out that his teacher had published some of them in a collection.  Off we went to the local independent store.  Couldn't find the suggested edition, and bought his second book instead.  Here I am with Chris Banks' book in hand and my son every day asking whether I have started reading.  Well, it is National Poetry Month, I decided I would jump right in.

I haven't read a poetry book in decades and thus had to sit and reflect on how to go about reading these little nuggets of , well, what are they.  Here's what I came up with.

Reading poems is like eating pierogis.  They appear soft and smooth on the surface, but you can't see what's inside.  It's going to be a surprise.  You can guess what's in there, but you can't be sure.   Next you can choose to slather on all sorts of expectations such as sour cream and fried onions.  That's like having expectations that the poem with be all sappy with lovey dovey stuff or that it will be hard to understand.  You can eat just one and savour it, or you can munch down on a bowlful and go back for more.

In the end, your hunger gets to you, and you just have to dig in.

That's what I did, one or two poems at a time for the most part, though a few days I was gluttonous and ate a whole bowlful. I was pleasantly surprised.  Some of the poems, I was able to find their flavour right away, others I had to take a second or third bite.  There was one poem I just had to keep going back to.  "Wrecking Ball" is about teenage suicide.  Mr. Banks is a high school teacher;  I never before considered how such an incident could impact on the teachers.

In the poem "The Sky is Falling" the reader is asked to consider experiencing something you had never even heard of for the very first time.  Something way outside your realm of ever considering possible.

I was intrigued by several poems that reached out to historic figures.  General Maresuke Nogi and the poet Ikkyu and both new names to me, but I found I couldn't leave them in the poem, I had to search them out and learn more.

I haven't quite finished reading this collection, but I will be coming back to it time and again for a taste or two.

I am hoping in the next week or two to host an interview or guest post with Mr. Banks.

I hope that those readers who read some poetry this past month will share their experiences by leaving a comment.  Tell me about  your favourite poet or poem or leave a link to your poetry review.


Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

I love you compared reading poetry to eating pierogis. What a wonderful and perfect description. This collection sound very interesting and something that would be good to have around to keep coming back to.

(M)ary said...

"Reading poems is like eating pierogis."

OMG! I love that line, mostly because I can relate to eating pierogis. I am hungry for potato and onion pierogies with salsa....

I have heard some folks say that poems should never be read, always heard. Not sure if the publishing industry would agree with that. I think that a good poem sticks with the reader or listener without the person necessarily realising it is a poem.
For example, songs...and you could even argue advertising are the modern equivalents of poetry. If I were teaching high school English, I would send my students in search of poetry in the world. (twitter, billboards, commericials, hallmark cards, postcard messages...) Then, I would have the students read literary poetry.