Around the World in 5 Works of Poetry

5.) On Love and Barley by Matsuo Basho [Japanese]: One doesn’t get better haiku [and other traditional Japanese poetry forms] than Basho.



4.) The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur [Indian-Canadian]: This isn’t the expected fair for an “around the world” post as it’s not blatantly infused with setting / geography, but culture does factor in prominently.


3.) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman [American]: Not only does Whitman explore the many dimensions of America, he also references other cultures and locales. [There was a fascination with the East brewing in Whitman’s day.]


2.) Octavio Paz / Selected Poems by Octavio Paz [Mexican]: Paz was a diplomat as well as a Nobel Laureate, and his poems include many references to India (where he was posted) as well as Mexico.


1.) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran [Lebanese-American]: Featuring an intriguing melange of advice in poetic form.


NOTE: It’s not as global a list as I’d like. I’d love to hear what works others might include in the list. I don’t think poetry gets translated as much as fiction and so it’s a bit of a challenge. It’s much easier to find examples of novels & short story collections from far-flung corners of the world.

5 Books of 2017 that Influenced Me Greatly

It’s that year-in-review time of year. To clarify: these are the books published in 2017 that most profoundly influenced my thinking. I clarify because I’ll probably do a list of books that I read in 2017 but that were published in previous years.

5.) Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: Gaiman’s take on classic tales of Norse Mythology shows that one can bring great value with a fresh look at old art. However, beyond the “steal like an artist” sentiment of not getting locked into building something brand new, these stories show the Norse to be exceptional storytellers. All ancient cultures had a mythology, but not all of them were equal in producing stories that are timeless and work across cultures.

 

4.) The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston: This book taught me two things: First, that there is still much to be discovered right on terra firma. We talk as though the only new vistas of knowledge are to be found in space or places like the Mariana Trench, but the days of terrestrial discovery are not past. Second, there is a lesson of common fates of humanity across time. A lot of this book is about a parasitic disease that infected several of the expeditionary team, as well as speculation about how the same disease might have influenced the civilization that abandoned the titularly referenced city.

 

3.) The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur: Kaur’s books combine poetry and art. Both are crude but heartfelt and evocative. Both of Kaur’s books have struck a chord with readers, and that resonance seems to be about the candid and bold nature of her art.

 

2.) Behave by Robert Sapolsky: Sapolsky tells readers that one can’t look at something as complex and bewildering as human behavior through the lens of any one academic discipline and get a complete and satisfying picture. Sapolsky considers the best and worst human behaviors through the lenses of biology, neuroscience, endocrinology, human evolution, and more.

 

1.) Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal: The authors of this book examine the various ways people achieve what they call ecstasis. Ecstasis is a state of mind in which one loses one’s sense of self, and all the muddling factors that go with the self, such as self-criticism, fear of failure, and the feeling of working against everyone and everything else.

BOOK REVIEW: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and Her FlowersThe Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon page

 

This is the second collection of free verse (with some prose) poetry and line drawn art by Rupi Kaur, an ethnically Indian Canadian poet. Like the first collection, “Milk and Honey,” this collection has been well received critically. The strengths of the collection include some beautiful, evocative, and unique use of language; the author’s willingness to lay it all on the line in a bold and brave fashion; and the often clever–if simple, verging on crude—artwork. Its greatest weakness is frequent restatement of clichéd notions and truisms that don’t stand up well juxtaposed to the more personal and illuminating lines.

The collection is divided into five parts, each of them reflecting a theme—while being tied together by the titular floral theme. “Wilting” is about breakups. This flows smoothly in tone into the second part, “Falling,” which is about sexual violence, depression, and the linkage between them. “Rooting” is about family and origins, and—in particular—the poet’s relationship with her mother. As an immigrant child who moved to Canada from Punjab while young, Kaur was more attuned to her new home than her parents—who were less at ease with their adopted homeland and more rooted to their ancestral home. The penultimate part, “Rising” is about love and relationships, and it takes the collection into brighter territory. “Blooming” is about feeling comfortable within one’s own skin, and—in particular—the female experience of it.

As hinted, the overall organization of the collection seems purposeful and intriguing. The two melancholy parts at the beginning are blended into the last two (more optimistic) parts by way of a chapter on roots and family. This bridging seems to be done on purpose to make a statement.

I enjoyed this collection, and would highly recommend it for poetry readers—particularly for those who enjoy free verse.

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