poetry

READ THE WORLD – Kiribati: Poetry by Teweiariki Teaero

This is where working at a university whose library boasts it has a copy of every book ever published in English, whether digitally or physically, comes in handy. This is where I found some texts for the smaller countries, especially those in the Pacific. A book called Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia edited by Evelyn Flores, Emelihter Kihleng and Craig Santos Perez proved to be invaluable. It’s a collection of poetry, short stories, critical and creative essays, chants, and excerpts of plays by over seventy different Indigenous Micronesian authors and it tells you which country each of the authors are from including Marshall Islands, Guam, Nauru, Kiribati, Palau, and Kosrae, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap, the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.

There were a few writers from Kiribati featured in the book but I picked Teweiariki Teaero poetry to feature as he had three poems in the collection and they each were quite different. The poems were “Garlanding”, “Nareau’s Return” and “Merry Ancestors”.

Of the three “Merry Ancestors” is the one I liked the most. It’s almost like a children’s story as the sounds of thunder and lighting and a storm is explained as their ancestors having a party. I generally love when there are stories explaining stuff like storms to children to make them less scary or to connect the thing that’s happening to the past or spirituality.

“Garlanding” didn’t really have as much impact or interest to me as the other two but I still liked how it’s a poem about flowers and an act of giving and love.

“Nareau’s Return” is a poem where a little googling led me to understand it more as it had cultural reference in it that I was unaware of. The Nareau in question is the creator deity in the mythology of the Gilbert Islands, of which Kiribati is a part of. Reading the poem again knowing that Nareau is a god rather than simply an old man like he’s described adds extra layers to the poem and makes his confusion of how the country has become industrialised more understandable. He doesn’t recognise his home and the sounds of things like cars overwhelms him.

READ THE WORLD Timor-Leste: From Timor-Leste to Australia: Seven Families, Three Generations Tell Their Stories edited by Jan Tresize

A collection of stories and poems from seven families who recount their lives in Timor-Leste and how events like the Japanese invasion during WWII, being a Portuguese colony for almost 500 years, civil war between different political parties once Timor-Leste is decolonised, Indonesia invading, and finally the country gaining its independence after the people vote for it in a referendum in 1999.

Like many countries I’ve read about in my Read the World Project, Timor-Leste is one that I didn’t know anything about so From Timor-Leste to Australia was a real eye-opening and informative read. For each of the seven families there’s at least two people telling their story; sometimes their siblings, or more commonly it’s a parent and then a child. That way the reader can see how these huge events affected different generations as sometime the children were ten years old or younger when they were forced to flee their homes and move to countries far from home so for some it seemed like an adventure and the realities on their situation was lost on them.

Having members of seven different families share their experience is a good way to get a broad idea of what happened to the Timorese people. Some families were wealthier or had connections to the government while others were poor and had little support, but often they all ended up in similar situations, running from their homes and uncertain of what the future held. Those who stayed in Timor-Leste throughout the Indonesian invasion naturally had different experiences to those who managed to get to other countries. So many people still wanted to get back to their home country though, and how some of these people described what they feel is their nationality was interesting. Some now are Australian residents but feel more Portuguese because they spent their formative years there, others feel Timorese first and foremost but still feel at home in Australia or Portugal.

It was interesting to see how these families got displaced with some being separated by loved ones for years and how they adapted to their new countries. One family was in Mozambique for a time as that was also a former Portuguese colony before the revolution there forced them to flee to Portugal. A lot of the families ended up in Portugal for years, sometimes over a decade or more. This was because Timor-Leste was a form Portuguese colony and some of the families had Portuguese parents or grandparents so had connections in the country that could vouch for them. Others ended up there as it was where was deemed to be safest, living in refugee camps for years.

By the end of each of the families’ stories, most of them had ended up settled in Australia, where communities of Timorese people had begun to thrive. This was due to the Australians fighting against the Japanese in WWII and Timorese people would often hide and protect Australian soldiers when the country was occupied by the Japanese.

From Timor-Leste to Australia was quite a sad read at times as so many people in these families were imprisoned, killed, or separated from loved ones for years. People wen through such hardships and nearly every time it seemed like things would get better for the Timorese, something else would happen. The relief and joy when the people of Timor-Leste successfully voted for their country’s independence was palpable in every family member’s recollection. But the resilience of these people and how families managed to stay connected even across oceans was impressive – especially as lot of this happened from around 1942-1999, a time where phones and technology to keep in touch were not how it is today.

READ THE WORLD – Nauru: A Beautiful Prayer by Joanne Ekamdeiya Gobure

As I reach the last 30 or so countries in my Read the World Project, it is becoming more and more difficult to find a text for some of these smaller countries. Those countries might have writers, whether that’s of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, but they may not have had their work translated into English or have it readily available here in the UK.

So for Nauru, a small island country in Oceania region off the coast of Australia I did some digging and found one poem available online by a Nauruan poet. From my understanding Joanne Ekamdeiya Gobure has written a lot of poems but there’s just this one that has been shared online.

I am not a religious person (I may have been christened a Catholic but I’m really an atheist) but “A Beautiful Prayer” is the kind of idea of God I can get behind. It’s about a person asking for things from God but being told that the things they want changed or given to them aren’t the point. That they have the skills and ability to make changes to their life as long as they work for it, and likewise, things that they may seen as a flaw or an obstacle aren’t seen the same way by God.

“A Beautiful Prayer” is available to read at Bruce’s Poems.

READ THE WORLD – Seychelles: 40 years: For my 40th Birthday, I pause to share 40 poems then I shall be on my way by Ritah

A collection of 40 poems where the poet offers a round trip from childhood to the age of 40. Through the 40 poems, Ritah colours her childhood with her family, school, growing up, travelling, bright and shaded sides of the Seychelles, soul searching and her wishes.

From a pure aesthetic point of view, I thought how each poem was numbered was very quirky. Each poem starts with its title and what number it is in the collection, and the number is made out of a small lizard drawing. Whether that’s two lizards’ side by side for the number 11 or a few curled around each other into different shapes for numbers like 25. I thought that it was cute and an interesting touch.

The poems themselves are super short, only a page or two long. Most of them don’t rhyme so they read like short snapshots of a time in Ritah’s life. The poems cover everything from family to just observations about things seen on the beach. Some are pretty obvious about what they mean while others have more layers to them.

I liked how this collection is bookended by poems about dancing and the joy and freedom of it. The collection starts with “Dance, Mother, Laugh” which sees the narrator imitating her mothers laughter and movements and ends with “I Dance” which has the narrator getting lost in her own dance. It shows while Ritah has grown up, there’s joy to be had and some thing’s in life are happen in a cycle.

The poems I enjoyed the most were “Grandparents” which is basically an ode to grandparents and where they fit in a family, “Woman, I am – Part 1” and “Woman, I am – Part 2”. As the titles suggests these poems work well together and are like two sides of the same coin, the first is about what a woman is told to be and act like and how going against that can hurt her, while the second is about the woman embracing all parts of her, standing up for herself and forging her own path.

40 years: For my 40th Birthday, I pause to share 40 poems then I shall be on my way is an interesting collection of poems and the way they’re framed to give insight to the poets life makes them meaningful.

READ THE WORLD – Maldives: Dreams of My Heart by Aminath Neena

A poetry collection with themes of love, relationships, and spirituality.

Just to start/forewarn anyone who wants to get a copy of Dreams of My Heart, I got the ebook and for whatever reason I couldn’t read it on my kindle. So many pages of it were blank so there was only the odd poem every dozen pages or so, but when I tried it on the kindle app on my phone, it read fine and all pages were visible with text on them. So that was weird.

Anyway, onto the poems themselves. There was a lot of poems in this collection and the vast majority were only a page long. There were different poetry styles used throughout, some rhymed, some didn’t and those that did rhyme did so in different conventions. The formatting of the poems on the page was also varied.

I have to say this wasn’t particularly a collection where any poems stood out to me. Perhaps that’s because they were so short and there was so many of them that reading the collection in one sitting meant that a lot of them blurred into each other. Especially as the themes were quite similar throughout and it wasn’t a collection that was broken into sections or anything.

One poem is worth a mention though and that’s “Blank Verse”. It’s like the poem is the narrative voice and it’s talking about all the various conventions that make a poem a poem and how poems can be effective. It was interesting and not something I’d really seen before in poetry – though I’m by no means a poetry connoisseur.

READ THE WORLD – Jordan: Shepherd of Solitude: Selected Poems by Amjad Nasser

Translated by Khaled Mattawa.

A collection of poems from various collections between 1979-2004.

I don’t think I’ve read a poetry collection before that’s been an example of almost a poets life’s work. I think generally the collections I’ve read have been just the poets latest work or work around a certain theme. With Shepherd of Solitude it’s split into sections, with each of them being a selection of poems from a prior poetry collection. Sometimes there’s only four poems from a collection while sometimes there’s over a dozen.

I like how Shepherd of Solitude starts with poems from 1979 and ends with the ones from 2004. That way you can see how Nasser’s style may change over time, but also how the topics or themes of his poems can change as time went on too. Like any kind of artist, it’s unlikely that you’ll stay interested in the same thing for almost thirty years so it makes sense that his poems focus changes over time too.

In Shepherd of Solitude the poems reference historic events or figures, there’s religious themes in some of them, as well as being poems about love and connection. It’s an interesting mix and I did appreciate the fact that there’s footnotes explaining things like the historical context for poems that needed them. The introduction by Khaled Mattawa was also helpful in understanding the poet and the way he wrote.

READ THE WORLD – Saint Lucia: Poetry by Sassy Ross

As it was difficult to find induvial work by Sassy Ross, or any writer from Saint Lucia, I discovered Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets from the Caribbean. A poetry collection featuring poems from eight poets who are from Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, St Vincent and St Lucia. This “review” will solely be about Sassy Ross’s work.

I liked the fact that before each poet’s work began, there was a photo of the poet and a short bio. These can add some context for the work you’re about to read and in Coming Up Hot there were fifteen poems by Sassy Ross.

Themes that appeared in a lot of Sassy Ross’s poems are family, childhood, and stiving for connections. The poems are all pretty short, most being only a page long and only a few stanzas long too. A few of the poems are monostich poems – they are comprised of just one (sometimes almost a page long) stanza.

My favourite poems that showed these ideas well were “My Grandmother’s Room” and “Patching Up”. With “My Grandmother’s Room” it’s like she’s searching for reminders of the past, while the way “Patching Up” is written is like a dialogue between siblings. It’s almost two poems in one as one is from the brother to the sister and the other is the other way round. You get to see two sides of a story and how different people can perceive the same situation.

READ THE WORLD – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Poetry by Debra Providence

As it was difficult to find induvial work by Debra Providence, or any writer from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, I discovered Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets from the Caribbean. A poetry collection featuring poems from eight poets who are from Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, St Vincent and St Lucia. This “review” will solely be about Debra Providence’s work.

I liked the fact that before each poet’s work began, there was a photo of the poet and a short bio. These can add some context for the work you’re about to read and in Coming Up Hot there were eight poems by Debra Providence.

These poems are about women and rebirth and a few feature a lot of imagery around nature. The style of poems isn’t consistent. Some rhyme, some are four stanzas long, others have only a word or two per line, hammering the point of them home. It’s an interesting little collection as while the themes of the poems seem quite coherent and some even flow to create a story, the style of poetry varies.

My favourite in this short example of Providence’s work was “Opheliad”. It chronicles how young girls and boys play, how the boy is the aggressor, playing at shooting and killing the girl, and how that can translate to adult romantic relationships. It’s an interesting idea and there’s some effective lines about how girls just want to be loved no matter the potential cost.

I also enjoyed “The Un-Woman Chronicles” as that felt almost like a short story in poetry form. It’s the longest poem by Providence here at ten pages. Most of her other poems were only one or two pages long.

READ THE WORLD – Fiji: Memoirs of a Reluctant Traveller by Sudesh Mishra

A poetry collection about travelling and the places and people a traveller encounters.

This is an incredibly short poetry collection at 52 pages and every poem is a dizain stanza – meaning it has ten lines and each are a complete poem. Though, because of the theme of travelling some feel more connected than others. Also, the order of the poems does seem like a conscious choice as some really flow well together.

The poems I enjoyed the most were the ones about the travelling experience; whether that was by plane, train, or bus. I haven’t been to any of the places mentioned in the poems so while they did paint a good picture, I couldn’t connect with them. However, I could relate to the poems where it was full of gripes about travelling and how with each mode of transport there are different things a person experiences. They captured the monotony of travel really well.

There’s nothing else I can really say about this poetry collection because it’s so short. Each poem gives a snapshot of a place or an experience and some of them work better than others for me.

READ THE WORLD – The Marshall Islands: Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner

A collection of poetry covering themes like history, personal experience, and the Marshallese people and their culture.

I’ve read about a dozen poetry collections for my Read the World Project and I still think it’s an often interesting way to get a snapshot of a poets culture and interests. I think that Iep Jāltok is one of my favourite, and the best, collections I’ve read in a while.

The style of the poems differ. Some are in simple stanzas, others the words meander across the page or is just one big paragraph. There’s a few that are concrete poetry – written in the shape of a boat or a pot.

I knew nothing about the Marshall Islands before picking up Iep Jāltok and even now I still know very little. The poem “History Project” (which is also the name of one of the four sections of the collection) is about how when Jetn̄il-Kijiner was in school she researched how the United States conducted nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands. That in and of itself is something that I never knew about but how the poem goes into the images and statistics she found, the lasting effects on generations of people from the radiation, how Americans protested animals being used as guineapigs but not the people of the islands – it’s all so sad, horrible, but also not that surprising when you consider the history of the USA. It’s a really effective poem and after that one there’s mention of radiation and the sickness it caused in members of Jetn̄il-Kijiner’s family in other poems.

It’s the poems about the history of the Marshall Islands, its people and the effect climate is having on them that I really liked. There are poems about how the Marshallese are lumped together with other people from different small island countries in the Pacific Ocean. The racism Jetn̄il-Kijiner has experienced and how she feels that she and her people are forgotten by the rest of the world – especially when it comes to climate change. “Two Degrees” is about how the increase in temperature of two degrees will affect the Marshall Islands, and how the rising sea levels is already flooding the islands. Terms like rising sea levels often seem abstract and hard to comprehend, whether because you live away from the coast or it’s genuinely hard to image a beach or land no longer being above water. Having the effects of climate change laid out in a poem makes it seem so simple and real.

Iep Jāltok is a thought-provoking poetry collection with a lot of powerful poems. It shows history and issues from a point of view I had not seen before and demonstrates how unfortunately universal things  like racism and climate change affect people differently when they’re from different communities. 5/5.