Friday, September 30, 2016

What I've Read: Equinoxes by Cyril Pedrosa

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have a confession to make: I got burned out on comics a few years ago.

I know. Weird, inconvenient timing: it happened even before every second movie in the theatres was a superhero adaptation. Somewhere around 2011, I went from voraciously devouring everything from Clowes to capes to feeling far too oversaturated with superhero and comic culture. This may have had something to do with the emergence of geek culture as a pervasive cultural force. Being the malcontent I sometimes am, I just had to stop before I soured on it forever.

I've been slowly bringing myself back into the rhythm of reading comics and graphic novels, and the rewards, so far, have been many. I got caught up on Rat Queens earlier in the year, have Saga up on the docket, and have just finished the remarkable Equinoxes by Cyril Pedrosa.

Equinoxes follows the intertwining lives of a group of strangers living in France, and all of the muddled beauty that exists in their associated milieu. The artwork is at once unique, familiar and aesthetically intriguing. The plot, narrative and illustrations are all crafted with meticulous attention that flows perfectly from page to page, giving each vignette a dreamy, cinematic quality. The characters are skillfully drawn into life, with their brief interludes leaving a sizable emotional impression as they each explore existential truths, the depth beneath the banal, and the fleeting beauty of each moment. At once raw, cynical, wry, and sentimental, Equinoxes is a graphic novel that demands you pay attention, for the lives depicted in its pages are both familiar and revealing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What I've Read: The Best American Poetry 2016

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Poetry is often plagued by the accusation that it’s written for an audience that consists, primarily, of other poets. The relative universal accessibility of poetry becomes a constant question, which is invariably followed by the sub-question: does the universality or accessibility of poetry actually matter?

I don’t know – I've never been able to answer that, not during my undergrad degree, or in the poetry workshops I attended, or in the pages of literary criticism and books of poetry I’ve read before, during, and after that time. All I know is that poetry has vitality and immediacy that makes the act of reading poetry an important human endeavor.

Are there poems that achieve and embody that vitality and immediacy in The Best American Poetry 2016? Yes, of course. There are beautifully deft, clever, soul-shaking poems contained within. Do I agree with all of the selections? No, but that’s to be expected.

There were poems in it that I actively disliked due to my own aesthetic reader-response tics; I have a general antipathy for pithy references to other poets in poetry (probably in part because it calls back the question of whether poetry is strictly for poets). This presented a bit of a problem, as meta-references to other poets are present in a large amount of the poems selected for this year's anthology. While that aspect can be a distraction, there are poems that either make the reference worthwhile or include it in such a way that it unobtrusively becomes part of the poem’s greater tableau.

As in all things, your mileage may vary – one of the great strengths of the Best American Poetry series is each edition falls under the editorial gaze of other established poets working in the medium and, as such, can contain any number of overt or subtle themes each year.  Either way, it’s always interesting to see what gets selected. Fans of poetry should be checking out this series every year!