Wednesday, April 25, 2012

World Lit Wednesdays

I'm one of those people who need structure and guidelines in order to function. My little black notebook is chock full of To-Do lists (and To-Read lists!), agendas and deadlines and on those rare occasions when I misplace the notebook or forget to bring it along I'm pretty much an aimless, freaked-out mess. SO, in order to encourage regular blogging I am going to try to give myself a strict schedule of themes. I'll throw in additional book reviews and commentary as needed, but I'm hopeful that the schedule will help guide my reflections a bit more!

With no further ado, I bring you....

World Lit Wednesdays!

My graduate work focused primarily on West African diasporic lit so I consider myself fairly well-read in contemporary African and Afro-Caribbean fiction, but digging deeply into that area meant that I tended to neglect other areas. I'm going to try to remedy that by dedicating my Wednesday book reviews and commentary to explorations of fiction, poetry and criticism from writing cultures outside of my usual haunts.

As a starting point I plan to use the novels shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Writer's Prize. I'm having a hard time locating many of the books, but I managed to have three special ordered for me by my local bookstore so I should have them on hand in the near future. While I'm waiting for those book to arrive, however, I thought I would use today's post to talk about one of my new favorite obsessions: the poetry of Vera Pavlova!

Pavlova is one of Russia's most celebrated contemporary poets, but she was completely new to me when I stumbled across one of her poems on (of all places) Pinterest last week. She has published 15 collections of poetry in her native Russian, as well at one each in French, Dutch and English, and to date they have been translated into twenty-one other languages. Her 2010 English language collection, If There Is Something to Desire, is stunning in its deceptive simplicity and physicality. Short, sweet and wryly wise, the poems I came across actually gave me a jolt-- forced me to sit up sharply in my chair and utter a puzzled/illuminated "huh" of surprise. I'm not usually a big fan of poetry-- I prefer the explication and exploration of lyrical prose-- but I found myself copying poem after poem of Pavlova's into my notebook and quoting snippets of them to myself as I went about my day.

Tomorrow is National Poem in Your Pocket Day and I plan to carry copies of these two texts around in my pockets to share and distribute.

"He marked the page with a match"

He marked the page with a match
and fell asleep in mid-kiss,
while I, a queen bee
in a disturbed hive, stay up and buzz:
half a kingdom for a honey drop,
half a lifetime for a tender word!
His face, half turned.
Half past midnight. Half past one


"Writing down verses"

Writing down verses I got
a paper cut on my palm.
The cut extended my life line
by nearly one-fourth."

Next week's WLW will be The Wandering Falcon by Pakistani writer Jamil Ahmad


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