Tag: Books: Poetry


Review: Poems by W.H. Auden

Posted 18 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

W.H. Auden: Poems Selected by John Fuller
By: W.H. Auden
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase

W. H. Auden (1907-73) came to prominence in the 1930s among a generation of outspoken poets that included his friends Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender and C. Day Lewis. But he was also an intimate and lyrical poet of great originality, and a master craftsman of some of the most cherished and influential poems of the past century.

W.H. Auden is one of those poets that I often heard about but I hadn’t gotten around to until I picked up this collection. I chose this collection in particular because it matched my copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel (review)–same series, I mean–and I thought it was a good way to get a selection of his poetry without immediately delving into his entire body of work.

It’s a pretty eclectic collection of his work spanning his entire career. The themes vary, some of them playful and some of them serious and touching on the subject of the world wars. I found his early poems to be especially interesting in capturing the confusion and the emotions and the bleakness that comes with the wars. The poem by him that still sticks with me is the poem that I first read by him:

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

There were a few other poems however that struck me–alas, can’t seem to find the titles of them at the moment as I type them–as they were very much applicable now as they were back then.

All in all, if you’re new to Auden’s poetry, I would recommend checking out this title first as it’s a good place to start.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 16 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

I read the following books a few months ago but lol, this batch of mini-book reviews just getting pushed further and further down the schedule. Oops xD Anyway, this batch is another poetry edition so yay! 🙂 Included in this batch are:


Memories Unwound
By: Ruby Dahl
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Memories Unwound is a collection of free verse poems and prose that tap into the thoughts, feelings and ideas of the author. Each piece aims to go beyond just words and reveal an emotion; love, pain or happiness and by the end of it, the prospect of attaining solace. The author uses ‘memories’ as a title to emphasise that it is universally relatable – as readers should find at least one (or more) piece(s) that reminds them of a previous experience that they have had/ emotion that they have felt, hence becoming a ‘memory’ that is unwound in this book.

Each piece aims to fuel the realisation of sentiments that fabricate our very being, and by the end of the book readers are shown the possibility of hope, redemption, closing ‘old chapters’ and moving on to make new memories.

I kept seeing this book whenever I’m browsing on Amazon so I decided to read some of her poems over at Instagram before picking up a copy. Anyway it’s a great collection of poems. I actually read this some time ago before compiling these reviews so whilst no particular poems come to mind that stood out, I nonetheless enjoyed it and will keep a lookout for her future work.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Review: 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution

Posted 11 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution is a collection of literary responses to one of the most cataclysmic events in modern world history, which exposes the immense conflictedness and doubt, conviction and hope, pessimism and optimism which political events provoked among contemporary writers – sometimes at the same time, even in the same person. This dazzling panorama of thought, language and form includes work by authors who are already well known to the English-speaking world (Bulgakov, Pasternak, Akhmatova, Mayakovsky), as well as others, whose work we have the pleasure of encountering here for the very first time in English. Edited by Boris Dralyuk, the acclaimed translator of Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (also published by Pushkin Press), 1917 includes works by some of the best Russian writers – some already famous in the English-speaking world, some published here for the very first time. It is an anthology for everyone: those who are coming to Russian literature for the first time, those who are already experienced students of it, and those who simply want to know how it felt to live through this extreme period in history.

I snatched this book up a few months ago whilst parusing at Book City with friends. Of course anything written by Russian authors would catch my attention, and I thought this was an interesting collection because the works featured here are specifically from the time of the Revolution so there’s that first-hand reaction and creativity stemming from that period. What is also pretty cool about this collection is that it includes works from writers who are not well-known to the English-speaking world: Alexey Kraysky, Zinaida Gippius, Yefim Zozulya. Some authors ring faint bells in my head from my days in grad school and was researching Soviet Russian authors for my own research, but thankfully this collection includes a brief biography about the author prior to their work.

Having said that, I wouldn’t personally recommend this book for those readers approaching Russian literature for the first time (see this post if you’re looking for recommendations there). Unless you’re interested this period of Soviet/Russian history, the works featured here tend to be on the dry side. Again, a personal preference, but it talks a lot about the engineering of a new society, the engineering of a new man, the mechanics of life, the march onward with progress (and trust me, the early years of the Revolution really focused on machines, it feels a bit devoid after a bit, but hey, they loved it). From a historian’s standpoint it’s intriguing because it definitely reflects the ideas that they’re pursuing at the time and the abolition of the old order, but if you’re picking this up for leisurely reading, you may want to consider starting somewhere else instead.

Nonetheless I like the idea of this book being available, the concept is great and is a valuable resource especially for students of Soviet/Russian history and literature.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Review: Collected Poetry (John Donne)

Posted 2 October, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Collected Poetry
By: John Donne
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Regarded by many as the greatest of the Metaphysical poets, John Donne (1572-1631) was also among the most intriguing figures of the Elizabethan age. A sensualist who composed erotic and playful love poetry in his youth, he was raised a Catholic but later became one of the most admired Protestant preachers of his time. The Collected Poetry reflects this wide diversity, and includes his youthful songs and sonnets, epigrams, elegies, letters, satires, and the profoundly moving Divine Poems composed towards the end of his life.

From joyful poems such as ‘The Flea’, which transforms the image of a louse into something marvellous, to the intimate and intense Holy Sonnets, Donne breathed new vigour into poetry by drawing lucid and often startling metaphors from the world in which he lived. His poems remain among the most passionate, profound and spiritual in the English language.

Slowly making my way through classic poets, as per usual 🙂 I forgot who said somewhere that John Donne had some of the most romantic poetry in English literature so that kind of sold me to pick up his works a wee bit sooner than it would’ve taken 😛

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Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 8 September, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Another day, another round of mini reviews! This is another poetry edition as I’ve read a bit of poetry in the last few months that I wanted to talk briefly about 🙂 Included in this batch are:


The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry: An Anthology
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase

More than a century has now passed since F.T. Marinetti’s famous “Futurist Manifesto” slammed the door on the nineteenth century and trumpeted the arrival of modernity in Europe and beyond. Since then, against the backdrop of two world wars and several radical social upheavals whose effects continue to be felt, Italian poets have explored the possibilities of verse in a modern age, creating in the process one of the great bodies of twentieth-century poetry.

Even before Marinetti, poets such as Giovanni Pascoli had begun to clear the weedy rhetoric and withered diction from the once-glorious but by then decadent grounds of Italian poetry. And their winter labors led to an extraordinary spring: Giuseppe Ungaretti’s wartime distillations and Eugenio Montale’s “astringent music”; Umberto Saba’s song of himself and Salvatore Quasimodo’s hermetic involutions. After World War II, new generations—including such marvelously diverse poets as Sandro Penna, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Amelia Rosselli, Vittorio Sereni, and Raffaello Baldini—extended the enormous promise of the prewar era into our time.

A surprising and illuminating collection, The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry invites the reader to examine the works of these and other poets—seventy-five in all—in context and conversation with one another. Edited by the poet and translator Geoffrey Brock, these poems have been beautifully rendered into English by some of our finest English-language poets, including Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, Ezra Pound, Paul Muldoon, and many exciting younger voices

I bought this monster of a tome on sale at Book City; I’m always up to reading more translated texts and more Italian literature so the intersect between Italian literature and poetry with this book was a win-win for me.

Like the title and blurb mentions, the book covers Italian poetry over the course of the twentieth century, convering everything from life in Italy at the turn of the century to the two world wars, to experimentation in the latter half of the the twentieth century in culture. It’s a bilingual text, which I always enjoy checking out, and whilst there were some I didn’t care for or felt moved by (the really weird experimentation from the mid-century just will never appeal to me) there were others that did intrigue me and whose works I will keep a lookout for as solo collections, such as Giovanni Pascoli and Giuseppe Ungaretti.

Overall, I’m glad to have checked out this collection 🙂

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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