Thursday, May 29, 2014

#28 [2014/CBR6] "She Walks in Beauty" arr. by Caroline Kennedy

When I saw a clip of Caroline Kennedy on the Colbert Report discussing a book of poetry that she'd put together, I decided I needed to read it. In her introduction, Kennedy describes the book as "an anthology of poems centered around the stages of a woman's life." In it, she has managed to gather a good number of poems from a vast array of sources, including: Rainer Maria Rilke, Sylvia Plath, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood, the Bible, and many others.

This book is separated into sections titled: Falling in Love; Making Love; Breaking Up; Marriage; Love Itself; Work; Beauty, Clothes and Things of This World; Motherhood; Silence and Solitude; Growing Up and Growing Old; Death and Grief; Friendship; and How to Live. Kennedy begins the book as well as each section with a short introduction mentioning some of her favorite poems.

When I first started reading, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting a collection of poems that embraced and celebrated women personally, as well as their role in the world. What I found instead felt like a reinforcement of traditional genders and stereotypes as well as a lack of a pervasive theme. I think it was the section on marriage that jumped from a loving poem about partnership to some brutal poem where the man kills her lover and tricks her into eating his heart. Perhaps I went into this one with unrealistic expectations, but I initially felt stifled and confused.

But then I kept reading and I found myself highlighting more and more of the poems. Although my earlier criticism still stands, I had no problems with the poems being too esoteric, and I found many of them worth marking for later re-reading. My favorite section was "How to Live," which included some of the more inspirational poems.

I do wish Kennedy had included, at the least, the date of each poem. She jumped dramatically from poems hundred of years apart, and a little more context would have been helpful. Also, I saw at the end of my Kindle book that a number of poems (less than ten, but still) were not included in the Kindle version because there was some problem with the electronic rights. This was disappointing. I tried to find the ones I was missing on the internet, and I was able to read one. However, I'm a completist, and now I feel I'm missing out. Three of those poems were by Julia Alvarez, so I now have two books by her on my to-read list. I read through this book of poetry relatively quickly with only occasional bursts of impatience or boredom. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys poetry.

Like the couple of other poetry books I've read, I marked down my favorite poems, which I will list here, so I can perhaps find them later:
-The Weather-Cock Points South by Amy Lowell (32)
-Youth by Osip Mandelstam, trans. by W.S. Merwin (44)
-Well, I Have Lost You by Edna St. Vincent Millay (61)
-To the Ladies by Lady Mary Chudleigh (83)
-From a Survivor by Adrienne Rich (97)
-To Paula in Late Spring by W.S. Merwin (101)
-Code Poem for the French Resistance by Leo Marks (112)
-Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare (114)
-Night Waitress by Lynda Hull (127)
-The Great Lover by Rupert Brooke (168)
-Vietnam by Wislawa Szymborska (199)
-The Summer Day by Mary Oliver (230)
-I stepped from plank to plank by Emily Dickinson (232)
-Sign by Marge Pierry (239)
-Remember by Christina Rossetti (255)
-That it is a road by Ariwara Na Narihari (258)
-To be of use by Marge Piercy (295)
-Try to Praise the Mutilated World by Adam Zagajewski (297)
-September, 1918 by Amy Lowell (300)
-May today there be peace within by St. Teresa of Avila

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