Monday, August 10, 2009

Apologies to an Apple, by Maya Ganesan

So, I like poetry, I really do. I even love poetry. So, living in a modern world is really hard. I don't know a lot of contemporary poetry, and I'm sure there are many wonderful poets in the world. Every time I go out and try to find them, though, I end up with... stuff I don't like. Sometimes it's just kind of dull, sometimes it feels like somebody congratulating themselves on how cool they are for writing poetry when everyone else is writing pedestrian nonsense, like prose, sometimes they are (and yes, this is only a personal opinion, so if you like the stuff I hate I apologize) god-awful, terrible, ugly nonsense. It's not just that I'm old fashioned - hey, I like Jack Kerouac, he's no EB Browning, and I'm posting my positive review of The Waste Land this week - it's that... well, I dont know. I think it has to do with the market. It FEELS like the only people left reading poetry are poets (Amanda and I have talked about a similar problem in the short story market), so the poetry is written to impress poets. And poets don't necessarily pick out the best poetry, simply by picking the most 'impressive'. I don't mean to sound snobby, because I really don't even read anough modern poems to make a summary judgement, I've just never been able to find something I actually liked.

So, imagine my surprise when I really, really loved this slender little book of poems, that I won for free from Color Online. Now, I promised myself, I wouldn't focus on this in my review, because if I were the poet, I'd be kind of irritated if this is what they focused on, but I will just say it once: Maya Ganesan, the author of this poetry, is 11 years old.

I think the thing I most enjoyed about these poems was just how much voice she has. Ms Ganesan, like Emily Dickinson, has a special gift for clear language that illuminates what she saws around her while reflecting just enough light back on the poet herself to make us wonder who she is. Like in this poem:


The sparrows have received
my invitation, it seems --

no, not the letter kind.
It seems they have

heard my song
and will come to meet me

in a moment. Look, Look --
the horde of wings.

This is the best kind of poem in the collection: a poem firmly fixed in the perceptions of a real soul, but that just uses the soul as a lens to show us something else. Ms Ganesan has a highly developed sense of implication, as well, something that comes through in this love poem, that I wish I'd written for my wife:

A Message for You
I have traced your name
my finger

on the steamy
glass doors surrounding
the shower.

The book isn't perfect. The last section particularly has the echoes of someone trying to imitate 'good poetry', and can feel a little forced, and overwrought, but by and large, this was a wonderful book of poems, and a beautiful surprise. If Ms Ganesan is the future of poetry, then poetry is coming on a renaissance.


Amanda said...

I'm glad you found some modern poetry you liked. The love poem was very sweet. :)

Serena said...

I'm glad you found some poems that you like. Contemporary poetry is written by poets for poets because those are the readers of the genre. Unfortunately, poets do not have a means to attract regular readers who have no time to think or reflect, but simply cater to their current whims, needs, etc.

Keshalyi said...

Amanda - I'm glad you enjoyed it :). I'd say it's how I feel about you, but it isn't, because we have a shower curtain.

Serena - It's interesting that you say that, because it's something I've been wondering about for a while now - why has poetry stopped being popular? I mean, I don't think people are dumber (or busier) than they were when, say Tennyson or Browning were writing. But they were tremendously popular, in their own time even. What's different today? I mean, I know around the book blogging world PLENTY of people who spend a lot of time reading, and who stop and consider what they read very carefully.

Rebecca Reid said...

Amazing for an 11 year old. I think I'd be more forgiving of poetry if it's by an 11 year old. But that is pretty impressive.

Keshalyi said...

Ms Reid - I hope I didn't come across as being overly severe. I really did love the book.

Serena said...

Jason: I'm not sure why poets are not more popular today...with the exception of Billy Collins. But I am trying to change that through my blog with reviews, interviews, and the virtual poetry circle on Saturdays, if you are interested.