The Forgotten World by Nick Courtright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
*3.5 rounded up to 4*
The Forgotten World is not one journey, but two. The first is an international excursion, seen through the eyes of the poet; the second is a voyage through the mind of the poet himself. I will admit that at first, I wasn't feeling the travelogue style of the collection, not because I don't appreciate traveling to foreign places, but because I found myself wrestling with the lens through which these places were being presented.
It felt, at first, like Courtright was dancing precariously close to the fine line between self-awareness and navel-gazing. As a woman whose family hails from a nation that is treated like a playground for the white and wealthy, I've developed something of a low tolerance for the "punish me, I'm a white colonizer" trope. To quote the poet, "... I looked through the screen to see the screen I was seen through", and having lived my life on the objectified end of what is often referred to as the "white gaze", even the most compassionate of voyeurs is still a voyeur.
However, I am also a firm believer in allowing people to speak their truth, and there was a vulnerability in the fact that this is Courtright's own truth. How he feels about it isn't for me to judge, and there is a marked sincerity in his poetry that cannot be denied. Courtright is indeed very much so aware of himself as an individual and sees himself as a continuation of a heritage that has wrought much destruction across the world. He alludes to atrocities that span centuries and continents, and I have an appreciation for using art as a tool for expanding awareness.
What redeems Courtright and this collection of poetry is the fact that he doesn't stew indulgently in white guilt (thankfully), and instead makes peace with simply trying to be a better person and raise better people. He also contends with a number of other themes such as mental health, the tumultuous state of America, and his complicated relationship with religion. I particularly enjoyed Courtright's poems about love - love that is nearing its end, love that has gone up in flames, and the enduring kind of love that one pours into their children. In the end, these are the poems that won me over.
Thanks to Nick Courtright and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
View all my reviews
Vulnerable AF by Tarriona Ball
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Tarriona "Tank" Ball's debut poetry collection is a reflection on the heartbreak wrought by a past relationship. As the title suggests, Ball's writing is vulnerable; when she speaks to the former object of her affection, there are palpable flashes of anger, confusion, and pure resentment. She also paints a vivid picture of her former lover, presenting us with the bits and pieces of him that drew him to her in the first place, and which inevitably ended up breaking her heart.
The book's poetry is interspersed with "Tank's Story Time", short stories that seemed intended to give some context to the poems surrounding them. However, I could've done without them. I didn't find myself connecting with any of them in any meaningful way. The book also includes some cool illustrations, all of which I absolutely adored. I found myself spending time picking these images apart as if they were poems themselves.
Given her slam poetry background, it was also no surprise that some of the poems possessed rhythm that needed to be taken into account to get the full effect of the piece. One of them is "Adam", which I have to say is my personal favorite. I honestly would love the opportunity to see this one performed live.
Overall, there were a lot of good poems, many of which I feel would resonate quite a bit with someone who is still in the throes of their own painful heartbreak. Personally, I just didn't feel emotionally drawn into enough of the poems, and maybe I'm just not the intended audience. However, I do feel that this poetry collection would speak most deeply to those in the midst of a breakup or anyone still holding a flame for someone who refuses to love them back.
Thanks to NetGalley and Tarriona Ball for an advance copy of this book.
View all my reviews