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.
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