Our poetry and prose editors Annabella Archaki and Orliana Morag are here with some recommendations for the coming school year! Here they are:
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
O: Funny, romantic, and more than a little crazy, Tom Jones is an epic recounting of the title character’s quest for love and belonging in a society dead-set against him. Written in 1749, Tom Jones tackles classicism and sexuality in a way that might shock some audiences even today. If you’re in for a long haul (the novel totals 346,747 words) but want to laugh the whole way through, I cannot recommend this book enough. And if you do make it to the end and want to share your favorite lines, shoot me a message through the Euphony Journal Facebook page!
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles by Sally Wen Mao
A: This poem deserves to be every inch as beloved as Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”… both of these odes to the materialism of the individual body look at loneliness and find freedom. They turn vulnerability into strength, which is probably why I keep coming back to them even after so many years.
Imaginary Morning Glory by C.D. Wright
A: Ostensibly a poem about a flower (and/or love), this short, electric piece conflates horror with intimacy. A “loose halo,” a “loving belly,” and other emblems of tenderness threaten to split open in an icy plunge into “freezing” water, a submersion that might become penetrative. The looming violence is worth it, in the end. “If blue were not blue how could love be love.”
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
O: Speak, Memory is hands-down one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. An autobiographical memoir, Speak, Memory is Nabokov’s recounting of his childhood in St. Petersburg through to his emigration to Berlin and Paris. The memoir is infused with Nabokov’s classically Russian humor, replete with esoteric jokes and snide comments. The book is also full of literal puzzles—one of the early chapters features a cipher young Nabokov once presented to his uncle, and the second to last chapter ends with a chess problem. So if you’re up for some brain teasers while also wanting to bask in the warmth of Nabokov’s prose, go ahead and pick up a copy of Speak, Memory.
Existe un mutilado by Cesar Vallejo
A: Like the rest of his generation, César Vallejo was haunted by the facially disfigured veterans of WWI. New weapons left survivors with more mutilations than ever before, leading to the development of modern plastic surgery. What interests me about this poem is the latent power of an interiority that lacks expression. The faceless man’s inability to translate his emotions to the world must have especially weighed on a poet, such as Vallejo.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
A: A classic for a reason! My mother loved this poem, and it became the first poem I ever loved. Thanks to the rhyme scheme, I have it committed to memory (Frost called it “my best bid for remembrance”). The specter of the rider stopping for no other reason than to appreciate the quotidian beauty of his journey is, of course, an allegory not only for poetry, but mortality.
You Fit into Me by Margaret Atwood and Rage by Kelli Simpson (published in our Spring 2018 edition)
A: Both of these poems are remarkable for the concision they lend to characteristically expansive emotions. The multi-functionality of their language evinces not only a beautiful economy but a crushing restraint. The concision of these poems expresses the power of language — to express multiple conflicting feelings or ideas, just as the same words perform different roles — as well as its limitations. These poems pack a punch because of what they are too proud to say, or too bitter to confess. Their rawness consists in the suggestion that what needs to be said cannot be, rendering the mere existence of the poems a transgression of language itself.