Speaking of truly brilliant books…
Reading The Half God of Rainfall reminded me I do actually really quite enjoy poetry, so maybe I should try to read some more new stuff… but how would I find what was good and new?? Luckily, I have friends who know many things, and so I got some very good recommendations, of which this was the first. Hopefully more to come. It also came with the recommendation to listen to it as an audio book… dun dun duuuuhhhh…
Now, I don’t listen to audiobooks, for one simple reason – they are so. interminably. slow. I feel like I’m just kinda dying. It’s a downside of being a really quite quick reader – I’m not used to giving that many hours of my life to a book. But I was told no, this one is definitely worth it, trust me, and so I did… and indeed, it was. So if anyone reads this and decides “ooh, this is defs for me”, then I strongly encourage you to get it as an audiobook too. It’s read by the author, and it’s definitely got a lot going on in terms of lyricism, tone and pacing that you get really well when it’s coming to you in audio form. I’ll probably buy in physical copy and reread normally at some point too, but it was definitely well worth the experience getting it that way first. Strong endorse from me.
It is also not a shock that the theme sucked me in. I mean, look at it. It’s got classics in it. I am a sucker, if nothing else, for some classics.
But honestly, what I’ve taken out from it most at the end is that it’s very powerfully emotional. There’s one particular point where I had to pause (I was listening at work) so I didn’t get too visibly flappy. Because it was making me have feelings and frankly how rude. It’s poetry about people and the minutiae of their lives, and it sucks you right in and suddenly you’re busy caring and caught up in what’s going on and holy shit nooooooooooo stoooooop.
Which is part of why the audio was such a good decision – she gives you the beautiful pacing on the emotional crescendo that you really need, and yeah, maybe I’d have managed that if I’d read it in a book… but maybe I wouldn’t.
But even when it’s not ripping your heart out, it’s still beautiful. There’s a lot of intense character study going on, and feeling close to some real, in some ways entirely unremarkable people, very suddenly. People living normal, painful, sad and busy lives, and in ways you can instantly connect to, but told with grace and rhythm and humour. There’s a lot of repetition used for emphasis, and this is wonderful way to underline the humdrum of some of what’s going on, interspersed with almost-song parts and rattling dramatic rhythmic moments of high emotion or tension. It’s poetry doing what I feel like poetry is supposed to do, and leaning in hard on the “make it feel real” buttons in your soul.
It’s surprisingly short as a collection, for something so busy shredding you emotionally as you listen to it, but I got through the whole thing in one afternoon at work, and I don’t think it wanted to be any longer. There’s a driving plot throughout the collection, taking you along a story to an end point, but that’s not the only thing it’s about, and I don’t think it’s even necessarily intrinsic to enjoying it. I’d like to come back again and listen to or read some of them individually, to come at them in isolation and see if I get something different or new from them. I want to try reading them out for myself, in the quiet of my flat, feeling how they sound in my own voice, and whether I find something new in them that way too. I want to share them with someone else and discuss them, revisit them with someone else’s eyes, disagree, listen to them quoting, again finding more and more each time. They have that quality – that at least in my previous experience good poetry always has – of promising a lot more than is available on the first read. There are depths, ready and waiting, if you’re willing to come back, and back again and again. I don’t think any good poetry is there just for one sitting… it changes with the reader.
So yeah, definitely more poetry for me then. I’ve missed this.