So you know that adage, the one that says something like if a book doesn’t grab you in the first few pages then don’t read it, it doesn’t have anything to say or it isn’t well-written? I never pay attention to it. And I’m glad I don’t, because if I did I never would have read this.
There’s a lot of things I could say about this collection–it’s award-winning, highly critically acclaimed, and Kaminsky is apparently a luminary of some note in poetry circles. But to be completely honest, none of those things are ever interesting to me. What did interest me was the exploration of deafness as protest and the promise of a poetry collection with an over-arching story, and how the poems themselves made me feel.
The first few poems in this collection are technically brilliant and heartfelt. They also made me roll my eyes because — ugh. More misery as art? More pessimism and unnuanced human ugliness and general white dude dread projected onto the whole of human experience? I mean, c’mon, more depression poetry? Sad disability poetry? War poetry, written at a time like this? Even coming from a Ukranian-American poet I wasn’t into it.
But then I got to the last poem and thought–oh. OH. I was so wrong. I was so wrong I felt a little ashamed, and had to examine a bit of an empathy void within myself I didn’t know I had(a lot of good poetry does that to me). I realized that this story–of a village that goes deaf in protest during a war, and the painfully short lives of its embattled, occupied citizens, who all seem to die as soon as we get attached to them–is broader than it seems. It’s tied to a specific time and place and viewpoint, but the underlying cry, to protest, to live and love and protect each other even in the face of suffering and oppression, is a universal one. (Side note: Apparently the poet is also hard-of-hearing himself, which adds an extra level of dimension to this work.)
It’s a grim, gritty read full of sorrow and shock(I gasped out loud at a few stunning lines), but it made me think and feel and shift my thoughts around looking for any rotten spots on the ones that have been stored for too long.
5 stars and an armistice to Deaf Republic
(Beautiful people! Welcome to the first review of the year! There’s more to come of course–if you enjoyed this one, take a look at this list of some of my other poetry favorites. Remember that any clicks/purchases that start from this blog will result in a commission being paid, and it’s how I buy more books and write more books. If you don’t like poetry but still made it this far, go ahead and check out the rest of the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Whatever you do, be sure to go read something good! Peace!)