Poetry is meant to move us, shape us into something more than what we were before we read it. But what about the relationships poets have with their own words? Where do these poems come from and how do they exist as tangible beings once written? It is through relationships with people and events that we have stories revealed in poetry and these stories are made possible through memory. Each poet, like each reader, has a specific memory that makes a past event or person special. This poetry anthology provides a glimpse into the world of storytelling through memory. With the ability to change, crucify, abandon, burden, repress, and sometimes idolize, the poets in this collection take an event that has occurred with an important person/persons in their lives and transform it through memory into a tangible piece of reality for the reader to hold.
This collection jumps from a graphic, coarse account of the loss of virginity in “First Night,” by Sharon Olds (1980) to a generous decision to have an abortion in “The Mother,” by Gwendolyn Brooks (1992) which explores the life-changing event that this choice has on one voice. Julia Alvarez (1984) takes us to a place where a child cares for the worries of her parents not with words or affection but through domestic obedience in “Ironing Their Clothes,” while Robert Hayden (1966) brings us closer to the fire in “Those Winter Sundays,” unfolding the complicated layering of unspoken love between father and son. Li-Young Lee (1986) sheds light onto both the difficulties and beauties of married life in “Braiding,” while in “Facing It,” Yusef Komunyakaa (1988) battles a different kind of relationship, focusing on the lasting effects the aftermath of war can have on an individual.
Each poem in this anthology makes an important statement about human relationships; the ones we share and the ones we shelve for our private collection. It brings us a little close to the truth about ourselves as individuals while simultaneously it reiterates the concept that we are all part of a collective unit. We live through events and form relationships that create long memories, and sometimes those memories bring us poetry as well.
- Alvarez, Julia. (1984). Ironing their clothes. Homecoming (pp. 26). New York: Penguin Books.
- Brooks, Gwendolyn. (1992). The mother. Blacks (pp. 21-22). Chicago, Illinois: Third World
- Hayden, Robert. (1966). Those winter sundays. In Michael S. Harper & Anthony Walton (Eds.),
The vintage book of african american poetry (pp. 167). New York: Vintage Books.
- Komumyakaa, Yusef. (1988). Facing it. In Michael S. Harper & Anthony Walton (Eds.), The
vintage book of african american poetry (pp. 328-329). New York: Vintage Books.
- Lee, Li-Young. (1986). Braiding. Rose (pp. 57). Rochester, New York: BOA Editions Ltd.