• Shanley McConnell

Week Four - The Monday Review

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1. Almost the Equinox, Sarah Maguire (London: Chatto & Windus, 2015)


Sarah Maguire's Almost the Equinox is a gorgeous bouquet of a collection; her work is vivid, a graceful lattice over locational distances: widespread and blooming.


Maguire writes visually, for example, the stems "loosening their sugars into the dark," standing upright in "zinc buckets at the back of the shop" are sweet in the "pools of mist." Finding comparisons between grief and growth, Maguire finishes a poem with one of the collection's most poignant lines:


this is the time for grief,
to look carefully at loss,
then turn away.

This line affected me greatly after I read it. How often do I look at loss, lingering there. I don't turn away. Sometimes I don't feel that I can. I feel mesmerized, stuck------in a panic striken cycle. But there, in between imagery of beauty, of life, of reaching-deep, earth-ready roots, this line turn away. It's okay to see loss for what it is, but to live in it is for a time.


It is time to turn away, and engage in something new.

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2. Intimacies, Helen Farish (Jonathan Cape, 2005)


Intimacies is Helen Farish's debut collection, and won the 2005 Forward Best First Collection Prize. It is personal, and reads with a sense of mature content. Time and commitment are key themes.


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3. Misprint, James Womack (Carcanet Press Ltd, 2012)


James Womack's Misprint was an engaging read; I found it compelling because it connects countries and languages with youth--------innocence and experience. All of the poems have their own strengths in their variations of form, structure, word-play, narrative and focus. In the collection, readers find themselves crossing Russia, Spain, North Korea and the even a virtual, cinematic environments where dreams and ghosts reveal their presence.


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4. Complete Poems, R. F. Langley (Carcanet Press Ltd, 2015)


Langley's poetry is focused on patterns, nature and (often obscure) details. This collection of Complete Poems is comprised of work that was published------perfected.


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5. Pandemonium, Thomas McCarthy (Carcanet Press Ltd, 2016)


Thomas McCarthy wrote Pandemonium in the wake of Ireland's 2008 economic collapse. It is a collection that balances lament and protest.


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6. The Agister's Experiment, Gill Learner (Two Rivers Press, 2010)


The Agister's Experiment by Gill Learner is a collection that engages with the cadences of the English language. This first collection examines art in technology, painting and music, and reflects on the power of stories retold and reimagined.


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7. 1Q84, Haruki Murakami


Haruki Murakami is an acclaimed author, and deservedly so. Some of his works include Norwegian Woods, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.


I recently read his Kafka On The Shore, a novel composed of two distinct, interrelated narratives. The odd-numbered chapters of the novel tell the story of 15-year-old Kafka, who runs away from his father's house to escape a curse and search for his lost mother and sister. After a series of anomalous events, Kafka seeks shelter in the Takamatsu library. He spends many days hiding here, reading the unabridged Richard Francis Burton translation of One Thousand and One Nights, and the collected works of Natsume Sōseki, while the police continue to inquire about his connection to a murder. Murakami's even-numbered chapter tell of Nakata, an elderly man who finds (and speaks to) lost cats. In a series of seemingly irrelevant situations, Nakata and truck driver Hoshino, start out on an adventure that leads them far from 'the familiar.'


The structure, characterization and narrative of this novel is fascinating, and served as a perfect example for the argument of my recent essay on the relationships between author, reader and narrator in fictional worlds.


One of my favorite pastimes is browsing the shelves of a library, and randomly choosing three, four--------eight novels to read over the next week. 1Q84 just happened to be one of these this week. Little did I know it was book 4 of the series. Still, the story sounded intriguing, and settled down to with Aomame, Tengo and Ushikawa.


After a little research, I noticed that the responses to Murakami's 1Q84 series vary; some shower the collection with praise, some wonder at its pace, and others seem uncertain about this parallel 1984.


I know I'm a bit removed, having only read book four, but I found 1Q84 engaging. I thought the characters were well-developed, and the plot curious. It seemed as though Murakami provided a little bit of everything; romance, thrill, mysticism, magical realism, suspense. And he does all this in such a sensitive, subtle way that the entire novel holds all of it without losing anything. Each section is poignant, and, in the end, even when all I wanted to do was reach the meeting-place of Aomame and Tengo, I couldn't not but appreciate his intentionality in retaining the slow suspense.


IQ84 is truly a brilliant, however enigmatic, read.


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8. After The Quake, Haruki Murakami


After The Quake is a collection of short stories; they are separated in distance, characters and thematic-focus, however, this world------the world after the quake-------is always present as the setting. It affects relationships and dreams. Overall, in the end, there is a hope to be found in Murakami's world here, and I would say that this speaks to his ability in turning something simple into something whole.


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