Thursday, December 22, 2011

Soul Clothes, and Some Thoughts on Poetry

In the past, I've felt intimidated by poetry. In school, we briefly studied some of the work of Robert Frost, along with other poets, and I always thought that poetry, that understanding and writing it, were just beyond my grasp. For me, poetry was accompanied by a sense of mysticism, reflected in these lines by Robert Frost:

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep"

It was no wonder that I'd picture the poet (or poetess, such as Emily Dickinson) dressed in black or grey from head to toe, wearing a somber expression, trudging through the woods reciting lines, seeing deeply and uncannily into nature and human nature.

Over the past few years I've changed my mind, at least a bit. As I've read more poetry (such as the prolific work of Sweta Srivastava Vikram, and Fiona Place, who incorporated pithy poems into her novel, Cardboard, adding another dimension to it), it's become more accessible to me. I also realized that my deep enjoyment of music, specifically song lyrics, which are a form of poetry, set to music, already assured me that I could appreciate and fathom the less literal beauty of poetry. In fact, I would welcome it wholeheartedly! There are numerous similarities between poems and lyrics--repetitions and refrains, using words for their sounds, using words to convey feelings rather than exact meanings. And when you think about it, we go through much of the day speaking in short phrases--some of them might sound more than a bit silly--and poetry echoes this natural, relaxed speech pattern and the beauty of language, which is often like song.

"You wear my purple turtleneck sweater
made of wool
looped with love, laughter, and laziness"
~Soul Clothes, Regina D. Jemison

Published in 2011, Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison is a bold and down-to-earth collection of poetry. The author is also a lawyer, which means she must be adept at precise writing, along with poetic writing. Her evocative poems run the gamut from the act of writing to love to breast cancer and AIDS, and express a strong sense of self, of sorrow as well as joy, and are a true celebration of words, and of life.

"I'm writin' my prayers
on stone tablets
legal pads
and blue skies, writin' the blues
away, writin' "
~Writin' My Blues Away, Regina D. Jemison

I read this thin book over the course of a few days, savoring the inventive and absorbing use of language. I knew while reading this work that I did not have to understand every detail in a hyper-literal way, but that poetry is an art form open to the interpretation of the reader, which enhanced my enjoyment of the book. I unequivocally recommend this heartfelt book of poems, even to those who believe that poetry is beyond their comprehension.

Special thanks to Victor from Modern History Press for sending me a complimentary copy of Soul Clothes.


  1. I've come to love novels in verse and tried a book of poetry this year and really struggled with it. I want to try it again and read the poems out loud to see if that helps.

  2. I hated poetry until graduate of my teachers exposed us to early colonial women's poetry and I was hooked...I think everybody just has to find their particular verse and writing style :)

  3. I believe people just have to find the style of poetry that speaks to them. Not every poem is easily understood but not every poem is out of your grasp. There really is a poet out there for everyone. I'm glad you're finding yourself enjoying it more.

  4. A great post, thanks for your thoughts. I'm not a great lover of poetry either and firmly believe that it is meant to be read to you rather than read by you.

  5. I still have a love/hate realationship with poetry, but am willing to consider various collections when someone I trust recommends them, and might like to try this one. I am glad that you found it to be pleasing!

    Happy Holidays!

  6. Fantastic post Suko. Soul Clothes sounds like a nice collection. I do believe that each person just needs to find the type of poetry that they can really enjoy. There can be such beauty in the words themselves.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family Suko :)

  7. Petty, you're right--poetry readings are a great way to listen to poems, which are meant to be heard (just like music).

    Naida, you introduced me to the romantic poetry of Pablo Neruda--thanks! But I haven't read a full collection of his work yet.

    Thanks for all the comments!

  8. I've never been much of a poetry reader but I should really give it another try.

  9. What an interesting book! I must look for it. Like you, I was afraid of poetry for a very very very long time; one day, it became the only thing I could bear to read...

    Happy Holidays to you and your family, Suko!!

  10. A very good review-here is hoping you have a great holiday

  11. Susan, I wanted to stop by to wish you a wonderful Holiday; hope it means special time with family and friends.

  12. I've had similar feelings about poetry. I usually don't understand it, perhaps am even a little intimidated by it, and so I generally avoid it. Maybe I just haven't found the right author or style.

    Have a wonderful holiday.

  13. What I love about poetry, is that it can be mundane or as mystic as the writer wants, its language can be plain or verbose, in fact it's limits are only those of the writer.

    Little Johnny's confession

    This morning
    being rather young and foolish
    I borrowed a machinegun my father
    had left hidden since the war, went out,
    and eliminated a number of small enemies.
    Since then I have not returned home.

    This morning
    swarms of police with trackerdogs
    wander about the city
    with my description printed
    on their minds, asking:
    'Have you seen him ?
    He is seven years old.
    likes Pluto, Mighty Mouse
    and Biffo the Bear,
    have you seen him, anywhere?'

    This morning
    sitting alone in a strange playground
    muttering you've blundered, you've blundered
    over and over to myself
    I work out my next move
    but cannot move.
    The trackerdogs will sniff me out,
    they have my lollypops.

    -Brian Patten

    Have recently posted an interview with a wonderful poet on the release of her new collection.

  14. I love poetry, even though I'm not a poet, I have a blog where I post my poetry. I like picture prompts, so I always have a picture along with my poems. If you would like to take a peek at my poetry blog you can find it here...

    This sounds like a book I would love. Another book for my TBR list. hehe

  15. Hi, just wanted to stop by and wish you a happy new year.

  16. Many thanks for the comments--and the poem!


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