Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: Chasing Utopia by Nikki Giovanni

Even though I'm far from being the expert on poetry in my family, I do like to occasionally dabble in what I'd consider to be "popular" poetry or "easy" poetry or "does not require interpretation"poetry.  I'll just have to cross my fingers that my poet brother doesn't read this post.  I know he'd disapprove and encourage me to try something harder, but poetry remains one genre that very seriously intimidates me.

Anything beyond the most basic, accessible to the common man poetry goes right over my head.  While I'm probably over-confident in all other areas of reading and comprehension, contemporary/modern poetry is hard for me.  But that doesn't mean I avoid all of it.  I have a few trusted poets with styles that even I can understand.  Giovanni is one of these and I try to read her work whenever I have the chance.

Her latest work, Chasing Utopia, is a prose and poetry hybrid, dealing with family, food, and friends.  I'm honestly somewhat on the fence regarding how I felt about this one.  It definitely wasn't my favorite work of Giovanni's.  Like I said, I'm really insecure in my knowledge of modern poetry, but several of these poems didn't feel very considered to me.  I was looking for a deeper meaning, but just finding surface sentiments.

Of course, a few selections did jump out at me as being particularly lovely.  My favorite took one of her older poems and showed how she had originally written it and then compared it to her final edited version, alongside her thoughts on editing poetry.

Overall, I think it's another good book to read if you're looking for an introductory point to poetry.  If you're overwhelmed by the depth of modern poetry and find yourself, like me, lost as to the deeper meanings, Giovanni is a great place to start.  But I'm not sure I'd recommend this book over some of her others, Acolytes or Love Poems to name a few.

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