Poetry Review: Past Life Invisible by Daniel Haskin

It took me some time to get through this and finally get around to reviewing it, not because it’s a slog to get through (far from it), but rather just due to my hectic schedule. I would like to summarize my overall thoughts about this collection with the statement that it is a reader friendly compilation. Many people are often uncomfortable with poetry because they feel it might go over their heads or that they won’t be able to glean anything from it, but Haskin’s Past Life Invisible does not take that route. Haskin’s poems still create sensual and beautiful images with deft lyricism that a poetry connesieur can appreciate, but it never feels like it goes over the head of the average reader who enjoys the occasional poetry collection.

 

past life invisible
Image from Goodreads

The poem “Wintersong” is a good example of the lyricism I spoke of. The lines “Hollow and shopworn/Praying to your god of thorns/Lonely pages torn…” have a melodic rhythm that you can easily put a beat to. In the poem “My Dark Age,” the opening stanza of “The things I now see/Inside my dark cruelty/The lines of my palms/Like red rivers running…” holds that same rhythmic quality that makes Haskin’s pieces sound like songs ready for a musician to adopt. While many writers struggle to adequately use a traditional rhyme scheme to create poetry, Haskin uses the tool adeptly in a way that melds tradition with contemporary style.

The images throughout Haskin’s poetry are often simple, yet convey layers that leave the reading open to interpretation. Phrases like “false colors of autumn” from “Cancer Season” create a sense of vague images, and yet the reader knows exactly what the speaker means by that statement. It’s intuitive. In “Mollytide” the speaker uses sensuous diction like “dark and decadent” or “embrace you like smoke” to create a titillating piece with words meant to be spoken between lovers, but which the speaker allows the audience to see behind closed doors.

Haskin appears to have made a conscious decision not to include punctuation (or rather sparingly) throughout all the pieces, without a single poem ending with punctuation. It conveys this sense that while every poem has a beginning, it doesn’t necessarily have an end, and feels like the speaker of each piece has drifted out of their own trailing thoughts. However, because of this stylistic choice, the few times punctuation is used within a poem, it stands out and is jolting, coming off as typos that made it past the final editing process. The rare stray comma in a line can really stop that lyrical flow the writer so deftly created, so the inclusion of such marks should have been more carefully curated.

Overall, I think it was an excellent collection of poetry and I give it 4 out of 5 stars. If you want to delve into poetry, then this might be the place to start.

Annihilation Movie Review

I wrote this post for my cousin’s blog and thought I’d share it here too. Click the link to follow the original post.

The following post will contain spoilers of both the book and movie, so if you haven’t read or seen either one and don’t want to be spoiled, proceed with caution! I had had the book on my TBR for a while, and then when I saw that Gina Rodriguez and Oscar Isaac were going to […]

via Movie Review: Annihilation — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Meagan Reads SciFi: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve been participating in the MadLibs Reading Challenge 2018, and I chose this book as one of the “noun” categories. Be warned that spoilers are coming ahead, so if you plan on reading the book, do not pass this line!

Annihilation is a relatively short read, but don’t let it’s small size fool you. There is such a complexity of character and plot happening that the writing itself very much resembles the way the biologist, the main character, views the world around her. Even though VanderMeer wrote the story so that none of the characters had names, it didn’t create for a lack of depth with each one. I felt a particular kinship with the biologist though, as we saw most of the story unfold from her point of view.

She tells the story with a clinical voice, especially at the beginning, in which she constantly talks about observation and analyzing the environment around her, whether it’s in a lab, at a tidepool, or even in her own marriage. She makes it clear that observation holds more value to her rather than interaction, and I felt such a relief in seeing a female character that emphasizes this point without ever being villainized. Through her habit of observation, she remains apart from her ecosystem, and never becomes a part of the ecosystem. I think after recent conversations I had with a friend of mine about how I’m so quiet all the time and I rarely tend to interact with people, it felt good to see another woman portrayed this way, but not made to be evil.

That doesn’t mean that her tendency toward introspection and observation didn’t irk those around her. It’s made clear in her flashbacks to her marriage with her husband, one of the lost souls to the previous Southern Reach expedition to Area X, that he was vexed with her habit of retreating into her own observations and never letting anyone in, emotionally. When she volunteered to go as part of the next expedition, the psychologist was also annoyed at how little she could get out of the biologist.

Now, as to the plot of the story, I’m not gonna lie. I don’t entirely know what it’s point is or where it’s going (as there are two more books). I do know that I enjoyed the scenery VanderMeer created with the plant spores that created actual writing on the wall and seemed to have its own life. Throughout the book, the reader knows there have been various expeditions into Area X to study the phenomenon happening, but we know as much as the explorers do. There is no source or origin for why these mutations are happening or how. There is no explanation as to why they are researching and exploring Area X. Do they think it’s dangerous to the world as a whole? Is there still a world outside of the Southern Reach and Area X? If there was an apocalypse, was this the source?

The explorers and reader don’t even know where the entrance point is to Area X. There’s no recollection how they got there, and more worrisome to the mysterious government agency in charge of the expeditions, they don’t know how anyone could have gotten out. The biologist’s husband returned from the expedition, but he was the first to do so and he did not return as himself. One can assume that despite their strained marriage, the biologist entered Area X to find out what came back, because if it wasn’t her husband, what was it, and what else came through? We start to catch glimpses toward the end when the biologist discovers the journals of previous explorers, of which there were many more than the Southern Reach disclosed to present expeditions.

As the book comes to a close, the reader sees there’s something strange going on in the way of clones, doubles, or doppelgangers. How they come to be and where they go is still to be determined. The one thing I wish I had seen more of in the book were the animals and other plants. There was such a  high focus on the living writing on the walls of the tower/tunnel that the reader didn’t actually see much of Area X’s other creatures, except for a brief appearance of a wild hog that comes close to the expedition’s camp.

When I’ve talked about this book with friends I’ve described it as the kind of story that fans of Archive 81 would enjoy, and I stand by that statement. I’m definitely itching to find out where the biologist’s journey takes her in the end as she follows her husband’s path deeper into Area X, so I will be picking up the next book.

Has anybody else read this book? What did you think? Do you have theories as to what Area X is exactly and how it came to be? Let me know in the comments!

Meagan Reads YA Fiction: Wrecked by Maria Padian

This is a post I made for my cousin’s blog. Click the link below to see the full review.

This one is a bit of a backlist, as it was published in 2016. However, its contents and story are still relevant, as they have always been, and as I fear they may always be. I wish I had more optimism for the future of gender equality, but stories like this one are all too […]

via Wrecked by Maria Padian: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Review: Roxane Gay’s Hunger

I’ve started contributing to my cousin’s blog. Here’s my first post on her site!

Hi everyone! I’m a new contributor to Chronicles of a Music Journalist, as requested by my cousin. My name’s Meagan and I’ll start my debut here with a review of Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body. Gay is an author known for her sharp and insightful thoughts on feminism and pop culture, as […]

via Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body by Roxane Gay — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Review: Card of Fate by Duke of Quails

I was asked by a Goodreads author to review their book of poetry honestly, so here are my thoughts on Card of Fate by Duke of Quails.

This collection of poetry deals with the subject of gambling addiction, mostly from the perspective of the addict. Each poem reiterates the vicious cycle of one more hit, one more time, just one more try, portraying how easy it is to fall into a self-destructive pattern.

That being said, I did want more poems from other perspectives, like the piece called “What Me and Dad Did On Spring Break.” This poem is told from the perspective of a son who is watching his dad make bad decisions, but due to his innocence, he doesn’t recognize what his father was doing as wrong. I think the collection could have had a stronger impact with more poems of this variety, showing how addiction affects those around the addict as well as the addicts themselves. However, it can be argued that the point of such repetition in the poems conveys the nature of addiction, in that it’s a person making the same choices over and over again, never recognizing the consequences of his or her actions.

Duke includes a heavy use of punctuation throughout the poems, and that sometimes works well as it creates a manic feeling emanating from the lines, like someone breathing fast and talking to themselves desperately, such as in the opening poem “Gambling Temptation.” In some cases though, like in “Innocent Ticket,” the use of so many commas, periods and semi-colons is overwhelming and becomes a distraction.

The concept of innocence is threaded throughout the collection, with the use of the word often attributed by the speaker of each poem giving themselves excuses or reasons for the gambling addiction. I think it’s interesting especially as with the previously-mentioned poem about the father and son, how a little boy can be innocent to what his father is doing but that same man can also see himself as an innocent victim fallen prey to the predator that is addiction. Many of the speakers see themselves this way, arguing with the reader that if only the slot machines didn’t entice them, if only the cards had been dealt differently, if only, if only, if only. The consistent diction choice with this idea establishes a strong voice throughout the poems.

Duke’s poems don’t rely heavily on imagery and flowery language as one would expect with poetry, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. While there are occasional lines like, “My little mouse I used to call him,/Now a scared rat before my eyes he’s grown to be,” (“How Did We End Up Hiding?”) to portray the corruption of innocence, the poems mostly use plain, simple language more in the form of conversation. This choice makes it clear that a constant inner monologue is going on in the addicts’ heads as they struggle to break free from the dangerous cycle.

I’m going to wrap up with this final observation. The collection utilizes rhyme schemes through every piece, some of which are successful, and some of which fall flat. In “Mommy Can I Have a Dollar?” the rhyming feels forced and detracts from the poem as a whole. However, in “A Gamble’s Story,” Duke employs slant rhyme beautifully with the lines, “It’s a graduation,/A sure step up from an inauguration./Scratch-Offs no longer valid;/Lottery ticket can’t kick the habit,/But the place itself, the casino’s buzz./The smell of the table is a sick drug.” The mix of short, punchy lines and rhyme scheme here creates a feeling of anxiety and urgency that comes with addiction.

Overall, a fair collection of poems that may resonate strongly with those who have undergone addiction struggle themselves or for readers looking to broaden their minds.

Meagan Reads YA Horror: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

As part of my ongoing (and almost done!) reading challenge, I chose this young adult horror novel about a protagonist named Theseus Cassio (who prefers to go by Cas) for the category “a book you heard about because of this challenge.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Cas has become a ghost hunter himself with a plan for revenge to kill the thing that killed his father. Upon arriving in Thunder Bay, Ontario, everything about this hunt is different from the ghosts he’s hunted in the past. Unexpectedly gaining a circle of friends, and a guilty conscience for classmates lost during his hunt, Cas takes on the most powerful specter he’s ever encountered.

The story was reminiscent of early Supernatural seasons, so of course it held my attention. The plot moved at a fast pace that never left me bored and had the right amount of rise and fall. What I appreciated most was that the story didn’t go longer than it had to and finished in a good place. The twists were surprising and left me wanting to continue each time a new one came into play.

Now, while the story was entertaining enough, the characters for the most part were annoying. Their personalities and descriptions relied heavily on stereotypes that sounded like an adult who has no idea what teenagers are actually like. Blake tried to give a couple of characters layers beyond their surface personalities, but the writing didn’t go deep enough to make them stand out as realistic people.

The best parts of this book were the supernatural elements and horror story, which made the audio book worth listening to. However, the narrator really seemed to have a hard time grasping what a teenage girl sounds like, and only seemed to have one mode for the boys: smarmy asshole. Perhaps the narration is part of the problem I had with characterization in this book, but I think that had more to do with Blake’s writing and the narrator didn’t help. Overall, not a terrible book, but not one I feel the need to continue the series.