Monday 30 September 2019

Unconditional Love by Sheila Ash

In polished white Mary Jane kiddie chic
a chubby-cheeked study in happiness
looks off stage
Sat atop a table
waxed to glass for the occasion
of my christening aged 10 months
A smiling, bright eyed, hand clapping
reflection of the love behind the camera

© Sheila Ash, 2019

Poem Review – “Ame” / “Rain” by Junzaburo Nishiwaki

I just read, twice, for the first time the poem in ModPoPlus by Junzaburo Nishiwaki entitled "Ame" / Rain and wanted to share the effect this had on me.
The obvious striking use of "s"s throughout lending it a soft sound in English produces a sense of being lulled into a glorious oblivion, of being saturated by the sensual sounds of the words seeping deep into one's soul like the warmth of a long bath. I don't think I have been so moved physically by a poem as I was by this one. Languid, lushness, lying in a bed of feathers.
It reminded me of the movies of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and his use of dream sequences, his long takes, and his use of wind and water, the way he immerses his viewer. I thought Andrew Howen's translation was simply stunning and his explanation of how the Japanese language version works in construction and form most informative.
All in all it left me salivating quietly, secretively, like life hung suspended as its words steadily, insistently penetrated all of me, everything natural and manmade, around me and imaginary, past and present, in a hypnotic reassuring stealth of silence until all that could be heard was a gently murmuring purr of pleasure.

"Ame" ("Rain") Junzaburo Nishiwaki, translated by Andrew Houwen

The south wind brought soft goddesses.
Soaked the bronze statues, soaked the fountains,
soaked the sparrow's wings and golden feathers,
soaked the sea, soaked the sand, soaked the fish.
Quietly soaked the temples, the public baths, and the theatres,
this quiet, soft procession of goddesses
soaked my tongue.
Reproduced from
ModPo Video Discussion

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Book Review: The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tsyzka Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

The Sickness The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

An intriguing choice of topic for a novel. This is a beautiful tender subtle rendering of how illness affects people, how obession is addictive and drives our actions, how knowledge of imenent death affects us and our choices. The 4 characters of the novel Dr Javier Miranda, his son Dr Andrés Miranda, medical secretary Karina, and the patient Ernesto Durán are each afflicted in different ways. For Andrés and his father, sickness is tangible, it is cancer, and the subsequent changes that makes to ones body. For Durán it is unreal, an illusion but it is also an obsession as he stalks the Dr in order to get attention - the drug he needs. This he only receives because Katrina takes it upon herself to replay to his emails and in doing so begins at first to empathise and then to mirror Ernesto's symptoms. The plot of the story unfortunately runs dry leaving the reader only with the treatise itself, and some loose ends character wise. The writing is lovely, itself addictive, the English translation (translated by Margaret Jull Costa and shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2011) working really well for this reader who finished the novel pondering the big questions about informed consent, telling or not telling patients the truth about their condition and what to do when you are told you have a month to live.

ashramblings verdict 3* a mixed reaction to it due to the lack of development of plot and character but I was interested enough by the writing to read another of his novels in the future.

View all my reviews

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Book Review: Poetry Collection - In Retail by Jeremy Dixon

In Retail In Retail by Jeremy Dixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection has to be read in its entitity because actually it is one poem made up of 3 clusters of a total of 36 small ones, a series of vignettes of everyday workaday life. 

It captures moments of experiences in work we all forget but which when put together are much more than the sum of its parts. Impactful. Memorable. Reflective. Decisive. The poet as camera, candid. 

Cleverly formatted to resemble till receipts, reading this collection recalled for me the poetry of Frank O'Hara as if it had been transfered from the penniless of the streets of 1950/60s New York to the zero hours contract, minimum wage part-timers of 21st century Britain.

ashramblings verdict 4* deceptively enguiling, these pull you in, leaving you unable to ever again enter a centre high street chemist without a secrect smiles on your face.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Book Review: Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra, Translated by Megan McDowell

Ways of Going Home Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra,
Translated by Megan McDowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short novel of 138 pages moves about - between a writer and his own life and the life of his characters in his writing , between the present time and the past - a past in Chile during and after the Pinochet years. It represents not just the voice of the post revolution generation but of todays Latin American writers from the generation post Marquez. First there is the story of the young nameless boy and Claudia, the girl he adores, and her Uncle Raul, the boys neighbour. Then there is the storyline of the nameless writer, who is writing their story and his ex Eme. Both stories coalesce off the paper as the four chapters alternate between the writer's fiction and his reality. But this is also a novel about writing, about telling a story, with initially fictional scenes being based on real ones, and real ones reutilised in the fiction. There is a melange of the real and the fictional, a doubling of everything, a redrafting of everything just as any writer would when working on his novel.

It has some memorable passages as this author's style is very natural, smooth in translation (which won the English PEN Award in 2013) the reader feeling she is listening to the man remember. For example,

"I prefer writing to having written"

"That's what we grw up believing, that the novel belonged t oour parents. We cursed them, and also took refuge in their shadows, relieved. While the adults killed or were killed, we drew pictures in the corner. While the country was falling to pieces, we were learning to talk, to walk to fold napkins in the shape of boats, of airplanes. While the novel was happening, we played hide-and-seek, we played at disappearing." Beautifuly poignant ambiguity there!

"To read is to cover one's face. And to write is to show it."

"I want a quiet, simple life. A life with walks in the park"

And finally as he ponders a quote attributed to Tim O'Brien 'What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end', he writes "We remember the sounds of images.......We ought to simply describe those sounds, those stains on memory"

ashramblings verdict 4* Thanks to who ever it was who originally recommended this writer to me