It’s rare for me to come across a fellow poetry lover these days who isn’t some flavor of English. Poetry gets a bad rap for being esoteric, obtuse, unnecessarily complicated or convoluted, or pretentious. I’m not here to say that poetry like that doesn’t exist (just as there is prose that carries these not so admirable qualities as well). What I am here to argue is that there are as many different types of poetry as there are prose and to judge a genre and condemn it before you have tried all the genre has to offer is a pity and a shame.
Recently, Ooligan Press decided to stop taking poetry submissions. Though this saddened me, it also spurred me to delve into our backlist titles and bring to light the poetry we published in the past. One such collection is American Scream: Palindrome Apocalypse, by Dubravka Oraic Tolic. This isn’t the poetry you studied in high school. The poet writes in a relatable, yet intricate and introspective manner of exploration and discovery. We are all on a journey to find our America—our freedom and our strength. Perhaps what I enjoyed the most in this collection was the eclectic variety of poetic forms that the poet utilized, from paragraphs to phrases to scattered words to shouting capital letters and even illustrations. It’s impossible to get bored. Dubravka Oraic Tolic uses Columbus’s journey to America and his subsequent discovery of India (the Indies) as a basis of comparison and contrast throughout. The very first poem had me intrigued and hooked from the start.
America has a smiling face
And usually arrives with the best intentions
Usually in spring, when the mayflowers flower
Of sailors and seas. When you want to vomit
From the waves on shore.
Each word, each combination, each point of stress and emphasis was carefully chosen and balanced to create a cohesive, vivid image in the reader’s mind.
Another aspect of this collection that I enjoyed were the references to historical artwork and other literature. There is a short poem in the collection that compares Columbus to Odysseus and America to the siren, “And we are hostages all / On the road to Ithaca.” The intricacy of the metaphor here has layers, as not only are we looking at the discovery of India and eventually America, but also the epic journeys of Greek mythology and the journey towards discovery that we all face.
Here’s my approach to poetry: I read through the poem once, and if anything at all caught my attention, even if it’s just a word or a particular image that popped into my head, I go back for a second read. I am also a practical poetry reader. I know that I am not going to understand or comprehend everything that the poet was trying to articulate or create—and that’s okay. Poetry is personal. It’s raw emotion and loaded words and stark images. It’s twisted and odd and confusing.
This collection is a good place to start. Check out Ooligan Press and peruse our backlist for other options to inspire your inner poet.