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A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

“This is a female text, composed by folding someone else's clothes. My mind holds it close, and it grows, tender and slow, while my hands perform innumerable chores.

This book's exploration of a historical poem, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, (The Keen for Art O’Leary), sucked me in. The poem is about an Irish noblewoman who finds her husband murdered and composes a poem on the spot after drinking some of his blood. It's passed on from woman to woman for many years and eventually is written down. This book is also about the author, Dorieann Ni Ghriofa, and her lifelong obsession about with the author of the poem, and her life. This is part biography, part poetry, and part translation. It is truly a unique work, and difficult to describe.

The first part of the book focuses on the events in the life of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, up until her husband is murdered and she 'writes' her poem. The second portion of the book is more about Ghriofa's quest to learn more about Eibhlín, her life, and about her relations.

The first part of the book was amazing, but it sort of derailed a bit in the second portion for me. I don't regret reading this, it's such a lovely exploration of womanhood, and the connection between these two women who lived hundreds of years apart, but it was not exactly what I was expecting.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #93 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #DoireannNíGhríofa #Ireland #poetic #NonFiction #women #poetry #motherhood

Leaves of Grass (1855 edition) by Walt Whitman

It seems to me that everything in the light and air ought to be happy; Whoever is not in his coffin and dark grave, let him know he has enough.

I‘m not one to read lots of poetry but after hearing about this book in many contexts, mentioned in books & movies, I thought I'd check it out. It was not at all what I was expecting. His poetry is long, joyful, and free from conventions of rhyme. Some of the poems were really great, and some seemed to go on too long.

This is the Dover Thrift Original 1855 edition. It's only 128 pages. I've seen some editions of Leaves of Grass are over 600 pages. So, I'm not sure if Whitman added way more poems to his book over the years, or there is just lots more commentary in it. I shall have to read the Original / Deathbed Edition now to check it out.

EDIT: After further investigation, it seems Whitman added more poems. For example, his famous poem about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, “O Captain! My Captain”, wasn't written until 1865. Now I'm secure in my conviction that I need to read the Deathbed Edition.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #66 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #poetry #WaltWhitman #joyful

The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po) by Ha Jin

A highly readable narrative of a famous Late Tang poet, Li Bai. The text is a tale of the poet's life, and travels. The biography gives you context to better appreciate the poetry that the author puts in along the way. I like how Ha Jin inserts the poetry into the narrative, so you can see where Li Bai was in his life, and how that affected his poetry. The poetry is written in Mandarin Chinese characters, and with an English translation.

My White Hair Long, long is my whitening hair; Long, long is it laden with care. I look into my mirror bright. From where comes autumn frost in sight?

Sadly it is very hard to find Li Bai's poetry online in a bilingual format. I would like to read the Chinese poetry with pinyin/zhuyin and then the translation to better appreciate it.

I wish I truly read, and spoke more Chinese so I could dive into these classics. It's amazing that a culture still reveres poets from a thousand years ago. Also, the characters are still readable to the common Chinese speaker. Simply incredible to think about it. It's like reaching across time when you read a poem 1000 years old.

Also, I read my 100th book this year! I still have a few months to go too. I have smashed my goal.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #100 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #Poetry #ChinesePoetry #Biography #HaJin