This is my first time participating in ReadWritePoem’s Virtual Book Tour. Enjoy the review and please visit the other authors who are reviewing on their blogs.
“The ground holds secret names,
preserved for years and years. Names
like Christ, names that we feed on hungrily.”
from “Ash Colored”
Without the introduction to this book by poet Katherine Grace Bond, the reader would probably never guess that the name Maya Ganesan was the name of a poet who is only eleven years old. As a middle school English teacher, I have mentored many young poets throughout the years, and several of Ganesan’s poems bear a stamp of simplicity and abstract questioning that one might expect from young adult writing. However, there are certain moments in the book, like the lines that start this review, that hint at a deeper promise, at a poet who has just begun to show what she will do with her voice.
One of Ganesan’s strengths is her ability to deftly handle sounds. In “Burst,” she describes the sudden rain “like blessings/burst into blossom.” In “Bells,” she asks the reader to listen to “a sound that swims/deepest in its eddy/of wind, of crisp air.” Many of her lines are a pleasure to read aloud, and her descriptions are vivid. A few poems are simply descriptions with no second layer to resonate for the reader (“A Yellow Towel and and a Photograph”), yet others (“Maps” and “Cold”) give us powerful images and something else to think about as well.
It is evident that Ganesan is learning from other poets. She has a deep affinity for nature; in fact, most of the poems in the book rendezvous with the natural world. Mary Oliver’s influence is felt here, with Ganesan questioning nature in italicized conversation, trying to learn its secrets. But it is also evident that she does not yet have the life experience to make some of her poems live up to their big ideas. Three poems try on short, numbered stanzas, a form that doesn’t quite yet fit. Poems like “Heartbreak” – Outside/is the tangled rain. Inside,/it feels that way, too – and “No Way Out” – “more roads to follow./More roads/so I can wonder about/which one/leads the way out” – display ideas and attributes fairly common to poetry written by classrooms full of young adults.
But the best part of reading any poetry is finding what makes the poet special, those places when the poet surprises you with an unexpected turn or lovely phrase, and Ganesan does that often. The poem “Fire” ends with “We tasted quarrel/till our hearts burned into fire.” In “Destination,” she shows us a “wild/and lonely place of/horseshoes and broken/window-panes.” In “Invitation,” we feel the joy of the poet as the sparrows she is waiting for arrive: “Look, look – /the horde of wings.” And the poem referenced at the top of the review (“Ash Colored”) uses a progression of images and language that is strikingly mature.
This young poet has talent, and while the collection is uneven in displaying that talent, it is an impressive introduction to a voice that will surely grow with experience and time. As she writes in one of her closing poems “The Art of Knowing,” one can only hope that Ganesan continues “drinking a hundred vowels/each minute, drinking and spitting.”
Apologies to an Apple by Maya Ganesan is available for purchase at http://mayaganesan.com/books.aspx
Virtual Tour stops for Apologies to an Apple
Sept. 24 :: Kelli Russell Agodon :: Book of Kells
Oct. 1 :: Donna Vorreyer :: Put Words Together. Make Meaning.
Oct. 6 :: Amulya Rajan :: Conversations in Mid-air
Oct. 8 :: Kimberlee Titus Gerstmann :: Scraps and Sass
Oct. 13 :: Ben Lawless :: Penciled in Designs