I am honored to share with you a fantastic guest blog post from author and poet Elizabeth Hazen, as part of the wonderful blog tour for “Girls Like Us”.
For Christmas, which seems like three lifetimes ago, my parents gave my husband a book of interesting words from around the world*. An engineer who has a soft spot for spoonerisms, puns, and wordplay in every form, he found instant delight in this book. Did you know that Germans have a word for the weight we gain from stress-eating? Kummerspeck. Or that the Scots have a word for that awkward pause when you’ve forgotten the name of the person you’re introducing? Tartle. Among my favorites are the whimsical Swedish smultronställe, a place of wild strawberries; the romantic Italian dormiveglia, the space between sleeping and waking; and the essential Japanese tsundoku, that pile of unread books on my bedside table that grows with each passing month.
Needless to say, I took that book of words from my husband, adding one more to my stack.
Getting through my tsundoku – or at least managing it – is one of my goals for this summer. I am a teacher, and the summer brings with it the beautiful freedom of longer days and fewer responsibilities, but the lack of structure –ironically, frustratingly, and inevitably – invites bad habits and a gradual decline into despair over the time I fear I am wasting. As a result, I know I need to impose some kind of schedule – a routine that will keep me on track. Part of that routine, I have decided, will include reading more poetry.
One of the lessons I most love to teach to my seventh-grade students involves defining poetry. We examine a range of definitions – the top of our heads being blown off, the best words in the best order, language at its most distilled and most powerful. We can debate the specifics, note our preferences, but that words are the poet’s medium is indisputable. Imperfect, delicious, malleable, living, breathing words. It is my love of words that I always return to during the darkest moments, and boy are these days dark.
In a review of my recent collection, Girls Like Us, Nandini Bhattacharya defines the poem as “ineffable interrogator, ethicist and chronicler of human history.” Indeed, I certainly have found more accuracy and truth in poems than in the newspaper, more solace in poems than in meditation or exercise, more freedom in poems than in the endless walks I take to escape the confines of quarantine. As when I was in the thick of adolescent depression, poems come to rescue me, to remind me that the legacy of human sadness and loss and pain is infinite, but so is our legacy of resilience and power and change.
Perhaps poems allow us to do what the Dutch call uitwaaien: “to take a break and walk away from the demands of life to clear one’s head.” Or maybe life demands poems, and it is precisely in these moments of trauma and fear and violence that we must dive in head-first. Whatever they do, I am grateful for them. Here are several recent collections by women that I highly recommend. Each, in its own way, has given me what the Icelandic call radljóst: enough light to find my way.
Difficult Fruit by Lauren K. Alleyne, Peepal Tree, 2014
Thrust by Heather Derr-Smith, Persea Books, 2017
American Samizdat by Jehanne Dubrow, Diode Editions, 2019
The Miracles by Amy Lemmon, C&R Press, 2018
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, Knopf, 2016
Code by Charlotte Pence, Black Lawrence Press, 2020
How to Exterminate the Black Woman by Monica Prince, [Pank Books], 2019
American Lyric Trilogy by Claudia Rankine, Graywolf, 2004, 2014, 2020
The State She’s In by Lesley Wheeler, Tinderbox Editions, 2020
*The book of words I refer to is Other Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World by Yee-Lum Yak with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley
About the Author:
Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.
Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.
GoodReads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50162841-girls-like-us
Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2U4wdtg
Alan Squire Publishing (also available is a SoundCloud Audio reading from her first collection): https://alansquirepublishing.com/book-authors/elizabeth-hazen/
Schedule for Blog Tour:
May 4: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Review)
May 15: Allie Reads (Review)
May 19: the bookworm (Guest Post)
May 26: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (Review)
May 28: Impressions in Ink (Review)
June 2: Vidhya Thakkar (Review)
June 9: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)
June 11: Read, Write and Life Around It (Review)
June 15: Readaholic Zone (Review)
June 16: Read, Write and Life Around It (Interview – tentative)
June 24: Anthony Avina Blog (Review)
June 26: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)
June 30: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)
July 9: The Book Connection (Review)
July 22: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)
July 7: CelticLady’s Reviews (Spotlight/video)a Rafflecopter giveaway