‘Factory of Tears’ by Valzyhna Mort is a collection of poetry related to the language of her homeland; Belarusian. Like with all poetry, I’m starting to understand that I enjoy it a lot more when I hear it read aloud. Valzyhna Mort is well known for her readings of her work and if you have the chance to, you should definitely go to see those readings live (or click here to see her on youtube).
The pieces strongly relate to the death of languages and the rebirth of them. When she reads them aloud it’s obvious how strongly she feels about re-establishing Belarusian. Her slow and steady pace with emphasis on certain words creates a powerfully emotional reading. I have to admit that I didn’t know anything about Belarusian before reading this poetry and all of a sudden I find myself wishing that the language will continue to exist.
I think my favourite poem of hers from this collection has to be ‘Men.’ The rhythm of it is beautiful, the way it builds up, and the emotions are so powerful that even I couldn’t miss them when just reading it quietly to myself. I love the ending of it especially, ‘come back/ rescue me fine me/ in this plane wreck.’ I can just feel the emotion in each word of this poem and I felt that it deserved a special mention.
Although I did love this collection in the end, it did take a little while to get into it. I think it was definitely worth sticking with. My favourite kind of poetry is the kind that strikes with emotion and power and is understandable, so this collection was perfect. If people keep telling me to read this kind of poetry I’ll have to start admitting that I do like poetry after all.
This is completely different from everything I usually review. We visited the Liverpool Tate gallery. The last time I visited, I was in Primary school and my only memory of it is laughing at a piece of artwork made up of a toilet. I don’t think the staff were amused. Before we visited we made a list of art we thought we’d see and most of them were right. It was the unpredictable pieces that I was the most interested in.
‘Century Rolls’ by Matt Saunders was the first piece to catch my eye. As we approached it we could see a crowd watching the video. They looked like frozen statues and it was eerie to see everyone looking so transfixed and rooted to the spot. The video was black and white and the images didn’t make much sense to me, but I soon found out why no one seemed to want to move. It was because the video was so hypnotic. I couldn’t look away or move away even when the movement of the video made me feel sick. Eventually, we all snapped out of it and moved on. We all agreed that it was a strange experience. I wouldn’t want to buy that DVD, but there were a few of Matt Saunders’ ink drawings that I found beautiful and wouldn’t mind hanging up in my room.
(‘Century Rolls’ by Matt Saunders)
Another standout piece was ‘Dalam’ by Simryn Gill. I love photography and this is exactly the kind of photography I love the most. The piece was a collection of 258 photographs of different living rooms of Malaysian people left as they usually are. Once you look at it more closely you start to see photos of 258 different people and characters, rather than just empty rooms. It’s a perfect example of how a person’s house can reflect the personality of a person and their culture and lifestyle. I could have stood there looking at each photo individually, but it would have taken all day and we had more things to see.
Another piece was related to history and I thought the concept and idea was interesting and cleverly done. ‘Pacific’ by Yukinori Yanagi was probably my favourite piece that we saw. The piece showed 49 flags made out of coloured sand in Perspex boxes. The flags are all connected by history, particularly colonial powers and native populations. Ants had been let loose inside the piece and they had dug out tunnels through the piece and crossed from flag to flag. The patterns the ants had created were beautiful (those were some artistic ants) and the end result was a perfect representation of global migration. Yanagi has commented saying that ‘a nation, its border and national flag, has become an imaginary fiction.’
(‘Pacific’ by Yukinori Yanagi)
Overall, I really enjoyed our day out to the Liverpool Tate. I think everyone has to visit at some point. I would definitely recommend it.
Okay, it looks like I chose the lazy option by choosing the first country in the anthology, but I promise you that it was just my favourite section. Portuguese poetry in ‘New European Poets’ stood out to me because I prefer more straightforward poetry with emotion and clear imagery, rather than a more obscure style, which I found a lot of other countries had.
During the twentieth century, poets such as Fernando Pessoa started to experiment with different styles. He was known for having a number of different heteronyms, or alter egos, in his work, often even having many heteronyms in one poem. In fact, ‘it is sometimes said that the four greatest Portuguese poets of modern times are Fernando Pessoa,’ [x] because of his use of those heteronyms. Portuguese poets have since experimented with various styles and subjects so that now there is a broad range of different poetry from Portugal.
Though I didn’t find much about what the Portuguese style of poetry is, I did find some information about an example of a style that doesn’t follow the traditional style. Sometimes it’s best to figure out what something isn’t to work out what it is. Adília Lopes seems to be quite a controversial poet in Portugal. Her poem, ‘Elisabeth Doesn’t Work Here Anymore’ is featured in the anthology. Adília Lopes’ style is ‘full of word games, idioms, references to Portuguese proverbs, sayings, children’s songs and historical events.’ [x] She also borrows from other poets in a collage-like approach. Some of ‘Elisabeth Doesn’t Work Here Anymore’ is taken from the American poet, Anne Sexton. Although ‘many readers and critics had their doubts’ [x] about her poetry, I personally enjoyed ‘Elisabeth Doesn’t Work Here Anymore’ and would read more poems from her.
Hopefully, my research paid off and now we all know a little more.
Roberto Bolaño’s collection of short stories, ‘Last Evenings on Earth’ is filled with tales in which the narrators are threatened somehow, set in a turbulent time in Chilean history. Paraphrasing from the New Yorker podcast, “the shorter works and longer works come together as a whole.” Even after only reading this book, it is obvious that all of the stories link together in some way.
In the story, ‘Days of 1978’ the narrator, B, attends a family party and becomes almost obsessed with his hatred of the character, U, which turns into interest over time. The use of ‘B’ and ‘U’ as names is quite common throughout the entire collection and it just adds to the overall mystery of the style. This technique is one of many which make it difficult to know whether the stories are entirely fictional or somewhat based on the life of the author. As with many of the other stories, B seems to hold himself in greater light than the other characters and dislikes having to interact with them. When he does interact, Roberto Bolaño uses indirect speech, another of the techniques seen throughout the collection.
If you really enjoy stories with a lot of action, or any action at all, this might not be the book for you. There is a lack of action throughout this collection and a lot of description and reflection. It’s almost a ‘Waiting for Godot’ style. The characters seem to be wandering without much direction or purpose. Personally, I really loved this aspect. The stories were dreamlike or like reflecting on my own memories. Sometimes I would stop reading and have no idea how the character got from one place to the next. The scenes seem to shift into one another as though sifting through memories and for me this is an entirely realistic style.
I think this line from ‘Days of 1978’ describes my feelings for this book much better than I can – “This is where the story should end, but life is not as kind as literature.” The stories do not follow conventional story-telling. They don’t seem to begin at the beginning or end at the end, but I think there’s something beautiful about this style that reflects reality so well.
When ‘Waiting for Godot’ was first explained to me, I instantly connected it to La Haine, because we’d watched it a few weeks earlier. The whole idea of waiting around with not much of a purpose, for something to happen that will never happen, and the tragedy that comes with that is, I feel, one of the central themes of both Waiting for Godot and La Haine. Although, of course, Waiting for Godot came first and Samuel Beckett made it the clear theme by creating a play in which nothing at all happens.
I was told that I would either love or hate this play and I thought I hated it when I started to read it the first time. I put it down and came back to it, and this time, I watched a version of the play and read along to it. I’ll admit that it’s grown on me, now that I gave it another go. Regardless of whether I loved or hated the concept, I loved the characters anyway. The chemistry between Vladimir and Estragon is so realistic, warm and sometimes funny, that I found it hard to hate them at all, even though I hated the idea that they were trapped in a play with no events to move it along. I wasn’t convinced that the dialogue was completely realistic, but then I really listened to conversations I have, and realised that we all sound just as seemingly random and somehow still manage to communicate something.
I think what I love most about Waiting for Godot, is that it seems to have an infinite number of interpretations. In his review of the Ian Brown production, Alfred Hickling, says that, “There’s a danger that pinning the play down to a single meaning might diminish its overall relevance,” and I completely agree with that. I think that this play can have a different meaning to it for every different person who sees it. I even changed my mind on the meaning of it when I read it the second time. I think that’s part of the fun of reading it or seeing it (if you like it). I find it funny that I automatically tried to give meaning to a play which the author has repeatedly denied as having any meaning at all.
So, now I’m curious… whether you like it, or not, what is your interpretation of the play?
There were certain chapters of ‘Visitation’ by Jenny Erpenbeck that I really loved and will definitely read again in the future, however I found some parts of the book very difficult to engage with.
The book’s main ‘character’ is a house and the stories centre around the lives of all the characters who live in the house throughout the years. The chapters vary between the life of the gardener, who along with the house, seems to be the only constant in the chaotic years surrounding the second world war.
I noticed a lot of repetition throughout the stories, especially during the Gardener’s chapters. I found this quite comforting in a book which focused on hardships and I felt that the determination of the gardener to look after the house, despite the trauma the country is going through. However, sometimes the amount of repetition combined with the poetic style had me impatiently skipping through some lines.
It was the poetic style which made it difficult for me to read. The sentence structures were complex and it made the book feel a little disjointed at times. I also felt that the stories skipped around a lot and it was hard to understand what time frame it had jumped to and which characters I was reading about.
Despite this, there were a few stories which really stood out to me because of the emotions they created. The chapter in which the young girl hid in a small closet in order to escape the soldiers had me tense the whole way through, and I found the description in this chapter particularly wonderful. The way Erpenbeck describes the darkness in contrast to her vivid memories of the sounds and smells of playing outside made for a heart breaking chapter.
‘No’ is the kind of film I never would have gone to see before last week. The description on IMDb reads, ‘An ad executive comes up with a campaign to defeat Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 referendum.’ Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself getting caught up in the drama and the politics.
I liked the main character René because he appeared as human, with good qualities and flaws to go along with them. The main quality I liked was his quiet confidence and belief in the campaign, which I felt was reflected through the overall understated tone of the film. I also loved René’s son and every time the tension started to build I found myself hoping that his son would be okay, despite the danger his father’s involvement in the ‘No’ campaign put him in.
I loved the use of subtext used in this film. I’m used to being told everything (repeatedly) by the characters when I go to watch a film and it can get annoying fast. I was able to piece things together for myself, for example it isn’t confirmed that his son is actually his son, or that he has had romantic relations with Verónica until around half way through, but it was given away in a subtle way before it was ever addressed directly. I definitely enjoyed this aspect of ‘No’ because it made the dialogue and the scenes much more realistic.
Another way the film felt realistic was through the use of the camera. I always felt as though I could be walking right next to the characters. It was a combination of all the little things, like showing the sun glares behind the characters and the quiet building of tension, that made me enjoy ‘No.’