Book Review: All Night It Is Morning

allnightI’ve read many books of poetry this year but none like “All Night It Is Morning” by Andy Young and published by Lavender Ink Press/Dialogos Books. The subjects of Ms Young’s poetry spans continents and cultures in a very personal voice including Egypt, Chile, Morocco, West Virginia, and New Orleans, among others. The book has a strong thread of disaster running through it; the struggle of life in the war torn Middle East, in the coal mines of West Virginia,  and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her voice clearly and bravely documents these events, the horror and the pain revealed with humility and grace. I particularly enjoyed her poems about West Virginia and the hard lives lived there in the coal mining community. The strength and purity of the people, her relatives, shone like a light of hope. I think my favorite poem in the book is Sower, written about her Grandmother. This passage in the poem just grabbed my heart:

She worked the earth through
drought and strike, through her
husband’s slow asphyxiation,

through childbirth and stillbirth
and bad blood even sassafras
can’t clean. When the trees were

chopped as easy as thieves necks
and the nearby mill flooded her field,
when she buried another daughter,

In fact, she writes a good deal about the struggles of women in war, in life, in love, in mothering. Her mentions of her own children are sweet and poignant and often shiver-inducing, such as this:

I study the flutter
of your breath, your arms

folded by your sides,
your ear that could fit in a thimble.

Your infant face is still
like glass as the children

of Qana are wiped of their dust.

New Orleanians and others who’ve lived in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will nod their heads, saying Yes! while reading her memories of that challenging time. Reading those poems brought back memories to me that I hadn’t thought of in a long time such as the sunflowers that sprouted all over the city in the inhospitable muck left behind. Remember how amazed we all were at the sight of those flowers? Her Katrina poems do not disappoint. Be prepared to find tears in your eyes.

While the mood of the book tends toward the dark side, Ms Young also gives us sunbeams as in the sweet (and another favorite) Meet Me in Morocco:

There are a thousand ways
to name the morning, morning
of jasmine, morning of lemon

blossom. Swallow my words
with your mouth. the earth springs
new beneath our feet.

Ms Young weaves the narrative of all these places and events throughout the book with a deft hand, sometimes intermingling them within a single piece which I found quite effective. This book was very satisfying to read and I find myself going back to reread many of the poems, finding even more layers each time.

Ms Young will be reading from this book Saturday, December 20 at Faubourg Wines, 2805 St. Claude Ave.

Wild: Book vs Film & How I Feel About It

I’m not sure but I think I’m excited about the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild. The official trailer was released today. I read Wild when it first came out two years ago, when my mother was very ill in ICU and finished it shortly before her death. In  spite of all the turmoil that was going on in my life at the time (or maybe because of it), I couldn’t put this book down. It wasn’t as much the story of her grueling hike along the Pacific Crest Trail that held me spellbound as it was the sharing of her life experiences, the exploration of the issues that led her to hike the trail in the first place. It was the memories and stories of her relationship with her mother who died of cancer and how her illness and death devastated her. Just like the illness and death of my mother was devastating me. I’d never before read a book that I identified with so strongly at exactly the right time in my life that I needed it. This book was so special to  me at the time that I wanted to keep it secret. I didn’t want to share it with anyone because it held meaning and words and feelings that I felt deep inside and that I didn’t want to share with anyone. It was like Cheryl was talking through my mouth and I wanted this book to be mine alone. Have you ever felt like that? At the same time, I wanted everyone I loved to read it and see it for the exceptionally insightful collection of writing that meant so much to me. This book and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking helped me through a dark time and both will always be special to me.

But, the book flew into the world and was discovered and read by thousands of people who love it as much as I do. People who found mutual experiences and feelings with the writer, just like I did. On December 2 the  film will be released and I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it. I have my translation of what this book means to me, the memories of how this book helped me. I don’t think I want my experience of this book to be  influenced by someone’s movie interpretation. I’m not ruling it out completely – I plan to research how much input Cheryl had in the making of the movie, then I’ll decide. The story is a powerful and cleansing one, a story that has the potential to change the course of people’s mind-set. I hope the movie lives up to the book.

happy mardi gras


Here are some pictures from early this morning – what better way to start the day than with some Irish coffee from Johnny White’s

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IMG_5211The Quarter was all decked out in purple green and gold finery

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Despite the fact that the Quarters were shrouded in fog and mist…

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…revelers were fueling up and getting their groove on for the day

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And the time had come to get the party started!

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I can’t imagine living my life without the ability to have some fun on Mardi Gras day – the party helps us remember not to take life so seriously.

Hope everyone had a fabulous time – until next year, or the next big event!