When I was about six years old I began to write poetry, it was also around that age I discovered my gift for drawing.
I was quite an inquisitive child and at such a young age I had the eyes and imagination of an old soul where I’d sit for hours questioning the meaning of life, worlds beyond our own and realms within our own that we can not see. I’d sit in nature contemplating whether there were portals leaking out of plants and whether stones held prayers inside them. I’ve sadly only managed to keep one poem from my younger years, all others have vanished- probably thrown away by my mother. The poem I wrote at age 12 was about death being a form of eternal dreaming, where I believed after we see the light our soul is sent to a place of colour, an ocean of emotions painted on our skin to form new bodies in preparation for another life, yes I wrote that kind of existential poem at 12 years old!!! In my later teens I wrote a short prose poem about a girl who possessed the ability to grow flowers from her feet everywhere she walked, thus creating a dense magical garden around her that loved her too much it became poisonous with jealousy if anyone attempted to love her.
At 22, during a time when I was very poor I could not even afford art materials and after a very turbulent relationship, I think I went slightly mad not having access to things to help me express how I felt and all these words dripped from my lips and onto scrap paper, that was a collection of very dark poetry which I turned into a very badly made pamphlet called “Fragments of Light” which I am currently reediting to add to an illustrated poetry collection, yet to be given a title, it’s a very slow work in progress that I hope to actually have published as it’s a dream of mine to publish a book.
That being said, it’s a bit obvious I love poetry! Especially prose poetry that plays with the mystical in the mundane or the wicked in the divine. So here are 8 favourite obscure poetry books I highly recommend.
Cure All by Kim Parko
These collections of poetry are fabulously strange and surreal. Parko’s world in Cure All is populated and narrated by–on the whole–non-human actors, including animals, vegetation, and machinery. To call these pieces unique isn’t enough. With her fractured shards of advice, sweet little nightmares, tunneled eyes and sprouted scales, Kim Parko presents a twisting puzzle of fire blights and lonely spines.
This book is about language and sadness, oftentimes the sadness of language. The words are roads to impossible destinations, a thousand detours in only a fraction of that many pages.
The surreal images in this captivating book transport you to a dream-like world that is totally unique and mind-bending. This is a highly original work that is both beautiful and frightening.
Buy it here: Cure All by Kim Parko
A New Language for Falling out of Love by Meghan Privitello
Privitello’s prose poems are edgy; they are embodied and dripping with viscera; they are weird; they will cut you. These poems are not precious or saccharine (though they are beautiful!)–they are electric with dark humor and bodies that bite. Each line in Privitello’s poems is surprising: rather than presenting a linear narrative, the poems meander from one startling image to the next. Reading this book felt like wandering inside a museum of Victorian oddities and noir grotesqueries.
These are really dense and thickly wild poems that will haunt and tantalize your mind. From the start, the reader is taken on a journey of “what ifs” as Privitello shows us that there are things to be learned from meditating on the hypothetical and allowing it to seep into the real world.
A New Language For Falling Out of Love’s enchanting prose assures readers that not only are we possible, but anything is possible. Privitello reminds us that it is okay to ache with desire, it is okay to ask ourselves “What if I ache?”
Buy it here: A new Language for falling out of Love
Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews
Why God Is a Woman is a collection of poems written about a magical island where women rule and men are the second sex. Nin Andrews creates a world both fantastic and familiar where all the myths, logic, and institutions support the dominance of women.
This collection of prose poetry makes you think deeply about gender issues and what it might be like in a matriarchal society. The universe within this book is what sexist men think will happen with the world if feminism starts to work. it’s their worst nightmare.
As Women rule on the island where our unnamed male narrator grew up; men are the subservient, objectified sex. Frankly, I didn’t think the familiar device of gender switching would be that powerful for me, but it was. These prose poems look at what it means to live in fear of bodily harm and to understand that your appearance is your primary source of worth. And Andrews also explores how myth and storytelling teach us our place in the world. This is an accessible, elegant, thought-provoking collection.
Buy it here: Why God is a Woman
Changing by Lily Hoang
Changing is a Little Girl’s fate, and in CHANGING she finds an unsettling, beautiful home. Like a topsy-turvy horoscope writer, Hoang weaves a modern novella into the classical form of the I Ching. In glassine sentences, fragmented and new, Jack and Jill fall down the hill over and over again in intricate and ancient patterns.
Changing by Lily Hoang brings the reader not only a story but also an experience. You must read from the bottom up, and the narrator will reprimand you for not doing so– unless you are. In which case, the narrator apologizes. These little moments of interaction are what made this novel so wonderfully strange for me, along with its writing style and form. If you feel the need to break away from the traditional, this is for you.
Created to be read as fragments to be broken up and pieced together as though pulling parts of a riddle out of hat, Hoang explores the possibility of fate depending on which prose you read first and what comes next? You really have to let yourself go when reading this and then let it wash over you. A truly magnificent, experimental piece of writing.
Buy it here: Changing by Lily Hoang
The Exhibit (Chapbook) by Lauren Eggert-Crowe
Dark, muddy and rolls off the tongue like silk. Here is a collection of ekphrastic prose poems in which the speaker wanders through bizarre art exhibits that seem to undulate through the pages and come alive as living beings in your mindscape . Part lucid dreaming, instruction manual and part breakup in a haunted museum.
Another surreal book of poetry that speaks a bizarre yet undeniably beautiful language, This isn’t a straightforward book of prose poems, and I like that about it; there’s a lot of space in here to find your own meanings, to imagine, to roll about and come to an understanding.
The images that the poems bring to my head were so haunting and strange, and sometimes ghostly and mysterious, sometimes eerie but there’s definitely something powerful and moving about them. I pause a little after each poem, maybe reread some lines or the entire poem to immerse myself in those images.
Buy it here at Hyacinth Girl Press: The Exhibit
Apocrypha by Catherynne M. Valente
This is Catherynne M. Valente’s first full-length poetry collection, where freaks, emperors, bodhisattvas, beasts, witches, wicked stepmothers, Greek heroes, are told seductively and wickedly in poem and prose.
mesmerizing and frightening at times her writing is full of obscene and beautiful imagery described lushly and at times presented abruptly, certain passages made me gasp delightfully with a naughty smile. Valente was able to merge ancient and present times together, weaving the primordial with the modern to create homage to old fairytales, myths and legends.
These poems are all quite wrapped up with women, their perspective, fears, and angers. All were centered on myths, most notably from Japan and Greece, as well as not so pleasant versions of classic Western fairytales. Valente knows her myth and literature. A truly a unique and gorgeous collection of raw, wonderful stories.
Buy it here: Apocrypha by Catherynne Valente
Dream Animals (Pamphlet) Alyson Miller
This is a collection of grotesque little poems that reexamine fairy tales and mixes them with horror, dreams and violence. It is a really peculiar little book that I carried everywhere with me and it is now very dog eared and tea stained.
I love Alyson Miller’s use of weird language that seeps in between mundane reality, where lost shoes brings a state of sadness, dream babies and a chalk- white girl roam like ghosts in this world. Where the sound of Cicadas sound like teeth chattering over metal spoons and a moon-faced boy cries at a muted T.V.
This is magical realism at its finest, the reader navigates through the poems to figure out where the bizarre ends and reality begins. This haunting collection is like a dream journal of Alyson’s lucid dreams and nightmares. Beautifully terrifying to read.
Buy it here at Dancing Girl Press: Dream Animals
Divinity School by Alicia Jo Rabins
A wide-ranging exploration of spirituality, sex, travel, food, holy texts, and coming of age, DIVINITY SCHOOL combines a searing eye for surreal beauty in everyday life with a deep knowledge of wisdom literature.
Divinity school serves as an instruction manual to uncover the mysticism of fragmented, passing moments and discover the sensual and sacred of ourselves. Sailing involves removing curses and traveling time; cross-country skiing is witnessing “a moon silence,” where the skier is urged to “read the snow while it scrolls across the hills . . . it’s in the static.” Outdoor recreation is access into spiritual Nature.
Rabins crossed boundaries between physical and metaphysical realms, implying anyone or anything can be holy or become a prophet. A make-up artist teaches the secrets of beauty to mystics, a frozen water-fall becomes the centre of a man, a security guard attributes the power of a watcher- like the watchful eyes of God. The poetry dissects every day life and imbues it with the power of ritual and ceremony. These passages are watery, tidal and elusive bringing you closer to the divine through nature and slip stream words.
Buy it here: Divinity School
I hope this collection inspires you? Are there any you are drawn to? What poetry books would you recommend?
I’ve also written book reviews for Yogi Approved click, on the links below:
And Bad Yogi:
8 Poetry books to inspire your yoga practice
Here are some other book reviews published on the blog:
Book Haul: Empowering books for Wild women
Book review of Plum by Hollie McNish
Book review of The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwod-Hargrave
Book Haul: Picture books for little Yogis & ESL Learners
Review of The Rialto Poetry Magazine
Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
Book Review of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops By Jen Campbell
Book Review of Love poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky
Book Review on Kinfolk Magazine issues 11 & 12
Beautiful children’s books part one
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans
Book Haul on Art Therapy Books
Book Haul on more Art Therapy Books