Saturday, September 9, 2017

What I've Read: Park Bench by Christopher Chabouté

Christopher Chabout√©'s Park Bench is a quiet, meditative graphic novel centered around - you guessed it- a park bench.

A unique approach to graphic narrative, the story at the center of Park Bench is told entirely without written dialogue. Instead, the reader bears witness to the peculiar rhythms of life for a rotating cast of characters: the marginalized, the retired, the reckless, the quiet, all interacting in the liminal spaces of both the comic panel and the park depicted therein.

The lack of dialogue gives a definitively cinematic and voyeuristic sensibility to the story - the reader feels at once immersed in its world, and distinctly outside of it, unable to be fully absorbed. The effect is also one in which the reader is writing the story themselves, being guided by the images on the page, all culminating in a satisfying - but not entirely dramatic - conclusion.

Park Bench is a graphic exploration of the concept of sonder - "the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own". It's a fun, heartfelt, and quietly moving journey into the concepts of space and stranger - and how we understand them as part of ourselves.

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for review.

What I've Read: Best American Poetry 2017

Every year, I look forward to the latest in the Best American Poetry series; it's a wonderful way to gaze upon a sampling of the previous year's poetic output. I mean, I love poetry, but who could possibly keep up with every single piece in every single journal each year? We're so lucky to have a glut of access to great poetry, and equally lucky to have poetry anthologies to help us sort through it all.

This year's Best American Poetry anthology is particularly remarkable in that I don't know if there would be any anthology - a nonfiction/journalistic one, perhaps, but not necessarily - that would better encapsulate the social, emotional, and political turmoil of 2016-2017 than guest editor Natasha Trethewey's poetry selections.

The poems featured in this year's Best American series vary widely in terms of theme, execution, technique, et al. When placed together, however, a remarkable unfolding occurs: grief and joy share space; anger and upheaval marry revolution and hope. The text unflinchingly and properly examines what it means for the political to be personal and vice versa. Many of the poems carry their emotional heft in the interplay of this examination. There is, also, a balance of the individual and the collective, the historical and the personal, so the reader never feels lost in the chaos of the past year. This is anthology is reckoning, reflection, and revelation. The poems are representative of all of the confusion, clarity, and celebration that emerge as a result.

I would definitely recommend this for fans of poetry in general and the Best American Poetry series.

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for review.