10. July 2008 · Comments Off on The Death of the Poem and Other Paragraphs by Justin Courter · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Not too long ago, I reviewed an exceptional book called “Skunk: A Love Story,” one of those rare finds in literature you know you’ll not forget. Fortunately for me, and anyone else lucky enough to have discovered Skunk, author Justin Courter has not pulled a Margaret Mitchell on his readers by producing one great work and calling it quits. The Death of the Poem and Other Paragraphs is poetry (in paragraphs) that demands to be heard. I haven’t laughed out loud so much since–well, since Skunk. From the very first poem, Courter had my attention.

The poems, fun and edgy, sarcastic and all too true, sometimes had me initially perplexed until the “aha” light came on, compelling me to read each one at least twice so I could laugh some more, feeling good about getting it. Don’t be thrown, though, by all my talk of laughter. There is something deliciously biting about the poetry as well. And if you’ve ever worked in an office job while staring out the windows saying, “There must be more, oh why can’t I just create all day and skip the paper clips?” well, let’s just say this is poetry you’ll want to memorize and recite out loud just to irritate and mortally confuse your coworkers who live to file, sort, and staple. As Courter would say, “…the office is a kennel full of rabid bunny rabbits. Stomp softly and carry a carrot stick.”

And since I’m wearing out my copy of The Death of the Poem and Other Paragraphs, this Courter guy just got himself another Goldfish Award. Get a copy.



Ever read a book that haunted you? One that would not, no matter how you tried, allow you to put it down until the last page was read? If it’s been awhile since you’ve had that type of a reading experience, then it’s time to read Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow by Dedra Johnson.

Sandrine, a girl of nine living in New Orleans in the mid-1970’s, has had to grow up much faster than any little girl should have to do. Her mother makes it painfully clear she was never wanted and has interfered in her mother’s life in every way possible. Her father loves her, but only from a distance. She seems to be tossed aside carelessly by everyone who is supposed to love and care for her; no one protects her.

Written in first person, Sandrine is a very real character from page one. Despite the fact that it is told through the eyes of a child, the voice is intelligent and mature for her years. But Sandrine is still only a child. The reader will understand much more of what is happening in Sandrine’s life than she does. Sandrine is taken through difficulties no child should experience, including racism (even among her own family due to her light skin) sexual assault, and child abuse.

Dedra Johnson has a unique voice, and with her skills at writing page-turning narrative, I’m certain it’s only a matter of time before we hear more from her. Her work has an appeal that can easily hook you; with the right promotion, hers will become more than just another book on the shelf. I’m not the only one who feels this way – she’s been compared to Toni Morrison, and I have to agree it has that beautiful yet heartbreaking quality Morrison is known for.

Dedra Johnson is a New Orleans native. Dedra was a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Award for College Writers and Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow was a finalist for the 2006 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Check back tomorrow to read my interview with Dedra where she’ll give us some insight on her book.

I have a copy of Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow to give away to one reader. As always, subscribers are automatically entered in this and all future book giveaways. (If you’re not subscribed, please type your email address in the box in the right-hand column. Make sure you add Feedburner to your address book so you can verify your subscription.) You can also enter by leaving a comment telling me what interests you about the book, or link to this giveaway from your own blog. Do all three, and you have three entries. I’ll draw a winner on April 24, 2008, 12 midnight. (***Note: Contest is now extended to April 25, 2008 midnight. This drawing is now listed on Bloggy Giveaways, which is having a huge giveaway carnival. If you like giveaways, this is the place to be this week!)

A carp(e) libris reviews goldfish award book.

A handful of times in my life I have finished a book and turned it over to start again. Sometimes I want to carry the book around with me even after I’ve closed the pages, just to look at the cover and remember. I finished reading I’jaam – An Iraqi Rhapsody by Sinan Antoon three days ago, and I keep going back to pick it up and read.

In this fictional memoir, a forgotten manuscript is found in a filing cabinet of an Iraqi prison. Someone must read through it and determine what should be done with it. The entire book is that manuscript, which was written by a poet jailed during Sadaam’s regime. The mixture of beauty and pain throughout reminds me of Elie Wiesel’s Night, a deeply moving story of a Nazi concentration camp victim.

Weighty in substance but not difficult to read, I’jaam deserves to go down in history as an account of what happened in the Iraq of Sadaam’s terror. This book is not political. It is deeply human, and no matter what your race, religion, or ethnicity, you will walking away with more understanding and compassion. The book’s 97 pages allows the reader to finish in a few submersed hours which gives it more of an impact.

Sinan Antoon was born in Baghdad and now lives in New York where he teaches Arabic literature and culture at NYU. He’s also a poet, a novelist, and a filmmaker, having co-directed and produced a documentary called About Baghdad.

Win Your Own Copy: If you want to experience I’jaam too, I am fortunate enough to have a copy to give away. Leave a comment here telling me what intrigues you about the book. For another entry, post a link on your blog to this giveaway. If you are subscribed to carp(e) libris reviews, you are already entered to win this and all other book giveaways here, but feel free to comment and link for extra entries as well. The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday March 2, 2008, at 12:00pm.

Buy I’Jaam here and support carp(e) libris and your local bookseller.

Published by City Lights Books.

carp(e) libris goldfish award book