Unwrap ALU Day One: Shakespeare & Scandinavia

December 5, 2016

It's our inaugural day of #unwrapALU, where we pick twenty books for twenty picky people. Today's choices are both poetry, but that's where their similarities end: one is the Scandinavian  Frayed Opus for Strings and Wind Instruments and the other is the blue-hued  Shakespearean Blues.

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Everyone has one – that tricky booklover on your list for whom you're stymied on what to buy. Fret no longer: we've rounded up twenty books for hyper-specific people. Check our recommendations, and buy on. BONUS: get a set of our holiday gift cards FREE when you buy any of our featured books.

 

Book 1:  Frayed Opus for Strings and Wind Instruments
by Ulrikka S. Gernes, translated by Per Brask and Patrick Friesen (Brick Books)

 

 

 

Frayed Opus for Strings and Wind Instruments is the English translation of a collection of poems by a celebrated Danish poet. These are lyrical, somewhat surreal poems that are nevertheless full of concrete, earthy details; they zoom in and out of places and states of mind, from a lit bicycle shed in the back yard to a root canal in November, from a typhoon in Hong Kong to instincts astray in various Copenhagen neighbourhoods. Elegantly translated by Canadian collaborators Per Brask and Patrick Friesen, these dreamlike poems attempt, with honesty and humour, to fathom what it is to inhabit a specifically unspecific point in life—not to mention in the Universe.

From Gernes’s Afterword: “Do I write in a minor key? Art helps us explore our existence and our human condition. Poetry is primary research. This holds for both the reading and the writing of poetry. In this regard melancholia can be a fine instrument, a resonator. Melancholia has a wide spectrum of nuances and tones and it often evokes a heightened sensitivity. Melancholia is certainly not a negative thing, whereas depression is, and they are not the same. I will forever defend melancholia; it has an inherent power to sharpen certain senses that are beneficial to art, to life."

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Book 2:  Shakespearean Blues
by Shirley Graham (Mother Tongue Publishing)

 

 

Shirley Graham's masterful new books of poems, called Shakespearean Blues (Mother Tongue Publishing), is a tour de force, a blue-tinted exploration of the characters, emotional fireworks, and poetic depths of Shakespeare's plays.  Graham describes the use of blue in her writing as her "one word Ars Poetica.... a colour that has come to represent the essence of poetry for me."  In Shakespearean Blues, she turns her blue lens toward Shakespeare's language, using quotes or characters from the Bard's plays as a theme for each new poem. 

Complete with an introduction and explanatory endnotes, Shakespearean Blues is a delightful re-visitation of the wealth and wisdom offered by the Bard and his timeless words and characters.

From Shakespearean Blues:

Sometimes I Have Nothing to Say
Give thy thoughts no tongue.
Hamlet

like the morning light
on wet days, grey
diffuse, with a memory
of shine

like the seabird perched
on a floating log

or the unfinished corner
of sandwich tucked
under a crumpled paper napkin
left on a white plate
of a cafe table
with a view of the Coliseum

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We're big fans of these first two of twenty books to come down the line, but if your picky pal isn't, don't fret: we've got eighteen more where these came from. Stay tuned to see what else made our #unwrapALU recommendations.

(And don't forget: we had a gift guide last week with even more books for the picking.)


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