Reading Julia Alvarez

I thought I’d write today about Julia Alvarez. I’m sure she is a very well-known modern poet, but since the only living poet that I can name is Maya Angelou, I had not heard of her.

I picked up Alvarez’s book of poems entitled The Woman I Kept to Myself – simply because I found the title intriguing. I haven’t had much of a chance to sit and read straight through; I’ve just dipped in and out, here and there, and I found her to be a very gifted and inspiring poet. Besides the gift and craft of any poet, the crafting of words and rhythms, I find the topics she chooses to write about and her way of expressing them extremely interesting, in part, because she brings poetry to the everyday-ness of life.

For example, she writes about visiting a therapist (“The Therapist”), and how the therapist’s technique is to let his patients search out and find their own answers to their problems. She writes of men rising out of manhole covers (“Manholes”), and gives it an unexpected twist at the end. She talks about how she (or the narrator) dreams that her husband has given away all of her headbands that she no longer wears, but how it makes her feel like a part of herself has been given away, to women she does not know. And of course is relieved when she awakes to find her husband soundly sleeping beside her (“Hairbands”).

And then I think my favorite poem is entitled “Tone” – about how she can tell who her husband is talking to on the phone in the next room, just by the way he talks. This poem, in particular, I find touching, not only for the love and craft of the poem itself, but for the closeness of the couple that it portrays.

Again, I’m sure my own words fall short in attempting to do her work justice, but I found her poetry well-crafted, insightful, and inspiring.

© writingreading 2008

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