Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrick Christian Delius

I was delighted to win a copy of this book in Brighton Blogger's Italy in Reading Challenge last year. I'm now reviewing for her 2012 Reading Challenge. Most of my reviews for that challenge will be over on Crafty Green Poet with the theme of nature and environment. This book doesn't fit that theme so I'm reviewing it here.


Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is a beautiful meditation on loneliness, innocence and loss in Rome during the Second World War. The narrative follows the thoughts of a young, pregnant German woman as she walks from her home to a church where she is going to a musical recital. Her husband is with the German army in Tunis and she thinks about him and their marriage as well as about her position in Rome as a foreigner during wartime.


I felt that the book was a perfect compliment to Elsa Morante's History. That book is much longer (around 700 pages to Portrait's 125) and has many more characters! However both focus on a woman who is quite innocent of world affairs and sees the war very much in terms of how it affects her life.


Portrait is in the form of one long sentence. This sometimes puzzled me as I could see many points in the narrative where full stops would have been useful. It also really made me wonder what the original German text looked like, given that in many contexts in German the verbs go at the end of a sentence.....


Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius translated by Jamie Bulloch, published by Peirene Press

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Femmes of Power by Del Lagrace Volcano and Ulrika Dahl

I was delighted to win a copy of this book in Brighton Blogger's LGBT Reading Challenge last year. I'm now reviewing it for her 2012 Reading Challenge. Most of my reviews for this challenge will be over on Crafty Green Poet on the themes of nature and environment. This book doesn't fit in with those themes, so I'm reviewing it here!

Femmes of Power is a fabulous book, showcasing queer-identified femmes (lesbians, bisexual women, transexuals and bearded ladies) around the world. There are interviews, articles written in the style of letters and features, sharing individual's life stories and their thoughts on queer politics and identity.


Femme is about reclaiming femininity and subverting the expected norms of what that means. This book shows there are many ways of doing that!


My only complaint about the book is that it didn't feature any goths! Goth girls (and many goth boys) are total femmes, with all the attitude and confidence (though often not the awareness of gender politics) of queer-identified femmes. Many goths in fact are queer identified (someone once told me that all goths are bisexual though that may not be strictly true!).


But anyway, this book really inspired me to put on my best goth dress and high heeled boots and go clubbing. Though I may just go and sit up a tree instead.


Femmes of Power by Del Lagrace Volcano and Ulrike Dahl, published by Serpent's Tail

As ever, coloured text here contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Photographing Reality

(i.m. Eve Arnold)

Your untaught hands picked up a camera
and never put it down, finding
instinct for the picture
that carries the burden of history
so lightly it seems no burden at all.

Icons of stage and screen; children and women
whose lives are never seen,
all gently caught; held
in your gaze, your lens capturing
the essence of their lives and times.

Deceptively simple this art of yours,
framing faces in a view-finder
to create a pleasing image
that seems by accident to encapsulate
history, yet somehow magically transcends it.


I wrote this poem several years ago and it managed to find its way to Eve Arnold herself who sent me a lovely postcard to say how much she enjoyed reading my poem.

Eve Arnold was an American photojournalist who worked for the famous Magnum Photographic Agency. You can see a slideshow of some of her photos here.