Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Rainbow List of Must-Reads: Orange - Selected Poems

 This is the Rainbow List of Must-Reads: Where I review a different one of my favourite books each week! Second on our list we have an orange book with an orange cover:

Selected Poems by Simon Armitage  

  At the beginning of last year I did not really understand poetry. Having only ever been exposed to the poems I was forced to study in English class – the colder, harder works of Carol Ann Duffy – I saw poetry as the indulgence of the thoughts of the more miserable, bitter beings among us. I just couldn’t connect with it. The fact that I was made to write critical essays on such texts probably didn’t help open my mind to the world of poetry. 
         On National Poetry Day last year my English teacher decided that before we would continue work on our prose essays that she would read us some poetry from a few of her favourite books. There was a low groan across the class as she opened a dull-looking book with the word ‘Duffy’ distinctly printed across the front. Just as expected, the poem my teacher proceeded to read was as cold and inappropriately self-righteous as all the ones before. I sank a little in my seat.

            When the poem was done my teacher put the book down and pulled a second out of her handbag. This book was bright and inviting and we all sat up a little straighter as she opened it on the middle page and began to read.

           What she read next was the most deliciously beautiful combination of words I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. It didn’t rhyme - I didn’t know poems could do that – and it wasn’t as self-aware as everything else I had heard. My teacher had a soft voice that was well-suited to reading aloud but I knew this poem would have sounded graceful on anyone’s tongue.
        That night, when I got home, I was unable to remember the title of the poem. I typed a few of the more distinctive lines into google and after a few quick clicks I had found it. ‘You’re Beautiful’ By Simon Armitage. I wrote it down in my notebook and read it again before I fell asleep.
That poem is what kindled my passionate love affair with poetry. For my birthday that year I asked my mum for anything she could find in Waterstones by Simon Armitage. ‘Selected Poems’ is what she bought me. With a bright orange cover, it is a hand-picked collection of a few poems from each of his books. I was elated to find that almost every poem in that book was a gorgeous as ‘You’re Beautiful’ – if not more. ‘To His Lost Lover’ is my favourite.

            Since then I have treated ‘Selected Poems’ as my comfort food of books. When I’m feeling particularly teenage and emotional I open it up and read them quietly to myself. I feel very deep when I do that.
       But now, Simon Armitage is not the only poet to take place on my bookshelves. Maya Angelou and Tanya Shirley now sit warmly on either side of him. I love ‘Selected Poems’ not only because it was the most beautiful book I had ever read, but also because it sent me venturing into a thick new jungle of similes and metaphors.

            I still hate to study poetry in class, but only because I think that’s not how poetry should be enjoyed. It was never really meant to be torn apart and scoured for symbolism, but instead read and (please forgive the cliché) felt. I will never like Carol Ann Duffy because I never got to read her on my own – I was forced to.

           Without ‘Selected Poems’ I never would have known all of this. And that is why it deserves the orange spot on my rainbow list of must-reads.

You can find out more about Simon Armitage here!
And you can read the other parts to this series here: Red! Orange! Yellow!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Rainbow List of Must-Reads: Red

      Hello and welcome to my very first post on my brand new blog! I'm really excited to start this new project and I have a lot of plans for it in the future. If you haven't guessed already this is a book blog - a place where I can rant, rave and celebrate about books! I've decided for my first seven posts to go with a bit of a theme. 

This is the Rainbow List of Must-Reads: a list of a few of my favourite books in rainbow order. Starting off the list we have our red book with a red cover:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Kicking off my Rainbow list of Must-Reads we have ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’, Mark Haddon’s eloquent yet quirky insight into the mind of Christopher – a peculiar 15 year old boy with a love for the colour red. ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ is as clever and thought-provoking as they come and offers up a reading experience like no other. The book is narrated by Christopher himself as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the tragic death of his neighbour, Mrs Shears’, dog, unravelling a much larger story in the process.

It becomes quickly apparent when reading this book that Christopher is not your usual teenage boy; he has a complicated relationship with emotions and is unable to identify facial expressions other than happy and sad; he calms himself in difficult situations by effortlessly carrying out colossal maths equations in his head; and he absolutely refuses to eat anything yellow or brown under any circumstances. After combining these strange behavioural quirks with Christopher’s peculiar way of recounting events, it quickly becomes clear to the reader that Christopher has some form of autism-like disability.

I first learned about the book from my sister when I was six years old – though did not actually read it until I was ten. When I asked my eldest sister what her book was about she gave me a funny smile and said:
     “It’s about a boy with autism, I think,”
     “What’s autism?”

        My sister thought for a while before answering: “It’s like… If I told you to stay off the grass, you’d just do it. But if I told a boy with autism to stay off the grass, you’d have to tell him when and why and for how long,”

This was a perfectly acceptable answer to my young mind and the explanation has stuck with me for all these years since.  Even before I had absorbed the story first-hand, the book had left a lasting impression on me, leaving me with a better understanding of autism and those affected by it.

Though Mark Haddon never specified Christopher’s condition, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ was able to explain mental disabilities to my sister in a way that was so simple that she could then go on to teach a six year old child. The reason I loved ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ is because I have never before found a book that has allowed me to look so clearly through the eyes of someone with such a difficult mental-disability. It has let me see into a world where things aren’t so clear and simple and shown the mentally disabled in a much more relatable light.

It’s the kind of book I want everyone to read, and one I take great pleasure in lending out. When I first picked the book off the shelf I ate it up within a few days and begged my Sister to let me borrow her copy as well.

For all these reasons, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ will always have a warm spot in both my library and my heart.

You can find out more about Mark Haddon and his other books by going to this website.