So You Want a Revolution

Well… for one more week, when Isabelle Kenyon emailed me about Grae J. Wall’s new book The Sound of Revolution, I just had to say yes!

So Merry (very early) Christmas and a reverse-birthday gift from me to you, here’s a bonus blog and vlog!

I’ve said before that I think I’m starting to like poetry books, and that is 100% true. That said, this is unlike any other poetry collection I’ve read (which is why I do love working with Fly On the Wall, they give me new stuff to try, like Confess!).

As most of y’all have gathered, and if you haven’t then I’m shocked, I’m a hopeless romantic. So, when it comes to poetry, I tend to just be drawn to it, and sometimes, it just seems drawn to me. But Wall’s collection is entirely different.

For sure it’s emotional, but rather than one person’s feelings, or even a few people’s feelings, Wall’s collection seemed evocative more of humanity’s emotions and experience as a collective. And yet, there were still some very personal, intimate poems as well…

Something else that was interesting to me was the fact that going into this book, I was almost prepared for “Fortunate Son,” “American Idiot,” or even “Deportee” vibes. But basically, I was expecting a lot of protesting, political messages with these poems.

So when I came across poems like “A Man Sits on a Train” and especially “The Bomb,” (it’s not what you think), I was surprised.

“These aren’t revolutionary poems,” I thought to myself, brow furrowed as I read through it. But then, it made sense how they could be…

Revolutions don’t need to be dramatic, dangerous, fights every time. Sometimes, revolutions are subtle, they’re individual.

I mean, even though a google search of “revolution” will first bring up war, other definitions have to do with “a fundamental change in thinking,” or shoot, even a turn/orbit around something else.

I think that’s why I enjoyed this collection so much, it challenges (or at least it did for me) the way that we see and define revolution. And it does so in such a beautifully simple, yet nuanced and emotional way.

In reference to the two poems above, for example, in “A Man Sits on a Train,” Wall paints the picture of someone travelling, seemingly waiting for something to happen (literally, an email, but you get the sense of something bigger too) and as Wall describes the changing, evolving countryside, it’s unclear how much the man sees. At the end of the poem, he gets that email, and it’s terribly banal, and it leaves you with the feeling of needing to stop and smell the roses. The need to take the time to be present–to host an inner-revolution against oneself and the arguably toxic expectations thrust upon us by our work and whatever else is holding us back from our potential… even if our potential is just seeing something differently, or just seeing something at all.

Similarly, with “The Bomb,” immediately *snap* you think it’s going to be some violent Hiroshima-esque poem of destruction and sorrow. And the beginning does kind of start that way. But instead, it’s a sweet poem that reminded me of the saying “kill them with kindness.” If to have a revolution is to have a fundamental change in belief, then perhaps the revolution we need is to escape from the captivity of negativity and despair and instead spread something more positive.

This, then, takes me to the first poem–the one that I really should have paid more attention to. The one that should have signaled to me that this wasn’t some post-apocalyptic-uber-patriotic-revolution. It’s the poem that tells you what the sound of revolution is by first telling you what it’s not…

It’s not the guns and screams and explosions… It’s something far more subtle and sincere; something both personal and shared…

“And in your breath/you hear the sound/of revolution.”

That’s all I’ve got (for real, this time) for Grae J. Wall’s The Sound of Revolution, I definitely recommend if you like poetry. If you’re not as keen about it, I still think it’s worth a shot, but it struck me as one of those books that you have to be open to and ready to expand your ideas.

Happy Reading and I’ll see you in 2021!


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