Review by ttuso22 -- The Immigrant's Lament

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Review by ttuso22 -- The Immigrant's Lament

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[Following is a volunteer review of "The Immigrant's Lament" by Mois benarroch.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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Poetry can be an art form altogether dismissed because it is, in and of itself, personal. It's vulnerable and very easily offendable, taking an emotional stance in its way of communicating deep truths. But it carries with it the opportunity to feel deeply, to know intimately, and to see the world afresh. I don't always read poetry, but let's just say I'm glad I took a chance with this one.

The Immigrant's Lament by Mois Benarroch wrenches you emotionally through not only its pathos but also its ethical standpoints as well. Benarroch's poetry flows silkily through his hands, simple yet firm as if the lines are a rope tugging you into his past. The book mainly chronicles Jewish culture, spiritual searching, and the phases of life one may go through as they turn from a child into an adult. The Jewish lifestyle becomes seeable, understandable, tantalized, and yet out of reach in the ways, I haven't experienced that culture personally. Yet it gets me as close to experiencing it as may be possible in my lifetime.

With 55 poems compiled altogether, the book unveils a deep agony that Benarroch faces as a poet. Through struggles and sorrow, through mistakes and wrestling ideals of life and religion, he expresses his deepest regrets and desires. The book contains poems of growing up in a Jewish home, traveling to Paris, and the world beyond as well as coming back to the homeland of Jewish descendants. Other poems discuss relevant topics and questions of ethics that go unnoticed. For example, one poem describes diamonds and the ignorance behind what it has cost African families to put that diamond upon one's finger for jewelry. There are poems of death, of love, of family, and of religion. Finally, it closes with what I suppose is the longest of the 55 poems and ties everything in together, regarding the life of the poet. I suppose the finale encapsulates everything you need to know about the poet, but the rest of the poems take you through the journey of how the poet came to rest with such conclusions.

What I loved about The Immigrant's Lament was the Jewish heritage riddled inside the lines of poetry. I was able to experience another culture, and being someone who loves to travel, I was drawn in deeply by it. I was able to get a glimpse of experiences of one's youth and also see the wrestling thoughts that a Jewish person might experience, including familial pressures to be something "more noteworthy" than an artist, or to battle what religion truly is at its core. I also quite enjoyed the raw emotions of the author. It is not easy to be vulnerable, but it brings about such a unique relationship between the poet and their audience. I felt I got to see more of the author than I see in simply reading a novel or a compelling story. The author is raw in this book and it is an honor to glimpse one's life so intimately.

I did at times have a hard time with the material, which occasionally was provocative. This is what I disliked most about the book. I guess you could say that could be expected from poetry, but again this is just my honest review. It didn't help that there were numerous errors that I was distracted by throughout the poems. I wished it had been better edited, to say in the least. There was also a point when one poem was made entirely of a quote from the poem previous. Perhaps that was the author's way of repetition to instill its meaning, but I couldn't tell, as it was a standalone quote with nothing more to emphasize its qualities.

That being said, my conscience compels me to give this book no more than a 2 out of 4 stars. Due to many grammatical errors (which are tricky to determine within poetry), I had to reduce the rating. However, I feel strongly that it would have received a three-star rating had it not contained as many errors. I could not give it more than that, due to the fact that I didn't feel it was often that the poetry stuck with me. Now, if what I read was correct in the About the Author section, then this book was written in the author's second language. Perhaps it would linger more with the reader in the author's mother tongue rather than in English. But I must credit the author with bravery for attempting to write poetry in a second language, which is no small feat. In the end, I was drawn enough by the author's writing and invigorating language that I would definitely read other works written by Benarroch.

For those who are interested in poetry or Jewish culture, I would recommend it. A couple of my favorites were "Les entrailles du poète" and "The Price Of A Diamond," which made me admire Banarroch as a writer. I would caution people who are offended by the explicitness of poetry, particularly language or sexual content, as some of the poems contain such material. Otherwise, it is an enjoyable book of poems one can read at any pace.

The Immigrant's Lament
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If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison
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