Official Review: What They Bring by Willis

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MsH2k
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Latest Review: What They Bring by Willis

Official Review: What They Bring by Willis

Post by MsH2k »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "What They Bring" by Willis.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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What They Bring: The Poetry of Migration and Immigration is a collection of poems to help the reader “think about migration and immigration and to feel deeply and empathize.” Irene Willis was so inspired by the poem “Let Them Come,” written by her friend Jim Haba, that she asked Haba to collaborate with her in pulling together this collection of work.

Undoubtedly, Haba’s brief poem is inspirational. It begins: “What they bring is always more than what we thought we needed.” Those words touched me profoundly. They represent countless timeless scenarios.

The fellow poets that Irene Willis and Jim Haba selected for this anthology have impressive credentials. They include poets laureate of the United Kingdom, the United States, six states, and two cities. There are also Pulitzer Prize winners, Guggenheim Fellowship recipients, and a Nobel Prize winner in the group. The works span over a century and are penned by widely recognized names, such as W. H. Auden and Robert Frost, and less recognizable names (at least to this reviewer), such as Yehuda Amichai and Mark Smith-Soto.

This compilation includes an appendix with a brief listing of the accomplishments of each poet. I purposely did not read their entry until after I read their poem. I did not want their achievements to influence me—I wanted to experience what they brought unencumbered.

The collection starts with “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, whose recognizable words welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” to the United States are inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It ends with a benediction of sorts, “Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Lameris, reminding us of the innate goodness of humanity. Within these two bookends are nearly 100 poems by over 80 authors that share a glimpse of migration and immigration, leaving and arriving, and loss and hope.

I did not expect to like every poem, but I was disappointed with how many I failed to grasp. There were more than a few entries that I believe would be understood only by the writer and the one they were writing about. This left me frustrated; it was as if they were standing in front of me talking to each other about an experience they went through in a language I did not understand. Hmm. There may be a lesson in that experience.

There were plenty of poems, however, that I did understand. I heard clearly what Gwendolyn Brooks was saying in “I Am a Black.” She passionately described the difference between being an African-American and being a Black. In a few powerful words, she illustrated the global affiliation of Blackness.

In “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Bathroom at Sears,” Moja Kahf is the translator and negotiator between her grandmother and the disapproving “respectable Sears matrons” as her grandmother washes her feet in the bathroom. She must take her well-timed break from shopping to avoid missing one of the mandatory prayer times for Muslims. This astute granddaughter understands the setting well. She translates for both sides and navigates the situation flawlessly; her negotiation involves less translating and more pacifying. At the end of the standoff at the door of the women’s bathroom, she holds “the door open for everyone and we all emerge on the sales floor and lose ourselves in the great common ground of housewares on markdown.” I would have loved to witness this scene.

Connections I made with some poems will stay with me for a while, maybe forever. I will remember Kathleen Kraft and her mother whenever I see Swedish Fish, especially the red ones. I will also think of Li-Young Lee’s raw, global dissertation on human life the next time I see a butcher. I recommend this collection of poems to anyone who would like to explore expressions of migration and immigration. Some are unique to the writer’s circumstances, but many are universal situations we all face when we leave one place for another in hopes of a better life.

What They Bring is a well-organized, thought-provoking collection of experiences. I am pleased to rate this anthology 4 out of 4 stars.

******
What They Bring
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Post by Cecilia_L »

I know what you mean about some of the poems only being grasped by the poet. Thanks for your honest and thoughtful review.
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Post by Vivdija »

It disappointing to know that many poems can only be grasped by the poets. Thank you for your honest review!
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Post by Nqobile771 »

I enjoy poetry but I will not be picking this book up. Thanks for a detailed review.
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Post by MsH2k »

Cecilia_L wrote: 13 Feb 2021, 13:48 I know what you mean about some of the poems only being grasped by the poet. Thanks for your honest and thoughtful review.
I get frustrated sometimes, but I keep telling myself it’s ok to be a spectator and not have to figure everything out. :D
Thank you for your comment.
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MsH2k
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Post by MsH2k »

Vivdija wrote: 13 Feb 2021, 22:59 It disappointing to know that many poems can only be grasped by the poets. Thank you for your honest review!
In a collection of nearly 100 poems, I did not expect to grasp all of them, but I have been forever touched by the ones I did connect with.
Thank you for your comment.
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
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MsH2k
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Post by MsH2k »

Nqobile771 wrote: 14 Feb 2021, 01:53 I enjoy poetry but I will not be picking this book up. Thanks for a detailed review.
Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.
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Post by Yvonne Monique »

The first quote you mention is inspirational indeed. A beautiful review, although I don't think this is a book for me.
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Post by Saint Bruno »

I have never tried reading a book from this genre. Perhaps I can start with this title due to your insightful review. Thank you!
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Post by Suzer6440 xyz »

A great review . I was attracted by the cover. I’m not a big lover of poetry but was impressed with how the content was discussed in the review
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Post by MsH2k »

Yvonne Monique wrote: 16 Feb 2021, 05:41 The first quote you mention is inspirational indeed. A beautiful review, although I don't think this is a book for me.
That quote literally took my breath away. I am amazed at how poets transmit emotions through their words. Thank you for your comment, Yvonne Monique. I appreciate your visit.
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
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MsH2k
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Post by MsH2k »

Saint Bruno wrote: 16 Feb 2021, 11:30 I have never tried reading a book from this genre. Perhaps I can start with this title due to your insightful review. Thank you!
I hope you decide to give this collection a go! You may find that you connect with some of the poems in ways you would not have expected. I love it when we stumble upon similarities in the most random ways.
Good to see you, Saint Bruno! Thanks for stopping by.
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
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MsH2k
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Post by MsH2k »

Suzer6440 xyz wrote: 16 Feb 2021, 20:53 A great review . I was attracted by the cover. I’m not a big lover of poetry but was impressed with how the content was discussed in the review
I was attracted by the cover, too. There were many lovely poems in this collection—it was hard deciding which ones to share. Thank you for your kind comment.
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
Maya Angelou
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Post by Joy Phill »

What They Bring seems so attractive to me now. I'll love to read those poems for myself. Thanks for a glowing review.
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Post by Slater678 »

I like poetry and I'd consider reading this one. Nice review.
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