Young writer and critic Yani debuts with a prose compendium reminiscent of the old adage “poetry is a reflection of our times” or something along those lines.
When I think of American Poetry, I think of Walt Whitman. His work is characterized by its celebration of the human spirit, optimism, and sense of wonder about the world. I think of Frank O’Hara whose work centers around taking delight in the ordinary moments of existence. And, of course, I think of Ralph Waldo Emerson whose work emphasizes the inherent goodness of people and nature, as well as the importance of self-reliance, individualism, and the celebration of the individual spirit.
Yani’s “The Year of Blue Water” resembles a different kind of American Poetry. At times, its prose seems to explore writing elements that are as raw as Charles Bukowski’s. While it is unfiltered it feels rather fragile instead. In other areas, its ideas seem to venture into the style of T.S. Eliot – equally torn between spiritual and moral questions, time and memory. For example:
“My mother tells me something. Has she been lonely? There was so much I couldn’t see as a child. And then it was too much to try and save her, to help her feel better and feel a little less lonely. I felt like I failed at loving her.[…]”
Much of the reflections in this collection are about race, identity, gender, and mental well-being. Unlike poetry from long bygone days, this work demonstrates the seismic shift that we as a people experience in America because of the conveniences modern technology has afforded us. It reminded me of another adage “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times” that originated from “Those Who Remain.” So, if poetry is a reflection of our times then we might have become a little weaker, but I also like to believe that strength comes from taking ownership of our weaknesses, and, by all accounts “The Year of Blue Water” does exactly that.