torch song tango choir by Julie Sophia Paegle (Eco-Libris Green Books Campaign)

Today, you will probably see quite a few reviews with that seal on it.  At 1 pm, 199 bloggers will be posting reviews of 199 books.  What’s so special about these books?  They cover a range of topics, from non-fiction to poetry, from a range of different publishers and presses across the country.  All these books have in common one thing: they are green books, published using recycled paper and other green publishing methods.  The book I chose to receive for review, torch song tango choir by Julie Sophia Paegle is published on “acid-free, archival quality paper containing a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste and processed chlorine free.  I can get behind that!  If I’m going to keep buying hard cover books, then I hope that more and more publishers will start using recycled paper.

But what about this book of poetry?  I had not heard of Julie Sophia Paegle before selecting the book, but I was intrigued by her Argentinian and Latvian heritage.  This is a collection of poetry that is very much rooted in history: the history of music and tango, the personal history of Paegle’s family, grander histories of important women like Katherine of Aragon, Eva Perón and Billie Holiday.

Reviewing poetry is so much harder than reviewing novels.  I thought I was going to be able to give this collection of poetry a glowing, perfect review.  When I received the book  I read the first few poems immediately and absolutely loved them.  It set the tone for the rest  of the book and also raised my expectations, possibly too much.  The book is divided into three sections: torch songs, tango liso and choir.  For me, nothing surpassed the quality of the poems in the torch songs section; they are perfect poems that I felt a connection to.  Not only are they perfectly written, conscious of sound and structure, but they are important in the personal mythology that Paegle is creating.  All of the poems I marked to possibly share with you come from torch songs.

For example:

Mussels

Blue inside
obsidian, blue of compression,
blue of the fleck

and of flash-
cooled glass.  We anchor,
volcanic and fast.

We embrace
and make changeful our
beach. We bury.

Between, we
breach – our numbers our
reach – but do

not be fooled
by the forfeit of blue,
that sad shadow mim-

icry shift-
ing on waves, or within.
Not slate nor

azure, we
are devotion to tidal
recession,

we turn to the
backing away of the ocean
as cicadas

turn to their
seventeenth year; as delphinia
gravely follow

the sun, not
unlike some seraphim long
after faltering.

I really like that poem, but the majority of Paegle’s poems are nothing like that.   Which brings me to my dilemma in reviewing books of poetry.  I’ve never really reviewed a book of poetry on this blog that I didn’t absolutely love or hate.  The truth is, the second section of the book was just okay to me.  I thought Paegle was much stronger when her poems were not about historical figures and instead about personal histories.  The last section was better, but still did not live up to the first section.

So is this a question of expectations?  Did I set my expectations too high?  I think so.  I think that Julie Sophia Paegle is a name we’re going to be hearing for a long time.  She is a fresh, unique voice that deserves recognition.  In fact, I’m going to be feeling pretty smug when she wins some big important award in the future and I can say, “Why, yes,  I have heard of her.  In fact, I read her first book.”

So go read this!:  now| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Check out more green books on the Eco-libris website!

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