Review: You Break What Falls – Robert Okaji

You Break What Falls – Robert Okaji – 4 stars

‘You Break What Falls’ is a quick little poetry collection which you can access (for free!) here. It consists of six little poems, and guys – I would suggest it’s worth a look!

Each poem is succinct and thoughtfully crafted, grounded in tangibility, and yet light with abstraction. Although there were points where the philosophy felt a little heavy-handed (especially in ‘In Praise of Rain’), as a whole the collection was delightful to read. I loved the almost haiku-like simplicity of the lines, and the way each poem focused on specificity without running out of things to say.

My particular favourite of the collection was ‘Mirror’ – it was so perfectly contained that it left me wanting to give someone a sincere yet animated high five.

The other thing is, Okaji excels at last lines. Every single on of these poems is rounded off neatly, concisely, and without limiting the breadth of meaning behind the poems.

Have you read through this collection? Which would be your favourite poem?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!



Movements: Beat Poets

So I recently watched the Chilean movie ‘No!’ which details the plebiscite in 1980, in which the country overthrew a particularly nasty dictatorship. One thing that really inspired me about the film was the way that media played a huge part in the campaign; people literally ‘used their words’, and completely changed the direction of the country.

I love the idea that literature can be so powerful, so I’m starting a little series of posts under the title of ‘Movements’, talking about literary movements that worked to positively affect their society. Today we’re starting with the Beat Poets!

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking
for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night

-from ‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was an American poet (among many other things) who graduated from Columbia University in the 1940’s. It was at university that he made friends with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, and William S Bourroughs. These men would all be leading figures in what would come to be known as the ‘Beat Generation’, or the ‘Beat Movement’.

In part, the movement was a response to the end of World War Two, and a protest against the Vietnam War. Most Beat literature was popularised during the 1950’s, and was concerned with criticising a lot of core cultural aspects of America. Its essence was the questioning of the mainstream, and defying the norms of culture and of literature.

Ginsberg wrote:

Since art is merely and ultimately self-expressive, we conclude that the fullest art, the most individual, uninfluenced, unrepressed, uninhibited expression of art is true expression and the true art.


Although this was never a huge movement in terms of the number of participators, it was highly influencial, and it has been argued that the hippy movement of the 1960’s found its roots in Beat Poetry.

Many writers involved with this movement were also very interested in meditation, Eastern religion, and hallucinogenic drugs; they were looking to reach a higher consciousness, and were not content to remain within the traditions of their society.

Got up and dressed up
and went out & got laid
Then died and got buried
in a coffin in the grave,
Yet everything is perfect,
Because it is empty,
Because it is perfect
with emptiness,
Because it’s not even happening.

– from ‘Mexico City Blues’ by Jack Kerouac

Is this movement something you’d heard of before? Do you have any favourite poems from this group? And what other movements would you like to see a post about?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!


Hold Out Your Arms

I was saddened to hear yesterday about the passing of Helen Dunmore. You’ve probably heard of her: she was an award-winning writer, having authored 10 poetry collections, and 12 novels. She was 64 years old, and had only recently been diagnosed with cancer.

But what really struck me about this news was the release by her family of a poem she’d written in her last days. The poem – entitled ‘Hold Out Your Arms’ – is reproduced in this Guardian article, and I really recommend you check it out – there’s something beautifully innocent about her portrayal of death, and although it is a sober read, it is both chilling and peaceful.

As you push back my hair
– Which could do with a comb
But never mind –
You murmur
‘We’re nearly there.’


Clockwork Princess and Poetry #4

A while ago, I started a series of posts that explored Clockwork Princess (the third book in Cassandra Clare’s Young Adult urban fantasy trilogy ‘The Infernal Devices’), picking out all of the wonderful poetry references, and pointing you in the direction of their sources. I’m sure there’s a much simpler and quicker way to do this, but I’ve been enjoying myself, and I hope you do too!

That said, here is the fourth instalment of ‘Clockwork Princess and Poetry’:

Confessions, Book IV – Saint Augustine This isn’t a poem, but it was so close to the novel, and so beautifully crafted, that I couldn’t leave it out.

For I wondered that others, subject to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if he should never die, was dead; and I wondered yet more that myself, who was to him a second self, could live, he being dead.

Catullus 101 – Gaius Valerius Catullus This is a beautiful Latin elegiac poem, written for the poet’s dead brother. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching; it’s only short, so I advise you to go and read the whole thing.

atque in pepetuum, frater, ave atque vale

(And forever, brother, hail and fairwell)

The Old Astronomer – Sarah Williams This line is one of my favourites in all of literature, ever:

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady – Alexander Pope I’m not the biggest Pope fan, but I do like some of the stuff in this poem.

Poets themselves must fall, like those they sung,

Deaf the prais’d ear, and mute the tuneful tongue.

No Worse, There is None – Gerard Manley Hopkins This little project has been my first introduction to Hopkins, and I’m really liking his work! This sonnet is sad, but powerful.

Oh, the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall

Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap

And that’s all for today – let me know what you thought of these poems!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.


Clockwork Princess and Poetry #3

Here’s the third part of my series of posts outlining all the poetry mentioned and quoted in Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess. Onwards!

The Unquiet Grave Again, I couldn’t find the exact variation that Bridget sings, but this one’s close! I’m actually really enjoying reading the full versions of Bridget’s songs – they’re fantastic stories, and really accessible reading.

I’ll do as much for my true love

As any young man may;

I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave

For a twelvemonth and a day.

If the Past Year Were Offered Me Again – Augusta Lady Gregory This one’s nice and short! A really pretty love poem.

Ah! Could I bear those happy hours to miss

When love began, unthought of and unspoke

Riddles Wisely Expounded This is another of Bridget’s songs, and it belongs to a story where a knight tests his admirer’s wit. There are many variations, but here’s the one from the book:

“Oh, what is brighter than the light?

What is darker than the night?

What is keener than an axe?

What is softer than melting wax?

Truth is brighter than the light,

Falsehood darker than the night.

Revenge is keener than an axe,

And love is softer than melting wax.

Tamerlane – Edgar Allan Poe This one’s an epic poem, which means it’s a bit long. Lovely, though!

I have no words – alas! – to tell

The loveliness of loving well!

Barbara Allen Here’s another ballad that isn’t exactly the same as the one quoted in the novel, but bears some similarity.

O mother, mother, make my bed

O make it saft and narrow:

My love has died for me today,

I’ll die for him tomorrow.

And that’s all for today!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!


Clockwork Princess and Poetry #2

Here’s the second instalment of this little series: I’m going through Cassandra Clare’s ‘Clockwork Princess’ and picking out all the lovely poetry.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens I’m fully aware that this isn’t a poem, but I just couldn’t miss out this line!

“Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil.”

Troilus and Cressida – William Shakespeare Again, not a poem, but a kind of poetry nonetheless.

For to be wise and love

Exceeds man’s might.

Laus Veneris – Algernon Charles Swinburne This is a very long and very creepy poem.

For til the thunder in the trumpet be,

Soul may divide from body, but not we

One from another; I hold thee with my hand,

I let mine eyes have all their will of thee

Paradise Lost – John Milton This poem crops up so much throughout the books! It’s a phenomenally lengthy poetic retelling of the creation and the fall, and I really enjoy reading it in small doses.

Abashed the Devil stood,

And felt how awful goodness is.

In Memoriam A.H.H. – Lord Alfred Tennyson This poem has already been quoted, but I like it a lot! Here’s another excerpt:

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,

Let darkness keep her raven gloss:

Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,

To dance with death, to beat the ground.

And that’s all for this post! What do you think of Cassandra Clare’s taste in poetry? Is this the sort of thing you would normally read?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!


The Gift to Sing

I came across this little poem the other day, and it made my heart happy so I thought I’d share!

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

Have a lovely day!


Clockwork Princess and Poetry #1

If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that time I trawled through Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare) and collected all the poetry into a post…or five. It took a while, but it was fun! Or, at least, I thought it was fun. So we’re doing it again! I know that Clockwork Prince would be the next logical choice, but I can’t find it, so we’re moving on.

In Memoriam A.H.H. – Alfred Lord Tennyson I love this poem! Cassandra quotes so much Tennyson, and I honestly can’t blame her. This poem is really long, but lovely.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

British Folk Rhyme This is a cute little traditional poem! I like how it sounds when you read it out loud.

Marry on Monday for health,

Tuesday for wealth,

Wednesday the best day of all,

Thursday for crosses,

Friday for losses, and

Saturday for no luck at all.

The Conqueror Worm – Edgar Allan Poe I think this is a great poem! It’s dark and weird and creepy, but then again it is Poe.

Sit in a theatre, to see
   A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully   
   The music of the spheres.
Carrion Comfort – Gerard Manley Hopkins I find this poem so unsettling, but it’s a really interesting one. Worth a read!
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
The Kitchie Boy This is a very old, traditional ballad. I couldn’t find the exact version that Bridget sings in the book; there are a lot of variations out there! This one is very similar, though, and it’s a lovely story!
She’s far awa frae me, lady
She’s far awa frae me
That has my heart a-keeping fast,
And my love still she’ll be.
And that’s all for now! Which poem is your favourite?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

City of Ashes and Poetry

I’ve written a lot of posts about Cassandra Clare’s taste in poetry before, but it’s been a while! Today I’m going through the second book in her ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series – City of Ashes – and outlining all the wonderful poetry she uses. Enjoy!

This Bitter Language – Elka Cloke This is a beautiful poem, and belongs to a collection of the same title.

There are languages
of which you are the blueprints
and as we speak them
the city rises.

Night of Hell (from A Season in Hell) – Arthur Rimbaud I don’t think this is technically a poem, but it does read a lot like poetry. It’s a beautifully written piece, but very dark and disturbing.

Ah! To return to life! To stare at our deformities. And this poison, this eternally accursed embrace! My weakness, and the world’s cruelty! My God, have pity, hide me, I can’t control myself at all! – I am hidden, and I am not.

Inferno – Dante I think Clare quotes this poem a lot, and no wonder! It’s so fitting to the series.

Before me things created were none, save things

eternal, and eternal I endure.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

Dies Irae – Abraham Coles This is one of those religious poems that looks long, but is actually fairly quick to read and understand if you have at least a basic understanding of the Bible.

Day of tears and late repentance,
Man shall rise to hear his sentence:
Him, the child of guilt and error,
Spare, Lord, in that hour of terror!

And that’s all the poetry quoted in City of Ashes! Which one’s your favourite?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!


The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Do you love T.S. Eliot and cool illustrations? Great. Check out this comic-book-style rendition of the poem, illustrated by Julian Peters. Just fantastic!

Let me know what you think! Are there any other mixed-media versions of poetry you can recommend?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!