Atlas: Poems by Katrina Vandenberg

atlasI’m left sort of speechless by Katrina Vandenberg’s beautiful collection of poetry, Atlas. I don’t know that I’ve ever been moved by words the way that I was moved by these poems. If I could read a new Vandenberg poem every day for the rest of my life, I think I’d be happy. Or I may just reread some of these every day for now on. They’re that good. I found myself just weeping by the end of this collection, just totally overwhelmed by the beauty of her poetry.

Poetry is a long lost friend of mine that has been recently rediscovered. I used to write quite a bit of it as a teenager and in my early twenties. I fell in love with it after discovering Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton. Those were my original favorite poets. Lately, I’ve come to appreciate some of the more modern poets and it was the always wonderful Nymeth who brought this collection to my attention.

Katrina Vandenberg has given us all a gift with this collection. It’s broken down into sections and each section tells it’s own story. The collection as a whole actually tells it’s own story, almost like a novella in poetry…a lifetime in poems. But it’s more than that. Perhaps one of the most touching poems in this collection is Tulipomania. It’s here that Vandenberg crushes you for the first time and you don’t see it coming. And she tells us the story of hemophilia, the love of blood, a disease that has claimed the lives of many sadly has resulted in many of it’s victims having HIV due to poorly done blood transfusions.

Not all of Vandenberg’s poems are crushing and sad, some are bittersweet, some are joyous, some are just very reflective. But they are all so moving. And the collection itself comes to a point where it is just so overwhelmingly powerful that I had to put it down for a second. I’ve never had that happen with a piece of literature or poetry before. Where I was literally so overcome by the beauty of the writing that I had to put a book aside. But Vandenberg has done it. I do so hope that she continues to share her poetry with us. This is a book that I will continue to read. Again and again.

One of her poems, First Lesson: The Anatomist Explains the Primacy of Imagination can be found online here. I thought this was such a beautiful poem.

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9 Responses

  1. Unfortunately, I have never been a big poetry fan. I mean, I did all the required reading in school. And I have loved the Gaiman poetry that I’ve read. But to sit down with a book of poems has never really sparked my interest. Should I take it from your review, this would be a good book to try? Even if I’m not a big fan?

  2. The title “Tulipomania” alone makes me tear up ❤ Like I (think) I told you, this has been on my nightstand since I got it in February, and I open it almost every day.

  3. I LOVE Anne Sexton. I memorised “Just Once” while I was in college. So I’m going to have to read this too! I think my problem with my attempts at reading poetry lately is that I use library books, which adds a time element. I have a modern poetry anthology from college on my shelves-maybe I’ll move it to my nightstand. And of course, the Complete Emily Dickinson, which I’ve owned since I was too young to appreciate how amazing she was (a babysitter got it for me for my birthday when I was 11).

  4. I wish I could read poetry. After I conquer Ada, maybe Poetry should be my next challenge to tackle…

  5. YES YES YES! So glad to see a poetry review 🙂

    Also, I’ve read a few of these poems and want to get my hands on this book like I’ve never wanted a book before. Purchasing… now. I love the poem about pesto!

  6. *runs of to read poem*

  7. Thanks for reviewing this one, it sounds interesting. I don’t have a lot of modern poets that I even know, so it’s good to have recommendations :). Do you cry at books often, or just once in a while? Do you cry at poetry more than prose, or vice versa?

  8. Steph, Like I said in my review…I was a huge fan of poetry as a teen and in my early twenties and then fell away from it and have just started getting into it again. I think this would be an EXCELLENT collection for you to try out. It’s absolutely gorgeous and flows beautifully. I can’t stop reading it!

    Nymeth, I totally get that. I don’t think this one will leave my nightstand for a long time to come. It’s one that I keep dipping into over and over and over again. There are so many that I was just completely captivated by. The poem about the women in her family making bread!!! Gah! So gorgeous.

    Eva, I don’t think she’s much like Anne Sexton at all, but I do think that you would really like her poetry. I can’t see anyone not liking her poetry really. It’s just so gorgeous. Definitely see if you can find a copy of this one! I have The Complete Dickinson too 🙂 Love that one!

    Amanda, I completely think that you should read this one. And let Jason read it too. It’s a book that I think you’d both truly appreciate.

    Lu, So glad to have written one!! I wrote a short review of Ellen Kennedy’s Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs after the readathon too, but it didn’t even touch this book. Though I liked it as well 🙂 I do hope you get this one..you’ll love it for sure!

    Bart, Isn’t it great?

    Jason, I’d love to learn of some more modern poets. I miss poetry really. I don’t cry while reading books often. A book has to be really emotionally packed for me to cry during it and I wish that weren’t the case! Mostly because I love a good cry during a book. I don’t cry during poetry usually, but this one just had me going. Because the collection as a whole is just so beautiful and powerful. It’s like she hand selected every word to be as powerful as can be and it just pulled at my heart. You and Amanda need this one!

  9. I’m generally not too big on poetry, but this book sounds amazing. I googled this one though and am thoroughly impressed. They sound absolutely gorgeous!

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