It was a rainy August morning, and a light mist had descended on a large crowd gathering around Dorchester Gaol. The usual levity and callousness of the public by the gallows was replaced by another form of pleasure—not unlike the kind the Elizabethan groundlings experienced while watching Juliet, Ophelia, or Desdemona die on stage. The woman who provoked such sentiments was Elizabeth Martha Browne, a shopkeeper who murdered her husband with an axe a little less than a month before. Dressed in black, and looking much younger than her age, she resembled a portrait of a martyr. She was extraordinarily calm, and her composure in meeting her death invoked even more pity and compassion.
Marlene kept a watchful eye on her grandchildren, Sibby and Amy, prancing ahead on the worn path. Brush lined the trail. The occasional weed flaunted flowers, but most of the colours were dull as if the sun had failed to provide enough warmth to stimulate their hues.
With his sorrow scattered;
and his jigsaw broken;
The Egotistic Lunatic collects pieces off the ground…
His back breaks under expense
Which cannot be outweighed by peace,
Or (tragically) repentance…
After its release over a decade ago in South Korea, the immediate success of Kyung-Sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom sets high expectations for contemporary readers. The novel precedes its reputation as it evokes universal feelings of nostalgia and guilt through its relatable premise: dealing with the grief of the love you never get to share. Please Look After Mom sold over a million copies within 10 months of its release in South Korea, and continued to achieve critical success after its translation to English in 2011.
‘It’s in your blood.’
I let a moment of silence develop into discomfort. Staring down at the recruitment agent from atop the zamboni, I can almost see, in my reflection in her pale blue eyes, the pages of an old storybook her parents used to read to her. The round-cheeked Eskimo, face framed by parka mane, eyes crinkled into crescent moons by a delighted smile as he raises his modest catch from a hole in the sheet. My great grandparents left Nunavut around the year 2100, when the ice disappeared.
I took up the endeavour of reviewing these anthologies for my own pleasure, and for the sake of erudition. Both works were presented to me at the same time and both felt equally distanced from me at first (as often is the case when I, a relatively amateur poet, read seasoned authors). Yet, reviewing these collections prompted me to find ways of incorporating their novel sensations into the ones I have already fostered, and beckoned me to appreciate poems in ways I haven’t done before. I am thankful that they brought me out of my comfort zone – I feel like I have uncovered yet another facet of the literary realm.