Book Review: All Night It Is Morning

allnightI’ve read many books of poetry this year but none like “All Night It Is Morning” by Andy Young and published by Lavender Ink Press/Dialogos Books. The subjects of Ms Young’s poetry spans continents and cultures in a very personal voice including Egypt, Chile, Morocco, West Virginia, and New Orleans, among others. The book has a strong thread of disaster running through it; the struggle of life in the war torn Middle East, in the coal mines of West Virginia,  and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her voice clearly and bravely documents these events, the horror and the pain revealed with humility and grace. I particularly enjoyed her poems about West Virginia and the hard lives lived there in the coal mining community. The strength and purity of the people, her relatives, shone like a light of hope. I think my favorite poem in the book is Sower, written about her Grandmother. This passage in the poem just grabbed my heart:

She worked the earth through
drought and strike, through her
husband’s slow asphyxiation,

through childbirth and stillbirth
and bad blood even sassafras
can’t clean. When the trees were

chopped as easy as thieves necks
and the nearby mill flooded her field,
when she buried another daughter,

In fact, she writes a good deal about the struggles of women in war, in life, in love, in mothering. Her mentions of her own children are sweet and poignant and often shiver-inducing, such as this:

I study the flutter
of your breath, your arms

folded by your sides,
your ear that could fit in a thimble.

Your infant face is still
like glass as the children

of Qana are wiped of their dust.

New Orleanians and others who’ve lived in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will nod their heads, saying Yes! while reading her memories of that challenging time. Reading those poems brought back memories to me that I hadn’t thought of in a long time such as the sunflowers that sprouted all over the city in the inhospitable muck left behind. Remember how amazed we all were at the sight of those flowers? Her Katrina poems do not disappoint. Be prepared to find tears in your eyes.

While the mood of the book tends toward the dark side, Ms Young also gives us sunbeams as in the sweet (and another favorite) Meet Me in Morocco:

There are a thousand ways
to name the morning, morning
of jasmine, morning of lemon

blossom. Swallow my words
with your mouth. the earth springs
new beneath our feet.

Ms Young weaves the narrative of all these places and events throughout the book with a deft hand, sometimes intermingling them within a single piece which I found quite effective. This book was very satisfying to read and I find myself going back to reread many of the poems, finding even more layers each time.

Ms Young will be reading from this book Saturday, December 20 at Faubourg Wines, 2805 St. Claude Ave.