Thursday, December 8, 2005

Revenge and Forgiveness: An Anthology of Poems

Vecchione, Patrice. 2004. REVENGE AND FORGIVENESS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF POEMS. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0805073760 [Suggested Grade Levels 7 and up]

Vecchione has compiled a powerful selection of poems to explore the themes of revenge and forgiveness. People respond to being wronged by either revenge or forgiveness, she explains, and by reading these poems as an examination of the emotions involved, we will be able to understand our own responses – how it feels to get revenge or to be forgiven. The introduction is a thoughtful analysis of some of the poets’ responses as well as those of representative students of hers.

The poets chosen for this anthology range from the ancient Romans, Edmund Spencer, and Shakespeare to more modern poets like Naomi Shihab Nye, Louise Gluck, and Sandra Cisneros – altogether a very wide representation of poets for the 60 poems. The poems are about war, hate, slavery, rape, random violence, terrorism, and love. Some of the poems are more accessible than others, like Kate Mead’s prose poem, “Dogs,” and Toni Mirosevich’s “Hygiene.” “Why People Murder” by Ellen Bass is a strong poem about a woman who has been chopping onions in the kitchen after a fight with her partner, and then the next thing she knows she is in the living room with her knife: “When he sees me, he’s startled, doesn’t / know if he should be scared. / I’m emanating like a rod of uranium” (Vecchione, 2004, p. 65).

After the poems, Vecchione has included a section of biographical notes about the poets with comments about their thoughts, where possible, on revenge and forgiveness. Next come indexes by author, by title, and by first line. The book is well researched, planned, and presented. Both young adults and adults will find many poems to provoke thoughts, emotions, and conflicts about the topics of revenge and forgiveness.

Use the book as a forum to discuss the nature of evil as displayed by the September 11 attacks and the two ways of responding presented in these poems. Which feels better – revenge or forgiveness?

Other books by Patrice Vecchione to compare to this one:
The body Electic: an anthology of poems. Isbn 0805069356
Truth and lies: an anthology of poems. Isbn 0805064796

By Cay Geisler

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