The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell

I read a book of poetry! Don’t believe it? I barely do either, but I liked it. I was turned on to this book by a friend of mine, and in this post I talk about reading said book of poetry … it’s been a while.

The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell

Poetry?! Eww. I know. It’s crazy, but hear me out. Recently, I read a quote by a famous fiction author who said that fiction writers should read more poetry than fiction. I’m not sure if I agree with that thought, but another friend of mine is transitioning from poetry to fiction, and his poetry skills make his language more beautiful than I’ve ever been able to write. I thought to myself, Maybe there’s something to this.

So when another friend of mine recommended this book and said the obligatory, “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!” I decided I’d give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be writing perty sentences in no time.

So, what’d you think? Well, I loved it. Kinnell essentially writes this beautiful love letter to a child, dealing with the difficulty of coming to terms with one’s own mortality. He calls it The Book of Nightmares, but honestly, it feels more like the terrors one experiences in the middle of the night when they realize that one day, they’ll be worm food, then dried bones, and finally, dust.

It’s an extremely human subject, but it’s one we struggle to confront (at least, I do). But he confronts this fear head-on, and he has a way of causing the reader to realize how delicate and temporary human life is. My favorite part about this is in Section VII, Part 1. He says,

When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
hard,
as if clinging could save us. I think
you think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
even as
my broken arms heal themselves around you.

How permanent is smoke? Good question. I’m going to avoid it. Look, if you’re like me, it can be hard to approach poetry. So much of modern poetry is cryptic and difficult, and I feel like many poets have turned off a lot of potential poetry readers (myself included). Kinnell is approachable and the book is relatively easy to read, though it deals with a heavy subject. It’s short (only took me an hour or two to read), but it was worth it. Buy it.

About Adam Nannini

The greatest writer of his generation ... which isn't saying much.
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