Welcome back to the Book Club. While normally this is a joyous occasion, it’s not all smiles and giggles around here today, as much as we’d like it to be. We love books meant to solely entertain, but it’s important to remember that this medium is also beneficial to record and offer reflection on all of human history, including the bad stuff. Today we’ll be both looking back and branching out to review a collection of poetry from a dear friend of all things TehBen. I’m not good at disclaimers, but please consider the following review to remark on issues of human tragedy that are still in very recent memory. Join in with us if you can though, it’s important to remember these events together.
Drowning in the Floating World by Meg Eden is a collection of poems around the events of what’s become known as 3/11: the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi. Naturally, this is inherently pretty difficult subject matter, but to ignore such moments of human history in works of art would be a disservice to the memory of these events themselves. There’s a lot of that style of thinking in this work which must be noted. Each of the poems are around a page in length, and show a great deal of variation in tone and writing style. I really can’t overstate the gravity of what’s being described here however. The imagery presented in a few lines of text is rattling to the core, and I can only read it a couple of poems at a time.
With every passing poem of sorrow, complexity, and/or perseverance, the text challenges you to become more jaded, not unlike the victims of these tragedies. Certain poems will also range from the bizarre to the disturbing, leaving me questioning its inclusion in the book. Thankfully, the author gives a notes section in the back that provides reference opportunities or even just a personal anecdote about how each specific entry came to be. The hardships from these perspectives, told in such an order forces you to look deeper inside yourself alongside the details laid out in front of you. Moments of somber feeling can turn to an artistic expression of what we as humans choose to believe, turns to a harsh lamenting of reality, turns to razor sharp gallows humor…all of it perfectly expresses the concurrent levels of grief that the Japanese people endured from 2011 onwards.
Verdict: Drowning in the Floating World by Meg Eden is a hauntingly beautiful poetic display of just some of the emotions surrounding the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster from March 2011. A range of styles including interpreting first hand accounts of the tragedy to appropriately absurd walks across the human psyche, each poem carries its own weight allowing the reader to dig inside themselves for what must be learned from all this introspective. It’s not a “story” with an ending or climax that’s going to have a universal affect, but there are still morals and guidance that can be gleaned from the text. It’s a near impossibility to think about what we can do to quell imminent disaster when its already in motion, but maybe for selections like this it can help explain who we become when presented with the end of life as we know it. I really can’t put it any better than the author when she says that the book itself is a “tsunami stone—a warning beacon to remind us to learn from disaster and, in doing so, honor all that’s lost.”
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Special thanks to Meg Eden for supplying an advance review copy of Drowning in the Floating World to TehBen.com. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Author’s Twitter: @confusednarwhal
Purchase/Pre-Order Link: Amazon (March 11th, 2020 release date)