Poetry 10, 2014

after Joe Brainerd

I remember sleeping in a bedroom I shared with my little sister and little brother.

I remember missing a friend’s birthday party because my family went out hiking and we all completely forgot about the party, or that I had been invited, or that I had said I was going.

I remember my parents telling me stories of when I was too young to remember so many times that it seems like I actually remember.

I remember My Little Ponys and Pogs and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

I remember the first time I ever saw an anime and knowing that’s what it was. I was flipping channels and something made me go back to watch a man with long flowing brown hair talk to the stars inside an old church building; his name was Nephrite.

I remember staying up long after my friends sleeping over had fallen asleep to watch Return from Witch Mountain, which was the sequel to my favorite movie.

I remember fighting with a girl in fourth grade who later became a close friend.

I remember losing touch with my best friend and then resenting her when she sent me a long email explaining why she had resented me the entire time we’d grown apart.

I remember wanting my writing to be so perfect that I physically couldn’t write anything down because I was afraid it wouldn’t be good enough.

I remember being raped. I refused to talk about it for a long time. I refused to admit that’s what had happened for a long time.

I remember lying on the sofa with my brother and sister laughing hysterically because we were trying unsuccessfully to play Super Mario World upside down.

I remember singing a duet with my sister at my brother’s wedding.

I remember having a root canal and then being surprised that it wasn’t actually as bad as everyone had made it seem.

I remember the day I got into college. I tossed the acceptance letter into the trash because it wasn’t for the school I was hoping to attend.

I remember moving to New York City and falling in love with the subway.

I remember being pulled out of the top bunk during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I probably would’ve slept through it if she hadn’t been so frightened.

I remember thinking that the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11 were a joke because the deejays on KROQ were playing ridiculous music behind their nonchalant coverage of it.

I remember telling my cohort that I didn’t know a poem I was supposed to recite except as a song, and then I sang it for them.

I remember losing my first real job after the financial crisis affected the non-profit organization where I worked; brokers and bankers were jumping out of thirtieth-story windows.

I remember being the one to say what everyone was thinking and getting punished for it.

I remember living dangerously and surviving.

I remember watching my family members opening the presents on Christmas Day that I had carefully chosen for them.

I remember Barbies from the 1950s and macaroni and cheese and my mother being tired when she got home from work but making us dinner anyway.

I remember the first time I thought I was actually worth something.

Prompt: Listen to an excerpt of Joe Brainerd’s “Remember”. Write your own version. NaPoWriMo

In the Land of Magnanthia

In the Land of Magnanthia coverPortals, Passages & Pathways:
In the Land of Magnanthia

By B.R. Maul
publisher unknown/self-published
11 December 2013

When I was first introduced to this young adult novel, it was as In the Land of Magnanthia, but I have since seen it referred to as Portals, Passages, & Pathways, so for the purposes of this review the names are interchangeable. (Technically speaking, In the Land of Magnanthia is the first book in a new series called Portals, Passages, & Pathways.)

The novel’s hero, Simon, gets sucked into another world and is given the Ring of Affinity, told that it chose him and no one knows why. Of course a magical ring just happens to choose a teenage boy from another world to act as Magnanthia’s new guardian. Kinda makes me feel bad for all the noble guardian-potentials who already live in Magnanthia, you know? Anyway, I digress. As Simon learns the tricks of his new trade, he discovers that the king of Magnanthia, Elderten, has ordered the guardians’ deaths because he (the king) believes that they’re responsible for the death of his wife, the queen.

Meanwhile, another boy, Jak, is also pulled into the new world through a portal and given a choice: do or die. As he acclimates to his surroundings, the overlord under whom Jak must serve decides to use the young man (along with all of the overlord’s undead army) to overthrow the great King Elderten and rule Magnanthia for himself.

I both liked and disliked In the Land of Magnanthia. Simon and Jak are interesting characters, and the story is told alternating between their respective perspectives. Giving the villain as much “screen time” (so to speak) as the hero is downright extravagant these days, and I like it. In fact, I may like Jak’s story more than Simon’s because it seemed like he (Jak) had to make more difficult decisions with less help. Literally, his first choice is do or die. Honestly, what would you choose? (I sure as hell know what I’d choose.)

However, the novel had a couple weak spots, too: one fixable and one glaring. First, the secondary characters aren’t well fleshed out; I wanted to learn more about Sonica, Thianna, and others, and none of that character-building ever really happens. (I do realize, though, that this flaw can be rectified in future books in the series, but I wanted to point it out because I think that well-thought-out characters are just as important as good setting and plot.) Second, and more important to me: it felt like everyone was an annoying white guy. I mean, the cover has a girl on it, but the two main characters and their counterparts (the king and the overlord) are all guys. You know, doing guy things. Just like every other story ever written by a person of European descent. Including the novels to which this novel has been compared: the Harry Potter series, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Ugh. The story is a good one, I think, but it lacks bravery.

DISCLAIMER: I received In the Land of Magnanthia free from JKS Communications for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.