It takes a lot for me to enjoy poetry. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a big fan. Most poetry strikes me as pretentious or needlessly elaborate, but I enjoyed Factory of Tears. And I never thought I’d ever REALLY enjoy poetry.
The poet, Valzhyna Mort, was born in Belarus in 1981. Belarus is a very politically troubled country and this theme is seen a lot in the poetry in this collection. The oppression of the people was obviously a big part of Mort’s life, with people being snatched in the middle of the night etc. I was surprised to learn that Belarus is still being ruled as if it were part of the USSR by Alexander Lukashenko. Why do we never hear about things in Belarus? It’s not exactly on the other side of the world yet the majority of people don’t know much about it.
Anyway, back to the book. The poems are written in a great way, not overly complicated but still elaborate enough that as a reader you know she’s talking about something important. You can tell that she loves her native country and language, as she has included the original poems on the opposite page in the original language of Belarusian. (The book has been translated by Mort herself along with Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
The poems in Factory of Tears are not the most upbeat poems in the world, but the subject matter of the poetry deserves this serious approach. It’s apparent Mort cares a lot about the issues she writes about and this concern is evident in her energetic readings of her poetry (see Reflection)
Overall, I liked Factory of Tears. I guess I need to read more poetry before I can really say why it’s so good, but I enjoyed it. It’s easy to read and it was nice to read poetry that covered different issues, issues I would not normally read about. Factory of Tears is highly recommended, even if you don’t normally like poetry.
Today in class we watched a video of Valzhyna Mort reading some of her poetry. The think that struck me is that she’s not a stuffy old pretentious poet, she’s very down to earth. It was also great how she managed to make the reading a more upbeat event (made all the more impressive considering her poetry is not especially ‘happy’)
It was great to hear a poet reading their work as well, and Mort does it with real gusto. It made reading the collection a lot more interesting, knowing the rhythm to many of the poems. She also said how things were often lost in translation, like her poem “A Poem About White Apples” White Apples are a strange thing to us. They are just white apples but, as she said, people keep offering their own interpretations, wondering what they’re a metaphor for. I guess I just liked the idea that these white apples don’t need an elaborate hidden meaning. These white apples are exactly that; apples.