Thinking about the infinite possibilities of poetry, Natalya Newman
Actions & Travels
Auckland University Press
March 14, 2022
Actions & Travels, published in 2022, is an exploration into the infinite realm of poetry, examining everything from 1500 sonnets to 2020 tweets. Anna Jackson guides readers through the many facets of poetry and how it has evolved throughout history, looking into different times and translations to show how this form of literature has influenced and been influenced by society.
Jackson guides readers through the poems in this book and pulls them apart in fascinating ways. She asks questions, answers them, and also leaves some unanswered for readers to ponder. I love the way each chapter of Actions & Travels feels distinct and unique, both the poems themselves and also Jackson’s observations of them.
The back of the book has a list of writing prompts and suggestions taken from each chapter for readers to try, and this is something that I would definitely suggest making use of! Both the writing exercises and the quotes from other poets made my mind flourish with inspiration and creativity. The beautiful thing about poetry is that it constantly encourages growth. Every poem has the ability to spark new inspiration in curious writers, readers, and listeners. This is evident in the way Jackson writes of questions being answered hundreds of years after they have been asked, and conversations being picked up without question despite the decades separating those taking part. The idea that someone in the far future will see the work of today’s writers and be inspired is incredible, and encourages growth in literature. Many lines, both from Jackson and the poems she discussed, take root in the minds of readers and cause fascinating snippets of poems to bloom. Some of these roots may never grow into full poems, but the literature of other writers – past, present, and future – will always have the ability to plant new ideas.
Following on from that, this book is definitely one to read with highlighters in hand if you’re interested in annotating books! I used one colour for Jackson’s words and quotes that I particularly like, and another colour for everyone else she mentions. Now, whenever I’m struggling to write, I can either look at the writing suggestions or flick through the book looking for a highlighted line that causes an idea to form. In this way, Jackson shows that not only poetry can spark new pieces of writing, but also that observations and analysis of poetry can do the same thing.
The idea of poetry being felt and heard rather than just read is represented subtly but well in the general design of the book. One of my first impressions of this book came from the texture of the cover and pages, and when reading this book I find myself running my hands over it and flicking through the pages. The texture and materials used for this book keeps me grounded, in a way, to the literature and all of the incredible poems and observations that come to life within its pages. The interesting texture and feel of Actions & Travels anchors the minds of readers to the book and allows us to experience how poetry flows in Jackson’s stream of consciousness. The feel of this book also felt like it transported me to somewhere in the past, because the texture is not commonly used in this time. Overall, this added more depth to the timeless way that poetry is presented.
Actions & Travels introduces us to a variety of poets and poetry forms, broadening our perspective of literature and introducing us to new things. I am grateful that Jackson did not limit herself to certain time periods and instead examined the way that poetry has shifted and evolved alongside humanity. Because of this, Actions & Travels both examines poetry up close to learn what makes it tick, but also steps back and views poetry as a whole in all of its complexities and wonders.
One of the biggest wonders to take away from Actions & Travels is the idea of conversations. Looking at poetry written throughout history allows us a glimpse into conversations that span over decades and centuries, defying time’s attempt to wear away the evidence of their existence. Even the little fragments of Sappho’s writing that have been discovered have been answered through the voices of other poets, and I think it is beautiful how easily words can be carried and cherished for thousands of years.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has read Out Here from Auckland University Press or Skinny Dip from Massey University Press, which also push readers to experience the infinite possibilities of poetry. I would also recommend this book to any students studying English at school, because a great number of things that this book has taught me have been incredibly useful when analysing poetry in class.
After you read Actions & Travels, I definitely recommend you get the cogs of your mind turning and give some of Jackson’s writing suggestions a go. You might just surprise yourself.
- Natalya Newman is a student in Whangarei