Today J.A. Warnock reviews Giveth and Taketh by Rota. Published by Wild Pressed Books and available in all the usual formats.
Giveth and Taketh by Rota
Was Donald Trump able to become President because God abandoned us? Are Jews white? Does Hell have better weather than Heaven?
In Giveth and Taketh, Rota addresses all of these questions, discussing his own experience and political theology as a Jewish person in the Trump-era while also exploring broader issues of race, mental health and grief.
Rota is a poet and public interest lawyer living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
His work has been featured by Button Poetry, Entropy!, FreezeRay Poetry, Alternating Current (February 2020), Jet Fuel Review, and elsewhere. He is a proud member of the MMPR collective and the Assistant Executive Editor of Knights’ Library Magazine.
By day, he supervises law students who provide free legal services to veterans. You can’t miss him. He’s the tallest Jew for miles.
Twitter handle: @TheMCRota
Review by J.A. Warnock for Love Books Group
As a reviewer, I have a special kind of dread when asked to review a genre for which I have absolutely no frame of reference. For a while that was Romantic fiction (also known as the touchy, feely stuff) but just recently it became Political Poetry. I will be honest when the request came through, my first though was “Whatever I did, I’m sorry!” but when my head stopped spinning and my heart stopped racing my second thought was more generous. When we read poetry we bring something of ourselves to the table; our puzzlement, our imagination, our history so by definition poetry is the most accessible genre there is. My second thought was “I’ve got this!” me and every other soul on the the planet. Only caveat is we may get it in slightly different ways.
Rota’s Giveth and Taketh covers decades worth of history so it is perfectly natural to be more familiar or hooked in to some ideas that others. The poems/pieces are short and if one doesn’t light you up, stick with it, another just might. For me, there are two main joys in poetry; surprise and reflection. In this short book, Rota achieves both. It is tough to illustrate what I mean without saying too much and lessening the effect for others but in just sixteen short words my accepted meaning of the phrase Giveth and Taketh was turned on its head. Blunt, abrupt, surprising and powerful enough to stick with me for a while. Good poetry has the power to worm its way into your memory so that the most surprising of trigger gives you a moment’s pause before you get on with you day. There are a few lines in this book which will do just that.
There is a thread of defiant humour that ties these poems together. There are some pretty substantial themes many of which originate in the recent past but are full of relevance and meaning for any reader today. The anger is raw, the acceptance is poignant and the perseverance is inspiring. It feels to me a book that says we (Jews, Americans, a Generation) have been short changed by the universe and want the universe to be damn sure that we know what it did.
A star rating is almost impossible as, I suspect, it will depend on how many pieces fully resonate with an individual reader. On the basis this is a broad collections which should have something to hook most people regardless of political or religious leaning, I am going with Four Stars but please read it and make up your own mind.
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