The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.”

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 138 pages.
June 9, 2020 to June 11, 2020.

I was gifted a copy of this book from a friend who could passionately recite lines of the poetry composed inside of it. She spoke so eloquently that I was instantly hooked by the words and wanted to read this book for myself.

The author, Kahlil Gibran, was an American-Lebanese poet who is most known in the English-speaking world for this book and has become one of the best-selling poets of all time. Even though many of Gibran’s works were not originally written in English, this one included, his execution and skill lend itself wonderfully into English translation, giving the feeling that you are reading the story as it is meant to be read. The Prophet was published in 1923 and has since had more than 163 different editions in print.

The prophet Almustafa is about to leave the city of Orphalese where he has lived in exile for the last twelve years. Its people are saddened to see him leave and ask him to speak before them before he leaves them. Each chapter is a poetic essay in which he speaks on a variety of topics, from love, religion, prayer, marriage, death, pain, children, and more.

The simplicity, wonder, and beauty of the advice that the prophet gives is one that transcends any religion or belief as it touches the root of human experiences. Each topic touches on something that is uniquely human and are situations and qualities that we can all relate to.  The chapters are accompanied by Gibran’s own artwork bringing to life the words in each chapter. He was a man of many creative talents.

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

This book, in some ways, is what poetry should be. It’s not complicated, you don’t have to decipher its meaning, and its content is accessible by everyone who wants to read it. Poetry often gets a bad rap for being highfalutin and pretentious making it a genre of books that many people don’t want to read or haven’t enjoyed reading in the past. Gibran had humble beginnings and his work is a testament to his humbleness. Poetry can be resoundingly beautiful, soul-touching, and thought-provoking without being complicated. The Prophet and its popularity is a testament to that.

The Prophet is also the type of book that can be revisited numerous times as its words and lessons never lose their potency and can serve as wonderful reminders in times of difficulty or uncertainty. I particularly enjoyed the sections on love, marriage, children, pain and death and I am sure will serve as helpful reminders when I need them. This is also the type of book that doesn’t need to be read in entirety or in one sitting, as each chapter is unique and can stand on its own. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is apprehensive of poetry or for someone looking for inspiration in everyday life.

Watermark by Joseph Brodsky

“The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.”

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 144 pages.
Read on December 25, 2018.

I knew nothing about the author or the book prior to reading it, and I still, know relatively little about this Nobel Prize winner. Apparently, Brodsky is a kind of a big deal. Literature-nerd fail? Joseph Brodsky was a Russian-American writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. He also became the United States Poet Laureate in 1991. He was practically expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and ended up immigrating to the US where he lived to the age of 55 before dying of a heart attack in the winter of 1996. While living in the US, however, he spent that majority of his winters in Venice, Italy.

This short novel is a semi-autobiographical love story/essay/poem about Venice. It has poetical prose and paints vivid details of the author’s perception of the city’s character. Did this book make me fall in love with a city I have yet to visit? No, it’s more of a personal reflection of each of the different visits that the author took so it provides more insight into the author’s mind more than anything. While Joseph’s writing didn’t speak to me, he is a gifted writer and I am intrigued enough to see what else he has written. Besides, it appears he liked cats so that’s a good enough reason for me to give him another shot.

Joseph-Brodsky
Photo from the Poetry Foundation.