Thursday, March 31, 2016

Coming Soon: The 2016 Progressive Poem!

2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Diane at Random Noodling
8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
12 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
13 Linda at TeacherDance
14 Jone at Deo Writer
16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly
17 Kim at Flukeprints
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Charles at Poetry Time
21 Jan at Bookseedstudio
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Mark at Jackett Writes
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
30 Donna at Mainely Write

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Reading Update

Book #36 of the year was The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen.  This is the story of Jessica, a runner who is injured in an accident and has to have her leg amputated.  This is a new kind of race she's never experienced.  The first section of the book is called "The Finish Line," because Jessica feels as though her life - and certainly her running - is over.  But is it?

Book #37 was Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, by Addie Zierman.  I loved this book and the extended metaphor of confused, mixed-up faith.  Here's a synchroblog the author launched the day the book came out.

Book #38 was Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings.  This is a story of long friendships, centered around the summer camp where the protagonists meet as teenagers.  One of my favorite aspects of this book is that perhaps the central relationship in it is a platonic friendship between a man and a woman.  I can hardly think of another book where this is the case.

Book #39 was Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, a book about creativity.  Gilbert has such an appealing voice, and I enjoyed her take on writing.

When I described book #40, In Other Words, by one of my favorite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri, to my daughter, she responded that it was the most me book she could imagine.  It's about writing and our relationship to language.  Lahiri grew up speaking Bengali at home and English everywhere else, and as an adult she decided to learn Italian and start writing in it exclusively.  She wrote this book in Italian and someone else translated it into English.  In these essays and short stories she explores her connection to each of her three languages and how they have formed her identity as a woman and a writer.  My daughter was right: this book resonated strongly with me as someone who has a bit of a complicated relationship to several different languages. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poetry Friday, Good Friday

One of the holiest days in the western Christian calendar, this Friday is about suffering.  This poem is about avoiding suffering.  The poem says you can, but then illustrates that you really can't.  In every life there are moments and days without suffering, and those are to be seized and enjoyed.  "A Chapter, maybe a Volume..."

A History Without Suffering 

By E. A. Markham
In this poem there is no suffering.
It spans hundreds of years and records
no deaths, connecting when it can,
those moments where people are healthy
and happy, content to be alive. A Chapter,
maybe a Volume, shorn of violence
consists of an adult reading aimlessly.
This line is the length of a full life
smuggled in while no one was plotting
against a neighbour, except in jest.
Easter is coming, and right after that, National Poetry Month!  I am looking forward to the poetic celebrating, and especially to the Progressive Poem.  


Laura Purdie Salas will publish the first line here on April 1st!  My day this year isn't until the 20th.   

Friday, March 18, 2016

Poetry Friday: Wendell Berry

This is a time in the history of the United States when sanity seems to be in very short supply.  Wendell Berry is a good antidote for that.  I read this poem this week, and found it bracing.  It is so much the opposite of the kind of rhetoric that has filled the air lately. 

Here are some of my favorite lines:

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

Practice resurrection.

The rest of it is good, too.  Go on, read the whole thing. 

The roundup is here today.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Poetry Friday: Judgment of Paris

I love teaching Greek mythology to my eighth graders.  Every year we read a retelling of the Iliad together, and every year I am reminded of what a great story it is.  We just finished this year's reading, and I shared some poems with the kids based on the stories we'd read, including part of "The Judgment of Paris," by W.S. Merwin.  As we read it, the students identified each of the three finalists in the beauty contest that poor hapless Paris is required by the gods to judge.  Each offers Paris a bribe to choose her, but wisdom and power are a bit too abstract for him.  Not so the third offer: the most beautiful woman in the world.  I love how the poem ends, showing how Paris' decision has set in motion a whole series of events which nothing will be able to change.

it was only when he reached out to the voice
as though he could take the speaker
that his hand filled with
something to give
but to give to only one of the three
an apple as it is told
discord itself in a single fruit its skin
already carved
To the fairest

then a mason working above the gates of Troy
in the sunlight thought he felt the stone

in the quiver on Paris’s back the head
of the arrow for Achilles’ heel
smiled in its sleep

and Helen stepped from the palace to gather
as she would do every day in that season
from the grove the yellow ray flowers tall
as herself

whose roots are said to dispel pain

Here's the whole poem.

What choices that we'll make today will affect the course of our lives?  Or maybe even the lives of future generations?  We don't know, of course.  Chances are, they won't be as obviously unusual as a trio of goddesses to choose among.

Irene at Live Your Poem has the roundup today.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Reading Update

Book #24 of the year was Fairest: Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story, by Marissa Meyer.  Although I've enjoyed this whole series, I found this one hard to read.  We're in the head of such a very unappealing character, both horribly insecure and chronically manipulative.  I could hardly finish it, but I did.

Book #25 was An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor.  This is about how connected our bodies and souls are, and how we can find God in the details of our everyday life.  I enjoyed it and found it thought-provoking.

Book #26 was Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, by Lauren Winner.  Famously, Winner converted from Judaism to Christianity, and this book is about the aspects of Judaism that she misses in her adopted faith.  I've read several of Winner's books - my favorite is her newest, which I read in December - and liked them all.

Book #27 was Picture Bride, by Yoshiko Uchida.  This was a gift from my husband.  It's the story of a woman who travels from Japan to California in 1917 to marry a man she has never met.  There were many Japanese women who made this journey, and subsequently got caught up in the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two.  This was an intimate and heartbreaking story.

Book #28 was We'll Always Have Summer and book #33 was It's Not Summer Without You, by Jenny Han (yes, I read them in the wrong order - these are books three and two of the trilogy that began with The Summer I Turned Pretty).

Book #29 was Every Living Thing, by Cynthia Rylant, a book of short stories about animals.

Book #30 was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne.  I'm reading this with my seventh graders right now.  The story is told from the point of view of a naive 9-year-old whose father runs the concentration camp at Auschwitz.  Bruno lives next door to the camp, and befriends a prisoner who is the same age.  Though the book is childishly simple in its style, it packs a wallop.  It's quietly devastating.

Book #31 was A Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George.  I love these novels about Lynley and Havers, mostly because of the character development of the police protagonists.  This one was a particularly difficult case to read about.

Book #32 was Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys, the third dreadfully depressing book in a row.  This one is about a tragic event in World War Two.  If you read Sepetys' first book, Between Shades of Grey, be prepared for more of the same: doomed protagonists living through unbearable circumstances.  Almost too much, and I really needed the lighter fare of Jenny Han after this.

Book #34 was Rob Bell's new book, How to Be Here.  This was so good, and I am going to read it again immediately.

Book #35 was a devotional that I downloaded and started reading the day it came out, last March 10th.  So yesterday I finished reading it.  The book was Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist.  Although I enjoyed the book, I hadn't realized it was a devotional, and that most of the material was from her previously published books, all of which I had read.  Still, it was presented in a nice format, and I liked reading a bit of it each day through the year. 

Friday, March 04, 2016

Poetry Friday: Enough

This is one of my favorite songs on Sara Groves' latest album, "Floodplain."  I wish I could link you to a video, but I can't find one.  You can go to iTunes and listen to a sample of the song.  It's beautiful.

by Sara Groves

Late nights, long hours
Questions are drawn like a thin red line
No comfort left over
No safe harbor in sight

Really we don’t need much
Just strength to believe
There’s honey in the rock,
There’s more than we see
In these patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There’s enough for today
There will be enough tomorrow

Upstairs a child is sleeping
What a light in our strain and stress
We pray without speaking
Lord help us wait in kindness

Really we don’t need much
Just strength to believe
There’s honey in the rock,
There’s more than we see
In these patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There’s enough for today
There will be enough tomorrow

Here's today's roundup.