Poetry Wednesday – Andrew Joron

If the only poetry you read is the poetry here at Poetry Wednesday, then I have to admit, you’re getting a pretty skewed view of what good poetry is today.  For example, I rarely publish poetry that’s over 100 years old (I’ve  made one exception to that rule), because I believe that that stuff is already out there.  People are already reading Shakespeare and Donne and Eliot.  More than that, I don’t really read classic poetry that often, in the same way that I don’t read classic novels all that often.  Maybe it’s something I should be doing more, but I don’t.  At least, not in my free time.  Now that you mention it though, I might have to feature Dunne one of these weeks.  He’s one of my favorites.  I also don’t read a lot of experimental poetry.  I really loved the discussion that started up here in the comments last week when people weighed about whether they were more fond of poetry such as Rae Armantrout’s Language poetry or the simpler poetry of someone like Dumesnil.

Thankfully, the poets.org daily dose of poetry that’s coming to my inbox has made me read out of my comfort zone quite a few times this past month.  So now, I have a poem for you.  I’m not sure what I think of it.  There are certainly parts I enjoy, but as a whole?  We’ll have to see.

Spine to Spin, Spoke to Speak
by Andrew Joron

The pilot alone knows
That the plot is missing its

Why isn’t this “ominous science”
itself afraid, a frayed

Pray, protagonist –
Prey to this series of staggered instants.

Here the optic
Paints its hole, its self-consuming moment.
It is speech, dispelled, that
begs to begin to ache.

So that wind accelerates to wound, a dead sound
enlivened by the visitation of owls.

As pallid as parallel, the cry
Of the negative is not the negative
of the cry – an irreparable blessing -

A green world’s
“sibilant shadows” where
The syllables of your name are growing younger.

As involuntary as involuted, “who”
returns its noun
to each tender branch
That noon breaks into no one.

Point of view
Hovers, a circular cloud, over evacuated

That heard  its herd bellow below
the terraced cities, the milled millions

as sold as unsouled, ghost-cargos.

A symptom of the Maddening –
Woman undressed of her flesh.
Man’s address
to Thou, & the flag of Thou.

How the fallen state
Meets the starry horizon, veil
against witness, hunger against void.

O, oldest
outermost Other -

Ageing mask
Of the transparent Earth.  Unspeculated
Streaked with mirror & stricken words.

You are neither the torn, nor the thorn.

You are the many-petalled
melting point of repeating decimals…

Receiver, river
Has been burned into voice, a day-dark ribbon.

All signal is this


Have at it everyone.  What do you think of this poem?  What is your favorite wordplay? I like “the syllables of your name are growing younger” and “So that wind accelerates to wound, a dead sound”.

Poetry Wednesday – Cheryl Dumesnil

For National Poetry Month, Poets.org has a feature you can sign up for where they will send you a poem a day for the whole month.  I think they used to do this year round, but for some reason I don’t get those emails anymore, so I’m not sure if the program stopped or if something is wrong with my registration.  In any case, the poems they send out are almost always contemporary poets, but of many different styles.  It’s been amazing getting a little dose of poetry each morning and I try very hard to read them all.   The poem I have for you today was from two days ago and it is by poet Cheryl Dumesnil.  Last week, I featured Rae Armantrout who won the Pulitzer prize.  Dumesnil’s poetry is very very different from Armantrout and is generally more the kind of poetry I read.  It is easy to understand and there is beauty in its simplicity.

Prayer for Sleep by Cheryl Dumesnil

The chiropractor sent me home
with my left ankle taped, my neck
cracked, and instructions not to sleep

on my belly, so when it came time
for bed, I dropped a tequila shot,
laid back and closed my lids, entrails

exposed to vultures of bad dreams.
From the neighboring pillow,
my love whispered theories

of meditation, biofeedback, post-
traumatic stress, and prayer.  When
she asked, “If a divine creator

made the universe, who made
the divine creator?”  I mumbled,
“Are you trying to talk me to sleep?”

She smiled, then babbled
past midnight,contemplating out loud
the metaphysics of leaf production

the wonder of molecules
that make up our bed, the web
of my cell structure connected

to hers, until I fell asleep,
imagining the mitochondria
of words, thinking, if god is

love, let me sleep to this sound of her voice.


What a sweet poem.  I think my favorite part is “imagining the mitochondria/of words, thinking, if god is”.

What is your favorite line?  What kind of poetry do you prefer?  That of Armantrout or that of Dumesnil?

The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno

The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno is a book that I picked up after reading Jackie’s review a couple weeks ago; her praise is high and I was really looking forward to reading it.  After finishing reading the book, I have to say that while I agree with everything Jackie said in her review, I am also of two minds about it.  On the one hand, I do think that it is an interesting portrayal of the American family.  I don’t think that the writing style was gimicky and in fact I really enjoyed it.  I think The Great Perhaps‘s biggest flaw is that it goes against its own philosophy that there is beauty in the ordinary.

The Casper is a “family of cowards.”  Jonathan is a scientist who has been searching for the elusive giant squid for years with little success, but he also has a strange form of epilepsy that causes him to have a seizure whenever he sees a cloud or a cloud-shaped object.  I found this to be very flawed, because at one point Jonathan goes into a seizure at the sight of a white car.  What about pillows?  What about potato chip bags?  What about rice?  I mean, there are just hundreds of things that you see every single day that are shaped like a cloud.  Why did some of them make him have a seizure and others did not?

Madeleine, his wife, is also a scientist, but she is studying the behavior patterns of pigeons.  When she realizes that Jonathan doesn’t have any room for her in his life, she leaves him and her family for a while.  I really didn’t like Madeleine or enjoy her parts of the novel.  I did not understand the  “cloud man” she follows or what that could possibly mean.  I did not understand her intentions or motivations.  I just did not like her.  I liked Madeleine through the eyes of her husband much more, because he seems to be in love with a totally different woman.

Amelia, their oldest daughter, is an angry, communist teenager who is building a bomb for her history project.  I also disliked her, but I really loved the way her character grew and changed over the course of the novel.  Her story ended up being one of my favorites because when her shell finally begins to crack and she realizes what she has done, it is an amazing moment.  I loved her interactions with her classmate towards the end.

Thisbe is Jonathan and Madeleine’s youngest daughter and her storyline was by far my favorite.  I loved every single minute of it and I wish Thisbe could have had her own book.  Thisbe, raised by two atheists, has found religion.  She prays all the time, she goes to church to light candles and she is always concerned with how God will feel about the things she does.  When she starts to have feelings for other girls, Thisbe’s relationship with God becomes very interesting.  Joe Meno really won me over with Thisbe.  There is nothing more realistic in this novel than Thisbe’s prayers – I feel like they are exactly how a 14-year-old would pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, Thisbe says silently, closing her eyes, let the world be as nice tome today as this cat.  Please do not let anyone utter a harsh word or give me a dirty look  for being a spaz.  Please do not let me drop anything while I am walking in the hallway.  Please do not let certain people pretend that I do not e xist.  And please do not let anyone I love die anytime soon, at least until I am in my thirties.  Through Christ, our Lord, amen. (401)

Isn’t that just perfect?

Finally there is Henry, who has the second best story out of the entire family.  He was a teenager during WWII and also a first generation German immigrant.  His father is taken in by the FBI, though we’re never certain if he is guilty or not, and the entire family is put in an internment camp.  After a while, the family is given an option of leaving the internment camp to return to Germany and everyone accepts except Henry.  He becomes obsessed with trying to find the Japanese twin girls he sees die in a fire at the internment camp.  We meet Henry when he is at a nursing home.  Every day he decides to use less words until there is nothing left to say.  I really loved Henry’s part of the book, except for the radio shows, but I wish it had been shorter.  There were some things I found unnecessary to the story.

Ultimately, I loved the beginning of this book, adored the ending, and despised the middle.  I thought about giving it up, but I’m truly glad I did not.  I think that this book celebrates ordinary life and all of the oddities within it, and I wish Meno had kept it at that.  The inclusion of some very strange events and details really threw this book for me, otherwise it would have been one of my favorites for the year.  I think a lot of people will adore this book, like Jackie did, and a lot of people will be frustrated with it.  Still more will be somewhere in between, like I am.  There are absolutely things to love about this book, so I can recommend it.

So go read this!:  now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Also reviewed by: Farm Lane Books, Largehearted boy.

Book  provided by: the library.

TSS – Author events & library book sales

Even though book blogging has been a pretty crazy place lately, I just want to say that I love doing this.  This week I have gotten some of the most amazing emails from authors, some of the best tweets and some of the best conversations.  So I just wanted to say to all of you: thank you for everything you do.  Thank you authors who are reading this blog and take the time to email me.  Thank you readers who comment all the time, thank you new readers and thank you lurkers.  You all make blogging wonderful.

You know what else is wonderful?  Seeing Margaret Atwood give a reading from The Year of the Flood and discuss writing and the environment with She.  She even sang us one of the hymns from The Year of the Flood!  It was amazing.  Rebecca at Book Lady’s Blog has a much more detailed and comprehensive rundown of the event.  I’ve only ever been to two author events, Tim O’Brien and Margaret Atwood, and both were absolutely amazing.  It definitely is a high standard set.  Where Tim O’Brien had me in tears the entire time, Margaret Atwood had me laughing hysterically.  She’s so funny!  I got my copy of Oryx & Crake signed and Ms. Atwood told me she liked my nail polish.  We also talked about Twitter.

You know what else is amazing?  LIBRARY SALES.  I killed the library sales last weekend and this weekend.

All of these books cost less than $30!  In the real world they easily would have cost $400!  There were two separate library sales, one at the library by my boyfriend’s house and this weekend at my library.  Both libraries had an amazing selection, though  I have to admit the one near Z’s house had a lot more like-new books.   I can’t wait to dig into these books as soon as my finals are over.

So are you ready for the run-down?!  I hope someone feels like reading about this awesome loot, because I’m going to list them all.

1) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood: I found this mint condition copy of The Blind Assassin and was thinking about getting it signed when I went to hear her speak, but ended up just taking Oryx & Crake.  I’m really excited to read this one because it looks fascinating.

2) Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875-1945: This book sounded really interesting and I want to read non-fiction this year, so this was a win.

3) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon: I have read one Chabon and really enjoyed it.  I got this one from the library and had to return it before I finished.

4) Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris: I really trust Oprah’s Book Club.  I usually like them a lot, so I picked this one on a whim based on the Oprah sticker.

5) The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry: Poetry!

6) Until I Find You by John Irving: I love John Irving and everything I’ve ever read of his, so I’m really looking forward to it.

7) A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: I was really excited to find this book for so cheap because it is huge.  I know that Eva read this and enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to it.

8) The Lost City of Z: A Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann: I was kind of disappointed that this book is missing the dust jacket, but I really want to read it, so I grabbed it.

9) Flesh & Blood by Michael Cunningham: I read and loved The Hours and A Home At the End of the World (until the ending…) and was so-so about Specimen Days, but I’m looking forward to reading this one.

10) Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres: This memoir looks absolutely fascinating!  Julia grew up in rural Indiana and has two adopted black brothers.  She also stays at a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic.

11) Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra: I haven’t heard much about this, but it’s another one I was excited to find for so cheap.

12) Deaf Sentence by David Lodge: This is about a linguist.  I love linguists!

13)Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan: Another one I checked out from the library and didn’t get a chance to read.

14) Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks: I got Birdsong off BookMooch a long long time ago and still haven’t read it, but something about this guy intrigues me.

15) The Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic: This book is pretty much amazing.  I read a bunch of it a couple years ago, but never finished before I had to take it back to the library (um, trend?).  It’s a lexicon and was originally published in Serbo-Croatian.

16) Kare Kano by Masami Tsuda: My first manga! I’m not sure what this one is about, but Z says it is good.

17) Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee: I read a piece of travel writing by Chang-Rae Lee in a college class and fell in love with it.  I’ve been trying to find one of his books ever since.

18) The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken: Beautiful cover! Not sure what it is about, but I am swayed by lovely covers.

19) Mao II by Don DeLillo: I read The Body Artist by DeLillo years ago and hated it.  But I always like to give authors a second try and a lot of people really love DeLillo, so we’ll  see how it goes.

20)Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde: Glad to get my hands on this one!  My only fear?  That I’ll end up wanting to own the whole series!

21) Jewel by Bret Lott: Something about this book screamed summer reading and I just had to have it. Anyone read it or another book by this author?

22) Silence by Shusaku Endo: This is a random find.  I’ve never heard about it, but it looks really really interesting.

23) Peace Like A River by Lief Enger: This another one that I think I am vaguely familiar with.  Looks wonderful!

24) The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe: Let me tell you a story about Tom Wolfe that I might have told you before.  I read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test for a class my freshman year of college and enjoyed it.  I thought it was interesting and well-written.  So then I picked up I Am Charlotte Simmons and it was AWFUL.  TERRIBLE.  One of the WORST books I’ve ever read!  Talk about stereotyping everyone.  From college students, to people from rural areas, to women and GAH.  I hated that book.  Most of all, I hated how often Wolfe felt the need to say loins.  Have you ever heard anyone say the word loins in real life?  No.  The answer to that question is no.  Then I tried to read The Bonfire of the Vanities, got to page 4 and he said loins and I lost it.  I marched back to the library and returned the book.  Anyway, one day I might be able to read this.  Maybe.  We’ll see.

25) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: Classic, yay!

26) Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson: I have loved everything I have read of Jacqueline Woodson, so I am very excited to own my first book by her.

Okay, whew.  I’m exhausted now!  Have you read any of these books?  Which ones should I take to the beach with me?  What should I start with? Have a wonderful Sunday, kids!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I keep telling you that I am not a mystery reader.  You know, “Blah blah blah, mysteries meh, but this one was really good!”  Okay, at some point I have to admit that I’m loving on the mysteries, even with all of the things about it that were really “mystery-y”; all the tropes, like formulaic plots, uncanny coincidences, etc.  But really, you try and read about Flavia de Luce and tell me you don’t like her.  It’s not possible.

Flavia and her family live on an old estate in post-war England.  It’s a picturesque countryside where nothing very exciting happens.  Until Flavia wakes up one night and hears her father arguing with an unfamiliar man.  The next morning, as Flavia is walking outside to begin her day, she finds that same man laying in the garden.  He takes a breath and says the word, “Vale!” and promptly dies.  As Flavia says, it is the most exciting thing that happens in her life.

There are so many things to like about this book, but the best part is Flavia herself.  Her one passion in life is poisons and using them to get back at her evil sisters.  When her father is wrongly accused of murdering the mysterious man, she decides that she is going to find out who the killer is herself to save his name.

As for the rest, I’ll let you discover it.  Just know that I have totally jumped on this bandwagon.

One of my favorite quotes:

“As I stepped to one side to peer in the window, I noticed a handmade sign crudely drawn with black crayon and stuck to the glass: CLOSED.

Closed?  Today was Saturday.  The library hours were ten o’clock to two-thirty, Thursday through Saturday; they were clearly posted in the black-framed notice beside the door.  Had something happened to Miss Pickery?

I gave the door a shake, and then a good pounding.  I cupped my hands to the glass and peered inside, but except for a beam of sunlight falling through motes of dust before coming to rest upon shelves of novels there was nothing to be seen.

“Miss Pickery!” I called, but there was no answer.

“Oh, scissors!” I said again.  I should have to put off my researches until another time.  As I stood outside in Cow Lane, it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

No… eight days a week. (58)

So go read this!:  now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Other reviews: everyone and their mother.

PS: Is not Flavia an amazing name?

PPS: I’m totally going to start saying “Oh, scissors!”

Flyaway by Suzie Gilbert

If you’re skipping this review because this cover doesn’t interest you (which it should, because it is darling), or because you think a book  about wild bird rehabbers won’t interest you, or because you don’t read non-fiction or memoirs all that often, please let me stop you.  Flyaway is one of the funniest, captivating memoirs I have read in a long time that manages to find the perfect balance of emotion, information, fact and well-written prose.  I can’t recommend it enough!

Let me begin by saying that the world of wild birds is completely foreign to me, especially wild songbirds.  My closest connection to the world of birds was my parrot named Clyde.  I got him in the fifth grade and we adored each other, even though he bit me when I tried to feed him.  Didn’t he know the rules?  I think he would have just enjoyed it more if I let him camp out on the edge of my plate and eat my food.  It was heartbreaking when, for reasons completely outside of my control, we had to part ways.  In that sense, I understood the tiniest bit what Suzie Gilbert was talking about, but other than that, all of the information in this book was new to me.

Suzie Gilbert begins her life as a wild bird rehabber by volunteering at an already established center, but once she caught the rehabbing bug, she couldn’t give it up.  Thanks to the donations of several people, Suzie was able to begin her small organization that eventually she names Flyaway Inc. to help injured birds and raise babies and fledglings.  With two young children of her own, Suzie vastly underestimates the amount of time being a bird rehabber will take, but with grace and an unfaltering love for the wildlife she protects, Suzie makes rehabbing not only a full time job, but also a lifelong passion.  Suzie’s husband and children play a large part in this book and I grew to love them as much as I did Suzie and her birds.

This book is a roller coaster of emotions, from hilarious moments, to touching moments, to downright tear-inducing, tragic moments, but it ebbs and flows so naturally.  Not only did Gilbert entertain me, but she educated me.  I was briefly considering making my cat an outdoor cat, but Oscar will have to be satisfied watching the birds from the window because Gilbert carefully explained the dangers house cats (and the growing population of feral cats) pose on endangered bird species.  Outside of her personal stories, this memoir is filled with information about all the wild birds that Suzie rehabs and about the resources available to people who find injured birds.  Though I wouldn’t classify this book a “how-to”, the information within is wonderful for anyone who shares the land with wild birds.  So, you know, everyone.

This book is compellingly readable, taking only a few hours to finish, and I have to admit that I was addicted to it this past weekend.  I found myself unable to sleep one night until I knew what happened to Suzie and her birds.   If I had any complaints, they would be that I would have liked even more information.  I wanted to know more about the birds and more about her family.  I was also unsure about how much time had passed between the first page and the last.  I couldn’t tell how old her children were by the end, but I’m sure that’s a question she could easily answer.  These are incredibly minor complaints that do not take away from what a wonderful reading experience this was.  I really enjoyed reading this book and I think that everyone who enjoys a good story will too, even if you thought a story about wild birds could never be that interesting… trust me, it is!

Favorite quotes:

A moment when Suzie Gilbert made me laugh –

While most people’s protective instincts are aroused by cuddly creatures such as puppies and ducklings, mine are also triggered by homicidal raptors with records of assault. (56)

A quote that made me tear up a little –

We clean, feed, study, attend conferences, amass arcane knowledge, and learn to handle the creatures who fear us.  Our triumph is to accept an injured wild animal, treat its injuries, carefully learn each one of its quirks and preferences, help it heal, and then let it go.  If things go according to plan, we will never see it again.

Somehow, this is enough.

“Do you ever fall in love with the animals you take care of?” I asked a rehabilitator, naively, years and years ago.

She gave me a small, rueful smile.  “Every single one,” she said. (127)

And, finally, just a passage I thought was particularly lovely –

Time flew toward the summer sky.  The small spot of orange became a string of orange lights draped festively around my flight cage, shining into the darkness.  The roof opened and fireworks shot straight up into the night and fell as birds, swooping upward before they reached the earth.  The string of lights turned into a flock of orioles.  And in place of the sound of explosives was a voice so beautiful it could ease a troubled mind and wash it all away.  Like rain. (255)

If you are looking for an organization to donate to, or would like more information about what resources are available in your area, please check out the Wildlife Rehabilitation directory.  You can type in your zip code and there is a directory including the rehabber’s phone number, location and which animals they take in.  Check it out!

Also please check out Suzie Gilbert’s website to watch a video of her releasing a hawk that has been rehabbed!  It’s amazing!!

So go read this!: now| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Thank you to TLC book tours for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Other reviews: Bookfoolery and Babble, DogEar Diary.  Previous stop on the tour: Raging Bibliomania.  Next stop on the tour: Farmgirl Fare.

Poetry Wednesday – Rae Armantrout wins the Pulitzer

The Pultizer Prize winners were announced on Monday and I have to be the first to admit I had heard of exactly zero of the winners and only one or two of the nominees.  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, I certainly wasn’t alone.  I think you can look at prizes like this from two perspectives.  There is the idea that the award is out of touch with what people are actually reading and that it would serve the awards committees to perhaps pay a little bit more attention to what is, if not popular, then actually on people’s radar.  But then there is the flip-side of that coin.  No one said that the Nobel or the Pulitzer or the National Book Award were for books that people are reading, just books that are excellent.  I think it would have been boring if they had chosen a book that everyone had read and was familiar with.  In this way, they opened up an entire new group of readers to Tinkers by Paul Harding, and as I want to show you today, the poetry of Rae Armantrout.

I’ve never read Rae Armantrout, so I immediately set out to read some of her poems at Poets.org, which is an amazing website and resource that allows you to not only read some of the poems of the best poets out there, but also has a wealth of recorded versions of the poems so you can listen to them.  Most of these are read by the author, so you can hear the poems as they were meant to be heard.

Rae Armantrout was a founding member of the Language school of poets.  A particularly avant-garde group of writers that, according to Wikipedia, focuses on disjunction and often employs prose poetry instead of traditional verse.  After reading that, I was expecting Armantrout’s poetry to be very inaccessible, but what I have read so far is extremely accessible and wonderful to read.  The subject matter is sometimes elusive, but the language is gorgeous and you can just reach at what she is trying to reach.  I think I have found a new favorite poet.

This is the first poem I read of Rae Armantrout, and it is the one I keep going back to.  It was originally published in the June 2008 issue of Poetry.


Haunted, they say, believing
the soft, shifty
dunes are made up
of false promises.

Many believe
whatever happens
is the other half
of a conversation.

Many shipser
white lies
to the dead.

“The boys are doing really well.”

Some think
nothing is so
until it has been witnessed.

They believe
The bits are iffy;

the forces that bind them,


Honestly, I’m not sure that I could tell you right now what I think this poem is about.  Mostly it is the mystery that is really pulling me in right now and I love it.   I think I’m just going to reread it a couple or a hundred times and then maybe I’ll come back to you with an explanation.

What do you think of the Pulitzer nominees?  What do you think of the poem “Djinn” by Rae Armantrout?

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Sometimes I like to tell you the  story of how I came to read a book, because the story is so coincidental, and the book is so amazing, it’s as if divine intervention put the book in your hands.  You didn’t choose it, it chose you and there’s really not a whole lot you could have done about it.  Now, I requested Love is the Higher Law from the library, so I had some hand in it, but I never expected to read it the day I picked it up from the library, I never expected to read it one sitting, I never expected to love it.  I requested a random book from David Levithan simply because I know Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a join effort by Levithan and John Green, is out and I wanted to be at least a little familiar with Levithan.  I picked Love is the Higher Law, because I had seen a good review over at Bending Bookshelf and I had little interest in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  Plus, Love is the Higher Law is an awesome title.  I only started reading it as soon as I got it because the library lost one of my holds and went searching for it.  So, what does a person like me do when they have to wait somewhere for a long time?  We read.

And I read.  And then I got in my car and all I wanted to do was keep reading.  Then I got home and I read and I read.  I cried a little.  And then I read some more until the book was over and all I wanted to do was keep talking about it.  Maybe I’m a sucker for books about September 11, but I can’t help it. 10 years later, I still want to tell you where I was and what I was doing.  And I still want to talk about how none of my sisters remember it at all because they are so young, and that, among everything else, will probably define where our generation ends and begins.  Because I remember what it was like before.

The point is that, not only do I want to tell you, but I want to hear it.  I want to hear where you were, and what you were doing and how this huge thing changed your life.  That’s what David Levithan does with Love is the Higher Law. Essentially, this book is about grief.  It’s about grief that’s bigger than one person, than one family, than one city.  It’s about a grief that holds over an entire country, but that each individual person feels acutely in some way, shape or form.  Yes, this book has plot and there are characters, but who the characters are doesn’t really matter, because it could be you or me or your next door neighbor.  The thing about grief is that it is the most universal and yet most individual feeling in the world.  Explaining what grief feels like seems impossible, it’s too much bigger than words.  Somehow, though, David Levithan manages to make this a story that’s even bigger that September 11 by the end.  This book is about 3 New York teenagers who are trying to sort through their feelings about what happened, while at the same time dealing with going away to college for the first time and trying to find love.

Claire, Jasper and Peter become friends through coincidences.  Claire and Peter are acquaintances at school, who are both at a friend’s party.  Jasper is there too, a friend of another friend.  Jasper and Peter have a flirtation that does not end well.  Jasper and Claire randomly meet each other again and have beautiful conversations.  They form an odd friendship, the three of them, but it is the best kind of friendship.  How it began is too coincidental, too strange to even seem real.

The narration switches from three main characters and I think out of all of them, Jasper was the strongest.  I would have liked more Claire and Peter, but Jasper really carried this book.  More than anything, I think the alternating voices give different perspective to the event itself.  Claire was at school, but ended up leaving to find her little brother.  They walked with the rest of the elementary school to a safer part of the city and her description of what that was like was absolutely terrifying.  Jasper was house sitting for his parents, who are visiting family in Korea, and slept through the whole thing.  Can you imagine going to sleep and waking up to find the entire world has changed?

If I could, I would quote this whole book to you.  But I will settle with this conversation:

She went on, “There’s the drown of things and the swim of things, I guess.  I’ve been going back and forth, back and forth.  I feel the weight of it. […]  Have you talked to people about this?”  Claire asked me.  “I mean, about what happened?  I’ve tried, but it never works.  I don’t know what I want from it, but I’m never satisfied.  I can’t talk to my mom about it.  And even my friends are strange to talk to, because they’re all caught up in their own versions, and every time I bring it up, they make it about them.”

I almost forgot she’d asked me a question.  Then she paused, and I said, “Oh.  Me?  I haven’t really talked to anyone….  I mean, what’s the point?”

This wasn’t really a question meant to be answered, but Claire looked out to the water and gave it a shot.

“I think the point is to realize you’re not alone.” (103)

I think everyone should read this book, because we’re not done talking about September 11th.  We’re going to have to explain to kids what it was and what it meant and how things were different before.  How will we do that?  How will I explain to my children where I was and what I was doing and how confusing and terrifying it was for a 12-year-old? There are no answers to those questions, I know that.  The readers who are the target audience for this book are kids like my sisters, they were there, but they probably don’t remember it too well.  This book will explain something, will explain the loss we all felt.  But they aren’t the only ones who should be reading it, so please, get out there, grab this book and read it.  It’s beautiful and heart breaking and one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

So go read this!:  NOW| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Also reviewed by: Mrs. Magoo Reads, Book Addiction, Reading Rants!, The Book Obsession, Read this Book!, She is too fond of books, Bending Bookshelf, The Reading Zone, Read What You Know.

TSS – I love school, right?

Hello, everyone!  I think this post will eventually be about books, so bear with me.  Or skip to the part about books and call it a Sunday morning.  I’m sure everyone is plenty exhausted from yesterday’s Readathon and while I’m sad that I didn’t get to participate this year, it’s probably best for my brain that I didn’t.  As quiet as things have been at Regular Rumination the past few weeks, they’re only going to get quieter because there are only about four weeks of school left, which means finals.

I don’t talk about graduate school here very often, I’m not sure why.  It has to do with books, right?  You guys like books, I like books, but I never have very much to tell you about what I’m doing.  You know I’m writing my thesis on 2666, you might know that I’m currently rereading it for class (posts on that to follow).  Probably most people go into graduate school with some kind of idea of what they’re doing; I went to graduate school because I had (have) no idea what else to do.  When people ask my parents what I’m doing, they tell them I’m a professional student and I’m really not all that disappointed to be one.

I’ve thought of a lot of professional careers and I’ve had all the majors to prove it.  Once in my life I wanted to be a novelist, so I was an English major.  Then I decided to be an English professor, novelist on the side.  Then I wanted to be a linguist.  Then an English as a Second Language teacher.  Non-profit director!  High school Spanish teacher!  Librarian! Then I just wanted to read books in Spanish and be a poet on the side.  But no one pays you to do that.   I wish I had some direction right now, but all I’m trying to do is get through this semester.  There is a point in every semester when I sit down and am panicked at how much I have to do and how little time I have to do it and this is it.

Why can’t someone just pay me to have a book blog?

I’m actually very excited about my finals this semester.  I’m going to try and balance out the work, so I don’t end up running completely up to the last minute like I did in the fall.  I’m writing two linguistics finals and one literature final.  One of my linguistics finals is about the subjunctive tense and the other is sociolinguistics and it’s the use of accents in comedy in Spanish speaking countries.  My lit paper is on 2666 and will hopefully be part of a chapter for my thesis.

For that paper, I’m rereading 2666 right now and what is it about reading a book for school that makes it seem like such a chore?  I loved 2666, but rereading the first two parts was not fun.  Fortunately, things picked up during the third part.  I think because the first time around I really hated reading it and this time I actually see the point of it.  Thinking of it in the context of the border really helped me understand its purpose and I enjoyed reading it, unlike last time where I was so repulsed by it.  I’m still disgusted by a lot of what happens in the Part About Fate, but at least it feels integral to the novel.  I have so many questions and not a lot of answers.  I have a lot of thoughts, but not a lot of concrete ideas or any ways to prove them.  I’ve been slowly formulating ideas.

So thanks for listening to me whine a little about having no direction in life and having to write papers!  I know it’s silly and there are much bigger things to worry about in the world, but at least you know why things have been pretty quiet around here!

I didn’t get a chance to finish any of my Octavio Paz books for March (go figure), but I’m still working on them slowly.  Maybe you did better than me!  Did you read any Ocatvio Paz books?  Leave a link to your post in the comments section and I will add them here.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung

Last night, when I began reading Savor, I sat down at my couch with my dinner plate.  The television was on, my roommates and I were having conversations here and there about what was on TV, my computer was in front of me so I could check Twitter updates and Google Reader updates now and then, I was munching on my panko-breaded chicken and green beans and all the while trying to read Savor.  Then I read the introduction and took a long hard look at what I was doing and realized that I was completely ignoring my mindfulness about eating and was therefore, mindlessly eating.

The best concepts in this book come at the very beginning, with the introduction and the first few chapters, to introduce you to the concept of mindfulness to beat out mindlessness.  I have been struggling with my weight since I was in the fifth grade.  I have read diet books before, but I don’t think I would classify Savor as a diet book.  This book is certainly more about changing your entire life and your perceptions of the world and your actions in it.  Will this book change your life?  It could, but even though it certainly made me more aware of what I am eating and how, it didn’t drastically change mine.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life is written by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh with the help of Dr. Lilian Cheung and it applies Buddhist principles to all aspects of our lives, from eating and choosing what to eat, to interacting with family and friends and even surviving a commute.  This book is at its strongest when it is directly applying Buddhist concepts and ideas to food, but unfortunately it delves into too many other topics keeping it from having as great an impact.

For some people, like me, Savor will be a book that they glance at and take some principles from.  Even though many books and magazines have told me “chew your food slower!”, Cheung and Nhat Hanh’s approach to really appreciating your food and thinking about where it came from to get to your plate struck me as a more contemplative and helpful way of eating your food slower.  Savor encourages eating less meat and promotes the benefits of vegetarianism, along with abstaining from alcohol.  What I liked about their approach was they never said, “Don’t eat meat!”  What they ask is that readers be completely conscious of what it took to get that meat to your plate.  If, after being entirely knowledgeable about the process and detriments of eating meat, you still are not interested in giving it up entirely, please only eat it a little bit.  This was very appealing to me, in comparison to other books that do not take life necessities into consideration.

Over the past five months or so, I have become increasingly more conscious of what food I put into my body and how it affects my body.  Over the past four weeks, I have begun to eat much healthier.  It has been a combination of motivation from friends and family, books I have read and my own personal research on the internet that has made this transformation for me.  At this point I really do feel as though I can call it a transformation, because I feel different than I ever have in my life and my cravings have finally left.  I loved fast food.  It began as a time constraint from commuting and it turned into something much worse, where I was constantly craving fatty foods, even if I had a delicious dinner to make at home.  I have started eating as minimally processed foods as I can, I eat much less meat (though I’d have a hard time giving up eggs as Savor suggests), I’ve reduced my dairy consumption to two servings a day and my calorie intake is significantly lower.  I’ve been going to the gym consistently for four weeks now.  Do you know the last time that happened?  Never.

So did Savor have much of an impact on how I’m approaching this change in my life?  I’m not sure.  I definitely plan on being more conscious of my food and how it got to my plate.  I will be aware of how my decisions affect others, perhaps, but for the most part I think this book reaffirmed a lot of what I already believed.   I think that I would love to attend one of the seminars discussed in this book and think that the information probably could have been organized better, or even in a different medium than a book.  A lot of the information seemed repetitive, but in terms of actively putting it to use, I’m sure it will be helpful, especially all of the breathing exercises.  Will I be passing this book on to family members?  Absolutely.  I’ll let you know what they think of it.

If you are interested in reading Savor or learning more about what mindful eating is, head over to Savor’s website.  It’s very helpful and well-organized (I’m a sucker for a beautiful, well-organized website) and there is a community of folks who are trying to live their lives mindfully.

So go read this!: It’s hard to say.  I think everyone could benefit from reading this book, but I don’t think everyone is going to get the same, or even the same number of, helpful tips for successfully having a healthier relationship with food.  I recommend it, but with the knowledge that it’s not a perfect book or perfect for everyone.

Thanks to TLC tours for sending me a copy of this book to review today!

Other stops on the tour: I write in books, Bibliofreak Blog, Rundpinne, Escape from Obesity, Balanced Health and Nutrition, Pasta Queen, Happy Lotus, The Token Fat Girl, Laughing Through the Chaos, The Tippy Toe Diet, Crunches for Cupcakes, 133ov, Fit Bottomed Girls, Nutrition Unplugged, A Blog Blog.

National Poetry Month – Claudia Emerson

I know that a lot of readers of Regular Rumination come here for poetry recommendations on Wednesdays (I hope!), but today for National Poetry Month I have an extra suggestion for you!  The poet I want to feature today is Claudia Emerson.  I’ve told you in the past how I come across the poems and poets I want to feature on my blog, and I’ve told you that I have a few favorites to share, and Claudia Emerson is one of them.  She won the Pultizer in 2006 and is the Poet Laureate of Virginia.

One thing I love about poetry is that a lot of what is published out there is available online.  Unlike a novel, you can read full poems in a variety of places around the internet.  You can read a little bit or you can read a lot, without leaving the comfort of your computer chair or spending a lot of money.  I think it’s a wonderful thing and really I have no excuse for not reading more of it.  I’d like to point you to a couple places where you can read Claudia Emerson’s poetry online, but you really can’t go wrong with any of her books.  I have read some of them and they are absolutely amazing.

You can read four of her poems at Verse Daily, PBS has an excellent interview with her after she wont he Pultizer, including a really beautiful poem entitled “Artifact”.  There are also three more of her poems to read on PBS’s Poetry Series website.  Poet’s Spotlight, featuring five poems.

As someone who writes poetry, I feel as though I can’t escape the things I write about and I end up writing the same poem over and over again, just in a different shape.  Looking at it from my perspective, it gets pretty boring.  So I am forever awed by the incredible variety of topics and shapes that Claudia Emerson’s poetry takes.  Her book Pinion: An Elegy is a book-length poem from the perspective of one woman named Rose.  Late Wife, the Pulitzer Prize winning collection, is a series of poems to and about her first husband and her second husband.  PBS’s interview addresses this book specifically, but it deals with the love and loss of her first marriage in divorce and her second husband’s late wife.  Her newest collection of poetry is Figure Studies, a collection of poems in three parts.  “All Girls School” is about a fictional girl’s boarding school, “Gossips” is a series of poems voiced by women about other women, and finally, “Early Lessons” is narrated by children about the older women they observe.

As my professor, mentor and friend, Claudia Emerson has influenced me greatly as a poet and a person.  I hope that you will take the time out of your day for National Poetry Month to read one of the poems I have linked to here.  They are unforgettable poems that have meant a lot to me as a reader and a writer of poems.  Enjoy!

Thank you to Serena of Saavy Verse and Wit for organizing the National Poetry Month Blog Tour!  Yesterday’s stop was at Diary of an Eccentric and tomorrow’s stop is at Indextrious Reader.