What’s in a book? A reading life…

Books. They line the walls in tall bookshelves, linger in piles beneath the stairs, in stacks by both toilets, on the bedside table, an avalanche on my desk, a giant pile on the end table beside where I sit on the sofa… I’ve worked in bookstore and libraries. I’ve written a few (poetry, young adult novel). I’ve bought hundreds for the people that I love. I’ve taught their intricacies and broad themes, language that reaches in and grabs the heart, characters you love so much you wish they could live with you. And they do, or rather they live inside you.

But this is the first year that I’ve actually kept track of what books I’ve read. With three weeks remaining in the year, I’ve currently read fifty-two books. The monthly total has steadily increased now that I’m not teaching full-time. It has also helped to have access to an AMAZING library and the ARCs at the bookstore. Right this minute I have four books in progress that I hope to finish in the next week which I haven’t included in the tally.

It would be difficult to pin-point just one book that’s made a difference this year. It’s honestly the amalgam of their words, images, ideas, characters, and language which matters. Yes, I loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Couldn’t put down Room by Emma Donogue. Lingered over Come Thief by Jane Hirshfield and have re-read three times Space, In Chains by Laura Kasischke.

Because at my very core I am a poet, it is always poems that lodge like sweet spears into the meat of me. Like Dylan Thomas, I believe, “A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”

If you press me still, I might quote these two poems as the ones who have flavored the air the longest this year; but, I still have three weeks to go. Who knows what wonders I might unearth in that time?

The Supple Deer

The quiet opening
between fence strands
perhaps eighteen inches.

Antlers to hind hooves,
four feet off the ground,
the deer poured through.

No tuft of the coarse white belly hair left behind.

I don’t know how a stag turns
into a stream, an arc of water.
I have never felt such accurate envy.

Not of the deer:

To be that porous, to have such largeness
pass through me.

by Jane Hirshfield from Come, Thief: Poems

Riddle

Most days I cling to a single word. It is a mild-mannered creature made of
thought. Future, or Past. Never the other, obvious word. Whenever I reach
out to touch that one, it scurries away.

Even my identity has been kept hidden from me. It is a child’s ghost buried
in mud. It is an old woman waving at me from a passing train. First, a mul-
tiplication. Then, a densification. Then, a pale thing draped carelessly over a
bone.

Four weeks after my conception, I was given a tail. But then God had some
mystical vision of all I might be – and took the tail back.

It required no violence, no surgery, no struggle, this quiet thievery, this
snatching away of the deep, ancient secret. It would be true of everything:

My eyes closed, hands open, Take it, take it. Then, every day wasted
chasing it.

by Laura Kasischke in Space, in Chains

Moving through… and into…

#Reverb11 Prompt: What did you let go of this year? Whom did you let go?

Moving for me has always meant shedding one self and birthing another. This year I left behind my closed heart and moved to a place where I’m able to be more open. I let go of who I’ve always thought I would be. I’m doing things that make me happy, instead of rich, or respected, or famous, or “secure.” I let go of new and perfect and made friends with mended and textured. I left behind wanting to be a poet, and embraced writing poetry.

If you do creative work, watch this video….

Confession Tuesday – Ant versus grasshopper version

I confess that I am suffering from a bit of autumn waywardness.

While others might find autumn as the time to feather their nests and sock in supplies for the long winter (looking at you ant), I have traditionally found autumn to be the time when I examine what I have and decide what could go (just like grasshopper fiddling through the fields). Over the years autumn has been the time for cross-country moves, drastic haircuts, and discarding lovers. This autumn I am finding my footsteps in a new place, but I find myself wandering…into the woods and away from the best-laid plans.

So, I spent almost two entire days this weekend reading fiction with no thought other than to be sucked into the story. I heartily recommend Erin Morgenstern’s book The Night Circus for just such transportation into a time not your own. In some ways, I felt like a little kid again, knowing that there was so much that I was supposed to be doing, but instead just hunkering down on the sofa and reading. (Whereas ant would have been sending out her poems to carefully chosen literary magazines or harvesting bits of brilliance from the book for use in her later work.)

I was asked to submit a poem for an exhibit at our wonderful local museum. The title of the exhibit is “Who Has Lived Here?” At first I had planned to just submit a poem that I already had, but that felt like cheating, so I purchased a book about the communities who had lived around Kachemak Bay historically. What I thought would take just a few hours ended up taking a second trip to the library and lots of online research about a “lost” community  just across the bay from me. I confess that I loved the research more than I love the final poem, but at least it honestly feels like it might answer “Who Has Lived Here?” (Whereas ant would have just found a poem that fit pretty well and called it a day to move on to a more industrious task.)

Finally I confess that I’ve been wandering in the domain between art and craft. No, not poetry, but rather dyeing and stitching. There is something so gratifying about creating something from things harvested and scavenged. Where there was nothing but scraps, suddenly there is a story. It is the same sort of love that I have for poetry – what was only a blank page and an idea, is now rhythm, sound and image – story. (Whereas ant would be forcing herself to finish her chapbook, researching residencies, and industriously making connections in the publishing world.)

Snow is coming… forecast for next week as a matter of fact. So I guess that I better wander back to the nest and make sure that I’m ready! Is it too late for this grasshopper?