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

One Reply to “What’s in a book? A reading life…”

  1. Wow, I need to read that Kasischke collection! Wow…
    That’s such a validating concept, to keep track of what/how many books you read. I’m glad of the retrospective.

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