In honor of What She Read’s Poem in Your Post Weekend Blog Hop, I offer you a poem I just found this week, courtesy of the amazing Jim Burke, who posted it on Twitter.

The Seven Of Pentacles

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

~ Marge Piercy ~

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While I Was Gone

Cover of "Rilla of Ingleside (Anne of Gre...

Cover via Amazon

Yes, I disappeared for a little while there, but rest assured, I’ve been reading.

This past holiday weekend on a long bus ride, I polished off two very different books, Getting to Happy and Freedom: A Novel (Oprah’s Book Club), and I liked both, for very different reasons. On a plane ride before that, I read two different slices of American history in Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line and For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago; again, both were fascinating and enjoyable, but for very different reasons. Then today, I bought an old childhood favorite of mine, Rilla of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables, No. 8), and read half of it already.

The problem is that in this frantic, hectic, end-of-the-school-year time, I just haven’t carved out any blogging time. I’ll be back soonish though, so if you want reviews of any of the books I’ve just mentioned, give me a shout here and I’ll whip one up. I’ve got a poetry post ready for the weekend, and will get back on my regular schedule sometime in the near future.

No, really.

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BTT: Age Appropriate

Cover of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

Cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Do you read books “meant” for other age groups? Adult books when you were a child; Young-Adult books now that you’re grown; Picture books just for kicks … You know … books not “meant” for you. Or do you pretty much stick to what’s written for people your age?

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question is one I’ve actually thought about before throughout my reading life.

As a kid, I often read books that were appropriate for where I was with my reading skills, but were not at all appropriate for me emotionally or developmentally. So I ended up reading books like Catcher in the Rye way before I was really ready for them, which spoiled me on some amazing books I could only appreciate after re-reading them. I’m trying to avoid this mistake with my own kids, because with some of my favorites, I want the introduction to go perfectly.

Now, I rarely read young adult or picture books for pleasure unless I am reading them with or for my own children. By “for,” I mean that when my kids are reading something I’m not familiar with, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, I try to read either one book in a series, or a single book, so I know what they are reading. Books have always been such a huge influence on me that I want to know what might be influencing my own kids.

I’m trying to read more YA lit because I think my students might be (or should be) reading it, and I’ve found some good examples of ones I would absolutely want my students, or some day my own children, to read. But just for pleasure? Never occurs to me.

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Lucy of Green Gables

I had a lovely book-loving mother moment Tuesday after the girls’ softball practice. Lucy had gotten a really solid hit on the first pitch and was feeling really satisfied and proud about it, and I said, “Yeah, the feeling you get when you know the bat has gotten a big piece of the ball is such a great feeling, right?”

She said, “Yeah, my bat hit that ball with a big thwack! just like Anne’s slate on Gilbert’s head.”

Then it was my turn to feel satisfied and proud.

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Not in Theaters: BTT

a souvenir from U.S.A

Image by masaaki miyara via Flickr

And–the reverse of last week’s question. Name one book that you hope never, ever, ever gets made into a movie (no matter how good that movie might be).

Oooh, this is a tough one. Tough because sometimes you can’t anticipate what terrible choices people will make (like totally miscasting Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart, let’s say).

I think, however, my final choice will be a movie that probably will never get made: The Catcher in the Rye, which has been tabooed as a result of Salinger’s tight control on all his work, and probably always will be. I don’t want to see anyone as Holden or Phoebe, I don’t want to see any of the book get excised, and I just don’t think his voice could be clearly transferred onto the big screen.

How about you?

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Reading Poetry Challenge, Stage One

Cover of "The Wellspring: Poems"

Cover of The Wellspring: Poems

During April, I challenged myself to read a poem every day, with care, with the intention of selecting four favorites at the end of the month and then reading the four books from whence they came. This was part of my general poetry month activities, but also a greater need I felt to immerse myself in poetry, to find inspiration in what I saw, for myself as a teacher, writer and lover of poetry.

If that last sentence resonates with you at all, I would highly recommend taking on a similar challenge, because I thoroughly enjoyed mine. At the end of the month, I ended up with nine poems I had starred as my favorites, all from the Knopf Doubleday poem-a-day emails, which really offered a treasure trove of wonderful poems. I winnowed those nine down to six, which offered a range of modern classic authors (Wallace Stevens) to contemporary poets like Deborah Digges. Even just reading through them again was a peaceful respite on a gray Sunday afternoon, at a stressful point in the school year, though the poems themselves are not particularly restful.

Settling on the final four was harder; I read more about each poet and thought about my own gaps in reading, read some sample poems and reviews and chose two relatively quickly. Then a colleague who had also gotten the Knopf emails came into my classroom one afternoon to share how much one of my favorites had also touched her, so I added the third title. Finally, I added the fourth because of the joyful tone of the poem I had liked, because who doesn’t need a little more joy?

Without further ado, here are the four books I’ll be reading for this challenge:

The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart: Poems, Deborah Digges
Selected Poems, Wallace Stevens
The Wellspring: Poems, Sharon Olds
Special Orders: Poems, Edward Hirsch

Upon further reflection and based on some of my choices, I don’t know that I’ll be able to do each book in a day, back-to-back, as Emily Gould did in her original challenge. I’ll review each book and post them, and then in a “stage two” entry, post about the experience of reading all four as the completion of my challenge. But like Laurie, I often read books of poetry in a more elongated way, so deadlines won’t apply as much here.

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Ripped from the Headlines (A Pair of Reviews)

Cover of "Room: A Novel"

Cover of Room: A Novel

Somehow a month has slipped by without me noticing that I haven’t been posting reviews; I’ve been posting about books, but not reviewing anything I’ve read. I’ve been doing a lot of “comfort reading” lately, I think, as the school year shifts into its manic closing gear, rereading books by authors I like instead of seeking out anything new.

But now that streak has come to an end. Like the last review I posted, I somehow ended up reading two books that both take horrific news stories as their starting place and then try to find their ways inside the minds of those involved. Both have unconventional narrators with distinct voice, and both are told with narrative techniques you don’t see everyday in modern fiction: the point-of-view of a five-year-old, the epistolary form most common a hundred years ago. Finally, both try to answer the unanswerable, and watch their characters try to construct their lives after major terrifying catastrophes.

Room: A Novel came out last year and quickly became a much-talked about book, for all the reasons I described above, but I think also because Donoghue not only conceived such a startling narrative structure, but she executed it brilliantly, in a novel that keeps you turning every page until it’s finished, but also lingers in your memory beyond the final scene. Jack, the five-year-old narrator, is a character for the ages, with a distinctive voice but also such a richly drawn persona. Jack and his Ma live in Room, where they have been kept prisoner for seven years by the man they call Old Nick, who kidnapped Ma when she was nineteen. The first half of the book takes place inside Room, and the second half after their Great Escape, showing their tentative reintegration into the world Jack has never known. The second half of the story is the one we in the general public often glimpse, like in the case of Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart, but never from the perspective of a child involved, and not in this detail.

We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel (P.S.) is a novel from the viewpoint of Eva Khatchadourian, who is writing letters to her estranged husband about their son, Kevin, who killed eleven people in a school massacre. I first read about the books years ago in a blog post, but only picked it up this week. Unlike Room, I didn’t stay up all night to finish it, and while Kevin is a book I do think is well-done, it’s a pricklier, thornier book to really say you “like.” Eva is a a prickly character herself, and it is that sharpness that she questions about herself, whether it was a maternal failing on her part that created her son, a sociopathic monster. Eva knows she will never know “why,” just like Dylan Klebold’s mother will never know why, but of course, that doesn’t mean she can stop asking herself, her husband or her son. Kevin is a also a novel about maternal ambivalence, and whether it’s okay to say the things we all fear mothers really want to say: that we regret having our children, that we love one more than the other or our husbands better than our children. Instead, we are supposed to be super-moms, writing letters to our babies, not yelling at them or wishing we could escape. I think every mother can at least agree that we have those moments of terror where we fear we truly are bad mothers, and the horror of Kevin is that Eva has a staggering amount of evidence to say that yes, perhaps she is a horrible mother after all.

So if you want to torment yourself with what it means to actually think you might be a terrible mother, or with the horror of what might happen to your children some day, feel free to pick up both or either of these! But also, if you want some thought-provoking and amazing fiction, give either of these a try.

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