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A Poem for a Thursday #65

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash
Willa Cather was an American author who wrote novels about frontier life on the Great Plains. She grew up from the age of ten in Nebraska where she lived among European immigrants. Her books portray the lives and cultures of the people she lived among. For many years she was dismissed as a regional author but she is now appreciated for her nuanced writing and the descriptions she provides of immigrant life.

A crimson fire that vanquishes the stars;
A pungent odor from the dusty sage;
A sudden stirring of the huddled herds;
A breaking of the distant table-lands
Through purple mists ascending, and the flare
Of water ditches silver in the light;
A swift, bright lance hurled low across the world;
A sudden sickness for the hills of home. 

Prairie Dawn
Willa Cather


Reading Recently


This past weekend I realized I was reading four books at once. That is a lot, even for me, and I usually have a couple of books going at once. I kept enthusiastically starting a book and then, just as enthusiastically, I would start another book. And another. And another. I have managed to finish two of the four and am restraining myself from picking up any more books until the other two are finished.

I reread Little Women and it made me happy.  It was one of the first books I fell obsessively in love with. I think I was six or seven. I read and reread it many, many times over the years. I have strong opinions about it (no, Jo should not have married Laurie) and I strongly feel that if you don't love it too you are wrong. Yes, it is a bit old-fashioned but it is a heart-warming story about people who feel real. Real things happen to them; they argue, they laugh, they marry, they are disappointed, they are imperfect and therefore, loveable. I firmly believe every one of us has a bit of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in us. I am planning on going to see the new movie because I hear such good things about it but I am a little nervous. It might be excellent but it might not be my Little Women. We shall see.

My next great book love after Louisa May Alcott was Jane Austen. I went on to read her novels just as obsessively and I still do. I am slowly working my way through the volume of essays in the photo. So far, they are all very good. I especially enjoyed this quote in the introduction.

Other novels can be read through once and soon forgotten, but our favorite Austen novels haunt us our entire lives, inform our understanding of what it is to be human, and in the end fuse so wholly with our thoughts and feelings that it would be difficult to imagine the sorts of people we might have become had we never encountered them. We read her novels to identify and to improve, to laugh and to sympathize, to enjoy the present and to revisit the past, and at times to escape our own muddled lives for a bit and find the clarity that only the best fiction can provide. 

I have been reading a few books about language lately. I reviewed Kory Stamper's Word By Word here. My husband bought me Dryer's English last week. I started reading it in the bookstore and couldn't put it down. I wasn't going to buy it because hardcover books are expensive and I am trying to be extra practical these days but he saw how much I wanted it and took it out of my hands and bought it. I loved it. I also am now a bit paranoid about all the grammatical mistakes I am sure there are in my blog. On page four he suggests you go an entire week without writing very, rather, really, quite, and in fact. Has he been reading my blog and I didn't know it? I use those words, or similar words, all too often. He said this about the English language.

The English language, though, is not so easily ruled and regulated. It developed without codification, sucking up new constructions and vocabulary every time some foreigner set foot on the British Isles—to say nothing of the mischief we Americans have wreaked on it these last few centuries—and continues to evolve anarchically. It has, to my great dismay, no enforceable laws, much less someone to enforce the laws it doesn't have. 

Dreyer goes on to discuss punctuation, differences between British English and American English, frequently misspelled words, and all kinds of other fascinating subjects. I mean that sincerely. Not only is the book informative but it is witty and fun to read. I read it through like a novel because it was so interesting and I am sure I will refer to it many times.

The last book I am currently reading is The Priory by Dorothy Whipple. Whipple reminds me a lot of D. E. Stevenson. They are relatively light yet well-written books about the everyday life of middle-class, mid-century families. They frequently have a bit of a bite to them underneath the frothy exterior. The Priory is about the Marwood family. Their lives are disturbed when the Major decides to remarry. I am not too far into it but I am enjoying it.

What have you been reading lately? Do you read more than one book at a time?

A Poem for a Thursday #64

Photo by Dustin Scarpitti on Unsplash
Philip Booth was an American poet who lived from 1925 to 2007. His poetry "written in spare language and dealing with New England settings, has garnered critical acclaim for its quiet power."  I read this poem and couldn't get it out of my head. It is beautiful and somehow comforting.

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you. 

First Lesson
Philip Booth

Brona has shared a poem today.

Here is one from Reese.