A Poem for a Thursday #75

Photo by Martin Sepion on Unsplash
It has been a while since I have featured a Mary Oliver poem. Her poems are some of my absolute favorites. I enjoy the way her words and the mental picture they create go together so perfectly. In this poem, she talks about just that.

You don't ever know where
a sentence will take you, depending 
on its roll and fold. I was walking
over the dunes when I saw
the red fox asleep under the green 
branches of the pine. It flared up
in the sweet order of its being,
the tail that was over the muzzle
lifting in airy amazement
and the fire of the eyes followed
and the pricked ears and the thin
barrel body and the four
athletic legs in their black stockings and it
came to me how the polish of the world changes
everything, I was hot I was cold I was almost
dead of delight. Of course the mind keeps 
cool in its hidden palace-yes, the mind takes
a long time, is otherwise occupied than by 
happiness, and deep breathing. Still,
at last, it comes too, running
like a wild thing, to be taken
with its twin sister, breath. So I stood
on the pale, peach-colored sand, watching the fox
as it opened like a flower, and I began
softly, to pick among the vast assortment of words
that it should run again and again across the page
that you again and again should shiver with praise. 

Mary Oliver

Visit Brona for more poetry.

A Poem for a Thursday #74

Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash
Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967. She was known for her very personal poems that addressed her suicidal tendencies, depression, and relationships with family members. She was encouraged to take up poetry by her therapist after a breakdown. She quickly became well-known for her writing. Sadly, she took her own life in 1974.

Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.
Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.
Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren't good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.
But I try to take care 
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible 
things to repair. 

Anne Sexton

Brona has shared a poem this week.

Things That Happened This Week

I have spent way too long refreshing the news.

 I have been pulled into a nostalgic vortex composed of baby clothes, photographs, and stuffed animals. Cleaning an attic is not for the faint of heart or the overly emotional.

We have been for a few walks by the river. Unfortunately, too many of those walks have been ended with a stop for ice cream at the convenience store down the street.

I have decided quarantine calories do not count.

I have decided to start an exercise program. Yes, that does contradict the previous statement.

I have started using Zoom. This is slightly anxiety-inducing for the socially awkward among us. When do I talk? What do I look like? Why? Why do we all have to communicate? But what if no one wants to communicate with me? It is an endless circle.

I baked an apple pie and oatmeal raisin cookies. See above about quarantine calories not counting. Also, see above about that exercise program.

My daughter and I have started growing our hair long. She wanted to. I didn't but have no choice. She has a mullet now. I put a headband in to keep it out of my face and looked like a 1950s housewife. Not the look I was going for and it really doesn't go with my pajama pants and ratty sweater.

I have started five million books and have only managed to finish the comfort reads I have read many times before. One day I will read something new, different, and worthy of a review. This is not that day.

The volunteer work I do several days a week has been suspended. The meetings I go to twice a week are on Zoom now. My little part-time job has been expanded but still doesn't take up much of my time. I have a lot of free time. I want to be productive with it but sometimes the day ends and I have refreshed the news and reread books and baked a pie.

As with so many of us, it is not the life I want but it is the life that is necessary. I hope you all have books to read and the strength of mind not to refresh the news too often.

A Poem for a Thursday #73

Photo by Solaiman Hossen on Unsplash
William Stafford was an American poet who lived from 1914-1993. His poetry career got off to a late start with his first volume of poetry being published when he was 46. His style has been compared to that of Robert Frost. His poems are described as "accessible, sometimes deceptively so, with a conversational manner that is close to everyday speech."

Just lying on the couch and being happy,
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't 
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can 
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

Any Morning
William Stafford

I Bought Too Many Books

I didn't really because any of you reading this blog post know that there is no such thing as too many books. However, some people in my life think I bought too many books. I view that as a challenge. Can I top my number of books purchased next time I am in the U.K.? Something to aim for.

I came across this quote in In Search of London by H. V. Morton. I liked the quote even though he went on to talk about how only men can be true book lovers. I think that is pure nonsense. This quote isn't nonsense though. It is just lovely.

The man who has never in his life become lost to all thoughts of time and food in the Charing Cross Road, and at the end of the day has not found himself hugging beneath his arm some book, or books, which he is proud and happy to possess, does not know one of the purest joys which London can afford. The road is a busy one. The traffic rushes one way to Oxford Street and the other to Trafalgar Square. The pavements are always filled with hurrying crowds, and with their backs to the world stand the bookmen, the book readers, the book hunters, the book tasters, the book maniacs-for books, lik drink can affect the brain-completely oblivious that they are not standing in an empty street. 

I bought a few Penguins. Who could resist? This display was in Skoob Books but the ones I bought came from several different shops including an Oxfam Bookshop where they were under a pound each and I bought them despite knowing absolutely nothing about the authors. Resistance was futile. I bought:

The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay
Summer Half by Angela Thirkell
The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley
Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis
The English Miss by R. H. Mottram
The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot by Angus Wilson

The first three were deliberate choices and the last three were the impulse buys. But tell me, who could leave those last two titles on the shelf?

I bought three British Library Crime Classics. They were 3 for 2 so obviously I had to. I bought them at the British Library shop after wandering through their treasures room and gazing upon Jane Austen's writing desk. A good day. I bought:

Murder at the Manor:  Country House Mysteries 
Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert
Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert

I went to the Persephone Bookshop which is always a joy and a pleasure. I spent ages trying to decide what to buy. The lovely lady working then was so friendly and gave me a few recommendations for other bookshops in the area. I bought The Second Persephone Book of Short Stories. 

I went in and out of so many lovely secondhand bookshops that I can't always remember what I bought in which shop. I love browsing through cluttered shops and looking for treasures. I found quite a few.

The Matchmaker by Stella Gibbons
Frequent Hearses by Edmund Crispin
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon
Company Parade by Storm Jameson
The Loved and Envied by Enid Bagnold
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
A Country Parson: James Woodforde's Diary 1759-1802

Most of my book purchases were from secondhand shops. As I mentioned, I love rummaging around in them and besides, I just could not afford to buy so many books brand new. However, I do love Waterstones and Foyles and I did buy a book in each. I bought:

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane
Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes:  The Story of Women in the 1950s by Virginia Nicholson

I did buy one other book. I found a secondhand copy of a Persephone book for next to nothing. It is A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair. It even has the matching bookmark. If anyone would like to have it comment or send me an email and I will be happy to mail it to you. The Persephone joy should be shared.

I sit at home surrounded by my books and wishing I was back in the U.K. I would be happy to spend another day or three or four wandering through book shops and having tea and cake. One day I will return.

A Poem for a Thursday #72

Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Ada Limón is an American poet. She also writes fiction and nonfiction. In one interview, she talked about people who come to her readings and tell her that they don't like poetry but they do like her poems. She said she supposes that makes her the gateway drug for poetry and that is not a bad thing to be.

Say tomorrow doesn't come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun's a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl's eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon's a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt's plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen's a cow's corpse.
Say we never get to see it:  bright
future, stuck like a burn star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
say, It doesn't matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you'd still want this:  us alive
right here, feeling lucky.

The Conditional
Ada Limón

How to Handle a World That is Falling Apart

Buy books. Obviously. Because if you must be quarantined in your house for weeks at a time then heaven forbid you run out of reading material. No, the five-million unread books you already own are not enough. Silly you. You must organize the perfect reading list for the occasion and of course, this will require a few book purchases. Never say that every cloud does not have a silver lining.

Buy tea because the only thing almost as bad as running out of books is running out of tea. You must have endless cups to handle each new piece of information about the doom all around you.

Buy chocolate. No one has ever said it cures the Coronavirus but, at the same time, no one has ever said it doesn't.

Bury your head in the sand occasionally. No one needs all the information all the time.

Give in to your introvert tendencies. If you are anything like me you fight a constant battle between the desire to stay home and the feeling that you should socialize. Stop fighting. Stay home. What did I say about a silver lining?

Worry, because we all are going to anyway. But then, plan something fun because this too shall pass and everyone needs something to look forward to.

Clean your attic, paint your bathroom, organize your garage, decorate your bedroom. Maybe it takes a world pandemic to make you get around to these projects but hey, at least they are getting done. And yes, those are all things actually on my list.

Roll your eyes and tut-tut at the people who buy all the toilet paper and go to work sick. They are annoying and not too smart but you, you are all set. When it all ends, we can emerge and rebuild the world with the skills we are learning doing our projects around the house.

And we will have books, tea, and chocolate for all.

A Poem for a Thursday #71

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Kim Addonizio is an American poet and novelist. I didn't find a lot of information about her but I do like this poem that I stumbled across. I read it through three times which is my completely unscientific way to determine if I should feature a poem. If I read it multiple times in a row then there is something special about it.

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.

"What do Women Want?"
Kim Addonizio

Here is the poem Reese is featuring this week.

One More Time

I have been on a Georgette Heyer binge. Currently, I am reading the fifth in a row. If that doesn't count as a binge I don't know what does. It has been glorious. There is nothing like sinking into a world of beautiful women, handsome rakes, witty repartee, and nonsensical situations. It was just what I needed to escape from the reality of returning from vacation with the cold/flu from hell. At some point, I will at least look at all the new books I bought in London but for now, old favorites are the way to go.

I started out with Cotillion because I love Freddy and I especially love his interactions with his father. Then I moved on to several of Heyer's mysteries. In general, they are not as strong as her other novels but I still enjoy them; more for the characters and witty asides that make me laugh than for the plots themselves. I also read Sprig Muslin which manages to combine so many elements I love. We have the young and flighty heroine who runs away and tumbles into one scrape after another, plots to pose as a highwayman, bickering young people, a potential marriage of convenience that turns into something else, and a hero who is beloved by all-even the girl who is running away from him. Yes, it sounds ridiculous but it is ridiculous in a wonderful way and Heyer almost always pulls it off. Next, I plan to read A Civil Contract which seems to be either completely unappreciated or beloved by Heyer fans. I fall squarely into the camp of those who love it.

I know many people are not rereaders because they don't want to read a book again when there are so many new books to read. I can intellectually understand that viewpoint but my heart doesn't get it at all. Sometimes, I simply want to visit with old friends. They are undemanding and comforting. This week that is just what the doctor ordered.

Are you a Heyer fan? If so, what are your top three picks of her novels? Mine are probably Cotillion, The Unknown Ajax, and A Civil Contract. But ask me that the next time I am binging on her books and I might give you a completely different answer.

A Poem for a Thursday #70

Poems on the Underground is a project that was started in 1986 by American writer Judith Chernaik.
It is designed to bring poetry to a wider audience. The poems are displayed in ad space on the trains and are changed a few times a year. The program has been very popular and has been duplicated in cities around the world. Today's poem is one I saw on an Underground train when I was in London last week. Ciaran Carson was an Irish poet and novelist. I had never heard of him before (a constant refrain on Thursdays) but I liked this and will be reading more of his poetry.

I fear the vast dimensions of eternity.
I fear the gap between the platform and the train.
I fear the onset of a murderous campaign.
I fear the palpitations caused by too much tea.

I fear the drawn pistol of a rapparee.
I fear the books will not survive the acid rain.
I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the cane.
I fear the Jabberwock, whatever it might be. 

I fear the bad decisions of a referee.
I fear the only recourse is to plead insane.
I fear the implications of a lawyer's fee.

I fear the gremlins that have colonized my brain.
I fear to read the small print of the guarantee.
And what else do I fear? Let me begin again. 

Ciaran Carson

London, I Still Love You

Even in the rain. Even when my husband gets the flu. Even when we don't do half the things we planned. Even when it is cold and grey. Because a rainy day in London is still better than almost any other day.

But yes, my poor husband got the flu 36 hours after we arrived in London. Those evil airplane germs did him in. We still had fun though. He did a few things with me in the morning and then went back to the hotel and rested a bit in the afternoons and then came out to dinner. He felt bad about being out and about while sick but he had to eat and we tried to do outdoor things where he wasn't in too close contact with people. The weather did not always cooperate though. We have been to London a number of times and this is the first time we have not had good weather. Oh well, it had to hit sometime. It still was warmer than at home and things were blooming. That was very exciting. We won't see blooms at home until about April and in London, there were all kinds of flowers. It must make winter feel so short.

I went to even more bookstores than usual, partly because of the rainy weather and partly because it was an easy thing to do when my husband was back at the hotel. I will do a separate post about the books I bought. I mainly bought secondhand books, as usual. I wanted so many in Waterstones but they cost more and I can more easily order them online. After all, I did have to fit all my purchases in my suitcase. It is not like I could buy everything I saw though I wanted to. I started taking photos of all the books I wanted and hopefully, I can slowly buy them. I am in continual amazement at how much better bookstores are in the U.K.  I have decided I am doing my life all wrong. What I really want is to live in a lovely flat somewhere in the U.K. and work as a bookseller. I will be reasonable here. I don't have to live in London and I don't have to work at Persephone Books. Any charming bookshop in a charming city will do. Is that too much to ask?

These are just a few photos I took on my phone. I haven't downloaded the photos from my camera yet. I didn't take as many photos as usual because of the rain and because we didn't go to as many new places. I am sure I will have another post or two though, simply because I love talking about London.

Meanwhile, I will be researching flats and bookselling jobs for my dream (impossible) life.

A Poem for a Thursday #69

Photo by Dmitry Grigoriev on Unsplash

I have been reading A Vicarage in the Blitz:  The Wartime Letters of Molly Rich 1940-1944. I love it and thoroughly recommend it. Here is what she says about the poems of W. B. Yeats.

The other day I took two hours off to read the poems of W B Yeats. His poems are lovely but need taking in small doses. I think this is true of all poems. After all, people only write poems because they must. There is no economic reason because it seldom pays. They write because something inside them makes them do so and one gets a glimpse right down to their thought life. Yeat's mind is like a lovely dark etching with bits of bright colour in oil among the darkness. Have you ever thought how odd it is that a great many people may do the same thing every day, but their inner lives are different because they all think differently about the same thing. When you read a lot of one man's poems, you have in a small measure entered inside him. 

I shared one of his poems a while ago but after reading that I had to share another one. I love the connections between the different things I read.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the crickets sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.  

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
William Butler Yeats

A Poem for a Thursday #68

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

Tony Harrison is an English poet, translator, and playwright. Much of his poetry is inspired by his working-class childhood. He said that he "wanted to write the poetry that people like my parents might respond to." This poem is so sad but so beautiful.

Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn't just drop in. You had to phone.
He'd put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn't risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he'd hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she'd just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven't both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there's your name
and the disconnected number I still call. 

Long Distance II
Tony Harrison

Reese shared a soliloquy from HenryVII this week.

Reading Recently//Nonfiction

I have been reading a lot of nonfiction lately. All too often, people think of nonfiction as difficult to read or demanding but much of it is engaging and engrossing. One of my favorite books of the year so far (I know it is only the beginning of February. But still. A Favorite.) is Dear Mr. Bigelow by Frances Woodsford. I absolutely loved it and think all of you should read it. It is a collection of some of the weekly letters Frances Woodsford wrote from 1949-1961 to the father of one of her friends. He was a wealthy American whom she never met and yet their friendship became an essential part of her life.

Frances Woodsford wrote about everything; her work at the Public Baths in Bournemouth, her travels around the country, her sometimes annoying brother, her friends, her car, redecorating her bedroom, the clothes she made. Her letters are a perfect picture of her life in post-war England. The letters are funny and touching and guaranteed to make you wish you had a friend like her. Mr. Bigelow's letters to her were not preserved which is a great pity. It would be such fun to read both parts of the correspondence. I love reading volumes of letters and diaries because they give such a wonderful window into a life. Dear Mr. Bigelow was a joy. I have no quotes to highlight because I gulped it down with no consideration for a future review. I enjoyed it that much. You will too.

I bought Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks at Barnes & Noble a while ago. I was surprised to find it since I have read mentions of him on various British book blogs but I have never encountered his books in the U.S. before. Here is a description of the purpose of the book from the first chapter.

Books, like landscapes, leave their marks on us. Sometimes these traces are so faint as to be imperceptible--tiny shifts in the weather of the spirit that do not register on the usual instruments. Mostly, these marks are temporary:  we close a book, and for the nest hour or two the world seems oddly brighter at its edges; or we are moved to a kindness or a meanness that would otherwise have gone unexpressed. Certain books, though, like certain landscapes, stay with us even when we have left them, changing not just our weathers but our climates. The word landmark is from the Old English landmearc, meaning 'an object in the landscape which, by its conspicuousness, serves as a guide in the direction of one's course. John Smith, writing in his 1627 Sea Grammar, gives us this definition: "A Land-marke is any Mountaine, Rocke, Church, Wind-mill or the like that the Pilot can now by comparing one by another see how they beare by the compasse.' Stong books and strong words can be landmarks in Smith's sense--offering us a means both of establishing our location and of knowing how we 'beare by the compasse'. Taken in sum, the chapters of Landmarks explore how reading can change minds, revise behaviour and shape perceptions.

Macfarlane examines various nature writers and their works.  He also includes a glossary of nature words used in the U.K. Some of them are gloriously wonderful words. If you enjoy nature, language, and wonderful writing then this is the book for you.

On my coffee table right now I have The Outermost House:  A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. I haven't started it yet but I have high hopes. I love the Cape and it is described as a classic of American nature writing. I'll get back to you after I read it.

What nonfiction books do you recommend?

A Poem for a Thursday #67

Photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

U. A. Fanthorpe was a British poet who published nine volumes of poetry during her lifetime. She taught at Cheltenham Ladies College for sixteen years and then left to work as a clerk and receptionist at a psychiatric hospital. She said:

Poetry is important because it reaches the places that other kinds of writing can't reach. I became aware of this myself when I worked as a receptionist in a hospital, and saw how much the doctors and nurses had to leave out of the queerness and sadnesses of the patients because they were confined to prose... Poetry has all the voices--wit, sincerity, pastiche, tragedy, and delight and most importantly it's with us from the start of our lives to the end:  at the start of our lives, with lullabies and mothers crooning to babies, at the end of our life, with hymns over the grave. 

 There is a kind of love called maintenance,
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn't forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes, which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains, 
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living; which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing 
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

U. A. Fanthorpe

Reese shared a Vikram Seth poem this week.

A Poem for a Thursday #66

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

Robert Service was born in England, grew up in Scotland, and sailed for the Yukon Wilderness in 1894. He was a prolific poet and became known as the "bard of the Yukon. He was a correspondent during the Balkan Wars for the Toronto Star and an ambulance driver during World War I. His rhythmic, story-telling poetry was very popular.

When you're lost in the Wild, and you're scared as a child
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you're sore as a boil, it's according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and...die.
But the Code of a Man says:  "Fight if you can,"
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it's easy to blow...
It's the hell-served-for-breakfast that's hard.

"You're sick of the game!" Well, now, that's a shame.
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
"You've had a raw deal! I know--but don't squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don't be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it's so easy to quit:
It's the keeping-your-chin-up that's hard.

It's easy to cry that you're beaten--and die;
It's easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight--
Why, that's the best game of all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try--it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard.

The Quitter
Robert Service

Reese has an Emily Dickinson poem this week.

Things That Make Me Happy

Books, stacks of books all around me so I always have plenty to choose from.

Second-hand bookshops with plenty of treasures to be unearthed.

Thrift stores for the same reason.


Waking up on the first morning of a vacation with plenty of time in front of me.

A new, pretty notebook.

Fountain pens.

Baking cookies.

Walking on the beach.

A hug from one of my kids.

A hug from my husband.

Occasionally, a few hours home alone.

Writing something I am kind of, a little bit, maybe, happy with.

Listening to music in the car with my daughter.

Walking around a city where no one knows me.


Talking to an old friend who always understands.

Taking photographs.


A week at our favorite farmhouse in New York.

Being driven to helpless laughter by my son who can talk circles around me.

Books. Did I mention the books?

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

Reese at Typings has also shared a poem.

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.

Golden Moments #12

I haven't written one of these posts since last May. I suppose that says something about the past year. However, I am making an effort to concentrate on the positive so let's give this a try.

I am reading Little Women for the five millionth time. It is possible that number is accurate. I read it over and over and over when I was a kid and I still read it regularly. It is like sinking into a warm bath or climbing into a freshly made bed. So comforting. I know exactly what is going to happen and exactly what everyone is going to say and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am hoping to go see the movie this weekend. I am making my daughter come with me. I still haven't managed to convince her to read the book (one of my parenting failures) and I am hoping she will like the movie so much she will cave in and do my bidding!

My husband and I ran away overnight. We were gone a grand total of 24 hours but it was lovely. We ate yummy food, wandered through a couple of bookstores, and simply enjoyed each other's company.

My husband bought me a copy of Dreyer's English. I am on a roll with books about words and language and I have wanted it for a while. I started reading it in the bookstore and then put it back because I rarely buy new, hardcover books. He grabbed it and bought it anyway. What a nice man.

We called an old friend we haven't talked to in ages. He lives halfway across the country and we have known him so long he is more like family than anything else. It was very nice to catch up and it made my husband happy to talk to one of his oldest friends.

I took my daughter and her best friend ice skating. Celia has wanted to go for a long time and we have never gotten around to it. Her friend already knew how to skate but Celia was an absolute beginner. It was harder than she expected and she fell down a lot. It didn't come easily to her but she didn't give up, she kept smiling, and she had a blast. I sat on the sidelines and chatted with her friend's mom but next time I am going to skate too. It has been many, many years since I have skated so it should be interesting.

That isn't a particularly long list of golden moments but it is a list and that is a success in and of itself. What nice things have happened in your life lately?

A Poem for a Thursday #63

Photo by Jennifer Arrington on Unsplash

William Henry Davies was a Welsh poet who lived from 1871-1940. When he was 22 he received an inheritance and used it to purchase a boat ticket to New York. He then spent the next six years traveling across the United States and Canada until he was injured while train hopping. He had to have one leg amputated below the knee. He then settled in London and spent his time writing poetry. That simple description of his life contains a novel in itself. I have so many questions about him now.  I am featuring this poem because I think we all should take a little time to stand and stare.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?-

No time to stand beneath  the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. 

William Henry Davies

Brona shared a poem here.