Friday, May 14, 2021
Thursday, May 6, 2021
I redeemed myself in April after a couple of months of very short book stacks. Admittedly, a couple of these were nearly done before the month began, but still, I'll call it a win.
The Ecopoetry Anthology, Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street, eds. I bought this book on a whim because it was facing out on an eye-level shelf the first time I went into a bookstore after the lockdown started, way back in August, on my birthday (which is why browsing in bookstores is so much better than buying online; how else would these serendipitous finds take place?). At an average of one poet per day, I finished all 576 pages exactly eight months and two days later, on Earth Day, fittingly. About 1/4 of the poems are historical, the other 3/4 contemporary, which was a nice mix I thought. Overall, it's just a stunning collection with an expansive notion of "eco." My sister asked if any poems in particular stood out, and while it's hard to choose, here are a few that I found memorable: The Hurricane Katrina poems by Patricia Smith ("5 p.m., Tuesday August 23, 2005" "Man on the TV Say," "Won't Be But a Minute," "8 a.m., Sunday, August 28, 2005") are heartrending. "The Stars" by Eliot Weinberger was inspirational. W.S. Merwing "For a Coming Extinction." Lucille Clifton "The Killing of Trees." And really I'd recommend everything in the collection except for a small few that left me scratching my head.
What Kind of Woman, Kate Baer. A very different kind of poetry collection, about womanhood and motherhood and wifehood, about the expectations society places on all of the above. I'm looking forward to reading Baer's forthcoming collection of erasure poems.
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Woodridge. Not an actual book of poetry, but a book about writing and enjoying and living poetry. I've owned this one a long time but only ever got through a couple of chapters. I decided to write a poem (or do a poetry exercise) every day through April, and used this book as a guide for some of those poems, and just read it for enjoyment otherwise, finally making it to the end. It's a delicious invitation to play with words.
North with the Spring by Edwin Way Teale. I started reading this two years ago and set it aside when spring ended and summer began. I somehow forgot to pick it up last year, but I resumed this year, and I really enjoyed the quiet, gentle account of a ramble from south to north following the flush of spring over the land.
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham. This is a lovely and moving account of family, place, nature, and race and growing up on a farm in South Carolina and challenges of being a birdwatcher, a biologist and a Black man.
One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle. This is another book that jumped off the shelf at me. I'd always enjoyed Brian Doyle's essays when they appeared in Orion or The Sun, but I hadn't picked up one of his books before. The short essays and prose poems here were collected by writer and editor friends after Doyle's death from a brain tumor. Each one is incandescent with joy, love, and humor, even those that were clearly written as he knew he was dying.
Malice Domestic, edited by Elizabeth Peters. I came to this book in the nerdiest way possible: listening to a podcast about the original source of apples (somewhere in Kazakhstan), I heard that the Latin for apple is Malus domestica, and it rung a bell in my head--I knew there was a mystery novel or something similar out there by the name Malice Domestic and I thought I must read the book with such a clever play on words. Turns out it's an annual conference and anthology of short stories, originally started by my mystery goddess Elizabeth Peters. This one, edited by said goddess, is the first of the collection, published way back in 1992, and was highly entertaining. I think short works--both stories and essays--are a good fit for me right now, mentally, especially fun short stories, like those in this collection.
What are you reading these days?
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Tuesday, May 4, 2021
This winter was long, longer than most, despite its relative snowlessness (another reason to read apocalypse in the tea leaves). March brought no relief. It never does. But April, despite what Eliot said, is perhaps the kindest month. Warm breezes and wild flocks migrating north, even in years when the snow hangs around until Earth Day (this year the old snow was long gone, but a new dusting sprinkled down on the 22nd). And though I'm a Leo and a summer girl through and through, April may be my second favorite month. As the world begins to wake up, so too do I, turning outward and uncurling from a winter's introspection, which always, inevitably, leads to moroseness. And so I thought I'd take stock of what's waking me up and bringing me joy this April.
My father-in-law is a hot air balloonist. But that does not mean he hands out rides in the basket like candy. I've been up only once, long, long ago. Earlier this month, when he was taking the balloon for its post-inspection trial flight, he took E and Z along for the ride. C and I served as chase crew, and it was like a small miracle to see our two youngest children ascend into the sky in a rainbow.
April is the month the birds return, and with no leaves on the trees and none of those pesky other b-words trying to suck my blood, it's the month for bird watching. I made a resolution to bird every day this month, and I've managed 18 so far. A first-of-year bird appears almost every time I go out. This week's new arrivals: yellow-rumped warbler, belted kingfisher, American kestrel, broad-winged hawk, and hermit thrush.
Yesterday I stalked a velvety chocolate-brown mourning cloak through the woods. These butterflies overwinter as adults and are always the first to appear and a sure sign of spring. I was amazed a few days earlier to see a little blue butterfly, a northern spring azure, perhaps. I chased it through the field, it flashing luminous blue upper wings while I tried to sneak up to take its picture. Now I'm aquiver with anticipation of butterfly season.
I have no doubt that social media will usher in the downfall of civil society. Nevertheless, it has its good points. For instance, I've been keeping a close eye on the flower buds of trees and shrubs in the woods around our home and snapping phone photos when the buds open and sharing them on Instagramand Facebook. It's made me much more attentive to the slow unfolding of spring, and I'm discovering that there's much about tree flowers I've never noticed, like the flowering twigs of aspen and yellow birch are high out of reach, and oak flowers, which come out after the leaves, I've never seen before.