Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! It’s been a week of ups and downs, but I’m trying to keep the good stuff in mind–like flower-y raincoats and good friends and long walks and pups and, of course, books. Let’s head into the weekend with a few book reviews in fifteen words or fewer.

The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs
Aka “Writing So Beautiful It Makes Annie Cry in Panera.” Combs = contemp YA feels.

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
A lovely send-off to Tiffany Aching books. Terry Pratchett, I wish I’d known you sooner.

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
A touching novel in verse about family and art and grief and home.

Friday Fifteen

Today feels like a good day to share a couple lines of poetry, in slightly more than fifteen words. From “Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.”

Read the whole poem here. Other poems I’ve been reading recently include “A Song on the End of the World” by Czeslaw Milosz and “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith.

Keep writing, keep fighting.

Quote of the Day

Photo by Marjory Collins, Jan. 1943

For election day, from “Ghazal: America the Beautiful” by Alicia Ostriker:

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

It’s been a hard election cycle, but seeing so many friends talk about voting with hope and love gives me a lot of hope for tomorrow.

If you need a little more poetry today, also check out “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes and “Election Day, November, 1884” by Walt Whitman. And rock that vote!

Links Galore

A few links to get you through the middle of the week:

 

Quote of the Day

Since we’re in Jewish Book Month, it feels right to share another great poem from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 by Peter Cole (translator). This one is by Meshullam DePiera, who was writing in the thirteenth century.

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I love the intensity here–it makes me feel both cautious and powerful. Words matter, people.

Quote of the Day

From “The Battle of The Pen and the Scissors” by Shem Tov Ardutiel (Santob de Carrión):

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I recently read The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 by Peter Cole (translator) and I loved coming across poems about the act of writing. Like in the one above, even though they were written literally hundreds of years ago, it was so cool to see how writers face the same frustrations and challenges.

So take it from Shem Tov Ardutiel–tomorrow’s writing doesn’t matter today. Focus on getting the work done now.

A Poem for Runners

Today in the Boston area it’s Marathon Monday, my favorite day of the year. I’ve talked a little before about how I love cheering for all the runners and what the marathon means to me, so today I’ll just share a poem by Irving Feldman called “The Runners.” I especially like these last lines:

“…your hidden heart rejoicing that the quick heel
won’t soon, won’t ever, be overtaken,
although you, as you have longed to, suddenly
disburden yourself and follow follow.”

Click through to read the whole poem, and have a safe and happy Marathon Monday!

A Poem for Tax Day

Sometimes you realize that you need to get something mailed immediately. Sometimes you end up at the post office without realizing that it’s Tax Day. Sometimes you make mistakes.

Okay, it didn’t end up being all that bad. (The post office had four people at the front desk, which is three times the usual number.) But it did get me thinking about my favorite poet/financial worker, T.S. Eliot, and his poem “The Waste Land.” A poem that begins with the line: “April is the cruellest month” totally gets what it’s like to be in the post office on Tax Day. Also, these lines:

“A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.”

So “The Waste Land” isn’t exactly about standing in line at the post office, but that’s one of the great things about poetry–even when you’re feeling annoyed at bureaucracy and your own inability to remember the date, you can connect it with something much more literary and thoughtful. Poems aren’t just for pouring over in English class–they’re part of our everyday lives, if only to keep us amused while we’re standing in line with a few dozen other unlucky people.

Feel free to share your favorite lines/poems for random life events in the comments!

April is the Coolest Month

I’m thrilled it’s April and not just because it brings us in Boston one step closer to warm weather. April is also National Poetry Month, which is a great excuse to share favorite poems and celebrate all things poetry-related.

When I was a teen, we’d get to the poetry section in English class, and my teachers would talk about how special poetry is and how we were going to examine all the words and lines and phrases so carefully. As a fiction writer, I’d get all defensive and want to argue that stories take a lot of care with word choice, too, and what was so special about poetry, anyway? Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to read and write more poetry, and now I fully embrace National Poetry Month. Poems are cool, guys!

Know what else is cool? Bill Murray. Apparently he’s all about the poetry. He’s a video of Murray reading a couple of Wallace Stevens’ poems (including one of my favorites, “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts”) as part of Poets House’s 17th Annual Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaT_2cL33R4]
Click through for more of Murray’s poetry reading skills, and feel free to share your plans for National Poetry Month in the comments!