Sunday Poetry: love week

Sunday poetry is a new series beginning this Spring! Each week, I’ll post a poem that I’ve been thinking about, whether mine or someone else’s. Tune in for an exploration of how poetry can interrupt and enrich our lives when we least expect it to. 

March 24: love week

Part of my poetry class is divided into themed weeks full of contemporary poetry. This week, it’s time for love poetry. I have the kids each write a break-up poem, and I show them some of my own love poetry and read my friend Noa’s poem, “Losing you makes me think of terrible Godzilla analogies and I wish I could explain why but I can’t.” I love love, obviously, and I think poetry is one of the ways to demystify love and yet keep it shrouded in roses.

Last year, I pushed my class to read this poem, but due to its evocative nature and erotic hints, it’s a little much for my new class to handle. But I do love it so:

 

Sunset

Nothing exists in a vacuum,

Least of all that pale shade of pink

Perched at the corner of her mouth.

 

The color recalls grapefruit,

Freshly picked from new heights

Provided by the roof of her neighbor’s house.

 

How many hours did we stay there?

 

Lying on the shingles still warm with afternoon heat,

Trying to pick out the few stars in the sky

That escaped the harsh glare

Of driveway lights turning themselves on at dusk.

Tiffany Babb is a mixed-race, bisexual poet currently based in New York.

 

Happy Sunday; tell someone you love her.

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Friday Reading Rainbow

Hello all, sorry I skipped a week! I have been super busy with lots of professional development, playing and singing in a couple of concerts, and the nascent literary magazine at school (as well as, you know, my job!). To those of you new to the blog, I like to share what I’ve been reading and I am always looking for what YOU are reading and enjoying! Leave me a comment below.

nature bird red wildlife
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here’s what I’ve been reading the past two weeks:

Poetry

Last week read Part III of Ada Limon’s beautiful Bright Dead Things, and this week, Part IV. I like reading poetry slowly, one or two poems at a time and savoring them. Since I’m currently teaching my poetry class and I’m on a mission from the gods to teach every student to read and write poetry, I’m seeking back-up in Why Poetry, by Matthew Zapruder. I keep finding things that I deeply agree with, but haven’t put into words of my own yet. For example, he suggests that a poem is not an image that just sits pristinely on a page, but a process, an action from beginning to end. By reading poetry, we follow the writer’s action of thought, but since we are different people, we do our own action with a little difference.

Here are some particularly good poems by Limon:

“Midnight, Talking about our Exes,” which you can read on The Jet Fuel Review Blog

“State Bird” here in The New Yorker

I keep trying to read more and more and more poetry. On my coffee table right now is a copy of The American Poetry Review with the genius Jericho Brown on the cover (you can order individual copies here). I’ll share my favorites next week.

 

Fiction

A little while ago I wrote about comfort books (What books are your comfort food? ), and last weekend I indulged in two wonderful little chocolate mousse books.

Joy in the Morning is one of the Jeeves books, featuring two examples of thwarted love: Boko Fittleworth and Nobby want to marry but need the approval of the prickly Lord Worplesdon, while the serious Florence Craye thinks Bertie loves her and scorns the eager gentleman-turned-country-policeman, D’Arcy Cheeswright (aka “Stilton”). Obviously hilarity ensues and Jeeves must sort out everyone’s problems.

I consider P.G. Wodehouse to be one of the funniest writers to ever grace the world. You have to be a sort of anglophile and a sort of nerd to appreciate him, especially because so much of the draw is his clever use of language. But I think even if you don’t get all the jokes, the dynamic between Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves has appeal for all readers.

Then, because I recommended it to a student, I re-read The Silent Gondoliers, by William Goldman, who wrote The Princess Bride. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

“When someone special happens, he tends to rub off on people….”

Luigi is a gondolier with a terrible voice, back in the days when gondoliers were the best singers in the world. His dream of singing with all his heart on the Grand Canal of Venice eludes him through his life of troubles… until the day of the Killer Storm…..

William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride, spins this absorbing yarn with tremendously colloquial joy. Absolutely enchanting. Please, good people, take an hour or two to read this book.

Next on my to-be-read shelf is The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon. It promises dark and mysterious ghost stories!

 

Nonfiction

It was fortuitous to find this gorgeous example of a creative nonfiction essay using synthesis right when I’m teaching my AP kids how to do their synthesis essay! We will be reading this together and looking for the intertwined elements: reading, writing, wolves, and honest work.
How Barry Lopez Got Me Through a Backcountry Winter, by Bryce Andrews

It fell to me to go with the government trapper when he came to hunt them. We waited at dusk on top of a hill. He had his rifle and I my treasonous thoughts. . . .

We sat on the ground under a juniper that had been browsed bare to the height of four feet. The sky darkened. Stars showed. The government hunter was patient. He had a night-vision scope on his rifle and a reputation to uphold.

And, in a completely different vein, I am looking forward to this column every month now: Franny Choi, “Periodic #1”.

 

 

What are you reading? Tell me in the comments! 

 

Sunday Poetry: the last winter poem

Sunday poetry is a new series beginning this Spring! Each week, I’ll post a poem that I’ve been thinking about, whether mine or someone else’s. Tune in for an exploration of how poetry can interrupt and enrich our lives when we least expect it to. 

March 17: the last winter poem

We are about to catapult into a new week and I’ve spent a lot of my day preparing for it. Grocery shopping, to-do-lists and budgets, planning my time for the week, looking desperately at my calendar to eke out writing time, deciding what I’ll wear and where I’ll go. Sundays are for this type of planning, for the little changes that propel us forward into new weeks, months, years. We can move spontaneously through time or try to wrestle it, but either way change shakes us and challenges us.

These past weeks of March, I’ve been eyeing the prolific piles of snow in my city, not wanting to wish them gone because I am deeply loyal to the oft-maligned New England winter, but wondering how long they’ll last. It is still cold outside, but there is more fresh air blowing, some chilly yet fragrant days. Spring is approaching, the ultimate season of change. In my poetry writing these days, I’m bidding goodbye to winter and internalizing the depth of winter that we have indeed reached and overcome. And now I’m thinking of the ways change resonates in winter. We don’t have to wait for spring to renew, to make parts of our lives our own again. Things are growing and preparing under the snow.

I offer this work of my own:
Mountain Poem 
there is nothing that shakes us like the wind
and no motion that unearths us
quite like the call of a mother bear
the tremble of pine boughs
the crack of ice
the encroaching of snowbanks
in their silent waves.
Good night; dream of bears.
 

Friday Reading Rainbow

Happy March! I’m so glad we started off here in Rhode Island with tons of snow. No, I’m not kidding– my delicate “orchid child” psyche requires winter to thrive. I had been yearning for the snow we should have gotten earlier this year, and here it is! So delightful!

My reading life was strongest on our snow day this week, when I happened upon this little graphic:

So I’ll structure this week’s post around my answers.

Polygamist Reader 

Yes! The most promiscuous! It’s very unusual for me not to be reading multiple books. Sometimes I like to pair them together in ways that complement each other.

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Why Poetry (Matthew Zapruder) + Bright Dead Things (Ada Limon)

^ A book on how to read and enjoy poetry and a wonderful book of poems.

Other times I balance a thicker, more arduous read with shorter, more bouncy books. It helps me feel satisfied with the slower pace of the long read, because if I’m only reading one thing and it’s taking me forever, I start to feel antsy, like I’m missing out on other books because I’m stuck in one spot.

In addition to the two books above, I’m reading two books of fiction

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Joy in the Morning (P.G. Wodehouse) + A River of Stars (Vanessa Hua)
^ Two very different books! A River of Stars is an immigrant story (I’ve read a lot of those and can recommend some great ones) that has great character development and a compelling plot (I am really worried and wondering about what will happen. The Wodehouse is a farce, like all the Jeeves books, and I always love coming back to a Wodehouse to liven up my language and make me laugh.

And I’m reading a great teaching book, too, Write Beside Them (Penny Kittle)

Extrovert/ Introvert Reader 

I’d say I’m a little of both. On the introvert side, I am definitely analytical while I read (English teacher!), but that’s more about appreciating craft. I do read a wide variety of genres, but there are things I’m slightly closed off to: I don’t like horror or any apocalyptic, and I don’t usually read adult fantasty, despite being an enthusiastic fantasy reader when I was younger. One way I’m adventurous is reading diverse books — I choose at least 1/4 of my fiction each year from authors of color. This is not the same, by the way, as classifying “diverse” books as having marginalized characters. Representation is important, but I’m looking for varied perspective from different authors. It’s my job as a white person to step into other people’s shoes and learn about the world that I am often blind to because of my privilege. And, of course, writers of color are fantastic! There is so much great writing out there that doesn’t get enough attention and doesn’t get taught in schools. I love going to find it!

Altruist Reader 

You know this is me! Maybe a little too much. I try to tailor my recommendations to people’s specific tastes, but sometimes I get carried away about a book I’m reading and I just blab about it all the time.

Here are my top 5 most recommended books:

Peace Like a River (Leif Enger)
Sycamore  (Bryn Chancellor)
Like Water for Chocolates (Laura Esquivel)
We Were the Mulvaneys (Joyce Carol Oates)
Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)

Tell me about yourself as a reader!

If We Were Having Coffee….

If we were having coffee I’d say welcome to my tiny apartment! It may be small but it’s kept me cozy through this winter. I love having a place that’s all mine, and I’d like to think that the way I’ve decorated it makes it look very “Nora.” It’s a sweet little pad.

If we were having coffee mine would be black– no cream, no sugar, no nonsense.

If we were having coffee I’d inform you that I have another poem accepted to be published! That’s three poems, two journals. After about a year and a half of trying to get published, it’s finally happening! I am feeling the momentum now (which helps with the rejections that are still popping their heads in the door on random days of the week). I feel so satisfied that people are reading and liking my work.

If we were having coffee I’d probably gush about my students. They are amazingly resilient young people, navigating thorny personal growth and forging new relationships. They are learning so much about writing, about reading poetry, about how to conquer their fears of speaking in front of their peers.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you all about the wonderful time I had with my dad this weekend. He and I are kindred souls, and we have a great time. It was the first time he saw my new apartment and his first time to the Boston MFA (an impressive display!) and his and my first time to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (a treasure trove!). We also ate a variety of great food, visited a used bookstore, and went to see a great blue/rock band (Neil Vitullo and the Vipers — check them out if you’re in New England!)

If we were having coffee I’d admit that I’ve been a little anxious and scattered the past couple of days, but coffee and writing and talking to a friend does wonders to settle me and remind me why I keep pushing in the direction I’m going.

Enjoy your day and give me your updates! Happy March!

 ~ ☕️ ~