January Sun(day)

January Sun(day)

Hello from my adorable kitchen!

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  • The most exciting news — I have finally gotten an acceptance for my poetry!! Ya girl is going to be published this spring! It feels great to have someone pick me. More information coming soon on where you can read my work when it’s released!

 

  • I do love those cold, sunny winter days, when I can actually take a walk around the neighborhood and breathe in some fresh air. Maybe I’ll set an intention to take a walk every day this week, but I’m also proud that I exercised at home 2x last week and attended a great yoga class. With my health always a little blah and my anxiety always a little “AAH!” it’s important for me to exercise often in very small, non-threatening ways.

 

  • 2019 is the year in which I am 27, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. No fear about getting older, just feeling a bit more settled and solid in my life. Then my students say, “You’re THAT old??” and remind me that no one knows what my face looks like or how old I am. Am I even real?

 

  • My new semester of classes starts tomorrow and BOY am I unprepared but excited! That also means I’m buried in grading as the quarter closes, but I’m not minding it too much. Lots of productive thinking about my students’ writing, what progress they made, how they can show me what they learned. I think I’m ready to set some goals for teaching this semester, as I am very interested in my own professional development right now instead of just letting it fly.

 

  • My novel is inching forward oh so very slowly. (about 1450 words) I’m reminded, since I’m writing by hand, that my best thinking never goes linearly. You should see some of the pages, with their arrows and * and ** and ^ to show where each thought ends up when I run out of space and jump around in my thoughts. It will be so fun to eventually type it up — not.

 

  • One of my best friends is getting married in October, and we’re going through some wedding dress exploration. I get to wear a really pretty bridesmaid dress! Eek! My femininity is jumping for joy like I just fed it a cheeseburger.

 

  • In this spring semester, I get to teach a course of JUST poetry — ah, how lucky am I to have this job! That means I’ll be reading a lot more poetry (stay tuned for more regular weekly reading lists on Fridays), and writing a lot more, too. When I teach this course, I commit to the discomfort/ vanity of letting my kids read some of my poetry, because I believe in writing beside them and it only seems fair to bare my soul when I require them to bare theirs and also get grades. Looking forward to it.
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What books are your comfort food?

What books are your comfort food?

I’m going to note, first, that I posted this question on twitter and my student replied, “books are difficult to eat.” Now that we’ve gotten that exceptional moment of snark out of the way…..

Comforting books are good things to have around, because life (at least in my experience) occasionally or often gets tough. Grief hits in waves when you least expect it, or sometimes when you most expect it. Stress and depression and loneliness are part of the variabilities of being human, but I’m of the opinion that we don’t have to treat this as calamity every time it happens. We can move upwards and onwards and make life better and fight for happiness. It’s really good to get up the next day and say, “hey. I’m still here. I’m going to try again.” It is also really good to let ourselves be in the moment, feel whatever we are feeling, and accept that we’re not quite doing okay at the moment.

There’s a song by the singer-songwriter-lover duo, Johnnyswim, “Let it Matter,” which insists on this honor. “If it matters, let it matter. If your heart’s breaking, let it ache.” We are allowed to let ourselves feel crummy, and treat ourselves with exceptional kindness. Chocolate, a little wine, and a nice blanket on the couch go a long way. Maybe for you it’s a haircut, or a big bag of popcorn, or one of those fancy face-mask things  to which I always tend to be allergic. And of course, you need a good self-care book on hand.

I have two candidates for comforting books. Both tend towards lighter fare and hopefulness, and both emphasize the delights of food, but neither copy is edible. For me, reading lists are tinted by the seasons.

Title:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Ann Shaffer and Mary Ann Barrows

Season:

Winter

Why it’s comfort food:

This is my second time reading this book, and I am again made joyful by its quick pace, its richness of character, and its insistence on the value of reading. The story is about an English writer, Juliet, who begins corresponding with residents on the channel island of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Germans in WWII. She learns about the literary society they accidentally formed, and eventually becomes their friend. The book isn’t all light fun, as occupation was a miserable time and there are real human tragedies and hardships. They’re given their due, but the book’s message seems to be that there is still good in the world, that there are places where life is simpler, and that forming connections with one another is a way to survive and heal.  I tend to recommend this book a lot to friends who aren’t as willing to slog through **literature** as I am, and I also recommend it as a cure for sadness. It seems to be working for me right now.

 

Title:

A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle

Season:

Summer

Why it’s comfort food:

Everything about this nonfiction book is lovely. Each chapter follows a month of the author’s hijinx living in the French countryside with his wife. There is much mouth-watering description of food and landscape; the antics of locals and invited guests (and uninvited guests). The quest (which is obviously influenced by the easy wealth of the author) is just to enjoy the goodness that life has to offer. I love Mayle’s writing because he is a world-champion Noticer of Things and he has a great sense of humor.

 

Honorable Mention:

Any of the Jeeves / Wooster books, by P.G. Wodehouse.

 

I asked this question on facebook, too, and was really interested by the answers I got. Some seemed reasonable: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, Ella Enchanted (all those are excellent books from my childhood and would certainly bring warm feelings if I were to re-read them). Others shared books that I would have never thought of in this manner. Great books, masterful books, but really comforting? Are these the books we read to take care of ourselves?

I guess this raises the companion question: what makes a book comfort food? What distinguishes the books we come back to over and over again? Is it something about the values they preach (I think that’s apparent from my own answers)? Is it that we know them so well, or they’re so easy to read, that the cognitive load is eased and we float through the book nicely? Is it just that we already have read them a bunch of times and we know what happens, and the absence of surprise is welcome? (If that’s true, a fifth reading of Frankenstein would fill some kind of void for me).

Whatever the answer for you, I hope you are reading something that brings you joy and reassurance, and that you have a few failsafe books around to re-read when you need them. And as always, I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

Love, Pace

 

 

 

What I’m writing

What I’m writing – January 15th

I had the lovely fortune to have dinner with two dear former students at a taqueria in my old neighborhood this weekend. They made googly eyes at each other and I cracked jokes- it was a grand time. The conversation came around (as always) to what I do besides teaching, and I mentioned that I’ve been writing a lot. She asked me to send her some poetry, he said 12 words was his limit for reading, and I brought up THE NOVEL that I am writing. He insisted that he be put into the book, but we had to think for a moment to decide what role he could play in a 19th century Western.

“How could you exist in a time without cars? What would you be?”

“A farmer!” he said eagerly. His girlfriend laughed.

“I think —  a blacksmith.”

We decided that he’ll play a minor role, that my main character will go to town and casually remark, “Why is the blacksmith so fucking skinny?” and that will be that.

 

So when I came home that night, naturally I had to write. And since so far the novel lives in fragments that have come to me at random times, I had to actually decide on a place to start and on where I would go next. After re-reading my first page, I decided to have my narrator go back to what she sees as the beginning of her story:

We met in the Spring, Alfie and I, when the magnolias were throwing blossoms up like excited praise at the sky. I was a slip of a thing at 15 and he was already his broad farm boy self. I remember the first time that he came to call for me. It were somehow different than all the hundreds of times he’d come from his Daddy’s farm to mine to help with haying or raise our new barn or borrow a horseshoe.

I didn’t think I’d start this quite so linearly, but one of the hesitations I’m facing is that I need to make a lot of fabric for this story. It can’t be sparse like poetry, made of twisted strands and beads. It needs to be woven, thickly, so it can stand up to all the important embroidery with which I intend to embellish it. I think that I’ve been writing poetry with such focus for a while now that I need to reconsider the demands of volume that prose presents. In a way, this takes the pressure off a little. I don’t need to make each word perfect (yet!) and instead can just focus on putting them together on the loom and building something.

 

Other writing notes:

  • I’ve been looking at the number of submissions for each poem in my basket, and I’m surprised by how few times each one has gone out. That makes the fact of my non-publication a little easier, because it means that each poem has not really had its full chance to shine yet. Many of my best poems are recent, so they’ve only been traveling the world for a few months or a few weeks. There’s hope! I’ll be working on getting those numbers up in the next couple of months.
  • Have been following some great writing blogs and sites these days:
  • My freshmen will be writing “This I Believe” Essays this week, and I’m thinking of writing one, too, but I’m so unsure of what I’d write about! Maybe something about how it’s essential to show people you care, but since that’s born of a very recent personal story of someone NOT caring, I’m not sure I’ll choose to expose that part of my tender soul right now. I’ll keep you posted if I do.

 

Are you a writer? I need friends! Follow my blog or comment below, and I’ll follow you back! 

 

Two Poems

What a fantastic idea for poetry — fun to write and intriguing to read.

random sample

Poetry by Holly Painter

crossword-1316596Cryptic Crossword XIV

Clues:
In casino town, butcher saves gal,
ladies’ man, and stagehand

from fire – they go back to family, as she sets off,
wandering far to let go of odorous
smoke. With erect gait, processing

defeats with infinite heart, the woman’s
bearing a man’s lubricant: liquor.

Answers:
Las Vegas playboy
ashes fragrant cigarette
finishes whisky


Cryptic Crossword XIX

Clues:
Hear lesson of the cow:
I live in Vermont in gray solemnity

hovering over animal feed consumed by chuck-
providing bovines. Modern
holy man confines curious
spirit to composing earth poems.

At last, we listen closely,
soaring with the aerial.

Answers:
Lower gravity
Floating in strange atmosphere
finally flying


Holly Painter is a poet, writer, and editor from southeast Michigan. Her first full-length book of poetry,  Excerpts from a Natural History , was published by Titus Books in Auckland, New Zealand in 2015. Her…

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Friday Reading Rainbow (1st of 2019!)

Friday Reading Rainbow (1st of 2019!)

Greetings, 2019 people! You are so shiny!

Some Reading Resolutions

  • I want to read 52 books this year! That’s one for every week, but since I usually read more than one book, I think I can do it.
  • I should read more of the books that I actually own (and maybe make room for some new ones).
  • Post more frequent reviews and recommendations here

9 Books I want to read in 2019

  • Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
  • Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel (for once in my life I think I’ll attempt to read a sequel immediately after I read the first book??)
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peele
  • Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
  • Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
  • The Steady Running of the Hour, by Justin Go
  • The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
  • Virgil Wander, by Leif Enger

Currently Reading

FICTION:

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

I’m approaching the last pages of this epic saga. I’m still so wrapped up in Cromwell’s schemes, and I like how little inner monologue he has — we kind of have to figure him out without much help from him (he has bigger things to worry about). I’ve been fascinating with Anne Boleyn since I was a little contrarian / anarchist child and since I have a mole on my neck (a sign of being a witch, or so they said with her!). She’s portrayed here as capricious, savage, and ambitious to an extreme. It’s delightful to watch her smash things.

NONFCTION:

Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, by Eric Foner

The American Civil War is one of my favorite eras of history; it’s conceptually rich and dramatic, and there is so much evil and violence, yet so much hope. I want this book to shed some light on the human experience of enslaved people. It also doubles as some preliminary research for the novel I’m writing (The Western).

POETRY:

“Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning,”  by Beth Gordon in Into the Void. 

 

Marriage,” by Luisa Muradyan.

 

What are you reading this weekend? I hope it brings you joy (and a warm mug of coffee!)