Rogers, Eating Bread and Honey

Eating bread and honey Eating bread and honeyPattiann Rogers; Milkweed Editions 1997WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is one of the first books that I checked out from COCC’s Barber Library with my community patron card. I found it just by browsing through the PSs.

Although I did like two poems in here and she comes highly lauded, all in all, I did not care for these poems. Rogers uses language beautifully, But then she chains those bits of beautiful language together until it becomes a constant cacophony of metaphors and comparisons between the natural world and the human-constructed world or the human-constructed world and itself or the natural world and itself, or all at the same time.

E.g., see this excerpt from “The Long Marriage: A Translation” (87-88):

In among the alder’s highest black
branches making a complicated map
of depth and elevation against the dull
white sky, winter waxwings in a flock
settle, coming, going.

They depart, altering the design of cold
and season in the tree, return
in gatherings of six or seven, flying
in quick staccato against a largo
of motion relative to one another,
As if they weren’t birds alone
but a constantly changing syntax
in a history of place and event.

Several sail together over the fallen
field with an expansion and contraction
of pattern that might sound like a wheezing
of wooden organ or bagpipe, were there sound
to vision. And eleven spiral up, angle
into the evening like eleven dead leaves
with stunted wings and no more purpose
nor will than to illustrate eleven
different motives of the wind at once.

Gliding to gully, to river brush, a wave
of them parts easily, rejoins in crossing
familiarities that might impress like lavender
and sage, were there fragrances
to involution and grace.

This poem comes almost at the end of the book. By itself it doesn’t seem so bad. Birds flying, musical metaphors, sensory modalities veering into others. It is actually kind of beautiful. But this is 80-some odd pages in and it has been incessant. I really like the last stanza I included. But as a whole, for me, it is just too much.

If you like what you see here and you would enjoy it in quantity then this book is for you.

Harrison and Kooser, Braided Creek

I was alerted to this book by Dave Bonta in early May of this year, so I picked it up on 5 June from The Book Store in Des Moines and read it on 26 September.

I probably ought just say to go read Bonta’s post as you’ll learn far more about the work and the authors than I can tell you, and I highly suggest that you do read his post, but I want to say a little myself. I will try not to duplicate much.

First, let me say that I am highly grateful to Bonta for writing about this lovely book again so that I might see his review. I have read a couple books by Jim Harrison and although I know he is considered to be an excellent poet what I have read of his has not really grabbed me. As for Kooser, I have read the odd poem here and there but never a book of his poems, although I have read his, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, which I truly enjoyed and need to revisit.

As Bonta writes:

Braided Creek is the result of a poetry correspondence between two old, white male poets at the top of their literary game, struggling to come to terms with aging and all its associated ills.

The poems came out of a series of correspondence between the two longtime friends “comprised entirely of brief poems” “[a]fter Kooser was diagnosed with cancer” (back cover).

The poems are unattributed and as the blurb on the back states:

When asked about attributions for the individual poems, one of them replied, “Everyone gets tired of this continuing cult of the personality… This book is an assertion in favor of poetry and against credentials.”

Many of the poems are almost aphoristic:

A coffin handles
leaves a lasting impression
on a hand.

The face you look out of
is never the face
your lover looks into.

Many are quite humorous:

I want to describe my life in hushed tones
like a TV nature program. Dawn in the north.
His nose stalks the air for newborn coffee.

Oh, to be in love,
with all five buckets
of the senses
overflowing!

Almost all of them contain something quite deep and meaningful despite their brevity:

Each time I go outside the world
is different. This had happened
all my life.

Elaborate is the courtliness
of the imagination, on one sore knee
before beauty.

As Bonta mentions, they are four to a page and often seem to go together, some in a call and response sort of way. Nor are they afraid to get into social commentary or politics—as these two contiguous poems do—although they rarely stray there:

So the Greeks had amphorae
with friezes of nymphs.
We have coffee mugs with ads
for farm equipment!

How evil all priesthoods.
All over the earth Holy Places
soaked with extra blood.

Time, memory, nature, beauty, longing, wistfulness. The book is full of these and more:

Last year the snake
left her skin on the floor,
diaphanous like the name
of a lovely girl you’ve forgotten—
but not her flesh.

And then there are the simple truths of a person as they age:

Like an old dog
I slowly lower and arrange myself
in a heap of sighs.

I can definitely relate to that one.

I’ll end with one of my very favorites, to which I also can highly relate:

The moon put her white hands
on my shoulders, looked into my face,
and without a word
sent me on into the night.

This is a lovely book of poetry that is also so much more.

Today, meh

Today hasn’t been that awesome of a day. My stomach had a big knot in it when I went to bed last night, which I thought perhaps came from having the chocolate gelato for dessert after having had a Rodenbach Grand Cru at dinner.

Today the hard knot is gone but replaced by worse, which has really disrupted my day. I did get our ballots dropped off at the drive-thru ballot ‘box.’ We could have mailed our ballots in if we had been a couple days earlier in filling them out. But, the drive-thru was kind of neat. No “I Voted” stickers, though.

Also got a small bit of necessary grocery shopping in but I skipped Haiku Circle, which I had really wanted to attend. It was only the second meeting since it started last month. Also, I wanted to see how many people showed up since there was no reminder and maybe remind them to use the Facebook page or the email list or something.

Not much writing is getting done for DigiWriMo because I just feel pretty crappy. At this point, I am thinking I got a stomach bug of some sort. Whatever it is, I truly hope it clears up fast since tomorrow is the Deschutes Brewery University Barrel-Aged Beer class and I want a solid stomach for that!

Thanks to a tweet from Andromeda (@ThatAndromeda) earlier today, I am signed up for a free Git and GitHub Basics class from GitHub. So this afternoon I got Git installed on my Mac (command line version), set up a GitHub account (MarkLindner), made my first repository and followed Andromeda as she suggested. I hope/think I’m ready for the class tomorrow. I have no idea when I’ll have a real use for Git and GitHub but hopefully I can learn enough to plod along when the time comes. Who knows, maybe that time will be sooner than I think.

Also, in some way, it seems directly related to DigiWriMo, so now is as good a time to learn as any.

Late this afternoon we went to an event held by OSU-Cascades called Brains & Brews, which is where a professor talks about some of their current research while folks sit around and drink at a local establishment. It is so popular that you have to sign up in advance and it isn’t advertised on the faculty events calendar page. It was quite interesting. A couple folks talked about equine-based psychotherapy with folks with PTSD.

Hopefully the evening will remain quiet and my stomach will get itself under control. I guess when I have to eat next, which will be soon, we’ll see.

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge Personal Assessment

In October 2011, after finishing another book reading challenge, which a friend of mine had handled excellently, I decided it was my turn to reciprocate, and I wanted another reading challenge, so I came up with the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

This post is my reflection on how it went for me.

Initial choices

I made a list of 30 books of which I hoped to read 20. Then, because I’m a cataloger/classifier, I divided them into 6 gross categories just to see what areas I had picked and then to maybe lean towards reading at least one from each to ensure my reading stayed broad. (Of course, I read many other books during this timeframe that were not on my Challenge list. Many of those were graphics novels and poetry.) After a couple of months, because of certain timely shifts in interest I non-specifically substituted 2 books.

My full set of initial choices and their categories can be seen at My Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

How it worked out

The following is how it worked out for me. The books listed are the ones I finished (and 2 which I started but did not finish yet):

HISTORY / ANTHROPOLOGY / RELIGION

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History by Mircea Eliade

PHILOSOPHY

In Defence of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov (substitute)

LITERATURE / FICTION / POETRY / CRITICISM

Pale Fire (Everyman’s Library, #67) by Vladimir Nabokov

The Way It Is by William Stafford

Transformations by Anne Sexton

PROFESSIONAL READING

(Began only) Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet by Christine L. Borgman

(Began only) Libraries and the Enlightenment by Wayne Bivens-Tatum (substitute)

Thoughts/Commentary

As is fairly evident, I did not do well with the challenge I set myself. I finished 6 books (30%) and began 2 others out of the 20 I was aiming for.

Now, there are extenuating circumstances seeing as we moved halfway across the country this summer, which sucked up an awful lot of time. We also jumped into life in Bend with both feet when we arrived which only made the moving in process longer. (I hope to be writing here about some of the things we have done since arriving in Bend soon).

Extenuating circumstances or not, I am perfectly happy with the way the challenge turned out for me as I explicitly learned something about myself. I was loosely aware of it before, but this just cemented it.

That is, there are too many interesting books out there for me to specify what I will be reading over the next year.

I still want, and intend, to read all of the books on my challenge list. Just as I intend to read many others on previous lists or those on no particular list. There will also be many new books or books new to me that I will read. (E.g., we have acquired 136 books in the 1st 9 months of 2012 (during the Challenge) but that number doesn’t include books acquired in Oct-Dec 2011, nor the many books read from assorted libraries.)

So, the bottom line is, I need a somewhat looser form of reading challenge to be ‘successful’ by any sort of standard measure. Maybe as vague as “I’ll read x number of books in the next year” is the best I can do. I would hope to be able to provide a little more structured early guidance to myself perhaps, but I’m not sure I know what that is. While my reading choices are not fully based on whim by any means, they are heavily influenced by a wide variety of input mechanisms—friends (in assorted ways), sites like Goodreads or Library Thing, tweets by others, the book catalogs that two librarians (us) receive in the mail, browsing shelves in multiple places, book reviews stumbled across, and so on and on.

There simply are too many books out there waiting to be read for me to be so scheduled about what I will read. And I am perfectly happy with that.

I hereby declare the Two-Thirds Book Challenge a success for me. I look forward to seeing how the other participants assess their own personal Challenges.

 

 

 

Sound the Deep Waters: Women’s Romantic Poetry in the Victorian Age

Sound the deep waters Sound the deep waters: women’s romantic poetry in the Victorian ageedited by Pamela Norris.; Little, Brown 1992WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This lovely book is full of assorted poetry under four heads, with 12 poems in each: Love’s Bitter-Sweets, Moments of Delight, Dreams and Realities, and Last Songs. The poets are all women, British and American. Each and every poem is paired with a painting from the period, many are by the Pre-Raphaelites or in that style, many are quite famous (e.g., Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt), and many were painted by women. The poems and painting usually have a thematic connection of some sort.

The Keepsake by Kate Elizabeth Bunce, which is paired with C. Rossetti’s A Birthday

The Keepsake by Kate Elizabeth Bunce, which is paired with C. Rossetti’s A Birthday

The poets include the Brontë sisters (individually), Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Emma Lazarus, Amy Lowell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, and several others, including less well known poets.

The title is taken from the first line of Rossetti’s poem, “Sleep at Sea,” which was too long to be included (10).

Sound the deep waters:—
Who shall sound that deep?—
Too short the plummet
And the watchmen sleep.
Some dream of effort
Up a toilsome steep;
Some dream of pasture grounds
For harmless sheep.

An introduction by the editor, Pamela Norris, gives a quick overview of the stereotype of the Victorian woman as ‘The Angel in the House,’ and then goes on to provide a glimpse as to how these women poets’ reality was different as they often pushed against the stereotype, and sometimes even shattered it.

‘Love’s Bitter-Sweets’ shows that “while love was a favourite topic” it often was considered bittersweet, and thus these poems show ambivalence towards their topic (9).

‘Moments of Delight’ “celebrate life’s pleasures, which turn out to be manifold” (9).

“‘Dreams and Realities’ explore what might be termed ‘philosophies’: the poets’ attempts to read meaning and pattern into life” (9).

‘Last Songs’ explores another frequent topic, death.

There is, of course, overlap between sections. The last poem in ‘Dreams and Realities,’ Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” may well be a ‘philosophy’ but it is also certainly about death.

Hope in the Prison of Despair by Evelyn de Morgan, paired with C. Rossetti’s Up-Hill

Hope in the Prison of Despair by Evelyn de Morgan, paired with C. Rossetti’s Up-Hill

The book ends with 5 pages of short bios and text acknowledgements.

I chose to purchase and read this book as I liked its pairing of poems with images; I like the Pre-Raphaelites and their ilk enormously; I took a class on Victorian lit which I truly enjoyed; I have read Christina Rossetti’s complete poems (except the juvenalia) and while I don’t like every poem I do adore her [by the by, those were read on an iPod Touch], and I am always interested in issues of gender and the disruption of stereotypes.

Purchased 5 June 2012 from The Book Store in Des Moines $7.40

Norris, Pamela, ed. Sound the deep waters: women’s romantic poetry in the Victorian age. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. Print.

Cascades Crossing

Pale purple irises along US 20 in Willamette National Forest

Pale purple irises along US 20 in Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Cresting the summit we move from high desert and pine, pine, pine to mixed forests, moss and ferns and a colorful, changing assortment of wildflowers. Pale purple mountain irises call me to turn around on the narrow winding road. A cascade not-so-gently gurgles and pulses alongside the road, sometimes visible and sometimes not. The raucous remnants of fires past are replaced by the quiet of dripping water.

Mountain stream along US 20 in Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Mountain stream along US 20 in Willamette National Forest, Oregon

This is based on my first experience with crossing the Cascades, from the high desert to the rain forest side, back on 11 June 2012. We were on our way from Bend to Corvallis for Sara’s second interview. Her first was at OSU-Cascades in Bend earlier in the day and the second was at OSU (proper) in Corvallis the next day. We were taking US 20 and the Santiam Pass through the Willamette National Forest.

The change was dramatic and almost instantaneous, although it continued to gradually change and to get wetter and wetter. There are, of course, many microclimates in both regions. Eventually we emerged from the forest into the Willamette Valley and another kind of lush growth, a far more managed growth.

The initial thoughts (between the two top photos) were written down the day after, about 18 hours after the experience.

The high desert side seems to primarily consist of juniper, assorted pines, and a variety of small shrub-like plants, with wide open space on the ground beneath the canopy. The colors consist of mostly browns and grays from the ground up into the trunks of often massive trees. Only in the upper reaches of the trees where needles remain and in the leaves of some of the bushes is there much green. Up near the summit, black becomes frequently prominent in the burnt and charred remains of trees and on the soil itself from the more frequent forest fires, and in the exposed, alien looking terrain of past volcanic cataclysms.

Once over the pass the greens quickly intrude. Everywhere. The pines and conifers are less scraggly. More and more deciduous trees force their way in. Ferns and other low-lying, often flowering, plants begin to fill in the spaces between trees. The plants force their way up to the roadside and begin to close off the view into the forest. In short order, moss is hanging from the trees. Everything is a riot of green with little room for other colors, except the assorted wildflowers seen along the roadside, and even they are surrounded and nourished by green. Even the browns of the tree trunks are quickly covered in mosses and vines and all sorts of green.

Water can be heard splashing along somewhere near the edge, sometimes nearer, sometimes receding. Glimpses can be seen—through the dappled light—of a growing mountain stream. As stream after stream spills into it, it quickly becomes the South Santiam River, which more or less parallels US 20 for much of the way down into the valley, first on the left and then on the right.

The only other time I had driven over true mountains was in Europe—Southern Germany through Switzerland to Mont Blanc and so on. But there, the changes are not nearly so dramatic. Certainly they are dramatic but in vastly different ways. Then again, it has been many years since that trip. I have been in or along assorted other mountains—Ozarks, Blue Ridges, and a few others—but, again, the changes are not so dramatic, at least not along my direction of travel.

I may have been driving the rented car but nonetheless the profound changes grabbed me in my soul and settled deeply. We have been over the Cascades a few more times since, although we have taken some different routes along with the same one but in reverse, and the changes are equally profound no matter which way you cross the Cascades from Bend to Corvallis or Eugene or Portland. I hope to make the crossing many more times and even to spend a fair bit of time up their on foot. I only hope that it won’t be in winter.

The included photos are of the pale purple irises that called me to turn around and of the mountain stream cascading near the road.

Pale purple irises along US 20 in Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Pale purple irises along US 20 in Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Thank you, my love, for bringing me to Central Oregon.

Ingram, Hiss of Leaves

Hiss of LeavesT. D. Ingram; Upper Rubber Boot 2012WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Disclosure and other related issues: I was asked by the publisher if I would like to review this book since I had read and reviewed another work from their press. Having agreed to do so I was provided with copies in both .epub and .mobi formats.

The book is also available in .pdf. Sources are (depending on format): B&N or Kobo, Amazon, and Smashwords. The book is $4.99 from any of those outlets. Also, quite important, Upper Rubber Boot Books does not use any DRM.

Several of the poems can be found online, including “noonday heat”.  If you like dragonflies and haiku check that out. The publisher’s page for the book has a few and points to several others.

On to the book itself …

Billed on the website as a “contemplative haiku chapbook.” it is that. If your view of haiku is the one you got in elementary school then perhaps you should visit the Wikipedia page for Haiku in English as these are certainly not all of the “standard” 5-7-5 syllable variety that you may imagine.

I first read the book on our Kindle and my re-reading was in the Kindle app on my 1st gen iPad.

There are 36 poems in this chapbook and depending on the direction in which you hold the iPad you will see one or two poems at a time. I personally feel that it is best to ensure you are looking at one poem at a time. Haiku may be extremely short but they should be savored, perhaps read again after a few seconds, given time to settle into both your unconscious and conscious thought processes. Besides, with only 36 poems, if you were to race through the chapbook with little thought it might take you all of 4 minutes to read it and where’s the return on your $4.99 in that?

These poems necessarily embrace the seasons and the natural world, but they also embrace the mundane world of humans. For instance, “bottle caps”:

bottle caps
stuck in blacktop
small planets

One my favorites, “the brightness”:

the brightness
of the full moon
deepens the cold

I have yet to experience the snow in the high desert of Oregon to see if this is true here also, but it is certainly true in the Midwest and other places I’ve been. It seems as if the light from the full moon, illuminating the world it shines on, ought make the winter night a little warmer but it has the exact opposite effect. The poet has caught this perfectly.

One of the poems even made me look up a word, ‘ristra.’

Is this chapbook worth $4.99? I find it hard to say as I did not pay for it, but I think that it probably is. I truly enjoyed it and look forward to re-reading it a few more times. That is better than I can say about many books of poetry. If you are unsure then have a look at the publisher’s page for the book and read the poems there and follow a couple of the links provided. All in all, you can easily read 8 poems for free. If that isn’t enough to decide whether you’ll like it or not then I don’t know what is.

Either way, keep an eye on Upper Rubber Boot Books. Maybe check out another of their titles or authors. Affordable poetry ebooks in multiple formats and DRM-free. I like their style!

Doty, The Art of Description: World into Word

The art of description: world into wordMark Doty; Graywolf Press 2010WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

I really enjoyed this book while it was utterly frustrating at the same time.

It opens with an epigraph by Lyn Hejinian: “We delight in our sensuous involvement with the materials of language, we long to join words to the world—to close the gap between ourselves and things—and suffer from doubt and anxiety because of our inability to do so.”

My own experiences with attempting to turn the world into words, whether in prosaic conversation or in my more lyrical moments, are reflected in Doty’s attempt at explaining ‘how’ to do something inherently undoable, while my rational, logical side kept screaming “Just tell me what to do.” In reality, I know that my experience is correct, and while some people may be better at it or find it easier, that this is our essential existential condition.

Contents:

  • World into Word
  • A Tremendous Fish
  • Remembered Stars
  • Instruction and Resistance
  • Four Sunflowers
  • Description’s Alphabet [a letter-by-letter romp through selected concepts/ideas]

Some of my favorite quotes:

• “each descriptive act is one attempt to render the world, subject to revision. Perception is provisional; it gropes, considers, hypothesizes. Saying is now a problematic act, not a given; one might name what one sees this way, but there’s also that one, and that one.” 19

• “Poetry concretizes the singular, unrepeatable moment; it hammers out of speech a form for how it feels to be oneself.” 21

• “That is what artistic work and child’s play have in common; both, at their fullest, are experiences of being lost in the present, entirely occupied.” 23 [flow]

• “It’s the unsayability of what being is that drives the poet to speak…” 30

• “saying what you see and saying what you see.” 45

• Incomplete: “The power of this strategy is partly a function of the humility of the speaker, who does not presume knowledge, but involves us in his active quest for it, and takes the limits of language and understanding not as a reason for silence.” 89

• Uncertainty: “Questions are always a little more trustworthy than answers. And even if what is said does not take the rhetorical form of a question, the best descriptions contain room for that which must remain indeterminate; they somehow manage to acknowledge the fact of limit.” 126

This book is part of the usually high-quality The Art of series, which is a series of smallish books on topics of the writing craft. I have read a couple of these and have one more that I recently acquired.

I have and have read The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach, which I remember finding useful. Waiting for me to read is Dean Young’s The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction.

I also read Ellen Bryan Voigt’s The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song and I pretty much hated it. It may, in fact, be an excellent book but she realizes entirely on music theory and concepts to discuss syntax and seeing as my knowledge of music theory is pretty much deficient I couldn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. While her method may be quite valuable, there are also other ways to discuss poetic syntax and I guess I needed one of those. I certainly need to learn more about musical concepts and theory also. That is a given.

If you are interested in writing, be it fiction, nonfiction or poetry, I suggest you at least prod the books in this series.

Emmons, Baseball nights and DDT

Baseball Nights And DDTJeanne Emmons; Pecan Grove Pr 2005WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is an excellent book of poems which consists of four sections: “Refinery,” “Cooking from Scratch,” “Possessions,” and “The Sound of One Hand.” Amongst the poems of each section is a poem of the same title, except in “Possessions” where the poem is actually “The Possession of Susan Smith.”

This is the second of Emmons’ three books of poems; the first being Rootbound and the third The Glove of the World. I have not yet read the third book.

Full disclosure time: Jeanne Emmons is a friend of mine and the professor I have taken the most classes from at Briar Cliff. Other than providing me a deeper knowledge of the poet, which helps in placing the poet in relation to some of the subject matter of the poems, I do not think it colors my judgement of the poems in the slightest. These are powerful poems whether or not I have more insight into some of them than the general reader of them does.

The poems in “Refinery” center around the author’s growing up in south Texas: Halloween, the baseball nights and DDT of the title, Southern Baptist churchgoing, segregation, living in a refinery town. “Cooking from Scratch” encompasses relationships and where they lay in time; friends, family—living and gone—make their appearance. The third section, “Possessions” contains exactly what it says, the things that possess others and ourselves: gardens, travel, names and events in the news, mythology. The last section, “The Sound of One Hand,” consists of poems about Emmons’ father and their complex relationship and the whole book is dedicated to her father, Winfred S. Emmons, who passed in 2000.

There are so many poems I’d like to share with you or comment on but I’ll keep it to a bare minimum.

On her parents’ wedding night, from “Fantasia Reissued”:

That year, someone would split the atom,
and Bald Mountain would soon be racked
with thunderbolts and deadly rain,
but they held out hope and loved each other
with pink parasols, one after the other,
opening and opening in the darkened theater.

“Contingency” is one of the most beautifully and quietly erotic poems that I have ever read, even more so since there is nothing explicit in it.

“Medusa” is a wonderful reinterpretation of the boy-meets-girl story.

Since I cannot transcribe the whole thing, go find a copy and read them. You will be rewarded.