Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poetry Wednesday: Interrogative, and a New Poet Laureate

Congratulations to America's new Poet Laureate! Here is a poem from her book Duende.


Related Poem Content Details

1. Falmouth, Massachusetts, 1972
Oak table, knotted legs, the chirp
And scrape of tines to mouth.
Four children, four engines
Of want. That music.
What did your hand mean to smooth
Across the casket of your belly?
What echoed there, if not me—tiny body
Afloat, akimbo, awake or at rest?
Every night you fed the others
Bread leavened with the grains
Of your own want. How
Could you stand me near you,
In you, jump and kick tricking
The heart, when what you prayed for
Was my father’s shadow, your name
In his dangerous script, an envelope
Smelling of gun-powder, bay rum,
Someone to wrestle, sing to, question,
                        2. Interstate 101 South, California, 1981
Remember the radio, the Coca-Cola sign
Phosphorescent to the left, bridge
After bridge, as though our lives were
Engineered simply to go? And so we went
Into those few quiet hours
Alone together in the dark, my arm
On the rest beside yours, our lights
Pricking at fog, tugging us patiently
Forward like a needle through gauze.
Night held us like a house.
Sometimes an old song
Would fill the car like a ghost.
                                    3. Leroy, Alabama, 2005
There’s still a pond behind your mother’s old house,
Still a stable with horses, a tractor rusted and stuck
Like a trophy in mud. And the red house you might
Have thrown stones at still stands on stilts up the dirt road.
A girl from the next town over rides in to lend us
Her colt, cries when one of us kicks it with spurs.
Her father wants to buy her a trailer, let her try her luck
In the shows. They stay for dinner under the tent
Your brother put up for the Fourth. Firebugs flare
And vanish. I am trying to let go of something.
My heart cluttered with names that mean nothing.
Our racket races out to the darkest part of the night.
The woods catch it and send it back. 
                        4. But let’s say you’re alive again—
Your hands are long and tell your age.
You hold them there, twirling a bent straw,
And my reflection watches, hollow-faced,
Not trying to hide. The waiters make it seem
Like Cairo. Back and forth shouting
That sharp language. And for the first time
I tell you everything. No shame
In my secrets, shoddy as laundry.
I have praised your God
For the blessing of the body, snuck
From pleasure to pleasure, lying for it, 
Holding it like a coin or a key in my fist.
I know now you’ve known all along.
I won’t change. I want to give
Everything away. To wander forever.
Here is a pot of tea. Let’s share it
Slowly, like sisters.

by Tracy K. Smith
courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Reading Meets Book Ennui

Entire weekends of reading! Long nights of nothing but book time! It's summer! Woo hoo!

Well, don't spill your lemonade, but this year's summer reading is starting off very slowly for me.

You'd think that I'd have more than three book under my belt after three weeks of summer reading.

Nope, just three. A whopping 839 completed pages. A fabulous 839 pages that includes a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but still a paltry sum of pages and books (including one book I began reading literally months ago).

Oh, don't get me wrong: I'm reading. My nightstand reading stack is dwindling, somewhat. I am nearly halfway through Anna Karenina, and I picked up the latest by Arundhati Roy, hot off the press.

I'm just not tossing back the books at a breakneck speed as intended.

I will continue to plug along, and pick up interesting books along the way. I won't break down, but I will limp along a little slower than anticipated. Wish me luck!

What do you do when you experience book ennui? Do you dial back the reading to give your psyche a rest, break on through to the other side no matter what, or wallow the ennui until it dissipates?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Library Loot: New Library, New Books

This week's library loot experience took me to a rarely-visited branch of my library system for a book not for myself.

My husband David wanted to read a book by Eckhart Tolle, which was available at a branch of the library he passes in his travels every week. Apparently I never took him into that library, which I find hard to believe, but it could happen. (In a strange alternate universe, but still.) We resolved that issue immediately.

I took a lap around the lovely little library, checking out the "new books" section, the audiobook shelves, and the "Friends of the Library Book Sale" shelves. My audible gasp caused at least one patron to turn toward me (sorry!), but as I reached for Arundhati Roy's new release, I couldn't help it. It's a 14-day book, so heaven help me finish it on time, but I'll give it the old college try.

(Full disclosure: I began listening to The God of Small Things last year, but stopped after a very short time. That was about the same time I couldn't get into Uprooted, so I will call that timeframe "my bad.")

On the book sale shelves, I found a lovely hardback copy of Belgravia, which has intrigued me since its publication. The buzz hasn't been off the charts, but one cannot make all the people happy all the time, so I'll check it out.

David also was lured to the used book sale, but by fly fishing. There were two books, and one caught his eye. It was the knots, I believe.

All in all, it was a very successful trip to the library.

What treasures have you found at your library recently?

(Shout-out to Clare, the Captive Reader, for the original Library Loot column, and fabulous logo.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

At the Pitch • Poetry Wednesday

At the Pitch
If I could only live at the pitch
that is near madness, Eberhart wrote

but there was his wife Betty hanging onto
his coattails for dear life to the end of her life.

No one intervened when my mother’s brother’s
wife ran off with the new young rabbi

every woman in the congregation had a crush on.
They rose unleashed, fleeing west

into the sooty sky over Philadelphia
in a pillar of fire, at the pitch that is near madness

touching down in the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Cleveland. Chicago. O westward!

O fornication! I was sixteen.
Eberhart had written his poem before

he sailed off to World War II and a boy
had just put his tongue in my mouth

which meant he could make
me do anything. No one

holding onto his coattails, no one onto my skirt
until my father switched on the back porch light.

by Maxine Kumin
from Where I Live: New & Selected Poems
courtesy The Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Reading: Karen's List

Summer reading has begun! Are you as excited as I am? 

The Summer Reading Club is in full swing. It means days full of reading books: hopefully good ones, of course, but take a risk from time to time. Go out on a limb and reach for a book that may be different from your usual fare. Try a different media: try recorded books, or print, for a change of pace.

Ambitious Reader Karen has shared her reading list with us, and I'm very pleased to see a couple of books she and I both own. I will have to make sure she and I synchronize our Kindles to activate extra fun reading!

Here are her summer reading books, in no particular order:
  • A Second Daniel
  • The Haunting of Ashburn House
  • Stirrings in the Black House
  • The Miniaturist
  • The House
  • Little Red
  • Switching Hour
  • Darcy's Ultimatum
  • The Templar's Cross
  • Georgianna Darcy's Diary
  • Secrets and Sensibilities
  • Indiana Belle
  • Crossings
  • Nothing to Croak About
  • The Chocolate Cure
  • Evil Librarian
  • Rising Sun
  • Wobble to Death
  • Servant of the Crown Mysteries: Lost Innocents, Season of the Raven, Season of the Fox
  • Tempest at Dawn
  • Glorieta Pass
  • Collide
  • Tequila and Tea Bags
  • The Passage
  • Chocolate Shop in Paris
  • Freedom's Sword
  • A Spell of Trouble
  • The Bees
  • Troublemaker
  • Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story
  • A Night Without Armor: Poems

  • Chasing Down the Dawn: Stories From the Road
  • A Strange Beginning
  • Beautiful Storm

Do you see any books that look good to you? Check them out from the library, or see if they're in your Kindle Prime or Unlimited reading bank.

By the way, did you know that Kindle Prime readers have some great options open to them for free reading? Check out the list, which includes modern classics 1984, Animal Farm, and The Handmaid's Tale.

If you don't want to make a list, that's cool, too. Just start reading — and feel free to drop me a line to let me know what pages you are turning.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Library Loot: Print and Audio, Plus Drama

I went to the library this week and got some loot: I borrowed two books and purchased a third, only one of which is on my original summer reading list. 

(Like that's a surprise. We all know I make the list, I chuckle, and then a I reach for whatever I darned well please. Hey, it's summer reading: no rules, just reading! Plus, can you blame me if I stray with so many great choices?)

I shall read at least one this weekend, possibly two (if I am ambitious). 

I am excited that one is Ruined, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by a playwright new to me, and the others are by authors I know and enjoy. I have encountered Lynn Nottage in numerous articles lately, so it's really a sort of sign that she is in my loot today.

I also am excited about listening to Eric Weiner's new book. I so enjoyed his Geography of Bliss and I can't wait to see what he has to say about "genius."

As for Cristina HenrĂ­quez's book, I almost didn't leave the library before starting it. Her novel made my Favorites of 2014 List, so I am very hopeful about this tome.

The book I purchased at the ongoing Friends of the Library book sale, Being Mortal, is one I'm rather intrigued to read. I have read Atul Gawande's  The New Yorker articles and enjoyed them immensely. I heard his interview on Fresh Air about aging and medicine. 

Thanks to Clare, the Captive Reader, for such an inspirational column! I love my library, and what it gives me, and it's nice to share that love.

So, tell me: what did you get from the library this week?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Reading: Making a List!

Summer means reading — and summer reading club! 

Remember back in the day, when reading came with rewards? In my local library, readers would have their names posted with the number of titles read during the summer. One year, I read 4o books. My librarian was skeptical — then she remembered how I sat in the library for hours at a time, reading. Forty it was.

Getting a shout-out on Hedgehog Lover may not be as cool as having your name posted on the Norwalk Library children's section activity board, but it's still not bad. 

Visit your library (public or private), your local bookstores and thrift shops, yard sales and online book suppliers, friends and family, and choose what books look like they need to be read this summer.

So here's what I hope to consume this summer between the Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend in autumn. This year, that date is Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24.

First of all, please take a moment to think about Memorial Day, and understand what it really means, 149 years after it began as Decoration Day in an Illinois town. May we strive for peace, and love, and the things that bring us together.  

In that vein, we may want to add a book to our list that reflects Memorial Day, and an article published by the Los Angeles Times may be a good place to start. 

My list is more a "wish" than carved in stone, but here it is, in no particular order:
  1. Hamilton: The Revolution
  2. Evicted
  3. Anna Karenina
  4. Lady Cop Makes Trouble
  5. The Burning Pages
  6. Dark Money
  7. Map of the Sky
  8. The Intuitionist
  9. Ready Player One
  10. The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books
  11. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
  12. Me Before You
  13. Yesternight
  14. The Fall of the House of Cabal
  15. The Descent
  16. The Book of Harlan
  17. At the Water's Edge
  18. Thank You for Your Service
  19. The Glass Sentence
  20. The Keeper of Lost Things
  21. The Lost City of Z
  22. Wicked
  23. Bone Season
  24. The Gun Seller
  25. Wolf Hall
  26. The Lowland
  27. And the Mountains Echoed
  28. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 
  29. The Sixth Extinction
  30. Revival
  31. Bellman and Black
  32. Just Mercy
  33. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
  34. Redeployment
  35. The Handmaid's Tale
  36. The Case Against Sugar
  37. The Magicians
  38. The Unbanking of America
  39. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
  40. Welcome to Night Vale
  41. Hidden Figures
  42. Speaking from Among the Bones
  43. Ruined
  44. The Bear and the Nightingale
  45. Uprooted
I suspect this list will change. As soon as something looks or sounds good, it will be on the list. I can't help it!

Join the Summer Reading Club and put yourself in the running for a new book. Read as much as you wish from Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24, and if you read the most books, you will win a book of your own.

To join the club, just send me an e-mail or leave a message below. Then, at the end of the summer reading period, send me a message or include your reading list in a blog comment. If you read the most, congratulations! If not, you still are a winner because you spent your summer reading.

I've already had a few e-mails from eager readers, and I can't wait to read your list!

I make sure summer reading is beneficial to my community. As I have done in years past, I will  donate $5 per book I read to Main Street Child Development Center (minimum $150) (I know, no sweat, right?), and I will buy three new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List

Hopefully, reading club members also will find a way to help their communities through their reading, or to help share the love of reading with their communities. It's not a requirement, of course, but it certainly is a worthy effort. It doesn't have to be financial support, either — think of what the community wants and needs. Every reader can determine what is within her or his power to bestow.

Even if you don't join the reading club, I still would love to know: what's on your summer reading list? Tell me!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Essentially, Oils Can Make a Difference

My friend and co-worker Melanie has good ideas. She is the one who introduced me to audiobooks, and I'm forever grateful. I'm trying out a standing desk now, which is a good option (but never for the whole eight hours at work), and I've begun using essential oils in a diffuser.

I was skeptical. I understood how sniffing a pungent smell could affect my sinuses (thanks, Passover horseradish!), but it never occurred to me that they could change my environment.

Until both Melanie and I came down with the flu within about 48 hours.

Melanie had essential oils in her office, and she dabbed some eucalyptus on a tissue and taped it to my blowing heater. The smell emanated through the small room and my sinuses felt the relief. At lunch, I picked up a diffuser at lunch and some essential oils, and set up the diffuser in my bedroom.

Alas, diffusers all feature lights — and no matter the claims, there is no true "unlit" phase of any diffuser I've reviewed or purchased (and I've purchased a few). I prefer a dark bedroom at night, so I have rigged a cover for the lit area. It doesn't quash it, but it does tap it down a bit. Additional light tip: darker lights are less bothersome at night.

I was a little overwhelmed by the oil choices. At work, I wanted to be calm but alert. At home, I wanted to go to sleep. How should I combine oils to do that, and more, without earning certification in aromatherapy? Well, choose a couple of websites or books, decide what you think will work for you, and experiment.

I like Valerian root, but I sent a floral, citrusy mix to my granddaughters. My friend in a new home got tea tree oil and lavender. I have Rosemary in the office, and mix lavender with everything. So far, so good. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, nothing has wilted, exploded, or melted.

(You do want to keep an eye on furniture and books near the diffuser. I have a marble nightstand, and dust stuck better to the surface after the diffuser went into action. At work, my diffuser aims up toward the ceiling, and my desk and accessories haven't changed texture — but I attribute that to the cleaning staff, rather than the oils.)

Apparently, I am the last person to this party: a few other friends also were in the know. A friend had just met an essential oil expert before we began discussing it, and another had thought about using them but didn't know where to begin.

Essential oils have been around for a while, and I have found they they can help me accomplish my physical goals, whether it's sleep, alertness, calm, creative thinking, cleansed air, open sinuses, clear skin — or more.

I recommend choosing a reliable resource for information, and making sure the oils are good quality. Use oils only as directed, and read the instructions: if they alert you to photosensitivity or skin sensitivity, take the alert seriously. Do not be subject of the horror story of the person who uses oils right before hopping into a tanning bed, or doesn't add them to the proper base materials, or just pours them into a cleanser off the drug store shelf.

Sure, the current commercial focus on essential oils and diffusers may fade, but remember that oils have been around for centuries, and will be around long after any "fad" fades. Much like acupuncture and meditation, good practices will remain, and will work for you, for years to come. Try something new, or old — or new to you, and learn something about yourself and your environment.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On Alcohol • Poetry Wednesday

On Alcohol

my first drink was in my mother
my next, my bris. doctor spread red
wine across my lips. took my foreskin

every time i drink     i lose something

no one knows the origins of alcohol. tho surely an accident
before sacrament. agricultural apocrypha. enough grain stored up
for it to get weird in the cistern. rot gospel. god water

brandy was used to treat everything
from colds to pneumonia
frostbite to snake bites

tb patients were placed on ethanol drips
tonics & cough medicines
spooned into the crying mouths of children

each friday in synagogue a prayer for red
at dinner, the cemetery, the kitchen

how many times have i woke
strange in an unfamiliar bed?
my head neolithic

my grandfather died with a bottle in one hand
& flowers in the other. he called his drink his medicine
he called his woman
    she locked the door

i can only half blame alcohol for my overdose
the other half is my own hand
that poured the codeine    that lifted the red plastic again & again &

i’m trying to understand pleasure     it comes back
in flashes    every jean button thumbed open to reveal
a different man     every slurred & furious permission

i was sober a year before [          ] died

every time i drink     i lose someone

if you look close at the process of fermentation
you’ll see tiny animals destroying the living body
until it’s transformed into something more volatile

the wino outside the liquor store
mistakes me for his son

by Sam Sax