Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Poetry Wednesday: Sink Your Fingers into the Darkness of My Fur

Sink Your Fingers into the Darkness of My Fur

Up until this sore minute, you could turn the key, pivot away.
But mine is the only medicine now
wherever you go or follow.
The past is so far away, but it flickers,
then cleaves the night. The bones
of the past splinter between our teeth.
This is our life, love. Why did I think
it would be anything less than too much
of everything? I know you remember that cheap motel
on the coast where we drank red wine,
the sea flashing its gold scales as sun
soaked our skin. You said, This must be
what people mean when they say
I could die now. Now
we’re so much closer
to death than we were then. Who isn’t crushed,
stubbed out beneath a clumsy heel?
Who hasn’t stood at the open window,
sleepless, for the solace of the damp air?
I had to get old to carry both buckets
yoked on my shoulders. Sweet
and bitter waters I drink from.
Let me know you, ox you.
I want your scent in my hair.
I want your jokes.
Hang your kisses on all my branches, please.
Sink your fingers into the darkness of my fur.

by Ellen Bass, courtesy of The Academy of American Poets

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Poetry: Bats

Celebrate Halloween properly with this amazing poem, courtesy of


unveil themselves in dark.
They hang, each a jagged,

silken sleeve, from moonlit rafters bright
as polished knives. They swim

the muddled air and keen
like supersonic babies, the sound

we imagine empty wombs might make
in women who can’t fill them up.

A clasp, a scratch, a sigh.
They drink fruit dry.

And wheel, against feverish light flung hard
upon their faces,

in circles that nauseate.
Imagine one at breast or neck,

Patterning a name in driblets of iodine
that spatter your skin stars.

They flutter, shake like mystics.
They materialize. Revelatory

as a stranger’s underthings found tossed
upon the marital bed, you tremble

even at the thought. Asleep,
you tear your fingers

and search the sheets all night.

by Paisley Rekdal, from The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, 2007

Monday, September 9, 2019

Rita Dove Wins Wallace Stevens Award

Congratulations to Rita Dove, who received the annual Wallace Stevens Award last week from the Academy of American Poets

In celebration, let's enjoy her poem praising something I hold near and dear to my heart. (With special thanks to Ron Charles at the Washington Post).  


Velvet fruit, exquisite square
I hold up to sniff
between finger and thumb—

how you numb me
with your rich attentions!
If I don’t eat you quickly, 

you’ll melt in my palm.
Pleasure seeker, if I let you
you’d liquefy everywhere. 

Knotted smoke, dark punch
of earth and night and leaf,
for a taste of you 

any woman would gladly
crumble to ruin.
Enough chatter: I am ready 

to fall in love!

by Rita Dove
From American Smooth, 2004 (W.W. Norton)

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Gone Reading: See You in September!

August is the time to bury yourself in books.

If you need recommendations, feel free to contact me or ask your friendly neighborhood librarian for ideas.

If you really miss me, visit me on Instagram and Twitter@cfowcohen 

See you soon!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Reading Challenges: Going the Distance With Book Recommendations

There is no shortage of reading "challenges" that encourage readers to expand their horizons with deliciously random criteria that forcibly inject variety into their book choices. 

While some readers may take this lawlessness as a command to find new books for their shelves, I instead see this as an opportunity to more deeply peruse my TBR shelves, Kindle, and Audible selections. (If I told you I had a thousand books on my Kindle Fire, I'd be lying. I have 1,554.)

Take the Goodreads Challenge for Beginners, a reader favorite, where the challenge includes:

  1. Goodreads community-voted favorite
  2. Goodreads community popular read
  3. a book that has been on your Goodreads Want to Read list for a year or more
  4. a book being adapted for film or TV this year

Do I have any books on my to-read list that would fit those criteria? Why, yes I do:

  1. Children of Blood and Bone
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing or Daisy Jones and the Six
  3. Behind the Scenes at the Museum
  4. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Two of the books above fit selections in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge

  • A book I've been meaning to read: Where the Crawdads Sing
  • A book from a favorite author's backlist: Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Then there's the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, which has dozens of options, including books with the words "pop," "sugar," or "challenge" in the title. Three books I have chosen above can meet a few POPSUGAR criteria:

  • Celebrity recommendation? Where the Crawdads Sing
  • Debut novel? Behind the Scenes at the Museum 
  • A book with a question mark in its title? Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
  • A book told from multiple POVs? Daisy Jones and the Six

Okay, that's kind of cheating, so I'll branch out wider on my summer reading list with POPSUGAR suggestions:

  • A book I meant to read in 2018: The Bear and the Nightingale
  • A book published in 2019: Gingerbread
  • A book about someone with a super power: The Power
  • A book with a two-word title: Wolf Hall

Challenges can be fun, as long as the end result is an ample, fun, and rich reading list. While it's fun to flex your reading muscle and try something new, never lose sight of the real reason for a challenge: to make reading more fun. 

As the summer progresses, I'll try a challenge or two, but it looks like I can always come back my own shelves for my selection. As Dorothy said, there's no place like home.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Summer Reading: The TBR of Intrepid Reader Karen

Intrepid Reader Karen has published her summer reading list, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say, "I approve!" 

As we all can agree, TBR List Approval doesn't matter. We The Readers read what we want, and we support reading freedom for others. 

However, we are inordinately pleased when we see books we recognize — either read or to read — on someone else's summer reading list.

So, without further ado, I present Intrepid Reader Karen's 2019 Summer Reading List:

  • The Psychology of Time Travel 
  • The Girl With a Pearl Earring
  • Relative Fortunes
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Women of the Bible (selected readings)
  • Ruby Red
  • Sapphire Blue
  • Emerald Green
  • Dream a Little Dream trilogy
  • Finding Fraser
  • The Ghost Studies
  • Pirate
  • The Iliad
  • Stealing Time
  • Released by the Highlander
  • The Holy Bible (selected readings)

You will notice The Ghost Studies is on her reading list. We hope you will join us for this group read!  Click here for more information.

Personally, I am excited about a couple of books on this list,that have been in my sights for a while. Now that Karen is reading them, perhaps I'll pull them down from the shelf and read them, too. I love getting ideas on what to read from my fellow readers. I hope I can do the same for you in return.

Do you have any of Karen's books on your TBR list? Let us know in the comments below, or drop me a line, and maybe we can read them together!

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Creatures in Books: The Stories, the Memories

When it comes to animals — in books, in movies, even in pop songs — I approach with caution. I worry that the poor beasts will be mishandled, will befall some terrible fate, or be sacrificed as a plot complication. Who among us can say with complete confidence that they have recovered from Old Yeller? Or Shannon? (Looks around.) I thought so.

On Memorial Day weekend, I began an Audible book as I walked to the library to return a few print books. I loved the sound of Sy Montgomery's voice in my ears as she read How to Be a Good Creature. (Full disclosure: I took a few days off when Tess started showing signs of old age. I can say it was because I didn't want to blubber like a fool on the elliptical — but the truth is, I wasn't brave enough.)

I thought of Cisco and Khan, my cats who died within days of each other in October 2011. The brothers had entirely different types of cancer, but each fell ill suddenly, and died within days of their diagnosis. I was so grief-stricken, I shocked my stepdaughter Valerie when she asked about my birthday plans a couple of months later. The sadness in my voice was palpable: "Nothing. I don't really want to do anything, hon." My house was quiet, my heart was broken, and I couldn't think beyond the next day.

The next week, when we drove down to North Carolina for a major Christmas shopping event, Valerie handed me a small orange and white kitten. I just looked at the kitten and thought, "Can I do this again?" That night, as the newly named Ginger curled up in bed between my husband David and me, I lay awake looking at her: was I brave enough to love her? Now, I can't imagine my life without her, or her little sister Elsie who makes Ginger emit a particular sound when she catches sight of her. I knew Sy would get there, too, and I was with her until she did.

Just the title Dogs of War caused me a bit of concern. I wanted to know more about these brave canines, but I worried about their well-being. Three dogs represented canine troops in three wars: Boots, a collie in the trenches of World War I; Loki, a husky in Greenland during World War II; and Sheba, a German Shepherd in the jungles of Vietnam. No dogs were harmed in the writing of the book, nor were they hurt in their stories. The author's note, however, explains that dogs were considered "equipment" and left behind after the Vietnam War, which breaks my heart (and contributes to Lanford's state of mind when we meet him). 

My childhood companion — and my only dog — was a cockapoo named Frisky. My family drifted to German Shepherds when I was in high school, but Frisky was always "mine." She was a tough little dog who loved me fiercely and protected me fearlessly, loved adventure, and put up with my teen shenanigans. She was my cross-country running partner, my hiking and walking partner, and my park buddy. When we were on vacation in my 10th summer — a rare vacation without Frisky — my family received news that our house had been burgled. My only concern was for my dog. Thankfully, Frisky was asleep at the neighbor's house, safe and sound.

When I was a teen, Frisky would sit at the bottom of the stairs that led to my bedroom to tell me when my date was over. My dates would laugh, but her word was law. (The ones I liked who came back were worthy of my time.) As her muzzle grayed and her steps slowed, I would carry her up the stairs and settle her on the bed. She grew blind, deaf, and arthritic, but remained loyal and loving: when she recognized the vibration of my footsteps, she would come out from under the side table in the den and greet me every day of her 15 years. One day, even that was too painful. She died in my arms at the vet's office. She shaped my understanding of animals, and I am grateful to this day for her love and patience. How anyone could think an animal, a dog, was equipment is beyond comprehension, and I grieve with every soldier whose animal companion remains in the field of battle without them.

I love animals, and well-placed animal characters are a great addition to any story. I prefer they be well-treated, but as long as the story ends up well, I can forgive perilous storylines (as with A Man Called Ove). Non-fiction is perilous, but I will do my best. My reading companions alert me about how they think I'll respond to an animal storyline, and often encourage me to read books I might otherwise eschew (like Water for Elephants). I will try to extend the same kindness and awareness to my fellow readers — and I hope you will, too.