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Archive for the ‘Poetic Souls’ Category

Well, due to a lingering Nor’easter we had to reschedule, but we finally made it to the Norwich Inn last week for the annual holiday edition of Pages in the Pub in our home town of Norwich, Vermont. Our superb presenters spoke about their favorite picks for our gift giving categories, and wow did they sell a lot of books. And thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore, they raised around $1,000 for the Norwich Public Library (while increasing sales for a great indie bookstore). The presenters also left us with a great list of books to give and to get.

This post lists all twenty-three books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter.  (Yes, we again limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room in this post, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing and gift-giving easier.

We hope you have fun looking, and that you enjoy holiday shopping from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using direct links to each selection. And now, our superb presenters’ picks for holiday giving and their bios at the end.

COOKBOOKS: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO COOK UP A CULINARY SNOW STORM

  • Make It Ahead by Ina Garten (2014). Selected by Lucinda – Delicious dishes made ahead remove stress.
  • My Paris Kitchen by David Leibovitz (2014). Selected by Penny – Paris Recipes, Photographs, Delicious Stories, Techniques.

MEMOIRS: FOR PEOPLE WHO ENJOY LIVING VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE’S MEMORIES.

POETRY: JUST BECAUSE

  • Aimless Love by Billy Collins (2013). Selected by David – Accessible poetry with imaginative surprises.

ADULT FICTION: FOR ANYONE LOOKING FOR A GREAT BOOK

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013). Selected by Penny – Nigeria, America Racism, Relationships, Blog, Thoughtful.
  • Us by David Nichols (2014). Selected by Lucinda – Can visiting Europe repair the family?
  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014). Selected by Penny – French Girl, German Boy, WW2 Intrigue.
  • Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (2014). Selected by Lisa – Short stories by master storyteller. Unique.
  • Cobra by Deon Myer (2014). Selected by Lauren – Cape Town crime thriller with twist.

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS (AGES 8-12): THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS

  • Holes by Louis Sachar (2000). Selected by Lauren – Perfect pick for reluctant young reader.
  • Misadventures of Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (2014). Selected by Lisa – Hilarious brood of six creates chaos, love.                               
  • Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli (2014). Selected by Lisa – Funny sibling rivalry leads to Dickinson.  

YOUNG ADULT FICTION — FOR TEENS /TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM

  • I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014). Selected by Penny – Twins, Art, Loss, Family, Homosexuality, Individuality.
  • Like No Other by Una LaMarche (2014). Selected by Lisa – Modern-day West Side story. Fun!

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/COFFEE TABLE BOOKS: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK ANDCHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE

  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (2014). Selected by David – Aiming for good end to good life.
  • This is the Story of A Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (2013). Selected by Jim – Unpretentious, insightful, biographical, interesting, sensitive, compassionate.
  • Elephant Company by Vicki Croke (2014). Selected by Jim – Educational, enlightening,  well written, engaging, evocative, entertaining.
  • Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg (2014). Selected by Lucinda – OMG – Funny texts by authors. LOL!

PERFECT PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

OUR SUPERB PRESENTERS

  • Lucinda Walker - Lucinda’s first love was Encyclopedia Brown. Lucinda has been the Director of the Norwich Public Library since 2002. She would like to give a grateful shout out to her amazing colleagues and the Norwich community. Lucinda loves reading, skiing, listening to podcasts, drinking coffee, and dancing with her awesome husband Peter and 2 kids, Hartley & Lily.
  • David Otto – Having worked nearly forever, as a clergyman, pastoral counselor, and currently a fee only financial planner, David gets out of the office to ride his bike, spend summers in Maine with his family, and cross-country ski in the winter. He reads mostly non-fiction and sometimes refers to himself in Norwich as Mr. Mary Otto.
  • Penny McConnel – Penny is the co-owner of The Norwich Bookstore. She lives in Norwich with husband Jim and enjoys gardening, reading, studying Italian, cooking, knitting, visiting her three sons and a grandson in Phoenix, the Bay Area and Burgundy France, and best of all, doing things with Jim. She is very excited to once again be a participant in Pages in the Pub.
  • Jim Gold – Reading has given me the quiet eye and understanding heart to see beyond the confines of my discipline. It fosters good conversation. Other activities that feed my soul:  hiking, cycling, canoeing, gardening, woodturning, cooking and time with my favorite and far more experienced book seller, Penny McConnel.
  • Lisa Christie – Lisa is, among other things, the co-founder of the Book Jam and a nonprofit consultant. One of her best jobs was being the founder of Everybody Wins! Vermont, a statewide literacy organization. In her spare time, she reads and travels (though never as much as she would like), bikes, swims, tries to speak Spanish and has a lot of fun with her husband and two sons.
  • Lauren Girard Adams - After spending two years in South Africa, Lauren has returned home to Norwich with her husband and two children.  Lauren is enjoying sharing tales of their adventures and experiences, including the discovery of a book or two, with family and friends here at home.


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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.

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In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.

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Today, we feature Victoria Fish author of A Brief Moment of Weightlessness, a collection of short stories. In addition to writing short stories, and blogging about life, Ms. Fish is pursuing her Masters of Social Work. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Hunger Mountain, Slow Trains, Wild River Review, and Literary Mama. She lives with her husband and three boys in our hometown in Vermont. A Brief Moment of Weightlessness is her first published book.

Ms. Fish will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, June 25th to discuss her book and her work. Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat. We have heard it is close to “selling out” so call soon.

 

1. What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

The Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green. My Antonia, by Willa Cather. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner.  All three of these books took me beyond my known world, while at the same time, almost miraculously, connected me with my own experiences of joy and wonder and loss. Books like these that both create a sense of yearning and a sense of finding make me want to write.

2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Mary Ladd Gavell, the author of I Cannot Tell A Lie Exactly.  Gavell died at the age of 47, having only published one story. That story, posthumously, was chosen by John Updike as one of the Best Short Stories of the Century, and, after that her children published a book of her stories. She writes about motherhood (and other topics) with understated poignancy, honesty and wit. There is one story called “The Swing” about a mother who imagines that her son, now in his 30’s, visits the backyard at night as a 6 year old boy again. I cannot get through that story without crying, every time, sideswiped anew with how she writes with such simplicity and power about intangible loss. I want to ask her, how did she do it? What else would she have written if she hadn’t died?

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

Mrs. Somebody Somebody, stories by Tracy Winn. Runaway, stories by Alice Munro. Red Bird: Poems, poems by Mary Oliver. I have read all three, but I always keep a few books like this to dip into again and again, words I know will satisfy me.

 

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On a chilly November evening one week before Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, readers from Norwich, Vermont gathered to hear about some superb new books to give this holiday season (even if only to give to oneself).

This evening was the latest outing of the Book Jam’s live event – “Pages in the Pub”.  This event is designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, public librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles. This time, we gathered at the Norwich Inn, sipped drinks, and turned pages, all with the goal of raising money for the Norwich Public Library.  This time we focused on GREAT books for holiday gift giving.  Because of everyone’s efforts, a few people completed their holiday shopping during the event, and most got a good start on checking off their lists.  And, we raised over $1,000 for our superb local library while increasing sales for our treasured independent bookstore.
This post lists all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter.  (Yes, we again limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room in this post, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) Each of their selections is linked to the Norwich Bookstore’s web site where you can learn more about their picks and order your selections. You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier.  Have fun looking, and enjoy getting some holiday shopping accomplished early from the comfort of your computer/iPad/cell-phone.

Our superb presenters included:

  • Lucinda WalkerLucinda has been the Director of the Norwich Public Library for 11 ½ happy years.  Her journey to librarianship began at the Windsor Public Library, where she spent many a long Saturday afternoon in their children’s room. When she’s not wrangling 7th graders at NPL, she loves skiing, making chocolate chip cookies and dancing with her family.
  • Penny McConnel – Penny has been selling books for 30 years and cannot imagine doing anything else.  She lives in Norwich with her husband Jim, a retired dentist.  When not reading or selling books, Penny can be found cooking, in her garden, singing and for two months in the winter enjoying life with Jim in California.
  • Stephanie McCaull – Stephanie’s most recent reincarnation is a book-devouring, nature-loving, dinner-making, stay-at-home, but rarely-at-home-mom to two kids and two dogs, but with a husband Philip to help. She lives in Norwich and loves daily crosswords, monitoring peregrine falcons and endless walks in the woods.
  • Lisa Christie – Lisa is the co-founder/co-blogger for the Book Jam Blog.  Previously, she was the Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and Everybody Wins! USA, literacy programs that help children love books.  She currently works as a blogger, non-profit consultant and occasional bookseller. She lives in Norwich with her husband Chris, two sons & a very large dog.
  • Lisa Cadow – Lisa, co-founder and co-blogger of The Book Jam was our emcee for the evening. She is also the founder of Vermont Crepe & Waffle and the food blog Fork on the Road. She works as a health coach for Dartmouth Health Connect. She lives in Norwich with her husband, three teens, three cats and an energetic border collie.

COOKBOOKS: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO COOK UP A CULINARY SNOW STORM

 

Dinner: A love story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Selected by Stephanie – “Go-to” recipes +humorous narration = family winner.

Notes From The Larder by Nigel Slater. Selected by Penny – Readable Cook Drool Eat Classy Creative.

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE

  

   

Reader’s Book of Days by Tom Nissley. Selected by Lucinda – An essential for all book lovers.

One Summer, America 1927 by Bill Bryson. Selected by Penny – Aviation, Politics, Baseball, Weather, History, Geology.

Maps by Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinska. Selected by Penny – Beautiful. Children, adults explore illustrated geography.

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. Selected by Stephanie – Poetry. Dogs. Love. Perfect for gifting.

Shakespeare’s Restless World by Neil MacGregor. Selected by Lisa – Museum Director explains Elizabethan objects. Insightful.

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylander. Selected by Lisa – Great illustrations. Funny, yet reverent. Gift!

ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION  

 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Selected by Lucinda – She’s born. Lives. Dies. Lives. Ectera.

Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth GIlbert. Selected by Penny – Desire, Adventure, Compelling, Botany, 18th Century.

ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH, BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION

  

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Selected by Lucinda – Suspenseful mystery surrounds a reclusive director.

Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd. Selected by Lisa – It’s Bond. Read it. Have Fun.                                         

Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Selected by Penny – Historic fiction. Ireland. Didn’t want to end.

ADULT FICTION FOR ANYONE 

   

Benediction by Kent Haruf. Selected by Lisa – Slow-paced. Gorgeous prose. Great characters.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Selected by Stephanie – Lagos-NJ-London. Savvy immigrant perspective. Surprising. Engrossing.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. Selected by Lucinda – Coming-of-age & quirky. Highly entertaining!

PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Selected by Stephanie – Crayons creatively air grievances. Giggles abound.

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS (AGES 8-12): THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS      

Wonder by RJ Palacio. Selected by Stephanie – Ordinary inside/extraordinary outside. Inspiring. Real.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION — FOR TEENS /TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM      

                             

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Selected by Lucinda – It’s 1986. Misfits, comics & love.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Selected by Lisa – WWII Women Pilots. Concentration Camp. Important.

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My eldest son and his fourth grade classmates have been challenged by their amazing teacher to memorize a portion of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.  Thus, while I am not writing from the “prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire” or the “mighty mountains of New York“, our house on a Vermont hilltop has been filled this past week with important and familiar phrases. Phrases such as:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

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“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

These immortal phrases, combined with the convergence of the holiday weekend honoring Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, have us thinking about race and identity in America. This, in turn, has affected our reading.  So here are some recommendations for those of you who wish to also think a bit more about race, or who just want to read a good book.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – I should warn you I am white (as you may have surmised from my pictures on this blog and the fact I live in Vermont, one of the least ethnically diverse states in America). But, I am raising two Latino children; one of whom periodically identifies as a Black man.  So, I picked this up for some insight and I am glad I did. Through truly funny and often painful humor,  Mr. Thurston, of Jack and Jill Politics and The Onion, makes the reader think hard about their own racist tendencies.  Besides the memoir aspects of the book, during which he shares stories about his politically inspired Nigerian name and the heroics of his hippie mother, Mr. Thurston also offers practical advice on “How to Be the (Next) Black President” and “How to Celebrate Black History Month.”  He even has a focus group, with a token white person, to help him think through many of the items he proposes or discusses.  Whether you agree with him or not, for me, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am truly appreciative of the source that started me thinking about improving my actions. In this case, I was also glad for the laugh out loud moments.  As the author himself facetiously writes, please read this as part of your preparation for African-American history month activities. ~ Lisa Christie

Looking for The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco (2012). Each of the poems in this latest book of poetry by Inaugural poet Richard Blanco takes a particular part of the author’s childhood (i.e., a beach vacation) and uses it to explore the person he is today.  As the poems reveal, Cuban-American, gay man, poet, New Englander, Florida born and bred, are all possible adjectives for Mr. Blanco.  But labels don’t quite capture the entirety of a person.  As the poet himself states that in this book, “I am looking to capture those elusive moments that come to define us, be it through family, country, or love.”  This looking is no small task, and one, as these poems remind us, that it seems each of us, poet or not, tackles in our own way throughout our life.

Besides the honor of being part of today’s inauguration, Blanco has won several awards for his work: the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh for his first collection, City of a Hundred Fires, and the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award for his second book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead.  If you have not yet discovered his work, or wish to learn a bit about American identity, or want to feel a small part of today’s inaugural festivities, or just want to read a few good poems, pick up this book and enjoy.  ~ Lisa Christie

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (2004) – This review focuses on the audio version of this book for which our President won a Grammy. (Side note:  President Obama and his producer also won one for The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.) I am truly glad that I finally found the time to listen.  Not only was it fun to have his voice in my minivan as I drove over our snow-covered roads, it was enlightening and thought-provoking to hear how his childhood, his absent father,  his step-father, his mother, his grandparents, as well as important teachers, shaped President Obama’s life.  It may serve as a good reminder that you never know who you will be influencing with your own actions. It may inspire you in its telling of an American story.  But, it is definitely a source of insight into our 44th President as he takes the oath of office for the fourth time today. ~ Lisa Christie

For those of you feeling the need to “attend” an inaugural ball, check out http://busboysandpoets.com/events/info/peace-ball-2013.  This is a bash organized by an independent bookseller in the DC area, and while it occurred last night, we thought it was worth highlighting.  The New York Times also lists it as one of the “hot ticket” inaugural balls – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/fashion/a-list-guide-to-the-inauguration-parties.html?pagewanted=all.  So click away, and enjoy a bit of inaugural festivities on your own electronic devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And so it was on a snowy night last week in late November that sixty people from the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire gathered in the wine cellar of the Norwich Inn to talk about some of 2012’s great books. Great books for gifting, great books for curling up with on the couch, great books for sharing with friends. It was, in a word, well, great.

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This special event, the second incarnation of “Pages in The Pub”-  an evening designed by “The Book Jam” (and this time sponsored by The Vermont Community Foundation) to gather people at a local inn  to discuss literature – raised over $1,300 for Vermont Libraries. We heard suggestions from booksellers and bibliophile alike who discussed titles that would make the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. They covered everything from engrossing reads for the memoir enthusiast, picks for the man who “has enough flannel shirts but not enough fiction,”  to mouth-watering tomes for people who like to “cook up a culinary snowstorm.”

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Below is a list of all twenty books discussed during the evening along with its own special six word review.  (Yes, we limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) Each is linked to The Norwich Bookstore where you can learn more about these treasures. You’ll also notice that our picks are divided into rather specific categories. These are ones that we created last year as part of our annual “best of” list for  The Book Jam blog; our 2012 “best of” edition of the Book Jam will be published separately next week so stay tuned.  And, just a small technicality: some of the books below were first published in 2011, but are new to paperback in 2012, so we counted them.

Our wonderful, dynamic, thoughtful presenters included:

  • Penny McConnel, Owner, Norwich Bookstore
  • Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian, Norwich Public Library
  • Arline Rotman, President of the Norwich Women’s Club (and retired Massachusetts judge and current family law consultant)
  • Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie, curators of the Book Jam Blog

We’d like to thank the our panelists, The Norwich Inn, The Norwich Bookstore, all those who attended, and the Vermont Community Foundation for making this evening possible.

So sit back and read on for ideas —- holiday shopping help is on its way.

Cookbooks: For people who like to cook up a culinary snow storm:

   

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Cook from this all winter long.

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman, selected by Penny McConnel (2012)- Yum yum yum delicious delicious delicious.

The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – Cuisines, cultures, history—delicious  reader’s cookbook!

Non-fiction or reference book or poetry: For people who like to think and chat while sitting by the wood stove:

 

Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds, selected by Penny McConnel (2012) – Divorce through a wife’s compassionate eyes.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – History that reads like a novel.

Memoirs: For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories:

 

 Wild by Cheryl Strayed, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Hiking boots: too small. Adventurousness: infinite.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Intimate. Honest. Difficult. Beautiful. Unforgettable.

Field Guide to Now by Cristina Rosalie  (2012) selected by Beth Reynolds – Little books can change your life.

Adult Fiction: For a woman who only has time for the best fiction:

  

Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow – Australia 1920s. Baby washes ashore. Decisions.

The News From Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story by J. Wickersham (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Seven delicious short stories that deliver.

The Secret Keeper  by Kate Morton (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Puzzles from the past demand solving.

Adult fiction: For a man who has enough flannel shirts but not enough good fiction:

     

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Beauty, grace in Colorado despite apocalypse. Really.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds (2012) – It’s so much more than music.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011), selected by Arline Rotman – Youth, ambition, family, friendships—peripherally baseball.

Coffee table book or literary gifts for your favorite hosts/hostesses/co-workers:

   

Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Inspirational beauty found in unexpected places.

Jerusalem: A cookbook by Ottolenghi & Tamim (2012), selected by Arline Rotman – A beautiful book that I covet!

AN ADULT BONUS PICK

 End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie – Mother. Son. Many books. Little time.

BONUS SELECTIONS FOR KIDS

   

Picture Books: For families to read together during snow storms

The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents by Susan Katz, selected by Lisa Christie – Humorous poems. Facts. Presidential Inauguration soon.

Books for young readers (ages 8-12): Those beyond Tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, selected by Lisa Christie – First friend helps end family curse.

Books for your favorite High Schooler: Tales for teens who still like to drink hot chocolate and spend snowy days reading, but who are not quite ready for adult themes

Rush for the Gold: An Olympic Mystery by John Feinstein, selected by Lisa Christie (2012) – Gold Medals. Teen Detectives. Great Series.

 

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A newly published collection of poems by beloved  author Shel Silverstein and an article about the works of current US Poet Laureate Philip Levine caused me to pause in my reading of prose and think a bit about poetry.

First, Mr. Levine.  I’d read that Mr. Levine’s work is heavily influenced by Michigan and its auto industry, and was therefore curious to know more about his views of my mother’s home state and of the industry that employed many of my maternal relatives. Thus, I picked up a copy of News of the World  (2009) and perused it this past month.  Due to a rather busy October, I didn’t absorb it all in one setting, but instead enjoyed it periodically over a span of several days.  Sometimes I would start in the middle of the collection. Other times I revisited a poem from a few days before.  And, for some reason, I read section three straight through.  What struck me most were the well-chosen phrases, the pictures of his time spent in Spain and with native Spanish speakers, his scenes from Brooklyn and the honest portraits of lives lived on the assembly lines and in the bars of Detroit, Pontiac and other Midwestern towns. I know the PR prepped me to view his poems as gritty, real and accessible, but I found that they truly are.

 

I then picked up Shel Silverstein’s last volume thinking it would be more of what I remembered from my childhood and what I knew from reading his poetry outloud to my boys.  I was wrong. Perhaps because Everything On It was published posthumously, I was struck by how many poems in this volume deal with death or looking back on a life.  There are still the silly poems such as “Romance” about how an elephant and pelican marry merely because their names are difficult to rhyme, but many seemed tinged with sadness.  Neither of my sons however noticed this melancholy tone when I shared this volume with them. They merely laughed as usual at Mr. Silverstein’s imaginative verse.  As such, I recommend this for adults taking stock of their lives, but also for kids needing a laugh or two.

 

And finally, I re-read parts of Julia Alvarez’s (the writer in residence at Vermon’t Middlebury College)  The Woman I Kept to Myself – the first book of poems that showed me the pleasure poetry can bring.  For many years this volume was my favorite gift to give women turning 40.  This time, it was just a delightful read for me.

High School, English assignments left me with the impression that poetry is supposed to provide insight and clarity. So what enlightenment did these three volumes bring? Hmmm.  Ok, one thought:  with reading, we ideally see what we need to learn, or at least what we are ready to see at that time in our life, or at a most basic level what we want to see due to our own biases. Maybe the joy of poetry is that these lessons are reflected more intensely.

On a practical level what did thinking about poetry bring me?  Three volumes of poems with very different focuses, styles and themes, but all worth reading.

Enjoy and happy reading! -Lisa Christie

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Peter Money Interview (Click to Listen)

We were lucky enough to spend a long, rainy lunch hour with Peter Money, a Vermont poet who hails from such diverse places as Napa, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Cape Cod, Ohio, Dublin and currently Brownsville, VT.  The conversation was truly delightful (and eating Lisa’s pizza and sipping tea didn’t hurt either).

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Peter’s description of himself as a scavenger in life and in reading led our conversation through a diverse array of topics including:  reading for the purpose of writing, the power of a gift of a book, the Cape Cod Melody Tent, travel in India and Australia, the difference one person can make in the events of the world – in particular Rachel Corrie to whom Peter’s latest book Che is dedicated – the things we use and keep as bookmarks, empty spaces,  the difference email and the internet make in the serendipity of life and reading as a means of developing empathy.

Sprinkled throughout the conversation were quotes by a former teacher of Peter’s –  Allen Ginsberg (“ordinary is made extraordinary by your attention to it” or  the buddhist reminder “Ground Path Fruition” or thinking of writing as “funky independent thought“).   Peter also modeled a superb teaching technique of being able to circle around and tie seemingly unrelated thoughts together.

Speaking of circling back around: we end this episode by playing a little ditty by Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler that not only alludes to one of the themes of our discussion (beach combing) but also provides a mellow finish to a lovely talk.

Actual books we dicussed ranged from:

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses – First published in 1885, A Child’s Garden of Verses has served as an  introduction to poetry for many generations. Stevenson’s poems celebrate childhood in all its forms.

E.B. White’s works – A writer at The New Yorker and the author of many books of essays, E. B. White also wrote the children’s books Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

Gregory Maguire’s Matchless – Every year, NPR asks a writer to compose an original story with a Christmas theme. In 2008, Gregory Maguire reinvented Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl”.

Justine by Lawrence Durrell – Set among the glamour and corruption of 1930s and 1940s Alexandria, the novels of Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet” (Justine is the first) follow the shifts in allegiances and situations among a diverse group of characters. Peter carried a copy with him while traveling 30 years ago and had that copy with him when we spoke (complete with original bookmarks).

Iraqi Writer Saadi Youssef who has translated Leaves of Grass and Little Prince into Arabic and whose own work is carried by University of Minnesota Press.

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard – from the foreword by John R. Stilgoe – A prism through which all worlds from literary creation to housework to aesthetics to carpentry take on enhanced-and enchanted-significances. Every reader of it will never see ordinary spaces in ordinary ways.

Collected Poems of George Oppen – Oppen, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969, has long been acknowledged as one of America’s foremost modernists.  He was hailed by Ezra Pound as “a serious craftsman, a sensibility which is not every man’s sensibility and which has not been got out of any other man’s book.”

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel – From tablets to CD-ROM, from book thieves to book burners, bibliophiles and saints, noted essayist Alberto Manguel follows the 4,000-year-old history of the written work whose true hero is the reader.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde – The Gift defends creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money. This book is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers.

Hear Peter read some of his work set to original compositions.

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