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Posts Tagged ‘Tracy Smith’

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April showers (or in Vermont this spring – snow) bring poetry.

Since poets’ words work best, instead of an official review, for each of our recommended collections of poetry, we are including one of our favorite poems (or a portion of a poem) from that collection. We hope these tastes of poetry will encourage everyone to read more poems throughout the year – not just during April’s National Poetry Month celebrations in the USA. Note: “poem in your pocket day” happens April 26th; maybe one of these poems will be the one you carry that day.

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FC9781524733117.jpgPoet in Spain: Frederico Garcia Lorca, new translation by Sarah Arvio (2018) – This new translation of the work of Federico Garcia Lorca, one of the greatest poets and playwrights of the 20th Century (according to his bio), is presented in Spanish first, then in the English translation.

Delirium

The day blurs in the silent fields

Bee-eaters sigh as they fly

The blue and white distance is delirious

The land has its arms thrown wide

Ay lord lord All this is too much

FC9781555978136.jpgWade in the Water by Tracy Smith (2018) – Our review wouldn’t be complete without including the newest book by powerful woman and current Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy Smith. Her collection showcases minority American voices ranging from immigrants, to refugees, to Civil War era African-American soldiers (in the form of their letters) and shines a spotlight on these citizen’s experiences. The poem we highlight opens her book and lands the reader in a moment of time in Brooklyn, New York in the 1980’s, full of beautiful food, luscious words, youth, and innocence.

Garden of Eden (condensed for reasons of space, with apologies to the poet)

What a profound longing I feel,  just this very instant, For the Garden of Eden On Montague Street Where I seldom shopped, Usually only after therapy, Elbow sore at the crook From a hand basket filled To capacity. The glossy pastries! Pomegranate, persimmon, quince!

Once, a bag of black, beluga Lentils split a trail behind me While I labored to find A tea they refused to carry. It was Brooklyn. My thirties.

Everyone I know was living The same desolate luxury, Each ashamed of the same things: Innocence and privacy. I’d lug Home the paper bags, doing Bank-balance math and counting days. I’d squint into it, or close my eyes And let it slam me in the face —- The known sun setting On the dawning century.

FC9781614293316.jpgThe Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy edited by John Brehm (2017). One person we know, reads a poem a day from this gorgeous book. This daily practice has enriched her year. Below is a small poem of quiet appreciation touches on several of this reviewer’s biggest loves: birds, bubbling soup, and rays of sunshine,

It’s All Right (condensed for reasons of space, with apologies to the poet) by William Stafford (1914-1993)

Someone you trusted has treated you bad. Someone has used you to vent their ill temper. Did you expect anything different? Your work – better than some others’ – has languished, neglected. Or a job you tried was too hard, and you failed. Maybe weather or bad luck spoiled what you did. That grudge, held against you for years after you patched up, has flared, and you’ve lost your friend for a time. Things at home aren’t so good; on the job your spirits have sunk. But just when the worst bears down you find a pretty bubble in your soup at noon, and outside at work, a bird says, “Hi!”

Slowly the sun creeps along the floor; it is coming your way. It touches your shoe.

FC9780062435521.jpgRon Rash Poems: New and Selected by Ron Rash (2016) – When we saw a collection of poems by the author of the Cove, we had to peruse.  We found this gem among so many about life in Appalachia.

The Country Singer Explains Her Muse (condensed for reasons of space, with apologies to the poet)

Say you’re on a bus between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, pills that got you through the show slow to wear off, so you stare out the window, searching for darkened houses where you know women sleep who live a life you once lived, but now sing about.

Let them dream as you write out words and a chords to find a song made to get them through their day, get you through a sleepless night somewhere on a bus between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

FC9780807025581.jpgBullets Into Bells: Poets and citizens respond to gun violence edited by Brian Clements (2017). This collection consists of poems by well-known and lesser-known poets, with a response to each penned by a different person affected by the particulars that poem explores.  Together they are doubly powerful.

A Poem for Pulse by Jameson Fitzpatrick (an excerpt, condensed for reasons of space, with apologies to the poet)

Last night I went to a gay bar with a man I love a little. After dinner we had a drink…While I slept, a man went to a gay club with two guns and killed forty-nine people. Today in an interview, his father said he had been disturbed recently by the sight of two men kissing…

We must love one another whether or not we die. Love can’t block a bullet but neither can it be shot down, and love is, for the most part, what makes us – in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul. We will be everywhere, always; there’s nowhere else for us or you, to go. Anywhere you run in this world, love will be there to greet you. Around any corner, there might be two men. Kissing.

FC9780316266574.jpgI’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris and illustrated by Lane Smith (2018) – Very fun poems, with funny illustrations for kids, including… The Secret of My Art 

“It’s a beautiful whale”, my teacher declared. “This drawing will get a gold star!”

“It’s a beautiful whale”, my father declared. “Your talents will carry you far!”

“It’s a beautiful whale”, my mother declared. “What a wonderful artist you are!”

Well, maybe it is a beautiful whale… But I was trying to draw a guitar.

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Our town, Norwich, Vermont – home to 3,400 hearty souls- has a great many things to recommend it. Chief among them is our superb library, full of well-chosen titles, as well as some interesting, little recognized historical buildings.  On March 4th, 2012  these will all be celebrated with a tribute to Dr. Seuss.  Yes, Dr. Seuss is uniting books, libraries and historical preservation.

But how? You mean you didn’t know? As Dr. Seuss says, “You’ll miss the best things if you have your eyes shut!” So open them up wide and come to Seusstival – a Dr. Seuss read-a-thon combined with a children’s production (kids over age 8 need not apply) of The Loraxbeing held on Sunday, March 4 at Tracy Hall.  Seussian readers include Norwich’s own Olympic Gold Medalist Hannah Kearney , our town’s volunteer fire fighters, police chief Doug Robinson, and Tracy Smith, art teacher extraordinaire, who will be retiring in June after 25 years of working with our elementary school students. What a special afternoon! From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!

All proceeds from this event will benefit the Norwich Public Library’s  Children’s Room (which happens to be housed in a historic building) and two historic one room schoolhouses – the Root District School and the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse – both of which are in need of some serious renovations.  For details visit the event’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/seusstival. Historical footnote : Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel, attended our neighboring college –  Dartmouth – and began his cartooning career there when he edited Jack-O-Lantern, the College’s humor periodical.

In an effort to salute this meaningful collaboration and to support Read Across America, whose efforts inspired Norwich’s “Seusstival”, The Book Jam has reviewed some Dr. Seuss titles below.  A few were  new to us but others are  perennial favorites. For anyone needing Dr. Seuss tales and also wishing to support Seusstival, the Norwich Bookstore will donate 20% of all Dr. Seuss sales between now and March 4th to Seusstival. Remember, the Norwich Bookstore  will ship anywhere in the world.

Those new to us:

Scrambled Eggs Super by Dr. Seuss (1953) – A local 6-year-old was laughing so hard at the names in this book that he literally fell off the couch while being read aloud to by his mom.  Ha, you think not? Well, you try to say -Mop-Noodled Finch, Zummzian Zuks, Ham-ikka-Schnim-ikka-Schnam-ikka Schnopp, or Mt. Struckoo Cockoo – with a straight face. “I dare you to try it, I dare you to your face.” This story about making a batch of scrambled eggs from a bunch of CRAZY bird eggs will have you laughing, too, and wondering why you ever settled for the normal, hen-based kind. With its colorful egg theme, this book would make a great addition to an Easter Basket!

McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss (1947) – The optimists in us love this one.  An oldie but goodie Dr. Suessian tale, this one is narrated by a boy sitting above an unlikely fishing hole. He fishes and fishes and firmly believes, not only that he will he catch one, but that he will catch maybe three.  And to top that off, he believes that they will all be quite rare and special for him by swimming straight to his lair. It may be a kid day-dreaming and wishing very hard who tells this story but it is an excellent reminder for the middle-aged adult that faith and persistence in face of the odds really can pay off…. and also that it might be time to clean up our fishing holes!

Gerald McBoing Boing by Dr. Seuss (1950) – First seen as an academy award-winning cartoon. It is less subtle than most in reminding kids that all people have talent and all kids have worth. Meet Gerald who may not be able to talk but can make the greatest sound effects of all time. With great illustrations and superb silly words to be loved from here to New Perth.

Thidwick The Big Hearted Moose (1948) New to one Lisa but not to the other, Thidwick is a fun, funny story about what happens when you say yes to everything and everyone – including a bobcat, a turtle, four squirrels, a bear and 362 bees. A not-so-subtle poke at Harvard (a collegiate  rival of Dr. Seuss’ beloved Dartmouth) is included in this tale about how a generous moose finally saves himself from the demands of his fellow forest creatures  – all of whom want to live in his antlers! A timeless message about taking care of yourself and a lovely book for anyone living in the north country, near their own version of “Lake Winna-Bango,” to have on their shelves.

Now for the classics:

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971) – An environmental tale told by the now remorseful Once-ler who, bewitched by the Truffula Tree tufts, greedily chops them down to produce and mass-market Thneeds.  As the trees disappear, the Lorax, speaks for the trees “for the trees have no tongues”, and warns them all – but for his words the Once-ler has no needs. A message that never loses its power or importance, read this aloud and inspire the next generation to access its inner  Lorax.

The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss (1961) – A story of haves and have-nots in which access to goodies is determined by whether you have a star on your belly, or not.  But then one day, the scheming Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes to town and shakes everything up with his very peculiar machine that gives the plain bellied sneetches, gasp, stars on thars!!! Chaos and confusion ensue and soon nobody can tell who  is who. Arbitrary and constructed criteria? Yes!  But, that is the point is it not?

And though those of us at the Book Jam have not yet read it, for those of you needing a more serious take on Dr. Seuss, we note Theodor Seuss Geisel(2010) a biography of Dr. Seuss written by Dartmouth professor Donald Pease.

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