None. Of. The. Poetry.

This past week I decided I’m abandoning the Poetry Reading Challenge 2020.

The option I chose was to receive a poem via email from the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day Project and to pick out and write about my favorite poems from one week a month here on the blog. Then not only did I double down on the challenge, to do it each week, but also I tripled down to add listening to a poetry podcast The Slowdown by Tracy K. Smith, the former Poet Laureate of the United States and including those poems in the mix of ones from which I’d choose my favorites. 

After only two weeks of trying this, I’ve learned that neither poetry resource is going to work for me. It seems with both, that every poem, or at least every other poem, is as depressing as f***. Right now, with some stresses at work that I am dealing with, or really maybe…EVER, I don’t need that. 

I also want to refocus my reading efforts on the two fronts I already was working:

  • With fiction, to get back to “old school” detective fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe.
  • With nonfiction, to return to reading Taylor Branch’s America in the King Years trilogy.

To those ends, this weekend I want to continue my reading of the Sherlock Holmes canon and the eighth Nero Wolfe novel, Where There’s A Will. I also want to continue reading Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65, the second in the series, that I began a few weeks ago. 

While I only read four Sherlock Holmes short stories earlier in the week, I enjoyed reading them. With Doyle, it is not as much about the mystery as it is about how Holmes learns of the mystery and what he does or doesn’t do once he has solved the mystery. In that regard, he is much like Hercule Poirot that he allows circumstances to happen, sometimes to the detriment of others, making himself the judge, jury and sometimes executioner. I look forward to reading some more this weekend and during the upcoming week.

This doesn’t mean that I am abandoning poetry altogether. I would like to circle back to poetry in April for National Poetry Month, but on my own terms. I just have to face the fact that I am not good at long-term reading challenges with others. When I give myself reading challenges, I am mostly fine. For April, I think I will leave things more open to wherever “the spirit moves me” than saying that I will limit my poetry reading to x, y, or z.

This weekend, though, I am refocusing on older detective fiction and civil rights history. Wish me luck.

Update: Saturday was a bust for reading, but some Saturdays are like that as I just like to get out of town and go somewhere for lunch. Yesterday was such a day. I start Sunday with higher hopes, but am beginning first by reading other Sunday Salon posts and other posts from throughout the week. Among the posts are a return by Florinda of the blog The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness and a celebration of 8 years of blogging by Karen of Booker Talk.

Speaking of x numbers of blogging, I just received a notification yesterday from WordPress.com that I have been with them for 12 years. While I think I have been blogging on and off, mostly on, for 15 years, I joined WordPress.com 12 years ago. As I have off this coming week on Wednesday and Friday, I will try to write up a post about 12 years of blogging that I will share next week.

All. The. Poetry.

As with last Friday where I was off from work, this Friday, today, I also am off from work, this time, though for a vacation day. Like last Friday, I also am not going anywhere, thanks to the weather. Last week, it was snow that kept me in; this week, a bitter cold with wind chills below zero (Fahrenheit). I am spending the day the same as last week, though, with reading.

Last Friday I finished two books:

  • Heaven, My Home, the second in the Highway 59 series, by Attica Locke.
  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

with the former being better than the latter for me. It wasn’t that Xendi’s ideas weren’t good, it’s just that I didn’t care for the way the book was structured. Locke’s book, on the other hand, flowed for me like poetry in places.

This Friday, in keeping with that theme of poetry, I am starting by reading and listening to poetry. Last week I mentioned signing up for the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day service as part of Poetry Reading Challenge 2020. This past week I signed up for a poem-a-day podcast called The Slowdown with former Poet of the Laureate of the United States Tracy K. Smith mentioned by Melissa Firman in her Sunday Salon post last week. So now even though, as part of the challenge, I intended to pick a favorite poem each week from the Poem-a-Day service and write about it here on the blog, now I am split. Should I also pick a favorite from Smith’s podcast, produced in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and write about it here or is that too much?

While I’m not sure, for today, I think I’ll just share one favorite poem from both with a link to the poem or the podcast or the poet reading the poem. This week’s poem is, as shared by the Academy of American Poets is “Aubade” by Ishion Hutchinson:

As with last week’s poem, I am most impressed with the way the lines break, especially at the end of the poem:

and immeasurable slow leaves bring down our morning.

Today, I might also dip into a couple of books of poetry borrowed from the library at a local state university a few weeks ago. Then later in the weekend, I want to continue reading Pillar of FireAmerica in the King Years 1963-65, the second part of Taylor Branch’s history of the Civil Rights Movement in America, that I began last weekend and will be reading over several weekends, if not several months. I might also read the next Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout: Where There’s A Will. And while this past week, I didn’t do great with my planned short bursts of reading mentioned two weekends ago and only read one Sherlock Holmes short story, I hope to read a few more maybe this weekend and next week.

So…how is your reading going this past week? Or anything good you’re planning to read this weekend? Anything to recommend (or not)? Please share in the comments.


Also referenced in this post:

Unexpected snow day but expected reading

I had today off anyway since I work tomorrow, but I had planned to go to the local state university library, about 20 minutes away, to read. Really, the only thing that has changed is that I’ll be reading at home and, let’s be honest on a day like this, napping.

I’m starting my day this morning with a poem through the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day service that I’ve signed up for for the Poetry Reading Challenge 2020. The challenge, as outlined by Serena, is to read a poem-a-day for a week once per month and write about which poems were your favorite and why on your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog. I am adjusting it to pick out my favorite from each week and write about it here on the blog, providing a link to the poem. So here’s a link to this week’s favorite, “Entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral” by Malachi Black.

These are the lines that stuck out for me:

and there, brightly skeletal beside it,
the organ pipes: cold, chrome, quiet 

but alive with a vibration tolling
out from the incarnate 

source of holy sound. I turn, shivering
back into my coat. 

especially the middle couplet there, with the way the line breaks: out from the incarnate” before striking the next line, like a note “source of holy sound.”

I’ll be continuing my reading this afternoon with:

  • Heaven, My Home, the second in the Highway 59 series, by Attica Locke.
  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi,

both of which I started last Sunday. I am about three-quarters through Kendi’s book, but to be honest, while I like it, I don’t love it because I am finding the structure offputting and overall more academic than I wanted. However, I am maybe a quarter through Locke’s book and am loving it. She continues to impress.

On Sunday as I mentioned last week, I would to begin digging into Pillar of FireAmerica in the King Years 1963-65, the second part of Taylor Branch’s history of the Civil Rights Movement in America. I had planned to begin reading the latter on MLK Day but that didn’t happen (I finished a book of King speeches instead). Based on the length of Pillar of Fire, it will be one I’ll be delving into over several weekends, not just this weekend.

I didn’t do as well with my planned short bursts of reading during the past week with the Sherlock Holmes short stories, but I’m hoping to do better this coming week. I’ll let you know on next weekend’s Sunday Salon.

Until then….

How is your reading going this past week? Anything to recommend (or not)? Please share in the comments.

This week’s shout-out goes to Chris Wolak and Emily Fine of the podcast Book Cougars. The two went to see Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt, which I’m sure by now you have heard about, on January 23 of this year at RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut. They shared their thoughts on the book, Cummins’ talk, and the controversy surrounding the book on Podcast 95 (click the link to be taken to a page where you can download the podcast).

Pushing Forward Back January/February 2020

January’s gone…with the wind, but it was a good breeze to start the year at least personally. I read three books, including my first book of the year. I also got a Mi Band 4, similar to a Fitbit, to help encourage myself to walk daily. And I found a new place to walk and read on Saturdays: the library at a local state university.

The three books I read (even though I inexplicably overlooked the second in a post about my second book of the year) were:

  1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  2. A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard
  3. Over My Dead Body, the seventh in the Nero Wolfe series, by Rex Stout.

I joined, and then “unjoined” after talking two other people into it, an online Haruki Murakami Book Club. I also joined the Poetry Reading Challenge 2020.

Watched

  • King in the Wilderness (HBO documentary about Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • The Librarians

Listened To

  • The Undivided Five by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
  • Have We Met by Destroyer

February is starting slow and deliberate as I refocus my reading plans for the month and the year. I work two Saturdays this month, have off three Fridays (two before the Saturdays I work and another Friday, Valentine’s Day, as a vacation day) and am taking off Ash Wednesday as has been my custom for many years. My wife and I also will begin the month with our traditional watching of the movie Groundhog Day.

I think this year, though, while watching the movie, we are skipping the “sweet vermouth with a twist, please” and are going straight to “Jim Beam, ice, water.” We tried the drink Andie McDowell’s character Rita Hanson orders in the movie a few years ago and hated it, so we’re going with the first choice of Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors. Plus with the way, the month and year are starting politically, we believe we need a stiff drink. For that reason, we also are delaying our rewatch until Wednesday night – after the vote.

This photo pretty much captures how I feel about winter right now:

I’m feeling like Phil earlier in the movie:

It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to last you the rest of your lives.

But hopefully soon I’ll have his later perspective:

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.

Of course, the groundhog Phil today did predict an early spring, but as CNN noted: “Don’t get too excited, he’s usually wrong.”

To watch

  • The Farewell on Amazon Prime Video (Feb. 12)
  • Narcos: Mexico: Season 2 on Netflix (Feb. 13)
  • High Fidelity, the TV series on Hulu (Feb. 14)

To listen to

  • The Slow Rush by Tame Impala (Feb. 14)
  • Miss Anthropocene by Grimes (Feb. 21)

Oh, and obviously I’m not watching the Super Bowl. I had loose plans to go watch the Super Bowl with a neighbor, but as I’m posting this as the game is beginning, obviously the plans were loose. No biggie. I’d rather be reading.