With short stories as my intent tomorrow is to read short stories from The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois. A friend recommended collections by Dozois so I’m starting here.
I’m also planning on reading Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous by writer G. Willow Wilson and illustrator Takeshi Miyazawa. I also have Vol. 7: Damage Per Second, but a patron at the library has Vol. 6: Civil War II, so I’ll have to wait until that is returned before getting to 7.
And last but not least, I bought a copy ofPostcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs that I want to dig into. According to her biography on the publisher’s website, Griggs “is a reader, writer, traveler, and ailurophile. She directs the writing center at Kenyon College, plays violin in the Knox County Symphony, and reviews books at Necromancy Never Pays.” It is in that last context with which I’m familiar with and how I learned about her collection via Instagram.
Author’s note: You might have to adjust the font or screen orientation to landscape mode for line breaks in the poems to be viewed as the poets intended them to be read.
This past weekend, I read Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn. The collection was edited and compiled by Quinn, onetime New Yorker poetry editor and recent former director of the Poetry Society of America. According to a synopsis of the book, she “reached out to poets across the country to see if, and what, they were writing under quarantine.” The collection was published in June of last year.
Initially last week, because of some personal “stuff” going on, I thought I might not want to read it right now. However, last Friday, I “tested the waters,” so to speak, and liked what I read, so Saturday and Sunday, I read the rest. Out of 107 poems, about a dozen really stuck with me, most of which were short like this one by Cornealius Eady:
These days, you want the poem to be A mask, soft veil between what floats Invisible, but known in the air. You’ve just read that there’s a singer You love who might be breathing their last, And wish the poem could travel, Unintrusive, as poems do from The page to the brain, a fan’s medicine. Those of us who are lucky enough To stay indoors with a salary count the days By press conference. For others, there is Always the dog and the park, the park And the dog. A relative calls; how you doin’? (Are you a ghost?) The buds emerge, on time, For their brief duty. The poem longs to be a filter, but In floats Spring’s insistence. We wait.
Or this one by Susan Kinsolving:
My Heart Cannot Accept It All
Forgive yourself for thinking small for cooking soups, ignoring blight. The mind cannot contain it all
despite intent and wherewithal; it’s little stuff that brings delight: a book, a drink. Keeping thinking small.
A bubble bath? An odd phone call? (Resisting all those gigabytes!) Your mind will not embrace it all.
Quarantine is one long haul as days grow long, so do the nights. Forgive yourself for thinking small:
popcorn, TV, more alcohol? There’s no need to be contrite. My mind cannot believe it all,
My heart cannot accept it all.
And this one by Dean Rader:
Meditation on Transmission
The map on my tv reddens the way a wound might spread across skin, here, the earth’s blue body brutally infected, its slim shape shrunken somehow huddled, like a child waiting to be picked up, held, carried to its bed and sung to sleep, in its dreams, death comes dressed as a doorknob, a handle on a bus, a button, a bowl of nuts, the sun-stroked sky, a whisper, a kiss, and it says breath of my breath, and it says take me inside you, and it says, teach me to multiply, and the earth says, Look, I am living, and the earth says, holocene and the earth says, if something isn’t burning, it is incubating, and the waters do not part, and the sun does not slide into its black box, and the stars do not switch off their light, the rain does not ask the ocean for water and yet above a chorus of clouds bristles with birds about their work reminding not everything moving through the air destroys.
Two others really struck a chord with me because of their subject matter: the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-Asian American sentiment and outright hatred and violence that has arisen because of the coronavirus.
The first is by Claudia Rankine.
On a scrap of paper in the archive is written I have forgotten my umbrella. Turns out in a pandemic everyone, not just the philosopher, is without. We scramble in the drought of information held back by inside traders. Drop by drop. Face covering? No, yes. Social distancing? Six feet under for underlying conditions. Black. Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck with the full weight of a man in blue. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds. In extremis, I can’t breathe gives way to asphyxiation, to giving up this world, and then mama, called to, a call to protest, fire, glass, say their names, say their names, white silence equals violence, the violence of again, a militarized police force teargassing, bullets ricochet, and civil unrest taking it, burning it down. Whatever contracts keep us social compel us now to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out to repair the future. There’s an umbrella by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather that’s here. I say weather but I mean a form of governing that deals out death and names it living. I say weather but I mean a November that won’t be held off. This time nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the storm that’s storming because what’s taken matters.
The second is by Sally Wen Mao, which I’m including from an Instgram post to attempt to keep the line breaks as they were written:
I did see some reviews online that said they thought they didn’t include enough on the Black Lives Matters protests last summer. However, the book was published in June of last year before a lot of the protests. I thought overall, it was still a good collection that captured the isolation and surreality that I think most of us probably felt last year. For that reason alone, I’d highly recommend it.
This past week, I read Twisted Shapes of Light by William Jolliff, one of my professors in college and who ignited my own interest in writing poetry. I plan on sharing my own experiences with contemporary poetry, including a few poems from a reading I did about 20 years ago at a small venue in suburban Philadelphia where we lived at the time.
This weekend, I plan on reading Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn. I’ll admit that I did have reservations about reading the collection edited and compiled by Alice Quinn, onetime New Yorker poetry editor and recent former director of the Poetry Society of America. Mainly, my reservations were internal in that this week has been a rough week personally with a couple of family and friend issues, and I didn’t think I wanted to read something probably depressing.
But yesterday, I decided to read a few poems from the collection and I changed my mind. The poems that I read were, and are, good. So I’ll continue to read the collection.
For me, though, that will be a hard pass on all of that. I’ll be content just to read pandemic poetry and listen to quarantine playlists, thank you very much…
…and (adding this Saturday night) drinking wine and getting takeout. It’s sort of like last year but I went to the store to get the wine tonight instead of ordering wine by mail from the Finger Lakes of New York and, bonus, no existential dread.
Almost every Sunday since mid-May 2020 with a few exceptions, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone. Throughout the day, sometimes the day before, and/or sometimes the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath. This is my 38th Sabbath and also is part of The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb of the blog Readerbuzz.
Almost every Sunday since mid-May 2020 with a few exceptions, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone. Throughout the day and/or sometimes the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath. This is my 37th Sabbathand also part of The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb of the blog Readerbuzz.
For tomorrow’s Sabbath, I’m taking a break from the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, which I have been reading since the start of the year. Instead, I’m going to dip into a little poetry. The impetus to read poetry right now was buying a book of poetry by one of my former college professors this past week. One of my college roommates asked my wife about him during a phone conversation, and I Googled him, found the book, and immediately bought it on Kindle to read. The book is Twisted Shapes of Light by William Jolliff.
From there, I went to the Free Library of Philadelphia and filled my virtual bookshelf with poetry books. A few authors I had heard of, some I had read, others I’d never heard of or read. Here’s what I picked up:
An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, the 23rd and current Poet Laureate of the United States.
Whale Days and Other Poems by Billy Collins, a former Poet Laureate of the United States (2000-2003).
Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez.
Hybrida by Tina Chang.
Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn.
All of this poetry talk got me thinking about how I came to fall in love with poetry, especially contemporary poetry. Over the next couple of weeks, and coincidentally corresponding to April being National Poetry Month, I will explore that, including my own poetry that I wrote and even had a reading several years after college. But for now, I’ll leave you with a snippet of a poem by my former professor:
It may be as close as an old man in Michigan
comes to the sound of the sea. Call it thunder
if you want, but it’s not thunder, not at all.
It’s more like the rush of semis on a freeway