Plath, Sylvia. Ariel: the Restored Edition.New York: Harper Perennial, 2004.
Sylvia Plath wrote with such raw energy and emotion. Her essence is on every page, in every word. Nowhere is that more plain to see than in the collected poems in Ariel. As the last collection of poetry written before her death it is riddled with references to death. That is to be expected from one suffering from depression, on the wrong kind of medicine, and already an attempted suicide survivor. It’s as if death is stalking her, wooing her (case in point: the last line of “Death & Co” is “somebody is done for” (p 36) and “Dying is an art…I do it exceptionally well” (p 15). I chose to read Ariel: the Restored Edition and now that I’ve thought about it I don’t think it’s the version Pearl was referring to (see BookLust Twist). Oh well.
Favorite lines – the first being from Path’s daughter, Frieda, in the foreword, “The manuscript was digging up everything that must be shed in order to move on” (p xiv – xv).
Reason read: Although we are getting to the end of the month April is still National Poetry Month.
Author fact: Everyone knows a little something about Sylvia Plath (Smith College, Ted Hughes, suicide, etc), but what I recently learned was that she was born in Boston.
Book trivia: If you haven’t read Ariel I would suggest skipping the version Ted Hughes introduced to the world and pick up the one his daughter, Frieda Hughes, wrote the foreword for, Ariel: the Restored Edition. It is far more informative.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” (p 237). Oddly enough, Ariel is not a recommendation by Pearl. She merely uses it as an example of a recognizable cover when discussing Alan Powers’s book Front Cover: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design.
Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1992.
If there is one thing I cannot stand it’s writing a review for a classic, especially one that has been analyzed eight ways to Sunday. I mean, I honestly do not think I can add anything new or enlightening to what has already been said. Everyone knows the story of Achilles, right? Having said all that I wish I could pull out a quote from something I wrote in high school or even college. I’m sure I was much more profound in my narrow minded, get good grades, academic-driven youth. Probably the most meaningful element of The Iliad continues to be its grandeur. It is an epic poem of enormous scope with the dominant theme of mortality. According to most other reviewers, translation matters. Everyone has a favorite version. I honestly couldn’t say I felt one way or another about the Fitzgerald translation I read.
Reason read: April is National Poetry month.
Author fact: Homer was a speech writer. He excelled at persuasiveness.
Book trivia: The Iliad andThe Odyssey go hand in hand.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry: A Novel Idea” (p 186).
Frost, Robert. “the Road Not Taken.” The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.New York: Dover Publications, 1993.
This is such a simple poem with such a complex meaning! But, having said that, how many people have used this poem to explain the things that they have done; the decisions they have made? My uncle read this poem at his brother’s funeral. His message was clear – my father, seven years his junior, chose a much different path than him or even the rest of the family. My father chose love over money. Happiness over family. My uncle offered this poem as an explanation for why they weren’t close as brothers but I also think he was (finally) voicing how proud he was of that courageous decision “to take the road less traveled.” It’s the last line that drives the point home. It has made all the difference. I know it did in my father’s short life.
Reason read: National Poetry Month. Need I say more?
Author fact: Robert Frost is one of the best known, best loved poets. We also associate Frost with New England but he was born in California.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).
Thomas, Dylan. “In My Craft or Sullen Art.” The Poems of Dylan Thomas. New York: New Directions, 1971. p 196.
The fact that Dylan Thomas needed to justify why he put pen to paper absolutely astounds me. This poem is all about the explanation behind the craft of writing. Why he writes should not need justification. I’d rather hear about what makes him write; what drives him to create.
Can I just say I love the word ‘rage’ in any context? It implies such a raw passion.
Reason read: April = National Poetry Month.
Author fact: Thomas also wrote a book called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, a collection of sequential autobiographical stories. Not on my list.
Poetry trivia: Dylan’s “In My Craft or Sullen Art” was turned into a knitting. Word for word. Crazy.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 187).
Just a note, because I am proud of this – I am almost finished with this chapter of More Book Lust. Just one more poem and I will be finished with “Poetry Pleasers.” Amazing.
Teasdale, Sara. “The Long Hill.” The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale. Cutchogue, New York: Buccaneer Books, 1996. p 152.
“The Long Hill” made me laugh and scratch my head all at once. As an avid walker I know what it’s like to anticipate the crest of a hill, to look forward to arriving at the top, only to miss it. Not sensing the highest point defies logic. Surely one would know when he or she has reached it! You expect grandeur to be at the pinnacle. Sara just shrugs and says she might as well continue down.
But there is also contradiction to her poem. She describes the beaten track and yet the hem of her gown was getting caught on brambles. No wonder she missed the top. She was too busy trying to free her gown! And why wasn’t she walking the beaten track? Wouldn’t she has noticed the top of the long hill if she had been paying attention?
Reason read: another poem for National Poetry Month…
Author fact: Sara Teasdale writes a great deal about New York. I’ll be reading more of her material at a later date.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237). This poem marks the end of the chapter.
Kipling, Rudyard. Mandalay. Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive Edition. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1940. p 416.
“Mandalay” is like a song with a chorus. It could easily be set to music. Even the subject matter, a soldier imagining his Burma girl pining away him, is appropriate for a ballad. He is still in lonely London. In my mind’s eye this poem is visually stunning.
Reason read: Poetry month. Need I say more?
Author fact: Kipling has long been a childhood favorite of mine. I can remember wanting to meet Mowgli just so I could hang out with the animals.
BookLust Twist: Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).
Masefield, John. “Sea-Fever.” Salt Water Poems and Ballads. Illustrated by Chas. Pears. New York: The MacMillan Campany, 1916. p 55.
As a girl who grew up
by the sea no, surrounded by the sea as only small island living can be, I loved everything about John Masefield’s Salt Water Poems and Ballads. The version I picked up was published in 1916 and had the inscription, “Evelyn, from Cerisi (?) Estelle – Christmas 1916.” Awesome. The illustrations are beautiful (my favorite is on page 73). The particular poem I was to read, “Sea Fever” evoked so many different memories for me. What comes across the strongest is there is a real need to be on the water; a need that cannot be denied. Just give me a ship the narrator cries. It’s all he needs. From that he hears the gull’s cry and tastes the salt wind.
Favorite line, “I must go down to the seas again.” Let me repeat it. I MUST go down to the seas again. Amen.
Reason read: Last time I checked April was National Poetry Month…still.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse’ (p 237).
Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. “Lepanto.” Louis Untermeyer, ed. Modern British Poetry. New York: Harcourt Brace & Howe, 1920.
The real Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571. Chesterton’s poem reads like an army marching to war even though the real battle was fought on the high seas. The cadence is like a chant and the words pulsate with feeling. It’s a regular as the tide moving in and out. Don John of Austria.
Favorite words, “dim drums throbbing.” Don’t you just love it? In urban times it would be someone honking their girl down from the apartment, a cranked up bass stuck in traffic a few miles away.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month.
Author fact: G.K Chesterton was a journalist, a novelist, an essayist, a publicist, a lyricist, and a poet all in one.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237). Here, Pearl seemingly makes a mistake. She calls the poem “Lepants” when everything I’ve read called it “Lepanto.”
De La Mare, Walter. “The Listeners.” The Collected Poems of Walter De La Mare. London: Faber and Faber, 1979. p 84.
Have you ever read this poem before? I mean, really read it? Read it out loud and see what happens. It’s full of mystery. Who is this grey-eyed stranger banging on a door by the dim light of the moon? What does he want? His horse waits patiently while he continues to “smote upon the door.” He has kept his word but what did he promise and to whom? Lastly, who is listening? Who hears this exchange between the grey-eyed mystery man and the door he bangs upon? It’s definitely a favorite poem for the month of April!
Reason read: April is still National Poetry Month.
Author fact: Walter is best known for his poem “The Listeners.” I can see why.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).
McGrath, Campbell. “The Golden Angel Pancake House.” Spring Comes to Chicago. Hopewell, New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1996. p 5.
I loved this poem. This has got to be one of my favorites read so far this year. It reminded me of Natalie Merchant’s song “Carnival” off her 1995 album, Tigerlily. In “Carnival” Natalie pays homage to New York City and I see Campbell McGrath doing the same thing for his hometown of Chicago in “The Golden Angel Pancake House” (which is a real restaurant, by the way). The imagery is amazing. I can just see this group of friends stumbling out of a bar at closing time. It’s way early in the morning and they are prowling the streets looking for a place to eat. The sights and sounds are chaotic and gripping. A freak show.
Favorite line, “a troupe of toothless, dipsomaniacal clowns.”
Reason read: It’s still April and I’m still reading poetry. Obviously.
Author fact: As I mentioned before McGrath is from Chicago.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Kitchen Sink Poetry” (p 139).
Sandburg, Carl. Complete Poems. “The Road and the End.” New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1950. p 43.
I see a solitary traveler planning to face whatever comes his way on his journey. He has anticipation of the road ahead and the hours spent going down it. I say anticipation…for he hasn’t left yet. “I SHALL” indicates a plan to do so. The capitalization indicates a determination; a desire to convince someone (maybe himself?) he will eventually leave. It’s a nod to nature. Perfect timing for the changing seasons and hopefully, the warmer weather.
I took this poem personally as I have been slow to start training for my 60 mile cancer walk at the end of May. The apathy I was feeling spread into neglecting my favorite charity event. For the first time in five years I haven’t walked down my road of training the way that I should be by now…to say nothing of the fund raising (which sucks, by the way).
Favorite line, “in the silence of the morning.” Can anyone guess why?
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month…as I’ve said before.
Author fact: Carl Sandburg died two years before my birth. He is the second Chicago poet I’ve read this month.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers Tales in Verse” (p 237).
Ponsot, Marie. “Winter.” Springing.New york: Alfred A Knopf, 2002. p 225.
Such a short poem and oh so seemingly uncomplicated! Don’t be fooled by its length or lack of veiled meaning. It is a snapshot of two neighbors, living side by side. Two mothers, their sons had grown up as friends. Only now the reader finds out one mother has lost her son to suicide. The other doesn’t know what to say. Isn’t that always the way? There is pain in this surviving-son’s mother’s voice as she struggles with words and sentiments. It’s elegant and emotional.
And to think I read it thinking it was going to be about winter (because I can’t wait for it to be over). That will teach me to judge a poem by its title!
Favorite line, “Both boys hated school, dropped out feral, dropped in to separate troubles” (p 225).
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. So. There. This is the first poem of the month!
Author fact: Ponsot’s book The Bird Catcher won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 1998.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).
When I look back on January 2013 I have a sense of relief. All things considered this month was better than the last. In the grand scheme of things January treated me kind. No major meltdowns. No minor catastrophes to speak of. I started training for Just ‘Cause in the quiet way. Four to five miles a day and I didn’t stress about the numbers. If I didn’t make five or even four I didn’t have a hissy fit or beat myself or moi up. I cut me & myself some slack; gave us a break. I know that as the months wear on this won’t always be the case, but for now it was nice to go easy on me, myself & moi. The running was a different matter. Just as relaxed a schedule but not so easy going on. The run is a little over six weeks away and I’ve done next to nil in order to train. New Guinea has been awesome in that I’m working on speed intervals on level five. Let me repeat that. Level five. Nothing to write home about. I used to operate at level nine. Enough said. On with the books! I am pretty proud of the list.
- Lives of the Painters, Architects and Sculptors by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of National Art Month way back in October. This finally completes the series!
- Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ in honor of Female Domination Day in Greece.
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray ~ in honor of January being the first month I read something from the first chapter of a Lust book. I admit I didn’t finish this one.
- Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham ~ in honor of Maugham’s birth month. I also didn’t finish this one.
- Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ Happy new year. Read something to make me happy.
- Idle Days in Patagonia by W. H. Hudson ~ in honor of January being the best time to visit Patagonia.
- The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll ~ in honor of Lewis birth and death month.
- Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson ~ in honor of the month all Creatures Great and Small aired.
- Tatiana by Dorothy Jones ~ in honor of January being the month Alaska became a state.
On audio I listened to:
- Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month.
- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith ~ in honor of Female Mystery Month
- City of Thieves by David Benioff ~ last minute add-on. This was addicting!
For the Early Review program with LibraryThing:
- Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws (started in Dec)
- Her by Christa Parravani
- Leave Your Sleep the poetry book for children by Natalie Merchant
Merchant, Natalie. Leave Your Sleep: a Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2012.
I will admit I am biased when it comes to anything Natalie Merchant puts her stamp on. Over the years Ms. Merchant has proven time and time again that she is a humanitarian and an educator. She just happens to have a beautiful voice to go with that caring heart. And having all said that, that is why I bought three copies of Leave Your Sleep. I thought it was appropriate to send one to my public library. I took the chance because there is no way of knowing if they bought it for themselves (no online catalog) but I doubt they did. I also bought a copy for my sister’s family. I don’t know if they will listen to it more than once so I have asked them to pass it along to their public library when they are finished. Do you see a pattern?
Then, of course, I bought my own copy. I will not be donating mine to any local library, though!
Leave Your Sleep is comprised of nineteen poems set to music and, in the book version, accompanied by the wonderful illustrations of Barbara McClintock. Having the illustrations in front of me banishes my own imaginings but at the same time expands my visions, if that makes sense. For example, take The Sleepy Giant by Charles Edward Carryl. When I first heard Natalie’s musical interpretation in 2008 my mind saw an ancient old man for a giant who was decidedly, thanks to an accordion and somber drums, very very creepy. In the book version of Leave Your Sleep the 372 year old giant is a portly Victorian woman looking a bit like Winston Churchill. Not as creepy as my own imagination scared me. On the other hand the village in Vain and Careless by Robert Graves far exceeded the pictures in my head. The poem came alive in ways it hadn’t before seeing it on the printed page.
The continuing magic is how the book is arranged. Thoughtful consideration was given to every aspect from layout to packaging. Ms. Merchant’s introduction personalizes the project and gives the poems a resonating warmth. I am guessing she thoroughly collaborated on the illustrations because the girl in Equestrienne by Rachel Field looks a lot like Natalie in her video for the song Kind and Generous.
My favorite poem in the entire collection (cd and book) remains ee cummings’s Maggie and Milly and Molly and May. It’s my childhood played out before me.
Erlandson, Eric. Letters to Kurt. New York: Akashic, 2012.
I was wrong about this book. I previously said I thought I could read it in a weekend. What I was really thinking was that I could read it in an hour. I was oh so wrong. Very wrong. On both accounts. Here’s how it really went: I could read it for 15-20 minutes and then had to walk away. Words blended and sentences started to sound the same. I lost my place among the pages often. Letters became redundant if I read too much. How do I describe this book accurately? Here are the words I jotted down while reading this on a Sunday morning, coffee balanced on knee, propped up in bed: Clever. Cliche. Rambling. Private. Joking. Culture. Pop. Jealousy. Sexy. Rude. And finally, a sentence. “I’m feeling left out.” Even if you were parked in front of every media outlet in the 1990s you will still miss some of the reference Erlandson makes. I wavered between thinking this was a glorified writing assignment, “write for ten minutes straight” and feeling it was an outpouring of grief and rage in the form of stream of consciousness prose. It babbles and barks. There is bite. It’s sad and strangely beautiful. But, as I said earlier it is not something to devour in one sitting. You will get indigestion, for sure. Bite small. Chew slowly. Push the book away often and everything will taste better in the end.