Silko. Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books, 1986,
Reason read: November is American Indian Heritage month.
I like to compare reading Silko to drinking a icy cold glass of limoncello. It is not the kind of thing you gulp down in chug-a-lug like fashion. It is better to take in small sips of the scenes in order to let them slide over your subconscious and filter slowly into your brain. Think of it this way. It is as if you have to give the words time to mellow and ultimately saturate your mind.
First things first. When you get into the plot of Ceremony what you first discover is that Tayo is a complicated character. After being a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, alcoholism, battle fatigue (now called post traumatic stress disorder), mental illness, and guilt all plague Tayo. It’s as if threads of guilt tangle in his mind, strangling his ability to comprehend reality, especially when other veterans on the Laguna Pueblo reservation turn to sex, alcohol and violence to cope. Friends are no longer friendly.
Next, what is important to pay attention to are the various timelines. There is the time before the war and the time after at the mental health facility with the timeline with Thought (Spider) Woman, Corn Woman, and Reed Woman. Each timeline dips back and forth throughout the story. Tayo struggles to reconcile what it means to be Native American, with all its traditions and beliefs, with the horrors of war and captivity. How does one as gentle as Tayo forgive himself for being a soldier? “He stepped carefully, pushing the toe of his boot into the weeds first to make sure the grasshoppers were gone before he set his foot down into the crackling leathery stalks of dead sunflowers” (p 155). He can’t even inadvertently harm a bug.
Interspersed between the plot are pages of lyrical poetry.
Throughout it all, I found myself weeping for Tayo’s lost soul.
Quotes I liked, “Somewhere, from another room, he heard a clock ticking slowly and distinctly, as if the years, the centuries, were lost in that sound. (p 98) and “But as long as you remember, it is part of the story we have together” (p 231).
Author fact: Silko was born in Albuquerque in 1948, the same year as my mother.
Book trivia: As I mentioned earlier, Silko’s poetry is part of the story.
Nancy said: Nancy said Leslie Marmon Silko is one of her favorite American Indian writers.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American Indian Literature” (p 23).
Mattison, Alice. Animals. Cambridge, MA: Alice James Books, 1979.
Reason read: July is Mattison’s birth month.
A collection of thirty poems rich and pulsating with human life make up Animals by Alice Mattison. Women come alive to argue, have sex, give birth, seek memories, laugh out loud, fiercely love family, change identities, experience sickness, learn to rescue, and accept failure. There is courage and wit in Mattison’s vision. Each poem is heartbeats and breath, like a roar of vibrant life.
Lines I liked, “throwing echoes between eardrums” (from Husband, p 11) and “The wildlife grows shameless in spring: it’s like putting out your hand in the dark and feeling a penis” (from Creatures, p 26).
Author fact: Mattison began her writing career as a poet.
Book trivia: Animals is Alice Mattison’s first book.
Nancy said: Nancy didn’t say anything specific about Animals but she did say Alice Mattison is “a multitalented writer” (p 1).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).
One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.
Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
- The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton
- To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame
- Charmed by Nora Roberts
- The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor
- “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz
- Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe
Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems (1931 – 2001). New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
Reason read: March is National Poetry Month in some parts of the world. Stay tuned because April is also a poetry month…in some parts of the world.
Milosz’s poetry touches on a myriad of topics. There are echoes of childhood, listening to a mother softly climb the shadowy stairs or watching a father quietly read in the library. There are a series of poems that lovingly describe a house and its inhabitants. Linked poetry that are meant to be read hand in hand with the next.
Confessional: I did not get through the entire collection. I could have kept the book through April since April is also a month for poetry, but I opted not to.
Favorite quote, “Love is sand swallowed by parched lips” (from Hymn, page 13).
Author fact: Milosz was a Polish cultural attache in France. As an aside, whenever I think of a cultural attache I think of Robin Williams in the movie, The Birdcage. I can’t help it.
Book trivia: New and Collected Poems celebrates the career of Milosz, including the very first poem he wrote at age twenty. I think it would have been cool to include angst-ridden/written poetry from when Milosz was a teenager, because you know he must have written some!
Nancy said: Nancy said Milosz’s New and Collected Poems was a “splendid introduction to those who don’t know his work” (p 187).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Polish Poetry and Prose” (p 187).
Millay, Edna St. Vincent. A Few Figs From Thistles: Poems and Sonnets. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1922.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month.
The poem Pearl wanted her readers to focus on from A Few Figs From Thistles is “The Unexplorer” (p 24). It is an incredibly short poem about a little girl who asks her mother where the road by their house leads. The mother replies it ends at the milk-man’s door. For some reason that information suddenly ends the little girl’s desire to go down the road. I am of a darker mind when I think the little girl is afraid of the milk-man and doesn’t want to run into him when really it could be she thinks the milk-man’s front door is not an exciting enough destination. So she has put it out of her mind. She is no longer curious. That’s the thing about poetry. It is ambiguous enough that it could mean anything you want it to. I prefer the darker version. the milk-man’s front door is not a place for young girls.
As an aside, from every aspect of my accounting, from the spreadsheets to the codes in LibraryThing, A Few Figs From Thistles is supposed to be a More Book Lust read as well as from Book Lust To Go. It’s not in the index of More Book Lust nor can I find it within the obvious chapters. Really weird.
Author fact: To her friends, Edna was called Vincent.
Book trivia: Read between the lines and you will find Millay’s viewpoint on feminism and sexuality.
Nancy said: This poem sets the tone for Pearl’s entire book, Book Lust To Go (p xiii). She is not a traveler and she cites “The Unexplorer” as explanation. It’s kind of funny.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the introduction (p xiii).
Millay, Edna St. Vincent. “Travel.” April Second. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1921. p33.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. Note the title of the book from where “Travel” was published.
The poem “Travel” reminded me of Freya Stark in it’s restlessness and sense of adventure. To look at train tracks and wonder where they end up. To watch a plane make its way across the sky, the contrails fading bit by bit, and guess its final destination. Who hasn’t done that?
Confessional: As a child I did the reverse. While riding in my father’s car I used to watch the world passing by and if I saw someone in a yard raking leaves or watering a garden I would try to put myself in their shoes. To stand there, rake or garden hose in hand as the silver car flashes by with the little girl peering out the window, her blank face staring. What was it to be standing still as my other self rode by? Did the gardener wonder where I was going?
Author fact: Millay was born in Rockland, Maine.
Poem trivia: the theme of restlessness has been compared to Millay’s sense of sexuality and how she “traveled” between genders as a bisexual.
Nancy said: Nancy said she could identify with Millay’s poem “Travel” because it described how she wished she felt – that sense of adventure to ride the rails no matter where they took her (p 138).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the introduction to the chapter called “Making Tracks by Train” (p 138).
Oliver, Mary. “Wild Geese.” Wild Geese: Selected Poems. Bloodaxe, 2004.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month
The title poem “Wild Geese” is a small slice of heaven in words. Taking just a little over a minute to read, it sends a mighty message. It’s all about hope, inspiration and self worth in the grand scheme of things. Nature is all around us and we are a part of it. We belong in the universe.
Author fact: YouTube has great videos of Mary Oliver reading “Wild Geese.” They are amazing. Check them out.
Poem trivia: I think everyone likes to quote “Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 187). As an aside, this is a the last poem I had to read for the chapter. As soon as I read Perrine’s Sound and Sense I will be finished with the entire chapter.