Short Blog for a Short Book

short blog short book
Last week I blogged about Susan Hankla as a teacher. But thinking about Susan, and about the RTD article about her as a poet that prompted that blog, I decided to explore her writing. Besides ordering Clinch River, I also acquired a copy of this 1979 chapbook.

 

There are eight poems in this chapbook:

 

  1. “The Air Is Getting Thin”
  2. “Lost Glove”
  3. “Burning Your Letters”
  4. “Hours”
  5. “Pleasing Mrs. Faris”
  6. “Three Foolish Things”
  7. “A Larger Pain”
  8. “Running Home”
Each poem includes rich images, unexpected transitions, and surprising endings. You can read this book in minutes. Or hours. Or over days. But if you can get access, do read it.

 

Only 350 copies were printed, so there aren’t that many copies floating around—which is unfortunate.

 

Good luck in your quest!

Poetry Power

national poetry month
 
Since 1995 April has been National Poetry Month. I’m not a poet, but when my Creative Nonfiction teacher (Amy Ritchie Johnson) gave the class an assignment  to write a nonsense poem, I had to come up with something—and here it is!

 

SCHIZO
What’s the difference between a beet,
A round, red, sweet beet?
It must be trees—a trillion trees
With billions of buds and billions of bees.
Why that answer? Why? Why?
Because two salmon swim in the sky.
A motorcycle has no doors,
No roof, no windows, no mats for floors.
But that’s okay. It does not matter.
We’re saved by chocolate peanut batter.
And Grandma rides old lady bikes
With three tall wheels. She vaults over dykes.
And when those thoughts go bump in the night,
They leap from corners to laugh in the light.
I cover my eyes. I cover my ears.
I shake in my shoes and scald in my tears.
My brain is swollen, cracked and black.
Six special spiders sit stitching it back.

 

It was a fun exercise.

 

poetry power
I first became aware of poetry in high school when Mrs. Fischer, my English teacher, gave us a quote for the day to memorize. It was often Emily Dickinson, but sometimes Shakespeare or Poe. I memorized “The Raven”—also “Bells” and “Annabelle Lee.” Poe has been a favorite ever since, along with Sherman Alexie, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan.

 

poetry power
The Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 in New York City with a mission of supporting American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. On their website, poets.org, you can buy books, keep up with poetry, and sign up for a poem a day—for free!

 

poetry power
If you’re not a poet, why bother? Consider the words of Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate.
poetry power
Who are your favorite poets?

Read This Book!

meatballs people gary sotomeatballs people gary soto
It’s a fast, pithy read. The book is small enough to carry virtually anywhere: 6” x 4” x 3/8” and 141 pp. and every one of those pages has a lot of white space.

 

read book meatballs people gary soto
According to Soto, “[Proverbs] don’t take effort to read. They are not riddles or cagey games, but do require an ‘aha’ moment.” Here are some of his proverbs I especially like.

 

If you plant a garden
Get ready to weed
 
You become corrupt
In increments
 
In love with his baritone voice
The politician
Believes what he says
 
A backbone
Is more useful
Than a wishbone
 
As Soto so aptly observed in his preface to this book, “Also, proverbs, in all languages and over the centuries, are quips that speak of our human nature.”

 

Gary Soto is of Mexican-American heritage. His work has taken him from the fields of the San Joaquin Valley to his literary life in Berkeley, California. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley and at University of California, Riverside. You can read about his awards and achievements in Wikipedia and visit his website at garysoto.com.

 

gary soto 2001 national book festival
Gary Soto’s literary oeuvre is as varied as it is extensive, including 14 poetry collections, 21 books for children/young adults, a series of children’s picture books in Spanish and English featuring a cat named Chato, 8 memoirs, 1 play, 2 films, and 4 edited volumes.

 

gary soto meatballs people
Meatballs for the People: Proverbs to Chew On (Red Hen Press, 2017) can be found in the poetry section.

 

“You can always spot bright people. They are reading a book.” Gary Soto.

Great Reading for Black History Month!

Not that these authors should be read only in February, but this is a great opportunity to sample authors you might not have read before. Choose any of the authors/books listed below and you can’t go wrong!

 

MAYA ANGELOU: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (autobiography—first of seven), Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (poetry)

 

maya angelou
Maya Angelou visits York College Feb 2013 [Creative Commons]
JAMES BALDWIN: Go Tell It On The Mountain (novel), Giovanni’s Room (a novel dealing with race and homosexuality), and three collections of essays,  Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, and The Fire Next Time

 

OCTAVIA BUTLER: Kindred and many others (science fiction). She’s won two Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards, and was the first sci-fi writer to win a MacArthur fellowship.

 

RITA DOVE: Thomas and Beulah, Sonata Mulattica, Mother Love Poems, and others. Poet Laureate, her poems and essays are everywhere.

 

rita dove
Rita Dove at 2012 Fall for the Book, George Mason University [Source: S L O W K I N G (Creative Commons)]
W. E. B. DU BOIS: The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America is still an authoritative work on the subject, The Emerging Thought of  W. E. B. Du Bois: Essays and Editorials from “The Crisis” (essays)

 

RALPH (WALDO) ELLISONShadow and Act (essays), Invisible Man (fiction)

 

LANGSTON HUGHESThe Weary Blues (poetry), Not Without Laughter (novel). He’s also written plays, short stories, and several other books.

 

langston hughes
Langston Hughes photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1936 [Creative Commons]
ALEX HALEYThe Autobiography of Malcolm X, Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

 

ZORA NEALE HURSTONTheir Eyes Were Watching God, but also more than 50 published novels, short stories, plays, and essays.

 

TONI MORRISONThe Bluest Eye, Sula, The Song of Solomon. She’s a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.

 

toni morrison
Toni Morrison lecture at West Point Military Academy in March, 2013 [Creative Commons]
ALICE WALKER:The Color Purple (novel)—she won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

 

RICHARD WRIGHTNative Son and Black Boy (novels), Uncle Tom’s Children (short stories)

 

THIS IS ONLY A SAMPLE! Explore and read, read, read.