Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mindful : Poem In Your Post

Every day

I see or I hear
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations,
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these—
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
                  - Mary Oliver
My gratitude to "Inward Outward" for offering  poems almost as often as I do.  
This one beckons me into the light.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Different Sun : What She Read Review

Find it at your local bookseller,
Indiebound, or Amazon.
Fancy an armchair trip to West Africa in the 1840's with the wife of a charismatic American missionary, do you?

Then do sit down with a warm cup of tea for a long, leisurely read:  A Different Sun by Elaine Neil Orr will more than satisfy your requirements.

And whether or not high interest, high style novels of Yorubaland in the 19th century are your daily fare (and they certainly aren't mine!), I recommend that you give A Different Sun by Elaine Neil Orr a try, especially if you can find the time to read it in one or two sittings. I'm pleased to have done so, as this novel had me recalling both Achebe's classic Things Fall Apart and Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible.  

Although I've recently read plenty of non-fiction set in late 20th century Africa, the last historical novel I read set there was probably Kingsolver's, fifteen years ago.  I'm quite certain that A Different Sun will be compared to that worthy work, but I feel that it holds its own against the popular Kingsolver book.  Both feature multiple narrators (although this one's written in third person perspective rather than first person), and both feature females whose fates are tied to charismatic ministers.  In both cases, the culture and landscape the missionaries land in seems to trigger and amplify mental illness in the men, with near-catastrophic repercussions for the women and the native people whom those missionaries intend to "save".

In A Different Sun, we see life not only through the eyes of Emma Davis Bowman, free-spirited and spiritually-seeking daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, but later through those of her husband, the mercenary-cum-Reverend Henry Bowman, and then his local assistant, Jacob.  The narrative "is inspired by the writings of Lurana Davis Bowen and Thomas Jefferson Bowen, the first Southern Baptist missionaries to Africa" and author Orr's research provides cultural and historical context that never feels oppressively detailed or shoe-horned in (as it does in some historical fictions).

Although this novel did not immediately grip me, after I accustomed myself to Emma's unusually associative and somewhat "choppy" internal experience early in the book, I found that I could immerse myself in her perspective - and later in those of the two male characters.  Perhaps not as ambitious as Kingsolver's earlier work, A Different Sun certainly succeeds on its own more modest but worthy terms.

MFB out of Africa,

p.s.  I extend my gratitude to the author and to all those at TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate.  If you'd like to find out what other bloggers thought of A Different Sun, do hop by the tour hub now!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Golden Retrievals : Poem In Your Post

Golden Retrievals

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s—oh
joy—actually scared. Sniff the wind, then

I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,

or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,

a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.

                                                       - Mark Doty

I've offered poems by Mark Doty here before, and this is the second of his I've chosen that features a canine companion.   You can find the first here.   Rest assured though, Mr. Doty is by no means limited by or to this subject, as he's a talented essayist and poet who explores a range of issues in life and art.  I highly recommend him, and my students thoroughly enjoyed a peer's performance of the lighthearted little sonnet above.


You might also admire his brilliant long-form essay Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy or his gorgeous memoir Dog Years.  Even if you are not "an animal person", the latter will move you.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Like : Poem in Your Post

Sestina: Like
                      With a nod to Jonah Winter

Now we’re all “friends,” there is no love but Like,            
A semi-demi goddess, something like
A reality-TV star look-alike,
Named Simile or Me Two. So we like
In order to be liked. It isn’t like
There’s Love or Hate now. Even plain “dislike”

Is frowned on: there’s no button for it. Like
Is something you can quantify: each “like”
You gather’s almost something money-like,
Token of virtual support. “Please like
This page to stamp out hunger.” And you’d like
To end hunger and climate change alike,

But it’s unlikely Like does diddly. Like
Just twiddles its unopposing thumbs-ups, like-
Wise props up scarecrow silences. “I’m like,
So OVER him,” I overhear. “But, like,
He doesn’t get it. Like, you know? He’s like
It’s all OK. Like I don’t even LIKE

Him anymore. Whatever. I’m all like ... ”
Take “like” out of our chat, we’d all alike
Flounder, agape, gesticulating like
A foreign film sans subtitles, fall like
Dumb phones to mooted desuetude. Unlike
With other crutches, um, when we use “like,”

We’re not just buying time on credit: Like
Displaces other words; crowds, cuckoo-like,
Endangered hatchlings from the nest. (Click “like”
If you’re against extinction!) Like is like
Invasive zebra mussels, or it’s like
Those nutria-things, or kudzu, or belike

Redundant fast food franchises, each like
(More like) the next. Those poets who dislike
Inversions, archaisms, who just like
Plain English as she’s spoke — why isn’t “like”
Their (literally) every other word? I’d like
Us just to admit that’s what real speech is like.

But as you like, my friend. Yes, we’re alike,
How we pronounce, say, lichen, and dislike
Cancer and war. So like this page. Click Like.

                                             - A. E. Stallings

Stallings is swiftly becoming one of my favorite contemporary poets.  If you find this sestina as refreshing as I do, then you might wish to take a peek at her page on the Poetry Foundation's website, and this interview at Poetry Daily.  Alternatively, you could hop over to my post from last year that features her rich poetic retelling Actaeon's story.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lost Generation : Poem In Your Post

A Poem by Jonathan Reed, Spoken by Brooke Wojdynski

MFB as light widens into a new year,
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