Summer Reading


IMG_3957Last year I joined Now Read This, the online bookclub sponsored by PBS and The New York Times.  Why did I join?  To expand my exposure to books I might not otherwise read, to learn, to explore, to interact with others reading the same books.

I rarely read fantasy or science fiction.  This summer has become an exception.  The June choice, The Fifth Season by Jemisin, won the Hugo in 2016.  The other two books in the trilogy won in 2017 and 2018.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I read them all.  The spine says Fantasy.  I think they are more science fiction.  Even people who claimed they did not like either fantasy or science fiction became like me and read them all.  This series tells a futuristic tale extremely applicable to events, both social and political, in the world today, how prejudice kills both overtly and covertly,  how fear of those who are different affect everyone, what it costs to live in a world where certain attitudes exist.

It took me two days to finish the July title even with chores, touchup house painting, all the things teachers attempt to do during summer break.  Although I had previously read at least three books by Luis Alberto Urrea, I had not read this one, The House of Broken Angels about a family who lives back and forth across the border–San Diego and Tijuana.  It is a tragic-comedy about the endurance, hopes, dreams, cooking, living of several generations.  His non-fiction book, The Devil’s Highway, is a must read for those who want to understand what occurs along the US-Mexico borderlands.

In the midst of all this, I went back and reread Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.  Wow, no wonder it caused a stir when it was published in the 1960s: a whole country where everyone switches back and forth between male and female and those who cannot do this are considered perverts.  Additionally, the main character is described as having very dark brown skin and those who do not behave exactly as they should or politically protest are sent off to a stark camp where they work in excessive cold and eventually die.

Then I read an article about Toni Morrison and authors who do not write for people based on a certain audience, e.g. black, white.  They write about what they know, what they feel, for a different purpose. One book listed was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a fantasy, all of which takes place in what we now think of as Nigeria. It has not one single white character in it.  I kept thinking, wow.  I read a lot of literature from Africa, Middle East, and Latin America.  Most of the time, for better or worse, characters from other cultures show up, usually European and usually for the worse.  Not in this one.  If you go to a book store looking for it, look in Young Adult.  Jemisin’s can be found in Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.  When I mentioned to someone I could not tell why some are categorized one way and some another, I was told there is less graphic sex in YA.  Really?  I cannot tell the difference.

Next on my list?  I annually act as a judge in a literary contest.  Three novels arrived in yesterday’s mail.  Guess I need to get busy.

 

Waiting–my first, I think, prose poem


It seems I cannot stop taking courses, or at least some courses–those dealing with art, literature, poetry, music.  Perhaps the reason has something to do with the fact that from about 7:30 to 5 for five days a week, I teach math.  And not just any math, but mostly math to teenagers who hate it, think they cannot do it, and complain considerably.  I try to “save” them, inspire them, help them to see math’s usefulness in regular, ordinary adult life.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes….

My new poetry class started today, but it is very different from anything I previously studied.  I am supposed to read and learn how to write prose poems.  Now if I can just figure out exactly what is a prose poem versus, let’s say, flash fiction or memoir. I’ve read all the directions and a couple of Robert Bly prose poems and have decided it has a lot to do with imagery.  This post is my first attempt.  Still I am quite concerned that it is not really a prose poem and if not a prose poem, what is it.  Please tell me.

She stands alone by the train tracks,

watching and waiting and dreaming.

Hobos no longer exist.

She remembers reading stories of life

when her great grandmother lived:

hobos begging for food, gypsies stealing

babies and telling fortunes, long days of

working in the corn fields, chopping weeds.

Her own family praises modernity:

tractors, riding lawnmowers, herbicides, pesticides,

electricity, TVs, dishwashers, fast cars, fast food, diet sodas,

cell phones, computers, DVDs, iPADs.

Now the only excitement lays in video games,

guns, and sex.  She watches and waits and dreams.

The Encounter Poems


Throughout my life, I seem to experience what I call encounters:  meeting people I never saw before and having some type of connection with them.  Various things occur under these circumstances.  Sometimes I keep in contact for at least a while with these people and sometimes not.  This week I am going to post several of these poems.  Here is the first one.

In Line at a Fast Food Restaurant

Caramel eyes

glowing in a brown face

Panama hat

Intricately carved silver cross

Crisp, snowy linen shirt

No collar

Slacks loose.

He’s lost weight.

I think,

“Gorgeous brown man.”

He says,

“In case no one has told you lately,

you’re gorgeous!”

He walks off to meet

the pregnant woman in the corner.

Meeting on the Internet


Who are you?

Are you

who you

say you are?

Is your profile

a lie to

attract the gullible

or your heart’s

outpourings,

your soul

open

for all

to see?

Will you tell me

truths or

lies copied

off a website

designed for predators

cleverly disguised?

Will we dream of

touching,

mouth to mouth

passion,

bodies hungry

or perhaps

a relapse

into despair,

malaise?

Will we grow

to love

happiness

or to cynicism,

disillusionment,

a lie?

True Love


“True Love.  Is it normal…?”

Wislawa Szymborska

 

 

Who gets it?

Does it descend

like lightning

striking

only the lucky?

Is it a curse,

a blessing,

a gift?

Me, I’m clueless.

I think perhaps my parents had it.

I don’t.

Never had

or did I miss it,

the strike

the blinding?

Lust I understand.

True Love??