Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Beginnings

Hello and welcome to this week's poetry post and New Beginnings. Sometimes a poem suggests itself to me immediately, and other times I search and search but nothing seems quite right. And then there are the times when a friend sends you the perfect one. That is what happened this week when thoughtful commenter Becky forwarded 7 Poems to Read This Spring from The Atlantic. (If you think I'm including the link as a way to give you seven poems in one post, you might be right.) 

Kym said she was thinking about spring, but I especially love this poem because to me it includes many types of New Beginnings — spring, the end of an awful winter, maybe some hope as more people get vaccinated and we can meet for coffee (or at the ice cream truck), and my fervent hope for New Beginnings for all of us with someone, somehow.

Uptown, Minneapolis, Minnesota
by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Even though it’s May & the ice cream truck
parked outside my apartment is somehow certain,
I have a hard time believing winter is somehow,
all of a sudden, over — the worst one of my life,
the woman at the bank tells me. Though I’d like to be,
it’s impossible to be prepared for everything.
Even the mundane hum of my phone catches me
off guard today. Every voice that says my name
is a voice I don’t think I could possibly leave
(it’s unfair to not ask for the things you need)
even though I think about it often, even though
leaving is a train headed somewhere I’d probably hate.
Crossing Lyndale to meet a friend for coffee
I have to maneuver around a hearse that pulled too far
into the crosswalk. It’s empty. Perhaps spring is here.
Perhaps it will all be worth it. Even though I knew
even then it was worth it, staying, I mean.
Even now, there is someone, somehow, waiting for me.

From Poetry magazine, December 2018
You can read more about the poet here.

Be sure to visit Kym, Katand Sarah today to read their New Beginnings poems and join us next week for some humor in poetry!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a return to the Nervous Breakdown. After my unraveling of the socks last week, I ended up ordering a couple of skeins of bright Opal colors (pink and green) to use for the cuffs, heels, and toes. They hadn't arrived by the time I drove back to MD, so I've been focusing on this Hitchhiker.

I have a second skein of the Nervous Breakdown yarn, but I'm not sure how well it matches the first one. I found this Hi-Vis Yellow in my stash (I have no memory of buying yarn that bright!), and think I might use it somehow. Stripes, a large block of color, or both? I'll see what I feel like when I get to that point (or I might just ask Ryan what he likes better).

In reading, I finished The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and The Light of the World. Duchess was not nearly as good as Helene Hanff's preceding book, 84, Charing Cross Road, but I was glad to finish her story. The Light of the World is Elizabeth Alexander's (our poet of the week last week) memoir about her marriage and the sudden death of her husband, and it was equally as good as her poetry. I'm still reading Woodswoman and Shuggie Bain, and equally immersed in each book.

What are you knitting, reading, and unraveling this week?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day when I can really begin to see (and believe!) some glimmers of hope. 

John and I both got our second Moderna shots last Wednesday, so I'm very glad and thankful to be fully vaccinated. The side effects kicked my butt on Thursday, but I slept much of the day and felt great on Friday.

Since we are on our way to feeling safer doing things (still masked and socially distanced), we are starting to think about the real possibility of helping Ryan move back east. We've just started to look online at possible places for him, and even though it's early days, it's exciting. In a few weeks we may even venture out with a real estate agent to look at some houses in person. Ryan has had his first shot, will get his second one soon, and is also ready to re-enter life. There are a lot of plans, packing, and driving that will have to occur, but it finally looks like they just might happen.

It's felt a bit like we have been living in suspended animation, waiting for our lives to begin again. I've been a little bit afraid that there might not be much of the life I once loved left when we were able to resume. This is the first time I've felt real hope and can see possible good things in the future, and I hope the same is true for you.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Poet of the Week

For today's National Poetry month post, we've chosen a "Poet of the Week". There are thousands of poets, and we considered quite a few before we arrived at Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander receiving the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal in 2019.
It is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African-American studies.

She was the Inaugural Poet for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration in 2009 with "Praise Song for the Day", but that was the only thing I knew about her. Elizabeth Alexander was an accomplished academic and poet long before that, and continues to be an important voice as a poet, educator, writer, and cultural advocate.

Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem, but grew up in Washington, D.C., the daughter of former US Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman, Clifford Alexander Jr. and Adele Logan Alexander, a professor of African-American women's history at George Washington UniversityI can only imagine the conversations that may have taken place around the family dinner table! Ms. Alexander holds degrees from Yale, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently the president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education.

She is not only an academic. Her poetry book, American Sublime, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and The Light of the World was nominated for the Pulitzer in the Biography/Autobiography category. Ms. Alexander has authored or co-authored 14 books. She writes about what she knows — race, gender, politics, history, and motherhood. I think that she has written something for everyone.

Since this is a celebration of National Poetry Month, I'd like to share one of Elizabeth Alexander's poems. This one is entitled "Race" and it was intriguing to me as soon as I read it. It's a poem about "Great-Uncle Paul" passing as white and the family and wider implications.

Elizabeth Alexander

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.

The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.

Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their telltale spouses.
What a strange thing is “race,” and family, stranger still.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.

Alexander, Elizabeth. "Race". Antebellum Dream Book, Graywolf Press, 2001

You can read a Poem Guide from the Poetry Foundation here

Be sure to visit Kym, Kat, and Sarah today to read their Elizabeth Alexander poems and join us next week for some poetry about New Beginnings!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some actual unraveling! After finishing the Creamsockles, I wanted to knit some more socks, this time in bright colors. I found those bright colors in Neon Nebula from PK Yarn on etsy. I cast on as soon as it arrived and started knitting happily.

But when I was approaching the end of the cuff ribbing I started to think. Because I used the Twisted German cast on, some of the yarn in the first orange stripe got consumed in casting on. It might have been better to use a coordinating yarn for the cuff, heel, and toes to solve this problem. So I searched my stash and came up with two possibilities.

The orange is probably better suited for socks, but that might mean I should start the leg of the sock with the pink stripe so I don't have too much orange next to each other. I haven't decided yet, partly because I'm not sure what the pink yarn is. So the sock now looks like this:

I'll quit overthinking and decide what to do soon so I'll have something to knit after I get my second vaccine shot this afternoon!

As for reading, I finished The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville and Night Waking by Sarah Moss. I'm taking a short break from reading Sarah Moss before I start Signs for Lost Children because I'm still reading Shuggie Bain (our next Read With Us book in case you missed that announcement). I've also just started a book that sounded perfect for reading just in case I'm suffering from post-vaccine side effects, Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille. It comes highly recommended from two people that I think are excellent judges of outdoor and nature writing, Vera and Jane

What are you knitting, reading, and unraveling this week?

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Read With Us (New Book Edition)

We had a difficult time settling on a new book for Read With Us. Suggestions were made, mulled over, books were read, and we still couldn't arrive at one. But finally, we're ready to announce the new book. 

Ta-Da! It's Shuggie Bain, a debut novel by Douglas Stuart. And as usual, I find the differences between the US and UK covers interesting.

Whichever one you read, Shuggie Bain is the recipient of the 2020 Booker Prize. The blurb on the prize page says, "Laying bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride, Shuggie Bain is a blistering and heartbreaking debut, and an exploration of the unsinkable love that only children can have for their damaged parents."

I'll be honest, I resisted reading this book for a long time. I was afraid it would be too depressing, too realistic. Yes, it is both depressing and realistic, but after reading about half of the book, I wonder why I was afraid. Poverty and alcoholism are very real problems now, just as they were in Glasgow in the 1980s in the throes of Margaret Thatcher's policies. I don't know very much about the political background of this time and setting, but I am learning more from this book, just as I'm learning about alcoholism and family dynamics.

We're compressing our normal schedule a little bit, but still allowing plenty of time for obtaining and reading the book. We'll do our usual promotion posts on  April 27, May 4, and May 11, with the blog and Zoom book discussion tentatively scheduled for June 8th. Hopefully you can find the book at your library, obtain a copy through Overdrive or Hoopla, and it's also available on Amazon, Audible, and your local bookstore (if you're lucky enough to have one)! I am reading a real copy from the library, but I'm also alternating my reading with listening to the audiobook. This has proven ideal to get the full flavor of the dialogue and dialect.

I don't know how the story will end or what will happen to Shuggie Bain, but I do know that despite the despair and bleakness, I have been completely engaged in the book. I do hope you'll take a chance with us, resist your fears, and Read Shuggie Bain with Us.

Monday, April 5, 2021

I Before E

 ... except after Y.

This is the newly-painted Contractor Pick Up at our local Home Depot. I'll be interested to see if they leave it this way. :-)

I hope you had a lovely Easter if you celebrate, and a very good weekend no matter what!