Forgetting How to Read

I’m ashamed to say it took me two years to finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Not because I’m a slow reader, but because I completely lost interest in reading. Between having to read textbooks for history and rushing through novels and plays in literature, I wanted to spend time without a book in my hand. I had loved to read before this happened, too, and when I realized I hadn’t read for pleasure in roughly a year and a half, I was disappointed in myself. At the start of 2016, I wrote a list of goals for the year, and I had put “read 10 books” to try and ease myself back into it.

I had definitely forgotten how much I loved pleasure reading. I thought it’d take a while for me to ease back into it, but I surpassed my 10-book goal by July. Amongst my favorites this year have been Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (a murder mystery), The Vacationers by Emma Straub (a story detailing all of the drama on a family vacation), and every book from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire through Deathly Hallows. Lo and behold, I had finished the series, right on September 1st. I hated myself for not finishing the series sooner, but I was just happy I had been able to finish it.

   

The other thing with finishing the Harry Potter series was that I (finally) allowed myself to watch the movies – I hadn’t wanted to watch the movies until I read the books. I thought I’d be emotionally prepared, but I was nowhere close to it – in Deathly Hallows, I had to rewatch everything from “you have your mother’s eyes” to “always” roughly four times so I could hear the dialogue through my uncontrollable sobbing.

Anyway, the movie nights became a nice little tradition for myself. Not only with Harry Potter, but with the other book/movie pairs as well. I didn’t need the incentive to finish a book, but being able to settle down with some popcorn, tea, and a movie that I’d presumably like was incredibly relaxing, and it was a nice thing to look forward to after finishing the book.

Looking back, I realized I had forgotten how to read. Not literally, of course, but I had forgotten how to lose myself in a book and get attached to the characters. I had forgotten how excited and inspired reading made me, too. When I stopped reading for pleasure, I stopped writing as well, which was something I loved to do in middle and early high school. Reading books has given me inspiration to start writing again, even if it’s just a paragraph or two of character descriptions. I’ve missed having a creative outlet, and picking up books I enjoy has definitely rekindled my creativity.

I figure that most people who read this are already the creative sort, and I hope you continue being inspired. Don’t let other obligations push out your passions. If you don’t normally read, pick up a book that looks interesting (feel free to judge by the cover), and you may find you like reading more than you’d think.

Words You’ve Been Writing Without- Maggie Herring

In the midst of the really picturesque and bittersweet moments in my life, I often fail to find the words to truly express myself. Of course I could cut my sidetracked mind off and be present, but I’m an English nerd and these moments make for great material. Lately I’ve found that other languages have perfectly described the moments I replay in my head over and over again, and try to recreate on a page in just one word. Here are a few of my favorites that seem to define the difficult and charming moments in life:

(Definitions from Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders)

https://images.penguinrandomhouse.com/cover/9781607747109

Commuovere (Italian, verb):
“To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually relating to a story that moved you to tears”

Mångata (Swedish, noun):
“The road-like reflection of the moon in the water”

Gezellig (Dutch, adjective):
“Describes much more than just coziness – a positive warm emotion or feeling rather than just something physical – and connotes time spent with loved ones, togetherness”

Meraki (Greek, adjective):
“Pouring yourself wholeheartedly into something, such as cooking, and doing so with soul, creativity, and love”

Kilig (Tagalog, noun):
“The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic or cute takes place”

Hiraeth (Welsh, noun):
“A homesickness for somewhere you cannot return to, the nostalgia and the grief for the lost places of your past, places that never were”

Razliubit (Russian, verb)
“To fall out of love, a bittersweet feeling”

Karelu (Tulu, noun):
“The mark left on the skin by wearing something tight”

Ubuntu (Nguni Bantu, noun):
“Essentially meaning ‘I find my worth in you, and you find your worth in me.’ Can be (very) roughly translated as human kindness”

Wabi-Sabi (Japanese, noun):
“Finding beauty in the imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death”

Tiám (Farsi, noun):
“The twinkle in your eye when you first meet someone”

Nunchi (Korean, noun):
“The subtle, often unnoticed art of listening and gauging another’s mood”

Saudade (Portuguese, noun):
“A vague, constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, a nostalgic longing for someone or something loved and then lost”

November 27- Poem of the Week

The Permanent Way
Meg Day

  Steamtown National Historic Site was created in 1986 to
            preserve the history of steam railroading in America,
            concentrating on the era 1850 through 1950.

We weren’t supposed to, so we did
what any band of boys would do
& we did it the way they did in books
none of us would admit we stole
from our brothers & kept hidden

under bedskirts in each of our rooms:
dropped our bicycles without flipping
their kickstands & scaled the fence
in silence. At the top, somebody’s overalls
snagged, then my Levi’s, & for a few deep

breaths, we all sat still—grouse in a line—
considering the dark yard before
us, how it gestured toward our defiance—
of gravity, of curfews, of what we knew
of goodness & how we hoped we could be

shaped otherwise—& dared us to jump.
And then we were among them,
stalking their muscled silhouettes as our own
herd, becoming ourselves a train
of unseen movements made singular,

never strangers to the permanent way
of traveling through the dark
of another’s shadow, indiscernible to the dirt.
Our drove of braids & late summer
lice buzz cuts pivoted in unison

when an engine sighed, throwing the moon
into the whites of our eyes & carrying it,
still steaming, across the yard to a boilerman,
her hair tied up in a blue bandana.
Somewhere, our mothers were sleeping

prayers for daughters who did not want women
to go to the moon, who did not ask
for train sets or mitts. But here—with the moon
at our feet, & the whistle smearing
the cicadas’ electric scream, & the headlamp

made of Schwinn chrome, or a cat’s eye
marble, or, depending on who
you asked, the clean round scar of a cigarette
burn on the inside of a wrist so small
even my fingers could fasten around

it—was a woman refilling the tender
in each of us. We watched her
the way we’d been told to watch
our brothers, our fathers:
in quiet reverence, hungry all the while.

Some Poems For Your Holiday

As we enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday and the peace and respite it brings, let’s also take this opportunity to reflect on who we are and where we came from. I’ve been thinking not only about the history of our country but about the history of our literature as well. So I’d like to present some of my favorite pieces of early American poetry. Poetry is in no way my area of expertise, but there’s something about the early American poets that I just can’t get enough of. There’s a rawness of emotion and a fire in their words that I believe gives us a small insight into the spirit of our country’s earliest writers.

The first to come to my mind is Phyllis Wheatley (1753-1784), the first female African-American poet to be published. Her “Hymn to the Evening” comes to my mind every time I see a sunset.

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main

The pealing thunder shook the heav’nly plain;

Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr’s wing,

Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.

Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes,

And through the air their mingled music floats.

Through all the heav’ns what beauteous dies are spread!

But the west glories in the deepest red:

So may our breasts with ev’ry virtue glow,

The living temples of our God below!

Fill’d with the praise of him who gives the light,

And draws the sable curtains of the night,

Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind,

At morn to wake more heav’nly, more refin’d;

So shall the labours of the day begin

More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.

Night’s leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes,

Then cease, my song, till fair Aurora rise.

Fast forward about a century, and we have another incredible female early American writer. Willa Cather was born in 1873 and her works, which often focus on the prairie, paint vivid pictures of the landscape before it was changed by the influx of settlers.

“Prairie Spring”

Evening and the flat land,

Rich and sombre and always silent;

The miles of fresh-plowed soil,

Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;

The growing wheat, the growing weeds,

The toiling horses, the tired men;

The long empty roads,

Sullen fires of sunset, fading,

The eternal, unresponsive sky.

Against all this, Youth,

Flaming like the wild roses,

Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,

Flashing like a star out of the twilight;

Youth with its insupportable sweetness,

Its fierce necessity,

Its sharp desire,

Singing and singing,

Out of the lips of silence,

Out of the earthy dusk

And finally, Anne Bradstreet. Born in the colonial days of 1612, Anne was a remarkably educated woman. She lived in the Massachusetts Bay area and is lauded as “The Tenth Muse.” Read two of her most famous poems below.

“To My Dear and Loving Husband”

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me, ye women, if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.

Thy love is such I can no way repay;

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

 

“By Night when Others Soundly Slept”

By night when others soundly slept

And hath at once both ease and Rest,

My waking eyes were open kept

And so to lie I found it best.

I sought him whom my Soul did Love,

With tears I sought him earnestly.

He bow’d his ear down from Above.

In vain I did not seek or cry.

My hungry Soul he fill’d with Good;

He in his Bottle put my tears,

My smarting wounds washt in his blood,

And banisht thence my Doubts and fears.

What to my Saviour shall I give

Who freely hath done this for me?

I’ll serve him here whilst I shall live

And Loue him to Eternity

____________________________________________________________________________________

I realize that these selections aren’t comprehensive. I didn’t include any writings from Native American poets or any from early American male poets. This is not to say anything about their writings. The pieces I selected are merely those that have stuck with me through the years.

So after you’ve stuffed yourself with some delicious food, maybe instead of flipping on the TV or planning your Black Friday shopping trip, you could spend a few moments reflecting on the people in this country who came long before you and what they had to say about themselves and the new land in which they lived. Happy Thanksgiving.

And This, This is Mother- An Original Poem by Margo McManus

And This, This is Mother

Margo McManus

 

Against all odds a mother’s hands are not
Always soft, are not meant to be.

I sat on my own mother’s lap and felt
The dense cauliflower bulges against my palms, my chest as she held me,
And when I was too big to share her throne I
Took the one beside her, felt the whiplash slash of power against my
Stomach every time she
Slammed the breaks, seatbelt searing into my neck.

Sometimes the jagged scar seam scrapes along my scalp like
A fishnet over old aquarium gravel, fingers swimming the
Whirlpool tresses with ease before
Gliding across my wrist to kiss the
Blooming bruises where she
Hauls me from every edge I need saving from, a tingling admonition.

In the clasp of our grasp, humid air builds against our
Chapped edges, chipped spaces,
And feels like the passing wisp of that savage storm –
The murderous mother who birthed a family’s second chance
Amidst the angry ruin.

November 13- Poem of the Week // Hand-Me-Downs: An Original Poem by Chloe Emerson

Hand-Me-Downs

Sad poetry has never sat quite right on my tongue;
Indignation has always squeezed too tightly around my chest,
Like a hand-me-down shirt that was not stretched
To the broad dimensions of my shoulders.
I do not easily fit into these feelings of fire and ire.
This anger, how it burns down my throat, like a wildfire,
And I cannot clutch my pen with flames scorching
Bones and muscles and nerves.
The smoke in my lungs choke every shred of who I am and
Who I could be and who I will be and who I want to be.

My passion has always glided rather than marched,
Trembled softly rather than quaked the earth.
But I guess thats the key to hand-me-downs:
They carry too much of someone else.
Like a sweater inherited from another body,
This anger too lays foreign on me.
But as I wear these hand-me-downs I can feel the
Sweater threads stretching and expanding,
The anger lightening and dispersing until
The fire has been extinguished and I can tremble on.

An Unnerving Grasp On My Shoulder

An Unnerving Grasp On My Shoulder

I had a meeting with a ghost.

It spoke in twisted tongues,

A creature that knew no trust.

It’s eyes followed me, yet yielded contact.

I couldn’t feel any warmth,

Nothing to hold me, to keep me safe.

Tone coarse, a dead, silent winter.

I reach my hand out, sweeping through cold mist.

There is a presence, to which I am blind.

 

The ghost embraces.

 

Nostalgic shivers race deep within roots.

A twist in my abdomen, I shake him off my mind.

He is not here anymore.

Madison Wakefield

November 6- Poem of The Week

A Woman Speaks
By Audre Lorde

Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.

I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
my sisters
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
mourning.

I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
promised
I am
woman
and not white.

 

Audre Lorde, “A Woman Speaks” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., www.nortonpoets.com.

The Forgotten Practice of Journaling- Rachel Elston

When I was younger, I absolutely hated journals. It seemed like every Christmas, birthday, or any other big occasion I would receive a journal from my family, which promptly ended up in a drawer with the others, never to be looked at or written in. I don’t know why I had this disdain for journals. Maybe it was because I resented the fact that my parents were trying to impose them on me, or maybe I just thought the idea of cataloging my thoughts every day was ridiculous. For most of my life I avoided journaling like the plague, until this past summer when I worked at a houseboat camp. There, the director gave us no option but to journal every week during a three hour block of time, and the idea absolutely repulsed me. Ironically, after the first hour of the first week of journaling I completely lost that negative mindset I had for all of those 18 years, and really began to love it. I looked forward to those three hour periods of time all week and came to understand and appreciate the benefits of releasing my random thoughts into a vast book of blank pages. Journaling this summer helped me get through particularly tough days, and there are three big reasons why I think journaling should be incorporated into everyone’s daily routines.

1. Journaling helps you relieve stress and connect with nature.

Nowadays, it feels like everything is moving at such a fast pace and is so technologically driven that there’s never really any time to unwind or do anything that doesn’t involve watching TV, playing on your phone, etc. I never realized how I immediately pick up my laptop or phone whenever I’m bored and I rarely take a break from it. The practice of journaling gave me an excuse to go outside and actually connect with nature, which I never do. Having the opportunity to take time out of the day to write and be outside relieves so much more stress than one would expect. Simply organizing your thoughts and taking time out of your hectic day is such a good way to relieve all the stresses in your life and refocus your mind.

2. Journaling is a good way to rest without actually sleeping.

This might sound a little counterintuitive because journaling is often seen as an activity that is supposed to engage your brain and make you think. But just the act of leisurely writing what comes to your mind or drawing is relaxing in and of itself because it helps organize a discombobulated mind. Without fail, I found that I always came back to reality more focused and awake than I was after taking time to journal. This just proved to me that we don’t have to take naps in order to relax and decompress, which is why more people should utilize the practice of journaling.

3. Journaling helps decision making and reveals unique insight.

Circling back to my first point, taking time out of your day to be with your thoughts helps the process of making decisions and gaining insights on certain subjects. This sounds obvious when I put it in words, but we’re so busy in our daily lives we rarely have time to actually ponder our thoughts. We can’t draw the same conclusions as we can when we stop and consider different perspectives and ideas. Some of my greatest revelations about certain things I was struggling with came to me during that three hour period of writing.

Journaling has so many benefits that we fail to realize, like helping us maintain mental clarity and calming all our hectic thoughts we have throughout our busy days. It’s time to bring back the art of journaling, and embrace this effective way of relieving stress in our lives.