Love Poems

love poems neruda

Love Poems, by Pablo Neruda. I picked this up at the BYU store, because it was on crazy sale upstairs. Like, a couple bucks. Score. I had heard good things about Neruda from my husband, who thinks he’s just a wonderful poet. And he’s Chilean, which means I can cross Chile off of my “countries to read a book from” list.

Anyways. Love Poems is a very short collection, and fairly sweet. He’s not the best romantic poet I’ve ever read (I think Shakespeare takes the cake on that one so far), but I did enjoy most of the collection, and I’m looking forward to reading some of his less love-based poetry in the future. Because, you know. It’s not like that was the only book I bought. ♦

Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems

aimless-love

Billy Collins is becoming a favorite of mine. Aimless Love is a collection of old poems—some I recognized, some I didn’t—along with a small collection of new ones. It’s a much longer book than his older collections, which means you have more poems to work with.

There’s really not much to say here. I liked his poems just as much this time as last. If you like his poetry, you’ll like this one. If you don’t, you won’t. His style is fresh, humorous, and has very little “stuffy British poetry snob” about it. I liked it. ♦

Heartbeat

heartbeatI picked up Heartbeat shortly after reading Love That Dog… because I Loved That Dog. Sharon Creech is an excellent writer for any age, and especially for middle-grade readers.

Heartbeat is about a girl who likes to run (and feel her heartbeat). She has to deal with some typical and some less-than-typical teenage stress: a moody friend, a track coach who seems to think that anyone who doesn’t want to join the track team must be destined for failure, a grandparent who keeps forgetting where he is, and a mom who’s going to have a baby. But she’s got a good support team at home, and she seems to know who she is, even though she sometimes has a hard time expressing it.

There’s not much to say, really. It’s a good, short read, written in free verse poetry, and it does a good job of just exploring life. Funny how poetry does that. I didn’t like it quite as much as Love That Dog – but I would still recommend it to just about anyone. ♦

19 Varieties of Gazelle

19 Varieties of Gazelle

I found 19 Varieties of Gazelle, by Naomi Shihab Nye, just sitting on the new arrivals table at Pioneer Book. Just sitting there. All alone. No friends. Poor poetry book. I’ll give you a home.

This is a beautiful collection of poetry about life as an Arab – in America, in the Middle East, from America visiting the Middle East – as well as some poems about the seeming inability for Israelis and Arabs to get along, despite their shared humanity. It is thought-provoking without being unnecessarily edgy, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for some good poetry or human understanding, especially older children or teenagers.

As always, I’ll provide a sample poem:

Trenches and Moats and Mounds of Dirt

An ancient world thick as fleece and layered grapes,
stones stacked into walls on hillsides,
the neat lineage of orchards…
even now in shuttered rooms
silver needles pulling thread till
a bird rises from the cloth
to fly in circles
over a scene she does not
recognize.

Where is her nesting place,
the safe slot between branches?

There is a language
between two languages
called Mean but who will admit
they are speaking it?

“Let’s change places,” the teenagers said.
“For a week, I’ll be you and you be me.”
Knowing if they did, they could never fight again.

Listen to them. ◊

Love That Dog

Love_That_Dog

Okay, confession time. This one made me cry.

It’s a kid’s book. A kid’s poetry book. Well, sort of. It’s a kid’s poetry journal. It’s a story told through a kid’s poetry journal for his English class, and he doesn’t want to write poems (because boys don’t write poems, girls do), but he does it anyway and ends up writing some really good poems.

And also, his dog died.

Sharon Creech made it sound a lot better than that, okay? I cried. That poor dog. He loved that dog so much.

Seriously, though, Love That Dog is a fantastic book. I still feel a little silly crying over it (I’m tearing up now. Stupid yellow dog.) – but I still hold that this is a wonderful book, especially for someone who’s not that into poetry, or a kid just learning about poetry. It’s wonderful. You should all go read it. But maybe grab a Kleenex. ♦

Christmas Readings for the L.D.S. Family

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Check out this glorious artwork. This is Christmas Readings for the L.D.S. Family, compiled by George Bickerstaff. In the aftermath of my grandfather’s death (- I like using aftermath; it makes it sound like Grandpa died fighting off a rabid polar bear, instead of peacefully in a hospital bed-), we found this collection in the study, and brought it home with all the American history tomes.

I was hesitant about this one: first of all, look at the cover. I mean, there’s technically nothing wrong with it, but it does seem to say, “I’ve been sitting on this shelf for the last 40 years, and not in a ‘classic’ way.” I can overlook the artwork, however, in favor of the content. I mean, a good Christmas story is still good, even with 60’s art.

But then we come to my second hesitation: “…for the L.D.S. family.” L.D.S. stands for Latter-day Saint, as in Mormon. These are Christmas readings for Mormons. What, exactly, is so different about Mormon Christmas? Less rum in the punch, is all I can come up with. So this probably means the writers were L.D.S., and the guy got published through a local L.D.S. publishing company.

Which is true. Several of the stories were originally written for L.D.S. magazines, and a few of them are just people’s memories (dug up from their family histories) of Christmases long past among the Mormon pioneers. In an anthropological moment, one of the stories casually mentions “Father’s other wife, Hannah.”

So I had my qualms. But it’s less than 100 pages, and it’s easy reading, and most of the stories are less than 4 pages long. No big deal. And really, I got a better deal than I expected. (Easy to do that when the book is free, but still.) There were at least 2 stories that I might consider putting into a collection of my own.

There was, of course, at least one story so sappy it kind of made me gag. But you know, it was written in ’54, and it was written about a teenage boy, and it was written by a grown woman, so there was a whole lot of “Look, I totally know how to use teenage slang!”

All in all, I don’t think I would recommend buying the book. But if you’ve got easy access to it, and you’re looking for a few heartwarming Christmas stories, give it a shot. I think my favorite part was the poetry section at the end, which was (in my humble opinion) higher quality than most of the stories. ♦

Give More Than You Take

So I was thinking just now about how much people expect out of life.

I mean, some of it’s good. We expect some basic respect, and an end to discrimination, and human dignity and living space and enough food to eat. But I think we also expect some weird things: we think sexual gratification is a right, so the porn industry skyrockets. We think our food has to taste good, so restaurants make gads of money. (Technical term: gads.)We expect people to listen to our thoughts, so we write blogs (cough) and Facebook posts and comment on other people’s thoughts when we really want to get somebody’s attention. And how many of these things are really “rights”? More importantly, what are we missing while we’re screaming for them?

happy

Storytime: I went to eat sushi a while ago with my dad. We had a great time, and when we got back, my mom asked how it was. “They never brought our soup!” I said immediately.

The sushi was all-you-can-eat. And my dad paid the check. I got free, unlimited seafood – cooked for me and delivered to my table while I chatted with my dad – and my first reaction was to criticize the experience. What?

If you told your kids they were only getting a $20 gift for Christmas, how many people would have epic tantrums to deal with?

In comparison, I know a homeless guy who was offered a free meal, declined on principle (because he already had enough), then changed his mind, picked up the meal, and gave it to another homeless guy. This man has needs like I’ve never had, but he didn’t feel them – at least not as much as he felt the responsibility to help.

I’m not advocating everybody live on the street, stop giving Christmas gifts, or throw out the Thanksgiving turkey. I just think we’d all enjoy our lives a little more if we put things in perspective and realized that we’re living the high life. (If you’re reading this, you have access to a computer. Think about that.)

There are still things wrong with the world – but I think we’ll all have more to be grateful for when we start being grateful for the things we already have. If we recognize how many things we have, and don’t need, we’ll feel a little less needy. And that puts us in a better position to recognize and help the needs of others. So take a few minutes to notice. Thank your dad (thanks, Dad) for the free meal instead of complaining about the service. Read a book, and point out the parts you like to your neighbor on the train. Wear your favorite perfume, instead of hoarding it for a “special occasion.”

You’re alive! It’s a special occasion.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! ♦

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