- WestWard Quarterly: Summer 2012 Issue (1 poem)
(bear with me on the number of links, it’s been a while since I did Out And About)
Local Interest ( Windsor / Essex County, Ontario )
May and June, for me, have been poetry months. I’ve spent a fair amount of my free time with poetry, reading, writing, and thinking about it. It’s not that I haven’t been interested in poetry before. Throughout my life, I’ve jotted down poetry in many forms, whether those hockey limericks in elementary school or those silly poems I come up with for my nephew and nieces birthday cards or poems I write for my wife and daughter. But these two months I’ve thought about poetry a lot more explicitly. The writing I’ve been doing has been a combination of revisiting old poems and writing new ones.
One unexpected delight has been taking a stab at some minimalistic poetry. Part of me revolts against this idea, but its actually a lot of fun and really makes you think long and hard about the mechanics of writing and forces you to sharpen your thoughts to a crisp edge. It’s actually harder than you would think to make an interesting, significant poem in three lines!
Fans of minimalistic poetry may be interested to know that the intentionally low-brow Three Line Poetry journal has accepted a couple of my three line poems which will appear in volumes 14 and 15 (available online, Kindle and Paperback currently being worked on). One of the poems is about a particular species of tree I am fond of. The other is about the town I live in.
I’ve learned a few things over the last couple of months:
(for those who aren’t connected with me on Facebook or Goodreads)
A heavy-duty treatment of the history of pre 9/11 meddling in Afghanistan. If anyone wants to understand the roots of Al-Qaeda, the war on the Taliban, and the Northern Alliance, they should certainly read this tome. No matter what your stance toward the war, if you are going to draw conclusions about these matters–a familiarity with these details is necessary.
Steve has done a fantastic job of staying balanced and maintaining a high level of objectivity. I highly recommend this, though like many other books of this type, its a long ride. You will need to be prepared to be in it for the long-haul. Make sure you pick up the latesst edition, it has been updated to factor in information that has been revealed well after 9/11. A number of blanks have been filled in, especially in cases where closed lips have been opened by more official proceedings.
2. The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser
An enjoyable read with lots of examples. I learned a lot. With the exception of some questionable/out-of-date advice about submissions at the end, it’s excellent.
3. 1968: The Year That Rocked The World by Mark Kurlansky
A well-done survey of the major happenings of 1968. He writes with an exciting voice and he makes history come to life. You’ll likely find this book weightier and less frivolous than your typical book about the 60′s. I came into this with a pretty good understanding of the major events of 1968 and I found delightful moments where I felt I was learning some new, interesting details.
One of the huge accomplishments here is that Kurlansky handled the difficult balance of duly focusing on important North American events and yet giving proper attention to the key things that were happening around the world. He also goes a far way towards showing the connection of the two spheres.
There are some moments where Kurlansky’s philosophical, historical, and political presuppositions come to the surface in a less than flattering way in his way of stating things and in his decisions to include material, but I actually think that those moments are pretty few and far between and come nowhere near making this book a soapbox.
4. How To Write A Sentence: And How To Read One by Stanley Fish
This is a really fun read. And it is also immensely helpful to any serious reader or writer. Fish doesn’t just outline principles or techniques, but he provides LOTS of examples. This book is stuffed full of excellent examples of great sentences which illustrate what he is saying.
The chapters about first and last sentences are simply delightful. I think I will never again read a book without paying careful attention to the opening and closing line again!
My only complaint is that the last couple pages are far annoyingly sentimental and gushy.
I’ve really been enjoying George Eliot’s Silas Marner. This short excerpt portrays the change which occurs in Silas Marner when his idolized gold is stolen. It uses a visit from someone bringing him some food as a way to deliver that portrait. The explanatory additions in square brackets are mine.
“They [Mrs. Winthrop and her son Aaron] had to knock loudly before Silas heard them; but when he did come to the door he showed no impatience, as he would once have done, at a visit that had been unasked for and unexpected. Formerly, his heart had been a locked casket with its treasure inside; but now the casket was empty, and the lock was broken. Left groping in darkness, with his prop [the gold he had previously stashed up, which was recently stolen] utterly gone, Silas had inevitably a sense, though a dull and a half despairing one, that if any help came to him it must come from without”
Growing Up Amish: A Memoir by Ira Wagler
I enjoyed this portrayal of the struggles of an young Amish man as he repeatedly tries to leave the group he grew up in.
Ira does a fantastic job conveying his complex personal history. He writes with remarkable passion and depth of emotion. His memoir is accessible to anyone who has a passing knowledge of the life of the Amish. He’s a pretty good story teller–he tightly packs emotions into words that endear the reader. He’s pretty good at picking out details, stories, characters, and anecdotes that help to illustrate and adorn what he is saying.
Though I’ve never been Mennonite or Amish, I did grow up and spend a portion of my Christian life within another less radical Anabaptist group. And while I would certainly not pretend to have had a similar experiences, I can relate to some aspects of this memoir.
Ira has long, strange tale to tell, one which will help those who are parsing similar experiences or just want to understand the Amish and their discontents. I will never again be able to see the buggies that traverse the dusty county roads of New York state in the same light.
As part of our Father’s Day celebration for this weekend, my family and I went to Ojibway Park. I used to be a regular visitor to this wonderful nature park in Windsor, Ontario. However, I haven’t made it out in this last couple of years and they did a major renovation since I’d been there last–totally redoing the nature center.
It was a great time with my wife and daughter, and I’m really thankful my wife came up with this idea. If you know me, you can check out my Facebook to see all the pictures. In this post, though, I want to list the birds we saw:
1. American Goldfinches
2. A Northern Flicker
3. House Finches
4. Red-Breasted Grosbeaks (a male and a female–sorry, the picture didn’t turn out)
5. Blue Jays
6. Red-Winged Blackbirds (male and female)
7. An unidentified Hummingbird.
7. The usual plethora of Mourning Doves
Local Interest (Windsor/Essex County)