Friday, January 13, 2012

Review of A Woman in the Polar Night

I'm on Goodreads (Are you?) but I never blog my reviews. I don't know why not. But I love this book. Definitely one of the best and most surprising books I read last year. So I thought I'd splash it in this space, too. I wrote the review mid-read, but I still felt wonderful about it when I finished. In fact, I really really loved the ending. Quiet, deep close to a quiet, deep book. It never went out of print in Germany. I'm on a personal quest to revive stateside interest in it. Read it! Read it!


Why had I not heard of this book? I saw it in Tin House, in a feature on forgotten great books, and was skeptical, but got it from the library.

From sentence one, I've been hooked. It's nonfiction, written in the 1950s by an Austrian woman who followed her husband to the Arctic to stay with him in a hunting hut for a year. Her descriptions of travel and the scenery are stunning without being melodramatic. And she's causing me to have the deepest thoughts I've probably ever had on what it means to do housework, to be a housewife, a role she steps into with humor (cleaning bearded seal entrails from your doorstep, anyone?) and a stunning and almost unbelievable acceptance. Don't get me wrong: it's not a book that's ABOUT housewifery (yes, that's a word, says me), but that's what it's causing me to think of: the roles we step into, the roles we want or think we want to step into, and what it means when you strip away absolutely everything else and focus those roles and the attendant relationships down to a 10 X 10 hut in the middle of nowhere.

The writing is gorgeous. (Even my husband, who is the pickiest man alive when it comes to books, read the first few pages (I wouldn't let him have it for longer than that ...) and said it was clearly very good writing and made for good reading.) It feels like it's been awhile since I've had a book I longed for all through the day while I attended to less charming tasks, but this is a book like that. I want to stop people on the street and tell them to read it--it's that good, so far.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Poem by Ms. Millay


Wild Swans

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

Monday, October 3, 2011

This is lovely.

Am perhaps beginning a love affair with TED, as in TED Talks. 

The whole talk by Elizabeth Gilbert is great, but this was particularly lovely:

"I had this encounter recently where I met the extraordinary American poet Ruth Stone, who's now in her 90s, but she's been a poet her entire life and she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And she said it was like a thunderous train of air. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, "run like hell." And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she'd be running and running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it "for another poet." And then there were these times -- this is the piece I never forgot -- she said that there were moments where she would almost miss it, right? So, she's running to the house and she's looking for the paper and the poem passes through her, and she grabs a pencil just as it's going through her, and then she said, it was like she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail, and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. And in these instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact but backwards, from the last word to the first."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yes sir.

You do not need to leave your room.  Remain sitting at your table and listen.  Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still, and solitary.  The world will freely offer itself to you unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.                       

--Franz Kafka

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

National Poetry Month

My lovely friend Kat is having a super cool National Poetry Month giveaway.  I'm posting my entry here, and I think it would be a lovely thing to do in celebration of NPM for anyone with an inclination.  The line here comes from the poem in my last post. 

Happy poetry.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Reteach a Thing Its Loveliness

 I feel like this poem knocked me over this morning.  So good, particularly that line from my post title: "sometimes it is necessary / to reteach a thing its loveliness."  Feels like a message for spring, like the whole world is relearning its loveliness.  Especially, hopefully, me.


Saint Francis and the Sow

by Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;   
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch   
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow   
began remembering all down her thick length,   
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,   
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine   
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering   
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cedar Feet

How could I not have posted on this wee blog since July?  Oh dear.

Anyway, some Emily Dickinson for your Monday.  I read a bit this morning and she so quietly spoke to me that I nearly convinced myself she was haunting my office and would appear in her lacey white dress.  But she didn't.


There is a strength in proving that it can be borne
Although it tear--
What are the sinews of such cordage for
Except to bear
The ship might be of satin had it not to fight--
To walk on the seas requires cedar feet