More Flower Fairies


My daughter and I loved reading Flower Fairies of Autumn, so I put the other three seasons on hold a the library. Then, you know, COVID stuff happened and we couldn’t go to the library.

Well, we still can’t go in, but we can stop by and pick up holds and these two were available. We read them at bedtime over a few nights and I want to say again, these are a fantastic way to introduce your children to poetry.

 

Ordinary Misfortunes


A wonderful, moving work of recreated memory. Emily Jungmin Yoon‘s poems (mostly; there’s a glaring exception at the end) cohere around two related themes: the so-called Korean comfort women, taken by Japanese soldiers; and a Korean-American woman navigating race and gender prejudices (and the predatory gaze of men, mirroring, perhaps, the Japanese soldiers).

She tells, in verse form, specific stories of specific women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army, mixed with prose poems (each one titled Ordinary Misfortunes) focusing on the second theme.

There are some variations thrown in and the final poem, The Transformation, though written as more traditional verse, follows the pattern of the prose poems in subject and theme. However, the opening epigram (In early 2016, thirteen sperm whales beached themselves on Germany’s North Coast, their stomachs full of plastic litter.), while timely important, so bluntly introduces ecopoetics into a book about something else, that it badly jarred me out of the melancholy reverie the rest of the book had settled me into.

A Shropshire Lad


I picked this up before the pandemic hit (or at least before we knew it was hitting). I am sure that I have read A.E. Housman before. I didn’t read it for a while, but it has been something I have been keeping nearby lately and reading from. I even read it to my little one during dinner (poem XVII, which opens with a stanza about football [which I changed to ‘soccer’ when I read it my little soccer fan]). Read more

Letter Of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, To Alexander Pope


If this was not so clear in the previous letter I read, Bolingbroke has studied his s—t. He has named dropped in such a way that it’s clear he’s read them well Bacon, Descartes, and Leibniz.

My understanding is that Pope turned to Bolingbroke for philosophical counsel when writing his great Essay on Man. But no one has ever accused that poem of having more than moderate philosophical value (but great poetic value). Neither does Pope’s friend, whose philosophy seems to be, at its heart, Baconian, mixed with a dose of anti-clericalism (though knowing what I know, I expect that Anglican ministers are exempt from his rhetorically flourishing vitriol). He gets in a jab at Leibniz (which he spells Leibnitz):

Leibnitz, one of the vainest and most chimerical men that ever got a name in philosophy, and who is often so unintelligible that no man ought to believe he understood himself…
Good stuff, eh?

Happy Birthday, William Wordsworth


It’s William Wordsworth’s 250th birthday. My favorite poet and here is a link my favorite poem by him: The Recluse.

I am nearly alone in loving his longer poems, I fear, but maybe you’ll still like it.

It’s also my father’s birthday. He is considerably younger.

What A Great Poem From The Most Recent ‘New Yorker’


I just saw this and thought it was magnificent.

‘Flower Fairies Of The Autumn’ By Cicely Mary Barker


I saw this old book of 1920s, pastoral, children’s poetry at the library when the little one was getting her first library card and felt an immediate urge to get. It reminded me of some books I had had when I was young (Beatrix Potter is still a favorite of mine).

Well, my little loved it and made me finish the whole thing when we read it for her bedtime book.

She loved that the poems are called songs (though she called my singing flat). We have also been reading The Hobbit together (if it’s been a while, you, like me, may have forgotten how magnificent a tale teller and stylist he can be) and she loves the songs that appear in it and often implores me to go back and read the first two poems in that book again.

Perhaps this is a sign that I can begin to inculcate her in my love of poesy?

‘Enoch Arden’; Biblion


Biblion is a lovely used bookstore in downtown Lewes (Delaware). It has, in fact, greatly improved in its selection since the last time I visited. A little on the pricey side for a used bookstore, but not unreasonably so. Its price points were close to Riverby Books, late of Capitol Hill.

I got the Tennyson (was this a sort of textbook, originally?) and my little one got a book about a doctor to dragons and an Emily finger puppet/refrigerator magnet. I am not generally inclined to buy her toys at bookstores, but she showed me the little figure in the white dress and I guessed her identity and since she is my mother’s favorite, I submitted easily (and she also got a book of her own).

I have not read nearly as much Tennyson as I have intended to and this seemed a way to remedy that, in some small fashion.

Now this sort of narrative poem is not my usual favorite and Enoch Arden has not altered it, but Tennyson’s wild and overwrought melancholy is heady stuff and this love triangle without villains (save perhaps, the class system, after a fashion) is a fit table for cooking.

Surfacing


A beautiful book. Perhaps not as rapturously good as the Washington Post‘s review, but beautiful. A poet’s book, as befitting a collection of essays by a poet.

The tent pole pieces, which appear at the beginning (making the latter third a tad disappointing), are fabulous. They are both about visits to archaeological sites of Stone Age settlements. One is in Alaska and the results are inspiring local people to rediscover their cultural history. The other is in the Orkney Islands and is about to be destroyed by erosion. If nothing else, it makes you want to visit a dig site.

Who Will Remember?


This article was almost certainly inspired by Harold Bloom’s death (which I someone didn’t read about until several days after it happened. But it’s something I keep thinking about.

Who will read Harold Bloom in ten years? It’s a repeat of the question I asked after discovering Gore Vidal a few years after his death; and after Christopher Hitchens died. My favorite contemporary poets, too. Will their books even get a second printing?