Tag Archives: recommendation

By Death

By Death
By Pattiann Rogers

In that moment she became two, one sitting
among the red flags of the blackbirds
in the reeds, the other standing fixed
like a poplar in a fence of poplars.

In the next second, there were four
of her, one watching evening from the sill
beside the bed, another laced through the night-
spaces between the fireflies.

In a further splitting, she was eight,
and in the next sixteen, one blue
by paper lantern, one amethyst by evening
smoke, one ringed like ice by a winter
moon, one ringed like a lily pond by rain,
one marked by murder, one veined
by acquittal.

And there were thirty-two of her then
and again sixty-four, and she was simultaneously
over a plain of summer cress and under
a reef of evening coral, within a knob
of shyster thistle, within a bud of thresher
shark, sailing by roots of bony fish,
soaring by fins tamarack and phlox.

With the next turning she became
a hundred and twenty-eight of himself, groomed
the horse of Orion, dwelled in the light-remnant
of Vela.  She was wind through the scaffold
of pity, a nesting owl among the eaves of praise.
Then two hundred fifty-six– she was stone as well,
and zephyr, then legion, then too various
to be reckoned, too pervasive to be noticed,
too specific to be named.

from Firekeeper: Selected Poems


Recent Random Reading Recommendations

1. Image resultThe Nix, by Nathan Hill.
I think the general thought about this big American novel is that it’s author is about to be really famous. And with good reason.

2. Gentleman of the Road, by Michael Chabon.
This little tale of two unlikely grifters traveling the Silk Road is exuberant. I can practically picture Chabon reveling in the zip and twirl of his euphoric language like a dog  rolling in the sunny grass. I’ll let The Times give you the gist.

3. The Roundhouse, by Louise Erdrich.
I love Louise Erdrich and the rich border communities she creates between time, space, and generations of intersecting families on and off reservations in Minnesota and North Dakota. Roundhouse is part coming-of-age, part mystery, centering around a family left drifting after a mother’s brutal rape. The book may have less magical realism than some of her other novels, but the devastation, the complicated relationships, the humor and heart are all there, singing.

Image result4. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
I recommend listening to Sherman read his new memoir/tribute to/exorcism of his late mother and the complicated relationship they shared. It’s honest and tragic and hopeful, and being Sherman, often hilarious, and there’s something about hearing it told in his own voice that makes it all the more moving. People have called him brave for writing it, and you can tell it was a necessary, but exhausting task… a processing that has not ended. As soon as I finished I picked up his award-winning young adult novel, and it was interesting to see how the autobiographical parts were rendered into a kind of fiction.

5. River Teeth, by David James Duncan.
A poignant mix of short stories and personal essays, brief remembrances and thoughtful musings, often funny, always artful. For anyone who has ever lost someone and waded through eddies of swirling grief, “The Mickey Mantle Koan” is essential reading.

Image result6. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.
So I finally read it. And yes, it’s pretty great, even though parts of it scared the shit out of me now that I have two sons, and really don’t want to see any Cain and Abel action broiling in years to come. And even though the only memorable female character was a dead-eyed sociopath, I was deeply moved by the concept of Timshel and a person’s struggle for meaning and good work and free will. And I wish Lee lived in my house. Thou mayest. 

7. Theft By Finding, 1977-2002, 
by David Sedaris.
Unlike his previous books of polished essays, Theft By Finding is a collection of fragment observations taken from a 25-year-goldmine of old journal entries (most of them pre-fame). At first I missed the structure and arc of his traditional essays, but soon enough appreciated these random gems for what they were. Sedaris has always had a knack for noticing weird things and getting himself into bizarre interactions with odd people, which is reliably entertaining. The entries also helped clear up some questions I’ve wondered about related to his personal timeline. Anyway, I’ll probably continue to read anything this guy writes, forever.


If you like to spend time exploring outside, chances are you’ve at some point wandered off trail or gotten disoriented enough to experience that frantic, heart-buzzing feeling of being lost. I know I have. The first time I felt that panic was on a teenage backpacking trip in the blue ridge mountains. I took Stanley, our latrine-digging spade, on a too-ambitious ramble in search of privacy, and nearly lost my group, and my mind. I can still recall the relief of hearing their voices calling my name. Damn that Stanley. Since then I’ve been disoriented in white-out blizzards, and stumbled around in high brush off trail, but I’ve never really been dangerously lost without a map and compass.

Retracing your steps, looking for landmarks, hiking to a high point, or even following the flow of water may get you out of the woods (literally), but there are lots of other options — including using birds, trees, and celestial bodies — to consider when wayfinding.

Check out Atlas Obscura’s gorgeous collaboration with expert nature navigator Tristan Gooley and illustrator Chelsea Beck and learn a thing or two about wood craft!


Unabashed Gratitude

Image resultToday, a happy poem for you.

I’ve kept my colorful copy of Ross Gay’s delightful Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude within arm’s reach on the corner of my desk for over a year now. Here I can easily grab it, open any page, and feel a healing breeze. It’s a bright book, full of Neruda-esque odes and celebrations for a damaged, dazzling world, and I highly recommend it.

Wedding Poem
By Ross Gay

   for Keith and Jen

Friends I am here to modestly report
seeing in an orchard
in my town
a goldfinch kissing
a sunflower
again and again
dangling upside down
by its tiny claws
steadying itself by snapping open
like an old-timey fan
its wings
again and again,
until, swooning, it tumbled off
and swooped back to the very same perch,
where the sunflower curled its giant
swirling of seeds
around the bird and leaned back
to admire the soft wind
nudging the bird’s plumage,
and friends I could see
the points on the flower’s stately crown
soften and curl inward
as it almost indiscernibly lifted
the food of its body
to the bird’s nuzzling mouth
whose fervor
I could hear from
oh 20 or 30 feet away
and see from the tiny hulls
that sailed from their
good racket,
which good racket, I have to say
was making me blush,
and rock up on my tippy-toes,
and just barely purse my lips
with what I realize now
was being, simply, glad,
which such love,
if we let it,
makes us feel.