Giving In to Goodreads (Poor Me)

For the past several weeks, Goodreads has been bugging me to increase my 2011 reading goal. Last night, I hit 110% completion.

I took a look at a calendar and realized that there are still 94 days left in this year. Surely I can read at least 17 more books before year’s end. Right? December’s usually a good month for me, reading-wise….

So, as of right now – literally, I am tabbing away from this page to do it riiiiiiight now – okay, done – my goal has been increased.

I’m currently working toward that goal with several books vying for my (scattered due to exhaustion) attention. Right now I’ve got One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, Bring Back Beatrice!, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Little Lady Big Apple on rotation – which isn’t as bad as it looks, necessary. Beatrice is a browsing book, one you flip through when you have a minute or two but not enough time for plot. One Perfect Day and Me Talk Pretty are the sort of books that you can read a chapter at a time and put down for long stretches of time in between. I’m kind of holding myself back with Little Lady because I know I’ll want to read it nonstop once I start, and I haven’t really had time to do that….

Oh, you’d like to know what books I’ve read in 2011, but you don’t want to hunt it down on Goodreads? Why, I would be just DELIGHTED to take advantage of the fact that I’m sitting at a computer that has Photoshop and make you a representative graphic.

2011 books read so far


If you’ve got a few minutes, and want to give yourself a treat (because I know you, you bibliophile, and I know you’d like this), then go and read Albert Goldbarth’s meandering, hand-drumming poem “Library.”

I think I’m going to print it out and put it on the wall next to my classroom library. Maybe.

An excerpt:

I open this book and smoke pours out, I open this book and a bad sleet
    slices my face, I open this book: brass knuckles, I open this book: the
    spiky scent of curry, I open this book and hands grab forcefully onto my
    hair as if in violent sex, I open this book: the wingbeat of a seraph, I
    open this book: the edgy cat-pain wailing of the damned thrusts up in a
    column as sturdy around as a giant redwood, I open this book: the travel
    of light, I open this book and it’s as damp as a wound, I open this book
    and I fall inside it farther than any physics, stickier than the jelly we
    scrape from cracked bones, cleaner than what we tell our children in the
    dark when they’re afraid to close their eyes at night.

On the Nature of Things

Today’s poem is in translation from the original Latin, which makes it a heck of a lot older than I would have guessed based on its voice/diction. Well translated, Frank O. Copley!

From Book II of On the Nature of Things by Lucretius (ca. 99-55 BC):

…Do you see now: though outside force propel
people and push them willy-nilly on,
and hurry them headlong, still within our hearts
there’s something that resists and can fight back…


Today’s daily poem is “Piano,” by Dan Howell.

 Her wattled fingers can’t
stroke the keys with much
grace or assurance anymore,
and the tempo is always
rubato, halting, but still
that sound—notes quivering
and clear in their singularity,
filing down the hallway—
aches with pure intention, the
melody somehow prettier
as a remnant than
whatever it used to be.



I love today’s poem (Albert Goldbarth’s “Liquid“). The way it ends, with the portrait of the speaker’s mother, is so good. And at the beginning, the portrayal of the math teacher… so right, so true…

…And Mrs. Sommerson,
the Great Stone Face my mother called her,
regent of the Eighth-Grade Algebra Kingdom, she
who pity’s violin strings couldn’t move a quarter inch
from her unyielding scowl and decimal-pointed grade book …
when one evening I was late in leaving,
and quietly making my passage
down those eerily untenanted halls, I saw
her home room door was opened just enough to show her
at her desk, in tears, her head held in her hands
with such an autonomous weight, she cradled it
as if trying to rock into comfort a terrorized infant…

Transitions (Or: Billy Collins is a Rock Star)

Today’s Daily Poem comes from Billy Collins, who is my favorite poet and absolutely a rock star. It is called “A Word About Transitions,” and it is far too good in its entirety for me to screw it up by posting an excerpt. If you are an English teacher, a writer, a reader of poetry, or just a person who likes a smart laugh, go read this poem and enjoy.


From “7” by Niels Frank, as translated by Roger Greenwald:

In the ice-clear picture I may then see God
as an unbelievably beautiful
           constantly shimmering pattern
though it’s hard for me to believe.
In the picture you and I are reunited “after all these years”
though I can’t believe that either.
It’s too good to be true. Or too true
to be good.


I’m afraid I’ve never felt any passion for a clarinet, but I can empathize with this speaker when I think of instruments that have touched my heart. From Joanne Diaz’s “Clarinet“:

…I forgot how many times
   it brought me to that burning light,
that spinning wheel, but tonight
   in the shower, before
our guests arrived, I pressed my ear
   to your narrow back and heard the rain—
the singular, metronomic beat,
   the legato hum of your voice breaking
the cylinder of your body.


Got another good one from Poetry Daily. This one resonated with me for a few different reasons. First, the seniors are reading Beowulf, which – like “The First Solitude” – has the flow of a story-song, that propensity of an epic poem toward tangential back-story and allusion. Secondly, I’m reading a book about Christopher Columbus, and it occurs to me on my 5th or 6th look at this poem that it is quite possibly talking about Columbus and the conquest of the New World. Thirdly, I like to learn something new, and this poem taught me a new word. Appetence is a strong desire, natural affinity, or tendency. Personified, it is the hero-villain of this excerpt of Luis de Góngora poem, “The First Solitude,” the first stanza of which I now offer up to you:

Appetence now is pilot, not of errant
trees, but of entire, mutable forests,
and first to leave Ocean, the father of waters
—of whose vast royal domain
the Sun, who day after day
is born in his waves and in his waves finds death,
does not wish to know boundaries or extent—
with hair turned white by the spume greed leaves behind,     
though he admits no second
in professing those limits to the world.

Or, in the original Spanish:

Piloto hoy la Codicia, no de errantes
árboles, mas de selvas inconstantes,
al padre de las aguas Océano
—de cuya monarquía
el Sol, que cada día
nace en sus ondas y en sus ondas muere,
los términos saber todos no quiere—
dejó primero de su espuma cano,
sin admitir segundo
en inculcar sus límites al mundo.