"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Salon, April 30th

Weather: Can't tell. Will it be nice or will it rain? Some sun, some clouds.

Listening to: Soul Town on Sirius radio. Groups like Average White Band, The Spinners, The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, and this group, Booker T. and the MGs playing "Time is Tight." Listen while you read the blog. Gotta love the Hammond organ. Enjoy.

Retirement: I've decided it. I am retiring at the end of the school year. I decided for sure about two weeks ago but didn't tell anyone except my girls until Wednesday at book club, and then my school folks on Friday. Here is the blog post where I had a little help from poetry to make the announcement. Several years ago when I read the poem, "The God's Abandoned Anthony" I knew it was my retirement poem. In the poem Anthony is losing his city Alexandria and he is urged to accept it and to think back on what was good. For a while now I have felt that it was time for me to leave because things were changing so much in the library. More and more of  the job has become about the technology and less and less of it is about the books. But "as one long prepared and graced with courage" I will leave the library behind and go forward to new, and as of yet, undetermined adventures ahead. It has been good while it lasted but it it time after 37 years to let it go; "to say goodbye to the Alexandria [library] you are losing." 

Summer thinking: Yesterday Don and I were talking about summer plans and I was whining about how we didn't have many firm vacation plans in place for the summer. All the sudden I stopped because I realized that after September 1st my life will be like one long summer. First up, we will await the birth of our first grandchild, due September 7th. Second up, we will plan a vacation in October or November, sometime during the school year when we've never been able to take a vacation before. Wow. Breakthrough thinking.

Hydrangeas, part two: We were able to get outside to do more deadheading yesterday afternoon. I finished up all the hydrangea bushes (we have seven.) Don pruned the Hykuro Nishiki willow tree and worked a bit on the wisteria. The yard is shaping up.

Grunt: Friday night we attended the Pierce Reads! finale at Clover Park Technical college with the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Mary Roach. If you haven't read anything by this remarkable writer, I highly recommend her books. All are nonfiction and, though they are informative, they are also funny. The event was also funny. We laughed a lot and really enjoyed it.

Books completed this week:
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. YA. I'll be very surprised if this book doesn't clean up on all the awards this next award season. Audio.
  • I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. What a wonderful and inspiring collection of poems. E-Book.
  • Dear Bob and Sue by Karen and Matt Smith. A couple visits all 59 National Parks in America and writes about their experiences. This was a book club selection and though I like the idea of making a trip to every park, the writing wasn't spectacular. Print.
Currently reading: Nothing. Can you believe it? I finished The Hate U Give on the way home from school on Friday and the other two books on Saturday. I haven't started another book yet.

On deck: these books are likely my next reads:
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I just downloaded this book onto my iPod as my next audiobook.
  • The Girls from Ames: The Story of Women and a Forty-year Friendship by Jeff Zaslow. This is a book club selection. Print.
  • Dark Son by Nikki Grimes. This will be my last book for the Read all the YMA Winners Challenge. Print. Ms. Grimes won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Author award this past year.

Friday, April 28, 2017

An announcement with the help of poetry

In the poem "The God's Abandon Anthony," C.P. Cavafy wants us to feel through the poem's hero, Anthony, what it is like to lose something that is loved. In Anthony's case, he is losing the city of Alexandria. He stands at the window looking out at the city at midnight when he hears a procession of musicians going by. Anthony is encouraged to not wallow in despair for what he is losing but to recall all that he had,
As one long prepared, and graced with courage, / say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Today I announced to my principal that I will be retiring at the end of the school year. It was a surprisingly emotional day for me. But, like Anthony, it is one I have long prepared for. I just think the saying goodbye part will be the most difficult. It almost seems like the library is Alexandria and the library I knew is leaving, because things have changed a lot the past two years with the advent of one-on-one iPads for every student. Few students come to the library to check out books and even fewer teachers come to the library for research. More and more of my job has become about technology management, a role I have never fully embraced.
...As one long prepared and graced with courage, / as it is right for you who were given this kind of city, / go firmly to the window / and listen with deep emotion...
I really struggled with my decision and if this was the right time to retire or not. Everyone tells me I am so young. 60. But I wanted to retire when I still have energy to get out and travel, to play with my grandson (due on September 7th) and to visit my daughter in New York. It felt like the decision to leave was also in part because I want to regain better health for myself. But still I struggled with the decision. I've worked in education for 37 years, how will I know how to do anything else? But, as Mary Oliver, in the opening lines of her poem "The Journey," says,
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,...
And in her poem, "Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches," Mary Oliver asks,
And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away / from where you are, to look for your soul? 
So, today I began by announcing my retirement. And like Anthony I stand at the window listening to music, thinking about all I will be missing and yet all I have gained---"your final delectation" and,
...say goodbye to her, the Alexandria you are losing.
My announcement to the student body of the school will be through the display case. Books representing my favorites from the past twelve years flank the notice: "Mrs. Bennett is retiring!"

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Friday Quotes: I Heard God Laughing

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Book Beginnings (First Poem in collection):

A Divine Invitation
You have been invited to meet

The Friend.
No one can resist a Divine Invitation.
That narrows down all our choices
To just two:
We can come to God
Dressed for Dancing,
Be carried on a stretcher
To God's Ward.

Friday 56 (56th poem in collection):

Your Beautiful Parched, Holy Mouth
A poet is someone
Who can pour Light into a spoon,
Then raise it
To nourish
Your beautiful parched, holy mouth. 

Comments: Where have I been? Hafiz, a fourteenth century poet from Persia, has obviously been around a lot longer than me, yet I just discovered him this week. How can that be? I am loving every minute with this small volume of poetry. Don't you just love the two samples? I sometimes do feel like poetry nourishes my parched soul.

Monday, April 24, 2017

TTT: That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book

I'm basing this almost exclusively on covers...because I will not find out what is inside.

1. If the cover looks like this...I will not read it.

2. If the covers looks like this....I will not read it.

3. If the book is written by or is about this man, I will not read it.

4. If the book is anti-science...I will not read it.

5. Books that are clearly (and not clearly) racist...I will not read

6.  If the book is anti-feminist, I will not read it

7.  Books that are designed to make people think that God doesn't love ALL people will not be books I ever read. (This book teaches kids to pray the gay away.)

8. I will never read anything which involves killing animals on purpose

9. Preachy books really bug me, so I avoid them and didn't read them to my children when they were little.

10.  Any book by or about this guy...I will not read. I don't respect him at all.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Salon, April 23

Weather: raining. Ugh. Will it never end? We had only one day with good weather this whole past week. .

Hydrangeas: Don and I ran out yesterday morning before it started raining and FINALLY pruned the deadheads off the hydrangea bushes on our side yard. We have the perfect location to grow huge bushes of our favorite flowers. They get so heavy with blooms the branches usually droop. The photo was taken a few years ago in Italy. We found an abandoned hydrangea garden next to the train station at Orta San Giulio.

Kindness, Love, and Hamburgers: Today we had a special service at church to say goodbye to our youth director. He is going off to serve in the Peace Corp in Comoros. (See map below.) And we had a cute little dedication ceremony where the children gave him posters they made that had message to remind him of them. One kid's message was: "Kindness, Love, and Hamburgers," all things she hopes he can find in Comoros. Isn't that sweet?

A week of appointments: Tuesday and Thursday I took both cars for their tune-ups, Wednesday we met with our financial planner, Friday I had an appointment with my hair dresser. Some weeks are just mundane this way.

Books completed this week:

  • The Body Eclectic: An Anthology of Poems edited by Patrice Vecchione. All the poems were about body parts. Some were just delightful. Click the hyperlink for my review.
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord. A look at mental illness and what it is like for someone who loves a person who is mentally ill. Very well done. Look for my review this week.
Currently reading:
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. A much talked about YA novel about the tension in a black community with the police. It is very well done and I hope it is read widely. Audio: 60%
  • Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith. The Smiths visit every National Park and send emails back to their friends. This is a book club selection for this week so I need to go, go, go. Print. 10%.
Watched on TV (Sometime during the week):
  • The Voice. I love this show.
  • Dr. Who. The new season is finally available on BBC America.
  • Rachel Maddow. Every night.
  • Hello, My Name is Doris, movie on Amazon Prime starring Sally Field.
  • Baseball, Mariners.
Not a very exciting week, but we don't always need thrills to have a satisfying life. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World

Here We Are: 44 Voices Right, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen is a new book in my library. It is a fairly slim volume of essays written by a variety of authors on the topic of feminism. It is one of those books that is important and should be widely read but will likely languish on the shelves ignored by students who would benefit greatly from reading it.

Feminism is one of those terms or concepts which is hard to define. Here is what the dictionary says about the term:

Definition of feminism

  1. 1:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
  2. 2:  organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests
Many people have co-oped the term and turned it into an almost-swear-word. Many people have grabbed onto the term and attached it to angry women demanding equality with a fist. Some have even coined the term and use it for a radical feminist: feminazi. All of this makes the term "feminist" out to be an ugly thing. This book strives to correct the record.

Each person who contributes to this book elaborates about some aspect of feminism or how they grew into their current beliefs on the topic. Some of the authors include reading and listening lists. Others, the illustrators among them, tell their story with pictures or comics. It really is a delightful collection.

My favorite essay was actually written by a male author, Daniel Jose Older, "Many Stories, Many Roads." Most of the authors are female and I was a little worried that without a male perspective this book would not be as valid. He says he thinks the feminism has suffered from "gate-keeping and line drawing"--- people oppressing others, "acting like overzealous bouncers, keeping so many dancers out of that big beautiful room" (186). To allow as many people into the big room, he says, requires that we look at "our patriarchal gender norms, the rules that tell us how to fit into pre-assigned boxes labeled 'men' and 'woman,' having nothing to do with with and everything to do with power" (189).

Included in the collection is the poem "Somewhere in Amercia" by Zariya Allen. Watch the video below where Zariya and her friends perform it. It is a powerful message of what we teach our children about priorities. Catching in the Rye is more dangerous than a gun because it uses a swear word. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings isn't taught because of rape. "We are taught that just because something happens doesn't mean you are to talk about it" (89). Schools give out awards for best attendance but don't reward students who work the late shift at the fast food restaurant just to help the family make ends meet. Instead of leaning math and social studies in school, students learn to keep quiet, keep their head down, keep eyes on their papers. The poem  really shows a heartbreaking reality to our lives in America.  Watch the video.

 Why should students read Here We Are? Because everyone needs to know they are included in the "big room" as Older calls it. Students need to know that they are not alone, that others have also struggled with the ugly aspects of our society/school culture. If a person is a feminist, they are also pro-people, all people. I recommend that everyone read this book, or at least several of the essays. It is time we start shifting our definitions of what it means to be a feminist.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Friday Quotes: When We Collided

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Book Beginnings:
I knew I was in love with Verona Cove on the first day, but waited until the seventh day to commit.

Friday 56:
Vivi just laughs. 'Manna is the food they eat in heaven. And stinky cheese is delicious cheese; you just don't realize that until you are older. Trust me, though. Someday, you'll eat this salad again and realize, holy moly, it's sprinkled with magic.'

Comments: The story is about mental illness. One of the main characters, Vivi, has stopped taking her medicine which keeps the symptoms of her bipolar disease in check. When I was in college one of my sorority sisters did the same thing and she went for the highest high for weeks of frantic activity and creativity and then CRASH. I am wondering when this will happen in this book.

I Sing the Body Eclectic AND The Book of Hours

April is National Poetry Month. I've completed two poetry collections recently and, as per usual, my head is swirling around in verse. Recently a visitor to my blog commented that she didn't really read poetry because she doesn't understand it. The thought that went through my head in response to her comment was, I bet she hasn't found her poetic muse. Certainly, I continued my internal discourse, if she would just read some Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, her poetry gene would click on and the whole world of poetry would be open to her.  I didn't say any of this is an actual comment to the gal. I just thought it because, though I appreciate poetry a lot more now than when I was younger, I certainly can relate to reading poetry and being left flat. Some poetry is so dense or obscure, it is hard to figure out what the poet is saying.

That is a little of how I felt when I read The Book of Hours by Kevin Young.  This book was placed on my TBR list last year some time and I really was looking forward to digging in to it. The poet, Kevin Young, had lost his father to a tragic accident and this poetry was written in response to his grief. I felt sure that I'd be able to relate perfectly to his poems since I just lost my beloved father-in-law and continue having bouts of raw grief. Another section was about the birth of his first son. As you know, we will be grandparents soon. Two points of similarity would certainly make this a collection of poems for me. In addition, Young's poems are all written in short couplets/triplets. For example in his poem "Obsequies" these lines speak loudly, "At Night I Count / not the stars / but the dark." And in this poem, grief which is so raw it hurts, this simple two line poem we see grief laid bare: "In the night I brush / my teeth with razors." This is palpable grief I can relate to, but most of the other poems didn't speak to me, or dare I say, I didn't "get." (Ah, that is where the blog comment fits in.) But the poems about the pregnancy, delivery, the baby did speak to me. In one poem titled "Ultrasound" the couple discover the baby is boy and see the child, in black and white, move his thumb up as if he wants to hitch a ride out of there. Hey, our daughter just found out she is having a boy, too. Poetry, at its best, gives me words to shape my feelings. I wouldn't put The Book of Hours on my top or favorite poetry books list, but it certainly does give the reader the words to shape the joys and the pains of living.

In the second volume of poetry, which I just finished reading last night in bed, I Sing the Body Eclectic, the editor, Patrice Vecchione, selected poems about the body. And just like the title says, the selections are very eclectic. Some of the poems usher me straight down memory lane like "Cobwebs" by Melinda Goodwin. The poem is about a memory of a time when a young girl goes through her mother's things, trying on shoes and clothes, the scents of the underthings in drawers, looking at herself in a mirror from the Fuller Brush man. As I read this poem my childhood came zooming forward. I used to do the same thing. I'd go through my mother's things, trying things on, smelling her perfume, combing my hair with her brush purchased by, you guessed it, the Fuller Brush man. In another poem, "Pastel Dresses" the poet Stephen Dobyns is trying to recall a memory of a dance when a girl had on such a lovely dress. He remembers the feel of his hand on her back and the stiff fabric but he can't remember her name or her eye colors. In the end he muses, "How can we not love / this world for what it gives us? How / can we not hate it for what it takes away?"  I'm in that time-warp more often these days. Remembering minute delays clearly and forgetting important ones. These poets have given voice to my life!

I've always found the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to be a bit inaccessible until I read his poem here "Your Laughter".  It opens with these marvelous lines, "Take bread away from me, if you wish, / take air away, but / do not take from me your laughter." I want to read this poem over and over because isn't it true? The qualities we love in another person become a source of nourishment to us. Another poem by Neruda, this one titled "Semen" and one by Erin Belieu, "Erections" made me laugh. If students only knew what poems were contained in these volumes so quietly sitting on the library shelves, they would be checked out all the time!

In the poem, which is written in a prose-style, by Gary Young called, "He Wheeled a Corpse", I sat dumbfounded after I read it. So I reread it. Then I read it, again. Can this be true? And what does it mean? Do bones really glow when the body is cremated?
He wheeled a corpse in the narrow furnace, and said, there's
something I want to show you. He lit the gas, and the head rose
from the table, the arms flew open and the body sat there for a
moment in the fire. The flesh peeled away from the bones, and
the bones snapped and burned with a fierce blue flame. When the
oven had cooled and the door was opened, the ashes and bits of
bone threw off a pale, opalescent light. That light, he said, is what
I wanted you to see.
---Gary Young
Artwork by Gary Young
Sometime poems just make me stop and think. Other times they make me think new thoughts. That would be when I read my favorite poem in the collection, "Giving Blood" by Sherman Alexie. Fortunately for the reader, Vecchione has provided short biographies of all the poets included in this collection. To understand "Giving Blood" one has to know that Sherman Alexie is a Native American. The poem seems to start in modern times, with a blood donation and those pesky questions donors are asked. The poem seemed silly and funny. But the reader soon realizes this poem is really about the history of the American Indians and how much blood they have shed over the years. In the final lines, as if I were struck between the eyes with a hard blow, my vision shifted,
...sorry Mr. Crazy Horse
but we've already taken too much of your blood and you
     won't be eligible
to donate for another generation or two
So why do I continue to read poetry? Why do I wade my way through volumes of poems when I don't understand most of them? Because, sometimes I find a diamond in the rough; some phrases or whole poems which rock my world. They may make me smile and recall happy memories, they may speak the words that seem to be my life, or it may, like "Giving Blood" give me a whole new perspective or point of view to consider.

If you, like my blogging friend, feel befuddled by poetry, I suggest you start with an easy anthology like The Body Eclectic, or one where the editor offers insights to assist the reader. Happy reading.

Monday, April 17, 2017

TTT: Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

Top Ten Nine Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

1. If the book is written by John Green. He could write a cookbook and I'd read it cover to cover.

2. If it is a YA book with 4 or more starred reviews. I am always trying to figure out which book is going to be a Printz winner when award season rolls around. Starred reviews by publications like Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, etc, don't necessarily predict the winners but it is a place to start when making reading decisions.

3. The Pulitzer Prize for literature winner. With a few exceptions I find the Pulitzer Prize for Literature winners to be some of the best books I've ever read. The 2017 award was just announced, so now I want to read its winner: Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

4. As soon as Mary Oliver publishes a new volume of poetry, I must read it. Her poems are like vitamins to me---necessary for life.

5. Youth Media Award Winners. In January the American Library Association announces the winners of a dozen or more YA book awards: Printz-best YA of the year; Morris-best debut YA author; Pura Belpre-best book authored by Latino author; Coretta Scott King Award-best book authored by African American author; Schneider Family Book Award-YA book which positively shows life with disability; Stonewall Award- a LGBT-themed YA book; Alex Award-adult book with cross-over appeal for teens; and others. I even host a challenge to encourage others to read all the YMA books

6. If the book is written by Barbara Kingsolver. I've read her novels, her essays, and her poetry. I've also read articles in magazine by her. She is a fabulous writer.

7. If Nancy Pearl, a contributor to PBS, makes a book recommendation, I always want to read those books, though I often don't get to them. She has a way of describing books in such compelling terms.

8. If someone I know tells me they really enjoyed an audiobook I automatically want to listen to that book. I am always looking around for well-done audiobooks. By the way, I am listening to one right now, The Hate U Give.

9. If Roger Housden would publish another 10-poems volume, I'd buy it and pay full price! I got interested in poetry because of Housden's little volumes which not only include just ten poems but Housden explains aspects of the poem which really brings it to life. If you want to check one out start with his first, Ten Poems to Change Your Life.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Salon, Easter

Photo credit: James Clarke, used with permission.
Happy Easter!

Weather: It was warm today, in the mid 60s. Days like today make it seem like we may have a real spring after all.

Easter: Today we worshiped at our church and then raced home to make an Easter dinner for a small party, us, Dan/Rita, and Dan's parents, Rick and Nancy. We made stuffed Cornish game hens, which took way longer to cook than we thought, green bean casserole, rolls, fruit salad, and, for dessert, rhubarb-custard pie. The fruit salad was good, the Cornish game hens were not very special, the green bean bake was unremarkable,  the rolls didn't rise very well, but the pie was spectacular. By far the shining star of the meal!  Thanks Rick, you make wonderful pie!

Photo: Isn't the above photo beautiful. It was taken by a high school friend of mine yesterday at University of Washington. The campus has lots of flowering trees which are all in bloom right now. Thanks for sharing your gift James!

Listening to: the 70s channel on the Music Choice station on the TV. Currently playing, "Sister Golden Hair" by the group America. I was wild for this group when I was in high school. Once my friends and I went to their concert and I stood on a chair and screamed. I was crazed. Other tunes, which have also been walks down memory lane, "Saturday Night Fever" by the Bee-Gees, "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas; and "Cracklin' Rosie" by Neil Diamond.

Books completed this week:

  • Art Deco: The Golden Age of Graphic Art and Illustration by Michael Robinson---sometimes my inner nerd emerges and I just consume a book which wasn't even on the radar the day before. We saw a few Art Deco buildings in New York so suddenly I was interested.
  • Tales of the South Pacific  by James Michener---my Classics Club spin book. This was not my favorite book by Michener or in general.
  • A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman--- an upcoming book club selection. This book really grew on me as I read it (listened to it.)
  • The Book of Hours: Poems by Kevin Young---I can't remember why I had this poetry book on my TBR pile but I finally turned my attention to it this week. Often people tell me they don't "get" poetry and I think, why not? Well, after reading this volume of poems I can now say, with a few exceptions, I didn't "get" most of the poems.
  • Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen--- 44 voices write, draw, and speak about feminism. I think this is an important book and I hope it finds its way into a lot of students' hands.
Currently reading:
  • The Body Eclectic: An Anthology of Poems edited by Patrice Vecchione--- I selected it because of the title. Ha! Print. 25%
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord---this is the last book for my Read the YMA Award books. Print. 10%
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas--- the most talked about YA book right now. Theme: Black Lives Matter. Audio. 8%.

Oh: Cat Stevens is playing right now, "Wild World". I am enjoying my walk down memory lane.
Osinbajo, a bishop in Nigeria, speaking with journalists today shortly after the Easter Sunday Service at the Aso Villa Chapel, Abuja, said: “(Easter) is a message of love of Jesus Christ to all mankind. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever that believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. “It is a message for love for all. There is no tribe, no religion; regardless of faith, Jesus loves us. This is how we should relate with ourselves. It is a pure love and I think that is what everyone should bear in mind at this time”.  Read more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/04/jesus-characteristics-around-criminals-osinbajo/

I hope you have a fantastic week.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Classics Club Spin Book---Review of Tales of the South Pacific

Another Classics Club Spin book completed! This one was Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener.

James Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific after his experiences in World War II in the Pacific theater. It was published in 1947 and won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for literature. Michener was 40 years old when this book, his first, was published and he never looked back, eventually publishing over 25 books. This book was short (384 pages) compared to his other books, many weighing in at over 1000 pages. This book was adapted as a Broadway musical, South Pacific, in 1949 and in 1958 it was made into a movie.

Michener was called to active duty during World War II in the US Navy and spent the war as a historian, eventually making trips all over the South Pacific, and visiting many islands. He thinks one of the reasons he was allowed to move around so much was because his base commanders mistakenly thought he was related to Admiral Marc Mitscher. Later in his life Michener said this about his war time experiences,
"Many of the fondest memories of my travels stem back to my years of military service in the New Hebrides -- (now Vanuatu) -- during the Pacific War years of the early 1940s...While those beautiful islands have changed much with progress in the ensuing years, I know from subsequent visits that the friendliness of the peoples, their infectious smiles and their open-heartedness will remain forever one of life's treasures."
Tales of the South Pacific is a collection of short stories with an unnamed narrator who tells the stories collected from many of Michener's experiences and who plays witness to the happenings on many islands. Many people, reflecting back on the quality of this book compared to his subsequent works, think that he won the Pulitzer Prize for this book because of the post-war sentiment and patriotism, not because the books was a shining example of excellent writing. Most of the stories focused on how the American soldiers, sailors, and airmen spent their time when they weren't making war. Many of the characters in the stories did not have exemplary behaviors, several displaying blatant racism, and while others mentioned rape as if it were just an expected behavior. Few of the stories dealt with actual battles but the ones that did were my favorite. It is horrifying to think how many lives were lost over those little chucks of land in the Pacific.

One takeaway from Tales of the South Pacific was how much time was spent waiting by most of the military personnel. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I had no idea how much time was spent waiting for action. Soldiers asked to be transferred north so they could participate in some battle. Fighting was preferable to the boredom of waiting. In the story, "Dry Rot", one character begged to be reassigned and his commanding officer reminded him that somebody had to wait around on the island to gas up the planes. Why not him? In another story, "Fo' Dolla" an officer gets involved with a Tonkinese girl and ends up becoming completely obsessed with her, even though he would not marry her because he views her as below him racially. He had way too much time on his hands to get so involved with a local girl. I am fairly sure that Michener himself must have experienced the endless waiting, waiting, waiting, since it was such a prominent theme in most of the stories.
“I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description. I wish I could tell you about the sweating jungle, the full moon rising behind the volcanoes, and the waiting. The waiting. The timeless, repetitive waiting.” ― James A. MichenerTales of the South Pacific
The quote above is the opening line of the first story in the Tales of the South Pacific. The reason the narrator can't tell you about the loveliness and the waiting is because of the second paragraph, where we learn  "about the old Tonkinese woman who used to sell human heads." There were lots of surprising tidbits like this thrown into each story which kept me going and made the reading experience passable.

If I had to grade the book and my reading experience I'd give it a "C" and it is unlikely I will ever recommend that anyone read this book in the future. There were just too many problems with it that can't be overlooked.

Now I am off to see if I can a copy of the movie South Pacific to see how closely it follows the book. I watched it years ago and can't remember.

Here is one of the famous numbers from the South Pacific musical, "Bali Hai":


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Found Poem Assignment

April is National Poetry Month
My worksheets for the found poem project
Today I am jumping on the idea to combine poetry and politics by creating a found poem from the words of our president. The idea is part of the PEN America/Writers Resist movement, using my writing voice in combination with other writers"in a collective stand to defend free expression, reject hatred, and uphold truth in the face of lies and misinformation." I stumbled upon this idea from Keri at Friday Poetry and Laura Shovan. Check out their sites for much better examples than mine.
Found poetry is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.
My found poem is from the remarks by President Trump at a Black History Month gathering. All of the words were taken from the transcript of that meeting and they are in the correct order but I removed a lot of the words in between. Even though the poem seems to wander into uncharted and random territory, the meeting really did seem to dissolve into just random comments, totally unrelated to Black History Month. In a strange way the process of creating this poem was cathartic for me. I recommend it. Take a transcript from a speech made by any politician, preferably one that was delivered ad hoc, not written ahead of time, and see what you can pull out. Here's what I created from his words---

Black History Month
This is our little get-together. 
During this month, we honor the tremendous
     history of THE African-Americans
Throughout our country---
Throughout the world,
They're incredible people.
Frederick Douglass is an example
And is being recognized more and more.
Big impact!
(I don't like fake news.)
We need more jobs.
We're going to make it safe---
Much better than it is right now.
Right now it is terrible.
(I don't like fake news.)
This is a great group.
I want to thank my television star---
But I don't want to destroy her reputation.
Not quite, right?
(I don't like fake news.)
Why don't we start with you?
Go ahead.
That's a great idea---
Because Chicago is totally out of control.
And it is---I mean,
a lot of the media is actually the opposition party.
So it it a very sad situation.
(I don't like fake news.)
It's almost like, in the meantime, we won.
And we love the coal miners.
That's good stuff.
Thank you.

(Words by Donald Trump, from his Black History Month breakfast.)