Category Archives: Poetry

Recruitment of authors…

I don’t mean that, of course.

Apart from the fact that I realised I’d not been invited to the Chicken House Big Breakfast 2019, I was really pleased to find this YouTube clip from that Witch-free event.

I’m still a bit surprised that Maz Evans is a girl. I tend to think of her as a boy, but of course she’s a girl. One of those authors paid 8%. She’s the kind who writes her own books (unlike some, who are not named).

This is a poetic, not to mention humorous, speech. There should be more like that. Maz tells it like it is.

Next time, invite me. I can always say no. (I didn’t, did I?) Or it could take place in Central Scotland.

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Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading

I want to be Lucy Mangan. We are so alike in many ways, but I haven’t read all the books she has, nor can I write like she does. I want to [be able to] write like Lucy Mangan!

I don’t expect that will happen.

I also want to know what her house/library/bookshelves look like. I can’t conceive how you can keep that many books – in a findable way – in a normal house. Assuming she lives in a normal house.

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm

After reading Lucy’s Bookworm, I now love her parents, too. I especially feel I’ve got to know Mrs Mangan better – and that’s without the letter to the Guardian stating that the Mangans were happy to have their daughter adopted by some other Guardian letter writer.

A friend of mine often mentions the fear induced in millions of people by the four minute warning so ‘popular’ in the 1980s. I’d almost forgotten about it, and never really worried all that much. Little Lucy was extremely concerned, but was reassured by her mother, who clearly knew what the child needed to hear. Basically, it would be in the news, so they would be prepared. They’d not send her to school if the end seemed imminent, and they would all die together at home. Problem solved.

Bookworm is about what one bookworm has read – so far – in her life of loving children’s books. She is not repentant (I must try harder), and will keep reading what she wants, as well as keep not doing all those ghastly things other people like, if she doesn’t want to. That’s my kind of bookworm!

This reading memoir is full of the same books we have all read, or decided not to read, as well as some real secret gems I’d never heard of and will need to look for. Lucy rereads books regularly, but doesn’t mention how she finds the time for all this.

It’s been such a relief to discover that she dislikes some of the same books I’d never consider reading, and even more of a relief to understand how acceptable, and necessary this is. Lucy even has the right opinions on clothes. Very useful to know there are sensible women in this world.

I had to read Bookworm slowly. I needed to savour what I could sense wouldn’t last forever. Although one can obviously reread Bookworm, just as one can other books. (Where to find the extra time, though?)

Growing up a generation – not to mention a North Sea – apart, we didn’t always read the same books. But by now we sort of meet in the here and now, and Lucy ends her book by listing a number of today’s must-read authors, and her judgement is almost completely spot on and correct.

So to summarise; I can read the same books. I can probably not store as many in my house. But I will never be able to write as well. (And I rather mind that.)

(According to Lucy, she loves her young son more than she loves books. Bookworm was given to me – after some hinting – by Daughter, whom I happen to love more than books too.)

The Poet X

This is such a beautiful book! Elizabeth Acevedo has written a teen love story, a story about finding your place in the world, and a story about how to stand up to your family and a society that only sees one thing when looking at you. And she has written it as poetry. It really works.

Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X

I had my doubts, but I quickly lost myself in the book, realising that you don’t need all those words found in other novels. It’s perfectly doable to describe a complex story about a teenager in Harlem this way. X (Xiomara, really) likes poetry and writes a lot of it herself, keeping it to herself as well. She needs it to make sense of the world.

X’s mother is hard on her, but as an adult I could see that she loves her daughter. She just doesn’t trust anyone, and wants X to be careful and pious, not to see boys, and to go to church.

Were it not for the poems and the beauty of this book, it’d be just another teen story, set in New York, featuring girlfriends and boyfriends and enemies and bullying at school, teachers, neighbours, the priest, and so on.

I’m not a great fan of poetry, so the fact that I loved this so much, is proof how well the concept works, and what a captivating story Xiomara has to tell. I’m not at all surprised the book has been nominated for the Carnegie medal, and I hope it goes a long way, maybe even to the top.

I was also pleased to see that Elizabeth incorporated a lot of Xiomara’s Spanish home language, without always translating every word or line. There is even a whole poem in Spanish, although that does get a translation on the next page.

So very lovely, in so many ways.

Another prune

Who’s going to take the books away? That’s what I’d like to know.

We’re on holiday, but as the Resident IT Consultant tackled the wilderness ‘garden’ I tackled the books. I am a Bookwitch, after all. I’d been going soft and allowing all kinds of books to remain. But being realistic, how many potential readers of a dozen or so volumes of Swedish poetry am I likely to find around here?

Books

But I looked at all the books, and found some of the old dears looking quite promising in one way or another. So they stayed. As did both versions of David Copperfield. But more of him later.

Yes, that is a copy of Don Quijote, below. I asked the Resident IT Consultant, whom I consulted, if that was right. Apparently it’s not a very good translation. And we clearly don’t want that.

Books

Then I liberated the children’s books from near the bed and by doing so freed an awful lot of dust. You wouldn’t believe how much dust there was. Even if you are good at collecting the grey fluffy stuff, it will be nothing compared to what I’d inadvertently done.

Perhaps I’ll breathe more easily now.

The amalgamated books allowed to remain look reasonably neat now. There is room for more to join them, or for – small – knick-knacks. Except I don’t do that kind of ‘styling.’ There are two pairs of binoculars, however.

I’ve put the going-away books in five large paper carrier bags. I trust if I think positive thoughts that they will depart under their own steam. Somehow.

Granny Garbage

I’m not usually big on poetry at all, and scary poetry is not a thing I’ve really come across. But there is always a first time for nearly everything.

One of my guests on Wednesday, Joan Lennon, not only writes really great novels, but she’s into poetry too. Scary poetry. Instead of flowers/chocolate/wine Joan gave me a thin leaflet, which is her most recent literary offering (I missed the launch). Granny Garbage.

Joan Lennon, Granny Garbage

She reassured me that it wasn’t going to be so horrible that I’d not be able to sleep. But this poem lasting no longer than sixteen pages is not without fear. Especially when you get to the end, even if there is some menace on every page.

Look out for Granny Garbage.

(I mean that any way you might think I mean it.)

Forgetfulness

We spoke about forgetfulness the other week, Linda Sargent and I. I forget why.

No, I had not heard of the poem Forgetfulness by Billy Collins. At least, I don’t think so.

Linda very kindly sent me the words after she got home, so I could read the poem. Thank goodness she remembered. Because I didn’t, until it arrived in the post.

It’s quite reassuring in a way, as it describes me perfectly. And I suppose it’s good to know I’m not alone in this. But whether or not us old and confused readers stand a chance of improving, I have no idea. Presumably not.

The page I received had a comment by Billy, mentioning people in their thirties, and people in their forties or fifties. He didn’t say anything about those of us a little older than that.

So whatever you do, don’t ask me if I’ve read anything good recently. Well, by all means do, but my reply won’t go further than ‘yes.’ If pressed for examples, I will be forced to turn to Bookwitch. She will know what I read last week.

So you might as well have looked there.

What about you? Did you have a nice Easter?

On (not) keeping track

Occasionally I’m pretty useless.

I had heard of Robert Macfarlane, even if I couldn’t say much about him. I read an interesting article by him in the Guardian, probably a few years ago, on what children no longer learn. I think that’s roughly what it was about.

And I’ve more knowledge about Jackie Morris, while not being an expert. Her illustrations are quite something. We also have ‘a few’ Facebook friends in common, and they are all big fans of Jackie’s work, and when there is a new book out, they are always very appreciative and comment a lot.

Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, The Lost Words

So I imagined that’s what it was about when ‘everyone’ was talking about, and praising, The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane, some time before Christmas.

The penny dropped much, much later. I’ve even forgotten what it was that made me join up all the dots at long last. The book, and those gorgeous illustrations are related to the article I remembered reading. I just didn’t know there was going to be a book about it. Clearly, I never received the memo.

I get – now – why everyone was going on so. It was more than the normal Jackie fever.