Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Joy Street--Laura Foley

Laura Foley's latest book of poetry was a lovely way to start a wintery morning with a cup of tea. The collection mixes it up a bit, with prose poems interspersed among the free verse. At just 36 pages, it's the reader's equivalent of a long walk on the beach--a refreshing way to gain a new perspective on life.

This is the poetry of a woman who has been through some tough times and come out the other side a wiser and more self confident person. Foley alludes to a difficult childhood in "Ghost Street," but, as in the poem, she doesn't wish to go back there. This collection is focused on the future, on new love, and on moving gracefully into middle age.

One of the things that draws me to poetry is the way it can show the impact of an ordinary moment in a life. Foley pulls this off beautifully. My favorite example of this is "Dinner Party,"a prose poem in which Foley describes a party where she (the only poet among mostly lawyers) hasn't spoken a word in two hours. When the conversation finally turns to a topic she knows something about (burial, as it happens), she thinks she's found her chance to jump in:
"I will leap in with the story of how we buried my husband in the front yard, dug the hole ourselves--Yes, it's legal in New Hampshire, Yes, I got a vault. I'll sound smart, resourceful, witty, and everyone will like me."
But before she gets a chance to speak, the conversation moves on and the moment is over--a lost opportunity most of us can certainly relate to. Foley follows the conversation as it evolves:
"Someone's talking cat coffins, asking, maple or pine?--or shiny walnut and Thai mahogany with hot pink satin lining--"
leading away from the opportunity to connect, and towards the trivial. The poem ends with the effect of the shared experience with her new partner, Clara:
"Clara, shy and quiet, too, smiles as I do all through dinner, though she tells me later she could have explained about ashes, the ease of letting go." 
The incident seems to have brought them closer through their distance from the others.

Most of the poems have a positive spin to them, without veering too close to the edge of light and fluffy. My only complaint about the collection is that I wanted more. When a poem hints at a larger incident, it can be intriguing or it can leave the reader with a sense of an unfinished story. In some cases, I felt lost with only one moment drawn from what must have been a monumental event. I could have read a whole book about Foley's partner's brain surgery, for example, but instead we just get references to it in a couple of poems. Maybe I'll have to wait for the next collection. Luckily, there are three previous collections of Foley's work to tide me over in the meantime.

For Other Reviews, check out these links on the book tour schedule:

I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Lit and Life
Book Dilettante
Savvy Verse and Wit
Diary of an Eccentric
It’s All About Books
Unabridged Chick – review and interview
Peeking Between the Pages
Peeking Between the Pages – author guest post
Patricia’s Wisdom
Books Without Any Pictures

Wednesday, January 21st: Suko’s Notebook
Thursday, January 22nd: Suko’s Notebook – author guest post
Tuesday, January 23rd: Bookgirl’s Nightstand
Saturday, January 24th: Wordy Evidence of the Fact
Monday, January 26th: Bell, Book & Candle
Wednesday, January 28th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – author guest post
Thursday, January 29th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
TBD: Everything Distils Into Reading

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Poetry Month and Introducing Pix

Here is a book spine poem I made in honor of April being poetry month:

That's about all I've done for poetry month so far. I should maybe, like, read some poems and stuff! Put that on the to-do list, I guess.

In other news, since I last blogged we got the sweetest dog in the world!

Pix was a rescue dog that my friend's wife adopted a little over a year ago. Sadly, his wife passed away last summer, and he has been looking for a home for Pix. We are so happy to have her here as part of our family. She has really bonded with both of my boys. Even the cat kinda likes her.

(A friend of mine told me that when a cat turns his back to you, it means he trusts you)

Currently Reading: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo. It's a fascinating and heartbreaking look at a slum inhabited by garbage-pickers near the airport in Mumbai, India. I'm reading it for book club, where we were assigned to read about something (anything) we know nothing about. I tried to get book club to read this one last year, but we had too many good books to choose from and this one didn't make the cut (it also might have been a tad bit depressing for some of them at the time). 

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Cemetery Search

In November, our beloved cat went missing. Luckily for you, I wasn't blogging much at the time so you were spared the drama of my family's week of searching for him, only to find out that the poor fellow's dead body had been picked up by Animal Control the first night that he didn't come home. It was a rough week, and I still miss my furry buddy, but the reason I tell you this story is not to make you sad, but to explain why my boys and I were tromping through a nearby cemetery on a sunny November afternoon. Our cat, of course, we didn't find, but we did find some cool stuff.

We've walked through the cemetery before but never noticed this old delapidated garage/shed building. Here's Ben peering inside the closed garage door. There was an old bed in there and some other "treasures."

I had fun playing with filters on these--here's another photo of the shed with the Lomo-ish filter and museum matte. I really love how the filter emphasizes the way the sunlight plays on the brick walls.

This 1906 cemetery also contains a beautiful old Japanese cemetery within its grounds. I don't know much about the history of this cemetery-within-a-cemetery, but I'm so glad this spot outlasted a streak of post-WW2 vandalism to continue as a tribute to this group of Portland's ancestors, as well as the Japanese/American veterans of several U.S. wars.

It's interesting, looking back over these photos with the distance of three months. This walk through the cemetery now seems like a fitting tribute to the small soul we were searching for at the time. While my boys and I peered behind hedges and called for our kitty, our conversations ranged from him and his story, to Portland's history, to ways people remember their loved ones, the temporary nature of life on earth, and the fleeting passage of time.

Blackster may be gone, but he lives on in the many memories like this that our family created over the 7 years that we were lucky enough to have him in our midst.

Thanks for choosing us, little buddy

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Counting to D--Katherine Scott

Full disclosure: I know the author of this book. Kate and I took a writing class together a few years ago, and in the intervening years we generally meet up at an annual writing conference. I talked with her about this book when she first received agent representation for it, and again when her agent was waiting to hear from publishers, and again when she decided to seek out a different road to publication.

But in all that time, I never read the book, or really much of any of Kate's writing. I knew it would be good, because, believe me, a first-time author doesn't get an agent unless they have an impressive book to show. But, I didn't know much about it other than that. I was a little worried I wouldn't like it, because how awkward would that be?

It's okay, though, because I loved it.

Counting to D is the story of a girl who is brilliant  (she can memorize entire textbooks) and severely dyslexic (she can't read those textbooks to save her life). When Sam moves from California to Oregon, she sees the opportunity to reinvent herself--to be judged for who she is and not the label of gifted/learning disability.

As I started reading, I thought I knew what this book was going to be--the Girl-with-secret moves to new town, hides secret successfully for long enough to settle in, then someone finds out the secret and her new life blows up in her face. It's the perfect formula for a successful YA book, right?

Spoiler: that's not the plot.

I'm not going to tell you where the plot does go, but I will tell you that it's not at all formulaic or predictable. Neither are the characters. As each chapter progressed and I got to know Sam and her friends, I began to realize that each of them carried such depth, that they didn't fit the stereotypes that are so painfully common in YA lit (the brainy sidekick, the pretty and shallow cheerleader, the nerdy best guy pal). In Counting to D, rather than reinforcing these stereotypes the characters encourage readers to question them.  And I loved every moment of watching them unfold.

Counting to D goes on sale today! Buy a copy at your local bookstore or at Amazon or Powells or wherever. You'll be so glad you did.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

At the Antique Shop

I haven't posted a Saturday Snapshot in a while (okay, I haven't posted much of anything in a while). Life has kept me busy and away from the land of Worducopia. The upside is, I have lots of photos lined up to share.

This series is from an antique shop I visited during a beach weekend in Washington with friends. I had a lot of fun taking photos inside the shop, but first I had to stop for a portrait of these beautiful great Danes who were patiently waiting for their owner in the parking lot. Clearly these sweethearts are accustomed to posing for photos, don't you think?

The photo below is a jumble of stuff and didn't even crop well, but I love how they set up the space as if the cow were waiting to see the dentist. Or maybe the cow is the dentist? 

Calling all ducks

 I just love these old tins. 

What I'm reading: So many books half-finished, strewn around my house! I need to at least put them in a stack or something and start working my way through them. Then I can add them to the stack of books waiting to review.

More Saturday Snapshots are available at West Metro Mommy