What I’m Reading

This quote from Stephen King came across my Twitter feed the other day, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I’ve seen this quote many times and it got me to thinking about what I am currently reading. Recently I’ve tried to let go of my habit of finishing one book before starting another. While this is a good habit in the respect that it keeps me specifically focused on one text, it also limits the amount of books I  can read during the course of a semester or even a year. While it can be confusing to read several books at one time, I tend to have a wide variety of tastes in terms of books, so it isn’t proving to be a problem at the moment. Mr. King would be happy with the fact that out of the four books I’m reading right now, his work occupies two slots:

1. 11/22/63, Stephen King
2. Dr. Sleep, Stephen King
3. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
4. Fire to Fire: New & Selected Poems, Mark Doty 

In addition to these four, I also have Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward lined up and ready to go. These books are in addition to the articles and blog posts I read on the internet and the copies of The New Yorker & The Atlantic that come in the mail. Admittedly, I’m currently involved in a complicated relationship with my subscription to The New Yorker. I love the articles but at the end of the month, I usually find myself buried in issues and I hate when that happens. 

I know it is important to read work that interests you, work that you love and work that you don’t love because you learn from all three. In addition to trying to read multiple books at the same time, I’m also trying to get over the fact that if I start a book and don’t like it, I don’t necessarily have to finish it.  This happens often with book club selections that I’m less than enthralled with, but then I feel obligated to finish because we will eventually discuss the book in a group setting. I continue to feel this way, despite the fact that many of the people in said book club don’t ever finish the book, so I should probably get over it.

I do run into the problem of reading for “leisure” during the academic year. It isn’t a lack desire, but more an issue of stamina. I teach writing courses, which means I spend a lot of time reading the essays, poems, stories, plays and research papers of my students. It is interesting work but it is also labor intensive. Sometimes I just don’t have the brain power to pick up a novel or poetry collection after an afternoon of reading composition essays, but I also think I know what Mr. King would say to that complaint: “Suck it up.” 

I’m trying. 

Monday (winter storm warning…) Musings

We’re supposed to get some snow starting tonight and continuing through Wednesday. Indiana is different in the respect that they’ve already issued the storm warning and schools are already “closing in preparation.” This has happened in the past and the snow has gone right over us. We’ll see.

I’m still thrilled with my camera. Here are some pictures I took this afternoon.



In a scene in the film
shot at Bergen-Belsen days after
the liberation of the camp
a woman brushes her hair.

Though her gesture is effortless
it seems also for the first time
as if she has just remembered
that she has long hair,

that it is a pleasure
to brush, and that pleasure
is possible. And the mirror
beside which the camera must be rolling,

the combing out and tying back
of the hair, all possible.
She wears a new black sweater
The relief workers have brought,

Clothes to replace the body’s
visible hungers. Perhaps
she is a little shy of the camera,
or else she is distracted

by the new wool and plain wonder
of the hairbrush, because
on her face is a sort of dulled,
dreamy look, as if part

of hersef that recognizes
the simple familiar good of brushing
is floating back into her
the way the spiritualists say

the etheric body returns to us
when we wake from sleep’s long travel.
With each stroke she restores
something of herself, and one

at a time the arms and hands
and face remember, the scalp
remembers that her hair
is a part of her, her own.

Mark Doty

Monday (Woke up at 7:18 am) Musings

Poem of the Week (courtesy of The New Yorker)

Master of Disguises

Surely he walks among us unrecognized:
Some barber, store clerk, delivery man,
Pharmacist, hairdresser, bodybuilder,
Exotic dancer, gem cutter, dog walker,
The blind beggar singing, Oh lord, remember me,

Some window decorator starting a fake fire
In a fake fire place while mother and father watch
From the couch with their frozen smiles
As the street empties and the time comes
For the undertaker and the last waiter to head home.

O homeless old man, standing in a doorway
With your face half hidden,
I wouldn’t even rule out the black cat crossing the street,
The bare light bulb swinging on a wire
In a subway tunnel as the train comes to a stop.

Charles Simic

Have you ever read a poem about a subject that you’ve also written about, but the other poet’s poem is far superior to yours? I like Simic’s poem. A lot. I also wrote a poem about a homeless man, “Changing Lights.” It is one of my newer poems and I included it in my thesis, even though I think it still may need some tweaks. While I’m encouraged by the fact that I can find poems inside these kind of subjects, I am constantly frustrated that my execution isn’t as strong as other writers.

Disclaimer: I am not comparing myself to Charles Simic. He’s brilliant but his poem made me think about my poem, which I think is a compliment.


General verdicts to date: it’s an archaic, risible, underpaid job; none of the truly major poets (Heaney, Walcott, Hill, Muldoon, Prynne, etc) will be eligible, or considered, or interested; it should go to a woman; that woman should preferably be an accessible entertainer such as Pam Ayres.

Mark Doty calls for Animal poems.

I never knew this existed:

He should consider reviving the Federal Writers’ Project, a Great Depression-combating New Deal program — part of the Works Progress Administration — that lasted from 1935-1939 (in some states until 1943). Under its aegis, some 6,600 people — not all of them trained writers — found useful work. The Project created the enduring landmark series of populist American Guide books about individual states and cities, including 1943’s Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors. (There were also Federal Art, Music and Theatre Projects; the latter staged productions at the Emery Theatre.)


Speaking of animals, this article was in the Indy Star this morning. I’ve been saying the same thing for years, but if your kitty tears up your furniture, buy them a scratching post.

The Humane Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association say declawing a cat should be a last resort, because it causes pain