I read some of the columns by U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass that make up this book when they were first published in the Washington Post. As a collection, this “notebook of a poet’s readings,” as Hass describes it, makes a wonderful bedside book. I would read one or two entries before turning off the light and fall asleep thinking about what I’d just read.
Hass is a thoughtful guide, posing questions and pointing out details to pay attention to. A particularly strong aspect of his selections is the wide range of different types of poems represented. Hass includes classics like Robert Frost’s haunting “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Paul Laurence Dunbar’s powerful “Sympathy,” and Matsuo Basho’s haikus. You’ll also find wonderful poems by more contemporary poets such as Denise Levertov, Hayden Carruth, and Michael Ondaatje. You never know what you’ll encounter next. It’s a surprising voyage of discovery, and there’s a lot to treasure if you keep an open mind.
Haas wrote that he aspired to help “give us back what we are losing–a shared, literate public culture.” I think this is a great model to follow, and makes a gem of a book.
An epic poem written somewhere in the seventh to tenth century in Anglo-Saxon? Beowulf always sounded intimidating to me and sat on my shelf for years because of it.
I shouldn’t have waited. This is a great yarn told beautifully. Seamus Heaney‘s verse translation makes the poem exciting and accessible. It’s a gripping tale of heroes and monsters and dragons. But like all great literature, it’s also a lot more.
This poem tells of a feudal time before Christianity, a world before countries and their governments protected people. The fall of a king or a warrior could mean catastrophe. The bloody conflicts between the Geats, Danes, and Swedes bring a palpable sense of terror even more threatening than the monsters. An old woman’s worst fears at the end of the poem aren’t about monsters, but an invasion leading to slavery and abasement.
Beowulf is great not only for its story and its musings on glory, heroism, and aging, but also for the glimpse it gives us into a very distant past.
I’ve been working on some poetry lately. “What’s Going On In There?” isn’t at all representative of what I’ve been doing. But I recently saw a call by Drunken Pen Writing for scary Halloween poems. A few days later, I was looking through some old poems of mine and noticed this short story that I’d never quite gotten to work. I wondered if it could work as a poem and gave it a try. I was much happier with it, and sent it off to DPW, which accepted it for publication. Read it here.
Hastings is a sophisticated housecat with a serious mission: to raise the social status of the feline species. Born the runt of the litter in an apartment overflowing with cats, Hastings becomes inspired to make his mark upon the world. He teaches himself to read and write, and then chronicles how he developed his unique vision for the betterment of feline society and went on to establish the famed feline community Catamenia. This is the insightful life story of an extraordinary cat told with warmth, humor, and humanity. With echoes of classic literature, the novel is suitable for teens to adults of any age. The Life and Opinions of the Housecat Hastings is written by Harrison Bae Wein and illustrated with warm pencil drawings by the artist Natalie Ewert. Published by Derwood Press.