52 Books: An Update from 3 Months In

5 Apr

Okay, I will admit it: this sh*t is hard, yo! Turns out that reading a book a week can be tougher than I imagined, what with trying to maintain a 40+ hour a week job, commuting to said job, spending the odd moment with my husband, family and friends so that they don’t thing I’ve become a total book hermit, sleeping, eating, shopping for “fat” pants and all the other things that cut into my reading time.

(P.S. I think there is a definite correlation between increased reading time and my increased waistband. Enough said.)

Here’s where I stand on this day, Saturday, April 5, 2014:

my april book tally

my april book tally

It’s actually not too bad: only 2 books behind (which I still can’t believe – really?? I’m behind 2 books?? How the hell did this happen??), and I’ve read some really amazing stuff.  Continue reading

52 Books: Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman

4 Jan

Book #1 from my 2014 goal to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks:

i love a good cover

i love a good cover

Another wonderful recommendation from the good folks at Book Larder in Seattle WA (which you should definitely check out next time you’re in the Pacific North West – if only for their amazing and affordable lunchtime cooking classes – genius idea!).

Anyway, back to Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman: if you are a foodie and/or a writer and/or a person who loves good writing and good eating, you will love this book. As her longer title explains, this is a “love story of comfort, desire, and the art of simple cooking.” Altman, a self-professed fancifier of food – the more complicatedly prepared and precariously perched on the plate, the better – falls in love with a fellow foodie and “simple is better” cook who shows her the beauty of uncomplicated food to be shared simply with loved ones.

She mixes in reminiscences of her family and their relationship to eating and cooking, as well as the often fraught dance between two people who have lived long and separately who then want to create a life together. Set mainly in NYC and rural Connecticut, it talks lovingly about the Manhattan food scene as well as the process of acclimating to a less urban hometown, where fresh baked bagels, authentic Chinese food and not-immediately-frozen fish can be hard to come by.

There are recipes as well, very delicious looking ones that I have yet to try, but these two looked the most immediately accessible and delicious to me: “Yellow Split Pea Soup with Ham” and “Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine.”

A great first read for 2014, and an exciting start to my 2014 goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks.

Happy Reading!

Making Room for a(n online) Poetry Box

1 Nov

Twitter has brought so many amazing things to my attention with a simple scroll through my daily feed, things like Casey N. Cep’s essay about the online Emily Dickinson archives and this piece by Maud Newton on meeting the writer Donna Tartt (with bonus Instagram photo of Ms. Tartt’s inscription in Maud’s copy of The Goldfinch). For all its haters, there really is nothing like Twitter for getting you up close on all the action, whether that action is from the literary world, the art world, the sports world, or the Kardashian world (I know, I cringed as I typed that – does that make it any better that I’m referencing THEM? Probably not.).

So today’s tweeted nugget of super loveliness came via Ms. Dorianne Laux, another writer who I drop-dead love.

I saw her and her husband read many years ago in LA and it was a thrill beyond compare, for both the astounding beauty of her poems and her forthright approachability. She is the first poet I think of when recommending poetry to my non-poetry reading friends. She is that good.  Continue reading

It’s All About Perseverance

24 Oct

I got the oddest (and most welcome) letter in the mail last month in a hand-addressed envelope from the North American Review. It was my original query letter with a lovely handwritten note from the editor, letting me know that they were interested in one of my poems (huzzah!!).

What made it so odd was that it had my old New York address on the query letter, which is strange because I haven’t lived there in almost two years. As I reread the editor’s note, my eyes finally shifted up to the date on my letter – October 12, 2010. Two thousand ten, people! Almost three years from the date that I mailed out my query, I was finally hearing back. Amazing, right?

Two Thousand Friggin' Ten

Two Thousand Friggin’ Ten

I don’t know which is more fantastical, knowing that the NAR’s reading backlog is two plus years long or that they still finally got back to me. I had long given up on those submissions. Heck, I haven’t submitted a poem in almost six months. And yet, here was this little welcome nugget of approval! Even after so much time, they still liked the poem! They still wanted to publish it!

Which gets me to my point: perseverance. You have to keep at it. Day by day. Week by week. Month by month. Even year by year. Because you never know. Someday, somewhere, someone will get your poem. It will speak to them in a way that they’ve never heard before, just as it was speaking to you when you wrote it.

With all that goes on in our busy lives (work, family, friends, hobbies, paying the goddamn bills), it’s easy to get discouraged and stop making the time to write. It’s easy to make excuses for why you’re not writing, not reading, not listening to poetry, not paying attention. There are more pressing, more fun, more rewarding things to do – at least that’s how it feels sometimes. But if you’re anything like me, the most amazing thing you can do is write. To write a really great poem, short story, novel, play. Because only you can do this. Only you.

So don’t give up hope. Get your butt in the chair. Keep writing, keep revising, keep reading, keep submitting, keep working.

Rock on, people.

~ Jho

NaPoWriMo Day 25: A Work Poem

27 Apr

Some days, I like my work, by which I mean, my wage-earning, get dressed in a suit, meet with customers employment. I get to travel on occasion and most people I encounter are funny, kind, hard-working–in general, nice people who I don’t mind spending a few minutes, or in some cases, whole days with.

Other days, and other people in certain circumstances, I do not. I do not like them (the people or the days) with a vehement, name-calling, furniture-kicking spite. They sap my joie de vivre, they foster my anti-social tendencies, and worst of all, they rob me of time, with my husband, with my friends, with my real work–this writing thing that I do and love and wish I got to do more often.

On a recent The Writer’s Almanac (with silver-soft Garrison Keillor), Keillor talked about the poet Ted Kooser, who woke at 4:30 every morning to write for a couple of hours before work. Kooser wanted to write poems for the everyman, poems that talked about everyday life and experience. Which got me thinking about the thing that I complain about most these days: my job.

This is nothing new. People have been frustrated by their jobs for eons. And there are days that don’t make me sick with rage and pent-up frustration. Days that my coworkers are a joy and testament to the power of friendship and camaraderie to get you through the mundane and not so pleasant aspects of grown-up life. Other days, not so much.

Continue reading

NaPoWriMo 2013: Poem for 04.14.13

20 Apr

We’re at the halfway mark for NaPoWriMo, and my writing desk is a mass of stacked papers, books, doodads and paperclips right now. I always like to keep a poetry book or two nearby, so I can flip through their pages and find inspiration when I’m flagging and staring too long at a blank screen.

On top of the stack this week is Sean Nevin‘s Oblivio Gate. This is an amazing book, about family, loss, redemption and especially Alzheimer’s. The cover says it all.

photo-1

The loss of one’s memory, one’s mind, I would argue, one’s self is a terrifying thing to think about, and it’s something we think about in my family because my grandfather suffered through it. Continue reading

NaPoWriMo 2013 & a Poem

10 Apr

If you haven’t heard of it before, NaPoWriMo is short for “National Poetry Writing Month,” which celebrates April, National Poetry Month, with a flurry of new poems by a committed band of global poets who have pledged to write a new poem every day in April. I tried it in 2010, during what I now call “my New York years,” when I was unemployed and driftless in a new city, anchored only by my love of literature (and CityBoy who isn’t small potatoes but less relevant to my drifting as he was then working 40-50 hours a week and not home a lot). It was hard, the 2010 NaPoWriMo, but it was a great experience and taught me a lot about sucking it up and getting down to the business of writing.

As we edged closer into spring this year, I decided to give it another whirl, to see if a) I could still write that prolifically while b) gainfully (and sometimes wearyingly) employed. So, I give you NaPoWriMo 2013!

30 poems in 30 days . . . gulp!

30 poems in 30 days . . . gulp!

Only 9 days into the project, and I can tell you – man, this shit is hard! The temptation to flake, to agree to that post-work Happy Hour or sink down into the bliss of the TV-viewing couch, is great. And mighty. And a daily battle. But then, isn’t life and by extension, writing?

I’m sure there will be a lot of drivel this month getting pushed out by my touch-typing fingers, but maybe, just maybe there will be good work.

Here’s my poem for 04.09.13: Continue reading

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