summer reading: a midwife and an X-acto knife

Hello, Reader. Summer vacation is an hour and a half away. I’m sneaking a quick post in before the Kinder “celebration” (I really hope they’re not wearing miniature caps and gowns) to tell you what I’ll be reading this summer.

a midwife  I have a bad habit of going to the library, seeing a bazillion books that “look interesting” (this is what I tell myself) and bringing them all home. The result is too many books not enough time. C’est la vie. Last week when I went to check out books with the kids, I came across A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. It’s by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and won the Pulitzer. Hmm, I said to myself, looks interesting. And the good news is that it is interesting — to follow the daily life of a midwife in colonial times in her own words, which are also illuminated by the author’s analysis. I’m a little bit nervous, though, because I keep jotting little notes to myself when I come across an intriguing phrase. Things like:

“I Crost a stream on the way on fleeting Loggs & got safe over”


“Clear morn. I pulld flax the fornon. Rain afternoon. I am very much fatagud. Lay on the bed & rested. The two Hannahs washing. Dolly weaving. I was called to Mrs Claton in travil at 11 O Clok Evening.”

Nervous? you ask, Why nervous? Well, because, this his how the Mail Order Bride began. Step 1: Hmm, that looks interesting. Step 2: Check out book and begin reading. Step 3: Jot down intriguing phrases and ideas. Next thing you know, someone’s taking you over and demanding poems be written. Still, I’ve learned to trust these little nudges of interest and language. They don’t always turn into something, but you never know when they might.

an X-acto knife  I’m sure I’ve said before on this blog that I consider Louise Gluck (pardon my lack of umlaut) to be the X-acto knife of poets because she is so precise and can cut to the bone. She comes from an X-acto knife family, so this makes perfect sense to me. I think I’ve been trying to really read and really study her volume The First Four Books of Poems for at least a year and a half. I keep interrupting myself by reading other books that look interesting, moving cross-country, and the like. This summer I’m determined to really read and really study Gluck’s early work. I so admire her ability to be both delicate and cutting in the same poem, and the way she uses just the shadow of a shadow of a narrative.

Now, must away….. . What are you reading this summer? I’d love to know.

6 thoughts on “summer reading: a midwife and an X-acto knife

  1. That midwife book sounds fascinating. I have all Gluck’s books (and have read them) but the most recent, and got The First Four Books at the command of a post-grad seminar teacher. Since I got that, I’ve acquired old library copies of a couple of the first four to see what they looked like when they first came out!

    • I often do the same — go to the library to see what the original book looked like. My introduction to Louise Gluck was Ararat, which frankly wasn’t my favorite. I haven’t read Wild Iris. But I just love her early work. Thanks for reading!

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