friday roundup: hospital books, to weave a needed rope, and the perennial Halloween poem

V0024194 Rope-making: details of various parts of a rope-making machi Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Rope-making: details of various parts of a rope-making machine. Engraving by G. Daws. after: G. DawsPublished:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Rope-making (wikimedia)


And sorry for the radio silence. There have been things happening involving the bodies of offspring. Everyone is fine now.

Nonetheless I have added to my list of hospital books. These are the books I’ve lived with at various points of my life while frequenting hospitals.

They include (but are not limited to):

  • From Dawn To Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Cultural Life  by Jaques Barzun
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • And Her Soul Out of Nothing by Olena Kalytiak Davis
  • The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt
  • The Forest of Sure Things by Megan Snyder-Camp
  • Paradise, Indiana by Bruce Snider
  • The First Four Books of Poems by Louise Glück
  • How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher

These are not books I took with me to hospitals because of something intrinsic to the books, but are just what I was reading at the time, what I grabbed on the way out the door, and what crossed over the threshold with me to that strange, time-warped world of hospitals. These books have some fairly interesting marginalia, like:

“IV antibiotics and/or surgical drainage” and “PICC line insertion on Tues. a.m.” and “varying line lengths increases speed of poem down the page” and “Here is where I part company with (insert name of author here).” List of medications, times administered, ideas for revision (bare bleak), snatches of news caught on the drive to/from: “taking a break from your career is like hang-gliding with your child’s future.” (Well, God help us all, then).

Anyway, all this is just to say I’ve been thinking about how books are more than just books. They become companions. When I pull these books back out I say, Hello, old friend. I remember things forgotten (and instructions from doctors) as I page through. I feel known by them somehow.

I wish for you very, very few hospital books, but many, many companion books that know you somehow.

to weave a needed rope Last week, I brought not a book (well, I brought a book, too) but an interview I’d printed out from the Writer’s Almanac. It was an interview with Jane Hirshfield, and here’s the best part:

“To write a poem, for me, is to weave a needed rope out of thin air, often in desperation, while falling.”

(*raises hand)

There are  many other good parts, and you can read the whole interview here.

the perennial Halloween poem  I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. I’m sure I’ve shared this poem before. And I’m a little wounded regarding this poem right now, because my daughter came home from school this week and said, “Mom! You can help me! I have to bring in a Halloween poem!” She was so excited that there was something tangible I could help her with (typically, my poetry background is considered more liability than asset when it comes to helping with school). “I know the perfect poem!” I said, and referred her to the perennial Halloween poem. She read it. “No way, Mom,” she said. Which I probably could’ve predicted, but I live in hope that someday one of my children will appreciate a poem I recommend (other recent losers include “I Feel Just Fine in My Pants” by Yehuda Amichai, which I was inspired to read aloud when we recently (finally!) had a day that was cool enough for pants, and I felt just fine in mine; and the last three stanzas of Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” — I mean, who can resist a passage that begins, “Darkling, I listen…”?).

Well, anyway, here is the perennial Halloween poem, Louise Glück’s “All Hallows” which I will never tire of, which I will forever recommend to anyone who will listen.

So that’s a wrap for today. I’m hoping to get back to some more posts on submissions sometime soon. Until then, Happy Halloween!

2 thoughts on “friday roundup: hospital books, to weave a needed rope, and the perennial Halloween poem

  1. Thanks as always for the roundup — I love the new directions you point me to each week. You’re right that there’s nothing like reading in a hospital to fix the book in your memory forever. I think that I too could list all the books I’ve taken with me on such occasions. Wishing all good things for the bodies of offspring. Here’s to some non-hospital reading & writing in the near future!

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