Big Boat ride in a hole in the ground…

The first time I watched “On the Town,” I thought what they were singing in the big “New York, New York” number was “A big boat ride in a hole in the ground.” Yes, never mind that it makes no sense, I figured it out a good long time later (for the uninitiated, as unimaginable as that is: “and the people ride in a hole in the ground”).

So we took a mini-break this weekend, drove up to New Hampshire to Newfound Lake, and then to Lake Winnipesaukee today, where Vincent got to take a big boat ride. “Big” is relative — we were supposed to go out on a REALLY big boat, but due to the crazy weather (and lack of customers) we ended up on a smaller tugboat-sized number. But big enough for me! My boys love boats.

Prince of the World!

Lake Winnipesaukee.

Sum-sum-summertime!

It’s official, and clinging to these new summer days is that summery languor, that eh, whatever, it can wait feeling. But I truly have done more than read novels and dip my toes in the kiddie pool, ensconced in my gestational cocoon — I have indeed read a lot of novels, but I had catching up to do! For a while I was reading nothing but poetry, and it’s mighty difficult to be a bookseller on a poetry-only diet.

But if you observed the several piles of books on the end table beside me, you’d see that, still, 90% of them are poetry-related. No photo, uh-uh, they’re far too ungainly and embarrassing, my piles of books. But I assure you it’s true. A few of the titles I’m leisurely reading: Colosseum, by Katie Ford; cloudlife, by Stefanie Marlis; Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns, by Michael Theune; Things are Disappearing Here, by Kate Northrup; and Return to Calm, by Jacques Réda, translated by Aaron Prevots. So you can see I am not neglecting poetry.

I must confess that I also read an advanced copy of Elizabeth McCracken’s upcoming book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, which is a memoir. A quote:

A child dies in this book: a baby. A baby is stillborn. You don’t have to tell me how sad that is: it happened to me and my husband, our baby, a son.

It’s a heart-rending book, and probably not the best reading choice for me at this time, but McCracken is an exquisite writer.

This is also the season for fall/winter frontlist orders for the bookshop, so I’ve been on major catalog duty also. There are definitely some exciting books coming up, but for the life of me I can’t remember what they are — I order them, and then promptly forget all about them — unless I read an advanced reader’s copy, that is. I’ll try to post some forthcoming poetry titles when I get the chance.

I’ve been productive in my own work as well. This weekend I reorganized my chapbook, removing some poems, adding others, fine-tuning its arc, and now it’s off to a new batch of contests. May it find more luck in this incarnation! And there’s a new poem, which is turning out to be rather long-ish, that I’m drafting. I’m trying not to be too fierce with my editing scissors this go-around, let it flesh out and see what happens.

And lastly, but most importantly, I’ve been swept up in keeping the supply of sweet tea abundant enough to meet the very high demand! I’ll tell you, it’s very hard to find a decent glass of iced tea around here unless you make it yourself. Even with all the great coffeehouses about. They just get all frou-frou with it and muck it up. Or they simply don’t know what they’re doing.

Last week I despaired that maybe I’d gone “off” iced tea, the way pregnancy makes me go “off” pasta and hamburgers. One glass I bought tasted sour. The next, from another place, tasted like cigars. Seriously. That one I didn’t finish. And then the next one, which came sweet, tasted cloying and suspiciously citrusy.

The perfect iced tea is sweet and strong, and not herbal — and if you add lemon you should be fined, or at the very least strongly chastised. Thank goodness I had a fresh batch at home, which was perfect and perfectly reassuring.

Standard Operating Procedures.

My friend Andrew has a post up on his blog that is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read. To quote:

The season of the bac has hit France again. The word bac is the shortened name of the end-of-high-school exams, the baccalauréat. This test, instituted by none other than Napoleon, is actually a series of comprehensive exams, one in every subject. Taking them is as much a rite of passage as anything. They signal the end of high school and the first real step towards adulthood.

The tests are not technically high-school exit exams; you can finish high school and not take the bac. In fact, the bac serves as a college entrance exam — pass it and you can enroll in any French university. But this is no SAT. This is a bitch-tastically difficult series of mental ass-whoopin’s.

There is no multiple choice. Most exams consist of an essay. For instance, the philosophy exam consists of one question, and you get four hours to write up an answer. Here is this year’s question:

Does art transform our conception of reality?

Go!

Can you imagine? Can you see American testing administrators forswearing the old paradigm of standardized multiple choice testing for something that demands more critical thinking and writing skills? I don’t think I would perform particularly well, but apparently no one is expected to, that’s not the point. How cool is that?

Can You Hear With That?

At some point last night, some vile insect bit Vincent on his left ear. This morning, Vincent’s ear was red and swollen nearly double in size — and sticking out from his head! Thankfully he’s not in any pain or discomfort, and I checked in with his pediatrician, so you needn’t feel bad for enjoying the picture below. Because this is just too danged weird not to post:

Poor little Dumbo.

It’s not as red as this morning, but there it is, waving at you like a third hand! Such a calamity absolutely called for the ever-dependable solace of chocolate ice cream. I’m sure you agree.

A Lost Week.

“My heart beat thick.”

I think that’s the correct quote. It’s from Jane Eyre, and I’ve never forgotten it (quite) due to Dr. Heineman’s professorial diligence back in 1990, her vehement attention to a writer’s very particular choice. (From her I also learned the proper pronunciation of “vehement” and “awry.”)

All respect to Jane, but my heart beats thick every day these days. Between the heat and the pregnancy, air feels hard to come by. And time. How did it get to be Saturday already? I don’t think I accomplished a single thing of note all week. Except for the ultrasound. And I did read Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart (which I loved, marvelously inventive, then began Inkspell a little while ago. I have an advance reading copy of the final installment of the trilogy, Inkdeath, which is why I began it — I hate to wait, I try not to begin series until all the books are available. Harry Potter is the only exception. Well, George R. R. Martin is too, but he tricked me by splitting his previous book in half…) And I also found what I hope is the perfect Father’s Day gift for Lance.

Oh, apparently there are those who were under the impression that this ultrasound would tell us the sex of our baby. You are mistaken. This is a first trimester ultrasound, undertaken because I am of “advanced maternal age” purely to check on the well-being of said baby, whose sex, at 12 weeks, is still a mystery. It’ll be another 6 weeks for that. But while the official results won’t be out until sometime next week, everything does appear to be just fine. Baby wriggled around like a healthy little tadpole, and we all squealed at the monitor.

Then we left the air-conditioned health center and wheezed in the heat. Or was that just me?

The beast awakes.

It’s so hot in this third floor apartment that when Lance went in to check on Vincent napping, he discovered that Vincent had moved from the bed to the floor, presumably because the pine floors felt cooler to his little body. I snuck in to take a picture (we have a small album of the peculiar places where Vincent likes to sleep) and while I got the photo, I unfortunately woke him up at the same time. Alas.

Vincent awakens on the floor.

Emma Bolden’s The Mariner’s Wife.

My daycare provider is down with the flu, and Vincent is still sleeping because he stayed up until I returned from the poetry reading last night, so I have this unexpected lovely time to luxuriate in this new book of poems.

Now I’m not going to pretend impartiality — anyone who reads this blog with any sort of regularity (anyone?) knows I’m a big admirer of Emma and her poetry — nor am I writing a review here really. I’m not especially good at that sort of writing, I’m afraid, which perhaps you’ve noticed — I’m too much the fan girl, and have no patience for things like plot summaries.

[Though I will insert here that I’m ever so sad that Michiko Kakutani gave Salman Rushdie a less-than-glowing review for his new novel, which I adored. But it was a well-written review, and while I disagree with her conclusions, it’s reasoned and respectful. This coming Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, on the other hand, includes a negative review that I just consider useless.]

That said:

It’s been a long time since I read a book of poems I felt so much affinity for and loved so much. The Mariner’s Wife, just released from Finishing Line Press, is about love, relationships, heartbreak, shopworn subjects that Emma invigorates by virtue of her rich language and the ingenious juxtaposition of the Mariner poems (“The Mariner,” “The Mariner’s Wife Dreams of Hands,” etc) with more seemingly personal poems, and others that tread the line between and bridge the gap. In fact, the sequencing of this chapbook is extremely instructive for any poet, it’s so masterfully done, with utterly seamless transitions.

I just love this book and urge everyone in the most strenuous terms to go to Finishing Line’s website and buy a copy for yourself — I promise you it will be the best poetry purchase you’ll make this year.

Below is one of those bridging-the-gap poems, which illustrates the energy and surprise of her lines, the sensuality and inventiveness of her diction:

What to Heed, What to Leave

In the first flush of fever I was a green dress
tying to be untied. You were fingers of pine

bark, a beard’s smooth scratch. You were the scent
of cardamom and silk. My pillows wore your name.

The village women called for amethyst, aventurine
for healing, an emerald disc over the heart o if

thine true love come. Too late. Packed my chest in ice,
my feet in snow. Bird wings circled a man

of danger. The stars spilled out the one
you’ll blame
. Too late. You were already a raw

wire within me, my own mind’s sputter and spark.