OMG, I am in love. I have a big-time crush. I am in writerly, crushed love with writer and poet Lisa Summe.
I discovered Lisa while researching poetry publications. I was browsing the past winners of Smartish Pace’s Erskine J. Prize when I came across Summe’s Morning After We Hook Up, and I was floored. I swooned. I wanted/needed/desired more. So naturally I
stalked researched her, flinging from poetry site to poetry site and drinking up her every word.
Do other people do this, fall in writerly love with a writer and devour everything they’ve written? It’s an infatuation of words, a love affair of sounds and cadence. It is, I think, one of the best ways to “crush,” (that’s a pun on my biggest crush of them all, Richard Siken and his book Crush).
No matter. Here is a sample of one of her poems from Lambdal Literary.
When I walk into church
my hands fold automatically.
There is a certain intimacy
you can have with yourself
just by touching your own hands.
When I finally understood
worship, I understood worship.
Read the rest here.
But, enough with the crushes. I’ve been reading other things, too. In fact, I’ve been reading like crazy, though if truth be told I’m reading steadily and buying books like crazy. I can’t seem to stop buying books. I think that this is due to the long winter darkness (we’re down to less than six hours of daylight and still losing over four minutes a day). It makes me want to burrow down and cozy up with a good book.
Which I have been doing, more and more lately. Because really, slipping under the electric blanket, my dog curled beside me, my partner nearby, and reading for hours has become one of my favorite of things.
Here are a few titles I’ve recently finished (and is it odd that the word “every” appears in three of the six titles?)
Into the North Wind by Jill Homer: I must admit that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did, and since I’m doing a magazine story on Homer and the book I can’t say much except that I could gush for hours on how well done this is. The writing is top-notch without being self-conscious, the way so many adventure books are. And it isn’t the I’m-a-tough-and-hardy-endurance-athlete vibe, either. Homer adds enough backstory to give us a fuller and richer picture of her life, and she isn’t afraid to show her weaknesses, either. She isn’t afraid to be vulnerable which, I think, is the mark of a truly good writer. Rating: Yes, yes! I highly recommend.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon: I’ve been on a young adult kick lately, though I have little desire to read any of the vampire/witch/supernatural whatever that clog the marketplace. So when I find a well-written, intriguing and different type of YA story, I become excited. Everything, Everything is one of those. The voice is compelling and the storyline takes a different slant on illness and romance. A quick summary: Madeline is confined to her house due to a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (the “bubble baby disease) and falls in love with the boy next door after they secretly meet while Madeline’s mother is at work. The writing is fast and smooth, and Yoon adds lists and charts to give it a unique flavor. When the plot twist hits, it’s both unexpected and welcomed. Rating: An enjoyable and quick read. Highly recommend for YA audiences.
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick. Oh, Matthew, how well you write! What I loved most about this YA book is the realism. Quick doesn’t sugarcoat the teenage experience. And even though he’s a guy, he totally “gets” what it’s like to be a girl growing up in a sex-obsessed/youth-obsessed culture. There were parts that made me laugh out loud (such as when teen girl protagonist Nanette accidentally kisses her teacher) and others that made me squirm with discomfort (mentions of middle school girls giving older guys blow jobs while drunk). A brief summary: Nanette’s teacher gives her a copy of The Bubblegum Reaper, a rebel-based and obscure book that he himself had read as a teen. Nanette then meets up with another geeky loner who is also obsessed with the book and from there the plot takes off. It’s a rocky and unexpected ride, an odd gem of a tale that, while a bit unrealistic at points, sails by without the standard “they-meet-and-fall-in-love-face-obstacles-and-get-back-together-again plot of so many YA novels. Rating: Totally, yes. And highly, highly recommend for YA audiences and especially older teen girls.
Everything We Keep by Francesca Zappia: I don’t know. I finished this but never really warmed up to it. The writing felt forced at times but mostly I just couldn’t relate to the main character. I’m so over books where the author feels the need to explain what people are wearing. It’s like, I don’t care if they have on a designer dress. I don’t give a damn what color shirt he’s wearing. Really, give me more character development, more realistic tension, more depth. Still, I kept reading and there was some nice writing in places, and nice visuals and nice descriptions. It’s just that it all felt too simple, too on-the-surface. I wanted more depth, more complexity. The plot was also a bit unrealistic, especially the ending. If I wasn’t trying to meet my book challenge goal, I may have set it down and not picked it back up again. Rating: It was okay. Would be a fast read while on a plane or train.
Made You Up, Kerry Lonsdale: This book started out with a kick from the beginning, and it grabbed me from the first line because it’s a YA novel that takes on the serious subject of mental illness from a teenage perspective. Alex has schizophrenia and attends school plus works evenings at a restaurant. She sees things that aren’t there, people on the roof of the school, bloody boys walking toward her. Since it’s written in first-person, we only see the world through Alex’s eyes, which adds an intriguing twist. The book is filled with outlandish happenings (a crazy principle at school, a “killer” scoreboard, a vengeful ex-cheerleader) so that it’s impossible to know what is really happening. This could be confusing but Lonsdale writes with a skilled and steady hand. Especially endearing is Miles, Alex’s love interest, who is unlikable at times, and complex and moody but unfailingly loyal in his affections toward Alex. This is a book where everyone is flawed, even the adults, and there are no easy answers. Rating: An odd and unique story that doesn’t flinch in the face of mental illness. Highly recommend.
Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar. Loved this book about a 1959 Russian hiking trip that ended in the bizarre deaths of nine college students. No one knows why the nine students ran out of their tent at the night, in single digit temperatures, most without shoes or boots, and froze to death about a half mile away from their tent. An intriguing and fascinating read. Read my full review, complete with photos, here.
-My prose poem Mary With PMS was nominated for The Best Small Fictions anthology. Thanks to everyone over at Into the Void for the nomination.
-My flash fiction piece Portland II will be included in 101 Words upcoming anthology.
–Destruction Bay, Yukon, a new poem, is up at Poetic Medicine.
-Two poems, I am not your baby and Mary Poppins: The Third Show, are included in the soon-to-be-released Theories of HER anthology.