Showing posts from May, 2010

Recommended Poet: Alexandra Teague

Alexandra Teague, Mortal Geography.  New York: Persea Books, 2010.  Winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry.  88 pp. $15.
In poems about teaching English to immigrant students, Alexandra Teague beautifully explores the intersection between language and experience. In my favorite poem from her debut collection, "English Fundamentals," Teague observes a student diagramming sentences with colored markers.  She writes: "She has given me/grammar as a stained glass window..." Where another poet might compose an ars poetica, Teague creates an ars grammatica, seeing significance of grammar as a means of fashioning meaning and beauty out of one's experience.
She also writes about relationships, about art (Georgia O'Keefe, Frida Kahlo and Edward Hopper all inspire her poetry), and about the human body.  What she knows, and what her poetry skillfully conveys, is that there is more than one way of looking at anything—even a poem. One poem is titled &…

Reading Journal: "Every Man Dies Alone"

Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone.  Brooklyn, Melville House.  Paperback.  539 pp. (with afterword).  $16.95.  Originally published as Jeder stirbt für sich allein in 1947.
Rudolf Ditzen was an alcoholic and a morphine addict.  He was also, under the pseudonym Hans Fallada, a brilliant and popular author, who was intermittently in and out of favor with the Nazi authorities.  He had come under suspicion when his 1932 novel Little Man, What Now? was made into a film by Jewish producers.  But his 1937 novel Wolf Among Wolves attracted the favorable attention of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, who pressed Fallada to write an anti-semitic novel.  Eventually, Fallada snapped from the pressure and ended up in a Nazi insane asylum. After his release near the end of the war, he sat down and feverishly composed the novel Every Man Dies Alone in a space of just twenty-four days. The novel is a masterpiece: a vivid depiction of life in Berlin under the Nazis, a detective story, a story of …


Me: You're so sensitive.Her (pouting): Don't call me sensitive.  It hurts my feelings.


Photographed on Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in the Upper Arboretum.

Reading Journal: "The River of Doubt"

Candice Millard, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey. Anchor Books 2005. Paperback. 416 pp. (with notes and index). $15.

It was a day or two before Christmas, and my son still had to find me a present, so he did the best thing he could possibly do. He walked down to Monkey See, Monkey Read, where Jerry had the perfect suggestion: Candice Millard's gripping account of Theodore Roosevelt's 1914 expedition down a previously uncharted tributary of the Amazon, the River of Doubt. Millard, an editor for National Geographic, delivers a perfect mix of biography, natural history, and adventure as she chronicles Roosevelt's fight for survival on the deadly river.

In 1912, Roosevelt was disenchanted with his Presidential successor William Howard Taft and the Republican party's abandonment of his own progressive principles. He decided to make another run for President at the head of the Progressive, or Bull Moose, Party. In a crowded field (Taft, Wil…

Reading Journal: "Sheppard Lee"

Robert Montgomery Bird, Sheppard Lee, Written by Himself.  New York Review Books Classics 2008.  Originally published in 1836.  Paperback.  425 pp.  $16.95.
Sheppard Lee has been left a prosperous estate by his father, but soon manages to lose most of it. Out of sheer laziness, he watches his 40-acre farm go to ruin, and he allows an unscrupulous overseer to cheat him out of the rest of his patrimony.  He's reduced to digging for Captain Kid's gold, which according to local legend has been buried somewhere on his farm.  While he's out digging in the middle of the night, he stumbles upon the dead body of a wealthy Philadelphia brewer who's been hunting in the area, and he discovers a new way out of his difficulties.  He wishes he could trade places with the brewer, and—before he realizes what's happening—his soul passes out of him and reanimates the brewer's body.  This begins a picaresque series of adventures in which Sheppard Lee passes from body to body in sea…


Lydia weighs 88 pounds and Michelle weighs 67 pounds—
"Clouds are made out of water," she says, staring out the window.  "So are humans."
"Are we clouds?" I ask.
"No.  We're too heavy."

Mother's Day at Target Field

The Twins blanked the Orioles on Sunday afternoon behind a strong performance by pitcher Nick Blackburn, who was backed up by three-run innings in the third and fourth.  In the third inning, the Twins roughed up the O's starter, Brian Matusz, with five straight hits, and finally chased him from the game in the fourth.  The final score was 6-0.  

During the seventh inning stretch, the Northfield High School choirs sang "God Bless America" from the roof deck in center field.  The arrangement was by the choir's director, Dwight Jilek. On the radio, Twins announcer John Gordon enthused, "Well, 'God Bless America' was sung by the Northfield High School choirs, and boy did they do a good job."  Our son Will was singing in the tenor section, and Clara and I were sitting in field box in the corner of left field—where we couldn't see the the choir on the jumbotron, but where we had a great view of every catch made by Delmon Young in left and Denard Span i…

Word Problems: Subtraction

Nicholas weighs 6 pounds—

“Who’s Nicholas?” she asks. “Why is he so small? Is he a baby? That’s small for a baby. I weighed more than that when I was born, and everyone said I was a small baby.”

She stares out the classroom window. Her attention seems to lengthen the further it wanders from the sheet of word problems on her desk.

The girl weighs 98 pounds. The bird outside the window weighs almost nothing. The wind ruffles its black feathers.

“I can’t stop looking at it,” she says.

See how the wind tosses the branches of the tree, and how the bird holds on, and even opens its beak to sing.

I may not be the best person to tutor her in math. I also would rather sit and watch the black birds in the tree outside the window. Now there are two birds, now one bird, and now that bird is gone.

“I can’t stop looking at the place where it used to be,” she says.