Article Series: Southern Tier Life Magazine, A Life of Poetry

It’s funny how life work sometimes when you’re minding your own business. Last month I was approached by the managing editor of Southern Tier Life Magazine, Catherine White, about doing a series of articles on poetry for National Poetry Month. She found me through a post about the open mic at Card Carrying Books and Gifts on April 28th in which I am the MC.

So here I am, writing articles for a local magazine. When I was in high school I wanted to be a journalist. My life path didn’t carry me down that road and I went on to be a nurse instead, but have always carried that dream in my back pocket. I get to place a big old check mark next to this line item on my bucket list this month.

The first article is about how poetry has weaved itself into my life. You can read “A Life of Poetry” now at Southern Tier Life Magazine. Thanks for taking the time.

Read. Write. Support the small press. Be kind to each other.

Aleathia

Book Reviews: February 2022

Do you know how sometimes you are resistant to buying a book? For some reason I couldn’t get myself to pick this one up despite LOVING the cover art. My local book seller had quietly nudged me toward this book several times and I finally caved. She is a voracious reader and said it was in her top 5. That day another patron had also sung this books praises, so it was time.

This book is a journey through the age old question of what happens after we die? This is a speculation of course because we don’t really know, but it is one that I would like to keep close in my memory. It is a book about death, the time after death, and grief that is present in both those who are left behind as well as those who have passed. It is also a book about friendship and selflessness. It is a book about how we keep going in the face of hardship. I cried for the last two hours I read the book. Sometimes they were tears of joy and others sadness. I don’t always recommend books, but I don’t think it matters what genre you usually love, you will love this book.

This is a quick read both because it is more novella sized and the writing is very good. I had never read a book by this author, but picked it up because I am a nurse and it sounded relatable. It is a story about a girl from an immigrant family who lives in NYC and works as an orderly in one of the county hospitals. It is a book about family and friendships and about having the faith in yourself to move forward and upward in life.

This book I listened to which was a good choice. The setting is India and there I’m sure the pronunciation of many of the cultural items and names of things would have been butchered in my mind. It was nice to hear them pronounced as they should be. This is a story about a girl and her mother living in Pune, India. The mother is a bit eccentric for the times and they lived in an ashram for some time. In the present day, the mother is showing signs of dementia and the daughter feels obligated to care for her. Their relationship, through their whole lives, had not been close or comforting. The daughter often left to the periphery of everything. It is a story about family dynamics, breaks from culture, and personal identity.

This is another book that I listened to and it was read by the author. I had no idea what this book was about before I chose it, but did so because I currently have an obsession with birds. It is non-fiction and discusses the life of the author as a naturalist and her memories of birds and green spaces in the UK as she was growing up. It chronicles some wonderfully personal accounts of her adventures in nature while also providing information on several species of birds and their migrations, and what this means for the lands we live in. It also looks at how urban sprawl has changed or destroyed nesting areas for birds and what this means for the species.

Come on, who doesn’t love Samantha Irby? I listened to this as an audio book because Irby reads it herself and the way she describes her own life is both hysterical and bold. This was a great book to listen to in February because I need as much laughter as I can get stuck in the gray days of Upstate New York. Her honesty about how she lives her life in such an unapologetic way is refreshing. It made me take notice of my own habits and procrastination and investigate their origin. And sometimes, I just looked in the other direction. A delightful book.

I found this book at last year’s fall library book sale. I often try to scoop up as much poetry as I can possibly find, especially by author’s I’ve never heard of before. I find that it helps me to look at my own words in different ways. This entire book of poetry is the imagining of Barbie in different life settings, with careers, with comical thoughts about articulated limbs. It made me nostalgic in a way. I had Barbies and yes, they did make me feel like I didn’t fit in the class of a pretty girl, but they were also my therapy. I could dress them how I wanted, they were stand ins for people I couldn’t really express myself to. Sometimes, when playing Barbie with other girls, we explored cultural, sexual, and relationship ideas that our mothers were not willing to speak about. They were an education on what we thought being older might be like. There are some great poems in this book.

This is a smaller book of poetry from long time small press writer Michele McDannold. The poems in here feel like that space in life where you disconnect for a minute to wonder why people do the things they do. Or why you do the things you do? It is a book of quiet interactions and self assessments. Definitely worth the read.

I picked up this book from the local library for two reasons. #1 My boyfriend loves Lorca. I thought I should read some of his work because this in turn tells me something about my boyfriend. I had heard of Lorca as a writer, but honestly, I had never taken the time to read his work. #2 “Little Ashes” was an amazing film about the connection of Lorca and Dali. It moved me and made me cry so again, I thought I should dip into the work. There is merit to his language and in some poems I felt connected, but like all poetry from a time when I haven’t lived, it is harder to find a passion in the stanzas because I didn’t experience the hardships and cultural restraints of the time. It was still worth it for reason #1.

I just finished listening to this book before opening my computer to write this blog. Listening to this book made me realize just how little they teach us in school about black history. I vaguely remember hearing about the great migration, but not really understanding how long it was. It ended only 3 years before I was born. How could it be so absent from our education?

This is a non-fiction book that chronicles the journey Morgan Jerkins took when trying to find more information about her family history. So much of the facts of family history come from oral tradition and this makes it harder to trace if your family isn’t willing to talk or the elders pass away without ever having been asked what they know. This book is about the great migration but it was also a history on blended cultures with Native Americans of the southern regions and the persistent racism present in this country. It was interesting to follow the journey as she gathered more snippets of family story or a random name of a distant possible relative. Definitely an eye opening historical story.

Book Reviews: January 2022

I wouldn’t go so far as to say these are deep dive book reviews. I have never been a fan of those because they ultimately tell me too much and then I feel like I don’t need to read the book. I like the adventure of figuring it out myself, but on the other hand, it is hard to branch out and find new authors and types of things to read if you don’t know just a smidge. And before anyone gets super excited and thinks I’m a freakishly fast reader, some of this months books were started last month and some are audiobooks. Enjoy my 2 cents.

All Around Cowboy by Scot D. Young (Spartan Press, 2021) is a collection of poems that spans this man’s life living in the heart of Missouri. Scot has a way of showing us hard topics with a soft hand. He is a storyteller. The way the book unfolds allows for traveling from a time long forgotten to the present. It’s like riding a train where one only catches some things in sharp focus, just enough to let the mind wander in that space and find a connection, on some level, to our own lives.

Memorial by Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books, 2020) is about the struggles in love of two homosexual men from widely different cultural backgrounds living in Texas. But, it’s more than that. It’s a book about family, about choices, about doing the right thing, about finding your way in the world. I listened to the audiobook which features Bryan Washington reading one of the parts himself. It had a different sort of life listening to the book instead of reading it as it is split into sections based on the perspective of each lover. I started out reading it and then switched to listening to it.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Simon and Schuster, 2020) is noted as a horror book which I didn’t find exactly scary. I used to read horror as a teenager and young adult, and I don’t think this book fits in that category. This book takes place on and off the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and is loosely about four Native American friends who go against tribal law and hunt on grounds they are not allowed to. To avoid prosecution, they have to waste all the elk they have killed and are banned from hunting on the rez. But one of the elk was special, one was pregnant. This book dives into dark fantasy and allegory. It didn’t scare me, but it definitely had me on edge. This was a book that I knew nothing of the author or the story before hand but loved the cover. It did not disappoint.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Random House, 2020). I had this book on my list from the previous year and my kid had given it to me for Christmas. I finally worked my way through the book stack to get to it. This book is full of snapshots of Doyle’s transition out of heterosexual married life where she was miserable into a same sex marriage that changed her life. It is a collection of stories about self integrity, about knowing who you are and going forward with that, and about the joy and the struggles of having a non-traditional family. This book really spoke to me about breaking down the barriers of tradition from times that are no longer relevant. How many times to I approach a situation with my mother’s or my grandmother’s voice in my head instead of my own? It is a book about letting your wild come to the surface.

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron (Broadway Books, 1997). Every now and then I like to throw a non-fiction book in the mix to spice up my life…yes, that was comedy. I feel like non-fiction uses a different side of my brain than fiction or poetry and I like to active all the parts. My mother used to make fun of me and say I was “so sensitive” and it turns out that she wasn’t wrong. Some of the tenants of this book are a bit outdated for 1997 and not all together politically correct, but it did help me to understand some parts of my personality and how to help them heal from things I’ve experienced in my life.

Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey (Knopf, 2020). This was another book plucked from a list of books to read from 2020. I have been taking great effort to read authors I don’t know and genres that aren’t in my wheelhouse. Basically, I’m swimming outside my comfort zone. I listened to this one on audiobook because my library had it available and I wasn’t disappointed. The book follows a woman through her young adult life to almost middle age in vignettes of conversations she has with other women. There is a rawness to her perspective of herself, of other women, and of the environments she’s in. It is a book full of unapologetic inside talk that women have but don’t like to admit they have. There is a lot of alcohol featured in this book so if you are triggered by that or into sober living, it might raise some hackles, but I think it was true to the reality of life today.

Book Review: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Photo from James Clear website

I suppose I am late to this pandemic party in a sense. Being a nurse has had me on the front lines the whole time. Shelter in place happened only four days a week for me and then I was at work the other three. I maintained a partial normalcy as far as that was concerned. All my social outlets were changed, but I was still leaving the house.

Living in New York State has had its advantages. Our Governor locked down the state rather quickly to help decrease the spread and we opened much slower than any other place. Despite this, I am starting to see increased cases in our rural community because many people don’t feel the threat is real. They walk the streets without their masks on because they don’t want to ruin their makeup or they are too cool or they just don’t care. Meanwhile, I have so many people that I worry about who could catch this virus and die.

What does all of this have to do with James Clear’s Atomic Habits? I thought you’d never ask. At this stage of the pandemic game I have lost my usual habits. Time has become strange and marked only by the days I work and Tuesday when I have my group meeting online. I started to lose interest in the things that bring me joy. I lost my schedule basically.

I am also dealing with a teenager who we discovered recently is high functioning ASD but has a hard time making routines and doing things they liked before due to focus issues and some changing health issues. When scrolling through the available audio books at my library, Atomic Habits popped up and as it is only a five hour listen, I thought I could squeeze it in.

This served two functions. I could learn how micro changes effect your habits and it has me back into audio books which had dropped off my radar during the height of the pandemic because I was no longer driving long distances to work and I couldn’t concentrate.

The book is full of very simple and helpful tips on how to build good habits and he has several different ways you can achieve these things depending on the type of learner you are. The rules are very simple and easy to manage. I did find the book a bit over plugged. After each helpful thing he announced you could find it on his website and then listed it. It was repetitive and clearly a marketing strategy which I know works. Kudos to him, but it didn’t get by me.

There are a lot of helpful resources on his book page that could steer you in the direction you need if you are having problems keeping up with your good habits or trying to build new ones. It was worth the listen or read, whatever you’re into.