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Posts Tagged ‘Boston Bibliophile’

I really enjoy reading Boston Bibliophile and often enjoy Marie’s recommendations. When I saw her review of Have You Seen Marie?,written by Sandra Cisneros and illustrated by Ester Hernandez, over the weekend I knew I had to read it. It was sitting on the new book shelf when I got to work at the library yesterday so I brought it home. And read it as my husband suffered through the Patriots’ 3rd quarter, before Downton Abbey.

Yes, it’s that short. It’s a gorgeous little book, a story of love and patience, of understanding and community, of acceptance and healing. In the first few pages the narrator explains that when her friend Rosalind arrived for a visit in San Antonio, her cat Marie “ran off” after a long car ride. We also learn that the narrator’s mother died recently. She says, “Every day I woke up and felt like a glove left behind at the bus station. I didn’t know I would feel this way.”

The rest of the book is about the search for Marie, and the narrator’s grieving. As the two women search for the cat, they meet people from all walks of life and backgrounds, almost all of whom offer help or comfort, food or drink, or empathy. There is a real sense of community in their search because just about everyone has experienced loss. The illustrations are as important to the story as the text. Cisneros says in her afterword that she and Hernandez really walked around her real San Antonio neighborhood to get inspiration.

Also in the afterword, Cisneros describes the comfort she finds in both her human and natural neighbors. And she explains one reason why over-reliance on prescriptions is flawed. When her doctor wanted to prescribe anti-depressants* after her mother died, Cisneros said no, because “I need to be able to feel things deeply, good or bad, and wade through an emotion to the other shore, toward my rebirth. I knew if I put off moving through grief, the wandering between worlds would only take longer. Even sadness has its place in the universe.”

This is a story that is simple and clear, but not childish. It’s a profound meditation on grieving and healing and on the way we are connected to others, including people we don’t even know, by our shared experience. Cisneros’ story reminds us, too, of the power of beauty in nature as well as in art to comfort us in difficult times. And she acknowledges both the pain and the purpose of mourning.

Cisneros says she wrote the book because “I wish somebody had told me love does not die, that we can continue to receive and give love after death. . . because something was needed for people like me who suddenly found themselves orphans in midlife. I wanted to be able to make something I could give those who were in mourning, something that would help them find balance again . . . .” Thanks Marie (Boston Bibliophile) for bringing this book a wider audience on your blog.

(* Lest I offend someone, please let me add I’m sure some people benefit from anti-depressants and that prescriptions are helpful and even life-saving in some situations. I simply agree with Cisneros that grief is a normal and important emotion to feel. And I think that  in our culture, we tend to expect more from prescription drugs than is merited.

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So after reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore I decided to spend a little more reading time in San Francisco and chose a book Boston Bibliophile mentioned recently, San Francisco Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Marie wrote about this line from “Challenges to Young Poets:” “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” Good advice.

This little volume is the first in the San Francisco Poet Laureate series published by City Lights Foundation. I’m not a Ferlinghetti aficionado and I’ve never read a full collection of his work but I enjoyed this brief book. It opens with his inaugural address as the city’s poet laureate, a post he held from 1998-2000. It’s interesting that Ferlinghetti sees a city gentrifying and losing its culture, whereas Robin Sloan portrays San Francisco in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore as plenty off-beat, artsy, & funky (albeit well-off).

The poems in this volume are like postcards, giving the reader small, intimate sketches of the city Ferlinghetti loves, and which has been his muse. I especially liked “The Changing Light,” about the beauty of the sun and fog and sea light in San Francisco; and “Dog,” in which a dog takes the reader on a tour of the city’s streets, “investigating everything/ without benefit of perjury/a real realist/with a real tale to tell/and a real tail to tell it with . . . .”

“Baseball Canto,” is probably the best baseball poem I’ve read and is also about race and class and the American Dream and the giving way of the old guard in literature to new voices that aren’t all male and white. Really. Read it, you’ll see what I mean. And “A North Beach Scene” is a painting in a poem, so vivid.

I got to wondering whether there are other book series devoted to poets laureate and I couldn’t find any. Nor did I find a consolidated list of cities with a poet laureate. I did learn on Wikipedia that not all U.S. states have one. And now I need to finish my lunchtime musings and get on with the rest of the day here in the bookconscious household. If anyone knows of links to poets laureate of cities please leave a comment.

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