Do you follow rules as a reader? You might, and not even know it. As avid readers, we build a set of expectations, almost like precedents, based on what we read as children, in school, and then later in book clubs or from best seller lists. Without planning to, we can sometimes build these expectations into “rules.” If there is one rule that is so obvious that we overlook it, it’s this: read the book from beginning to end and pay attention. Of course most of the time this is the entire point of picking up a book—to immerse yourself in another world and get lost in a story—but occasionally you may be able to benefit from a different approach to reading.
Bronx-born poet Lara Mimosa Montes’ debut book, The Somnambulist, out from Horse Less Press in late 2016, was the main topic of conversation when she and I sat down to talk about poetry. Montes’ work has appeared in Fence, BOMB, The Third Rail, and elsewhere. She is a recently defended PhD candidate in English at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She also teaches poetry at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and works as an editor for Triple Canopy and Poor Claudia magazines.
With the book itself between us like a beautiful meal (or a small Ouija board), we meandered through a discussion about influences and aesthetics.
As soothing as a video of a basket of baby sloths, and borne on a raft of lifestyle books, hygge is headed for your living room...More than 20 how-to hygge books were published in 2016.” ~The New York Times, Dec. 2016
These days do you feel like our entire country has squeezed its eyes shut while drunk driving on a mountain? Did you recently become unglued on public transit after Googling “war in Syria”? Has an uncanny feeling washed over you like the garbage-filled ocean as you come face-to-face with history’s idiotic repetition?
Well, stop your weeping! This book is designed to help you grab a cozy blanket to hide under while the world burns around you. Hygge, in Danish, means being safe, snug, and secure. It entails hot beverages, warm candles, and finding happiness in little things you can buy at Paper Source. Hygge is natural, but you must strive for it. It’s easy and relaxed, but complex enough that you can substitute it for religion.
Too many of us are rushing from one thing to the next, caught up in the information overload, that we forget to take time to let ourselves be. Hygge slows us down so we can enjoy life’s cozy moments. It’s a lifestyle that’s a warm hug, a thundershirt, a cashmere throw laced with chloroform. Try these ten easy tips to add hygge to your life!
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is about four brothers growing up in Nigeria. It's also about the ways a mind can be poisoned and how an obsession can destroy you.
The scene I'm about to discuss is not pleasant. Two children are murdering a man to avenge their brothers.
A few months ago, I launched my campaign that I call "Identities through Literature." I reached out to some of the most important literary figures and communities leaders in the Twin Cities and asked about a book (or a few) that was important to them and how it helped them form or understand whichever aspect (or aspects) of their identity they chose to share. I received responses from thoughtful, radiant writers who graciously agreed to share with me. This slideshow contains the culmination of images and responses that they shared with me. Please take the time to read, sit with, and take with you the responses of these talented and humble writers, artists, readers, and individuals.
I’m assuming now that it’s December, everyone is recovering from NaNoWriMo. It seems appropriate that we talk about setting goals after exercising those writing muscles for 30 days in a row. If you plan on taking that new idea to agents or editors, it's always worth the time.
The book—there's the first step of finishing it beyond November 30th. Unless your book is a middle grade title, presumably there will be another 30K to 50K words to write (at minimum) to meet your book's average word count (within its category). This may require another few months (perfectly reasonable!) or longer. Set a date and work toward reaching it.
A strategy that has worked for me historically is using specific details and changing them. Basically, I will generalize details then substitute my own specifics. For instance, if the poem I am using as a model discusses a brother’s substance abuse that came to a culmination for the speaker in spring, my prompt would be the following: Write about a particularly important event or stage in the life of someone close to you that was grounded in a specific season, and use details from that season to evoke your response to that event or stage of life. Perhaps I would then write about a friend’s grief that began in late summer, or a mentor having a child in the fall.
Boy a lot has happened since the last time I wrote in here. One thing that happened is that Tiffany St. Clair told Josh to tell me she liked me. I asked Josh, like or like-like, and he said what do you think and wiggled his eyebrows. I said I don’t know and he said think about it and I said I was and he said the same thing happened to him after his dad came and talked to us about working for the C.I.A. He said, you know what b-words be like, and I nodded like I knew. Yeah, I said, B-words. Except I said the real thing.
Another thing that happened is that my Dad’s almost President. I got excited cause I thought it meant we were moving, but then Mom said we weren’t. Her and my Dad got into a big fight about it. Mom wanted to move but Dad didn’t want her to, I think cause he wants a new wife in Washington. Mom got sad cause she had already picked out new china for the White House. Dad said what’s the big deal, you can pick out new china here, but Mom said it wasn’t the same cause foreign dig-it Harrys wouldn’t eat on it. Then she stomped off to her Pilates room.
Then my Dad pulled a Filet-o-Fish out of his briefcase and yelled at me to stop looking at him. My Dad only eats McDonald’s in private. He gets sweaty when he eats it, like he’s exercising.
I’ve always admired Kathryn Haddad for her founding the Arab American literary journal Mizna but only recently had to chance to pick her brain about her own literary work. I asked her about her journey coming into her own as a playwright, “I always loved theater. My earliest and best memories were of making up plays in the basement of my parents’ house and inviting neighbors to watch. I started performing in plays in elementary school and all through high school, but did not begin to write plays until I was in my late 20s when I discovered that I had a story to tell, too.” I am so grateful that she has been part of telling Arab American stories in Minnesota and beyond.
I'd love to tell you what Yoko Tawada's "The Bath" (translated by Susan Bernofsky and Yumi Seldon) is about, but I'm not sure I can. I guess it's the story of an incompetent interpreter, but that's pretty reductive. Just know it's delightfully strange at the beginning, and it keeps getting stranger.