From powerful poetry to reflections on movement and pregnancy, Daily Post regulars share some of their recent favorites.
Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or a recent graduate of Blogging 101, chances are you spend quite a bit of time reading. You might be browsing the WordPress.com Reader regularly for new blogs to follow, digging into your favorite author’s latest release, or doing some research for your next post.
Whatever the source, I’m sure we all experience — and savor — those moments when we’re pulled out of the flow of reading by something unexpectedly powerful: a memorable turn of phrase, a heartwarming or gut-wrenching anecdote told particularly well, a story that, for some reason, resonates with us and with what we’re going through at that moment.
There’s a great deal of serendipity involved in those moments; you never know when you might strike gold next. Here are some of our latest finds — we hope you enjoy them (and that you share some of yours, too).
It’s been a goal of mine of late to always be reading a collection of poetry. Most recently, I picked up Vita Nova by Louise Glück and was taken by the simplicity and vulnerability of her verses — in particular the poem “Timor Mortis,” where she wrote:
I was afraid of love, of being taken away.
Everyone afraid of love is afraid of death.
Poetry that is straightforward and clear, without using fancy words or theory, often touches me the most. It’s in that clarity and minimalism that writers often polish their brightest truths.
Cheri Lucas Rowlands
When I gathered selections for a Longreads reading list on author Pico Iyer, I came upon his 2011 piece, “Where Silence Is Sacred,” in Utne Reader. He talks about growing up in chapels, and at first I thought I’d not relate to much in the piece. But he ultimately writes about the importance of stillness, even (or especially) for those who are always on the move. I absolutely love this passage, with my favorite part in bold:
I grew up in chapels, at school in England. For all those years of my growing up, we had to go to chapel every morning and to say prayers in a smaller room every evening. Chapel became everything we longed to flee; it was where we made faces at one another, doodled in our hymnbooks, sniggered at each other every time we sang about “the bosom of the Lord” or the “breast” of a green hill. All we wanted was open space, mobility, freedom—the California of the soul. But as the years went on, I started to see that no movement made sense unless it had a changelessness beneath it; that all our explorations were only as rich as the still place we brought them back to.
These words also remind me of some of my favorite sayings from Lao Tzu that I revisit often, including “be like water,” which describes how I try to live each day: fluid yet constant.
I first read Sarah Menkedick‘s “A Wilderness of Waiting” several months ago and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The ideas and images populated my mind for weeks. I could see the colors of the trees and feel the expanse of land and time. I could see the bird nests Sarah collected, some “tidy as a ballerina’s bun” as she awaited the birth of her child. I asked a friend to read it and we happily shared and remarked on passages that gave us pause. Months later, this rumination on time, pregnancy, and motherhood surfaces in my brain and I remember the beautiful imagery and reconsider my own relationship to time and to life.
Like most people, I also have systems both elaborate and simple for carving up days, weeks, and months into comprehensible and wieldy increments. In the quotidian, there is the morning coffee, for the initial writing spurt and gearing up for running, and then the whole afternoon tilts toward that early evening beer, after which the day begins its final descent into dinner and a nighttime of Indian takeout and Mad Men. To appease a larger restlessness, there is the anticipation of the end of school semesters, the summer, trips home or abroad, the return of school, the granting or not granting of fellowships, the publication or rejection of stories: imagined futures like so many bobbers on the lake of time, watched with shivery expectation.
I was saddened to hear about the passing of Svetlana Boym a few weeks ago — she was a brilliant scholar and someone whose writing I’ve always found both moving and sharp.
Going over some of her pieces online, I stumbled on a personal essay she wrote for Tablet Magazine and which I hadn’t read before, “A Soviet Drop-Out’s Journey to Freedom.” In it, she recounts her strange quest to locate a refugee camp on the outskirts of Vienna where she’d spent a few months after leaving her native USSR. Boym’s prose is always tight, but what makes her storytelling truly moving here is (paradoxically perhaps?) the utter lack of sentimentality, like in this passage, which might be my favorite:
I would like to give you a more detailed description of the camp, to provide you with snippets of conversation between the emigrants on the upper bunk beds and emigrants on the lower bunk beds, their tired jokes and discussions of the meaning of existence, to convey the anxious whispers of the social workers and armed guards, to provide lifelike images of narrow beds with broken springs, the archives of classified documents next to the trash storage, ruined warehouses in the walled monastic yard where brown pigeons pecked at the cones of the local evergreens. I’d like to share with you the taste of the sweet bread soaked in the weak tea, the homey camp pasta with Viennese sausage and on the movie screen a flickering image of the sun-kissed athletic men and women building a city on the sand with song and dance. Only I don’t remember any of that, and I’d rather not fill the gaps with a plausible fiction.
I just love the harsh sincerity of that last sentence.
What’s the last piece of writing that moved you? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!