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Roundtable: The Last Thing I Read that Moved Me

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).

erica varleseErica Varlese

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 rowlandsCheri 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.

stevensKrista Stevens

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.

benBen Huberman

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!

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  1. writing and reading have been my release since I was a young teen, I recently picked up the book “creative visualization” by Shakti Gawain and I have been moved by every chapter. I have been also repeating a verse that is quoted from this book lately and its been my personal mantra for life.. the quote is from the bible Matthew 7:7,8 ” Ask, and it shall be given to you; Seek, and you shall find;
    Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

    For every one that asketh, reciveth;
    and he that seeketh, findeth;
    and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

    Liked by 7 people

  2. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. For me, this is a life-changing book. Excerpt: “When we feel farthest from our purpose, we are actually already on the path, headed in the right direction. This means when you are confused and failing, when all seems lost and you are just about to give up, you are closer to your destiny than you realize. The message of the pivot is that what looks like failure now is preparation for what’s to come, as long as you don’t give up.” Here is my review: http://arhtisticlicense.com/2015/07/01/what-is-my-calling/ .

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Blaze of memory by Nalini Singh, this a Psy-Changeling Series, eventhough it is fiction the story itself moves me into crying. The struggles they both face amidst the danger itself. You have to really read the series in order to understand where I’m coming from. Thank You! A must read book!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I have just read Dr Caroline Leaf’s book Switch on Your Brain, and am

    astounded at the simplicity with which she writes so that even I can get a
    glimpse into neuroscience. What is more remarkable is that she lines up
    the book with the Bible and this just reveals to me again how magnificently
    and creatively we human beings have been intricately made, with
    intelligence and with purpose. I stand amazed ! Like Krista I was
    impressed by the writing of Sarah Menkedick on time. She really is a good writer. Lately I seem to be spending time on Longs reader and often come
    across really good writing, new concepts and thoughts. Very “broadening” Thanks Ben for this interesting post.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. I’ve been going through the worst time of my life so i made a blog days ago a reading, writing and just pretending to be them for a minute takes me away from my reality nice to read good blog post like these thanks so much

    Liked by 5 people

  6. ”By the time you read this” by Lola Jaye When Lois Bates is handed the manual, she can barely bring herself to read it as the pain of losing her dad is still so raw. Yet soon his advice is guiding her through every stage of her life – from first love and relationships to her career. The manual can never be a substitute for having her dad back, but through his words Lois learns to start living again, and discovers that happiness is waiting around the corner..The book made ​​me cry , all the recommendations , this year going to the Book Fair in Belgrade, and I’ll see what offer , hahah.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I am very excited about this post because I write a lot of poetry myself. I haven’t published any of it because I am one of those people with a lot of hobbies that can be turned into profit. That is what my blog is about. Most people don’t read poetry because they don’t know how to read it in the rhythm that we intended it to be read in. Most poetry have to be read in a rhythm that only we as poets understand. That is why poetry readings are so important. Another person can then hear its intent by the rhythm of the author. To simply say the words on the page would not be poetic and may confuse the listener.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. By the way! There is a poem that I love more than any poem that I have ever read, entitled…”The Ballad of Johhnie Appleseed. I learned it in elementary school, and kept it in my head ever since. “Through the Appalachian Vally with his kit and buckskin bag. Johnnie Appleseed went trotting past. This poem makes my hear happy for some reason. I love it. I still remember the entire poem.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I recently read “Einstein- is life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson. A truly amazing and inspirational book. Dr. Einstein once said to a little girl, who came to ask him for help in maths, “Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics; I can assure you that mine are even greater”

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I was always full of complexes and it took me many years to be completely comfortable in my skin. One of my friends recommended me the book ‘The Te Of Piglet’ by Benjamin Hoff. He told me that he sees me as being Piglet and ohhh he was so right. I bough it, I opened it and I saw this: ” ‘It is hard to be brave,’ said Piglet, sniffing slightly, ‘when you’re only a Very Small Animal.’ Rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said: ‘It is because you are a very small animal that you will be Useful in the adventure before us.” You will not believe me that by reading that I felt ‘cured’. But you should believe it, because it happened! The force that this book gave me is still hard for me to understand but it deeply changed my perception about myself! In a positive way.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Just finished ‘The Dog Stars’ by Peter Heller – very compelling post apocalyptic survival tale. I connected and was moved by the grieving for those who died and his searching for something unknown. His loneliness is deeply moving as his connections with what is left of the environment after a flu pandemic and blood disease wiped out 99% of world. The style is very sparse and spiky at the beginning – so difficult for me to be drawn in but at some point I realised I had to keep reading and finish it tonight. What shall I read next?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. As I’ve mentioned before (see my blog) the longish short story by Tolstoy – The Death of Ivan Ilyich is by far the most moving story about mortality, self-forgiveness and redemption I’ve ever read.

    Liked by 3 people