Tag Archives: inspiration

What I read– 2017 edition

  1. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  2. The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  4. The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  5. My Wicked Wicked Ways by Sandra Cisneros
  6. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  7. Haikus by Richard Wright (working through it still…)
  8. Blood Dazzler, Poems by Patricia Smith
  9. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  10. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  11. Seam by Tarfia Faizullah
  12. January Children by Safia Elhillo
  13. all about love by bell hooks
  14. I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men and What I Had On by Khadijah Queen
  15. Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral
  16. Ode to Walt Whitman by Frederico Garcia Lorca
  17. [insert] boy by Danez Smith
  18. Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
  19. Afterland by Mai Ver Dang
  20. Eat a Bowl of Tea by Louis Chu
  21. When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz
  22. Palm Frond with its Throat Cut by Vickie Vertiz
  23. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  24. Look by Solmaz Sharif
  25. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  26. Odalisque in Pieces by Carmen Giménez Smith

Oddly, while I am in graduate school, this list isn’t as long as I thought it’d be, but I’ve read longer sections of books, mostly poetry collections this year. I’ve also jumped around a lot online, reading Ruth Ellen Kocher, Douglas Kearney, Julie Carr, Kevah Akbar, Ruth Madievsky, more Safia Elhillo, and others. I’ve poked my head into poems by Li-Young Lee and Sun Yung Shin. Also, I’m currently reading these two poetry books: Beast/Meridian by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine. Almost done with the novel Swing Time by Zadie Smith (I don’t know y’all. I guess I’m a hater, but from the sentence level to the story, I think it’s not as good as other novels. This one could be shortened and improved. Let Carmen Maria Machado head that project, Zadie.) Non-fiction: I’m in the first sections of We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes of Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang and Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination by Avery Gordon.

The nice thing about these posts is that they are self-explanatory. For the record, I keep and share these lists for my review and accountability, not for some other motive, but if you like them, then cool!

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Reading List Review 2016

This list is shorter than I hoped, and there are two books on it I still need to finish. However, as this Gregorian calendar ends, I think of what I have done instead—not including wasting time on T.V. or browsing blogs. I have:

  • continued a messy, non-linear process of healing
  • practiced invaluable skills for texting and interpreting emojis
  • applied to too many graduate schools
  • submitted writing to a variety of journals and magazines (and gotten published)
  • purged things and limited how much I bring into my life
  • been a pretty darn good teacher.

In this listing, I won’t include the books I’ve not finished from years past. I only promise that I’ll finish them… one day! So here’s what I’ve read this year:

  1. Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat (because a friend reminded me about our work and position as migrants.)
  2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (because #BlackLivesMatter.)
  3. The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (because he made me fall in love with his mind the first time. This one just confirmed it. Really enjoyed the playfulness.)
  4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (because work. And the canon…)
  5. The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyanne Chin (trigger-warning: sexual abuse, child neglect, verbal abuse.)
  6. Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day by Nikki Giovanni (because classic poetry.)
  7. New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (one of the most painful non-fiction reads I have ever read.)
  8. Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones (OOF! get ready to feel poems in your gut.)
  9. Renaissance by Ruth Forman (because she was literally one of my teachers.)
  10. Ceremony by Leslie Silko (because a friend gifted it and someone compared it to Morrison.)
  11. In the Name of Salomé by Julia Alvarez (poetic prose, mother-daughter story, and one of my favorite novel structures.)
  12. Black Movie (chapbook) by Danez Smith (because I can hear his twang in my ear and imagine new poem forms.)
  13. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness in the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison (dear U.S., we need to talk.)
  14. The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee-Boggs (because our lives depend on it.)
  15. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (because I challenged myself to challenge the kids.)
  16. Dated Emcees by Chinaka Hodge (because it’s poetry by one of Oakland’s best poets, playwrights, rappers, black girls.)
  17. Night Sky Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong (because. Poetry. Family.)
  18. Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (because it’s Sherman, and #StandingRock, and we are feeling blue.)
  19. Bloodchild by Octavia Butler (because prophesies are needed!)
  20. I’m hopeful about fitting in another novel here.

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Poetic offerings

 

"...
you just turned eleven
i don't know what the years coming look like
soon you enter a storm
i see the rumblings on you
black child in Los Angeles
endangered species
i would call all my people to stand
n make a circle around you
until you grown
i would carry you
if you behaved
but all i can do
is give you these words
soft as the morning when no one else notice



this is to tell you i see you..."

from "Aye Nay," by Ruth Forman

 

I see you. How powerful are those words? I wish heard them growing up. I wish I knew my people made a circle around me. I wish I was given these words, “soft as the morning.”

There is a lot of fear and pain in the world today as well as this year, building upon previous centuries of it so it should be no surprise to us now. In thinking and feeling my way around what it means to be alive and principled during these times, I return to writing. And though I haven’t written many blog posts this year and few poems this week, I am working on a more long-term endeavor to dedicate time and resources to writing. As I envision the intertwining of writing and creativity in my future and feel uncertainty and excitement, I know for sure that writing (and therefore reading) has always helped me heal. Has always helped me see others. Has broken me apart to reveal our core. A core which is so shaken, so bruised. I hope we all stay in a place of softness in a time of such strident, common needs. I will share a few more poem excerpts that keep me tender and teary-eyed.

 

"Do you understand the song you've sent walking through my 
catacombs of marrow? Black parasol notes hum, dirge of the 
removed lung. I now know the promise of a body scooped 
hollow, tea lights in the the torso's cave. You've come 
inside from another country and I have so much to give."

From "Beheaded Kingdom" (part iii.), by Saeed Jones

 

"...it is the sense
that something that was alive
for a very long time
is still alive.  Not yet beaten into
submission
or oblivion
by those who kill everything
they touch
with money."

from "Loving Oakland," by Alice Walker

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Brynn Saito

Inspiration from Brynn Saito’s poetry. The Palace of Contemplating Departure, published on the Drunken Boat.

Once this poem was read aloud, I understood the craft and beauty in it. I especially like the outrageous, almost magical, imagery. Awesome. And the ending. Oomph. Just the way a poem should hit you. Push you into a pool of questions.

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