Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Review: Heather Cadenhead's Inventory of Sleeping Things

When I first received Heather's chapbook, Inventory of Sleeping Things (Maverick Press, 2010), I almost mistook the Table of Contents for a poem because she has such interesting titles such as “The Cracking of Bones Makes the Same Sound as Falling in Love,” “A Coat on a Love Seat, Translated,” “The Difference in Being Dead and Being Alive is Motion.”  Reading these titles, I knew there would be some expected moments in this chapbook and as I read, I was right.

The first thing I noticed about Heather’s work is her ability to create fresh images out of every day words.  She writes in the first poem of the chapbook,  … but I want a sky that swallows ideas. And guess what? So do I.  Who knew I did, until she wrote that?

This is what I love about finding a new poet, the surprise of how she sees the world.  The next poem, “Idea” has another image that I haven’t been able to remove from my mind:

            I sift through it like my grandma used to sift through
            my candy bucket on Halloween.  GOOD and NOT GOOD:
            chocolate bars lined up like gravestones by the garbage bin.
            Sometimes the best ones get thrown away.

And I love this poem’s meditation on what an idea is, each stanza is a unique image of what an idea may be.  She ends with another favorite couplet:

            Finally, I put it in the closet like a finished sketchbook,
            once useful to me.  But, really, just taking up space.

The whole book is filled with these insightful lines taking our ordinary language and turning it into something extraordinary.

From “Our Share of Plums”:

My hair is a house
for your fingers.

From “Crooked Here” after next-door neighbors have installed a new light on their porch:

…Now they shine
when they move, like actors in a spotlight. Sometimes, I applaud from the window, soundless.

From “The Difference Between Being Dead & Being Alive is Motion”:

With you, the order of living things is broken…
Some mornings, you spend hours underwater.
It is a way of hiding.
You wonder at the fish…


For me, this is what I so enjoyed about this chapbook, how the poet writes to create a new and fresh look at the world and less about wanting to dissect meaning or force the reader to see her perspective.  She allows the poems to exist on their own—through images and moments—and the reader is there as the observer and allowed to establish to her own feelings and ideas. 

There is no pushing by the poet with judgmental language to make you feel one way or another, you are given a poem, a moment, a meditation, a poem spoken to another and as readers, we are there to find the freshness in the moment.  We find the surprise in the relationship and taken to a new place where, as in the poem “Dusk” someone might be in the stars tomorrow or finding out she kept that letter you told her to throw away.

It’s a gift to find a new poet.  This is my first time reading Heather’s poems and if this is just her first chapbook, I can only imagine the good things she has in front of her in the poems she will write. 

Heather Cadenhead resides in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poems have been featured in journals like Ruminate, Relief, Illuminations, and others. In 2009, her poem “The Wedding” received an Editor’s Prize from New Plains Review. In 2010, her poem “Illiterate” was nominated for Best of the Net anthology and she was featured as the June poet for Chantarelle's Notebook. She also works in publicity for Thomas Nelson Publishers. For more information, see

Heather Cadenhead


Monday, November 15, 2010

Uncommon Genius by Denise Shekerjian

Uncommon GeniusUncommon Genius by Denise Shekerjian

I have started rereading this book I purchased a few years back by Denise Shekerjian.  Oddly enough, this book was published in 1991, but I find the information just as useful today.  The book looks at quite a few MacArthur Genius grant winners, their lives, their creativity, and their thoughts.

What I like about this book is how it looks at these artists, writers, inventors, scientists, with an examining eye on creativity and creative impulse.  One of the biggest lessons I think I have received from this book is that these are creative people just living their passions, deeply.  They are not focusing on how this passion can make them 1) wealthy  2) famous  3) _____________ fill in the blank.  They are doing their art, their passion, their desires because they cannot live their lives without doing it.

There are many notes in the back of books the author read before she wrote this and it was truly amazing how much research went into this book.  These are not just basic interviews.  These are well-written accounts with background and details about MacArthur Genius Grant winners and their passions.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mary Karr - LIT : Recommended Reading

by Mary Karr Lit, A Memoir

I'm finally finishing up the memoir by Mary Karr called Lit.  It's about how she lived her life as an alcoholic for many many years.  Mary Karr is probably best known for me book, The Liars' Club: A Memoir, but also a book of poems, Sinners Welcome: PoemsViper Rum (Poets, Penguin), and The Devil's Tour.

I am listening to Lit on audiotape, which I highly recommend because it's read by Mary herself and it has that nice twang of her southern book that make it feel as if the book is being spoken just to the listener.

It's a pretty amazing story, first on how much she could drink and exist (and be productive) in her life and two, how much work it was for her to be an alcoholic.  From the hiding of beer cans and wine bottles, to buying them her alcohol from different liquor stores that no one caught on.  And if they did, no one said anything.

There was a surprising scene (well, to me) where she mentions Thomas Lux and as a writer.  Also I was interested in her process of becoming a writer which you learn throughout the book.  I have about 4 more chapters left, I think.  She's still drinking at this point and I wonder how this book will end.

For those of you who like memoir and if you are in academia or are a writer, you will probably find yourself completely lost in this story of alcoholism, creativity, being a mom, and keeping up appearances.  The behind-the-scenes look at one person's alcoholism was pretty amazing, but again, I was also amazed with how much she could get done while being an alcoholic.  A good observational account of what her life was.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

168 Hours

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam (May 2010)

So, first I need to be honest here, I am a sucker for books like these.  Anything that can help me be more "productive" or allow me to look at how I'm spending my time in life can interest me.  This means, anything from today all the way back to Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  I like books that show us new ways of looking at the world and using our time.

Second, I didn't read this book, but listened to it on audio book while I did house chores.  I must say, I felt as if I was really taking advantage of my time by listening to the book and doing housework.

Here's what I liked in the book -- The idea of "Core Competencies," that there are certain things in your life that only you do well and should focus on - your main priorities in life and your tasks in life should bring you to these goals, whether your goal is spending time with your family and raising a child well or whatever your true dreams are.  To quote her: "there should be almost nothing during your work hours - whatever you choose those to be - that is not advancing you toward your goals for the career and life you want." 

I think when the book is focused on this topic and idea, it's completely on the right path and including most people who are interested in this.  We each need to decide what is most important for us and do the things in our life that help us achieve our most important goals. If you are doing something that isn't moving you toward this, you either drop it or find someone to do it for you.

The one chapter though that really seemed a little out of it, was the chapter on outsourcing.  While I totally agree it's absolutely fine to pay someone else to do something you either dislike to you or a task that eats away at your time so you can use that time for something more important (being with your family, writing, etc.), there's a point where I thought, "Um, this book was not written with me in mind because if I did these things, while I would have X numbers of hours with my family, we'd be eating Ramen every night."  Karen a reviewer on Amazon had that same gripe as she wrote in her review that a better title for the book might be:  168 Hours: How To Buy Yourself Some Free Time On Over $100K A Year.

The other issue is that this book seems to be written to fit a certain type of person-- a female, upper-class, married woman with kids (though that said, I did see some positive reviews from men on Amazon, which was good and went against my assumption.)  A lot of the book is giving women (or men) the okay to allow someone else to do their chores, so if you're someone who feels guilty for asking someone else to do your laundry, this book will allow you to feel okay about that.  Also, if you don't have a supportive partner (or a partner at all), this book doesn't really address that concern.

But I don't just want to point out what some might see as negatives, but there was a lot of good info in this book and I did listen to it twice.  There's the time log, which I think everyone should really do if they want to see exactly where their time is going (though kind of humorously, each person who did their own time log said that "it wasn't really a normal week"), the idea of figuring out your "core competencies" and focusing your time on those (just because you're busy doesn't mean your productive), the reminder that we don't need to do it all and certain things can be done by other people so you can have your time back.

The book has a good flow to it and the author has a good way of sharing information.  I'd love to see her write a book just focusing on our priorities in life without the feeling that one needs to be making X number of dollars to cover all the costs and hiring a home staff.  Her gift is conversational voice and ease of sharing info.  And honestly, she is being true to her lifestyle and what works for her, so it's hard to dismiss her more costly ideas (aka "outsourcing) as they do work for people who have enough money to afford them.

While I can't give this book my highest recommendation, I'd recommend The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life by Cecile Andrews if you really are serious are getting your time back and changing your views on life, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think was an enjoyable listen and I appreciate that she doesn't knock moms who work, but instead suggests that work and motherhood can happen together, you just need to work around the chores of life and keep your goals and priorities in your mind as you make choices for your life.  These are the things I like hearing and remembering as I make choices in my own day and my use of time.

Here's a good article with the author, Laura Vanderkam on Happy Mom.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces by David Biespiel

Every Writer Has a Thousand FacesEvery Writer Has a Thousand Faces by David Biespiel (Kelson Books, July 2010)

This book just arrive in my mailbox to review and I am so looking forward to reading it!  Whatever is currently on my nightstand, this book will knock it off.  I'll let you know how I like it.

Here's the description on Amazon--

Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces cracks open the creative process and invites readers to take a fresh look at the mysterious pathways of the imagination. "Failure is the engine of creativity" writes poet and critic David Biespiel in this provocative book based on his 2009 lecture at the Rainier Writers' Workshop. Biespiel candidly tracks his own development as a writer and challenges traditional assumptions about writing that can stifle creativity. The liberating message: Working past the brink of failure -being free to try and discard and try again-is what allows the creative process to playfully flourish, keeping the spirit open to unexpected discoveries. Both beginning and experienced writers-as well as artists, musicians, dancers, and anyone else on a creative path-will benefit from this elegant, surprising, and fresh perspective based on methods developed exclusively at the Attic, the unique literary studio Biespiel founded in Portland, Oregon, in 1999. Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces will revolutionize the way readers look at their own creative process. It is a rich and rewarding book, a captivating glimpse into the inner life of some gifted writers and painters-and above all, a guide to a lifetime of discovery.

***It only has 114 pages, so I should finish it quickly.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm a huge Chip Kidd fan, so I was intrigued when I saw he co-authored True Prep with Lisa Birnbach, author of the 80's The Official Preppy Handbook.

As someone who once wore a blue Izod shirt under a pink Izod shirt, let's just say I *may* have read or browsed the Preppy Handbook. So there is definitely an inner-preppy part of me that is interested in this new book.

Anyhoo, here's a couple videos for you.

The first is Chip Kidd talking briefly about True Prep and how the Official Preppy Handbook changed his life, but mostly, he talks about comic book heroes and graphic art.  The second is a book trailer for True Prep.

Oh and by the way, if you do have an original copy of The Official Preppy Handbook, they are going for quite a bit of money online right now.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident & Courageous Daughter

Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous DaughtersGirls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters by Joann Deak (published 2003)

If you have a daughter coming up to the "tween" phase or in the tween phase (ages 8-12), this is a book for you as it helps explain all the things girls are going through and offers ideas on how to parent through these new waters.  

For me the book is worth it for just for the section on girl friendships and how exploring those relationships.  It discusses cliques, fitting in and how some girls use "camouflaging" as a way to protect themselves while they go through what can be an awkward stage of development.

The goal is help your daughter not lose her self or her voice in the process of this change.

Anyway, I read the book in just a few evenings and actually enjoyed it with its examples and shorter sections written in a very easy to read and digest style.

Highly recommend for anyone with a daughter between 8-12 or read this before your daughter becomes a tween!  Probably a better way to go!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Reading! Poetry!

I am so behind sharing my summer reading list with you.

Here are the book of poems I am currently reading (or have read):

Allen Braden: A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood (The VQR Poetry Series)

Elizabeth Austen: The Girl Who Goes Alone (Floating Bridge Press Chapbook)

Rachel Contreni Flynn:  Tongue

Alexandra Teague: Mortal Geography 

Arda Collins:  It Is Daylight (Yale Series of Younger Poets)

Karen Finneyfrock: Ceremony for the Choking Ghost

Robert FanningAmerican Prophet

Jennifer K. Sweeney:  How to Live on Bread and Music


Summer Reading List!

The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For LifeThe Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp - I highly recommend this book.  This is my second time reading it and I love it. While she is a dancer, her words help all artists with routine, inspiration, ideas.  Probably one of my all time favorite books.


The Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide to Fitting Creativity into Your LifeThe Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide to Fitting Creativity into Your Life by Shona Cole.   A great book for people who want to try new ways to create such as photography, collage, and even poetry gets a mention!  I love that she wrote this book while being the mother of 5 (five!) kids.  Inspiring!

The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us: Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons (I'm enjoying this!)


Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World by Mary Pipher  (Finished!  Loved this.)  It's interesting because it goes into how after Mary became a huge success and so well-known with Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, she basically had a nervous breakdown.

For anyone who has dealt with anxiety or can become easily overwhelmed, this is an incredible look at how for some of us, there is "too much" and we can feel or get overloaded.


Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein  (had a hard time getting into this and set it down, will try to pick it up later...)


Related Posts with Thumbnails