July Reading

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Here’s what I read in July.

A large portion of my July reading was wasted on Night Film, which I wrote about at length in my last post. The worst part about reading something that you don’t like is that it saps the enjoyment of reading anything. While I was spinning my wheels with Night Film, I found myself reaching for anything else that would give me some enjoyment–a short story I’d read many times before, a magazine that looked promising, hours and hours of stupid internet content–and felt unsatisfied by everything. As I said last post, damn you, Night Film.

1.  River Bound by Brian Simoneau

I did, however, read two enjoyable collections of poetry. The first, River Bound, is the first book by Brian Simoneau, who won the De Novio Poetry Prize in 2013. The writing in River Bound is lean and precise, with a true emotional aim that rarely misses. Simoneau writes about his ruined mill town home of Lowell, Massachusetts, the trials of young men facing failure and uncertainty, and, most eloquently, the death of his father, whose presence looms over almost every page of the book.

Consider “My Father’s Garage as Resting Place,” in which he remembers the brick building he shared with his father, now given up to the ivy and neglect of the neighborhood. Or “The Gravedigger to the Grieving Poet,” in which states

I got news for you: a word is elegy
for no life worth living. No consolation
comes, remember, unless you walk out those gates
and get on with living, flip the page, forget.

Not included in this collection is “What You Learn,” an account of the emotional toll of preparing for a loved one’s funeral, told with crystalline insight.  If you are a fan of authentic, unpretentious verse, check out River Bound, and keep an eye out for Brian Simoneau.

2. Revising the Storm by Geffrey Davis

Geffrey Davis, who teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, also writes emotionally true poems, many of which are also about his relationship with his father. Revising the Storm deals with his troubled childhood with a drug-addicted father who popped into the son’s life just often enough to remind him of the upbringing he was missing. In “What I Mean When I Say Truck Driver,” Davis narrates one of his father’s homecomings–broke, overdue, hopelessly unfit for raising his son. He writes:

…the word son suddenly heavy
in my father’s mouth, his gray coat gathered
around his shoulders: he’s never looked so small.
We could crush him–we hug him instead. 

For a good understanding of Davis’s poetic strengths, consider “What My Father Might Say, If I Let Him Speak,” or “Teaching Twelve-Year-Olds the Trail of Tears.”

3. Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and karin Morrison

Does summer vacation actually have to end? Yes, it does, and rather soon, so I might as well come to terms with it. As part of my summer work, I read Making Thinking Visible, put out by the influential folks at Harvard’s Project Zero. Making Thinking Visible offers new strategies for teachers to get their students creatively engaged in their classwork. Though I’m generally wary of trendy changes in the educational world, I have had success with “Making Thinking Visible” strategies. I like that, while they incorporate technology in their methods, they also rely heavily on markers, post-it notes, posterboards, and teamwork.

If you really are interested in this kind of stuff, you can see a project my seniors did last year that utilized a lot of what I’ve learned form Project Zero seminars. I’ll be using more of these strategies in the new school year, which starts in less than a week!

4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevky (Parts 1-5)

I also read 422 pages C and P in July. I’m finishing this novel for the third time, and I now have three copies of this book.  I’ll have more to say about it next month.

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