Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 3, 2019


Mulholland Books: Heaven, My Home (Highway 59 Mystery #2) by Attica Locke

Forge Books: Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Flame Tree Press: Safe-Cracking Summer Reads - Click to request a copy!

Ingram: Count on Us to Help You Never Miss a Beat - Learn More

Del Rey Books: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Other Press: NVK by Temple Drake

Sourcebooks Fire: I'm Not dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Quotation of the Day

'A Book Is Able to Bypass Distance'

"As an individual, my reach is limited, but books don't have that problem. They're not quiet. A book is able to bypass distance, it can travel in your backpack across borders and doorframes to reach anyone and everyone. All it needs is a push. For me, books bypassed parents who couldn't understand them and built a love and curiosity for a child who couldn't live without them. When working as a bookseller in Forbidden Planet, I saw that books could bypass all ability barriers; every race, gender, ability and orientation passed in and out of the store, all of them leaving with books I'd recommend and was sure they'd love. But as I sold to this abundant audience, it just made me more aware that there were so many gaps in the experiences our books explored....

"I'm hoping that, both for the marginalized and the majority--the people who might one day suffer oppression and the ones who might fall to being oppressors--our shelves can show a true reflection of our world today and the world we want to see in the future. I suppose my biggest hope from this endeavor is that very soon Round Table Books won't just be considered an 'inclusive' bookshop but simply... a bookshop."

--Khadija Osman, who runs the new diversity-focused children's bookshop Round Table Books in Brixton Village, London (via the Bookseller)

Soho Crime: The Second Biggest Nothing (Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery #14) by Colin Cotterill


News

B&T Retail Shutdown: Ingram, Bookazine Offer Indies Help

Indie booksellers continue to react with shock and dismay to the news that Baker & Taylor will cease selling to bookstores. And trade bookstores aren't the only ones affected. As Comics Beat points out, "B&T is one of the main graphic novel distributors to comic shops and bookstores."

The changes will cost 244 jobs when B&T closes its warehouse in Bridgewater, N.J., and likely a similar number of jobs when the Reno, Nev., warehouse is closed. Publishers are concerned, too, worrying that they will be hit with major returns as B&T shuts down sales to bookstores.

Other wholesalers expressed their concern and intention to aid booksellers who need their help.

Shawn Morin

Shawn Morin, CEO and president of Ingram Content Group, said, "We certainly understand the angst indies are feeling right now. Change is really difficult, and this industry has changed a lot in the last few decades. We've been here almost 50 years now. We've weathered a lot of changes, and we're dedicated to helping indies weather changes, too. We're committed to help them get through that." Morin added Ingram has had several operational meetings to discuss specific measures to help indie booksellers.

For Ingram, he continued, "it's about our commitment to customers, and we know we have to earn that business every day." He emphasized that company's customer services and credit people are ready to help retailers. "We're here for the indies. We only succeed if our partners succeed."

Richard Kallman

Richard Kallman, COO of Bookazine, commented: "We are saddened to learn about the exit of Baker & Taylor from the retail book trade, as well as the loss of such dedicated and talented employees who have served our industry for many years. My brother and I are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from both the publishing and bookselling communities. We will make every effort to step in and fill the void this leaves in the wholesale segment while continuing to provide the same high level of service we do today. It has been an honor, as third-generation book wholesalers in business since 1929, for Bookazine to serve our wonderful customers around the world."


MPIBA: Publishers, promote your books to hundreds of thousands of consumers - Reserve space in the 2019 holiday gift guide (print & digital catalogs)


Shakespeare & Co. Coming to Lower Manhattan in 2020

Shakespeare & Co. plans to open a fifth location next year, in the Brookfield Place development on Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan.

The roughly 2,300-square-foot store will sell fiction, nonfiction and children's books, and like the other Shakespeare & Co. locations, will have a cafe and an Espresso Book Machine. The store will host weekly events in the bookshop itself, while larger events will be held on a monthly basis in Brookfield Place's Winter Garden communal area.

Dane Neller, CEO of Shakespeare & Co., said: "We are thrilled to be opening our first downtown store at Brookfield Place. We look forward to serving the Brookfield customer, which represents a vibrant mix of local residents, office tenants, and tourists."

At present, there are two Shakespeare & Co. locations in New York City and one in Philadelphia, Pa., which opened in summer 2018. A Greenwich Village location is planned to open later this year.


Oxford University Press: Hitler by Peter Longerich


Kane Press Buys Boyds Mills Press

Kane Press has bought Boyds Mills Press and its affiliated imprints, Calkins Creek and WordSong, from Highlights for Children and has renamed itself Boyds Mills & Kane. It also includes StarBerry Books. Altogether the new company has nearly a thousand titles in print, including picture books and chapter books, novels, nonfiction, poetry, history, STEAM, mystery, learning to read, social studies connections and more.

Boyds Mills Press, whose formal business name is Thinkingdom, Ltd., is owned by Thinkingdom Media Group, a publicly traded publishing and media group with headquarters in Beijing. Boyds Mills Press will be overseen by president Leying Jiang, and Juliana Lauletta will serve as publisher. Lauletta commented: "As Boyds Mills & Kane, we are committed to working closely with our talented authors, illustrators, and agents, and to continuing our mission of creating amazing books for kids, young adults, and kids-at-heart."

Kane Press was founded in 1992 by Joanne Kane and publishes fiction and nonfiction books for children ages 2 to 11.

Boyds Mills Press was founded in 1990 by Kent Brown, grandson of the founders of Highlights for Children, to add trade book publishing to the company's portfolio. Highlights for Children decided to sell the Boyds Mills Press imprints because, it said, it wants to have "an increased focus on its growing branded business." The press has published picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction books that focus on storytelling, imaginative illustration, and strong characters.

Calkins Creek, founded in 2004, publishes nonfiction and historical fiction that introduces children to the many people, places, and events that have shaped U.S. history, presenting multiple points of view through original and extensive research.

WordSong, established in 1990, is dedicated to publishing poetry for children.

StarBerry Books was created in 2018 to encourage diversity and children's natural curiosity with picture books created by authors and artists from all over the globe.


Old Town Books to Stay Open in Alexandria, Va.

Old Town Books, an independent bookstore that debuted last November as a six-month pop-up in Alexandria, Va., will stay open for at least another year in the same location, Alexandria Living reported.

The all-new, general interest bookstore resides in a warehouse building that dates back to the 1790s. Owner Ally Kirkpatrick, an Alexandria native, opened the pop-up store in collaboration with an Alexandria Economic Development Partnership program called Pop-Up ALX, which helps small businesses open in available spaces without having to make an initial long-term investment.

In an e-mail to customers announcing the news, Kirkpatrick said she's still on the hunt for a more permanent location, particularly one with space for a cafe, but in the immediate future customers can "expect to see us expand our free literary arts programming, invite even more of your favorite authors to town, and produce our first summer writers festival."


Obituary Note: Wayson Choy

Canadian author Wayson Choy, whose 1995 novel The Jade Peony "was not only an exceptional piece of writing, but one that depicted a family that many readers recognized: new Canadians, non-white, living in the inner city, dealing with racism and struggling to balance tradition with hopes for a more modern life in the New World," died April 27, the Globe and Mail reported. He was 80. The Jade Peony won a Trillium Award (co-winner with Margaret Atwood) and the City of Vancouver Book Award.

"Something that seemed very familiar opened up a world of possibility for me," said novelist Jen Sookfong Lee, who read the book in her teens. "Without him, there's no me. There's no [author] Lindsay Wong. There's none of us."

Martha Kanya-Forstner, editor-in-chief, Doubleday Canada and McClelland & Stewart, observed: "That book broke such ground and made a community seen and heard and understood.... I never knew him not to offer a blurb or not to go to someone's reading or to champion someone's work. Now there are generations of writers that will be able to trace something back to an act of kindness on Wayson's part."

Choy's second novel, All That Matters, also won a Trillium Prize and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize. His other books include Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying and Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood. In 2005, he was named to the Order of Canada, and in 2015 he received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in B.C.

Sean Cranbury, executive director of BC Book Prizes, told the Star that Choy wrote about Chinatown in ways that hadn’t been done before: "He encouraged people to bring their voices forward and not be afraid to write their own stories. The fact this news shakes the community so deeply is a testament to how important his work was and what it meant to people."


Notes

Image of the Day: Greetings from Minnesota!

Tuesday night, Magers & Quinn, Minneapolis, Minn., hosted Louis Bayard, author of Courting Mr. Lincoln (Algonquin Books). Pamela Klinger-Horn and Ellie Temple of Excelsior Bay Books were also in attendance, and they brought along a sign to say hello to Craig Popelars and Michael McKenzie from Algonquin. Pictured: Klinger-Horn; Bayard; Annie Metcalf, Magers & Quinn marketing coordinator; and Temple.


Gibson's Bookstore Is Concord's 'Small Business of the Year'

Congratulations to Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., which has been given a Pinnacle Award for Small Business of the Year by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes "businesses and individuals who have demonstrated professional excellence and commitment to the Greater Concord Chamber and the community." The four category winners will be honored June 6 at the Pinnacle Awards Luncheon.

"We are delighted to receive the 2019 Pinnacle Award for Small Business of the Year!" Gibson's posted on Facebook. "Many thanks to Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce and the Concord Community for this honor!"


Sidewalk Chalkboard of the Day: Quail Ridge Books

Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., said farewell to April showers with a new sidewalk chalkboard message: "Hooray, hooray for the first day of May! Outdoor reading begins today!"


Personnel Changes at DK

Michael Ploetz has joined DK as associate marketing manager, children's. He was previously a marketing & publicity coordinator at Little Bee Books.



Media and Movies

TV: Nine Perfect Strangers

Nicole Kidman is reuniting with Big Little Lies showrunner David E. Kelley and producer Bruna Papandrea for another Liane Moriarty novel project. The Wrap reported that Hulu has ordered a straight to series adaptation of Nine Perfect Strangers, which will star Kidman and is expected to debut in late 2020.

Kelley will co-write and serve as co-showrunner on the series alongside screenwriter John Henry Butterworth. Kidman and Per Saari of Kidman's Blossom Films banner and Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Casey Haver of Made Up Stories also executive produce, as will Moriarty, whose novel The Hypnotist's Love Story, starring Heather Graham, is also currently in the pilot stage at ABC.


Books & Authors

Awards: Wellcome Book; Jhalak; Prix Voltaire

Will Eaves won the £30,000 (about $39,075) Wellcome Book Prize, which "celebrates exceptional works of fiction and nonfiction that illuminate the many ways that health and medicine touch our lives," for his novel Murmur, inspired by the life and legacy of Alan Turing.

Chair of judges Elif Shafak called Murmur "a hugely impressive book that will grip you in the very first pages, break your heart halfway through, and in the end, strangely, unexpectedly, restore your faith in human beings, and their endless capacity for resilience. By the time you finish the book you might fall in love with not only the story and the storytelling, but with the exquisite craft behind it. Every sentence, each character... is well-thought, beautifully written and yet there is a quiet modesty all the way through that is impossible not to admire. Whether he intended this or not, Will Eaves has given us a future classic and for this, we are grateful to him."

---

Guy Gunaratne won the the £1,000 (about $1,300) Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Color for his Man Booker prize-nominated debut In Our Mad and Furious City, the Guardian reported. The prize was established in 2016 to recognize the best book by a British or British-resident black, Asian and minority ethnic author.

"Daring and lively to the point where the words overflow the page and hum in your head, the still measured reflection of contemporary London life feels deeply personal and revealing, fully confident and free from compromise," judge Anna Perera said of the winning book.

Judge Siana Bangura said it "threw me into a warm and familiar nostalgia for a London I know well," while Sabrina Mahfouz called it "the London book of our lifetime.... As I finished it, the only solace was knowing that it is Gunaratne's debut--we have so much more to look forward to from him."

---

Imprisoned Egyptian publisher and bookseller Khaled Lutfi won the £7,500 (about $9,770) International Publishers Association's Prix Voltaire, which supports defenders of freedom to publish. The Bookseller reported that on February 4, Lutfi, "founder of Cairo's Tanmia Bookshop and Publishing, was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of divulging military secrets and spreading rumours for having distributed an Arabic translation of the book The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel by Uri Bar-Joseph."

The IPA Freedom to Publish Committee's decision to give Lutfi the prize "honors his bravery in publishing despite the risks involved." Committee chair Kristenn Einarsson said "the international publishing community stands with Khaled Lutfi. We must support Lutfi's fellow publishers in Egypt so that his imprisonment does not lead to fear and self-censorship in a country of such rich literary heritage." José Borghino, IPA secretary general, added: "IPA calls on President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to grant Khaled Lutfi a presidential pardon."


Reading with Meredith May

photo: Matthew May

Meredith May is a journalist, fifth-generation beekeeper and co-author of I, Who Did Not Die. During her 16-year career at the San Francisco Chronicle, her reporting won the PEN USA Literary Award for Journalism, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and feature writing awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Press. Her San Francisco Chronicle series about an Iraqi boy wounded during the second Gulf War was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. Her memoir, The Honey Bus (Park Row, April 2, 2019), reveals the life lessons she learned in her grandfather's Big Sur bee yard that rescued her from a difficult childhood. She lives in San Francisco, where she rows on the Bay and cares for several beehives in a community garden.

On your nightstand now:

The stack is getting perilously high for earthquake country. I'm reading Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and I don't want it to ever end. I love oddball narrators with snarky inner monologues. Waiting in the wings: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, The Editor by Steven Rowley, From Where I Sit: Essays on Bees, Beekeeping, and Science by Mark L. Winston, The Library Book by Susan Orlean and The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell. I could keep going, but it feels like I should stop now.

Favorite book when you were a child:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. There's something about a story of a young girl who runs away from home with her kid brother to a more beautiful place--in this case the Metropolitan Museum of Art--that severely appealed to me. To this day I can't look at the coins in a public fountain and not fantasize about fishing them out to use for survival purposes.

Your top five authors:

Maya Angelou: poet, activist, opera singer, playwright, memoirist, journalist, dancer, actor, movie producer, professor, public speaker, editor. Drop the mic.

Laura Hillenbrand: I read Seabiscuit in my MFA program and walked around stunned for weeks afterward. I kept Unbroken by my keyboard while I wrote the book about the two POWs who survived the Iran-Iraq War. Everything Hillenbrand writes turns into a movie because she's so good at making real events seem unreal.

John Steinbeck: required reading at Carmel Middle School, but we could understand Steinbeck because of his beautifully simple sentence construction. I remember telling Grandpa about the characters in Cannery Row, and he started telling me personal stories about Steinbeck, Doc Ricketts and the "hobos" who lived in Del Monte forest. He knew the people in my book!

Doug Crandell: if J.D. Salinger were a dirt-poor Midwestern farmer, he'd be Doug Crandell. The way Crandell compassionately sketches his dysfunctional family in personal essays in the Sun magazine, and in his memoir, The All-American Industrial Motel, is sublime and loaded with dark humor.

Flannery O'Connor: her books are the most beat-up on my shelf from over-use. I read her every year for inspiration. Her ear for dialogue is unparalleled. She must have been secretly spying on everybody.

Book you've faked reading:

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I was a bit of a reading-faker in high school English class, and could list several more titles here. I developed a cheating system with my best friend Maile. She read half the book, I read the other half, and we filled each other in before each test. The way we saw it, we were conserving precious time needed to watch boys surf. This is by no means a reflection on the indefatigable Mr. Bob Walch, a passionate teacher who got me excited about writing, despite myself.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid, a memoir by Joshua Safran. When Safran was small, his counterculture mother kept him out of school to hitchhike across the American West searching for utopia. Living off the grid means growing up in vans, communes, buses, shacks, tents and, at the lowest point, a lean-to on a forest stump without water, electricity or a toilet. In an incredible twist that's not in the book, Safran survives to become an attorney and a nationally recognized champion for women's rights, whose successful fight to get a wrongfully imprisoned domestic violence survivor set free was turned into the documentary, Crime After Crime. Safran is just a gold-star badass human.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Dreaming in Color by Kaffe Fassett. Kaffe was one of the children who grew up at the world-famous Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, embraced by the artists and bohemians who gathered there. The cover shows him sitting in a riot of color--surrounded by quilts and tapestries he designed in his signature style of pink on red on pink on orange on florals on top of more flowers. His paintings, his sweaters, his needlepoint, his quilts and mosaics always stop me in my tracks, make me go into a zombie state and reach for my wallet. The book has 500 images of his work that are so sensory I could swear it's scratch-'n-sniff. Dreaming in Color is an autobiography, and I'm ashamed to say I haven't moved past looking at the pictures, even though I've had the book for several years. I keep it on the coffee table to remind me how to stay vivid.

Book you hid from your parents:

No one was paying attention to what I was reading, but I did feel the need to hide Wifey by Judy Blume, a 1978 novel about extramarital affairs that had S-E-X in it! In middle school, we girls would gather in the bathroom to read it aloud and highlight the juicy bits. That one furred copy got passed around, and when it was my turn to keep it for a few days, I felt the need to read it under the covers at night with a flashlight.

Book that changed your life:

There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz. It's a narrative nonfiction story of two young brothers living in a notorious Chicago housing project in the 1980s when crack cocaine was big. I had never seen powerful long-form, immersive reporting like that before. The book opened my eyes to the insidiousness of generational poverty and privilege, and to the duty journalists have to push for human rights. Kotlowitz influenced my reporting, and after reading his book, I began writing about a dilapidated government housing project in Richmond, Calif., where Section 8 tenants were suing to force basic repairs such as working heat and running water.

Favorite line from a book:

"I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction." --Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Five books you'll never part with:

A Country Year by Sue Hubbell: on the heels of a divorce, Hubbell inherits a large farm and beekeeping operation, falls in love with the bees and learns she can manage on her own.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: her memoir of floating along behind wayward, alcoholic parents and living to tell about it is masterful.

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer: a fatherless boy who is raised by the uncles and their fellow drunks in the neighborhood bars. I will never forget the scenes of him listening to his DJ father on the radio as a substitute for actually knowing him.

The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Again, sorry, Mr. Walch. I think I only breezed through half of it.


Book Review

Review: The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984 by Dorian Lynskey (Doubleday, $28.95 hardcover, 368p., 9780385544054, June 4, 2019)

Dorian Lynskey (33 Revolutions Per Minute) takes a close look at an ubiquitous classic with The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984. The novel was a sensation and a controversy when it was published in 1949; again as the year 1984 approached and passed; again in recent years, and at every time in between. Lynskey sets out to examine its ancestry in utopian and dystopian literatures, in Orwell's experiences during the Spanish Civil War and wartime Great Britain, and the political and cultural responses it's drawn.

Lynskey spends much time contextualizing outside material: he devotes whole chapters to the literary works of Edward Bellamy, H.G. Wells and Yevgeny Zamyatin. Orwell's service in the Spanish Civil War, his relationships with other writers and his personal and professional history necessarily figure as background material in Part One of The Ministry of Truth.

Part Two covers the world's reaction to 1984, all the way through the election of the Unites States' 45th president. In 1984, the novel surfaced not only in documentaries and articles, but also in a comedy sketch by Steve Martin and Jeff Goldblum, in carpet advertisements, on Cheers and in Charlie Brown--Lynskey writes that it "had mutated from a novel into a meme." He refers to Margaret Atwood, Rebecca Solnit, Neil Postman and Orwell's son, Richard Blair. He covers some of the books' various interpretations: Atwood features as the "most prominent advocate" of the Appendix Theory, which asserts that 1984's Appendix, covering Newspeak from a date apparently far beyond 1984, "is a text within the world of the novel, with an unidentified author," thereby offering a decisive reading.

This wide-ranging and thorough study requires a careful and patient reader. Even one familiar with both Orwell's work and early communist and socialist histories will need to read closely. Lynskey offers his own appendix: a chapter-by-chapter précis of 1984, which is recommended for everyone. The requisite attention will be well rewarded, as The Ministry of Truth is not only enthralling and research-rich, but often laugh-out-loud funny. When 1984's American publishers wrote to J. Edgar Hoover hoping for a back-cover endorsement, Lynskey writes, "Hoover declined the request and instead opened a file on Orwell." Lynskey's voice is impassioned and self-aware, and he has an eye for the absurd (as any student of Orwell's should).

Among Lynskey's conclusions is that 1984 is "a vessel into which anyone could pour their own version of the future." Too often it has been mistaken for a prophecy (and critics then argue about how successful it has been in that regard), rather than understood as Orwell intended: to offer a possible future as motivation to work against that possibility. Lynskey argues that such persistent and diverse misreadings are possible because the novel leaves room to become essentially whatever the reader wants it to be, or most fears. This is part of why 1984 remains as forceful and compelling as ever. The Ministry of Truth is a necessary guide. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This funny, wise, well-researched study sits at the intersection of biography of Orwell's life, literary criticism of 1984 and social commentary on literature's role in life.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Poetry Month & the Art of Paying Attention

People often say that the greatest pleasures of traveling are finding a sage hidden behind weeds or treasures hidden in trash, gold among discarded pottery. Whenever I encountered someone of genius, I wrote about it in order to tell my friends. --Bashō, "The Knapsack Notebook" (translated by Sam Hamill).

Ross Gay

I haven't written about National Poetry Month this year, but that's not because I wasn't paying attention. Bashō's works taught me how to do that a long time ago. In fact, the art of paying attention has been on my mind frequently since last fall, when I heard award-winning poet Ross Gay speaking at the Heartland Fall Forum in Minneapolis about his essay collection, The Book of Delights.

"People often ask me, 'How is it that, in the midst of things, you're writing about joy?' " he said. "And my response is always--and certainly relative to events now--along the lines of: There's nothing more important than thinking about and writing about and meditating on what you love. So, this book is kind of a gesture toward that, or an exercise in cultivating the possibility of delight, building the possibility of delight."

Bashō's travel journal entries and haiku have long been among my "pay attention" readings. What Gay describes as his "essayettes" are a new addition on that particular bookshelf.

"It didn't take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle," Gay writes, adding that he "felt my life to be more full of delight. Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight."

His essay "House Party" casts a delightfully skeptical eye on theories about the presumed hatred, death and/or uselessness of poetry in our world. He cites numerous examples to the contrary, adding: "So, truth be told, I give almost nary a shit about the hatred of poetry given the abundant and diverse and and daily evidence to the contrary."

I agree. You just have to pay attention.

Tracy K. Smith

As Poetry Month began, U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith told NPR's All Things Considered: "You're not arguing something down when you're talking about a poem. You're saying, let me listen to this. Let me think about how it speaks to me. Let me think about how I feel different as a result of what you've just said. And I think that's a really healthy way of approaching other people, especially people whose perspectives might be different from yours."

Danez Smith

Wrapping up the #NPRPoetryMonth initiative, guest poetry curator Danez Smith shared some of their favorite original, tweet-length poems written by listeners. They observed that the "reason I think so many of us come to poetry or writing or any type of expression that we have for ourselves because we have those sharp words, those sharp ideas that hurt to keep them inside. And eventually, something, whether it be the page or the tweet or the microphone or the dance floor, something begs us to finally let it out, even if letting it out is saying, I have been silenced or I don't know how to use my voice. Even that first utterance is such a powerful statement."

This week I noticed a tweet alerting me to Poetry Day Ireland, which I'll confess I'd never heard of: "To mark #PoetryDayIRL tomorrow, Thursday 2 May, poets across the world will be leaving literary labels in unexpected places for the unsuspecting, to delight, surprise, engage and gladden a few hearts so anyone can take a poem home. Keep your eyes peeled!"

In the Maldives yesterday, "Barefoot Bookseller" Aimée Johnston tweeted: "Celebrating #PoetryDayIrl by reading The Maldive Shark to sharks in the Maldives. Were not huge fans. This limited edition of-course-I-dropped-it copy is now on sale in the Barefoot Bookshop. Get it before it dries out!"

How about poetry for the mind and body? John O'Donnell and Stephen Connolly led a 5K "Poetry Run" featuring "poetic pitstops around Dublin." It started at Run Logic shop with a reading of Peter Sirr's "Essex Street" and ended there as well with a reading of Colette Bryce's "Great North."

Fifteen years ago, I invoked the spirit of Bashō in the first entry for my blog Fresh Eyes: A Bookseller's Journal: "In a way, this blog will be a kind of travel journal. Reading is as much a journey as any package tour European vacation--six hundred pages in six days; if it's Tuesday, this must be Chapter 12.... Thoreau once wrote that he could travel the world without leaving Concord, or something like that. Sam Hamill's The Essential Bashō is an excellent collection of writing by the 17th century Japanese poet, whose 'The Knapsack Notebook' and 'Narrow Road to the Interior' are travel writing templates."

"Nothing's worth noting that is not seen with fresh eyes," Bashō observed. And: "Yesterday's self is already worn out!" His writing blends random observations, poetry and sharp imagery, all of which he captured during travels through Japan and strung together like prayer beads. "Fresh eyes. Let's begin the trip," I wrote in 2004. Bashō, and many others, remind me to pay attention along the way.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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