NEWSDAY TUESDAY (back in action).

 

I’m of two ways about this court punishment that we’ll talk about today.

From the human perspective, I’m all about this punishment right here.  For a summary of the article: five teens were given a reading books punishment for vandalizing an old building with Swastikas and “White Power.”  The “old building” was the original “Ashburn Colored School” which makes the boys’ vandalism that much more disgusting.

Their punishment from a judge (the judge’s mother is a librarian):

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Thanks, CNN. 

What I didn’t appreciate about this article was that the attorney said the boys, “didn’t know what they were doing” and they were “just pranksters.”  Nah, fam.  That’s unacceptable today.  In Common Core, WWII is mentioned multiple times, across grade levels and depths.  I did everything I could to get Maus or Night into my lessons every year I taught 9th or 10th grade English.  I harped over plans using Primo Levi’s poetry every year and my students came in with a range of knowledge on the Holocaust.

However, saying that these boys were “pranksters” is unacceptable when they blatantly disrespected, not only the African American students that attended and supported that school, but African Americans of today and the past, and also every Holocaust victim and survivor.  Oh, and we should probably mention every non-white person ever.  They knew exactly what they were doing.

Let’s not sugar coat for the good ol’ white boys. 

I’m real sick of the phrase “boys will be boys” with all of it’s root depth.

This isn’t even the reason I chose to write about this for Newsday Tuesday.  While I believe this is a phenomenal punishment that has the ability to open doors for these boys across cultures, schisms, and clearly blurred lines, I also just think back to the idea of punishment and the affect of rewards and punishment on the psyche.

I never punished a child with writing in my classroom. Because by making writing a punishment, it immediately eliminates it as a value.  I encouraged my sister-in-law to stop using handwriting practice to punish my nephew because by making it something he’s disciplined with, he will never connect in his brain that this is a privilege, a right, an honor, a truly noble act of putting words on a page.

We’ve all heard the stories of having to write the same sentence over and over as a punishment.  Heck, Harry Potter had to write the sentence with his own blood.

This has been scientifically proven to be a bad idea.  I fear the same is true for reading.  Right now, our students live in a culture where neither reading or writing are valued.  Kids come into my classroom every year and announce, “I HATE reading” on the first day and my job as a teacher is to slowly chip away at this notion.  I do it in numerous ways, like all teachers, in hopes that by the end of the year, each child has found at least one redeeming quality about being a book nerd.

There have been countless articles about the amount of television the POTUS watches and the very few articles, and books, he reads.  He has even come out and said he doesn’t read. I wouldn’t go as far to say he isn’t “intellectual” because he doesn’t read, because come on, that’s a ridiculous blow, but I think reading brings about a certain level of humanity to a person’s world.  I’m sure there are brilliant math minds, or science minds out there that don’t value the beautiful poetics of Sylvia Plath, or Shakespeare, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t intellectual, or that they don’t see the essential worth of reading a good book, or a poignant political poem, or a well-said essay.

We also live in a world of “instant gratification.”  When you can watch a thirty minute show and feel entertained, it takes students a lot more patience, and a lot more long-term thought to follow a book through to finish.  Just think about the pacing of a novel, not everything is packed with action and not everything is meant to drive the story.  Sometimes those small moments are the most meaningful for the reader, but have little to no affect on the plot.  Without the value of books, where are our students learning empathy? And how can we push them to understand that books have both entertainment value and worldly value.  I’m not sure that’s through punishment.

While this punishment is going to open these boys up to new worlds, new ways of thinking, and *fingers crossed* new perspectives on their water, and the lives of those that also exist in the world, it might not keep them reading, or sustain the habit. The intrinsic value of reading a good, good book, might be missing here.  I worry that training these boys to see reading as only a means to finish a court sentence will make them even less likely to take these books (and the stories within) seriously.  I hope that some of their essays about each book get around to the news channels as well.  I would like to know the scope to which they take to each book, the corners-turned, the pages dog-eared and quoted, and the means with which they use the author’s words.

Yet again, here’s to hoping. Join the debate on Baby Center if you’re feeling heated. People are doing punishments in Iran like this one too.  Reddit also got a tiny (HA) discussion going on this one.

(Side note: I literally got distracted by a Tweet while writing this.  Today is Sylvia Plath’s death anniversary and someone tweeted that a new book of her letters is forthcoming, but didn’t tweet the publisher so I could ask for an ARC. BAH.  Then I spent like ten minutes googling and I think it’s Faber & Faber).

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The BEST Best New Poets

I’m bias.

Best New Poets 2014

Best New Poets 2014

Dorianne Laux was my professor for advanced poetry (3 times because I’m an overachiever) in college and so any poems that she chooses, I will probably prefer as well.

Even so, I found that this poetry collection was a really wonderful “sign of the times.” Cue Ace of Base here for the beats.  There are poems about the future, NASA, the metric system, first person confessional via metaphor, black girls, black girls who riot, guns, gun rights, holiday season (late fall edition), the words of grandparents, reasons why we can’t sleep at night, orgasms (female form), the blood vessels of a mother doing the exact opposite of developing cancer, the nature vs. nurture of marriage, burial rights, rights of passage, writes of passage, a girl in the middle of a night viewfinder on a sniper, the idea that fields grow up, whispers from the earth’s heart.

Estetinė visuomenės saviraiška chorinio meno procese: ANKSTYVASIS CHORINIS SINKRETIZMAS (Creative Commons)

Estetinė visuomenės saviraiška chorinio meno procese: ANKSTYVASIS CHORINIS SINKRETIZMAS (Creative Commons)

If I haven’t exhausted a list on the life that we lead (as a collective American whole) then I’m not sure what else would need to be added.  This just proves that poetry really is the chorus of the human world.  In Greek and Roman dramas, the chorus might seem to a modern reader like a break to the play’s action, but truly the chorus is the mirror of the play.  The chorus is the way that we look at the characters through the lens of a collective whole, a society, a viewpoint that’s beyond just being an audience member, but instead a participant.  That is poetry.

Coin Vortex Funnel Spiral Wishing Well-Great For Charities & Fundraiser

Coin Vortex Funnel Spiral Wishing Well-Great For Charities & Fundraiser

Poetry is a place where the voice can circle like a penny in a whirlpool wishing well (at the children’s museum of my childhood).  It causes vibrations, but rises only to the sound of a whisper, or the thwack of a fist against wood.  There is a voice through poetry that can’t be told through fiction, or any other source.  It must be stated with fewer, but more specific words, and the author must hold several cold glasses at once, a juggler of words and sounds.  Poets are beautiful, and broken, and the sounds they make seem like a thimble, but work like a thunder streak.

And this is why I so loved this collection.  It was such a story of our world in 2014.  I had many favorite poems.

Nightstick (Creative Commons)

Nightstick (Creative Commons)

One of my favorite in the news poems was “Nightstick” by Joy Priest (8).  In this poem a nightstick becomes a character and in the life of the young Kentucky girl who is “a Black girl, but don’t know.” I found this poem impossible to not ingest with the rebellions (some say riots) happening all over cities that are facing both class system stereotypes and race stereotypes.  Right now, the hot news is Baltimore, a city where years of pent up anger (in my opinion) has been unleashed on a CVS.  I’m a little bias to the side of the Baltimoreans because I teach those children in my classrooms everyday.   In fact, I’m going to be using this poem with my students to analyze the use of the nightstick as a tool to get at that voice that has been perpetually silenced in history.  This is a poem of protest.  A poem of emotional carry-ons.  A poem for my students who have never once used “your” and almost always use “you.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 7.37.33 PMAnother poem I starred was “Anaphora as Coping Mechanism” by Ocean Vuong.  I’m not sure why.  It’s a sort of prosy structure and I think Vuong gets the closest that I’ve seen (after Larry Levis) to the reaction of death.  There’s the psychologists seven steps of grief, and then there’s Vuong’s “Your tongue is a lit match.” The even though and the afterwards.  The continuous, sometimes monotonous circle of death, as if the person keeps dying in every place that they are not.  This is captured elegantly, but with a certain rawness that I just loved.

“In Allepo” by Daniel Bohnhorst gains honorable mention for giving the side of Syrians through the eyes of a little girl nightmaring through hope.  I could feel her search in my chest.  It’s a really strong glimpse into “the other,” and I appreciate that in my poetry.

Dorianne Laux, Guest Editor

Dorianne Laux, Guest Editor

My most favorite poem in the collection was “Life on Earth” by Amanda Jane McConnon. It made me feel like I wasn’t just a speck in the grand history of things, which isn’t a feeling I usually feel because us humans we always think we’re leading some very important life filled with very important things and our religious values (majority of the party) tell us that we are so loved, so vital. Really, we’re sand (with brains).  This poem though, makes me remember I’m something, a fleck of gold, but something.

This is just a highlight of the goodness in this hot pink poetry collection. If I haven’t yet sold you, here are a few of my favorite lines from a randomly selected group of poems:

Our guns softly touch their bark, / barrels quiet white with failure. It was morning. – “My Father Named the Trees” by C.L. O’Dell

Night stains the bookshelves. The moon, / white and swallowed. – “Peter” by Peter LaBerge

They knew routine and pattern; they did what they were told by instinct / what to do, / just like the sheets that have always made certain shapes when hit by / the wind, / a series of wings naming the thing that unfolds inside me. – “Leavings That Change the Future” by Erin J. Mullikin

Or maybe it’s the taboo allure of the island women, / of the luxury of fooling them / into thinking his body, / even after a decade of fighting, / is still as whole as it was in Ithaca. – “Erasures” by Rosanna Oh

Newsday Tues(wednes)Day

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Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • true fortunes promise is a redhaired madonness.- french proverb: This will be my quote of the day for the rest of the week at school. YES.
  • perks of being a wallflower multiple choice test: This just makes me want to say, “yuck.”
  • grammar in beasts of no nation: You must be reading this in school because this is a strange search term.  This reminds me, just once I would like the person who searched this to return to my blog and tell me what they were thinking.  We could have a blog every week called, “What were the searchers thinking?”

Book News:

Newsday….Errrrr…. Tuesday: Slacker Edition

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Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • bookshelves with books: Did this really need googling?

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday (Internet Outage Edition)

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Along with the internet outage, my town has no “boiling water” due to City restrictions.  Yes, this is real.  If I had a hash tag, it would be a belligerent one.

Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • kareena zerefos wolf and child for sale: Whatever this is, I need to read it.  Immediately.  It’s like Hemingway’s six word story.
  • “once sold tales” craigslist: This is SUCH a Rumpelstiltskin move.
  • thumbelina subliminal messages: Women should be tiny with really big hair.  Basically, let’s all just revert back to the 80’s.

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • on the moon we have everything lettuce and pumpkin pie quote pg#: I’m obsessed with this book and I feel that my mom would definitely live on the moon.
  • slam poetry on self respect: Look at Katie Makkai “Pretty”
  • women fart more than men: A good dose of potty talk for the bowel movement viewers of this blog.  Make sure you reenact the moment by using your mouth to create a voice for the flatulence.

Book News:

Oh, Pish Posh Darling.

I didn’t really want to like this book.  Penguin sent it to me as an ARC and like my current high school students, I hate reading books that are forced on me.  Why you ask, do I accept review requests if I don’t really want to read the book?  Well, it’s Penguin, people.  If they even know I exist, I’m quite happy to relish in that glory for a few reviews.

The Darlings by Christina Alger

Plus, this book was actually really decent.  Decent is the only acceptable word for a book about the financial crisis/economy/Wall Street.  I’m going to be really upset if Alger decides not to write about Occupy Wall Street as her second novel.  In The Darlings by Christina Alger, we see the Ponzi scheme come to life and shake up the Darling family of New York City.  Don’t you just want to hate them already because they’re so “darling?”  I can just see them at cocktail hour in their black tie, perfectly pointed heels, and tight-bunned hair.  The girls are debutantes and have played tennis in slick white shorts for their entire upbringing.  All the best riding camps, all the best boarding schools, all the best Harvard acceptance letters for the Darling girls.

And that’s when I realized that I actually really liked Merrill.  But OH, how I wanted to hate her.

From NYU @ Tumblr

I did a lot of hoping to hate in this book, that actually turned into self-loathing for being the kind of person that automatically judges books and people by their covers.  The cover has one sentence blurbs from Publishers Weekly, Entertainment Weekly and USA Today.  I found it surprising that it was an LA Times Bestseller, but no mention of NY and the homage paid to it.  I’m a stuck up cover reader.  If I see a sentence in a blurb that is incredibly manufactured like, “One of the first novels about the 2008 financial crisis…Alger has what it takes, in the best sense.”  I want to know what those “…” are.  What are we missing that wasn’t pertinent to the back cover of this glamorous book, and yet the author in all her blown-hair glory is serious-faced on the back of the cover.  She’s wearing a white button-up, looking like a Darling herself.  I want the full sentence, people! I want to know what happened between “crisis” and “Alger.”  What’s being hidden from me?  I get the sinking feeling that USA Today didn’t give as flattering a review as they were expecting.  Or what about, “Alger…knows her way around twenty-first-centruy wealth and power…a suspenseful, twisty story.” – The Wall Street Journal.  A double dot, dot, dot is even worse.  It’s like the other player getting a double, or dare I say a triple, in scrabble.

Artists Space staff, 1979. Photographed by Cindy Sherman as part of a photo shoot for Cover Magazine.

I digress.

The Darlings is fast-paced. While I wasn’t dying to read what happens next, I did want to finish the book and I was enjoying it as I read in bed.  I pushed myself through while my students were testing today and managed to get to the speedy part at the end where characters I’ve come to respect are getting thrown to the sharks because of Wall Street investors, sleazy lawyers and bad plot situations. Don’t you hate a manufactured plot where you know the good guy is going to win, but you have to read the forty pages until he actually sees that glimmer of hope?

Damn it.

Los Angeles Times: Lizards of Wall Street @ Horsey

I think Alger knows how to write a story.  She changes characters chapter-by-chapter which gives you the feeling of how many people are involved in this scheme and who’s the most to blame, or the hero.  It also makes the story much more snappy.  It leaves a little to be desired in the characterization, but I think she still captured the essence of every person on the page.  I wouldn’t be opposed to her now writing Ines story because she was the character I wanted the most out of and yet, she fell flat.  I also HATED her by the end.  Some of these female characters, not all, make women look like real dodos and I don’t appreciate ever looking like a dodo.  I also didn’t appreciate the biblical and/or boy band names used throughout the book, but what are you going to do with the rich hedge funders of NY?  Kyle just runs in the family.

I’m not going to jump off the cliff for this book, but I recommend bringing it to the beach for vacation and soaking up the rays while feeling like you’re getting a Wall Street education.  Really you’re just reading a stock “rich-in-NY-epic-downfall story.” Hey, nothing’s wrong with that every once in a while.

Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • bfg roald dahl monopoly: WHAT! WHERE!  Would the pieces be “BoneCruncher,” GizzardGulper,” and MeatDripper.”  And what about the places: SnozzCumbers Country, FrobScottle Stage, Phizzwizard Land.  How wonderful.
  • man in holden caulfield winter hat: I feel like this is a want-ad on Craigslist (pre-Craigslist-killer era).  Look on e-harmony, hipsters really like to look like Holden Caulfield.
  • cassie hunter gives a boy a terrible clanging: I’m just glad that there are powerful Cassie’s out there.
  • books with “bird” in the title: Ah, so there are others like me.
  • two birds were sitting on a barbwire fence and one had a typewriter and one was eating food, the one said pass the salt: this is a literal google.  (google as verb).  Someone has too much time on their hands.

Book News:

Letters of Note has a letter from Sendek’s editor to a librarian who burned In the Night Kitchen.  Here is Sendek’s obituary in the NY Times and his interview with Fresh Air (NPR) in December.  The wonderful thing about Maurice Sendek is that he was always humble about his art, which makes him even more of a legend.  Thank you Tea & Paper for sharing these links.

Lastly; if you are a follower of this blog from NC, please vote today.  I would particularly like you to vote AGAINST Amendment 1 – The Marriage Amendment because NO ONE should suffer, or be treated unfairly, under the freedom of the US.  If anything, do your research.

Newsday Tuesday:

Click this photo to go to my nominee page

I have some fun things to share for April 10th.  First, go without shoes tomorrow for TOMS’ One Day Without Shoes.  They can say it better than me so check it out to the right. The other thing is the Goodread’s Book Blogger Award.  I really wasn’t going to enter myself in this because I do not have the luck of my Irish ancestors, but I would love to go to the book convention and take my mother on a trip to NY.  If you like this blog, please just take the time to vote for me.  I will go as low as putting cherries on top to earn your vote.

And now for the usual:

Favorite Tweets

Favorite Search Terms

  • The big sleep bookstore: sounds like a store in Sleepy Hollow.  Maybe I should hibernate there in the winter instead of wearing scarves, turning red, and shivering.
  • “blog” tights: I need these.  I commenced in googling until I found any reference to blogging on a pair of tights.  I’m pretty positive that they don’t quite exist yet – blogging tights, or blogging leggings, in case you’re wondering.  What we need are “blogging is sexy” tees.  Yum.
  • poems about liking a boy: Aren’t you cute.  Look up Romeo and Juliet, buy a dagger.
  • why is carolyn forche a good poet: WHOAREYOU.  And you can’t capitalize a name (even in a google search).  You’re hearby kicked off this blogging island.  Banned.  Banished. Exiled. Removed by deadly force.
  • wwjd bracelet font:  One thing you don’t know about me… since I was fourteen I’ve worn a WWJD bracelet on my left wrist.  When one breaks, I immediately run out to the Family Christian Store and get a new one.  I used to have a rainbow one – it was my gay pride Jesus bracelet, now I just have black.  I like the person who googled this, they get me.
  • my rabbit’s ears are gleam:  poet?

Book News:

If you’re new to my blog, I’m obsessed with Alice.  There really only is one Alice, so I can’t really elaborate.  I need to go to bed.

Christopher Lee reads Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”