Wayward/Frozen Nuns

I’ve always thought of poetry as a kind of foreign language. It has its own logic and is accessible only through repeated exposure. You think you don’t get it, and then, one day, you find yourself thinking thoughts you simply cannot express in your first language.

I stumbled across two poems referencing nuns yesterday. Two nun poems in one day! One is cold and frozen, and I found her in a tweet from ModPo that lead me to this page. The other was Emily Dickinson (722). I found it in Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson praising the mountains themselves as the Madonnas, the abbess of all who worship the mountains.

Sweet Mountains — Ye tell Me no lie —
Never deny Me — Never fly —
Those same unvarying Eyes
Turn on Me — when I fail — or feign,
Or take the Royal names in vain —
Their far — slow — Violet Gaze —
My Strong Madonnas — Cherish still —
The Wayward Nun — beneath the Hill —
Whose service — is to You —
Her latest Worship — When the Day
Fades from the Firmament away —
To lift Her Brows on You —


Almost As Good

I got John Ashbery’s poetry collection, Commotion of the Birds this week. The very first poem! This is a tiny snippet. Please read the poem – it is so much more than what I’ve shared here. The collection is slow, (I’m not sure why I say that, but it certainly isn’t frantic), fully rounded, fun, true, beautiful and shines a bright light on what you didn’t know you knew.



I can’t decide if I love the uspassageglowye of penumbra or find it ridiculous in Justin Cronin’s The Passage. It is probably a better choice than glowy, which is how I think of this scene. One thing is for sure: it is a descriptive scene that caught my attention and found me thinking about it the day after I read it.

In Translation

When reading novels in translation, I like to find two different translations and compare them. I may read whole chapters of each translation, or I may refer to the the other translation for what I consider beautiful or odd phrasing. I’m  reading Les Miserables   by Victor Hugo primarily in the print version, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. It is a fairly modern translation and, I fear, sometimes simplifies the situations resulting in a lack of depth I find in the other translation.

Away from home I’m reading Les Miserables in the Kindle version, translated by Isabel F. Hapgood. Words matter. Some translators will try to catch the emotion and ambiance of a novel, some will be more literal. I hope you get to read two translations of the same novel some day.



I Don’t Know

I’ve finished the infamous section of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It was a bit of a slog, but not bad at all. I definitely understand this period of world history better than ever before. I appreciate that Hugo took the time to show Reader what they needed to know to understand what happened next. Today’s quote is from that section.


Hunting for the Right Word

I’ve long put off reading Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson. It seems to have uneven critiques and it is very short – I didn’t want to plunk down money for a short book (sorry, I don’t generally love short books) that seemed to have a 50/50 chance of offering me something. I wasn’t convinced I could love Emily Dickinson any more, but I hadn’t considered loving Emily Dickinson differently.

Wrong. The book itself a journey. If you love poetry and love how it takes your mind to both tiny and tremendous places that were always within your grasp, and yet you had not yet visited…you’ll like Susan Howe’s book.

Today’s drawing was pretty much an accident. It is done on my sketch pad and started out as thumbnails for Probably In Love, practice pieces that were meant for the dust bin. Then, one thing lead to another and I found myself doodling on the sketches while ruminating on Susan Howe’s words and on Emily Dickinson’s words, and the colored pencils were on my desk, and today’s post happened.



Probably In Love

A sweet little quote from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.


I came across this quote near the beginning of Les Miserables’ most infamous chapter. This chapter gets bad marks from some readers for supposedly leaving the story and dwelling far too long on what seems to be an unrelated history lesson. So far, I’m enjoying the history lesson, but I’m withholding my final critique until I see just how long it really is.