A meme and the fourth poem…

Litlove from Tales from the Reading Room created this lovely meme – I try to do memes on ‘off’ posting days so they don’t substitute for my own blogging – but I love them so! Also at the end of this post I’ll post the fourth poem in the series of the 100 Best Poems.

1. First book to leave a lasting impression? I’ll have to say Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia – I remember so well my mom reading it to me and every night me begging for another chapter and another…and being so completely DEVASTATED by the book.  So devastated I need to capitalize the word. But I’m going to immediately break this rule of one book and also add Where the Red Ferns Grow (I mean, dying dogs. Come on!) and Anne of Green Gables as well.

2. Which author would you most like to be? This is a hard one but I’m gonna go male and say Pat Conroy. His writing is what finally inspired me enough to purse becoming a writer, and he splits his time between South Carolina and Rome.  He drinks good wine and eats amazing food, and once compared one of his ex wives to North Korea. I. Iodolize.Him.

3. Name the book that has most made you want to visit a place? North Towards Home left a lasting impression on me about Mississippi, and S. and I are determined to take one big long deep south trip in the next few years.

4. Which contemporary author will still be read in 100 years time? Joyce Carol Oates, at least, the old Joyce Carol Oates, before Blonde and unwarranted attacks on Cormac McCarthy. Oh! Cormac McCarthy will be read in 100 years as well…

5. Which book would you recommend to a teenager reluctant to try ‘literature’? Jane Eyre for a girl. My male students when I was a TA particularly liked Hunter Thompson and Ernest Hemingway, so something by them as well.

6. Name your best recent literary discovery? Litblogs.  I’ve been reading The Winds of War and War and Remembrance all summer long and in between chapters have relied on comfort authors to get me through the battles.

7. Which author’s fictional world would you most like to live in? Rebecca Wells. Hey, I love Southern writers and southern novels. I also love southern food, and we have a whole collection of music recorded in New Orleans that we play on weekends. “I want some wine and some women, and to party all night long!” – I like shrimp and barbecue and drinking and dancing and long nights met with casual morning brunches.  I remember a character in Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood always kept white wine and shrimp in her refrigerator, and I really consider this a wonderful ideal.  I like warm weather and an abundance of flowers and men going on hunts and playing cards and nothing charms me like a North Carolina gool ol’ boy. So there you have it!

8. Name your favourite poet? Impossible. Litlove, you should know better.  But if I HAD to, I’d name Tony Hoagland, I guess.  A poem by him to follow.

9. What’s the best non-fiction title you’ve read this year? Well, since graduating with my MFA in nonfiction I’ve been on a HUGE novel break, so I’m going to have to go with The Spirit Catches You and YOu Fall Down as interesting and complex and it does what some of my favorite novels do – explores the complexities on each side with no real right answer.  In this way it reminded me of House of Sand and Fog.

10. Which author do you think is much better than his/her reputation? Dennis LeHane . He’s truly an amazing author but since he began with mysteries (which are amazing as well) he’s been pigeonholed into genre writing, despite his last two works.  I think he will go down as one of the best authors of his generation. 

 And now, here is the 4th poem in the top 100 poems, the poem I keep at work to remind me to always be thankful for my health, and to remind myself during the frustrating moments why I work in the field I do:


Tony Hoagland

Try being sick for a year,

then having that year turn into two,

until the memory of your health is like an island

going out of sight behing you

and you sail on in twilight,

with the sound of waves.

It’s not a dream.  You pass

through waiting rooms and clinics

until the very sky seems pharmaceutical,

and the faces of the doctors are your stars

whose smile or frown

means to hurry and get well

or die.

and because illness feels like punishment,

an enormous effort to be good

comes out of you –

like the good behavior of a child

desperate to appease

the invisible parents of this world.

And when that fails

there is an orb of anger

rising like the sun above

the mind afraid of death,

and then a lake of grief, staining everything below,

and then a holding action of neurotic vigilance

and then a recitation of the history

of second chances.

and the illusions keep on coming,

and fading out,and coming on again

while your skin turns yellow from the medicine,

and your ankles swell like dough above your shoes,

and you stop wanting to make love

because there is no love in you,

only a desire to be done.

But you’re not done.

Your bags are packed

and you are traveling.

This entry was posted in Currently Reading, Everything In Between, On the Nightstand, Top 100 Poems, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A meme and the fourth poem…

  1. bloglily says:

    That’s a terribly beautiful poem Courtney. Thank you. (And I’m with you on Dennis LeHane.)

  2. Courtney says:

    Thanks, bloglily. Whenever I am frustrated or upset at work I use this poem to remind myself that I am here for something bigger than I. Not everyone is so lucky to say that about their job. And I’m thrilled to find another Dennis LeHane fan – I think he’s so remarkable, and yet, still, underread!

  3. Emily says:

    Great meme response. One of the nice things about doing this after everyone else, is I get to see what everyone else has to say, so I can cheat and put links to others’ posts and then still only choose “one” of my own, which is what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

  4. Stefanie says:

    I was devasted by Bridge to Terabithia too! Fantastic book, and great answers!

  5. litlove says:

    Oh that poem is so powerful. And terribly accurate – the chronic fatigue is that exactly – watching your health float away behind you like an island. Well, that’s certainly given me something to ponder on today. Wonderful responses too, Courtney!

  6. What a beautiful poem. It hurt to read it. I loved the way his description was so raw, the way terrible illness must be.

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