Friday, September 23, 2016

TALKING IN THE DARK and other Poetry Memoirs

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely poet-teacher Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup.

First a couple of newsy items: FRESH DELICIOUS will be representing Alabama this weekend at the National Book Festival. Yippee! I'm excited to see Laura Shovan's THE LAST FIFTH GRADE representing Maryland. Yay yay yay!

And second, thanks to friends in poetic places, I will be speaking to students in the Seattle area (thank you, Sarah and Ramona!) before meeting so many great folks in Bellingham for POETRY CAMP. So excited!!! This probably means I won't be posting next week, but who knows?! I may get a spare moment, in which case I will of course say hello.

So, poetry memoirs. There's HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY by Marily Nelson and BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson and ENCHANTED AIR by Magarita Engle. There's YOU REMIND ME OF YOU by Eireanne Corrigan, which I haven't read yet. And others... readers: any poetry memoir titles to recommend?

Meanwhile, have you read TALKING IN THE DARK by Billy Merrell? So, so good! Indeed, each poem is a stand-alone poem, which I appreciate. Here's an example:


I know neither how to open nor to close. - Peter Sirr

How does it happen? That flicker in the dark
like a candle lit and then blown out.
The smoke after, the smell of it. I need you

to hear this. Do you ever stop, halfway?
Or having crossed the street do you ever cross back
to look more closely at something in the road?

Do you walk on? Washing dishes,
do you catch yourself wandering
toward the light on the glass?

I don't know, finally, how to love.
And yet I do. Daily and wholly,
and not only people. We live:

stop at the bank, have a cup of coffee,
forget to write, remember to lock the door.
How often do we live,

having that steady nostalgia even as we live it,
feeling memory create itself as we stand there,
wandering? Wondering? Both, I think, together.

Do you ever wonder if these moments
are what life really is? These lit moments
you rise into will be what is cut together

to finally be your life. We open into it,
we catch ourselves, and we stop. Who saw me
staring into the candle like that?

What must they imagine I'm thinking?
Let us catch ourselves opening
and then catch ourselves stopping

and not. Let us open and open,
without knowing how.

- Billy Merrell

I'm actually working on a memoir. NOT poetry. So I am reading a bunch of memoirs right now. One I've loved recently is THE SOUND OF A WILD SNAIL EATING. Please shoot any recommendations my way! Thank you.


  1. Irene, this poem is amazing! I am really interested in learning more about crafting a poetry memoir, so this looks like a great book to start with. Thanks, Irene!

  2. All so interesting! I just read and liked very much Falling by Elisha Cooper, a slim book not exactly memoir, but an account following his five year old daughter's cancer diagnosis. A lot felt poetic -- there's the grief and fear and the ordinary moments of a two children, and the metaphor of falling weaves throughout -- how a parent can't keep a child from falling and really shouldn't -- how he encourages his girls to climb trees -- and the nature of safety. It gave me so much to think about -- and he also recounts times as a writer and illustrator of children's books. --See you soon!

  3. That's so cool that both you and Laura will be at the NBF this weekend. Yay, Poetry Friday Peeps!

    Enjoyed Merrell's poem, will have to look for Talking in the Dark. And "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" is such a great title! Have fun at Poetry Camp!

  4. I am jealous that so many of you are off to Poetry Camp-wow! Have a fabulous time, Irene. I love this, will look for it, and I have Falling which Jeannette mentioned above, looking forward to reading it although I think it will be hard. The poem you shared brings much thought: "having that steady nostalgia even as we live it,
    feeling memory create itself as we stand there," - beautiful. Thanks!

  5. Congratulations to you & Laura - great news! And thanks for sharing Billy's book -I've seen excerpts and it looks fantastic.

  6. I've discovered that quite a few Poetry Friday folks are fellow Pacific Northwesters! Enjoy Poetry Camp - it sounds so inspiring!

  7. Irene, that moth poem is quite haunting.

    I enjoy reading memoir a lot. Two spiritual memoirs I've enjoyed are "Surprised by Oxford" by Carolyn Weber, and "Dear Deb" by Margaret Terry (Canadian authors so you may not have heard of them.)

  8. Hooray for Fresh, Delicious representing Alabama in Washington this weekend! A well-deserved honor! My son lives in northern Virginia, but I've never gotten down there. Maybe next year. And if I hadn't been at Highlights last week, I'd be VERY jealous about not being at Poetry Camp. As it is, I'm only a little jealous :-) Can't wait to hear all about it!
    "Moth" left me speechless, Irene. I will have to copy it down to study more closely. Merrell's use of language is stunning. The last memoir I read was The Light of the World, by Elizabeth Alexander. It's the heartbreaking story of her husband's sudden death and how she rebuilt her life. It is a beautiful book.

  9. You ARE "living your poem," my friend. Congrats to you (& Laura!) Thanks for all the shares. I keep reading about the "Wild Snail" book - will have to get. See you SOOOON!

  10. I am putting Merrel's book on hold at my library today - thank you for the introduction to this book with this poem, Irene! Looking forward to meeting you in person this weekend - yay! =)

  11. Looking forward to hearing all the great news about the Seattle trip!

  12. Looking forward to hearing all the great news about the Seattle trip!


Your thoughts?