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Poetry, bookstores in the spotlight this month | Fresh Reads


Last updated 4/14/2019 at Noon

This month, we celebrate both poetry and bookstores.

For the 23rd year, the literary community celebrates National Poetry Month, with its origins in Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Though, considering our local weather, we’re also reminded of T.S. Eliot’s opening lines from “The Waste Land:” “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.”

Poetry of all types and eras can provide brief respites from today’s cares and distractions, and just as surely can ignite deep contemplations on why so many matters are out of our hands.

This is true in the Pacific Northwest especially, where our awareness of nature’s rhythms and our place in the landscape combine to create a certain poetic sensitivity. Stop, look around, appreciate and be grateful. That’s what poetry helps us do.

Edmonds Bookshop offers two opportunities to celebrate National Poetry Month.

At noon Saturday, April 13, two notable local poets, Bethany Reid and Karen Whalley, will read from recent work.

Then, during Art Walk Edmonds 5-8 p.m. Thursday, April 18, David Horowitz of Rose Alley Press will make his annual visit and host four other poets and engage the audience with trivia (including prizes!) and witty asides.

Two passings

The focus on poetry this month is an appropriate time to reflect on the lives and work of two of America’s most prominent and accomplished poets, Mary Oliver and W.S. Merwin, who passed away recently.

Each gave utterly of themselves to afford readers true and resonant perceptions, in language that is distinct and elevated and nearly always approachable.

Oliver’s work has a precise focus on nature and time, and her poems and prose are straightforward with clear observation and humble insights. Oliver spent her later life in Provincetown, on Cape Cod, where her daily walks provided much of the observational material she transformed into memorable verse.

Echoes from nature-honoring writers of earlier eras, such as Dickinson, Thoreau and Whitman, can be found in her work.

“Praying,” from “Thirst”

It doesn't have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try

to make them elaborate, this isn't

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

W.S. Merwin spent the last decades of his life on his beloved 18-acre palm restoration site on Maui, composing poems by morning, cultivating his palm forest in the afternoon, and returning to his notebooks in the evening.

His bibliography spans 65 years, from early formal works to translations from a number of old and modern languages, to poetry of protest, to later works that seem to spring whole is his oracular voice.

I was fortunate to spend time with Merwin when Copper Canyon Press became his publisher, and there is no hero of mine to whom I felt closer.

“The Other House,” from “Garden Time”

I come back again to the old house

that I thought I knew for most of a lifetime

the house I reclaimed from abandon and ruin

and that I called my home at times when I was here

and at times when I was somewhere far from here

this time I have not come to reclaim anything

but to move nothing and to touch nothing

as though I were a ghost or here in a dream

and I know it is a dream that has no age

in this dream the same river is still here

the house is the old house and I am here in the morning

in the sunlight and the same bird is singing

Seattle Independent Bookstore Day

On Saturday April 27, for the fifth year, 21 Seattle-area bookstores (with a total of 26 locations) will host all-day parties, with snacks, gifts, deals and author appearances, as hundreds of readers will journey from store to store in the quest to fulfill the passport challenge.

Obtain three passport stamps during the day from participating stores and receive a coupon for a 30% discount on one book at any participating store. Fill out the whole passport by visiting each store (or one branch of multilocation stores) and be crowned a grand champion, earning a year-long 25% books-only discount from all participating stores.

From Lynnwood to Burien and Bremerton to Redmond, independent bookstores will be celebrating books and readers and strengthening their communities in the process.

Edmonds Bookshop will feature literary fortune cookies and tattoos, as well as “Blind Date With a Book.” For more information, go to seattlebookstoreday.com.

David Brewster is co-owner of Edmonds Bookshop.


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