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“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

 

Not a poem today, but a recommendation. I do not know why I had not come across this wonderful book earlier, but I am glad that I finally have. A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award The Things They Carried is a book I recommend highly.

But why on my poetry blog? It is because it flows like one long poem, a modern Iliad: beautifully written, ugly real, brutally honest and terribly sad.

Ostensibly it is a description of the things that soldiers carried with them during their stint in Vietnam, and after that stories of what life is like in a war zone, but of course it is much more than that: it is about Vietnam itself and about what it is like to be human and caught up in a mad world of death, destruction and fear.

If you have the chance, I would even suggest that your preference for format would be an audio version, as is mine; it adds to the poetic effect. I got mine through www.audible.com and it is powerfully read and performed by Brian Cranston, the brilliant main actor from the hit TV shows Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle.

2014.04.14 update: Having just finished listening to the audible production I discovered that there is a bonus: a wonderful 1994 op-ed piece from the New York Times written and read by the author. Now I recommend the book even more and the audible version in particular.

Thank you for dropping by the Book of Pain. As always I am interested in your comments.

john

© 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Fragments: The Forest Edge

KB, of The Mirror Obscura, is a poet who can write long, detailed and intricate poems of great insight and depth, and darling little poems of such sweet delicateness that it takes your breath away. Here is an example of the latter.

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Tag Mom, You’re It

A darling little poem from my friend and sometimes bicycle riding partner, Christine.

Old House | New Life

Birth it
Hold it
Love it
Bring it home in a blanket.
Clean it
Make it
Break it
Fix it with glue.
Shop it
Buy it
Misplace it
Find it under the sofa.
Work it
Earn it
Pay it
Answer it after hours.
Wear it
Wash it
Dry it
Hang it in the closet.
Cook it
Serve it
Eat it
Clean it all up.
Google it
Pin it 
Text it
Share it everywhere.
Expand it
Shrink it
Gain it
Lose if for once and for all.
Question it
Answer it
Doubt it
Take it on faith.
Feel it
Paint it
Write it
Talk it all out.
Hurt it
Soak it
Bandage it
Give it a kiss.
Read it
Brush it
Hug it
Tuck it into bed.
Uncork it
Pour it
Drink it
Because it all begins again tomorrow.
imagesTWPINKON
 Featured image courtesy of Sleeper

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My apologies…

My last post was on December 20th, 2013 and from this far off date, the best I can say is, “My how the time has passed!”

I hope you have been well.

There are the usual excuses: I was hit, and then hit again, and then pummeled twice more with the usual winter aches, colds and infections. An evening class…busy work schedule…a skiing vacation…blah, blah, blah…and, well, while I always meant to do a post every night, I just never got to it, despite having poems in the works.

The most important thing I have been up to is developing a new site, the Book of Bokeh, which will be dedicated to my photography. I hope to launch it properly within the next week. (If you are interested in what ‘bokeh’ means, check out the About page on the new site.) I hope you will take the opportunity to visit it then.

What is worse than not posting any poetry—and yes I missed doing so damnably— is that I know I have also managed to fail in replying to several messages, an abominable thing to do. To those of you who I have insulted ’til now, I’ll get to them as soon as I can, I promise.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin a good apology with excuses.” Well,  that is exactly what I have done, but there you are. Thank you for putting up with them and  I sincerely and humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain.

I promise, poetry, as well as photography, soon.

john

© 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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The irony of elemental questions

Water flows where it is bid, willingly;
fire warms all, indiscriminately,
and stone endures, patiently.

Air flows to those who draw it equally;
metal bears its burden assuredly,
but this is not me, consistently.
What about you?

And there it is again in force.
That despite all this, it is ‘we’ they say
who are the worthiest of reflections.
Yet gifts beg choices, as we well know—
how does the old trope go?
What a piece of work are we?
Close enough.

This poem pairs five elements with five virtues but more importantly notes that the elements are more worthy of their nature because they remain true to it.

Intended as an homage to, and to explore the nature of one of my favorite quotes, The irony of elemental questions is really only a pale and poor imitation of that original quote which is, truthfully, far more perfect than anything I could ever write:

They should conduct themselves in such manner that the earth upon which they tread may never be allowed to address to them such words as these: “I am to be preferred above you. For witness, how patient I am in bearing the burden which the husbandman layeth upon me. I am the instrument that continually imparteth unto all beings the blessings with which He Who is the Source of all grace hath entrusted me. Notwithstanding the honor conferred upon me, and the unnumbered evidences of my wealth—a wealth that supplieth the needs of all creation—behold the measure of my humility, witness with what absolute submissiveness I allow myself to be trodden beneath the feet of men….” —Bahá’u’lláh

Thank you for reading The irony of elemental questions. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

PS: forgive the mangled quote from Shakespeare. I really can’t help myself.

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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À Dieu

We watch, he and I,
from the cold leaky garret,
the bright snapping flashes
of the blue and red slashes
along that riotous, silent rue.

I am not, he whispers, a fool, but a madman,
trying to see what I feel.
And if I have taken more than I’ve given
that’s poor payment for the pleasure…
but still, it was all that I was given
and is what I am giving back.

This is the painting referred to in the post. It is one of several Impressionistic paintings that fueled my love for that school of art in particular and painting in general.

BastilleDay

“Bastille Day” by Claude Monet. A painting of Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878.

Luckily, I was able to see the original the last time I was in Paris. Surprisingly, it was not at the Monet family legacy museum, the Marmottan-Monet house. In fact, we found it quite by accident at (I think, the details are somewhat hazy now) the Orangerie Museum, a delightful spot that I highly recommend—after, of course, one has spent the obligatory time at the incredible Musee d’Orsay.

I should point out that English speaking people generally translate ‘adieu’ (the more common, modern spelling) as simply ‘goodbye’ or ‘farewell.’ In French it is much more nuanced than this. It means, literally, ‘to God’ and has a much greater sense of finalism and formality to it, and betokens death or complete separation, often as a result of staunch honor or sacrifice. In other words, ‘my fate is with God; it is in the Hands of the Almighty when next we shall meet again.’

Thank you for reading À Dieu. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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