July 31, 2015

Summer Muse Snippers

“It's where my imagination is fecund and I am really at my best. Nothing matters more in the world or in my body or anywhere when I'm writing. It is dangerous because I'm thinking up dangerous, difficult things, but it is also extremely safe for me to be in that place.“ —Toni Morrison

In the summer when I sit at my ephemeral desk looking out the window I can get a clear view of a magnolia tree. Some early mornings when I leave the blinds open if I’m awake I catch a glimpse of bold orange-red hues through the slits for a new start to the day with sensory cues signal wakefulness at daybreak.

Magnolia spring blooms remain throughout summer.
An early morning riser my grandmother with her Southern roots was once an avid gardener. She believed firmly in planting perennials.  Her exotic plantings were dramatic with strange-shaped leaves of unfamiliar blooms.  In the rich soil I remember playing with worms, snails, slugs and getting bee stings as there was a hive in the back yard that kept me curious. When in full bloom there is a fragrant richness in her yard that is still something to behold. When I was growing up some neighbors would ask others while others would just help themselves to snippets to plant in their yards. Snippets come from when you pinch or use a garden tool to break off a piece of a plant in the right place to regrow in a new setting.   

In a recent NPR interview Toni Morrison talked about losing her lush jade bush that she’d grown from a snippet when a fire destroyed her family home.  She relishes her life as a snipper. Her storytelling in the interview moved my unplanned reading of her newest novel God Help the Child, which imaginatively opens a lucid conversation about race as determined skin color and culture. In this story unhealed racial childhood wounds infect the life of Bride. Morrison still writes to teach, her point:  "Distinguishing color — light, black, in between — as the marker for race is really an error:  It's socially constructed, it's culturally enforced and it has some advantages for certain people." 

I’m reading from e-books on the 3M Cloud, the Kindle app, but still find great pleasure in the feel of turning pages especially in my favorite chair, outdoors or on the beach.  How many books do you read over three months?  I also like listening to writers on writing.  Morrison continues to use her stories for broader, meaningful conversations.   

As we move through summer here’s my list of titles on my bookshelf in no order, but there are few themes. 

1.   Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series by Leah Dickerman and Elsa Smithgall moved to read by the MoMA One Way exhibit and experience. 

2.   God Help The Child by Toni Morrison whose work I have been reading since The Bluest Eye.

Poetry and stories for such a time this:

3.   Native Guard by Natasha Tretheway

4.   Rise by Sarah Elizabeth Lewis

5.   The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

6.   Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

7.   Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

8.  Aimless Love by Billy Collins

New writers and writing from my summer scene including the #blklitchat group:

9.  Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

10.  Everything to Teach Nothing to Learn by Marc Polite

11.  BALM: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

12.  The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

There are titles from the #Charleston Syllabus and because freedom is a process: 

13.  Staging Migrations Toward an American West: From Ida B. Wells to Rhodessa Jones by Marta Effinger-Crichlow and I also just read The Light of the Truth by Ida B. Wells. 

14. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

15.  Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

16.  Gateway to Freedom by Eric Foner

Selection inspired by family and friends reading:

 17.   Where the Wild Grapes Grow by Dorothy West her short stories are among my   favorites so I will be reading a new short story and enjoying poems by her cousin Helene Johnson another Harlem Renaissance writer.

From the world of science, medicine and health care:

18.  History of the Present Illness by Louise Aronson

19. The Patient Will See You Now by Eric Topol

20.  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

For many years July has been the month where I am intentional about reading and writing on my own and in good company.  In Literary Reading, Cognition and Emotion: An Exploration of the Oceanic Mind, a literarly scholar and professor of rhetoric, Dr. Michael Burke notes: 

      "When readers sit down in a comfortable location of their own choosing to read a book, they experience subconscious echoes of where they came from and what made them. These are implicit, somatic, affective memory prompts."  

Like many I also find a time just before going to sleep a good time to grab a book.  As for writing, hypnagogia the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness moves my creative expression.  Early morning writing works for me especially in the summer.

Black Lives Matter:  The loss of lives among our families, friends and communities has morphed into collective grief and many are suffering.  Anger, rage and outrage must find new ground. Our stories can help shed light on pain and suffering as we search for relief to work for better days ahead. While I read and write in this climate, I also walk and travel to reflect and work more effectively each day.  

Please share titles from your bookshelf and reading experiences.  Feel free to leave comments.

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