On Friday, July 6, 2007, I stumbled upon a blog called READ*WRITE*BELIEVE.
I carefully opened the door and let myself in.
I began to read the very first post of an author and poet named Sara Lewis Holmes:
“I like the word enter rather than the word begin because begin has always terrified and paralyzed me. Begin evokes the command of a professor at the start of an exam, and implies a linear route to a fixed end. Enter seems much more inviting, conjuring up the image of multiple doorways into a fascinating place. And of course, if you enter, rather than begin, you can always exit, re-emerging from that fascinating place, perhaps by a different door, changed by your experiences within. This is why I write.”
Ever since then, I’ve been totally captivated by Sara’s words. Each morning, I can hardly wait to drop in to see what she is up to. You just never know. Will a former Tibetan monk paint her toenails again? Will she talk about how drawing has influenced her writing? Or will she simply astonish me with yet another stunning, finely crafted poem?
Sara has the uncanny ability to see right into the essence of an experience, an event, an idea — while standing on her head. And I, having spent my entire life walking upright in a straight line, have found myself compelled to not only stand on my head, but to try backflips and somersaults as well.
This happens most often on Poetry Fridays. After reading “-and this you know-“, cold corn-on-the-cob will never be the same, for it is “a dangerous act, as if it were forbidden.” How thrilling it was to follow an unexpected tenor of emotion, as I savored the poem, kernel by kernel.
Or what about “39 Reasons to Write?” Did you ever consider that “thousands of sparrows are counting on you?” Or what about “Credo?” Would you not be compelled to worship large blueberries,”with both your eyes, for at least ten minutes?” Reading one of Sara’s poems reminds me of what Emily Dickinson once said: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”
“The Bones of January” was the first of Sara’s poems that I encountered on that Friday back in July. Now that we are in the midst of the holidays, dressing up our lives in lights, greenery, overindulgence and small talk, it is reassuring to know that when all has calmed down, we can visit this poem, enter its quiet room of spare images, and find an unadorned truth there. For such a radiant poem, it is worth the price of captivity, if only to realize we will re-emerge from a different door.
THE BONES OF JANUARY
by Sara Lewis Holmes
I love the plainness of January
when I have taken down my Christmas
finery, and in the shock
of my home stripped bare, I see
the corners of my rooms
again. And outside, all is
stark, gray, glorious
with no false beauty to help me
pretend that I am satisfied.
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at the Miss Rumphius Effect.
LETTERS FROM RAPUNZEL
by Sara Lewis Holmes
HarperCollins, 2007, ages 9-12
P.S. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Sara in person, and she gave me this cookie recipe to share with everyone. Of course it includes variations. (With Sara, you have to remain open to all the possibilities.) I recommend eating these while reading her poems, blog or enchanting novel, Letters from Rapunzel, winner of the Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Prize, and a nominee for the 2007 Cybils Award for Middle Grade Fiction. They’re the perfect complement to her captivating words.
SARA’S OATMEAL/COCONUT CRISPS
(makes 14 dozen)
2 cups butter or regular margarine
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups sifted flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
6 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1-1/2 cups flaked coconut
Cream together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture. Stir in rolled oats and coconut. Drop by teaspoonfuls about 2″ apart onto well-greased baking sheet.
Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 10 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on racks.
NOTE: You can omit the 1-1/2 cups coconut and divide dough into thirds. Add 1/3 cup flaked coconut to one part, 1/3 cup raisins to second part, and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts to the third part.
Oatmeal/Raisin Cookies: Use 1-1/2 cups raisins instead of the coconut.
Oatmeal/lNut Cookies: Use 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts instead of the coconut.
Oatmeal/Butter Crisps: Omit the flaked coconut.
Oatmeal/Chocolate Chip: Omit coconut. Add 2 cups chocolate chips.
Join Sara and the rest of the holiday revelers at the December Cookie Party. Post your favorite recipe on your blog and leave the link in the comments, or email your recipe to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot com).