Essay and poetry collections—writings on a common theme by a variety of authors—are some of my favorite reading. I’ve long enjoyed these typically short forms; now I find them even more desirable in troubling times when my mind is occupied with many concerns. I also marvel at writers’ different takes on the same subject.
The mail brought me two gems after I attended virtual author events for their releases. The Most Radical Thing You Can Do is a collection of the best political essays from “Orion Magazine.” It includes work by some of my favorite essayists including Wendell Berry, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, and Scott Russell Sanders. The small volume also introduced me to writers I haven’t read before—another bonus of collections.
These essays were written over the last twenty years. They touch on many issues that have become ever more urgent during the past two decades: racism, climate crisis, government corruption, and other ills. And there’s hope, too, such as this from Barbara Kingsolver’s piece, “Small Wonder:”
“We didn’t ignite the fury that has smoldered for eons and hurls itself at us now as a burning question. But we have inherited the urgent necessity of answering it. And possibly we will succeed.”
The Red Wheelbarrow Writers (named after a poem by William Carlos Williams), compiled This Uncommon Solitude: Pandemic Poetry from the Pacific Northwest. The anthology includes nearly 100 poems by this group based in Bellingham, WA. You can hear a number of them in the crowdcast presented by Village Books. Here’s what the bookstore’s co-owner, Paul Hanson, says about This Uncommon Solitude:
“These poems range from profundity to grief, and, yes, to humor, and all give fresh perspective to this time, demonstrating the universality of our individual experiences.”
Many of the contributing poets read from the collection here:
I know the power of words to heal, inspire, soothe, and mobilize. As I pause over pieces in both of these collections, I’m finding they offer all that and more. I encourage you to add both of them to your nightstand.
*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, bumper stickers, and refrigerator magnets.