In a perhaps unconventional sequence of events, I decided to read Howard Norman’s memoir before reading any of his many acclaimed novels, such as the National Book Award finalists The Bird Artist and The Northern Lights. I encountered I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place on NPR’s 2013 book concierge, and was immediately captivated by the lyrical title. Norman writes about five major chapters of his life so far —from a teenage summer spent working on a bookmobile in Michigan to a number of years spent recording and translating Inuit folk tales in the Arctic— focusing on a significant (and often traumatic) event that occurred during each period. He does not sensationalize his experiences, but rather allows the reader to follow his daily life as he slowly heals after each disaster. In one of my favorite lines, Norman writes: “everything I loved most happened most every day.”
I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think this one represents the text quite elegantly; Norman’s writing is slow and careful, above all capturing the particular atmosphere of each landscape that has affected his life.
As National Poetry Month comes to a close, we thought we'd share some verse from one of our favorite lyricists, Pablo Neruda. Two of Neruda's poems are read by our publisher, Ilan Stavans, who recently edited a bilingual edition of All the Odes.
In more poetry-related news, this fascinating article in The Daily Beast explores poetry's capability to empower women in traditionally patriarchal societies. Inspired by a book written by Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy on Afghani folk poetry, the article examines the ways in which the "landay" verse form has been appropriatedby Afghan women to overcome societal expectations and subvert gender roles.