Poem of the Week, by William Butler Yeats

IMG_5657This was back in the days of dial-up modems with their squealy screechy sounds. The first line of the first review of my first novel came shimmering up on that clunky old computer screen: “First time novelist tries but fails to move or matter.” 

Or matter.”

I sat staring at the screen, my little kids looking at me silent and troubled, knowing something was wrong. I turned to them and smiled. I laughed about the review, pretended I didn’t care. But the photo above is what I typed into my journal that night.

This is not a story about a writer who got a bad review – all writers get bad reviews. Nor is it a story about a plucky young woman whose novel went on to win a bunch of awards so haha. It’s a tiny story that stands in for a much larger story of casual, ongoing cruelty in a world in which those two words –or matter–should never be written by a human being about another human being. 

Those two words broke something in me a long time ago that can’t be fixed. That’s what cruelty does. When judgment rears its ugly head inside me, as it does way too often, I recite the last two lines of this poem to myself.

 

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, by William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
enwrought with golden and silver light,
the blue and the dim and the dark cloths
of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

For more information on Yeats, please click here.

Twitter and Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter 

 

Spreading the word about The Opposite of Fate

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Here we go! The Opposite of Fate comes out next month and the countdown is officially on. I’m thrilled by the positive reception the novel has already received (scroll below for samples). If you’d like to help spread the word, not only about The Opposite of Fate but also about other books you love, here are four ways you can do so. Please know how grateful I am to you, and how much your support means to me.

1. SOCIAL MEDIA: Share news about the book via social media (please tag me when you do, so I can thank you). Also, feel free to use the hashtag #TheOppositeOfFate when posting.

2. PRE-ORDER THE BOOK: Please consider buying the book or ordering it from your library. Bookstore or library preorders, along with the first few days of sales, are crucial for a new book. The Opposite of Fate can be pre-ordered from these links, including IndieBoundAmazon and Barnes & Noble.

3. WRITE A REVIEW: If you like the novel, post a positive review/rating of the book in as many places as you can. Amazon (https://amzn.to/2NxceQq) if you purchased it from there or on your social media platforms. The more positive reviews, the better.

4. GOODREADS: If you’re a Goodreader, add The Opposite of Fate to your shelf on Goodreads and rate it (preferably 5 stars but I’ll take what I can get!). (https://bit.ly/2Ntxvds)

Whatever you decide to do, big or small, it helps. I’m happy to pay it forward, anytime. Many, many thanks.

 

THE OPPOSITE OF FATE 

One of Parade‘s “20 Most Anticipated Books of Early 2020”
One of Working Mother‘s “20 Most Anticipated Books of 2020”
One of Beyond the Bookends‘ “New Releases for Winter 2020”
One of She Reads‘ “7 Books About Strong Women” 

“The Opposite of Fate dives deep into one of the more terrifying—and yet hopeful—questions of life. How do we choose when we don’t know the right answer? Alison McGhee is a fearless writer, full of love for humanity and a tender touch with words. You’ll love this book.”
—Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder 

“Alison McGhee’s The Opposite of Fate plunges fearlessly into the core of the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate…staggering…[McGhee] maneuvers the weight of this tight-rope topic with grace and unwavering symmetry…[The Opposite of Fate] teaches us that at the end of the day the story of our lives comes down to our choices. Even when we are dealt a bad hand, a hand beyond our control, the decision of how we carry on is still up to us. We always have the option to keep moving forward as best we can.”
Paperback Paris

“The Opposite of Fate is an uplifting novel about the life-changing decisions we make and the way they shape our lives.”
She Reads, “7 Books About Strong Women” 

“McGhee uses thoughtful language and rich, meditative imagery to paint a picture of one young woman facing a difficult new path ahead.”
Booklist​

“This is, at its heart, a novel about family—including chosen family—autonomy, and identity…Thoughtful and moving.”
Kirkus

“Humanizes the abortion issue in a way that is unexpected and heartening…The Opposite of Fate is a timely work.”
PopMatters 

“Alison McGhee’s The Opposite of Fate is, like everything she writes, as close to poetry as prose gets . . . I was driven to turn page after page to find out what would happen.”
—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

The Opposite of Fate shows the ways in which imagination can sometimes save us. This is a powerful and beautiful book.”
—Julie Schumacher, author of The Shakespeare Requirement

 “The Opposite of Fate is a story for our times. . .  a powerful book about family, love, faith and the will to survive.”
—Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Song Poet

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Poem of the Week, by Danusha Lameris

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 7.55.08 AMEverything physical, everything specific: the sharp scent of the woods that night in the Adirondacks when the rain drummed down on the canvas tent. The cold clear water that dazzled your body when you plummeted from the rope swing. The softness of the loam under your boots that cold dawn hike in Vermont.

How free it feels to dance alone late at night in your dark living room. How his hand over yours felt that day on the train when you were too full of feelings to talk. How rough and full of sun the cotton sheets dried outside feel when you slide between them.

Sometimes you imagine the moment you’ll leave this physical world, and in those moments it’s these sensations that wash over you. You think, this is what I’ll miss most. Being alive in a wild animal body in a wild animal world.

 

Bird, by Danusha Lameris

We were sitting on the couch in the dark
talking about first pets, when I told him how,
as a girl, I kept a blue and white parakeet I let
fly around the house and, sometimes, outside,
where he’d land on the branches of pine
and eucalyptus, balancing between seedpods
and spines. Only, while I was telling it,
my companion began to stroke, very lightly,
the indent of my palm, the way you do when you’re
sitting in the dark with someone you’ve never kissed
but have thought about kissing. And I told him
how my bird would sit on a high branch and sing,
loudly, at the wonder of it—the whole, green world—
while he traced the inside of my arm with his fingers,
opening another world of greenery and vines,
twisting toward the sun. I loved that bird for his singing,
and also for the way his small body, lifted skyward,
made my life larger. And then it was lip-to-lip,
a bramble, and it was hard to say who was who—
thumb to cheek to chest. The whole ravening.
When I told him I did not clip my bird’s wings,
I was talking about hunger. When he pressed me
hard against the back of the couch, named a litany
of things he’d do to me, I wanted them all.
I, too, have loved to live in a body. To feel the way
it lifts up the octaves of sky, cells spiraling
through smoke and mist, cumulus and stratus,
into that wild blue. And though I knew
there was always a hawk somewhere in the shadows
ready to snatch his heart in its claws, still,
I couldn’t help letting that parakeet free.

 

 

For more information on Danusha Lameris, please check out her website.

 

 

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Poem of the Week, by William Stafford

60004839212__30E2EEDE-424A-48BE-B9AD-706C3B31C6F8Last fall I began getting letters like this from the president, the vice-president, the NRA, anti-abortion organizations. Not my typical mail. Why me? Then it came to me: in August a friend died, a Marine combat veteran, and in his honor I made a donation to the Wounded Warrior project, which must have triggered a hundred conservative mailing lists.

Given my political leanings, it would be easy to post those letters on Twitter with a snarky comment and watch the equally snarky responses roll in, but that would only make things worse. Here’s the thing: most people are not zealots. You can be a pacifist and still support veterans. You can be an atheist and still respect your neighbor’s need to pray to a God you don’t believe in. You can have deep qualms about abortion and still support the right to have one.

You can despise your uncle’s racist comments and cut off contact with him, or you can remember how he taught you to ride a bike and showed up at all your basketball games. You can remember how it felt when you woke up to your own internalized racism. You can choose to open a conversation with him, one that might open a mental window, one that will take a lot of patience that you might assume neither of you have. 

But you do have that patience. We all do, once we recognize how deep the darkness is, and how easy it is to get lost. 

 

A Ritual to Read to Each Other, by William Stafford

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

 


​For more information about William Stafford, please click here.​

 

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Poem of the Week, by Armen Davoudian

IMG_E4279Last summer, driving to Vermont, I detoured past my grandparents’ dairy farm. That’s how I think of it –their farm, on McGhee Hill Road–even though it’s been almost half a century since it changed hands, bought by city dwellers who turned the barn into a house and the house into guest quarters. 

This time, instead of crawling past in my rental car, I parked. The new owner came out and against my will I started crying. She showed me around and I pointed out where the Christmas tree used to stand, where the long dining room and pantry used to be, the bedroom with the secret doorway.

As a little girl my sisters and I spent a week every summer at our grandparents’ farm, roaming the woods and fields and barn, going to Dairy Queen for ice cream. My grandmother, big efficient whirlwind of a farm wife and English teacher. My grandfather, tall and lean and handsome, washing up with Lava soap at the soapstone wash sink, a man who didn’t finish high school but could recite endless poetry. 

You can’t ever go back. But the past lives inside you, and it can’t ever be taken away, either. 

 

 

Wake-up Call, by Armen Davoudian

 
I can see my mother, apron over her nightgown,
setting the table for breakfast, a stack of lavash
steaming at the center, honey and milk skin,
feta with fruit, chickpea-and-chicken mash
dusted with cinnamon. I can see my father,
already in his coveralls and cap,
filling a cup to the brim with hot tapwater
and emptying it into another cup
and emptying that cup into another
until all three are warmed for tea. I can hear
the kettle whistling and pull the covers tight
around my head, against the coming light,
for any moment now they will open the door
and lift the covers and find that I’m not there.

 

 

For more information on Iranian poet Armen Davoudian, please check out his website

 

 

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