Held Together by the Quiet Gathering of Words

A blog (mostly) about books.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Lily has read 5 books toward her goal of 40 books.
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5 of 40 (12%)
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Hi tumblr — I’m back!

Sorry. It’s been a while. I’ve become a full-time high school English teacher plus the school’s Speech and Debate Coach. First week of school is almost over (What?!) so I thought it’d be a good time for reflecting…

Day One seemed to never end. We have 4 90-minute classes a day (3 + a prep period) and I swear those 90-minutes were forever. I ended up teaching 4th period while sitting on the window ledge because my feet were so sore. I left my room that night at 9pm. 

Day Two went by SO quickly. I swear I blinked and suddenly it was lunch and then suddenly it was over. I had my first “oh shit this lesson isn’t working…ABORT IT!” moment during first period English 11. I realized that having them read silently and discuss articles at 7:50 in the morning was not going to work. So, I scrapped the lesson in the middle and adapted. It went so much better — the AP even came by and popped her head in the door, saw that they were all reading and taking notes silently and diligently, and she whispered to me “My, what a well-behaved class!” It was definitely the right time for her to see them.  I left my classroom at 8pm, so that’s improvement. 

Day Three went awesomely. I felt more confident in my style, I gave the English 11 class time to work on “fun things” (like collaging their viewpoints on America) and was able to better implement my classroom management skills. 

Speech and Debate has been interesting. It’s a transitional year for the program and luckily it seems like most students are excited and ready to embrace change (not all, but most). I’ve finally gotten them on my side — in fact, on day two, 10 students came into my room within 15 seconds of the lunch bell ringing and just made themselves at home and hung out while eating. That definitely made my day.

I am working at the best school in the district, with the best colleagues I could ever even dream of, with students that are excited to be at the school. 

tl;dr: I’m now a full time high school English teacher and will be sporadic on here. But: I’m so excited for what is to come.


#yogi tea knew just what I needed. #perfection #happiness #perseverance #life #stress  (at The Yellow Deli)

#yogi tea knew just what I needed. #perfection #happiness #perseverance #life #stress (at The Yellow Deli)


Ö by Rita Dove

Shape the lips to an o, say a.
That’s island.

One word of Swedish has changed the whole neighbourhood.
When I look up, the yellow house on the corner
is a galleon stranded in flowers. Around it

the wind. Even the high roar of a leaf-mulcher
could be the horn-blast from a ship
as it skirts to the misted shoals.

We don’t need much more to keep things going.
Families complete themselves
and refuse to budge from the present,
the present extends its glass forehead to sea
(backyard breezes, scattered cardinals)

and if, one evening, the house on the corner
took off over the marshland,
neither I nor my neighbour
would be amazed. Sometimes

a word is found so right it trembles
at the slightest explanation.
You start out with one thing, end
up with another, and nothing’s
like it used to be, not even the future.


Sea Canes by Derek Walcott

Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth
No, give me them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.

Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint surf’s drone
through the canes, but I cannot walk

on the moonlit leaves of ocean
down that white road alone,
or float with the dreaming motion

of owls leaving earth’s load.
O earth, the number of friends you keep
exceeds those left to be loved.

The sea-canes by the cliff flash green and silver;
they were the seraph lances of my faith,
but out of what is lost grows something stronger

that has the rational radiance of stone,
enduring moonlight, further than despair,
strong as the wind, that through dividing canes

brings those we love before us, as they were,
with faults and all, not nobler, just there.


If You Forget Me - Pablo Neruda

aliteratelife:

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine



The Art Of Drowning - Billy Collins

I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs-
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about a short animated film, a slide presentation?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph?
Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography-
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.

Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all the lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,

a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.

Song of the Builders by Mary Oliver

Song of the Builders
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways

building the universe.


The Journey by Mary Oliver

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save

the only life you could save.


With infinite time before us, we ask what we shall do? Shall we sit indoors and watch the coals turn crimson? Shall we stretch our hands for books and read here a passage and there a passage? Shall we shout with laughter for no reason? Shall we push through flowering meadows and make daisy chains? All is to come.
— Virginia Woolf, The Waves (via fuckyeahvirginiawoolf)

Alas! This Is Not What I Thought Life Was by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Alas! this is not what I thought life was.
I knew that there were crimes and evil men,
Misery and hate; nor did I hope to pass
Untouched by suffering, through the rugged glen.
In mine own heart I saw as in a glass
The hearts of others … And when
I went among my kind, with triple brass
Of calm endurance my weak breast I armed,
To bear scorn, fear, and hate, a woful mass!


A Moments Indulgence by Rabindranath Tagore

I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side. The works
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.

Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.

Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and
the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.

Now it is time to sit quite, face to face with thee, and to sing
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.


Perhaps not to be is to be without your being, by Pablo Neruda

Perhaps not to be is to be without your being,
without your going, that cuts noon light
like a blue flower, without your passing
later through fog and stones,
without the torch you lift in your hand
that others may not see as golden,
that perhaps no one believed blossomed
the glowing origin of the rose,
without, in the end, your being, your coming
suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life,
blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze:
and it follows that I am, because you are:
it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we:
and, because of love, you will, I will,
We will, come to be.


Carry by Billy Collins

I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.

Just this morning on the shore,
I could hear two people talking quietly
in a rowboat on the far side of the lake.

They were talking about fishing,
then one changed the subject,
and, I swear, they began talking about you.


Books, she thought, grew of themselves. She never had time to read them.
— Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse. (via fuckyeahvirginiawoolf)

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