Posts Tagged ‘Louise Erdrich’

Original Fire is a collection of poems by Louise Erdrich. Louise Erdrich is not only a widely admired and accomplished poet but a novelist as well. I greatly enjoyed her book, The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse, when I read it a while back (and mentioned in my July 16, 2008 post!). Her poetry and stories interweave characters, plots, symbols, and landscapes from her native heritage as a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, which includes distinct Catholic influences. The result is language that incarnates lyrical beauty and births ideas as strong as stone.

Four lines struck me from the final poem in the collection:

“When we break ourselves open–
that is when the healing starts.
When you break yourselves open–
that is how the healing continues.”

from “Asiniig” (Part III “The Sweat Lodge”)

Another poem, “Morning Fire,” called my name, too. It particularly struck me since I am currently creating a childbirth education class for expectant parents in my role as a childbirth doula and educator. It made me remember times when I have watched a little baby waking up to sunlight streaming through a window to her crib.

“Morning Fire”

My baby, eating rainbows of sun
focused through a prism in my bedroom window,
puts her mouth to the transparent fire,
and licks up the candy colors
that tremble on the white sheets.
The stain spreads across her face.
She has only one tooth,
a grain of white rice
that keeps flashing.
She keeps eating as the day begins
until the rainbows are all inside of her.
And then she smiles
and such a light pours over me.
It is not that white blaze
that strikes the earth all around you
when you learn of the death
of one you love. Or the next light
that strips away your skin.
Not the radiance
that unwraps you to the bone.
Soft and original fire,
allow me to curl arund you in the white sheets
and keep feeding you the light
from my own body
until we drift into the deep
of our being.
Air, fire, golden earth.

Louise Erdrich
Original Fire (2003)

To learn more about Louise Erdrich, check out her author’s homepage housed at the website for her independent bookstore in Minneapolis, MN: Birchbark Books. Enjoy!

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I collect library cards like some people collect key chains, shot glasses, or Hard Rock Café memorabilia. Really. I have a Reader’s Card for the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA … the Library of Congress and the Folger in Washington, D.C. … and the British Library in London, England. Of course, I have library cards for every city I’ve ever lived in, from Vallejo, California to Alexandria, Virginia and for every university I’ve ever attended — and some I haven’t.

Library cards are like keys. They open doors to whole new worlds. But like keys, they must be placed in locks, and turned, or they’re practically useless.

The Wheaton Public Library in Wheaton, Illinois is presently issuing keys to interesting doors with their adult summer reading program: “Master the Art of Reading.” The librarians have invited everyone in town to read nine books between June 2nd and August 16th … and be entered in drawings for gift certificates to Borders Books and Music, Cantigny, or the Chicago Art Institute. Needless to say, I jumped on the bandwagon, and I’ve been reading like mad.

I started by borrowing books from my mother. Last Saturday, I went to the Benicia Library book sale here in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area … and bought twelve books. The other night I stayed up until three in the morning to finish a novel … I’ve been known to open a door, walk through it, and never look back. What can I say? Imaginary worlds fascinate me.

These are the worlds that have been fascinating me this summer:

Biography: David Loades, Elizabeth I

Poetry: Langston Hughes, The Dream-Keeper … Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese … Gerard Manly Hopkins, Selected Poems 

Next up (or should I say, next door?): John Reeves, A Book of Hours and Marianne Moore, The Complete Poems

Hopkins says, “It is a happy thing that there is no royal road to poetry. The world should know by this time that one cannot reach Parnassus except by flying thither.”

Fiction: William P. Young, The Shack and John Grisham, The Testament

These two contrast with each other: the first allegorical, the second gritty and realistic. But both present the truth of the saving grace of Jesus. They both intrigued me … because both were about the healing and redemption of the human soul.

At one point when he is speaking to Mack in The Shack, Papa-God says: “A bird’s not defined by being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image.”

Next door (I think): Louise Erdrich, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Non-fiction: Michael Gurian, The Wonder of Boys

Gurian puts in layman’s terms what we knew, as of 1996, about the effects of male biology on the behavior and development of boys from infancy to early adulthood … and suggests how parents, mentors, and teachers can best help boys become strong, wise, powerful men.  I don’t agree with everything in this book, but I do find all of it interesting.  

Next door: Hypoglycemia for Dummies 

Yes, I should have read this one years ago … but I didn’t know the book existed.

Spiritual classics: Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God … and Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now

There is nothing like Maya Angelou or a French monk from the 17th century to remind us of things we’ve forgotten … or maybe never thought of before. Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen of his monastery most of his life, and he prayed, “Lord of all pots and pans and things … make me a saint by getting meals and washing up plates!” This prayer is, of course, about being in two worlds at once by being in the presence of God. Brother Lawrence found his key, not in a book, but in the Door!

Sometimes the door before us is invisible, but it is still open.

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