Thursday Book Feature: Essays Provide Audio Insight


Eavesdropping: A Life by Ear
By Stephen Kuusisto
Copyright 2006.

In this collection of essays written mostly in chronological order, the author, who has been legally blind since birth, discusses how he takes note of sounds most of us don’t perceive. He talks about how, as a child, he enjoyed listening to his grandmother’s radio and records and developed an appreciation for opera as well as other musical styles. He also describes how he learned to love literature through talking books. He explains how he traveled around the world as an adult, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, relying mainly on his hearing for information and insight.

Like Kuusisto, I developed a love of opera as a child, so I could relate to that. I also enjoyed his account of how he lugged his specialized talking book record player to his junior high music class so he could share a recording of someone reading his favorite poem instead of his favorite song. I also found his account of getting lost in an airport especially interesting, wondering why in the world he didn’t request assistance from the airlines in advance like I do when I travel. Even though I have some vision, I think this book does a great job of portraying the world through the author’s ears instead of his eyes.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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***

Review: Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone

Abbie-1

Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers

Edited by Lori Howe

Copyright 2016

 

This is a collection of stories, poems, and essays that touch mostly on aspects of western life. Some pieces talk about nature and dealing with the elements, such as Patricia Frolander’s poem, “Wyoming 1949,” in which she describes cutting open a dead horse and crawling inside to stay warm while in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm. Then there’s Aaron Holst’s poem, “Fire and Water,” inspired by one of the author’s firefighting experiences, that depicts an incident that can happen anywhere, not just in the west.

Other works discuss wildlife, such as Susan Marsh’s essay, “A Heart in the Shape of a Bear,” about the plight of this creature in the wild and in civilization. Still others deal with history and culture, like Cindy Jackelen’s poem, “Whose Land,” which depicts the brutality of the Indian War through several voices.

Not all pieces are set in Wyoming. There’s Patti Sherlock’s short story, “Mother George, Midwife,” a fictionalized account of a Negro midwife in Idaho during the 19th century who turned out to be a man disguised as a woman. Julianne Couch’s short story, “Reintroduction,” is set in the Nebraska wilderness. Then there’s Alyson Hagy’s short story, “The Saddlemaker,” in which a young girl from South Dakota is sent to live with her grandparents near Riverton, Wyoming, before her mother’s shady past catches up with her.

I’d love to tell you about each poem, story, and essay in this book, but there are so many of them. Like most anthologies, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone can be read either cover to cover or in bits and pieces, depending on what strikes your fancy. Poems, essays, and short stories are bunched together, each in their own section.

That’s one thing I don’t like. In many anthologies and literary journals, stories, poems, and essays are together, not each in their own section. You might see a poem sandwiched between two short stories or two essays or one short story and an essay. For example, in Magnets and Ladders, an online journal I help edit, poems, stories, and essays are grouped into sections by topic. It creates less monotony that way.

Otherwise, I enjoyed reading many of the works in Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone. I know some of the writers whose works appear in this anthology, and it’s always fun to read what they have to say. Even if you don’t live in Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, or Idaho, this book will give you great insights on western life.

 

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Grandma’s Radio

Grandparent’s Day was a couple of weeks ago, and I completely forgot about it until now. Several months ago when it was my turn to facilitate our third Thursday poets’ meeting, I played my guitar and sang “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” I brought copies of the lyrics so people could sing along if they wanted. I then suggested we write about the best darn thing about our own grandmothers’ homes. To hear me sing the song with piano accompaniment, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/grandma%27s%20feather%20bed.mp3 . What I wrote is below.

***

GRANDMA’S RADIO

“It’s a good day,” the morning announcer sings.

“Now, stand by for news.”

At the age of twelve, lying next to Grandma

in her big double bed, I ask,

“Why do we have to listen to news?”

“So we’ll know what’s going on in the world,”

she answers. After local and national news,

sports, horiscopes, we begin our day.

In my own room at home, I have a radio,

wake up in the morning to all the happenings

around town, around the country, around the world.

As a teen-ager, I listen to latest hits,

The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, some comedy.

With limited vision, I’m carried off

in a way never accomplished by television.

Now, with Granma gone, I follow her example

lie in bed, listen to National Public Radio,

know what goes on in the world.

***

Now it’s your turn. What’s the best darn thing about your grandma’s house? Please feel free to share below.

***

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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Vote for my new book idea.

Before and After (Poetry)

In the beginning, you knew all about me,

which buttons to push,

how to hook me up,

install programs, fix problems.

Now, you hesitate,

push the wrong buttons.

When I don’t give you the desired response,

you beat my keyboard, proclaim I don’t work.

I needed new parts because I was slow to start.

You had them installed.

Still, you become frustrated

when I don’t perform the desired function.

I wish I could read your thoughts,

still want to please you.

***

This poem appears in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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Sheridan College Graduation, 1980 (Poetry)

Amid the thump of running footsteps,

five figures clad only in sacks

dart across the platform between the podium

where the president stands in his finery

and chairs where regally clad trustees sit.

Someone must have alerted the campus police

because the streakers are apprehended

before they reach the exit.

It’s said that students plotted this

to pay tribute to a retiring faculty member.

They may have trouble finding work later

unless they seek employment as strippers.

***

This poem appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. Click on the Dropbox link below to hear me read it.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/sheridan%20college%20graduation%201980.mp3

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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Little Houses

Today’s poem was inspired by the NaPoWriMo prompt at http://www.napowrimo.net/day-twenty-nine/ . Click on the Dropbox link below the poem to hear me read it.

 

LITTLE HOUSES

 

Laura Ingalls Wilder, the little girl

who lived in the big woods, grew up,

got married, had a daughter,

Rose Wilder Lane, wrote about

her life with Rose’s help.

Her tales delighted me and other children.

 

Now, Susan Wittig Albert

writes about Rose and Laura’s lives during the Depression,

how Rose and Laura collaborated

on the Little House books,

still fascinating to me, but do today’s young people

want to know about life over a hundred years ago?

Do they care about a family on the prairie,

struggling to stay alive through harsh winters, drought?

This book should encourage mothers to read to their daughters,

as mine did, about the little girl in the big woods.

 

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/little%20houses.mp3

 

Do you remember reading the little house books when you were a child? Did you have any favorite books in the series that you read more than once? Mine was Little Town on the Prairie, in which Laura, a teen-ager, starts working to support her family and launches her teaching career. I hope to finish Susana Wittig Albert’s book in time to blog about it next week so stay tuned.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

 

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

 

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Vote for my new book idea.

Vote for My New Book Idea

Two years ago after Bill died, I started working on a memoir about meeting, marrying, and caring for him. After a couple of months, I had to put it aside because it was too difficult to deal with emotionally. Two years later, I’m ready to start work on it again. After reading Marge Piercy’s Sleeping with Cats, I decided to combine prose with poetry to tell the story the way she does. I’m revamping what I’ve written so far.

Before I even finished the book, I found a possible publisher. Something or Other Publishing has a different concept. I posted my book idea on their site where readers can vote for it. The more votes I get, the better chance I have of publishing the book with this company. I’m asking you, my readers, to go to the publisher’s site and vote for my book idea. The working title is My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. I’ll paste a brief description and prolog below.

Description

In September of 2005, Abbie Johnson married Bill Taylor. She was in her mid-forties, and he was nineteen years older. Three months later, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side and confined him to a wheelchair. Abbie Johnson Taylor uses prose and poetry to tell the story of how she met and married her husband and then how she cared for him for six years despite her visual impairment.

At first, there was a glimmer of hope that Bill would walk again, but when therapists gave up on him seven months after his second stroke, Taylor resigned herself to being a permanent family caregiver. She discusses trials and tribulations: learning to dress him and transfer him from one place to another, sitting up with him at night when he couldn’t pee or move his bowels or because of other medical problems, battling doctors and bureaucrats to obtain necessary equipment and services, purchasing a wheelchair accessible van and finding someone to drive them so they wouldn’t always depend on the local paratransit service’s limited hours.

She also talks about balancing caregiving with writing and how she managed to publish two books and various poems and stories in journals and anthologies. In the end, she describes the painful decision she and Bill made to move him to a nursing home when he became too weak for her to care for him in September of 2012. He seemed to give up on life after that and passed away a month later.

PROLOG

THE BIG DAY

This couldn’t be happening, I told myself, as in my underwear, I paced the upstairs hall in Grandma’s house between my aunt’s old bedroom and the bathroom. It was a warm September afternoon in 2005, and out in the yard, I heard strains of music from the string duo my father hired for the occasion mingled with the chatter of arriving guests. Soon, the ceremony would start. Would I have to walk down the aisle on my father’s arm in my underwear? Where was my sister-in-law Kathleen who agreed to be matron of honor?

She was probably still at the motel with my brother Andy, their two sons Dylan and Tristan, ages eight and six, who were to be ushers, and their two-year-old daughter Isabella, who would serve as flower girl. Not only did we not have ushers or a flower girl but my dress was with Kathleen at the motel. Why wasn’t she here?

The front door banged, and to my relief, I heard the excited voices of my nephews and niece. “Go out back, and don’t mess up your nice clothes,” Kathleen called before rushing up the stairs to greet me.

“You have my dress?” I asked, noticing she wasn’t carrying a garment.

“No, it’s right there on the bed,” she said, pointing to somewhere I couldn’t see. With my limited vision, I could only make out people and objects close to me, and in the heightened emotional state of any bride-to-be, I didn’t think to look closely for the dress. I’d been pacing the floor and ringing my hands for twenty minutes, wondering where it was, and all this time, it was right in front of me.

Later, fully dressed, I sat on the toilet while Kathleen applied my make-up. From the yard below, the string duo’s music and the din of voices drifted up and in through the open bathroom window. When I was ready, Kathleen said, “Okay, we need something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Let’s see…”

While she wandered through the upstairs rooms, I made my way to the ground floor, feeling anxious. The living room was deserted. Everyone was outside, waiting. Just as I sat on the couch to compose myself, Dad appeared and said, “Honey, they’re starting Pachelbel’s Canon.”

I leapt to my feet and called up the stairs to Kathleen, “Screw something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Let’s do this.” I took Dad’s arm, and we maneuvered through the living and dining room and kitchen and out the back door. In minutes, Kathleen was at my side.

Isabella strolled down the makeshift aisle. “Oh look,” said someone in the crowd. “She’s dropping rose petals and picking them up again. Isn’t that cute?”

I wanted to be annoyed, but she was only two. Still, I couldn’t help wondering what else could possibly go wrong. Finally, I heard the musical cue for my entrance. “Okay now,” I whispered to Dad, and we descended the back porch steps and moved down the aisle.

At first, I didn’t see Bill. Was he still at the Mint Bar? Then all of a sudden, there he stood with his gray hair and sunglasses, wearing a green suit that complimented my gown. He took my hand and said, “Hello sweetie. Are you nervous?”

As usual, his touch and voice were reassuring, and I smiled and said, “No, now that you’re here.”

Nothing else mattered, not the lost and found wedding dress, the late arrival of the matron of honor, the absence of something old, new, borrowed, blue, or the errant flower girl. After a long day of preparation and celebration away from each other, we were finally together.

I’LL KEEP THIS MEMORY

of my wedding always,

guests seated in rows of white plastic chairs,

an arch framed by flowers and balloons,

the string duo that played Pachelbel’s Cannon,

as I marched down the aisle

and “Ode to Joy,” as we recessed,

unaware that tragedy would change our lives.

If you like what you’ve read so far, please vote for this idea at http://soopllc.com/blog/book-ideas/ideal-partner-met-married-cared-man-loved-despite-debilitating-odds-abbie-taylor/?doing_wp_cron=1420821398.1607348918914794921875 . Thank you.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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