Why Aren’t All Books Happy? #PoetryFriday

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

I wished you a happy day, but the truth is, I’ve been feeling a bit down. I tend to be relentlessly optimistic and generally feel grateful and content. And here’s the thing. Although my career, like most writers’ is taking a beating with the pandemic, life is still pretty good for us personally. My family hasn’t had to deal with things as hard as many families lately. So I feel kind of bad even admitting this, but here’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was going to present in the NCTE Poetry Notables session this fall. Having three books on this year’s list is one of the high points of my career! And talking with teachers about embracing poetry in the classroom. Sigh. David Harrison did this last year, and he was fabulous! I was looking forward to trying to match his excellence. Of course, I knew the conference had been moved to virtual only. And I knew that the entire conference would look very different. But when I got the email a couple of weeks ago that that session had been canceled, it somehow hit me so hard. I’m not 100% sure why. It wasn’t unexpected, but…there you go. We can’t control the things that bring us grief. Even small things. (Edited to add: I’m okay, of course! Still grateful for all the wonderful things in my life and my writing, like this Poetry Friday community. I was just surprised by the…melancholy, I guess, that this news brought on. Most pandemic-related change and cancellations I have taken in stride without too much personal distress. This seemed such an unlikely thing to be the one to make me say, “That’s it, COVID. I’m so sick of you and all the changes, big and small, you’re bringing to my life. Be gone with you!”)

Anyway, in thinking about bad news and hard things big and small, I decided to share this poem today. I wrote it many years ago for BookSpeak! Poems About Books. It didn’t end up staying in the collection, but I still love it. I hope you do, too.

Why Aren't All Books Happy

Books and poetry always ease my sad feelings. Even sad books and poems! For more, probably more cheerful, poems, check out the  Poetry Friday Roundup with Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone.


29 Responses

  1. I’m sorry about your NCTE session. I got the same email but was relieved. Funny how things hit different people differently. I hope there are some happy days ahead.

    1. Laura, I am also sorry that your event was canceled. I was really sad when I found out the proposals I wrote for the teams were not accepted but life goes on. While your poem is sad by your standards, it speaks of reality. I agree that books and poetry are remedies to cure the broken heart syndrome.

  2. Oh, Laura, I am so sorry. I have been so excited for you that three of your books made the NCTE poetry list! You have every right to feel grief. You have made a great accomplishment! In this world of COVID-19 we ALL have been under constant stress for five months. Then, when additional stressors happen we wonder why are we so upset. I think it’s because we haven’t had a break from the stress of COVID-19. Many stressors people get a break from. Not with COVID, it constantly looms over us. Therefore, Laura, don’t discredit (not sure if correct word because I’m pretty sleepy) your grief. Acknowledge it, deal with it, and when you’re ready you’ll move on.
    I hope this helps.

    I love your book, Bookspeak! Poems About Books. When I read it to my poetry classes my students liked the book and wrote good poems afterward.

    1. Good advice, Gail–and thank you for your comment full of light and encouragement:>)

  3. What a wonderful poem. I love it and am going to share it with my students! As a teacher, I try to be happy and positive “for the kids.” But, when I started work virtually this week, it was kinda sad. It’s sad not to be in the company of young people- ‑working with them, talking to them, listening to them. As you say, you can choose the things that bring grief. I think it’s OK to admit sadness. Name it and know it and then work with it as you can. Thanks for this post and this poem.

    1. Exactly, Linda–naming, knowing, accepting…It makes me tremendously happy that you might share this with your students, hopefully giving them another way to name, know, and accept. xox

  4. I’m sorry! Thanks for writing about it! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    1. Ruth, thank you. You are one of many people dealing with so many more important and hard situations than my small grief. Thank you for your generosity in reading about my small one.

  5. Book Speak! is one of my favorite poetry collections, Laura. Thanks for sharing this poem. It speaks to so many things and reminds us that life is not always easy. Congratulations on having so many books on the NCTE list! That’s fabulous!

    1. Thank you, Rose! I am so honored, knowing the passion and knowledge the committee members bring to their discussions and decisions.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear about the conference. I’m sure it’s a huge disappointment, but the pandemic will end. You’ll get back on track because of your talent and hard work.

  7. Laura, I’m so sorry your session was cancelled. What trying times these are! I find myself tearing up at odd moments and sometimes in response to very minor things. As you said, “We can’t control the things that bring us grief.”
    On a happier note, I have “Bookspeak!” in my classroom and love sharing it with students. “On the Shelf and Under the Bed” is a perennial favorite! I’m so glad you shared this poem that wasn’t included. I can see why you still love it. During my life there have been so many times I’ve found solace within a book. This is a powerful poem and I especially love that ending!

    1. Thank you so much, Molly! I’m glad I’m not the only one tearing up at odd moments and with minor things. Thanks for the kind words about BookSpeak–I often share “On the Shelf and Under the Bed” with 4th-6th graders on author visits. I have one volunteer student stand tall and straight on a chair and be the perfect, pristine book. The other volunteer crouches a little. As I read the poem, the crouched student and I gaze at the “perfect” book, and I drape purple sticky notes (grape jelly) and yarn (dust bunnies) and such over the crouched student. We get a lot of laughs, and I reassure the perfect book that he/she was just a prop, and of course he/she is immensely loved, too. Thanks for mentioning that poem–makes me smile at good author visit memories.

  8. Ugh, I’m sorry they cancelled the whole thing — that’s so disappointing. I know you’ll find new ways to share your poetry later on… but here’s to just being satisfied with being part of a sad story just now. 🙁

    1. You nailed it, Tanita. That’s what it is about sad poems and stories. They reassure us we’re part of a larger sad story. I wouldn’t want it to be my focus constantly, but it gives those feelings a home…with company.

  9. Hi, Laura. I think we are all processing so much change and dealing with so much grief, that what could be seen as relatively minor losses can easily hit us extra hard. Wishing you gifts on the other side. One bright spot is that it inspired you to share this poem, which I love. It reminds me of the very personal relationship each of us has with what we read because both the writer and the reader make the experience.

  10. And, a little thing for me, but I was so looking forward to having you and everyone in Denver! I was going to try to get to every session and hang out as much as possible! This year is so filled with ups & downs, yet, as you said, others are really suffering so much, I cannot whine much about this. But I hear you, Laura! I love your poem, too, that part about holding your hand and absorbing tears is true I’m sure for many readers. I’m glad you shared it Those books, too, are important & needed! Thanks!.

    1. It would have been SO wonderful to see you in person again, Linda. And for you to have so MANY mostly online friends to get to visit with. Sigh. Hugs to you.

  11. So sorry your presenting session was cancelled Laura–I hope you’ll turn this around and do some celebrating on your blog for your 3 books around that time- I’d love to celebrate with you! Thanks for sharing your poem, so fitting for the ups and downs of our times. And your ending stanza is Beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I did celebrate on my blog for several weeks back when it was announced, but maybe I’ll do something different/special in conjunction with the timing of NCTE. Thank you for the idea…

  12. Laura, what an incredible poem! I’m sorry it didn’t make in into Bookspeak (a fave on my shelf). Here are three things I love: “your stomach churns like a cement truck…” “to hold your hand as it holds me…” and this line from your post — “Books and poetry always ease my sad feelings.”

  13. Your poem about sad books is touching. Appreciations for writing it, especially for ~~

    “the book that you read under the covers with sunlight dawning in your eyes”

    Thank you for being Wonderful, Sharing, Caring You, dear Laura. xo

    1. Thank you, Jan. Honestly, I’ve teared up more over these lovely comments than I did over the notification. That is my favorite line from the poem, too. Hugs:>)

  14. Sorry to hear about your session. I can’t even imagine how they managed to pare the conference down…or what it will be like to “attend.”

    Your poem spoke to me. I love a book that can make me cry. When I was in middle school, my Sunday afternoon ritual was to re-read a sad book and cry. (Little Britches, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Love Story…)

    1. What a wonderful ritual. I can’t do it that often, but I do love a good sob-worthy book. I think it all started in 3rd grade when Mrs. Gracey read us Where the Red Fern Grows. I have such clear memories of the tears. It allowed me to pour all my own unhappiness into someone else’s or the world’s, even just momentarily.

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