Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Salon: War and P...oetry (and Happiness)

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

I don't think we who have not been in military combat have much notion of what a war is like. Private Peaceful is a very powerful story. We in America seem to have the belief that Vietnam was a uniquely horrific war experience, that other wars were somehow "purer" wars. I don't think a person could read this book and continue to think so.

I grew up in the sixties, a time of hope and optimism about the world. I had expected that by this century people would have developed ways to solve conflict without resorting to sending young people to kill other young people.

I wonder if the stories of war, however brilliantly written, are not always much less horrific than actual combat....

And for anyone who enjoyed Private Peaceful and wants to read more, I suggest The Things They Carried.

Carry a Poem

How often do you go out to your mailbox and find a package has arrived from Kathmandu, Nepal?!

That happened to me this week. Inside the package was the delightful sliver of a book, Carry a Poem. Thousands of free copies of this book were given away in Edinburgh, Scotland during the Carry a Book Project, to “get you reading poetry.” I received it in a bookring through BookCrossing. The book consists of about twenty stories of people and the poems they love. Many of my favorites are here: “Warning” (perhaps better recognized by its opening line: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple”), an e. e. cummings (“i carry your heart with me”), and even the poem I’d considered adding to the card file accompanying the book, “Sunlight in the Garden”.

I decided to go with a beloved poem, “Orange”. I include it here:

The Orange by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange —
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled and shared it with Robert and Dave —
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

I plan to do a Carry a Poem Project of my own at school in the spring.

Hector and the Search for Happiness by Fran├žois Lelord

I participated this week in the first ever Literary Blog Hop. I visited many blogs.

At almost every blog, bloggers took on the task of defining the word «literary».

Most bloggers were in agreement ; I saw lots of «thoughtful» and many «beautifully written».

Some bloggers felt literary must be, by definition, difficult.

I say no and Hector and the Search for Happiness is a good example.

Hector is a delightfully simple read, but it is nevertheless quite literary. Thoughtful. Wildly clever. Certainly beautifully written.

I must say that I obtained great happiness from reading this book. Definitely simple, however, if that puts you off it.


  1. Orange by Wendy Cope is one of my favorite poems! Just reading it always makes me smile. I love the cover of Hector and the Search for Happiness. Have a great week.

  2. The cover of Hector is lovely, but so is the content. Not really as light as it looks either.

  3. I love the Carry A Book idea and how neat to receive a book from Nepal!

    I'm still on the fence about joining the literary hop--part of me thinks it's a bit exclusionary (no fantasy or YA??)--but I love your answer here about Hector.

  4. Private Peaceful is definitely a book I'll be looking out for. What a lovely book Carry a Poem looks!

  5. I LOVED Private Peaceful. War Horse by Morpurgo is also excellent (I read the book then saw the stage play in London--fantastic!)

  6. I don't read enough poetry. We read some for the class I am taking, but not enough for me to whet my appetite really. I must read more!

  7. I love the idea behind Carry a Poem and the fact that the book reached you from Nepal is, well, fantastic. I keep hearing about Private Peaceful and will add it to mt list.

  8. Thanks for an interesting and informative post which gave me several things to think about not least of which was the nature of conflict.

    You mentioned hoping to do a carry a poem project at school - I do hope you'll let us know how this developes.

  9. Haha I love that line in your description - serendipity and paradox. Why of course! Glad I hopped over here too :) Will keep returning!

  10. April is Poetry Month, so I hope to do Carry a Poem at school then....

  11. I finally bought The Things They Carried because I was never able to get it from my local library. I will look forward to reading it.


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