Review: Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I mostly enjoyed this biography of the medieval Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, which is interwoven with an introduction to the Norse mythology that Snorri helped preserve. It is engagingly written and its non-linear structure allowed Ms. Brown to pull in modern texts (such as Tolkien and Lewis) inspired by Snorri’s work. However I was a bit frustrated with the loose (and sometimes missing) citations of quotes throughout the book, as well as the author’s repeated referencing of “one translator” or “a modern translator” without giving the translators’ names. I bought this book as a launching point for further study of Icelandic mythology, but many of the items I now want to explore (especially quotes that I would love to record and repeat) were not cited nor did they contain enough key words for me to look up the source texts on my own. I would have rated this book 5-stars if the chapter-by-chapter notes section had been more complete.

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BATTLE [BARDAGI]

Just when I thought my current round of tremors was on the wane, this:

image

Anyone who works daily at not letting chronic illness rule their lives knows the bittersweet that is the loss of a teapot. Or a lunchdate. Or a [name of unexpected sacrifice here].

RIP Brown Betty.  The pot I brew in may be different, but the ritual you taught me will never change.

Review: The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology

The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology
The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology by Robert Bringhurst
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book written by a thinker about thinkers for thinkers. I could read this collection of Bringhurst’s essays seven times in a row and still not absorb everything in it. His gentle challenges to change my perspectives on language, culture, and the natural world were simultaneously maddening and thrilling. But even with only a surface understanding of the philosophy presented in this book, my view of the living dictionary that is my back meadow has changed forever.

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BLUE [BLÁR]

after repeatedly listening to Njörður P. Njarðvík’s baksneidd-braghendas in Icelandic for 90 minutes

Canada’s smoke
has curled around
the Cape and shifted

out to sea—
my spirit lifted

with each breath
the sky has gifted.

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

click to zoom in on Flickr
click to zoom in on Flickr

FINALLY [AÐ LOKUM]

on the work-for-hire publication of HOW TO WRITE AN EXCEPTIONAL THESIS OR DISSERTATION for Atlantic Publishing

My tome began three months before
the World Cup 2010.
I had twelve weeks to take their notes
and send a book back in.

Through migraines, travels, and lost sleep
these 67,000 words
turned into cash which I then used
as my earned payment towards

a laptop for The Fold. I thought,
With all Atlantic’s rush
my book should come right out this spring.

(This thought now makes me blush.)

Another World Cup came and went.
I moved cross-country too.
I gave up hope of holding it;
what else was I to do?

But yesterday, the red mail van
arrived with box first sent
to California, then sent here—
its corners awfully bent.

Yet safe and crisp inside the box:
six copies of my tome.
Four years, one month, eleven days…
My book is in my home!

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

click for more info at Google Books

Review: Dirt Road Home

Dirt Road Home
Dirt Road Home by Cheryl Savageau
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The poems in this collection sing of family connection, of clashing cultures, of experiencing nature. I read this book because I wanted to see New England from an Abenaki point of view. Savageau didn’t disappoint. Her poems acknowledge First-Nations stereotypes yet move beyond them, opening up perspectives I never would have imagined. She answers heavy questions about heritage and inheritance with a lightness of touch that didn’t exclude me, even though I do not share her background. What we do share is a respect for the land she calls Ndakinna. I, like Savageau, obey the voice that calls us outside on a clear January night to breathe ice crystals and bathe in moonlight. I, like Savageau, believe trees have a pulse and gardens are meant to be shared with the feathered & furred. It’s in this common ground that her poems weave their magic—giving us all the chance to become native.

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Review: A History of the New Hampshire Abenaki

A History of the New Hampshire Abenaki
A History of the New Hampshire Abenaki by Bruce D. Heald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dr. Heald’s book is on a topic that needs more attention than it gets. It is an overview of the first inhabitants of New Hampshire, introducing new inhabitants of the state to the history behind many of its place names. While transitions between topics is a bit rough at times, the bibliography was extensive enough to facilitate my further exploration of any topics that ended too abruptly. Dr. Heald tried to make the book an even-sided look at Abenaki history by interviewing tribal leaders and seeking out artifacts, attempting to balance out European written accounts; but due to the oral nature of historical Abenaki society, the majority of Dr. Heald’s historical source material was inevitably written by those of European descent and thus skewed the “Indian Warfare” and “Indian Legends and Folklore” chapters toward the white point of view. Nevertheless, this book was an enlightening read that introduced me to the first people and first language of my new home state.

PRODUCTION NOTE: While the cover is beautiful and the photos inside are really interesting, this book needs some SERIOUS proofreading and vetting.

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NEBISKAT [DÖGG]

small water maker

not possessive
not personified

a being that is
a being that does

unseen
unknown

whose handiwork
appears at dawn

recognized
by the Abenaki

We just call it dew.

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

click to see full size on Flickr
click to see full size on Flickr

RAIN [REGN]

The sky turned black and we were stuck behind
a three-mile line of cars. I’d tried to find
a back way home from Megan’s Boston doc
but didn’t figure in the five o’clock
non-weekender just wanting to get home
to Essex County, Mass (I’d hoped to roam
its Whittier spaces). Rain began to pelt
the car as Haverhill came in view. We felt
quite nervous when we couldn’t see if there
were two or four lanes ‘cross the bridge over
the Merrimack. Our wipers set on max
could not keep up. We followed tracks
of a one-ton truck until it led us through
a flooded patch of Main Street. Thus we knew
we had to park and let the deluge pass.
We turned uphill and looked for treeless grass
to park beside. Rain-Bound. No debate:
John Greenleaf Whittier’s farm would have to wait.

©2014 JS Graustein
Haverhill, Massachusetts USA

Click to read SNOW-BOUND at Google Books.
Click to read SNOW-BOUND at Google Books.