Nina Lindsay’s first book of poetry
(I can’t wait ’til Poetry Friday)

h1 March 20th, 2007 by jules

Yup, I know it’s not Poetry Friday, but I can’t wait. Not to mention that — just like I should not restrict myself to telling you about a book with a Native American character or by a Native American author on only a day nestled within American Indian Heritage Month — I’d like to tell you about poetry any ‘ol time I’m inspired. Poetry Friday is a beautiful thing, but here’s to poetry any day of the week. Here’s to poetry 24/7.

Eisha and I have copies of Nina Lindsay’s first published book of poetry, Today’s Special Dish: Poems (published by Sixteen Rivers Press; publication date: April 2007), thanks to the poet herself. And I know that Eisha’s just now getting back into town and has a lot to catch up on and such, so I hope she won’t hate me for going ahead without her to tell you how lovely Lindsay’s anthology is. I’m sure Eisha will want to add some commentary later; I have a feeling she’ll really like this, too.

If you’re a children’s librarian, you’ve likely heard of Lindsay before. She’s the children’s librarian in Oakland, California, who runs the successful Bay Area Mock Newbery discussions (here’s the site, though — as you’ll see — this past January marked her last blog post there, at least for now: “I am one of those wallflowers who will suddenly barge into a discussion, cutting people off, and then leave when I get tired and go face a wall somewhere and let my mind happily wander with itself. This does not a blogger make,” she amusingly wrote). She is also the Chair for the Newbery Award Selection Committee for 2008.

Lindsay’s free verse in this anthology is a real treat, if you’ll excuse the bad pun. Lindsay has the observational prowess of some of my favorite poets; as Alison Luterman puts it well, “{t}hese poems say to me that daily life, when attended to, is full of unsought treasures.” These poems will awaken your senses and, at turns, give meaning a resuscitation (in the words of my favorite singer/songwriter), as in this rumination from “About the pile on my office desk,” as said pile is being compared to the layers of a brain, ” . . . one/ that knows what needs to be done/ Mine is the one to do it, but right now it is busy/ enjoying the start of one more cup/ watching the far-off surface of the morning begin to shimmer/ in the heat, wondering what it is really/ that this day needs to be filled with/ and how well accomplished is the thing done/ that no one enjoyed doing.”

The word “intimacy” comes to mind after a first reading; Lindsay is paying keen, close attention to the world — the every day and their triumphs and failures, as seen through details that sparkle in their veracity: “Pear trees bloom as quietly/ as the silky underbelly of a cloudy day. Light/ begins to build behind a certain swell/ Hills huddle close as flannel,” Lindsay writes in “I’ll be back in an hour or so.” And even though
“{b}eauty keeps failing” (and “morning must be nostalgic for itself — why else/ would it keep coming back, allowing us/ to blow things on a daily basis?”), a hope and much joy pervades the collection of poems as well: ” . . . Sun/ glints off windshields/ seeds of hope, good/ intentions, all sorts of things/ that almost look like buses, from a distance” (the latter from “Friday, but I may not make it” as the speaker waits for a bus that is surely not coming).

She takes you through several days of the week; shares her efforts “{t}oward a theory of invisibility” while bicycling to work, taking detailed stock of what’s on and in her person and her sincere efforts to shake off some of the more undesirable elements as she speeds down a hill (all the while portioning her “precious allotment of contentment”); muses on the “national marketing campaigns” our lives sometimes become; introduces you to some heroes and goddesses of unforgettable variety; gives you stunning, stirring detail of a “famous author . . . addressing the hotel pool” (my favorite part being “the librarian . . . packing up her lunch in just/ the way she wished her mother would have done when she was seven” while “the sun rose in riotous applause above the hotel roof”); brings us to a group of ants’ venue of choice, serving partly as a striking metaphor for both adventure and confusion, the scurrying of our lives; brings to vivid life the “small, yellow moments” of anticipation in “The trouble with progress,” an evocative piece on expectation; and much, much more.

Lindsay’s greatest strength is her ability to create a new awareness in the reader with fresh metaphors and turns of phrase that are bracing, invigorating in their novelty. “{N}o need to rumble/ the dream that’s settled in my feet like/ syrup in the bottom of the bottle,” she writes in “Don’t run yet,” — another meditation on expectancy, perhaps possibility.

At the publisher’s site, you can read “Today’s Special Dish” and “Aspiration” — two selections from this anthology (and here’s an ’06 creation at Poetry Daily, first published in Northwest Review — a tiny portion of “It does” in Today’s Special Dish being reminiscent of this poem).

And here’s the thing: I’m actually embarrassed by this incomplete review and just might say more about the anthology later, as I plan to read it again; poetry-making this good deserves a lot more attention that I’ve given it thus far. But Nina gave me permission to share a complete poem from the anthology with you, one that immediately endeared itself to me and that I’m grateful she’s letting me share. It’s entitled “Thursday, I think”:

After Chinese food last night,
I dreamed of croissants — all
through the tangible

rainy hours before waking.
Now the storm passes,
morning arrives,

suddenly it’s light (well,
sort of a half-hearted attempt), and
here I am, armed with coffee, still whole

and getting ready
for what another day will do to me.
There’ll be that bundled rush to the station,

the exit gates at my arrival, people
so polite the line never moves.
My library,

hot and creaking, the nervous rustle
of administrators passing
on their way upstairs. A lunch hour

full and gleaming,
and then the afternoon delivered
like some treat I’d craved and dreamed of and forgotten,

in which the eight-year old
who kicked me when he was seven
will check out Pippi Longstocking

with happiness
and impunity
and will pass through the security gates, casual and fearless.

This anthology has a ringing endorsement on its back from Naomi Shihab Nye, in which she says, “I felt my whole palate perk up {when reading this}, like when you want to call all your friends and tell them about that fresh mango/sticky rice superlative dessert you just ate at the new Thai cafe. Meet me there! Read this book!” Well, consider yourself informed; you just got a cyber-call from me. Meet me at the Thai cafe. Read this book.

7 comments to “Nina Lindsay’s first book of poetry
(I can’t wait ’til Poetry Friday)”

  1. Thank you so, so much for this review as it gave me a solid taste of what I can expect from the book when I get my hands on it. I am absolutely thrilled for Nina that the book is just about out and already receiving such an enthusiastic response. (Just to note that this is an adult title and not eligible for the Newbery so there is no conflict for Nina in that regard.)

  2. Yea! Tuesday’s a great day for a poetry post. There is a downside to special days or months (Poetry Friday, African American History Month, Mother’s Day, etc.) — the implication that we’re relegating all this great stuff to a contained little time frame. I say bring it on. Can’t wait to read this book!

  3. Yikes. For anyone who read the wonderful “Thursday, I think” poem earlier, I was just notified of a typo. So sorry! I just fixed it. It’s right now.

    Glad you all are excited about the anthology. I really like it.


  4. I DO really like this too! It was waiting for me when I got home, and I slurped it up like mango sticky rice. Very, very good stuff. Jules, you nailed it with this review.

  5. […] Nina Lindsay’s poetry book, Today’s Special Dish, is full of poems that refresh me. (Here’s a review of it.) […]

  6. individuals know very well what theyre doing.

  7. You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart. “We are near waking when we dream we are dreaming.” by Friedrich von Hardenberg Novalis.

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