Review: Instructions For Flight

Hi, everyone! I’m back with a book review, since I recently realized that I haven’t posted one in practically FOREVER. To tell the truth, I have very little time to read for fun anymore, but hopefully I’ll have some time this summer after the current semester ends! Gotta catch up on all my reading challenges.

Anyway, today I’ll be reviewing Instructions For Flight, a debut poetry collection published this winter by young author Kate I. Foley! It’s her birthday today, actually, so what better time to post this? Happy seventeenth, Kate! And happy National Poetry Month, too.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I received a free PDF of this ebook in exchange for an honest review. I should also add that Kate is one of my good online friends. (We “met” about 4.5 years ago and I think of her like a little sister!) So, I’m definitely biased when it comes to supporting Kate-as-a-writer, but I’ll do my best to be an impartial reviewer of this collection!

I decided to organize this review according to the sections of this book, with thoughts about each and every poem listed according to the order in which they appeared in the collection.

Enjoy!

P.S. You can find Kate on Twitter and read her blog here. Instructions For Flight is available on Amazon!

Short and Sweet

“3 O’Clock Coffee” (4/5)

Definitely my favorite poem from this section! It made me envision a very calm, quiet, kind moment between two people – friends, lovers, a parent and child, et cetera. It’s so short but it says so much!

“The Simplest Thing” (3.5/5)

Short and sweet! This haiku was super fun to read because it practiced what it preached: The poem talked about keeping things we say brief and was itself brief.

“What Can’t Be Seen” (3/5)

Loved the imagery here! I also enjoyed how this poem sets up a relationship using so few words. It really told me a lot about the characters in a handful of lines.

Social Issues

“Blood on the Pavement” (4.5/5)

From the very beginning lines, I was utterly drawn in: “There’s blood on the pavement. / There’s blood on the pavement and a smoking gun / And everyone’s telling them to run…” LOVE those lines. I actually can’t get them out of my head!

Further into the poem, there are two lines where Kate plays with the double meaning of the word “arms,” which I thought was brilliant. I had to read this poem several times because I enjoyed it so much.

“Dear Dr. King” (4/5)

Kate posted this poem on her blog several years ago, so I’d read it before and was delighted to find it in this collection! I’m always interested in reading works that contextualize a famous person, place, or thing in terms of an ordinary person’s experience – in this case, Kate’s thoughts while visiting MLK’s house. It’s all the more impressive because she wrote it in her early teens!

“Life Today” (4/5)

I have to admit, I wasn’t too taken with the form in which this piece was written – I think it could have just as easily, and perhaps more effectively told through a vignette-y short story or essay – but I think its subject of addiction to technology is really important to talk about!

Written at Writer’s Camp

“Instructions For Flight” (3/5)

I wanted this to be my favorite poem, obviously, since this is where the title of the collection was taken from! Don’t get me wrong, I loved this poem – ESPECIALLY the first three stanzas. Amazing imagery, reassuring message, and so on and so forth. It’s great, but was definitely outshone by several other poems, particularly those in the same section as it… which I’ll get to in just a sec.

(I’m glad that this is the title of the collection, though, because I can’t imagine which of the other poem titles would work nearly so well as this one.)

“Stage Fright” (5/5)

I FREAKING LOVE THIS POEM OK. The pacing, the descriptions, the emotions that come through. Kate, I don’t know if you have any interest at all in spoken-word poetry, but I can TOTALLY see this working as a performance. The fact that this poem is about being nervous before/during a performance would just make it even better, since it would become a sly joke with the audience while you acknowledge how you feel in that moment.

“Why Do We Write?” (3.5/5)

I’m such a sucker for stories about why people love writing! I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to talk about that through a poem, though, so it was super interesting to see how someone might approach that.

Odes

“Love Poem to Breathing” (4/5)

I don’t know if it was intentional, but I love how the rhythmic nature of this poem mirrors the rhythmic sound of a heartbeat… if that makes any sense.  (Does it?) Like, something about when and how the verbs are repeated reminded me of that. It was great.

“To Beautiful Disasters” (4.5/5)

Not sure what was the inspiration for this poem, but I read it through the lens of mental health. There were a lot of really creative, unexpected comparisons and rhymes that made me smile as I read them because I wished I’d thought to write something like this.

“To People Who Smile at Strangers” (4/5)

This poem made me smile! My biggest takeaway from this one was that I’m so glad it came at the very end because I think it leaves the reader in a lovely frame of mind. Or at least that’s how I felt at the end of this collection.

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All in all, I was really impressed with the quality of Kate’s work in Instructions For Flight! With poems about such a variety of subjects, everyone is sure to find something to love. I look forward to reading whatever Kate I. Foley publishes in the future!

Rating: 3.5/5

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This Post Is About Screaming

I grew up just down the street from a public school and on warm days you could hear kids laughing and screaming on the playground. Couldn’t see them, because some houses and trees across the street from my house were in the way, but you could definitely hear them. It was always weird when school went on break and all of a sudden my family’s mid-mornings and noons were quiet, since those were the times that kids had recess.

The window of the dorm room where I currently live faces the street, a street with a lot of frats and sorority houses on it. My freshman year dorm room was pretty quiet because it didn’t face that same street and was five stories up, but this year I’m on the second floor so my roommate and I are much closer to all the noise from parties and whatnot.

Yesterday evening I was curled up in my chair next to the window, absorbed in a novel* I’m reading for school. To tell the truth, my mind is pretty much off in its own world, doing its own thing because I’m constantly daydreaming about stories I’ve read and stories I want to write and so on and so forth… but that is especially true when I’m reading. I forget what’s going on around me.

*A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, in case you wanted to know. It’s a retelling of King Lear that I was assigned in my Literary Retelling & Impersonation class. It’s really well written and captures the Midwest very accurately but at the same time it’s sooooo heteronormative and it’s just like cAN YOU NOT.

So there I was, spaced out – and half-asleep to boot, because I’d studied all day – and I kind of forgot where I was, as I often do when reading. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been reading high fantasy or whatever and glanced up only to be startled that I’m wrapped up in blankets in bed and not, like, prowling through mysterious shadowy passages in an ancient castle somewhere. It happens.

My attention narrows down to only the words on the pages before me, at first, and then eventually all I’m envisioning is the scene that is being described. So, yeah. I get really into stories like that. I think what happened last night was that I dozed off for just long to become really disoriented and think that I was at home the raucous shouting and laughing from the frats and sororities was coming from the playground at the elementary school just down the road.

Hey, it made sense to me because, as I said, the sounds were basically the same. Plus, I’m anxious for the semester to be over so I can head home, relax, and pack for my study abroad session in Dublin. WHYYY ARE FINALS STILL LIKE A MONTH AWAY.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is that it made me laugh because I realized that in many ways, my peers and I haven’t changed all that much from who we were in grade school. We’re ridiculous; we’re still loud. (Maybe not as shrill as little kids, I will concede.) We may have exchanged chasing one another round and round the playground equipment for drunkenly stumbling around the yard of a frat, but when I’m lying in bed, in the dark, on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes I honestly couldn’t tell the difference.

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#AmCurrently | Studying For Midterms, Listening To Ed Sheeran, & Double-Checking The Calendar

Didn’t think I’d write another #amcurrently post so soon after my first one, but there’s just so much going on. Soooo… behold, a post!

Enjoy!

#amstudying

I have a midterm in Foundations of the First Amendment next week and I’m SUPER anxious because that course is so confusing to me. I go to every class meeting, take good notes, and even occasionally ask questions or volunteer answers, but I still feel overwhelmed.

Doing something is better than doing nothing, though, so I’m attempting to study for the test by trying out an idea from studyign: Summary foldables. These are a substitute for flash cards, as you can see in the video above. I spent the morning making a set of them to review nineteen vocabulary terms.

DEEP BREATHS. DEEEEEP BREATHS. I CAN DO THIS. I’ve drawn up a study schedule such that I’m A) going over one section of the study guide per day so I don’t burn out and B) reviewing material in a logical fashion because there are certain sections that I can’t work on until I’ve completed others. Figuring out all this and then settling down to work made me feel much less panicky.

#amsleeping

I mean, not right NOW, obviously, but I have been sleeping better than expected: My psychiatrist recommended that I increase the dosage of my meds. Well, the last time I did that it gave me such bad insomnia that I didn’t sleep for two days. (While I was at a conference, too. Ewwww.)

This time around… has not been without its problems, but overall I feel like I adjusted much more quickly. In fact, I think I’ve slept better these past few nights than I have in a long time. Some of that could be related to the antidepressants, too – more energy, yay!

#amsmiling

Because it FINALLY feels like spring spring SPRING! The past week was cold and cloudy but yesterday was gloriously sunny. (Today, too!) I didn’t eat dinner until almost eight because the fact that the sun was out made me lose track of time and not realize how late it was getting. I wrote a post around this same time last year about how spring weather positively affects my mental health and I’m SO feeling that way right now.

#amchecking

I’ve double-, triple, quadruple-, and quintuple-checked my calendar to make sure what day of the week it is! For some reason, I feel like it’s a Saturday and I keep finding myself getting all excited about having free time tomorrow (Sundays are my day off!) only to remember that it is not, in fact, a Saturday. SO. That’s a weird persistent mix-up on my part.

#amlistening

Besides Spotify’s Deep Focus playlist and the Harry Potter soundtracks I mentioned in my last #amcurrently, I’ve been rather taken with Ed Sheeran’s latest album, ÷. I’ve heard some of his music over the years, obviously, particularly the song he performed for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but I’ve never really listened to so much of it at once before. AHH IT’S ALL SO CATCHY AND UPBEAT AND CUTE I LOVE IT. 

#amrelaxing

Some of my friends invited me over for Passover tonight, and, like… I still can’t get over the fact that I have FRIENDS here at college. I never went anywhere on Fridays in high school and I still hardly go out on that night even now, so I’m always ridiculously happy when someone wants to include me because I didn’t have that before. We’re just eating dinner together, but it means so much to me.

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What are you currently up to?

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National Poetry Month | Days 1-5

This April, I’m reading one poem per day to celebrate National Poetry Month! I asked you for recommendations, compiled a list of the most promising-sounding works, and have been having great fun with this project ever since! This is the first of what will eventually be six updates, with my thoughts about the most recent five poems I’ve read in each post.

Enjoy!

4/1

Sonnet XCVIII

William Shakespeare

Ahhh this poem is just SO romantic? I knew I had to include one of Shakespeare’s sonnets in my reading list and, although I made a slight misstep in not scheduling one for HIS FREAKING BIRTHDAY ON THE 23RD, I’m really pleased with my choice. It’s a very tender, affectionate poem, with a narrator who seems just as full of love for spring as they are for the subject of their poem. I love the theme of love across the distance of space and time, too.

4/2

Said The Poet To The Analyst

Anne Sexton

This poem gave me approximately seventy-nine different feelings about writing! It’s just so… introspective? And really, really wonderful how the author talks about her relationship with the words she puts down on the page as well as the relationship she has with those who read her writing. Because I totally get that.

I was particularly drawn to the phrase “but if you should say this is something it is not” because it made me think about just how often the author’s intended meaning is completely opposite to what an analyst, critic, editor, et cetera thinks it is.

4/3

In Response to Executive Order 9066

Dwight Okita

SUPER relevant, especially considering everything that’s been in the news lately. It’s scary to think about how easily such a situation could come about again. I love that Okita chose to tell the story of Japanese-American internment camps during WWII through the eyes of a child, because that’s such a classic way to approach this kind of event, isn’t it? By telling it from the point of view of a young person.

I’m especially curious about why he decided to write from the POV of a girl, since I always like to think about how authors approach questions of gender. I definitely don’t have any answers here… I’m just brain-dumping.

Also, I need to check out the rest of Dwight Okita’s author website when I get a chance because I didn’t have time for that on the third so I am POSTING A REMINDER HERE FOR FUTURE ELIZABETH TO SEE.

4/4

Sleeping Trees

Fady Joudah

LOVED the imagery here! This poem is so quiet at times but tension-filled and almost explosive at others. Upon a second reading I noticed how this poem is structured around the members of a family: First the father, then a brother, and finally the mother. Bookended by parents with a child in the middle. I like that. I love noticing little things like that; it’s probably a result of the number of workshop classes I’ve taken where we get really into examining the nitty-gritty details an author’s craft.

4/5

The Pelican Chorus

Edward Lear

Reading this poem put such a huge smile on my face! The language used in it is so playful and fun. This poem certainly has personality… in some ways, it really reminded me of the long, silly songs found in many of Roald Dahl’s children’s books.

There’s a picture book based on this poem (as well as several of Lear’s other works) and now I need to check whether the library has a copy because I think it would be a ton of fun to read in that medium!

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Have you read any of the poems mentioned here, or any by the same authors? Do you have any recommendations for further reading for me based on these works – a sort of “if you liked that, try this” thing? And how are you celebrating National Poetry Month?

P.S. In case you missed it, I also posted one of my own poems, a retelling of “Cinderella” written in an impersonation of Anne Sexton’s writing style, earlier this week. You can check it out here!

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Cinderella, Or The Little Glass Slipper | An Impersonation Of Anne Sexton (AKA Sometimes I Write Poetry)

It’s the third day of National Poetry Month and I’m three poems into my poetry-reading binge, which I’m happy to say has been so much fun so far! Today I thought I would share some of my own poetry with you. This is a piece I wrote earlier this semester for my Literary Retelling & Impersonation class. 

During the first unit of our course, we read both original fairy tales and retellings or impersonations of them. This included a selection of poems from Anne Sexton’s work Transformations, a book that retells seventeen Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

Her retelling of “Cinderella” was not actually on the reading list but since it’s my favorite fairy tale, I chose to bring it to life while impersonating her style. I originally decided to write a poem because it could be shorter and therefore less work than a short story, but ended up loving this medium more than I’d thought I would. (More on that later…)

I’m a little nervous about sharing this because I don’t often post my own writing here, but I did promise to and I intend to make good on that promise. I’d appreciate any comments and feedback you’re willing to give! Any suggestions for revision? (This has already been revised multiple times, but I thought I’d ask anyway.) Have you ever read any of Sexton’s poetry?

Enjoy!

CINDERELLA, OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER.

The prince, that lovesick boy,

went from house to house in the village,

searching for the girl.

He brought with him the lost glass slipper,

five inches of glittering sparkling.

The shoe did not fit any woman he met and the prince

had almost given up hope when his courtiers said,

“Here, here! Here is a house we have not visited.”

The prince, daft with lovesickness as he was, had not noticed

a little cottage at the edge of the village.

It was Cinderella’s house, of course.

Inside she was at work, of course.

Her stepsisters were delighted to see the prince, of course.

Maybe someday one of them would become queen.

They bickered and quarreled and quarreled and bickered

about who got to try on the slipper first.

It did not fit so they

cut off their toes to spite their feet

as it were.

One, two, three, four, five, chop! Into the slipper went one stepsister’s foot.

One, two, three, four, five, chop! Into the slipper went the other stepsister’s foot.

The prince was not convinced.

Is there not any other girl or woman living here? he asked.

I’m looking for the girl I danced with, he said. She ran away.

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I’m A Business Major Now!

Hi, everyone! I have some REALLY BIG NEWS for you today.

The day to register for next semester’s classes is quickly approaching, so last week I met with my adviser to determine which courses I should take. During our meeting, I brought up that I’ve been thinking about changing my major.

My heart just isn’t in writing anymore.

It’s tough to even say those words, especially since I built up so much of my life around writing.

But it’s true. I’m just not into it anymore. I don’t see myself pursuing a career in either journalism or writing. I haven’t read a book in months, for heaven’s sake.

I am now officially enrolled in the school of business at the University of Iowa!

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APRIL FOOLS.

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National Poetry Month | Poems I’ll Be Reading

Hello, everyone! With April right around the corner, it’s time to share what I will be reading during National Poetry Month. For the next thirty days, I will be reading one poem per day to celebrate!

Without further ado, here is what I’ll be reading:

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who recommended either an individual poem or a book of poetry (or both); I wouldn’t be able to pull off this madcap project without you! I actually received many more recs than I ever thought I would which, let me tell you, felt amazing. I hope you recognize a poem or two on this list as one that you recommended to me and that seeing it make you smile.

An extra-special shout-out goes to Mahima @ The Controversies, whose stellar recommendations make up TWENTY of the poems I’m going to read! She wrote up little annotations for everything she recommended and it all sounded so good that I decided to read, well, everything she recced.

Why did I list entire books of poetry on some days but not on others? I will be reading, as I said, one poem per day, but on Sundays I will also be reading the rest of the book of poetry that that day’s poem comes from! (Sundays are my day off, so I have more free time than usual.)

You can follow along with all my National Poetry Month pursuits! I’ll blog about the poems; you can expect a total of six posts recapping the past five days’ worth of poems each. I may also post some of my own poetry, reviews of poetry books I’ve read lately, et cetera.

I’m SO excited to begin this project next month. I foresee a lot of poem-reading going on during my study breaks, which will be great. I hope you have just as much fun following along with my National Poetry Month celebrations as I will doing them!

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