Set me on fire – Ella Risbridger

In his novel The Fault in our Stars, John Green writes that “sometimes, you read a book [that] fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book,” and wonderfully dramatic and rather intense as this notion may be, I have just read one of those books and perfectly get the feeling. I might not go shouting from the rooftops just yet, but I desperately want to break down some walls and do a few shouts at least.

Set Me On Fire – a poem for every feeling is a poetry anthology edited and annotated by London based poet Ella Risbridger, and it is one of the most interesting anthologies I’ve read in a while. It is not simply a collection of poems – it is a collection of poems written by a very diverse group of poets, sorted after vague feelings (like “mother” which is not really a feeling at all and “hunger” which definitely can be) and placed in the cross sections of said feelings (combine these two into “mother/hungry” and suddenly you have a feeling you might be a bit unsure of what actually means until you read the poems and never spend another minute wondering).

What got me about this anthology was firstly, the varied voices of the poets, all the different stories I most likely never would have found on my own, and secondly, the editor’s annotations – witty, clever and intelligent. Risbridger has sprinkled footnotes throughout the book, sometimes recounting how she felt reading this exact line in that exact poem for the first time, throwing in some literary analysis or simply handing the reader an extra little thought connected to the words on the page. One of my favourite notes is this little footnote in “The Orange” by Wendy Cope:

Adding “And what else is there?” to the sentence “I love you. I’m glad I exist” just feels like taking all those feelings that are just too big to fit into our breaths and condencing them into mere by-pass-thoughts, observations done in happiness, and I adore it.

The annotations, like this note on Rebecca Perry’s poem “Other Clouds”:

makes the whole anthology a thoroughly pleasant reading experience. Every page turnt feels like being curled up on the sofa reading poetry with a good friend, and I’m loving how accessible the editor has made the chosen poems and poetry in general. Her notes focus a lot on how there is no right or wrong way to read poems, and that reading poetry should be fun or cathartic or whatever you need it to be in the moment. If a poem isn’t working for you this is neither you nor the poem’s fault and you are well within your rights to simply walk away. Poetry is a lot better than just suffering through poems that don’t speak to you, just for the sake of having read them.

Risbridger has also included a short introduction about how this anthology should be read (spoiler alert: again, there is no right way to read it! Just pick a page and go from there or find the feeling you need to read about right about now and see what happens) and a rather long after word talking about the process of gathering poems for this anthology. The afterword is a super interesting read – combining poetry reading, spread sheet making and the demographic statistics of the UK. In the after word she talks about how she has made a conscious effort to make the anthology as diverse as possible, to reflect the diversity found among people and to fight the dominance of “dead white men”, also known as the voices who’ve definitely taken up the most space on the traditional poetry scene (or pages, I guess).

This book is dedicated to “Caroline, who hated poetry first”, and Sarah Perry claims that the collection which is “broad in scope, generous in spirit and wittily accompanied by Risbridger’s commentary” will “offer a cure for those suspicious of poetry, while those already in love with the form have new and startling pleasures in store”.

In short, an anthology for people who already love poetry and a book of poems for people not too sure about poems to begin with.

Definitely worth a read, and if you do pick it up, be sure to let me know how you find it!

-Andrea

February and march in books

And just like that both February and March has packed their suitcases, too.

The last days of February saw days of wonderful spring up here in Norway, and it was so tempting to just pack up and away all of winter’s coats and scarves and declare it spring time immediately. Then the first days of March brought cold winds again, however, and the rest of the month has served more gray days. Oh well, at least it’s getting lighter in the evenings!

Here are the reads I got through in February and March – hang tight, it’s a varied but lovely bunch and a bit of a long ride (press the read more tab to access the full list of books)!

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

“Zora Neale Hurston’s beloved 1937 classic is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. It is told in the captivating voice of the fiercely independent and stunning Janie Crawford, who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear or foolish romantic dreams. As she endures three marraiges and a life marked by trials and tribulations, she evolves into an unforgettable heroine. A true literary wonder, Hurston’s masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published.”

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“You gave me hyachinths first a year ago”

They called me the hyacinth girl

“The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot was one of those poems I could not find myself enjoying when I read it for a poetry module in my first year of uni. It’s fragmented, it’s confusing and it has myriads of speakers, every new voice stranger than the last – I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t get the hang of it and there was never enough time in the syllabus to actually cement any real understanding of it.

With time, this lanky, strange old poem has grown on me, though. I’ve kept dipping my toes tentatively back into it now and then, and now that I’m taking a couple of new American literature modules, I’ve finally been able to do the proper deep dive I’ve wanted to, and over the course of the last few weeks I’ve fallen more and more in love with all the things I used to not like about it at all. There are still so many things I do not understand, so many notions and ideas and elements that escape me, but that’s one of the reasons I feel so drawn to it now.

Of course, it also helps that the lecturer teaching the literature module I’m currently doing is such an inspiring and enthusiastic academic, and her lectures are a delight. Her essay questions are also of another world, and part of why I’ve been able to finally give “The Waste Land” the undivided attention I have wanted to give it for a while, is because I’ve been analysing the living daylights out of it for an assignment.

From not really having managed to get through it before, I’ve now read this poem way too many times, and I keep finding new and exciting things with every read. I wanted to share the first part of the poem with you guys – in a little reading from my very-intensely-and-not-at-all-neatly-annotated copy of the Norton Anthology, with the noise of a lorry droning in from the outside and the bunched up blanket on the sofa from where I was sat reading this to myself not even a minute before this.

I hope you like these words as much as I do.

-Andrea

55 of my favourite things, pt. 5

~ The Horror and the Wild album ~ world poetry day ~ the first dandelions of the season ~ spring starting to peek its head through ~ “Fair” by The Amazing Devil ~ (almost) daily snapchats of my best friend’s son of about 2 and a half ~ Microsoft Teams ~ The 2016 Moomin Summer mug ~ my nephew’s small hands tucked into warm mittens ~ lavender hand soap ~ hula hoops ~ the coastline ~ the blue table cloth-turned-bedspread which I bought at a stall on the Winchester high street and still love and cherish ~ surprising messages from people I haven’t spoken to in a while ~ loving messages from people I talk to every single day ~ the bluetooth speakers I just managed to get working ~ gathering data for my BA thesis ~ the day getting longer and longer ~ people taking the corona epidemic seriously and coming together to fight the spread of the virus ~ walks along the rocks by the fjord on my own ~ the fjord ~ my little uni flat ~ the bookshelves at my parents’ house ~ my mum’s knitted cardis ~ ao3 subscription emails ~ the on-going search for the perfect jar to store tea in ~ “morning coffee” at work ~ all the musicians live streaming home gigs right now ~ my mum’s chocolate cake ~ a clean kitchen ~ cheesy 2010-romances ~ old diaries ~ a tidy room ~ nicknames ~ finding the perfect birthday present for someone even though it’s not their birthday for many many months and being so excited to give the present that you almost let slip what it is ~ The Witcher book series ~ my IKEA stuffed shark called Willie ~ crossing stuff off my to do list ~ a good sleep schedule ~ living by the sea ~ donating blood ~ being the first one to get up in the morning and popping the kettle on ~ home-knitted slippers ~ “your package has been shipped” ~ rediscovering old favourite books ~ being ahead on tomorrow’s to do list ~ the quiet of living in a tiny place ~ coincidences ~ discount coach fares ~ succulents ~ emails that are easy to write ~ BA thesis tutorials on skype ~ the sun ~ good colleagues ~ skype hang-outs with friends ~ plans for the future ~

Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

“Love in the time of Covid”

Have a poem, with the aforementioned cliched title, filmed on my webcam complete with the noises of both my mum and dad in separate skype-meetings upstairs. I was only supposed to be home for a couple of days, but then the travel ban hit and now I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to my uni town. Now we’re three people all trying to do our separate jobs in one house with strangely few doors and a lot of open doorways; it’s not the best solution, but we’re making do. And to be fair, I’d much rather be here right now than isolated all alone in a student flat. Take care of each other, folks.

Love in the time of Covid
is waving at each other from across the street
is walking two meters apart
is «I’ll leave your groceries on the porch, take care».

Love in the time of Covid
is travel bans and cancelled plans and waterfall worries and loneliness.

Love in the time of Covid
is creating an everyday in cramped houses
is home office landscapes and nurseries in living rooms
is a kettle constantly boiling in the kitchen.

Love in the time of Covid
is empty streets and darkened towns and school grounds void of children.

Love in the time of Covid
is learning to be productive in a new normal
is being together by being apart
is showing we care by breaking the chain.

Love in the time of Covid is a team effort, a global population staying inside, a world worth of shoes left waiting by the door.  

Love in the time of Covid
is making the best of strange days to come,
strange days we won’t know how to handle
strange days we never even dreamed of.

Love in the time of Covid
is singing together through open windows
is lighting candles for people we do not know
is gathering in applause in houses across the nation.   

Love in the time of Covid
is staying inside today so others can see tomorrow
it is solidarity
it is compassion.
it is a choice.

-Andrea

So, the world, huh? Yeah…

These last few weeks have been very strange, and I don’t have anything new to add but for my own peace of mind I have to say something.

Since last Wednesday, we’ve seen a lot of societies shut down. In Norway there are travel bans and shop shut downs and all the unis and schools and nurseries are closed. The streets are empty and no one’s at work apart from critical workers.

People are isolating, turning social distancing up to the max and really taking quarantining seriously. Good.

The rules and regulations made to fight off this virus are strict and they’re a bit scary. Never before have I not been allowed to leave my own house, never before have the streets outside been so empty. Businesses are losing money, people are scared for the future, economies all over the world are taking major hits and who even knows how the world will look after this. But I am glad we’re doing it. Extreme times, extreme measure. This situation is strange and scary, yes, but so is this virus and I will loudly support any measure put in place to gather the world to fight it.

“Love in the time of Covid-19” is a phrase I’ve seen a couple of people use now, and it kind of stuck with me. It sounds silly and and silly is definitely something we need right now. I can also how it is a direct reference to Love in the time of Cholera, a book I started but could never finish. Completely unrelated to the current crisis, it is also a great reminder of my friend’s 12th birthday, when her mum rented the film version of said book, thinking “hm, this sounds like a nice film for a bunch of kids”. It was not, but hey, we got a good story out of it.

However, I think that phrase also got stuck because it poses such an important question right now: what does love look like, in these times of not being able to be together?

It is important to talk about how we show love right now, because it’s so very different from how we normally do it. When we cannot express love by clasping our hands together, by pulling the ones we love into the tightest hug, by sleeping next to each other feeling the calm of everyday, we have to find other ways. Right now we are showing love by staying away, by respecting quarantine regulations, by being cautious. We are showing love by isolating ourselves, so that the risk groups can stay safe, by coming together as we’re staying apart. So strange and so very, very important.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

The 2020 mood board

We’re almost through February, and I’m sat pondering this year; the months that have been and the months that are to come.

I love traditions, rituals, small things I can implement into my life to create patterns and familiarity. Sometimes a pinch of gung-ho spontaneity is needed, but I really appreciate small things that celebrate and mark the every day. Christmas (which, once again, I’m aware was a while ago) is one of those times a year that is seeped in tradition; most things done from late November to the 28th of December are done because “it’s Christmas, and that’s how we Christmas.” And I’m so here for it.

However, I’ve never really had any traditions or rituals around New Years, and wishing the new year welcome. I love the celebrations with friends and family, the fireworks and the not-champagne-bubbles swirling in champagne glasses, but I haven’t found a tradition that I’ve either started for myself, or that’s really resonated with me before.

This year I celebrated New Years in Swanage with Harvey and his family, and his mum introduced me to the New Years Mood board, and let me tell you; this is my new New Years Tradition with a capital T.

It’s a really simple idea: get a big piece of paper (I found A3 to be the perfect size, big enough to fit what you want on it, but not so big that it feels overwhelming to fill the empty space), get some of your favourite magazines and spend some time browsing, flicking through the pages. Look for images, colours, patterns and quotes that resonate with you and how you want the next year to be. I found this process a lot more interesting than sitting down and deciding on New Years resolutions, because it felt like getting a different view on things, a different perspective, some new input. I cut out images and texts I liked, put it all together just because I liked it, and then discovered what it “meant” as the process went on.

The process in itself was also nice. It was sitting down, quietly, for a couple of hours, listening to music and just being alone with my own thoughts. Saying thank you and good bye to the year as it quietly snuck out the door, and welcoming the new one, the one that burst in through the window.

And now we’re here. This little piece is now framed in a very simple, narrow, black frame and resting on my dresser; the perfect place for it to blend into the interior, but also for it to be somewhere where I can throw a quick glance at it in the morning on my way out the door, giving a little thought to “how can I make this moodboard happen today? What have I done to implement these elements into my life?”

My 2020 moodboard isn’t mysterious and filled with hidden riddles and symbols. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to feel a bit more comfortable in their own skin, who is on the brink of finishing her education and dreams of a job and a flat where I’ll actually be able to put things on the walls (hence the image of the mugs hanging on the wall), a place I’ll stay for more than the typical student year. This year I’ll hopefully be able to start crafting a life for myself, a life built on those strange BAs I’ve acquired, on my interests and on my skills and abilities. If I squint my eyes, I can kinda see the moodboard reflecting that. It is also the moodboard of someone who wants to learn to prioritize her own wellbeing while still staying active and engaged with the local community, politics, work and volunteering. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to get better at creating small moments of peace in her everyday; moments of books and mugs of tea and knitted blankets bunched up under my chin. My moodboard is my reminder to myself that there is so much I want to do, but all of it doesn’t have to happen right now. It’s also a reminder that unknown, but wonderful, things are yet to come. Things I’ll be excited about, but that I don’t even know about yet. I want 2020 to be a softer year; a year where I’m a bit more kind to myself and where I try to worry a bit less.

I am excited to get back to this moodboard in December of 2020, and to give it another proper think at the end of the year. I am curious to see whether I’ll be able to look back and see specific moments where this little piece of paper has impacted my life. That’s not really the case yet for this last month and a half, but who knows. Maybe soon.

-Andrea

“I love you like a candle flickering on December 1st” (or getting back up on the poetry stage)

If there is one thing I’ve missed since moving away from Winchester, it is the budding community of writers I got to be a part of, and the many opportunities to try out your work on people. I’ve missed electric evenings at the Railway Inn, where you could try your own poetry on for size and then get lost in the words of others. I miss the monthly Poetry Platforms; the space you could perform work in progress-pieces and see how the words you were trying to convey would sit on your tongue, not just on the page.

I haven’t really found anything like that here in Kristiansand, but truth be told, maybe I haven’t looked hard enough. Monday brought a wonderful opportunity in the shape of a Poetry evening at the student union stage; a poesiaften hosted by the student society for Nordic studies.

I got back up on the stage for the first time in about a year and a half, and read two of my own pieces. One in Norwegian and this one in English.

The whole evening was wonderful. More than 50 people came in and sat down, listened closely, shared their thoughts and drank student union wine. There were so many people who wholeheartedly threw themselves into their performances, the atmosphere in the room was warm and relaxed, and I was surprised and happy to find a space at this uni where poetry of all kinds and styles was celebrated and enjoyed. Naively enough, just because I haven’t seen it outright before, I didn’t believe there was a space for poetry in this town at all. Oh, how wrong I was.

This was my first poetry performance in Norway, and it was a lot of fun. Funnily enough, I’m just realising that I wore the same shirt on Monday that I wore to the SO: To Speak Poetry Festival in Southampton a couple of years ago – I guess this is “the poetry shirt” now.

I hope you enjoy this piece. It’s a cliche little love poem that means a lot to me, and it was lovely to finally get to perform it in front of a supportive crowd. It has love, it has spaceships and it has cheese on toast – what more could you want from a poem?

This evening definitely rekindled my love for spoken word-poetry. It was never gone, never burnt down or put out like a campfire under water, it just laid dormant as there were few opportunities to nurture it. Fingers crossed for many more nights like this one, nights that properly refuel the fire.

I hope you have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

55 of my favourite things, pt. 4

~ starting a new tv series you know nothing about ~ finding new books you’ve never heard of before, but the cover looks good ~ chocolate covered peanuts ~ the colour yellow ~ fruit smoothies with orange juice ~ wild rhubarb-smelling all purpose cleaners ~ framed photographs ~ old home videos ~ finishing books you’ve been working your way through for a while ~ getting your bachelor’s thesis proposition accepted ~ quiet study spaces ~ fried eggs ~ decluttering desk drawers ~ my new reading stand so I don’t have to hunch over my books during long study sessions (because I am an old lady) ~ re-falling in love with old favourite albums ~ the Taylor Swift Netflix-documentary ~ early morning bus rides ~ my baby nephew who’s just turned 7 months and is absolutely wonderful ~ the Life’s Library book club ~ quiet Sundays ~ oversized corduroy shirts ~ having just refilled your bus pass so it says “31 days left” when you beep it ~ the sun starting to peak back out in the spring ~ getting to the launderette just to realise that ALL the laundry machines are available ~ frozen grass that creeks under your shoes ~ a filled and organised book shelf ~ surprisingly productive days ~ being able to properly express your opinion at a student parliament meeting ~ seeing your work be published in online journals or other places ~ green apple-scented IKEA candles ~ dry shampoo ~ a newly hoovered floor ~ finally having milk in the house again after forgetting to buy it for a couple of days ~ beautiful handwriting ~ tea ~ my new customised planner ~ New Years mood boards ~ highlighters that aren’t neon coloured ~ examining different language translations of a poem and exploring what kind of different choices the translators were making ~ having your entire future in front of you ~ being able to look back at the past with both nostalgia and gratitude ~ finishing up a really big knitting or crochet project ~ getting started on a new and exciting knitting project ~ plans going exactly as planned ~ learning a new skill ~ proving yourself wrong on something you didn’t think you could do ~ waking up to snow on a January morning ~ mugs that are just the perfect size for your hands ~ feeling the warmth seep back into you after a walk in the cold winter air ~ finally grasping something you’ve struggled with in lectures ~ happy “hello”s on the street as you see people you know hurry past ~ David Tennant’s podcast ~ the new mittens my mum knitted for me ~ a good and respectful debate ~ seeing “assignment submitted” in big green letters on Canvas Student ~

Image by catnamejoe from Pixabay

-Andrea

Once upon a December

I know we’re twelve days into January at this point, but I’m not not posting the last monthly update of the year, when I actually managed to stick to this project for twelve months!

This December was a strange, chaotic and emotional month. It was the month of last semester’s batch of exams, the month of getting in a few more weeks of work at the library, and the month of driving home for Christmas, which is, and will forever be, my favourite thing in the entire world.

This December has held Christmas concerts, learning how to bake krumkaker, time spent (and cherished) with wonderful friends and with my family. It has been Christmas concerts and study sessions and getting through my “law module exam” in one piece. It has been a month of dinner parties and coffees with friends old and new; a month to look back on with fondness.

This was also Oliver’s, my nephew, very first Christmas, and so it holds a special place in my heart.

So, though a bit late, here’s my one second every day from the month of December 2019!

Aaaand as we’re already wrapping up December, it only feels right to pop the complete 1 second a day-2019 film here. So here goes; the 6 minutes and 16 seconds that make up 2019. What a year!

Have a wonderful day!
-Andrea