THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
April 12, 2016

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse (The Impossible Knife of Memory)

2014 has been the summer of the audio book. Between family visits, my son's college search, and driving kids back and forth to camp, we've racked up enough miles on the Mars Rover for a cross country trek.

(The kids nicknamed our red mini van "The Mars Rover" many years and over 120,000 miles ago. Because we are geeks. But more about that on Friday.)

I can only listen to Coldplay, Queen, and Temples so many times. That's why my first stop on any road trip is the local library, which has a great selection of audio books.

Recommended listening

For this edition of Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse, I'm pairing one of my road trip books with a poem. If you'd like to know more about this series -- in which guest bloggers and I are matching a summer read with a poem that complements the novel -- check out this post.

My daughter went to field hockey camp at University of Delaware last month. I spent both drives -- dropping off and picking up -- listening to Laurie Halse Anderson's most recent novel, THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY.

THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY
featured on NPR
After spending years on the road together, high school senior Hayley Kincaid and her veteran father decide to settle down. Hayley hopes that returning to their run-down family home will help her father recover from PTSD. When living in her childhood home triggers her own long-buried memories, Hayley begins to realize she can't care for her father alone.

If you're following this series for classroom discussion ideas, THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY is upper YA. The poem that I'm pairing with it is complex enough for high school juniors and seniors to dig into.

The you that's left
     In memory of 1523 Calliope St., New Orleans  

by W.M. Rivera

The end is not, so wrote Herodotus on looking back,
apparent from the outset. Amazing what's forgot
or not, the blanks, nostalgia, childhood's steps
or aches to see that silent gnaw, the house a vacant
lot, a broken jar, remaining bits of too-long
absent egos. What's the use to know it,

far-off thunder, that earlier ignorance, who thought
grown-up was ten-times tall, conceiving
secrecies at each closed door, and running running
never still, the sky off blue--few cares, slow

leaping walks again. All this on un-retaining walls
in chalk expecting rain, while forward's still a stop
an aimless nowhere and that endless wait
for one you never meet, the you that's left.

There are so many lines in this poem that speak to Laurie Halse Anderson's book. The phrase "ten-times tall" fits the way Hayley saw her father when she was little. "Amazing what's forgot/ or not, the blanks,/ nostalgia, childhood's steps" reminded me of the holes in Hayley's memory and how images begin to seep back in, helped by being in the physical space of this house. Most of all, I felt that the last three lines of Bill's poem could be in Hayley Kincaid's voice. She's got to deal with the part of herself, and of her father, that are left. She can't wish either one of them back to wholeness.

Huge thanks to Maryland poet W.M. (Bill) Rivera for giving me permission to post "The you that's left" today. The poem is from his chapbook, The Living Clock, published by Finishing Line Press.


Want to check out more posts in this series? Here you go!

So far, we've paired:

Do you have an idea for Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse. Guest bloggers are welcome! For more information, find a full explanation of the series and a sample Chapter & Verse pairing at this post.

2 comments:

Margaret Simon said...

There are not many times that I wish I taught high school, but reading this post is one of them. Such profound thoughts and feelings. I will have to pick up this book to read just for myself.

LInda Baie said...

I have the book, still haven't taken the time, but I need to. I'll come back to this after I've read it, Laura. From all I've read and the parts you shared, the poem does seem a mirror of the story. There is some hope at the beginning, even though your girl may not know it soon. I like the line "remaining bits of too-long absent egos". Thank you!