Category Archives: poetry

Shoremen: an Anthology of Eastern Shore Prose and Verse Eds. Jopp and Ingersoll

Shoremen book coverEdited by Harold D. Jopp and R.H. Ingersoll

Shoremen is a collection of stories, excerpted novels, and poems from writers of the Eastern Shore, Maryland (not so much Virginia). One of the most impressive things about this collection is that the collection includes contributions from the 1600-1900s. While the collection’s first half is entirely prose and the second entirely verse, a helpful table of contents showing the authors in chronological order offers readers a readily-made alternative pathway through the anthology. I tended (without 100% fidelity) to approach the book in this way, working my way up through the centuries.

I found this book a satisfying read, no doubt because I moved to the Eastern Shore last year and am currently helping teach a 5 week summer Salisbury University Environmental Studies Course in which students and faculty travel across Delmarva and see the peninsula from “a water’s eye” view of a kayak. Reading “Chesapeake Calendar” and “Crab Talk” (both within this anthology) while actually sitting on the small porch of Gilbert Byron’s preserved cabin is an ideal reading experience. And to expand on that; this collection seems best suited to those who spend some time in the various guts, cuts, and meanders of the Eastern Shore’s many rivers, fields, and forests. Those who do so will experience “Chesapeake Country” (as the ubiquitous scenic byway signs call it) through the lenses of a long literary tradition. Readers will find classics like Ebenezer Cooke’s satirical (and perhaps accurate) “Sotweed Factor” and excerpts of “the Floating Opera” by John Barth, but also many lesser authors (in every sense of the word).

From the collection that Jopp and Ingersoll have assembled, that tradition is marked by romanticism for place, and the loss of place. In the stories and poems of the likes of Sophie Kerr, Lynn Meekins, and George Alfred Townsend, you get this recurring paradox: the shore is a place of constant change (and threat of losing traditional ways of life and the bounty of the Bay), but also one that is a solace of permanence and natural bounty, or a backwater resisting any change at all. In this sense the writing of the Shore is often typified by a king of elegy; a reverence for a place that seems foredoomed somewhere off in the horizons of time.

Nostalgia is a bittersweet part of such elegies, and nowhere does the grotesquity such nostalgia can assume come out more than in the many stories that address the days and legacies of slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The anthology represents overwhelmingly the perspective of white landowners, and the accounts of slavery, the Civil War, and racism are extremely limited. As the collection dates from 1974, I wonder why Jopp and Ingersoll would have even bothered to include _multiple_ stories from Edmund Goldsborough, whose contributions to this collection are racist and derivative, even for their time of publication.

So… if you’re going to be on the Eastern Shore this summer, take some time to read some of it’s literary voices (oh, but just skip the excerpted novels in this anthology because who the hell wants to read 30 pages of a 300 page book? It’s pointless!).

Availability: SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Small publisher: Tidewater Publishers

Bhagavad-Gita translated by Stephen Mitchell

Bhagavad Gita

Highly recommended! If Eastern religious thought is not your thing, then this may not be the book for you. That being said, it is a wonderfully poetic translation of this sacred Hindu text. The translator does well not to lose any of the text’s ancient power as it is translated into English. The text reads beautifully– not to mention it contains meaningful (and practical) advice on living well. Gandhi himself mentioned the Bhagavad-Gita as a major source of his inspiration!

Peace & Love,

Availability: USMAI, SMCM, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jeanette Warren
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: A translated book.

Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu (tr. by Le Guin)

Tao Te ChingTao te Ching (pronounced Dow Day Jeeng), was written by Lao Tzu (Low-dsuh) and translated by Ursula K. Le Guin.

OK so there are tons of translations of the Tao te Ching, and while this one is not my favorite, the book itself is a wonderful way (haha, get it, Tao means “The Way”) to gain a more mindful approach at life. It is actually a collection of ancient poetry written more than 2500 years ago by a man attempting to lead people to a more mindful, meaningful way of life– one that is harmonious with the natural rhythms of the Earth. One of my favorite excerpts: “The Way never does anything, / and everything gets done… In stillness all under heaven rests” (p.37).

Peace & Love.

Availability: USMAI,
Review Submitted by: Jeanette Warren
Rating: Highly recommended
Challenge: A translated book.

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Richard Fagles

Odyssey

I was inspired to read The Odyssey for the first time since high school after encountering Daniel Mendohlson’s recent essay in The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/24/a-father-and-sons-final-odyssey). Mendolsohn wrote about teaching an undergraduate course on the epic poem with his elderly father as one of the students, and his subsequent trip with his father on an Odyssey-themed cruise through the Mediterranean. The essay touched on themes of age, fatherhood, and heroism.

I had vague memories of enjoying the poem as a 9th grader, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the work now. The dynamic of the story is timeless (I though a lot about Odysseus’ journey home, where his loved ones feared he was dead, as I watched the final episodes of The Leftovers on HBO). Fagles’ translation brilliantly humanizes the characters, and he lavishes the reader with tactile language about how it felt to live in that world: the sound of ships scudding along the water, the feel of a leather sandal strap, the sting of smoke from a fire.

I enjoyed mulling over questions of loyalty, filial duty, and what heroism means if a human’s life is merely a pawn of the gods. Can a hero assume credit for his or her victories? Or is heroism nothing more than continuing on in the face of powers far beyond one’s control?

Availability:  COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Translation